Posts Tagged People

More on community – police, doctors, schools

027-myself-when-young-did-frequent--Doctor-and-saint-q75-780x1170By Karl Garcia

More on the Community (first article)! In the most recent presidential debate (link) a part of it was about the community, but most was about health care.

Definitely on the macro level peace and order and education  issues were tackled.

I will focus on the community level and I will discuss Community Policing, Community Doctors and Community Schools.

First I will cite some articles and provide excerpts and commentary.

Then let us look at some possible solutions to improve things.

 Community Policing

From the articles: PH law enforcers look at UK model for Bangsamoro police (link) and PH Law enforcement Officers Learn Basics of Community Policing From British Counterparts (link)

From police officers teaching subjects like substance abuse in primary schools, installing safety devices on houses and properties, organizing summer camps for restless kids, rehabilitating the community’s “Top 20” troublemakers or tracking lost horses, the North Wales police showed that knowing your community was key to an effective and trusted police force.

They also visited a massive central command in Wrexham, where emergency calls are received and where various parts and establishments are monitored by high-definition security cameras. Here, the Philippine group saw how a duty officer can control the CCTV cameras to focus on a street, an establishment or a person of interest. Shops have radios to alert the police about shoplifting, riots or other untoward incidents. From the control room, the police can track down the offenders and make arrests.

Another showcase was Caia Park in the same town, an impoverished community previously torn by racial tensions and crime but has now been transformed into a model community, and where the police perform not only law enforcement but also social work.

Winston Roddick, the first-ever elected police and crime commissioner for North Wales, has this message to the Philippine police: consulting the people is essential.

“You’ve got to keep in touch with the community. Once you’ve set it up and you’ve built the bridge, you have to cross that bridge regularly in order to maintain the relationship,” Roddick told members of a Philippine technical working group looking for a model for policing in the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region.

My Comments: The Police is looking for a model to emulate for the eventual Bangsa Moro Police. While learning from that model they learned community policing I suggest that community polkicing model will be emulated for the national setup, since we are composed of barangays, this model would suit us perfectly.

Community Doctors

An excerpt from the article: Diagnosing The Future of Community Medicine in the Philippines (link).

Our country is in dire need of doctors for the people. The starkest indicator of this dilemma is the state of community medicine practice in the country and likewise the dwindling number of community physicians.

According to the National Institute of Health, there have been more than 9, 000 physicians who have left the country as nurses between 2002 to 2005. Likewise, the Health Alliance for Democracy said around 80 percent of public health physicians have taken up or are enrolled in nursing. This year, it said, 90 percent of municipal health officers (MHOs) are taking up nursing and are expected to leave the country. The number of obstetricians and anesthesiologists are also fast depleting, followed by pediatricians and surgeons.

In the future, the best practices in community medicine should be documented and a strong system of supportive mechanisms for community medicine practitioners both in the public and private sectors should be developed.

“The health of the poor is a cardinal indicator of the state of people’s health,” Velmonte says. Among the resolutions passed was the formation of a community physicians’ organization to advance the discipline not only in the academe and medical community but also to gain ground in the promotion of health and development for the marginalized sectors of society.

My Comments: The priority of graduates is to go to big hospitals,there is only a few or even none left for the barrios. There must be ways to have doctors for the barrios, a doctor that came from that barrio would be preferred.

Community Education.

Below is the abstract of an essay: The Community School and Its Relevance to the Present Times (link)

The community school, pioneered among others by Dr. Jose V. Aguilar, a superintendent of schools in Iloilo and later Dean of the U.P. College of Education, is distinguished by elementary schoolchildren tilling little plots of land in front of their countryside schools. The concept left a deep mark on Philippine education, and should become a historical concern of educators, especially in its use for the present times. For the community school did not only mean getting schoolchildren to learn the farming skills of their parents; it also meant a three-way partnership between teachers, parents, and community in the insurance of a practical education both for the nation’s children, and the nation’s adults as well, using the vernacular as medium of instruction. Can the community school concept be used at present to solve the problems of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, taking into account the possibility that the movement that spawned it was a potentially subversive pursuit?

My comments: The rural communities out numbers the urban ones. The above case study is for agricultural communities. But we know from anecdotes that children cross rivers and mountains just to reach the only school nearest to their home, some get tired and quit school. Some are war torn, how can they continue schooling, they just join the rebels.

What Can be Done?

What can be done to improve policing,medical care and schooling at the Barangay or LGU level?

Subsidiarity or joint responsibility of national and local authorities.

