Thursday, December 27, 2012


Civil wars, killing sprees, raging mobs, and a Korean invasion, topped with a scoop of freak weather events and soon enough we all believed the world would meet its end.

But it didn't; and here we are to relive the events that had captured our heart and mind this 2012. Shocking events, tear-jerking moments, and amazing scenes that almost passed as a good Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay film. I've laid out the carpet, prepped up the projector and screen, just bring the popcorn and join me as we look back at a dirty dozen of events that made up 2012.

12. Achievements in Space
A good end of the world film won’t be complete without astronauts and spaceships. But humankind’s space feats this year weren't suicide missions to deflect an asteroid or comet; these feats were a continuation of the Space Race which went on a long pause and then restarted. The United States was unseated as the leader of this race with its retirement of the Space Shuttle Program. It chose to focus instead in expanding its exploration of the Red Planet through its Curiosity rover mission which successfully touched down in Mars in August. However, the true trailblazer in space exploration this year is China, having successfully launched its Shenzhou 9 spacecraft in June for its first manned space docking mission which included its first woman in space. Another breakthrough in space exploration came from the private sector, with the first private space launch by SpaceX in October. With these new breakthroughs, humankind has breathed new life to the space race.

The proliferation of human conflict has always been an omen signifying the end of the world both in the Bible and other non-biblical sources. But since Neanderthal times, human conflict has been a daily occurrence that already lost its prophetic significance. Hence, this year marked a series of conflicts in the Middle East and East Asia brought about by the ripples of last year’s Arab Spring and China’s increasing military presence in the region.

11. Gaza under Siege
In March and November this year, Israel launched a series of attacks against Hamas-controlled Gaza. The attack, which was a targeted killing of suspected militants planning rocket attacks against Israel, created more harm to civilians and resulted in even more rocket attacks from Gaza. The thing with Israel is that it’s always been paranoid about its internal security that even the slightest hint of an attack from Gaza would prompt it to strike back (and always with a slightly greater force compared to the one exerted by its counterpart). On the other hand, the thing with Gaza is its myopic view that Israel is and will always be an enemy of Islam. It cannot move on from the hardships and struggles of the past, unlike its counterpart, the West Bank, which had successfully transitioned from a militant to a democratic government and received recognition (as the State of Palestine) from the UN General Assembly in November.

10. Rage over Anti-Islam Film
The Arab Spring spawned a new generation of young, idealistic, technologically-empowered Muslims ready to defend their faith to the death. Thus, when a group of twisted, spoiled Christians came out with a YouTube video mocking Islam and the prophet Muhammad, it was Arab Spring once more. But this time, the Islamic world came for blood resulting in attacks against various Western embassies and culminating in the much-hyped US Embassy Attacks in Benghazi, Libya throughout September this year.

9. China vs. Neighbors
With China’s increasing economic, political, and military might in East Asia, tensions between the Red Dragon and its neighbors also heightened. It began in April with an incursion by Chinese fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal which resulted in a standoff between the Philippine Navy and Chinese Marine Surveillance ships. This was eventually followed by anti-China protests in the Philippines and Vietnam which the Chinese retaliated by conducting cyberattacks against Philippine government websites, resulting in a trade of cyberattacks. In July, China raised the status of all its territories in the South China Sea into a prefecture-level city called Sansha, angering Vietnam and the Philippines even more. In August, another front in the conflict was reopened when Chinese activists forced their way into Senkaku Islands, a territory claimed by China, Taiwan, and Japan. These events resulted in tensions between China and ASEAN member nations during the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in November.

8. Good and Bad Times for Democracy
2012 has been a great year for democracy beginning with the democratic transition in Myanmar following Aung San Suu Kyi’s release in 2010 and the first free elections held in over 20 years in April. Nations across the globe touted Myanmar’s democratic transition as a miracle and prompted an improvement of relations between the country and Western powers. Also in April, blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest in China and fled to the US Embassy in Beijing. Eventually, he was granted a visa to travel to the US to study and continue his campaign for a democratic transition in China. Nevertheless, there were setbacks to our democratic way of life as well, especially on the Internet. Efforts by the US government to pass the SOPA and PIPA bills in Congress resulted in widespread Internet and street protests in January. A similar law, the Anti-Cybercrime Law, was passed in the Philippine Congress and signed by President Benigno Aquino III in October, prompting similar protests and a series of cyberattacks on government websites.

7. Global Economic Recession
An end of the world scenario won’t be complete without an economic crash. In 2012, the world economy still hasn’t recuperated from the downturn it went through in 2011. The PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) all saw continuous street protests due to austerity measures adopted by their governments in order to pay sovereign debt as well as bailout measures to save big business.  In the United States, while strides were made to create more jobs and protect ordinary people from predatory market practices, many people were still out of jobs. US companies have begun to shift their operations back to the mainland to benefit their own people but threatening to put out of work millions of migrant workers in the US and outsourced workers in Asia. Meanwhile, China, one of the fastest growing economies in the past decade has shown signs of slowing its GDP for the first time, while countries like the Philippines and Indonesia have shown promising economic gains.

