Posts Tagged ‘current events’

pop goes the world: slipping off the red shoes

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  28 February 2013, Thursday

Slipping Off the Red Shoes

Today marks the final day of Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, 85, as Pope Benedict XVI of the 1.6 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church.

His resignation due to age and health reasons, announced by the Vatican on February 11, makes him the first pope to voluntarily step down from the highest seat in the church hierarchy since Pope Celestine V in 1294.

The news was a surprise to many, especially those among the Catholic faithful who appreciate the conservative stance on church matters that he has taken since 1968. He advocated a return to traditional values as a response to what he saw as increasing secularization.

Now the world waits as the College of Cardinals prepares to hold a conclave at which a new pope will be chosen. Roman Catholic believers will thank Benedict for his service and the care he gave his flock during his time.

However, there are those who point out that his resignation was an entirely appropriate, even necessary, action given the inadequacy of his response to the scandals that beset the church during his tenure.

Benedict served from 1981 to 2005 as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handled the reports of sexual abuse committed by priests. According to bloggers Daniel Bier and David Bier, “he repeatedly failed to act and refused to change procedures to prevent future abuse.”

Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, who founded the profitable Legionnaires of Christ, abused dozens of boys. Benedict denied appeals for an investigation in 1998. It was only when the case came to public attention in 2004 that he sentenced Maciel to “prayer and penance.”

When still archbishop of Germany in 1980, Benedict prescribed “therapy and relocation” for a pedophile priest “who may have raped as many as 100 children;” according to the Biers, this was shown in confidential memos from his office, although Benedict claims he had no knowledge of the problem.

In 1982, Father Stephen Kiesle, who raped 11- and 13-year old children, was suspended and asked to be defrocked. Benedict failed to respond to this request for three years.

According to online publication The Week, In July 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid $660 million to “hundreds of plaintiffs accusing up to 126 priests of clergy sex abuse.”

In November 2009, four bishops in Ireland were accused of ignoring abuse reports while five bishops did active covering-up.

In February 2010 came the revelation of “systematic” sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Germany, with Der Spiegel magazine estimating that nearly 100 priests and members of the laity were suspected of involvement.

It is Church policy, implemented by higher-ranking clergy such as Benedict, to keep incidents such as this secret. It is only thanks to excellent reporting by the media especially in the past decade that these and many other cases have been brought to light.

Benedict’s role in the cover-ups through the decades cannot be disputed. The Belfast Telegraph reported in 2010 that in his Christmas address to Rome-based cardinals and officials on December 20 that year, he claimed that “in the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children.”

He also said, “It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

Tell that to the young victims of abuse, many of whom never received justice, scarred for life by their violation at the hands of men they trusted.

Just recently, a couple of Italian newspapers cited unidentified senior Vatican sources as saying that Benedict received a 300-page report last December about the blackmail of gay priests by male prostitutes in Rome. This, they said, could perhaps be the real reason for Benedict’s resignation. The Vatican denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, at least one cardinal will not be attending the conclave. Benedict rushed Scottish archbishop Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation from March 17 to immediately, given his own resignation. O’Brien was accused by three priests and a former priest of having inappropriate relationships with them.

Benedict had the chance to right many wrongs, but he did not. Stepping down is the best thing he has ever done. May the next pope acknowledge the failure of the Catholic Church to adequately address these issues, make reparation to the victims, and ensure that no one ever gets abused again by its clergy.

May the next wearer of the red shoes be as transparent, open, and humble as Jesus himself was.

We can only pray.   *** 

taste more:

pop goes the world: killing you softly

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 November 2012, Thursday

Killing You Softly

We have known for decades that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption kill.

But despite near-constant bombardment with anti-smoking and moderate-drinking advertisements that have used all the persuasive approaches from soft-sell to fear-arousing communication, people still persist in the habit, making lung cancer and cirrhosis among the top causes of death in the Philippines.

A strong anti-smoking ad using FAC. Image here.

Now lawmakers have passed the “Sin Tax” bill that will raise revenue for the government while attempting to curb the health risks that go with the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

The House of Representatives passed House Bill 5727 last June, while the Senate, voting 15-2, passed their own version – Senate Bill 3299 – the other night. The versions will be reconciled in a bicameral session, after which the final version of the bill will be presented to the President.

The Lower House version would generate an additional P30 billion in revenue for the government from higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.

The Senate version would harvest around P40 billion by imposing a unitary tax of P26 per cigarette pack by 2017 on a tiered rate increase scheme, while rate increases on alcohol taxes are to start next year, also on a tiered basis.

