Sunday, July 05, 2015

UP Issues: Nieves' Expulsion from Alyansa

The latest incidence of fraternity violence appears to have claimed another victim. This time, however, the damage is not physical, but political.

University Student Council (USC) chair JP delas Nieves was expelled from UP Alyansa, his political party, for refusing to honor an agreement to resign from his fraternity, Upsilon Sigma Phi, should the frat be involved in any incident of violence.

Two weeks ago, members of Upsilon were arrested after being involved in at least one violent attack on members of Alpha Sigma, another fraternity. As a result, the USC put Nieves under preventative suspension, and held investigations into the incident. During this investigation, Nieves positively identified those who were arrested as members of Upsilon.

However, he did not resign from Upsilon, triggering the expulsion from Alyansa.

Part of Alyansa's official statement goes:
"By refusing to resign from his fraternity, we question whether his highest affiliation remains to be the USC, or the fraternity he is a part of. We question whether his loyalty still lies with the students, or with his fraternity brothers. We stay true to our word. Therefore, as of July 2, 2015, USC Chairperson JP delas Nieves is officially expelled from UP ALYANSA.”
 For his part, Nieves stressed that he still believes in his fraternity's overall goals, as he stated,
Ngunit hindi ako magbibitiw sa Upsilon dahil ako ay patuloy na naniniwala sa adhikain ng aking fraternity na nagsusulong ng kagalingan at paglilingkod ng para sa pag-unlad ng pamayanan.
(However, I will not resign from Upsilon because I still believe in its goals that promote excellence and service for the betterment of the community.)
Of course, he glosses over the fact that his fraternity has been involved in a number of violent incidents, either against other frats or against their own initiates, which raises the question as to whether the fraternity truly has the "betterment of the community" in mind.

If Nieves' expulsion from Alyansa wasn't enough, USC councilor Allan Pangilinan filed impeachment charges against Nieves yesterday, citing Nieves for "willful violation of the Constitution," "gross neglect of duty," and "misconduct that undermines the integrity of the council." Based on the Rappler report, I'm not sure, though, what Pangilinan is referring to, although it's probably Nieves' failure to uphold his agreement with his former political party.

Nieves' refusal to honor an agreement is a demonstration of how strong a fraternity's hold is on its members.

UP Issues: Fire at the Alumni Center

When I was a lot younger, I remember having numerous opportunities to play bowling at the UP Alumni Center.

Unlike the professional and commercial bowling alleys found in the malls, the bowling alleys in UP were low tech, manual affairs. The bowling ball was small enough to be grasped in one's hand, and the pins were duckpins, around two-thirds of the size of regular pins. These would be set up manually by ball boys who positioned themselves in a space at the back of the pins; a player would have to remember to wait for the boys to get out of the way, else they became moving targets.

The lanes during my time were relatively uneven, with the wooden floors being warped with age. This meant that one would have to learn the lanes, else one's ball, even cast straight, would veer away into the gutter.

I last visited the bowling alleys around a year ago, when some of my friends in the faculty were thinking of playing; I went to inquire about the availability and rates. I was surprised to find the place packed. Apparently, there were regular leagues being played at the bowling alley, and it would be difficult to find an open time slot to play. So, we wound up not playing.

Still, I looked forward to the opportunity to be able to bowl there once more.

Unfortunately, such will not be the case, as a fire allegedly caused by faulty wiring burned down the alleys, as well as part of the adjoining canteen. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire, although 50 student-athletes dorming in the nearby Fonacier Hall had to be evacuated to Kalayaan Residence Hall.

The fact that this was the second fire on campus in two weeks (CASAA canteen) raises serious questions of safety on campus. Initially, there were questions of possible arson attempts, although Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Chief Jesus Fernandez denied that arson was the cause. Fernandez  also noted the poor level of fire prevention in UP, which is a wake-up call to UP officials to ensure that no further fires will occur.

So, I guess it'll be some time before I'll be able to play duckpin bowling in UP.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Binay Family Hubris

Whenever she would be faced by some continued stupidity of someone, my mentor and friend, Mrs. Chee Kee, would remark, "I have ceased to be amazed." So am I now, although, truthfully, I have long ceased to be amazed by the continued arrogance that the Binay family has displayed as we make our way to the 2016 elections. It can only be summed up in a word: hubris.


In the most recent suspension order from the Ombudsman involving VP Binay's son, Junjun, the Vice-President angrily confronted the police chief in charge of securing the Makati City Hall, where Binay's son was holed up. The confrontation was captured on video, and made viral, along with the Binay supporters hurling monobloc chairs at police formations. Later, when Mayor Binay had stepped down after failing to secure a temporary restraining order from the Court of Appeals, he would claim that his followers did not start the melee, and he was stepping down to forestall further violence. In the first place, why did he let the violence escalate instead of complying with the suspension order?

The answer to this is simple: the Binays believe themselves to be above the law. Remember how Mayor Binay forced his way through a gate in a posh subdivision two years ago? It's an example of how the Binays will be should the Vice-President win next year.

The younger Binay then pooh-poohed the strength of social media in two ways. First, he downplayed its relevance, and claimed that most of those criticizing him and his family were paid to do so. Admittedly, I have no way of knowing how widespread dislike of Binay is on social media, but that is an insult to many. For one, I'm pretty certain I have not received anything for criticizing the Binays, so there.

Second, Mayor Binay apparently tweeted that, despite the brickbats and accusations hurled against him and his family, his father will still win next year.

Of course, the tweet went viral. If there's any stimulus that should get those of us who are worried about a possible Binay presidency, this is one.

The son isn't the only one who seems confident about his father's impending victory. His sister, Makati City Rep. Abigail Binay said earlier this year that she and her family would not forgive their critics should her father win next year; it was a chilling reminder of martial law times. Rep. Binay would later "clarify" her statement to mean only Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, but the initial statement remains out there.

Amidst all this, the Binay's strategy, as observed by Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod, is to deny and to claim persecution. To date, no Binay has directly answered the charges against them, preferring to file TROs and claim political persecution. It appears that the Binays are counting on the masa not to be swayed by all the controversies surrounding the family, but, with the Vice-President's survey ratings droppings, it seems that the accusations are finally taking root.

The Binay family appears overwhelmingly confident that family head, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, will win as President next year. The hubris that the Binays have shown will hopefully be rewarded with a resounding loss next year.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Decision: Some Musings

In the U.S., history was made when its Supreme Court, in a close 5-4 vote, decided to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

In response, a good number of my friends on Facebook have posted profile pictures layered with rainbow stripes, the color of the LGBT movement. The decision, of course, was loudly applauded by the LGBT community, as it will now be possible for gay couples to get married anywhere in the U.S., and be recognized as a married couple anywhere in the U.S.

Predictably, the conservative Republicans were outraged at the decision, with some, such as potential presidentiable Mike Huckabee, calling it "judicial tyranny." It will most likely be a hot-button issue for next year's U.S. presidential elections.

