Posts Tagged People

Pilipinas na matino

Loon Bohol TreeNagustuhan ko iyong naisulat ni Joe America sa isang komentaryo rito tungkol sa mga masisipag at matitinong mga Pilipino sa kanyang lugar sa Pilipinas (link):

The Philippines is a rough version of the US in the 1950’s when there is money to be made in real estate and businesses. In town here, there is a “provincial middle class” that generally has a stable source of income (seaman, OFW or foreign spouse) that is being deployed into local real estate and business. Oddly, they mostly like Binay or Duterte for President, I think because they are more legitimately Filipino than a hi-bred like Roxas or the American Poe. They understand the way shenanigans work among the empowered few, but keep their heads down and focused on building their businesses, honestly. There is plenty of money to be made in business, honestly.

PAGSALIN: Ang Pilipinas ay parang US noong 1950s – maaring kumita sa lupa at negosyo. Dito sa bayan namin, meron “middle class na promdi” na kadalasan may istableng income source (seaman, OFW o asawang foreigner) na napupunta sa lupa at negosyo. Medyo nakakagulat na karamihan sa kanila gusto si Binay o Duterte bilang Presidente, siguro dahil mas Pilipino ang dating nila kaysa isang anak-mayaman tulad ni Roxas o Amerikanang si Poe. Naiintindihan nila kung paano ang mga kalokohan ng mga iilang may kapangyarihan, pero nakayuko sila at nakatutok sila sa pagpundar ng kanilang negosyo, sa matinong paraan. Maraming puwedeng kitain sa negosyo, sa matinong paraan.

Medyo bumanat ako sa huli kong artikulo tungkol sa Kaharian ng Kababalaghan (link). Heto sa palagay ko ang unti-unting naging sistema ng Pilipinas mula noong pagtapos ng World War 2. Tignan natin kung kailan nagsimula ang bank secrecy noong 1955. Palala yata ng palala, akala ng iilan gaganda gawa ng diktadura ni Marcos, akala ng iilan gaganda mula noong 1986. Hindi yata.

Marami sa aming umalis sa bayan gawa ng hindi namin nakikitang tumitino. Maraming mga gustong gumawa ng pagbabago na natukso rin ng sistemang hindi yata matino kahit kailan (link). Kaya naiintindihan ko iyong mga simpleng tao na nakayuko lang at tutok sa kanilang pagpundar sa Pilipinas hangga’t maari. Simpleng negosyo lang para hindi pag-interesan ng mga matataas. Paaralin ang mga anak para may kinabukasan. Iwas sa pulitika dahil baka masunog. Baka balang araw, sila ang maging bagong Pilipinas, na handa nang tumayong may kumpiyansa. Dahil matino.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 21 March 2016

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Re: Grace Poe

Poe graceThe Supreme Court has decided that Grace Poe may run for President. Good. Why? There are three major requirements for running. I interpret their intention as follows:

  1. Age requirement. A person should have the life experience, meaning the maturity, necessary for leading such a complex country.
  2. Natural-born citizenship. A person should be rooted in the nation. A foundling who grew up in Filipino families like Grace Poe did IS rooted.
  3. Residency requirement. A person should know what is going on in a country. Grace Poe was part of the struggles of the country in the past years.

The rest for me are just technicalities. In fact I see the Philippine Constitution as still being wishful thinking, far from the real constitution (link) of the country in the sense how it is constituted. Much of what is written in it are just high-sounding words, with no impact on the reality of millions in the country, and the real constitution of their lives I do not wish to describe to stay polite this time.

Just like the oath Grace Poe took when she became an American citizen may not have been truly meant (link). It is an inheritance of colonialism and serfdom that many Filipinos often just say what they are required to say – in front of their teachers, in front of judges, in front of anyone with power – because speaking truth to power (link) can hurt you or often face is more important. Much of what those who are used to honesty see as strange is not a big deal for many Filipinos – it is seen as a trade-off in a country where honesty is seen as “rude”.

