Saturday, September 21, 2013


Early this month, I asked my fourth year students to create artistic posters of post-war/contemporary Filipinos who they consider as their heroes. This is part of our observance of National History Month last August. Initially, I am pleased with their outputs because most of it are well made and depicts popular personalities today like CNN Hero Efren Penaflorida, former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino. Some even fielded lesser known names in the field of social change like Gawad Kalinga’s Tony Meloto, child wonder Kesz Valdez, RockEd founder Gang Badoy, and even rapper Francis Magalona.

However, I was struck speechless by what one student chose as his hero: former President and Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.

This incident is but a mere testament to the gravity of unawareness prevailing in today’s generation regarding the horrors of Martial Law and the abuses of the Marcoses and their cronies. In social media, you can observe how appalling this gravity is; it has washed clean the consciousness of every post-People Power Revolution generation beginning from those born in the 80s up to the millenials.

I am a 90s kid, but growing up watching news on TV and reading tons of newspapers and history books has made me fully aware of transgressions committed by the Marcos regime. But for people unlike me, I have a chilling fear that my generation (and generations to come) might not know what these transgressions are and that they might even revive the personality cult of this evil strongman. What could be influencing them even as we celebrated People Power annually for the past 27 years through street demonstrations and countless TV specials and granite memorials?

I’d like to believe there is an ongoing pro-Marcos lobby going on since 2010. While it cannot be directly tied with evidence, it is worth noticing that pro-Marcos videos, blog posts, and other social media have surged dramatically in the run up to the 2010 Presidential Elections where the strongman’s son and heir-apparent Bongbong Marcos first ran as senator and won. Of course, it is common knowledge where Bongbong is setting his sights on after securing his Senate seat.

Facebook and Youtube are all afire with conversations about FM being “the best president of the Philippines”, “that FM and Ninoy weren’t enemies but best friends”, and that “Cory Aquino handed Ninoy divorce papers” prior to his assassination. Marcos loyalists dominate and control the discussion in these sites using various statements to laud Marcos’ achievements and dismiss credible primary sources about his corruption and human rights record as mere manipulation by the media.

Let’s explore some of their arguments and counter them with common sense and (of course) with primary historical sources:

1. “Marcos is the best president! He built a lot of infrastructure projects that still exist today such as the San Juanico Bridge, the Patapat Viaduct, and the Candaba Viaduct. During his term, the PNR (Philippine National Railways) extends up to Bicol and Pangasinan!"

Three of Manila’s bridges—the Quezon, Jones, and MacArthur Bridges—were all built during President Manuel L. Quezon’s term. Also, the Manila City Hall, the PhilPost Building, and the National Museum, which were built during Quezon’s term and destroyed or damaged in World War II, were rebuilt during the time of President Manuel Roxas. It was also during Roxas’ term that the Manila International Airport (NAIA Terminal 1 today) was built from its original location in Nielsen Field (now Ayala Avenue, Makati). The Manila Railway Company (now the PNR), whose railway lines were also damaged during the war began its rehabilitation during the Roxas’ term and continued in succeeding administrations.

It is also worth noting that most of FM’s infrastructure projects were funded by loans from foreign creditors such as the IMF and the World Bank. Hence, Philippine foreign debt surged from $360 million in 1962 to $28.3 billion in 1986. Morever, Marcos and his allies are known to overprice these infrastructure projects in order to siphon kickbacks amounting to billions of dollars for their own personal whims.

It stumps me how the loyalists could laud Marcos’ infrastructure projects when other presidents before and after him have also fielded great engineering feats. All these infrastructure projects still exist and are being used; yet, very few have lauded the Presidents who envisioned them. So why single out FM as if he is the progenitor of all infrastructure projects in the Philippines?

2. “The Philippines’ had the best performing economy during Marcos’ time. The prices of commodities were cheaper compared today and the peso-dollar exchange was at a dollar per peso!”

Most people associated with this comment were born between 1940 and 1960. Give them a light tap in the shoulder and remind them that prices today are indeed higher today compared to the 70s because of changing inflation rates. Remind them too that back in their days, their grandparents used to say too that commodities were cheaper during the Commonwealth period.

Source: BSP
As for the economy being the best during Marcos’ term, no statistical record can substantiate this. Numbers don’t lie and even the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has released records of the peso-dollar exchange being at P3.50 to a dollar in 1966 after Marcos came to power. When he left in 1986, it was at P20.53 to a dollar!

