Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

2011 has indeed captured the world’s attention with its shocking, gruesome, and sometimes heart-warming, news headlines. This year, we were at awe with the catastrophes which struck various parts of the world, wondered at the amazing show of People Power in the Arab World and other countries, and dazed by the death of some of the most prominent personalities in world, both sinister and iconic. We also worried at the continuing crisis gripping the world’s economy and had our share of smiles and joyful laughter at the most sensational wedding of the century. Here are my TOP 10 NEWS STORIES OF 2011

NORWAY MASSACRE: No Mercy
10. Norway Massacre and Bombing 

This massacre and bombing which killed 69 people shocked this quiet and peaceful nation and the world. Perpetrated by a 32-year old, right-wing Christian extremist Anders Breivik, the massacre and bombing exposed the religious intolerance some groups in Europe harbour against non-Christians and their supporters. It proved that Muslims are not the only one capable of terrorism. 

KIM: Loved till the end
9. Death of Kim Jong-il 

With just about every dictator falling from power or dying this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il won’t be left behind. Before the year closed, he met his Creator after suffering a heart attack while on routine visit to the countryside. His death triggered alarms throughout the Korean Peninsula for fears of a looming power vacuum after the perceived lack of readiness of his heir-apparent Kim Jong-un. His wake and funeral gave the world a glimpse of what it was like inside the secretive state which has isolated itself since the 50s. Despite the lavish lifestyle he lived, while remaining blind to the plight of his hunger-stricken and rights-deprived people, his funeral was attended by throngs of North Koreans, many of whom were forced to cry out of fear from the regime. 

JOBS: A genius loved by many
8. Death of Steve Jobs 

While dictators fell one by one, the world also lost a genius this year. Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs finally succumbed to his long and painful fight against pancreatic cancer. This renaissance man of the computer industry introduced us to many of the indispensible and life-changing gadgets we now use from the Macintosh computer, the iPod, the iPhone, up to the iPad. Not only did he make a gadget that is sleek, good-looking and profitable, he made sure that his consumers get the most out of his products. And thus, the world loved him for all the endeavours he’s done to change the way gadgets and humans interact. 

GADDAFI: Hated till death
7. Death of Muammar Gaddafi 

Justice has been served in Libya with the death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi – in a chilling and gut-wrenching way. The Libyan people, whose rights he has deprived and maligned for over 40 years, have liberated themselves from his clutches and surrounded him on all sides with international help. It was poetic justice when they found him begging for his life in a sewer in his hometown of Sirte, as the rebels shot him and displayed his body to the crowd, all while videotaping the incident. The world was witness to his horrifying end via YouTube and sent a chilling message to all other dictators in the Arab World. 

WILL & KATE: Sweet and cheesy!
6. The Royal Wedding 

Amidst the violence and bloodshed brought about by the Arab Spring, we were greeted with lovely news of Prince William’s marriage to commoner Kate Middleton. The British heir to the throne married his long-time beau at Westminster Abbey in London and was witnessed by 162 million people around the world via television broadcast and the Internet. The world blushed at the sight of the Royal Couple as they kissed twice for the public at Buckingham Palace. After the tragic end to the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1997, the world had a new romance to look forward to. 

WASHI: Washed away everything in its path.
5. Wild Weather Disasters 

The irreversible effect of global climate change has created a series of destructive weather events in different parts of the globe since the start of the year. The United States braced for a series of tornados which hit Joplin, Missouri. Southeast Asia was hit by consecutive typhoons leaving large areas of the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand flooded. The Horn of Africa was devastated by its worst drought in decades causing a huge humanitarian crisis amid the threat of Islamic extremism in the region. And before the year ended, the Philippines was hit once more by tragedy, after a relatively weak tropical storm continuously poured torrential rains on Northern Mindanao, inundating the cities of Cagayan De Oro and Iligan, resulting in the loss of almost 2,000 lives.


BIN LADEN: Nowhere to hide
4. The Death of Osama bin Laden

Our atmosphere of merriment brought about by the Royal Wedding was quickly quenched by news of the death of America’s most wanted man: Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda leader and mastermind of the September 11, 2001 Attacks in New York and Washington DC, was killed by US Special Forces in his secret lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1. His death came as a surprise as there were no indications that bin Laden was hiding in plain sight in one of Pakistan’s most affluent communities. Doubts were cast on the authenticity of the report which was broadcast to the world by President Barack Obama. In the end, video and photographs of the raid were shown to key people in American government which led to a confirmation of his death. His body was laid to rest according to Muslim rites in an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea.


RECESSION: Tore holes in our pocket.
3. Global Economic Crisis

2011 saw the continuation and worsening of an economic crisis which started in the United States around 2007 or 2008 by the bursting of the US housing bubble and the decline of US and European banks and other financial institutions. This year, the economic crisis worsened unemployment in America and brought Greece, Portugal and Ireland into a recession which needed a difficult intervention from other European Union nations. The recession in Europe threatened the demise of the euro and of the Union itself but was saved temporarily by diplomacy among member countries. In 2012, the crisis will still continue and who knows what problems it will unfold for the world.

THE ARAB SPRING: An awakening
2. The Arab Spring Revolutions

The end of 2010 saw the beginning of an awakening of Arab societies in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other Arab nations in North Africa and West Asia. It began in Tunisia when a fruit vendor, discontented by the lack of job opportunities in his countries set himself on fire. His sacrifice turned into a national cry for justice and reform which spread to other neighbouring countries with the help of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and blogging. A new breed of young, educated Arabs led the battle cry which resulted in the toppling of respective dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. In Libya, the revolution turned into an all-out civil war which involved Western forces who supported the rebels; while in Yemen, the revolution resulted in a power transfer deal between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Gulf Cooperation Council. In Syria, the despotic President Bashar Al-Assad continues to resist opposition to his rule by using violence against protesters. The revolution there still continues to unfold.