6. The London Olympics
We almost forgot that the world was about to end when London marveled us with an Olympic event like no other. From opening to closing, the 2012 London Olympics gave us a glimpse of British culture and history with its artsy, star-studded performances. We all got a new reason to smile at the camaraderie, teamwork, and athletic spirit shown by delegates from around the world, from Serena Williams in tennis to Usain Bolt in athletics. It was a festive, joyous sporting event to top off a series of milestones beginning with last year’s Royal Wedding and Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee this year.

5. US Shootings
But if there is a nation writhing in pain right now, it’s the United States of America. This nation is starting to feel the effects the Great Recession has had on its people. In just a year, 16 fatal shootings occurred in the US resulting in 88 people dead. Of these shootings, two of the most highly publicized occurred in Colorado and Connecticut. In July, deranged graduate student James Holmes (dressed in a Batman costume), opened fire at viewers inside a theater in Aurora, Colorado, where The Dark Knight Rises was being shown. On December 14, just a few days before Christmas, Adam Lanza, a 20-year old with a history of autism and personality disorder, killed his mother at their home and shot 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. These shootings brought a nation to even more grief even as they’re still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy and the Great Recession.

4. Wild, Wild Weather!
Killing sprees have been going on since the time of Cain and Abel so it’s less likely the world would end in such a way. But the likelihood of freak weather phenomena bringing an end to our species is something worth looking into. This year, various parts of the globe continued to experience its own piece of weird weather. In March up to August, North America suffered its worst drought in decades resulting in massive crop failures, wildfires, and heat strokes. In November, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the East Coast destroying much of the states of New Jersey and New York and exposing modern New Yorkers to the horrors of flooding, blackouts, and mass evacuation for the first time. In the Philippines, history repeated itself with round-the-clock monsoon rains triggering metro-wide floods in August much like what happened in 2009 during Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy). This December, supertyphoon Bopha (Pablo) caused devastation in the island of Mindanao, beating the destruction and loss of life caused by last year’s Typhoon Washi (Sendong).

3. Syrian Civil War
As the rest of the Arab Spring nations bask in their successful transition to their new governments, the success of the revolution has been very much delayed in Syria. Throughout the early to the middle part of 2012, it looked as if this conflict would turn out to be a war of attrition wherein both sides would each claim victory and without much shift in the territories they hold. However, as the West began to increase more pressure on President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime through neighbors Turkey and Jordan, and by providing some calculated support to the rebels, it looks like the tide is turning in favor of the revolution. Just this December, Russia has admitted that its ally might be on the losing end of the war. This conflict has gone on too long and the only peace the Syrian people can get right now is for the rebels to finally declare victory and start the long and arduous transition to democracy.

2. Gangnam Style
Who says the end of the world shouldn't have comic characters?

In 2012, we saw the rise of Korean pop singer Psy and his YouTube video “Gangnam Style”, the first ever YouTube video to reach a billion views. While we barely understand a word from his song, the catchy melody and dance steps has captivated viewers from around the world and created a fever both in an out of the World Wide Web. It is perhaps the climactic episode in this Korean Wave that has swept the world, giving us a bittersweet experience of Korean culture, history, and art. As we do the goofy, horse-riding step in this dance craze, we are given a temporary escape from all conflicts and problems we all faced this year. And it seemed as if maybe, just maybe, the world won’t come to an end.

1. Four More Years: The US Presidential Elections
The US Presidential Elections is the cherry to top this dozen of events that shook the world in 2012. After all, it was the most trending and most followed news event not just in the US but around the world. We followed the debates on TV, we tweeted and made status updates about our opinions and views about the candidates, and created memes about each contender before and after the vote. We all cringed in our seats when Clint Eastwood went talking to an empty chair. We braced ourselves as the votes came in one state at a time on November 6. We all went mushy during that historic moment when Barack hugged Michelle on national TV and thanked her for being with him throughout the campaign. It was the election that exposed the divisions in American society ever more so, but it was the victory that united it as well. We may never admit it, but as a de facto US state, we Filipinos have been moved by all of it even so.

A world without end: this is what we should realize after what had transpired throughout 2012. It just keeps going and going, fueled by the perpetual force of change. As long as we keep on believing that our world has no end, humankind will never have a shortage of metaphors to live by each day. No matter what happens in years to come—whether fire or ice, war and peace, right or wrong—if we all remain strong and stick together as one community united by our common good values, humankind will always wake up to another day ready to face future that lies before them. TSS

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.”
~ Richard Bach 

Happy New Year Everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

THINGS FALL APART: The Social Scientist 2nd Anniversary Special

The year started with a personal crisis for this blogger. And I seriously felt that the world would end.

Hence, I couldn't blog about anything during the first three months of 2012. I was caught between a rock and a hard place, about choosing between a bad romance and self-respect. At first, I chose the former, banking on the prospect that things will change for the better. And it did change—for the worse. More than a month of space turns people and things around; and ideas we always thought as perennial would turn out to be fleeting and effervescent, like soap bubbles that suddenly pop in the air. At the end of it all, I chose self-respect and began an excruciating and tense walkabout into the uncharted future.

By April, I was writing again; and I began with a commentary on the edgy relationship between President Aquino and the media regarding what seemed to be the latter’s focus on the former’s misses instead of gains. One could easily conclude that such tension would pave the way for PNoy’s rating to drastically slide, but we know he has rebounded from the backlash and now enjoys the highest approval rating among all presidents to date.

