Posts Tagged ‘benigno aquino III’

pop goes the world: shake, rattle, and roll

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  9 February 2012, Thursday

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

There must be something to this “feng shui” business after all.

Astrologers using this Chinese version of geomancy predicted that this year of the Black Water Dragon will be, like the legendary animal, unpredictable and unstable.

A water dragon year occurs once every 60 years. The Water Dragon connotes creativity. Image here.

What can be more unstable than an earthquake rattling the usually calm islands of the Visayas?

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s report of 12:30 AM of February 7, about 13 hours after the quake, detailed the situation and initial responses to the disaster.

The main 6.9 magnitude earthquake of tectonic origin was felt the strongest in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental (Intensity VII) all the way to Pagadian City (Intensity I). Various areas in Negros Occidental and Cebu experienced the main shock at Intensity II to VI. There were 157 aftershocks recorded in the same areas.

Quake map. Image here.

A Level 2 tsunami alert was raised and cancelled after a couple hours, although coastal areas experienced inundation which had residents scrambling for higher ground, among them Comendador Beach in La Libertad, where five seaside cottages were wiped out.

La Libertad, at this time, is isolated, with bridges and roads leading to the area having suffered extensive damage. The regional office of the Department of Public Works and Highways estimates up to five days to find an alternate route, and two weeks to build it.

The power went out in Cebu and Iloilo, among other areas; classes and work were suspended. Evacuation operations were initiated in several barangays in the municipalities of Moalboal (southwest of Cebu) and Bindoy.

People in Negros and Cebu reported, via Twitter and Facebook, the strong shaking of shelves and other furniture and cracks appearing in the walls of homes and commercials buildings. Bridges, roads, and other infrastructure were damaged, to the tune of P265 million and counting.

NDRRMC, within hours of the disaster, activated their emergency operations center, disseminated alerts and information to other concerned government agencies, and coordinated closely with PHILVOLCS and the Office of Civil Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard.

The mobilization of the police and military resulted in the dispatch of search-and-rescue teams to scour for victims in distress.

Local authorities requested drinking water, medicines, and medical supplies from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office as among the priority needs. Yesterday, PCSO approved the disbursement of P100,000 via its Cebu branch for the purchase of the items.

By yesterday, the Department of Social Welfare and Development had already provided over P12.426 million in relief in the form of cash-for-work and food items to affected LGUs and families. The Department of Health provided P200,000.

DPWH sent structural engineers to perform damage assessment of bridges and roads, and to determine which commercial buildings may safely reopen so that economic activity may resume as soon as possible.

Road damage in Negros Oriental. Image here.

President Benigno Aquino, celebrated his birthday yesterday by inspecting for himself the damage, receiving assessment reports, and instructing public officials and agency heads to step up their rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts.

After the other unsettling natural events of recent months – typhoon Sendong last December 17, the Compostela Valley landslide last January 5 – it’s good to see public agencies become more responsive as they improve their systems and procedures for dealing with natural disasters.

They’ve come a long way from the Ondoy debacle in 2009, when government unpreparedness was dismally apparent, from the lack of rubber boats that would have been of much use, to the glacial slowness of information dissemination and relief/rescue response.

Practice makes perfect, after all, although this kind of “practice” we don’t need. Let us hope we are spared the further depredations of nature. And should it be our burden to bear more of the same, may we be even more prepared in the future.

From a culture of bahala na and puede na ‘yan, we are gradually shifting to a proactive, responsible attitude where we learn from our mistakes and do better the next time.

In this case, what matters is for both public and concerned private organizations to create the systems and procedures for disaster response, have the will to quickly implement and follow-through on those, and maintain the appropriate personnel and equipment for the tasks. Let’s make this not a ningas-kugon nor a pakitang-gilas thing, but a permanent positive change.

The Black Water Dragon may continue to rampage this year. We can choose to roll with the tides of fortune, but I would rather we chart the course of our own destiny.   *** 

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pop goes the world: the culture of negativity

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  28 July 2011, Thursday

The Culture of Negativity

This being a column that looks at the world from a cultural perspective (in the social anthropological sense), I am attracted to descriptive terms using the formula “culture + (trait) = label for social phenomenon.”