JAPAN: Triple Disaster
1. The Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster

On March 11, 2011, in the midst of our cacophony over the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, the eastern seaboard of Japan was struck by the most powerful earthquake it felt in recent years. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed buildings in the Tohoku region and created a huge tsunami which devastated various cities along its coastline. The world was awed, and at the same time, gripped with fear, as the tsunami’s onslaught on Japanese cities was broadcasted live in television. The tsunami created panic in other countries as it spread to the Pacific Rim (but left only little damage). Our fears were taken to the highest levels once news of the crippling and eventual meltdown of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant came. For the second time, the world was made aware of the chilling and deadly effects of nuclear radiation. This nuclear crisis left Fukushima and its surrounding region permanently contaminated and forced the evacuation of thousands. But in the midst of the disaster, the world also witnessed the resilience, calm and cooperation of the Japanese people. Slowly, we saw how they came to terms with what happened to them, stood up and rose up from the ashes of this tragedy.

With all that happened during 2011, we are left with a great deal of anxiety and anticipation for things to come in the New Year. There are those who believe that 2012 will usher in a new era of cataclysmic disasters and crisis that will lead to ultimate end of the world. There are those who dismiss such claims and continue to have hope on the human spirit to solve and weather these catastrophes. Whatever may happen in 2012, whether human society will come to an end or continue to prevail, may the spirit which enabled us to endure our wonderful and sometimes weary existence remain with us always.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HAPPY 1st ANNIVERSARY!!!

A year ago, December 20, 2010, The Social Scientist first went online.

I could barely remember the specific circumstances which led me to start this blog. All I know is that all of a sudden, I have a huge surplus of time and an oozing energy to write. I wanted to write about the implications of every major issue confronting Filipino society at this day and age. Thus, our journey through 40 posts in a year started.

We started writing at the opportune moment: the Arab Spring was just starting in Tunisia and would soon spread around the globe, Hubert Webb and the rest of the accused in the Vizconde Massacre case were acquitted by the Corona Court, and the next generation Philippine currency has just been released by the BSP. Our first post dealt with Filipino society's reaction to the purported flaws in its design and implications of our society's reaction.

Since then, we've covered many of the major events which occurred throughout 2011, not only here in The Social Scientist but also in its sister blog, Pilipinas 360. We wrote a feature on the dawn of the 24-hour all news channels in the Philippines and gave live blog updates on the March 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the succeeding nuclear disaster it brought. We delved into the implications of the Egyptian and Libyan Uprising to Filipino society, as well as, linked to the Filipino consciousness the death of Osama bin Laden, the Royal Wedding and the beatification of Pope John Paul II. We were part of commemorating Dr. Jose Rizal's 150th birth anniversary, and reacted to recent actions of the Aquino administrations against the corrupt practice of the previous regime and its tentacles. Morever, we gave an in-depth look at the status of the Philippine Navy, our mental health, the education sector and even our penchant for pang-ookray.

With these posts, we were able to do something which other bloggers have not been doing -- to link the Filipino psyche and behavior to major political and socio-economic issues every Filipino is experiencing. Our posts made sense of the whys behind every major Filipino reaction to what's happening in the world today. It led us to a better understanding of our society -- its good points and great flaws -- its humanity! We delivered this consciousness to reach even other platforms within the blogosphere, by publishing our entries in other blog sites such as Definitely Filipino and Networked Blogs, and by creating our own Facebook page, so that more people can make sense of our content.

There is no other way than this. While we could have done it better, of course, the odds are not always in our favor. There were times that we cannot post for more than a month, and there are times that we are not being read, but in the end, there is no other way that this. If given a chance to relive this experience, we would have done the same thing. Expect us to make things even better in this coming year.

We would like to thank all our readers throughout a year of joining us through our journey inside the Filipino consciousness, to fellow bloggers who shared their ideas and expertise with us, to our friends and loved ones who always encouraged us to keep on writing despite the competitive nature of blogging. We would not have made it this big without you. We owe our existence to your constant demand for what we write.

This is not the end -- this is just the beginning of an even wonderful saga. There are still uncharted waters to sail through. While we wait for good winds to bring us there, let us hold hands and brace ourselves, for the journey is about to get more exciting.

Happy 1st Anniversary THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST!

Friday, December 9, 2011

PUT THE LITTLE GIRL TO SLEEP!


ARROYO: Hates chopper rides.

TAGUIG CITY - CGMA's spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn lamented to the media this morning about the administration's "delaying tactics" in transporting the former thief (sorry!) president to the VMMC today. They said that the administration must implement the transfer order now by land instead of an air transfer as originally planned. "Weather" and "chopper" are apparently Mrs. Horn's other words for "delaying tactics."

DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and the Philippine National Police has clarified that there were no intended delays to the transfer of Mrs. Arroyo to VMMC. The agency has decided to forestall the chopper transfer until better weather arrives, and has decline the Arroyo camp's insistence on a land transfer. Meanwhile, Mrs. Horn insisted that it will be safer for Mrs. Arroyo to be transferred by land. "Kung ang problema lang naman nila ay yung mga rallyista bakit hindi nila hawiin. Hinihintay lang nilang dumami ang mga Anti-Gloria protesters sa harap ng ospital! Payagan na lang sana nila kami, kahit magtaxi na lang kami papunta dun," the spokesperson said, to which a reported asked, "Hindi po kaya barilin naman ang dating pangulo kung by land ang pagbiyahe sa kanya gaya nga nung sinasabi niyong planong patayin siya sa Operation Put The Little Girl To Sleep?" Mrs. Horn replied, "Ah, hindi baril ang gagamitin sa Operation Put The Little Girl To Sleep." I wonder why Mrs. Horn knows so much about this plan. Could it be? I smell something fishy.

