Posts Tagged Nation

Resiliency and Readiness

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

Anong magagawa natin?

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

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

Barangays and polders

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

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

Up and Down the Country

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

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

The Babaylan of Christmas Present

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

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

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

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

1. Focus on divisive politics instead of good government.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gepostet von Edzon Sison am Samstag, 11. August 2018

The Babaylan of Christmas Future

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

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

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

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 12 August 2018

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Who will believe..

Fatou Bensouda (cropped)that Loida Nicolas-Lewis personally spoke with the ICC (link)? Some Pinoys maybe, who think the whole world works like their government, where pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles’ lawyer even was at a cabinet meeting (link)! Well, there is Harry Roque who says “she is rich” (link) and Duterte – the man who invented bank account numbers of Senator Trillanes (link) – even claims he was able to tap the phone of ICC prosecutor Bensouda. The second-rate prosecutor, whose political career was jump-started by being appointed by Cory on request of his mother, even puts the qualification of Bensouda in doubt. Some Philippine articles do not mention her work at the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), a pioneering tribunal dealing with war crimes (link) that happened in 1994 when the Tutsi and Hutu (not Yellowtard and Dutertard) tribes started killing each other.

Very superstitious..

Of course many Filipinos have a certain picture of Africa and a superiority complex towards blacks. What also was spread a lot on the usual troll networks was the fact that Loida Nicolas-Lewis’ deceased husband Reginald Lewis (link) was a black American billionaire. So a certain crowd is probably ready to believe anything Duterte and his group say without proof and pooh-pooh those who ask for any proof. And yes, many are probably even ready to believe that the Philippines leaving the ICC is the “beginning of the end” for the latter (link). Where does this sense of having the world revolve around the Philippines come from? It is really just one of many Asian countries. Could it be that its early role in the UN, as a founding member and a darling of the United States, made Filipinos think their country was special? Its being independent earlier than most neighbors?

“No reaction” from Fatou Bensouda might even be construed by some Filipinos as an admission of guilt – the Filipino street mentality often goes by assumptions suitable to a barangay where all gossip is immediately heard and those who do not immediately react to gossip are probably guilty. There was no strong reaction, for example, by Mar Roxas when troll networks during the election spread the malicious rumor that he had stolen Yolanda funds. His being a bit too aloof and above the fray could have made some people assume, yes, he did it. Recent articles prove otherwise (link).

Well, Fatou Bensouda will probably not be shocked, as there are similar things on her continent. Even people assumed to be witches and then hurt by neighbors. But I had a Filipina ex-girlfriend  (college-educated!) who told me that certain neighbors in her hometown were known as aswang. There are also things I have read about VACC and others who have no objection with evidence being planted on people who are “known to be guilty”. Known in what way? Because it is assumed? The history of urban legends in Manila (link) calls for caution. Cats in siopao, worms in burgers.

Lost respect..

The Philippines did have international respect in the beginning. For one thing, Dr. Jose Rizal is known and respected in most of Asia and inspired other nations in their quest for independence. Second, the country was richer than even South Korea just after the war. Third, the likes of Magsaysay and Garcia interacted a lot with their Asian colleagues, within SEATO for example. Probably the rudeness of some Filipinos who looked down on fellow Asians for speaking little English was later. Not to mention the junketeers who looked down on Europeans for the same.

There was of course back then the glorious feeling of being on the right side – the American side – and lots of Filipinos working for US Forces, US Embassies worldwide. But from that crowd, there were people who told me that the willingness to employ Filipinos went down the moment US bases were told to leave the Philippines. One wonders what all the tirades of the present administration against the UN will mean for the willingness to employ Filipinos there, up to now still quite high. And often working for Western bosses – Americans, British, French. They also read the papers.

And the BPO industry in the Philippines which mainly serves Western countries. A German who managed a major BPO outfit in Manila once said (I heard this in my circles over here) that the main good thing about Filipinos is that they are highly Westernized. There is an aspect of TRUST in this. BPO firms also manage sensitive data. Lose that trust, especially by being perceived as being way too close to a country with a reputation for stealing both intellectual property and confidential information (China) and you lose business. This can happen very gradually.  But with finality.

Trust forfeited..

