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

Ako

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
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
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
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.

Senator Alan Cayetano

anong mararamdaman mo kung nanay mo ang pinagtripan ng ganyan ni Duterte? Parehong puti ang mga nanay natin. Mga ama natin, magka-brod dati.

Pag-sori ni Duterte kulang pa, ito sinabi niya (link): “There was no intention of disrespecting our women” (binold ko). Paano kung hindi “our women”.

Puwedeng gahasain, patayin tapos pagtripan ng isang pinuno, sabay tawa ng mga supporter? Ganyan na bang kababa ang naabot ng Pilipino ngayon?

Itinuring na “our women” ang mga nanay natin dahil Filipino gentlemen ang ating mga ama na parehong Pilipino. Sino ang binubuntutan mo ngayon?

May narining akong istorya tungkol sa isang barkadang Pinoy sa Alemanya. Nilasing at pinagpilahan ang isang Alemanang mag-isang naligaw sa party nila.

Paggalang sa babae

Matagal na iyon, at wala akong pruweba noon, kaya hindi ako pumunta sa pulis. Mahina ang loob ko noon, hindi ko idiniin ang nagkuwento sa akin.

Pero kung ganyan pa lang sa simula, ano ang kasunod ng birong hindi biro ni Duterte? Sa ugali ng mga supporters ninyo, baka pati turistang puti pagtripan tulad ng nangyari sa Alemanya.

Hindi ba sinabi ni Jacinto sa Kartilya ng Katipunan (link): “Ang babae ay huwag mong tingnang isang bagay na libangan lamang”… tapos kay Duterte “nauna sana si Mayor”. 1896-2016.

Pagprotekta sa banyaga

Senator Dr. Cayetano – heto ang buong nararapat na paggalang na dapat ibigay sa may Ph.D. na tulad mo dito sa Alemanya, sinabi ito ni Goethe na kinikilalang tulad ni Dr. Jose Rizal:

Das Land, das den Fremden nicht beschützt, wird bald untergehen – ang bansang hindi nagpoprotekta sa banyaga, malapit nang lumubog

Hindi ninyo naprotektahan sa insulto si Jacqueline Hamill, sinabi pa ni Digong sa Australia na huwag makialam (link) – eh kung may Amerikanong nagsabi ng ganyan tungkol kay Jeffrey Laude?

Kapwa at iba

Ang tao, mahina minsan ang pagmamalasakit sa iba. Para sa kalayaan si Jefferson – pero hindi para sa kalayaan ng mga itim. Hindi kapwa tao ang turing niya sa kanila, kundi mas mababa.

Ang Pilipino inapi, kaya siguro manhid ang iilan kung puti ang apektado. Meron ding mga binatang Arabo na akala nila karapatan nilang bastosin ang mga babaeng puti dito sa Europe.

Huwag ninyong gawing ganyan ang mga Pilipino, pagka’t kami rito sa Europe dumudugo na gawa ng mga terorista. Hindi na namin kayo kikilalanin kung maging ganyan din kayo.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 19. April 2016

Who needs heroes?

Boys' heroes (1885) (14773182842)The Philippines is full of heroes that are revered. Germany where I live still reveres great men like Goethe and Schiller, among others, but the word hero is not used. There was a great villain once.

There is a relatively boring Chemistry Ph.D. – Dr. Angela Merkel, recently given the crown of “Woman of the Year” by Time Magazine. She has handled major crises like Greece and is presently at the forefront of handling the refugee crisis. And the next election in 2017 may not be easy for her, because here too there are trolls and agitators who spread distortions and use fear as a weapon.