Moreover, our gross domestic product (the total amount of products and services produced in the country) dropped from 3.4% in 1966 to 1.4% in 1986. We fared poorly compared to our Southeast Asian neighbors who fielded better GDPs such as Thailand (5.3%), Singapore (7.7%), Indonesia (5.7%), and Malaysia (5.1%). Thus, despite “revolutionary” programs such as the “Green Revolution” (which were funded by loans), many Filipinos (especially in the countryside) suffered great poverty because of their inability to adopt and adjust to new farming techniques introduced by the regime which were beneficial only to the landed elite. Between 1972 and 1980, agricultural output went down by 30%, unemployment exploded from 6.8% in 1972 to 27.65% in 1985, thus leading to a 40% hunger and malnutrition rate among the general population in 1978 (when Martial Law was at its peak).

3. “Society was better during Marcos’ time; people are disciplined and were afraid to break the law.”

If this was the case, then the succeeding generations of those who were “disciplined” during Martial Law should be well behaved and even more disciplined by now since their parents (and grandparents) had a much “disciplined” upbringing! But this isn’t the case, since we have more shameless lawbreakers today in every fabric of our society, from the grassroots up to the elite. Why is this so?

Marcos conditioned society to fear laws instead of respecting them. If people followed laws in their own accord, they would be following it even without the fear of death or any other penalty. But during Martial Law, our constitution—the 1973 Constitution—was almost penned by Marcos’ hand because the Interim Batasang Pambansa was but a mere rubber stamp of his punitive policies.

Of course, who would follow a rule that was not agreed upon by everyone? No one. Thus, Marcos had to use fear to enforce his laws, even to the point of committing grave human rights violations. He conditioned society that he was doing all these to correct a “corrupt and undisciplined society”, but all of it is a pretext to what he planned as a silent doing away of all groups and figures who were opposed to his political and economic schemes which served himself, his friends, and his foreign political handlers.

4. “Marcos is not as corrupt as politicians today!”

Actually, he’s just as worse as them. Maybe even worse.

Given that his administrations’ economic “growth” was funded by international loans, he and his cronies had a huge cash cow in their tow. All in all, he accumulated $30 billion from foreign loans, government funds, and private businesses seized during Martial Law. From this amount, $450 million would go to various escrow accounts in Switzerland, lavish real estate properties in the United States (under the name William Saunders, an alias he used in World War II), as well as a collection of shoes and jewelry to please his wife Imelda who was pining over his unfaithfulness by having a sexual affair with actress Dovie Beams. This is aside from the fact that he used bribery and coercion to buy votes and rig the results of the 1969, 1981, and 1986 elections.

It can be said that the crooks and thieves of today’s society like former President Joseph Estrada, former President Gloria Arroyo, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Bongbong Marcos, as well as Janet Lim-Napoles, Gen. Carlos Garcia, Jocjoc Bolante, the Euro-Generals, to name a few, all took a page from Marcos’ book.

So why are many Filipinos still idolizing him now more than ever?

With every fabric of our society soaked in the bathwater of corruption, majority of Filipinos are left with very little choice. We have a president, whose agenda is to fight corruption, but can't fully get his hands on dismantling its gears and cables completely because he is afraid of losing popular support for his polices and his party in 2016. On the other side, we have extremist politicians who want to dismantle the very democratic foundations of this society and replace it with an undemocratic one. We already know what happened to these societies, right?

Hence, out of the need for order, continuity, and survival, some Filipinos would chose to look up to Marcos and his offspring. He was a strongman after all—a strongman who stole, lied, and cheated—but still a strongman compared to weaklings, cheats, and crooks of today. These Filipinos chose to forget their principles and deny the very truth in our history books because the post-EDSA breed of leaders and politicians have left them with very little to look up to.

If only they realize that they shouldn’t be looking up at anyone.

When it comes to our country’s good, we don’t owe anyone a favor, whether it’s Marcos, Estrada, or Aquino. We are a nation who implored the aid of God to set up a government that reflects our ideals and aspirations—ideals that are pure and chaste. But with our little education and feeble minds we were deceived by these people to trust them with our hands, minds, and pockets. Now that we know better, are we still going to trust our country’s good to these kinds of people and their offspring?

