the gapanese invasion is nigh!

"pinakamaganda ka nga sa buong kapuluan, pero latina na naman ang magwawagi ng korona at sash sa miss world! racism ba ito? lupasay!"

Sunday, December 30, 2007

institutional reform: from presidential to parliamentary


In my belief, that institutional reform needed to strengthen Philippine democracy is the parliamentarian shift from the presidential form of government. Parliamentary is defined as the form of democracy wherein the executive authority rises from and has responsibility over legislative authority. Our current system is presidential, wherein executive and legislative branches are elected separately, with neither branch having the capacity to limit the term of the other.
The presidential form of government is historically seen as less capable of solving the problems of our country since the authority is divided between the executive and the legislative (not to mention the third branch that’s judiciary, whose elements do not get elected). This division results in legislative gridlock, support for majority rule, creation of narrow policies and debate over political controversies. Since our presidential system separates law-making from the executive, senators and representatives become less interested in providing national policy unlike in a parliamentary system. Hence, our presidential system presents additional difficulties for a reform management and weakens the ability of the president’s political leadership to commit itself to reform policies and to implement the same against political resistance. The presidential system in this democracy has a detrimental effect on its ability. Among defective democracies like ours, a presidential system of government is more frequent whereas most consolidated democracies are parliamentary system. Presidential systems can be expected to be more resolute and less decisive than parliamentary systems since a powerful president possesses an additional veto privilege whose support is required to change the status quo.
Meanwhile, if the institutional reform of parliamentary shift is permitted, it can provide better conditions than the presidential system for a successful democratization and the consolidation of democracy. The most positive effects of a parliamentary system for strengthening Philippine democracy arise in the party system, with further effects for the whole representation structure including the private and non-government sectors and the civil society. Since a parliamentary system needs stable party structures for the generation of political options, political leadership, and power seizures, its strategic position is quite different from the party members in presidential systems. In contrast with the presidential system, parties in a parliamentary system have to focus more on program alternatives than on the personal virtues of individual leaders and their peculiar choices. Parties also have to seek a closer connection to the citizens’ preferences in order to present possible alternatives. This in turn requires closer links to interest groups and civil society and induces a more vibrant representation system. To overcome weak representation structures, parliamentary government provides more appropriate incentives than presidential system.
Establishing a parliamentary system of government can be seen as institutionally reforming since it is likely to influence the major defects of Philippine democracy positively. It could be combined with a strategy to increase executive power in order to address problems of state weakness that are particularly widespread in our developing nation. Therefore, introducing a parliamentary model in the Philippines should be a priority strategy particularly for volatile democratic rule such as the presidential model in our country.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

weak state


The Philippines is a weak state in terms of capacity for governance because of the shaky authority President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo possesses. Her administration has been hounded by controversies like rigging the 2004 presidential elections, anomalous government deals, corruption charges, among others. Her capacity for governance is being seriously challenged by oppositions that stem out of the scandals she faces.
First, the weak Philippine state encounters serious subversion to its capacities for governance, one of which was the recent hotel siege by mutinous soldiers. These soldiers held a mutiny to call for Arroyo’s resignation because for them, she is no longer fit to rule the country. While the mutineers later lost ground, that did not stop the world from speculating that an administration being rocked by several coup de etats could only be but weak.
The recent jeepney strike that paralyzed urban centers outside Manila and forcing passengers to walk and hitch rides is another blow to the weak capacity for governance inasmuch as the administration cannot do anything about the skyrocketing prices of fuel products like diesel, premium gasoline and liquefied petroleum gas. The protest of the jeepney drivers regarding the 12% tax on fuel sales as well as law deregulation on oil could be seen as a dissatisfaction of the transport sector over the government’s inutile stance regarding the crippling oil cartel. Only recently did jeepney strikes begin to gather fire again since the last few years of rule of Marcos, but it’s only now, in Arroyo’s administration that transport strikes are returning.
The release of Estrada could also be seen as a way for the government to prevent its foundations from finally crumbling down since the conviction of Estrada six weeks before he was granted pardon by Arroyo. If the pardon did not arrive at an opportune time, Estradas supporters could again try to put up another people power to boot Arroyo out of Malacañang. Many Estrada loyalists as well as opposition groups continue to question the legitimacy of Arroyo’s presidency.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

relatibismo bilang katotohanan sa goodbye, lenin!


Sa pelikulang Goodbye, Lenin!, ipinapakita ang katotohanan bilang relatibo. Nagiging relatibo ang katotohanan kung lahat ng pagkakalitaw ay pagkalitaw lamang sa kung sinuman ang tumitingin dito. Sa kaso ng pelikula, litaw at hindi tago sa nanay na kakagising mula sa coma ang pananatili ng sosyalismo sa bansang Silangang Alemanya. Lingid sa kanya ang katotohanang bumagsak na ang Pader ng Berlin at nakapasok na sa bansa ang kapitalismo. Kahit ilusyon lamang ang minaniobrang katotohanan ng anak niya para palitawing normal ang mga bagay sa Demokratikong Republika ng Alemanya, ito ang nakikita ng nanay na si Christiane.
Kung gagamiting pamantayan ang penomenolohiya ng katotohanan para pangatwiranan ang katotohanang ipinakita sa Goodbye, Lenin!, naipapakita ang katotohanan ayon sa paghuhusga ng pinalitaw na reyalidad. Isinisiwalat ng paghuhusgang ito na ang partikular na bagay ay makatotohanan sa kanyang sarili at, samakatuwid, hindi isang bagay na hindi totoo dahil iba sa kanyang sarili. Sa pelikula, reyalidad para sa nanay ang kinamulatang bansa sa pamamahala ng Nabubuklod na Partidong Sosyalista ng Alemanya, kahit pa sa labas ng kanyang apartment, reyalidad ng pagyakap ng bansa sa kapitalismo ang umiiral. Sa kanyang paghuhusga, litaw na reyalidad para kay Christiane na namumuhay pa rin siya sa rehimeng sosyalista: kumakain pa rin siya ng mga pagkain mula sa nakasanayang lalagyan, nakatira pa rin sa apartment na may kabagut-bagot na palamuti, nagsusuot pa rin ng lumang mga damit. Ito ang katotohanan ayon sa pagtingin ni Christiane: makatotohanan sa kanyang sarili ang sosyalismong umiiral sa kanyang namamalas na mundo at, kung gayon, hindi ibang mundong hindi sosyalista, halimbawa ay demokratiko. Ayon sa nakasanayan na, kahulugan ng sosyalismo ang reyalidad ng sosyalistang mundong litaw kay Christiane, kaya kumbinsido siyang ito ang katotohanan.
Ngunit totoo ring ang katotohanan ng husga ay pangalawa lamang sa mas orihinal na katotohanan. Ang orihinal na katotohanan, hindi nakakubli at nangangailangan ng liwanag bilang aletheia. Sa pagkakalitaw ng mga bagay, naliliwanagan ang tao dahil siya sa kanyang sarili ay isang uri ng liwanag. May kakayahan siyang humusga ng mga litaw na bagay-bagay dahil sa kaliwanagang ito. Kung walang katotohanan ang isang bagay, hindi ito makapagbibigay-liwanag. Wala ring makikitang liwanag dito ang tao kaya nga huhusgahan niya ito bilang palso, na nakalingid dito ang katotohanan. Kailangang mahubaran muna ito mula sa pagkakatago upang umayon ito sa reyalidad. Sa pagkakaayon nito sa reyalidad, susunod na ang pag-ayon dito ng tao dahil naglilitaw na ang bagay ng katotohanan bunsod ng kaliwanagang nagmumula rito.
Ito ang nangyari sa kaso ni Christiane: dahil sa kakaibang mga pangyayaring namamalas niya habang tumatagal at nagpapagaling, lumalabas na may palsong kamalayang nagbibigay-bisa sa hinuhusgahan niyang katotohanan sa bansa niyang sosyalista. Ang pagkakita niya sa dambuhalang anunsiyo ng Coca-Cola sa kalapit na apartment, ang mga kakaibang balita sa telebisyon, ang pagbebenta ng BMW sa halip na Trabant, ang paglitaw ng mga Kanluraning korporasyon gaya ng IKEA—lahat ng ito ay kakaiba sa pakahulugan niya ng sosyalismo. Kapitalismo ito; samakatuwid, ito ang katotohanang nakakubli ngunit dahil sa kanyang pagkakasakit at sa maniobra rin ng anak niyang prinoprotektahan siya mula sa posibleng nakamamatay na atake sa puso, hindi agad-agad lumitaw agad ang totoo. Gayunpaman, bilang taong may kaliwanagan sa katotohanan, nahuhusgahan niyang may palso sa kanyang mga nakikita. Hindi nagbibigay-liwanag ang mga nakikita niyang paulit-ulit na balita sa telebisyon; hindi umaakma ang nangyayari sa labas ng kanyang apartment sa mga pekeng bagay na hindi niya pa nadidiskubre hanggang isiwalat ng kasintahan ng kanyang anak. Sa pagkakahubad ng katotohanan, dito na naliwanagan si Christiane. Umayon na sa reyalidad ang obserbasyon niya sa kanyang paligid, at pagkakataon naman niya ngayong protektahan ang anak mula sa katotohanang natuklasan na ng ina ang totoo.
Anumang klase ng pagkukunwari para itago ang katotohanan ay hindi tunay na makapagbibigay-kaliwanagan, at ito ay masasalamin sa Goodbye, Lenin!. Oo nga at relatibo ang katotohanan depende sa tumitingin dito, ngunit kahit ilusyunin ng tumitingin na katotohanan ang mga bagay sa kanyang paligid, hindi nito mauungusan ang mas orihinal na katotohanang nalilingid sa paniniwala niya sa kanyang uri ng katotohanan. Totoo man siya sa kanyang husga sa reyalidad, ito ay totoo lamang sa kanyang sarili. Sa pagbibigay nito ng palsong liwanag, lilitaw ding hindi makatotohanan ang paghuhusga. Ang katotohanan, hinahayaan ang kanyang sariling isiwalat ang kanyang kahulugan upang sinumang humusgang ito ang totoo, makadudulog sa pinakamalapit na lapit sa logos.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

