Posts Tagged ‘manila standard’

pop goes the world: b-ball and the bigger picture

I wrote a review of this book in 2010 for a PhD class and posted it in its full form on the blog here.

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  13 September 2012, Thursday

B-ball and the Bigger Picture

“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

This is the standard safety warning on vehicle side mirrors, cautioning drivers who might be misled about the proximity of things around them on the road.

We could borrow this phrase to mean that people immersed in a certain culture might not be aware or take for granted certain nuances of detail in its usage, practice, and tradition that are glaring or obvious to foreigners.

In other words, to learn more about ourselves, it is also useful to find out what others think about us or how they perceive us.

Take writer Rafe Bartholomew’s basketball memoir “Pacific Rims” (2010).  A player and enthusiast of the game, Bartholomew (a Medill Journalism graduate) obtained a Fulbright grant to study basketball in the Philippines for one year. He ended up staying for three.

Rafe Bartholomew. Image here.

He played wherever he could, joining pickup games with kanto tambays in makeshift courts and in fully-maintained courts in the barangays in elite residential villages. He played with men wearing expensive trainers and men wearing worn flip-flops. He followed the fortunes of a professional basketball team – the Alaska Aces – and charted their triumphs and defeats until the exhilarating denouement of the season.

Bartholomew recounts his researches at the Ateneo de Manila University library and in newspaper and magazine morgues to trace the history of basketball in the country. The sport was introduced at the turn of the last century during the American colonial period, when the Americans taught the sport first to young women as a physical exercise, and later to men.

From that time, basketball captured the nation’s heart and became so embedded in the country’s psyche that it is nearly inextricable – so the author says – from its politics and other social elements.

A game on a barangay basketball court. Image here.

Evident in Bartholomew’s narrative is the importance of relationships within the collective consciousness of the Filipino. The relationships he observed between team owner and players, coaches and players, players and fans, and so on, were clearly delineated and nurtured. The depth of the level of interaction between the Filipino players and fans, he said, is something he felt would be impossible to achieve within the context of American basketball.

Bartholomew also noted differences between the Alaska team’s Filipino players, the Filipino-American players who grew up in the United States, and the lone American import with regard to personal space. He noticed how Filipinos are more disposed towards touching each other and are comfortable doing so, whereas Fil-Ams and Americans tend to keep distance from each other and observe a greater degree of private space, even in the context of social activities such as chatting and male-bonding rituals such as roughhousing.

Bartholomew perceived that people of all socio-economic backgrounds enjoy basketball, but based on social stratifications, their experiences of the sport were markedly different. Those of lower socio-economic status played on makeshift or barangay courts. The latter may be well-appointed – as the author remarks, some barangay courts are better than New York city public courts – but whether a barangay court is well-appointed or not depends on the political agendas of the barangayand local government officials. Those belonging to the elite of society play on school courts, some of which are so expensive that at one university, the hardwood was imported from a court played upon by NBA players.

This image by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images was used as the cover for the book Pacific Rims. Image here. 

He also described the unano versus bading (yes, they are billed that way) exhibit games in the provinces. At first he was disgusted by what he perceived as a demeaning and humiliating activity. But upon his interviewing the people concerned, he was surprised to find that in fact the  players considered themselves performers, were glad of the opportunity to work, and can be seen as themselves having power over their audiences in the reactions they can elicit from spectators through their performances.

There are quite a few more cultural points that he observed, some of them norms related to racial biases, the celebrity culture, accommodative behavior, use of humor as a coping mechanism, and tacit collusion to achieve common goals, but I won’t preempt your enjoyment of the book.

I’ll end by saying that in this first-ever book-length work by a foreigner on Philippine basketball, Bartholomew confirms the universality of sport as a phenomenon. It is an activity that may be enjoyed across cultures, all around the world; and talent may come from anyone anywhere, especially with Filipino-style basketball being largely learn-as-you-go.

These insights are relevant now that it is the height of the UAAP season. The games are so popular that tickets often go for high prices, more so when old school rivalries come into play at Ateneo vs. La Salle games. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook carry play-by-plays and score updates. School-themed merchandise fill stores so that fans can wear their pride colors. 

Competition is fierce at the 2012 UAAP games. Image here.

But in general our perception of all this is matter-of-fact. Such a response to a phenomenon speaks volumes about our society, in what it is we take for granted and others see as an uncommon or unusual thing.

As Bartholomew’s book explores the cross-cultural boundaries of communication, it also shows us that reflected in the mirror is one of things that makes up the heart and soul of the Filipino. *** 

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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: whole lot of mansplainin’ goin’ on

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  30 August 2012, Thursday

Whole Lot of Mansplainin’ Goin’ On

When will men get off telling women what’s best for them?

From celibate priests to overbearing lawmakers to some of the men in our own lives, women all over the world are subjected to the unsolicited pronouncements of those who believe they are the final arbiters on issues that affect women.

It’s called “mansplaining.”

As far as I can find out, the term has been around since at least 2010. A post of February that year by “Fannie” at says mansplaining is a result of “males possessing the privilege whereby they are largely assumed to be both default human beings and automatically competent at life.”

Rebecca Solnit, award-winning author of 15 non-fiction books, in an article posted last August 20 at calls it “the problem with men explaining things,” that “billions of women must be out there…being told that they are not reliable witnesses to their own lives, that the truth is not their property, now or ever.”

It’s not solely a male thing, she said, because “…people of both genders pop up…to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories…”

However, Solnit added, “…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is in my experience, gendered.”

In the United States, just to provide one example out of a great many, Republican congressman Todd Akin recently said that women could not become pregnant in the case of “legitimate rape,” saying that their bodies “shut down” to prevent it. Apart from displaying an abysmal ignorance of basic science, this also shows a male-oriented notion that there are cases when rape – by its very definition an act of force – isn’t a crime.