We owe it to ourselves to setup a good government and bring about a better nation. Hence, we shouldn’t elect strongmen (or women) to save us from ourselves and each other. We MUST save ourselves by being respectful of the covenants we made with ourselves and others: by respecting our laws against cheating, lying, stepping on each other’s rights (among others) and by upholding our laws that promote peace, community, cooperation, wealth-sharing, and mutual growth.

More than ever, we are the heroes who can save this nation. If only we remember and never forget. TSS


Photo credits: GMA News Online and Ferdinand Marcos for President 2016 Facebook Page

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


It feels surreal to be one of thousands of Filipinos who attended the Million People March at the Luneta Park last August 26. Except for a small overnight picket against the irregularities in the election of our university president back in 2007, I have never been to a mass protest as historic as this. I’ve never witnessed EDSA I, II, or III, and have always distanced myself from militant rallies during annual SONA or Labor Day. To be with like-minded people who are fed up with government corruption, graft, and malversation of public funds invigorates my citizenship. For years, I yearned to be part of something substantial to nation-building apart from my daily mission inside the halls of learning.

I really thought that everyone’s participation would create the change we were all expecting.

Now, a few days after, I am irate over the effect of this pork barrel mess and this Million People March had in Filipinos. I thought these events would be a catalyst that would make the general public more aware and informed, and thereby putting them in a better position to express their disgust against government irregularities and suggest better means of governance and national management.

It all began when some fool who attended the Million People March took a photo of the billboard showing the cost of the Luneta Flagpole renovation, which was priced at P7.8 million. Once the photo made it online, it was only a matter of time before more fools quickly pounced on this scoop like rabid dogs, accussing the government of overpricing a mere flagpole project and being insensitive to the plight and suffering of poor Filipinos by coming up with this “lavish” project.

In no time, the netizens flocked to these peddlers of misinformation and speculation, voicing out their opinion against “alleged” malversation of public funds without as much as cross referencing and doing background check on the information presented in social media. By night fall, this issue was making the rounds in prime time national news programs and news websites, each peddling their own resource person citing why the project is allegedly “overpriced”.

In the Manila Bulletin, they called on a structural engineer from multinational firm Arup to comment on the issue. According Engineer Rudolfo Mendoza Jr., the project is “grossly overpriced”. Quoting from
“He cited a similar project that required more rigorous specifications for the foundations. He said the cost for the foundation, labor and transport for a two-meter thick, 20- meter high unipole for a billboard only cost P2 million back in 2000.
In the same Manila Bulletin article, Archbishop Broderick Pabillo was quick to declare the project as “overpriced”. Archbishop Angel Lagdameo was also quick to dip his fingers on the issue, saying that “the funds that will be spent in the flagpole is an abuse of money.”

Some netizens called the flag pole project “a false sense of pride”, emphasizing that while the new flag pole will restore the original Independence Flag Pole built in 1946, it is undeniable that the pole itself was manufactured in China which currently is at odds with the Philippines due to the Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys Islands dispute. But there is an even bolder attack from a blog which got sophisticated by employing knowledge of the flag pole industry (obviously ripped from websites of American flag pole manufacturers) through some half-baked research. While it didn't describe the project as “overpriced”, its so-called “evidence” left plenty to the reader’s imagination that it was indeed.

That’s just about everything that makes me irate about this pole of contention. I am irate because this pork barrel mess has instilled mass hysteria among Filipinos. That even a necessary and transparent public works project such as replacing the Luneta Park flagpole is being viewed with doubt without so much as looking for factual information on the issue.

How can a structural engineer (an even an archbishop for that matter) declare a project as overpriced without possessing as much as blueprints and project specifications from the project engineer or the contractor, without so much as complete bidding documents from the Bids and Awards Committee, or even a copy of the audit report from the Commission on Audit. Isn’t it that if this project is indeed overpriced the Commission would have been quick to make a report about it to the president? What the DPWH and the DOT should’ve done is to at least include in the billboard the breakdown of the expenses which could’ve avoided the brouhaha in the first place.

How can netizens attack the manufacturing of the pole in China when the Rizal Monument itself was made in Switzerland? Will a Chinese-made flag pole diminish our nationalism even if a Swiss-made monument hasn't? We are merely being hypocritical and xenophobic here, inflamed by tensions in the West Philippine Sea. There is no reason to argue about the flagpole’s source since most goods today come from multinational sources.

