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

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

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

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.

Do you remember?

UP Activists during Martial Lawthe 21st night of September? The Earth, Wind and Fire Song that starts with these lyrics came out during the Martial Law period, in 1978. I was 13. The official declaration of Martial Law was not on Sept. 21 though, but on Sept. 23, 1972 if one is to look at Manolo Quezon’s account of what happened (link):

Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, PLDT, the airport, were shut down in the early hours of September 23. Media, political, and other personalities and activists were rounded up also in the early morning hours.

This is why martial law was announced with silence: people woke up to discover that TV and radio stations were off the air. Later in the day, some stations started playing easy listening music and some stations aired cartoons. But Marcos’ speechwriters were slow, then the teleprompter broke down, and the speech had to be hand-written on kartolina. So it wasn’t until dinnertime that Marcos finally appeared on TV and the country found out martial law was in place.

I do remember – vaguely – cartoons the entire day on TV. At seven years, one starts remembering. Our old black and white TV in a wooden casing. The Bagong Lipunan song on TV accompanying torch marches. Placard for a referendum saying “YES na YES”. Was it the ratification of the 1973 Constitution or was it the 1975 referendum giving Marcos more powers (link)? I don’t remember. In fact even as a child I did not feel like asking. In UP Campus, the sense of danger was present.  Much of what happened I found out only later, in “another life”, already in Europe far from that.

Simpler times?

Unlike in the Philippines today, there was hardly any news in Manila papers about “the provinces”. It was vaguely known that there was a conflict in Mindanao. Samar (link) was spoken of in hushes. Many people were jailed at the onset of Martial Law, and I think most were happy to be let out. Foreigners could be subjected to reprisals similar to those Sr. Patricia Fox is going through today. Though the thoroughly manipulative Marcos regime knew how to dose fear and reward very well. Marcos killed less people than have been killed in Duterte’s drug war, though more were tortured.

And many disappeared, or were subjected to different forms of harassment. And unlike today, there was hardly a way of making things known to a large crowd. No social media, not even Internet. Fax machines came in the 1980s. Try concealing a cassette recorder of those days to record threats. And there was a largely indifferent – by then – population. There had been a First Quarter Storm in the early 1970s, a Diliman Commune, strong opposition. And still, as Joel Pablo Salud writes (link):  Money was a means, not an end to most Filipinos. Martial Law changed that, as Salud writes:

Corruption, once a crime, had turned into practice. In so short a time, Marcos had transformed anti-materialism to a wholly materialistic mindset from top to bottom. Again, it was money for money’s sake. This bought the dictatorship more time..

..the general public had begun to heap scorn on most calls to dissent. Protest marches were marked as a menace to society. The words of the intellectuals, powerful though they may have been, fell on deaf ears.

It would be safe to assume that with the advent of Marcos’ New Society, which showcased, above all, his achievements in the area of infrastructure, economic development, and relationship with the superpowers—all paid for by the taxes of the people—the all-too-visual spectacle turned the public’s attention from any talk of reforms to such pageants as military parades, global events, virtually the sights and sounds and wonders created by this conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda.
The crass, even cold-blooded materialism of the Martial Law era is clear in my memory. The Filipino got his bread and his circuses. Miss Universe in 1973. The Thrilla in Manila: Ali vs. Frazier in 1975. UNCTAD V in 1979 (link) – which we smart ass kids connected with Voltes V (link):
Each day of the week, different robot shows were aired—“Mazinger Z,” “Daimos,” “Mekanda Robot,” “Grendizer” and “Dunguard Ace,” to name a few. They captured the imagination of a predigital generation..

..It was a wonderful time to be a kid then—until they were seized through a directive by the Marcos government. “Voltes V” and the other robot animes where banned from airing nationwide because of their alleged “excessive violence.”..

My [Toym Leon Imao’s] anger was trained on then President Ferdinand Marcos, who my young mind labeled as the Philippines version of the evil Boazanian Emperor.

Many from the generation that grew up during World War 2 and the Japanese occupation had another attitude to the Japanese warrior spirit shown in those anime. There were indeed protests from some parents and Marcos had responded to them. There was also a videogame ban (link).

Not all that glitters is gold

What I also know by now is that my mother joined the UP Cooperative in the early 1970s, when the first rice crisis hit the country, shortly before my brother was born. The UP Coop had NFA rice.  Good place to buy the basics. Only place with cash registers that also worked during brownouts.

Brownouts were frequent and so was lack of water. It is not as if frequent blackouts were something that started in the Cory years. Things were often experienced during Martial Law, hardly reported. The U.P. Fire Brigade went around distributing water to everyone one hot summer, 1975 or 1976.

