Archive for category Challenges

Balancing a society

Bell with top balance in the bell tower at Mission Santa Inez, ca.1906 (CHS-4127A)is very hard. The recent movie by Brillante Mendoza about “Ma’ Rosa” highlights this (Variety article). A sari-sari store owner sells shabu on the side, gets caught and her children have to raise money to get her out of the hands of corrupt police. Haven’t watched this movie yet, but many other Mendoza movies like Kinatay, Lola, Serbis and Tirador – so I can call him today’s Lino Brocka. His portrayals of social ills are searingly realistic, and it could be that for all necessary economic and administrative measures, Daang Matuwid did not give enough focus to that aspect of things.

President-elect Duterte has mentioned the issue of poor people selling shabu on the side and police protecting drug lords, I have read some articles as well about sari-sari store owners caught selling shabu, so the stuff is realistic. The Philippines seems to have an issue with drugs. Rapid modernization is probably too much for many, especially those not equipped for the new order of things. I have seen this happen myself in the decades of transition here in Germany with private television, mobile phones, Internet, social media and a more dynamic but also riskier economic order coming. Some people did not adjust that well.

Germany transitioned from the stuffy small town thinking of the Adenauer and Kohl eras to a more modern country, and I am happy about it. But I am also happy that there are still curfews for certain things. Such as curfews for young people with their parents potentially liable, contained in the Federal Law called the Protection of Young Persons Act (link). Even if it is obviously not always implemented as strictly as in the times of Konrad Adenauer, (West) German Chancellor who was Mayor of Cologne before the war. Or even in the times of Chancellor Kohl, son of a mayor.

I am happy about Noise Protection Laws which are a matter for each Federal State, especially on nights were I have to get travel the next day. No loud noise after 10 p.m. or police can even come. Discos and pubs have to stop serving outside even in summer, people have to move inside and they have to implement appropriate noise protection to not disturb neighbors. Especially not those who have to get up very early – like the bus drivers, the factory workers, the bakers, the butchers of the Munich slaughterhouse and the men who move crates in the Munich wholesale market.

Cito Beltran has written that small-town thinking is needed sometimes (link): “Our national epidemic is we have become a nation of self-entitled individuals who demand more than we contribute.“. Certainly small-town thinking helped stabilize Germany after the chaotic 1920s, a false savior named Hitler and the Second World War. The Adenauer era was considered stuffy but people got down to do their work of rebuilding the country – avoiding disorder like in much of Eastern Europe after Communism, or abuses of freedom in the times after Marcos in the Philippines.

Before Willy Brandt – former Governing Mayor of (West) Berlin which is both a City and a Federal State, said “mehr Demokratie wagen” as Chancellor – “dare more democracy“, there was the boring and stuffy Adenauer Era where people got used to a certain self-discipline, internalized it. Kohl reloaded the Adenauer era a little bit, taking back a few excesses of the 1970s, Schröder was a representative of the Spaßgesellschaft (Fun Society) late 90s early noughties, some excesses of which Merkel took back. So it is about finding the right balance. May the Philippines find its own.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 21 May 2016


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Speaking in Tongues

Friesach - Dominikanerkirche - Rosenkranzaltar - Pfingstenis the message of Pentecost. Filipinos prefer the Lenten season of pasyon and victimhood to even Easter which is rising from victimhood (link to article). During Pentecost the apostles “began to speak with other languages”… and “every man heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:1-6). President-elect Duterte speaks Visayan which many Filipinos speak, Tagalog and English. But generally Filipinos have a weakness when it comes to communicating with others outside their own circles – Duterte when he was in front of the Makati Business Club, Aquino to the common man.

Communication has many aspects – empathy (understanding the feelings of others), emotional intelligence (knowing what you feel, owning up to it but not letting it affect you), listening, explaining in such a way that the other side understands you (the right memes, words, feelings) and bringing things back to facts and to find constructive solutions to problems. With so many Filipinos working in call centers and trained at least in theory on how to communicate, they should be masters of communicating among themselves, but obviously they are not yet there.

India has over 10 times as many languages and people than the Philippines yet is successful. What I have seen of Indian IT teams is – they work together, could that be a difference in attitude? Filipino IT teams I have experienced tended to crab and play one-upmanship and ganging up games. Heneral Luna the movie is a perfect lesson of how such games damaged the Philippines. Heneral Luna himself quarreled with Mascardo via telegram – the social media of those days – and left an important battlefront (link). Aguinaldo had to send an order for the two men to stop.

There are signs of hope though. Tonyo Cruz wrote a letter to Duterte supporters to not act arrogant – as the “New Yellow” on Twitter (link). Well, the LP has been seen as arrogant by many and some of them were. A bit better than most of the KBL (I also knew good loyalists) which was downright domineering in power. Filipinos often tend to abuse power given them, didn’t Rizal himself say “what if the slaves of today become the tyrants of tomorrow”? Power always comes with responsibility – it is not a license to abuse or denigrate those not in power, like internal colonialists.

