Saturday, July 19, 2014

Requiem, Fr. Jack

I remember Fr. Jack Carroll, S.J., for two reasons.

One is that I would often run into him (not literally, of course) at the college covered swimming pool. While I would be doing my laps, he would be floating and paddling a bit, under the watchful eye of his caregiver. I never really got to talk to him during these times, but he was a familiar sight to those of us who frequent the college pool.

The other reason I remember him is because of his insightful columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, wherein he would share his thoughts and insights on social issues. His last column was published last March, and, in it, he analyzed the flaws of the EDSA revolution. He wrote:
Edsa was a political revolution, not a social revolution. The faces changed, initially for the better, but the social structures—the landholding and legal systems and the educational and tax systems—did not change sufficiently to change the lives of the poor. In the first election under the new government, the traditional local elites reasserted their dominance, and shortly after that the House of Representatives emasculated an already weak agrarian reform bill. And so it has gone on for 28 years, with small, marginal changes in response to the growing frustration of the poor. ("'Miracle' at Edsa?", March 1, 2014)
Sad but true.

During the great furor over the reproductive health (RH) bill, Fr. Jack was invited to give a talk to the faculty about it, and, during the talk, he outlined what he believed were possible talking points over the RH bill. While he did not support the abortion-related aspects of the bill, he, along with Fr. Ritchie Genilo, S.J., looked for the middle ground.

Like Fr. Reuter and Fr. O'Brien before him, Fr. Jack, despite being an American, embraced the Philippines so lovingly that he was probably more Filipino than a lot of us. It was in reading his columns and listening to him that his love for his adopted country rang through.

Fr. Jack rejoined his Creator last Thursday, at the ripe old age of 90. He will be sorely missed.

Requiescat in pace, Fr. Jack. Rejoice in the company of our Lord.

Portrait: RIP, Fr. Jack Carroll SJ. 
born Jan 16, 1924, entered july 30, 1943, died july 17, 2014

Wake Masses, Loyola House of Studies:
July 18-20,Friday to Sunday, 8PM

Funeral Mass, Loyola House of Studies
July 21, Monday, 8AM

Interment: Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches
right after the funeral mass

Event of the Week: Flight MH17

Aside from 'Glenda', the other big news is the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 last Thursday.

One has to wonder what Malaysian Airlines had done in order to deserve such a situation.

In the span of four months, the beleaguered flight was hit by two tragedies, with flight MH370 mysteriously disappearing last March, and, more recently, the downing of MH17. There was a horrific video that went viral, showing wreckage, and bodies of the victims. The area wherein the plane apparently broke up into pieces covers a large swath of Ukrainian soil. That, and the lack of clear protocols in a disaster will likely hamper investigators and recovery crew's efforts to make sense of the tragedy.

The casualty list, numbering 298 passengers and crew, includes, at least: 189 Dutch, 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians, 12 Indonesian, 9 U.K. citizens, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Filipinos, and 1 Canadian; the 3 Filipinos, Irene (54), Darryl Dwight (20), and Sheryl Shaina (15) Gunawan were on a summer vacation. I offer my condolences and prayers to all of the friends and family of the victims.

It is still not clear as to who is responsible for the downed flight, as Ukrainian and Russian officials trade accusations of blame. The fact that the plane was hit over an area that is currently controlled by pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels makes it difficult not to blame the rebels, although the rebels have denied complicity in the act, and have even assisted in the recovery efforts. Still, suspicion rests strongly on the rebels.

What is known is that the flight, which started from Amsterdam bound for Kuala Lumpur, was flying in Ukrainian airspace (33,000 feet) when it was apparently shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Who fired the missile is still the subject of much debate, and is likely to escalate tensions in the complicated Ukraine-Russia conflict.

CNN posted a list of questions that help clarify what happened, although, admittedly, a good part of it remains speculative. It's likely that the questions will remain unanswered until more information is released.

I'm hoping and praying that the wanton destruction of MH17 does not lead to more conflict between the U.S. and Russia, but, if it is proved that the missile was indeed Russian, and that the Russians provided the rebels with the missile, there will be hell to pay.

Event of the Week: Typhoon 'Glenda'

Typhoon 'Glenda' roared through Luzon last Wednesday, and, while it spared Metro Manila a direct hit, there was enough damage in the city to categorize 'Glenda' as one of the major storms.

When 'Glenda' passed through the metro, it blew down trees and signs, but, fortunately, no billboards, since people have learned at least that lesson from previous storm. Social media was inundated with people posting their pictures of the storm's rampage, with images of cars being crushed by trees prevalent.

On a personal note, 'Glenda' broke enough branches from the mahogany tree outside our house to fall into our garage, hitting the gate, the grill work, and our venerable family car. Here's a pic of the aftermath:


Fortunately, neither the car nor the gate were damaged, and the grill work just needs a new welding job. Considering the amount of damage 'Glenda' caused in the city and in rest of Luzon, I think it could have been worse, and I can just count my blessings on that.

Almost predictably, the storm knocked out power across the metro, and Meralco was hard-pressed to restore electricity. As of this writing, there are rotating brownouts going on, as power-plants were also affected by the storm's wrath; it's a worrisome reminder of the early 90s, when brownouts were the norm. Hopefully, power will be back on 100% soon, but it's a wake-up call to the government to figure out how this does not repeat the power crisis of the early 90s.

While there's still a number of casualties (the current count is 64), I like to think that our officials were more prepared in this situation, and that preparation has kept the casualties down; in fact, Albay governor Joey Salceda has claimed zero casualties in his province, and credited that statistic to his province mates, who apparently prepared well.

Credit should also go to our weather forecasters in the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) who gave enough advance warning in order for people to prepare for the storm's onslaught. Perhaps the government should look into ways and means in order to upgrade both the technology for predicting the weather, and the compensation of PAGASA personnel in order to motivate them to stay in the country.

At the same time, the government should be more aggressive in storm-proofing the country, from upgrading technology, to providing alternative housing to people living in flood-prone areas, to improving infrastructure so that we are better prepared to deal with storms. It's a no-brainer, considering that it's well-known that our country is hit by a good number of storms every year. While there are a number of steps taken in the right direction so that we are more prepared, it's still not enough, and Filipinos will continue to suffer as a result.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Musings on the DAP and President Aquino

After the President's speech defending the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) last Monday, the President's critics were up in arms. The militant Left, whose spokespersons appear to be party-list representatives Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna) and Terry Ridon (Kabataan), have upped their strident voices, and have called for the President to be impeached, and for his Budget Secretary, Florencio Abad, to be charged with plunder. The social media has been inundated with posts of angry netizens calling for the President to step down.

Admittedly, I wasn't thrilled with the President's speech yesterday, considering that there appears to be a veiled threat against the Supreme Court, which ruled that the DAP was partly unconstitutional (I have yet to read the entire decision, plus the concurring opinions.). If he had simply defended the DAP, which is his right, it's likely that the outcry may have been less. But, to issue a challenge/threat against the Supreme Court, knowing full well that he probably has the numbers to impeach another Supreme Court justice, that's where the voices probably are angriest at. No small number of netizens have called the President "arrogant", and they're probably right.