When was it that the NAWASA in Balara, the ones in charge of water supply, got foreign money to improve water supply in Manila – but just built a fancy new headquarters on Katipunan? Hmm. Don’t remember the year but I know that it happened that way. Saw the fancy new building.

Just like I recall the often half-empty concert hall of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. And a story of how a foreign conductor stopped in the middle of a performance when Imelda’s people started filming him without a contract. The story I recall is that she herself came down with one.

So she didn’t dare treat him like the Beatles were treated in 1966 (link) after “snubbing” Imelda. Her showing off got a spooky note though when the Film Center accident happened in 1981 (link). Even if international friends of Imelda like George Hamilton were able to add to her glitter then.

It is only a paper moon

But then again, didn’t George Hamilton play in the vampire movie “Love at First Bite”? It is true that Filipinos until today are obsessed with appearing sophisticated and wordly. Even Napoles’ daughter buying her way into the Hollywood party circuit (link) in recent times reflects that. Colonialism I guess created an obsession with trying hard to be like those who came, conquered – and spread the word that their ways and looks were superior. Imelda Marcos’ shoes (link) are an example of the ostentatiousness of people who want to prove something at all costs, to the world.

Nowadays there exist members of the Filipino upper class who truly appreciate culture when they travel (link) – unlike some especially Marcos-era Filipinos who thought it was cool to sneer at, for example, how little Western Europeans spoke English. Or spoke it with an accent, how terrible! Quiet self-esteem looks different from grandiosity and constantly having to insult other people to prove one’s worth. What was also obvious during Marcos times was the huge difference between the too-perfect pictures of places and the real disorder and dirt around them. Only a paper moon.

Lost Golden Age?

Unfortunately the distorted picture of Martial Law seems to consist, among many, of the news that never reached Manila – meaning a seemingly less complex, chaotic world than today – and of the airbrushed pictures of the regime’s “accomplishments” which were mostly hollow – or not lasting. True, there were some good things, for example how Commissioner Mathay ran Metro Manila. Or the Metro Manila Transit Corporation – which unfortunately went bankrupt very quickly. But a regime that lasted 21 years should have done at least a few good things, it would be awful otherwise.

Could it be that the yearning back (among some) for a supposed Golden Age is that the travails of the past 32 years since 1986 have obscured how things really were during the Marcos era? One thing I see is that the Filipino middle class was much thinner back then. Sometimes I wonder if we are bad at counting our blessings, or curse even our blessings until curses come upon us. The 1960s were an economically expansive time, but somehow the dream of Martial Law seduced so many. Same with the Second Aquino Presidency (2010-2016) – it was laying the groundwork for more.

The moment you take your luck for granted, you might lose it – this is a life lesson many can learn. People can tend to forget the bad things about the past and forget how much better things are now. Probably with me, the reason why I don’t forget Martial Law – and I have left out very many things – is that I left in 1982. Maybe some things even got worse after 1986 – but I think because many things just went on due to inertia. Labor export since 1975 instead of industrial build-up. Brain drain since the 1960s. Reactive, not proactive politics. Worst: money as an end, not a means.

Symptoms and Causes

Policies that went at the symptoms and rarely at the root causes of anything. Latest example – EJK or tokhang as what many people thought would create peace and order. Just like Martial Law may have reduced street crime in the beginning (it came back later) but burglary increased, I do recall. But what to do with a people that love show over substance, like Marcos, for whom a “communiqué was the accomplishment itself, the implementation secondary”, as Lee Kuan Yew observed (link)? A people that often place their false pride first and refuse to accept criticism that could be helpful?

Well, I partly understand that sensitivity. Gossip and damaging criticism can damage you badly in a country where many people don’t form their own judgement about a person, but follow the crowd. Which is why trolls have played an important role in keeping President Duterte where he is now. What I myself admit that I was influenced by certain commonly held opinions also. Surprisingly until recently about Mar Roxas. His recent suggestions on rice policy show a man who analyzes very thoroughly (link) and with a realistic focus, not a bumbling theoretician with “analysis paralysis”.

What will happen?