Knowing your community is an important step, not necessarily knowing each and everyone in the population, but that could be a bonus. I mean knowing their needs, their wants and their problems. In the article Subsidiarity, Solidarity, Humanity (link):

  • Subsidiarity- every level knows its duties and rights.
  • Solidarity- different parts of the society help each other.
  • Humanity- gives people slack.

In policing

With knowing your community, people could watch each other’s backs,more trust can be developed if the community trust each other.By trust that includes trusting them not to commit crime including petty crime.Each and every member of the community know their roles and duties and their rights.

For schooling

One Measure is civic Groups cooperating to get this done. An example would be. Lumad Schools – NGOs assist in establishing Lumad Schools. In Mindanao, it is populated by Muslims and Christians. Lumads need to retain their heritage, the solution for this are Lumad schools. If there are NGO sponsored Lumad Schools, there must also be secular schools which is the ideal setup for public schools.

Note from Irineo: community schooling similar to Lumad schools might work in any barangay – something like homeschooling but for a group that live close together and have Internet.

For healthcare

More scholars sponsored by community, a presidential candidate suggests that upon graduation the said scholar must give back to the community at least four years of service. This is to be repeated as often of possible.

Public hospitals offer more benefits than private ones, that is why public hospitals are preferred by medical professionals. I suggest that the community hospital no matter the size offers the same benefits to the community doctor.

Note from Irineo: barefoot doctors (link) may also be worth looking into.

Thanks to Karl Garcia for this article!

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 25 April 2016.


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Senator Alan Cayetano

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

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

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

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

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

Paggalang sa babae

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

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

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

Pagprotekta sa banyaga

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

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

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

Kapwa at iba

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

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

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

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

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An unreliable people?

Giotto - Scrovegni - -31- - Kiss of JudasRecent reports of how Duterte would not want to insist on the island claims filed before the UNCLOS (link), about how a Chinese plane recently landed in Davao (link), its course even clearly evidenced (link), his alleged wanting to have railways in exchange for giving up sovereignty, even his climate change statements calling Western countries hypocrites which is a stance China used to pronounce – but wanting to set up steel factories that might for all we know be Chinese and help China get rid of its own smog – seem to show once again a historical Filipino pattern of treachery:

  • the Claveria decree for Filipino surnames in the 19th century mentioned three surnames that were not to be given: Tupas, Raja Matanda and Mojica. Those that had been given special exemptions by King Philipp II in exchange for selling their own people to Spain. Tupas of Cebu, Raja Matanda of Manila and Mojica who I think was Kapampangan.
  • the betrayal by Paterno and Buencamino during the Philippine-American war is generally known now thanks to the Heneral Luna movie. Veteran commenter Mariano Renato Pacifico never fails to mention the Pact of Biak-na-Bato with the Spanish by Aguinaldo in 1897, and it is known how he came back on a US ship in 1898 after asking for American assistance. Macabebe scouts arrested Aguinaldo, which was the start of the often purported claim that Kapampangans are traitors. I think there is an older tribal Tagalog-Pampango rivalry at work sometimes.
  • that many Filipino politicians collaborated with the Japanese is known – names like Laurel, Roxas, Aquino and yes, Mariano Marcos come to mind. But the worst was Artemio Ricarte, who came back with the Japanese. His supporters, known as Ricartistas, were a very loud group in the 1910s. He was anti-American to the hilt, and Ricartistas were often Manila street toughs. Ricarte was involved in the foundation of the MAKAPILI who betrayed Filipino guerillas. Dutertistas are also often tough guy types. History rhymes, said Mark Twain.

There are those who say Manuel Roxas I sold out to the USA after the war and passed laws that favored his own sugar interests. There are those who think President Aquino has been making deals with the Malaysians and MILF on the BBL. What is sure is that Marcos was a darling of certain groups within the United States before and they dropped him after he became a liability. What I also think is sure is that the USA of today is a manageable partner for the Philippines. But what kind of international partner is the Philippines if there seem to be so many who will sell out anytime?

The Balkan peoples

Being in Germany and having had contact with numerous people from Southeastern Europe has its advantages. One gets to know many mentalities. A Serb once told me:

“The battle of Kosovo showed the best and the worst in our people. The heroism of some, and the betrayal of those generals who sold out to the Turks”

Kosovo of 1389, the legendary battle where traditional Serb nationalists will blindly see only heroism. But a statement by a Bulgarian makes things even more interesting:

“Our army was about to invade the Turks, but the Serbs came from behind to help the Turks and so our independence failed in the 19th century”

Romania is another country not really Balkan anymore, but was under the yoke of Turkish rule for about as long as Filipinos under Spain. A Romanian once told me:

“We Romanians were like snakes in World War 2. Allied with the Germans first, then switched sides to ally with Russia when the Germans were losing”

Romanians had a hard history, much like Filipinos. Because of that, many of them are survivor types. Caring first and foremost for their own families, a few ready to do nearly anything for them.