At the same time, have people considered what the implications of impeaching the President would be? Who benefits if President Aquino is somehow removed from office? Vice-President Jejomar Binay, around whom serious questions of corruption and political dynasty revolve. Binay, who is the virtual leader in the 2016 presidential field. Binay, whose allies include former President, convicted plunderer, and Manila mayor Joseph Estrada, and former martial law Defense Minister and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

At the same time, were the funds utilized by the DAP pocketed by the President and Secretary Abad? Aside from the allegation thrown by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, that DAP funds were used in bribing Senators to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona, it appears that the DAP was used in the manner by which the President and Secretary Abad described: to help pump-prime the economy.

Economist and UP Professor Winnie Monsod has been loud in her defense of the President, and I have a lot of respect for her. Yesterday morning, on GMA 7, she noted that the Supreme Court has not always been correct in its rulings; for me, the ruling on the plagiarism of Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, and the ruling that allowed former President Gloria Arroyo to make a midnight appointment of Renato Corona come to mind. Is it possible that the SC erred on DAP, as President Aquino noted?

Monsod was also loud in defending Secretary Abad, noting that, among others, Abad was able to fix things in the budgetary process, streamlining it as a result. She also noted that, in President Aquino's term so far, there has been no reenacted budget, unlike during the term of President Arroyo.

While it is true that the Supreme Court has ruled DAP unconstitutional, it's still a long stretch for its creators to be called criminal at this point. Whoever is making that claim should have the proper evidence before making such a claim. Reps. Ridon and Colmenares are probably barking up the wrong tree in their call for impeachment.

While I am not too thrilled by a number of the President's actions, I agree with one of my friends that he is probably the closest we've had to having a good man as our national leader. He's not perfect, but none of us are. Compared to three of his five predecessors (Marcos, Estrada, and Arroyo), President Aquino has done the most to help reestablish a sense of anti-corruption in our countrymen (even if he himself has not been that keen on going after his own partymates).

In the end, as my friend said, "what do we want?"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Requiem, Beach House

I was in my first year of college when I was first introduced to Beach House Canteen. It was a small, unassuming establishment just beside the U.P. Main Library, with chairs and tables for those who couldn't fit in the small building.

Beach House would need those tables and chairs, because U.P. students kept on coming back for its pork barbecue, which was cheap and delicious. For less than 50 pesos (if I remember correctly), one could have a cup of rice and a stick of barbecue for lunch. It was a welcome change from CASAA food for budget-conscious students.

Of course, one would have to plan ahead if one was to eat at Beach House, since the lines would build up around 11:30 am, and there probably would not be any barbecue left by 12:30 pm or so. I think I only ate at Beach House when I had free time in the 10-11:30 schedule block. Otherwise, I would've had to join the long lines, without assurance that I would be able to get barbecue. I guess it's basically the equivalent of what Ateneo students deal with at Manang's.

The last time I ate at Beach House was when a group of my co-teachers decided to sample the barbecue several years ago. I think the price went up a tad, but it was still fairly affordable, and still delicious.

I was saddened to learn that, after 28 years of existence, Beach House would be closing, courtesy of a court order. Reading the news reports, apparently the local administration felt that there was a sanitary risk having an eatery close to a open drainage system, although I can't recall anyone getting sick after eating at Beach House.

One of my former students, also a U.P. alumnus, took a different tack, and suggested that Beach House Canteen had not paid their taxes. While that seems plausible, I've not read of any report that suggests such. My student noted that, when he ate at Beach House, he was not issued a receipt, which, I'm guessing, confirmed his idea of non-payment of taxes. For that matter, Rodic's, another venerable U.P. establishment, doesn't issue receipts for their meals, nor do a number of eateries around the campus. Does that mean that they, and Rodic's, should be closed? If that were to happen, it would be very difficult for U.P. students to get a good, cheap meal.

Still, the court had decided, and, as of yesterday, Beach House Canteen closed its doors, or, rather, had its doors closed by the court sheriff.

While I'm hoping that the proprietors of Beach House are able to continue in some form or the other, it won't be the same. I, along with a lot of U.P. alumni and guests, have fond memories of that small wooden establishment right beside the Sunken Garden.

Well, goodbye for now, Beach House Canteen. Here's hoping that if your owners do decide to resurrect you somewhere, they'll still be able to serve cheap, affordable fare.

As they say in Iloilo, Sa madason liwat. Until the next time.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

"The Noblest of Reasons"

Based on the words of University of the Philippines President Alfredo Pascual, regarding the recent hazing incident involving his fraternity, Upsilon Sigma Phi, it appears that the saying "once a fratman, always a fratman" rings true. 

In an official statement released by his office, the U.P. President said that he was "closely monitoring the investigation being undertaken by the UP Diliman administration, led by Chancellor Michael L. Tan, on the recently reported fraternity incident involving one of its students," and that he was "in constant touch with the concerned Vice Presidents of the UP System who are keeping watch and informing me of the developments in the on-going UP Diliman investigation."

So far, so good.

Then, President Pascual says that "incidents of violence, done even for the noblest of reasons (boldface mine), have no place in U.P." That's when I did a double-take.

The "noblest of reasons" obviously pertains to the joining of a fraternity, the nobility of which, given the recent spate of violence involving the frats, is seriously in question. The fact that these so-called brotherhoods hurt, and sometimes maim and kill their initiates makes me wonder just how noble joining a frat truly is.

Being a U.P. alumnus, I saw first hand the violence of the fraternities. I was taking Citizen's Military Training (CMT) when the Vanguard, the officers' fraternity, was warring with a rival fraternity. One Saturday, during training, the officers suddenly started shouting warnings, and we were herded into the DMST compound. Apparently, Delta Battery of the Field Artillery Battalion was training behind the U.P. gym, when a van appeared, carrying masked men brandishing guns. They made the entire battery drop to the ground, and then proceeded to beat the officer present so badly that he was hospitalized as a result. While it was not proven, it was suspected that the rival fraternity was behind the attack.

When I was in my third year of college, I had a class on the third floor of Palma Hall, when we heard a loud explosion coming from the second floor, where the tambayan of a fraternity was located. Seconds later, a guy ran past our classroom, chased by men wearing shirts around their heads and wielding metal pipes. I later learned that the fraternity that was attacked was vying for the right to sponsor the beer concession during that year's fair with another fraternity.

I remember an acquaintance of mine who was beaten up because he was mistaken for a frat member. I remember my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, was nearly hit by a pillbox because her friend was a frat man.

My father, also a U.P. alumnus, tells me that it was pretty much the same story during his time, when frats would war at the drop of a hat.

And the list goes on.

As long as the frats embrace the culture of violence, expect that there will be more deaths in the future, some of them from frat wars, others from the "noblest of reasons."

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Two Thoughts on Fraternities: Doyo and Leonen

It's very possible that, after the Imelda visit to the Ateneo, the social media will be moving away from the fraternity hazing stories, but, before that happens, I'll just share two thoughts on fraternities that I found to be relevant.

One is the column penned by Ma. Ceres Doyo in the Inquirer, entitled "Frat torturers and their victims are weaklings," wherein she scores fraternities for the need to hurt their incoming "brothers" to the point that some of them are hospitalized or even killed. However, aside from the frats themselves, Doyo also blames the victims to some extent, for being so stupid or weak that would subject themselves to the mental and physical torture in order to belong. It's something I agree with.