CGMA insisted on being transferred by land to the VMMC instead of air. Atty. Ferdinand "Itlog" Topacio, in an interview with GMA News, said that the former president has had trauma after her previous experiences with chopper crashes. Meanwhile, in footage release by GMA News, three PNP choppers were spotted circling St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig which is part of the transfer convoy. These are apparently, the "brand new" Robinson choppers sold by her husband Mike Arroyo to PNP officials. No wonder the president is traumatized!

Atty. Ferdinand "Itlog" Topacio said that the former president is already stressed because of her waiting ordeal.  She has been sitting all morning in a wheelchair, has already had two breakfasts and is also experiencing stomach pains. If I had two breakfasts in one morning, while seated all throughout in a wheelchair, I will have stomach pains too. Pwede namang tumayo, humiga di ba? O tumuwad kung gusto niya!

Atty. Ferdinand "Itlog" Topacio, when asked if former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo is also irritated by the delay of transfer, stated: "Kung ako nga na di asawa eh naiirita na eh!" ALIN po ang naiirita?

These are just some of the statements we've heard in today's fiasco about CGMA's tranfer to VMMC. The usual boisterous and preposterous ranting and whining of the Arroyo camp's spokespersons has been irritating us since the former president's "ordeal" started. It irritates us for the fact that their statements do not corroborate with what they have acted upon before. Why insist on being detained at the VMMC at such unfortunate moment when they were the ones insisting in the first place that CGMA is in grave danger? St. Luke's is a well-guarded, well-equipped hospital -- what else could go wrong in there? Can't she just wait to be transported after the weather clears up? Didn't the court order explicitly said that she has to be transferred safely and properly and yet she wants to brave the downpour and flood, and wrath of the angry masses! The people has had enough! We just hope that the former president could have chosen her mouthpieces well, because the way they are speaking to the media, the more CGMA sounds a ridiculous, desperate, spoiled brat. Its making us want more for her to be put to sleep instead, just to end this ruckus.

But more than anything else, this entire act by the Arroyo camp is ridiculous and desperate. Their so-called "demagoguery" by the administration is nothing but a ghost created by their own scheming party in order to portray her as being persecuted and prejudged. This is no demagogue. This is a poorly scripted act to win the hearts and minds of the unaware, uneducated, emotional and ill-advised masses like the handful of Kampampangans we saw in VMMC today.

This is a teleserye, entitled, "Put The Little Girl To Sleep". TSS

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

THE KING'S SPEECH

STABBED UPFRONT: Corona and PNoy in yesterday's 1st National Criminal Justice Summit. (From Interaksyon.com)
What do I want to write?

Since this weekend, last night, and the whole morning, I can’t figure out what itches in me to write something. This blog has been neglected for a month now, and it needs a fresh dose of creative release. And yet, at the moment I laid my hands on the keyboard, it is as if a blood clot has blocked all sense of creativity and imagination, which prevented me from publishing anew. But as Sean Covey said that “a mission will only remain a wish if not put to pen”, I decided to write instead about what I’ve been meaning to write all this time.

I want to write about PNoy finding his voice. How he has finally had the courage the lash out at this country’s opponents right in their face, this case, Chief Justice Renato Corona. I want to write at how shallow SC spokesperson Midas Marquez is at commenting about the President’s speech as “disturbing”, when the acts of the court Marquez is trying to embellish is in itself “disturbing”. I want to write out how ridiculous Representative Mitos Magsaysay and the Daily Tribune for calling the President a loose cannon for criticizing the “Highest Court” in the land. Somehow, they are forgetting that the Executive and Judiciary are co-equal branches, the same as Congress, and have therefore every right to check each other’s balance in the use of power. It is ironic how Magsaysay and Lagman call the President a loose cannon when they themselves act like cannon-heads when openly criticizing his policies in the halls of the House.


I want to write at how all this crap by the Arroyo camp about the President’s speech being disrespectful and arrogant as a mere defence mechanism, and how onion-skinned they are in the face of guilt. I want to write how proud I am that this President we have right now, no matter how perceived by many as incompetent and disoriented, has finally found his balance, his direction and his confidence to walk through that path and poke at the impediments on its way. I want to write at how he dared this time to speak for himself, and not on behalf through his spokesperson, Abigail Valte or Edwin Lacierda. He's no Colin Firth in "The King's Speech", but the strength and confidence he mustered to do such feat is worth a movie script. I want to write about how the President’s acts cannot lead to a constitutional crisis or in the downsizing of the Supreme Court’s integrity, for it is not Court itself that has committed these whimsical and impartial acts against the people, but the justices which Arroyo have placed for herself in the last minute. The President has not attacked the Court, but the personification of its incompetence and prejudice which we now know by name as Renato Corona. The President has not attacked the Court but has somehow defended it, by pointing out what it should be doing otherwise since day one of this administration. Corona should be even thankful to have not been stabbed at the back, but upfront. That only shows he has a true friend in PNoy, as Oscar Wilde said.

In the end, what do I want write? Looking back, I’ve written it already. There is nothing more I want to write today.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

MAD SEASON

MAD TIMES: September and October 2011 was rocked by news of murders and suicides nationwide as seen in these newspaper and news sites' headlines.




















As you can see in the headlines above, we are indeed living in mad times.

Throughout last month and this month, our evening news programs and newspapers were filled with headlines about various murders, suicides (and some, murder-suicides) and other crimes of passion. Although for some, these events are just common place and are no longer shocking, for many, it still strikes a delicate nerve, to think that back in 2009 the Philippines ranked 14th among the happiest countries in the world. Filipinos are known to smile and relax despite the onset of various personal or national calamities. And yet, we still have these gruesome deaths going on everyday.

I made me wonder though: What could be running on these people's minds to commit such dreadful acts?. And with all the psychologists and psychology students we have in this country, what is the state of our society's mental health?

