Archive for category Personal

Italian-American Vanessa Hessler

Vanessa Hessler @ Wind Music Awardsor “Alice” was fired by Telefonica Germany in late 2011 for publicly supporting the Gadaffis, calling them “normal people”. One of the sons of the dictator (link) had been her ex-boyfriend. Certainly normal compared to the likes of Uday Hussein of Iraq. Most people are normal if you don’t care about what they did – I am sure the Marcos family is friendly in person. Vanessa Hessler, blond, looong-legged, blue-eyed, was simply “Alice” to me then as the face of the new brand Alice DSL – later to become O2 DSL after Telefonica / O2 bought the original Hansenet.

Showbiz and politics

Miss Philippines Rachel Peters told Filipinos to “trust Duterte” (link) and to “give Mocha Uson a chance” months ago. Now I will admit that I found the reaction of the German public, which pushed Telefonica to fire “Alice”, exaggerated in 2011. And that she was close to a powerful man like the son of Gadaffi wasn’t anything special to me. My values still were a bit different then. Guess the person I was six years ago would not have cared about Rachel Peters being the girlfriend of Governor Villafuerte of Camarines Sur – the political family Leni Robredo (link) once challenged.

Binibining Pilipinas-International Mariel de Leon went against Mocha Uson in May (link): “She insults those who are against her. I’m not for her, I’m not for the other side (whatever that may be).. it breaks my heart to know someone like her got a position in the gov’t. There are so many [other] unbiased, educated, and respected (and respectful) people who deserve her place.” and got flak for it. Inday Sara Duterte, Mayor of Davao and Presidential daughter, even admitted to (link) a “Schadenfreude moment” when Mariel de Leon did not become Miss International. Wonderful.

Politics for people

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Sereno is under attack (link) by the Philippine Congress. What she already has done in terms of reforming the justice system (link) is recommendable, as the issues clogging the justice system and keeping it far from the masses have lead to an attitude of distrust. Probably her efforts were not fast enough to dispel Duterte and his extrajudicial shortcuts – most especially the approval for such within the population – but one must give her credit for work done. It takes time to rehabilitate run-down systems and organisations. Did she have enough support?

Most of all, she understands something many may NOT have understood yet (link): protection of human rights can only be fully accepted by our people if we have a truly functional justice sector. A justice sector does not function if the investigative and prosecutorial services are not doing their jobs. When people complain about criminality, it means they are clamoring for genuinely effective investigation, case build up and prosecution. Impunity is engendered because no one is being caught for crimes that our hapless citizens are suffering from. And when murders and rapes are being committed in such frequency and gore, you must expect people to be angry. They will not understand if you try to protect the right to life of a drug suspect, when the community is of the belief that drug addicts are the perpetrators of these crimes.

Hope more on the liberal and law-and-order sides of Philippine politics realize this way is correct. Even Rizal realized this in his time, criticizing the Spanish colonial justice system and praising the British colonial one. The one Singapore still has, to name a city idolized by so many Dutertians.

Politics for show

For the opposite of result-driven politics, Grace Poe comes to mind first. The Dutertian side will name Leila de Lima as a drama queen. She did have her CHR work, and as SOJ a hand in the German-sponsored draft of a better Penal Code (link). Even then I wonder why Duterte was seemingly no longer being investigated in the time of President Noynoy Aquino. Could his support for him have been the reason (link), the threat of possible investigations guaranteeing his “loyalty”? There is the term moro-moro for staged political confrontations, based on a folk drama (link).

I watched a moro-moro in Ilokano once at the UP Theater as a child. Lots of bluster by the Christian and the Muslim king, to the respective other king and to his followers. Then loud, smashing music like Blue Rondo a la Turk or Balkan folk music, both kings and their followers rise, move back and forth on the stage, crossing swords but never fully bumping into each other, with one group running away backwards at the end. It was funny, with both kings jumping exaggeratedly and pushing their bellies forward. Abroad in 1986, I asked myself if EDSA was just moro-moro.

Marcoses were allowed to return. The pursuit of their ill-gotten wealth was very slow I think, skeptics like me then tend to ask if it was just for show. Imelda acquitted in the Philippines. Nowadays, I wonder why Roxas and others only show their teeth now, when they are charged (link) – having tolerated a bit too much, too long in my point of view. Where I am skeptical, many directly affected are cynical (link) as little seems to move forward. More of the likes of Sereno – and  VP Leni and Risa Hontiveros – are needed I think. Also, less drama and beauty queens in politics.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 26 November 2017

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Close to Collapse

Munich subway GBRis what Munich’s underground is according to a local paper (link). It is “not that bad” (link) Harry Roque might say if he rode here, as the elevators and escalators mostly work. Meaning that among 100 underground stations in 100 km. of underground, a non-working escalator is pretty rare. Yet people do crowd a bit more recently. The reason is that some new wagons don’t work yet (link). Haha, in Germany? Yes, from Siemens. Wagons of the C2 series from Siemens that look space age. While the quaint 1970s style old wagons keep on going it seems. What is happening over here?