Because the world usually doesn’t work like among many Filipino politicians who play a low-down game with one another, smile as if nothing happened and on to the next round. As if fooling others was just as much a harmless game as trying to grab a basketball from the other team. Their fault if they didn’t protect the ball well or dribble right. There are things you don’t do, things not forgotten. Fraport and NAIA-3 (link) may be ancient history to Filipinos, but not to Germans or Europeans. This is why I was surprised that Aquino did manage to get EU firms to invest in the Philippines!

Probably more of a let’s see, let’s put a few calculated bets there, might get better than before. Possibly a bit like the trust given to someone who is let out on parole. Has the parolee relapsed? There are still a lot of EU firms in the Philippines. Well, they will not withdraw their engagement. Not at once. The European mentality is long-term and strategic. But they may place more bets on places like Vietnam and Indonesia now. The risk of shakedowns in favor of Chinese partners might figure into the equation – see what is happening in Boracay, or with the possible 3rd telco player!

Past reputation

Foreign Secretary Cayetano speaks with an Ateneo accent, which is vaguely remiscent of the New York state accent the first American Jesuits who came to the Philippines had. High prestige in the Philippines, indicative of upper class. At the UN, he may still think he people remember Romulo, the Philippine Foreign Secretary who said “I want that dot!” – on the UN logo when it was created. But a country that sets aside a UNCLOS ruling in its favor to deal with those who grab its islands, slaps its former allies in the face, and disrespects agreements (ICC) it once wanted to belong to?

Coming back

Talking down to everybody because one thinks one is the bird on top of the new carabao – China? China speaks as if its future global hegemony is already a done deal. That is far from sure. And if it turns out otherwise, I doubt that other nations will be like Filipino politicians, smile and it’s OK. The Philippines might have to fall in line behind other partners who have proven greater reliability. Maybe even behind African countries it still looks down on now. But looking down on now more advanced Asian neighbors was not too long ago either. Pride comes before the fall, Proverbs 16:18.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 March 2018

 

 

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The Philippines has never stood on its own feet

Philip II's Law on the PrincipaliaA Bavarian once told me. Was he right? China claims sovereignty over Panatag (link). Duterte seems to trust China (link) just like Aguinaldo trusted the USA in 1898 (link), proclaiming independence “under the protection of our Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, The United States of America”. One wonders how the datus behaved who were made into principalia by decree of King Philipp II (picture). Did they behave like today’s Congress supermajority? There was a sizable group that resisted in 1574 in Manila (link): “all punished with some put to death and others exiled”.

Remontados and Rebels

There were rebels like Bohol’s Francisco Dagohoy (link) – a cabeza de barangay (basically a chieftain coopted into the Spanish system) who initiated an 85-year revolt from 1744 to 1828, with the mountains as protection. Heading for the hills was probably a common way of avoiding the colonial state,  with the topography of the country as an ally (link), one probable example being the Cimarrones of Bikol who: “inhabited the slopes of Mount Isarog and forested hills of Siruma and Camaroan. These groups were cultivators and hunters but were most renowned for the raids they conducted on those in the lowlands. As their names suggests, they were probably fugitives from Spanish control, and as such emerged as a distinct group only in colonial times.” Cimarron means wild cattle in Spanish and was also used for escaped black slaves in the Caribbean, called Maroons (link) in English.

The 19th century brought ideas of nationalism into the Philippines, groups like Filipino priests and Filipino intellectuals (link) brought about the First and Second Propaganda movements. The short-lived Liga Filipina may have been the spark that started the Katipunan, which combined ideas of Rizal which were European in origin with native ideas, including cultic amulets or anting-anting. Revolutionary brotherhood inspired by Western examples plus the kind of brotherhood one sees during the Black Nazarene was the fuel of the 1896 revolution, even if it started only in 8 provinces, only one of which (Pampanga) was not Tagalog-speaking. Aguinaldo, a former cabeza de barangay, quickly made the revolution his own, had Bonifacio killed, and pacted with the Spanish in 1897. The Biak-na-Bato pact even included payments to him in exchange for his voluntary exile in Hong Kong. Aguinaldo came back on an American vessel, later fought with the Americans, probably had his best general killed (link) before finally being captured. The Philippine Republic was completed later on under American tutelage (link) – but that was not its major flaw. Blaming others is easy.

