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!"

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

what is a leader made of?

“Leaders are not born but made,” proclaims an ancient truth. Since leaders do not emerge fully-grown out of laboratory vats, they have humanity, style and personality customized over time by several values commonly associated with leadership. Whether deemed good or bad, leaders are generally perceived to be—in varying degrees—intelligent, energetic, power- and achievement-driven, decisive, skillful and determined.
Characteristically, a good leader motivates his followers to collaborate and is capable of catalyzing the organization. Using his vision and mission as compass, he directs his workers toward fulfilling goals. Also, he cherishes honesty, optimism, and competence and inspires his followers to nurture the same ingredients. One leader, the recently demised Pope John Paul II, shepherded the Catholic flock with enthusiastic faith, inspiring Christians around the globe to uphold Godliness despite blows of New Age cults, religious cynicism and other social ills.
On the other hand, it is not far-fetched that a good leader has his exact opposite: the bad leader. The latter is almost always depicted as incompetent, corrupt, position tripping and power-hungry. One such example, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, whipped his followers into ethnic frenzy and promoted Aryan supremacy at the expense of Holocaust victims, mostly Jews. His bad leadership intoxicated by excessive power marred world unity through Hitler’s self-serving racist motives.
Because of varying degrees of human composition, leaders across geographical, historical and cultural milieus differ too. However, the margin separating good and bad leaders dissolves in the abovementioned skills possessed by both, only that the good ones are better disposed in most sets, say, in communication and decision-making. When, where, and how errors sink in—these are the questions good leaders are better equipped in answering than bad ones.
In business and society, bad leaders may be spliced to give way to good ones by eradicating bad followership. As it is, both leaders and followers take responsibility into account. One way of lessening bad leadership in order to strengthen good leadership is limiting leaders’ tenure. If leaders are Machiavellian, they tend to harbor unproductive attitudes like complacency, denial of reality, moral erosion and grandiosity. Another is decentralizing power to maximize its use and to lend importance on delegation and cooperation. Another is having a balanced lifestyle and a firm control over success, power, money and the like—leaders should neither be alcoholic nor given to excesses, for instance.
As a follower, I tend to render every work-related thing jeopardized if I submit to a bad leader. By becoming bad, my manager has lost his moral ascendancy to lead me and the rest of my colleagues, not if he proves good. Citing that obedience my manager is imperative, I must beware of the negative consequences of abiding his directives and must relish the prospect of his instructions’ good reward. I will understand that my leader has expertise power, and his knowledge and skill merit my taking his advice. Furthermore, my manager has the traits I desire to have, so I am bent on supporting him if only to know more this person. For me or anyone not to be harassed or unjustly fired, a periodic leadership evaluation should be effected to make check and balance of my superior’s work attitudes. It helps that my leader, as he exercises tolerable amount of power in accomplishing company goals, remains humanly wise and inspirational. Cognizant of his flaws, my leader should be capable of managing his shortcomings so the whole workforce will achieve fullness. After all, a manager is not always right or wrong but is always able to adopt the accurate strategy given certain circumstances.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the sublime art that is euro cinema