sugar, spice—is everything nice?: violence in powerpuff girls


According to the textbook Human Development (2007), children aged 2 above consume 6.5 hours per day on entertainment media, which includes television. Only sleeping tops media watching in terms of hours spent on any children’s activity. Television violence affects youngsters of all ages, of both genders, at all socio-economic levels and all levels of intelligence. The effect is not limited to children who are already given to being aggressive and is felt universally. It is of great interest then what kind of shows children are spending so much time with as well as the impact these shows have on their young viewers.
Among the most popular shows to hit world television in contemporary times is Powerpuff Girls, an Emmy-awarded American animation series about three kindergarten girls who possess superpowers, according to http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/ppg/index.html. Its popularity is such that the series spawned a full-length animation movie, an anime version shown throughout Japan , a Gameboy advance game and, up to now, a consistently high rating in all of its six seasons across a spanning array of demographics from young kids to adults. Further information from the online site of the program’s mother studio reveals that creator Craig McCracken had it initially produced for Hanna-Barbera till the turn of the millennium when its current studio, Cartoon Network, assumed production. Spoofing American as well as Japanese superheroes and popular culture, Powerpuff Girls is about the adventures of three little super girls named Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup who were created accidentally by Professor Plutonium out of sugar, spice and everything nice along with Chemical X. Typical of each episode’s plot is a hilarious take on usual superhero flicks wherein the girls use their powers to “save the world” of Townsville City , USA against such enemies as gigantic monsters, aliens, mad scientists and fugitive criminals. Meanwhile, the girls also battle it out against issues young kids have to deal with, from parental attention to playing with other children.
Being a humorous spin-off of superhero fares like those found in Superman, Batman, X-Men, Fantastic 4, among others, Powerpuff Girls has its huge share of violent acts masking innocently as vigilante takes against various villains of the world. Their exaggeratedly cute large-eyed features may be innocent-looking, but their superpowers unleash destruction when wielded. Practically all of its 78 episodes feature fight scenes with evil elements so at the end of each, the three girls will have saved the day.
One such episode comes in the guise of a bratty little girl, Princess, who is a classmate of the Powerpuff Girls in kindergarten. The girl becomes a witness to the Powerpuff Girls’ bank robbery crime-fighting, and badgers her multi-millionaire father into buying her gadgets and mechanisms that will put her in equally powerful footing as Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup. With her fresh acquisition, the brat brought her obnoxious ways in kindergarten out into the world by using her extra strength, flight, fast-speed, X-ray vision, kinetic blast projection, and the like. The Powerpuff Girls try to stop her from wreaking havoc in Townsville, but a great degree of the city had been destroyed already before the three manage to control their bratty classmate’s power-tripping rampage. The manner in which the Powerpuff Girls stopped Princess from her power abuse is the one thing alarming for young children viewers: the casualness in enacting aggression towards another.
From the beginning up to the end of the 30-minute show run, at least thirty various instances of aggressions are shown. These included the violent acts of Princess towards her classmates in the kindergarten, those of the Powerpuff Girls when they beat the burglars to a pulp in a collective effort to bust their crime, and those of Princess against the Powerpuff Girls when they had a power showdown by the soccer field.
Powerpuff Girls is not alone in portraying violent acts on TV. In fact, there is an onslaught of violence-related TV programs at present, from the innocent-looking cartoons to the rage that is the anime. The violence depicted, however, is often applied with glamorization, trivialization or glorification. Hence, despite the aggression perceived on the monitor, it still looks fun, admirable, or worth imitating. This especially becomes true when the violence is randomly punished, as when the bratty girl learns a lesson not to covet too much power or she will still end up the loser that she is, but she learns this the hard way. This manner of difficult learning was courtesy of the Powerpuff Girls, who combined their individual powers in order to defeat Princess by destroying all her gadgets and mauling her to submission. The Powerpuff Girls indeed save the day, but only in a glamorized violent way. What is more, they are praised for resorting to the Hammurabi code of “an eye for an eye” instead of being made answerable to law for their vigilantism.
A famous study by television researcher and social learning proponent Albert Bandura was done to know the truth about the effects of television violence on children. He split a group of kids into Groups A and B. Next, he showed Group A a videotape of a child acting very aggressively with a doll. For instance, the girl in the video hit and kicked the doll. The children in Group B were shown a tape in which the same girl was having a tea party with the same doll. Later in the experiment, he put the Group A kids in a room alone with an exact copy of the doll used in the video. Children in Group A responded by hitting and kicking the doll and acted aggressively. The children in Group B were also put in a room alone with the doll and they played very nicely with it. This is a study that shows how violence on television increases the likelihood that children who watch will demonstrate aggressive behavior towards others. Children imitate what they see on television. This may find truth in the viewers of Powerpuff Girls.
The substantial amount of time consumed by children watching TV make the images projected onto them the key role models and origins of information on how their fellow humans behave in their world. Studies show that media violence and aggressive behavior in college are correlated. As children get increasingly exposed to violence, they will consider it a normal, integral part of their lives. What is more, they will consider the oppressor role a plum part to land in any culture of institutionalized violence. The Powerpuff Girls are, undoubtedly, the primary role models of many a young child on how people's normal behavior. After all, they are portrayed as humans with needs and concerns about wetting their bed, for example, or about playing. Since they expose themselves to the TV for so long a time, they may perceive that the Powerpuff Girls are acting normally even as their acts of violence, for instance, are unacceptable to the society. An American researcher named Andrew Stern concludes that “two recently released studies reveal that more than an hour of television viewing leads children to have attention problems and aggressive behavior once they grow up to be adults.” (2002) The more time spent in front of the TV, are more likely to develop problems such as aggression. As kids get younger, they cannot distinguish fantasy from reality; hence, cartoon violence suggests to children that violence is funny and without repercussions. When in Powerpuff Girls, villain Mojo Jojo gets a terrible beating and seems funny still, children may just laugh at him, thinking that there are no serious consequence to mauling someone, something that finds no truth in the real world. When viewing children get accustomed to watching violent acts on TV, they become mean to others without regretting about it, become destructive and become disobedient in school. They may draw from the characters that it is cool to act violently, that it is the only way to be.
Research has discovered that media violence decreases inhibitions. Due to the glamorization done on TV among other media, children may perceive that the thrill springing from action need not consider human cost, rendering the act acceptable. Many TV programs portray characters wielding weapons as a symbol of their personal power. Both heroes and enemies who resort to violence in order to fulfill their goals are likely to be taken by children as the models on the effective way of giving solutions to conflicts. They may grow increasingly insensitive to the pain the violence causes. They may eventually forsake the negative idea about violence and may be less inclined to do something right when it is being perpetrated. As violence is depicted more truthfully, the more children will learn from it and put up with it.
As children watch that Powerpuff Girls can do violent acts, they get the message that they can shed their inhibitions and engage in violence themselves. It is easier in the case of these cute characters since their innocent features can make them get away with the acts. Also, their violent acts are glamorized in that they can be seen elegantly gliding in the air as they give flying kicks, throw off colors as they execute their power over the enemies, and look fearless as they fight the villain head on. Children get thrilled by the Powerpuff Girls' actions that do not regard the expense done on the hurt enemy, making the acts appear acceptable. Whenever they show their superhero-parodized powers, these serve as their personal weapon so they feel more aggressive, something that is likely to be emulated by their young viewers. In the case of Powerpuff Girls, they did not feel easily threatened by Princess because the former has natural power whereas the latter has only temporary. For children who are reared on TV violence, the phenomenon may be the only solution they may think of in resolving conflicts. This is shown in the program wherein Princess refused to cease her violent acts toward Townsville until such time the Powerpuff Girls get an exacting revenge on Princess and make her pay her mischief by being subjected to the powers of Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup. While it obviously hurt to be under any physical or psychological subjection, children viewing TV violence may just fall numb for it. They may even encourage violence if that is a means to accomplish their goals without their enemies getting in the way.
These violent actions in the animated series are unsuitable for toddler age because despite the fun way of depicting them, the images the aggressions spawn are destructive and violent. In spite of the ethics of doing the right thing and heroic actions of the Powerpuff Girls, these sometimes pale in comparison with the darkness and evil that surrounds them. Yes, the girls must overcome Townsville's bias and fear of anything new and different to save the day from the evil actions. It is already fine that the little girls are all different from the mainstream and must prove themselves in order to be accepted. That its heroes are adorable, large-eyed little girls lends some charm and probably feels empowering to its young audience. Nonetheless, they employ violence in fulfilling so, and influence children in the process.
The person in the cartoon or television show gets beaten up over by another character and they get back up without being harmed. Children begin to believe that violence doesn’t really hurt others. Television shows that allow the character who commits the crime to receive no punishment, teaches children that it is alright to commit a crime because nothing will be done. Criminals and violent acts do not get punished. Furthermore, television is a powerful teacher and if children are always viewing their favorite characters using violence or aggression to get what they want, children will do the same. Also, television creates heroes out of the people who commit the crimes. Kids feel that if they copy the criminal, they will be a hero, too. The hero that commits the crime is glorified. There is nothing heroic about violence and it is wrong to show kids that it is. Children begin to think of criminals as powerful role models. TV makes violence and even death seem funny and unreal. Children do not learn to respect life because violent television takes away their sensitivity. Children cannot tell the difference between real and unreal because television is make-believe. The people in the stories are make-believe. They are actors and the story is not true. Young children are unable to realize that when a character attacks someone it is not real and should not be imitated. How can children tell the difference between real violence and the make-believe violence done with a script for television, Powerpuff Girls for instance?
There is a wonder that no matter how enjoyable and innocent the show may be to adults capable of processing the images and subliminal message, how much constant, intensity and stimulation a small brain can handle? It is anxiety inducing to parents and caregivers that the positive message people fear and despise the very things that make someone special and that girls are as capable as saving the world as boys—will be overshadowed by the overwhelming way in which that message is visually delivered. So far, parents have not used TV ratings to alarm their wards that certain television shows are violent since parents are often working and children have more unsupervised time. It is essential then for parents or assigned caregivers to make time for children and regularly inform themselves of their day to day experiences, including while they are at school if they attend school. Ultimately, television should not be violent because it acts as an educator and has a responsibility to the children it educates.
References:
http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/ppg/index.html
Papalia, Diane, et al (2007). Human Development. New York : McGraw-Hill.
Stern, Andrew (2007). “More than One Hour of TV Turn Kids into Aggressive Adults.” Manila : Manila Bulletin.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