My curiosity led me to search for statistics regarding the status of our society's mental health during the last decade as well as the status of our mental health services and facilities. I've stumbled upon the following results:

1. The National Statistics Office’s  Disability Survey in 2000 ranked mental illness as the third most common form of morbidity, or type of disease, after visual and hearing impairments among Filipinos. The same survey showed that 88 Filipinos out of every 100,000 population with mental problems.

2. In 2004, a DOH-commissioned Social Weather Stations survey found that 0.7 percent of total Filipino households have a family member who has a psychological disorder such as depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and substance abuse.

3. A 2006 DOH study showed that 36% of government employees reported to have experienced mental health problems at least once.

4. In a 2007 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), 9 out of 100,000 general population have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The same survey also showed that there are only 3 mental health workers for every 100,000 population, and that only 0.02% of the health budget is being used for mental health.

Furthermore, I also found out that there is no law on mental health that has been enacted (or pending enactment) in Philippine Congress (probably because they are all schizophrenic as well). With this condition of our country's mental health and mental health services/facilities, it really is no surprise why crimes of passion are becoming a trend these days.

Which leads my curiosity to another question: "Who should be responsible for making sure that most Filipinos will have access to quality mental health services?"

The incapability of the public sector only means that other sectors of society, most especially the private sector, must be put in the equation to provide at least basic mental health service to our people. But this does not mean that the public sector won't strive to provide the same services. By applying the current public-private partnership scheme, this could be done. The government could allow private psychiatric firms to operate as part of public hospitals in order to make such service more accessible to the public (but of course, with consideration to the impoverished when it comes to service fees). However, if we really want to strike the issue of mental health from its roots, basic mental health services must also be made available not just in the mental health sector but also in the education and business sectors.

Mental health services must begin in schools through quality guidance and counseling services to students, since it is in these ages where individuals begin to make sense of their mental and emotional conditions. Students face a great deal of stress through bullying, academic pressure, peer pressure and other factors. An an early age, they should made well aware on how to manage their thoughts and emotions given these circumstances. However, not all public and private schools have a working and decent guidance and counseling department. 

Also, all private (if not public) companies and firms, whether local or multinational, must have some form of psychiatric service embedded within its human resource department. This is to ensure that the mental health condition of Filipino employees can be monitored and responded to if the need arises. It may be an additional cost for companies, but it will ensure them that their workers are always motivated to work and have high productivity rates. 

If legislation about mental health would be enacted, it should contain sections which requires the mental health services I described above. In that way, there will be an across-the-board response to this persistent need for mental health. In the end, this will not just pave the way for better working or living conditions, it could also pave the way for a more just and humane society of Filipinos in the future. TSS

Friday, October 21, 2011

SAVAGES

NO MERCY. Gadhafi, seen here, bloodied after his capture and death.
Photo courtesy of Agence France-Presse.








Before news of his death came out, I already expected Muammar Gadhafi to die.

But not in the way I saw it happened.

All along, I thought he was going to be captured alive. Then sent to prison and treated with accordance to law. I thought he will be put to trial for his crimes to humanity. Chances are, he's going to be hanged or shot for his crimes. My thoughts were somehow reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's death back in 2003. But soon, it dawned on me why that idea was did not happen -- Iraq was occupied by the Americans at that time, majority of Iraqis are Sunnis just like Saddam who looked up at him throughout his regime.

Libya is different. What we have there are a group of oppressed and defiant revolutionaries who will risk everything and will resort to anything just to get their freedom back. Unlike the Americans, they won't think twice about killing the famed despot on the spot upon arrest. And that is what exactly happened.

I am appalled by the savagery of the rebels who captured Gadhafi -- how they took him out of that sewer pipe and dragged him by the hair to a waiting truck, how they displayed his still alive body to the multitude of bystanders with their cellphone cameras, how they shouted in celebration and brandished their weapons insensitive to the needs of the dying man. It makes me cringe and think twice about the type of people replacing  the long-time and long-hated tyrant. Sooner or later, the same savage people will find their selves fighting for influence, power and resources. Given the still murky future which awaits Libya, it is still likely that it will revert to being an isolated state once these savage rebels take the reins of government. From here starts a never ending cycle of savagery unless someone more civilized takes over.

But even the more civilized can become savage too, and we've already seen it earlier this year. You see, Gadhafi is not the only madman killed this year -- Osama bin Laden was also killed back in May. And while you might think that the Americans will breathe a calm, sigh of relief, the celebrations that followed were no different to what the rebels in Libya are now doing. Nor are they different from hooligans whose football team just won a championship.

Which leads me to question: Why do we celebrate the death of a person, let alone an evil one?

Despite the cruelty of Gadhafi to his own kind, the Libyan rebels still owe a lot to his existence. Without Gadhafi's 42 years of dictatorship, they won't realize and aspire for what true freedom really means. I believe that only when a people is chained and enslaved that they will truly know what liberty is. Thus, the savagery that these rebels have shown is not what Gadhafi deserves. This acts only justifies his own tyrannical deeds and tramples on the very essence of freedom. If a person values freedom, that person must value life, for no one can live without freedom and no one can be free without life.

I am one with the Libyan people in their achievement of the liberation they have sought for so long. But I will never be one with savages, whether tyrants or freedom fighters. TSS


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

OKRAY NATION

Naokray ka na ba?

Most of us Filipinos, especially those living in urban areas, have already experienced this okray thing one way or another. You could be simply telling your co-workers about how you were able to finish your assigned task early, when suddenly, one of them hollers, "Ikaw na! Ikaw na!". Or, you could be giving jokes in an inuman session with friends, when one of your gay friends bursts your moment by making okray. In social media website, in movies, even in music, okray has become a common way of dealing with people.

Okray is the gay lingo term for "diss" which means "to treat, mention or speak of rudely". In Filipino, panlalait o pamimintas. Filipinos have this penchant for rudely pointing out flaws that they see in other people, but people from the third sex have made a good job out of this that they created okray as term for it. Thus began the proliferation of okray in Filipino society.