Now, on the argument that the project is very untimely considering the recent onset of Typhoon Maring and the floods it brought or the argument that the project is “lavish” and insensitive to the plight of poor Filipinos who could have benefited from the P7.8 million cost of the project, I have this to say: We have other agencies for that. It is the very reason why we have Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, and other related agencies who budget is for poverty alleviation and disaster response. The budget of the Department of Tourism and the National Parks Development Committee is solely for tourism infrastructure and endeavors that promote tourism in the Philippines.

Now, just because we have around 2.5 million Filipinos below the poverty line, does this mean were gonna stop funding projects that restore the beauty of our national parks and promote our culture and history? If you’re saying yes right now, then we should immediately recommend the closing of the Luneta Park and all other recreational spaces operated by the NPDC simply because their budget would've been better spent on the poor. Moreover, the government should just close the National Museum and all other depositories of our national identity and culture simply because their budget would've been better spent on the poor!

Come to think of it, comparing the 2.5 million Filipinos below the poverty line with the rest of 92 million Filipinos above it, were not that poor after all. Were not like Somalia or any other third world country which has a huge majority of their population below the poverty line! The Philippines is already one of the Next 11 countries for Christ’s sake! These 2.5 million dependents should be helping themselves cross that line instead of relying on dole outs from the taxpayers’ money.

For me, it’s worth spending P7.8 million for the National Flag Pole of the Philippines as part of the overall overhaul of the Luneta Park in time for the death anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal. The general public are, in fact, reaping the benefits now of a better Luneta Park with all its new lights, fountains, and sounds. Imagine the other benefits Luneta Park will reek from this flag pole once it is erected.

Yes, some blogger could argue that people might forget about this flag pole and its significance a few years after it is erected, or that the entire park will be just another recreational area after its renovation is complete. But, just take the example of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. When it was erected during the Marcos regime, people of that time were quick to label it as “pomp” and “extravagance”. Now, look at the contributions of that complex to the promotion of our culture and history!

Spending P7.8 million for a flagpole that might be forgotten sooner or later is not an error in the judgment of the government or the people behind this project. It is an error in the judgment of ordinary people who failed to see the significance of these pantheons and edifices as symbols of our country’s colorful past and culture. We need these pantheons and edifices because of the very fact that our people easily forget their past and because we need something to look up to and believe about our nation despite all the falsehood and treachery going around today. TSS

Further Reading:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back to the Book Fair with The Social Scientist

The natural magnetism of printed books still captures the imagination of most Filipino bibliophiles. This is what the 34th Manila International Book Fair proved, which I’ve attended this Saturday at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

The colors and the ambiance of the place do not immediately give away the drastic changes to this event. Since I first attended in 2009, the red and yellow tarpaulins marking the aisles, the smell of unsold stocks of books, the hard-to-maneuver alleys between exhibitors remain unchanged.

There are new folks here though, like the larger areas allotted for big name bookstores like National Bookstore, Fully Booked, and Goodwill. Big publishing houses are also kings this year, with Anvil, Rex, Diwa, Vibal, CentralBooks and Phoenix attracting clients to their Print-on-Demand, Publish-on-Demand, and e-book services. The increased number of foreign exhibitors gave the event a truly international vibe.

But there are old folks missing from this year’s fair too, like Scholastic Philippines (to my relief), who opted to exhibit only their Grolier encyclopedia division; also missing is an ex-girlfriend who introduced me to this fair five years ago, and a fellow blogger who I introduced to the fair last year. Going to the fair alone for the first time was truly surreal because I didn’t have anyone to discuss my book choices with or to chuckle with about interesting book finds.

I traversed every alley with one eye always looking at my shoulder for fear of who I might bump into. That was into the first twenty minutes inside the fair. Soon enough, I realized I won’t bump into any of my expectations with all the people moving their way like ants inside. Besides, if I did bump into them, why bother? I came for the book fair, not for the ex-girlfriend.


The author together with Mr. Isagani Cruz and
friend Mr. Bob de Castro
By saying “I came for the book fair”, I wasn’t being exact. I actually came for the “How to Write a Book” seminar by Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Isagani Cruz—an event which I waited too long to happen in a book fair like this. With me was my boss and fellow writer, Mr. Abraham de Castro, who happens to be the writing a book on Cory Aquino.