What would be the effect of higher taxes on these “sin” products”?

There is an infographic on the Internet that portrays likely scenarios based on a nationwide survey conducted by Laylo Research Strategies last August.

The poll findings show that 23 percent of Filipino adults smoke “regularly” (at least weekly). Of the Filipino adult population, only 4 percent of females smoke regularly while 42 percent of males do. Among the poorest – the Class E demographic – 27 percent smoke.

Should the Sin Tax bill be finally imposed, it was projected that 17 percent will stop smoking immediately, 31 percent will slowly stop smoking, 19 percent will buy a cheaper brand, 25 percent will lessen their consumption, while only 8 percent would continue the habit and to buy the same brand.

The infographic wound up with this takeaway: “…half of regular smokers will possibly quit their vice.”

Tobacco farmers and alcohol product factory workers descended en masse upon the Senate last Monday to protest the passage of the Bill, which they said would take away their livelihoods.

But SB 3299 has planned for that – it sets aside P750 million for programs to benefit displaced tobacco farmers.

Aside from P2 billion for tax administration, it also allocates P23 billion in health insurance for families, P750 million for an anti-smoking campaign, P100 million yearly for regional hospitals and medical centers, and P10 million for each of 618 district hospitals.

The Department of Health, under Secretary Enrique T. Ona, has programs for preventive health care that emphasize “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Among these are the Violence and Injury Prevention Program (accidents being one of the top causes of morbidity in the country), National Dengue Prevention and Control Program, National STI/HIV Prevention Program, National Rabies Control and Prevention Program, and the Smoking Cessation Program.

For its part, government charity arm Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office gives financial assistance for the medical bills of people suffering from lung cancer and liver-related ailments.

So while the government earns from added taxes on smokes and drinks, it also spends on health programs that will alleviate and cure the illnesses caused by these products.

Would it not be better if people just quit smoking and avoided drinking to excess – or didn’t’ start at all?

Preventive health care helps preserve a person’s health and ensure a better quality of life by minimizing or reducing the risk of disease by avoiding possible risk factors that are under an individual’s control. Doctors have for many years been advocating lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding carcinogenic substances like tobacco and alcohol.

But it seems it needs this Sin Tax to break people of their smoking addiction. If the forecasts come true and half of all current smokers will quit because of the higher taxes on tobacco, then we should see a lower incidence of lung cancer in the coming years.

Smoking kills. This is not just a tagline, it’s the truth. We all know people – family, friends – who have died from lung cancer or emphysema. It’s not a good way to go – the oxygen tanks and plastic tubes up the nostrils, the strained and desperate heaving to catch another breath, the slow decay and rotting from inside over many agony-filled years.

Perhaps the Sin Tax will finally shake smokers from their fog-bound addiction to ditch the habit and adopt a healthier lifestyle to have more quality time to spend with their loved ones.

It’s about time, Philippines. Stop killing yourself slowly.  ***

“Smoke-free in Manila” image here.

taste more:

pop goes the world: sotto controllo

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  6 September 2012, Thursday

Sotto Controllo

Senator Tito Sotto thought he had everything under control when he gave his turno en contra speeches against the reproductive health bill.

He didn’t reckon on the rest of the populace having a brain and not being afraid to use it. After being called out by professors, writers, and many other people on his plagiarism, falsehood, and a slew of other issues, he ramped up his arrogance quotient instead of admitting his mistakes, among other things claiming that he is being cyberbullied.

I don’t think the senator understands what “cyberbullying” means. It’s the sort of extremely mean behavior that can drive people to suicide, as in the cases of Megan Meier, Tyler Clementi, and Ryan Halligan, just to name a few. It’s a serious form of aggression, and the term should not be misused for its gravity to remain undiminished. Cyberbullying is not what the senator is undergoing, which is merely people pointing out his mistakes online.

“Sotto controllo” is Italian for “under control”. Too bad the senator let this issue get out of hand when an apology would have allowed everyone to move on. Remember when businessman Manny Pangilinan apologized when netizens pointed out lifted paragraphs in a speech he gave? That resulted in everyone moving on; that incident is nearly forgotten, and when recalled, what comes to mind is Pangilinan’s gracious behavior.

But how can you expect Sotto to apologize when in the first place he does not believe he did anything wrong?

As for lawmaker Rufus Rodriguez’s recent tantrum in Congress, he obviously does not have his temper sotto controllo. Ranting before that august body the other day, he raised the issue of “no quorum” claiming only 111 present when the secretariat declared there were 155, rather more than the quorum of 143. 