Why do Filipinos have this penchant for pang-ookray?

The most obvious culprit is our Spanish heritage. These vain Europeans have made it their life to pinpoint the ills and flaws of our "ancient and backward society" since they came here in the 15th century. They embodied this perspective in various literary works, in Sunday sermons from the pulpit, and have been described in detail by Dr. Jose Rizal in Noli Me Tangere. Even Spanish historians, writing about the Philippines (especially about the Propaganda Movement there), have dissed our compatriots in various editorial articles in conservative newspapers at that time. Even when they left in 1898, the Spanish legacy of dissing other people did not wane and was thus ingrained in us.

This culture of pang-ookray become more widespread after World War II, especially after the time when Martial Law was declared. The repressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos had everyone thinking twice about bashing the famed strongman and his policies, but this didn't stop some from making okray. TV host and radio DJ Ariel Ureta once mocked the government slogan "Para sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan", changing it to "Para sa ikauunlad ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan". His pang-ookray meant a day's worth of biking around Camp Crame as punishment. The downfall of the regime in 1986 gave many Filipinos their freedoms back, including the freedom to diss government officials or ordinary people alike.

The proliferation of pang-ookray in the late 20th and early 21st century Filipino society was largely attributed to the rise of the third sex and the widespread use of gay lingo. This new language put a new spin on pang-ookray, introducing new words, phrases and expressions with various meaning that are beyond the usual convention. This enabled people to mock and diss others without having to be offensive or without the knowledge and understanding of the person being mocked. With this development came the mushrooming of various comedy and gay bars, as well as TV shows, where pang-ookray would become a common form of entertainment, much to the dismay and annoyance of some.

Why do modern Filipinos continue to spread the culture of pang-ookray?


One thing I noticed with pang-ookray is that, while it occurs across all social classes, it is certainly most associated with the middle and lower class members of society. And the subject of their pang-ookray are usually people who belong to the upper classes (most especially, government officials, celebrities, and other famous personalities). But this is not always the norm. Others have also lampooned personalities or even ordinary people who are just plain obnoxious, annoying or stupid. And in the era of social networking, this pang-ookray has leveled-up to a type that is fast, widespread and uncontrollable. Some notable examples are what happened to Christopher Lao (after driving his car through chest-deep flood water during Typhoon Lando in August this year), to presidential speech writer Mai Mislang (who tweeted about her negative comments while visiting Vietnam together with the Presidential entourage) and the officials of the DPWH (whose photoshopped picture of their inspection of Baywalk in the aftermath of Typhoon Pedring this September went viral). Some forms of pang-ookray have become more than just comic relief. As in the case of Lao and Mislang, pang-ookray can become sinister and damaging, to the point of causing grief to people affected.

Which leads us to reflect on another issue: Are we becoming an Okray Nation, which sees sarcasm, mockery and rudeness as legitimate forms of self-expression? Are we a society that finds comfort and entertainment pointing out and putting to shame the mistakes and innocent stupidity of some?

While I refuse to believe, from my point-of-view, it is indeed a well-established norm in our society already. Filipinos, by nature, are not mapamintas or mapangmata, and I believe that is still an innate goodness in us that we somehow find uncomfortable to let out because it is not the norm society in general is used to. While pang-ookray can be of no offense for some, or have learned to cope with it, not all people in this society have the capacity to do so. Not that they have special needs and all that, but rather, due to the fact that they are human beings with dignities to be valued and cherished.

I hope this article enlightens us to consider our actions the next time we think of making our fellow Filipino the laughing stock of humanity. TSS

Sunday, June 19, 2011

RIZAL: WHAT MADE HIM OUR HERO?

WHAT IS A NATIONAL HERO?

On our national hero's 150 birth anniversary, I am forced to rethink my answer to this question once more. In the not so distant past, there has been a lot of question as to why Dr. Jose Rizal is the country's national hero. Renato Constantino argues that he is an American-sponsored hero; that Rizal symbolized non-violence and peaceful advancement of reforms, traits that the American occupiers wanted for Filipinos to adopt and thus prevent further revolts against their hegemony. Others have hailed Andres Bonifacio as the "true" national hero for organizing the first Philippine government and leading the first anti-colonial revolution in Asia. The Retraction Controversy has also placed doubts on Rizal's nationalism and his anti-clerical stance.

The questions stem from the fact that our usual notion of a national hero is someone who is courageous, strong, able-bodied, and leads a military force into war against a colonial/imperial power -- people such as George Washington, Simon Bolivar, or Sun Yat Sen. Apparently, machismo is still in the psyche most Filipinos. This notion has to change in our time when even the smallest deeds of self-sacrifice can be considered heroism.

In my opinion, for one to be a hero, one must sacrifice him/herself for the liberation its people or as an impetus of such liberation. Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo falls under this category, both having courageously fought the Spaniards in the battlefield. However, Andres Bonifacio never won any of his battles and usually goes off to save himself once his forces are routed. He really sees it important that people's leader remains alive at the end of the battle rather than sacrifice life and limb. The same way with Emilio Aguinaldo who instead of facing the Americans in the battlefield, has decided to elude them until his arrest in Palanan and subsequent pledge of allegiance to the United States.

Dr. Jose Rizal is perhaps the epitome of such self-sacrifice though. He sacrifices his love life and a quiet life to gather knowledge around the world that would be helpful in the struggle for reforms in the country. He translates famous literary works into Filipino for his countrymen to see (such as works by Hans Christian Andersen and Schiller) and labors to ensure a fair perspective about his country abroad (such as annotating Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas). He uses his own fortune, time and effort to care for his countrymen, as he did when he opened his clinic in Hong Kong or in Dapitan. He enlightens his people about their status in society by writing the Noli and the Fili. His ultimate sacrifice perhaps is when he refuses to be saved by Bonifacio's revolution and instead gives his own life at execution so that the revolution can have the ultimate inspiration. Both Bonifacio and Aguinaldo recognized his sacrifices by revering him as the revolution's inspiration. Aguinaldo was first to declare him national hero in 1898, even before the Americans "sponsored" it.

