Letting Go

Heavy traffic sa EDSA-Tramo (Pasay)(2017-08-04)is something that makes sense for me with regards to the Philippines, no matter what the outcome of the May 13 elections will be. My life does not depend on them, though it would be sad to see the Philippines go into what for me and many others is just wrong. But then again, what do I really know about what the Filipinos who might just vote for China, Duterte and (feudalistic/tribalistic style) Federalism truly want for themselves? Trying to understand put knots in my head, which is why I have not written for a while.

My Way

There is the phenomenon of My Way Killings (link) in the Philippines, people getting killed for singing my way in a way someone else in the audience obviously doesn’t like. The person who decides to be judge, jury and executioner at the same time is not so far from President Duterte who openly justifies EJKs in Davao (link) with this: “in the matter of elements of progress, Davao is in the forefront and only because we decided..”. Let us look at the logic behind this, even if it is alien to the logic of morality and rule of law.

Think of Metro Manila traffic where there is a lot of law of the jungle in action, including people who choose to force counterflow. My Way. Many junctions in Metro Manila have concrete barriers between lanes to prevent people from crossing them. The abstract idea of rules imposed by lines and lamps seems to evade many. I have seen videos about how rules that should be daily fare on EDSA have to be imposed by cops. In a society of many My Ways, no willing common consensus, is the true solution force?

Our Way

The other solution that has been tried is to limit independent thinking. Aside from the cults that abound in the Philippines, there are cultish elements in its politics as well. Tagging of perceived enemies of one’s own group is the norm – see recent matrices. The Philippine Left, in particular the Communists, purged itself savagely in the 1990s. Groups with a nationalistic bent tend to search for Westernized aspects in the “others”. The variety of Otso Diretso’s slate is NOT something that was typically Filipino before.

Filipino groups often tend to be highly exclusive of anyone who is not within a very narrow range of similarity. Too educated, too rich, too poor, too uneducated, too white or dark? That alone can make people make mean jokes, or want you to “fall off a motorcycle”. Don’t know what I am referring to with the latter? Sorry, then you can’t sit with US hehe. A society that was mostly rural just decades ago and still is very clannish. How does pressure to conform work on migrants and OFWs – or returning academics?


Yuval Noah Harari has noted that mankind derives its capability to achieve great things from common ideas. Different religions, but also political ideas, including the liberal-democratic standard ideas like democracy, rule of law, human rights are examples. Having been colonized, Filipinos often did not truly adapt the ideas of the conquerors – they only adjusted, sometimes just to the corrupted form lived by some representatives. Duterte saying the Constitution is nothing to him (link) is in a way just being very honest.

A Constitution is a covenant – or a social contract if one wants to sound more secular. Basically an agreement by a group of people on how they intend to get things together. Society with internalized rules is more pleasant than the  “damaged” kind of Filipino culture – often among the “My Way” clientele – where people get mad if you ask them to follow ANY rules. Or worse, pay their debt, if one was foolish enough to lend money. That clientele might admire Bong Revilla for his chutzpah with plundered money (link).

If the majority of Filipinos are just that way, will Mainland China be the suitable partner? And is a combination of Mao Zedong’s “power grows out of the barrel of a gun” (link) and Digong’s equally cynical and contemptuous approach all that will keep them in line? Or will Filipinos go more for the likes of Chel Diokno, who was recently said by a law school dean (link) to love the law most of all, but love justice even more than the law? How many will have understood that these are not just empty words, not to everyone?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 11 May 2019

Common Filipino Fallacies – and why they are harmful

Manny Pacman Pacquiao 2The past few months and weeks looking at Philippine politics have shown a number of very harmful fallacies common in Filipino thinking. Certainly my perspective is foreign. But then again, every country has to deal with foreign perspectives about them (link), including the famous “Xenophobe’s Guides” that humorously show quirks of nations, or “Meet the Germans” (link) by Deutsche Welle, with Rachel pointing out German quirks. But having seen familiar fallacies resurface, I cannot help but point them out right here:

  1. Too much Democracy is Harmful for Filipinos. Manny Pacquiao recently said this. But then, it is not the first time I have heard this. Now if Filipinos think democracy is the right to choose which side of the street they want to drive on, he is right. Well I am exaggerating this time, but clearly one has to “take care of one another” (link) as communities in order to have successful democracy and not anarchy.
  2. Criticism is Destabilization. Well, if the one in power is not really interested in the common good but only in the good of a certain group, then it IS destabilization – of a rule not according to the (theoretically) agreed rules defined by the Constitution.
  3. Loyalty is to the Government. The government is just the present management and staff running the state, and the state is supposed to serve the entire nation. Those who want to remove students for being critical are expecting subservience.
  4. Making abuses known abroad is betrayal. The assumed consensus that all people are for certain “measures” of government could probably be due to intimidation and ignorance. Other countries have to deal with reports from abroad as well. Very progressive countries like Germany even have their own Deutsche Welle reporting on issues within the country, without seeing this as an admitting failure.
  5. Admitting mistakes or saying sorry is either weakness or hypocrisy. The assumption that there are no honest mistakes is very much part of the culture. Trolls recently attacked VP Leni for a typographical error, assuming malice (link). Such a cultural attitude CANNOT, by any stretch, understand that Germany has really (mostly!) learned from its mistakes in World War 2. It gets: BBM and Imee.
  6. Criticism is Malicious. Just as there is no concept of an honest mistake, there is no idea that criticism can be a useful catalyst to keep everybody on their toes, keep them from getting too comfortable. Some Filipinos say that in Germany everything is perfect but people keep complaining. An Austrian friend of mine once said stuff is close to perfect over here because of complaints. Japanese Kaizen (link) is based on constant improvement of what is already good enough.
  7. Debates and discussion are useless. One group of Senate candidates maintains. Sure, many Filipino debates are one-upmanship and verbal showmanship without purpose. Often it is merely about who is to blame, which is why people often don’t give in an inch, as a witch trial or Inquisition attitude often still predominates. Think of the Dengvaxia matter which now has scientists who made no mistake being charged with homicide (link) and has caused measles to spread because people became afraid of vaccination. Proper discussions are there to help define the scope of issues, help compare solutions to decide which one(s) to take, and monitor the solution(s). Even errors can be stepping-stones to improvement. But that means assuming that honest mistakes exist, which is hard in a culture of distrust that throws out a Supreme Court Chief Justice on a mere technicality, but acquits Bong Revilla who clearly had strange money coming into his account.
  8. When you know you know. Admitting errors in judgement means incompetence. Doesn’t matter if you were fed incomplete information. Pretending that “drug matrixes” are without error even if some of those listed are already dead is “firm”. Such an attitude works in a village where you can easily verify with your senses. Wider geographical and social contexts mean you will ALWAYS have uncertainty. Meaning that consistent reporting and monitoring standards become important. Fake news and distortion of facts and context becomes even worse. Of course you cannot, like Mocha once did, say there are no EJKs ’cause you don’t see any. That is probably not just “illiterate” or “ignoramus” like some would say, but malice.
  9. Speaking Truth to Power is Disrespect. There is the story I read of a Korean air line that taught its crews to be polite but direct in emergency situations – after an accident where a co-pilot was too “respectful”, meaning indirect, to a pilot about how much fuel the plane still had – until it was too late. There are probably hundreds of ground-level situations in the Philippines where theory and practice are not aligned, but either those below do not speak up – or those above don’t want to hear. The story of MMDA wanting to press charges against someone who uploaded a video of a footbridge with electrical cables showing (link) is an example of power that does not want to correct mistakes, just HIDE them.

Of course it is possibly all just OK. It is logical, actually if one assumes that power and status make right, malice is to be assumed, and those lower are “resilient”, meaning they adjust and don’t complain about stuff like Westerners, yellows and reds all do. That there are no honest mistakes, just honest thieves who are way better than hypocrites, and that nobody ever learns anything after the new age of criminal responsibility, 12 years, because once you are conscious and when you know, you know all is clear.