The German experience

Fortunately most Germans do not look for a saviour anymore. The last one who sold himself as the only saviour of the country ended up killing himself while the capital city was laid to waste, and thugs from his group hanged young boys from lantern poles for refusing to defend the Fatherland, a lost cause at that time. The zero hour was the name of those days, and the Chancellor of postwar West Germany, Konrad Adenauer, was known for his motto of Keine Experimente – no experiments. Helmut Schmidt, one of his most respected successors, said that he did not have a vision and that those with visions should go see a doctor. I was bored to death by German state TV and news when I moved here in 1982. Private TV made things more exciting and I voted Gerhard Schröder for Chancellor because he was “cool” and promised things to us which did not materialize (link). In fact many people did not like what he did in 2005 (link):

As Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder was a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, which aims to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, thereby bypassing transit countries. The agreement to build the pipeline was signed two weeks before the German parliamentary election. On 24 October 2005, just a few weeks before Schröder stepped down as Chancellor, the German government guaranteed to cover 1 billion euros of the Nord Stream project cost, should Gazprom default on a loan. However, this guarantee had never been used. Soon after stepping down as chancellor, Schröder accepted Gazprom’s nomination for the post of the head of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest. German opposition parties expressed concern over the issue, as did the governments of countries over whose territory gas is currently pumped. In an editorial entitled Gerhard Schroeder’s Sellout, the American newspaper The Washington Post also expressed sharp criticism, reflecting widening international ramifications of Schröder’s new post. Democrat Tom Lantos, chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, likened Schröder to a “political prostitute”…

With the crisis, the “Trumpish” AfD has entered some State Parliaments very recently. That State elections don’t happen at the same time as Federal elections which will take place in 2017 is a good thing. Because they are in my opinion already now proving that they are not able to find real solutions to a complicated issue which involves forging peace in Syria which is closer to Germany than Los Angeles is to New York, encouraging Turkey to keep a large number of refugees, securing the southern borders of the EU including the maze of islands that are the Greek-Turkish border.

The Filipino experience

Back to the other country which I am also bound to be having lived there before and by my ancestry. Benedict Anderson in his article “Cacique Democracy” mentions that there were large parts of the middle class that supported Marcos in the chaotic years of the ill-fated postwar Republic, saw him as a possible saviour. Yet in the same article, Anderson mentions that around one million Filipinos, mostly educated middle class, left for the United States until the mid-1980s after Kennedy made migration to the US easier for non-Europeans in the 1960s.

I have also heard some stories that many Spanish mestizos – those who could prove it – moved back to Spain in the 1950s and 1970s. Now I don’t believe they were superior in any form, just luckier to be in the social class that had more educational opportunities – just like those Filipinos who went to the USA until the mid-1980s. Those within the Filipino middle class who stayed and saw that Marcos was not delivering his promises, in fact making things worse by the early 1980s, were the core of the movement that mourned Ninoy Aquino and brought Cory up via People Power.

Spanish sources I mentioned in my article 1896 and 2016 (link) clearly show that the Revolution then was also carried by many frustrated Filipinos who had risen up during the economic boom at that time but were excluded from true participation by the Spaniards. Many of them were in Manila. They also expected to be saved, charged forward without really knowing in what direction.

What I see

There are no perfect choices for the Presidency come 9 May 2016. But I do see a world of differences:

  • Rodrigo Duterte seems a revolutionary type, but he by far does not measure up to the original values of the Katipunan (link). He has strange connections that make him suspect (link);
  • Grace Poe promises “Galing at Puso”, but even with competent advisers like Dean Tony La Viña and Dado Banatao, she does have strange connections to Danding Cojuangco;
  • Mar Roxas has the most experience, having been in an office which even Duterte consistently refused, saying that he was “not qualified before, not qualified now” (link).

The Filipinos will have to make their choice, but what I see is that they may charge into trouble once more. Like in 1896, 1965 and 1986. My point of view may be “un-Filipino” but so be it:

  • better play safe and go for a “boring” candidate who is for rule of law, because one can at least patiently continue to correct things that go wrong if there is rule of law;
  • better play safe and go for a candidate with some business connections than those backed by monopolists like Danding or religious sect leaders like Quiboloy.