Cuba vs. Collaboration

It was, I believe, the Filipinos themselves. After all, Cuba had its own Republic from 1902 (link) even if was occupied for three years before that and again from 1906-1908. And it aside from its own war of independence from 1895-1898 (link), it fought from 1868-1878 and 1879-1880. Same colonial powers before and after 1898. And possibly the Philippine revolution was also simply a bit opportunistic as Spain was already weakened – and the Spanish-American war made that worse. Manolo Quezon’s “Malakas at Mahina” (link) shows how Filipino politics plays out based on who is “strong” or “weak”. Going back to the beginnings of Spanish rule, it helps to remember that Manila was allied to Brunei, even through family ties. Was the Castilian war of 1578 (link) wherein Spain defeated Brunei decisively the more motivating factor for Filipino datus to fall in line. Malakas!

Or how quickly the Filipino ruling class, with notable exceptions, fell in line to collaborate with Japan when they occupied the Philippines. And then fell back in line before McArthur in 1945. Even Diego Silang (link) – whose wife Gabriela is better known for taking over when he got killed – was allied with the British in his quest for Ilocano independence in the 1760s. There is a Filipino saying about the bird on the back of the carabao – are most Filipinos just that after all? The few dramatic outbursts of nationalism just that – drama – and often just bullying easy targets (link) like Robin Padilla with the Korean recently. Would Padilla dare say that to a  Chinese ambassador? The Filipino UN delegates who once annoyed a Soviet into taking out his shoes probably felt strong as UN founding members and close allies of the USA. Just like I personally experienced how Filipino diplomats acted rude to Germans – when Germany was still divided and they hobnobbed with American diplomats, for example at the US Embassy club in Bonn. Birds on a really big carabao. Not much difference to Duterte being rude to the EU (seen as mahina, documented comments by Andanar on Brexit show that attitude) but subservient to both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.

Bietnamese bersus Balimbings

Contrast that to Vietnam, which fought the French, then the United States, then the Chinese. Inspite of enormous sacrifices they never gave up. Pretty rude people, not friendly Filipinos. Somehow though I would trust the word of a Vietnamese more, I am very sorry to say by now. Filipinos often are subservient when they think they can get an advantage or think they are weak (mahina) then turn around to be rude, act as if you exploited them when they think they are strong (malakas) – probably with a new ally or backer or someone they have ingratiated themselves with.

Gago, anong year iyan (Asshole, what year was that?) was Senator Gatchalian’s answer to netizens who criticized him for being highly critical of former President Aquino now and praising him to high heavens in 2012 (link). Balimbing, the fruit that easily changes sides, was one analogy used. My first memory of hearing balimbing was in 1986. Well, yes, I guess it is gago to assume that a typical Filipino politician will NOT praise the one who is malakas at a given time. Fool me twice. Even among Filipinos overseas I have seen the kapit mentality of hanging on to people for favors – and dropping them like hot potatoes once these people lost access to resources they could dispense. Possibly I am too Germanic by now, preferring people who deal straight, not caring about favors. Not lick the boots of the current patron and bark at its enemies – or all who are not that powerful.

Aso o Astig

To be a really tough guy, stop being a lapdog. Stand on your own two feet like a human being. Indonesian death penalty is not something I like – but it has due process and therefore much more character than secretly killing people via most probably staged “nanlaban” (fighting back at police) or masked vigilante groups which are most probably off-duty cops (link). Shouting down a lady reporter (link) like Pia Ranada Robles is seen as macho by some (or many?) Duterte supporters.

That is about as macho as the slum bullies who go home to beat up their wives and rape their stepdaughters in Filipino classic movies like Insiang (link) – one good and observant movie. People who laugh at necrophiliac rape jokes like the famous one Duterte made are clearly dysfunctional. Only few admire those who stand up to power like Trillanes. Would Filipinos cheer Tell or Gessler? Yes, Landvogt (bailiff) Gessler as opposed to heroic Wilhelm Tell of Swiss revolutionary legend. Sure, Filipinos have their heroes and are proud of them. But how much solidarity do their heroes get while alive? My impression, more and more, is that Filipinos prefer their heroes DEAD.