  • Grace Poe’s program for me is 1-2 steps behind Mar Roxas (link), but 2-3 steps in front of Rodrigo Duterte. My ranking remains unchanged (link).
  • In my model of evolution of order (link) I see Grace Poe as a “rebel/prophet”. She seems to want to lead her people out of Egypt but does not know the way – a bit like Cory 30 years ago.
  • I think her appeal is strong to a nation that is historically Spain’s illegitimate child and America’s foundling. A country that still struggles with its identity and has issues with its confidence.

Now if the Philippines may be likened to Oliver Twist, the orphan who ran with shady characters for a while because those were the ones he trusted more than the better-off people, Poe with her somewhat questionable connection to Chiz Escudero and the people who might be behind him is preferable to Binay anytime who might be something like a Fagin to an Oliver Twist nation.

On shifting ground

People usually can relate best to those who are at a similar stage of development. The Philippines is a country of shifting ground, legally and ethically. It is not yet sure of its own principles.

  • Aquino may have come down the mountain with the 11th Commandment (link), seeing his people dancing around the Golden Calf of Corruption, what Daang Matuwid means stayed vague.
  • The modern technocrat Roxas is mainly able to connect with parts of the educated middle class, and those who still live the vague democratic dreams of the 1986 revolution.
  • Duterte seems to want to chuck a lot of imported Western principles down the drain, coming from Mindanao where they were often meaningless in daily life (link).
  • Marcos Jr. provides a vague promise of authoritarianism to those who see the chaos and blockades of present-day Philippine democracy.
  • Leni Robredo is for people’s participation – in an elitist country where the people were outside the walls and meant little (link).

What really counts

The election only is a sideshow for me. Finally the country might have to look at three things and find answers to them in the next few weeks, months or years:

  1. Where has it been in the past (link)?
  2. What is the real situation now (link)?
  3. Where does it want to go next (link)?

Outdated terminologies and ideologies that probably never fit the specific Philippine situation have not been helpful in modeling reality for the purpose of defining how to remold it.

  • New mental models are needed I think (link),
  • Discourse at all levels must remain open (link),
  • Mutual assistance and coaching is growing (link).

The nice thing about the elections is that people are starting to discuss about a lot of things, some even think or do something. A few may even remember the real priorities after the election.

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


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The online Sambayanan

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

A. Barangays

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

Get Real Philippines

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

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

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

Society of Honor

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

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

Cyber Plaza Miranda

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

B. Bayanihan

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

C. Islands

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

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

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

D. Weaving different Strands

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

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

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

E. Fabrics already woven

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

Overseas fabrics

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

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

Local fabrics

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

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

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

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

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Filipino Virtual Bayanihan

BayanihanThere has been something forming quietly, without being noticed too much by the usual suspects in blogs. I suspect we are a bit too self-centered sometimes. While we have been discussing, some people have started to act – and make websites for virtual bayanihan. Yes bayanihan, the old Filipino community spirit of self-reliance and mutual assistance – as opposed to the oppressive, authoritarian barangay where one relies on a datu-type leader for everything, including what one should think and do. Let me show some examples:

Overseas Virtual Bayanihan

There are a few sites which I have noticed in Europe, possibly there are many more, maybe even in the Middle East:

  • This is an example of an article from Migreat – which gives practical tips about migration, studying and more for Filipinos in Germany, Spain, England and Italy.
  • This is an example of an article from Pinay In Germany – which is a group of Pinays married to Germans, giving tips to other Pinays and also writing about life in Germany.
  • This is from Pinoy in Amsterdam. I would say the site is still quite rudimentary, but it does explore a lot of areas. Here there is the possibility of a commercial/business link.

What is interesting is that the makers of these websites are very unassuming, unlike most bloggers on the political scene. I even would include myself as being a bit self-promoting at times.