The different cultures that inform Europe-Latin America and the United States shape the way through which these cultures are interpreted in the respective geographical locations’ art, in cinema for instance. Euro-Latin American films are not called films for no reason at all, in the same manner that America’s dream factory, Hollywood, churns out productions that are mostly movies instead of films. The abovementioned claims may be supported by the fact that Euro-Latin American films are directed toward the production of art first and foremost, whereas Hollywood movies are directed toward the consumerist goal of conquering the box-office. As such, Euro-Latin American films have a nobler commitment as an art form compared to Hollywood movies that opt for commercial appeal. Euro-Latin American films, for example, present scenes as naturally as possible. They are devoid of romanticism, frequently choosing to be expressed understatedly. This characteristic restraint is rarely found in Hollywood movies, which often draw attention to themselves by accompanying high points in the plot with backdrop music or grandiose dialogues. Whereas Hollywood movies blow their big budgets by capitalizing on special effects or explosive productions, Euro-Latin American films have the subtlety to bank on the acting and directorial skills of the people working on and for the films. In short, Euro-Latin American films are for substance while Hollywood movies, for form. While less is more makes for the beauty of Euro-Latin American films, the visual mediums from Hollywood obscure their artsy counterpart with imperialistic promotion across the globe.
Hollywoodization notwithstanding, three European films that I find experientially enjoyable include Babette’s Feast, Cinema Paradiso and Europa, Europa. In the first film, I encountered a character whose humble act of self-sacrifice changes the way the people in her adoptive community relate with one another. Babette, a French political refugee, chooses to be a low-key cook even as she used to work as a prestigious chef back in Paris. Instead of using the lottery prize she won to leave the two Danish sisters she had been serving for more than a decade, she spent it by holding a banquet for the sisters’ religious sect. Such good intention did not go unrewarded, as the small religious congregation that had feasted on wine, bread, turtle, sauces, quail in sarcophagus, grapes and figs and cake with fruits and liquor felt a transcendental experience of forgiving one another for committed sins, of reconciling their past conflicts. This world-changing selflessness, to me, is amazing for its religious parallels in such spiritual giants like Jesus Christ, Mohammed and Gautama Buddha. They all arrive in a flawed place that needs salvation, and instead of backing out they choose to endure the yoke of their sacrifice. In the case of Babette, she even prepared an epicurean feast that feed the soul apart from the body. The multilayered insight into the humility, self-sacrifice and service of the human spirit makes this film a true representation of the European film: it is subtle (which is a departure from the too-embellished Hollywood formula), selfless (for choosing to forego box-office for art’s sake) and serving (for offering significant human experience).
On the other hand, Cinema Paradiso puts forth the theme of reality being stranger than fiction. Life, obviously, is more real than movies, and this reality asserts itself through the rusty anchor that will not allow Toto to leave his slow-moving town, the vast sea that separates him from economic opportunities away from home, and the demolition of Cinema Paradiso that destroys the escape to fantasy by the moviegoers as well as a signal to return to reality. Most especially, this descent to reality occurs in Salvatore’s love life, since his and Elena’s relationship was broken because happy endings happen only in the movies, not in their real lives. Salvatore might have triumphed in his career but reality sets in to remind him that this success was bittersweet since he jeopardized his relationship. His teary eyes while viewing the kissing scenes in the cinema show the yearning for an aborted love. He could have consummated this relationship, but real life merited his choice of success over love life.
Meanwhile, Europa, Europa is so entitled to draw attention to the subject being the central concern of the plot. The repetition of the name helps the audience focus on the reference of the film. The drowning scene involving Solomon Perel is a cue to the life of the protagonist: he gets overcome by the waters of deception and he gasps for air due to his concealed identity, rendering him suffocated. His dream of a supper with an increasingly disappearing family is the price to pay for covering his identity: he loses the family that he can best identify in. His shared elevator ride with Hitler is a reference to the surrendering of his Jewish identity in favor of his survival as a German, something subverted in the dream since Hitler confesses to being the Jewish that Perel attempts to give up to begin with. Only when Perel had acted heroically by siding into his Jewish kind did he finally own up to his persecuted identity and while he gave away an opportunity to survive the Holocaust, he was able to liberate himself. Perel’s eventual revelation of his true citizenship is a life-changing decision that offers the lesson of being true to oneself.
European cinema, at best, is a sincere representation of life being raised to the level of the sublime. Not only does it honestly depict social realities from the cruelty of human killing in Olivier, Olivier to the brutal extent poverty will drive people in Maria, Full of Grace but also does it send important messages about universality of life as well as contextuality of life in other cultures. By screening various embodiments of the human spirit, one becomes humanized because of the insights one learns from these films. European cinema is relevant in that it is a mirror through which the audience may know themselves as well as realize the social conditions that persist. While other art forms like literature and painting may drive home the same humanizing point, their combination in the form of cinema makes the storytelling more tantalizing and exciting. While there exist other cinemas like those in Hollywood and homegrown movies, European cinema is a special case because it has been consistent in portraying life in the most artful presentation possible, without pressing regard for making money at the tills owing to the more important purpose of conveying significant human experience seen uniquely through the eyes of European artists.

Friday, March 27, 2009

iskandalo ang kasamaan

Iskandalo sa pananampalataya ang kasamaan. Ito ay dahil sa pilosopiya ng relihiyon, ang suliranin ng kasamaan ay ang masalimuot na pagtanggap na habang umiiral ang Diyos, umiiral din ang kasamaan o paghihirap sa mundo. Iskandalo sa pananampalataya ang ganito dahil maaari Niyang pigilan ang kasamaan o hindi Niya pipigilan ito. Kung hindi niya pipigilan o maaaring pigilan ang kasamaan, paano pa siya naging Diyos na makapangyarihan? Sa mga nananampalataya, masamang kailangan ang kasamaan para sa pag-iral ng mas mabubuting bagay gaya ng malayang isipan o pag-unlad ispiritwal, may kasamaan dahil hindi natin mauunawaan ang Diyos, ang kasamaan ay simpleng kawalan ng kabutihan, o di kaya ay karampatang parusa. Anu't anuman, ang pananampalatayang nadudungisan ng kasamaan ay nababahiran ng pagkakamali dahil may kalayaan namang pumili bago magkamali. Subalit, sa tapat na pananalig, posible pa ring manampalataya sa kabila ng kasamaan at umasa kahit may tuksong mawalan ng pag-asa. Hindi man tuluyang madadaig ang pagsubok na kasamaan, may praktikal na kilos na tugon sa ganitong pagsubok. Posible pa ring manampalataya sa kabila ng kasamaan dahil kikilos para hindi gawin ang hindi nararapat at ang dapat labanan, sa kaso nito, ang kasamaan. Ganito umiral ang mga mito: mga sagradong kuwento ng mga Diyos hinggil sa pinagmulan ng mga bagay-bagay kasama na ang paglikha sa tao at ang patutunggali ng mabuti at masama. Lamang, kahit paigtingin pa ang praktikal na pakikibaka laban sa kasamaan, hindi maaaring hindi masubok ng tukso. Pag-asa ang tugon kahit may tuksong mawalan ng pag-asa dahil sa presensya ng dahas na nagdudulot ng paghihirap ng tao. Ang pagkilos ng pag-asa ay bumabawas ng kantidad ng kasamaan sa mundo. Ngunit hindi sapat ang ganitong pagkilos sapagkat dapat ding tumugon ang emosyon. Sa pagluluksa naipapakita ang pangangailangang tangaping hindi mauunawaan kung bakit kailangang mabulid sa tukso gayong maaaring iba na lang. Sa pagluluksa at pagreklamo sa Diyos, nagiging katartiko ang emosyon kaya nga natutuklasan na kaya nananampalataya at umaasa sa Diyos kahit na may kasamaan ay dahil isakandalo lamang ito sa mga taong hindi mapagtugma ang sabay na pag-iral ng Diyos at ng kasamaan. Dapat manampalataya kahit na may kasamaan.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

