Archive of ‘cultural studies’ category

pop goes the world: not moving on

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  31 January 2013, Thursday

Not Moving On

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines news website carries a story headlined “CBCP chides Aquino for inability to address PH’s problems.”

The assembly of high-ranking clergy took three days behind closed doors to come up with their “Pastoral Statement on Certain Social Issues of Today,” a “long litany of storms” referring to the government’s failures, from its inability to stem corruption, poverty, and crime to the prevalence of political dynasties.

It was the first time, said some sources, that the Church lambasted the current political culture of making politics a family business.

Which brings up the question: why only now? What took them so long to raise all these important issues in a pastoral statement?

However, what was first on their list was “the promotion of a culture of death and promiscuity,” due to the “slavishness of our political and business leaders to follow practices in Western countries that promote…” divorce (“resulting in more break-up of families and the dysfunctional growth of children”), contraceptives (“leading to more abortions”), the use of condom (“aggravating HIV-AIDS infection”), and “school sex education” (bringing more promiscuity and teenage pregnancy”).

So this is foremost about the RH Bill, really, passed recently after years of struggle by rights activists. The Church is still sore about having lost that battle.

It is admirable that, going by this pastoral statement, the CBCP is deeply concerned about poverty and the lack of “inclusive growth” or “the huge gap between the rich and poor” that remains “despite the government’s much-flaunted idea of high growth and economic development.”

Aside from taking second and third collections from churchgoers and raising funds from private companies and government agencies for their various social welfare programs, one wonders how much farther the Church would go to do their part in helping the needy.

For one thing, they could measurably assist the government in reducing poverty by agreeing to give up their tax exemptions and privileges. That would raise many millions of pesos that would go a long way to relieving the suffering of many poor people.

Note that the Catholic Church in Italy has already been stripped of tax-exempt status and will start paying property taxes in 2013, generating projected revenues of 500 million to 2 billion euros yearly.

The pastoral statement was released last Monday, the same day Manila tour guide and pro-RH Bill activist Carlos Celdran was sentenced to two months to one year in jail for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, a law from 1930 which penalizes anyone who “in a place of worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

Celdran caused a ruckus during a Mass last September 2010 by holding up a placard with the word “Damaso” upon it in front of the Papal Nuncio, several bishops, and sundry other clergy. The words refers to the character of an abusive priest in Jose Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

President Aquino expressed his sympathy for Celdran, saying that while he did not agree with the “methodology of disrupting a Mass,” he “may sympathize with Mr. Celdran’s position,” adding “If our priests and religious leaders look at the Pope as an example, I believe they will find it in their hearts to show Christian generosity and charity and maybe they will be able to forgive Mr. Celdran and move on.”

Would the CBCP be able to forgive Celdran? The President? Can the CBCP move on from any of this?

In their pastoral statement they declared:

“Our position on the above issues is based on our faith…Faith is not only concerned with doctrine but applies that belief in all dimensions of life – social, political, economic, cultural, and religious.”

Based on that, the CBCP is not going to cease, desist, lay off, move on, live and let live. They will pursue their avowed agenda to the utmost because it’s in their job description.

It’s up to the rest of the country, Catholics and non-Catholics, to make their own moves and decisions to shape Philippine society in a manner that includes everyone, because it is unfair and unjust to base governance on the belief system of one religious group.  *** 

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pop goes the world: women’s reproductive rights

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  10 January 2013, Thursday

Women’s Reproductive Rights 

There’s a helpful flowchart on the Internet on “how to have an opinion on women’s reproductive rights”:

“Do you have a vagina?” “Yes.” “You may express your opinion.” If “no,” then “Shut up.”

women's reproductive rights meme

Image from Facebook here.

Too many men without vaginas have been controlling women’s reproductive rights throughout history, and one would think that in these technologically advanced times decisions that impact an individual woman would be left to her alone, and not meddled in by other people or groups.

For instance, with the recent signing by the President of the Reproductive Health Bill, which has already been published in the Official Gazette and will officially become a law a couple of weeks after, the Roman Catholic Church as represented by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has said that they will continue to fight against it by exploring options such as filing a case in the Supreme Court.

This was done recently by lawyers James and Lovely Ann Imbong, who are seeking to have the measure declared “null and void.”

The overpopulation of the Philippines is in fact beneficial to the country, at least according to Bishop Gilbert Garcera of the Diocese of Daet, Camarines Norte.

He said that the great number of Filipinos contribute to the influx of remittances from abroad, while caring for the elderly of other countries and spreading the Catholic faith, adding that Filipino women “would make good wives” for foreigners in low-population growth nations.

This is the thinking of the Church, at least of some prelates: that women are brood animals, and that Filipinos are fodder for the world’s economic mill. The OFW phenomenon is an artificial boost to the economy that sags when recession hits, and has brought many social ills besides, such as children growing up without one or both parents.

Here’s another example: Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was revealed to have granted P1.6 million in year-end bonuses to most of his fellow senators but only P250,000 to Senators Miriam Santiago, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Enrile had a spat with Trillanes over a bill to divide Camarines Sur province, while the other three are strongly identified for their support of the RH Bill, which Enrile fought against.