I will have to say, for the record, that I am conflicted about the decision, for reasons I cannot put into words at the moment. However, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory released a statement that does, to some extent. Here is what he has to say:
“Each U.S. Supreme Court decision that has ever been rendered has resulted in deep disappointment for some people and vindication for others. If we all agreed on the outcomes of these divisive cases, there would simply be no reason for the Court to convene. This most recent decision is no different.

"By the same token, every court decision is limited in what it can achieve; again, this one is no exception. It does not change the biological differences between male and female human beings or the requirements for the generation of human life, which still demands the participation of both. It does not change the Catholic Church’s teaching regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony, which beautifully joins a man and woman in a loving union that is permanent in commitment and open to God’s blessing of precious new life.

"This judgment, however, does not absolve either those who may approve or disapprove of this decision from the obligations of civility toward one another. Neither is it a license for more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions continue to differ from our own. It is a decision that confers a civil entitlement to some people who could not claim it before. It does not resolve the moral debate that preceded it and will most certainly continue in its wake.

"This moral debate must also include the way that we treat one another – especially those with whom we may disagree. In many respects, the moral question is at least as consequential and weighty as the granting of this civil entitlement. The decision has offered all of us an opportunity to continue the vitally important dialogue of human encounter, especially between those of diametrically differing opinions regarding its outcome.
"The decision has made my ministry as a pastor more complex since it demands that I both continue to uphold the teachings of my Church regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony while also demanding that I insist upon respect for the human dignity of both those who approve of the judgment as well as those who may disapprove.”
 
 Upon further reflection, I suppose I still believe that marriage should be limited to the union of man and woman, I will not deny that others may believe differently, and I will not judge them any less for that. At the same time, I cannot deny that there are certain legal ights that are accorded married couples that weren't given to same-sex couples, and that was also what the LGBT community was lobbying for. Finally, when it all boils down to it, who am I to judge? If two people love each other that they wish to commit to one another, that's marriage in a nutshell.

In closing, I'll share what a friend of mine posted on Facebook regarding the issue. She writes:
On love: It is blind and that is good because at the end of the day, you need no reason to love. There are no standards for it. It is universal and hate has no place in this world. Let it be the greatest motivation.
In the end, as the hashtag goes, #LoveWins.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

UP Issues: Fraternity Violence, Once Again

The third news item which involved the University of the Philippines (UP) in recent weeks is the attack that occurred last June 18, when members of the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity were arrested after they had attacked members of the Alpha Sigma fraternity. The attack is just the latest in the continuing story of fraternity violence in the university.

It's not the first time Upsilon was involved in violent attacks on campus. Back when I was a student in UP, the biggest frat war I remember involved Upsilon and the Vanguard fraternity of the CMT cadet officers. One incident within that war that I recall was when bonnet-wearing men brutalized a cadet officer in front of his company during a training day; while it was never proven, at least to my knowledge, that Upsilon was behind the attack, many suspected them of being the culprits.

At the same time, Alpha Sigma has had its own share of altercations. There were a couple of violent incidents that occurred in 2011 and 2012, both of which involved Alpha Sigma and Alpha Phi Beta. 

Apparently, in this latest incident, according to the news reports, there were three separate incidents. The first involved attacks on Upsilon members, while the later two involved attacks by Upsilon on Alpha Sigma. Only those who participated in the third attack were arrested after a car chase cornered them; the others, who were part of the second attack which resulted in two injuries, remain at large.

It's not been proven that the initial attack was committed by Alpha Sigma members. However, Alpha Sigma alum head, lawyer Roel Pulido was quick to deny that his fraternity was responsible for the initial attack, and claimed that the attacks on his fraternity brothers were "treacherous," which indicates that, for Pulido, there was no basis for the attack. According to a GMA news report, though, it's possible that the reason for the violent incidents was political, as Upsilonians, including University Student Council head  JP delas Nieves, won in the recent student council elections.

Were the attacks initiated due to some slight between the two fraternities during the elections? Admittedly, it doesn't take much for fraternities to get it on; even a look askance is often enough to spark hostilities. The Upsilon-Vanguard war, if I recall right, was the result of some Upsilonians entering the DMST compound and being scolded by a cadet officer. In my third year, two frats went to war over the beer concession of the university fair. 


Even within the fraternity, there exists a culture of violence, as initiates are hazed, sometimes to their deaths. I'm not sure if such experiences translates to committing violent acts on other fraternities, but there's a possible connection there. It's funny, since Alpha Sigma alum and writer Butch Dalisay claims that his fraternity was founded as an alternative fraternity, as he writes,
Alpha Sigma’s founders established it in UP in 1962 precisely to go against the grain of traditional fraternities, which seemed to be interested only in beating each other up, in finding cushy jobs for their alumni, and parading their cars around campus.
Apparently, something was lost in translation down the line.


While school officials will continue to stress that violence has no place in the university, and fraternity officers will mouth the same platitudes, as long as there are fraternities, it's likely that such violence will continue.

UP Issues: CASAA and Tiffany Uy

The University of the Philippines (UP) made the news on three separate occasions in recent weeks, with varying reactions from netizens. I'll tackle two in this post, and write about the other in a separate post.

CASAA Fire

First, a fire broke out in the CASAA canteen last June 13, injuring two people, and causing an estimated P50,000 in damages. UP alumni such as myself aired their dismay on Facebook, as CASAA had been a regular haunt during our college days.

I particularly miss the pancit palabok served by Gloria's and Sizzler, as well as the chicken barbeque of Chinatown, which served as staple lunches during my college days. I actually got introduced to CASAA as early as high school, since I had made friends with a UPIS barkada through my judo training. (See this article: 10 Memories from Diliman's CASAA)

Fortunately, the pictures, while saddening, don't seem to indicate that CASAA is beyond help, so, hopefully, repairs can be made, and the new canteen can continue to serve future UP students.

Summa cum laude Flap

Second, with the UP graduation to be held tomorrow, it was made known that a BS Biology student had gotten the highest general weighted average (GWA) in the post-war era. Tiffany Uy will be graduating tomorrow with a GWA of 1.004, which is all sorts of impressive.

Inevitably, the crab mentality of the Filipino reared its ugly head, and some social media users downplayed Uy's achievement, and made disparaging remarks about her ethnicity (she's Chinoy.). The most prominent post came from a UP professor. Gerardo Lanuza wrote a Facebook post which lambasted those who got mostly 1.0s (the highest possible grade in UP), saying that it only meant that one was nice to his/her teachers, and did the right things in order to get good grades. Lanuza's post, and its English translation can be read below:
[LANUZA'S POST] Hindi dahil naka uno (1.0) ka sa lahat halos ng klase mo sa UP Diliman ay "matalino" ka na! Ang ibig sabihin lang nyan ay: masipag kang gumawa ng reaction papers kahit di required, mabait ka sa klase, di mo inaway ang teachers mo, di ka sumama sa walkouts laban sa TOFI kayawala kang absences, pati diarrhea mo ng isang araw ginawan mo pa ng medical certificate para ma-excuse ka, nabili mo lahat ng requirements at  books at matyaga kang nagpaxerox. Now, tell me: by doing those things made you intelligent? Not necessarily. Intelligence means what you do when everything that you know become useless! In short, you're a worthy puppy of your parents! Pagawa ka na ng tarp sa harap ng bahay nyo para complete na! But when I see that tarp, I have to ask: "FOR WHAT AND FOR WHOM ARE YOU DOING THOSE THINGS FOR?"
 