eureka! i found out taquito sweet!

vintage nonfiction this is. enjoy still.:)
Couldn’t figure it out. I thought at first it was you-know-who, but I should have done so with cunning. Again I attempted by assuming it was he-is-himself, yet I could be disqualified joining this quiz show still without the exact person’s embodiment talking to my face. Futilely I pressed the buzzer and, looking up the ceiling like it could supply the correct words, guessed, “It’s X, right?” “It’s Taquito Sweet,” the quizmaster swiftly pronounced; seconds later I was dragged by the guards and was pushed into the ravine half-filled with black beans labeled “tausi” in the market.
“It’s unfair!” I protested while I wiped away the slimy bean tinge that stained my skin. “From the start I was ill-favored, how much more could I give the perfect answer considering I was poorly reinforced?” In my misery I silenced, meditating how I could leap out of the gaping earth. My mind bulb lit up like I just conceived a brilliant idea of establishing a no-Math school, yielding an intricate plan which might salvage me from twice losing unarmed in an I.Q. (Idiot Quest/ Intelligence Questionable/ Ignoramus, Quite) show.
Rising from the prune pool I rendered myself fit for a mental combat as to unveiling this Taquito Sweet. I hurried home, thrust my survival kit inside a bag, and then began my surveillance. I found myself in the Men’s Dorm neatly stalking, a job in which James Bond was deemed best. Warily I sneaked into the room the person with the physique-less bio data was supposedly lurking (in lurking I meant religious molting of filthy shirts, ceaseless littering of unwashed dishes, anything whatever which could shoot up the already high blood pressure of the house parent).
I waited and waited in my hiding place, afraid I did for Godot. As the good stars would have it, an angelic countenance dashed into the room, seeming weary from class’ torture. “He is the one,” I whispered to myself. I watch him as he casually propelled his tired body in bed: soon he could soar off this planet, as he was fast asleep. Taking advantage of this scene I looked on his hung I.D. which broadcast the initials K.L. in his locker, my eyes fell on “Lantern King” scribbled in various font sizes and styles.
Whether or not his name is King of the Lanterns, he would remain the Taquito Sweet that got me trounced in a mind-above-all contest. I shut up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


My love is the color
Of the crimson La Bandera,
Of the rouge in your cheeks,
Of your cherry, cherry lips.
However red the color
Of my passion is,
I will always be blue…