The other is the comments made by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen of the Supreme Court regarding the violent fraternity-related incidents. Some of the quotes of Justice Leonen:
"Wise men know this: brotherhood is earned, it is not produced by inflicting harm on the other. Teach this to our sons and daughters," (Leonen's Twitter account)
"Fraternity rumbles are an anathema, an immature and useless expenditure of testosterone. It fosters a culture that retards manhood." (Supreme Court decision penned by Justice Leonen, upholding the conviction of Dennis Venturina's murderers.)
 Aside from the St. Benilde hazing incident, yet another hazing incident was reported to have happened in U.P. This incident involved the law fraternity Upsilon Sigma Phi. Fortunately, though, the unnamed 17-year old victim survived his ordeal, but the family looks to be pressing charges against the frat.

The problem with frats is that, aside from the culture of violence many of them appear to espouse, they are sources of corruption in the real world. Many of those who join frats do so for the promise of connections in the real world, since, supposedly, a fratman is more likely to hire his "brother" over one who isn't. So, one's ability doesn't matter, but one's connections will.

I doubt that we will be rid of fraternities as long as there are people who feel a need to belong, as well as get some aces for their future, but, if we can expunge the violence, it'll be a step in the right direction.

In the Aftermath of Imelda's Visit

In the aftermath of Imelda Marcos' being invited to an event at the Ateneo (the Ateneo Scholarship Fund's 40th anniversary), there's a lot of moral outrage over the incident. Those of us who lived through the Martial Law years, and who've seen friends and family affected by the corruption foisted upon our country by the Marcoses found it hard to accept that the remaining half of the "conjugal dictatorship" was invited by a school whose alumni (Ed Jopson, Evelio Javier, et al) were victims of that dictatorship.

What was even more difficult to swallow were the viral pictures on Facebook of scholars hamming it up with the former First Lady. I'm not sure what was going through those students' minds, but definitely an appreciation of history was absent.

While the Ateneo Scholarship Fund is not an official part of the Ateneo system, Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J., the university president, was present at the event, and was shown in a group picture with Marcos.

This happened at a time when the Marcoses, unrepentant for their crimes, seem to be making a media blitz to retell history, in preparation for a possible run by the dictator's son, Senator Bongbong Marcos, for the presidency in 2016.

As a result of the outrage, Fr. Villarin seems to have been compelled to issue a public apology, but, judging from the reactions online, it has appeased few; the damage has been done, and we have to pick up the pieces.

One level-headed reaction I liked was that of a college instructor, Brian Paul Giron, who posted his own thoughts on the matter. I'd like to quote a part that gave me some food for thought:
But then I think that our problems are bigger than Imelda. —why does it take an Imelda and a bunch of photos to make us realize that in so many places, and in so many venues and fora and means and ways; “Ateneans” are doing terrible and unspeakable things that should shame us.
Ateneans are out there thinking that money is more important than service. Ateneans are out there thinking that their education was the entrance fee of being elite; rather than the privilege of learning how to be a person for others.
Inviting Imelda was a mistake that we need to talk about but it may also be a good place to start talking about the other names out there who claim the name ‘Atenista’ but act contrary to what we’re taught. Now we know that there are those among us who have to be reminded about what it means to be Atenean.
I am angry that Imelda was invited to our school. But my reaction will not be one of disownment.
I am Atenean and I come from the Ateneo that opposes Marcos and all things related to his legacy of injustice, corruption and suffering.
I come from an ideal that is far bigger than Imelda can ever hope to corrupt, or twist, or use for her ends because at the end of the day Imelda can only step on a campus, and sit in a room, and pose for photos.
Tomorrow I will wake up and I will be content in the knowing that the Ateneo I love exists in places where no murderer, no thief, no liar, and no Marcos can ever hope to assail it.
It exists in the provinces where Ateneans have gone to serve their countrymen with the light of their knowledge, their kindness, their commitment, and their humility. It exists in those places where ‘Atenista’ means the smallest, and the kindest, and the least privileged. It exists where faculty, students, and alumni work and study hard for the opportunity to do well for others.
It exists in the lectures we teach in our history classes where propaganda has no place; and where the memory and pain of a nation that suffered for two decades under a despicable tyrant will hopefully be passed on to a generation that has never known martial law so that they, too, can say ‘Never again.’
I like what he says because it's more proactive than reactive. Giron gives us a direction which we can take to deal with this situation in a rational manner.

It's something I can take into my classroom, and share with my students why we should keep on thinking, "Never again."

Friday, July 04, 2014

When Will the Killing End?

Lenny Villa.

Dennis Venturina.

Alexander Icasiano.

Nino Calinao.

Chris Mendez.

Marc Andrei Marcos.

And now, Guilo Cesar Servando joins those victims of fraternity-related violence; sadly, there are more than these. While Venturina and Calinao were victims of circumstance, the others were killed by hazing, that often-violent means of initiation.

Much has already been written about the most recent death, and about how fraternities are a bane to society. I myself have written about my desire to see the culture of fraternities expunged from our society, but, so far, little has been done in terms of dealing with this deadly problem, despite the presence of an Anti-Hazing Law. As it is, the conviction of killers of Lenny Villa was only finalized just recently, more than 20 years after Villa's death, an exclamation point on the grinding slow pace of Philippine justice.

Is this because the legal system is contaminated by fraternity brothers and their ubiquitous connections? Or is it because of our so-called ningas kugon attitude, that the anger is fleeting and will disappear once a new outrage is reported? Is it because of our jaded belief that nothing is ever going to change, so why bother?

The bottom line is that we have to believe that change is possible, that these evil actions can be stopped. If we give up and pack up, there will be more Lenny Villas, more Chris Mendezes, more Guilo Cesar Servandos who will die for the glory of the fraternity.

One of my friends on Facebook, an org mate whom I look up to, had this to say about first steps in dealing with this menace:

"Beyond the anti-hazing law and schools' own regulations on fraternities, there is one crucial sector that can make a huge difference in curbing all this nonsense: the fraternity (and sorority) alumni. We said it three decades ago, when we were - let's face it - kids, and we're saying it now... as parents. There is only one way all of you can prove sincerity in your supposed sharing in our - barbarians' - outrage, mga 'brods', mga 'sis'. Renounce hazing as a mistake. Then just TELL your new brothers and sisters to simply stop the practice. If they refuse, then refuse them the funding, and all the support and benefits supposedly attendant to being called brods. But let's be clear: Until hazing is put to an end, you alumni are all complicit in this continuing madness."

I remember when former Senators Jovito Salonga and Jun Magsaysay resigned from Sigma Rho to protest the death of Chris Mendez. Perhaps the alumni of Tau Gamma Phi can start by convincing the current head of the frat to surrender himself to the police, because it seems that he's gone and run.

My own prayers go out to the Servandos, who still cannot understand why their son felt the need to risk death in order to belong. Believe you me, after so many deaths, I still cannot understand why people should decide and join the frats.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sudden Hiatus

It's been a very hectic second half of June, which has made sitting down to post anything an impossible task. This is just a placeholder to let people know that I'm still around, and will resume posting when it's less hectic.

Until then, everyone take care.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Requiem, Charlie Gordon

When I was in second year high school, our English teacher introduced us to the short story "Flowers for Algernon," by Daniel Keyes. The story was told from the point of view of Charlie Gordon, a man whose IQ was 68, but then, he undergoes a procedure which exponentially increases his intelligence; the story, told through Charlie's diary entries, records his progress. I'm not going to give out how the story ends, but its ending was poignant and moving, and I remember liking the story very much.

When I came back to the high school to teach, I wound up teaching second year high school in my second year of teaching, and "Flowers for Algernon" was still in the curriculum, much to my enjoyment.