Nobody will save the Philippines except the Filipinos themselves, by themselves. Those who need Batman or Superman or Wonder-Woman – just watched Batman vs. Superman this weekend – are WEAK. Whatever hope Germans had in heroes died with Adolf Hitler. From the zero hour, a Götterdämmerung or dusk/death of the gods as in Wagner’s famous opera, human beings took charge. Women started to clean up. Men started rebuilding. No experiments. No visions. No heroes. Gods were dead. Just like Superman in the movie. Trabaho lang. Wala ng drama.

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

National growing pains

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

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

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

Professionalism and Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

Scapegoats and Personalism

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

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

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

Seeking Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Of Philippine Divides

Grand Canyon in fogIn colonial times there was only one divide, and it was clear who was on what side of it. Those on the advantaged side had nearly everything and those on the disadvantaged side nearly nothing in terms of:

  • education
  • power
  • money

My previous article about entitlement and helplessness is about people on both sides of the divide – but also those who moved up and acted the same way to those who were then below them. In addition:

  • language has usually been used as a divider to separate those on top and those below. Used to be Spanish, then it was English. Those who had proficiency were in, those without were out.
  • the definition of right and wrong was reserved for those in power. They controlled the Church, the courts of law and state force. The disadvantaged were nearly always “wrong” by definition.
  • color of skin played a role. The Spanish Philippines had racial classifications: peninsular, insular (“Filipino”), chino, mestizo Sangley (part-Chinese), mestizo (half-Spanish), Indio, negrito – even on documents.

Mestizos moved up starting with the late 18th century. Insulares started clamoring for a nation first, then mestizos and natives also. But it was first Filipino priests, then educated Filipinos. Filipinos by that time meant all who were from the islands, not just Spaniards born in the Philippines. The revolution was started by Bonifacio, who was forced to stop studying due to his family situation and was a worker at a German company – the Philippines was booming at that time with international firms. Aguinaldo, a provincial politician, took over the show but lost to the USA.

The USA sent pensionados or scholars to America train them – of course in the interest of creating a Philippines in its image. It created the University of the Philippines in 1908 which initially had a meritocratic character and normally still has – similar to many American state universities. There were already public schools before the Americans came, but the USA strengthened the system. Up to the 1950s at least public schools were still good, and every high school valedictorian and salutatorian nationwide got a UP scholarship I heard. Opportunities were still opener then.

A warped society

But it seems every group that moved up closed the door soon after to make sure things remained cozy. The Filipino can be a creature of convenience, of taking the path of least resistance. Preventing competition to assure entitlement. Monopolizing education, power and/or money. Using language, “righteousness” and/or “beauty” to keep others feeling helpless. This kind of social structure has led to many people feeling like underdogs and to social phenomena one can very clearly observe in the society. People are judged by what they are perceived as:

  • The wily can use the real or imagined underdogs. I speak Filipino / am dark / am “not a hypocrite” or “a Robin Hood” or “unpretentious” just like you, I am one of you, trust me.
  • A sincere person with a true sense of justice or morals may be called a hypocrite in the Philippines – because of being too educated, rich, white or speaking English too well.
  • A truly educated and well-behaved person may be called pretentious, while the vulgar and stupid can come across as down to earth and realistic to all too many people.

Of course there are pretentious people who happen to come from rich families and speak English but don’t know what they are talking about. There are people who pretend to be for the rule of law or Catholic morals and will primarily suspect any poor or dark or only partly educated or badly English speaking or Mindanaoan or OFW of being a crook while they themselves are hypocrites, but:

  • there are also those who act the underdog, play the masses or even pretend to do things in the Name of The Lord or Justice while being the worst hypocrites of all
  • there are those who act as if they are for the people, then use their possibilities to get rich and powerful themselves together with their own respective group

So the divide is not one-dimensional anymore, even if the hatred and suspicion of the educated is still very widespread. One wonders how Rizal or Mabini would have fared in today’s Philippines.

Overcoming the Divides

I have defined six divides – education, power, money, language, “righteousness”, “beauty”. Let us look at the first three:

  • education: K-12 is not just 2 years more – it is a modernized educational system that teaches real thinking and abstraction skills (link). Not memorized rote, not just a pretentious degree.
  • power: more democratic participation is something that I think will come up – people obviously want to be empowered, even if the lack of knowledge and education sometimes misdirects.
  • money: the Philippine Competition Act and Commisions, SME initiatives, the Go Negosyo Act and Negosyo Centers – all steps to more opportunities for people to make a decent living.