Crabbing and destructiveness by those outside power is also wrong. Peter Tiu Laviña, Duterte’s adviser, admonished the leftists today not to be just trapos demolishing the country (link). Joe America has told the mainly Aquino/Roxas supporters on his blog to be constructive and not become another Get Real Philippines (link). Politics can be for the “polis” (Greek for city) like in the original democracy, or it can degenerate into a Game of Thrones (link). Pentecost was the birth of Christianity – a community. Can Filipinos finally learn to truly communicate and work together?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2016.

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Friday the 13th

Rodrigo Duterte 2009might be scary for some. I’m home before dark for sure. President-elect Duterte however seems scared of the “ghosts” in Malacañan (Interaksyon article). The ghosts of Philippine history? Rizal knew that Filipinos were scared of ghosts. One of his dares in Dapitan, Mindanao, was to make the children he was instructing spend some time alone in the dark under a tree to overcome fear. Duterte himself I think once said the worst thing there can be is fear. Master Yoda from Star Wars knew one thing: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering…

Now I wonder how close Mayor Duterte, soon to be inaugurated as President, has been to the dangerous Dark Side of the Force. And how close to the Dark Side some of his aggressive followers are. Now it could be that Rodrigo “El Cid”, the famous Spanish hero against the original Moros or Moors, as a Christian hero knew Psalm 23:4 from the Bible: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me.

Faith is strength, not weakness. The barbarian and the pagan still feared the supernatural. In the hills of Bikol – especially places like Tiwi, Albay; Buhi and Tigaon, Camarines Sur – legends of aswang or vampires abounded. These were the places were the gentil (Gentiles or non-Christians) or remontados lived. Those who left the villages ruled by Spanish colonial authorities – the taong labas of those days, echoed by today’s NPA and other bandits. Those who lived basically in fear and in their turn were feared by the villagers, because they could be dangerous, having lived in the wild for so long.

Spaniards are gone. When the Americans disarmed the Moros in the early 20th century, the greatest fear of many was that those who were still armed would kill their clans, so those disarmed had to be protected against those still armed by American troops. Homo hominem lupus est said the Romans – human beings are wolves unto themselves, which is why fear of other human beings can be justified. Civilization is about finding common rules to overcome fear of one another. One of these bodies of ethical rules is monotheistic religion – by virtue of knowing there is a God, people overcome fear – of one another first of all. The Pope in forgiving Duterte wished upon him the divine blessings of wisdom and peace (CNN article) – I wonder upon how many pagan warlords Popes have wished these blessings?

Fear of the ghosts that may haunt the Philippines – the ghosts of its difficult history – should be one of the first things a national leader should overcome. Maybe this is what is needed for the country to move forward – to overcome the ghosts of its past. Whether it is done by the President, a native healer (mananambal in Bikol) or a Pope does not really matter. Just do it. Now na.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Friday the 13th of May 2016, München

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Changing a Country

Sala Capitular, Catedral de Sevilla, Sevilla, España, 2015-12-06, DD 121-123 HDRwill not work without people changing themselves also. There are three aspects that make for a working community at any level from a village to a nation:

  • the rules are clear and are followed without much supervision by most people
  • for those who don’t follow the rules sanctions are clear and implemented
  • the procedure for making the rules is clear, consistent and adhered to

Ideally, the rules implement subsidiarity, solidarity and humanity (link) – and fit the culture of the people so that living them is neither onerous nor difficult. Democracy in its many variations is one of the best ways of keeping the rules up-to-date and making sure they are the will of a majority, while well-constructed constitutions make sure majorities do not make life difficult for minorities.

  • Parliamentary systems can be useful if there are many different forces in a country, usually represented by multiple political parties
  • Federal systems can be useful if a country has many different local traditions and different situations in different parts of it
  • Presidential systems are somewhat more decisive than federal and parliamentary systems which can be contentious

There are lots of variants of federal systems – from the United States where each state can make its own penal laws to the German federalism where states can make laws about things like noise pollution or zoning but penal codes and curfews for young people like those contained in the Protection of Young Persons Act (link) are strictly federal matters. American federalism has Senators coming from different states, two each, while German federalism has deputies from State Parliaments in the Upper House. How to achieve balance without the deadlock so typical for Filipinos?

Another aspect is the distribution of power between head of State (President) and head of government (Prime Minister or Chancellor) in a parliamentary system. In a Presidential system the President is both. The President of Germany has practically only ceremonial powers, although he can indeed refuse to sign a law which is very seldom done. The Presidents of France and Romania have more powers. From what I remember the 1973 Constitution had a similar distribution, but Marcos had it changed by a referendum, making the Prime Minister (Virata) relatively powerless.