The passage of the Reproductive Health bill allows the state to grant women, who cannot afford contraceptives on their own, access to such means and methods that will permit them to limit the number of children they bear, if they so wish.

It is the individual woman who will become pregnant and carry the baby for nine months, with the responsibility of eating the right foods and taking the right supplements to ensure the health of the baby. Once it is born, she has to take care of her child’s basic needs and education until it is an adult, and, in our culture, even beyond. If the woman’s husband or domestic partner should leave her without support or be unable to support her, she shall have to find the ways and means to care for her child in all aspects.

mothers in the philippines

Mothers in the Philippines. Image here.

If a woman, after careful consideration of her resources and situation, deems that she can comfortably take care of only a certain number of offspring, or even none at all, is that not her choice? Not even her husband has a say, because she is not his property, and she is not livestock like a bitch dog or thoroughbred mare. Naturally, a couple must discuss this issue, with honesty and candor, before they enter into a permanent domestic relationship such as marriage.

So why do men of the church and men of politics still insist on controlling women’s reproduction, even their right to “safe and satisfying sex”? Why should only men be able to enjoy this?

Anyway, despite Church strictures against premarital sex and adultery, Filipinos still have a swinging good time, and have learned to cloak their sexual behavior with hypocrisy and various forms of compensatory social norms, cognitive dissonance be hanged.

Not only is the Church against contraception, it is also against divorce, and has vowed to combat any divorce bill that comes up for consideration. Being guided by blind faith, it is blind to the plight of desperately unhappy couples who have resorted tocohabiting with new partners because they do not have the chance of being able to legally cut ties and move on, hopefully to better and happier lives.

Life is too short to spend with the wrong person, and it will not do anyone any good who is forced to live in untenable situations that are for some marred by infidelity, violence, and abuse.

(To be fair, not all who belong to the Church think like this. A priest-psychologist who gave me counseling in a therapy session was actually the influence for my filing a marriage annulment.)

In 1993, during her confirmation hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg justice ruth bader ginsburgabout her “thinking on equal protection versus individual autonomy, in relation to the issue of abortion:

“My answer is that both are implicated,” she said. “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself.”

Let the ones with vaginas decide on matters that concern them.  ***

Justice Ginsburg portrait here.

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pop goes the world: country curators converse

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  27 December 2012, Thursday

Country Curators Converse       

There’s an interesting communication phenomenon happening on Twitter through “country curators,” or Twitter accounts officially sanctioned by a country and handled by a different citizen or resident of that country each week.

The foremost example is @sweden, which opened its account in late 2011 as an initiative of two government agencies, the Swedish Institute (cultural promotion) and VisitSweden (tourism promotion).

Sweden

Other accounts are @curatingturkey, @Netherlanders, @TwkUSA, @PeopleOfUK, @ireland, @PeopleOfCanada, @WeAreUkraine, @MoroccoCuration, @iam_pakistan, @CuratorsMexico, @ScotVoices, @WeAreFrance, and many more. The Philippines’ is @WeAreFilipinos.

There are also “city” accounts – @londonisyours, @PeopleOfLeeds, @WeAreDresden, @MunichLovesU, @TweetWeekManila, @WeAreMumbai, @AnotherToronto, @Bangkoking, and others.

In general, the main objective of a country Twitter account is to provide a portal for outsiders to that country through the Tweets of the week’s “curators,” in 140 characters or less per Tweet.

They explain customs and traditions, mention interesting places to visit, discuss current country and global events, share pictures, recipes, and get a conversation going between them and the rest of the Twitter world.

This holiday season, it was interesting to learn about the Christmas customs of different cultures. Ireland/Luke spoke about “the importance of ritual, reconnecting us with our childhood selves at Christmas, the power of nostalgia,” citing how his mother lighted “a candle in the window on Christmas Eve.” John Fay said his grandmother did the same thing and “left the door unlocked. Holy Family was welcome.” Rob from Ireland replied, “My nan used to hand two bars of soap to neighbours on Christmas Eve. She’d say it was for luck. No idea where she got it from!”

Ireland

Luke later described their Christmas feast, starting with Slovakian soup (sauerkraut, sausage, ham, mushrooms, paprika), and “turkey, ham, stuffing, roast potatoes, sprouts w cream, pancetta & Parmesan, squash w pecans & Roquefort, red cabbage, gravy, bread sauce.”

For dessert they had “trifle, Christmas pudding, brandy butter, whipped cream, truffles, white macaroons, dessert wine,” giving credence to Luke’s assertion that “the average Irishman consumes 6,000 calories on Christmas Day.”

Their dinner discussion, Luke said, escalated into an argument “about bishops interfering with politics. Of course this is the stuff of history books, right?”

Apart from the holiday’s groaning tables of food and license for gluttony, that’s one more thing we have in common with Ireland.