online defenders: the rise of internet vigilantism


A friend of mine offered to help me find a contact from whom I will buy genuine Havianas. I was relieved that I finally found a means to get a Christmas gift with less the hassle. As the friend browsed through the Internet to locate the schoolmate who was selling things from signature bags to fake accessories, she laughed at my sigh of relief. I asked why, and she said that locating the contact proved to be hassle-free, except that failure to pursue a sealed deal with her would probably provide the very hassle I was trying to steer away from, in the first place. When my face lit by the brilliance of the computer monitor refused to shed its confusion, my friend clicked away at her contact's Multiply profile, and there I got shocked more than amused that the contact posted photos and information of people who agreed to buy certain stuff but upon the finality of the negotiation, disappeared without a trace, their mobile contact numbers ringing forever. Apparently, this was the contact's way of retaliation: to shame the fugitives publicly via the Internet.
Internet vigilantism, also called e-vigilantism or digilantism, is listed in the Wikipedia (2007) as “the phenomenon of vigilantism occurring on the Internet or carried out by way of Internet.” Like my friend's contact, Internet vigilantes employ the Internet as a resource in promoting vigilante reactions against crimes, scams or even just behaviors, notwithstanding whether or not the latter are Internet-associated. The continuing deficiency of central regulation of the Internet as well as the exploited culture of Internet liberalism can be said to have caused Internet users to misbehave in a certain way, and in an ironic twist, these very reasons are the ones drawn upon by Internet vigilantes in responding to the demeanor of their misbehaving victims.
The rise of Internet vigilantism may be related to and discussed via the class readings by Roger Silverstone, Mark Federman and Douglas Kellner.
In “Mediation and Communication,” Silverstone asserts that everyday is unimaginable without communication and that all communication involves mediation, a catalytic process wherein the meaningfulness and value of things are structured. Because we live in the modern world, we witness and get defined by a progressive technological invasion in our conduct of everyday life, the most recent manifestation of which is the media technologies. These technologies become dramatically central to the ways people lead daily lives. They create a paradigm for the organization of the everyday activities and are capable of providing the symbolic resources and instruments for making sense of the complexities of everyday. As such, the introduction of the Internet into our lives makes it integral into our daily living, making it seem that Internet is indispensable as a tool in making sense of the day-to-day complications. Because of this, something technological such as the Internet is lent with cultural attributes in order to legitimize its presence in our everyday living. We use it as mediation, as a means to create meaning, an institution for communication. The vigilantism happening online is a manifestation of the general circulation of symbols in social life. It does not require face-to-face communication, and yet is effective in transacting the human necessity of mediation of culture. In order to get across the message that some anti-social behaviors need to form of punishment, the Internet is being used by the society to communicate this if not to the person concerned, then to the persons attached to one’s social network online. Internet has made it possible to mediate the human culture of retribution, that despite its ethically questionable view of justice, the Internet communicates and mediates the idea that the errant shall not be allowed unpunished.
In “McLuhan Thinking: Integral Awareness in the Connected Society,” Federman argues that we tend to overlook the message that the Internet medium sends: that it is the message itself. It will have to take sometime before we realize how influential the Internet is in transforming the lives of those in the society. The omnipresence of the Internet makes it possible for a “world of simultaneous relationships” to exist, in experiencing connection to a world so real that we lose our very sense of reality in the Internet. In essence, everyone with an access to the Internet can be connected anywhere one may be, whether in a far-flung rural town or in a burgeoning metropolis, especially. This makes it possible for anyone cyber-empowered to relate with everyone else online, creating that world of interrelationships all at the same time. Because of this connection, even the ones we do not know can be someone who is just there in the Internet, ready to be privy to our lives. This is not so far-fetched with the idea of people with socially-unacceptable wrongdoings wreaking havoc in our lives, or their very villains who are the vigilantes. Even without knowing one another, they are related to one another by virtue of the antagonistic behavior one has for the other. As such, it is clear here that the Internet not only becomes a medium of communication, but a message itself. It can make or break an aberrant’s life, while it can attempt to wield justice for the vigilant.
In “Media Culture and the Triumph of the Spectacle,” Kellner presents another dimension in which to see the Internet. The various forms of entertainment integrate into the culture of the spectacle, of which Internet is included. The cyberspace joins films, TV, sports, music, fashion and the like in being invaded as a field of experience. The Internet is being watched. Corollary to this, images coming from what is being viewed can multiply in a matter of seconds across the globe. Such is the power of the Internet that it becomes somewhat impossible to control, especially with the culture of spectacle deeply embedded in the consciousness of the humanity. The emergent voyeuristic culture can be framed in the light of Internet vigilantism. The manifestation of anti-social behavior is a scene-stealer in itself, but the show of punishment for that misbehavior is also spectacular. We become participants to the judgment of the aberrant just by looking at the images of retribution being meted out on them. We cannot help but consume the videos or photos being fed by the vigilantes, and pass judgments whenever possible. It is not a mistake that vigilantism itself draws its original meaning from the word “watchful.” Vigilantes watch movements of online offenders so that an unacceptable action by them can be castigated by being exposed for all the world to see.
Internet vigilantism can include such reactions as the psychologically tormenting public embarrassment, to the more serious scam baiting, counter-terrorism, anti-pedophilia and anti-identity theft.
The personal anecdote mentioned in the introduction is identifiable as public shaming, a kind of internet vigilantism wherein the Internet’s communications and social networking devices become instrumental in publicizing incidences of anti-social attitudes far and wide, in one easy swoop. One such case happened in South Korea three years ago when bloggers or people who maintain weblogs branded a woman “dog poop girl” when she snubbed the requests for her to tidy up the subway train floor on which her dog defecated on. An angered commuter had taken a picture of her and her dog and posted the photograph on a famous Korean website. Days passed and Internet vigilantes had identified her and spread her personal information over the Internet in trying to castigate her for her misdeed. Her incident went a step further when it got reported in South Korean media, causing controversies that ignited discussions in as far as Koreatowns in the United States. The public embarrassment finally took a toll in the woman and she withdrew from the university she was attending.
Naturally, the criminally liable cannot be spared by Internet vigilantes, who also spawned the idea called scam baiting. This notion of pretending interest in a scam in order to get back at the mastermind is conducted by spending much of the scammer’s time, shame her or him, squeeze information from them to be submitted to authorities for legal action, make the scammer shell out money, or just to manipulate the scammer for amusement. This vigilantism is a response to e-mail-originated hoaxes like the Nigerian-419 fraud. Several websites post transcripts of dealings between scam baiters and hoaxers and publish online videos and images of scammers in an attempt to expose their deception and warn the public against them.
Another serious attacker is the counter-terrorist group who prowls the Internet in search of terrorists. One such example is a Montana judge who assumes the identity of an Internet vigilante terrorist hunter, disguising as an anti-American Muslim extremist in the hope of attracting like-minded radicals. Counter-terrorists like this judge adopt legal authorities’ practices of preventing or mitigating terrorist acts used by insurgents, conscious of the involvement of all entities from all levels of the society in safeguarding the community.
The anti-pedophile activists are also included among the Internet vigilantes. Their organizations track down adult offenders who solicit sex from minors online. In cooperation with legal enforcements and the media, they expose child pornography-related activities done by pedophiles by pretending to offer children for these sexual predators, and entrapping them.
Another organization in the vein of anti-pedophilia is the ID theft activist group. Faking themselves as similar thieves, they get stolen personal information from encoded payment or ID microchip, bank account numbers and login details, social security information, among other things. The gathered information are submitted to the concerned banks, credit companies or to the law authorities in the hope of prosecuting the perpetrators.
Other Internet vigilantes perform site-killing, the specialization of removing fraudulent websites, fake banks and deceptive online shops. One action done by such vigilantes is the intentional attack of denial of service to the felonious websites in order to catch the attention of the website host, or to expend quickly the allowance allotted to them monthly.
So far, the only legitimized vigilante of sort is the anti-spam alerts in the e-mail. Spams are bulk e-mails that are unsolicited and sent in large quantities. Anti-spam alerts report occurrences to the authorities, which undertake legal actions like exposing and convicting the offender. However, Blue Frog is a recent example of Internet vigilantism as it is perceived. This is a community-base system that transmits complaints to get back at spammers. Its vexing impact to the spammers is such that the latter retaliated at it, paralyzed the service and compelled Blue Frog to close down.
Concerns over Internet vigilantism eventually emerge: that it breeds a society of witch hunters and kangaroo court, that normal violators are passed on as grave offenders in the cyberspace, that it creates a forum of false truths, that privacy is being violated, that social stigma is not associated with prudent, uniform judgments and proper punishments. As it is, Internet vigilantism only suits the taste of web surfers who anticipate villains meeting disasters, since it shows the predicaments of the lynch mob who lack the appeal, who lack the unbiased hearing, and who may be given to grave castigation. Owing to the libertarian attitude encouraged by such a modern tool as the Internet, there are as yet no necessary legal frameworks that understand the gravity of some criminal offenses related to the Internet and the sufficient resources for law enforcement to execute such legislation that will deter actions detrimental to the interest of the public. Hence, citizens of the Internet continue to be drawn to vigilantism in the cyberdomain as a form of self- and site-defense against the adversaries rather than fall victims to a culture of oppression.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the native writes back