Aside from all these systems being discussed, many Filipinos seem to remain the main problem. Changing the rules to suit themselves and their group – or immaturely crying foul if they or their group are not favored by the rules – seems to be a common issue. Also abstract rules mean little for many it seems – only the personal presence of a barangay captain (datu), a strict policeman or a strongman kind of ruler makes them follow rules – and these rules are often not even real rules but just arbitrary spur-of-the-moment decisions. How to raise that consciousness? I don’t know.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 12 May 2016

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Naga and Davao

Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Church, Daraga, Albayand their respective candidates represent two types of Filipinos: the villager and the tribesman. This contrast was formed in colonial times. Those who lived in the villages, became Christians and those who were in places outside colonial control. In Bikol these people were called remontados, often fierce and independent bandits. The villagers sometimes called them gentil – Gentiles or non-Christians, and feared them. The pronounced contrast between Rodrigo Duterte and Leni Robredo is an echo of the times that formed the Filipino in these two extremes and all in between.

There are indeed those who have voted Duterte for President and Robredo for Vice-President – I know some. Strange but could it be an instinctive attempt to reconcile that contrast? The Spaniards are gone, the Americans are allies. Nobody forces anyone to be Christian anymore, yet Duterte’s convulsive rejection of “Christian” and “Western” values plus the constant references to 1521 speak a language of their own. His way of dealing with Davao reminds one of a pre-Hispanic raja and his datus, while Robredo’s approach is village-style bayanihan with civic groups.

Almost 150 years ago, there was a mayor who reconciled the two, but as a villager bringing in the tribesmen. Don Higino Templado of Tiwi, Albay: The three generations before me were all born in that town at the edge of the wilderness. Cararayan, the pleasant or nice place, was their home – just between the old fishing village of Tigbi along the Pacific coast and the purportedly wild hills about which many stories abound, with a road built in those days to connect the two. The village assimilated the wilderness in those days. Now things seem to be reversed.

The wilder attitudes are returning once more. Possibly civilization was only a very thin paint coating for many. Metro Manila is a concrete jungle. Yet the strong numbers of Leni Robredo show that there is a naturally Filipino attitude among many that is not wild and resentful. At the same time NOT as docile or over-domesticated as some nationalists like to paint Christian Filipinos.

Duterte partly tamed the Wild South, but his approach may bring wildness back. Hope Leni Robredo wins as VP, to partly tame that aspect. Civilized behaviour should not be seen as un-Filipino.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, 10 May 2016, München





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Maturing a people

Abhishek Mistry - A.Bcould be the solution for the Philippines. Co-writer Bill in Oz wrote this: “Children who are never allowed to grow up never grow up.. Such is the case for a majority of Filipinos And it is an educated rich elite that sets this up and it is that elite which benefits from the arrangement”… here in response to a comment by NHerrera: “I am still open to what this core value(s) of the Filipinos are. Might this be the core value: immediate family interest, right or wrong — not religion, not national concerns, no notion of essential logic, no notion of basic arithmetic except when they have to go to the grocery or buy their latest digital gadget or fashionable clothing.” There is a recent article on Duterte in the Manila Times which refers to him as a “boy-man” (link). Some aspects of the conflicts between Roxas and Duterte were remiscent of schoolyard conflicts between a geek and a bully. To some extent President Aquino showed immaturity in his term. But then again is Bongbong Marcos any less a spoiled brat if one goes by those criteria,  maybe even more? The most mature candidate is Leni Robredo – are Filipino men generally less mature?

Guess we are – I include myself at times, even if the demands of Western society forced maturity on me. I could no longer benefit from entitlement I would have had at home, even if I was “only” a child of UP Diliman Campus. My article on “Entitlement and Helplessness” (link) was about how the elite may keep the less fortunate helpless, but are helpless themselves without their helpers. The cruelty of how people laughed at Mar Roxas cooking rice in a cup or falling from a motorbike shows that rage that is felt by so many against the elite, even if he may or may not deserve that rage.

I remember very strongly how President Aquino spoke to the SAF at night after the Mamasapano massacre. He used the word “pag-aaruga sa inyo” – taking care of you, but pag-aruga means taking care in the way a parent takes care of his children, or a landlord takes care of his serfs. It definitely annoyed me and some others like commenter Vicara at Joe America noted this as well. Might have been unintentional – we all are shaped by our upbringing, whether we are Rodrigo Duterte, Mar Roxas, Grace Poe, Miriam Santiago or Jejomar Binay. All from very different milieus.

Mutual respect and tolerance will have to be found between so many different kinds of Filipinos. Civility which Joe America suggested might be a start – one does not have to LIKE one another.