Rodriguez ranting in the Lower House on September 4. Image from here

The lawmaker raised a ruckus because he thought the RH Bill was on the agenda that day. Being against the RH Bill, his outburst was seen as a delaying tactic. But how transparently obvious and demeaning! Surely a more adroit politician could have come up with a more elegant ploy. Instead, by choosing to use blunt force rather than finesse, he’s shown the world his character.

I saw Congressman Rodriguez in action somewhere in the provinces, and he was also upset then, haranguing someone because he could not get immediate action from them on a certain matter. I was appalled to see someone of his stature behave that way. It was juvenile. Wait, I take that back – it’s an insult to juveniles. My daughters had ceased having tantrums by the time they were three years old.

No one is perfect, and stress and worry can certainly cause anyone to lose their temper. But a frequent and consistent lack of self-control, especially at work, is detrimental above all to the person who can’t keep his or her cool. How can anyone still respect a screamer? Why should their authority be recognized when they can’t even govern themselves?

Neither did broadcaster Korina Sanchez have her snark sotto controllo when on her DZMM radio show she mentioned “maiitim na mga maligno” aiming for the post of Interior Secretary, considered by many as alluding to Vice-President Jejomar Binay.

The Vice-President’s daughter, Nancy Binay, addressed the issue on Twitter thus: “Aminado naman po kami na maliit at maitim ang daddy ko pero hindi naman po ata tama na tawagin ni Korina na maligno siya.” Now that is having the situation under control. That’s class. That’s manners. Unfortunately, both are in short supply nowadays, along with restraint and delicadeza. If only we could order cases – no, container vans – of the stuff.

Korina may have been defending her man [her husband is newly-appointed Interior Secretary Mar Roxas], but does he need defending? From what? All her comment sounded like was unmitigated spite.

Filipino culture frowns upon losing temper. Not only is it considered rude, vulgar, and ill-mannered, it also leads to loss of face as it causes embarrassment to the person on the receiving end of the outburst, who will then tend to refuse to cooperate or do so only with resentment.

Self-control is necessary for anyone to earn others’ respect. True leaders speak softly and mildly, because it is their trustworthiness and ethical rectitude, their gravitas, that will ensure that they will be obeyed.

Those who cannot admit their mistakes, those who yell and fling unwarranted insults, those who cannot rein in their faults, are not true leaders.  They’re certainly not the kind the Philippines needs. ***  

Tito Sotto meme image here. Korina Sanchez and Mar Roxas image here.

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pop goes the world: color me color-blind

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  1 March 2012, Thursday

Color Me Color-Blind

Men’s magazine FHM-Philippines buckled under a barrage of negative feedback after it posted a photo of its proposed March cover on its Facebook Page that aroused the ire of Netizens.

“Racist!” said one commenter. “Shame on FHM Philippines!” said another.

The controversial image showed light-skinned soap actress and model Bela Padilla, wearing a strappy hot pink bikini, surrounded by three dark-skinned models, and headlined “Bela Padilla: Emerging from the Shadows”.

Image here.

Over three hundred people signed a petition on asking FHM to apologize and yank the cover.

FHM-Philippines’ publisher Summit Media responded by cancelling the cover, promising to have a different one upon release, and issuing this statement: “We apologize and thank those who have raised their points. We apologize to Bela Padilla for any distress this may have caused her.”

Their full statement is posted on the FHM-Philippines website. Nowhere in it is there an apology to the backup models.

Bela took the flak in stride. Much was made of her video and Twitter apology. In the latter she said, “I’m so sorry to everyone who got offended. I hope all of you see the beauty of the cover and appreciate it,” and, “My cover is supposed to be about stepping out of my shadows, inhibitions, fears, etc. And has nothing to do with race.”

She herself is of mixed race, having a Filipina mother and a British father.

In the first place, didn’t she know better to participate in such a shoot in the first place? Did she not even make a comment during the shoot? Ask the pictorial director why this particular concept was employed? Was she even aware of the racism inherent in the concept? Has she gone on record as having made objections before all this?

It seems not. One might chalk that up to her youth – she’s 20 – or her ignorance. Or perhaps for her it was just a job, and who cares about the image concept and any other deeper meanings that may lie behind it.

The chocolate beauties were treated as background, as mere props to the star, like furniture or a backdrop. They are still unnamed in the media. They are the subject now of global attention, yet they remain anonymous, because props do not have names.