Today is going to be a day of protests in the Philippines. I wonder how many people will come now. What Filipinos finally will decide. Because, as Joel Pablo Salud also wrote (link), the once proud Filipino was again reduced to the groveling, finicky and fearful crofter of Joaquin’s “The Heritage of Smallness” ..by Martial Law. And this after the 1960s.. had began shaping Philippine society into the vibrant, energetic.. constituency it was always meant to be. Or like contributor caliphman on Joe America’s blog more or less wrote, will they decide to stay carabaos? Or will they say no?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 Sept. 2018

Quo warranto et ab initio in saeculo saeculorum

Wikipedia scale of justice3Social media is full of memes since the attempt to void the amnesty of Senator Trillanes.  Just like the lack of a birth certificate does not make a person unborn, a missing marriage certificate does not annul a marriage, and whether one has the death certificate of Rizal somewhere in a museum or not, Rizal (and Elvis) are dead. Will quo warranto and ab initio go the way of in saecula saeculorum (“now and forever” in Catholic liturgy – link) which became colorum (link) due to use by cult-like rebels?  Has Solicitor General Calida crossed the line, offended Filipinos?

Laws as commitments

His predecessor Florin Hilbay asked whether anyone sent to buy vinegar (Robin Padilla) can just arrest someone now. There are even memes that ask if a marriage is annulled if the marriage certificate is missing. One thing very sacred to Filipinos is marriage, not just a legal document like so much else but a sacred commitment made. Just like an amnesty is a commitment by a state to a person. Laws are also a form of commitment, like contracts between people are commitments. Morality is also a form of commitment to restrain one’s own baser instincts, and be nice to others.

The left is also defending Trillanes, not because they like him, but because the principle that an amnesty stays is essential to the safety of many former rebels among the left. Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo says that (link) “The State cannot be shackled by an act of clemency it has given to a political offender when the latter pursues subsequent acts inimical to its interest..” which betrays an idea of government “for the powerful, by the powerful for the powerful” not the people. Government should keep its commitments, not be captive to the whims of groups or factions.

Patronage and Impunity

Of course the old rules of malakas and mahina (link) or strong and weak worked out in Filipino politics for a long time, possibly even in pre-Hispanic barangays. The losers possibly even left on their own balanghai (link) to new settlements if the arrangement was too odious – there was space. Then it became convincing the powers that be that one is “right” – leading to phenomena like split-level Christianity (link) or trying to curry favor with the higher power of the time by pretending to adhere to whatever one thought would please them, even if it was only a simulation not reality.

Reagan’s Vice President Bush (senior) told Marcos (Sr.) in 1981 “We love your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes” (link). Marcos must have been very pleased. The system of master pleases patron, even if only for show, to be allowed impunity downwards. Years later, Marcos was to be surprised that American society had eventually developed to also care whether human rights were adhered to abroad, away from the principle of “our SOB” (link). Thus he was “very, very disappointed” when Senator Laxalt told him to “cut, and cut cleanly” in 1986.

What does the Filipino want?

One could defend the old system as “Filipino culture”, but some recent memes show some beliefs might be changing: police ask for your driver’s license application instead of your driver’s license, or POEA wants your passport application instead of your passport.  Are they tired of impunity? There is a major principle that makes rule of law both real and yes, even pleasant for those with less power: legal certainty (link), defined as “a principle in national and international law which holds that the law must provide those subject to it with the ability to regulate their conduct.”

One could argue that the unwritten rules of Philippine society, basically the rules of patronage and impunity, are predictable to those who grow up in them. But is it a nice life having to always watch out who you might offend? Especially the Filipino entitled, who often are unpredictably grandiose? The President with his obvious narcissism is just an extreme manifestation. The others who shout “do you know who I am” to anyone they think is in their way or otherwise offended them are more. Might be that the Philippines is on the road to hell if those who dream of being like that are more.

Does the majority really think the Philippines is meant to be ruled by impunity, by face and power, and by rent-seekers forever? Quo warranto, or what gives the entitled to rule the country after all? Though some Marcos loyalists call the so-called yellows “pretenders” (link) which is a term used for fake royalty and some even say that Bongbong Marcos will soon “wear the crown” of Vice President. As if that dynasty ruled the country ab initio (from the beginning) and had the right to do so in saeculo saeculorum (for ever and ever). Mind your betters, or Magistrate Calida will punish you!

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 8 September 2018


Soft and Forgiving?

Lee Kuan YewWhere is that Filipino attribute gone? Lee Kuan Yew said it in this context (link): It is a soft, forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics. There is not much softness and forgiving attitude among those who are OK with poor people getting killed as drug suspects. There is downright malice towards the family and those associated with the political color that helped bring down Marcos, including recent unsubstantiated claims against the City of Naga (link) aimed at damaging Vice President Robredo. “Those who claim to be better should be measured by higher standards” a Duterte supporter once told me.