Later on, I learned a little more about the story, about how its author, Daniel Keyes, had expanded it into a novel, and how the story was developed into a movie in 1968 ("Charly", starring Cliff Robertson in the lead role). I managed to pick up the novel at a Book Sale, and, after reading it, I felt that, while the book was good, the short story was better.

It was sad to learn that Keyes passed away today, due to complications from pneumonia. He was 86.

Requiescat in pace, Daniel Keyes. I'll try to remember to leave flowers on Algernon's grave for you.

Daniel Keyes photo.jpg
Image from Wikipedia

Requiem, Mr. Padre

I became a baseball fan in the 1980's, and, while I was never a fan of the San Diego Padres, one of my all-time favorite players was their right fielder Tony Gwynn, who was the epitome of consistency.

 Gwynn was one of the most dangerous hitters of all time; in a sport where hitting the ball into play 30% of the time was a great achievement, Gwynn's lifetime batting average was .338. At the same time, unlike many of today's players who swing freely at the ball, producing strikeouts, Gwynn only struck out a total of 434 times in 9, 288 at-bats, a testament to his patience at the plate.

Among the highlights of his Hall of Fame career are eight batting titles, and 3,000 career hits over a 20-year career. Also, in the age of free agency, he was one of the rare players who stayed with the same team throughout his career. Back in 2007, when he and Baltimore Oriole great Cal Ripken, Jr., were inducted into the Hall of Fame, I wrote about how each was a model of consistency, and how it was fitting that both were inducted in the same year.

The secret to Gwynn's prodigious hitting prowess was his commitment to consistency. He was one of the first, if not the first, to take video tapes of his games, in order for him to study his batting form, and the pitches he received. This technological innovation was one of the keys for Gwynn to become the hitter he was.

At the same time, part of what made him a great player was his attitude. According to his teammates, he was one of the nicest guys on and off the field. According to his teammate Tim Flannery, "He cared so much for other people. He had a work ethic unlike anybody else, and had a childlike demeanor of playing the game just because he loved it so much.''

It was a sad day, then, for me to read of his passing  last Monday at the relatively young age of 54. It was a bit of a shock to learn that the cause of his death was cancer, probably due to his use of smokeless tobacco during his playing career. It just didn't seem right that one of the nice guys died in that manner. He will be sorely missed.

Requiescat in pace, Tony Gwynn. Be at peace.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Requiem, Casey

When I was a teenager, one of my once-a-week habits would be to turn on the radio on Sundays, and track the American Top 40.  To be accurate, I only really managed to track the top ten every week, since I don't think my parents would have appreciated me being glued to the radio for three to four hours. Still, for about a year, back in 1984, I filled a notebook with the top ten songs every week.

The host of "American Top 40" was disc jockey, Kemal Amin "Casey" Kasem, whose signature voice guided listeners through the top 40 songs according to Billboard magazine week after week. His show was not only filled with music; it was filled with trivia and information and long-distance dedications. It was his warm and gentle voice, though, that probably drew listeners back week after week. I remember listening with all ears to his readings of the long-distance dedication letters, and being moved by quite a number of them.

I was only able to track an entire year, then, I guess other interests made their presence known, or the radio station (was it 99.5 RT?) stopped carrying the show. I'm not sure.

Then, in the early millennium, I was re-introduced to "American Top 40" when I heard Casey's warm voice on the now-defunct 103.5 K-Lite. While I didn't track the songs in my notebook, the show became a regular for me every Sunday.

Casey would always end his show with his signature line, "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars," a reminder for us to reach for our dreams, and yet not forget who we are.

Aside from hosting "American Top 40", I also got to know Kasem via his voice acting, as he provided the voice of a number of characters, notably, Shaggy from "Scooby-Doo", Robin from the "Super Friends" show, and Cliffjumper from the "Transformers".

Sadly, my next encounter with Casey would be the messy details of his last few days, which I would like to thoroughly forget. I would rather remember Casey as he was, the amiable, affable host, sharing with us the songs over the years.

Casey finally reached his star yesterday at the age of 82.

Thank you, Casey Kasem, for all the memories, and I will always remember to keep my feet on the ground as I continue to reach for the stars.

Spurs Win!

With a 104-87 win over the Miami Heat today, the San Antonio Spurs win their fifth NBA title in their franchise history, and cements the legacy of the Spurs' Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. At the same time, the win calls into question the legacy of the so-called King, LeBron James.

What's amazing is that the defending champs were blown out of the water three straight times. One has to wonder what happened to the Miami Heat as they struggled to find a solution to the Spurs' conundrum of efficient basketball. Was it a failure of coaching by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra? Was it a lack of effort on the part of the Heat players? Or, was it simply a higher level of basketball played by the Spurs, that no team could have overcome?

Whatever the reason, the Spurs, and their coach, Greg Popovich, have fully avenged the disappointing loss of last year, when they could have won the title, only to have it slip from their fingers. Not this year. The Spurs, spurred on by that loss, made sure to make an exclamation point of this year's Finals win. With three straight dominating wins to claim the title, the Spurs made sure there would be no doubt of their victory this season.

As for the Heat, it looks like that the team will be doing some long soul-searching as they enter the off-season. Who will be back? What are the needs to make another run next season? What are the missing pieces?

Kudos to the Spurs and their MVP, Kawhi Leonard, for their dominating Finals performance.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Start of 11: Quick Shots

Starting off the eleventh year of this blog took some doing, but it's finally here.

It's been another hectic week, what with the start of school and everything, which meant that writing had to take another back burner, which is a pity, since quite a number of event happened last week. In my notebook, where I scribble my outlines, I made a list of some of the events that I would have wanted to write about. Hopefully, I'll be able to find time to write more regularly as the school year's rhythm becomes more familiar.

The Sterling Saga Coming to an End and the NBA Finals

With the impending sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, it appears that the long-time ownership of Donald Sterling is coming to an end. While there were initial reports that Sterling was going to fight to keep his team, current reports indicate that he is now willing to let go of the team, possibly at the price of the league lifting his lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine. Even if Sterling stands to gain from the sale, since Ballmer's offer was reportedly at $2 billion, the NBA looks to be willing to allow Sterling his windfall, just as long as he is out of the league's hair.

If the owners approve the sale of the Clippers to Ballmer, he will bring a welcome change to a franchise that has only been to the playoffs a scant few times during Sterling's 33-year ownership. As a long-suffering Clippers fan, I'm hoping that he can continue and solidify the winning spirit that has recently come upon this sorry team.

With the Clippers' owner's issue done, we can now focus our attention on the NBA Finals, featuring the San Antonio Spurs versus the Miami Heat. I am glad that the San Antonio Spurs rampaged over the hapless Heat in Game 1, and I'm hoping that the Spurs can avenge last year's Finals' loss by winning it all this year.

Requiem for a Windtalker

In World War II, the U.S. relied on its Navajo code-talkers to transmit orders and messages across the various theaters of war. Navajo was chosen because it was apparently impossible to decipher, unless one actually spoke it; it had no written form.

Chester Nez, who died last Wednesday at the age of 93, was the last of the 29 original code-talkers. It was due to the bravery of men such as him that the U.S. was able to prevail in World War II.

Requiescat in pace, Chester Nez.