It is they who deserve an apology from FHM, not Bela.

Racism exists as a cultural norm in many countries. Certainly prejudice is universal. I don’t think there is any country that does not have any biases based on skin color, ethnicity, religion, or other factor that would set one group apart from another. The collective, the majority, is always afraid of what is different, as it seeks to maintain its dominance through cultural hegemony.

We are guided by a mindset stillborn from 400 years of Spanish rule and 40 years of American occupation. Despite the advances in technology and scholarship since then, we have not been able to shake of the heavy burden of nearly half a millennium of colonial mentality.

In our culture, light-complexioned girls with Caucasian features are extolled as being more beautiful than their warmer-skinned, ethnic-looking counterparts. This notion is heavily reinforced in the media, which has led to the phenomenon of whitening through chemical means, from soap to injectable glutathione.

With migration to other countries, people crossing national borders to live and work, and intermarriage, we thought the world would become a melting-pot, with all the cultures blending together to create a happy coffee-skinned world population.

Instead, as scholars have noted, countries with high multi-cultural populations have become salad bowls – where different cultures mix yet remain distinct, “maintaining their own practices and institutions” (Laura Laubeova). One example of such a country is the United States.

Unlike the US, the Philippines has not been a focal point for mass migration. The majority of its residents are of Malay extraction – one race. So racism is not the entire issue.

Rather, it is also an issue of class, with the dominant, foreign-descended upper class deemed as the ideal and copied slavishly by the masses as an extension of the colonial influence and the bourgeois status quo.

The good thing about this entire FHM-Bela Padilla issue is the discourse that resulted from it and the immediate feedback. It is also heartening to note FHM’s immediate response and their pull-out of their distasteful cover.

With vigilance and continued action we can bring about a cultural revolution in the Philippines, and lay the foundation for a society that is color-blind, tolerant, and inclusive.

We can change this country for the better.   *** 

UPDATE: 10 March 2012, Saturday – I saw this at a gas station convenience store – FHM’s March issue with the revised cover.

taste more:

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: open sesame

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  2 February 2012, Thursday

Open Sesame

The impeachment trial of Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona is a can opener.

It has breached a can of worms, dragging into the light that which was hidden in the dark, away from the public, for too long. It has exposed the way some influential and wealthy people in this country conduct their affairs beyond the pale of the law or ethics.

The lengthy, drawn-out testimony on Corona’s SALN was mind-boggling. Clearly the man omitted to declare several different properties, notably expensive condominium units, among his assets.

A unit at McKinley Hills was declared as belonging to his daughter, whose income did not reflect the capability to pay for the property. The receipts also reflected the father’s name, while the deed of sale was made out to Corona and his wife, not the daughter.

The defense sought to explain this away by saying that the daughter was abroad during the time and the father acted as her representative. But why was the deed of sale made out in her parents’ name, rather than hers?

Next was the revelation of a P10 million discount on a unit in the posh Bellagio building given to Corona by developer Megaworld, for the reason the unit was “damaged.” Really? What a sweet deal. Where can I get me one of those? Obviously they’re not available to ordinary folk.

 High living: view from the corridor leading to Corona’s condo unit at the Bellagio. Image here.

These explanations reek of manipulation, of facts being massaged. We have a word for this in Tagalog – palusot.

One might ask, “Can’t a Supreme Court justice avail of property at a discount? Is there a law against that?”

It’s a question of ethics – “Caesar’s wife”, as we have heard several legal analysts quote.

The phrase refers to Julius Caesar’s second wife Pompeia, whom he divorced after her name was linked to the notorious rakehell Publius Clodius. Caesar knew there was no truth to the rumors swirling around the pair, yet he held that as ruler of Rome, his wife must be above all suspicion. “Caesar’s wife” therefore is someone of impeccable morals.

Pompeia, Caesar’s second wife, whom  he married in 67 BC. Image here. 

Public officials are held to higher standards than plain folk, and that is both their delight and their cross.

It is their delight to live a life by the highest moral standards and to be held in respect and esteem by their fellowmen.

It is their cross, because it is a burden to be thus set apart from others.

Yet this is what is asked of public servants – to live a life of sacrifice. Isn’t that so, political adviser Ronald Llamas?

The trial is also an eye-opener.

A lady legal analyst for a major news network said on Ted Failon’s radio show the other day, “Hindi pa gising ang tao.” They should be. With all that we have seen and heard, there is no turning back to the days when we were deaf and blind to the machinations of those in power.