People usually don’t want too much – they just want to be competent (education), in control of their destiny (power) and able to live reasonably well (money). From a recent article (link):

The survey shows 79.2% of Filipinos aspire to a “simple and comfortable life” with a moderately sized home and sufficient earnings for day-to-day needs. Other priorities include the purchase of a car, university education for children and leisure travel within the country.

A 16.9% segment, meanwhile, aspires to an “affluent life,” described as having savings for unexpected expenses and a business with sufficient earnings for their needs, apart from housing, cars, university education and leisure travel.

Only 3.9% of respondents admitted to seeking the “life of the rich” — defined as a large house and business with high earnings, in addition to the car, university schooling, savings for unexpected needs and leisure travel.

On the way to a better country, there are two age-old intimidation factors which should be minimized. But not in the wrong way:

  • language: Filipino should be used as often as possible – even in courts of law. But English taught well, so it is no longer a class distinction. Regional languages also used – in city halls etc.
  • hypocrisy: Laws should be translated and made part of the school curriculum, even the Constitution. Also simplified and made more human – allow divorce. Justice should become fairer.

Against a false sense of beauty that is color-based and against hypocrisy of people themselves not much can be done. It is less than in decades past and may lessen with more modern times.

Possibly genuine laicism which separates Church and State more than today. Political correctness may not work. But a certain civility (link) with a healthy dose of tolerance for directness may.

Bridging the Divides

The divides for now threaten to break the country apart – the elections are showing it. But it is not only the elections that are significant, they impede progress as a whole. How can the be bridged?

  • education and language: important knowledge should be made accessible to people with different educational levels and different languages until this divide has been overcome
  • power and hypocrisy: real citizen participation like in Cebu (link) should be encouraged, impunity harshly pursued and punished, legal and justice reforms towards more objectivity.
  • money: the 4Ps are a beginning. More jobs by encouraging foreign companies like Stihl (link) and Jotun (link) to set up shop in the Philippines and building own industry in parallel.

The cycle of entitlement and helplessness could be broken, together with the opportunism and crookery that it encourages. The loser nation could finally become a winner nation if this gets done.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 1 April 2016

P.S. This is not an April Fool’s Day joke, this is a serious article

Being in Filipino

Alexander Roinashvili. Lado Meskhishvili in role of Hamlet. 1896GRP has claimed Tagalog or Filipino has no words of substance (link). Based on Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” allegedly not being translatable. It is translatable as “umiral o hindi”. This is without my knowing the Hamlet translation of Professor Rolando Tinio which Manong Sonny once watched. Unreliable sources have given me elementary school test papers of Karl Garcia. He translated it into “tutubi or not tutubi”, meaning “bee or not”. According to more reliable sources it became “Jolibee or not” when Karl was in high school. But let us be serious once more like Senator Sotto.

While “being” in English, “ser” in Spanish, “sein” in German, “essere” in Latin which are all Indo-European languages have a sense of permanence to them, “pag-iral” has a sense of struggle to it. Being in Filipino seems to be something you have to fight for, attaining permanence and stability hard. What is also true is that while especially German is a language of nouns (Substantive), Filipino is a language of verbs. In German everything IS while in Filipino everything is on the move. Language is culture. Culture is formed from people’s experience. Why did it become like that?

The Philippines is a land of earthquakes, volcanos and typhoons. The province of Albay where my father’s people come from is a place where this holds true the most. Life in such place is struggle. Maybe the sense of being that Filipinos express through their language reflects this sense of vulnerability. Indo-European peoples on the other hand are continental in origin.