[TRANSLATION] Just because you got a 1.0 grade in almost all your classes at UP Diliman, it doesn't mean you're already "intelligent"! All that means is this: You write reaction papers even when they're not required, you are pleasant in class, you don't antagonize your teachers, you didn't join walkouts to protest against ) tuition and other fee increases (ToFI) so you have no absences, when you had diarrhea you got a medical certificate to be excused, you got all the books required for class, and you patiently had the required readings photocopied. Now, tell me: by doing those things made you intelligent? Not necessarily. Intelligence means what you do when everything that you know become useless! In short, you're a worthy puppy of your parents! Have a tarpaulin printed announcing your achievement so theexperience is complete! But when I see that tarp, I have to ask: "FOR WHAT AND FOR WHOM ARE YOU DOING THOSE THINGS FOR?"
This ignited a howl from netizens, who decried Lanuza's apparent crab mentality, and questioned his credentials to teach at UP. Lanuza would later defend himself, saying that he was not referring to anyone in particular. The fact that the post came out shortly after the announcement about Uy belies Lanuza's defense, and exposes him as a coward who cannot stand by his statements. The university would do itself some good by reprimanding this professor.

I'm also not sure what prompts others to be dismissive or derogatory about Uy's accomplishment. Is it just a matter of jealousy, or is it because we cannot accept that someone managed such a feat? Whatever the reason, such reactions as that of Lanuza are petty and small-minded.

At the same time, it cannot be ignored that, based on UP records, an inordinate number of students will be graduating with summa cum laude honors compared to previous years. While it's possible that the so-called grade inflation may be responsible for some of these honors, I just don't see it in Uy's case. She's a Biology major, and, unless the requirements have become incredibly light since my time in the university, the courses in Biology are difficult, and Uy's being able to ace them is a measure of her own skill, rather than simple grade inflation.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Opening Salvos in the 2016 Presidential Race

At this point in time, the only thing that's certain about the 2016 elections is that nothing is certain.

So far, we've seen some of the major players jockeying for position, so that, once the race begins, they can bolt straight out the gate, and hit the ground running. Because of this, a number of issues have cropped up, and the media, for lack of better news, has decided that these are the top news items regarding the 2016 elections:

Poe's Qualifications for the Presidency

The opposition has, rightly, decided to raise Sen. Grace Poe's qualifications as an issue, but, instead of focusing on her political qualifications, they've decided to focus on the trivial, and play it up to look as if the issues of residency and citizenship are paramount.

Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco spearheaded the move when he claimed a few weeks ago that Senator Poe lacks the necessary years of residence to be qualified for the presidency, only to be stymied and pilloried left and right by netizens and legal experts such as election lawyer Romulo Makalintal, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, and Ateneo law dean Antonio La Vina, who have upheld that the good senator does have the necessary residency to be qualified as a presidential candidate.

Then, UNA spokesperson JV Bautista put forth the notion as to whether a foundling such as Sen. Poe could be president, since, according to Bautista, the citizenship of a foundling would be in question. The move prompted even more scorn to be heaped on the opposition, and, once more, legal experts have defended Poe's citizenship.

Lawyer Harry Roque has also tried to raise the question of Poe's qualifications, and said that the Supreme Court should rule on Poe's residency and citizenship, but, then again, Roque appears to be positioning himself to be a senatorial candidate under UNA, so his motives for raising the issue may be in question.

Philippine Star columnist Alex Magno yesterday tried to raise the issue as well, and contended that the issues are legitimate. However, between the credibility of Magno, who has long abdicated his to be an Arroyo, and now, a Binay lapdog, and those who have defended Poe, I would rather believe in the side favoring Poe's qualifications.


If one were to truly question Poe's qualifications, it would be on the basis of experience and accomplishments, both of which Poe lacks at the moment. However, the opening salvos of the opposition have so damaged their credibility at the moment, that further attacks on their part will probably be frowned upon, and maybe even ignored.

One thing seems certain. It is likely that the opposition, or one of their followers, will file the residency/citizenship case before the Supreme Court, if only to delay Sen. Poe's possible run at the presidency.

Binay's Drop in the Polls


The moves against Sen. Poe may have backfired badly on the opposition and their long-declared candidate, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, as the latest survey results in both Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations have seen Sen. Poe vault past VP Binay, making her the front-runner for the presidency.

It remains to be seen, though, whether Sen. Poe will throw her hat into the ring; it's funny that all of these attacks have been made against her, and she's not yet even a declared candidate. It only demonstrates the opposition's powerful fear of her running; to the opposition, Sen. Poe is a strong candidate capable of beating VP Binay, and so, she must be taken down.

Unfortunately for the opposition, the allegations against the Vice-President and his brood appear to have gained traction, which may make it difficult for the Vice-President to gain back ground in the perception war. That is what the surveys are, after all: a perception of the popularity of the various candidates.

It also hasn't helped that the VP and his children have done nothing except to deny and claim that the charges against their family are fabricated; so far, they have not presented any proof of their innocence. That, of course, is something the VP's political enemies will exploit to the hilt.


The Possibility of a Marcos-Duterte Partnership

This is a fairly recent development. While both Sen. Bongbong Marcos and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte have both expressed their interest in running for president, a possible pair-up between them has not been discussed until now.

However, recently, Sen. Marcos appeared on a radio show with Mayor Duterte, and praised the mayor, claiming that Mayor Duterte was Sen. Marcos' "mentor." It is likely that Sen. Marcos was reaching out to Duterte, although it could also be mere speculation on the media's part.

At any rate, it is a partnership I would not support, since I fully detest both the Marcoses and Duterte. If they do decide to team up, it'll be easier to campaign against them.

* * *
So far, everything that is going on remains speculative and uncertain, since, except for VP Binay, no one has confirmed that they are running, not even the Liberal Party's assumed candidate, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. Official filing of certificates of candidacy will be in October. Until then, all of what is happening in the political arena are scouting missions and probing jabs, as candidates, particularly the opposition's, feel out their opponents for weak spots to exploit. Only in October will the knives come out in earnest.



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Quick Update: Warriors Win!

I didn't expect this school year to come roaring in like a train out of hell, so, at the moment, I'm rather swamped. I'll probably be posting quick posts for now, until I can get a feel of the school year's rhythm enough to write more regularly.

On a bright side, the Golden State Warriors ended 40 years of futility yesterday, and finally won the NBA championship. They had to beat a determined Cleveland Cavaliers team led by LeBron James. However, despite James's superhuman effort, the Warriors prevailed, with Andre Iguodala winning the Finals' Most Valuable Player Award, a first for a player who had been used exclusively as a reserve throughout the regular season.