In a span of three hours, I found out that it wasn’t my consciousness of the critics, or the unavailability of time, or my novice book writing skills that’s preventing me from realizing my greatest dream—its myself. “To write, you have to write, whether its garbage or mediocre”, said Mr. Cruz. He added that “Writing begets writing, but it doesn’t start until you do something.”

In retrospect, I’ve written three unfinished novels since college, one of which was lost when I changed computers while the other two being works in progress. I also have an unfinished movie script with indie film director Eseng Cruz which we worked on this summer. I haven’t added new content to these works of art after the school year started because of work demands, laziness, or procrastination. I can’t seem to find the time or energy to continue writing them. But Mr. Cruz says, “What is the best time to write? Anytime, as long as it’s always the same time everyday.” He gave himself as an example, describing how he writes at 3 AM in the morning when there is less likelihood of disturbance and when his mind has fully rested and fresh with ideas.

Well, he must have been working in a really cozy room with a nice desk and comfy chair. Mine is a front row seat to a concrete wall thanks to the commercial building adjacent my window. However, when it comes to the best place to write, Mr. Cruz suggests, “Anywhere, as long it is always the same place.” He uses Filipino author Samantha Sotto as an example. She wrote her internationa best-selling novel “Before Ever After” in a Starbucks in front of the Ateneo de Manila University everyday while waiting to pick up her child who was studying in the aforementioned school. Of course, I won’t be chugging down on Starbucks coffee anytime soon considering my pay rate, but Sotto’s story gives my meager desk from SM Hypermarket a confidence boost. In fact, on Sunday, I gave it a good cleaning and decluttering. The rest of my room benefited from the process.

Mr. Cruz also made me realize that I was following the basic process of book writing all along—or a least most of it. In my two unfinished novels, I decided to do a deductive approach by 1) writing a synopsis of what the entire novel is all about before, 2) breaking down the synopsis into chapters and writing a synopsis for each, and finally, 3) writing the content for the chapters. I never got beyond chapters 3 and 7 for both novels respectively and so I never had the chance to take Mr. Cruz’s other steps which include:
  1. Idea – Brainstorming the main idea of the novel and its specific details
  2. Research – Conducting research about the fact to be contained in the novel
  3. First Draft – To be written without regard for chronological sequence of events, grammar, and facts and with different possible endings
  4. Fact Checking – To avoid any errors that might cause the author to lose face and credibility
  5. Second Draft – To be written this time with regard to chronological sequence, grammar, and facts
  6. Language Check – You don’t want to do a Venus Raj here that’s why
  7. Copy Editing – Writers don’t do this, according to Mr. Cruz. That’s why God created editors.
  8. Final Draft – To be saved as an e-file multiple times in different storage devices aside from printed in clean sheets of paper.
Mr. Cruz also advises not to rewrite your first draft and to save edits in a different filename each time so you can see how your novel evolved throughout its writing. He cites Ernest Hemingway as an example, who wrote 28 different endings for “A Farewell to Arms”. He emphasized the need for friends to look at your manuscript before publication, particular three kinds of friends: 1) The friend who reads and listens without commenting or judging, 2) The friend who reads, listens, and critiques, and 3) The copy-editor friend.

With the recent advent of Print-on-Demand and Publish-on-Demand services from various local publishing houses, its only a matter of time before I can finish my novel and have it printed. Most celebrated works these past few years like Ramon Bautista’s “Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo” and CarlJoe Javier’s “And the Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth” were all independently published using such methods. In the case of Samantha Sotto, she had to sell her manuscript to literary agents first before it was picked up by Random House, which, for me, is a 50/50 gamble considering that your work may or may not be enticing and thus not reach the US market. It’s one gamble I am willing to bet on considering my connections and resources.

Writing begets writing. And so I’ll finish this article in the hopes of beginning where I left off in my novels and movie script. No matter how long Mr. Isagani Cruz and I got to know each other, it felt as if he’s been my mentor for a long time now. I would have wanted to say that he gave new inspiration to my writing but he did say that “There’s no such thing as writing because of inspiration”. Hence, I'd say has injected new energy into my writing with his insights. Because of him, who knows, (and this was suggested by Mr. Cruz himself) I might get this blog published in book form sometime soon.

Mr. Cruz, mag-dilang anghel ka sana! TSS
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