Brazenness is Strength

So much for soft and forgiving. Probably those who don’t “claim to be better” are given a free pass. Maybe those brazen like the Tulfos (link) with their 60 million are admired for their “strength”. What I do understand is that all places where there used to be oppression have some degree of admiration of sorts for bandits. Oppression made ordinary people take shortcuts, go against the law, and those who were especially bold at it had the people’s sympathy. But the Tulfos are NOT Robin Hoods. Especially this is NOT worthy of Robin Hood or Zorro and especially not my idol Batman (link): He relates how his driver bumped a little girl in Navotas and how they had taken her to the ER, only to be seen by a doctor who refused to give the girl first aid. Nothing in the video reflects this.. The video also shows Tulfo harassing the medical staff and saying “gago ka!” 

Unrepentantly, Imee Marcos has told Filipinos to move on (link) from the past. The New York Times article also says this: Thousands of people were killed and tortured during the Marcos era, and the Marcos family was accused of stealing roughly $10 billion in government treasure to enrich itself. There is a bit of a counter-reaction now, with reminders that Marcos debt will take until 2025 for the Philippines to pay. But I wonder how much that reaches most Filipinos. Money that belongs to the government I think is an abstraction to most Filipinos, and I concur (to borrow a term used by many emergency room doctors, in honor of those harrased by Mon Tulfo) with Edgar Lores in this (link): Filipino thinking is concrete thinking [not abstract thinking]. State money is to most just as endless as the money of relatives abroad, not my money, why bother?

Utang na loob

Those who have understood that it is the sum of the money paid as taxes are usually middle class. People who have worked hard for their money – and to the typical Filipino may appear as stingy or even worse, “ambitious”. The Filipino culture is one of sharing, but that sharing also has a bad side, meaning relatives and “friends” who borrow money or other stuff, never to give it back. Probably a holdover from the times were nobody had much and a lot of things were handled via an economy of favors and counter-favors, something still reflected in the idea of utang na loob. From overseas, the capitalist economy came and gave people with certain skills opportunities. Andres Bonifacio was warehouseman of Fressel & Co., a German company, many Katipuneros had similar jobs in Manila. The American period and afterwards brought more opportunities – outside of the old barangays.

Another aspect of utang na loob is indebtedness towards a patron. Probably a fair deal in the times of small settlements. A capable leader helped his supporters, who demonstrated loyalty in return and vice versa. It probably became a lopsided arrangement as the original chieftains became part of the colonial system as principalia with hereditary status, something they did not have before. Late 19th century agribusiness like sugar, tobacco and abaca made the local elites more powerful, together with the new mestizo elites. American-style democracy favored these elites even more. Finally, these elites controlled local governments and a national government to dispense favors in return for loyalty and vice versa. Commercial elites also had similar arrangements with underlings, except that a certain efficiency was also expected, at least compared to typical government service.

Ways to prosperity

Very typically, a UP graduate would tend to gravitate toward government while an Ateneo graduate would usually work in “Makati”, the private sector. The times where the difference was very pronounced is gone, when every public high school valedictorian and salutatorian automatically got a UP scholarship, just as the times are gone when UP was typically either leftist and/or nationalist and Ateneo was typically liberal and internationalist with its many rich mestizos. Marcos, Binay and Enrile all went to UP while Benigno Aquino Jr., Benigno Aquino III and Mar Roxas all went to Ateneo, but Leni Robredo and Florin Hilbay went to UP while Senator Gordon went to Ateneo. Probably BPO and other international firms coming to the Philippines also broke the unwritten rule of old that you had to usually be from Ateneo or La Salle to make a big career in the private sector.

Things went well for a while with Marcos’ system, even under Martial Law. The middle classes continued to prosper, the promise of order in the streets of burgeoning Metro Manila was kept at least on the surface, although the more covert forms of disorder like break-ins went up. The walls around houses that did not have walls before went up, and gated communities, originally a preserve of the rich, were built more and more for the middle class. Growth of slums will have accelerated then as well, as Manila did not give everybody the same access to its elusive dream. But in 1975, POEA was founded, and year by year more Filipinos were sent especially to the Middle East. Also, Export Processing Zones were created to attract foreign factories, for example Germany’s Triumph. Rice shortages or violence in the provinces hardly affected Manila, as little became known then.

Not only because the media barely reported, but also because Filipinos stay in their own circles. Also they tend to care little about circles outside their own, even if nowadays there seems to be a new crowd that has a more encompassing sense of right and wrong, outside of the usual “kami”. Kami being the “exclusive us” that means “us without you”, where you are the one being spoken to. Prof. Zialcita, a Filipino anthropologist, says that (link) in societies where the State and the City are absent, individuals live in organizations that are largely kin-based, leading to a sense that the primary moral obligation is only to the kin and not to a broader, abstract community. Corollary to that, the nonkin tend to be regarded as a potential enemy or a potential victim. So there was not much of a reckoning with Marcos in 1986. OFW export continued. So did migration to Manila.