333 years of Spanish colonization. 40-odd years of American occupation, not to mention three years of Japanese imperialism. All these periods of suppression could not just wipe out an entire culture altogether. Here I am, struggling to return to the native, finding the Filipino identity in me as is manifest in the precolonial system of writing.
Using a pointed tool on a bamboo stick and in the midst of ornaments reminiscent of the Filipinos in the pre-Hispanic era, I etched squiggly little symbols representing the ancient script named Baybayin by our native ancestors. It was alternatively called Alibata, although it was an Arabic misnomer since the term hardly explained the nativeness of the syllabary. From the script's seventeen basic symbols of a, i, u, ka, ga, nga, ta, da, na, pa, ba, ma, ya, la, wa, sa, and ha, I chose with care the ones corresponding to the idea I want to immortalize in the bamboo. Yes, I understand that the material will easily wilt away in a tropical region such as ours, but all the same, I like to create some form of history apart from the more enduring (by Philippine standards) oral tradition.
As I sweated in pushing the knife-like medium into the uncomplaining bamboo, I remember the ancestors before they were ultimately colonized by the white men. They traded folklore with one another with the benefit of their fertile imagination and industrious tongue. Orature was their one binding quality despite the seas separating the islands they inhabited. They were already conceived as a nation by virtue of this oneness in proclaiming their people's history. Then, in order to keep another record of their civilization, they invented their system of syllabary and began inscribing them in rocks, barks of trees, leaves. The unforgiving hot climate ruined their records soon enough, but they were undaunted. They were writing their history. I imagine them did so as I myself partake of the history in the making through writing in their original script.
Hours into my struggle to etch an idea onto the bamboo's outer surface, I remember that a little symbol named kudlit changes the seventeen symbols: a kudlit put above the symbol modifies the “a” to an “i” or “e” sound, such that “pa” becomes “pi” or “pe.” Meanwhile, a kudlit put below the symbol modifies the “a” to a “u” or “o” sound, such that “pa” reads “pu” or “po.” My own idea contains syllables sounding in “i” and “o;” I took care to etch into the bamboo with the modification in mind. I look at myself and found oneness with the ancestors: I am articulating an idea in an unadulterated symbolic system of writing.
But then, the ancestors became bamboos themselves pierced by the sharp points of colonization. As I neared the completion of my writing, I remember the ancestors being violated by the colonizers' uprooting of the native institutions to change with foreign ones. The Spaniards tampered with our writing system by introducing a symbol reminiscent of the thing on which Christ was crucified and on which we were historically subjected: a cross-kudlit that upon placement below any of the consonant-using symbol, the “a” sound is dropped, leaving the consonant all on its own. Could this tampering be the reason for the widespread demise of the syllabary way into the 18th century? I can only be sure that the very symbols I am using now to write this paper, symbols so much different from the ones I use to write on the bamboo, hastened the baybayin's demise with the replacement of the alphabet. With this contemplation of the death of the baybayin, I managed to finish my bamboo carving. Despite exhaustion, I felt my chest heave with pride as I orally interpreted the writing: “Ako ay Pilipino!”
As I carve my way into history by learning the traditional form of native writing, I feel that the centuries of oppression are being dismantled in my being. I feel the tides of my own history rushing, forceful and inevitable, ready to take its place again after almost half a millenium of dislocation.
Pilipino ako, malaya!

Monday, December 17, 2007

political institutions: life elements of a democracy


Political institutions are important in a democracy for a number of reasons, which may as well be enumerated in the light of such institutions as they exist in the Philippine context.
Elected officials, forming a government institution, are indispensable because their election by the citizens is that which makes any democratic government representative. With officials being elected, the constitutionally-stipulated control over government legislative decisions can be said to represent the will of the people. Our two branches of government, the executive and the legislative, assume their posts and perform their duties only after being duly instated by the electorate.
The institution of free, just and regular elections is likewise vital in any democratic government. The elected officials who will pursue their represented people’s common good are selected in often and justly-conducted elections wherein threat is relatively rare. National and local elections are scheduled regularly in the Philippines wherein seeking public office and electing officials are free, and wherein fairness and security are being provided by such social institutions as the military.
The freedom of expression is a necessity in any democracy. Citizens should be given the right to express themselves without the risk of being gravely punished for criticizing officials, the government, the socioeconomic hierarchy and the dominant ideology. The Filipino masses can openly declare public opinion without running the threat of being counterattacked by the criticized.
Also, it is imperative for a democracy to have access to alternative sources of information. Citizens have the right to search for independent sources of information form other citizens, professionals, journals, magazines, books, telecommunications, among other things. These information sources like the media actually exist in the Philippines , are under the effective protection of the law and are not being manipulated by the government or any other single political entity trying to control public political thoughts and attitudes.
Autonomous organizations are also an important democratic institution. They are necessary because only with the right to constitute relatively free associations like independent political parties and advocacy groups will hasten the accomplishment of citizens’ several rights and other such things required for the effective operation of the democracy. Workers’ unions, peaceable assemblies and the like are quite dynamic in directing the political destiny of the Philippines , as may be exemplified by the bloodless people power revolutions in Edsa.
Inclusive citizenship is also a required institution in a democratic government. A permanent adult resident of a country and subject to that country’s law should not be denied of the rights accessible by others. It is important for Filipino citizens to have the right to vote in the election of officials in liberal and fair elections, to seek elective office, to have self-expression, to compose and partake in independent political groups, to gain access to independent sources of information, and rights to other liberties and privileges needed to operate effectively the political institutions of a democracy.
With all these political institutions, human interactions in a democracy’s economy, politics and society can be regulated. Majority rules but the rights of the minorities are upheld. If followed faithfully, the democracy can be labeled sound. Otherwise, as is manifest in the present regime, the rule of the people is dead.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

the will of the collective in death of memory


Certain things cannot just be done alone, and this rings true to Glenn Sevilla Mas' award-winning Death of Memory. In this play adapted onstage by Tanghalang Ateneo, being collective makes things possible, a proof of the indispensability of society as institution.
Death's Philippine premiere saw the protagonist Juan finding himself imprisoned in a time-frozen nowhere land, clueless about how he arrived there and how to escape the purgatory-like place. The three strangers he had found company with were not of much help with his questions. What he got from them was a set of rules necessary for survival in their nightmarish situation: first was the ownership of a space, second was the strict compliance to mealtime, and last was the deference to the Keeper, a mysterious entity who controlled their memory and tortured them by making them remember tormenting moments in their lives.
Juan naturally wanted to get out of the Kafkaesque limbo, but this proved futile initially, for all of them suffered deafening thunderclaps whenever he went on his way like touching the signpost reading “Misericordia” whereas the rest prevented him from doing so, or provoking his fellow prisoners to rebel against the keeper. Much as he struggled, he could not rely on his own individual might. Thus, strangers as his companions were, he had to believe them: he took a space and cleaned it, stopped everything when food plummeted from above, and messed not with the Keeper. In this manner, he gained membership in Misericordia, and the purgatorial trap was left undisturbed by the thunderclaps.
It can be gleaned from the abovementioned that all four prisoners' collective concern superseded that of the individual Juan. Just a few defiance from the newcomer made everyone anguish over the wrath of the Keeper. Since the common good was the primary claim in a land strange to all of them, Juan had to obey with the rules. This was not only because he was a new arrival (in which case, the older ones knew Misericordia's happenings better than him) but also because he would put everybody's sake to risk by messing with the keeper. He had to sacrifice his own personal motive for these strangers who, despite their unfamiliarity, were the only ones he could hold on to. The collectivism of these strangers was by far the better option for survival than becoming xenophobic in a land where they have no control of their lives, much less their memories.
But then, while Juan could not do anything alone in that limbo, the female prisoner Itch showed that it could be done, and this was the one thing the rest of them agreed to pursue: to escape the purgatorial prison by killing the keeper and freeing themselves from the pains of memory. Forcing their respective memories one by one, they struggled to gang upon the Keeper and face their past filled with colors. Alone, each one found it hard to subdue the tormentor of memory; when it became a battle of three against one, Juan, Vesper and Termino won over.
It was necessary to examine that the three prisoners acted as one body in order to realize their ultimate goal of overcoming their torturer and getting out of the nowhere land. Each individual had to sacrifice for all three's common good. Had Juan, Vesper or Temino went on his separate way in defying the Keeper, the entire group would have failed against the stronger memory controller. However, they thought as one, acted as one, and thus liberated as one. Their collective will prevailed, and it was because they unselfishly pursued individual freedom. Everybody was benefited by the collective action. Also, their achievement was credited to each of them.
The act of collectivism in Death of Memory shows that the society is more than just individuals acting collaboratively. The collective is itself an entity, much more important than the sum of all individuals. Its will is everybody's concern.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

ilusyon kontra katotohanan: ang reyalidad ng goodbye, lenin!