India with 10 times as many languages as the Philippines, deeper ethnic, religious and caste divisions and even more of a gap between rich and poor manages to somehow not only hold together but also succeed as a nation. Even if there are still many difficulties one can read about, they somehow manage. Is it because the British left strong institutions like in Singapore and Malaysia? Even between formerly British Belize and formerly Spanish Honduras, I have been told by someone the difference is huge – the former is orderly the latter loud and chaotic. I sometimes wonder.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 5 May 2016


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Cooperate or Collapse

Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song and story (1911) (14782806795) The latest research has looked into the causes of societies failing or collapsing more extensively than ever. This could help in finding out how to fix Philippine society. Why Nations Fail (link to blog) by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson as well as Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (link to Wikipedia) by anthropologist Jared Diamond are the strongest works on this matter to date. Wikipedia (link) summarizes the reasons for societal collapse as follows:

Common factors that may contribute to societal collapse are economical, environmental, social and cultural, and disruptions in one domain sometimes cascade into others. In some cases a natural disaster (e.g. tsunami, earthquake, massive fire or climate change) may precipitate a collapse. Other factors such as a Malthusian catastrophe, overpopulation or resource depletion might be the proximate cause of collapse. Significant inequity may combine with lack of loyalty to a central power structure and result in an oppressed lower class rising up and taking power from a smaller wealthy elite. The diversity of forms that societies evolve corresponds to diversity in their failures.

Damage to Culture

A lot of things point to the Philippines as a society that has already collapsed in the past. Rizal and others have written extensively on how the fabric of society was damaged by the encomienda system, “producing a race without a mind and without a heart” according to his milestone work “The Philippines, A Century Hence“. Get Real Philippines, while being exaggerated and pro-dictatorial in its conclusions, has indeed described phenomena similar to those in James Fallows’ “A Damaged Culture” (link). One of the most damaged cultures is that of the Ik (link):

  • an ethnic group numbering about 10,000 people living in the mountains of northeastern Uganda near the border with Kenya…
  • were displaced from their land to create the Kidepo Valley National Park and consequently suffered extreme famine. Also, their weakness relative to other tribes meant they were regularly raided. The Ik are subsistence farmers who grind their own grain…
  • The Ik people live in several small villages arranged in clusters, which comprise the total “community”. Each small village is surrounded by an outer wall, then sectioned off into familial (or friend-based) “neighborhoods” called Odoks, each surrounded by a wall. Each Odok is sectioned into walled-off households called asaks, with front yards (for lack of a better term) and in some cases, granaries.
  • Children by age three or four are sometimes permanently expelled from the household and form groups called age-bands consisting of those within the same age group. The ‘Junior Group’ consists of children from the ages of three to eight and the ‘Senior Group’ consists of those between eight and thirteen.
  • No adults look after the children, who teach each other the basics of survival. However, it is not certain whether this practice is typical Ik tradition or merely triggered by unusual famine conditions. Joseph A. Tainter proposes this fragmentation to be an artifact of the dire circumstances where each person must depend on their own resources alone to find food and the age peers band together primarily to protect themselves from older stronger children who would take their food.

Much worse than the batang hamog that Karl Garcia mentioned in the past article, showing that there are degrees of damage to culture, much like there are degrees of how one can burn oneself. There is a study by the anthropologist Turnbull which is controversial, but does summarize the worst aspects of what happened to the Ik as follows:

“There is no better or more heartbreaking example of the alienation of the human capacity to love than the story of the Ik tribe of Uganda. Colin Turnbull in his book Mountain People documents how Milton Obote nationalized traditional hunting lands as national park for European tourists, and prevented the Ik from hunting in their traditional hunting grounds. After a couple of generations of starvation conditions, the Ik, originally a cooperative, child loving tribe, became a group of selfish cruel people who don’t trust or help anybody.

Subsidiarity, Solidarity, Humanity

are the three aspects of a functioning society that Manong Sonny has mentioned. Karl Garcia in the previous article on serving the community and the environment has looked at how to build some degree of subsidiarity and solidarity – thereby increasing humanity in the long run – at the barangay and municipal level. This is the bottom-up approach, but I think one must add:

  • the state has to protect communities against impunity, i.e. armed violence. Lumad communities in Mindanao even organize their own schools, I have read, but are often prey to impunity.
  • the state has to make its basic services more accessible to communities. Not force people to go to different offices. Have extension offices in regions, municipalities, even in barangays.
  • the state has to develop more of a service-oriented mindset. This is hard in a country were not even banks are truly service-oriented yet. It would be less of a foreign body for the people.

Negosyo Centers, Justice on Wheels mentioned by Karl, pilot projects with courts working in Filipino like I mentioned are ideas like this. The popularity of both Binay and Duterte rests mainly on their having implemented citizen services at the local level. Even if they made their workarounds. I suspect that the principalia, the native chiefs whom the Spanish coopted to help rule, often made workarounds for their respective villages and were loved by their people if they did for their benefit. Hated if they insisted on implementing often impracticable Spanish laws to the letter.

The Polder Model

The Dutch have polders (link) and each community is in charge of not only warding off the sea, but managing its own natural resources and keeping things clean. Dutch water boards (link) are among the oldest democratic institutions of the country, democracy in its best form being people cooperating for their common interests. In the case of the water boards these are the interests:

managing water barriers, waterways, water levels, water quality and sewage treatment in their respective regions.