Cheers to the following, who gave good face – Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Kim Henares, who did not crumble under the onslaught of questions; lawyer Noli Hernandez, who only told his witnesses “Tell the truth”; young legal eagle Joseph Joemer Perez, who has impressed everyone with his brilliance; and the indefatigable and endlessly entertaining Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whose rapier-like wit and courage cuts through all the bullshit, everytime.

On Day 5 of the trial, tired of the deluge of rhetoric, she said, “…it behooves us to start with this principle: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ Huwag na tayong magpa-epal dito dahil nawawalan ng gana ang nanonood. Tama na ‘yun. “

Much ado has also been made about the blazing intelligence of senator Juan Ponce Enrile (turning 88 on February 14) and retired Supreme Court justice Serafin Cuevas (83). Both evoke an earlier, more genteel era, where gentlemen of the law exchange courtly gestures while exchanging elegantly-crafted arguments based on research and sharp analysis.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. Image here.

Enrile, during this grueling process, shows aplomb and stamina. It’s been said that he studies about the case several hours each day, as does Cuevas, who even throws in half-an-hour of jogging before his mental preparation.

These elder statesmen are to be emulated by their younger counterparts, in terms of discipline and work ethics.

Meanwhile, the trial of the year continues, and is expected to drag on for several months. A middle-aged government lawyer, who has witnessed the trial in the Senate several times, sums it up as “a slow-moving political trial that has gone viral through the antics of the show-boating lawyers involved.”

My 13-year-old daughter, who is studying about the trial in their freshman high school social science class, asked, “Mama, CJ Corona was a midnight appointee, in violation of the Constitution. Is that not enough to have him removed from a position he should not be holding in the first place?”

My point, from the start.

* * * * *

Those interested in learning more about the creative process may regularly interact with writers at the monthly Openbook event of the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines.

The event is held every third Friday of the month, 730pm at Chef’s Bistro, Sct. Gandia, near Tomas Morato. The following authors have been featured: in 2011, novelist Samantha Sotto (September), essayist Bebang Siy (October), and novelist Tweet Sering (November). Screenwriter Ricky Lee kicked off 2012 with a guesting last month.

This month’s Openbook will be held on the 17th with Bebang Siy as host. Multi-awarded poet Joel Toledo, the night’s featured guest, will read from his Ruins and Reconstructions (Anvil Publishing, 2011).

A poetry reading will follow, with performances by Ramil Gulle, Nonilon Queano, Ceres Abanil, Abet Umil, Haresh Daswani, Veronica Laurel, Brandon Dollente, Rustum Casia, and myself, among others.

The FWGP, founded by Ime Morales in August 2011, is a group of Philippine-based freelance writers, among them journalists, copywriters, bloggers, researchers and documenters, literary writers, SEO experts.

The organization, says Morales, is “committed to protecting the welfare of freelance writers, and to elevating the quality of their work output.” To learn more, search for the group on Facebook. ***

taste more:

new philippines tourism slogan

The Philippine Department of Tourism unveiled today its new slogan and logo – “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”.

Twitter immediately erupted with comments, both for and against. A lot of what’s going around right now is sarcastic in nature. But then, that’s what happens when it’s phrased in such a way as to lend itself to all kinds of interpretation.

I liked the old campaign better – “Wow Philippines”. It conveyed interest and excitement in one short word -”wow” – without making unsupportable or subjective claims such as “more”.

“It’s fun in the Philippines” would have been less likely to be made fun of.

However, compared to the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” fiasco in November 2010, this new one is still an improvement. The fact that #itsmorefuninthephilippines is trending worldwide shows we can work with this.

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pop goes the world: the corona-vela

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  15 December 2011, Thursday

The Corona-vela

The past two weeks we were talking about KC breaking up with Papa Piolo, in tears on television, and Mo spilling the beans about himself and Rhian, in tears on Youtube.

All this seems the stuff of telenovela – so dramatic and exaggerated. But a new narrative now bursts upon the Filipino consciousness – the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona by 188 members of Congress last December 12.

The 63-year-old Corona was appointed by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Supreme Court on 9 April 2002. On 12 May 2010, two days after the 2010 elections and only one month before the expiry of Arroyo’s term in office, she appointed him Chief Justice of the SC.

The Constitution of the Philippines bans appointments by a president two months before a presidential election and until the term expires on June 30.