However, if there is one group that is perpetually angry at the government regardless of who is in power, it's the extreme left. We've heard a lot from them this past year, during their annual Labor Day rallies (Day of Hate) and during our coverage of the Asian Development Bank Summit last May. My other blog, Pilipinas 360, dug deeper into the division between the moderate and extreme left (A Tale of TwoLeftists) at a time when party list groups Akbayan and Anakbayan were bickering about which party truly represents the marginalized.

One of the most followed posts this year is my commentary on the issue of Chinese aggression in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. I reiterated the need to act tough in claiming ownership of the Spratlys Islands and defined tough actions needed to support our claims. In the face of Chinese imperialism in the West Philippine Sea, this administration has stood its ground and found its voice without stoking so much tension. Another sought after post talked about Lady Gaga's concert in Manila (Medieval Voices) and this author's criticism of various religious groups who sought to derail the event through mass protest.

From June to October, my posts have become rare once more, settling for only one or two posts a month due to adjustments with this new job I have and a relationship which I finally closed and sealed with finality. Mostly, I talked about topics close to my heart such as teaching (Nobody Likes a Terror Teacher), language (Mother Tongue and the Case of Taglish), and my visit to the Manila International Book Fair. Only when Jessie Robredo tragically died in a plane crash in Masbate (Robredo: The Magsaysay of Our Time) or when cyberspace went berserk after the passage of the Anti-CyberCrime Law (Caught in a Web of Crime and Rights) did I make any posts of national concern.

Many thought the end of the world would happen tomorrow, December 21. For me, it ended on November 19 when I found out that my ex-girlfriend had replaced me in just a span of 5 months. But just as the Mayans predicted, it wasn't an ending in the literal sense but rather a change in consciousness. I was single again and with a renewed consciousness in life, love, and relationships which manifested in my posts such as The Perfect Bow, Imagined Relationships, and The Incredible Lightness of Singularity. It was also at this point in time that I made the crucial decision to reveal to you, my readers, my true identity. Hence, a blog which began as a mere social commentary on Filipino current events and issues had also become a gateway to the personal life of this writer. Am I worried of the impression my readers now have of me? I cared less about this question.

As the world approached its purported end date, I made three posts on three topics which I truly enjoyed writing about. The first is on the implications of the US elections to Filipino society. In this blog, we've seen a lot of implications being explored upon and I hope to explore more of these in the coming year (if the world does not end tomorrow). Another post is my review of John Green's “Paper Towns”, an awesome book about the life and love of a geek (I guess all John Green books are). Being single gave me the luxury of reading more books and I'm in my third John Green book already which I plan to review and write about this month. Lastly, my post on Manny Pacquiao's recent loss to Juan Manuel Marquez (Even The Best Fall Down). It sort of epitomizes the entire experience I had this year, how despite my talent and intellect, I had my share of pitfalls too relationship and work-wise (A Long Awaited Call).

And so despite what seemingly felt like the end of the world, here we are still breathing, writing, and trying to be strong and wiser in between. I might have been too dramatic for everyone's comfort so pardon me, my dear readers. Just like me, I'm sure you've picked up lessons in my ramblings and musings this year. In every catastrophe, whether actual or imagined, there are lessons worth looking into and applying. I came out of the wilderness a changed (if not a better) person. I hope you can say the same for yourself, dear reader.

As the year comes to a close, I ask that you keep up with me and my adventures just like Dory in Finding Nemo. In both the virtual and real world, nobody wants to be lonely; and so I ask that we interact even more through this blog. I promise to keep on enriching your minds with unique and better posts, and share with you relevant experiences we can all learn from. Let 2013 be the start of something new, better, colorful, vibrant, and everything nice for this blog and its readers!

Happy 2nd Anniversary, THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


"Even the best fall down sometimes."

If there is a line from song to describe the entire feeling we have today, this would be it.

I didn't need to see the fourth (and perhaps, last) installment of the Manny Pacquaio - Juan Manuel Marquez fight to feel and understand the disappointment we have today. I'm sorry but I didn't care at all about the bout; I wasn't even planning on watching it and was asleep throughout the entire noon today. When I woke up at around past 3 p.m. only then did I found out and felt no surprise at all.

We were all hoping for some form of redemption from the humiliating defeat Pacquiao suffered against Timothy Bradley back in June. But we weren't the only ones hoping for such redemption. Across the other side of the Pacific, millions of Mexicans were also hoping Marquez can make a successful comeback and finally put a nail on the Mexicutioner's coffin. It was hope against hope and only the man with the better training, focus, and determination can tip the scales in their favor. Clearly, Marquez was that man, knowing he had so much to lose and determined not to be humiliated once more in his boxing career.

Pacquaio has always been a source of pride for us Filipinos, just like the many other Filipino celebrities who made it big in the international scene. For a country always on the recovery from some sort of disaster, whether calamity, poverty, or corruption, it does help our ego a lot to be known throughout the rest of the world. For more than a decade, Pacquaio had been so much of a morale booster that our entire generation's life revolved around him. His face and antics became part of our media: in movies, TV shows, and advertisements. His life story had been published in textbooks, taught in schools, and emulated by young boxers in the provinces. He wasn't just a hero to us; he is the personification of the hero we wanted to see in ourselves. Someone who punched his way to a better life and knocked out the walls of poverty.