Pride Chicken is not Preedom

Because living heroes remind them of their mostly deficient characters? Put heroes in cement and put them in Rizal Park instead of sinking them in Manila Bay, but still letting the next scoundrels rule the country as always, while the majority, as Rizal already noted in the Fili “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.. 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”. Collaboration with a new empire in 1571. Revolution against a fading empire in 1896, as one of the LAST remaining colonies. Quick collaboration with the USA, then Japan, then USA again. What Filipino pride? Pride chicken. Fuck the EU, Mr. Duterte? Bend over for China.

Patriotically deny the French access to research in Benham Rise (link) while letting China (link)? Rizal also said in the Fili: “we must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual”. But, oh well, he was a Westernized elitist. Not counted. But then again, both fraternities and state often seem to breed subservience, not character (link). The powerful have all the rights (link) and are usually spoiled because they are rarely challenged. True, the frontier elites of Mindanao have faced more challenges  which made it easy for them, in my opinion, to take over Manila (link). But what would Duterte have become without his goons? Datus of old had to prove their mettle in the old warrior tradition, last manifested in Northern Luzon mountain tribe headhunting. Centuries of comfort and hereditary rank, first established in Spanish times and indirectly continued by political dynasties of later on, weakened their class.

Character and Charisma

Strangely, those who criticize the faults of former President Benigno Aquino – which do exist and are because of his growing up in that kind of elite – do not see the even worse spoiled brat faults of both Bongbong Marcos and President Duterte. In fact, Aquino has shown balls on occasion, like showing up at the Dengvaxia hearing – even if there were occasions like after Mamasapano where he did not. Yet many Filipinos take the barking of Bongbong and the bluster of Digong for bravery. Or the stupidity of Robin Padilla for patriotism. For sure, President Duterte has his charisma. It is the charisma of a trickster and a joker. The German word for that is Schlitzohr, a “sly fox” or a “shark” depending on the context. Many Filipinos still believe Duterte is a trickster with the best interests of his people in mind, just wait. Yet to me it seems character and perspective is missing. His “hidden qualities” seem more like wishful thinking of those who do not wish to see what might be the painful truth – that character is mostly missing in the Philippines for lack of being cultivated. Further self-delusion might lead the country to a point of no return. If it has not yet been reached.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 January 2018

 

 

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Madilim ang Paligid

Snowstorm in Tyrol - 02sa labas ng tren pauwi. May nakita akong mga lumilipad sa labas. Inisip ko: “sino ba kayo”? Sabi nila “kami ang mga magsasabi sa iyo kung ano ang mangyayari sa Pilipinas ngayon”. “Ano naman?” sagot ko sa kanila. “Babalik ang Pilipinas sa nararapat niyang anyo at sa tunay niyang kapalaran.” sabi nila. “eh mabuti naman siguro kung ganoon” sagot ko. “Hindi para sa mga katulad ninyo” sabi nila “pagka’t kayo ang sumira sa likas na anyo ng bansa”. Sabi ko naman “at sino naman kami, mga dilaw na naman? At ano kayo, mga DDS siguro. Ang papangit ninyo!”.

Biglang may malaking boses sa likod nila na nagsalita “babalik na ang Pilipinas sa pamumuno ng natural niyang naghaharing-uri. Wala nang pakialam ang mga sistema at pag-iisip na banyaga”.  Tumuloy ang boses “likas na lakas at galing ang ibinigay sa mga pinunong-bayan na katutubo noong araw, ngunit tinanggal ito ng pag-aaping banyaga, sa puwersa at sa pag-iisip, o kaya ibinakla ito ng moralidad ng demokrasya at ng simbahan.” Tumahimik ng sandali. Dinig ko ang malakas na hangin sa labas ng tren.

“Likas ang pakiramdam ng pinuno sa tama at mali, sa dapat patayin at buhayin, sa dapat bigyan ng posisyon at hindi”. Tuloy pa rin “kayong mga nag-aral ng mga kaartehan sa sistemang maka-kanluran, hindi ninyo alam ang likas na galing ng Pilipino na wala sa may degree na kung saan-saan. Sa isip ng isip, walang nangyayari. Gawa lang ang mahalaga.” Parang ang layo ng mga ilaw sa labas ng tren. “Kahit ano pang sabihin ng mga paimportanteng pilosopo, tama rin ang hatol ng mga pinuno ngayon sa kung sino ang itotokhang, kung sino ang ipapashut-up – dahil pampagulo lang”.