If that is how the majority thinks – like the abandoned kids in Lord of the Flies – it is hard. Also if the preservers of culture stubbornly insist that a damaged mindset is correct and a more productive mindset is “Western”. But hope springs eternal and so let us just see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5 March 2019

The Infallible Truth

Rodrigo Duterte 070916is what quite a few Filipinos seem to expect from their figures of authority, or how else would President Duterte get away with so many highly varied numbers of drug addicts in the Philippines? Well, law enforcement said he may have “upped estimates as a challenge” to them (link). So he lied because he means well, to get back to the truth? Because it seems that figures cloaked with authority in the Philippines are not only infallible but benevolent, and both goodness and correctness are beyond doubt. Don’t even ask why or where they are leading the flock, as that must be good as well. Alleging they are leading people to a bad place, like the Kangkungan shown below? VERY BAD, as it is questioning the divine wisdom of the chosen leaders of the people!

Who are we to question their judgement using facts and logic? We who are trained in stupid Western ways, and not in the ways the ancient people of Lemuria (link) KNEW and passed to their Filipino descendants, keepers of the fabulous Tallano gold (link). Who really needs to graduate from Princeton (link) as a heir to those mythical powers? Only benighted fools need to go to Wharton (link), because they truly know NOTHING! And those who KNOW they are right do not need debates, unlike those 8 losers (link).

Watcha Makulit

Back to serious. In Philippine schools, is is often those who memorize what the teacher says or parrot the teacher’s opinion who are favored over those asking questions. Ask too much and you are makulit. Nothing to do with a Wayang Kulit that looks like Imee. How makulit all those people are, asking the skin puppet Imee whether she graduated! Graciously, she smiles or pretends not to hear, or talks about something else totally. Who are these commoners to ask about matters we, the godlike, know more about? Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing, thinks Imee, benevolently. After all, the ultimate Trajano penalty for makulit mortals (link) is to be used sparingly.

Wayang Kulit 1890

So do not expect Filipino youth to produce the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez soon. That kind of esprit, if not yet stifled in early school years, learns to be docile later on. Except Trillanes! Duterte recently said: (link)You went overboard. We will initiate an investigation like you and I will subpoena your mother whether you like it not.” Following the logic of Philippine authority that a) Duterte always means well and b) never goes after innocents, can we deduce that Trillanes’ mother’s fault was in how she raised him?


Rigorous application of logic, critical thinking, is not a strength of the Philippine school system either. After all, idols with feet of clay in both logic and morals are afraid of being revealed as such. An SWS survey saying the 66% of Filipinos think there are less addicts is applauded (link) – without thinking that it could be because many are HIDING from extrajudicial killings. Of course they will come out of hiding when the killings stop, and probably people will believe the time with killings was better. Just weeks after that came out, the President himself says there are more than ever. But consistency is such a boring Western concept. How great it must be to know everything is bullshit yet holy? That form of mental flexibility escapes me, but will Filipino voters get it as usual? Hmm..

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 1 March 2019

Fundamental Disrespect

Taho2was shown to the Filipino policeman thrown taho at by a Chinese student in Manila (link). This is the same category as slapping employees and making them walk on all fours like a Chinese firm recently did (link). Or like the way Japanese slapped Filipinos in World War 2. It is fundamental as it robs the other person of the right to be treated as a fellow human. There are certainly hierarchies everywhere, but once contempt comes into play it is nasty. It may also contain the aspect of demanding “respect” – but as superior treatment.

Well, maybe that kind of respect is what the Chinese woman wanted from the policeman. Similar to the kind of respect whites once demanded from blacks in the American South? Maybe similar to the kind of respect some Filipino politicians demand from the “ordinary”?
Or the respect a certain type of Filipino cops demand from the poor people they harrass? Demanding respect that denies the Other fundamental respect isn’t anything I respect. Fundamental respect is I think the most basic thing between people and groups of people.