Rizal's self-sacrifice has been modeled throughout history by other heroes, such as Manuel L. Quezon (who sacrificed time, money and effort for the establishment of the Commonwealth), Jose P. Laurel (who sacrificed reputation to collaborate with the enemy and save more Filipinos from the Japanese), Ninoy Aquino (who sacrificed his life at assassination so that the People Power Revolution could push through) and Efren PeƱaflorida (who sacrificed time, money and effort to teach the street children of Cavite).

In the end, there is no doubt that Rizal is the first to envision himself and his country as a nation of Filipinos and to uphold its liberty from the occupiers. At his 150th birth anniversary, Dr. Jose Rizal will remain as the heart of the Philippine revolution and the Philippine national hero.

Monday, May 16, 2011

FOR THOSE WHO NEVER LEFT

We live in an old house. From far-flung places in Asia, our forefathers came to build this house with their blood, sweat and tears. For centuries, they’ve lived prosperously in this house. They’ve planted trees around it, the fruits of which we now consume. They painted it with regal color, made sure that it looked good to those who passed by. They even put a fence around it to protect it from those who tried to take over the house. There was a time when another family took over the house and our forefathers were turned into mere tenants. But with their blood, sweat and tears, they rose up against these “invaders” and push them out of their household.

I have plenty of brothers and sisters, some have come and gone and there will be more to come. I have brothers and sisters who witnessed our forefathers’ struggle and fought with them. But there are brothers and sisters who were born after the struggle, who did not experience the hardship and the pain they’ve been through. And as our house aged through time, so they were. Some of them felt that this house is too small and too old for them. They started feeling insecure. They felt that the fences that our forefathers built can no longer protect them. Others felt there wasn’t enough fruit from the trees. They started looking out the window, dreaming they lived in a bigger, much nicer house.

Soon they grew up. These brothers and sister have left the house in search of greener pastures. One of them writes to me. He says he’s now a professor at a prestigious university, in a place called the United States,  that he’s now living a good life, with beautiful wife and charming children. I remember how our forefather toiled to send him to school. He was the first summa cum laude in Electrical Engineering in this house. Another, a sister, is now a famous fashion designer, also in the United States. She designs clothes for famous celebrities in a place called Hollywood. She now has a good husband and child.

Most of the brothers and sisters who stayed in the house were proud of those who left. I am not sure what to feel though. How can I feel proud when they can’t even visit the house, let alone care for its crumbling structure or send some of my brothers and sisters to school?

I don’t want to see this house go. I can’t imagine myself living in another house, with different neighbors, different “brothers and sisters”. My forefathers dreamt of this house to be one of the most beautiful and most prosperous homes in this part of the world. It would be sad to let that dream go. I want that dream to come true, not just for them but for my own children, and their children as well.

And so, even though I live in an old house,  I try as much to make it last, to make it strong, prosperous and beautiful. I take time to water the trees, sweep its “dirty” yard, fortify its fences. I’d repaint the crumbling colors, I’d fix the broken ceilings and floors, I’d wash every nook and cranny of dirt and mold. I will protect this house from the elements, even if it means shedding my own blood, sweat and tears. If no one’s going to do it, who else will? That is why I am here in the first place.

The work will be hard. Even the brothers and sisters who are with me now aren’t always cooperating. Some don’t even want to wash the plates, do the laundry, or sweep the floor. But that won’t weaken my resolve. I have to do what I have to do, even if I had to discipline them with my words, let them be ashamed of what they are doing to our forefather's house. Perhaps that will make them realize that they have a role to play too.

I live in an old house. But for the length of time I’ve been here, for the amount of effort I exerted to maintain this house and for the love I have for my brothers and sisters, this is more than just an old house. This is my home, and I guess you know what it is right now. My home is the Republic of the Philippines.

For those who never left...mabuhay kayo! THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST

Monday, May 2, 2011

OSAMA BIN LADEN: DEAD AT 54

THE MAN THE WORLD NEVER FORGAVE.
THIS IS PERHAPS THE FASTEST FIVE DAYS IN WORLD HISTORY. From April 27 to May 1, we've been bombarded with large chunks of news and information on TV and the Internet about currents events that were too big to digest. First was the release of US President Obama's birth certificate which finally silenced conspiracy theorists who poked doubts to his citizenship. Then came the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, which was followed soon after by the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II. But the biggest news came Sunday, when President Obama announced to the world that US forces had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

It took almost a decade to hunt and kill the brainchild of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, which perpetrated and propagated the ideology of global jihad in many parts of the globe. From New York to Mumbai, from Marrakesh to Manila, terrorism spread like wildfire and wrecked havoc on the lives of thousands of innocent people. Bin laden had successfully created a franchise out of killing people in the name of religion. Despite his death, this franchise will continue to exist as long as the ideology is there, the same way communism and atheism exists today. The War on Terror doesn't end here and now. But I am sure, it is the beginning of the end.

Just like Bin Laden, all of us who love peace and progress, who value community and good relationships must create a "franchise of goodness" to counter his network of terror. We teachers are ever more relevant in the War on Terror now as we have to moral responsibility to affect the minds of people deceived by this ideology. As teachers, we now have a greater task of instilling values of love to young people -- love for self, for fellow people, for country and for God (whichever God we are praying to) -- as well as values of humility, tolerance, patience, perseverance, respect, trust, generosity, and many more.

And so I urge the rest of the world to do the opposite of what people in Times Square and Pennsylvania Avenue has done. I suggest that we pray that God forgive Osama bin Laden, no matter what his wrongdoings were. Forgiveness, I believe, is still the best way to get closure, not violence. Forgiving the Face of Global Terrorism scores a victory better than a shot in the head.

