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!"

Friday, November 30, 2007

no whispering allowed at sofitel

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

spoliarium as luna's postcolonial appropriation of european aesthetics

Juan Luna's Spoliarium might have been informed by Western aesthetics but he was able to customize this in the Philippine context as a means of grappling against the colonizing stance of the Spaniards.
In his painting, Luna portrayed a tragic Roman scene wherein corpses of gladiators where being hauled from a chamber underneath an arena toward a dark area where more dead bodies were possibly piled. Aside from the subject, the strokes of Luna showed the influence of Renaissance masters to whom he was exposed when he was an expatriate student. The non-Filipino depiction is a testament that some European artistic aesthetics influenced Luna.
However, the European colonization of Luna's aesthetic sense ended there since he was able to appropriate this in the socio-historical location of the Spanish colonial Philippines. The painting's subject--the brutality toward the dead gladiators--is comparable to that toward the native Filipinos by the colonizing Spaniards. As the gladiators were stripped of their last earthly possessions, the Spaniards also stripped Filipinos of their humanity and racial dignity with their maltreatment. The slaves in the painting were not unlike the lower-class natives who were conscious of this wickedness of the Roman opportunists and Spaniards, respectively.
Luna's award-winning work was able to capture a foreign concept and turned it into a Filipino property by manifesting that beyond the colonial inhumanity, the Filipinos were able to withstand the stripping of native belongings because they still carried their honor and glory as a people. The cruelty that came with the colonization, so vividly symbolized in the painting, showed that the Philippines was not a completely lost paradise for the natives still stood proud despite their conquered selves.
By Luna's appropriating of Western aesthetics into a postcolonial tool, he expressed the native consciousness that the Filipinos could survive what grave misdeeds had been accorded them and, being metaphorical gladiators, they are not inferior warriors.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the postmortem worldview of precolonial filipinos

The ancient tools and burial jars of precolonial Filipinos articulate their worldview that life is a journey and physical death is not the end of everything in this travel. In fact, they see continuity of this voyage after death, which means the Filipinos have a concept of the afterlife wherein whatever the dead had engaged in while still alive, they can still proceed performing in life after death.
The ancient tools used by precolonial Filipinos for fishing, hunting, gathering and homemaking show the journey that life is. Being travelers, the precolonial Filipinos needed to equip themselves in order to survive. The spears, knives, grinding tools and the like were used to find the sustenance for the day. The palayok and tapayan, for instance, were used for cooking and storing water, respectively.
Meanwhile, when these early people's lives ended, their journey didn't necessarily. These folks saw a kind of postmortem life so when the living buried their dead, they placed their deceased relatives in jars that symbolized their boat sailing to the afterworld. Along with these jars were food, adornments, ancient tools and other materials used in the living world just so the spirits could go about easily as they had done while still alive. Examples of jars and their associated articles include but not limited to the Maitum Anthropomorphic potteries of Sarangani province as well as the iconic Manunggul jar of Palawan.
In such a case, the deceased somewhat defied death because it was as if they were still very much a part of the living world: there was continuity in their travel and there was even fluidity in this continuation of life.

Monday, November 26, 2007

dear sir

let me share to you a letter i received today from a former world literature student who insisted that i open it long after he's out of sight. the content of the epistle echoes the words i've gotten from students for the past seven years of my teaching. to you, g.r., and the rest of the students whose lives i touched in ways i could not imagine, you inspire me into becoming a better practitioner of my craft each new day.


November 21, 2007
9:00 P.M.

Sir Minor,

It’s been three months since I decided to write a letter that contains my gratitude for your understanding of all my predicaments. I truly appreciated it. However, I did not do the letter because I did not want you or even my classmates to think that my intention was completely for the sake of my grades. I had attempted three times to send an e-mail but all failed; I had searched for your phone number but I lost it (now I have it already). Today, I know that this would be the perfect time to express my gratitude…to say THANK YOU!!! I am lucky to have met you and so much proud that I became your student—my tuition was not in vain…it’s worthy!
You’ve changed my point of view about this school and about the professors. I do admire your pure and ardent desire for teaching without asking anything in return.
Your passion for teaching is undoubtedly real; your wisdom mirrors how God blesses you; your commitment resembles how God loves you; your methods in teaching reflect how God guides you; and your principle is a path that I must follow—for it will guide me to the fulfillment of my dreams.
I know that this letter is not enough to compensate your kindness. I myself cannot even express exactly what I really want to say—it is an ineffable emotion that only you can comprehend.
But one thing is for sure: I am one of your students who admire you and will continuously admire you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

the deceptiveness of appearance in “sandpiper”

Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sandpiper” is about a shorebird that is “obsessed” [line 18] about “something” [line 17] in “[t]he beach” [line 5]. The object of its obsession is “the spaces of sand between [its toes]” [line 9], although it is suspect what reason the sandpiper must have to obsess over something it does not get its food from. This obsessive attitude contextualized within the poem’s text will eventually tell why the sandpiper is obsessed to begin with.
While a shorebird, the sandpiper does not hunt food right on the beach because it is among rocks where it can find its meals of aquatic and terrestrial insects and under water where it can find mollusks also for food (Parmelee, 29). Its ignorance of “[t]he roaring alongside” [line 1] and “the world…bound to shake” [line 2] go against its nature of foraging for food underwater if not along rocky shores. Finding the sandpiper running along the beach “to the south” [line 3] is, therefore, a kind of dislocation not only for the bird itself but also for the viewers who will deem the bird’s actuation unusual.
If the sandpiper’s dislocation from its specific feeding areas is questionable, much more is its “[w]atching…the spaces of sand between [its toes]/where…the drains/rapidly backwards and downwards” [lines 9-11]. Again, there is no reason for the bird to do the abovementioned, since it cannot scratch food from there. Given that the bird is a non-rational being, it cannot be that the bird has gone meditative, attempting “[t]o see a [w]orld in a [g]rain of sand,” to quote William Blake, as a student of whom the bird is being likened [line4]. At most, it has an instinct, but then again, its instinct gives up on the bird because no mollusk or rock-sheltered insects may be strewn atop the grains. It could be that the bird just got distracted from foraging by the “dragging grains” [line 12] that “the interrupting water [coming and going/and glazing] over [its] dark and brittle feet” [lines 6-7] has swept over. What creature will not be drawn toward “[t]he millions of grains [that] are black, white, tan, and gray/mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst” [lines 19-20]? The explosion of colors that are the grains of sand must have caused the sandpiper to act obsessively about that piece of ground underneath its feet. After all, its instinct, no matter how aware the bird’s watchers are about its blunder, must have informed the sandpiper that the shifting colored grains is a promising food location. Hence, that “something, something, something” [line 17] that the bird so obsessively looks for may most probably be food that’s necessary for its survival.
Outside the head of the sandpiper, it is recognizable that the bird commits the mistake of looking for something in an unlikely location. This is because its view is limited to the distracting appearance of the millions of colored grains. But nothing in the sandpiper’s manners tells that it will ever be conscious of its own error (only until the end, hopefully) since its obsession has clouded its better judgment. It runs “finical…,/in a controlled panic” [lines 3-4], which shows that it instantly wants to unearth what the tide-swept, varicolored sand grains promise to compensate the bird’s effort with. Also, it watches particularly [lines 9-10] and “stares at the dragging grains” [line12], concentrated on finding what lies hidden in them. Furthermore, its beak “is focused” [line 16], poised to pick with it creatures that will serve as its meal.
Finally, its “preoccupied” [line 16] demeanor suggests that its distraction is so intense—it “couldn’t [even] tell”if “[t]he tide/is higher or lower” [line 15] and that the minute, vast, clear, misty world [lines 13-14] will unfold an impending disaster—that only afterwards will the fruitless effort be revealed to its bird senses. Thus, the persona of the poem cannot help but utter the interjection “Poor bird…!” [line 18] because the sandpiper’s obsession has defied the logical and its well-meaning concentration will go unrewarded, ultimately defeating the bird’s determined purpose.
What the sandpiper experiences is a case of wrong investment of focus owing to the deceptiveness of its location’s appearance. Really, when a setting looks so inviting, any bird on the lookout for its survival requirements will be deceived into judging that this is more promising that the bird’s regular foraging grounds. In effect, a choice of the deceptive over the true has drawn the bird to obsess over something that proves to be unworthy of the effort in the long run. It is a pity that just when the sandpiper is so close to the rocky terrain and watery part where it can hunt its food, it gets distracted by the alluring grains of sand which, naturally, does not harbor what it is searching for.
It is not a mistake that the persona ironically metaphorizes the bird as Blake’s student because it may have been that the sandpiper tries to see a world in the grains of sand as in the poet’s “Auguries of Innocence,” but the bird does it literally in Bishop’s poem, manifesting its lack of common sense for seeing beyond sizes or, in the case of the poem under study, facades. Surely, humans know better than repeat the sandpiper’s narrow judgment.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