In the Philippines it could be making sure mountains are reforested (link) or at least planted with crops like moringa (link) and disaster mitigation. This is one level above the community level that Karl has mentioned in the previous article. Communities that are in the same zone could be encouraged to form alliances to ward of ecological collapse, mitigate natural catastrophes and increase agricultural productivity, possibly even allow for ecotourism. This is regional. The Dutch polder model (link) is also used to describe cooperation and balance of interests at a national level:

The Dutch polder model is characterised by the tri-partite cooperation between employers’ organisations such as VNO-NCW, labour unions such as the Federation Dutch Labour Movement, and the government. These talks are embodied in the Social-Economic Council (Dutch: Sociaal-Economische Raad, SER)… During the postwar period, the Catholic, Protestant, Christian, social-democratic, and liberal parties decided to work together to reconstruct the Netherlands, as did unions and employers’ organizations. Important institutions of the polder model, like the SER, were founded in this period… ever since the Middle Ages, when the process of land reclamation began, different societies living in the same polder have been forced to cooperate because without unanimous agreement on shared responsibility for maintenance of the dykes and pumping stations, the polders would have flooded and everyone would have suffered.

In the Philippines, the system of warring barangays worked well for a long time. But there were only about 4 million people in the country around 1800. Today there are 25 times as many people. History I have read mentions that landownership, for example, hardly mattered in the old Philippines because there was always enough new land to slash and burn, then leave after a while to regrow the forest. Now there are hardly any forests left. The population when Marcos rule ended was almost three times that of when Magsaysay’s plane crashed. Now there are nearly twice as many Filipinos as in 1986. Even if what they say is true that the Philippines could export rice during Marcos days, the present population and the land do not allow it anymore. The countries of the Mekong delta can produce rice more cheaply and in larger amounts. Time maybe to look at the Dutch way, people of the sea, survivors of calamities. Cooperate – or collapse.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 14. April 2016

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National growing pains

You get tough growing up in kyoto (9878135754)are what the Philippines is experiencing today. A country of many islands, tribes, mixtures (link), subgroups (link) and divides (link). The present crisis regarding Kidapawan highlights it. Mindanao once more like Mamasapano a year ago. This time I am less emotional yet still concerned about the country that shaped me in my younger years. Joe America is concerned about the country he adopted more than 10 years ago and where he has wife and children (link). Yet what strikes me is the immaturity of many debates, to varying degrees, that remind me of a fish market quarrel (link).

  • Protesters were shot that is clear, but some also threw rocks. Some claim they were not allowed to leave by the leftist organizers and some had firearms (link).
  • There are claims that the provincial government did not distribute food. There are also claims that food was distributed but El Niño was politicized (link).
  • There is a PNP slideshow which provides a timeline (link).
  • There are FB pages (link) and Twitter feeds (link).
  • There is even an original video of the dispersal (link).

The debate is heavily politicized by now. Some were quick to blame the Aquino administration (link), making this a bit of Mamasapano 2. It is election season and things are heating up. But a lot of evidence and witness accounts point to leftists or even Duterte using the situation. It is a complicated matter. Not one single newspaper or online medium in the Philippines provides an adequate summary with infographics and a timeline, to provide enlightenment.

Professionalism and Leadership

Leni Robredo is the most mature person that I can see, calling for a suspension of the police chief while investigations are made (link). This was in fact the way it was handled in Germany’s Northrhine-Westphalia state after the Cologne New Year’s Eve attacks on women by certain groups – professionally. While Trump used it to trumpet, cool heads tried to be sachlichobjective.

What I can see from the PNP timeline (summary here) is a possible breakdown of leadership on the ground and provocation by certain groups there between 31 March 13:00 and 1 April 10:16.

Now I have experienced how Filipino leaders and followers can be firsthand on several occasions and secondhand in others:

  • the lower charges often trying to keep their heads down and avoid blame
  • the middle-level people doing real professional work trying to get things done
  • the higher-level people sometimes acting like señoritos/as ordering maids around (link)

Malcolm Gladwell noted in one of his pocketbooks that there was once a problem in Korean airlines – this I just quote from memory. The co-pilots were afraid to be direct to the pilot while the pilot did not hear what they were trying to say indirectly to avoid offense. This caused accidents – the “upper” people had to learn how to listen, the “middle/lower” how to speak truth to power.

Scapegoats and Personalism

These are the lessons that Filipinos often fail to extract from crises – the lessons on how to change their own culture of leadership and following which I think is flawed. Scapegoats are looked for instead which is the wrong way to prevent mistakes from happening again. Another mistake not cured since the time of Heneral Luna up to Mamasapano – the ego issues that commanders tend to have with one another in the heat of battle. Things go “Lebanese” in such moments – an example is Bonifacio starting the revolution, Aguinaldo not joining because of personal conflicts (link).

On May 3, 1896, when Bonifacio convened a council meeting of Katipunan leaders in Pasig, he (Bonifacio) wanted to launch the uprising as soon as possible. But it was Emilio Aguinaldo who categorically expressed reservations because of lack of firearms. It was thus due to Aguinaldo’s reluctance that the consensus was made to consult first Jose Rizal in Dapitan. It eventually turned out that Rizal shared Aguinaldo’s stand, being against a premature revolution and suggesting more prior preparation. (In fact, Aguinaldo’s group did not join Bonifacio’s troops in the August 29 and 30, 1896 initial attack in Manila—a battle which could have won by the Filipinos had Aguinaldo’s Cavite group cooperated.)

