Posts Tagged ‘manila standard-today’

pop goes the world: boston terror-thon

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  18 April 2013, Thursday

Boston Terror-thon

Why does evil exist in the world?

This unanswerable question, asked not only by philosophers and thinkers but by anyone struck by personal tragedy, comes to the fore of global collective consciousness once more with the April 15 bomb attack at the Boston Marathon that killed three – one of them eight-year-old Martin Richard – and injured at least 176.

The images flooding the Internet run scarlet with blood. Pavements are covered with it. The faces of runners and spectators are blood-flecked; others clutch bloody stumps of blown-off limbs. A pair of brothers lost a leg each.  Jeff Bauman, 27, who had come to root for his girlfriend, lost both legs.

Doctors found ball bearings and bits of metal that looked like carpenter’s nails in wounds. Salon.com quotes Rhode Island State Trooper Roupen Bastajian as having estimated that “…at least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing,” while Massachusetts General Hospital Chief of Emergency Services Alasdair Conn said, “This is something I’ve never seen in my 25 years here…this amount of carnage in the civilian population. This is what we expect from war.”

The Boston Marathon, held on Patriots Day this year, celebrates the spirit of athleticism in an inclusive event that allows anyone to join, from celebrity runners like Dean Karnazes to ordinary people. Many have interesting stories; it is by sharing these online, along with news and facts, that people are trying to understand this tragedy through mediated communication.

One anonymous runner’s photo was posted on The New Yorker online. Wearing purple shoes, her hands to her face, she looked dazed. She came forward later. Her name is Emily Locher, a lawyer who recently had an elective double mastectomy.

In the photo her hair is barely long enough to tie up in a ponytail; she lost most of it during chemotherapy and had her head shaved. She continued training through most of her treatment – “it means something to do something” – and joined the marathon to mark her return to health.

This touching story is something no one could have anticipated just from looking at her photograph. It drives home the point that behind the images of the tragedy are real people.

To deliberately plant two pressure-cooker type bombs filled with shrapnel by the finish line of a marathon to kill people like Martin and two others and maim people like Jeff and Emily, to deal death and destruction for still unknown reasons upon innocent victims, is a demonstration of the most horrifying evil.

Thinker Howard Bloom says in his controversial “The Lucifer Principle” that the social group, not the individual, is the subject of selection, and that selection processes perpetuated as memes disseminated through culture and manifested as violence are interpreted as “evil,” and are part of our biological make-up.

It is a disturbing concept, that the capacity for evil might be programmed into our DNA.

But Bloom ends his book on a note of optimism.

“There is hope that we may someday free ourselves of savagery,” he writes. “To our species, evolution has given something new – the imagination. With that gift, we have dreamed of peace. Our task – perhaps the only one that will save us – is to turn what we have dreamed into reality.”

Because if evil showed its face in Boston, so did good. Television show host and Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.””

The world saw the helpers. Locher said bystanders handed their phones to runners so they could call their families. Police officers, firefighters, doctors, even former National Football League players, rendered first aid and rushed victims to hospitals. So many volunteers went to donate their blood that the Eastern Massachusetts Red Cross had to turn them away.

Our behavior is a result of impulse, whim, or choice. We face daily the confrontation between right and wrong. Our own actions and our responses to others’ actions have the potential of tipping the balance one way or another.

It is the deliberate and purposeful choice we make for good and against evil that will ultimately save us from our own savagery.  *** 

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pop goes the world: random act of coffee

NO COLUMN FOR March 28, Maundy Thursday

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  4 April 2013, Thursday

Random Act of Coffee

Buying coffee for the needy can be as easy as paying for an extra one the next time you buy a cuppa for yourself.

Last Holy Wednesday, a meme about the “pending coffee” charity concept went viral after it was widely shared on Facebook.

Caffe sospeso (literally “suspended coffee”) is said to be a long-standing custom in Naples and an “old tradition in Italy,” later adopted by “150 cafes in Bulgaria,” according to Examiner.com. Customers pay not only for their own coffee and food, but also in advance for one or more extra orders to be given, at the restaurateur’s discretion, to a needy person.

It’s a variation on the “pay it forward” concept, doing a “random act of kindness” for a stranger that that I’ve read about it being done in many places, where someone pays the toll fee of the car behind her, or for coffee for the next guy in line at Starbucks.