Local Virtual Bayanihan

Locally, there are two sites that I have noticed. I am sure there are more:

  • Efren Nolasco gives not only computer tips, but also tips on how to deal with practical matters like SSS, Philhealth etc. – one example is this article.
  • Boklit also gives practical tips on the usual day-to-day stuff like SSS, Philhealth, PAG-IBIG…, but also self-help ideas like this article on how to get out of debt.

A New Spirit?

What is interesting is that Efren Nolasco is a former OFW.  My first article at Joe America’s blog foresaw a role of those who have been abroad in changing the Philippines. Those who are poorer or less educated in the Philippines are often kept from gaining too much confidence I think – by both the rich and the educated, many of whom want to keep a colonial-style monopoly of wealth and knowledge. Being abroad is not only about earning money, it is also about seeing how things can work differently, and gaining confidence by seeing one’s hard work finally having true results.

Joe America recently mentioned the possibility of people powered journalism. People Power was not a bad thing – it removed a dictator, or an authoritarian ruler, whatever one chooses to call him, who had plundered the country and driven it into inflation and debt among other things. But People Power only replaced one ruling group with another somewhat better ruling group.

Filipinos were still hopeful sheep then. It was a necessary stage in the country’s development – away from being intimidated sheep. Now they are regaining confidence as well as community. Virtual bayanihan is in my opinion a major step forward for Filipinos – away from being just masses to becoming empowered citizens. This start is oriented towards daily needs, which I think is a good thing because that is what counts for most people, first and foremost. Between the thought leaders and the virtual citizens, there is still a divide. Bridging it remains the main challenge.

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

P.S. in response to an article of mine about Rising from Victimhood, Joe answered that the way to rise is knowledge that gives confidence. Will Villanueva added faith to that, and I commented that faith in good things about being Filipino is essential. This is all essential to overcoming the slave mentality that Get Real Philippines points out – but their solution is dictatorial and self-hating.

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Riding the Tiger

Kennon Road construction in 1903 (Wikimedia commons)

The Philippines rides a tiger today. Like a bus going up Kennon road, it is on a narrow path upwards, with the precipice to one side and the mountain to the other. The Philippines is going through multiple developments that Europe and America had decades and centuries for at Internet speed, with some people very much ahead and others way behind – in all respects.

Forces of History

Different tribes on numerous islands were colonized. Islam, Spain and the Americans shaped them. The Spanish co-opted local nobility as the principalia, from barangay to municipal level. Some of the principalia became ilustrados, the first to define the Filipino nation as an idea. The common people had no real idea of a Filipino nation. The nation that Bonifacio referred to was Katagalugan, the Tagalog nation, even if some Filipino nationalists say he meant the Philippines, I doubt he really did.

In early 20th century Bikol, there were the “Nationalists”, more often principalia and Spanish-speaking, often originally coming from Tagalog or other regions, and “Americanists” who saw their opportunities in the new order, mostly those who were not yet as entrenched. Aguinaldo’s Republic was mainly Tagalog and run by the principalia, with some ilustrados like Heneral Luna and Mabini. Probably Mabini was the only true Filipino nationalist at that time, seeing both nation and people.

Quezon was a Nationalist who completed the Philippine state with Americanist methods, and was instrumental in fighting the more radical Ricartistas, the followers of Heneral Ricarte. Ricarte was anti-American and pro-Japanese, his followers often tough street people. The Jones Law of 1916 temporarily defused the Ricartista movement. Ricarte, “El Vibora” went into Japanese exile to return with the Japanese. The reviled MAKAPILI were a reincarnation of the aggressive Ricartista spirit.

NP and LP continued along old Nationalist and Americanist lines – one more pro-state, the other more pro-business, even if Macapagal tried to outdo the NP in being nationalist. Marcos for all his anti-oligarch rhetoric established his own cronies, and was beholden to certain groups within the United States at that time for all his nationalistic rhetoric. The persecution of intellectuals during his period made many become rebels – both Moro groups and NPA grew during the Marcos regime.

