Jago and Preman

Suzuki Bandit 650SA - sideare terms for two types of Indonesian ‘gangsters’ or ‘bad-asses’. The former ‘good’, the latter ‘bad’. According to Wikipedia, jago (link) “literally means a rooster and refers to a type of strongman that exists as a part of the everyday life in urban and rural areas of Indonesia. The jago is a social and political actor in both recent and more distant history of Indonesia. In Indonesian popular culture, the jago is often romanticized as a champion of the people whose acts of violence are motivated by a deep sense of justice, honour and order.” Sounds like a Filipino action star.

A preman is “the modern, diagonally opposite form of the jago. This word originated from the Dutch word vrijman (free man)” or pree man since it seems that Indonesians also make F into P.  The Wiki article also says: “In the traditional state of the Medang (Mataram) Kingdom, thuggery was very much part of rural Java. The jago in pre-colonial times gained their legitimacy through their physical strength and sense of justice. In contrast, preman are notorious for their bullying behavior. Due to their image as thugs, the preman in rural Java were very much despised by the locals, while Jago were highly praised as heroes.” One can also see from the article that jagos played a role as intermediaries between the people and the traditional elite or priyayi, and that they also were a major factor in Indonesian independence. The Pancasila Youth (link) that played a major role in the 1960s killings in Indonesia were considered preman or political thugs. The Act of Killing documentary movie (link) is about some of the former perpetrators of the killings that took at least half a million lives by the lowest estimates – all within just a few months.

Indonesians are also known to drink “tagay” like Filipinos – they are the neighbor closest in culture, which could be the reason why Rappler and Eat Bulaga both succeed there as well.  And the parallels are striking and worth looking at. There is indeed a history of admiring “honorable bandits” in the Philippines as well, not only in movies. The culture of the “tulisan”. Matanglawin or Eagle Eyes is the name of a dangerous and respected bandit in Rizal’s El Filibusterismo – former barangay captain Telesforo or Kabesang Tales. Well, one could also look at cowboy movies which have characters like the jago and preman – High Noon anyone? Or go to the Balkans, where the Hajduk according to Wiki (link) “is a romanticised hero figure who steals from, and leads his fighters into battle against, the Ottoman or Habsburg authorities…. In reality, the hajduci of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries commonly were as much guerrilla fighters against the Ottoman rule as they were bandits and highwaymen who preyed not only on Ottomans and their local representatives, but also on local merchants and travelers.” Sounds a bit like some NPA characters.

Filipino World War 2 guerillas will also have moved within the spectrum from jago to preman. The Makapili were neither – they were simply scumbags with baskets on their heads who pointed out fellow Filipinos for execution by the Japanese. Although they were originally formed as another flavor of Filipino nationalism, a pro-Eastern one, with former revolutionary general Artemio Ricarte playing a major role. Anti-American Ricartistas in the 1910s were often street tough types. Quezon got the Jones Law through in 1916, the Senate was founded and they had lost ground.

Nowadays one can hardly tell who are the jagos, preman and Makapili among the different groups of Filipinos. With the killing happening, Pandora’s box has been opened. Oh yes, there is also the police. The gist of a posting of Senator Gordon Facebook (link) is: ‘a policeman has the right to defend himself, but where are the reports of Internal Affairs?’. This is correct. There are indeed situations where policemen have no choice. But there are also situations where a review of strategy to learn lessons can be useful. Checks also make sure that those who bear arms in order to protect people do not start to think they are naturally right. Because violence, even if it cannot be avoided sometimes, must always be used in a controlled manner. Everything else, and that is an experience that cuts across cultures, is a very slippery slope. Recent incidents show rage rising in the Philippines – a cyclist shot over a trifle, a motorcyclist arrested and shot by some policemen, wannabe holduppers run over intentionally by an SUV (link) – and everything that heats things up more might not do the country any good. Think Indonesia in 1965 – or Bosnia in 1993.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 6 August 2016

What is destroyed?