Aside from Iguodala's triumph, there are a lot of feel-good stories surrounding the Warriors: Coach Steve Kerr, MVP Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston, David Lee, and so forth. I'll let the sports writers, such as the Hoop Nuts,  write up the accolades. I'm primarily a Los Angeles Clippers fan, and the Clips just let their golden opportunity go, when they dropped three straight games in a horrendous collapse to the Houston Rockets, who were, in turn, soundly beaten by the champion Warriors. Still, scanning the social media feed, there's a lot to like about the Warriors, so kudos to the team for finally winning it all.

As for James and the Cavaliers, the title drought for Cleveland sports continues, although my dislike for James is a bit curbed by the effort he put out in the Finals. Playing without fellow stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, James led a rather ragtag group of players to clinch the Eastern Division, and push the Warriors to six games. However, it appears that James let his arrogance show, when he stated that he was the greatest player in the world after losing game 5. That alone would have sealed his karma. Still, it's likely that the Cavaliers will be back at full strength next season, and will definitely be in the running to get back to the Finals.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Requiem for A Great Actor

To the younger fans, he was Count Dooku in the "Star Wars" prequels, and Saruman in the "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies.

Older moviegoers will remember him as one of the most memorable actors who essayed the role of Count Dracula.

However one remembers him, a moviegoer will probably be amazed by the skill displayed Lee, who always made sure that his roles were not easily forgotten. In 2011, according to a CNN report, Lee was reported to have said,
"One thing to me is very important, if you're playing somebody that the audience regards as, let's say evil, try to do something they don't expect, something that surprises the audience."

Christopher Lee Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee as Dracula. Image from fanpop.com

I remember Lee in his roles as both Dooku and Saruman. As both, Lee appeared menacing and brought tremendous presence in his on-screen appearances.

The last time I saw Lee appear in a movie was in "The Hobbit" trilogy. By then, his age was apparent, as he looked gaunt and rather weak, but, he still had his commanding presence; he still presented himself as the powerful wizard Saruman. His stunt double's battle scene in the third movie made me quip to my friends, "Christopher Lee looks rather sprightly for someone who's over 90."

Director Peter Jackson, who worked with Lee on the five Tolkien movies (Saruman did not appear in "The Return of the King"), had this to say about the great actor,
Lee and Jackson. Image from Facebook
"Christopher spoke seven languages; he was in every sense, a man of the world; well versed in art, politics, literature, history and science. He was scholar, a singer, an extraordinary raconteur and of course, a marvelous actor. One of my favourite things to do whenever I came to London would be to visit with Christopher and Gitte where he would regale me for hours with stories about his extraordinary life. I loved to listen to them and he loved to tell them - they were made all the more compelling because they were true - stories from his time with the SAS, through the Second World War, to the Hammer Horror years and later, his work with Tim Burton - of which he was enormously proud.
I was lucky enough to work with Chris on five films all told and it never ceased to be a thrill to see him on set. I remember him saying on my 40th Birthday (he was 80 at the time), “You’re half the man I am”.  Being half the man Christopher Lee is, is more than I could ever hope for. He was a true gentleman, in an era that no longer values gentleman."
Sadly, Lee could not live forever, although he had lived for such a long time. He passed away last Sunday at the ripe old age of 93. Still, based on Jackson's account alone, Lee had lived a full life, and, like the Kings of Gondor in Tolkien's Middle Earth, it was time for him to let go and rest.

Requiescat in pace, Sir Christopher Lee. Thanks for all the memories. You will be missed.

Requiem for the American Dream

I remember reading about "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes in the wrestling magazines, which, at the time, still pretended that professional wrestling was a real sport. I remember reading about how many times he had won championships, and how he was often one of the more popular wrestlers out there.

 I also remember how often the pictures in the magazine showed him all bloodied up, the result of being cut so often; his forehead would later bear the scars from that earlier time.

Dusty Rhodes, whose real name was Virgil Runnels, marketed himself as an everyman sort of wrestler. He didn't have the chiseled physique of an Ultimate Warrior or even Hulk Hogan. He had a chunky, chubby build, but that didn't deter him from going into professional wrestling.

It helped that he had a bright, charming personality, that won him fans.

DustyRhodes
Image from wrestlingmuseum.com
Later on, when he came to the then-WWF (now WWE), promoter Vince McMahon had him wear a black tank top with yellow polka dots, which made Rhodes look ridiculous, but it didn't take away his appeal as an everyman.

When he got older and was unable to wrestle, he continued on as a booker, one of those who helped create the storylines that drove wrestling. It was through this that he pushed his son Dustin, although Dustin would gain greater fame when he adopted the Goldust persona.

Rhodes was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sadly, Dusty Rhodes passed away yesterday at the ripe old age (for a wrestler) of 69. His legacy is continued through his two sons, Dustin (Goldust) and Cody (Stardust). As Topless Robot's Luke Thompson notes,
"...his (Rhodes) legacy lives on in anyone funny-looking or different that can rise to the top of a stacked-against-them profession regardless."
 Requiescat in pace, Dusty Rhodes. Thanks for all the memories.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

David Hall Memories

When I was a grade school student, it was called the Intermediate Building. Back then, it was probably two-thirds the size of what it is now; there were still round metal bars sticking out of the side facing the East Field.

During my time as a student, playing in the nearby rock garden was still allowed, and students jumped from rock to rock with wild abandon. I remember injuring my ankle playing agawan base there when I was in Grade 6. What my parents and I thought was a severe sprain was, after the X-ray result came out, a slight chip in my ankle bone, which put my leg in a cast for six weeks.

When I was in grade 7, I remember my bag being placed, out of my reach, on the ledge outside the windows of my classroom, a prank by my classmates.


I remember spending a lot of time in the rondalla room learning how to play Star Wars, Peanut Vendor, and a medley of Filipino songs on the bells, under the tutelage of the late Mr. Charlie Valencia. 

It would be almost three decades before that building, now expanded and renamed David Hall (pronounced Dah-vid, not Day-vid), would play a part in my life. That was when I was sent to teach in the grade school as an exchange teacher.

That year in David Hall was memorable in so many ways. I made a lot of new friends, experienced the camaraderie of the grade school community, ate quite a bit, especially during the Jesuit saint feast days (Note: the sections of the grade 7 are named after Jesuit saints.), and generally immersed myself in the life of a grade school teacher.

During that one short year, David Hall became my home. I would arrive early, make my way down the long walkway leading to the Hall, eat my breakfast with the other teachers, and then prepare for the day. I was given my own carrel, which I shared with two other teachers; when I first checked it out, I found a bottle of vodka in the cabinet, which made me wonder if life in the grade school was that stressful. At the end of the day, I would make my long trek once more out of the Hall.

While my time in David Hall was short, a total of five years, student and teacher years combined, that's still a ton of stored memories, which is why when news that David Hall would no longer be used as a classroom building came out, I could feel the poignancy that teachers posting about it on social media.

I can't imagine how it must be for those who have spent years having David Hall as their home, only to have to leave it so abruptly. Reading their posts pulls at the heartstrings, and helps me remember my own experiences in David Hall.  