ang muling pagbubukas sa daang carriedo at rizal sa maynila

Kamakailan lang, binuksan ni Mayor Alfredo Lim sa mga motorista ang mga Daang Carriedo at Rizal sa Santa Cruz , Maynila. Sa unang mga proyektong ito ng muling kahahalal na alkalde, binaliktad nito ang proyektong pedestrinisasyon ng nakaraang nanungkulan. Sa nakaraang administrasyon kasi ng lungsod, ipinatupad ni dating Alkalde Lito Atienza ang pagsasara ng mga 530-metrong bahaging ito ng Avenida sa mga bumibiyaheng sasakyan upang maging lakarang pantao. Sa halip na matupad ang layunin nitong bigyang-buhay ang nasabing lugar apat na taon na ang nakalipas, naging pugad lamang ng mga istambay at tumamlay lalo ang kalakal ng mga tindahang nandito. Bunsod nito, ipinatanggal ni Mayor Lim ang proyektong pagpapagandang lakarang pantaong ito sa Daang Rizal hanggang kanto ng Claro M. Recto sa unang araw ng kanyang panunungkulan noong Hulyo, 2007. Sa loob ng isang buwan, unti-unti niyang ipinabakbak ang mga pulang bloke upang maaspaltuhan at muling madaanan ng mga dyip papuntang Taft o kaya naman ay Monumento. Maingat niyang ipinatanggal ang mga ito upang magamit muli sa iba pang proyekto ng kanyang pamahalaan gaya ng mga parke at bangketa. Makaraan ito, hinawi rin niya sampu ng kanyang konsehong panglungsod ang mga puwesto ng manininda sa 198-metrong kahabaan ng Carriedo para madaanan pa rin ng mga sasakyan noong Agosto, 2007. Winalis niya mula sa mga bangketa at lansangan lahat ng mga nakahambalang na nagsisipaglako ng samu’t-saring mga bagay, mula mga piniratang DVD hanggang mga laruang pambata hanggang mga prutas.
Mahahalaga ang dahilan ng pagbubukas ng pamahalaang Maynila sa mga daang ito. Una, inilaan ng Korte Suprema na gamitin ang mga lansangan hindi para sa layuning pangkalakalan. Ipinaalaala ni Mayor Lim sa mga naglalako na isinaad ng batas na gamiting daanan ng mga sasakyan at mga tao ang mga lansangan imbes na gamiting lugar pangkomersiyo. Hindi maaaring maglagay ng puwestong pagtitindahan sa mismong daanan mula lansangan hanggang bangketa, pagdidiin ng alkalde. Sa lehitimong mga establismentong hindi lalagpas sa mga bangketa dapat pumuwesto ang mga manininda. Layunin ng pagbubukas ng mga daang ito ang pagbawas ng paninikip ng trapiko. Una, pagiginhawain nito ang paglalakbay ng mga sasakyang hindi na kailangang magpasikut-sikot pa sa masisikip na Daang Tomas Mapua, Florentino Torres, Ongpin, Sales at Evangelista para lamang makabiyahe pa-Taft o pa-Monumento. Pangalawa, makadaraan nang mas maayos ang mga taong namamasyal sa lugar para magsimba, mamili o bumiyahe. Layunin din ng pagbubukas ng mga daan ang pagpapasigla ng komersyo sa lugar. Mabababaan na ng mga pasahero ang mga kainan, groserya, at maliliit na department store na naghingalo ang negosyo dahil sa kawalan ng tamang-tamang puwesto ng mga dumaraang tao. Sa pagluwag ng daanan, makakakuha ng mga pasaherong nasa lugar na ito ang mga dyip dahil nasa estratehikong lansangan at hindi sa kung saan madalang ang mga tao. Bukod dito, lalakas ang bentahan sa mga tindahang nakapuwesto sa lugar. Mas makikita ng mga nagsisilakad dito ang mga tindahan ng sapatos, damit, kasangkapan sa bahay, libro at iba pa na maari nilang bilhin kung kinakailangan.
Magaganda ang ibinunga ng pagbubukas ng mga daang nabanggit. Una, nabawasan ang pagsisikip ng trapiko. Dahil madaraanan nang muli ang dulo ng Avenidang tutumbok sa estasyon ng LRT sa Carriedo, hindi na magsisiksikan ang mga pampubliko at pribadong sasakyan sa pagbagtas sa Chinatown . Nakaluwag sa mga motorista ang mababagtas nang lansangang pansamantalang naging parke at tambayan ng mga tao noong administrasyon ni dating Mayor Atienza. Nakinabang din ang mga nakapuwesto sa bangketa. Hindi tuluyang pinaalis ni Mayor Lim ang mga nakapuwesto dahil binigyan sila ng metro kuwadradong pagtitindahan sa bangketa. Sa parametrong ito, makakapaglakong muli ang mga manininda ng mga gamit-pambahay at gamit-pang-opisina, dangan din lang at hindi nila kakayaning mag-upa ng puwesto sa mga lehitimong establismento. Bukod dito, hindi papayagang mangotong ang mga pulis sa mga nakapuwesto sa mga daang ito. Nangako si Mayor Lim na papapanagutin niya sa batas ang mga awtoridad na mangingikil sa mga nagsisipaghanapbuhay sa mga Daang Rizal at Carriedo. Dagdag pa, makikita na ang mga sikat na tagpo sa lugar sa paghawan ng mga nakadidilim na tindahan. Matatanaw na ang Simbahan ng Quiapo na dinarayo ng mga deboto dahil sa Itim na Nazareno. Mas madali na itong makita ng mga Katolikong hindi pa gamay sa pagsikut-sikot sa lugar. Matatanaw na rin ang Simbahan ng Santa Cruz . Dahil wala nang harang, mapupuntahan din ng mga tao ang alternatibong institusyong Katolikong ito sa bahagi ng Chinatown . Nabawasan na rin ang mga masasamang elementong tumatambay sa lugar. Humina ang mga insidente ng pandurukot o pananalisi dahil hindi na nagsisiksikan ang mga taong maaaring dukutan nang walang kamalay-malay. Nawalan ng tambayan ang mga nagbebenta ng panandaliang aliw dahil kung mapapansin silang nakahambalang sa daan para maglako ng laman, maaari silang hulihin agad-agad.
Sa pagbubukas na muli ni Mayor Lim sa mga Daang Rizal at Carriedo, inaasahang bubuti na hindi lamang ang kalagayang pangtransportasyon sa lugar kundi pati na rin ang namamatay nang komersyo sa pusod ng Kamaynilaan.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