First page of El filibusterismo manuscriptsays Simoun to Basilio in Rizal’s El Filibusterismo – “Evil, suffering, miserable weeds that will be replaced by healthy grain. I would call it creation, production, giving life” to justify killing those against his revolution. When Simoun later has taken poison to not fall into the hands of the Spanish alive, Filipino priest Padre Florentino tells him: “we must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual”… but the interesting part is:

“as long as we see our countrymen feel privately ashamed, hearing the growl of their rebelling and protesting conscience, while in public they keep silent and even join the oppressor in mocking the oppressed; as long as we see them wrapping themselves up in their selfishness and praising with forced smiles the most despicable acts, begging with their eyes for a share of the booty, why give them independence?”…”if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow”.

Rizal knew his own people very well.  The present days will show whether anything has substantially improved.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 16 July 2016

Finding Common Ground and Sense

Amari Agia Anna Fresco 02is hard in the Philippines. Was Aquino’s rule too elitist (link) or is Duterte’s anti-crime drive too Bang! (link)? Common Filipino principles, do they exist? In the Constitution, in theory. But I wonder how many Filipino Catholics understand what is in the Bible, any more than the natives understood what Padre Damaso was preaching to them, so there we are back to Square One. Filipinos often just say Yes Sir, without any understanding. And act the same old way.

But wait, other countries also went through similar processes, but finally they learned and made their own common principles by which they live (more or less) until today:

  • England from the Wars of the Roses, the original Game of Thrones between York and Lancaster. The Welsh Tudors came from outside, finally Queen Elizabeth winning against the Spanish Armada set the ground for the rise of England to naval power. Then came the Scottish Stuarts, expelled once and replaced by country nobleman, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector = dictator. Stuarts came back and were expelled by the Glorious Revolution. Parliament effectively ran things from then on. John Locke, a Glorious Revolution supporter, inspired Thomas Jefferson…
  • France had its Revolution, its Reign of Terror, Napoleon, the Bourbons returning but just like the Stuarts not learning from their mistakes, the Second Republic with Louis Napoleon, first as President, then as Emperor Napoleon III, who then lost spectacularly against the Germans, then the Third Republic. Hugo and Dumas novels are full of references to these old politics.
  • Spain had almost two centuries of conflict between Carlists and Reformists/Liberals. Even its colonies were affected by this. The final incarnation of Carlism was Franco, some say.

But I believe most Filipinos think this way about their leaders, especially Presidents:

  • In the beginning: nanalo ba kami? Did we win? Being part of the bandwagon feels great, nearly every Philippine President started with high ratings if one is to believe SWS.
  • Towards the middle: nakinabang ba kami? Did we have any advantage? After the bandwagon feeling is gone, there is one’s own interest and the fear that the usual opportunists got more.

Where are the principles here? In school, we behaved when the principal was around. Being immature, we did not have much in terms of principles yet.

Like people, nations also mature. But it takes a common discussion to find this maturity. Might be it is starting now in the Philippines, among some. But hopefully, there are more real philosophers among those leading the discussions, in the sense of real thinkers. Not pilosopos, meaning sophists who only want to justify their own prejudices, their own group or their ego.

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



The original sin

RPS Rajah Soliman D-66of the Philippines was its datus swearing allegiance to King Felipe II, in exchange for privileges and helping enslave their own people. Power became entitlement without responsibility.

These principalia or native elites evolved into local politicians. There were mestizos, taxed more than natives but outside the barangays, looked down upon by the Spanish as well. These got rich in the 19th century due to business opportunities then. Parts of both mestizo and native elites got powerful in American times. Many of these elites rule even today by the following true principles:

  • I determine what is right
  • My people must serve me
  • I serve those above me

As for supporters of the powerful, many act like beta primates around an alpha. It is basically intimidation, either naked or clothed in different forms. There are few true principles that I see, unlike in the hierarchic cultures of the rest of Asia which have ancient traditions that were never interrupted and deformed as much.