Objectively, I can understand the change. With its location, David Hall is a little close to the West Valley Fault Line, and there are no easy evacuation safe areas in the event of a fire or earthquake. Also, the Hall is the tallest structure in the grade school, four floors in all. I remember when an earthquake drill was held during my time as a teacher there, and I remember how long it took for the students to evacuate the building. In the end, it was a "better safe than sorry" situation, which prompted the decision to vacate David Hall.

At the same time, it's going to be a challenging year for the grades 7-8 of the junior high school, as they will be moving to Bellarmine Hall, which is closer to the high school, to which the junior high was supposed to be moving in a year. Now, the process has been accelerated, and the junior high community has to figure out how to adjust to this current set of changes. Of course, the high school is ready and willing to help in whatever way it can to ease this transition. 

Even David Hall will be making a transition of sorts. From it being a bustling hive of activity, with students practically spilling out of its nooks and crannies, its halls and rooms will now be silent as it awaits whatever the grade school and the university have planned for it.


Thank you, David Hall, for all the memories.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Place-Holder Post: Explaining the Break

Apologies for the long break after posting about the blog's 11th anniversary. It's been a hectic start to the school year, made even more frenetic because of the changes caused by the movement of the junior high school to Bellarmine Hall, as well as the grade school's movement of the grade 3-6 school opening to August. Add to that the regular adjustment to the school year, and it's a recipe for no posts.

I'll be taking another break before I resume writing; I should be able to figure out a schedule wherein I can write regularly by next week. Until then, please be patient.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Daily Musings' Top Posts of the Previous Year

As I mentioned in my previous post, social media has played a large role in helping put my blog out there for people to read. Before I started using Facebook, and then Twitter, to share my blog posts, I'm not sure how people got to read my blog, unless they were searching for specific material on Google. After using social media, the number of people reading the blog jumped dramatically.

Below are the top posts of the previous year-cycle (June 2014-June 2015):

1. Going Co-Ed in the AHS: A Teacher's Response to Former Students (March 15, 2015) - This post generated the most number of hits last year, and was published in the school's newsletter. Apparently, co-education's imminent arrival in the all-boys' Ateneo touched more than a few nerves.

2. Carmaggedon on Katipunan (September 16, 2014) - Traffic will always be a hot-button topic, and the initial removal of the U-turns along Katipunan Avenue created a lot of it. However, with almost a year into the removal, traffic along Katipunan appears to have been more regulated, after a number of tweaks to the traffic management system in the area.


3. UAAP 77: Ateneo's Stunning Comeback (September 13, 2014) - Even though the Blue Eagles eventually lost to the champion NU Bulldogs, without this win, the Blue Eagles' exit from the Final Four might have been quicker.


4. Musings on the DAP and President Aquino (July 16, 2014) - While many have soured on President Aquino, I continue to maintain that, despite his numerous shortcomings, he is probably the best one we've had for a while now. That doesn't mean that I won't take him to task in my writing if I see something out of whack.

5. UAAP 77: Do-or-Die Wednesday (September 30, 2014) - Ateneo and FEU had their backs to the wall after losing to their Final Four opponents. FEU survived. The Blue Eagles didn't.
 
6. The Hijacking of the Jennifer Laude Murder Case (October 28, 2014) - I dislike it when emotions, or ideologies, overcome reason. I dislike it even more when there is clear manipulation in order to get results. Such was the case in the Mary Jane Veloso case, wherein her parents were used by the leftists to attack President Aquino. Such is the case in the Laude murder case, where it's unclear whether lawyer Harry Roque is representing the Laudes, or simply using them to make a case for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

7. Charter Change? Say It Ain't So, Mr. President (August 18, 2014) - As I mentioned above, I will not hesitate to take the President to task if I feel that he's overstepping boundaries. Since there has been little or no mention of this issue since this article, it's likely that either the President and his Liberal Party allies have dropped the notion, or are simply biding their time.
 
8. Remembering the Fallen: The PNP-SAF (January 29, 2015) - This is simply an information post, wherein I share information about a particular topic, instead of writing about it. One previous example was when I posted the Articles of Impeachment against former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Such is also the case here, as I felt that those who fell in Mamasapano should be remembered. Afterwards, though, in retrospect, it is not just the so-called fallen 44 who should be remembered, but those others who also fell, especially the innocent civilians who were caught in the cross-fire.

 9. In the Aftermath of Imelda's Visit (July 6, 2014) - The former First Lady's visit to the Ateneo, accompanied by pictures of scholars hamming it up with her, was a public relations nightmare for the Ateneo. On the bright side, it demonstrated that anger over the Marcoses and their depredations on the country has not died down, and may make it difficult for the late dictator's son to consider a run for the presidency. Until the Marcoses have apologized for their crimes against the country, the battle cry should remain. "Never again."
 
10. "Mario" Musings (September 19, 2014) - On one hand, the casualties were thankfully low, but, on the other hand, "Mario" demonstrated that the government still has a way to go in the area of flood control.

Belated Happy 11th Birthday, Daily Musings!

And so, without much fanfare, my blog, Daily Musings, turned 11 yesterday. It was a more productive year than the last, as I managed a couple of posts more than the previous year.

One of the more gratifying changes is the increase in readership I've had. Although I will probably never reach the wide readership of other bloggers, the fact that there are people out there who read my blog is affirmation enough for me.

One of the changes that has made my blog more accessible to the public is my use of Twitter and Facebook to advertise my blog posts. Social media has played a big role in articles and news items becoming viral, and, that has been the case for some of my posts.

One of the continuing challenges is to be able to write more often, and more regularly, since it is contradictory for a blog with a title such as Daily Musings to only come out with an average of 10-11 posts per month. My cop-out is to say that I am constantly thinking about the world around us, and not everything makes it to the blog, either because I ran out of real time to write about a topic, making whatever I write obsolete, or because life gets to be so busy that it makes it impossible for me to write. At any rate, I plan to continue writing in the days, months, and maybe years ahead, because I will never stop thinking about the world around us.

To my faithful readers, especially my former student Dino, one of the few who takes time to comment and give useful insights to the blog posts, thank you for continuing to follow me as I write. Here's to more musings in the future!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Leftists and the Rising Cost of Education

As I scrolled through my social media feed, one item caught my attention. It was an article released by the leftist organization Anakbayan listing what its head, Vencer Crisostomo, claims are the "billions in profits because of the skyrocketing tuition rates." Kabataan, another leftist youth group, released a similar article, with its party-list representative Terry Ridon is quoted as saying,
 “These numbers are simply astounding and is comparable to the profits of a commercial company. Clearly, these schools are not in the red and there is no reason to again increase tuition and other school fees next year.” ("Top private universities in PH earning billions in profits", Kabataan party-list website)
When one looks at the infographic posted in the Anakbayan article (see below), at first glance, the numbers are staggering.

http://www.anakbayan.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/11301544_10153313314688382_1875169208_n.jpg
Infographic from the Anakbayan webite.