made in china: the pinoy opportunities out of the sino-crisis

China is touted to be the world’s next superpower, out to oust the United States in terms of the burgeoning Chinese economy. With cheap labor and expansive market, China products are sold cheaply and, more likely than not, patronized over similar yet less affordable products. Furthermore, the range of items China sells around the globe is so wide that many of them, from food to clothes to cosmetics, bear the mark “Made in China.” Raw materials, goods, drugs, toys, among other items with touches of Chinese industry, are readily available as they are affordable. Chinese-made products dominating our homes are being carried all over the market, from the shopping malls to the supermarket, from groceries to bazaars.
This pervasiveness of China-manufactured items is set to change after recalls of products like tires, toothpaste and toys had been made. If these products were found to contain components that pose health hazards, it is not far-fetched for patrons to question whether other China-made items can be dangerous to our well-being, especially the coincidental recalls. The pullout of White Rabbit candies as well as other Chinese sweets for their health-threatening formalin content can lead to a boycott of sort since no one in one’s right mind will consciously take in something that is dangerous to one’s health. One will more likely cast a doubt whether to go use or consume a China-made product if it means risking one’s life. After all, there are similar items that do not originate in China which may be had without necessarily creating the same threatening impression. If the market teems with competitor products that are publicly perceived as safe no matter how many more pesos inflated, China-made goods may lose out on them. It will have to take a matter of time (or the dreaded short-term memory of the Filipinos) before the affected products’ problem blows over and rouse the Chinese economy into a bullish state again.

In the light of these pullout events, Chinese products that are already available in the Philippine market may have to suffer a domino effect. The bad impression created by their compatriot products will possibly drag even the unaffected products from their previously high demand. For fear that the unaffected products may prove to be unsafe for mass consumption too, authorities may have to conduct more careful inspection of imported goods. Stricter laws on products regulations will have to be implemented. Companies will be enjoined into incorporating environmental awareness in their product samples like waste management practice so as consumers are assured of their quality and supervision. Meanwhile, Filipino buyers will have to take quality top consideration and will have to forego being easily blinded by low-costing goods. They will have to think twice about doing certain purchases and, in effect, widen their options to more credible brands, locally-made goods included. Also, they will have to become more aware of the alarming effects of affected products’ contents to their health, thereby they develop safety consciousness. Therefore, the crisis that posed immense risk to the Chinese industry in general may produce opportunities, after all.
This dark industrial setback for China may actually present some silver lining for Chinese-Filipino entrepreneurs. Given the bad image China products currently suffer from, Chinoy businessmen may deem it high time to strike while the iron is hot. They can enact a marketing strategy that will heighten consumers’ awareness on the quality of local products compared to that of the Chinese-made goods. Its manufacturer can promote Hapee toothpaste, for example, as an inexpensive Filipino product that offers affordability as well as safety. The market share of the Chinese toothpaste can be lionized by any other competitor, except that Hapee stands a chance for its inexpensive price.
The Chinoys can possibly export locally-manufactured products like rubber plastics in order to expand into the global market. This is less prohibitive since the focus on China-made products became weaker and, thus, facing serious challenges in the global market. These products which were discovered to have defect and low quality can be challenged by local products which can offer more customer value and satisfaction to catering countries. This is an opportunity for the local products to come stronger in terms of manufacturing in order to win a sizeable market being vacated by the declining demand for Chinese goods. To illustrate, Pinoy entrepreneurs can supply plastics, rubbers, tires, coconut oils—products China is currently weakening at or altogether lacking—to territories in which defective Chinese goods got recalled. Developing products that are not yet fully developed in China
The local entrepreneurs can further seize the opportunity by creating more aggressive campaigns that will market their goods to the consumers. At this time of the year when Christmas is fast approaching and gift giving is the season’s rage, the occasion calls for answering more demands to manufacture toys. If the patronized (until recently) Chinese goods lack on significant quality, manufacturers can create modified versions of such goods so that they will have better features, better packaging and the like and, therefore, better competitors than the product from which the concept was derived. Coinciding with the peak season, the better products will enjoy greater demands and, as a result, higher patronage of local products.
Most importantly, in the wake of the weakening Chinese grip on business dealings, the local entrepreneurs can improve on relational networks with local and foreign companies and markets. They should build good relationships in order to have partners or associates that will strengthen product development in such a way as to avoid repeating the corporate blunder involving Chinese products. These relationships can also make way for the exportation of local products to places where business partners are far-reaching. Companies may also send personnel to train in business trips and to attend trade fairs that will not only bring ideas for product development brainstorming but also open opportunities to make dealings with more businesses. In improving the external structure of the company in a bid to fortify it, the company should also develop a sophisticated industrial structure as well as manpower that can be globally competitive. Hiring English-proficient workers is one thing but more importantly, these workers should be highly-skilled so that they can lend their global market advantageousness to the products they will develop.