Last week I wrote about the culture of impunity. This time we look at negativism, and how endemic it is in our culture.

Doomsayers abound – the media are full of them, as are street corners. This is not to say that their points are not valid; more often than not, they are. And it is often strong negative emotions that elicit the strongest reactions, and make people discuss them with force and spirit.

Perhaps it is our superstitious side that does not wish to dwell on good news, because to be humble about such things is considered better than talking about them lest disaster and ill luck follow. The strong collective nature of Filipino society also regards talking about one’s achievements as bragging. People who do so are considered show-offs – mayabang - and through various forms of social sanction are taken down a peg –  being shamed or criticized in public is one such way.

About the only achievements that may be celebrated publicly are in sports (Manny Pacquio and the Azkals’ victories), academics (the annual crop of the universities’ summa cum laudes), and showbiz (Charice and other Filipino performers doing well abroad).

However, what is sad and counter-productive is when good news, especially in government, is disbelieved or taken for granted. Achievements are shrugged off and gains set aside as only to be expected. “Dapat lang,” is often the response, with a disdainful sniff.

President Aquino mentioned this in his State-of-the-Nation address the other day, when he said, in Filipino, “Let us end the culture of negativity; let us lift up our fellow Filipinos at every opportunity. Why do others delight in looking for whatever is ugly in our country? And is it so difficult – almost a sin – to say something good?”

After his speech, brickbats were hurled at him left and right, with the exception of some columnists. He left many issues unaddressed, they said. Yet has he done nothing right?

This is not to say everything has gone as it should. There is still much work to be done. The reality of poverty, the inequality of wealth distribution, the lack of local jobs that has led to the Filipino diaspora, is something that we have to confront.

Says an American friend, who has made many Pinoy friends online and because of its people has come to love the Philippines: “I know how sad the state of the Philippines is. It saddens me so much. I see the poverty and how cheap human life is. I see a culture of privilege and caste. I see a bankrupt philosophy buried in a religious dark age. It’s as sad as anything you might find anywhere.

“What is even sadder is how the people could have had such a different path.”

We could have been on a different path a long time ago, if we had chosen to take one before, if we had not deviated from the progressive path we were on in the ‘60s;

If Marcos and martial law did not take us down a dark and bloody road that set our nation back decades, and from which we are still trying to recover. While he and his First Lady built much massive (and blocky and boring) infrastructure, that is just window-dressing compared to the ills of the culture of impunity they embedded and that we are still suffering from, and the lives lost during the First Quarter Storm and well into that regime that we are still mourning;

If Gloria Arroyo and her ilk did not set out upon a path of greed and drain our nation’s coffers almost dry.

Now, after decades of abuse at the hands of such leaders and their cronies, how can we expect President Noy, now taking our country upon the daang matuwid, to fix all these societal problems in a matter of 365 days?

Some analysts say the gains he cited in the SONA as current were taken out of context. Are there then no achievements that may be attributed to this administration? To say that is to negate all the hard work put in the past year by the current crop of government leaders and workers, which is not fair to them.

In short, di na tayo na kuntento. Shouldn’t we be grateful for something at least, rather than the nothing that we might have had if things hadn’t gone as well as they have, considering?

In the end, it’s a question of what we truly want and how badly we want it, and if we are willing to work together – rather than against each other – to achieve it.

But then again, do we know what we really want? And what is it that we should want?

Here’s a story about that, from Hong Kong writer Nury Vittachi’s mystery novel The Feng Shui Detective (2000):

 Blade of Grass, the things you want are the things you do not want. Hear the ancient story of the man who knew what he wanted.

He was walking by the riverside when he saw an Immortal. The man was very curious. He looked at the person from Heaven.

“I suppose you want something from me?” said the Immortal.

“Yes,” said the man.

The Immortal touched a stone with his finger. It changed to gold. He said: “You can take.”

The man did not go. He stayed.

“Do you want something more?” said the Immortal.

“Yes,” said the man.