The MRT might indeed be one place run like hell by Filipinos, but its rules are its rules. Often conquered, Filipinos are indeed sensitive about foreigners telling them what to do. But there is I think a difference between Australian Sister Fox, deported for “disrespecting” the presumed prerogative of Filipino authorities to violate the human rights of their people, and the entitled sense of superiority of one from a nation that is acting aggressively today, with numerous incidents that look like contempt for Filipinos, brown Asians and Africans.

Unfortunately, parts of the Filipino ruling class have been known to trade solidarity with their own people for power – in exchange for subservience to a foreign ruler. Not different from the way datus sometimes acknowledged a paramount chief in exchange for favors, as detailed in books such as Raiding, Trading and Feasting (link) – or like Congressmen today switch to the majority in exchange for pork: modern raiding, trading and feasting. Datus, then principalia, American-era politicians, Japanese collaborators and now trapos.

Every step essentially brought the leaders of the archipelago further away from their base. There are enough of those who “respect” the people only with fake smiles and envelopes.  There are also the sincere responses defending the right of the simplest Filipino to dignity. Vice-President Robredo, Congressman Gary Alejano, Florin Hilbay and Senator Lacson are those that I have read about until now, there are surely more. May their tribe increase. And fundamental respect, something lacking more and more in today’s world, in general.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 10 February 2019

Developing its People

0202jfMapangpang San Felipe Rizal Science City Munoz Ecijafvf 40NOT letting them rot and then punish them – should be the priority of any smart country. It is the way of South Korea, Japan and Singapore – but not of Brazil or the Philippines. The recent discussion about jailing 9 (or 12) year old children has shown a symptom.  Poverty without hardly a chance to move up – exceptions prove the rule – is the cause. The reasons for that are many – a public education system which was still excellent in the 1950s, but was allowed to rot, like many things after the American colonial period. An antiquated legal system with a Penal Code dating back to 1887, with jails and prisons that belong in movies like Pirates of the Carribean or the Count of Monte Cristo, not in modern times. Pre-modern beliefs on many matters including crime and justice.

Rousseau and Hobbes

are not Calvin and Hobbes. The first, Rousseau, basically believed that people are good by nature, while Hobbes believed that primitive men were nasty, brutish and short. Well, he actually said that their lives were nasty, brutish and short, not that they were Digong. Which of the two are right? Because one might think some extreme liberals believe more on the Rousseau side, while those who hate human rights advocates are more on the Hobbes side. Probably it isn’t that simple. People who grow up in positive places – they don’t even have to be ultra-modern, they just have to have needs met and be free of fear, will probably mostly be good, while those who grow up in negative places will most probably be nastier. Parents and their outlook on life certainly play a big role also.

Then of course circumstances. Hunger might make the most decent people steal to eat. Places were life has been an unfair struggle for centuries can develop cynical attitudes to life, passed on to children until the culture as a whole is damaged. Groups of people whose original bonds are destroyed by crises can become outright nasty to each other. Unless there is something that brings them back together, this can mean self-destruct. Yuval Noah Harari, who wrote “A Short History of Mankind”, postulates that people are held together by common beliefs. Religions, organizations, money, government, nations are held together by beliefs. Even languages (and their cultures) imply certain beliefs. Therefore what is considered “correct” in common parlance affects what is believed.

May isip na

means already conscious, already able to “think”. Batang may isip na is a child from 7. What those who argue that a child of seven is already able to “know” things consciously ignore is that children have not yet developed a sense of responsibility for what they do. Possibly, many Filipino lawmakers never advanced from that stage, never developed any sense of responsibility at all, so they believe that a child of nine already is mature. Or did their childhood and adolescence consist mainly of bullying and hazings, recently reported a lot, and most possibly THE schooling in the ethics of impunity (link) which “protect the powerful, not the powerless”. Possibly “maturity” for some in the Philippines is accepting that life basically goes by the same rules as in “Lord of the Flies” (link).