Pork Barrel Scam Updates

It looks like the stage is set for the arrest of three Senators implicated in the pork barrel scam, nam

The President is in a bit of a bind in this situation, since, while he has not been included in the Napolists, a number of his close allies, notably Budget Secretary and former Batanes Rep. Butch Abad, are mentioned as having partaken of pork. If he continues to defend his allies, and more evidence against them is uncovered, his much-vaunted anti-corruption drive will be greatly undermined.

As for Estrada and his co-accused, they continue to profess their innocence and claim that they are not the only ones involved, if ever, in the pork barrel scam. It's the time-tried tactics of the corrupt in our country, wherein they attempt to obfuscate their own crimes by spreading the crap around. This time, however, there is corroborating evidence that appears to indicate this, bringing our entire political system into question.

It's also possible that the guilty, whether it be the three Senators or the rest of the Napolist bunch, will delay criminal proceedings as much as possible until the public simply gets tired of the issue, since Filipinos have notoriously short memories. It's up to us, the public, to disabuse them of this notion, and show them that their corruption is no longer tolerated. If we can manage that, then we will have moved forward as a nation.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

On the Road to 10: A Look Back (2013)

This was supposed to go up yesterday, but the Internet connection at home has been a tad screwy. Better late than never.

In 2013, I managed to write a little more prolifically compared to the previous five years. Here are some of my favorites from last year.

1. Back to the News: Stray Bullets and Cebu Standoff - Just as the Newtown tragedy occurred, somebody in Cavite went on a shooting spree, as well. At the same time, political moves in Cebu were taking place.

2. Fall From Grace: Senate Mudslinging - My historian friends can say whether I'm right or wrong, but I work under the idea that the pre-martial law Senate was made up of statesmen and intellectual giants. How far our politics has fallen from that lofty top.

3. Musings on Carlos Celdran - There's a time and place for protests, and, while Celdran chose his time and place for maximum effect, there's a lot to be said for respecting other's positions.

4. Not A Bum - I've known Bam Aquino since he was a student in high school, and he's nowhere near the picture columnist Neal Cruz paint of him.

5. EDSA I Musings: No More A Broken Record - One has to realize that social and culture change are processes that take a lot of time to effect. Sometimes, we just get too impatient.

6. Musings on Two SC Decisions - Before we castigate the Supreme Court for its decisions, it's always important to read the text of the decisions, to see whether the reasons given by the Court are reasonable and valid. That being said, the decisions on Del Castillo's plagiarism and allowing former President Arroyo to appoint a Chief Justice despite an election ban are two of the worst.

7. Media Watch: Getting Priorities Straight - I rarely venture into commenting on entertainment, and even more rarely on Presidential sister Kris Aquino. There's no point to either, which is why media should choose their news more carefully.

8. 2013 Elections: Musings on the Comelec Vacancies - So far, the current set of Comelec commissioners appear to be acting competently, so yay for the President.

9. Musings on APECO: A Story of Two Sides - With Senator Sonny Angara winning the elections despite this onerous issue, I'd like to see updates on the APECO controversy, since, so far, it seems as if media has not reported on it recently.

10. My Election 2013 Experience - I believe it's my duty to vote, and I'm glad I vote in a barangay, which is a little more organized than others.

11. The Incoming Senate - The current pork barrel scam has pretty much rendered the Senate as ineffective, as many of its members are caught in the scam's growing web.

12. Weighing in on the Pol Medina Controversy - Pol Media, Jr., the creator of Pugad Baboy, has been a mainstay in Philippine comics. While he may have had a misstep in creating the controversial strip on lesbians in a private school for girls, the Inquirer should have been more protective of him. Now, Medina on Rappler, wherein he seems to have a freer hand in creating his strips.

13. The Pork Barrel System: Continued Corruption in Government - With the removal of PDAF from the national budget, expect our politicians to be more wily in making sure their pork is still included, one way or the other.

14. Part of a Larger Whole: The Manila Ordinance on Buses - Even if it eventually opened discussion on how to manage the huge number of trucks moving through the metropolis, the Manila City government should have still coordinated its plan with the rest of Metro Manila's leaders.

15. The Pork Barrel Scam: The President's Inaction - I took a look at how the media viewed the President's slow response to the pork barrel controversy.

16. The People's Indignation: The Million People March - While the assembly at Luneta did not reach a million, or even half of that, it's still interesting how the middle and upper classes are finally moving and becoming active in the political discussion.

17. The Pork Barrel Scam: The Question of Suspension - I'm hoping formal charges will soon be filed, so that this question can be answered.

18. 41 Years After Martial Law: Let Us Not Forget - One of our problems as a people is that we have an extremely short memory, so much so that we wind up forgiving criminals for their crimes, even if such criminals have not apologized for their actions. Martial law was a dark part of our history, and the Marcoses were responsible for that. Let us never forget.

19. The Plagiarized Photos of Mark Solis - Plagiarism, when discovered, tends to dominate social media feeds. Solis was even more reprehensible, since he entered his stolen photos in a contest and won. The backlash was predictable.

20. Yolanda's Aftermath: Call for Calm - I still remember the frenzied discussion on Yolanda, and the almost hysterical reactions of people being asked to stop criticizing the government. It really did not help the situation.

10 Years of Musings

The Internet connection at home has been a bit screwy the past few days, so I'll probably try to put up the last of the Look Backs later. In the meantime, the end of May signals the completion of this blog's ten years of existence.

The blog has seen quite a bit, morphing from a personal blog to one which focuses more on the world around us. In the ten years of Daily Musings, we've seen governments come and go, three Popes take the papal throne, an African-American become President, our political system slowly degrade, and numerous other historical events. We've seen the passing of a good number of people, some of whom I've written about in my requiems.

So, where does the blog go from here? I'll still be writing about the world around me: events happening, movies watched, books read, people passing, and so on and so forth. I'll still hope that my words will be read by others, although I'm happy that the blog does get views, whatever happens. On an aside, when I look at my blog stats, for some reason, there are a number of views from Russia, even if I haven't written much about that country.

Of course, it still won't be daily, as the title of my blog suggests, but that doesn't mean that I'm not thinking about stuff on a daily basis; I just don't often get the time to write about my thoughts. Musing about the world keeps me alert and my mind working, so I'll probably continue thinking and writing about my thoughts in the years to come. Who knows? Maybe I'll finally manage a daily routine that actually allows me to write on a daily basis.

Happy birthday, Daily Musings, from the writer. May there be many more musings to come.

Friday, May 30, 2014

On the Road to 10: A Look Back (2012)

This year, the world was supposed to end; happily, it didn't. These are some of the posts that I managed to write this year, which was one of the leaner years in terms of posting.

1. Musings from Sendong and Compostela Valley - In the aftermath of the devastation wrought by "Sendong", I tried to take a look at the issues and challenges that stemmed from this tragedy.

2. "Tuwid Na Daan"? Ask Ronald Llamas - Compared to the excesses of the Arroyo and Estrada administrations, this gaffe by Llamas is small by comparison, but, for an administration espousing anti-corruption, it did not sit well with the public.

3. The Corona Impeachment Trial: Prosecution Incompetence - Corona was impeached, not because the prosecution was brilliant, but because he himself had admitted to not including his dollar accounts in his SALN. Of course, given the current pork barrel scam, Corona's lapse seems minor in comparison to the rampant greed displayed by our politicians. It still doesn't absolve Corona, though.