Monday, March 23, 2009

the crisis of human rights versus national autonomy

As the New Year unfolded, headlines about Israel’s invasion of Gaza were carried by various media across the globe. The bombings reduced many material properties to rubbles. What is more, human suffering was such that 40 percent of the casualties and 50 percent of the injured comprised women and children. Perhaps what was most devastating is the fact that the West, home to modern democracy and capitalist-sponsored social development, backed Israel in turning the dream of Arab/Muslim-West coexistence into a nightmare.
Atrocities like this challenge the conventional notion about the West-born United Nations, the prototype of a world government at present, as an institution that champions world peace among other ideals. Its slow action in the Gaza conflict and its tolerance of Israel’s Western backing seem a legitimate execution of its Charter provision regarding the non-intervention on any member nation’s state of independence. However, this appears to have been done to the detriment of the rights of the affected people. As such, a pressing question is, “Should autonomy of states in the international system be respected even if they violate the human system of their citizens?”
Tackling the abovementioned issue is relevant to the lessons in international relations since the highly globalized affairs of nations render them inseparable from the concept of world community. Hence, if within the international circle there are conflicts that endanger the community’s upheld principles of camaraderie and harmony, the very foundation of world peace is being defeated. The interconnections among nation-states are put at risk if the very elements of such interlink do not apply consensus at the home front.
The abovementioned thesis question to be addressed by this essay boils down to the binary involving autonomy and international relations, with the issue of local human rights abuses as the point of discussion.
The postwar period saw the United Nations’ birth as an avenue for resolving differences in a bid to prevent the eruption of another world war. Its responsibilities broadened since, from helping liberate colonies to performing peacekeeping missions. UN’s interventions like the ones mentioned did not all succeed since member nations disagree on the means to execute the interventions. Also, the UN Charter hinders actions that tamper with the independence of its members. In effect, member countries with internal records of human rights violations against their citizens have received varying degrees of intervention from the international system including the UN. For example, while the UN deployed peacekeepers to protect the ethnic Kurds from the brutality of the Iraqi government in the 1990s, it did not do so during the massacre of a million Tutsis by the Hutu tribe in Rwanda. Also, whereas the North Atlantic Treaty Organization halted Serbs from attacking ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999, the UN was unhurried to do so against Serbs who persecuted Muslims in Bosnia in an act of “ethnic cleansing.”
These human rights abuses that consist of torture and random arrest take place everywhere despite the approval of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, a document entitling all people to fundamental rights and freedoms “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, property, birth, or other status.” These basic rights comprise the person’s right to life, liberty and security. In 1975, additional basic rights like freedom of speech, religion, and the press as well as the rights to fair trial, to earn a living and to live in safety were guaranteed in the signing of the Helsinki Accords. Notwithstanding, certain countries accusing the West of forcing individualism continue to violate the rights of their citizens, citing that their cultures prioritize the community over the individual. Two years ago, Parade Magazine listed down these countries’ leaders who figured as the world’s worst dictators and they include:
1. Omar al-Bashir of Sudan
2. Kim Jong-il of North Korea
3. Sayyid Ali KhamEnei of Iran
4. Hu Jintao of China
5. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
6. Than Shwe of Myanmar
7. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
8. Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan
9. Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya
10. Bashar al-Assad of Syria
11. Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea
12. King Mswati III of Swaziland
13. Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea
14. Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus
15. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan
16. Choummaly Saysone of Laos
17. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia
18. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt
19. Paul Biya of Cameroon
20. Vladimir Putin of Russia
To be specific, Chinese leaders have justified the violation of individual political freedom in the name of economic goals like enhancing the Chinese people’s standard of living. Apart from China, countries like Indonesia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Myanmar have been accused of imprisoning and harassing their citizens for expressing their thoughts. State-sponsored terrorism like those allegedly carried by Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria happens not only outside these countries’ territories but also at home, intentionally using violence against civilians to attain political objectives through bombings, plane hijackings, shootings, torture, murder and illegal arrests.
In the midst of all these, the international community remains lax in terms of intervening in behalf of local citizens whose individual rights have been abused. It may be that countries like South Africa, Haiti and El Salvador have taken their own initiative to examine previous governments’ violations and Bosnia and Rwanda have answered summons in the international tribunals owing to their war crimes, but by and large, national autonomy and the UN Charter on tamper-proof independence protect tyrannical regimes from being accountable to the international community for their human rights abuses.
Analysis and conclusions:
While the state of global affairs today merits the absence of a universal government ruling over independent sovereignties, a world system like the UN can serve as a leader that has the superior power to perform an important component of international relations: foreign intervention. The ambiguous movements of the UN every time any of its member countries gets monitored as having perpetuated human rights crimes does not make it effective as an international system tasked at creating and sustaining social order. There is no social order (hence, there is dispute, conflict or chaos) if somewhere in the supposedly free world, individuals are jailed for speaking their minds or governments wield iron-hand rule over their subjects. Obviously, the United Nations came into existence in order to prevent wars, and this might include conflicts at the grassroots level. Corollary to this, the basic human rights of people enshrined in the UDHR document should be upheld at all cost, especially if the governments subjecting these people under tortures of whatever form are distorting their privilege of national autonomy.
How can interventions be done? It has been conducted before by the international community that pressured South Africa into dissolving its law on the apartheid under the pains of economic deprivation. For fear that global aids will halt and the government goals will be paralyzed, South Africa had grudgingly surrendered to said pressure. Also, in the works now is the economic paralysis of Zimbabwe if and when its dictator will continue to whip his genocidal madness onto the citizens. The UN is vigorously voting for the curtailment of economic aid to that African government, although China and Russia as well as Zimbabwe’s staunch supporter South Africa back it up with the invocation of the UN Charter on the upholding of Zimbabwe’s autonomy. Nonetheless, the above cases prove that with international relations in priority, a global system can actually materialize a significant action toward the greater respect for basic human rights than for national autonomies that ironically suppress the liberties of their citizens and, ultimately, that do not take seriously the principles of United Nations.
For as long as these despotic governments operate unlawfully, there will be citizens who get victimized by social injustice, eventually defeating the purpose of the UN as a global peacekeeping institution. What is more, by tolerating dictatorships into using national autonomy as an excuse to place community interest above that of civilians, the international system becomes an accomplice to the heinous crimes committed against humanity.
Al-Saeed, Abul Rahman (February 16, 2009). “Revive the Saudi Peace Plan.” In Newsweek, Vol. CLIII, No.7.
Ellis, Elisabeth Gaynor and Anthony Esler (2001). World History: Connections to Today. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Farah, Mounir and Andrea Berens Karls (1999). World History: The Human Experience. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Muñoz, Heraldo, ed (2006). Democracy Rising: Assessing the Global Challenges. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.
Saffell, David (2002). Civics: Responsibilities and Citizenship. New York: McGraw Hill.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

lovesick (for mr. spectacular)