Towards more Community

The origin of the Filipino is in barangays. There were the beginnings of cities like Manila and Cebu. And going back to the 19th century, the formation of national elites with money and education, which became the power elites of the American-era Philippines, and then those who studied to become government and private sector employees as well as military officers and intellectual elites. Those who left their own barangays last to join the teeming mass of what is now called Filipinos were the OFWs and also some BPO workers. Of course a lot of the teeming new middle class of the 1970s did not hear about the human rights victims of the Marcos dictatorship, who were often UP or Ateneo students, often left-leaning but not always. Yellow confetti falling into Makati streets fell for recently widowed Cory Aquino, not for most of those now named at Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

The new middle class of now cares as little about others as their newly arrived predecessors in the 1970s, who were usually OK with things as long as their prosperity went up. When that failed and Benigno Aquino’s murder shocked the country, a lot of those formerly indifferent became “yellow”. Not so strangely, liberals and leftists nowadays, and the graduates of the major universities as opposed to the diploma mills many OFWs come from, have a lot more common ground today. There is still some distrust, but within the different parts of the opposition the discourse is quite lively and interesting – usually taking place via social media. This is not surprising, as Edgar Lores already noted the Filipino mind is concrete, not abstract. And my corollary to that is  – it is visual. EDSA I was due to videotape, EDSA II due to text messages, recent upheavals due to social media.

Owing the Community

Facebook memes that say “why not steal from Marcos loyalists and then ask them to move on” or “why not borrow money from them, not pay it back, then say move on” show abstraction though. Certain Filipinos now have a sense of something maybe even their parents may not yet have had: that the state and the nation are a common venture of all, not just some abstract entity, or a milking cow once owned by the colonial powers and assumed to be a piggy bank for whoever is in power. The new middle classes whose came up mostly due to OFW remittances  and whose roots according to Mila Aguilar are still in the peasantry (link) might have another view of things. They might even see the older middle classes and the graduates of better universities as strangers (possible enemies or victims?) and gravitate to the same kind of patronage politicians their parents knew. Let us see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 25 August 2018

Resiliency and Readiness

Tropical cyclones 1945 2006 wikicolorseem like opposites but aren’t. There has been a vibrant discussion on social media since yesterday on resilience as a Filipino attribute. A 2013 article by Ninotchka Rosca (link) says:  “To say that Filipinos are resilient is an assurance for those who have imposed upon them – much and repeatedly. It is to say to themselves that we shake off tragedy much like ducks shaking off water.” Miyako Izabel twitters (link) “I’m sorry, there’s nothing wrong with Filipino resilience. Why are you attacking it? Filipino psychology is observable. You can see how Filipinos use tawa to conceal hiya and ngiti to hide takot. It’s our coping mechanism. We process hopelessness and helplessness differently”. Tawa or laughing to conceal shame, and smiling or ngiti to hide fear – I don’t think this is Filipino-specific. Many Asians conceal embarrassment with laughter. Smiling to hide FEAR sounds like a response towards those that one must not anger. In 2014, Shakira Sison wrote (link) that “The problem with our resilience is the speed by which we transform trauma into acceptance. Instead of solving problems, we simply cope or wait for the problem to pass.”

Anong magagawa natin?

Miyako Izabel does add this to the discussion later: The self-projected resilience of Filipinos is a coping mechanism embedded in their consciousness or psyche. The politicians’ dismissive nonchalance–“nevermind Filipinos; they’re resilient to hardship, hunger, poverty, persecutions, killings, calamities”–is an oppressive insult. Just like another netizen tweets (link): “We’re only resilient because we have no fucking choice.” or Inday Espina-Varona who tweets (link): “Walang masama sa resiliency. Helped us survive centuries of disasters (and colonisers and abusive leaders). The important point is, not to rely on it as solution to problems. Resilience is no substitute for accountability and reform.” Anong magagawa natin becomes may magagawa tayo. Indeed the improvisation by private parties and LGUs, as well as the higher degree of preparation by LGUs such as Marikina and Cainta, turned out to be a highlight of yesterday and today. Kudos. The Filipino is not as helpless and hopeless as it seems, after all. The President was hardly missed. Resiliency in the sense of excusing lack of preparation was not at all evident in those doing things.