My condolences to the bereaved family of Osama bin Laden. TSS

Saturday, April 30, 2011

WHY FILIPINOS LOVE CITYVILLE

LET'S FACE IT: Filipinos love gaming in social networking. It's primarily one of the reasons why Facebook became so popular suddenly in the Philippines (and sealed Friendster's fate forever in cyberhell). In fact, I'd bet that of 10 people reading this post right now, 9 are gamers in Facebook. Whatcha playin'? We played it all, right? We couldn't agree more -- Friends for Sale, Pet Society, FarmTown, YoVille, Farmville, Mafia Wars, Texas Hold 'Em Poker, Cafe World -- we've been there, done that. But one game that's been taking over the gaming world in Facebook is Cityville.

Yes. Since it was launched in December 2010, Cityville skyrocketed in popularity with 100,000 users worldwide in its premiere day and 84.2 million users in just one month. Included in this number are millions of Filipinos who operate and maintain their own community in Cityville. I admit being addicted to Cityville since December last year but for good reasons. Somehow, it's popularity has some societal implications which interested me that's why I kept on playing the game to find out what these implications are.

Cityville allows you to create and supervise your own city like a mayor. You get to be in charge of the means of production such as farms and factories. You get to control trade through trains and shipping. As mayor, you can also decide which business establishments to establish and operate so that you can have continuous source of income for your community. You get to approve new housing units and where they will be built and how they will look like. Of course, are bad characters too. There's the Meowing Marauder and Billy the Bandit; but as mayor, you can take them down by providing security courtesy of the police. You get to keep your city safe and attract visitors and tourists to spend their coins in many of your city's sites and shops. Amazing isn't it? Indeed.

FILIPINOS: Ditching these scenes for Cityville.
Which is contrary to what Filipinos face in their daily lives.

Everyday, Filipinos put up with bad news in the community: rampant crime, high prices of commodities, corruption of government officials, etc. We look around and see the grim reality of the life in our locality -- people living in shanties, crowded schools, squalid surroundings. These are things that are being courageously faced and resolved by a few, brave Filipinos. However, I could say that most of us would like to live a fantasy rather than face the harsh realities of life. That's why after a day's work, we log on to our computer and make ourselves the mayor of our own fantasy world in Cityville. Here, we are our own boss. Here, where strawberries grow in 5 minutes and traffic is almost a myth, we could savor a few ours of good community living and forget about how hard our own lives are. I wonder if this is a good thing? Could it be?

I'd hate to say this being a Cityville gamer myself, but this is the truth. We'd rather spend our time living a fantasy than pour the rest of our day to things bigger than ourselves. In this day and age where we need more active citizens than passive ones, we need to be doing the opposite. For a change, let's keep our hands off the PC and read a storybook to our child about heroes of the past, or pick up the broom and sweep the trash on our sidewalks. How about calling or visiting our neighbors and organizing a potluck on Labor Day? Is it really that hard? I don't think so.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not forcing everyone to quit playing Cityville. All I'm pointing out here is that it shouldn't be our life. While we waste 12 or 24 hours of our time asking for donuts, harvesting corn or collecting goods, our whole life is passing by behind us. In the end, you may have reached level 80 of Cityville but you'll never reach a higher level in your life being a sociopath, Cityville addict. An hour or a half would be enough. Being a citizen in real life requires even more. TSS

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

McDONALD'S AD: MISLEADING OR MISINTERPRETED?



I saw in the news today that fastfood giant McDonald's pulled down their new ad after receiving flak from Church leaders, particularly, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The advertisement (as shown above) shows a young girl asking a young boy if she is his girlfriend, to which the boy answers, “Ayoko nga. Hindi pa ako ready. Demanding ang mga girlfriend. Gusto ganito, gusto ganyan (I don’t want to. I’m not ready. Girlfriends are demanding. They want this, they want that)."

In a statement from Caloocan Bishop Deogracias IƱiguez, he said that “[the commercial gives] the wrong message to children that it’s all right to enter into courtship, and it could pave the way for the very young to be lax and carefree.". The CBCP, through its spokesperson Father Melvin Castro, said in an interview over Radio Veritas, that the ad must be replaced because "it plays with kids’ emotions and cheapens relationships."

Now, I've watched this commercial for the nth time and everyone would agree that the commercial is really cute. Who wouldn't chuckle at the sight of two kids mirroring in a cute and cheeky way what adults find difficult to talk about? But from a moral perspective, the Church does seem to have a point. A young girl asking a young boy if she is his girlfriend does promote entering into early relationships which the Church finds as a dangerous precedent for young kids. From a gender sensitive perspective, it also connotes that women are demanding when it comes to relationships and that men are afraid of commitments.

But, reading between the lines, the advertisement also sends a more positive point -- a point which I think the Church and other detractors of the commercial seem to be missing out. “Ayoko nga. Hindi pa ako ready. Demanding ang mga girlfriend. Gusto ganito, gusto ganyan." Could it be that the young boy is also promoting physical and emotional readiness before entering a relationship? Could it be sending a message to young kids like them that they shouldn't enter in a relationship when they are not yet ready? Could be. But the point has already been missed and the ad is now off-air.

What complicated the matter for McDonald's is that the storytelling of the advertisement itself is misleading. It wants to impart a good message to kids, but the ending imparts an entirely different one. If the commercial could've ended by showing the two kids, all grown-up and now in a relationship, sharing in a heap of McDo fries, it could've have been a happy ending for the company and for the CBCP. The message they'll be sending therefore is that true love waits. The message would have been entirely consistent if closed in a such a way.