The Indo-European peoples

Indo-European migrations v02.04

One model of Indo-European migrations

It is not clear where the original speakers of Indo-European languages originated from. There are several hypotheses (link) and even the crazy mythology of the “Aryans” which is what the Nazis called them. Aryans are in reality the people of both Iran and Northern India who are also Indo-European. What is quite clear though is that they had agriculture and raised livestock. And they tamed horses just like many other inhabitants of Eurasia (Huns and Mongols for example) which allowed them to travel far and secure territory, the Hittites being among the most warlike.

Such people may have developed BEING as something permanent, as a claim to status and territory. Not only the Indo-European peoples, all the people of the Eurasian continent that tamed horses were conquerors, the wars for the fertile peninsula that is Europe are millenia of history. Whenever they took new territories I guess the word was: I AM HERE, WE ARE HERE.

The Austronesian peoples

Migraciones austronesias

The Out-of-Taiwan hypothesis for Austronesian migration

The Filipino would say NARITO AKO, NARITO KAMI, NARITO TAYO. The word being is only implicit and does not necessarily mean permanence. Where the Austronesian peoples (link) originated from is also controversial, but they are the people that populate Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor and the entire Pacific. They did not have horses, they had boats.

One could say generally speaking that while Indo-Europeans secured and conquered, the Austronesian has always moved and migrated. 10% of the Filipino population is abroad today.

Clashes of attitudes

There are Filipino anthropologists who have said that most things – even morality – in the Philippines are situational. Or to put it in the words of Erap: “weder-weder lang iyan” – like the weather. Binay wanted to change the rules of the debate and took “documents” to the front when not allowed to take notes with him. Poe wanted a vote to have the rules changed to allow Binay and Duterte to pitch in when it was clearly a one-on-one between her and Mar Roxas. The latter was very “Western” in his insistence on the rules being adhered to, even if Duterte is the true “saloon cowboy”.

Game of Thrones Oslo exhibition 2014 - Red Wedding weaponsThe attitude of squatters is: if nobody is using the land, let us just put our makeshift houses there. Discussions on the interpretation of the Philippine Constitution are often situational, not based on the principle meant by the words of the Constitution but based on the situation and especially on WHO it is to apply to. The main frame of reference of Austronesians has always been their barangay, boat and village at the same time, and the people in it. For Indo-Europeans it was first the land, then formal rules to minimize feuding between groups and wars between nations.

Cultures and Thrones

Before the Spanish and then the Americans came, the culture that influenced the Philippines was Malay. This cultural area was first influenced by Hindus, but by all indications so far not Aryans but Tamils – the old Filipino writing called Baybayin which is similar to Southern Indian writing is an indication of this. Then by Semites, meaning Arab traders who brought Islam to the region. The Tamils were not a horseback culture bent on conquest. The Arabs were originally not a horseback culture, but the influence of Hittites brought the culture of conquest into the Middle East.

The FabsIn the original culture of Filipino tribes, whether you were wrong or right most probably depended on your status within the community. To some extent this is also true for Gulf Arabs I heard. There WHO says something allegedly matters more than whether it is right. Similar to the face and power interaction in the Philippines that Joe America so keenly observed (link). Europeans had to develop a framework of right and wrong (link) to prevent total mayhem in their fertile peninsula of Eurasia.  For centuries the history here was something like the Game of Thrones series.

Let it be

Back to being. Umiral can roughly mean be, but is closer to prevail in meaning. To BE in the Philippines you have to prevail. It is easier to BE in places where the definition of right and wrong has been worked on in the culture for centuries. There is a foundation of cultural consensus one stands on. The hardheadedness of many Filipinos might be due to shifting ground they still stand on. So much energy expended just on prevailing instead of building more. Barangays and people fighting to exist (zero-sum games) instead of finding ways to co-exist (win-win). To live and let live.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 23 March 2016

The Twelve Commandments

'Moses' by Michelangelo JBU290May the spirit of Gary Lising come upon me, that I may not take this too seriously. May Bathala save me from all those who take this too seriously. When the Spanish missionaries introduced the Ten Commandments to the natives from 1521 onwards, after Magellan and his men introduced the missionary position to native women, the natives were genuinely confused. What if I want to kill my enemy? What if I feel lust for someone who is not my wife? Some say according to Manny Pacquiao, if she is not your neighbor’s wife it is OK. What I have heard from the diwatas of old is that the natives introduced two more commandments, in order to be able to adjust old ways to the new order of things:

  • 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not get caught.
  • 12th Commandment: If caught, thou shalt not admit.