Our lives turned around the axis that was Manny Pacquaio for so long that we didn't realize there is so much more to be proud of in our heritage, such as other notable Filipino boxers Nonito Donaire and Brian Viloria. We didn't realize that pride doesn't just stem from individuals doing great feats, but also in a society doing greater acts as manifested in our economy's gains this past quarter or our improved corruption rating. We were blinded by the ills we see so much in our society, we forgot about the good we can do (and were able to do) as a nation.

It's high time for Manny to do himself a favor and retire. He has, after all served his nation well as an athlete and as a symbol. But moreover, this nation should allow him to retire and accept the fact that his time in boxing is already up. More than lessons, this event should bring forth a change in consciousness among us. We should start believing that we, the people, not Manny or any other celebrity, are the source of pride and honor of this great country. We must believe, not in individuals who can be knocked out, but in a group of people who can knock down walls even greater than themselves. TSS

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Relationships start from that magical spark. Most people call it love at first sight; others, being struck by Cupid’s arrow. Once we become captives of this spark, the imagination begins to play. For the first time in years, you see your future in clear view. You see times spent in parks and beaches, holding hands and building sand castles. You picture trips to some far-off destination, exploring the sights and exploring each other. Sooner or later, you develop a mind photo of a family together, with perhaps two children in a house on a hill. It is the pursuit of this imagination that leads lovers to go on a pursuit of true love. It is the pursuit of this imagination that encourages two people seated on a bench to sit beside each other, to share an embrace, a kiss, and eventually, goodbyes.

I've never imagined it to end this way. In fact, I never saw it coming until a thorough afterthought of the signs for months later. I would like to think it is my fault that the imagined relationship we had eventually faded to oblivion. But it takes two to tango and thus, I am more convinced it was more of our individual differences, flaws, misgivings, and unfounded assumptions that brought us to a demise. These cracks in the imagination are what led her (and sooner or later, me) to pursue a different imagination of a relationship. Perhaps, one with less bickering and more communication. With someone who pays a listening ear regardless of our own myopic ideas and selfish talk.

So here I am, imagining once more what the future has for me. Chronicling a love foretold. I don’t wish for the next one be a real-life fairy tale or something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. I just want it to be real—the love, care, understanding, even the few moments of anguish that comes in every romance. Again, there will be poetry, perhaps short stories, even books written for this prophesied woman. There will be walks with her, barefoot, on foreign coasts and romantic dates in never-before-heard-of restaurants. We will make love like we've never made love before. We will fight like children over a game of Scrabble, or missing out on monthsarries. But we’ll always love each other no matter what caveat God puts along our way.

For it is in these worst case scenarios that we prove if someone is really worth staying with. I’d want her to be strong and committed if ever I’ve become Will Smith in “Pursuit of Happyness”, sharing the pursuit with me instead of doing what Thandie Newton did in the film. I want to be loved like Hugh Jackman in “Real Steel”, who despite his many wrong turns and disappointments, Evangeline Lilly never gave up hope on him. I’d stick around for her in sickness and in health, just like Jake Gyllenhaal in “Love and Other Drugs”. She’d do the same for me like Jennifer Connelly in “A Beautiful Mind”. We will search for each other like John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in “Serendipity”, or be best friends-turned-lovers like Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”. We will grow old together like Noah and Allie in “The Notebook”.

But for imagined relationships to become real life, both lovers must be courageous, strong, and determined to overcome the odds, even those made by themselves. Stuff like pride, selfishness, and envy. For while we think love is supposed to make us strong, it does not. It’s a sickness, meant to make us weak. But if we are already strong even before the imagination comes to life, before the weakness sets in, we can weather hail or storm hand-in-hand and by being the strength to each other.

To you, my imagined relationship, the woman meant for me. I love you.

Friday, November 23, 2012


A fascinating adventure of one seemingly-courageous-but-totally-freaked-out-geek in search of a beautiful, attractive, but totally freaked out teen rebel he’s absolutely in love with. A captivating, intricately planned road trip complete with a lot of weighty baggage and quirky, clever characters—this is what John Green’s Paper Towns is, his third young adult fiction novel after Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines.

Paper Towns follows the story of Quentin Jacobsen, also known as Q, and his quest to find his runaway ideal girl, Margo Roth Spiegelman, the archetypical attractive high school queen bee at Winter Park High School in Jefferson Park, Orlando, Florida. Margo, who’s had enough of the fake attitude of her friends and the controlling demeanor of her parents, decides to leave Orlando, aptly referred by her as a paper town.

“Here’s what’s not beautiful about it: from here, you can’t see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It’s a paper town.” – Margo (p. 80)

On the night before her departure, Margo takes Quentin in a joyride around Orlando, soliciting his help in exacting revenge against all the people who pretended to be her friend all that time. But more than a sinister payback scheme, the joyride proved to be the start of a long and arduous baptism of fire for Quentin, hatched by the courageous and scheming Margo.

When Margo disappears the following day, Quentin is baffled and goes on a fanatical search for her. Examining the different clues she left behind, Q tries to dig deeper into the Margo that he knew, but as he dug deeper, the more he realizes he doesn’t know Margo at all. That the real Margo is very far from the Margo he knew—smart, but reserved, damaged, and has a thing for escapism. He also learns more about himself than Margo as he progresses through the adventure: that he was capable of things he thought he can’t do before. This is where this charming young adult fiction turns into a heart-warming, thoughtful coming-of-age story.