But another interesting matter in this issue is the Church being vocal all of a sudden when it was entirely quiet throughout the recent Janjan Controversy in TV5's Willing Willie variety show. It's also surprising that Church is speaking out against early relationships and yet continues to disapprove the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, when the latter is also against early relationships through promotion of sexual education. I am aghast at this somewhat double standard on the part of the Church. It's good that the Church spoke in this issue -- and made a point -- but looking back at their stand against the RH Bill, do they really have the credibility to make such point?

In the end, an advertisement, no matter how short, can convey a variety of values to its viewers. As I've said in my previous article, the responsibility of extracting values from what we see on TV does not only lie on the viewers and their parents but on the producers themselves, who must ensure that they are conveying the right message on air. TSS

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

VARIETY SHOWS: A VARIETY OF VALUES

Willie and child/TV Grab
Variety shows have been part of our lunch time since the boob tube became a popular way of spending pastime here in the Philippines. It’s multi-million dollar entertainment industry that has become popular to both the poor masses and rich advertisers. It has built up the careers of many stars in the limelight today and remains one of the foundations of income for the major television networks.

But more than these, imagine what one or two hours of your daily variety show can do to someone’s values? You might think its simply entertainment, but that sort of statement would likely come from the more discriminating mind. For the common person, whose mindset has been filled with a gooey mess of oil price hikes, corruption scandals, low salaries and family crisis, it could do a lot – big time in fact!

Take the case of Janjan, the kid who’s making headlines this week after he appeared teary-eyed in Willing Willie while give his best macho dancing stunt on national TV to the coaxing of his parents and the show’s charismatic host. To the discriminating mind, what Willie Revillame did was outright child abuse. No wonder why the flak of bad press came from no other than the experts, scholars and the educated masses. But to people like Janjan’s parents, the immediate response was in support of the embattled show and its host. People, whose only hope for little boost in livelihood is variety shows, will definitely become instant apologetics of the industry. And that is a result of daily values formation from shows like Willing Willie, Eat Bulaga and the likes.

Imagine what variety shows are teaching us. If you see scantily-clad women dancing vigorously and provocatively on live television, what does this teach to our not so discriminating minds? Precisely. That its okay for women to show off their bodies on public in a malicious and temptuous manner. That’s its okay for women to make a living out of exposing their bodies. And if children are being asked to dance the same way, with a promise of a sumptuous reward after, what does it teach to their not so discriminating minds? That its okay at a young age to dance provocatively and earn a living from it. That kid could possibly think of becoming a macho dancer at age 18 and forgo plans of taking vocational courses and become a productive welder or sales manager. That kid could end up becoming a pimp at age 38, forcing other male teens to do the same as he did.

Imagine what variety shows justify in our already damaged values system. That it is okay to have plenty of children since they can always work for us and I don’t have to worry about getting a job at 40, that its okay to exploit women and children, and that its okay to queue in variety shows everyday instead of loaning funds for a small, profitable business or to apply for job.

Variety shows justifies beggar mentality and human rights abuse.

But don’t get me wrong. Variety shows weren’t supposed to be this way. They are supposed to help people help themselves, not help people exploit themselves and others. In the end, it was just a matter of a wrong values system both for the parents of Janjan and Willie Revillame. The show’s suspension and possible cancellation does not change the system. Variety shows will still be in question, and will still affect our values, just as everything we see on TV. The challenge now lies with the producers of these variety shows: what kind of values would you like to impart to your viewers? You cannot simply show anything you want and leave to your viewers the task of extracting whatever values they can get from behind the “parental guidance” label. Remember that majority of your viewers do not a have a very discriminating mind and do not always receive parental guidance. The bulk of responsibility in censoring and screening your content lies greatly in your hands.

Despite its glitz and glamour, the variety show industry could use some substance. I’ll be hoping for a positive response as the Janjan issue rests its case. TSS

Monday, April 4, 2011

Deja Vu: How Ondo Perez could be another Rolando Mendoza

Manobo clan leader Ondo Perez/AP
The Aquino government hasn't even reached its first anniversary in office and yet it is being taken hostage once more, this time by a group of armed Manobo tribesmen. On Friday, the group abducted 14 people including two minors in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. The group is demanding the release of their leader, Ondo Perez, who himself was involved in the hostage-taking of another 79 people back in November 2009.

This fresh hostage-taking incident is a test case in the Aquino government's response to such crisis. One wrong move and this could end up like the fatal Quirino Grandstand incident which killed 8 Hong Kong nationals and strained Filipino-Chinese relations. The action which I am most concerned about is the government's reliance on the same group of negotiators who mediated the November 2009 hostage-taking incident. Negotiators didn't keep their promise by arresting Perez and his followers after they freed the hostages. With the same group of crooks mediating this crisis, we could expect more trouble than solutions.

What I hope the Aquino government could look into is a genuine, long-term and sustainable response to the demands of the hostage-takers. Obviously, the hostage-taking in 2009 and now stemmed from the rivalry between Perez's clan and that of Joel Tubay, another Manabo tribal leader, over ownership of ancestral lands reported to be rich in wood and mineral resources. I think both tribes are being pitted against each other thereby benefiting mining and logging companies who have interests in the area. A sincere approach to this crisis would be to ensure that the Perez and Tubay clans as well as other stakeholders are represented well in talks about a possible land distribution deal. Once each clan is given its fair share of land, full pledge assistance should be given to these families so that they can make a profitable and sustainable livelihood out of these lands. Their interest should not be given up for the sake of scrupulous mining and logging companies and the dynasties which support them.

In the end, I hope for the safe release of the hostages who are mostly teachers like me. It sickens me to hear that teachers, with simple lives and meager salaries are being used once more as bargaining chips in this kind of gunpoint diplomacy. I hope the hostages could reason their way out of this crisis and use the law to their advantage instead of putting it in their own hands. I hope the negotiators would have the heart to reach out genuinely to these poor, afflicted people.

Nothing is resolved through the barrel of a gun.

Sources: The Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Daily Tribune and GMA News Online
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