P14.8 billion is, indeed, quite a bit of money, and can be used to illustrate, at least to Anakbayan and Kabataan, how parents of students in private schools are, in Crisostomo's words, "scammed through the collection of high tuition and questionable other school fees." 

However, since I am an employee of one of those private schools (Ateneo de Manila, for full disclosure), the numbers presented by the leftists are misleading and intended to inflame those who do not take time to do a little research.

One will note that, even in the Anakbayan article, what is mostly listed is the gross income. I will not refer to it as profit, which is what the Anakbayan article calls it, since the school will have to benefit from it for it to be profit (those in business may feel free to correct me on this.). Since it is the gross income, it is the total amount that the school has collected, before expenses.

It costs a lot to run a school. By law, the largest slice of the tuition pie must go to teachers' salaries, and, depending on the average number of years a teacher has spent in a school, one's salary can increase, albeit to a limited extent, so the school has to be able to account for that. After that, there are utilities to consider: electricity, water, and so on.


In the Anakbayan article, the Ateneo is listed to have collected P2.9 billion in tuition fees, but the article does not take into consideration that the Ateneo de Manila is composed of several units scattered throughout the metropolis. Aside from its main campus in Loyola Heights, there are the professional schools in Rockwell, Makati, which includes the MBA and law programs. Then, there is the medical school, which is based in Medical City in Pasig City. One puts these schools together, and the figure of P2.9 billion isn't too difficult to hit.


Even the so-called profit (UST, and La Salle posted their net profit.) will be something the school will most likely use to upgrade itself, at least, speaking with my own workplace in mind. The coming of senior high school, for example, will entail massive spending in order to build the necessary classrooms, as well as the other various facilities needed by a school.

To support their call to stop tuition fee hikes, Kabataan, Anakbayan, and other leftist organizations will point to the 1987 Constitution, in which section 1 of Article XIV states,
"The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all."
 However, the Philippine government has done this, by instituting and maintaining state colleges and universities. Private institutions, such the Ateneo de Manila, La Salle, and UST, do not receive government money (at least, I don't think they do.), and, thus, must generate their own income via the tuition fees and other school fees. At the same time, such institutions, if they wish to continue to be considered among the country's, if not the world's, best, they must continually upgrade to keep pace. This, of course, requires money, a fact of life that leftist organizations such as Anakbayan and Kabataan simply cannot understand, or refuse to understand.

It is doubtful that the leftists' fulmination over the rising cost of education will gain any noticeable traction, since it is something that they have been protesting for time immemorial. One of their problems is that they seem to see the world through an ideology that is outdated and irrelevant. Another is their penchant for not telling the whole truth, such as the manner by which they presented the so-called "profit" of the private schools. Such tactics ensure that they will remain a strident, but insignificant, voice in the wilderness.

At the same time, it should be a spur for the government, through its Department of Education (DepEd), to ensure that Filipino students are able to get quality education in the public schools, since students and their parents would not be compelled to enter expensive private schools if the quality of public education was top-notch.

 It is food for thought as the DepEd continues its preparations for the K-12 educational reform, to make sure that the new educational program fulfills its objective of improving the quality of Philippine education. Otherwise, the possible failure of K-12 would give leftists more momentum to rail against the rising costs of Philippine education. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Musings on Rodrigo Duterte


One cannot argue that Davao City is one of the safest cities in the world; in fact, it was ranked 9th by the crowd-sourcing site,numbeo.com. Davao City residents and visitors will attest to this. Unlike in other parts of the country, one can take a stroll at night without fear of being mugged or attacked. At the same time, Davao City is a booming metropolis, with its economic gains attracting positive attention. Much of Davao City's reputation is because of its long-time mayor, Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte has long been an advocate of being tough on crime and has been committed to enforcing the law. There is a much-publicized story of the mayor's daughter caught speeding, and having to pay the fine, which proved that, to Rodrigo Duterte, no one is above the law.

Except, perhaps, himself.

While one cannot dispute the fact that Duterte has molded his city into a paragon of order and law, evidence has come to light that Davao City's safety is built on blood. The blood of criminals, maybe, but blood nonetheless.

Recently, at a national convention of the Workplace Advocates on Safety, Rodrigo revealed the reason for Davao City's success: kill all the criminals, as his means of being tough on crime. Here are some of the quotes from his speech:

"You rape a child in my city? I will kill you, I have no problem with that." (sic)

"You commit robbery and rape your victim? I will kill you."

"We’re the ninth safest city,” he added. “How do you think I did it? How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities?”

“Kill them all (criminals).”

The comments drew loud condemnation from human rights advocates, since, for one thing, the Philippines has suspended its implementation of the death penalty. For another, it's not clear as to what method Duterte uses to determine the guilt of one to be executed. Was the person convicted in court, or is he or she just suspected of committing the crime? What evidence was submitted to establish the person's guilt, beyond reasonable doubt? It's more likely that Duterte would rather cut through the legal tangle, and simply execute whomever he believes is guilty of a crime.

Duterte's party mate, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III of the PDP-Laban, was quick to defend the mayor, suggesting that the mayor was either misquoted, or speaking out of bravado. Senator Pimentel also made an oblique cue to Duterte, and said that, if Duterte wishes to run for either President or Vice-President, he should tone down the talk of killing and executions. Senator Pimentel also denied that Duterte was involved in the executions, saying, "He has never done that."

Duterte promptly gave the lie to Pimentel's statements, and said on a radio show last Sunday, that he was, indeed, connected to the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS), which is supposedly responsible for the summary executions of around 1,000 criminals. Duterte showed no signs of toning down his tough guy talk, and said that, should he be elected as President, the death toll could rise to over 100,000, as he would proceed to weed out criminals in government by executing them. Duterte would later deny his links to the DDS, after Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said that she would look into his admission. The two are currently engaged in a word war, with neither side apparently willing to back down.

Malacanang was finally forced to issue a statement through Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., who stressed that elected officials must "uphold the law," and disputed that Duterte's popularity was due to the breakdown of law and order in the country. In reaction to this, Secretary Coloma said, "We believe that rule of law prevails in our country and it is the duty of the President as chief executive to enforce our laws,” he told reporters in Filipino. “The principle we believe in is this: public servants should also enforce the law.” Sec. Coloma then called upon the Department of Justice to "do what needs to be done based on its mandate" in order to deal with Duterte's admission regarding the DDS.

Unfortunately for Sec. Coloma, the perception that our laws are weak and not enforced consistently is a strong one, since there is much evidence of it. We have seen how slow it takes for justice to be obtained, or, sometimes, not obtained at all, due to lack of evidence or legal technicalities. We have seen how our officials, both elected and non-elected, have used and abused their positions to enrich themselves. We have seen how there are two sets of justice, one for the rich, and one for the poor.

