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.
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