Monday, November 19, 2007

battling the heritage of smallness: pinoy liabilities and the toyota experience

Of the 14 Toyota Way Principles, I believe that the principle saying “build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time” is hardest to apply in the Philippines. Why? Because the Filipino culture tolerates the “puwede na,” “bahala na” and “ningas cogon” attitudes, three liabilities that aggravate what National Artist Nick Joaquin unerringly labels as a heritage of smallness. If only the Philippines learns much from the discipline of Japan in general and the Filipinos from Toyoda family’s discipline in particular, then we can become great as a nation. Unfortunately, discipline is not a piece of cake, and it gets harder to come by when quality is being sacrificed by acceding to the second-rate, by leaving everything to fate, or by losing interest midway toward completion.
The Filipinos could learn so much from the Toyoda family, whose members include the founder’s predecessor who gave a new meaning to getting dirty, the founder who persevered despite his own physical frailness, and his cousin who religiously did things to learn. Sakichi Toyoda, who created the power loom that paved the way to the mother firm of Toyota group, defied the absence of research and development accessibility by doing everything himself. He took the work via trial and error and got his hands dirty in producing the “mistake-proof” automatic power looms that liberated the women in his family from the punishing labor of the weaving cottage industry. Meanwhile, his son Kiichiro, who studied facts rather than depend on intuition, created a miniature engine painstakingly before producing the automobile engine. His cousin Eiji learned things from doing like Kiichiro and Uncle Sakichi, researching the machines he hardly knew about and, until the time he led the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, molded the sales, car development and the principles underlying the Toyota Production System. Their characteristics show discipline that puts quality on top priority.
However, the principle of fixing problems to ensure quality may find it hard to assimilate itself in the Philippine setting because for one, Filipinos have the penchant for “puwede na.” This means giving something a passing mark even if its quality has not yet been tested or has flunked against standards. In the Philippines, it is rare for workers to repeat everything especially if the process involved is tedious. They may be too conscious of the limited time of production, but sacrifices quality in the process. If they learn from the discipline of the Toyoda family, they will put in mind that quality matters more than anything else, because in the end, they might end up repeating the process anyway, or might cause accident for their poorly qualified products.
The fatalism of the Filipinos is also working at their fault, since they trust God so much but do not couple this faith with love for labor. It entails more than relying on supernatural powers, as the case of the Toyoda family attests. They persevered doing everything in order to generate the quality products that Toyota offers today. This should see practice in the Philippines because God Himself will not be pleased if His followers are not even resourceful.
Finally, becoming a grass flash-fire is disadvantageous to Filipinos because the quality that is thought of in the beginning loses reality in the process of approximating it. The success of the Toyota conglomerate did not come about easily; the Toyoda family had to get their hands dirty in order to achieve quality products. They did not stop or give up what they so lovingly labored for a long time because they believe that as little problems got fixed, quality would be assured. Whether they succeeded or not fixing the problem, they could not forsake quality.
Only when these three liabilities are eliminated will the Philippines achieve greatness.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


when the registration for graduate students opened in the state u, i was perhaps one of the first to appear in the graduate school office, only to be turned this way or that owing to the papers i had to submit before being permitted to transfer to the english studies program. i was happy to have found both my comparative literature and new program advisers such that my papers were signed in no sooner time. it did not matter that classes then were suspended because of the raging typhoon, making me admire more these professors who get a pittance of a salary yet help build the nation via teaching.
it excited me that besides having the department chair as my professor, i will attend a subject entitled new english literatures which, i researched, will tackle the state of literature in former british colonies. i may not be able to study the reliable latin americans but i will be able to make readings from postcolonial regions that spawned such works as the rice mother, hullabaloo in the guava orchard, in the skin of a lion, the bone people, waiting for the barbarians and the like. the die-hard postcolonial in me is at it again but at least, i won't be accused of lounging around proclaiming, "i am not an asian!"
it took me the last day of the registration to finish everything, from enlisting online to paying for my tuition (i was not included in the tuition fee increase! jump!jump!), and while i did not pay more than P3,000 for my enrollment, my funds have depreciated alarmingly. queuing up was a different story altogether, since the UP has been satirically referred to as university of pila. living up to the mockery, the queue in palma hall and, i later learned, in pnb reached up to the geography department and shopping center, respectively. the serpentine line reminded me of a box-office film starring judy ann santos, and so in the event i lose consciousness because of the heat and the rigor of the effort, i might end up shrieking, "ang ganda-ganda ni juday, promise! panonoorin ko ito ng isang libong beses!" the inaugural attempt for UP to go crs online full-blast apparently defeated its purpose, for i observed that there had been more time wasted than conserved.
after a gruelling day at the UP, i rushed to makati to have my books signed by jessica hagedorn. i will have to put this off because in its specialty, it deserves a separate blog altogether.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

the anitos in the guise of colonial santos

The statues of saints in the Philippines are a manifestation of how Filipinos vernacularize the foreign. All along, the colonizers believed that they have conquered the people's spiritual lives when they uprooted the precolonial religious institutions yet they persisted even in the guise of the innocent-looking holy icons.
The religious images reminiscent of the Spanish colonial style were nothing but the same anitos which the natives had worshipped before the white men arrived in these shores. They might appear to be Caucasian and all, yet these were the same idols with which the babaylans communicated for the devotees to guide their general lives.
Vicente Rafael's concept of "fishing" can be used to describe this customization by the Filipinos of the colonial statues. The colonizers were fooled into believing that the natives did learn to worship the foreign icons with the manifest idolization of the Santo Niños, Birheng Marias and other statues. However, this was deemed superficial, since the natives did not truly know what this idol-worship meant in the Catholic context.
What they knew, in fact, was that they continued attending to the anitos which their Babaylans had them turn to for their daily needs. In short, they were just fishing what the Spanish thought them, the worship of santos in this case, but did not truly took them to heart because what was truly in their heart was the spirit of the anitos guiding them, only in a different (because white) form. Essentially, these statues kept their native form and that was what made the natives worship them.
While it seemed to foreigners that they completely paralyzed the Filipinos' "savage" animism by introducing their own brand of religion, it seemed to Filipinos meanwhile that they knew better than to divorce themselves from their native spirituality, hence the false worship of the statues and the continuation of their precolonial religiosity. This appropriation of the foreign by the natives is a way of showing that the Filipinos remain inscrutable in spite of the conquistadors' effort to colonize them consummately.