Yet they today have President who, even if he could have availed of German citizenship easily as an ethnic German, chose to stay in Romania. Klaus Iohannis, a school teacher. History rhymes.

Florante at Laura

was a poem by Balagtas. I hardly remember most of it. It was in very hard, old Tagalog and was not taught well to us. But I do remember it was about a Christian prince in Albania, tied to a tree to be eaten by lions. He laments about how in his woeful country, “kagalinga’t bait” – capability and goodness – do not matter. A Muslim prince rescues him, the rest of the story is a bit confused. Probably Francisco Baltazar, who wrote his poem in jail, knew very little about the Balkan. But replace Albania with the Philippines, and the Ottomans with Spain, and you have some parallels.

Yet is is hard for people who have been under an oppressive yoke for so long to learn how to work together, to trust one another again. The Bulgarian I mentioned already once told me this

“The Romanians are thieves, the Greeks are hypocrites, the Serb is your brother but he waits for you with a knife”

We all know how things went in what used to be Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Well, the Philippines has Mindanao which has been a place full of unrest for so long.

Duterte is seen as being close to the NPA, which are known to be Maoist. Like in former Yugoslavia, you often don’t know who is one what side there or in the entire Philippines.

And what people often say about the respective “other” sometimes echoes the Balkan examples I mentioned. Finally, how can a country get its act together and not fall prey or fall apart?

Regaining true pride

there is a lot of “Filipino pride” around, but where is it when it truly counts? Guess true pride would be more like what a Romanian migrant told me before leaving Germany for good:

“The other Europeans see us as garbage all the time. Time to prove them wrong.”

The anti-corruption drive of President Klaus, the seriousness of the anti-corruption directorate (link) and most importantly the people went on the street to oust Prime Minister Ponta last fall, who has cases similar to those against Vice-President Jejomar Binay, show that the people of Romania have found true pride. I was in Bucharest in times when dangerous strays still were in the streets.

Some Americans now call Bucharest the new Havana of Eastern Europe. For sure the Romanians are mainly Latin, passionate, fun people just like the Cubans who live in a warmer climate. I know a number of Cubans as well – of all colors. They too had a hard time. Spanish first then the USA like the Philippines. But somehow there always was a direction, the worst crook they had was I think Batista and he did not last. The Cubans had a longer revolution than the Philippines, who just started when they saw Spain weakened by Cuban revolution and Spanish-American war.

Today Cuba is finding a new relationship with the United States, have a well-trained workforce and an excellent system of healthcare (link) which all is a foundation for a better future. They are still socialist in name like Vietnam, but both of these countries may find more investment in the long-term than the Philippines. Because Filipinos are seen as unpredictable and opportunistic. Finally, water seeks it own level. Partners seen as straightforward, pragmatic and reliable build good long-term relationships with similar partners. Those who are not flock with their own kind.

Ninoy Aquino said that the Filipino is worth dying for. I wonder if he was right or wrong. It is so much easier to lose a reputation than to rebuild it. Trust is the most valuable capital there is in life. Within human communities. Among human communities. The lessons of cultures that were damaged, burnt to some degree by foreign conquest and internal divisions show what betrayal and lack of mutual trust can lead to. In the Balkan. In Latin America. In the Philippines. The lessons of countries that have healed or are healing are also significant. No major works on this I know of so far.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 17 April 2016.



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Cooperate or Collapse

Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song and story (1911) (14782806795) The latest research has looked into the causes of societies failing or collapsing more extensively than ever. This could help in finding out how to fix Philippine society. Why Nations Fail (link to blog) by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson as well as Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (link to Wikipedia) by anthropologist Jared Diamond are the strongest works on this matter to date. Wikipedia (link) summarizes the reasons for societal collapse as follows:

Common factors that may contribute to societal collapse are economical, environmental, social and cultural, and disruptions in one domain sometimes cascade into others. In some cases a natural disaster (e.g. tsunami, earthquake, massive fire or climate change) may precipitate a collapse. Other factors such as a Malthusian catastrophe, overpopulation or resource depletion might be the proximate cause of collapse. Significant inequity may combine with lack of loyalty to a central power structure and result in an oppressed lower class rising up and taking power from a smaller wealthy elite. The diversity of forms that societies evolve corresponds to diversity in their failures.