Voltage spikes and squared wheels

U-Bahn-Wache

Munich U-Bahn after a soccer game

Well, the electrical transmission of the C2 series seems to generate voltage spikes that could cause the trains to stop or even damage the electrical systems of the Munich U-Bahn or underground. They are in the yards for maintenance, while the old wagons are stretched thin. People are not yet waiting up to the streets though like in Metro Manila. That only happens during the Oktoberfest. Then, extra staff make sure drunk people don’t push each other onto the rails. Central Europeans – which Bavarians are – are not as patient in waiting as Filipinos. And tend to like their own space.

What also happened according to a speaker of the MVG or Munich Transport Corporation is that when autumn came in, the sludge from rain and autumn leaves on some overground stations (yes, the underground also has stations above ground) caused “squaring” of wheels while braking. Making train wheels round again is specialized metalworking. Took some work in depot to get the wagons back into full function. Good thing, even if there was some inconvenience for everyone, as I can imagine the damage squared wheels can do to rails. Or voltage spikes to transmission systems.

Politics and colors over here

Well, is the Reichstag in Berlin discussing this under its modern dome? Is the Maximilianeum (link) in Munich, the Parliament of the Free State of Bavaria, going up in (self-)righteous anger? After all, the ruling party there is different from the ruling party in Munich city hall, so why not? Strangely it is a party that is not ruling that seems to make occasional comments about the SPD or Social Democrats, whose friends in the Philippines are Akbayan. It is the FDP or Liberals or if one wants yellow color – same party whose Naumann Foundation invited VP Leni to South Africa.

But one only knows that if one reads a bit deeper in some papers. No buzz in social media. If ever people are mad at yellow, it is at the OBikes (link) from Singapore which anyone can book and use via simple App. Tourists and others just leave them all over the place. And conveniently, they are of the color some Bavarians will think all Asians are – yellow. Yellow and Chinese, or maybe Japanese. You are only Japanese though if you take pictures of the central square, the Marienplatz, in spring. Now you finally know why Irineo sees the world so differently. I am on the other side, so to speak.

It was not long ago

Munich subway Goetheplatz

Munich’s oldest underground station today

In fact, I am red. Red as in Bayern München, not DDS. More a sympathizer than a fan or a diehard. Reds crowd the very same U-Bahn wagons – or underground trains – as commuters crowd daily when there is a game up in the Allianz Arena. The plans for the a north-south line were really old. Goetheplatz station was finished between 1938 and 1941 (link). The regime behind that probably never said “Bauen, Bauen, Bauen” (Build, Build, Build) as it sounds too much like barking, even if the one who shouted a lot did not come from the Bavarian Forest, where some say people “bark”.

The war stopped the project. Goetheplatz station and the tunnel to Sendlinger Tor were made part of the new underground lines built for the 1972 Olympics. Until now, Goetheplatz station is a little bit longer than the standard full underground train, as it was planned for another kind of wagons. And the design is more similar to Berlin underground stations built before the war. More cramped, and not always with escalators. The modern norm is deeper and with escalators always, often with elevators for PWDs, mothers with children and bikes. I don’t know if yellow OBikes are allowed.

Almost yesterday

Karte der S-Bahn München

The Munich suburban train network

another system in Munich was the subject of complaints. The Munich S-Bahn or suburban train. 150 stations and 434 kilometers into the suburbs of Munich. The trunk line or Stammstrecke (line) was also built for the 1972 Olympics. That was a Build, Build, Build period – without dictatorship. Half of Munich, especially the Marienplatz where U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines converge in a common station under the city hall, was excavated or tunneled then. No space for Japanese to make fotos. But then again, it is mostly the S-Bahn or U-Bahn that brings them there, escalators bring them up.

Almost yesterday is a decade ago or more. I don’t even remember the exact years when the S-Bahn was catastrophic as I lived outside town then – it only affected me when I went in on weekends. Frequent delays. Often the signalling systems at the Ostbahnhof (Eastern train station) got stuck. Electrical and signalling systems in the trunk line, the busiest train route in Germany they say, had to be renovated step by step as they had aged since the early 1970s. There was a time, I think an entire year, where the S-Bahn trunk line was closed for entire weekends – technical overhaul.