May katotohanang ipinapakita sa Goodbye, Lenin! na nagpapaliwanag kung bakit depende sa nakakakita ang katotohanan. Kung saang lugar man naroon ang tumitingin, doon niya nakikita ang hindi nakatago. Ang hindi nakikita ay nakatago ngunit kahit ganoon, hindi kinakailangang hindi agad ito totoo. Sa pelikula ipinaliwanag na si Christiane, ang isang inang nagising mula sa coma sa panahong ang sosyalista iyang bansa ay nagbubukas na sa mga kapitalista, ay nakakakita ng katotohanang siyang hinahatulan niyang reyalidad. Sa kanyang kinatatayuan, nakikita niyang walang pagbabago mula sa nakagawian niya kaya ito ang totoo. Ang hindi niya alam, natalo na pala ang partido sosyalista ni Lenin kaya sa pagbagsak ng Berlin Wall, demokrasya na ang umiiral na reyalidad sa Germany. Dahil nakatago ito sa kanyang kaalaman, wala siyang malay na ilusyon ng katotohanan lamang ang nakikita niya. Para sa kanyang anak, kabutihan lang ng ina ang inaalaala dahil maaaring ikamatay nito ang pagkadiskubre sa katotohanan. Sa kabilang panig, ang kasinungalingan ay naging masalimuot dahil problematiko na ang pagtingin kung ano ang totoo o hindi. Dahil nga kanya-kanya ng pagtingin sa katotohanan, mayroon at mayroong nabubulagan: ang ina at, hindi sinasadya, pati na ang anak.
Batay sa nabasang penomenolohiya ng katotohanan, masasabing depende sa iginagawad na hatol ng tao ang katotohanan ng namamayaning reyalidad. Depende sa hatol na ito kung makatotohanan ang isang bagay dahil ito ang bagay na iyon at hindi iba. Sa Goodbye, Lenin!, nang naghihina pa siya at maselan ang lagay ng buhay, hindi ipinabatid ng anak ang kinasapitan ng mahal niyang sosyalismo para huwag itong maaatake uli sa puso. Kaya nga sa pag-uwi sa kanya sa kanilang bahay, ginawa ng anak na bigyan ng ilusyon ng sosyalismo ang lahat ng maaaring makita ng ina upang hindi nito ikamatay ang mga radikal na pagbabagong nangyayari noon sa Germany. Walang buhay pa rin ang mga dekorasyon ng bahay, mga lumang kasuotan pa rin ang ginagamit nila, nanonood pa rin sila ng mga balitang dati nang nakikita sa natalong pamahalaan, pinapakain pa rin si Christiane mula sa mga lumang botelyang sa too lang ay may lamang bagong pagkaing mula sa Kanluran. Sa islang ito ng kanyang kamalayan, totoo ang lahat ng nakikita ni Christiane na sosyalista pa rin ang bansa. Hindi ito ibang mundo, kaya nga makatotohanan ito sa hatol niya. Kung ibang mundo na ito, nakakakita sana siya ng demokrasya o kapitalismo, ngunit nakatago nga sa kaalaman niya na sa labas ng islang kinakikitaan niya ng kanyang reyalidad, malawak na karagatan ng katotohanan ang nakapaligid sa kanya: may mga patalastas ng mga kapitalistang korporasyon ang nakasabit sa kapitbahayan, hindi na Trabant ang mga sasakyan, inililipad na ng isang helikopter ang estatwa ni Lenin, parang nakikipagkamay para sabihing “Hanggang dito na lamang ang itatagal ng aking kapangyarihan.” Napaniwala si Christiane na totoo ang nakapaligid sa kanya kaya kahit may mga anomalya sa mga pangyayari sa araw-araw, dulto lamang siguro ito ng kanyang nanlalabong memorya. Nadaragdagan pa ito ng panloloko sa kanya ng kanyang anak na walang hangad kundi protektahan sa masakit na katotohanan ang ina.
Hindi naman mapasusubalian na anumang hatol sa katotohanan, hindi mapapalitan ng pangunahing katotohanan. Kung gayon, anumang ilusyon ng totoo ay hindi malalagpasan ang katotohanan sa dala nitong katotohanan. Napagtagni-tagni ng ina na ang lahat ng mga kakaibang pangyayari sa bansa niya ay hindi makatotohanan lalo na nang sabihin ng nobya nito ang katotohanan. Hindi na mapipigilan ang paglabas ng totoo dahil hindi nagbibigay-kaliwanagan sa kanya ang kayang mga nakikita. Anumang pagtatago ng katotohanan, nasa kapangyarihan na ang kapitalistang reyalidad sa kanyang bansa, hindi ba nga at papasok pa sa Burger King ang anak na babae matapos umalis sa pag-aaral? Nang sa wakas ay malaman na ang totoo, hindi naman siya namatay bigla, parang sinasabing naliwanagan muna siya bago tuluyang napaanod sa ilusyon ng kasinungalian ang pagtatago sa kanya ng katotohanan. Samakatuwid, sa pagbabagong ito ng kanyang pagtingin sa totoo, hinayaan niya ang kanyang sariling mapalaya tungo sa katotohanan.

Friday, December 14, 2007

woman as man's art


As might be expected of old stuff, the magazine I handled was so precarious that it needed the special loving care of a bibliophile in order for it to survive this long. Archiving turned out to be not bad at all, for each page was still intact, albeit looking like a potato peel for its yellowing brownness. Any hastier turning of the pages and the fragile paper would disintegrate in my fingers. The paper in general should not be mistaken for the Star daily broadsheet, for while the magazine shared its name with the newspaper, the now-defunct Star magazine traced its origin in provincial Cebu, not in the more metropolitan city of Manila. Containing write-ups in Cebuano Visaya aside from the institutional English, the American colonial magazine was published on January 27, 1930, just in its first volume, no. 26. Like the page on which my chosen article was printed in its entirety, most pages had drawings in them.
Serving like an introduction to the rest of the articles for having been placed in the first page, the article I chose was entitled “Woman’s Art.” Its margins were filled with sketch works depicting women in various scenes: on the top part, a woman and her kissing lover were basking in the afternoon sun under the shade of a tree waxing by the river; on the left part, women with their respective families are thronging toward the church, presumably to listen to the Sunday mass; on the right margin, a woman looks from her house’s window down her serenading suitor. The five-paragraph article written pseudonymously by E. P. Phany discussed the role at-large of a woman, especially in relation to her man. The one-liner introduction told that art is a woman’s privilege, then proceeded that the art a woman indulged in was teaching a child how to be a man. The third paragraph asserted that what good man a husband turned out to be was primarily an artwork of his wife, and this artwork was extended to motherhood in which “a mother produces no less than the father of man.” The article closed with the argument that this woman’s art of refining a man to perfection lasts “today, yesterday and FOREVER.”
The topic of the woman being the queen of the house is valid in terms of the patriarchal ideology hounding the society for ages already. While feminist studies of late is trying to subvert this false consciousness in order to liberate women from their bondage in kitchen and in bed, women still get cast in the opposing categories of Madonna and the whore. A woman who follows just what artwork of motherhood and wifehood is expected of her, she becomes the Madonna archetype: a respectable wife and nurturing mother. If this same woman fails to pattern herself from the archetypal Virgin Mother Mary of Judeo-Christian tradition (meaning she disappoints everybody by not being able to raise her children to become productive citizens or to attend to her husband’s needs), she becomes the dreaded whore, the wild woman who cannot be trusted to perform her artwork satisfactorily. Since the society was and still is largely patriarchal, women were left with fewer choices, almost always leading to a virtual imprisonment in their homes. There, women were compelled to cook for their husbands, wash and iron their dress, serve them, adore them, rear their children, among other house tasks. They were conditioned into believing that there was no fulfillment for them outside their home, so education and nondomestic careers need not be pursued. Even if these women had the brilliance of running the state or managing a corporation, they would turn out to be frustrations if they could not even raise kids properly or if they lost their husbands to more passionate concubines. Women in general are being boxed up by the article as only having one choice that’s to pursue the art of homemaking, wherein she was supposed to find and surround her identity.
This ideology can be verified by a parallel article published in The Philippines Herald in July 22, 1928, among other related texts across Philippine as well as world history. Entitled “What Is Your Ideal Woman?” it echoes what men thought and still think of the kind of women they should marry: as “a sort of goddess, with none of the frailties and weaknesses of this very weak sex,” “good looking enough to make the prospect of having her across the breakfast table,” “not more [intelligent] than [men are],” “[they] need not [have career],” “not unreasonably domineering,” not “vain wom[e]n,” “not...extremely jealous.” The article concluded with a bachelor resolving to remain as such until he found a woman he could trade his “thirty odd years of bachelorhood and freedom.” These parallel texts mirrored the colonial heritage of looking up to the father figure, erasing the ancient tradition of women rule by giving way to the violent force of colonization by the Spanish machos who brought the Judeo-Christian religion, carried on by the American Big Brother. As a result, women transformed from the powerful babaylanes to subservient housewives who lurk in the shadows of their husbands.
This text, springing from the context of American Occupation, does not depart from the lingering ideology that men rule. This has been true across history, until now when the ideology is facing vigorous objections from feminist groups regarding the fashioning of women according to men’s desires. Of course, women should not just be confined to their homes if they wish to explore their career options. They also need to assert their identities beyond motherhood and wifehood. Besides, men should get the message across that women should be viewed and treated more than just a sex object or a housemaid. Studying texts like “Woman’s Art” will provide the revelation that certain false notions in the society shape men’s and women’s thinking, an important component in analyzing the direction the society is taking toward human progress. This piece of history is essential to the research involving feminist, sociological, political and cultural studies.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

hail the unaired: detecting the heroes of the air


I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s a copy of the Philippines Free Press, yes, but it’s not like the one I readily see in the magazine section of any bookstore. It’s not a glossy-covered issue with the face picture of political personalities eternally pasted on it. In fact, the cover is brown-yellowish in color, a sign of ancient age. A glance at the characters revealed that it was published only days after the World War II reached this side of the Pacific. Taking off the Miller plastic that serves as its cover, I discovered the same brown-yellowish color of paper inside, brittle to the touch. Careful not to tear the pages asunder, I flipped through twenty pages of articles with accompanying photos with graphic details about the horrors of the war. Alongside the photos are news reports about the seven-day raging war, the sudden migration, among other war horrors. During this Commonwealth period of the American Occupation, the focus on granting the Philippines its independence abruptly shifted to talks about the war, terrifying experiences of the people, politics, army, and the looming invasaion of the Japanese imperial army. The Philippines Free Press—published on December 20, 1941, Saturday, no. 51, Volume XXXV, 15 centavos apiece—a momentous chapter of the Philippine history captured in a literature in a hurry.
Of the articles therein, I found the one featuring heroes in the air curious. For one, why are the heroes’ names not as household-sounding as, say, Bonifacio, Rizal, Douglas McArthur and the like, if ever they were indeed heroes? It is not as if popularity should matter more than one’s noble work in determining one’s heroism; it is just that most people who played roles in directing the country’s history to its current location are found in history books. Then again, even historiography can be pregnant with silences. That is why I took the effort of bringing this issue into the light once more, in order to show what heroic acts the subjects had performed and to what length recognizing them anew can bring them the credit they were due.
Written by staff member Leon Ty, the “Heroes of the Air” article found in page 20 of the abovementioned issue introduced the wartime pilot as “The most daring, most romantic warrior of our time…—the gallant hero of the air.” Why not, whereas during the crucial times the nation’s destiny lies on their courage, they were unafraid despite enemies’ eyes prying on them, wanting them killed in order to invade the helpless country? The warriors that they were, American and Filipino pilots alike, fought side by side in what turned out to be a collective heroic act that the enemies would have to fly over their dead bodies before the Philippines would be surrendered.
It figures that the following summarized account of these pilots’ heroism also appeared and is verifiable in another media known as the Tribune as well as in local history books. While the lack of considerable space tolerated the books in just mentioning in passing the air skirmish between Filipino and Nipponese aircrafts erupting above Camp Murphy on December 10, the magazine article detailed the actual air combat that exploded when the raiding Japanese pilots attacked Zablan Field at lunchtime. A captain named Jesus Villamor commandeered his men into going after the fighting planes. The pilots running toward their respective planes had to survive being riddled by bullets being shot by the Japanese raiders, just so they could provide reinforcement to squadron commander Villamor. Trading shots that could have sparked the noonday sky, the fighting planes took ceasefire when the Japanese pilots retreated after one of their planes crashed into the mountains. A few days later, the encounter would be repeated, widening in scope as one hundred and so Japanese planes hovered Luzon Island, bombing the local camps. While visibly outnumbered, the Filipino patriots were undaunted, and historically unheard-of names like Lt. Salvador Aclan, Lt. Antonio Mondigo, Lt. Godofredo Juliano, Lt. Salvador Manlunas, among other pilots engaged with the enemy planes and did their sheer best to counter the assaults of the attacking Japanese raiders. Some of them wounded, some dead, the local warriors fought hard in order not to give up the native land that entrusted its fate in their gallantry. The descriptions that landed spots in history textbooks like aircrafts dashing through the clouds, broken planes bursting to flames and somersaulting as it plummeted from the sky, the trade of missile shots resembling a fierce fireworks display in the air, the planes assuming V-formations or swooping or gliding from above—all of these are familiar facts hugging the pages of history, but not the names of those who participated in all these. It is through their very eyes that history unfolded, and they could be said to have unfolded history themselves, yet their very names could not be found in the books being read by the generations of people whose nation they had saved.
The real-life account of air fight during the war tells more stories that history books fail to mention due to space restriction, prerogative on historical highlights, or sensationalized trivia. However, it should not be lost on us readers that whenever our local heroes get ignored, the flaws are reproduced throughout generations and we do not have the opportunity to give our gratitude for their sacrifice that assured national survival. It did not have to amount to naming places in their honor the way Villamor got an airbase named after him, but shouldn’t we harbor a fresh way of seeing history after meeting in hurried literary texts these unheralded heroes of the air?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