"ngiti mong kay ganda/siguradong mami-miss kita..."
- ingat ka, silent sanctuary

by the lily-filled river, the lover lies
waiting for the beloved to come.
wounded at the heart when he fails to arrive,
he casts on paper his spurned love.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I will draw Gapan’s green fields,
The skies above Sinukuan,
And I will sing out songs to show
How I really feel about you…
But I’m neither a painter nor a singer
And my idea is all in mind.
I guess I’d rather compose poems
Because I’m good at it
And with my poetry
And your unceasing inspiration,
I can draw Gapan’s fields
And Sinukuan skies,
And I can sing out my emotions
Just as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

black man’s burden: a look at alan paton’s cry, the beloved country

Alan Paton’s widely-celebrated novel Cry, the Beloved Country (New York: Scribner, 2003) is set in the highly divided country of South Africa, at the prewar time when apartheid or the separation of white citizens from black ones was being institutionalized by South Africa’s white-ruled Nationalist party. This setting contributed to the development of the story which puts racial segregation at the heart of the touching story of human love and compassion.
The foremost protagonist in the story is the native pastor Stephen Kumalo. Most of the scenes focusing on him show that he is a pillar of strength despite the disgrace by his prostituted sister, by his murderous son, and by his yet-married, pregnant daughter-in-law. Above this disgrace, the growing degree of hardship in dealing with his corrupt brother John, with the trial result, with his encounter of James, the murdered white man’s father, and generally with the deepening wound caused by apartheid, tests this man of faith to prove the umfundizi—God’s servant—that he is. As a proof, Kumalo himself philosophizes, “Who knows what keeps us living and struggling, while all things break about us? (p. 94) and ends his reflection with Psalms 23:4. In a higher level, his struggle is representative of the struggles of the black people, because “the white man has broken the tribe…but it has not suited him to build something in the place of what is broken” (p.54).
Another protagonist is James Jarvis, the father of the murdered white Kafferboetie (brother to blacks). He remained forgiving and philanthropic although the one responsible for his son’s murder belongs to the native he gave generous help to. He was motivated by his son’s writings, and being a dweller in Ndotseni’s neighboring High Place, he did not hesitate to show generosity to the black people although there is apartheid going on.
The main conflict involves Absalom: having been caught in the oppressive system (intending to fulfill an evil purpose at a white man’s expense), does he have to suffer the action’s consequence or not? After killing the engineer accidentally, he is seen as confused whether to confess to the police or not. His conscience haunts him, but the plan comes late when the police arrests him. Absalom has turned evil when he is exposed to the city, but after losing his innocence, he is answerable for the misdeeds he has conducted. Hence, the conflict was resolved when the court decided to issue a death sentence to Absalom, although the reader’s sympathy falls for his father, and especially because justice deserves to be served to him and to be offered to the grieving family of the man he killed.
The theme of goodness and forgiveness appears to give justice to the story of a native man and his quest of a lifetime, in response to their stark contrast of social injustice and racial prejudice which are controversial issues discussed in the novel. Despite the ordeals Stephen Kumalo and James Jarvis have to deal with, they remain good and forgiving, actions that God-fearing individuals like them manifest naturally. Stephen Kumalo did not turn against his prostitute sister or to his criminal son as are evident in Books I and II, nor did James Jarvis, who instead of neglecting the native people among whom was his son’s murderer, he helped save their village from famine, as is evident in Book III.
The novel is full of local color, and having been set in exotic Africa, has native words with their translation along the text or defined in the accompanying glossary. The African language Zulu equivalents of Mr., Mrs., and other addresses of respect were used instead of the English, like Inkosi (Mr.), Inkonsikazi (Mrs.), Inkonsana (little master) and Umfundizi (parson or, sometimes, sir). African descriptions like kloof (ravine), kraal (enclosure for cattle), titihoya (a local bird) also give an alien touch. Even Afrikaans, the simplified version of the language of Holland-descended Afrikaners, figures in the novel, like the word Kafferboetie, which describes people championing the rights of non-Europeans. The native Xosa appears as well, as in the word Tixo, which roughly means Great Spirit.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