Because of this, it is not surprising that a number of Filipinos have become disenchanted and disillusioned about the enforcement of law in our country. This is why someone such as Rodrigo Duterte becomes so popular, since he appears to be willing to do the dirty work others refuse to do. As a recent editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer notes,
"The man is different; he suffers no knaves, and loves the idea of bludgeoning them to submission—or to kingdom come, if need be. His vocabulary is a thesaurus on one word—“kill.” He doesn’t mind being seen as violent; if it’s the language of the blackguards and heels he’s up against, then he’ll dish it to them, in full glare of the media and an adoring throng weary of the everyday lawlessness around them. Forget action movies, here’s the real Dirty Harry, and he doesn’t slink back into ambiguous darkness after the hit." (PDI, May 23, 2015)
Thanks to his tough guy image, Duterte has made it to the national stage, wherein he is being considered either as a possible President or Vice-President. However, running a country is an entirely different game compared to running a city. Duterte's hubris about killing more and more alleged criminals will not gain traction on the national stage, since not everyone subscribes to his brutal solution to crime. Moreover, being a democracy, Duterte will be unable to act as freely on a national level as he did in Davao, as there will be more who will be unwilling to turn the Philippines into a charnel house. At the same time, it will be difficult to garner global support for the Philippines if one of its leaders espouses summary executions as a means to fight crime.

The only way for Duterte to implement his killing solution on the country is if he is able to dictate the law, without the fetters of Congress or Constitution. As the Inquirer concludes its editorial,
"The appeal is understandable; it was only a matter of time before our descent into the pits as a nation would produce another tough guy, another putative strongman whose penchant for legal shortcuts, whose disdain for the exasperating niceties of the law, becomes precisely his sterling qualification for the job of extracting Filipinos from the hellhole. Ferdinand Marcos once attempted this, too—his New Society, backed by martial law, was meant to save Filipinos from the rot and evil of the old ways, and for a while the country seemed functioning and orderly. The deaths under his watch eventually reached tens of thousands. Most of them, unfortunately, were not criminals, but people who simply had a different mind than the guy in power." (PDI, May 23, 2015)
Do we want a return to the bad old days? If so, perhaps we should elect Duterte as President, but, hopefully, calmer heads and wiser minds will not.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Retreat Hiatus

It's been a busy end of the month, but I won't be able to post until the end of the week; I'll be out on retreat. When I get back, be sure that I'll be recharged and refreshed enough to continue writing, especially since it'll be the anniversary of the blog come June. 

Until then, please pray for me and my co-teachers as we take time out to reflect, pray, and prepare for the coming school year.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Requiem for a Pair of Kings

My strongest memory of musicians Ben E. King and B.B. King, who both passed away within two weeks of each other, is connected with two movies.

Ben E. King2.jpg
Ben E. King, 2007. Image from Wikipedia
For Ben E. King, who passed away April 30, it was his 1961 song "Stand By Me," that was the theme song for the 1986 movie of the same title. The movie, starring Will Wheaton, the late River Phoenix, as well as Kiefer Sutherland, was based on a Stephen King novella, and was a coming-of-age story about friendship, of how experiences bond one another together. King's voice, coming in after a catchy bass line, provided a haunting reminder of that bond.

While "Stand by Me" is probably King's greatest hit thus far, he also had hits while with the doo-wop group The Drifters, with whom he had the hit song, "There Goes My Baby" in 1959. After leaving the group, King had even greater success as a solo artist, coming out with R&B hit songs until the mid-70s. "Stand by Me" was no. 25 on the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)'s Songs of the Century.

B.B. King in 2009.jpg
B.B. King in 2009. Image from Wikipedia
B.B. King is considered to be one of the legends of the jazz genre, with a host of awards and an extensive library of work. He is also one of the most influential guitarists of his time, ranked no. 6 by "Rolling Stone" magazine in 2011. 

 The New York Times had this to say about King's music:
Mr. King married country blues to big-city rhythms and created a sound instantly recognizable to millions: a stinging guitar with a shimmering vibrato, notes that coiled and leapt like an animal, and a voice that groaned and bent with the weight of lust, longing and lost love.

I remember him best in his cameo in the movie "Heart and Souls" starring Robert Downey, Jr., and Elizabeth Shue.  His riff for the "Star Spangled Banner" was pure electricity.

With the passing of both Kings, the music world is so much poorer, but both men have left such a rich legacy that neither are likely to be forgotten.

Requiescat in pace, Ben E. King and B.B. King. Keep on playing and singing up there.

A Can of Worms: The Kentex Fire

Another busy week for me, and, in the news, it's also been pretty busy. I'll try to play catch-up on the various issues of the past week.

Last week, a fire raged for seven hours at the Kentex factory in Valenzuela City. When the fire died down, firefighters found the charred remains of those who were not able to escape. However, based on the investigations done, it's clear that their deaths could have been prevented. The tragic fire at the Kentex factory in Valenzuela City, which claimed more than 72 lives, opened a can of worms by exposing a number of issues regarding fire safety, labor, and the enforcement of laws surrounding these.

It's clear that there were violations in the fire safety of the factory. Based on survivors' accounts, there were no fire drills held at all prior to the fire, and there were a number of fire safety laws and ordinances that were violated by the owners of the factory. One of these was the placement of grills and screens which blocked possible exits of those trapped on the second floor. In today's Philippine Star, columnist Cito Beltran noted that these were placed to serve as security measures, and blamed the state of law and order which has forced citizens to resort to illegal means to protect themselves.

As a result of the fire, several possible violations of the labor code were brought to light. Survivors alleged that workers at the factory were paid below the minimum wage, and had to work in the presence of hazardous chemicals. In fact, it was a stray spark from a welder's work that apparently ignited these chemicals, which led to the seven-hour long fire. The Inquirer's editorial today noted how it would take a tragedy such as this to expose these labor conditions.

The various fire safety and labor violations surrounding the Kentex fire show how weak our enforcement of laws are. During a family gathering, one of my relatives observed that the Philippines has a multitude of good laws, but it's the lack of their enforcement that is appalling. Such is the case here. It's clear that the 72 or so persons who burned to death in the fire died because of the negligence of both the factory owners and those tasked to enforce the law. While this will be damaging to the owners of the factory, equally liable are the government officials who allowed these violations to exist. As Beltran noted, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas should identify who these are, and throw the book at them.

It's infuriating that it takes a high body count to expose the flaws in the way things are done in the country. What's even more infuriating is that, in spite of these exposes, more often than not, little or nothing happens to change the state of affairs. 
 
The Kentex fire evoked memories of the Ozone tragedy, wherein more than a 160 people, mostly young people celebrating their graduation, were burned to death. It's taken two decades for the cases against those responsible to be decided, and it's not yet over, since those accused may appeal the decision with the Supreme Court. Here's hoping that, for the victims of the Kentex fire, deciding the cases will not take that long.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Phones Through the Years, Revisited

While I've been aware of the term "Throwback Thursday" for quite a while now, I've never really felt strongly enough about posting something about it, until a while ago, when a chat with a friend made me think of the way we communicate with one another, particularly our use of the cellular phone. It's a term that one doesn't hear nowadays, it having been supplanted by "smartphone," or "iPhone," or "Android phone." Still, the evolution of the cellular phone to its current incarnation has come a long way in just a little over a decade, and I'd like to go back to an earlier post, and look at the phones that I'd used over the years.