Damage to Culture

A lot of things point to the Philippines as a society that has already collapsed in the past. Rizal and others have written extensively on how the fabric of society was damaged by the encomienda system, “producing a race without a mind and without a heart” according to his milestone work “The Philippines, A Century Hence“. Get Real Philippines, while being exaggerated and pro-dictatorial in its conclusions, has indeed described phenomena similar to those in James Fallows’ “A Damaged Culture” (link). One of the most damaged cultures is that of the Ik (link):

  • an ethnic group numbering about 10,000 people living in the mountains of northeastern Uganda near the border with Kenya…
  • were displaced from their land to create the Kidepo Valley National Park and consequently suffered extreme famine. Also, their weakness relative to other tribes meant they were regularly raided. The Ik are subsistence farmers who grind their own grain…
  • The Ik people live in several small villages arranged in clusters, which comprise the total “community”. Each small village is surrounded by an outer wall, then sectioned off into familial (or friend-based) “neighborhoods” called Odoks, each surrounded by a wall. Each Odok is sectioned into walled-off households called asaks, with front yards (for lack of a better term) and in some cases, granaries.
  • Children by age three or four are sometimes permanently expelled from the household and form groups called age-bands consisting of those within the same age group. The ‘Junior Group’ consists of children from the ages of three to eight and the ‘Senior Group’ consists of those between eight and thirteen.
  • No adults look after the children, who teach each other the basics of survival. However, it is not certain whether this practice is typical Ik tradition or merely triggered by unusual famine conditions. Joseph A. Tainter proposes this fragmentation to be an artifact of the dire circumstances where each person must depend on their own resources alone to find food and the age peers band together primarily to protect themselves from older stronger children who would take their food.

Much worse than the batang hamog that Karl Garcia mentioned in the past article, showing that there are degrees of damage to culture, much like there are degrees of how one can burn oneself. There is a study by the anthropologist Turnbull which is controversial, but does summarize the worst aspects of what happened to the Ik as follows:

“There is no better or more heartbreaking example of the alienation of the human capacity to love than the story of the Ik tribe of Uganda. Colin Turnbull in his book Mountain People documents how Milton Obote nationalized traditional hunting lands as national park for European tourists, and prevented the Ik from hunting in their traditional hunting grounds. After a couple of generations of starvation conditions, the Ik, originally a cooperative, child loving tribe, became a group of selfish cruel people who don’t trust or help anybody.

Subsidiarity, Solidarity, Humanity

are the three aspects of a functioning society that Manong Sonny has mentioned. Karl Garcia in the previous article on serving the community and the environment has looked at how to build some degree of subsidiarity and solidarity – thereby increasing humanity in the long run – at the barangay and municipal level. This is the bottom-up approach, but I think one must add:

  • the state has to protect communities against impunity, i.e. armed violence. Lumad communities in Mindanao even organize their own schools, I have read, but are often prey to impunity.
  • the state has to make its basic services more accessible to communities. Not force people to go to different offices. Have extension offices in regions, municipalities, even in barangays.
  • the state has to develop more of a service-oriented mindset. This is hard in a country were not even banks are truly service-oriented yet. It would be less of a foreign body for the people.

Negosyo Centers, Justice on Wheels mentioned by Karl, pilot projects with courts working in Filipino like I mentioned are ideas like this. The popularity of both Binay and Duterte rests mainly on their having implemented citizen services at the local level. Even if they made their workarounds. I suspect that the principalia, the native chiefs whom the Spanish coopted to help rule, often made workarounds for their respective villages and were loved by their people if they did for their benefit. Hated if they insisted on implementing often impracticable Spanish laws to the letter.

The Polder Model

The Dutch have polders (link) and each community is in charge of not only warding off the sea, but managing its own natural resources and keeping things clean. Dutch water boards (link) are among the oldest democratic institutions of the country, democracy in its best form being people cooperating for their common interests. In the case of the water boards these are the interests:

managing water barriers, waterways, water levels, water quality and sewage treatment in their respective regions.

In the Philippines it could be making sure mountains are reforested (link) or at least planted with crops like moringa (link) and disaster mitigation. This is one level above the community level that Karl has mentioned in the previous article. Communities that are in the same zone could be encouraged to form alliances to ward of ecological collapse, mitigate natural catastrophes and increase agricultural productivity, possibly even allow for ecotourism. This is regional. The Dutch polder model (link) is also used to describe cooperation and balance of interests at a national level:

The Dutch polder model is characterised by the tri-partite cooperation between employers’ organisations such as VNO-NCW, labour unions such as the Federation Dutch Labour Movement, and the government. These talks are embodied in the Social-Economic Council (Dutch: Sociaal-Economische Raad, SER)… During the postwar period, the Catholic, Protestant, Christian, social-democratic, and liberal parties decided to work together to reconstruct the Netherlands, as did unions and employers’ organizations. Important institutions of the polder model, like the SER, were founded in this period… ever since the Middle Ages, when the process of land reclamation began, different societies living in the same polder have been forced to cooperate because without unanimous agreement on shared responsibility for maintenance of the dykes and pumping stations, the polders would have flooded and everyone would have suffered.