4. Del Castillo Impeachment: Abuse of House Power - While the Corona's removal was necessary to help purge the judiciary of his questionable leadership, the move against Del Castillo, ostensibly for his plagiarism, was overkill. It showed the House as a body so full of itself, it felt it could do anything.

5. EDSA I Musings: Whither the Philippines? - I try to make a point about writing about our gains from EDSA I, even if the growth of our democracy seems slow. We always have to remember that social change happens slowly, and we just have to keep plugging away to make it happen.

6. Corona Impeachment Trial: Media Spin/Post-Mortem - Obviously, anti-Aquino writers such as Tiglao and Pedrosa will spin the impeachment trial in a way that displays presidential abuse.

7. Two Years of President Aquino: A Quick Look - Even if our presidential cycle is longer than that of the U.S., it always seems that our leaders are able to achieve less. If President Aquino has one major achievement, he placed the issue of corruption squarely in the public mind, and, hopefully, the public will be more vigilant against abuses by our leaders.

8. The President's Tirade Against ABS-CBN: A Fit of Pique, or Valid Criticism? - The problem with President Aquino is that he speaks his mind, often without filters. At the same time, that's a strength, since he comes off as genuine.

9. Fraternity Hazing: Another Senseless Death - As long as people think that fraternities will give them an edge in life, people will join these groups, and, given the fraternity's violent culture, expect more deaths to occur in the future.

10. To Epal Or Not To Epal and 2013 Elections: Anti-Epal Drive - The anti-Epal drive, which targeted politicians' habit of trumpeting their achievements and plastering their faces all over their fiefs, seems to have petered out over the years, another victim of ningas kugon.

11. Post #1,200: Of Blogging and Plagiarism - Sotto's many counts of plagiarism helped sink his anti-RH stand.

13. 2013 Elections: The Issue of Political Dynasties - One of the main problems that the late President Cory Aquino created when she came to power was to reestablish the old feudal dynasties; one of my friends noted that Aquino was acting as a member of her class, since she herself comes from a political dynasty. Even if the Constitution has banned political dynasties, it also inexplicably tossed the question of defining dynasties to Congress, which itself is made up of members of political dynasties.

14. Pyramiding Scam: Failure on Both Sides - One of the tragedies of our people is that, because of poverty and because of greed, Filipinos tend to go after the easy money. The adage to remember is, if it seems to be to good to be true, it normally is.

15. Pre-Christmas Tragedy: Shooting in Newtown, CT - This seems even more timely, considering the recent shootings at Santa Barbara. As long as Americans have easy access to guns, tragedies such as Newtown and Santa Barbara will continue to happen.

On the Road to 10: A Look Back (2011)

This time we take a look back at 2011. The burning issue at the time was the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

1. To Bury or Not To Bury, That Is the Question - The question as to whether the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos should have been settled long ago. The answer should be no, although I suspect that's why the Marcos revisionists are hard at work rehabilitating the dictator's image. Given our people's terribly short memory, that's not a difficult problem, sadly.

2. Impeaching the Ombudsman: Whither the Senate? - Of course, former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned before the impeachment question was raised before the Senate, so the discussion was moot and academic.

3. "Willing Willie" Issue: A Last Word (For Now) - I have never liked Willie Revillame and his ilk, as his brand of entertainment is exactly what our country doesn't need, since it perpetuates a culture of mendicancy.

4. The President-Ombudsman War: Mounting Casualties - Once more, Gutierrez resigned, so all of this was just posturing and empty talk.

5. Chalk Up Another For the Killer Highway - As long as the QC government and the MMDA soft-step around the problems surrounding Commonwealth Ave., I'll continue to keep writing about the situation.

6. Travails of the Arroyos - In the nine years Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was President, while she may have placed strong foundations for economic recovery, but, at the same time, she basically flushed ethics and morals down the drain with her administration's rampant corruption.

7. Journalistic Hypocrisy - Tiglao tries to place the blame of the Maguindanao Massacre on President Aquino, when it was his patron Arroyo who aided and abetted the rise of the Ampatuan clan. The fact that he doesn't note this speaks volumes about his credibility.

8. The Corona Impeachment Trial: Two Minds - It was clear that Corona had to go, and the Aquino administration was not shy about removing him.

9. The Corona Impeachment Trial: Senate Prognostication - Predicting how the Senate decides on issues such as impeachment depends on the political weather at the time.

10. Year-Ender: Unwritten Posts - My notebooks are full of outlines and diagrams of posts that I was not able to write, and, since I generally write about current events, I can't write the posts anymore because they would be stale.

11. The Corona Impeachment Case: Opening Salvos - The main meat of the Corona impeachment trial would happen in 2012, but the groundwork for it happened in 2011.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

On the Road to 10: A Look Back (2010)

My guess is that in 2010, I was a little more focused in my writing, since, upon looking back on my 2010 posts, I came up with a number of noteworthy posts that I wanted to share. Hence, instead of grouping posts according to years, this post will focus on the posts of 2010.

1. One Less Monster: The Takedown of Jason Ivler - I remember the video taken during the arrest.

2. Estrada's Run - It's a testament to voter lack of education that Erap placed second in the 2010 presidential elections.

3. The Chief Justice Issue: Balance of Power - One of my many media critiques, this one being about former Inquirer columnist Olivares-Cunanan's take on the eventual appointment of Renato Corona as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

4. The End of the 14th Congress: A Whimper - Sure enough, no one's talking or writing about the C-5 controversy in which former Senator Manny Villar was embroiled during the run-up to the 2010 elections.

5. Mikey Arroyo and the Party-List System - This was a commentary on the very flawed party-list system, which the militant Left and the elite have hijacked for their own goals.

6. Maguindanao Massacre: Agra's Resolution - It's clear that one of the major sins of the Arroyo administration was to help the Ampatuans perpetuate their power in Maguindanao. Arroyo's own Justice Secretary even attempted to blatantly clear two of the Ampatuans of any guilt.

7. Election 2010: Media As Black Propaganda Units - This, of course, is nothing new, as a good number of our media operatives are for hire.

8. Appointing the Chief Justice: Endgame - The Arroyo appointees helped their patron achieve a feat: a legalized midnight appointment. The SC decision on allowing the President to appoint a Chief Justice despite a ban on appointments is right down there with the decision to absolve Associate Justice Del Castillo of plagiarism.

9. Challenges of President-Elect Aquino - Of the four challenges I mentioned, two, the drive against corruption, and the exercise of political will, have been partially met, although with a lot of caveats. The other two, poverty and polarization, look like they will continue to be challenges for succeeding administrations.

10. The Politics of Corruption: Names on Billboards - Ah, the Epal factor of politicians wanting to look competent to their constituents, even if it wasn't their project or money to begin with.

11. Media Commentary - Esposo's Sunday Column - Another critique of a opinion piece, this post was written after the tragic hostage taking of Hong Kong tourists. There was blame a-plenty to go around.

12. Sanction 'Em! - In the face of the wildcat bus strike, the government attempted to come down hard on the erring companies, but it didn't really take.

13. The Vizconde Massacre Revisited and Acquittal - The Vizconde Massacre will probably continue to be a mystery as to who the actual murderers were. In the mind of the remaining family member, Lauro Vizconde, the murderer will always be Hubert Webb, but the evidence, the bungling of the prosecution, and the refusal of the judge to admit key pieces of evidence, appears to suggest otherwise.

On the Road to 10: A Look Back (2007-2009)

Continuing from the previous posts, I've listed a few more posts I've liked over the years.