ogling brown: an evolution of the pinoy gay magazine


What follows is something I stumbled upon my mail archives, a paper in collaboration with my former boylet back in the up film institute. it's supposed to be a part of a cultural critique being edited by a pop culture professor. two years and no signs yet of seeing light, but let me take this chance to fill some void in the cyberspace. Enjoy!
***
See the regular-looking hunk enter a magazine store and purchase a copy of Icon. When an unenlightened person reared in the macho and Catholic society that is the Philippines discovers that the magazine is gay-oriented, visions of the onslaught of plagues and fiery brimstones fill the homophobia-infested air. However, the butch gay could care less about the Bible-thumping and swishes his way home ala-Binibining Pilipinas, unstoppable in his intent to lust after the visual and literary feast his magazine offers.
Gay magazines in the Philippines hark back to the recent time when the society has become so sexually revolutionized that AIDS campaign and Sex Education are freely discussed amongst the bold (read: less conservative) Pinoys. Not wanting to lag behind heterosexuals yet again, the Pinoy bakla got his piece of (beef) cake via relishing the male anatomy of gay bar dancers, sex studs or neophytes, if only in print. Extra Extra, Male View, Chika Chika, Valentino, Cover Boy and the like—them with the naked, “straight” hunks, macho dancers in metropolitan gay bars, sexy actors (e.g. Leonardo Litton, Gerard Madrid, and Marcus Madrigal), and ruggedly handsome amateurs whose privates are covered only by see-through bikini, bananas, or chiaroscuro—dominated the scenes, proving that the popular culture hereabouts is ever thriving.
The magazine Hosto is published in Thailand and is internationally distributed; it is priced in the Philippines at P60. Another magazine, Boys Town Valentinos is also published in Thailand but is tailor-made for the Filipino audience in terms of content – fiction (e.g. “Kinangkang ni Kuya”, “Si Alex, ang Bodegero”), news (e.g. Ba[k]litang Balita), and jokes. Male View’s Xplode (P60) Freshmen (P100) are published in the Philippines but their text content is mostly in English (e.g. “The Joys of Rimming”, “How to Organize a Sex Party”).
The need for sexual pleasure for gays is fulfilled, at least partially by these media; moreover, this has been the case in the precedents for the said gay magazines such as the “hetero” tabloids Abante, Tiktik, etc. Before the advent of these magazines, gays would fantasize the male partners in the sexy pictures in the aforesaid tabloids.
Gay magazines of old and today are available in certain newsstands only; these are normally concentrated in areas like Welcome Rotonda. This mode of availability hails this particular market as invisible or illegitimate. These magazines are largely circulation-driven than advertisement-driven. The identity of the models, however, is usually not kept in secret. In this aspect, the objectification of the male models is similar to their female counterparts in “hetero” magazines.
The “age” of piracy in audio-visual media has widened the choices for media that serve as masturbation aids. The affordability and availability of pirated porn VCDs have further redefined average Pinoy gay man’s masturbation world. With P30, he can now buy not just “hetero” porn VCDs but gay porn as well. The “pirates” are the first to recognize the gay VCD viewing market. This can also take into account the decrease in sales of the gay magazines as we know it.
When the bolash (or butch gay looking for same, now widely regarded as the gender of the millennium because of the crash wave of Pinoy homosexuals acting the non-conventional discreetness) phenomenon turned the Pinoy gay urban professionals (simply the guppies) into brown versions of Queer As Folk characters, the gay publications, among many alternative lifestyle hubs like blue bars, gyms or bath houses, are just too gay (pun intended) to produce mouth-watering dick literature—an answer to the chick lit Cosmopolitan and its clones. Hence, the birth of Venus, errrrr, Icon (P140), Him (P150), L (P140), Male Revue Catalog (P120), the somewhat misnomer X for Women (P110) and other affordable, gay-themed glossies for the Western-homosexualized bakla.
The gay-comprised pink economy in the Philippines remains a relatively untapped reservoir, lamentably because the social stigma of coming out in a patriarchal culture is such a sad, at times violently homophobic affair amongst the homosexuals at-large. While a significant chunk of the gay population has come out sans having to equate the experience with suddenly coloring the hair red-orange or dressing in carnivalesque drag, the old notion of queerness persists despite these gays’ macho-looking selves. All the same, the pink Peso—that power held by metropolitan gays with money to spare—is a goldmine waiting to be blown in more ways than one.
Commercially-driven, these gay-oriented magazines have advertisements, advertorials and fashion shots that feature models. In contrast to the old generation gay magazines’, the models in these fashion magazines are posh ramp models and commercial models.
The masturbation-aid use still dominates, with the “Man Enough” section of Him, which features photos of scantily clad models who of course do not advertise any brand, other than their own bodies and identities. Just like the old gay magazines, this form was preceded by a “hetero” media, particularly the annual “Centerfolds” special of Cosmopolitan magazine; the 2004 “Centerfolds” issue of this female fashion magazine features practically naked pictures of celebrities such as Jay-R, Borgy Manotoc, Paolo Paraiso, Brent Javier, and Jericho Rosales.
On top of the luscious visuals (read: sunny-eyed hunks wearing sexy plain or rainbow-streaked trunks or even bath bubbles or sweat only) gracing the pages of, say, Icon, L and Him, the magazines have become avenues for profiles of gay icons or models expressing their human side, for gay manifestos and gay liberation projects, for sexual health tips, for racy albeit original gay literature, all of which compose the glossy pages like magically crafted gowns fit for fairies. As may be gleaned from the contents of the magazines in question, the gays have veered their concentric desires away from what’s pumping hard between the male form’s legs but more toward the identity stubbornly breaking out of society’s traditionally stuffy closets.
Homo Spectrum
Good thing that the gay magazines of today went beyond giving the populace delicious male bodies to ogle at and set an invisibly-stilettoed foot forward through the publications’ gay liberationist stance. Homosexuals being catered by the tantalizing magazines traipse the spectrum—from the paminta (straight-acting) to the effeminate to the baklang parlorista, all of whom get to toast texts dealing with gayness mostly as a beautiful, rewarding experience. What is there to lose when a bakla finally comes to terms with himself anyway? He even gains pride for embracing his performed identity.
Even the presumably heterosexual models do not seem adamant at celebrating sexuality—they willingly pose before the cameras in campy abandon (reasonably, for the right rate). It is no miracle then the aforementioned Pinoy gay magazines currently enjoy brisk business, thanks primarily to the robust pink market that fuels gay printing hereabout. In return, these magazines empower the gays by giving them what they deserve, by providing a dissident voice that’s distinctly gay, by presenting the gay lifestyle in a favorable light, all despite a world custom-built for straights. In effect, the gays are sashaying back into the mainstream and in no sooner time, the queens, whose majesty is too good to be closeted in magazines only, will have assumed their throne where they rightfully belong.