Father Joaquin Bernas, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, in a January 2010 newspaper interview opined that it would be the next president after Arroyo who should appoint the next chief justice. Even with the constitutional provision requiring the President to appoint a new chief justice within 90 days after a vacancy, he said the new president would still have 45 days to decide after taking office on June 30.

Corona has recently come under fire for siding with Arroyo in various ways and frustrating the ends of justice in the cases the government has filed against her. Therefore his impeachment by 188 lawmakers, when only 95 would have sufficed.

The vast majority of Filipinos, like myself, are not lawyers. We do not know nor understand the ramifications of the law on this issue. So we require the guidance of those who are learned in the matter, scholars and practitioners of the law. But they, like the ordinary folk, differ in their interpretations.

Most public opinion goes either of two ways: one, that the government is morphing into a dictatorship, that they are undermining one of the three branches of government, that checks and balances are being eroded, that the Constitution itself is being threatened.

The other view is that no one is above the law, not even the judiciary. For it is illogical to maintain, as many of them do, that because they are judges they hold the final interpretation of the law, and can therefore do no wrong. No one is above the law, not even the law.

It seems to me that the latter perspective is the more logical and fair, as expressed in the statement of the University of the Philippines Law Student Government 2011-2012 (the whole text was posted on Facebook yesterday): “From the point-of-view of the Honorable Chief Justice, the efforts of the current administration, allegedly in concert with its allies in Congress, threaten the independence of the judiciary, and ultimately threaten our country’s democracy itself.

“We submit that it was the former President Arroyo who was in fact the greatest threat to the Judiciary’s independence in the past decade. It was the former President who was responsible for politicizing the High Court in the first place by her many appointments, his elevation to the Chief Justiceship being the most questionable.

“The fact also remains that there is a steady stream of recent decisions by the High Court has continuously blocked major attempts by the current government to pursue its platform of holding the past administration to account for its sins against the Filipino people.”

Yesterday, Corona hogged public attention with a speech, attended by court employees and officials who declared a court holiday to rally behind him. It’s a cultural trait, the drama and the hyperbole, the carefully studied move or action executed in public, accompanied by exaggerated emotion (to elicit pity) or a lack of it (to show grace under pressure).

Corona said, “Ako raw po ay isang midnight appointee. Dapat raw po, hindi ko tinanggap ang paghirang sa akin. Bakit po ba, para si Ginoong Aquino ang makapagtalaga ng kanyang sariling chief justice na hawak niya sa leeg? Mapapa-iling ka talaga.”

“Iling” is to shake one’s head in disbelief, or incredulity. Opo, CJ Corona, napapa-iling ako talaga. Because according to the Constitution, you are a midnight appointee – of Gloria Arroyo, who has a tight grip upon your neck, and who wanted her very own Chief Justice in the highest court in the land.

I am not a lawyer. I do not know Corona personally. So I look at his pictures to gain some sense of the man. His eyes are like raisins pushed into his doughy, well-fed face as he hogs public attention with his grandstanding speeches. I try to muster empathy and benefit-of-the-doubt. But it’s hard. If this were a telenovela and he was cast as the hero, di ito bebenta. Give me more KC, Mo, and Rhian.

So I focus on the facts. The situation is complex for all its legal and political implications. But it seems simple to me. His appointment was made improperly and in contravention of the highest law of the land. For that alone, Corona does not deserve to hold office. *** 

Image of CJ Corona here. Fr. Bernas here. UP LSG logo from their public Facebook Page.

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pop goes the world: those unimaginative copycats

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  27 October 2011, Thursday

Those Unimaginative Copycats

 When an actress/politician officially backed the installation of a huge white “Hollywood”-style sign on an iconic Philippine natural landmark, it was only to be expected that reactions would erupt like, well, lava from a volcano.

To promote tourism in her province, Governor Vilma Santos-Recto wanted gigantic letters spelling “Batangas” across Taal Volcano. The news spread, and the majority of public opinion was vehemently against the silly idea.

Artist’s rendering of what the sign might look like, from GMA News Online.

The cybercommunity had a field day. Their collective ire caused the beleaguered Santos-Recto to backtrack and claim that the idea was a mere proposal under review; she asked the public not to “over-react”. But vice-governor Mark Leviste II had already confirmed that the Batangas provincial council passed a resolution on October 5 for a “a hard-to-miss landmark and potential tourism draw”. How could that be a “proposal under review”?

True, a sign that large sprawled across the volcano’s slopes would indeed be “hard to miss”. But would it be a “potential tourism draw”? Yes, for the wrong reasons – for people to jeer at and ridicule and shake their heads over the folly of misguided attempts at marketing and hype and snigger, “Who made money off that monstrosity?”