Now I do not see Aguinaldo, Bonifacio, Heneral Luna or anyone as a hero or a villain. It is not that simple. But so many Filipinos who watched Heneral Luna the movie went out of it with simplistic ideas of things as usual. All were people acting according to their personalities, with their strengths and weaknesses – most especially weaknesses when it came to teamwork.

Seeking Lessons Learned

I am a professional consultant, have been one for the largest part of my life. Anyone who has worked in Accenture or other shops – I have been mostly with startup type places and independent – knows what “lessons learned” means. Lessons learned means to take stock of mistakes, not look for blame but for the causes – so that the entire organization can learn to avoid them in the future.

The Philippines can be seen as a nationwide organization. Certain bad habits have been caused by history and politics – and both historians and politicians looking for heroes and villains. What I am waiting for is one single news organization that properly puts the whole matter in context – the food issue, the rally, the different players, the incident, what happened is happening afterwards.

Now it won’t help to find one who messed up. The whole Philippines remains a mess – except for the few who call for fact-finding and truth. I hope real lessons are learned this time – hope remains.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 3. April 2016

P.S. I also hope that there is no Senate hearing that quickly, because in my opinion the Senate usually grandstands – while the real pro work gets lost in all the bombast and blaming.

Regarding the Bangladesh Bank heist there is an overview by chempo (link) who is a Singaporean living in the Philippines – most Filipinos seem to miss the big picture most of the time.

A notable exception is “The Imagined President” by Rappler (link) – may THAT tribe increase in the Philippines, not the usual warring barangays and datus still looking for a real nation.


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1896 and 2016

Puente de espanaare strangely similar. Economically, politically, socially. Mark Twain said history does not repeat itself – but it rhymes.

Economic progress

The late 19th century was a time of economic progress. Things looked very much like today with booming business (link):

In 1870, for instance, a national telegraphic service was set up. In 1873, a shipping company that linked Spain and the Philippines daily through the Suez Canal was established. In 1880, a cable was laid down via Hong Kong allowing telegraphic access to the rest of the world. In 1882, running water was introduced into the city of Manila. In 1883, a tramway system was established that was improved upon constantly in the following years. In 1890, the capital was pleased to inaugurate a telephone service that quickly reached the other islands. In 1891 the first railway line was built. In 1895, electricity arrived in Manila, speedily spreading to other parts of the Archipelago. The Manila Observatory, a center established by the Jesuits for scientific research, set up a weather station that was essential for the shipping companies. Parallel to this, sugar refineries were created, foreign capital-Filipino joint ventures flourished in the realm of agro-exports, the Islands received the most recent industrial technologies from Europe and America, and companies as significant as the tobacco-manufacturing Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas or the brewery Cervecera San Miguel, destined to great future success, were established. In view of this feverish economic activity, two foreign banks opened branches in Manila, competing with the Banco Español Filipino that had been established in 1851… trade grew from the 2.8 million pesos it was worth in the 1820’s to 62 million pesos in the 1890’s. In other words, commerce grew twenty times its initial value.

The development of this new agro-exporting economy also implied the complete opening up of the Philippines to international free trade and an ensuing increase in foreign interests in the Archipelago. After centuries of theoretical monopolies, during which commercial exchanges were forbidden outside of the narrow limits set forth by the colonial Government (which is not to say that they were completely absent), in 1789 a partial opening up of the Port of Manila was authorized. The Port was to be completely opened to international traffic in 1834. Soon after followed the Port of Iloilo, the Port of Zamboanga, Port Sual and the Port of Cebú. Hence, during those times of the opening up of new communications paths, of steamboats, of transport subsidies, of deregulation of rates, and consequently of increases in trade activities in eastern waters, the Spanish Government embarked upon an increasing free-trader policy that peaked with the Moret Tariff of 1871. This tariff brought the list down to rates that were tax-like, with the aim of stimulating the production and growth of local industries, making the products more affordable and fostering trade. The local production of sugar, manila hemp and other tropical products (save tobacco, which stagnated until 1883) was declared free, and the right of foreigners to acquire properties and set up businesses in the Philippines was endorsed. This novel free-trading approach resulted, on the one hand, in a growing increase of foreign penetration into the Philippines as of the mid-1860’s and into the following years. Trading activities, the establishment of businesses, and international investments in the Archipelago grew notably.

Political reforms

The administration of the colony was modernized, the same link as above from the Spanish National Library provides great insights into a policy that reminds me of Daang Matuwid:

Provincial administrative practices were streamlined, and attempts were made to improve the professional profile of the representatives of the State, to put an end to graft and corruption, and to revitalize the class of civil servants. Also, both the administration of Justice and the functioning of the Treasury were reorganized with the aim of achieving greater degrees of efficiency. The Town and City Councils were restructured, adjusting for a new Filipino involvement in municipal life. Attempts were made to occupy the territory more thoroughly, ensuring the presence of representatives in areas so far not attended to and bolstering it in more exposed locations.