For that maturity, it doesn’t take much time, maybe one can realize that at the age of 12. Forget all naive dreams of a better world. Though the places where they teach their children those naive and humanistic “dreams” are indeed the better places on earth. Possibly this just proves what Harari said about beliefs. And is the rest just Hobbes? Certainly, the main difference between rich politician kids caught with drugs and poor kids making the life of the middle class hard by stealing is the resources they have. Whether a rich person throws garbage out of the window or a brash SUV owner counterflows is just as callous and inconsiderate as the poor throwing trash into rivers. The poor at least have the struggle for survival as a reason, the rich no excuse at all.

Shaping things up

will not work with the kind of self-hatred that Filipinos very often manifest, which shows itself in the hatred of the poor – who are a sorry image of what most Filipinos used to be. Only that in 1970s UP Balara, there was still space for chickens, and I remember (as we lived in UP Area 1 on the hill just above) how even pigs were occasionally killed there. Urban poor in the Philippines just brought their old way of life to the city – until the city no longer provided them with the space for that, not even goats for sale near SM North. Filipinos around 1910 lived either in ancestral homes (a minority) or in bahay kubos. Progress is not a bad thing, but runaway progress put Filipinos with means in private subdivisions, their kids into private schools, and they shop not in city centers but malls.

That responsibility for public matters (res publica in Latin, the original root of “republic”) is hardly there is not surprising at all. Senyorito-like disdain for the poor combines with the consumerist attitude of seeking a quick fix into support for tokhang and jailing kids. Civic thinking (a good American trait) plus charity and compassion (good Catholic traits) are only present among a minority of Filipinos, one has the impression, or else Duterte would not be President, and Congress would not have simply tried to jail young people. Recent suggestions like that of Mar Roxas to finally institutionalize 4Ps – which make it more likely that children go to school – or that of Senator Drilon to build institutions to help children in trouble before thinking of changing the law are but a few rays of light.

Modernizing the penal code was something Senator De Lima tried to do in 2014 (link) when she still ran DOJ, but it seems that was too modern for the Philippines – it was hardly discussed. Going further like shorter sentences for youth, was that considered? Making the entire system of justice more efficient – to prevent the poor from rotting in jail for years without even trial – and overhauling the toilets called jails has not been done. Even Dr. Rizal called the Philippine justice system antiquated, compared to the British. 132 years after 1887 when the Penal Code was enacted, many Filipinos dream of being Singapore but think that being like Davao will make it so. Possibly, a number have fallen out of that delusion already. Whether enough have will be seen in the May elections.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 27. January 2019

Worship and celebration

Fiesta Jarois clearly the main form of community for Filipinos. A lot of Filipino groups abroad are religious in nature, and the Filipino fiesta is when the entire town comes together. Will Villanueva describes the spirit of community in worship during pre-Christmas masses (link) and Prof. Vicente Rafael describes almost festive togetherness during the 1898 revolution in his book Motherless Tongues (Chapter 1: Welcoming what comes) where towns welcomed revolutionaries, like in a town fiesta where everybody was welcome.

Town and Country

The same book also describes how during EDSA 2 in 2001, there was a sense of damayan, a kind of collective caring which for example showed itself in people not pushing each other in a huge crowd, just like people do not jostle inside a church. Therefore it is not surprising that many Filipinos look for community in religious groups, and that many Filipino uprisings had religious overtones: Hermano Pule, Sakdalistas or of course and very obviously EDSA 1. Even Katipuneros often had their anting-anting.

The Filipino word for country, bayan, is the same as the word for town. The bayan thus, like a town, cheers its boxers and beauty queens: Pacquiao, Wurtzbach and Gray. Overseas supporters of President Duterte often act like in an imagined barangay (link). Prof. Rafael also describes how texting was the major bond for people on EDSA 2 (Chapter 3: The Cell Phone and the Crowd). Needless to say, the bayan watched the Erap impeachment trial on TV. It also saw Ninoy taken off the airplane in 1983.