Helped by clever and funny friends Ben, Radar, and Lacey, they analyze each clue for hints regarding Margo’s whereabouts. The whole process is excruciating, filled with a multitude of setbacks, misread clues, and out-of-nowhere disappointments. It was only when they go back to the very definition of “paper towns” that they realize what Margo was referring to and where she was—in the real paper town of Agloe, New York, a fictional town added to US maps to prevent copyright infringement. In the midst of this new found information, they hastily head out on a road trip across the East Coast to reach Margo before it was too late.

Paper Towns is the first John Green book that I’ve read. Before that, I became fascinated by John Green only through his YouTube vlog Crash Course: History. It was only when my blogger friend Clarisse E. mentioned The Fault in Our Stars that I realized that the John Green she was referring to was the same John Green I was watching and realized that he was an author too. Hence, I embarked on a journey to discover all things John Green.

John Green writes in an honest (sometimes too honest) and thoughtful voice through Quentin Jacobsen. You see an overanalyzing teen geek mushing over the sudden disappearance of his ultimate crush when Q talks. The right mix of sentimentality and comedy is what made the prose charming and attractive indeed. And while the book is dominated by geeky characters, Green did a good job of differentiating each one of them: the goofy and sometimes out-of-the-blue action star Ben Starling, and the ever-techie-help-a-friend-in-a-drop-of-a-hat Radar.

I read Paper Towns at a time when I was devastated by the sudden disappearance of someone I dearly loved, and somehow it helped me go through the process of moving on. How after two and a half years of being with her and thinking I knew her too well, I didn't know the real her after all. Or that I might have known the real her but time and distance had changed her too well that what I knew of her turned out to be false already. 

“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.” – Q, (p. 361)

In Quentin’s search, we are reminded of the challenges all of us go through in our own enigmatic road trips in life, and the bravery, cleverness, and audacity we have to muster in order to get to our destination and bask in the glory of having reached it. It also reminds us that ideals such as being there for our friends, getting to know ourselves and others better, and not giving up on people valuable to us, are still ideas worth their weight in gold.

In the end, Paper Towns is one book that I definitely loved reading and would like to recommend to teens and adults alike (but most importantly, to teens), whether geek or not. And when you finish reading, read it again. Every turn of the page is worth it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Plato: For the greater good.

Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.

Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration,
as a chicken which has the daring and courage to
boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom
among them has the strength to contend with such a
paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the
princely chicken's dominion maintained.

Hippocrates: Because of an excess of light pink gooey stuff in its

Jacques Derrida: Any number of contending discourses may be discovered
within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and
each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial
intent can never be discerned, because structuralism

Thomas de Torquemada: Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I'll find out.

Timothy Leary: Because that's the only kind of trip the Establishment
would let it take.

Douglas Adams: Forty-two.

Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road
gazes also across you.

Oliver North: National Security was at stake.

B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its
sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a
fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while
believing these actions to be of its own free will.

Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt
necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at
this historical juncture, and therefore
synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself,
the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of "crossing" was encoded into the
objects "chicken" and "road", and circumstances came
into being which caused the actualization of this
potential occurrence.

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed
the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Aristotle: To actualize its potential.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-

Howard Cosell: It may very well have been one of the most astonishing
events to grace the annals of history. An historic,
unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt
such an herculean achievement formerly relegated to
homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurence.

Salvador Dali: The Fish.

Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from
the trees.

Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.

Epicurus: For fun.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.

Johann von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Werner Heisenberg: We are not sure which side of the road the chicken
was on, but it was moving very fast.

David Hume: Out of custom and habit.

Jack Nicholson: 'Cause it (censored) wanted to. That's the (censored)

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

Ronald Reagan: I forget.

John Sununu: The Air Force was only too happy to provide the
transportation, so quite understandably the chicken
availed himself of the opportunity.

The Sphinx: You tell me.

Mr. T: If you saw me coming you'd cross the road too!

Henry David Thoreau: To live deliberately ... and suck all the marrow
out of life.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Molly Yard: It was a hen!

Zeno of Elea: To prove it could never reach the other side.

Chaucer: So priketh hem nature in hir corages.

Wordsworth: To wander lonely as a cloud.

The Godfather: I didn't want its mother to see it like that.

Keats: Philosophy will clip a chicken's wings.

Blake: To see heaven in a wild fowl.

Othello: Jealousy.

Dr Johnson: Sir, had you known the Chicken for as long as I have,
you would not so readily enquire, but feel rather the
Need to resist such a public Display of your own
lamentable and incorrigible Ignorance.

Mrs Thatcher: This chicken's not for turning.

Supreme Soviet: There has never been a chicken in this photograph.

Oscar Wilde: Why, indeed? One's social engagements whilst in
town ought never expose one to such barbarous
inconvenience - although, perhaps, if one must cross a
road, one may do far worse than to cross it as the
chicken in question.

Kafka: Hardly the most urgent enquiry to make of a low-grade
insurance clerk who woke up that morning as a hen.