The bayanihan spirit of spontaneous helping one another (Ateneo, CBCP and a number of other groups launched drives to collect relief goods) plus the contemporary spirit of for example having highly modern evacuation centers in Marikina (link) combined to deal with a perennial scourge. There were some of the netizens who did remember that overbuilding – even over canals and streams as well as natural flooding areas – and garbage clogging drains were part of the causes. Certainly there is more than can be done here, especially to avoid Manila Bay spitting back. Possibly the key is “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”. Another of course is to start with what is necessary, then do what is possible – another basic principle in setting priorities. That easy?

Barangays and polders

Far-flung barangays, especially 500 years ago when the Philippines had only 600 thousand people, relied on their own resiliency to survive. Probably even 120 years ago, with not even 10 million Filipinos, it was similar. One still had to take a steamship to get to storm-ridden Bikol or Samar. The strength of storms hadn’t increased yet due to global warming though, and it could be that people still followed some old native wisdom not to build in certain places. Anywhere one goes in the world, the poorest parts of cities were usually those near the river – even Au in Munich, which in southern German means a low lying meadow near the river. Even scientifically minded people should not look down upon, or underestimate folk wisdom. Tribes on the Andamans and Nicobars survived the 2005 tsunami by moving to higher ground (link). There are stories of Bikol people having similar strategies with storms. For all we know, native healers noticed patterns in clouds and wind before storms came and were the ones who warned the chiefs to keep the village safe. Practical adaptations like houses on stilts were part of a culture which was both ready and resilient.

Need is the driver of invention. A Filipino visitor to Europe recently noted that many trash cans here have no lids and windows have no screens (link) – leading to a lot of flies in the recent heat wave over here. On the other hand, houses here have tilted roofs – to keep snow from piling up. Romans described what later became the Netherlands as a country that was neither land nor sea. Yet the Dutch made the most out of it. Waterschapen or water boards were among their first democratic institutions to take care of water in every respect (link): “Punishments meted out by water boards were fines for misdemeanors such as emptying waste in the nearest canal; however, according to various historical documents, the death penalty was used more than once for serious offenders who threatened dike safety or water quality.” The collective effort of making one’s own land – very literally – can be compared with what it took to build the Banaue rice terraces, or the Inca irrigation systems in the Andes. The Afsluitdijk (link) crowns centuries of work, and fulfills the motto of its chief engineer Cornelius Lely, that “a people that lives builds for its future”.

Up and Down the Country

American officials in the early 20th century described the Tagalogs as one people. There is some sense in that as they spoke the same language with several dialects (like the marked Batangas dialect) already then. Tondo as the settlement at the mouth of the Pasig river in the large natural harbor of Manila Bay existed for centuries, even before Malays established what became Maynila or later Intramuros. Certainly the economic links with the fish-rich Laguna de Bay already formed a country in the sense of people who constantly interact with one another. Probably Spanish times helped spread Tagalog upwards all the way to Nueva Ecija. Certainly if an archipelago is not yet fully united in an abstract sense, ecological and economic areas are practical ways of dealing with common interests and resources. The Pharaohs of Upper and Lower Egypt certainly had an important role in resolving how water was distributed between the fertile delta and the upriver communities. At the very least, leaders should try to work for the collective prosperity of a common area  – unity often arises out of that. For that, leaders need a sense of the whole and the future.

Going up and down the Isar river near Munich, one senses how an entire river was tamed for those who live along its banks. From the Sylvenstein reservoir upstream, whose water is sometimes let out preemptively before heavy rains – in order to be able to keep those from affecting Munich with its 1.4 million people. Canals along the Isar help regulate the river before, in and after Munich, but also have a history as passageways for timber chopped down in the mountains – an old industry. Likewise many small hydroelectric plants – still in use – interrupt these canals, including locks. Munich’s central heating plant takes up water from the river before the city, heats it up and puts int back into the canals after it has heated large parts of the town. The canals and creeks within Munich are laid dry in early spring, before the water in the mountains melts, to clean them. There is a large artificial lake north of Munich to help regulate water flow, additionally clean the water coming from the city – even if Munich has a huge sewage treatment plant which cleans the dirty water from the city before it goes into the river, in a process involving algae and bacteria.