The Immortal touched three rocks nearby. They turned to gold. He said: “You can take.”

But the man still did not go.

The Immortal said: “What do you want? What is more valuable than gold?”

The man said: “I want something very ordinary.”

The Immortal said: “What do you want?”

The man said: “Your finger.”  ***

Azkals image here. President Noy here. Marcoses here. Book cover here.

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pop goes the world: signs of the times

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 1 July 2010, Thursday

Signs of the Times

With yesterday’s inauguration of the country’s new president, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, and vice-president, Jejomar Binay, a wave of hope washed through the nation, borne on tides of symbolism centered around Aquino.

This phenomenon made his presence ubiquitous and insinuated into the fabric of everyday life, whether or not you thought about it consciously.

The most obvious signs were on a direct level – his photographs plastered on the front pages of newspapers and the covers of magazines, which were filled with stories about his future plans for the government and anecdotes about his personal life. Television shows spent hours speculating on what his administration would accomplish. Billboards sprouted left and right, bearing congratulations to “Noy-Bi”. Merchandise bearing his face and that of his parents – former president Corazon Aquino and the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. – were available at every price range, from cheap umbrellas and bandannas to pricey Parker and Lamy rollerball pens.

On a more abstract level, the signs also abounded.The color yellow, campaign motif of his mother, was everywhere. Publication editors carefully chose photographs and layouts awash in the color. Shop windows in malls displayed mannequins wearing yellow clothes.

At the Quirino grandstand yesterday, the sea of yellow-wearing spectators lapped to the fringes of the public park. While Noynoy himself chose to wear a traditional ecru barong tagalog, others close to him wore yellow – among them his sister, Kris Aquino, and significant other, Valenzuela councilor Shalani Soledad, who wore a simple yellow gown designed by Rajo Laurel.

[youtube pk339Bvpl9g]

Laurel had asked Soledad if she wanted to wear another color, but she declined. In doing so, she, and others similarly clad, reinforced yellow as a symbol standing for Noynoy. By extension, to a deeper level of signification, yellow also serves as a sign for what he stands for and has promised – hope and change.

Apart from the existing signs to which society has attached meanings, new signs are being created. For one, the nickname “P-Noy” (President Noynoy), that he uses as a way of branding himself. Being informal in tone, it also makes him seem more approachable, “one of us”, and connotes trustworthiness and humility.

Meanings may be found not only in artifacts (things) but also in actions and behavior. P-Noy has time and again declared that he will not live in Malacañang Palace or the Arlegui mansion, where he resided with his siblings during the presidency of his mother. He says he will continue living at their small family home in Times Street, Quezon City.

P-Noy’s refusal to dwell in homes heavily associated with his unpopular predecessors – Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – may be seen as a way of distancing himself from their negative actions, eschewing luxury and grandeur, and carving a fresh start for himself as he remains rooted in the tradition of family.

It is interesting to note how an entire system of signs has sprung up around P-Noy and the phenomenon of his rise to power – something that did not occur to this extent for Marcos or Arroyo, perhaps because of their unpopularity.

A society’s system of signs and symbols, which is constructed within its culture, performs an important role in social life. It impacts the way people communicate by providing another “language” through which ideas and concepts are exchanged, and actions and behavior influenced. This links to the concept proposed by some communication scholars that communication not only helps people navigate within reality, it also creates reality.

Communication scholars and those interested in semiotics may look forward to interesting times as the culture of P-Noy, his family, and his administration will certainly continue to provide fodder for study.

Yet the pressing concern for citizens is whether President Noynoy will live up to the virtues carried in these signs we’ve mentioned. In his inauguration speech, he promised to carry on the legacy of his parents (again using this reference as a sign pointing to the accomplishments of his parents, and associating himself with those). Again, another layer of meaning may be discerned, pointing to P-Noy as “the good son”, “the champion for change”.

But will he uphold democracy and deliver change and reforms as promised? Or will promises again be broken, and the meaning of the signs be rendered naught or shifted to the negative? Will P-Noy be able to create an improved reality for Filipinos? The whole nation anticipates that the signs of the times will point to a brighter and better future for all. ***

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