Swift: It is, of course, inevitable that such a loathsome,
filth-ridden and degraded creature as Man should assume
to question the actions of one in all respects his

Macbeth: To have turned back were as tedious as to go o'er.

Whitehead: Clearly, having fallen victim to the fallacy of
misplaced concreteness.

Freud: An die andere Seite zu kommen. (Much laughter)

Hamlet: That is not the question.

Donne: It crosseth for thee.

Pope: It was mimicking my Lord Hervey.

Constable: To get a better view.

How about you, "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

Sunday, November 11, 2012


It’s that time of the year again.

Like people awakening from cryostasis, Christmas trees are brought out from old boxes covered in dust along with their matching trinkets, balls, and accessories—cleaned and polished to be set up just in time for the Holiday Season.

This is what I did throughout my long weekend beginning Friday. But unlike many of you who have old Christmas trees, we opted to give away our old one to a relative, and instead, bough a new, 7-foot tree from Divisoria. Being the only guy in the family, I was tasked to take charge of designing the tree with the help of my sister. Last year’s theme was gold; Hence, we decided that silver will be this year’s motif.

I was in for a surprise lesson in life with this weekend task.

Out of leftover silver ribbons from last year, I made bows to fill up what looked like a barren tree. Bows were never hard to make since I’ve always had a thing for arts and crafts—it was like tying shoelaces. But the perfectionist in me would always find something wrong with a thing as tiny as a bow. After cutting the ribbons into identical lengths, I tied them to knots one-by-one; and each time, the other half of the bow is either shorter or longer than the other one. I had to untie some of them before knotting them again to the proportion I desired. Some bows had to be cut on the edges in order for the length to be the same. All in all, I came up with 19 bows out of 3 yards of ribbon which I attached to the tree using a handy glue gun.

Wondering where the life lesson in this anecdote is? Some of you might have already figured it out.

I would like to believe God has made ribbons out of us. He chooses which ribbons he will tie into a bow and hang on the Christmas Tree of Lifetwo people for each bow. Sometimes, the way we are knot with another person into a bow isn’t as proportion as God hoped it to be, either one side is longer or shorter than the other. Hence, He will untie the knot and loop it once more, repeating the process if needed to get His desired bow. If He has to clip a few inches from our ribbons just to produce a perfect bow, He’ll do so.  The perfect bow hangs on the Christmas Tree of Life, where opportunity, happiness, and contentment grow.

God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Hence, He knows very well that change is the only thing that is permanent in this world. And just like any season, Christmas ends too. He will have to bring down the Christmas Tree of Life and untie the bows He had decorated the tree with. Not that they don’t deserve opportunity, happiness, and contentment, but rather to give chance for other bows to be tied and hanged on the tree next season. He could do the same motif again if He so desires, He may not. We will not know for sure.

I know some of you can relate to this as it reminds us of those moments when we felt we were part of a “perfect bow” with someone really special. I’ve felt these moments before, ever so more recently. But sometimes, God throws a caveat by untying the bow we have with these people and/or by trimming our ribbons. Don’t be discouraged by these caveats, as God never lets any of His ribbons go to waste and wants all of them to hang on His Christmas Tree of Life. He ties these ribbons again at a different time until He gets the “perfect bow” He and all of us desire.

God is the ultimate quiz master, much like Alex Trebek in Jeopardy. Sometimes, I cannot tell the difference between God and Trebek. While God won’t definitely chase a robber wearing only His underpants, Jeopardy-wise, He and the host are the same. Like an episode of this ubiquitous quiz show, He let’s us pick a category where our “questions” will come from and which “value” of question we want to answer. He then lets us place a wager of how much we are willing to endure and sacrifice in order to stay in the game. Sometimes, we win. Sometimes, we lose. But the great thing about God being our quiz master is that we can always take the test again. He won’t judge us no matter how much we fail in His quiz; He will always find a way for us to win on our own.

This is how I experience God in my day-to-day existence. I cannot label it Christian, Catholic, or otherwise; I would like to define Him in my own terms, much like most people today. Hence, I won’t question anyone’s religious beliefs, let alone, impose my own. If your experience of God brings out the beauty inside of you and helps you reach the maturity and nuance you desire, then more likely, your experience of God is right and true.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Photo from
We watched the campaign and followed their tweets. Their pick up lines and epic memes filled our timelines and feeds. And throughout today, we held our breaths with fingers crossed, until Barack Obama won and Mitt Romney lost.

But this was not the United States of America. This was in the Republic of the Philippines.

It’s undeniable how much this election has affected the Filipino nation more than the Americans themselves. After all, we’ve got 4 million of our own kind in the Land of the Free and growing, steadily making their mark in American history and culture. Such is our significance in the US that we even saw some Filipino-Americans vie for public office or the Tagalog signage in some polling places. Here at home, given the almost 50 years of American presence, this US election simply reminds us of our brief and distant interloping with American politics and heritage, the same way we are reminded by our fascination for all things stateside. Most of us grew up learning more about DC or Marvel comic book heroes than our own local patriots. Who doesn’t get an iPhone or iPad from relative/benefactor in NY or LA? Even I get to receive a balikbayan box from Sacramento at least once a year filled with all the bits and pieces of the American dream. Call it colonial mentality or whatever you want but you cannot deny the special relationship Filipinos have with America. Hence, it is only normal that we feel mesmerized, even captivated by each twist and turn in this election.