In the Philippines, the system of warring barangays worked well for a long time. But there were only about 4 million people in the country around 1800. Today there are 25 times as many people. History I have read mentions that landownership, for example, hardly mattered in the old Philippines because there was always enough new land to slash and burn, then leave after a while to regrow the forest. Now there are hardly any forests left. The population when Marcos rule ended was almost three times that of when Magsaysay’s plane crashed. Now there are nearly twice as many Filipinos as in 1986. Even if what they say is true that the Philippines could export rice during Marcos days, the present population and the land do not allow it anymore. The countries of the Mekong delta can produce rice more cheaply and in larger amounts. Time maybe to look at the Dutch way, people of the sea, survivors of calamities. Cooperate – or collapse.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 14. April 2016

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Serving the community and the environment

Community Service Work Detail for 35th District Court Northville MichiganBy Karl Garcia

Ever since I saw guest blogs from Bill in Oz and Sonny, I also wanted to submit a guest blog for the Filipino-German Learning Center. This is not about history, but of various topics that Irineo has already reviewed and some topics I wanted to be reviewed.

Our justice system

I have long proposed those that can be settled in the barangay not to reach the court.

The justice on wheels program (link) try to reduce all the court backlogs, and most cases they just settle it, not monetary amicable settlement, just amicably so it would be all over.

We have jail cells full of minors and even without the minors they are still jam packed like sardines. I won’t touch on our maximum security prisons full of jail house rockers, maybe later.

I suggest more Boys and Girls towns. And it is about time to charge the parents.

Children sniffing solvent, children throwing rocks at windshields, children jumping on roofs of jeepneys. Something has to be done (link).

Community service

Now on community service instead of jail time (link) – I can see that this is already done. This will solve our dirty streets and esteros, and some are solving our reforestation requirements.

You don’t have to commit a crime to do community service. Some fraternities and sororities are planting trees. Of course our NGOs are doing the same.

Crime in our country is hard to solve, but with the measures mentioned above can contribute much, not only on petty crime,b ut environmental and community problems as well.

Recycling and gasification

Since I mentioned environment, might as well go on with my issues. Our laws do not allow any incineration. (link)

What do our dear environmentalist senators propose to do with our garbage dumps – recycle everything?

Man in our house we have trash that is decades old – maybe a bit exaggerated, but sooner or later when you do a general cleaning you throw stuff anyways.

What if everyone went zero waste, that would make hoarders, not recyclers. Same with the macro situation, you reuse, repurpose or simply recycle, in the end you throw them out.

You got to allow at least plasma gasification (link). Recycling and repurposing is still done. Kudos to envirotech (link) and envirocycle (link).

Thanks to Karl Garcia for this article!

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

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A Filipino civilization

Barong Up Closemay be developing these days. Three times I think the development of a civilization was interrupted, by three respective foreign powers: Spain, the United States, and Japan. Let us look:

  • The area around Manila was a bustling hub of trade, on the way to a civilization. Legazpi interrupted this in 1571.
  • Bonifacio and especially his thinker Jacinto attempted to re-establish Katagalugan. Even Aguinaldo often listened to thinker Mabini. But the USA had other plans.
  • Manuel Quezon built the foundations of the present Republic. His code of ethics (link) was based on Mabini’s decalogue. Then came World War 2 and only his foundations remained, the rest burned down with Old Manila.

The present Philippines often looks more like a chiefdom (link) than a civilization: A chiefdom is a form of hierarchical political organization in non-industrial societies usually based on kinship, and in which formal leadership is monopolized by the legitimate senior members of select families or ‘houses’.  Pre-Hispanic Philippine society was a collection of chiefdoms, described by Laura Lee Junker in her book “Raiding, Trading and Feasting – The Political Economy of Philippine Chiefdoms” (link) while Alfred McCoy describes the postwar Philippines as “An Anarchy of Families” and Benedict Anderson describes the system as “Cacique Democracy”. The development of the families that formed the postwar ruling class – names like Roxas, Aquino, Osmeña come to mind – from 1780 onwards, especially with the lucrative sugar business (tobacco and abaca did not give that much of long-term foundation) show how mestizos and migrants became modern versions of datus.