It was no small wonder that those who were fed up with dictatorship in 1986 flocked around a widow, even if she was part of an oligarchic family. Male power seemed to be a bit tainted.

Power entails responsibility for those one has power over. It is not just there to serve oneself. It has it privileges for sure, but in a balanced society they are only the reward for true leadership. Religious beliefs and different systems of government exist to curtail raw power to serve the whole. Making it leadership and not just bossing around. Let us see how things go in these times.

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

Who are you?

Cheshire Cat appearing (detail)in the Philippines has the connotation of going beyond one’s rights. Do you know who I am? is known as a statement of having a right to something. Pro-Duterte commenters attacked Lourd de Veyra for his somewhat ironic wish list to the President, saying who is he? Junjun Binay said to security guards in Makati – do you know who I am? Philippine culture is high power distance. An article by a Bikolano (link) name Adrian V. Remodo (could be from Oas, Albay to judge by his family name) expresses very directly what I have felt to be Philippine reality for a long time:

From the philosophy of sadiring tawo flows the dialectics of the ideological dakulang tawo and sadit na tawo: as one is born inangkan nin darakulang tawo or the opposite of it. Dakulang tawo is the family of the wealthy, powerful, the landowner, and the educated; the sadit na tawo is the voiceless, the property-less, the descendant of the tumatawo of the landlords. Tumatawo speaks a lot for us here. The dakulang tawo, having amassed great wealth, plays as the real tawo of the society: she is the self, the sadiri, that has attained an identity in the society; the tumatawo  only who shares in the pagkatawo of the dakulang tawo. The sadit na tawo remains an Other, an ibang tawo, and can only speak of selfhood if she becomes a property (by employment or by other means) of the dakulang tawo.

In Germany, dogs get the family names of their owners on their certificates. The statement that you are only somebody if you have wealth and power, or if you are property of the entitled – WOW. Forget all ideas of human rights for those who aren’t defined as anybody anyway. Reminds me of an old detective story with Father Brown who is English. He asks everybody whether someone was there during the time of a murder. Finally he deduces that it was the postman, as the postman is not really seen as a person in the class society of England of those days – and gets his confession.

When the Beatles did not give a private concert to the Marcoses in 1966 (link), they had the worst experience ever and swore never to return to the Philippines: Moments later, a newspaper arrived with the headline “Beatles Snub President”.  After much ruckus, increasingly worried manager Epstein decided to issue a formal apology over Manila television.  As Brian’s apology was being broadcast on TV, the picture mysteriously went off and dead air was transmitted to the viewing public… the Beatles and their aides were kicked, punched, spit on and yelled at with angry epithets. “We treat you like ordinary passenger! Ordinary passenger!”, the airport personnel unsympathetically informed them.  (Strangely, the Beatles aides were all attacked more furiously than the Beatles themselves- the boys were to remember their hapless chauffeur, Alf, getting kicked, bloodied, and pushed down a flight of stairs.).

We treat you like ORDINARY passenger. Yeah sure. Ordinary people deserve to be treated badly. Something the ordinary people see every day when they go to government offices or banks in the Philippines. Now there is some sort of hierarchy everywhere in the world. Even the United States at first had equality only in theory and black slaves in the Southern States. But defining people as being human (tawo) only by virtue of their being property? Or by their being the supporter of this or that politician? Most religions have an idea of intrinsic human value. Do Filipinos have?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 30 June 2016


True Discipline

USMC-02461is self-discipline and good habits. Japanese schools usually have no janitors. School children clean the school themselves. NO señoritos there.  German chancellor Merkel (link) does her own grocery shopping, dragging a small security contingent to the German equivalent of Kroger’s. “If you have good luck, you meet her on a Friday afternoon at the supermarket buying a bottle of white wine and a fish for dinner for her and her husband,” says Wissmann. “That’s not a show.” These are two very successful countries known for discipline which starts on top. Sense of entitlement, like that of Duterte’s no-longer speaker Panelo (link) is not part of the culture – it is in fact despised. This is I think a major reason for the success of countries like Germany and Japan.