The Babaylan of Christmas Present

Rizal in his novels describes the Pasig River and the Laguna Lake including Talim Island very well. One feels that he knew his terrain, his countryside. Do Filipinos still know their terrain that well? One cannot immediately get to the level of Munich, which is like cleaning a toilet with a toothbrush. But it isn’t impossible to clean up things. Iloilo managed to clean up its river. Could be, or course, that many inhabitants of Manila don’t truly see it as their home. Many people who just came there. Short-sighted, narrow self-interest and greed have not helped. Nor has petty politicking helped.  Previous admins always had their mistakes. But the population density – and the newfound affluence – of today makes strategies that worked for barangays even 120 years ago unrealistic. According to a Bloomberg news report (link), 54 thousand were now evacuated in Metro Manila.

Looking at the cars that landed in the Marikina river hurts. Owning more means more to protect. Filipinos who work in international firms will know the value of the time lost due to those floods. That is a far cry from the sense of time we had in the Philippines of the 1970s, when hours went by. Resilience is good. Readiness is better. Foresight is needed. System thinking. Who will be up to it? DOST Project NOAH, very useful in predicting flood levels, was defunded by the present admin (link) and had to retreat to being a mere UP research project, bereft of its national sensor network.

One may be tempted to dismiss the fake Manila Bay clean-up drive of Manila Mayor Erap Estrada as the foolishness of an old clown. But unfortunately it isn’t that simple. Mila Aguilar, who has experienced decades of Philippine history closely, describes the present situation like this (link):

..Failure to maintain that flood control system in the past two years has been the result of:

1. Focus on divisive politics instead of good government.

2. Extreme focus on a fake drug war that kills instead of rehabilitating the poor, whether they be real addicts or not.

3. Return of gross corruption and 60 percent commissions on road projects, resulting in sloppy work that fills up culverts instead of emptying or building them, and a flurry to start them even in the midst of the rainy season.

4. Utter failure of local governments to clean up culverts and creeks of garbage, the money probably not being there.

5. Widespread demoralization among the urban poor, who because they are the primary targets of killings, price increases and insults on their persons, will naturally not cooperate in cleaning up their surroundings.

The garbage that floats out of culverts and creeks all over the National Capital Region is but a symptom of the vomit that the nation feels in its gut over the present greed..

Babaylans of old may have felt disaster coming in the wind and clouds. Raja Duterte has no seers. Yet this is visible for all to see: a hanging bridge in Rizal demolished by a flashflood. Serious masses of water coming down the river. Anyone who knows rivers knows the sheer power water can have.

Flashflood destroyed the Hanging Bridge connecting Sitio Wawa and Sitio Sto. Nino. Large part of Sitio Wawa is inaccessible by vehicles and people need to find alternative routes by foot to reach their homes. The Barangay San Rafael staffs are already assisting and on the move to help those who are affected.These footages were captured to help the LGU assess the situation and see the extent of the damages caused by the flash flood.Stay safe everyone and lets pray for the rain to stop.

Gepostet von Edzon Sison am Samstag, 11. August 2018

The Babaylan of Christmas Future

Famous author Ninotchka Rosca would probably have been a babaylan in the old Philippines. Her common sense about both the past and the present give her a good sense of what might happen. She says this on Facebook, and it sounds almost like a scary vision of the future to come (link):

Shortly after super-typhoon Hai-yan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines, I wrote a piece for Yahoo on how the word “resilient” was actually an insult; that to apply it to what Filipinos were undergoing was to minimize the disaster which had claimed lives, wiped out towns, villages and at least one city, driving them to starvation and helplessness and the prostitution even of children… And dang, hundreds of Filipinos took umbrage. So dearies, because you are resilient, nobody’s fixing your canals, your waterways; nobody’s stopping construction and over-development; nobody’s fixing your garbage disposal system; and the mega shopping malls are building over what should’ve been rivers flowing to the sea, the mouth of the sea itself is being stoppered through land reclamation… Because being resilient means you can survive the worst and the worst will hence be your condition of existence. .

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.” is Scrooge’s reaction to the future in “A Christmas Carol”. Would a Filipino just laugh?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 12 August 2018

You Raise Me Up

is one of the theme songs at Duterte-related gatherings. It was sung today in South Korea, though not by him, and was requested by the crowd in Hong Kong not too long ago. Could the theme of this song be one of the keys to why so many Filipinos seem to NEED Duterte somehow? Let us have a look at the words of the refrain:

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

A Duterte supporter I know recently told me that the poor get more respect now in the Philippines due to Duterte. My answer was “I don’t know” – in that context more of an “I don’t quite believe that”. But how do people in the overseas “Filipino barangays” feel when their “King’s entourage” comes to “Meet and Greet” (link) like in Seoul? Maybe like teens when their favorite star comes? But they aren’t teens. But maybe they are like teens in one way. Lack of confidence. So they derive a bit of it by admiring a “lodi”, which is the recent Filipino slang word for idol.