“Malapit nang makamtan ng bayan ang pagkakaisang tunay, wala nang pipigil o rereklamo pa”. Sabi ng malalim na boses “babalik ang gintong panahon, at makakamtan ng lahat ng tunay na Pilipino ang kaginhawaan”. Inantok na ako. “Ano naman ang kinalaman ko diyan?”. Sagot ng malalim na boses: “kinakailangan lang ng isang isasakripisyo sa bulkang Mayon, para matanggal ang mga masamang impluwensiya ng limang dantaon”. Tumingin ako palabas “anong tingin ninyo sa akin, isang Magellan?” 

“Hindi, isang hilaw” sagot ng mararaming boses. “buwisit kang pakialamero!”. “Hindi niyo ba napapansin kung nasaan kayo?” sabi ko sa mga buwisit. “napakalamig dito. Iyang parang asukal sa wedding cake” sabi ko “niyebe iyan, o baka naman snow lang ang naiintindihan ninyo?” Biglang nangisay ang mga mukha sa bintana. Nagising ako sa malalim na boses ng konduktor na nagsasabi sa wikang Aleman na “huling stop na, Munich main station, bumaba po lahat”. Iyong maleta ko na parang may diperensiya kanina, OK na noong hinila ko. Bumaba na ako sa tren.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, ika-18 ng Enero, 2018

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A stable country

Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyinecessitates stable institutions, first and foremost. Then it needs stable politics. If politics are like in the Philippines, winner-take-all and leave nothing for those outside one’s group, there can never be enough trust to be able to work together. Germany is able to have varying coalitions of colors not because all parties are basically the same (the extreme right and the extreme left would disagree) but because there is enough self-discipline to stick to the commonly agreed rules and not to be sophists about them like Filipinos often are. And to negotiate in good faith when making coalitions.

Engage or Avoid?

Contrast that with the bad faith which I think was present from the very beginning between the Philippine Left and the Duterte government. Dealing with Filipinos can sometimes mean that you are on very shifting ground. Transactional, one-off stuff works better, longer-term cooperation for mutual benefit is not easy to establish. Extortion attempts, reinterpreting rules and possibly even whining about unfairness can happen easily. And then getting mad because you tell them to stick to their part of the deal, or even trying to insult or intimidate the other side – tiring power games.

Which brings us to the major part of stability – stable people. If you are dealing with people who shift the goalposts all the time, forget it. It is the kind of Filipino mentality the leaders of today represent. PLUS the narcissistic rage than some may know who have heard of “My Way” killings or white foreigners getting bludgeoned because they accidentally pissed off someone drunk or high. Possibly just wounded his fragile ego, maybe even so long ago that they forgot about it, but not the man who waited for them in the night with a knife in his hand. Why deal with that willingly?

Dangerously unstable egos

Who knows why Jee-Ick Joo, the Korean they wanted to extort money from, was strangled in Camp Crame? Did he get fed up and ask why are you doing this to me, thereby pissing of the cop’s egos and they just killed him. How about Kian Delos Santos? All he asked the police who were hurting him was to go home as he had to review? Did they take his forthrightness as “arrogance”, thinking “who is he to mention that he is studying, does he think he is better than us”? People have indeed gotten beaten up by security guards and cops in the Philippines for “answering disrespectfully”.

An unstable President who has the same hang-ups as many a Filipino drunk (link): “So you think that you are the conscience of the people? That you are the right ones because you are the white? Excuse me. Are we talking of a monkey here or…” will of course bring out the worst in his people. The threats against the more Westernized and educated sections of the population (so-called “yellows”) at present might only be the beginning, just like Hitler’s propaganda only gradually led to more and more harassment legal and illegal, then expropriation and finally killing of its targets.