Monday, December 10, 2007

the god of all things


In Xenophanes’ poem fragment no. 7.3 (p.115), he lamented that “Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all deeds/Which among men are a reproach and a disgrace:/Thieving, adultery, and deceiving one another.” He felt that the deities’ gross description by Homer and Hesiod made them unworthy of worship. He criticized the depiction of gods as having characteristics that humans themselves condescend to see in their fellow humans. He did not approve of the dishonorable and blameworthy portrayal of the Greek gods as thieves, adulterers and cheaters. For Xenophanes, Homer was ridiculous for portraying Zeus, for instance, as a womanizing god who would not think twice about raping an innocent girl if his libido got the better of him and of assuming all forms of trickery in order to conceal the crime. Also, the chief god’s jealous wife, Hera, was portrayed as a capricious nagger who unjustly punished the raped girls even if her husband perpetuated the violation against them. The famous Trojan War was described as having been caused by the covetousness and vainglory of three goddesses who, while the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans raged on, had the gall to take sides. Meanwhile, Hesiod showed the gods to be selfish power-trippers who would not regret devouring their own children if only to keep their throne at the mercy of being usurped by their own family. This traditional Greek polytheism was, for Xenophanes, scandalous, since the gods or, more appropriately, God is spotless ethically speaking. It is senseless to dignify gods who do not approximate the respect of humans, precisely the kinds of Gods produced by the abovementioned poets for the ancient Greeks. It is clear from this violent take of Xenophanes against such immoral gods that their existence was unacceptable.
I should like my belief of God to be in consonance with the impersonal god that Xenophanes eventually developed from his criticism of the poet-postulated corrupt Greek gods. I want to think of God as someone who deserves my worship because He is not given to the quirkiness and abuses commonly associated with flawed humans. God for Xenophanes is perfect, which is what humans must aspire to, despite their imperfect selves. I believe the same: we need an ideal being to pattern ourselves from so that even if we do not become perfect in the end (as may most probably be the case), at most we tried. It does not help that the God we will attempt to emulate is not so different from all of us, because by then the attempt to be less imperfect is an exercise in futility. If I take Zeus or Hera for a model, I may end up acquiring unfavorable traits like deceptiveness, corruption, and decadence. On the other hand, having an inherently ethical God can get me closer to the standards of morality. God, being immortal, cannot show the similar emotions and behavior visible in humans, or He will most probably not be taken seriously. God’s constancy and faultlessness in decisions should credit Him the mystery that inspires reverence among us humans. With a god that is not blameworthy, capricious and unjust, I will not think less of my Creator. On the contrary, I will hold God in great awe because my imperfect self pales compared to His perfection. With a model for perfection in the guise of God, I can elevate myself from a mere human being to a godly person that God expects me to fulfill during my lifetime on earth.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

humane treatment for the poor: global ethic and liberation theology



The recent talk entitled “Democracy Update: The Role of Religion in Democracy” by Mr. Peter Schier, representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, was a timely reminder about the mutual commitment we have for the entire humanity. His presentation of the principle “Treat others as you would want to be treated” admonishes that everyone has the role to treat others fairly because only when social justice prevails that true freedom, happiness and peace are achieved.
One of the global ethic principles that emerges from the foundational Golden Rule is “Every human being must be treated humanely.” For me, it means having the right to be recognized as a person. Even during the times when there are restrictions to anybody’s freedom, one’s entitlements for one’s person, dignity, ideas, and creed should be respected. In all circumstances, every human must be treated without any form of discrimination.
Humane treatment for every human being prohibits certain acts deemed too harsh to be deserved by anyone. These acts include violence to a person’s life, welfare and honor, chastisement against anyone or one’s properties, anybody’s abduction and detention, stealing from anyone, depriving anyone of access to basic necessities, and threatening anyone with any of these acts. At its most fundamental, respect for human dignity must be provided universally. Only when others are respected that individuals become true to themselves in their desire to be respected. To be humane is a duty over which all humans are responsible, being dependent and siblings to one another.
The abovementioned principle sees parallelism in a strand of Liberation Theology as tackled by Jon Sobrino, S.J., which reads thus: there is a reality of oppressed and subjugated world which calls us to liberate every human being so that they may become human. This aspect of Liberation Theology responds to that principle through the idea that as human beings, the poor should be treated as humanely as any other individual. It does not follow that just because they languish in limited material access, the poor also loses the privilege of being liberated from their plight. On the contrary, all the more that they should be freed because their poverty is an enslaving condition that can linger across generations unless action is taken to end it. Human history let us in on the continuing plight of the poor as the society’s underprivileged: the victims of violence, the materially disenfranchised, the exploited working class, the very components of the marginalized sector. The global ethic principle seeks to give an end to this misfortune by considering the poor as our equal in terms of personal rights. This can become possible when their inherent rights are recognized such that they become free to practice their beliefs, pursue their ideals, possess their dignity, and claim their humanity. This, of course, runs consonant with the Liberation Theology concept that only when they free from oppression and subjugation will the poor become fully human. It means that the suffering and death so familiar to them by virtue of the presence of poverty should also give way to hope, which should never be abandoned by the poor even in the direst times. Quite the opposite, the poor should hope more as poverty aggravates because only with hope will there be any opportunity to achieve freedom from it. Hope shall motivate the poor to remain believing that their burden can be assuaged and liberation can be had, eventually. The striking similarity of the global ethic principle with that of Sobrino’s brand of Liberal Theology is a telling proof that the need or duty for humane treatment is universal.
A world without prejudice is so much better than a world divided by borders steeped in poverty not only of material things but also of the soul. We may all be diverse yet a unifying principle can be found in the upholding of the right to humane treatment. We should commit ourselves to treating one another fairly because only with this commitment will we be able to enter, explore and understand one another’s world. We should will the necessity to cooperate because there is less difficulty in responding to the challenge to break the cycle of social injustices when everybody works together. Only then will we realize that as we alleviate others from their impoverished state, we also alleviate our humanity of our own poverty.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

messiah figure: the paschal mystery in resident evil trilogy


The Resident Evil trilogy tells the saga of a universal soldier-like woman who got experimented on for her blood’s capacity to bond with a virus that caused the near extinction of the human race and the entire world. In the inaugural installment, she was an amnesiac who must defeat the virus before it spread outside a hidden facility and into the world. In the sequel subtitled Apocalypse, she got infected by the virus but miraculously survived, mutating into an extraordinary slayer of the undead. In the final installment subtitled Extinction, she continued her mission of wiping out the zombie population while a convoy of the remaining humans traversed the desert in search of an uninfected region. This woman, Alice, is the messianic figure in all three films since her sufferings and eventual reawakening parallel Christ’s passion and subsequent resurrection.
In the trilogy, Alice was shown to suffer by means of her loss of memory owing to a nerve gas attack in the secret facility called The Hive. With only a few time left to remember who she was and what her mission was before the mutated humans devoured the surviving people, Alice struggled to recover her memories in order to quarantine the virus before it infected the outside world. Also, when she got contaminated by the virus herself, she was experimented on in order to ascertain the reason for her immunity. She found herself connected to tubes no less than the animals being studied in the laboratory. Finally, when she got cloned a hundredfold, her clones were made to endure test battles with zombies as well as survival stints against machines and lasers. Because the clones were Alice herself, she could not help but somehow experience the same predicaments as those of the copies. She had even lost her privacy because a tracking device enabled her locators to find her whereabouts.
While the sufferings of Alice would pale compared to those of Christ’s, the uncanny similarity of their purpose for such anguish is noteworthy. Alice’ physical and psychological torture could not come close to the physical and spiritual agony experienced by Christ. Nonetheless, they had to put up with these sufferings for what would turn out to be comparable messianic missions. Much like Christ who had to die via crucifixion in order to save the world, Alice had to be laboratory tested and cloned in order to discover what in her body can provide link to human survival against the T-virus. While God the Father had chosen the anguish that Christ eventually accepted, Alice was reluctant over her own since circumstances threw her onto the path of zombie wasteland as well as onto the experimenting laboratory of experts. While Christ had to die as a consequence of his sacrifice, Alice only had to submit her body to inhuman treatments such that her worst sufferings included amnesia, experimentation and cloning. Alice’ agony might not equal the extreme castigation Christ had undergone, but having only one possession to herself that’s her body, her suffering is all the same a great sacrifice that sanctifies her for the act of love involved, especially that her body must survive in order to save what remains alive in her dying world.
While Christ had to undergo literal resurrection after his self-sacrifice, Alice only had to recollect snatches from her memory, survive her viral infection and reclaim her self-control after undergoing her trials. Like the Christ who had to return to life in order to fulfill the prophecy of world’s salvation, Alice had to survive the death of her memory, of her immunity and of her unique personality to fulfill the mission of the virus spread tantamount to the world’s salvation. When she woke up from her amnesia, she tried to piece back her memory in order to stop the virus from leaking out of The Hive. In Part 2 wherein she gained superpower after getting immunity from the virus, Alice began to kill the undead in order to save the rest of humanity from getting bitten and becoming zombies themselves. In part 3 wherein she got cloned, Alice and her first successfully alive clone made a parting shot that all the Alices will be coming for the enemies. While the Alice before and after was essentially the same brilliant woman, the renewed Alice had gained superpowers and had realized a mission to save what’s left of the world with the few humans around. Since Alice practically rescued the convoy of remaining humans from the attack of zombies, they regarded her as Messiah of their lives. The universal soldier that Alice was affected the world by assuring it that she could be a dependable savior.
By creating a Messiah figure in the character of Alice, the writer and the director could have intentionally wove the Paschal mystery in the film. This can be supported by the fact that the original videogame did not have Alice as a character. In the film, the character Alice was created presumably because in the world about to go extinct, only someone extraordinary enough could have the ability to save it. This Messiah figure had to undergo Christ-like sacrifices and revival to put forth the rationale for her existence as a savior. Like Jesus Christ’s Paschal Mystery which shows the triumph over death for the prophetic fulfillment of world redemption, Alice’ renewal of her self in the trilogy manifests her necessary survival that the world may survive too. The resident evil must be extinguished, and that’s why there was the renewed Alice.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