Sweden’s curator this week, Hanna, recounts a “very Swedish tradition…at three o’clock we all watch Donald Duck and company (Disney clips) on national television!”

The accounts handled by real people (as opposed to account administrators, as ours seems to be), are real and vibrant. Sweden, for one, does not censor, no matter how offbeat the personality in charge for the week. In June, Sonja Abrahamsson, a self-described “low educated” 27-year-old single mother, incited controversy when she Tweeted about Jews and “used crude language” (according to an online news item). Her Tweets, while carefully monitored, were not deleted, but would have been taken down had they crossed into hate speech.

The Tweets from @WeAreFilipinos are informative – “To Catholic Filipinos, today is the start of Simbang Gabi, a series of nine pre-dawn masses leading up to Christmas Day,” or “Latest fashion trend for men: meggings (leggings for men)” – but they sound scripted because the style of writing is fairly consistent.

The bionote on the account says “A new Filipino every week,” but after scrolling through weeks of Tweets, I can’t find this – no introductions of the week’s curator, and so on. What I do see a lot of admin activities (marked by [ADMIN]), many retweets of a Fil-American named “Kyno”, and #FFs (Follow Fridays) of the other curated country accounts.

WeAreFilipinos

Too bad, because this is our chance to show the world different points of view of what a Filipino thinks and experiences, engaging the world with honesty, not one carefully moderating Tweets to present a certain image. That smacks too much of PR in the manipulative sense.

Communication theorist James Carey often quoted Kenneth Burke as saying, “Life is a conversation.” It’s one “that continuously goes on,” said Carey, where “No one has the last word; there are no final thoughts. There is no end to the conversation.”

Computer-mediated communication has given the world the ability to open and carry on conversations in real time, something that was once impossible. This has facilitated the discourse between cultures, at least for this particular audience.

There will always be differences, but we instinctively seek similarities to find common ground with each other, to bring about cooperation rather conflict. This is achieved through building trust. To build trust, truth is required.

Between countries and between individuals, let’s keep it honest.

* * * * *

To my dear readers, thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and ideas with you in 2012. My warmest wishes for health, peace, and prosperity in the New Year! ***  

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pop goes the world: moving on

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  20 December 2012, Thursday

Moving On

“Divorce Next – Belmonte” blared the front page of another broadsheet in 70-point black type, signaling renewed interest in the topic after the recent landmark passage of the reproductive health bill.

PDI divorce next

Image here. Photo of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte on the left.

The news article accompanying that headline cited House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte as saying that he supports the divorce bill and thinks it possible that such a law could be passed by the next Congress.

The Philippines is the only country in the world that does not have a divorce law, an effect of prevailing cultural norms instilled during the Spanish colonial period and perpetuated by the Roman Catholic majority. Roman Catholicism forbids divorce but allows marriage annulment in a process governed by strict criteria.

However, divorce is available to Muslim Filipinos under Presidential Decree No. 1083, the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.” Under its Chapter III, divorce is recognized between Muslims and a Muslim man and his non-Muslim wife if married under Muslim law or this particular code, which “recognizes the legal system of the Muslims in the Philippines as part of the law of the land…”

Historically, divorce was widely practiced during pre-colonial times, according to an interesting blog post dated 5 August 2008 at the website Philippine e-Legal Forum of Jaromay Laurente Pamaos (JLP) Law Offices.

In the 16th century, absolute divorce was practiced by tribes as widely scattered as  the Igorots and Sagadans of the Cordilleras to the Tagbanwas of Palawan to the Manobos, B’laans, and Muslims of Visayas and Mindanao.

Also according to the JLP post, divorce was available during the American colonial period from 1917 to 1950. Divorce was not allowed in the New Civil Code that took effect in August 1950; only legal separation was, and this was adopted by the 1988 Family Code, which also “introduced the concept of ‘psychological incapacity’ as a basis for declaring [a] marriage void.”

There have been various incarnations of divorce bills filed in Congress as far back as 1999 at least. That one was filed by Representative Manuel C. Ortega (House Bill No. 6993). Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon filed one in 2001 (Senate Bill No. 782) as did Rep. Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo (HB No. 878). This was followed in 2005 by one filed by Reps. Liza Masa and Luzviminda Ilagan (HB 3461).

The most recent version is by Reps. Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus (HB 1799). Belmonte said that this bill is still at the committee level and will not be taken up soon, with congressmen busy preparing for next year’s elections.

Why do we need a divorce bill?

Because under existing laws, marriages may only be “annulled” or rendered void at the start. The process is long, tedious, and expensive (costing P200,000 or more), making it available only to the moneyed who can afford to hire lawyers and obtain the psychological report that affirms the psychological incapacity of one or both of the parties involved.

This is unfair to most Filipinos who do not have the means for this legal maneuver, and instead resort to separating from their spouses and living with other partners, often resulting in legal entanglements involving conjugal property, benefits, and inheritance – the fodder of telenovelas.

A divorce would recognize that the marriage did exist but should no longer continue for a number of reasons, including domestic violence, infidelity, abandonment, non-support, and so on.