to my academic children

It was beyond my imagination that things have gone this way. All I ran after was to teach in the most effective manner I can, so that by the time you get launched into the larger, more dangerous landscape that’s the University of Man, you are equipped with sufficient knowledge and skills to survive the socio-politico-cultural challenges ahead of you. For you, to complement my goal: to learn in such a way that you will aspire more to become catalysts of social change than to become just skilled workers answering the imperialist call of globalization. At the end of each class, we go on separate ways; after all, I myself am rounding up my academic coursework, I have a social circle to update, I possess a love life to help transform my unexciting fashion of seeing the world. I figure that some of you have part-time jobs to attend to, most have families to tend, all have personal demons—unrequited love, identity crisis, economic hardships, spiritual barrenness, among others—to struggle against.
But we are all humans, no matter how modern living has significantly decreased our capacity to feel and to make real connections. The class meetings have spawned more lessons than lazy teachers and resentful students care to know, so perhaps the regular face-to-face interactions brought so much familiarity that you are no longer statistical data to me, and I no longer the teacher who makes you grow white hairs over the complex relationship between literature and various ideologies. You amaze me when you take the lessons seriously even when I told you never to be blinded by certain philosophies; I cannot begin to think how many of you abandoned your ambitions of putting up businesses when I made it clear that literature will hopefully not turn you into cold-blooded capitalists, or of working abroad when I pointed out that literature has recorded how diasporic people in search of greener pastures got victimized by the first-class citizens of their country of transplantation, or of succeeding in romantic relationships when I told you that literature reflects men’s historical violence against women, or of becoming mestizos and mestizas when I argued that literature continues to present colonial people’s plight of seeing themselves inferior to the white colonizers. Thank you for appreciating literature and its related arts, but more than this, please recognize and realize its social commitment of providing insights into life in order for all of us to pursue ideals like beauty, justice, love, truth and goodness. We need to humanize ourselves in order to make this world a truly livable place for all of us.
And that did it in, that humanizing process which makes us see our relationships as filial, agape, spiritual. Our lives have become forever intertwined such that you will never come across a certain text by a certain author, a particular style or an operating hegemony without associating this to that time a specific piece of literature had been taken in class. We may be torn asunder by geographical distance, but we have been changed in this way: a part of you exists in me, a part of myself exists in you, so that we cannot fully claim being all our own because a part of someone lives and grows and transcends in everybody.
Some chapters of our lives end whether we like it or not and no matter how hard we try to prolong these. It may be unfair, but like what seems an ordinary chance encounter at life’s crossroads, it is all a part of a grand design. We have met one another not so much as your getting a 1.00 from my class as a fulfillment of destiny’s nobler purpose. We have met because we have something to pass on to one another, and this may come in the form of friendship, a dream of nation-building, inner peace or conventional wisdom. We may lose touch soon, either in normal ways or in that final stroke to our mortality, but always remember that something in your wholeness glows similar to that light found in everyone else. Stoke it, nurture it, because it is a luminosity that shall perpetually remind you of me.

Monday, March 09, 2009

the issue of diaspora in milan

The story started in a narrow, scorching, dark and bare room. In that room, Lino (Piolo Pascual) and Mary Grace (Iza Calzado) are a couple hugging each other while asleep. It is not enough for them to share the love they have for one another to lead serene lives and Mary Grace cannot seem to forget her longing to migrate to another country. Maybe because it is her irritation on lack of material possessions that made her have second thoughts regarding love as a substitute for stomach filling. This could be a reason why many Filipinos are going overseas just to be able to escape the hardships they are experiencing here in the Philippines.
One scene from the movie shows preparation for the fiesta, a grand Philippine celebration that involves throwing away lots of money. If the family of Mary Grace would think of the hard-up situation they are in right now due to a larger financial crisis lashing the country, they would do away with the fiesta. They favor so much having imported things coming from an overseas-contract working daughter; on the other hand, there is a man suffering because his loved one ran away and her family is also hiding her from him. But luckily, Lino intercepted Mary Grace’s letters for her own family.
The movie goes on to the fiesta and the happiness that the people share with one another. Through this, Lino feels sad because of his miserable long-distance relationship with his wife. The people celebrating the fiesta are all smiling; meanwhile, Lino’s tears are also showing.
The TNT experience reaches tension while the story gets deeper into the wilderness of life. The expatriate Filipinos could not see anymore the path that they are walking just to migrate to another country. Many animals in life’s thorny wilderness hinder them from the life they wanted to have—insatiate family needs, subjection to capitalistic tortures, etc. From the wanting life they have right now in the Philippines, they feel hope that out of this hardship springs prosperity while suffering away from the native land.
The migrants are working so hard just to earn money for their own family. Every possible thing that could make them wealthy, they are willing to try it. In Italy, pride is never in the vocabulary if one wants to live. A lawyer is an attorney in the Philippines, Vangie is a teacher, whereas Lino is a mechanical engineer but here in Milan, all of them are workers. They are just enduring what they suffer right now because when they return to the Philippines, they feel financially superior against everybody. In Milan, the TNT and the domestic helpers are all equal. OFWs do not have to classify themselves since all of them are workers, anyway. The people they work for give more importance to dogs than to them.
The miracle here is how the OFWs found themselves on their own, knowing that they live in a different country. They were able to see the beauty of living there despite the hardship they are encountering. They get to learn the life that they have, that they are living to serve the people in their lives. Jenny hates doves before because they only come to them when they need something and after they get tired of using them, they just leave them behind. Not anymore when she realized life is beautiful even to humans being treated like working machines. Despite everything, the characters still see the beauty of life because everything happens for a reason.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

reterritorializing american literature: reclaiming the position of ethnic american literature