Cut the excuses

Colonial centuries are excuses even some very intelligent Filipinos use as a bargaining chip, again one more example from Duterte’s recent ramble: “When you left my country after 400 years, you brought home the best of everything in this country. Tapos ganunin ninyo ako? [laughter]”. Probably the worst logging in the Philippines took place during Marcos times with forest cover visibly reduced. There are indications that some of the most rapacious mining has taken place in the last 20 years. And population increased 5 times since the 1950s, when Manila was still spacious.

So there certainly was colonial exploitation, but the stewardship of the land by its own people was not much better. Who is apparently allowing the Chinese to take soil from the Philippines to build islands on atolls in the West Philippine Sea? Of course many Filipinos think that wealth is usually stolen – again Duterte’s rant: “You were ahead in the industrial race of the planet Earth because you stole the greatest resource of the Arabs and that was — that’s oil.” Wrong. The English mined coal in the late 18th century, had to drain mines, and invented the steam engine to help in this.

That started the Industrial Revolution, including steamships and the Suez Canal. Later on, different kinds of internal combustion engine were invented, making oil interesting. Germany probably also was calculating when it helped its ally, the Ottoman Empire, build the train line from Istanbul to Baghdad. To blame Western powers alone for the chaos after the Ottoman empire disintegrated is foolish, but so is most of Duterte’s half-analyzed history. Or not to see that China is very calculating in helping the strategically located, mineral-rich Philippines. And play one’s cards better.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 14. October 2017

 

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Stop Fooling Yourselves

The Amazing Race Philippines 2 Mapor continue to if you want! Only addicts and pushers die in Philippine streets. Paolo Duterte’s tattoo is nobody’s business. And who cares about the massive shabu shipment just lost in Customs? If ever, it is probably just a destabilization plot by the “yellows”, a group nearly like the Illuminati!

Liberals – barely there

Sarcasm aside, it isn’t the Liberal Party that is the most visible opposition. Senators Trillanes and Hontiveros are Magdalo and Akbayan respectively, center-right and center-left in orientation. Senator De Lima makes her regular stand, but her own party’s support seems a bit half-hearted.

In fact I found Walden Bello’s recent concern for her safety very sincere – even if he is half-crazy, he is definitely not a fool. The LP may renew itself, but could it forget the hard work of even those like Leni Robredo, Teddy Baguilat and Edcel Lagman if it gets power back to quickly? I don’t know.

Leftists – protesting again

The leftists have practically nobody left in Duterte’s cabinet. They still cannot quite let go of the chance of power. Typical turncoat Filipinos after all? Slogans are not really principles. With real principles, you might be considered crazy like the late Senator Santiago. Or go half-crazy like Bello.

Or you have nerves of steel like the Senators Trillanes and Hontiveros. One can see it in their eyes. The sheer willpower. But the classic Filipino left has proven it is not principled, for the most part. Of course it is organizing more marches now, once more – but is this just to get some concessions?

Institutions – what institutions?

The Philippines still lives in the house of institutions that President Quezon built back in 1935. Some stuff added haphazardly, like the way they build in the slums of Manila. Some renovation during the time of Marcos, most notably the division into regions to reach the people better.

The second-best reform of Marcos – who is NOT a hero, this I say again for the record – Metro Manila, was only partly kept. The MMDA is a shadow of the once powerful Metro Manila Commision and Metro Manila has no governor. Central authority would solve a lot of issues.

My group/tribe/gang first

The present crowd around President Duterte do not even make a pretense anymore of caring about institutions. Very Filipino, if one is to take the mentality of the provinces and the working classes as a measuring stick. Everything is situational, nothing lasts forever. Today’s boss orders, not rules.

Of course all who are up for impeachment are associated with the previous administration – Chief Justice Sereno, Ombudsman Carpio, Comelec Chairman Bautista. One could say that President Aquino set the precedent for this, but now it looks like the facts don’t even matter anymore. Well.

Paths to unity or division

in the barangays, a group called SWORD – Sincere Warriors of Rodrigo Duterte is forming (link) – this is the command and control approach of Marcos, or the Spaniards who used the barangay for their indirect rule. No barangay elections for now means drug lists and impunity (link) continue.

the approach of Vice-President Robredo, or that of cities like Iloilo (link) are more on community. Will that be extinguished eventually by the insistence on command and control, even coercion? Cohesion in larger groups is based on community first – control is to keep the less mature in line.