The chief opponent to such a bill would be the Roman Catholic clergy. Having received a jarring setback in their campaign against the RH bill, proposing a divorce bill would quite likely further enrage them. [Postcript 20 Dec 2012: And it has - read here.]

But if Muslim Filipinos can have divorce, why can’t other Filipinos? Just because the Catholics don’t want to have divorces doesn’t mean they should stop others, especially non-Catholics, from having them.

Why should a religious group be allowed to dictate what other people should or shouldn’t do according to the tenets of their religion? Is that fair or just to others who don’t subscribe to their faith?

A person’s religion is often arbitrary, dictated by birth; the law then should be a support system that can care for all members of society regardless of the constructed and sometimes illogical regulations of whatever their religion may be. Laws are for the good of many, not the one (or the one group).

Let’s face it, our (predominantly Catholic) society is a hypocritical one. It bars divorce but to get around this, cultural norms developed where it is considered acceptable for men to have mistresses and illegitimate children while their wives have to suffer it for the sake of the family (unless they have their own intimate affairs), and legal go-arounds such as annulment have been devised that benefit the wealthy few, not everyone.

As adults with functioning brains we are all aware that some things don’t last forever, that people must move on from situations that don’t work anymore, that it is often better to cut and cut cleanly that to slog on in an unhappy marriage marred by misery and desperation.

We need a law that gives us a chance to move on and start over, and it is only abysmal stupidity and selfishness that will deny this.

And this is the best time to work for the divorce bill, right after the RH bill’s passage. The discourse on human rights in general and women’s rights in particular must continue and the momentum for struggle be sustained, because things need to change for the better and as soon as possible, because too many people have been suffering for far too long and delay is a disservice to the people.

Let’s end the hypocrisy. The divorce bill should be next. *** 

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pop goes the world: muscles and peace through yoga

NO COLUMN 5 Dec, Thursday

 POP GOES THE WORLD, by Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  9 December 2012, Sunday

Muscles and Peace Through Yoga

There are many studies proving that work-related stress is linked to many physical and mental health problems. The word “stress” comes from “distress”, which means “extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.” The term comes from a Latin term that means “to draw or pull apart.”

Certainly this is what many feel when laboring under the tension that modern life brings. We are pulled in many directions by work and home obligations, often feeling unable to cope and looking for a way to ease the strain.

Coping mechanisms can be destructive – alcohol, late nights, smoking, unhealthy lifestyles and habits – and positive – exercise, healthy eating, creative hobbies and sports, an interest in spiritual pursuits.

Increasingly popular nowadays is yoga. The word comes from the Sanskrit that means “to yoke, to connect” and its emphasis is on the mind-body connection, the interrelation between physical and mental fitness.

Yoga studios have burgeoned in the metropolis since the early part of the last decade, although yoga has been around since at least the ‘70s. I recall my father and his contemporaries in media attending yoga and meditation classes at Ananda Marga (still around in Quezon City) at that time.

Today, yoga studios offer a wide range of classes, from vinyasa to hot flow to anti-gravity yoga. Some emphasize physical fitness, others infuse a spiritual component into the practice with chanting of sutras and mantras.

In search of a sustainable activity suitable for an unfit, sedentary, middle-age person, I happened upon Bliss Yoga Manila in Jupiter Street, Makati, and have attended several classes there.

The front of the Bliss Yoga Manila studio in Makati. One wall is hung with three banners depicting the seven chakras.

Gentle Flow with instructor Jill Kobza is, as described by the Bliss Yoga Manila website, “a slightly-slower paced practice, with focus on the foundation and alignment of poses…emphasis is on awareness, control, and effective use of the breath, as well as on building strength and flexibility.” The class is good for those new to yoga.

The poses mentioned are called “asanas”, and look effortless in photos of advanced yogis and yoginis (male and female practitioners, respectively), but they are in truth difficult to do for the newbie. Merely stretching like a triangle in the “downward dog” position or in “plank” (full pushup) or chaturanga (half-pushup) makes you use muscles you probably haven’t felt since high school calisthenics.

Yoga, however, also ensures that each person practice at their own pace and perform comfortable variants of the poses until they get stronger.

Jill Kobza’s Gentle Flow class is perfect for beginners. She is gentle and patient and guides everyone through the surya namaskar – Sun Salutation sequence -  and other poses in a soothing voice.

Buddha has abs! This statue sits in a back corner.

Nancy Siy’s Jivamukti class may also be attended by people at all levels of physical fitness. It is a form of yoga developed by a Western teacher, and incorporates chanting from the Patanjali sutras; Nancy chooses one sentence that conveys a lesson on a trait, such as aparigraha or non-possessiveness. There is nothing religious here, only philosophical and moral.

Jivamukti is more challenging in terms of asanas, and Nancy goes around the studio to correct each student’s pose and help those who need to reach a bit farther or hike their hips up higher. In the latter part of each class, she puts students in the savasana (corpse) pose – lying flat on their backs in repose, with eye pillows for relaxation and to enhance meditation. A lecture tape may be played or silent meditation encouraged. Students are asked to listen to their bodies, to deliberately release any tension, to “let go” with each exhale.