Cory for all her American education was against US bases staying. Ramos eased the return of the Marcos family for all his efficiency, while Erap nearly had Marcos interred in the Heroes Cemetery. Throwing out Erap who seemed for the people but proved corrupt only paved the way for worse in the form of Gloria Arroyo. Noynoy Aquino was voted into power on the hope that he might be able to make things better.

The Philippines Now

He has done well on some fronts, OK on many, and badly on a few. In international matters – dealing with China, multilateral cooperation, APEC and ASEAN, the growing relationship with the EU which has recently started free trade talks with the Philippines, formerly shunned – his record is excellent. In economic matters as well, the Central Bank is now excellent, international credit ratings have gone up, the BPO business continues to buzz. Even tourism is picking up again. In terms of opportunities, it looks like the Go Negosyo Act and Negosyo Centers have already been effective. In social matters, the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilya) couple assistance for the poor with inculcating better habits, and CCT is coupled with school performance. Both are well monitored from what I gather. K-12 is a good education program, Oplan Lambat-Sibat and LGPMS sound good on the police and local government side. How well implemented and monitored they are is unclear.

Because of colonialism, the Philippines have had the clean and dirty kitchen everywhere. The clean kitchen to be shown to guests, especially foreigners, and the dirty kitchen were the maids cook. Daang Matuwid was theoretically about honesty, about cleaning up the dirty kitchen. The Ombudsman seems to be hyperactive in smoking out corruption; BIR seems to have been cleaned while Customs remains a problem. And yes, charges were pressed in the Tanim-Bala scam. BBL was not handled well, and has failed. The MRT and Manila traffic not handled with enough foresight.

Walls were built to hide squatters from both visitors of the UNCTAD V conference in Manila during Marcos times, and the Pope. Does it sound similar to some things that happened this year? Yes. There are more honest Filipinos now than then in my opinion, but brutal honesty must increase. Not to hit back at “the other side”, but to solve the many problems the country has. The country is in the process of maturing, and maturity means adressing issues without resorting to passive-aggressive sullenness or denial on one side and aggressive blaming on the other.

Confusion and Understanding

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Inquirer logo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Media often help confuse and increase the anger. Manila papers are often just data, who said what. Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc died to see her Inquirer decline from what it was in 1986, a bastion of restored democracy, into a tabloid. Online media like Rappler, Interaksyon and CNN Philippines at least offer mostly information. True knowledge like what I would like to see about tanim-bala, crime and poverty is not offered by anyone. Some knowledge is offered by bloggers like Joe America or Raissa Robles, to some extent also by Get Real Philippines when they are not heckling. Excellent regional papers like Mindanews and Cebu Daily News are more and more national in their perspectives.

Therefore it takes enormous effort to get a clear picture of what is really going on at important fronts, even for the highly interested. Social media is both a force of information and disinformation, especially with the campaign nearing.

Top-level press in developed countries would report about Tanim-Bala like this, to give a recent example:

  • Since when has it been reported, how many cases, how many dismissed etc.
  • How many cases in relation to number of travelers in a given time frame.
  • Timeline – first reports, investigation initiated, charges pressed etc.

I miss accurate and extensive reporting on crime in the Philippines as well. How was it before, what has improved, where are the flashpoints. What are the causes? Has crime “increased” statistically because it is only being reported more now, being monitored better? Is it only because the dirty kitchen has been opened and the cockroaches are finally being counted? My feeling is partly yes, partly no. Whether you look at DILG and PNP, or at Davao, I doubt it is the whole picture.

Clear statistics about poverty, and overview of the places where there are a lot of slums, what is being done about it are needed. I would expect a future President to show a map of the country at every SONA, with problem zones for every important aspect – rebellion, crime, poverty – shown in red, OK areas in blue, and fixed areas in green. And comparisions to the year before. If the President does not do it, I would expect good media to do it. Only hard-nosed realism fixes problems long-term. Not excessive optimism and smugness, not opportunistic negativism.