Attributes of Chiefdoms

Looking at the attributes oF chiefdoms, one recognizes many aspects of Filipino political and social life. Some excerpts from the Wikipedia link above:

  • Chiefdoms are characterized by centralization of authority and pervasive inequality. At least two inherited social classes (elite and commoner) are present. (The ancient Hawaiian chiefdoms had as many as four social classes.) ABCDE classes.
  • An individual might change social class during a lifetime by extraordinary behavior. A single lineage/family of the elite class becomes the ruling elite of the chiefdom, with the greatest influence, power, and prestige. Jejomar Binay and his family.
  • A single simple chiefdom is generally composed of a central community surrounded by or near a number of smaller subsidiary communities. All of the communities recognize the authority of a single kin group or individual with hereditary centralized power, dwelling in the primary community. Each community will have its own leaders, which are usually in a tributary and/or subservient relationship to the ruling elite of the primary community. Duterte, his family, and his vice-mayors from different tribes within Davao City.
  • A complex chiefdom is a group of simple chiefdoms controlled by a single paramount center, and ruled by a paramount chief. Complex chiefdoms have two or even three tiers of political hierarchy. The Liberal Party and its respective Governors and Mayors. The OIC mayors that Cory Aquino appointed. Duterte and Binay got their “simple chiefdoms” from Cory.
  • The higher members of society consume most of the goods that are passed up the hierarchy as a tribute. Reciprocal obligations are fulfilled by the nobles carrying out rituals that only they can perform. They may also make token, symbolic redistributions of food and other goods. I do not live in Makati. No cake from the Binays for me. I am sad.

There are traditional Filipino nationalists who glorify chiefdoms, and modernizers who do not like them. There is one important aspect of chiefdoms mentioned in the link that is significant:

Anthropologists and archaeologists have demonstrated through research that chiefdoms are a relatively unstable form of social organization. They are prone to cycles of collapse and renewal, in which tribal units band together, expand in power, fragment through some form of social stress, and band together again.

Sounds like the shifting alliances of Philippine politics to me. Even before this has happened. Some Filipinos who served in the Spanish army against the Katipunan where in Aguinaldo’s Republic. Artemio Ricarte, Aguinaldo’s military commander before Heneral Luna, agitated against the USA but returned with the Japanese and formed a major role in forming the MAKAPILI movement which betrayed guerillas. Much like the Germanic peoples who allied with Romans, broke alliances, fought one another then banded together to invade Rome when it was weakened. Even the Holy Roman Empire had aspects of a chiefdom, the Emperor not an Imperator in the Roman sense, but a kind of paramount chief elected by German nobles. Which is why it was not as stable as France. One could also postulate that the Katipunan took advantage of a Spain weakened by the much longer-lasting and thorough Cuban revolution – Aguinaldo was easily bought in 1897.

Attributes of Civilization

According to Wikipedia, a civilization (link) is

any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification, symbolic communication forms (typically, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment by a cultural elite. Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labor, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon farming as an agricultural practice, and expansionism.

now is the Philippines not a civilization? Maybe it is based on that definition. But terms like “Imperial Manila”, “Inglisero” (a slightly pejorative term for the English-speaking elite) and “konyo” (a derogatory term for upper-class people) show that this possibly bogus civilization is still partly seen as foreign by many. Let us have a look at some developments:

  • datus were co-opted by the Spaniards to form the principalia, who helped them rule the country. The conquering civilization was restricted to urban centers, especially Manila.
  • from the 1780s onwards mestizos and migrants got rich especially in the sugar trade. Sources do show that especially in Pampanga, they ruled very much like datus in a patronage system.
  • Increasing modernization from the 1860s onwards changed especially Manila (link) and there was for the first time an educated elite, the ilustrados who however mostly used Spanish.
  • the revolution of 1896 and the subsequent Republic of Aguinaldo brought the principalia back into the forefront. Ilustrados like Heneral Luna were used as long as they were still needed.
  • American rule gave an advantage to the Filipino business elite, democracy enabled them to be elected in their provinces which spoke different languages. They all spoke English in Manila.

Manuel Quezon, Aguinaldo’s former Lieutenant, was not from a rich family although he was the son of a Spanish soldier. He was a highly ethical man and put together a very modern state, with American backing. After the war the Filipino ruling class backtracked on many things. NP and LP together for example abolished divorce (link) in 1949. Sottocracy already existed way back then. And somehow civilization has backtracked even more until now. One must look at a few commonly known aspects of civilization to see this clearly:

  • Landownership. The Lina law and the Rat’s Nest of Land Titles (link) show that this aspect of civilization is not really well-managed in the Philippines.
  • Education. K-12 meets enormous resistance. Duterte wants to abolish algebra (link). The Katipunan, I read somewhere, had a library for its members!
  • Literacy. Many people do not read anymore, just click on shared Facebook because of the picture or read just the first few words of an article or a meme.
  • Money. People actually think that Binay can do what he did in Makati, even if it is financially absurd (link). Bank secrecy laws benefit just a few people (link).
  • Laws. People are very willing to vote for Duterte even if he apparently wants to use extralegal means. Laws are often not followed, the justice system a mess (link).