Basic yoga gear: cotton strap (to help stretch the legs and arms), cork block (for elevation during certain poses, until the body gets stronger and more flexible), towel (to absorb sweat and prevent slipperiness), and mat.

Jivamukti, Nancy says, helped her “…calm (her) mind and deal with the external clutter of daily life…” At the time she started, in 2009, she was “irritable, angry, empty,” and “felt that there must be something more than the repetitive cycle of everyday life. Yoga paved the way for my healing and emotional growth.”

Nancy was “awakened to the reality of animal suffering” and has also adopted veganism as a way of life. She was drawn to Jivamukti and its emphasis on ahimsa (non-violence) and “compassion for all beings.”

Jill and Nancy end their classes with a chant of om, giving thanks to their students, and the valediction “Namaste” –  “the spirit in me greets the spirit in you.”

This door handle at the Makati studio is in the shape of a hand lifted in the abhaya mudra (seal/gesture of no fear, protection, benevolence, assurance).  

Yoga is beyond the current popularity it is experiencing as some sort of trendy fitness program. It is an ancient discipline, one of the “six “orthodox” schools of Hindu philosophy,” dating back to before the Common Era and given formal shape in the early centuries CE.

For us today in modern times, it can become a way of life, one that incorporates physical wellness and philosophy into an integrated whole. ***

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

Follow: Facebook (Bliss Yoga Manila), Twitter (@BlissYogaManila), and Instagram (@blissyogamnl).

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pop goes the world: flag of our fathers

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today29 November 2012, Thursday

Flag of Our Fathers

“Ang mamatay ng dahil sa ‘yo…”

How many times have we sung the national anthem as students, right hand over our hearts, listening to the stirring martial tune as our flag waved proudly in the breeze?

Few can fail to be touched even to some small degree by the emotions that the sight of the flag evokes within us. National pride and unity, patriotism, and our hopes and dreams for our country are all mixed up in the red, white, and blue and the vibrant yellow of the eight-rayed sun and three five-pointed stars.

So inspiring to its citizens are a nation’s colors that we emblazon clothes and objects with this icon. Search the Internet for “clothing with Philippine flag” and you’ll come up with a lot of images of such clothes and shoes for sale.

One of many Internet companies that offer Philippine-flag themed apparel. Image here.

Perhaps the most famous promoter of the use of Philippine flag on clothing and merchandise is champion boxer and lawmaker Manny Pacquiao. He set a fashion trend and in so doing changed culture norms; Filipinos who were once ashamed or embarrassed or too colonial-minded to proclaim their origin now wear such clothes abroad, as a mark of pride in their national and ethnic identity.

But in so doing, the country’s most accomplished athlete of all time – and those who wear clothes and gear with flag designs – may be breaking the law.

Republic Act No. 8491, approved by the Tenth Congress on 12 February 1998, prescribes “the code of the national flag, anthem, motto, coat-of-arms, and other heraldic items and devices of the Philippines,” otherwise known as the “Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.”

Chapter I, Section 34 prohibits a wide gamut of activities that may “cast dishonor or ridicule upon the flag or over its surface.” It is expressly forbidden in line (e) to “wear the flag in whole or in part as a costume or uniform.”

This is the reason that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office had to pull its Manny Pacquiao commercial from television. In the TVC, Pacquiao is seen wearing a jacket with the flag on its front. The PCSO, being a government agency, naturally had to comply with the law once this provision in the Flag Law was pointed out to them.

Champion boxer and lawmaker Manny Pacquiao in the Philippine pride jacket he made famous. Image here. 

Which brings us to the question:  how relevant is the Flag Law to present times?

The same section, line (g), prohibits the printing, painting, or attaching a representation of the flag “on handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions, and other articles of merchandise,” something that we see a lot of in gift shops nowadays.

Line (h) prohibits the “display in public [of] any foreign flag, except in embassies and other diplomatic establishments, and in offices of international organizations,” but they do this sometimes in front of hotels and conventions centers when foreign dignitaries are visiting.

Line (i) does not allow the use or display of the flag as part “of any advertisement or infomercial,” but this has been done, not only for products but by government agencies as well.

Line (j) forbids the display of the flag “in front of buildings or offices occupied by aliens,” but what if the office building houses both a government agency and foreign embassies?

There is also a provision on illuminating the flag at night (Section 6, but this is sometimes disregarded) and for a flag-lowering ceremony by government offices every Friday afternoon (Section 18), but I have never seen this done.

And these are just the provisions pertaining to the flag; there are still more, concerning the motto (yes, we have one, it’s “maka-Diyos, maka-tao, makakalikasan, at makabansa,” but when was the last time you saw or heard this anywhere?), the coat-of-arms, the great seal, and “other heraldic items and devices.”

Going over the entire law, one gets the feeling that it was written in the 1930s or some other conservative point decades in the past, rather than a mere fourteen years ago.

Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, a vexillology and heraldry enthusiast, wrote an interesting column in 2005 on this topic, calling RA 8491 “an example of a badly, and ignorantly, written law.” He pointed out contradictions and said the enforcement of some its provisions are “absolutely impossible,” especially with respect to its display in public.

The flag law was amended in 2010, but the changes do not address all the inconsistencies. It still forbids the wearing of the “flag, seal, coat-of-arms (in whole or in part) as part of a costume or uniform as a fashion accessory or merely as a design element,” but allows these to “be incorporated as part of the uniform of Filipinos representing the Philippines in international sports, cultural, or scientific competitions or official functions with the approval of the NHI [National Historical Institute].”

This law needs to reflect more accurately the spirit of the age. In these times, with technology allowing the easy reproduction of the flag image upon all sorts of items, it is virtually unenforceable anyway. And why curb the enthusiasm of Filipinos to display their flag on clothing or items, as long as this is not done in a disrespectful manner?

“Let your freak flag fly,” goes a popular saying. All some of us want is to be allowed to carry the image of the flag of our fathers close to us, to remind us always of our Inang Bayan, that we have sworn to die for, if the time should ever come. *** 

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pop goes the world: what’s in a name?

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today15 November 2012, Thursday

What’s In a Name?

Hi, I’m Jenny. My full name is Jennifer Maria Rebecca. What’s your name?

Chances are, perhaps eight times out of ten, you will answer me with a name that’s either Spanish or Anglo-Saxon in origin. Our names are, more often than not, Jose (nickname Joey), Reena, John Derek, Kevin, Luisa (nickname Louie), and so on, while down south, many names are Arabic in origin.

I know very few people who have names coming from the Philippine languages.

Many people will argue that the names we bear are family names (which is why there are so many “Juns”), traditional ones handed down from one generation to the next and thus have sentimental value regardless of ethnic origin; or saint’s names, therefore a religious reason.

But have so few realized that perpetuating such a practice shows that our collective mindset is still colonial, and that for reasons of emotion and inertia we cannot move away from the names given by the foreigners who imposed their religion and their culture on our forebears?

Some Filipinos have made a deliberate choice to reshape their personal identity along nationalistic lines by using Filipino names. The most famous example would be the De Guia family – economic researcher-turned-multi-awarded-filmmaker Eric took the name Kidlat Tahimik (quiet lightning), and his sons are named Kawayan (bamboo), Kabunyan (name of a deity), and Kidlat (lightning); Kabunyan’s son is named Kalipay (happiness), his wife is Malaya (freedom).

A friend, PhD candidate and University of the Philippines professor Julienne Baldo-Cubelo, named her son Alon (wave) and her daughter Diwa (consciousness), a decision she made to honor our culture and make a statement about her personal nationalistic advocacy and beliefs.

The word “diwa,” though, is one of the 300 or more Sanskrit loanwords in our language. So what would be considered genuine Philippine names – those coming from the Proto-Malayo-Polynesian language that is the root of the majority of Philippine languages? From the Old Malay influenced by Indian culture or the later Classic Malay with Arabic and Persian words? How far back in time do we go to find the language that should mark our true national identity?

Even without knowing that yet, though, I would rather take the loanwords given by the mostly peaceful Majapahit, Chinese, and Muslim traders over the Anglo and Spanish names foisted on our culture by colonizers.

How about the name of our beloved islands?

Dr. Nathan Quimpo, a political science professor at the University of Tsukuba, gives in his excellent essay “Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality, and Ethnocentrism” (2003) the history of our country’s name:

“Filipino comes from the word Filipinas, of which Philippines is the English translation. Felipinas was the name given by the Spanish explorer Ruy de Villalobos to Tendaya (Leyte or Samar) in 1543 in honor of the Spanish crown prince, Philip (Felipe in Spanish),who later became King Philip II (r. 1556-98)…

“From their very origins then, Philippines and Filipino are colonial names, and as such, are contradictory to the term nationalism. Simply on the basis of the colonial roots of Philippines, it can already be argued that the country´s name should be changed.

“Indeed, many former colonies have discarded their colonial appellations and adopted titles that are of more indigenous or un-colonial derivation: Burkina Faso, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.”

In addition to those examples, India has changed the names of many of its major cities from their British colonial spellings back to the local versions – to Mumbai from Bombay in 1995, Kolkata from Calcutta in 2001, and so forth.

I recall that when I was a young child in the 1970s, there was an attempt by then-president Ferdinand Marcos to change the country’s name to “Maharlika.”

There was opposition to the name change by those citing tradition and history, and Dr. Quimpo adds that according to one argument, Maharlika was inappropriate because in Sanskrit it means “big phallus!”

But “the main reason why Maharlika did not pass,” says Dr. Quimpo, “was that people saw it as Marcos’s ego trip.” This was the nom-de-guerre used by Marcos as a soldier during World War II.

There were other suggestions made by others through the years, among them “Rizal” (the country’s national hero), “Bayani” (the Tagalog word for “hero”), and “Luzviminda” (acronym of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, the three major island groups).