The “pending coffee” idea is different in that the act of charity is institutionalized through the cooperation of the restaurant. You don’t need to be there when it happens, but people get the same warm fuzzy feeling of having been generous without the awkwardness that besets some in that situation.

Within days after the concept was heavily promoted on March 27, I heard of at least one restaurant in the Philippines that will do this.

Blacksoup Café + Artspace in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City, announced on their Facebook page last Saturday that they will implement this concept on a 30-day trial basis from March 31 to April 30 this year. They will accept advance payment for coffee, sandwiches, and meals, and issue stubs for the “suspended” food, which can be claimed by those who need them.

If there are unclaimed stubs after two days, “Blacksoup will go around on a bicycle to give out unclaimed [stubs] to street people/families” who will then sign “tracking papers” which will be posted on the restaurant’s FB page, along with photos if possible, to document that the exchange actually happened.

Blacksoup’s general manager Avic Ilagan says on their page that they anticipate certain cultural norms will not make it feasible for homeless people (the truly needy who deserve to benefit from this concept) to step inside their restaurant, so they “will bring the coffee, sandwiches, and meals to the street people na karaniwan walang kain o isang beses lang kumain.”

This system also will prevent fraud and abuse.

To children, she says, they “will give milk tetra packs instead of coffee.”

As of yesterday afternoon, the post has been liked by 373 people and shared 429 times. Customer support in the comments on Blacksoup’s page has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

Blacksoup reports that as of April 3, they have on their “suspended” tally 19 sandwiches and 19 bottles of C-2, “plus a bank deposit from Australia.” They add, “two volunteers will distribute the unclaimed suspended items on Saturday at 5pm, and and Excel file of suspended items bought and their recipients will be posted and updated every week for all to see and check.”

For this to work, there has to be follow-through by customers and a certain dedication on the part of the restaurateur. Duplication by other establishments would be something to look forward to. Giving and sharing are traits highly valued in Philippine culture, and there is no reason why something like this can’t be adopted on a large scale, meaning nationwide.

This is a positive initiative that brings charity straight to the recipient and addresses an immediate need – hunger.

Sometimes a small act that one doesn’t even remember afterward can be the huge difference between hope and despair or life and death for another person, because some say everything and everyone are connected somehow, the way a butterfly flapping its gauzy wings in the Brazilian rainforest might set off a chain of events that culminates in a tsunami in Indonesia.

A smile, a “good morning,” a free coffee: who knows what kind gesture will touch another soul and kindle a flame of inspiration and transformation?

Check out Blacksoup’s page on FB, as well as a new page – Suspended Coffee PH – and “be a blessing to someone.” *** 

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pop goes the world: systems failure

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  21 March 2013, Thursday

Systems Failure

Our systems are killing us.

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 10 to 5 to halt for four months the implementation of Republic Act 10354, the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012,” otherwise known as the RH bill.

The 120-day status quo ante order is a setback for RH advocates, who have labored for nearly fifteen years to see this bill passed.  And it was passed by both Houses and signed by President Benigno Aquino III in December last year, but a slew of consolidated petitions filed in January this year led to this outcome.

Supreme Court spokesman Ted Te calls this order “preliminary” and says the highest court in the land may yet rule in favor of its legality.

The Roman Catholic Church, which prompted most, if not all, of the petitions against the RH Bill, hail this development as an answer to their prayers and “God’s will.”

The Department of Health had already marked last March 15 the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Bill.

DoH Secretary Enrique Ona said that the law “will empower women through informed choice and voluntarism…” as the IRR provides “improved access to family planning services…provision of mobile health clinics in remote and depressed areas, improvement of PhilHealth coverage on RH services especially for the poor,” and other support services.

Secretary Ona added, “This is just the beginning of our continuing effort to ensure that no woman will die while giving life.”

Statistics from womens’ rights advocate EnGendeRights say 11 women die each day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Given that, 1,320 women might die during the 120 days of the SQA.

How many more women and children will die from botched abortions, miscarriages, complicated births, and the other risks and dangers of unwanted pregnancies?

Another system that needs revamping is the University of the Philippines’ tuition fee structure.

Because of glitches in the system that misclassified her fee bracket, placed her on leave of absence for non-payment of tuition, and took away her ID card, freshman Kristel Tejada took her life.