Monday, November 12, 2007

the evil and the good in star wars

We may consider the fictional setting of Star Wars an ultra-futuristic view of the universe; however, the trains of thought and the course of action of the individuals in the film do not appear to be any different from the way people in our society think and behave. Therefore, it became easy to notice parallels between the sociology of the fictional Star Wars universe and of our real world, especially the concept of the opposition between the good and the evil as valued by the people involved. In the movie, the opposing forces are represented by the Jedi Knights and the Sith warriors. However, what makes one or the other good or evil?
In Star Wars, it was necessary for each boy who aspires to be a Jedi to go through different phases of training with increasing levels of difficulty. This required procedure was that which gave stability to the reputation of every Jedi knight, and it was through this structure that all Jedi knights were able to carry on their role as Galactic Republic’s guardians. This was the role of the Jedi knights in their society—to bring peace and justice to their universe. The Jedi knights’ counterparts, the Sith warriors, also had a role to play in their society that is to tap the dark side of The Force in order to unleash its true potential. This philosophy fueled the desire of the Sith Order such that they were willing to employ brutal methods in order to acquire the power they single-mindedly lusted after.
Despite the binary pitting the Jedi against the Sith, they function in such a way as to render each member collaborating in order to promote solidarity and stability of their respective complex social systems. It is a relative stable pattern of behavior for each Jedi Knight to train extensively in order to assume their guardian role as it is for each Sith warrior to use means (no matter how cruel) by which they can further be empowered by the dark side of The Force. These respective social structures of the Jedi and the Sith are to be maintained to effect consequences for the operation of their societies in general.
The roles being played by these opposing orders are not entirely divorced from our own social reality, as each member of the society has an inherent social function which needs to be performed in order to solidify and stabilize the society. From the menial workers up to the heads of states, all have a social duty to consummate for the society to operate soundly. If, say, the garbage collector fails to do to his or her job, it spells social catastrophe since this results to the possibility of jeopardized public health. Meanwhile, if a city mayor falls short of acting in response to the probability of an epidemic resulting from the failure of garbage collection, whether this action involves firing the sanitation administrator or tapping the public health unit, it also spells social disorder. The members of the society are inscribed in a complex network of regular functions which form the structure that every society appear in. This is how our society as well as those of the Jedi and of the Sith looks like.
There was a need for the Jedi to continue to maintain peace and order in their galaxies because the Sith, by resorting to atrocious methods to be empowered by The Force’ dark side, were a competing force trying to do the opposite. These two opposing orders, the Jedi and the Sith, were the very reason why conflicts-turned-war arose in their universe. The epic battles involving the two, however, characterize the society as a site of inequality that engenders conflict but, more importantly, change. The Sith, in particular, take conflict as central to the pursuit of the Sith philosophy. Conflict is believed by the Sith warriors as empowering individuals and civilizations by enjoining them to change, develop and progress. Furthermore, it guaranteed that only the strong are capable of surviving, paving the way of perfection for Sith warriors. With their strength, the strong deserved more than what the weak cannot even protect themselves from. Meanwhile, the Jedi carries opposite principles that are pacifist by nature and, therefore, perceived by the Sith as obstacles to growth since lack of conflict generates stagnation and devolution. The Jedi’s brand of morality prevented the Sith’s capacity to see and grapple opportunities for progress, hence it was considered an obstruction to be hurdled. Whatever side wins in the conflict, there is a corollary change that subverts the status quo. As a worshipper of the dark force said it succinctly: “Without strife, your victory has no meaning. Without strife, you do not have advance. Without strife, there is only stagnation.”
This binary opposition of the Star Wars universe is likewise a feature of the real-rife society, for a confrontation of social powers are being stages in the arena that’s the society. Very much like the Jedi and the Sith who both aspire for acquisition of power, binaries in the society clash against each other in order to gain the upper hand over the other. The rich versus the poor, the male versus the female, the heterosexuals versus the homosexuals, the whites versus people of color, among other social classes, use their power to exploit their less-empowered antagonists. They function as such in order to create a social structure featuring the empowered class in the center while the exploited class, in the margins. As Emperor Palpatine himself puts a semblance of real-life social conflict in view of the Star Wars universe, “It is natural for him to want to destroy me. It is not crude mundane ambition, as it would be in an ordinary man; it is part of his growth. And of course it does not offend me—it is why I chose him. But he needs to grow still further.”
Still in the movie, the two orders were portrayed such that we would see the Jedi as good and the Sith as evil. This was how Anakin Skywalker viewed the two orders before he turned over to the dark side. If I may quote, Anakin said this in a conversation with Palpatine: “The Jedi is good because they are selfless. The Sith wants power.” In his eyes, the Jedi were good people because he grew up with them and believed that they were protecting their universe from the Sith. However (and again, I shall quote), Palpatine answered him: “And the Jedi do not?” These contrasting views are a product of a difference in perspective. When Anakin became desperate to save his wife from dying from delivery, he resorted to cross over to the dark side, and when he did that, his whole perspective of society changed. He then believed the Sith were good and the Jedi were evil.
This change of heart in Anakin is understandable in the light of symbolic interaction, which supports the fundamental principle that humans act toward things based on the meanings ascribed to those things. This meaning of things is derived from or emerges out of the social interaction that, say, Anakin had with the Jedi first and the Sith next. When the meaning multiplied, the produced meanings were handled in and modified through an interpretive process employed by Anakin in dealing with the things he encountered. He acted favorably at the pacifism of the Jedi because this was the way for the Star Wars universe to achieve peace and order. Living all along with the Jedi made him view pacifism as right and, therefore, good. Because the Sith contradicted the Jedi regarding pacifism (after all, “peace is a lie,” according to the Code of the Sith), Anakin viewed the former as bad. But these views were subverted when Anakin started to suffer nightmares involving his pregnant wife, Senator Padme Amidala, dying at childbirth. Having suffered loss when his mother got murdered, Anakin was bent on discovering a means to avoid death using the Force. He eventually got tempted to accept deceitful Palpatine’s offer to become an apprentice of the dark force in favor of the secret he had been to searching for. By switching loyalties, Anakin also switched perception of the opposing sides.
As in the Star Wars universe, the symbolic interactionist views the real-life society as full of meanings arising from who or what interact within it. They are interpreted as good or bad against the standards of encountered things. For instance, a child growing up in a family of thugs views terrorism as a macho thing. In the same vein, a person who constantly deals with drunkards might have a different way of seeing a vice commonly associated with unproductivity. Another thing, a person who interacts with people with criminal tendencies will have a depreciated notion of criminality as an immoral behavior. In which case, society may have relative concepts of good and evil. It may be bad to kill for one society, but if killing someone in the name of honor is justifiable for another society, then it may not occur as evil at all.
The idea of who are good or evil between the Jedi and the Sith, in conclusion, depends on whose side one is on. If one is for the Jedi, then they are deemed as good and the Sith, evil. If one is for the Sith, then they are deemed as good and the Jedi, evil. In the performance of their respective functions as required by a stable social structure, it is inevitable for them to clash against each other, having opposing ideologies. But to call one or the other good or evil will have to be decided by the values held by the society. Values being social constructs, they may change under specific conditions, as attested by the switch made by Anakin from Jedi to Sith. The pacifist priority of the Jedi might have influenced Anakin into going for the Jedi’s pacifist social behavior. Nonetheless, the lust for power valued by the Sith had eventually influenced Anakin into mebracing the dark side of The Force. In our real-life society, people value things and ideas positively and negatively, and they have reasons for making their evaluations. Substance abuse, for example, is valued negatively because of the ill-effects it creates toward the overall well-being of the person involved in it. For a drug user, however, it may be valued positively as it gives a high. As these values are applied, the views will explain the concept of the good and evil across the social world.
The social structure’s stability and order are sustained by all our consolidated functioning, whether valued as good or bad or even oppositional. The very implication of conflict presents the possibility that what is relatively good for one may be bad for the other, contributing to either the stagnation or development in social structure. What is good for one is often evil to one’s enemies. This already dashes the universality of good and evil. It may occur that even the things perceived as most universally good may turn out to be evil to other species or to the environment, perhaps. What works for a society that yields a good outcome, that is good. What works against one in a society that makes it go against the grain, is nothing else but evil. Conflict between good and evil is a symbolic interaction that functions to givev meaning to social structure. Like the Force that binds the galaxy together, the society has a good side and a bad side, and it depends on the members of the society to relate with one or with the enemy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