None of these were seriously considered; in fact it the whole thing is considered a non-issue by the majority of the nation’s people, who have more pressing matters to think about, such as how to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

But if we are truly “proud to be Pinoy” as a myriad advertising taglines say, then why don’t we call each other by Filipino names?

Changing the country’s name could be something for future consideration, when our lawmakers aren’t too busy thinking about how to get re-elected or which American president’s speech or blogger’s article to plagiarize next.

What we can do, on our own as individuals, is initiate a slow and gradual culture change by taking nicknames and naming our children something that truly reflects the roots of our national identity.

Spain and America are part of our past, as other countries have been too, and we do owe a lot of what we are now, both good and bad, to their influences. The names of the children of OFWs and emigrants, born all over the world, echo the reality of the diaspora.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t move on from the colonial mindset and reshape the ways we identify ourselves, and decide to let our names reflect what we truly stand for and believe in. *** 

Photo of Kidlat de Guia and Kidlat Tahimik here. Portrait of King Philip II of Spain here. Maharlika comics cover from the ’60s here.

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pop goes the world: todos los multos

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today1 November 2012, Thursday

Todos Los Multos

It was “All Hallows’ Eve” last night, which the ancient Celts called Samhain (sow-een).

The festival marked the beginning of their winter season, which they observed with sundown-to-sundown rituals from October 31 to November 1 as their equivalent of New Year’s Day.

The Christians adopted the pagan festival into their religious calendar, and made November first a feast day to honor all the saints, todos los santos, known and unknown; November second, a day to remember the departed.

For Filipinos, these three days are a time to reflect on family ties that bind in life and death, a time to visit the sleeping dead who lie forever, a time to keep vigil and pray for their souls.

And where some are gathered on such a night as this, perched by beloveds’ gravestones in the dark fitfully illuminated by guttering candles, one might step forth, he or she a teller of tales, to spin stories such as these…

* * * * *

This happened three years ago.

There were only four of us students in a PhD class at the College of [redacted] in the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

We were seated with our professor at a conference table in the graduate studies department having an animated discussion at eight o’clock one night when the door creaked open, very slowly.

That in itself was unusual because the door was outfitted with a heavy brass automatic door closer that made it difficult to move.

We froze. It was late and there were no other people around. We watched as the door opened about eight inches, then, just as carefully and slowly, closed.

We stared at our professor in fright.

He nodded matter-of-factly. “Yes, there are ghosts here at the College.”

He told us about something that regularly occurred to him in a certain classroom off the main building lobby. This room was constructed like a mini-ampitheater, with students’ seats rising in tiers toward the back.

“Sometimes when I’d call the roll during evening classes,” he said, “there would be a shadowy figure at the back whose face I could never make out. When I’d count those present, there would be one more than the number of enrolled students.”

Which is why our tiny class had ended up holding our sessions in the graduate studies department instead of that classroom in the first place. I am not superstitious. The moment the door shut upon our unknown visitor, I jumped up and peered through the large glass inset in the door.

There was no one outside.

I pulled open the heavy door and went out into the corridor and lobby.

The place was deserted and quiet.

Another student, who said she attended MA classes at the department also at night, said they would sometimes see shadows peering through that glass inset.

They’d get up to inspect, like I did.

But there was never anyone there.

* * * * *

We live in an abandoned racehorse stable beside the former Santa Ana Park racetrack in Makati. It is falling into ruins; the horses were moved to the racetracks in Cavite three years ago. My househelper claims to see ghosts and shadowy figures lurking in the darkness of the stalls.

One side of the stables by day. 

I’d tell my ex-husband, and he’d snort in derision. “Tell Gay she’s being superstitious,” he’d say. We’d have ourselves a good laugh over her “sightings.”

Then, a year ago -

“Guess what Gay’s come up with this time,” I said. “She said – get this – that she saw a man wearing white hanging by the neck from one of the horse stalls!” I chuckled.

This time my ex didn’t smile. “Which stall did she say?”

“The last one beside the paliguan. Why?”

“When we bought this property in the ‘80s, we were told that during World War II  Japanese soldiers hanged a man on that same spot. He was said to be wearing a white shirt when he died.”

* * * * *

There’s a diwata that lives in the tree right outside our front door, or so I was told by an acquaintance who said she has the “third eye.”

She described this nymph for me as wearing white (also), nestled in the tree, glaring balefully at humans, but, being an elemental, not likely to cause harm.

The tree outside my front door, where a diwata may or may not be in residence. On the horizon, Mandaluyong City office buildings rear up against the clouds.

She also told me that the spirit of another elemental, who takes the form of a child, lives inside my house.

“She loves it here,” my psychic friend said. “Your children have plenty of toys for her to play with.”

This must be “Beech”, a spirit my former mother-in-law claims they brought along with them when they moved here from Calamba thirty years ago.

“Once there was a racehorse owner,” she said, “who came to our stables to visit his boarded horses. He pissed in the garage below where your home is now. Some weeks later he came back to us in great distress.