Demos and Polis

But it also was led by social media to excessively hate the previous President and vote for the present one, hoping a man who ran a bayan could also run the Bayan properly. Faked pictures were believed as if they were real, Mocha and her kind spread gossip. The agora (marketplace and meeting place for Greek democracy) of the Philippine polis (Greek word for city and root of the word politics) has been loud, as it is social media. Unlike in a real agora, it isn’t possible to see who is the real majority of demos (people).

It is definitely insane to think of a country as a family, for example with Duterte as the father and Bong Go as the elder brother (link). The idea of brotherhood or kapatiran which was central to the Katipunan (link) is probably better, but I doubt that an entire country of people can truly view themselves as brothers. Liberty, equality and fraternity, said the French and proceeded to behead people. Fraternity can also mean hazing. But demos in Greek also meant neighborhoods (link) into which Greek polis were divided.

Building Blocks

The euphoric togetherness of Filipinos when it comes to boxers or beauty contestants, or even when major political changes happen (1898, 1986, 2001) is usually short-lived. The energy is practically not used to follow through, and the lack of miracles frustrates. Will Villanueva mentions pagkawang-gawa (acts of love – and charity) as a concept. VP Leni of course has been practicing this for years in her projects including Angat Buhay. Only this kind of patience and work can truly change things. Miracles are not for free.

Then of course there are neighborhoods. Human beings by nature can only really know around 100-250 people, according to recent neurological studies. The Stone Age brain. The rest are strangers. This is why anywhere in the world, larger groups of people are harder to control. Small groups of people – villages and healthy city neighborhoods – tend to look after each other. Neighborhood concerns are the clearest, least abstract. Barangay drug lists (link) are exactly the wrong way, destroying neighborhood trust.

Some degree of regionalization might also make sense (link) because people can relate better to concerns and projects closer to home than broad, national stuff in an archipelago of 7500 islands stretching the distance of Oslo to Rome from north to south. Not federalism yet, I guess, as it might just strengthen dynasties. But both tyrannical barangay captains and political dynasties are something people are responsible for. If most still hope for largesse from rulers (link), little will change. Let us see in May 2019.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, December 28, 2018

Halloween is coming

Salvador Panelo (cropped)with no escape, and tomorrow, Daylight Savings Time ends. Yesterday afternoon, I walked through a sunny Munich with 17 degrees temperature. Was it climate change or was it just the Föhn wind? Föhn also means hair-dryer in German, so you get an idea of what kind of wind the alpine Föhn is. Hair-dryers mean risk of baldness so I avoid them. I can sing, but I am not running for the Senate. Which does not mean Sen-eight, even if the opposition has 8 candidates. And even if the Latin word is derived from senex, meaning old man, and is related to senile, I think Enrile is way too old now.

But he is indeed scary, while Panelo is at least funny, like a dancing skeleton can be truly hilarious. Back to Halloween. A Celtic feast after the harvest. The Celts believed that the spirit world opened during the shift to winter, and offered food to the spirits to propitiate them. The people of the Alps have all their cows in the shed by then, having driven them all down the mountains by October. Some Alpine people have the superstition that the spirit world opens around New Year, starting with Christmas and ending with Three Kings Day, when the good spirits win against the evil.

The Schiachperchten (the ugly spirits, roughly translated) look shaggy and act rough while the Schönperchten (the beautiful spirits, roughly speaking) look shiny. Some of the evil spirits are called Krampuses, some say that Krampus is St. Nicholas’ sidekick who punishes bad children. Could Duterte be the Krampus come to punish bad Filipinos, an ugly spirit from the other world? Will he, pockfaced Calida and skeleton Panelo return to the netherworld when Enrile goes there? Was it simply Filipino karma that after a President named Benigno, a maligno would come to rule?