The Philippines is hierarchic. So is Japan. But there are hierarchic countries where entitlement is king. In Russia, I have heard, high military officers sometimes treat non-commissioned officers like servants – to clean their vacation houses for example. The Middle East is very hierarchic and entitled, with European foreign experts at the top of the pecking order and Filipinos struggling within the lower to lower middle rungs, and in the Gulf many natives see it as their entitlement to let all the others work for them. Some have said that Russia is an Emirate where it is cold. This sums up many things. Entitlement does not lead to progress. What cars do the entitled all buy? Mercedes of course, Lexus maybe – Maybach, Porsche, Toyota. Will they ever build anything equivalent? Don’t think so.

What does the Philippines rely on heavily for money? It does not have oil like Russia or the Middle East. It has people. OFWs, BPO. There are those who write that it is the oligarchs of the Philippines who heavily milk the middle class – with high prices for basic services they oligopolize, some say they made the most out of growth.

But could it be that those who clamor the loudest just want to be the new señors? Colonial times corrupted the original Malay culture from hierarchic into merely entitled. Hierarchy is necessary to order society. But those who discipline must be disciplined themselves. At least get up on time. The decadence of entitlement in fact destroys order, as respect for those above is lost. Remember Gloria Arroyo’s expensive dinner (link)? Irony of ironies – it was still-VP Binay who criticized it.

Britain has its royal family, but first of all they can afford them, second they have style – TODAY. Look back in old English history, and you don’t need to watch Game of Thrones.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 18 June 2016

Walang Taong Diyos

Persepolis relief god kingkahit gaanong kataas. Kahit na Presidente. Karapat-dapat itong galangin, pero hindi kawalaan ng paggalang ang pagpuna, kaya hindi ako sang-ayon sa ipinost sa OFW Tambayan (link): We, many of Filipinos around the world should know about this. We, and everyone of us should respect our presumptive president. We should stay our mouth with the words of limitation. There’s a quote “No one will disrespect you if you respect others, respect them how you respect yourself”. Tungkol ito sa isang video ni Lourd de Veyra na open letter sa darating na Pangulo (link).

Medyo palabiro ang dating ng pananalita ni Lourd sa akin – hindi bastos. Malayo sa kabastusan na madalas nanggagaling kay Duterte at sa iilang mga supporter niya. Sabi ng isang nagkomentaryo sa OFW Tambayan: Tama lang yan… Bakit pag siya ang nag wa wild sa mga campaign at presscon niya…. Ok lng sa inyo!???  Dapat mas maging magandang ehemplo cya bilang uupong pangulo at hindi manguna sa KABASTUSAN ng BUNGANGA at madalas na pagbabanta. At sinabi rin ni Raffy Tima (link) na: “Walang presi-presidente kapag asawa mo ang binastos”.

Kahit bumalik pa ang Pilipinas sa panahon ng mga datu, wala naman sigurong datu na pipito-pito sa asawa ng may asawa. Maaring angkinin niya ito kung gugustuhin din ng babae, tulad ng ginawa ni Raja Mangubat sa kapatid ni Amaya doon sa teleserye. Hindi rin siguro magbibiro ang isang datu tungkol sa isang ginahasa at pinatay. Kahit datu siguro matatakot sa multo, o kaya sa paghihiganti ng mga babaylan. Tsaka nakikita sa mga diskusyon na ayaw na ng maraming Pilipino ang maging sunud-sunuran na lang ng matataas na tao.