Shaping the Future

Romeinse vlag

Modern re-creation of Roman SPQR

Mutual respect, effective communication and responsibility are imperative in this situation. To build:

Real education. Problem-solving skills and not discussing ius sanguinis and residency requirements like medieval monks who discussed how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Equal opportunities. Filipinos often are cake eaters and pettily quarrelsome, based on colonial and postcolonial experience. The cake should be grown for all to have more instead of quarreling about it.

Effective justice. Rules should be clear and simple, and imposed impartially and without delay. Not what they have been so very often – used to favor one’s own group and screw others.

Good Leaders. Don’t ask me who I would prefer for President. What is needed are:

  1. A President who can lead a team of Secretaries and supervise the LGUs nationwide,
  2. A Vice President who assists the President and is a credible successor just in case,
  3. A Senate that not only makes good laws, but blocks and/or modifies bad laws,
  4. A Congress that represents the different local groups, but thinks nationwide,
  5. Governors and Mayors that effectively implement what is needed locally.

Good citizens. People who both support their leaders, and constructively criticize them as well. Who form citizen groups to help in auditing local governments, like the Citizen Action Network for Accountability. Who check the press, but in order to increase understanding, not confusion. People will have to vote leaders at all levels that can work together, and learn to work together as well. Follow rules by themselves, and help fix rules that are obsolete.

Senatus Populusque Romanus

SPQR meant the Senate and the People of Rome, a force to be reckoned with. Finally it is about cohesion. Albay under Governor Joey Salceda seems to have achieved that at all levels, forged among other things by weathering natural disasters. Nona was handled in an exemplary manner recently. Since Yolanda, improvements like DOST Project NOAH for monitoring risks and Oplan Listo for LGUs have helped, Lando relief was praised even by the UN. But Albay was already ahead even before.

There is not enough cohesion yet at the national level. Political groups try to blame each other for nearly everything while pretending they are saints themselves – some more and some less. Finally there are a few who have realized that it is imperative to address the work to be done instead of getting lost in personal and group quarrels. Like former President Ramos in the slapping issue.

A Happy New Year to the Nation and the People of the Philippines. I once turned my back on the country as a hopeless case. This time I see a real chance for better days to come.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 27. December 2015


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Manny Pacquiao – Filipino

Manny Pacquiao as the biggest idol the Filipinos have at the moment represents in my opinion the stage of development Filipinos have reached as of now. Why?

  • He has overcome being a victim – a kid from the slums who made it to the top of his chosen profession by sheer willpower and fighting spirit
  • He has overcome his vices – he admits he used to gamble, womanize and drink, now he is clean and striving to remain so
  • He has still not overcome his lack of long-term thinking – he can focus on matches but not on his work in Congress

Now let us look at the development of the Philippines and compare it with Manny Pacquiao:

  • The Philippines is no longer a victim. Its GDP is growing rapidly, its population less rapidly than before. Its economy is progressing, the country is modernizing
  • The Philippines has, to judge from reports, made major steps in eliminating its vices – corruption and mismanagement. It is thereby attracting more investment
  • The Philippines in my opinion might still lack true long-term development plans, still relies too much on revenue from call centers and overseas foreign workers

Well, I would say the Philippines and Filipinos are making progress in terms of attitude because:

  • At least the identification is no longer with a victim or a martyr, it is with a winner and a fighter like Manny Pacquiao
  • And it is no longer with someone who flaunted his vices like Joseph Estrada, it is with someone who has overcome them

Now the moment Manny Pacquiao actually does a little more work as a Congressman and people admire him for that, the next stage will have been reached.

The stage after that is when enterpreneurs like Dado Banatao or scientists like Dr. Mahar Lagmay become respected popular idols in the Philippines.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, May 1st, 2015.

Thank you Manny, you fought well. Possibly this is a wink of fate that the next stage is about to begin…

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