Shall the cycle come to another turn when the beautiful spirits, led by a beautiful Vice President, drive out the evil ones and end the reign of the Pangit? They already have been partly driven out of Facebook, so they may found a new place called PangitBook if they want. It would not matter at all. The cycles are: good/evil, Yin/Yang, Apollonian/Dionysian, democracy/tyranny, justice/injustice. Tag-araw, tag-ulan are not only the sunny and the rainy season, it is a Filipino movie and a song. Greeks went from Apollonian rationality to Dionysian excess. Filipinos love tragedy and comedy.

Though the recent events in Filipino courts and assemblies are either both or neither, somehow. Inspite of the social media commentary that follows the events like the chorus of a Greek play. Inspite of the philosophers, some bearded and half-Persian, making their comments on matters, this play is not a tragedy equal to Aeschylus’ The Persians. And even if some politicians in it look like frogs, it is not a comedy equal to Aristophanes’ The Frogs. It is reality, even if it is surreal. Possibly though, I am misled. The Philippines could be on the verge of creating new paradigms.

Albayalde says the Philippines may be the first country to win a drug war. With action men like the Tulfos and Robin Padilla, it could be possible! And inspite of the EU now certifying Dengvaxia, how do we know if Persida Acosta was not right? How do we know that the PNP was unjust in killing? And isn’t Calida a genius in redefining basic questions of existence and non-existence? Finally, the Philippines could be at the forefront of a revolution of knowledge, the greatest ever since Socrates. And the infallible, incorrigible Teddy Boy Locsin. But first, Halloween must pass. Trick or treat?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 27 October 2018

Do you remember?

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

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

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

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

Simpler times?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not all that glitters is gold

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

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

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

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

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

It is only a paper moon

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

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

Lost Golden Age?

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

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

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

Symptoms and Causes

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

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

What will happen?

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

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

Sipain ang COA

Imee Marcossabi ni Digong. Tama naman siya. Bastos talaga sila. Eh pati sa gastos nila Imee nakikialam. Puwede ba iyon? Mga Marcos ang may-ari ng Ilocos Norte. Katangahan na dilawan iyang audit. Palibhasa ayaw nila na nakawan sila, eh sila ang mang-aapi sa Pilipino mula noon pa, dapat lang. Ubusin ang buwis na binabayaran nila, hanggang sila naman ang maging mahihirap tulad natin. Tayo naman ang magiging mayaman, pahappy-happy. Sila ang magtatrabaho para sa ating lahat. Tulad ng mga mayayabang na doktor na nahuli ni Tulfo sa PGH. Sa bayan na ngayon magsisilbi.

Disentery at plastication

Hindi porke’t nakapag-aral ka puwede mo nang akalain na kung sino ka. Unang-una, mas mataas ang Presidente sa lahat ng may pinag-aralan kahit na halos bumagsak siya. Ibig sabihin nito, bobo ang mga eskwulahan at unibersidad. Tinuturo lang nila ang gumaya sa kaplastikan ng mga dating amo nating mga prayle at Kano, kumilos at magsalita ng disente at educated. Putang ina talaga! Tinuruan tayo maging mga peke. Tapos itinuro ang morals-morals. E kung kailangan talagang patayin ang adik, sagabal lang ang kunsensiya na iyan. Salitang galing Kastila, di sariling atin.

Tapos iyong diskarte na educated kuno? Para lang naman iyan doon sa pelikula ni Leonardo di Caprio, iyong Catch me if you Can. Nakita lang niya sa TV na ang mga doktor, mahilig sa salitang “I concur”. Ginaya niya, tapos lahat akala doktor siya. Mga peke sila sa diyan sa US, kita niyo? Bakit naman ngayon ang aarte pa ng mga eksperto kuno ng DOH, ayaw sumunod sa judgement ni Dra. Persida Acosta? President ang naglagay sa kanya sa puwesto. Sino ba SILA para kumontra? Tanging mga Kano ang nagpasok ng idea ng equality para guluhin tayo, para pasaway na ang lahat.