Some were bothered

Bothered me a bit coming from outside, as I had to switch to the yet seemingly perfect U-Bahn when I rode into the city. But new rails, signalling systems and more improved the S-Bahn. Meanwhile, the U-Bahn increased stations, covering more and more of the city, always having interoperability in mind – with the S-Bahn which belongs to the Deutsche Bahn or German railways, and of course with busses and trams, which together with the U-Bahn all belong to the MVG (Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft / Munich Transport corporation) which is city-owned.

I have heard that Günther Beckstein (link) used to take the tram 19 to work in the Maximilaneum. Very probable during the time he was in the parliament, even when he was Bavarian Interior Minister. It is a beautiful ride which I won’t tell the Japanese about, passing historical monuments. Used to be the main ride between the East and the West of Munich, before the S-Bahn was built. Now a second Stammstrecke is being built to increase capacity, get the suburbs connected better. This goes until 2026, work has started. Even if it may get delayed, I think it will never just stop.

Tram München - Baureihen P, R und S - Betriebshof Einsteinstraße - April 2014

Tram depot Einsteinstraße with different generations of wagons

Why should it stop? And why should relatively young systems like the Munich U- and S-Bahn fall apart. What is 1972? 45 years ago. Berlin has really old systems. A major line of the Berlin S-Bahn had to be closed for MONTHS, also about a decade or so ago for complete overhaul. Under the management of Communist East Berlin, the citywide system had rotted. Not as much as New York (link) it seems which is of similar vintage. How Filipinos lost the late 19th century Spanish railway to Dagupan, the 1930s railway to Legazpi and may lose the MRT is another story. A sadder one.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 November 2017

 

 

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Even Housing Projects

Trees4SaleBNativitasXochiin Germany have trees in them. This struck me looking at the projects occupied by Kadamay. They remind me of refugee camps over here in Germany. Except that refugee camps in Germany are usually container-based and not intended to be permanent settlements. And not intended for locals, while Filipinos are nasty to their own people. Forbes Park is in another world. There one cannot hear the traffic. Trees all over. Even UP has trees all over. Good thing I guess, imagine tropical sun frying those brains?

When I see Facebook photos of Filipinos very relaxed in their summer break, as it is summer there now close to Holy Week, I see them surrounded by nature and at home. Many living in Manila seem to feel genuinely at home only in their home provinces – if they are fortunate enough still to have them. Those living in slums probably don’t have any place to go back to anymore. With the first slums growing after WW2 and accelerating from the 1970s, they are generations removed from their old places.

Even the poor can be content if they have safety and can make a living – and happy if their surroundings are pleasant. Safety was destroyed in many provinces of the Philippines by a de facto civil war lasting for decades – with all sorts of armed groups terrorizing simple folks. Being able to make a living – not really possible for those who did not have at least a little bit of land, or the capital to run a small business. Surroundings – destroyed by mining, by overbuilding? You can’t eat money in the end.

Something in our human nature is programmed to respond positively to nature. We do not naturally take to concrete jungles, where we might feel like apes on Gibraltar. Recently the creeks in Munich were closed for cleaning, dammed up, the water was released against just a few days ago. The clear, fresh water of the creeks of Munich, of the Isar river. Priceless. There are things that matter more than money in the end – starting with our surroundings. Filipinos in Manila have destroyed theirs.

The trajectory of survival can turn into greed easily, wanting to catch up with the neighbors. And at the same time fearing the neighbors who will steal your new mobile – to buy some drugs to make their lives feel less painful for a while? For me, both the addicts in the slums of Manila and the consumerism addicts in its malls are zombies. Maybe the addict might be more able to find happiness under a tree, watching a clean river flow, breathing fresh air? The consumerist might just say – how boooooring!

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 8 April 2017

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On Turning 50

I am half a century old now. I was born in a time where color photography just had begun, the Internet was a military project that had just moved to academe, there were no cassette recorders yet, not to start talking about fax machines, answering machines, digital cameras, webpages or smartphones. Germany was divided, the Berlin Wall just 4 years older than me.

The Philippines was an affluent country, the peso was on a par to the Deutsche Mark and the buying power of the peso was higher. President Ferdinand Marcos was voted into office that same year. Young, with a charismatic smile and a beautiful wife, both of them were toted as the Philippine equivalent to JFK and Jackie Kennedy. President Aguinaldo had died a year earlier.

When I was 25, half a lifetime ago, it was 1990. Germany reunified after the wall fell just the year before. The Soviet Union crumbled a year later. Cory Aquino was President of the Philippines, having just survived a number of coup attempts – and having made a State Visit to Germany in Summer of 1989. Ferdinand Marcos had just died in Paoay Hawaii that same year.