romanticizing terrorism: deviance in v for vendetta


Notwithstanding the deviance the American writers of James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta (Silver, 2006) have taken to stray from the original plot of the graphic novel in which the movie was based, a slew of deviant acts was also observable in the film. It can be said that the film’s plot was thus customized in order to contextualize the deviant acts in today’s socio-political location.
In V for Vendetta, V is a terrorist who dares take on Norsefire, a Nazi-like regime that tortures and murders people deemed misfits to the society. V wants to prove this fascist government wrong and to liberate the whole population from its slavery. Nonetheless, this totalitarian regime gets attacked by V in an ironical manner: via deviance that Norsefire is so familiar with. He methodically murders people linked to Norsefire by guiltlessly torturing them to craziness and death. He also bombs establishments like the Ear and the Mouth, killing numerous civilians. He manipulates Evey to be his unknowing accomplice by torturing and brainwashing her until she accepts his grim and determined point of view of seeing things in a vigilante’s way.
Terrorism as shown in the film is an act of deviance because it threatens the security of countries, in this film’s case the futuristic Britain. In V for Vendetta as well as the context in which it is produced, security threats have resulted to many losses of lives, the destruction of properties, large-scale injuries, the displacements of huge masses and economic devastation. V’s terrorism uses violence against persons and the fascist regime for purposes of public intimidation and coercion. Instead of letting the hands of the law work for social justice, V challenges the rule of legalities since the very government that must wield justice and peace for people is the very institution that violates this rule with its terrorism. The basic issues of morality, the nature of justice, the boundaries of bureaucracy and the ethical authority of legitimate governance are being warped by V for his one-sided belief that he is just enacting a vendetta. In the process of challenging the law, V puts forward the value of vigilantism. While it is morally laudable to right the criminally wrong, it becomes ambiguous when executed through wrongful means. As manifested in the brainwashed Evey, he attempts to convince citizens that Norsefire is powerless to prevent terrorism that it itself spawns. V wants to turn the tables by victimizing the criminals who make victims out of people. He is pushing the value that his acts are justifiable in the name of the anti-fascist cause he is fighting for. Just the perception of the deviance in the film as something that incites revolutionary participation from the people already poses moral dilemma. Getting people to act like vigilantes as a means of freeing their mind is problematic, because the idea of heroes here gets distorted as they punish the guilty without trial and kill the innocent if they happen to get in the way. This is one radical direction heroism can go.
Films being reflective of life, V for Vendetta shows acts of deviance that mirror the terrorism in the real world. While viewers like me may find ourselves sympathetic of V for the democratic freedom he defends vigorously, his terror attacks are practically deplorable. His brand of terrorism is not unlike that of the Al Qaeda, that global alliance of Islamic militant groups responsible for the attack of civilian and military targets across nations. No matter how this fanatical base justifies its motivation about the 9/11 attacks on the United States, it is utterly inhumane in ruthlessly applying this drive to make the US pay for bullying the world into submission. Like V in the film, Al Qaeda is lost into thinking that anarchy is part of the cleansing process, disregarding the loss of civilian lives in its regional bombing activities. It is frightening to think that the involvement of innocent people during Al Qaeda’s terror attacks is necessarily included in the plan in order to punish these people for actually complying with the lone superpower country’s economic and political hostaging of American neo-colonies. In any case, V’s Al Qaeda-like terrorism can be purgative only for believers that the ends justify the means. For these twisted few, the violent actions may be extreme but change should be generated, so pain is a necessary evil that delivers social catharsis.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

ang anim na digring layo sa jologs: isang panunuring pampelikula


Mula sa ginawarang iskrip ni Ned Trespeces at pagdirehe ni Gilbert Perez, ang Jologs (Star Cinema, 2002) ay pumapaksa sa tila ‘di-magkakaugnay na buhay ng ilang kabataang tauhan ngunit sa totoo lang, tagni-tagni talaga ang bawat isa dahil ayon nga sa tauhang si Issa (Assunta de Rossi), anim na digri lamang ang naghihiwalay sa kanilang lahat.
Bastardong anak ng isang mayamang kinatawan si Ruben (John Prats), na natanggalan ng scholarship dahil natuklasan ng paaralang anak-mayaman naman siya. Determinadong makapag-aral si Ruben, pruweba ang pagtratrabaho niya sa Barako Café para may maipantustos sa matrikulang halos ipinagdadamot ng ama at ang pagkapit niya sa desperasyong nakawan ang kongresista kung para lang may maipang-aral. Dominanteng may-ari at tagapamanihala naman ang boss niyang si Trigger, dahil sinisinghal-singhalan siya pati na ang guwardiyang si Mando (Diether Ocampo). Matiisin naman si Mando dahil natatagalan niya ang ugali ng amo kung para lamang sa konting kita ay huwag nang mangibang-bansa uli ang kinakasamang Japayuking si Chona (Michelle Bayle). Magtatagpo naman ang landas ni Mando at ang kaibigang bakla ng Japayuki na si Cheryl (Baron Geissler), na may gusto sa kaeskuwelang si Ruben at muntik magahasa ng pumik-ap na si Trigger. Liberal naman si Issa dahil hindi niya kinailangang maging sunud-sunurang babae sa napupusuang si Inigo (Dominic Ochoa), ang konserbatibong pinagpupustuhan nina Issa at mga kakuwarto niya. Kagrupo ni Inigo sa relihiyosong grupo si Faith (Jodi Santamaria), na nang mapagtantong maikli ang buhay ay gusto nang magpakaligaya sa kamunduhan sa piling ng dating seminaristang si Dino (Patrick Garcia). Si Kulas (Vhong Navarro) naman ay isang desperadong gusto nang magpatiwakal.
Kahit nasa bitag ng maraming “samantala” ang magkakahiwalay na kuwento ng mga buhay ng mga tauhang nabanggit, magtatagpo ang lahat sa isang gabi sa Barako Café. Bukod kina Ruben, Mando at Trigger na nasa café na, nagtagpo rin doon sina Faith at Dino matapos ang katawa-tawang pagsubok nila na magniig. Nasalubong ni Faith si Issa, na tinakasan ang relihiyosong grupo ni Inigo dahil mali ang inasahan niyang magtatalik sila ng pinakikipagpustahan. Nagmumuni-muni naman sa isang tabi si Kulas. Dito rin nagkatagpo sina Mando at Cheryl. Lahat ng ito sa isang gabi sa café. Hindi naman malayo sa katotohanan ang pagkakataong pagkakatagpo sa café, dahil sa Pilipinas, isang dahilan ng pag-usbong ng sandamakmak na café ang paggamit dito bilang tagpuan ng bayan, literal man o pagtagpo man ng katahimikan.
Lumabnaw man ang direksyon ng pelikula dahil sa dami ng mumunting banghay para ipilit ang pagbibigay-balanse ng pokus sa bawat tauhan, naipamalas dito ang masalimuot na tunggaliang pangkatauhan at panlipunan gaya ng machismo ni Trigger laban sa kabaklaan ni Cheryl, ng kapitalismo ni Trigger laban sa uring manggagawa ni Mando, ng liberalismo ni Issa laban sa konserbatismo ni Inigo, ng pagpapatuloy sa buhay nina Kulas, Faith at Dino, at ng pagiging bastardo ni Ruben laban sa lehitimo niyang karapatan sa sustento ng ama. Sa mga naging desisyon nila (o sa kanila ng kapalaran), nabuo ang kasukdulan at naisiwalat ang dahilan kung bakit pinamagatang Jologs ang pelikula: ang pagtatangkang iluwal ang sarili sa pinakamabuting kalagayang puwedeng mangyari. Sa mababaw na tingin sa konteksto ng ating lipunan, mababang-uri o bakya ang tinuturingang jologs, ngunit kung kayang iangat ang sarili mula sa kababawang ito, ibang klaseng jologs ang mamamalas. Nabigo man si Trigger dahil nabaliw siya matapos hindi makayanan ang pagkasira ng kabuhayan niya nang sumabog ang café, nakaraos naman ang iba pa. Nakatapos ng pag-aaral si Ruben samantalang naging mabuti ang ugnayan nina Mando at Cheryl bilang mga magulang sa anak ni Chona. Nauwi sa kasal ang eksperimentasyon nina Dino at Faith samantalang nagkaunawaan pa rin sa kabila ng kanilang mga sarili sina Issa at Inigo. Masaya rin sa buhay-Japan si Chona gaya ng ginusto niya samantalang nakatagpo rin ng bagong buhay si Kulas sa pagiging deboto sa isang sekta ng relihiyon.
Dahil sa kapansin-pansing husay sa pagganap ng mga artista, napiga sa mga tauhang ginanapan nila ang damdaming makaalpas mula sa negatibong kalagayang nagtuturing sa kanila bilang jologs. Hindi ang makisig na si Diether Ocampo ang guwardiyang napanood kundi isang probinsyanong matigas ang dila na may pangarap na makabuo ng pamilya. Hindi si John Prats ang empleyado sa Barako Café kundi isang problematikong estudyante na gagawin ang lahat para lang makatapos sa pag-aaral. Hindi ang glamorosang si Assunta de Rossi ang liberal na babae kundi isang mangingibig na hindi kinakailangang magkaroon ng breeding upang maging karapat-dapat sa isang konserbatibong lalaki. Sa pinagkabit-kabit na mga mumunting banghay, lumitaw ang mensaheng magkakaugnay ang lahat sa karaniwang misyong maabot ang pinakamabuti para sa kani-kaniyang sarili. Lalo itong pinatingkad ng kantang “Next in Line” ng After Image dahil sabi nga sa pambungad na linya, “What has life to offer me?” Sa kanilang daigdig na hindi sila magkakakilala ngunit sa isang banda’y kaugnay ng isa ang isa na kaugnay ang iba pa, walang nakaaalam ng anong mangyayari sa kinabukasan. Nakasalalay sa sarili nilang hatol kung ano ang mangyayari bilang kapalaran nila. Kung gayon, nasa sa kanila kung aalpas ba sila sa kanilang kalagayan upang mabago nila ang takbo ng kanilang buhay, o mananatili sila sa kasalukuyan habang ang ibang nakaugnay sa kanilang anim na digri ng pagkakahiwalay ay nakakalayo na.
Nasalamin ng pelikula ang tunay na daigdig kung saan ang hindi kakilala ay malalamang nauugnay pala sa iba sa pamamagitan ng karaniwang kakilala. Ang kamag-anak na ganito ay kaibigan ni ganyan na kaopisina nino na kasintahan niyan. Samakatuwid, magkakawing ang buhay ng lahat kahit hindi akalain. Samantala, sa komplikasyon ng ugnayang ito, lalo pang nagiging masalimuot kung ituturing pa ang kalagayan ng isa’t isa na nagtatalaga kung kabilang ba sa isang institusyon o etsa-puwera. Kung hindi patriyarkal o kapitalista o relihiyoso o lehitimo, wala nang ibang tawag malibang jologs dahil sa (malimit ay ‘di-makatarungang) pagtatakda ng lipunan ng kung ano ang mataas na uri at mababa. Ngunit kung mapagsumikapan ng jologs na abutin ng jologs ang pinakamabuti para sa kanyang sarili, isa na itong pagbaliktad sa itinakda ng lipunan dahil sa pagsisikap na ito, nagkakapuwang siya sa institusyon. Sa pagpapakita ng kakayanan ng mga tauhang baguhin ang pagtingin sa kanila bilang jologs, nabibigyan ng panibagong kahulugan at pananaw ang salita mula sa kawalan ng class, asal ay pagiging konyo tungo sa pagiging cool, liberal at totoo sa sarili.