Sino ba kayo?

Karapat-dapat ba na may katulong na hindi sumusunod sa amo, anak na hindi sumusunod sa magulang, Pilipino na hindi sumusunod sa Presidente? Mga bastos ang mga Pilipino na ganyan, kunyari pa silang nagpupuna lang. Ano ba ang pagpuna kundi gusto mong gawing pasaway lahat? Kaya dapat lang makulong si Trillanes. Ano ba iyang mga batas-batas na laging sinasabi ng dilaw? Noong 1521, walang batas-batas, Konsti-konstitusyon, ang mga taongbayan kay Lapu-Lapu lahat. Ngayon walang laban ang Pilipino dahil ang dilawan, hawak ng foreign power na kalaban natin.

Alam ko iyon dahil sinabi sa amin ng isang foreign power na kaibig-ibigan natin, hawak isla natin. Pero tumahimik na kayo diyan. Hindi naman talaga puwede ang COA makialam kay Imee Marcos. Mataas na pamilya ang mga ito. Hindi tulad ng mga patapon na liberal na pinasok ng mga taga-US. Hindi maaring hindi makakain ng pinakbet ang mga Marcos, kaya pagbigyan na natin sila sa pera. Huwag tayong mainggit sa masuwerte. Mas masama iyong mga ambisyosong matatakaw sa pera na trabaho ng trabaho, gustong baguhin ang kanilang nakatakdang lugar sa lipunan. Mga pampagulo!

Wala sa lugar

Pero halos hindi na nila magagawa iyon dahil wala na ang mga amo nilang Amerikano. Talunan. Kung akala ng mga Ingleserong abogado na may “equal protection clause” at hindi puwedeng si Trillanes lang ang kasuhan, kami naman ito ang sagot: mas naniniwala pa kami kay Santa Claus. Tandaan ninyo ito: babalik ang sambayanan sa kanyang tamang anyo. Bawat tao rito may lugar. Maliban sa mga ayaw tumanggap sa lugar na binigay sa kanila ng mga matataas. Wala talaga silang dapat sisihin dahil sila lang ang mga may ambisyon ni di karapat-dapat, para matahin ang bayan.

Buti pa si Manny Pacquiao, umasenso na walang pa-Harvard-Harvard tulad nitong anak ni Lugaw. Ang pag-asenso, suwerte. Hindi mapipilit iyon. Nakakabuwisit itong mga nagpapakabuting tao na akala mo santo, lalo na kung nakapag-aral at pafact-check-fact-check pa diyan, galing sa Rappler. Ayaw kasi maniwala sa husga ng mga tito at tita. Galing sa pakiramdam ito kaya likas na tama ito. Pautot lang ang mga dinadahi-dahilan pa. Tulad ng mga dahi-dahilan ni Panelo, palusot lang sila. Pero kailangan dahil sobra pang dami nitong mga dilawan: Westernized, moralized, Trillanized..

At kung ayaw ninyong maniwala sa mga tito at tita, maniwala kayo sa mga titi, sa panel discussion. Panel discussion dahil si Panelo ang nakipagdiscuss kay Digong. Kasama nila ang mga banga na puno daw ng asin at suka, para sa mga kakainin ni Digong kung gusto niya. Wala ring bigas doon? Wala po, sabi nila itinatago daw ng mga dilawan. Kinain lahat ni Franklin Drilon. Kawawa tayo! Pero tandaan ninyo, better eat bukbok than read a book. At ito pa: “Ignorance is Blessed”. Hindi uso noong 1521 ang nagmamarunong, kaya nanalo si Lapu-Lapu. Hindi si Trillanes, Magellan pala.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 17. Sept. 2018


Quo warranto et ab initio in saeculo saeculorum

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

Laws as commitments

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

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

Patronage and Impunity

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

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

What does the Filipino want?

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

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

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

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 8 September 2018