She could not bear to go on living when her best efforts to obtain a degree went to naught when, despite her academic performance and commitment to learning, the system failed her.

When I was a UP undergraduate in the days before STFAP, I paid around five hundred pesos per semester. It was a lean time for my family, so an uncle paid my way through college, my entire education costing him around five thousand pesos in tuition fees.

I would not have been able to finish my bachelor’s degree if I had gone to any other school, as it would have been too expensive and we might not have found anyone willing to shoulder a higher cost.

The STFAP was implemented after I graduated and since then no one can obtain a UP education for that little amount of money anymore.

And why not? Isn’t the government supposed to subsidize education in public schools, especially in the state university?

All Kristel wanted was a better life through learning, but the rules of the system made this inaccessible to her.

Education in the state colleges and universities should be made free or as close to it as possible, for the Iskolar ng Bayan to flourish and give back to Inang Bayan.

Government needs to see what’s important and what’s not – and should they need to be reminded, the youth and their proper education are important, for they are the future of the country.

UP failed Kristel, and failed in its mission. This is not the UP I went to. This is not the UP I love and am proud of. This is not the UP that it should be.

Various colleges of UP are holding a luksang pamantasan for Kristel with activities such as indignation rallies and candle-lightings to commemorate her tragedy and fight for change.

Perhaps we should also hold a luksang bayan for all the systems that have failed and continue to fail us.  *** 

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pop goes the world: you can dish it out, but you can’t take it

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  14 March 2013, Thursday

You can dish it out, but you can’t take it

Roman Catholic Church bigwigs in Bacolod City who started a campaign against pro-Reproductive Health bill senatorial candidates were red-faced when a text message circulated naming five priests of the Diocese of Bacolod who sired offspring.

The Church in that city hung huge tarpaulins marked “Team Patay” (Team Dead) identifying the candidates they were exhorting people not to vote for, but the tables were turned when the “Team Tatay” (Team Father) messages spread.

Seems the embarrassment could have been avoided if certain people had used contraceptives, hey?

Clergy having children are nothing new; one of my first cousins is the daughter of a monk. It was a scandal in the town where they lived, but not among the unconventional Ortuoste family, a tolerant and liberal bunch. They understood and accepted the situation especially because the monk in question was my uncle. (He left his order, married his partner, and they set up as a family in the United States.)

This problem is so old that no less than the nation’s superhero Jose Rizal wrote about father “fathers,” making the muddle-headed heroine of his iconic 19th century novels the daughter of a priest.

While those randy priests in Bacolod might justify their actions by saying they at least brought their children into the world by not using contraceptives and by not having them aborted, they and like-minded others always fail to take into consideration the welfare of the children. My cousin told us that she had to bear taunts like “anak ng pari!” (child of a priest) from her playmates, and this took a heavy mental toll on her. This was one of the reasons my uncle decided to make their home in the US.

What makes this incident of the Team Tatay – Team Patay appalling is that when the tables are turned on those holier-than-thou, they harrumph and claim they are being “blackmailed,” as Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Commission on Family and Life, alleged.

He said, “We do not deny that there are instances (of priests fathering children) but that is not the issue now,” adding that Team Tatay were “changing the topic.”

“Do not throw stones because we all live in houses of glass,” he also said.

Look, if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

Why are they meddling when separation of Church and State is embodied in the law? If they insist on poking their noses into the things that are of Caesar then they had better get used to having the skeletons in their closets brought out into the light.

* * * * *

Good news for fans of poetry-in-Filipino enthusiasts in general and of poet-activist

Axel Pinpin in particular – his latest collection “Lover’s Lane” is finally in print in a limited-edition version.

The poems are on fire with erotic need, longing, and unrequited love – the stuff of much other writing, stemming as these emotions do from the natural human condition. Yet Axel’s work adds a revolutionary twist that makes these works different from the mainstream, and thus fresh and interesting.

Says writer and activist Ericson Acosta, “In “Lover’s Lane” continues our discovery of the extraordinary range of topic, style, and revolutionary possibilities of the poetry of Axel Pinpin. And here too, in “Pinpin Lane,” in truth, are our own voice – feelings, desires, dreams…”

“My poems are non-fiction,” says Axel, “they are not imagined narratives. They come from my own experiences and the stories of others.”