But there is more to scratch in the surface of our jubilation. There is more at stake here, especially for the millions employed in call centers and other business process outsourcing companies. For customer service representatives, copywriters, graphic artists, and other workers relying on subcontracted work from the US, this could spell disaster as four more years for Obama could mean a waning of job opportunities this sector has relied so much on. For thousands of Filipino TNTs (illegal immigrants), this means having to dig deeper foxholes to avoid tighter immigration policies knowing that Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than his predecessor. It does shed some light though on the future of immigrant children born in the US, as the re-elected president promised the passage of the DREAM ACT giving amnesty and opportunities to alien minors.

Notwithstanding our expectations, we were also awed by the American practice of democracy and became green with envy at how orderly and mature their elections were. Not that the candidates are actually mature with all the berating and mudslinging, but at least (unlike here) they stuck to policy issues and not on candidates’ psychological records or the authenticity of their humble backgrounds. It’s like standing side-by-side and seeing the parallels between them and ourselves. Nobody gets a bullet in his head for defying the political status quo; no one is sourgraping when the final results are shown on tivo. We are all dreamers today, outside looking in, wondering at why we can’t make the same system work without so much of a glitch. We were all students, taking notes of lessons to apply on our own.

At the end of the day, we all went home thinking once again that America is the greatest nation on Earth and we are just a bunch of islands in the Pacific. But deep within our psyche lies a determination to define what this nation is: that we are more than just the sum of our colors or land masses. That we are the Republic of the Philippines. And there is no better way to determine that than by consecrating ourselves to our sacred duty of voting judicious candidates in our upcoming elections.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Photo from
Crime does not pay. No one is above the law.

Looking back at how these adages came into our society's consciousness, we are reminded of a time when nations were still kingdoms ruled by archetypal monarchs for decades, even centuries. It is this point in history when people questioned their existence as whether solely for life-long servitude or pursuit of personal well-being. It was in this period when people found the answer to their questions: that kings and queens weren't as divine as they thought they are and that the ordinary human can lead a group of people as much as these elites can. Hence, concepts such as human rights and social contract came into being and gave birth to democratic nations we now know today, including our own country.

Rights and the Social Contract

By breaking the shackles of despotism and committing themselves into taking the reins of national leadership, the people of the first democratic nations agreed to establish a covenant. This so-called social contract basically defines what rights free people have as both human beings and citizens and their determination to uphold and protect such rights through their agent – The State. It also stipulates that by letting The State enforce and preserve these rights, citizens will have to surrender some of the same rights in order to achieve such mission and bring forth what is commonly good for all. Hence, by agreeing that crime should not pay and that no one is above the law, in the event that one man breaks the social contract, that man must surrender some of his rights (i.e. the right to free movement) as a consequence of his actions. The same is true when a person, in committing to uphold anyone's honor and reputation, must limit his/her freedom of speech once such speech degrades anyone's well-being.

Rights in the Digital Divide

Photo from
Granted the freedom to pursue their well-being and improve their way of life, human beings have made huge strides politically, economically, and technologically. The world became smaller as they developed newer and faster means to communicate and exchange ideas or goods, the testament of which is the evolution from snail mail to social media. Each of these media celebrated freedom of speech in its own way, with social media being the most celebrated by our generation among all these means. Thus, any person within a point in a map, can now speak their minds seamlessly with just a flicker of the keyboard.

However, the celebration of freedom of speech in social media also has its consequences. Just as its predecessors, print and broadcast media, social media has become a platform for attacks against a person's honor and reputation as well as a means to circumvent all other rights in the book. Concepts such as piracy, online pornography, online libel, and cyberbullying were coined to describe such violations. The Internet does seem to put crime above the law with its seemingly free and somewhat anarchic atmosphere.

Where Do We Draw the Line?

With the evolution of crime in the today's Information Age, policing the Internet is seen as a viable option to uphold human rights and protect citizens from themselves and others in accordance to the social contract. But is the Digitial Divide within the scope of our social contracts? Where do we draw the line between freedom in the Internet and protecting human rights?

Governments around the world have come up with different approaches to policing the Web. The United States tried enacting its SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) only to draw tremendous flak from Internet companies and users alike. The Philippines, for its part, succeeded in enacting and signing into law the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10175), which is aimed at curbing a multitude of criminal acts on the Internet and other platforms of communication. Just like SOPA and PIPA, it was met with massive protests never before seen in the country, which included hacking of government websites by anonymous digital revolutionaries. The law and the subsequent reaction to its passage has received both favorable and negative comments about it both from the masses and the intelligentsia both local and abroad.

A Tightrope to the Right Direction

There should be no doubt about it: we need the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 more than ever. It is perhaps the most crucial step we've made as a nation in response to rampant criminal acts on the Web. Nevertheless, while the ends of the law is justified, the means to achieve these ends should be in accordance to our social contract. Its enforcement should favor both parties, not the State or the citizens solely. By agreeing to uphold and protect their rights and well-being on the Internet, citizens must allow some of their rights, such as the right to free speech, to be limited either by the State or by themselves. The State, by upholding and protecting the rights of everyone on the Internet should not curtail or completely abolish our rights to free speech, expression, and privacy, and should be open to scrutiny regarding their actions.