But we all know 1896 brought forth the Revolution – and that the outcome of the present election portends possible change in a direction we may all not be able to foresee. Why was that?

Social changes

From the late 18th century onwards, things changed in the sleepy but stable Philippines. Some important points:

  • the galleon trade became less profitable, so the government established monopolies on tobacco and liquor including taxes
  • the port of Manila was partly opened to international trade in 1789, fully in 1834, the Suez canal opened in 1867
  • agricultural products such as abaca, sugar and tobacco were in demand, enriching new segments of the population
  • foreigners mostly from other European countries came to the Philippines from the 1860s onward because of business
  • the level of education increased and many Filipinos took advantage of the opportunities – from the same link as above:

For instance, in terms of children whose schooling was provided for, if we compare the Philippines and France in the nineteenth century, in 1840 the ratio in the Philippines was one child in school per 30 inhabitants, whereas in France it was one child per 38 inhabitants. In 1876 there were 1,779 schools with 385,907 children enrolled. According to the Report on Higher Public Education for 1887 (Memoria de la Instrucción Pública Superior), there were 60,492 secondary school students in the Philippines, and over 6,000 higher education students, including those registered in universities, arts and crafts centers, the Naval Academy and Teachers Training College, among others. Finally, other data states that between 1861 and 1898, there were 40,158 students (for the most part Filipinos) enrolled in the University of Santo Tomás. 89% of these students signed up for non-religious studies, resulting in 34% of them studying law, 22% medicine and 22% philosophy. In time many of these students pursued further specialization abroad, studying law, medicine or engineering in European universities.

Spaniards born in the Philippines – the only ones called Filipinos originally – had their Representatives in the Spanish Parliament in the early 19th century, but finally a reactionary government put an end to that in 1837. In the Philippines, mestizos and natives found a glass ceiling with certain positions reserved for Spaniards. Filipinos (creole, mestizo, native) all wanted more – same link:

Affluent Filipinos rapidly perceived their requests to be seconded by the have-nots, a group whose importance was growing quickly.

These underprivileged Filipinos were the irritated farmers and the new urban classes, employees of the administration, or workers in the increasingly numerous private businesses running in the islands. They also included the Philippine secular clergy, who were granted fewer opportunities and functions than the clergy in Spain, as well as groups that had committed to defending the traditional Filipino political order, with its traditions and beliefs, in the face of colonial obligations. Although these different sectors did not form a homogeneous group, and despite the fact that their interests were different, their members coincided in condemning the discrimination they were the object of with regards to their Spanish-born peers and in opposing the colonial regime, with all its implications. Although they expressed their frustration in different ways and by different means, ultimately many of them joined in the revolutionary uprisings that erupted against Spain in 1896.

Sancho Panza

Rizal wrote something very interesting in “The Philippines, A Century Hence” (link) – something similar to many today who warn about reforms that do not yet reach enough people:

In the case of our country, the reforms take the place of the dishes, the Philippines are Sancho, while the part of the quack physician is played by many persons, interested in not having the dishes touched, perhaps that they may themselves get the benefit of them.

The result is that the long-suffering Sancho, or the Philippines, misses his liberty, rejects all government and ends up by rebelling against his quack physician.

Rizal did not know Secretary Abaya. I doubt he even knew Emilio Aguinaldo – he probably was still a cabeza de barangay or barangay captain at that time.

Rizal did know Andres Bonifacio from the Liga Filipina. Bonifacio worked at a German firm in Manila – he was a bit like some of today’s BPO workers in Makati.

History rhymes

Rizal warned those who wanted to make a revolution that independence was premature, and warned the Spaniards to hurry up the reforms. And gave this caveat in El Filibusterismo:

Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.

We all know how it went on. The Revolution started, the hothead Bonifacio died in a power struggle with cold, calculating Aguinaldo who then made a deal with Spain in 1897 – Biak-na-Bato. Aguinaldo wrote letters to the USA from Hongkong and came back with them in 1898, maybe hoping to be their client. America decided otherwise or always had, we will never know the full truth.

Now substitute Spain with America, America with China. The impatience and disunity of Filipinos has remained the same.

  • Many ilustrados wanted to preserve the economic and political gains of the late 19th century especially the 1890s.
  • It took until 1907 that the Philippine Assembly was elected under US rule after revolution, war, military rule.
  • The US took until 1920 to get Mindanao under control and turn it over to the Department of the Interior.

An entire generation had turbulent years. I wonder how history will rhyme from 2016-2040. One generation.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 2. April 2016

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Kaharian ng Kababalaghan

Animals in action; studies and stories of beasts, birds and reptiles; their habits, their homes and their peculiarities (1901) (14568732509)o misteryo yata ang Pilipinas. Tignan ang nangyaring magic tungkol sa Bangko Sentral ng Bangladesh. May napakagaling na artikulo ang isang taga-Singapore tungkol dito (link – basahin sana!) – Pero hindi lang iyon.