Even in a corpus of literature deemed major like American literature, there exists a collection of literary texts that belongs to what is pejoratively labeled as minor literature. With minor, I borrow from Karen Caplan who asserted that “being ‘Minor’…is not a question of essence…but a question of position—a subject position that can only be defined, in the final analysis, in political terms, that is, in terms of the effects of economic exploitation, political disenfranchisement, social manipulation, and ideological domination on the formation of minority subjects and discourses.” Hence, in the midst of canonical writings like those by Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Robert Frost, e.e. cummings and other (mostly) white male literary heavyweights, minor literature by women, blacks, diasporic races (like our very own Jose Garcia Villa) and other Others has been made to play second fiddle. It does not matter if the minor literature possesses “‘enlightenment’ or ‘maturation’ of the individual as he becomes gradually integrated into the larger social whole,” according to Filipino postcolonialist Priscelina Patajo-Legasto; the fact that it was written by authors whose subject position is the West’ Other makes for its unfair qualification as a marginalized literature.
To this category do poems like Tato Laviera’s “Latero Story,” Cathy Song’s “Blue Lantern” and “The Youngest Daughter,” Garrett Hongo’s “Who Among You Knows the Essence of Garlic?” Bernice Zamora’s “On Living in Aztlan” and novels like Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony are designated. Because of Western hegemonic politics, these minor literary texts’ aesthetic value gets ignored and often in their inclusion in American literary studies, it is to the fulfillment of homogenizing and/or exoticizing ends. However, I wish to put forth an alternative possibility that in studying these texts side by side with the perceived canon of contemporary American writing, the project is to reclaim the position of ethnic American writers as legitimate parts of American literature. Through reterritorialization in this major body of literature, universal literature gets demythicized as dissident voices from the margins, i.e. Latinos like Laviera and Zamora, Asian-Americans like Song and Hongo and Native Americans like Silko become objects of serious literary studies, redeemed from what Walter Lowenfels laments as the genocidal rejection of writers of color juxtaposed against a literary pseudostandard that render them underrepresented. Ultimately, when the Western aesthetic ideologies are explained to work on behalf of Western hegemony but, simultaneously, to the detriment of writings considered minor politically, this subversion of universal literature will succeed in elevating minor literature from the margins.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