When the Spaniards of the 19th century introduced laws like the 1884 Penal Code, the natives were even more confused. But being creative and resilient, it seems that they amended the Twelve Commandments. The tikbalang of the forest have told me they looked like this:

  • 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not get caught by the police.
  • 12th Commandment: If caught, thou shalt have a good lawyer.

Then the Americans came and introduced democracy. According to some duwende under a balete tree, the last two commandments were further amended to read this way:

  • 11th Commandment: In order not to get caught, thou shalt support a politician who covers up for you.
  • 12th Commandment: If thou art too stupid to be on the right political side, thou shalt have a good lawyer.

Cha-Chas and Con-Cons

Now the islands are, I have heard, in a state of confusion. Different people live by different versions of the Twelve Commandments. Just like there have been Three Philippine Constitutions.

Charter Changes and Constitutional Conventions everywhere. Except that the codes that are secret cannot be amended that easily. But recently, someone has tried to do exactly that.

Daang Matuwid

A balding bachelor said, I must straighten out things. He called this attempt Daang Matuwid. There is a special form of doing things that veteran commentator Mariano Renato Pacifico has called crookery and according to him is mastered at the University of the Philippines. The bachelor comes from Ateneo not from UP. The ghosts of the Internet have told me there is this amendment:

  • 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not commit crookery.

Followers of the new 11th Commandment like to wear yellow, I have heard. But unlike Buddhist monks, most of them have no begging bowl. A widowed member of this order, I have heard, does go among the people in tsinelas or slippers. She is seen as a hopeful figure in the troubled islands. Yet enemies of the yellow order say that there is a secret amendment, at least for some followers:

  • 12th Commandment: If thou art not liberal, thou shalt be punished severely when caught.

There are now many who wish to return to forms of ritual sacrifice, including throwing people into volcanos. One of the yellow order who is hated for traffic in Manila is seen as a sacrifice.

Confusion

Some have called upon Greek Gods like Apollo (link) and native gods like Anib (is he from old Makati?) to smite down those who wish to criticize them (link). The islands are truly confusing.

Possibly, the Twelve Commandments have to be redefined. Not on paper but in reality. But I am not Moses, I do not have a beard like Joe America (link), so I will stop now.

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

 

The online Sambayanan

Handbook to the ethnographical collections (1910) (14803165043)Sambayanan means nation but also connotes a collection of villages, bayan in Tagalog or banwa in Bikol and the Visayas. There is an online Filipino sambayanan very much like the Filipino nation in its diverse and rapid development. Let us look at some villages, groups and islands.

A. Barangays

I know three online barangays, with regular writers, occasional writers and plenty of regular commenters, each with its own kind of flavor:

Get Real Philippines

Get Real Philippines is a group of writers with benign0 and Ilda who both live in Australia leading. It tends to downplay the Marcos era, magnifying bad things about the present administration. It has diagnosed many ills of Filipino society but focuses too strongly on them. It has defined solutions but is not doing much to push them. Some local, younger writers are a bit more open-minded.

It is however not a place conducive to discussion if one has a slightly different opinion than the majority consensus. There is a tendency to put down those who have a different opinion, very much in line with the tone of most leading contributors.

This oldest still active Filipino blog I know has been quite repetitive in the past years, with some minor progress recently.

Society of Honor

Joe America started alone many years ago, an American retiree curious about his adopted country. Now the Society has among its main writers several Filipinos abroad, two other foreigners in the Philippines and one local Filipino. It has even been mentioned by the President in his last SONA, bringing it into suspicion of being a pro-government blog. Yet those who read it closely will see how Joe America arrived at own conclusions. There is a high tolerance of pluralism within certain limits of civility and sincerity of purpose.