timezone, minus pangga

after having dropped by at my student lor's place where i fetched two chocolate bars from hong kong and an ang pao worth a unit at the graduate school, i went to see donita horse in gateway where we would hang out at timezone. it was my first time to be playing there without my pangga, so i was somewhat sad. he got to text me, though, so he eventually learned that i won in the trivia game but without his inspiration, i didn't manage to win jackpot prizes. i had to settle for a few tickets, which donita had exchanged for a violet watch and multi-colored ballpens. she gave me one of her eight-colored writing tools so i could deal with different kinds of papers without having to pick up various shaded pens or to grow mutant arms to handle imperial purple, grass green and infrared ones.
we had a chance to sing at a videoke booth, so we belted out covers including kenny rankin's "hiding inside myself" and martin nievera's "each day with you" (the lyrics of which remind me of my first pangga who deliberately omitted the part following "you give my heart a source of inspiration...," fell silent and turned to working on origamis. i found out that the next lines read: "your beauty is beyond imagination"). beauty seems to be the motif of the hour, as i did covers of fra lippo lippi's "beauty and madness" and celine dion's "beauty and the beast." pangga texted that i should get a hundred percent for singing the latter, to which i replied, "do i get 50% for your beauty and 50% for my beastliness?" he chuckled. donita wanted to sing cristina aguilera's "beautiful," but not having found it, insisted on singing the ballroom staple "time of my life." it must be her characteristic blunder working, since when the machine blared, greenday's "time of your life" rent the air.
it can't be that i won't croon bonnie bailey's "ever after," for that is my and my pangga's theme song. donita was surprised to hear me sing it without the aid of the lyrics, which were frustratingly absent in the videoke machine's monitor. i had to restrain myself from mimicking beyonce's energetic moves while performing the house music. donita was determined to share the theme song with me and my pangga. i could smile. many gays find "ever after" as befitting love theme. why not, when in the midst of heterosexual domination, homophobia and incredulity over lasting gay relationships, we're still humans who won't stop believing a happy ending with each other? i felt relieved, despite pangga's absence. he's far, but then, he's ever so close.:)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