I wonder who really came up with this horrible idea to copy the “Hollywood” sign. They deserve to be pelted with eggs and rotten tomatoes, the unimaginative copycats. Boo. I’ve seen the real thing. Hollywood has done it already. They were first. It’s theirs. Why should we imitate them? How is this even a good thing?

How much would it have cost to put up such a sign? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on poverty alleviation, education, health care, infrastructure – in fact, a myriad of more pressing social problems and concerns?

Why, as a people, do we have to copy other people’s good ideas to turn them into our own bad projects? Remember the Department of Tourism’s Pilipinas Kay Ganda” campaign, which looked like it could have been drawn by a six-year-old, and turned out to have been lifted from Poland’s tourism authority?

We Filipinos are a creative people, more than capable of coming up with our own original concepts. Witness the many global awards our advertising people have won for their ad campaigns. Our artists and designers are lauded around the world. Just yesterday, breaking news on the Internet was that international pop star Lady Gaga wore a creation of Filipino designers Leeroy New and Kermit Tesoro on the cover of her new single off her Born This Way album, “Marry the Night”. (For the curious, it was described as a “leather body-armor outfit”. It rocks.)

Which is all the more bewildering why there are proposals and even done deals that cut corners, that reek of laziness and that odious mentality, “pwede na.” No, pwede na is not enough. “Good enough” is not enough. It is a base insult to the creative Filipinos who are guided by quality and excellence and maintain the highest standards in their work.

Case in point: the badly Photoshopped image of three Department of Public Works and Highways officials that appeared on the agency’s website soon after the typhoon Pedring assault. Not only was it in poor taste for such an image to be created in the first place, what added insult to injury was that it was an awful Photoshop job.

That went viral on the Internet too, and those three DPWH officials’ images appeared in all sorts of incongruous locations: behind the winner of the Miss Universe contest, on the ring with Manny Pacquiao, on Taal Volcano beside the proposed “Batangas” sign, but with the letters B, the first A, and S omitted.

Via Facebook’s “Photos of HollywoodPilipinas”

 Another example: the gaudy and tasteless lamp installations in various Manila parks and along the bridges. Bulbous and garish, they hurt the eyes and offend aesthetic sensibilities, not to mention use too much electricity better spent on more important things. Like food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless in those same over-lit parks.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – this was the credo of Steve Jobs, Apple founder, and he went on to build the world’s biggest and most respected company on that. It is also the cultural design philosophy of the Japanese, and we all know where they are now.

What this incident also makes painfully obvious is that up to now, many politicians and public officials still do not realize the power and influence of the cyber community. To be blind to the impact of current communications technology is stupid and foolish. Have no lessons been learned from the Mai Mislang sucky-wine-and-no-pogis-in-Vietnam Twitter debacle?

The Internet is a force for disseminating information almost instantaneously, and unlike traditional media, the cost of using which precludes access by the masses, the Internet may be used as a communication platform by anyone with a computer and broadband connection, or even just a smartphone and a data plan. Anyone can be a “journalist”, anyone can spread “news”.

So it’s no surprise that Gov Vi’s resolution went viral on the Internet, spawning a host of photos making fun of the “Taal Volcano” sign idea. That’s an indignity that’ll take some time to die down, and it certainly won’t help the tourism industry at all.

* * * * *

For runners/walkers: the 500 Smile Run aims to raise funds for the free surgery of 500 Filipino children and young adults born with cleft palates or lips. The race is set for November 6 at the Quirino Grandstand. Distances are 500m, 3km, 5km, 10km, and 16km. Registration is until November 3. See for details. Since it’s for a worthy cause, quite a few enthusiasts have signed up, among them the newly-formed Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Runners Team.  ***

Polska-Pilipinas image here. Lady Gaga “Marry the Night” cover art here.

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pop goes the world: the price of innocence

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 7 April 2011, Thursday

The Price of Innocence

What price innocence? What price childhood?

Many of you have seen the infamous video by now: Jan-jan, a six-year-old boy dressed conservatively in a plaid shirt and pants gyrates lewdly and suggestively on national television while tears stream down his cheeks, as the show’s host eggs him on and the audience of adults cheers and screams for more.

Some of you were sickened and disgusted. Some said, “What’s the big deal? If not him, it would’ve been some other kid.” Others said, “But it was really funny!”