Its format is quite appealing, commenters can post links, pictures and videos. Discussion threads have an enormous variety and exchange of opinions. There is the expectation to focus on the topic of the article at hand, even if certain tangential deviations and off-topic comments are tolerated within limits. The more boisterous, Filipino tone can however be found in the next barangay.

Cyber Plaza Miranda

Journalist Raissa Robles – who is strongly anti-Marcos from her own experience – runs a kind of Hyde Park, with free-wheeling but somehow self-regulating discussions, somewhat like the old Philippine democracy which started to end when the real Plaza Miranda was bombed. Anybody at CPM can start a subthread and create his own topic, which does make following issues confusing. It is an excellent source of news, since the contributors usually seem to be Filipino or Manila insiders, with an occasional OFW or migrant in between. It is less international than Joe America.

B. Bayanihan

Bayanihan (links to various sites here) simply means neighbors helping one another, and is unpolitical, more oriented towards daily needs. There are migrant “bayanihan” sites and local “bayanihan” sites with loads of information relevant either for specific migrants or for local Filipinos – the latter with a lot of tips about bureacratic needs and how to deal with them online.

C. Islands

Isolated thinkers usually have islands, some with very exceptional ideas. This blog is also a bit of an island, even if I visit others – and do have some visitors. Some other islands:

  • Phileconomy is an excellent blog by a Filipino-American who has spent years as a high-level consulting professional in Eastern Europe. His economic and thinking insights are exceptional.
  • d0ctrine is a very strong blog on Filipino traffic, obviously by a traffic expert who might be from UP. It is specialized but provides enormous insights into many current issues.
  • The Filipino mind is a comprehensive blog with ideas about the nation – if one wants to know the classic ideas of many Filipino intellectuals, this is the place to go.

Most Filipino intellectuals are not public intellectuals like in France. Some by ivory tower choice, and some because there is way too little reception to them in the public space as of yet.

D. Weaving different Strands

These three major types of group usually have little communication, within the online nation and within the real nation. I think these are the reasons:

  1. Filipino bayanihan groups are the oldest form of cooperation among Filipinos – based on immediate needs and on a personal basis.
  2. Normal Filipinos distrust politics, as it is often simply a way of one group to gain more power for itself, not for the good of the community.
  3. Thinking deeply is not yet part of the Filipino norm, and group labelling is common and annoying, so most thinkers tend to prefer to be isolated.

The process of communication and learning shall continue, with each reader taking different dishes from the buffet available online, like in a Filipino party.

E. Fabrics already woven

Some strands have already been woven into fabrics, after having been separate strands. They come from different directions, some unexpected. There might be more to come in the future.

Overseas fabrics

There are two major online publications by Filipino-Americans. They have obviously found inspiration in American civic spirit, after decades of disunity within the Filipino community there:

The Philippine Weekly Update of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines is a great weekly news digest, obviously geared to the needs of the expat European business community.

Local fabrics

There are a few local fabrics that weave many strands together as elegantly as a loom in the Mountain Provinces of Luzon. Some that I know of are:

  • The Philippine Diary Project which has a webpage and a Facebook page. It offers amazing insights into the day-to-day of Philippine history.
  • It’s XIAOTIME! by history Professor Michael Chua of La Salle, who has a TV show of the same name, many videos of which are on Youtube.
  • The Maharlikan – obviously patriotic just the name says it, but not partisan in the sense of being for any group – except the Filipino nation.
  • Mindanews which is a collective of journalists, independent of any publisher, with its motto “This is OUR Mindanao” saying everything.
  • When in Manila which is a lifestyle-oriented online medium, obviously for the rising middle class, but also with news and events.

There is a rising awareness, growing from very many different sides. It is as diverse and oftentimes as noisy as the 7500+ islands with over 100 languages spoken on them. It is sometimes like a fiesta, sometimes like a wet market, sometimes like a multicolored rainbow. Ideas and issues ricochet like billard balls across cyberspace. Ideas move people. Let us see where this all goes. 🙂

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 22. February 2016