Tapos na talaga ang panahon ni Lapu-Lapu. Kung gusto ni Duterte na galangin siya, galangin niya ng kaunti ang mga pinamumunuan. At tandaan niyang ibinoto siya, hindi ginawang hari. Sabi niya sa Kongreso (link): “Don’t investigate me. The road will end with me. The buck stops here. We are going to have a fight,” he said. “I am doing what is right, as long as it is the truth.” Bakit? Diyos ba siya na sa kanya lang ang katotohanan? Maliwanag ang sagot ni Senator Panfilo Lacson, isang ibinoto rin ng taongbayang Pilipino, sa ganitong hamon:

”The Congress, particularly the Senate is not like most of the provincial, city or municipal councils where many local executives exercise control over them. Having said that, the Senate will conduct investigations in aid of legislation whenever necessary, and nobody, not even Duterte can dictate and stop us from doing our job. In a civilized society, respect deserves respect. Upon the other hand, unmannerliness deserves some rudeness.”

Maraming mga pumasok na impluwensiya sa Pilipinas. Indian, Muslim, Tsino. Pagiging Kristiyano. Mga korte at iba’t-ibang batas. Gobyernong Maynila. Demokrasyang Amerikano. Iyong dating galing sa dayuhan, ibinago at inangkin ng Pilipino. Tulad ng mga jeep na naging jeepney. Tulad ng hamburger na naging Jolibee. Mall na Pilipino iba sa mall ng Amerikano. Ang demokrasyang Pilipino, hindi na siya kopya lamang ng demokrasyang Amerikano tulad nang sa simula – bahagi na rin siya ng kulturang Pilipino. Walang taong sinasanto sa demokrasya.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 11 June 2016

Power and Dignity

Photograph of the first chief killed during the Samoan war, ca. 1880smust go together. Not only in the leaders, but also in the way each person in society is treated. Could it be that is what the Philippines lost at some point, including the mother of Aguinaldo allegedly looking out of the window and asking whether Heneral Luna was still moving after the Kawit brigade killed him, one of the most mean-spirited incidents of Philippine history? The soldiers of Aguinaldo raping the wife of Bonifacio after executing him was also a similar incident that added insult to injury – even in destroying one’s rivals there are ancient codes of honor.

Every balanced society accords a certain of dignity to those within it, at all levels. From the simplest tribal society to the most complex modern democracy. Deep within all of us want a certain sense of worthiness – embodied by how we are treated by the powerful and the system, and by how the powerful represent us. The recent behavior of President-elect Duterte shows a lack of dignified bearing, something even Erap had for all his vices – and the way three of his followers recently humiliated a critic on social media (link) was deeply demeaning and ugly.

Sure, pre-Hispanic datus and rajas were often harsh. But I can imagine that they for one adhered to old Austronesian codes of dignified bearing for chieftains. And that they could not afford to demean the dignity of even their subjects too much – in the days before firearms and in small barangays a datu was easily unseated. Could it be that the power given them when they became the principalia that upheld Spanish rule made them harsher by destroying an old balance? I don’t know. But the harshness and shamelessness of power in the Philippines rears its ugly face so often.

Shooting people who are merely suspects, without even a trial like animals in the streets, has no dignity at all in it. It demeans both those punishing and being punished. Humiliating and posting a picture of someone for merely criticizing Duterte also demeans both the punishers and the punished. It lacks self-respect first and foremost. Respect for others cannot come out of this.

First thing that so many Filipinos must find back is their self-respect from which dignity in bearing and in treating others comes from. But how?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 9 June 2016

Alam ng Pilipino ang Tama!

Sorcerer program 1884Kakilala ko dati, sabi niya may pamilyang aswang sa kanila, iniiwasan ng lahat. Nabasa ko kay Fedor Jagor na meron talagang pamilyang sinasabing ganyan sa mga baryo. 19th century bumisita itong Aleman sa Pilipinas, sabi niya baka cannibal ang mga ninuno ng mga napagbibintangan ng ganito. Sabi naman ng iba pang Pilipina noong masakit ang likod niya na kinulam daw siya. Buti may nagkumbinse sa kanyang magpadoktor. Sa Africa naman, may mga napapatay dahil sa bintang ng witchcraft. Imbes na aswang at witches, adik at pusher na ngayon ang kinatatakutan sa Pilipinas. Droga na imbes na hiwaga.