Here’s “Pusod” in its entirety:

“Ang lalim ba ng iyong pusod / ay siya ring lalim ng iyong puso? / Hayaan mong sukatin ko ito / ng aking daliri at salita / at nang ako’y malunod / at maglunoy sa iyong katubigan, / at mahulog din sa iyong bangin.” (Is the deepness of your navel / The same as your heart’s? / Let me measure this depth / With my fingers and words / That I may submerge, wade in your pools / And tumble into your clefts.”

The poems in “Lover’s Lane” are stories from real life, a curious look into and taking apart of the myriad emotions that war in the heart and soul of each person. In each phrase masterfully crafted by Axel Pinpin are the heat of love and desire and the chill of loss and leaving.

Place orders for the volume on Facebook – search for the open group page “Lover’s Lane ni Axel Pinpin” and leave a message there.   *** 

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pop goes the world: open mouth, insert foot

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  7 March 2013, Thursday

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

A senatorial candidate succeeded in offending Filipino nurses all over the world when she disparaged them in a recent debate.

Thanks to social media and the indignation of people in behalf of one of the hardest-working sectors of the nation, Las Piñas representative Cynthia Villar’s remarks on nurses went viral, something she probably didn’t anticipate when she aired her brains on national television.

She said that nurses don’t need to finish a nursing degree because all they want to be are “room nurses” (sic) and that in America all they want to be are caregivers, and as such they don’t need to be that good.

As expected, these utterly misguided views aroused the ire of right-thinking people, nurses included, who made the following remarks on Facebook:

California-based nurse Ivy: “WTH is she talking about? To be able to work here in the US legally, RN’s need to pass NCLEX, IELTS, or TOEFL to be considered for employment…[nursing] is a regulated profession that has standards to uphold. We use our brains to act in life-threatening situations to save lives.”

Misha: “It’s like saying I can become a doctor, lawyer, or accountant without going to school!”

Harwin: “Akala niya ata eh meaning ng ‘RN’ eh ‘room nurse’.”

Dr. Bob: “I am a dentist-nurse….and have had three US nurse licenses. Let me tell you, it is easier to be a senator in the Philippines than to be a nurse in the US. You will never pass the US licensure exam if you have no knowledge and competence. You can be a senator in the Philippines even if you are a certified idiot.”

If the public had a positive or neutral opinion of Villar prior to this, her stupid remarks have tipped the balance over to the negative side.

Will this faux pas be fatal for her chances in the elections?

It depends on how strong the nurses’ bloc is, many of whom are now actively clamoring against her, and how well her campaign handlers can fix this mess.

Nurses are considered heroes of the country. Many of us have nurses in the family working abroad, sending money home to help ill parents and send younger siblings to school. Any remark against them is like setting a match to tinder, as this incident has shown.

No less than United States President Barack Obama praised a Filipina nurse in his recent State of the Union address, saying, “We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn’t thinking about how her own home was faring…Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.”

Online sources say Sanchez was born and grew up in Catanauan, Quezon, and obtained her nursing degree at Mary Chiles Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila, before immigrating to the US in the 1980s.

How unfortunate that a Philippine politician should be the one to put down the country’s own nurses, rather than lifting them up.

And to be so ignorant of the facts as to confuse nursing as a profession to merely comprise being “room nurse” and that caregivers don’t need to be all that good is to show the world the quality, or lack thereof, of her mind.

In terms of political communication, specifically with regard to a candidate’s electoral campaign, Villar’s statement makes damage control necessary, before the information spreads and turns off potential voters.

However, that’s too late. Social media has ensured that this has gone viral. In any case, any information that is disseminated over mass media is impossible to take back; all that can be done it to mitigate its potentially negative effects.

This was done by campaign handlers when Villar apologized on her Facebook Page (her statement since taken down) and to the Philippine Nurses Association. It is customary, in order to regain goodwill, to humbly beg for forgiveness – something few, if any, politicians do once already in power.

Political communication is all about symbols – their construction and manipulation. Political aspects are equated with the people running for office – one is “green”, another “incorruptible,” a third “belonging to a family that has served the people for decades.”

Villar and her handlers must now find out what people think she symbolizes. The nouveau riche standing up for her fellow rich and advancing their agenda? The wife of the builder of homes that shelter Filipinos? (Those homes aren’t given away, by the way. People pay for them and enrich the Villar coffers.)