faith in action: the point of being a christian

Timothy Radcliffe wrote What is the Point of Being a Christian? with the pursuit of Christian truth in mind. His friend asked the title question, which Radcliffe answered initially with “because it is true.” Since the author argues that “A religion that tires to market itself as useful for some other purpose—because it gets rid of stress or makes you wealthy—is shooting itself in the foot,” he does not feel any need to validate his answer in away the friend will get rationally satisfied. What he means is that religion should exist as an end instead of as a means to some other ends if it does not want to crumble before the very eyes of its disappointed faithful. He adds, “If [religion] has to justify itself by serving some other end, then it cannot be a religion that one could take seriously. The point of any religion is to point us to God who is the point of everything.” In here, he shares the usual sentiment that religion is faith-based rather than reason-based, so why the need to elaborate on its object, the mystical entity that’s God?
Nonetheless, the eleven chapters of the book slowly crystallize that very point. Taking his friend’s question seriously, Radcliffe checks on the belief that Christians apply in their personal contexts. He asks, “If we talk about love and fellowship, but there is none, then why should anyone believe us?” This question is not unlike the verse in the book of Corinthians in which the idea of Christian lie is more of practice than of mere lip service. The Christian truth is the fulfillment of the Christ-likeness of an individual as one relates among other people within one’s community. The book tackles this truth as well as the underpinned concepts why different sects of faith, different denominations within the Christian Church and different factions within the Catholic Church exist.
The chapters of the book discuss such essentials of Christian faith a freedom, happiness, courage and the like, elements that should be applied in a Christian’s life if one must understand what Christianity essentially is. In Chapter 3 entitled “The Peaceful Sea,” Radcliffe says, “Freedom shows the point of Christianity because it discloses the final goal of our lives, which is to share in God’s unspeakable freedom.” A Christian must see oneself as free since God Himself is. One does not enjoy when one is constrained, impeded or burdened; when causes of constraints, impediments or burdens are absent, one can rejoice because of freedom. The conception of freedom which is the power of choice is associated with moral responsibility. Thus, in choosing to realize desires, one must pursue them voluntarily. The purpose gets defeated when one does involuntary acts. One is truly free if one deems moral responsibility in practicing one’s power of choice. Whatever desire one is moved into pursuing, one has the freedom to think and decide what makes this desire worth the achievement. It depends on one’s power of choice if the desire brings good or harm in such a manner that one’s decision will make one good or bad as a result of pursuing or abandoning one’s desire. One is free but the freedom must be performed in consideration of moral responsibility. One’s conscience dictates this, which is a reminder of God who laid down moral laws that define the human dignity of an obedient Christian.
In Chapter 7 entitled “I Am Because We Are,” the author asserts, “I only discover who I am with others.” A Christian must see oneself as being inseparable to other humans because all of them are children of God. Thus, one has the duty to perform for one another the sacrifice God Himself performed in order to save us from the hellish consequence of sinning. One must follow God be making a sacrifice for others. One responds to this Christ-likeness especially when one disposes one’s duty toward the less fortunate brethren within the community. One’s being with them makes one approach God because these underprivileged brethren are nearest to God because of their underdog state. When one reaches out to the poor, the needy, the sick, or the downtrodden, one becomes closer to God since the act is fair to this God of justice. As a Christian, one must fulfill the doctrines of God about loving one’s neighbors because by treating these unfortunate brethren fairly, one fulfills the equality among humans that God expected of everybody. One must live among them, meaning one needs to link together the circumstances one and other people live in. When one is more fortunate, one is in the position to help the less fortunate ones. Only when this is done does the Christian duty to love one’s neighbors get fulfilled.
Lastly, in the Conclusion, the author puts forth that “a certain focus has emerged…[w]e are called to be at home in ways that are apparently as far apart as one might imagine, in our bodies and in the Kingdom.” This is to say that the a Christian needs to believe and follow “the Way, the Truth and the Life” in order to pursue God’s perfection. It is hard to attain perfection, but one should be undaunted because to attempt to approach it is not bad at all in consideration of being a true Christian. It is significant to follow God since being moral or being for God has been required of Christians when God established the commandments. These laws are absolute truths that all humans can access. Due to this universality of the law and the fact that moral law is contextualized from the human condition, the moral law must be followed by all humans no matter what cultures they belong to. Directing one’s life toward God is living a Christian life toward God’s perfection.
The point of being a Christian is to be Christ-like in the very essence of that word. To be like Christ is becoming a true believer of God’s promise and applying this belief by living a life under the requirements of God, the Ten Commandments. Christ was able to obey this set of laws, He being the very author of these laws, so He is the perfect example that must be emulated. While humans are wholly fallible due to the original and the committed sins done each day (making humans imperfect hence unlike Christ), God the Father commissioned Christ to earth for our salvation. Since humans sin every so often, humans cannot achieve perfection any longer. However, this should not stop a Christian to try to approach Christ’ likeness. The Ten Commandments had been given to believers and a Christian only needs to obey these in pursuit of Christ-like perfection. The requisite of eternal life, belief in Christ as sole Savior, follows the obedience to His laws. This attempt at perfection is one point of being a Christian.
As Christ’s disciple, a Christian continues to be Christ-like by undergoing the training of a Christian life lived interactively with one’s brethren. How does one serve the Master? One must serve one’s brethren. In what manner? Whatever help one may extend to the brethren, one must deliver. The Master is one’s King, so the brethren must be treated especially. These do not go against God’s laws because in fact, they illustrate human action toward the attainment of God’s Ten Commandments. Consistently keeping God’s law makes one Christ-like because as one becomes an example to others, one needs to follow examples too. This Christian imitation is reliving Christ’s life on earth wherein He is king yet He served, He is Master yet Himself a follower, He is royal yet humble. Such a life may be too noble but a Christian can always try emulating it. One must struggle to seek Christ-like perfection beginning with the obedience to God’s laws, the major requirement to live a Christian life.
The concern of freedom should be taken away from being centered on one’s life alone and refocusing it on the life of the entire world. If freedom becomes more associated with others, one has encouraged oneself to get out of one’s comfort zone, mingling with others to check one another’s way of living so that they will evaluate whether the individual lives they live are healthy. If everybody just went on one’s way in a misguided notion that one can exist in isolation, the life of the entire world is doomed since there will be chaos soon enough, what with everyone doing one’s lot without care for or consideration of others whom one may already be violating whether consciously or unconsciously. It is easy to see freedom as being beyond the consideration of the will, breeding in a space where learns freedom with one’s interaction with others. Freedom in the action of man is being free to do such an action in that space, an action that makes man break new grounds. It is in this space that one is free to discuss, share and create one’s self. If one is encouraged into a groundbreaking action, man leaves his personal space and joins the world where oneself gets shaped by his interaction with other people. With the entire world participating in that public space interaction, the lives of people are not in danger of disintegrating due to the negative attitude of “to each his own.” Real freedom is always tied up with interaction.
The point of being a Christian includes dealing with one’s underprivileged brethren in such a manner that one’s life is transformed. With them, one should feel that there is no more reason to celebrate possessions because they themselves are one’s best treasures. One cannot fully enjoy one’s material privileges if in one’s midst, one’s brethren suffer injustices caused by social inequalities. One’s life is changed by sharing with them since something new emerges: a world where sharing is a reality as commanded by God for everybody to follow. Neglecting one’s duty to others is negating one’s experience with them since one is with them yet one does not flinch in the facev of the sufferings they endure. One’s encounter with the underprivileged is one’s special opportunity to approach God, so one must not let go of the chance because fulfilling a Christian duty is becoming Christ-like.
One’s choice to respond to one’s fellowmen as the point of being a Christian is always informed by the context that molded one to be the Christian that one is today. In this largely Catholic country, one is most probably raised with the Biblical doctrines as guidelines to live a Christian life. Not everybody becomes a saint but one should always try to be the very best for God, seeing that such a response is one’s way of orienting oneself to goodness, something perpetually related to God. The little things done for the glory of God is possible, so one is assured that even the tiniest deeds become enlarged in God’s eyes. The moral life one leads should be constant and essential to keeping the covenant with God—His laws—by abiding which the chosen action is a free choice to be good, to be for God and to be a Christian.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

halfway through 1 a.m.

Speak to me with a voice
That makes my strength flee.
You never know how you can touch me
With that tender look in your eyes.
When your lips break into a smile,
My heart shrinks—maybe I’ll die
As soon as you fill this space
With your laughter. I am unwise.
Until then,
I can wallow in this glow
Your presence brings
And even as I’m rendered insomniac,
I caress your sweet face in my dream.