This is the state of Philippine society now – that a child can grind like a macho dancer on TV and the Internet for the world to see and get paid off with ten thousand pesos, and most Filipinos see nothing wrong but find it amusing.

“Nothing wrong” because the boy’s father has said that he is proud of his son’s performance and thanks the host, Willie Revillame, for having given Jan-jan a chance to show off the dance that he himself, the father, and the boy’s aunt, taught him.

“Nothing wrong” because Willie and Willie’s camp, including co-host Valenzuela councillor Shalani Soledad, have come out with no sincere apology but a long-winded defense and explanation, saying Jan-jan cried not because he felt humiliated but because he was afraid of a tall former pro basketball in the studio, why do you only see the bad, don’t you see the good that we are doing for the poor people of this country by giving them cash handouts after they humiliate themselves in public, blah blah.

“Nothing wrong” because only a few sponsors – Jollibee Group’s Mang Inasal and Del   Monte Philippines – have expressed their disapproval by pulling out. CDO foods backpedalled. The rest are still in, putting ratings and money above decency. TV-5, the show’s network, still airs the show which they revived, having been killed in the first place by its previous network.

“Nothing wrong” because as of presstime, there has been no statement from the majority Roman Catholic Church, which is so fast to condemn the RH Bill, even calling for civil disobedience from its believers to suppress a measure that will help control the rampant population boom of this country and raise its standard of living, yet drags its collective feet on this blatant episode of sexualisation of children.

The Church condemns contraception, encouraging its believers to “go forth and multiply”. Yet where are they when children need to be fed, clothed, educated, kept safe from predators and molesters, when their parents cannot care for them properly because they have too many children, because they are poor and their church has forbidden them contraceptives?

To be fair, no other church group has come out with a statement. So let’s just ask instead – what now, organized religion?  If it works, why is our society sexualizing and exploiting its children?

It’s good to see the government standing up for Jan-jan and other exploited children, but also because of public pressure. Perhaps the largest and most vocal group got its start as a Facebook group set up by Froilan Grate – “Para Kay Jan-Jan (Shame on You, Willie Revillame)!” As of presstime, the page has 10,490 “likes”.

Screenshot of the “Para Kay Jan-jan” FB Page.

Partly because of letters written by Grate and supporters of the cause, and columns and articles written by journalists, artists, and others, Department of Social Work and Development Dinky Soliman wrote a letter condemning the March 12 incident, saying it is “clearly a violation of Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and a blatant manifestation of child abuse.”

Sec. Soliman has also written TV-5 head Manny V. Pangilinan, asking him not to allow the show to “cash in on the plight of the poor.”

The Commission on Human Rights has said it will seek “to identity the persons accountable for violating Section 10 of RA 7610…”

Apart from government agencies, non-government organization Gabriela and others have also scored Revillame and those connected with the show for child abuse.

But it’s not just the children. It’s also Willie’s dancing women, his “Kembot Girls” of whom I’ve written about before as being in poor taste for a daytime variety show, sending messages to young girls that shaking your scantily-clad body on TV is okay, because with sex you will lift your family from poverty.  I thought that was what education was for!

And we think nothing is wrong with this.

As I’ve said before, we are a nation for sale. Not so much our goods, as our people. It used to be, when you asked about a nation’s export products, you’d answer “Rice. Coffee. Iron.” or whatever natural resource or manufactured good.

Instead, our number one export is humans. Never mind the social cost of children growing up without their parents, believing that all is justified for the sake of money.

Even our kids are for sale. We are raising them to be fodder for pedophiles. “Come on down to the Philippines, it’s a perverts’ paradise! Here, see how well they bump and grind on mass media!”

Nothing wrong with that? Really?

But why did Jan-jan ‘s father train him to do this dance and get on Willie’s show? Because of poverty and corruption, the root causes of many social ills. This is the reason for our country’s diaspora, for our large OFW population – because our country does not have enough jobs for all the people that are being born on its soil. Because endemic corruption and the culture of impunity have eaten away at funds for social development and poverty alleviation to line the pockets of those in power at the expense of the rest of the country.

Many will say, “We have no choice kundi kapit sa patalim.”

Don’t we? But there are people who have not taken that route to earn an income. Instead, they got an education; they got jobs; they refused to be on the take.

Because for some people, it’s not just money. For some people, morality and decency and family are not just dictionary words but principles to live by and die for.

The price of innocence, of a pure and untainted childhood free from abuse? Our answer should be, “Priceless.”   ***

Jan-jan image here. Mang Inasal logo here. Willie and Kembot Girls here.

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