Who is Villar – just another person with money who wants to extend her empire into national level politics? Is she a person with a genuine desire to serve? Both?

The people who can best answer as to her capacity to serve and effectivity as a leader are her present constituency, from whom we have yet to hear.

Is she worthy to become a senator?

From the viewpoint of a communications scholar, it will be interesting to see how Villar’s campaign people handle this in the months to come.

As a voter, for the good of the country, I’m picking people with good brains and kind hearts. Let us select candidates based not on name recognition, but on their principles, platforms, intelligence, integrity, and compassion.

Choose wisely, Pilipinas. *** 

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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.   *** 

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pop goes the world: this land is my land

No column for Feb 14, Valentine’s Day

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  21 February 2013, Thursday

This Land is My Land

A nation hinges its identity and sovereignty on the lands it possesses and the seas that surround it and the airspace that covers it; these, after all, provide a home for the people of that nation.

From childhood we have been brought up to know the Philippines as an archipelago of over 7,000 islands tied together with the bright blue and green ribbons of the sea.

Those of us who have left our country in the diaspora to work and live in other lands feel their hearts skip a beat when they recall the beauty of their hometowns.

As the national anthem goes, no greater thing can we do for our country than “Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo.”

But when confronted by the idea of war, even the remotest possibility of war breaking out in our lifetime, we feel only fear, and the imperative to protect our families, our land, and prevent fighting at all costs.

China is rattling its sabers by claiming waters and islands in the West Philippine Sea, which are in closer proximity to the Philippines than to China. By common sense and under the law, China has no right to be intruding into our territory.

This has not stopped them, however, from pursuing their claim and asserting this in all venues, even manufacturing globes with the “nine dash line” that encompass the disputed territories and selling these globes to – the Philippines.

Good thing someone alerted one of the sellers, National Bookstore, which discussed the issue with the Department of Foreign Affairs, after which the store’s management decided to pull out the offending spheres.

The Philippine government took the matter of China’s claim to an arbitration panel under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are signatories, asking that China’s claims be declared invalid.

The other day, Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing met with DFA officials to return the notice on arbitration and a note verbale containing the Notification and Statement of Claim of the Philippine government to begin arbitration proceedings, saying that these contained “serious mistakes both in fact and in law.”

What’s in water and a few rocks? The disputed area is rich in resources – oil, natural gas, fishing grounds, and, I’ve heard whispered, even gold.

With China going so far as to return our diplomatic note and to refuse arbitration, it’s pretty much a given that they will not let go of this.

Will they go as far as a show of military force? It’s not far-fetched to think this – they are becoming mighty aggressive with their claim. As far back as the late ‘80s when I was a student in the University of the Philippines, my political science professor pointed to China as a potential threat to the security of the Philippines.

But we Filipinos are not above letting go of a claim, either. Right now there are Filipinos in Sabah (reports say from 80 to 300), followers of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III, who crossed the waters to the town of Lahad Datu in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

The sultanate once ruled over parts of Borneo and is still receiving a yearly compensation package from Malaysia for possession of Sabah – proof of their claim to the area, the sultan says.

Fellow MST columnist lawyer Rita Jimeno explained at length in her column last Monday the legal bases for the sultanate’s claim, and they seem pretty sound. However, the claim to Sabah, as an issue, has been dormant for decades.

Is this quite the right time to bring it up, with all we have going on with China?

Let us hope both these issues are resolved peacefully, and that cool heads, diplomacy, and reason will prevail.

Life is hard enough in peacetime, much more so in war. We’ve got a good thing going with the economy posting 6.6 percent growth last year, one of the best performances worldwide. Let’s not put in jeopardy all the gains we’ve made.

But frankly, I’m scared, alab ng puso notwithstanding.

* * * * *

The Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines is holding a couple of webinars for writers who want to level up their writing skills for the new media.

Today at 1pm in the “Quick Start Copywriting, A Live Webinar” with Lillian Leon at http://conversologie.com/quick-start-copywriting-webinar/, learn the basic principles of good copywriting and more.

On “The Complete Blueprint to Search Engine Success for Writers, a Live Webinar” at 4pm today at http://conversologie.com/blueprint-search-engine-success-writers-webinar/, SEO expert Steve Knight will explain how to develop a superior search engine optimization strategy to attract readers to your website.  ***

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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: 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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