The State should not be antagonized for enacting this law, nor should citizens be antagonized for their outright disagreement. Rather, both stakeholders must sit down once more and review the social contracts they have established and agreed to and come to a balanced resolution to the issue of cybercrime. Working hand in hand in achieving our goals for a better, happier, and humane society is the key. While online protests are essential in drawing attention to the need for reevaluation, protests that result in the usurpation of other people's rights and delay in State services is a defeatist cause.

Yes, people should not be afraid of governments. After all, we are the government. Hence, we should all be afraid of ourselves and the crimes we could possibly commit on the Net. You may not agree with what I say, but I will defend your right to disagree to it. In the end, I say, our freedom to do what we want should never justify wrong as right. TSS

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Social Scientist @ The 33rd Manila International Book Fair

It was that time of the year once more when wages are set aside and daily allowances saved up for the much awaited event among Filipino bibliophiles: the Manila International Book Fair!

In its 33rd run, the longest running book fair in Asia aims to attract more Filipinos to the event and encourage the love of reading to everyone, but most especially to males (Hence, the all-male book ambassador line-up). But the MIBF need not to entice me with bibliophile geeks, gays, and nerds just to go and visit. Having attended my 1st MIBF in 2009, I’ve made it a point to religiously attend since then and now I’m in my fourth year. Each year, the book fair always had something special in store for enthusiasts like me which made us come back for more. But what makes this year’s MIBF special is that I got to spend it with a fellow bibliophile and writer, Clarrise, whose blog “Orchestroscopy” I’m a huge fan of.

Fans line up for Ramon Bautista's book signing. (Photo by Clarrise E.)
We went on a Saturday, on the 2nd to the last day of fair, which, when combined with a 3-day weekend sale, a CosPlay event, the collegiate basketball games, and a few rainshowers, made the SM Mall of Asia the smallest and most cramped mall in the world. Upon entering the Main Hall of the SMX Convention Center, the quintessential red and white arch of the country’s National Bookstore would greet visitors. Over to the right is book fair newbie, Fully Booked, the country’s fastest growing upscale bookstore. As my new buddy and I (it was the first time we met in person) strolled to the aisles and sections of the fair, we found more stalls selling religious books, big publishing companies (Rex, Diwa, Edcrish, Scholastic, and more), and companies selling educational tools and materials. I can’t help but have a sarcastic grin: this is just what we need every year in a book fair—big bookstores and publishers and tons of religious crap!

Gone are the rare stalls that offer one-of-a-kind books in prices that range from reasonable to dirt cheap. Back in 2009, I was able to buy a lot of stuff for a budget of Php 1000, including a Reader’s Digest atlas for my Geography students. Back then, Diwa Learning Systems still sold books and back issues of their classic Bato Balani and Damayan magazines. Now, their booth’s look and feel somehow gives you the feeling of being in a Consumer and Electronics Show rather than a book fair. And anywhere in the fair, you won’t find a unique and artsy bookmark which made my buddy a bit disappointed.

I don’t know if Pasay City has already banned plastics, but it doesn’t help the environment to know that the MIBF still uses plastics to package the merchandise they're selling. I hope this issue will be addressed in next year’s fair by encouraging readers to bring their own shopping bags.

The fair is not without its share of good traits as well. Amazingly, there are still a lot left for the kids as the major children’s book publishers are still around and going strong. Passing by Precious Hearts Publications, we saw the Tagalized version of contemporary bestselling novels such as Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight”, and Suzanne Collin’s “The Hunger Games”. While it was only after the fair that I found out that these versions had a lot of language flaws, at least someone is setting a trend in the publishing industry by making foreign works more appealing to locals. However, let’s not bring up the issue of local works being translated and marketed to foreigners, as it is another issue that would take more than a blog post to tackle.  

UP and Ateneo de Manila Press have also offered a lot of great works from less-known but equally talented writers. For my MIBF haul, I was able to snag:

My MIBF haul from UP Press and Ayala Museum (Photo by the author)
“100” by UP Writer’s Club
A collection of bittersweet literary works by UP students

“And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth” by Carljoe Javier
The first published work of a self-confessed geek and contains hilarious but amazingly realistic anecdotes of his daily experiences as a geek.

“The Filipino is Worth Blogging For” by Angela Stuart Santiago and Katrina Stuart-Santiago
An indie publication by a mother-daughter tandem and contains their positions and considerations of some of the country’s most crucial political and social issues to date.

“Pogi Points” by Stanley Chi
The not-so gentleman’s guide to looking good [for girls], as the sub-headline says.

While there were some disappointments on our part (my buddy didn’t get her bookmarks and wasn’t able to have her picture taken with Ramon Bautista), for me, this year’s book fair experience made quite a memorable impression me. It was the first time I’ve attended the book fair with a person who shares my passion for books and writing. All throughout our time together, we’ve exchanged ideas about our favorite authors and books, our writing styles and experiences, and got to learn more about each other on a personal level. What started as two mere online acquaintances turned out to be kindred spirits now embarking on a expedition to a great friendship!

“It was the most refreshing time I’ve had in months”, Clarrise said right after we parted and called it a night. I couldn't agree more. TSS

You can also read Clarrise's thoughts about the 33rd MIBF in her blog.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...