Will people or communities submit in apparent resignation or collaboration, or resist like Iloilo? Leni Robredo’s approach is cautious, will it help? Will lonesome fighters like Trillanes, Hontiveros or De Lima be used or betrayed? 1986 was way too easy. Filipino character may yet be forged now.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 9. Sept. 2017

 

 

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Quo Vadis, Mindanao?

Philippine territorial map 1880 MINDANAOis the question – especially who will benefit from the extension of Martial Law? Marawi residents and refugees in the area seem not happy with martial law. There are ideas of IDs for Muslims which are highly discriminatory, even downright insulting. Lumads continue to allege military harrassment, some are unhappy now that they voted for Duterte. There are stories of numerous private armies and vested interests in the mining business. There are those Mindanaoans like Duterte, Pimentel and Alvarez, called Bisaya by Muslim Mindanaoans – the Christian settlers.

During Marcos’s time, Mindanao was like Terra Incognita to most people in Manila. Even the Visayas were hardly heard from. What was going on in Luzon was the horizon most of us had then. Now one hears from the likes of Samira Gutoc of Marawi, or from reporters on the ground close to the fighting – like Froilan Gallardo. Before 1920, when Mindanao was turned over to the Interior Department of the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands, Mindanao was a territory that the United States fought hard to get under control. Spanish control before was patchy in practice.

Yes, there was the fortress of Zamboanga. There was Dapitan – where Rizal was exiled to. Even today, Mindanao is still seen as a place of exile, for example for errant policemen. The Moro Wars of the early 20th century were bloody. There were in the late 19th century a number of Spanish attempts to have more than just nominal control over Sultanates like Sulu. The times after 1920, especially the 1950s, brought resettlement from the Visayas and Luzon. American-initiated plantations like Dole, mining and logging – commercial and settler interests versus those who were there first.

Everything parallels the way the Philippines north of Mindanao became the way it is today. In the Visayas, not only Lapu-Lapu resisted colonization. The Boholanos Tamblot and Dagohoy come to mind – the first was a native priest who rejected Christianity in 1621, the second was a rebellion that started in 1744 and held out until 1828 in resistance to forced labor, but sparked by the refusal of a priest to give a Christian burial to the brother of its original leader, a barangay captain. In the Dagohoy uprising, folk beliefs in magical powers of the leader played a role in holding out.

The likes of Duterte now find themselves in a strange role. He and his followers act a bit like Dagohoy and his followers – towards certain groups in Manila. The personalism of the leader, the belief of people in his capabilities and collective resentments play a similar role. On the other hand, Mindanao Christian settlers are similar to Spanish colonialists towards Muslims and Lumads there. There is the Karpman triangle which describes how roles can change from victim to villain or even rescuer. How that triangle plays out in Mindanao might decide the future of the Philippines.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 23 July 2017

 

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Hanggang Pier Lang

Sopot molo 2004ang mararating sa pagbubuhat ng sariling bangko – sabay paninira sa iba. Dahil walang magbabago sa ganyan. Walang tren o riles o elektrisidad ng MRT na maaayos. Walang mahihirap na mabibigyan ng hanapbuhay at pag-asa sa buhay. At hindi rin aasenso ang isang administrasyon na umaasa sa proyektong nasimulan ng iba. Buti pa si Presidente Marcos – kahit na marami akong ayaw sa kanya – na marunong mamili ng mga magagaling na technocrat para iplano at isatupad ang kanyang mga proyekto.

Kulang sa pansin ang dating ng mga nagpadami ng boto sa Time Magazine online poll para mauna si Presidente Duterte. Siguro kung padamihan ng tao, matatalo ng Tsina o kaya India ang Pilipinas kung gugustuhin – pero bakit nila ito kakailanganin? Kahit Indonesia mas maraming tao, pero wala din silang panahon sa papogi na ganyan.

Ang Tsina, kayang-kaya ang Pilipinas. Ang India, may sariling space program, hindi kaya ng Tsinang hamunin sa sariling teritoryo. Indonesia matatag din na bansa.