1. Squabbling - The problem with our political leaders is that everyone wants to be the general, and the others, if not anointed, will not unite with the winner and strike their own path. In the face of a strong, popular candidate, splitting up usually means disaster for that side.

2. People's Champ, or People's Chump? - Even back in 2007, I felt that Pacquiao's entry into politics is unwelcome, not because he's unqualified, but because he has other priorities. Time has not changed the Pacman's absentee attitude, what with his possible entry into professional basketball.

3. Wowowee: Anatomy of a Scam - I'm glad Revillame has been off the air for a while. His move to TV5 did not seem to attract the viewers the network's bosses had hoped, and, without the exposure from the more popular ABS-CBN, Revillame's star has dimmed, a positive for Philippine entertainment.

4. Sulpicio Must Pay - The "Princess of the Stars" tragedy, like many tragedies here in the Philippines, remains unresolved, as the owners of the stricken ship have managed to slow down legal proceedings.

5. Mayhem on Commonwealth - Commonwealth Ave. will probably be forever known as the "killer highway." Setting speed limits, which are unenforceable, has not solved the problem, and, unless the Quezon City government and the MMDA commit themselves to improving traffic flow along Commonwealth, expect that more accidents and tragedies will happen.

6. Issues of the Week: Right of Reply Bill - Right of Reply, like Freedom of Information, is a concept that has been bandied about for years. Sadly, because of the pork barrel scam, embattled politicians are looking at right of reply more than transparency.

7. The Fury That Was Ondoy - Ondoy has forever changed the way we view storms, although, sadly, government response and reaction to such furious storms and rains has not caught up with the weather.

8. To Run Or Not To Run: The Curious Case of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo - Arroyo is garnering a lot of sympathy due to her continued detention and her sickness, but we must not forget that, like the Marcoses before her, Arroyo is accused of serious crimes. If ever, it's the Marcoses who should join her in similar detention, rather than Arroyo be set free.

9. Murder Most Foul: The Maguindanao Massacre - 2009 will always be remembered for Ondoy, and the Maguindanao Massacre, which demonstrated that even women and journalists, considered to be sacrosanct, are now targets in the Philippine edition of the Game of Thrones. The Maguindano Massacre is the Philippines' Red Wedding.

10. Pure Fluff: ANC's "Harapan" - One of the attempts to educate the masses in electoral debate did not fly, which meant that majority of our voters simply voted on name recall and popularity, rather than actual achievements in office.

On the Road to 10: A Look Back (2004-2006)

As this blog approaches its 10th year, I'd like to take a look back, and share some of the posts that haven't gotten much exposure in the past. With 1,442 posts and counting, there's a lot from which to choose. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Favorite Ballplayers - Of course, with the Steroid Era, three of these players (McGwire, Palmiero, and Clemens) are tainted. If I had to change them, I'd replace them with Jeff Bagwell, John Olerud, and Tom Glavine. 

2. First Day of June - This is my very first post.

3. On the Subject of Bigots and Mosques - This was a post about how the Solivens, who own the Montessori school near the Greenhills Shopping Center,  protested against the inclusion of a prayer room for Muslims. The late journalist Max Soliven was particularly scathing in his diatribes against the prayer room.

4. "Go North! Where's North?" - This is why I avoid playing games with my students, especially multi-player computer games. The game in question here was Starcraft.

5. The Lost Art of Role-Playing - Once a geek, always a geek. I do miss the fun of tabletop, pen-and-paper RPGs.

6. Rant - "Honorable Men" - One of my many political posts, it shows that the problem with the pork barrel is nothing new.

7. The Presidency As Birthright? - I also do like double-checking what media persons say, and, if necessary, prove them wrong.

8. Reading Up on the Law - Whenever I write about law-based topics, I make it a point to read up on the pertinent laws. That way, I can base my thoughts on the actual wordings of the law.

9. To Serve or To Be Served - Any individual working in government, whether elected or appointed, must always remember that they are public servants, and not masters, of the people.

10. KLite No More - I don't think I'd ever invested so much in a radio station as 103.5 KLite. I don't think I can ever listen to July for Kings' "New Black Car" without thinking about this great station.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Requiem, Maya Angelou

mayaangelou.gif (227×303)

My first experience with American writer and poet Maya Angelou was back in the 90s, when we used part of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, one of her autobiographies, wherein she writes about the triumph of boxer Joe Louis, for an exam material.

Of course, Angelou was more than just a writer and a poet; she was considered by many to be the voice of oppressed African-Americans. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was seen by many as the first time an African-American woman was able to voice out her experience; it should be noted that she was forced to grow up early, having been abused and raped when she was eight. She was unable to speak for five years, and it was with the help of Mrs. Bertha Flowers that Angelou found her voice once more.

Reading even just her Wikipedia entry shows a person who has seen much of the world, and these experiences undoubtedly helped her write her autobiographies and her poems.

Angelou is a person who has demonstrated that one need not be stifled or stymied by one's color or class. From being a high school dropout, she has achieved much, even becoming a professor of literature at Wake Forest University. She was a civil rights activist as well, fighting for the equality of African-Americans in the U.S. She is a true Renaissance woman.

Sadly, her voice is no longer with us, as Angelou died Wednesday morning at the ripe old age of 86. After having undergone and seen so much, she is finally able to rest.

Requiescat in pace, remarkable woman. The caged bird is finally free to fly.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill 
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom. 

Fact-Checking Tiglao

An article that has been making the social media rounds is The Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao's take on Aquino's anti-corruption drive. In the article, Tiglao slams the President for taking credit for anti-corruption programs which were created by his patron, former President Gloria Arroyo.

While it cannot be disputed that Arroyo probably had these programs (Revenue Integrity Protection Services (RIPS), Run After The Smugglers (RATS), and Run After Tax Evaders (RATE)), two points about Tiglao's article calls the writer's own integrity into question.

In the online article, Tiglao posts this two images:

Image taken from Manila Times

Note that Tiglao uses the pronoun "my" to illustrate Aquino's alleged credit-grabbing. However, if one takes a look at the text  of the President's speech, the President said, "through programs called Revenue Integrity Protection Services (RIPS) ..." Nowhere in the speech does he say that these programs were initiatives of his administration. Of course, to be fair, the President should have attributed the creation of these programs to his predecessor, but, at the same time, it should be noted that he did not claim that these programs were his. It's Tiglao who makes that attribution, which raises the question as to who's the one doing the lying.

Another point that must be raised is whether these Arroyo-created programs were actually effectively implemented during Arroyo's time as President. According to a PCIJ report, in 2008, the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), one of the bodies monitoring global corruption levels, did a reversal after initially granting aid to the Philippines, and withheld aid until the Arroyo government could show that it did slow down corruption. The PCIJ report also notes that while the aforementioned programs did result in some gains, these were not enough, and fell far from Arroyo's claims.

Of course, it is understandable that Tiglao would come to Arroyo's defense, and launch media attacks on the Aquino administration. Tiglao once served as Arroyo's spokesperson, so his credibility will always be suspect.

At the same time, the Aquino administration must demonstrate that it is serious about fighting corruption, and deal with those in the administration who have also been accused of corruption. It cannot focus all its efforts on its political enemies, because the anti-corruption drive become more of a political vendetta.

It is important that when we read articles, we should always keep a skeptical eye, and fact-check what is written, because, we have to spot the biases and the opinions, in order to remain objective.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering Fr. OB

I didn't realize that it's been 20 years since one of my mentors, Fr. James J. O'Brien, S.J., rejoined the Lord.