Moving towards Civilization

There are three present candidates that I see moving towards civilization, each in their own distinct way:

  • Mar Roxas gave major pushes to reforming the police and local governments. Bottom-Up-Budgeting replaces older systems based on favoritism by tying funds to responsibility.
  • Rodrigo Duterte comes from the culture of Chiefdom but seems to want to be a God-King (link). A civilization might eventually evolve out of that, but not a democratic, modern one.
  • Leni Robredo, who is favored by most Roxas supporters and many Duterte supporters, bridges the gap between civilization and chiefdom best. She represents a possible future.

The rest just represent plain old trapoism, that pernicious hybrid between chiefdom and bogus civilization. Even President Aquino has shown a few aspects of trapoism in this social evolution.

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

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Who needs heroes?

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

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

The German experience

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

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

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

The Filipino experience

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

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

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

What I see

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

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

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

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

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

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

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National growing pains

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

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

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

Professionalism and Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

Scapegoats and Personalism

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

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

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

Seeking Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Of Philippine Divides

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

  • education
  • power
  • money

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

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

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

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

A warped society

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

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

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

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

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

Overcoming the Divides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bridging the Divides

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

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

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

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

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

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Giving Sacrifices meaning

Crucifixion in San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines, easter 2006, p-ad20060414-12h54m52s-rThe Christian meaning of Good Friday is that God sacrificed his only son to save mankind from original sin. It was meant as a one-time sacrifice. In the Philippines there is the folk tradition of usually men letting themselves be cruficied, a bloody spectacle the official Church does not approve of – because of exactly the meaning of Christ’s one-time sacrifice.

What sins must Filipinos have committed to crucify not only themselves, but also their nation all the time? So many famous martyrs in its history:

  • Diego Silang
  • Gomburza (the three priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora)
  • Jose Rizal
  • Heneral Luna
  • Ramon Magsaysay
  • Ninoy Aquino
  • Jesse Robredo

Shouldn’t the Philippines be saved by now? It still endures many things.

The victim mindset

Somehow so many Filipinos have a sense of not being able to move forward. Could it be a form of learned helplessness (link)?

Learned helplessness is behavior typical of an organism (human or animal) that has endured repeated painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it was unable to escape or avoid. After such experience, the organism often fails to learn escape or avoidance in new situations where such behavior would be effective. In other words, the organism seems to have learned that it is helpless in aversive situations, that it has lost control, and so it gives up trying. Such an organism is said to have acquired learned helplessness. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from such real or perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.

I read somewhere that the Spaniards banned the building of larger boats while harnessing Filipino carpenters and seamen for their own purposes. Filipinos hardly have their own manufacturing of anything to this day, while being harnessed for foreign companies via BPO or as OFWs abroad.

Looking for saviours

This mindset makes some look for saviours who will change things. Examples of people who were/are seen as saviours by some are:

  • Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
  • Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino
  • Benigno Aquino III
  • Rodrigo Duterte
  • Grace Poe

Marcos had full powers including Presidential decrees. Cory was well-meaning but inexperienced and blocked by various forces. Her son often had his hands tied because other powerful institutions blocked him. Senate, Congress and Supreme Court. But many people still put all blame on him.

Taking charge again

Yet there are hopeful signs. The online poll Who is My President (link) asks people for their preferred programs and then shows to what percentage one’s own preferences match the programs of certain candidates. The blog Why Nations Fail (link) shows that locally there are things happening:

Local politics is very different from the norm in cities of Naga and Cebu. Both feature reformist mayors and a local politics focused on public good provision and politicians competing on their track record.

In our field work in Cebu, we met with local organizations of poor urban people who actually endorsed different candidates. Before local elections they invite the different candidates to come and address them, and then they grade them according to different criteria. Once they have picked the one they think is the best, they work for this person’s election. This situation does not lead to a different type of clientelism simply targeted at the organized groups, but a different sort of politics. As one lady said to us:

if you sell your vote, you don’t get any services.

So vote buying is out, services and public goods are in.

When we asked where all this organization came from, we were told it was a direct legacy of the People’s Power Movement which had overthrown Marcos. People had organized to fight for the end of martial law and the dictatorships and after the return to democracy they had stayed organized and used this to try and get the new democratic institutions to deliver.