  • Napakahigpit ng Bank Secrecy sa Pilipinas mula pa noong 1955 tapos mula pa noong 1974 hindi puwedeng tignan ang mga foreign currency accounts (link – Atty. Laserna).
  • Noong 1990, nagkaroon ng FATF – Financial Action Task Force sa Paris. Na-blacklist ang Pilipinas noong 2000 (link), nagkaroon ng anti money-laundering act (AMLA) noong 2001 (link ulit).
  • Unti-unti itong hinigpitan dahil alanganin pa rin ang katayuan ng Pilipinas noong 2003, tapos noong 2012 ulit – kaya natanggal ang Pilipinas sa “dark gray” list ng FATF (katunayang link).
  • Gusto ng FATF na kasali ang mga casino sa batas, pero ayaw daw ito ng mga casino at ng PAGCOR (link)
  • Iyong pag-alis ng sekreto sa bangko ayaw daw ng iilan sa Kongreso (link na madetalye).

Sa malabong tubig, hindi madaling makita ang mga buwaya. Saan maaring nanggaling ang mga ito?

Paano kaya nagkaganito?

Sa huli kong artikulo (link – basahin sana) nabanggit na kakaunti lang ang humahawak sa kayamanan ng Pilipinas – kahit na marami na ring naging middle class sa mga nakaraang taon.

Sa isang lumang artikulo mula pa noong 1970 (link), maliwanag mag-explain si Senador Ninoy Aquino kung paano nagkaganito, at kung paano ito maaring maging mapanganib para sa bayan:

“When the Americans came, a group of young lawyers started titling lands: this was the beginning of the big estates. Gregorio Araneta, for example, became the lawyer of the Tuason family that claimed this tremendous tract of land from Sampaloc to the Marikina Valley. The original source of the Philippine fortunes was, therefore, land—either Spanish grants, like the Ayala estate, or the acquisitions titled during the 1900s.

“The second generation of Filipino wealth came from government connections.  In the 1920s when Quezon was financing his independence missions, certain people got choice contracts from the government, like the Teodoros of Ang Tibay, the Madrigals of the shipping line.

“Then we have a third generation of millionaires: those who got concessions from government financing institutions, like the sugar barons. The Philippine National Bank was set up and it financed practically the entire sugar-mill construction of the period.  The movement was from Negros Occidental to Iloilo and the sugar barons—the Lopezes, the Javellanas, the Aranetas—started taking over virgin forest.”…

But Senator Aquino sees one great danger: the Filipino who becomes master in Juan’s house may not be Juan de la Cruz himself. Juan may find that the foreign exploiter he kicked out has been replaced by a native one. “The Spanish exile, Salvador de Madariaga, warned that a country can become the colony of its own people.” And the hurt is that it’s Juan’s money that will be used to make him poorer and his master richer. As the taxes that Juan pays to the government too often are used merely to enrich a few politicians, so, in the banking system, the money of the depositors, of the people, may be used merely to capitalize the owners of the banks.

Senator Aquino says that this is already happening.

Kapakanan ng iilang mga may pera at kapangyarihan siguro ang dahilan ng sobrang pagkasekreto ng banking system ng Pilipinas. Huwag naman sana lahat sa kanila, kundi todas na talaga.

Mga epekto nito

Alam na sa abroad na ginagamit na yata ang mga casino at bangko sa Pilipinas para sa kung anu-anong kalokohan. Heto ang sabi raw ng isang report ng US State Department (link ng artikulo):

“Transnational drug trafficking organizations based in East Asia use the existing banking system, casinos, and commercial enterprises to transfer drug proceeds from the Philippines to offshore accounts”

Apektado ang normal na tao rito:

  • baka mapahirap o maging mas mahal ang pag-remit ng pera mula sa abroad kung sakaling ma-blacklist ulit ang Pilipinas
  • baka mahirapang makakuha ng trabaho sa bangko o kung saan ang iilang mga Pilipino gawa ng mabaho nang reputasyon ng bansa

Bukod pa sa bagyo, lindol at hirap sa Pilipinas na alam ng marami, baka maituring pa tayong mga magnanakaw at manloloko sa iilang parte ng mundo. Tama na, nakakahiya na talaga.

Meron bang magagawa?

Maraming imbestigasyon tungkol sa katiwalian na napahamak na ng bank secrecy. Kung legal naman ang kinita kong pera, hindi ako matatakot na malaman ng isang korte ang nasa account ko.

Makakatulong din sa mga imbestigasyon at pagkolekta ng BIR ang pagluwag sa bank secrecy dahil mahihirapan na ang paglusot. Baka maibaba pa ang tax ng mga normal na tao sa bandang huli.

Hindi mawawala ang mga buwaya kung hindi maging maliwanag ang tubig para makita sila. Hindi na siguro dapat iboto sa Senado at Kongreso ang mga dumedepensa pa sa sobrang bank secrecy.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20 March 2016


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