Pulling others down

No issues with upliftment, as people need a sense of dignity that comes from self-worth. If “you raise me up” was all there was to President Duterte, he might be for the Filipinos what Martin Luther King once was to Afro-Americans. But there is also a side more like Malcolm X with his controversial anti-white statements. My tweet (link) says this:
The President has freed Filipinos from the colonial shackles of “good manners and right conduct”.
Freedom from hypocrisy and servility, called “decency” by yellows, is the achievement of our times.
Finally, no more forced bowing and smiling when hacienderos pass by. /sarcasm (bold for clarity)
There were the times when sakadas had to give forced grins to hacienderos and these smiled “benevolently” back. Deep inside, many Filipinos doing simple jobs abroad may still have a memory of of much more feudal days past. Someone who skillfully uses those complexes towards old overlords and colonial masters manipulates those feelings.

Lowering all standards

There is rage for sure. Muhammad Ali (a follower of Malcolm X) used his swearing as a form of defiance and pride. “We wish you a Merry Kano, we wish you Amerikano, we wish you Amerikano and a Happy Negro” is a Filipino joke about a Christmas carol, with a bit of sly insight in it. Uncle Toms were always “Happy”. Ali was defiantly rude.

But Ali had style in his rudeness, his cussing was poetry. Duterte’s cursing is not. Especially not the perverse stuff. The “jokes” about the dead Australian missionary and kissing IMF President Lagarde (link) might appeal to certain Pinoys who feel white women are out of their league, or even “white men and mestizos are taking all our women”.

Lowering standards for public servants while portraying those who take the effort to educate themselves as somehow being “un-Filipino” (Leni Robredo’s daughters, for example, and she is NO landlord) encourages dumbing down the entire nation. Even Marcos (Sr.) said “intellectual elitism is the only valid elitism” in a speech I heard myself once.

On others shoulders

Now I don’t fully agree with Marcos Sr. there. There are highfalutin intellectual elitists who put down normal people. Or specialists who talk down to laymen when they should be providing the service of somewhat simplifying things. American science books awakened my STEM interest because they explain well. German science books were harder.

That was decades ago and German books explain better – or have I become smarter? But they made me feel stupid. Now how stupid and incapable are Filipinos going to feel if everything in their own country is done by the Chinese? And dependency to a new elite is taught? Will it be “I am strong when I am on your shoulders” – but only then?

Really being more

BMW Isetta, Bj. 1955 (2015-08-26 2997 b Ausschnitt)Instead of “raised up to more than I can be”, why not BE more – like this here (link)? The BMW Isetta was one of the most successful products of BMW in the 1950s and 1960s. The small car whose picture I have posted in this article. Affordable for the general public then, still very thrifty. Big gas guzzlers were for American GIs.

There is a bit of a cult following for big gas guzzling US oldtimers over here in Munich, probably nourished by those times. But imagine if everybody had done whatever was necessary to buy US cars back then. Little would have been rebuilt, and most probably BMW would not have had enough incoming money to finance research and become what it is today.

Patience and solidarity

Germans still drove “baduy” (uncool) little cars in a time when Manila already had the newest American cars, really? Unfortunately, the new Filipino middle class of the 1960s voted for Marcos and martial law because many other Filipinos were swelling the slums and cramping their (life)style. Marcos promised discipline with “selda ng lasing”.

Cells for drunks is what that means. Does this sound familiar to the even more brutal war against drugs these days? Like the newcomers to the middle class in the 1960s, the new Filipino middle class today cares mainly about itself. Somehow the new German middle class in the 1930s was similarly selfish, despising those seen as “asozial” (link).

Postwar West Germany tried to leave as few as possible behind. That this no longer was done as consistently since unity is one reason for resurgent populism. Yet the lessons of the successful rebuilding still apply – better to help others keep pace and life is better. Meanwhile, postwar Manila saw its first slums and gated communities (link).

Now the Philippines has a highly antisocial TRAIN law which puts burdens on the poor via indirect taxes which raise prices – a truism. Here it is those who wanted tax cuts at all costs, even if at expense of the poor, who are antisocial and lack solidarity.  Even the 4Ps (link) which could help many out of poverty are now being considered for removal.

Will the poor in the Philippines get even poorer and risk getting shot as drug suspects, or just stay poor and hope to be “raised up” by the existence of their Lodi Duterte? Many urban poor during Martial Law idolized Imelda Marcos. Will Filipinos now acquiesce to new masters, even idolize them, while these smugly take their seat? I really wonder.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 June 2018