Ang Pilipinas naman ano? Iilang nakabarko na Abu Sayyaf hirap na. Magaling pumatay ng mga pusher at adik sa kalye na payat na payat na. Opo lang ng opo sa Tsina. Minura ang Presidente ng Amerika, ngayon naman tuwang-tuwa na baka bumisita ang bagong Presidente sa susunod. EU de puta, ang EU minumura ng minumura daw. Pero hindi naman pinapansin ng EU. Baka ako lang ang manghinayang kapag nagmahal ang dried mangoes galing Pilipinas, kung sakaling tataas ang import duties.

Ano ang Pilipinas na nakikita ng mundo ngayon? NAKAKAHIYA. Parang mga siga sa kanto na nasobrahan ng Ginebra at pasigaw-sigaw. Baka nakashabu na rin sila kaya akala nila sila na ang hari ng mundo. Matitinong tao nakatago sa loob ng bahay. Baka bumaba lang ang krimen dahil maaga ang uwi ng mga tao ngayon. Takot matokhang.

Anong maipapakita ng Pilipino sa mundo ngayon? Wala. Alila pa rin ng mundo. OFW at BPO, pera sa labas. Sa panloloko sa sarili, walang mararating. Sana magising na.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 21 ng Abril 2017

 

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The Beautiful Philippines

Sunset Borocay White Beachholds the Miss Universe finals tomorrow, and may think it has won back the world’s good graces. Yet one of the suspects in the slaying of a Korean businessman simply slipped away and is at large now (link).

More than ever before, the Philippines exudes an air of untrustworthiness, and a lot of things come across as sleazy. It feels more like a tawdry mix of Macau and Vegas now, rather than like a respectable Southeast Asian country.

A country with a unique history, difficult as it may be. A country where, most unfortunately, the principled seem to be weak and the strong are simply ruthless. A country that works well at the level of families and villages, sometimes even cities, but never really learned to deal with larger units in a way that benefits the majority. Larger units that conquerors imposed.

A country that effectively has two systems of justice: well-paid lawyers for the rich, cramped cells and years without even a trial that gets finished for the poor. A country that has hypermodern malls and offices – and wretched drug-ridden slums.

A country that is Christian on paper, yet more often than not polygamous, and a sense of vengeance that is un-Christian. Democratic on paper, yet run mostly by a few families. With a mainly rent-seeking economy based on exploiting human and natural resources – hardly adding value to them. What a waste. Yet the world, with all its bigger issues, hardly blinks.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 29 January 2017

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Much wishful thinking

Black Nazarene processionpervades Philippine politics: from De Quiros’ well-known “Aragorn” for Aquino or Tiglao’s recent prediction of A.D. and B.D. – After and Before Duterte in Philippine history (link). Oh how much do Filipinos wish for miracles, much like the legendary Bernardo Carpio of colonial times, the king tied up in the mountains only waiting to awake! I am already happy that DOST Project NOAH has helped reduce casualties now, with typhoon Lawin – four years of work have shown their fruits. And would be happier to see a Philippines with less poverty, less crowded jails, and cleaner rivers.

A frustrated country, arrested in its development by the unexpected arrival of a much more organized civilization which subdued it. Hoped for help from another – Aguinaldo’s letters to the “Mighty and Humane North American Nation” (link) are unforgotten – and got not only subdued but remade in America’s Image. Now there is President Duterte hoping for China to help the Philippines…

There are no miracles, no free lunches in real life. Paradise – around half a million people lived in the archipelago during Lapu-Lapu’s time – is lost. It takes hard work to build a nation and a state.

Most of the institutions of the present Philippine state are those built in Quezon’s time. With a few later additions. Metro Manila and the Regions – created in Marcos’s time – made sense, including regionalizing the administration of Ministries which became Departments again. The Sandiganbayan also came from that time, and was augmented by Cory’s Ombudsman later on.

Improved relief goods packaging systems at DSWD – introduced in 2015 – helped in the response to Typhoon Lawin just recently. A nation is the work of many generations and administrations. It is also a product of all its history – good and bad, intended and unintended. Just like the Filipino mix of racial and cultural influences is unique and would not exist if not for the years that came before. The country has been without foreign bases since 1991 – 25 years. New dependencies such as huge loans from China – just to leap forward quickly? For all eagerness – should one not be a bit careful?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 24 October 2016

 

 

 

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