The last time I'd written about Fr. OB, as he was popularly known, was almost ten years ago, which, given that he had been gone for 10 years then, seemed fortuitous.

In fourth year high school, all senior students are required to teach at a public school once a week. Also, the students visit their kids' homes, and even take them out on educational tours. Through this, the Ateneo students are hopefully imbued with a sense of compassion and service for others. This is the core of the Tulong-Dunong (TD) program, which was pioneered by Fr. OB in 1975.

Since then, TD has touched the lives of thousands of students, both from the Ateneo and the partner public schools. I know it's had an impact on me, since it was probably what helped convince me to go into teaching.

When I was in fourth year, aside from the standard subjects of English, Science, and Math, there was also drama and art; today, if I'm not mistaken, the subjects are limited to English and Math. I was one of the four drama tutors, and we helped our kids write, produce, and stage their own play.

My best friend and I made it a point for a few years to visit as many of our kids as possible, but we stopped as our kids moved on, and were difficult to impossible to trace. I've managed to reconnect with a few of them via Facebook, but I just have to hope and pray that the rest of them managed to make something of themselves.

It was through Fr. OB that I was introduced to TD, and, as a result, I decided to take the arduous path of teaching. A significant part of who I am, I am because of Fr. OB. I am glad that I met this great Jesuit, and gladder still that I managed to catch up with him when I came back to the Ateneo to teach.

Through the efforts of dedicated individuals and the Tulong-Dunong office, Fr. OB's legacy continues to touch lives, for which I, along with the students and the scholars, are truly grateful.

If you wish to donate to the TD, here's the link to the TD official site

Countdown to 10: A Reflection

As of this writing, I was supposed to be joining the faculty for the annual retreat, but the lack of househelp has deep-sixed that plan. So, I'll be home most of this week, resting up before the entire teaching cycle of the school year begins once again.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I was not able to note that, come June 1, I will have been writing in this blog for ten years. It's hard to imagine that I'd been slogging away at this for almost a decade.

Over the past ten years, this blog has morphed, from a journal of what's been happening to me, to fairly regular commentaries on politics, sports, and culture. When I look at the earliest posts I'd written, there's an eclectic mix of personal experiences, commentaries, and random tests (the forerunners of Zimbio and other FB test links), especially in the first year of my blogging. It's a record of what I'd been thinking, and what I'd been interested in at the time.

As the second year rolled to a close, I was more into commentaries, although the occasional silly post would still find its way onboard. By the third year, I'd found what interested me, and what interested me was everything, which is why there's no central theme to my blogging, just whatever interests me at the time.

Of course, the lack of focus had a price, since I understand that, in order to attract a solid audience, bloggers should try to focus on a main theme; my friends Enzo (The Hoop Nut) and Lori (Dessert Comes First) are prime examples of this. In my case, however, I decided to write what I wanted to write; one of the Jesuits in the high school noted that, instead of a focused interest, I was making myself the brand. If that's the case, so be it. I don't have plans of changing the tone of the blog, although there are times that I wish I had chosen a different title for my blog.

"Daily Musings." When I look back to when I started the blog in 2004, what I was originally aiming for was something along the lines of Doogie Howser's journal at the end of each episode: A reflection on whatever happened for the day. It seemed doable at the time, but then I realized that I would have to make a choice between quality and quantity. That, and the fact that writing on a daily basis, given my work and family responsibilities, would be a challenge.

Still, I slogged on, writing on an intermittent basis, continuing to find my voice in the blogosphere. Along the way, I learned a few tricks, particularly the tweeting of my posts, which has helped my readership to some extent. I still use photos sparingly, though, since I'm wary of infringing on copyright; I have read about fair use, and I will try to include more photos to make my posts more appealing.

Even after ten years, there is still much for me to learn, and I, the willing student, will continue observing the world at large and writing about it, and I hope that you, the readers, will continue to join me through this journey.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sterling Saga Soon to End?

It appears that Donald Sterling's long-time ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers may soon be coming to an end.

According to an unnamed Associated Press source, Sterling will transfer control of the team to his wife, Shelly, who will then sell the team.

The news is a refreshing breath of air after the Clippers' owner was thoroughly criticized for having given a racist rant that was recorded and released to the public. He received even more criticism after he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper, wherein Sterling attacked basketball legend Magic Johnson.

The Sterling saga was an unwelcome distraction to the NBA and its fans, as the NBA playoffs were going on. Moreover, Sterling's Clippers were in the thick of the fight, and were considered to be contenders until Sterling helped derail the Clippers' train with his idiotic actions. The Clippers were ousted in the second round by the Oklahoma Thunder.

Hopefully, the news is true, and the sooner the Sterlings sell the team, the sooner a more responsible owner can enter. There is no shortage of interested personalities organizing ownership groups, ranging from Magic himself, to Oprah Winfrey, to Floyd Mayweather Jr., to, more recently, Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming and Grant Hill. Of course, if I had my preferences, I'd rather Mayweather not gain control, considering he's been guilty of his own racist rants against Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.

The Clippers have come a long way, from being the butt of jokes in the NBA for their continued losing seasons, to being regular contenders in the playoffs. It's no wonder that there are a lot of contenders to replace the Sterlings. As a long-time Clippers' fan, I truly hope that the Sterlings do sell, and soon, and that the next set of owners will be able to steer the team onto a firmer path to winning.

Thailand Unrest

The unrest in Thailand continues to unfold, as the military has stepped in and declared a coup, although it remains unclear as to what agenda the military will be pursuing. What is known is that ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is currently being held by the military, along with other high officials and prominent individuals. For now, the world watches and waits for the military to reveal its plans.

The military takeover is the culmination of months of vocal and sometimes violent protests against Shinawatra's government. Shinawatra, was removed from office by Thailand's Constitutional Court, a move seen to be biased by Shinawatra's supporters. The caretaker government that was appointed was unacceptable to Shinawatra's opponents, which probably prompted the military to step in.

To an outsider, the motivations of the so-called "Yellow Shirts" seem to be patently obvious: they want to take power. The "Yellow Shirts", led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy Prime Minister, are composed of the middle class, the elite and royalists, and, they have almost routinely lost to the Shinawatras and their "Red Shirt" followers, composed mainly of the poor. The fact that the "Yellow Shirts" have called for an non-elected council to take over Thailand's leadership shows their undemocratic bent. How can they call their mode of government democratic while at the same time advocating a council who was not the popular choice?

We have yet to see how the "Red Shirts" supporting Shinawatra will react to the military coup. As it is, the "Red Shirts" have seen Yingluck's ouster by the Constitutional Court as a biased decision, which may not be a false accusation, since the Court has ruled against Shinawatra-supported Prime Ministers in the past.

As for the "Yellow Shirts", they may have won a victory, but it may be a Pyrrhic one, since the military officers,  unelected leader themselves, may not have been their choice for the council envisioned by the "Yellow Shirts".

One has to wonder what the Thai king has to say about the matter, given his very revered position among his countrymen. So far,  King Bhumibol Adulyadej has remained silent about the unrest ripping through his country. I'm sure a word from him could bring order to the chaos, but his silence has been deafening.

Events are still unfolding, so it's unlikely we've seen the conclusion of this national drama. Hopefully, calmer and saner heads will prevail, and a sense of order will be restored soon to the country.