This is already political self-empowerment, far more than what my articles on Virtual Bayanihan (link) and the Online Sambayanan (link) or blogs show. The website BlogWatch (link) shows some initiatives like #JuanVote with iVote and iWatch as well as #epalwatch.

The good fight

And it wasn’t all helplessness even in the past, even if websites like GRP might want us to believe that. Some examples:

  • Gabriela Silang continued her husband’s fight
  • Gomburza’s execution led to the Propaganda movement
  • Rizal’s execution fanned the fires of the Revolution
  • Ninoy’s killing got a middle-class movement started
  • Leni continues what she and her husband started in Naga

So those who do not believe in the capacity of the Filipino to fight back or take charge are wrong. There are those who flagellate or crucify themselves. There are those who would like to whip the Filipinos into discipline instead of trusting their capacity to transcend bad old habits into self-discipline.

The nation today

There was originally not much of a nation. The Philippines started as an idea of some ilustrados. Bonifacio’s revolution spoke of Katagalugan – the Tagalog nation – and not the Philippines. Some Visayans had own uprisings. Benedict Anderson’s “Cacique Democracy” article clearly states:

The American colonization changed everything. In the first place, it ensured the political unification of the archipelago by smashing, often with great brutality, all opposition. Even the Muslim areas, which Spain had never wholly subdued, were fully subjected to Manila, thereby probably losing their last chance at sovereign independence. Secondly, it vastly improved the economic position of the mestizos. The American regime decided to expropriate much (about 400,000 acres) of the rich agricultural land hitherto held by the Orders, and to put it up for public auction. The mestizos, well-off hacendados even in late Spanish times, were the group with the money and the interest to take advantage of this opportunity, and most of the former ecclesiastical property fell into their hands. Still more important, after 1909, by the terms of the Payne-Aldrich Act, the Philippines were enclosed within the American tariff wall, so that their agricultural exports had easy, untaxed access to the world’s largest national market—where, in addition, prices, especially for sugar, were often well above world norms.

But it was above all the political innovations of the Americans that created a solid, visible ‘national oligarchy’. The key institutional change was the stage-by-stage creation of a Congress-style bicameral legislature, based, in the lower house at least, on single-district, winner-take-all elections. The new representational system proved perfectly adapted to the ambitions and social geography of the mestizo nouveaux riches. Their economic base lay in hacienda agriculture, not in the capital city. And their provincial fiefdoms were also protected by the country’s immense linguistic diversity. They might all speak the elite, ‘national’ language (Spanish, later American), but they also spoke variously Tagalog, Ilocano, Pampango, Cebuano, Ilongo, and a dozen other tongues. In this way competition in any given electoral district was effectively limited, in a pre-television age, to a handful of rival local caciques. But Congress, which thus offered them guaranteed access to national-level political power, also brought them together in the capital on a regular basis. There, more than at any previous time, they got to know one another well in a civilized ‘ring’ sternly refereed by the Americans. They might dislike one another, but they went to the same receptions, attended the same churches, lived in the same residential areas, shopped in the same fashionable streets, had affairs with each other’s wives, and arranged marriages between each other’s children. They were for the first time forming a self-conscious ruling class.

How does the nation look today?

  • Around half of the people speak English, or Filipino which is Tagalog simplified by having spread to other groups.
  • Extensive migration both to urban areas and abroad has increased contact between formerly isolated groups.
  • The Internet connects many formerly disparate groups and offers unprecented access to information.

In my article A Nation Forms (link), I postulated that there are presently five Filipino nations:

  • Luzon which was formed by the dynamics of history around the capital and by Tagalog mass media
  • Visayas which has a sense of community because its many languages are very close to one another
  • Mindanao which was formed by subjugation, migration and conflict to develop it’s own identity
  • Filipino-Americans – over a million middle-class Filipinos had left for the USA by the mid-1980s
  • Overseas Foreign Workers or OFWs, usually working-class, in the Middle East and Southeast Asia

According to Benedict Anderson, Marcos had his appeal to many people because he claimed to be against the oligarchy or the “caciques”, but became the Supreme Cacique, confiscating the property of some rivals like the Lopez family but favoring other caciques and creating some new ones.

Cacique is a Spanish term for chiefs co-opted to help them rule – the Filipino principalia were examples. Now things are obviously changing. The nation of chiefs and followers may yet become a nation of citizens and their representatives (link), which is what democracy should be in reality. Former victims that learned helplessness and looked for saviours are beginning to take charge. Martyrs may not have died in vain after all.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 25 March 2016

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