“His private parts, he said, had swollen to abnormal size. He visited doctors who told them they could not find anything wrong, aside, of course, from the fact that his Jockey shorts could barely contain his inflamed genitalia.

“He traced the beginning of his condition to that afternoon he visited our stable. Daddy [my former father-in-law] told him, “You offended Beech. Probably pissed all over her, I wouldn’t be surprised. Make an offering of a gallon of ice cream at the scene of the crime and apologize.””

“The horseowner did, and the problem, err, shrunk within a couple of days.”

When there is something missing at home that won’t turn up after an assiduous search – keys, a box of colored pencils, a book – my children and I have a habit of going, “Give it back right now, Beech!” Oh, wait, that’s me. My kids say, “Please.”

Almost immediately, that item will be right where you’ve already looked.

* * * * *

I am not sensitive to the supernatural; indeed I do not believe there exists a realm beyond that of science, except that fashioned in our lively and infinitely creative imaginations.

Yet I have experienced things which science and logic cannot account for.

Perhaps you have too, during these same days when the Celts said the “veils between the worlds” grow thinner.

A blessed Samhain, and keep safe on your Undas journeys. *** 

Photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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pop goes the world: and a little child shall lead them

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today18 October 2012, Thursday

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

A 14-year-old girl was shot in the head for wanting to go to school.

Something that our children take for granted and even complain about – an education – is to another child who does not have it a precious thing to fight for and die for.

Malala Yousafzai was shot last week by Taliban assassins because she defied a Taliban ban against female education in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.

Also injured were her schoolmates Kainat Ahmed and Shazia Ramzan.

“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one,” Malala has said before.

The young activist first came to public attention in 2009, in a documentary about the shutdown by the Taliban of the girls’ school she attended.

Her father operated one of the last girls’ schools in the area, and since then she and her family have been the target of Taliban ire.

The world erupted in indignation and anger after her shooting. Among the comments on Facebook were those of Curt Olsen – “Only a coward would shoot an unarmed child” – and Edward Clements – “She should be awarded the Nobel Prize for such bravery.”

Others pointed to the need to bring the Taliban to account for the human rights abuses they continue to perpetrate in the name of religion.

“A very brave girl,” Facebook commenter Andy Poljevka called her. “The world needs to rise up against this craziness.”

Sudhansu Jena lauded Malala’s courage: “No words to appreciate the ‘fight for right.’ The cowards who shot at her are highly condemnable.”

Roger Greatorex opined, “She could be the turning point in the struggle against the so-called ‘Taliban.’ How ironic that ‘Taliban’ means ‘students’ in Arabic.”

 Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoon here.

The Pakistani government will pay for Malala’s treatment at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in the United Kingdom, where she arrived last Monday for the removal of a bullet lodged in her brain.

Meanwhile, as Malala was being airlifted to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space to freefall down to earth, breaking his 24-mile fall with a parachute and, in a show of incredible skill, landing on his feet.

This, said some netizens, comparing the record-breaking skydive to the shooting of Malala, shows the difference between science and religion.

That is too simplistic a comparison. Islam condemns the murder of innocents. The Taliban are extremists and in no way represent the whole of the Islamic world. But what the two events do show are the triumph of science over religious fundamentalism, of curiosity and the quest for knowledge over intolerance and fanaticism, and of the human desire to explore new frontiers against the human need to cling to old traditions even when they are cruel and destructive.

Malala is the same age as my younger daughter, who is a high school sophomore, now taking her quarterly exams and preparing for the annual school play and cheerdance competition.

Halfway around the world, a girl who could have been her classmate and friend is on the Taliban hitlist for wanting and striving for what my daughter has, an education and a normal life, the chance to be what she can be, perhaps even a spacejumper like Baumgartner.

What is clear is that the abuse of women and children around the world must stop. Malala na ito. (This is at its worst.) This is a battle that must be waged, with constancy and vigilance, on the platform of public opinion so that people may be made aware and changes come about.

Activists denounce the attack on Malala. Image here. 

This is a fight, and those who care about the rights of women and children are all its defenders.

There are many cultural and political attitudes that were once thought to be ineradicable, such as apartheid and its policy of white supremacy in South Africa and totalitarian communism in Soviet Russia and East Germany. But both were slowly eliminated over time and through fervent struggle.

Religious intolerance will be harder to conquer. Hatred, one of its manifestations, will always lurk in a corner of the human heart.

The way to evolving into a better society that treats all its members with equality and respect is to prevent hatred and injustice from winning.

We need to be brave enough to keep on fighting for the rights of women and children, because if a child like Malala has the courage, then so must we.  *** 

Image of Malala here. Image of Felix’s record-breaking jump here.

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rumi says: where lovers find each other

“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing

how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.” 

- Rumi

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, or Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, was born 30 September 1207 in Wakhsh, part of the province of Balkh, in what is now Tajikistan.

Rumi was a giant of Persian literature, a poet and a mystic.  In his writings he explored how the human Ego seeks to reconcile with the Divine from which it sprang forth. It is through love, he said – through love.

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