Nokia 6080
Just for full disclosure, I don't use an Android phone or an iPhone, although the phone I'm currently using qualifies as a smartphone. I haven't really seen an urgent need to upgrade, since the phone I'm currently using satisfies my needs in all aspects of using a phone, except maybe taking sharp pictures. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, looking back, I started with the Nokia 5110, then moved on to the Nokia 3310, and then, when I reread my 2012 post, I realized that I had missed one in between the 3310 and the 5130.


Before the 5130, my first camera phone was the 6080, a very basic phone. It had very little memory, which meant I couldn't place much music into it. I used it more for taking a few pictures here and there. I had to replace it with the 5130 because the casing was coming apart at the seams, and, at the same time, I really wanted to get a phone which had more space for music, hence, the 5130.

BlackBerry Curve 9220
When I lost the 5130 back in 2012, it seemed easier to get a postpaid plan after doing prepaid all these years, so, using my wife's postpaid account, I got myself a fairly inexpensive plan. With it, came the BlackBerry Curve 9220, which ended my long-term relationship with Nokia phones. Interestingly enough, the only color available for the Curve when I applied for my plan was blue, so I wound up nicknaming my phone the "BlueBerry."





As I mentioned before, I'm not too happy with the 9220's camera; it's pretty basic, and grainy. All I can normally use it for is to take pictures of movie reservations, and maybe some really emergency-level pictures. However, for everything else, it's pretty useful. The micro-SD slot allows me to have a fairly extensive range of music, with enough room for a number of videos, particularly those which my daughters watch from time to time.


However, I sense the 9220's time is coming to an end. The rubber buttons on the sides, which allow volume control, and activation of the camera and BlackBerry Messenger, have already degraded, which makes it difficult to control the volume. Clumsy as I am, I've dropped it a number of times, which can't have been very good for it. Still, it has been a very durable and handy companion; it went with me on my trips to Singapore and Bangkok, and did everything that I needed from it.

And so, I'm looking at phones once more, to try to choose something to my liking. As much as I would like something like the 9220, I'm pretty certain that I'll finally be moving on to a touchscreen phone, something I'd been resisting for a while. Call it the grumpy old man in me, as I prefer the tactile keyboard, which I had gotten used to after using the instinctive Nokia numeric keypad for so long. However, I suspect that I'll soon get used to that as well, like I did the rest.

As it is, I actually might come back to Nokia, since the Lumia 535 seems to be available with the postpaid plan I'm looking at. Thus, events bring us back to the start.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lost in the Shuffle: FOI

One of the tools that is necessary for transparency in government is the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, which has been languishing in limbo, despite President Aquino's campaign promise to shepherd it into law.

The bill is necessary because it allows people to access government records, with restrictions plus a clear procedure for accessing the records. By allowing access, it is hoped that government will be more transparent regarding its actions. 

During the 2010 presidential campaign, Noynoy Aquino promised voters that he would make freedom of information a priority issue. However, he appears to have backtracked on this promise, since the FOI bills are still in the legislative grinder as we approach the next election cycle. While the Senate already passed its version last year, the House has been cooling its heels, as the various consolidated bills have only made it past the first reading. With the 2016 elections looming in the distance, with certificates of candidacy to be filed later this year, it becomes more and more unlikely that the House will manage to pass the FOI bill. 

At the same time, this year has been packed with enough issues that FOI has been placed on the back burner. From the visit of Pope Francis to the tragic Mamasapano incident, to the controversy around the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), to the Binays' corruption cases, to Chinese depredations on our territory, to the earthquakes in Nepal, the year 2015 has been jam packed with quite a number of issues, making it difficult for FOI to gain any traction.

Furthermore, every government loves its secrets, because it probably believes that there are always some actions the details of which should remain hidden from the public eye. However, what a government believes should remain hidden and what the public believes should be made public are often very different interpretations. This is why the founder of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden remain fugitives from their respective countries, as the secrets they revealed were very damaging not only to those countries, but also to other countries included in the secrets.

As a result, it seems unlikely that we will see the implementation of an FOI law before the end of this administration. With the possibility of a candidate who has every reason to deep-six FOI winning next year, the possibility of the bill's passage becomes even more remote. 

Despite these huge hurdles, it's important that we do not let up in sounding out our government that FOI is necessary in our fight to root out and stop corruption. At the same time, it is equally important to educate our countrymen, so that the clamor can be so strong that it can no longer be ignored.

K-12: Challenges

This is a follow-up to my previous post on K-12, wherein I dealt with the arguments raised against the program. Now, I'd like to take a look at the various challenges that K-12 faces, and what can be done about them.

One of the major challenges is dealing with those whose employment will be affected by the program. The naysayers led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV claim that 80,000 will be out of work because of the lack of enrollment in college, a reality caused by the extra two years of senior high school. However, the Department of Education (DepEd), as well as the NGO Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), has disputed this, and have said that the number of those affected will only be about 28,000, or about a third of what the naysayers have claimed.  

As for those who will be affected by the lack of enrollment, the DepEd has already said that those affected will have first priority in teaching senior high school. In reality, the curriculum of senior high school looks more like the core curriculum of colleges and universities, so college professors may not have so much trouble teaching at the senior high level. The DepEd has attempted to sweeten the deal by exempting college professors from having to take the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET) in order to secure a teaching license for senior high.

The next question is whether there will be enough senior high schools for the graduating grade 10 batch, since a good number of schools, both public and private, will not be offering senior high school as of this time, since they lack both the facilities and resources to do so. I am hoping that this will be a temporary lack, and the DepEd is rushing to make sure that there will be enough schools to accommodate the graduating batch. Otherwise, this will be a major contention to deal with, as it's certain that Sen. Trillanes and his ilk will use that as confirmation of the country's unreadiness for K-12.

One of the concerns that have been raised is that the additional two years will be a burden for parents already struggling to make ends meet; in fact, ABS-CBN ran a news story on "TV Patrol" a few days ago, featuring parents who are not in favor of K-12. Knowing how ABS-CBN likes to "create" news, I suspect that the story is skewed, as it did not even tackle how these parents' concerns are being answered. 

On one hand, the extra two years may be a burden for a number of families, but they should consider the possibility of their children finding work earlier, especially if the students choose to enter the non-college tracks; if their children do so, parents will actually be saved from paying for 3-4 years of college. 

For those whose children are aiming for college, the DepEd has been working with the business sector to set up a voucher system that will allow students who, normally, wouldn't be able to pay for college, to enroll. It'll probably be like a scholarship program. Here's hoping that the DepEd will be able to make this work.

Admittedly, the concerns of various stakeholders in education are valid, but the DepEd, along with the private schools and other sectors of society, has been working hard to allay the fears, and ensure that the implementation of K-12 will be successful. As I mentioned in my previous post, the K-12 is a badly needed reform for our educational system, and, instead of playing on fears, it would be better for those opposing it to find ways and means by which the concerns can be minimized.