Siguro naman alam ng tao kung sino sila. Bakit pa dadaan sa korte? At kung may inosenteng mapatay, mayabang siguro kaya buti nga sa kanya. Kung pagbintangan naman siya ng malalakas at idamay siya, kasalanan din niya. Mula pa noong panahon ni Mahoma, banal ang mga matataas na tao. Datu man, barangay captain o mayor. Ganito kahapon, ngayon at bukas.

Sa bagong wika ng AlDub – FOREVER!

Irineo B. R. Salazar, kung saan-saan.

Ika-8 ng Hunyo, 2016 at Forever


Antonio F. Trillanes IVay gawa ng makatang Indonesian na si Chairul Anwar noong umalis siyang galit sa pagbababae ng kanyang ama. Naging tangi itong poem ng mga rebolusyonaryong taga-Indonesia. Salin ko:

Kung panahon ko na
ayokong may maawa
maski ikaw pa

Ayoko ng may sumipsip

Isa lamang akong mabangis na hayop
itiniwalag maski ng sarili kong pangkat

Maski tagusan ng bala ang aking balat
Magagalit pa rin ako’t lulusob

Sugat at lason titiisin ko’t tatakbo

hangga’t sa mawala ang sakit

At mas lalong babaliwalain ko
nais kong mabuhay ng isanglibo pang taon

Heto ang orihinal sa Wikipedia (link):

Kalau sampai waktuku
Kumau tak seorang ‘kan merayu
Tidak juga kau

Tak perlu sedu sedan itu!

Aku ini binatang jalang
Dari kumpulannya terbuang

Biar peluru menembus kulitku
Aku tetap meradang menerjang

Luka dan bisa kubawa berlari

Hingga hilang pedih peri

Dan aku akan lebih tidak peduli
Aku mau hidup seribu tahun lagi!

Ingles naman:

If my time has come
I don’t want anyone to beg
Not even you

I don’t need that sniveling!

I’m but a wild animal
Exiled even from his own group

Even if bullets pierce my skin
I will still enrage and attack

Wounds and poison I’ll take running

Until the pain leaves

And I will care even less
I want to live a thousand more years

Isinulat ng makabayan na Cuban na si Jose Marti: “the first duty of a man is to think for himself”. Heto ang tanging motto ng blog kong ito. Sariling isip ng bawat isa ang mahalaga.

Nabasa ni Jose Rizal si tukayong Marti niya: “I want to die facing the sun”. Isinatupad niya ito noong patayin siya. Hindi ako naniniwala sa sinabi ni Duterte na bayot ang takot pumatay,  pero mahalaga ang manindigan, ang maging hindi takot mamatay o harapin ang anumang dapat harapin na walang pagsisisi para maging tunay na matapang.

Duwag sa tingin ko ang karamihan sa mga Dutertista – matapang lang sa Internet o kaya sa grupo. Karamihan sa Pilipino kulang pa rin ang lakas-loob para panindigan ang sariling palagay na hindi nagtatago sa saya ng grupo – may iilang mga dilaw na ganito, karamihan ng Dutertista ganito sa tingin ko, maraming Marcos loyalist na ganito pero may nakilala rin akong mga hindi ganyan.

Mahalaga sa maturity na ibinanggit  ko sa huli kong artikulo ang manindigan kahit kontra ito sa sariling grupo. Kulang ito sa maraming Pilipino, kahit saan. Ang nakikita kong matapang talaga si Senador Trillanes – iniwan niya ang Senate Majority noong galit siya kay Enrile at hindi niya binalikan, sariling paninindigan ang kanyang ipinaglalaban kahit saan at walang kinikilala kahit sino.

Kung isa siyang “ulol na aso” para sa marami, o kaya mabangis na hayop, itiniwalag maski ng sarili niyang pangkat, eh di mabuti. Sana dumami ang katulad niya. Mature na Pilipino.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 7. Mayo 2016

P.S. ang “kau” sa Bahasa “ikaw” sa Tagalog – mukhang sa text language naging mas Malay ulit ang wika ng Pilipino.