When I was 15, it was 1980. F. Marcos was to officially lift Martial Law a year later. Then Vice President George Bush (Sr.) was still to publicly laud F. Marcos for his commitment to democracy.

When I was 35, it was 2000. People Power II was to oust Erap the year after and give Gloria Arroyo the Presidency. The Twin Towers were still standing. The German government had moved back to Berlin two years ago, same year man of the street Gerd Schröder (and Joseph Estrada) were voted into office. Schröder called his snap election in 2005 and lost after proclaiming his win on TV.


2015.. 1965.. 1915: World War I had just began. The Age where Kings and Queens really ruled Europe was coming to an end. The Senate of the Philippines was to be established just a year later by the Jones Autonomy Act. Germans in the Philippines either went home to avoid confiscation of their businesses as enemy aliens, or had become Filipino citizens quickly before that happened.

..1865: Manila was open to world trade for a few years, the Suez Canal would open four years later. Germany was yet to be unified by Bismarck, a year before Gomburza were executed by garrote.

..1815: The galleon trade was all but over. The first Filipino nationalist is a Spanish creole nobleman born in the Philippines who studied in France and was infected by French revolutionary ideas. Austrian Metternich presides over the division of Germany into small fiefdoms while Bavaria keeps the territories given to it by Napoleon.


Even I who grew up with history books at home remember thinking as a youth how long ago everything was, how little it really counted today. It takes experience to know that it does count.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 22 May 2015

Das Leben ist zu kurz für RTL2

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Writings about Munich: Alter Südfriedhof

The old South Cemetery of Munich is a place that fascinates me. Just a few minutes from where I live a convenient shortcut to the Isar river as well as other parts of town, it is also a place to find peace of mind amidst great names resting in peace. If I am walking I walk through, if I am on bicycle I respectfully dismount before entering the gates which are open longer in spring and summer.


One tombstone I often pass by because it is between the west and east gates of the cemetery – is that of a Napoleonic officer wounded around 1800 who refused amputation and therefore died. His gravestone is marked with the months and years of the French revolution which were different. Bavaria was an ally of Napoleon and was declared a Kingdom by him, yet managed to somehow convince the Austrian Metternich, who took back many decisions of Napoleon, not to revoke their newfound status. Just like the Allies abolished Prussia in 1947, but spared Bavaria inspite of the fact that Nazism had its beginnings in pleasant Munich. Americans still seem to believe Bavarians are happy, beer-drinking fools in Lederhosen – but no problem it is good for business…

Grab Georg Ohm
Georg Simon Ohm
Josef-von-Fraunhofer-AA-12-Alter-Suedl-Friedhof-GF-25-001
Famous physicist Fraunhofer
Alter Suedfriedhof Senefeldergrab-1
Senefelder (invented lithography)
Grabstein Elias Mauromichalis, Alter Südlicher Friedhof
Greek officer
Or the gravestones of numerous inventors, scientists, architects, artists, engineers and more from the 19th century which was a Golden Age. The newfound Bavarian Kingdom attracted talent. There is even a gravestone of a Greek officer, adjutant of Greece’s first modern king. Greece, lacking its own royalty after centuries of Ottoman rule, did what many European countries did – it imported a German noble. German nobles are about as numerous as datus in Filipino Muslim areas, but King Otto was a Bavarian prince. So more like a relative of the Sultan of Sulu, not just another datu. But he did not manage well.


There is a monument to the 1705 Sendling revolt. Bavarian peasants from the mountains fed up with the levies of the ruling Austrians in the War of Spanish Succession – Habsburgs vs. Bourbons – revolted. They marched toward Munich, but the townspeople who had promised to open the gates refused to do so.  The peasants had to flee and were killed by Hungarian horsemen on a hill nearby. Even the church they fled into was razed. Peasant leaders of the rebellion were publicly executed in the center of Munich, while local politicians and officials who had joined the revolt were mostly jailed and then released. The kings of Bavaria, whose ancestors had looked down upon the peasant revolt, revived the memory of that event in the 19th century for their propaganda.

DenkmalBauernschlacht1705
Monument to 1705
Alter Südfriedhof München 2010-04-24-1753 Alte Südfriedhof München 2010 2 Brunnen im Neuen Suedfriedhof Muenchen-1 It is a good place to contemplate, to know how short our lives are in the context of the centuries, to know what great men have done in their lives before finding their resting place in this beautiful old cemetery. How they contributed to the community in which I live today, and how good leaders made it possible for them to do so. And how politics has always played, human nature being what it is.


Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 18 May 2015

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