mooncake (for m.)

Open the red box, Love,
And savor the oven-fresh aroma
Of each hopia.
Pick one and feel its paper-thin wrap
Crumble at your slightest touch.
As the remaining mooncakes slant domino-style,
Munch on your flaky piece,
Relishing the sweet mongo filling
In your tongue.
Sense your mouth watering for more
To delight your tastebuds.
Your mother was right
About this product of your hometown:
The world is about this plump roundness
And nothing else besides.
It takes after that pale light in the night sky
But see how many suns it can eclipse
Each time the chewy dough
Reveals its creamy mungbean.
One crunch, and the flavorful mooncake
Can please a multitude’s cravings.

Friday, November 09, 2007

presidential pardon to erap: end notes

Manila Bulletin’s October 26, 2007 news story “GMA pardons Erap; hopes aired for reconciliation” shows one such case in which the Philippine President exercises executive power. In the article, current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo bestowed Executive Clemency to her ousted predecessor Joseph Estrada after his six-year litigation culminated with his conviction on corruption charges. The former president has since accepted his much-criticized successor’s granted pardon, notwithstanding if his lifetime sentence for plunder was meted just a month before and if the restoration of his civil and political rights was interpreted as the other end of a political bargain.
Indeed, the President of the Philippines enjoys a constitutionally-vested executive power, one manifestation of which is the executive clemency exemplified above. This executive capacity vested on the President is stipulated in the Article 7, Section 1 of the Philippines’ supreme law (de Leon, Hector: Rex, 2005). In fact, this inherence of power to only one person that’s the Philippine President makes him or her as the Executive rather than the misnomer Chief Executive, which would mean that there may be other though less powerful executives. Given that Arroyo heads a presidential system of government, the Chief Executive that she is actually implements legislations, among other things, through the many subordinate executives under her office. In the case of freed Erap, Arroyo has her order read by Press Secretary and acting Executive Secretary Ignacio Bunye, served by Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, and only noted by the Sandiganbayan, which decided Erap’s corruption penalty of reclusion perpetua.
Cooley, as noted by de Leon, has defined executive power as “the power to administer the laws, which means carrying them into practical operation and enforcing their due observance.” This means the executive power of Arroyo is defined apart from the judiciary and legislative branches of her government. Whereas the Supreme Court along with the smaller courts interprets the laws and both the Congress and Senate make laws, the President as Executive implements laws which, de Leon adds, “include the Constitution, statutes enacted by Congress, decrees (issued under the 1973 Constitution), and executive orders of the President, and decisions of courts.” Apart from the Section 19 executive capacity to bestow reprieves, commutations, and pardons as in the case of Erap, the Philippine President can summon the armed forces to crush rebellion or invasion as the Commander-in-Chief, can declare martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, can contract or guarantee foreign loans, and can make bureaucratic appointment.
In granting pardon to Erap, Arroyo cites “her government’s policy of releasing inmates who have reached the age of 70 and have served considerable amount of jail time.” While the first qualifier is acceptable since Erap is already 70 years at the time of his conviction, the second qualifier is questionable since the one-month prison service of Erap right after the Sandiganbayan’s sentence and just before the handing down of the presidential clemency is hardly “considerable amount,” if at all. It may be interpreted, though, that the six-year litigation of Erap while in house arrest in Tanay, Rizal is that relatively long “jail time” being referred to in the order. The rapid period in which the pardon came just when Erap was in the initial days of his lifelong imprisonment naturally reeks of a political trade wherein Erap promises never to run public office in the future. The bargain from Erap does not seem an acceptance of guilt (his legal counsels are still making an appeal, after all) nor an expression of public apology, so the presidential pardon appears being jeopardized for abuse. It can even be read as a preemption of what bleak future in jail probably awaits Arroyo if she should suffer the exact same fate as her predecessor. On the other hand, it may indeed be euphemistically read as a much-awaited “national reconciliation amid years of bitter political division.” Whatever the agenda, the case in question is Arroyo’s exercise of her absolute power of presidential prerogative to grant executive clemency. First qualifier is “absolute”; second is “prerogative”—there appears to be no argument when it comes to being the Executive. What is worth pondering upon is the fact that the Philippine President, herself mired in issues of moral ascendancy, remains the only and final judge of national interest in a country so divided over a controversial pardon.