I won’t even mention any local examples. Just open any newspaper on any day and read for yourself the abundance of conspiracy theories (that the RH Bill is a ploy to sell more contraceptive medicines and devices and prevent the poor from reproducing, etc.) and blanket pronouncements (such as that a secular world will promote all sorts of immorality, as if our present society isn’t already rife with it).

I wonder why some men believe they know what’s best for women, despite not having a vagina, uterus, nor a menstrual period. It’s what Solnit calls “men’s unsupported overconfidence” and the “archipelago of arrogance.”

Therefore there are some men who deride outspoken, opinionated women as “feminists”, like it’s a bad thing. How? Because feminism rejects patriarchal hegemony? Because feminists think for themselves? Because feminists see through the mansplaining and have decided to take their lives back?

Our society is still patriarchal; protection for women is inadequate and slow in coming. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262) was passed. The Magna Carta for Women (RA 9710) wasn’t enacted until 2009, only three short years ago, after being delayed for seven years.

All women’s and minority groups’ rights are hard-fought. The struggle for reproductive rights is no exception. We now see the usual pattern in such matters playing out – the conservatives and reactionaries are up in arms, kicking and screaming against any change to their status quo, while the progressives are out there making themselves heard and felt.

But as in the issues of slavery and votes for women, in time we will get to a better place. Women nowadays recognize when they are being mansplained to, when they are being condescended to instead of being engaged in genuine dialogue coming from respect and love.

True manhood lies not in having as many children or wives and mistresses as one can, nor in control and aggressiveness, but in respecting other people and acknowledging their right to live their lives in the manner they wish, and in caring properly for the people one is responsible for.

I am grateful for the men in my life who are not mansplainers, who see me as an equal, as a fellow human being – friends, relatives, university professors, colleagues. First among them is my late father, who told me when I was a teenager, “Do not allow yourself to be limited by the double standard.” I asked, “What is the double standard?” He said, “You’ll find out,” and sure enough I did, and duly rejected it as unfair and demeaning.

Because beyond gender, we are all human. And it takes all humankind working together to make a world that is kinder, one that is egalitarian, just, and free.  *** 

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pop goes the world: freedom of choice

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  16 August 2012, Thursday

Freedom of Choice

My column last week, “Science and superstition”, where I declared my support for the RH Bill, drew over 600 Facebook “Likes”, a rarity.

However, there were a few people who badly misread my article, saying it was an attack on religion and that I was trying to persuade the Philippines to embrace science and turn away from God.

Nowhere in that column did I advocate a repudiation of religion. Freedom of worship is a human right. I have always been on the side of choice, and people should be able to make their own decisions when it comes to what God they obey and what they wish to do in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

What I said in that column was that superstition and the biases of one religion should not be allowed to influence legislation, because it has an effect on the lives of many people of different faiths and backgrounds. The State’s duty is to care for all its people, not just for one group.

I suppose I was misunderstood because I did not put my point as elegantly as did fellow MST columnist Father Rannie Aquino, who eloquently wrote in his last column, “We have no right to expect the public nor the legislature to accept Catholic premises. We then have no right to expect them to draw the peculiar Catholic conclusions that we draw…we have no right demanding of our legislature that it adopt our religious arguments.”

He also said, “When one insists that things be done as one reads his scripture (be these Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu scriptures), the one is immediately confronted by the fundamental conviction of modernity – that the State should be neutral towards world-views, that all enjoy equal religious freedom, and that science be emancipated from religion.”

Legislators, then, as statesmen, are in an unenviable position. They have to make impartial decisions for the good of everyone, but they are human beings swayed by their mindsets, experiences, and prejudices.

Take Senator Tito Sotto. He used a rare legislative tactic called turno en contro to air his lengthy anti-RH views. Among the reasons he gave in an effort to prove his point was a personal experience related to his baby son’s  death that was blamed on his wife’s contraceptive use.

I understand the senator’s pain. I have also lost loved ones and will never stop grieving for them. He receives our commiseration and sympathy. But the fact is this is just one person’s experience.

In our highly populated society, there are a myriad experiences, both positive and negative. In the same way that we should not allow one group’s biases to influence law, neither should we let one person’s experience be the basis for legislation that will impact the lives of millions of Filipinos for years to come.

If we’re talking about personal experiences, here’s the story of Mina Capote, who worked as my household helper some years back. She has 13 children by two husbands. She only had a third-grade education; neither her husbands finished high school. The first was unemployed. The second was a groom in horseracing.

The eldest daughter, “Fanny”, was, at 10 years old, tasked with caring for her siblings. Being only a child herself, she could not keep an eye on all of them, so “Sam”, eight, lost an eye in an accident, while others suffered various mishaps. They usually went hungry. I sent them extra food and used clothes when I could.

To augment the family income, Fanny worked as a helper when she turned 15. Her employer raped her. Later I heard she found work in a bar.

When I asked Mina once why she does not use contraceptives, she replied, “They say it’s bad for the health.” I asked her who “they” were. She shrugged. “Sabi lang nila.” (They just said.)

It is the height of irresponsibility to bring children into the world that one cannot care for properly, that one cannot adequately feed, shelter, send to school, and keep safe. No one disputes that educated women of means use various family-planning options such as contraceptives, sterilization, natural method, and so on. But these options are not available or even known to women like Mina, whose ignorance constrains them from planning a better life for themselves and their children.

But when knowledge and opportunity are available, women are able to make informed decisions for themselves to plan their family size. In the news recently was a report about how over 4,000 women in Tagum, Davao, have opted for the free tubal ligation offered in that city as part of its own reproductive health program since it was launched in 2006.

Over that same period, only 76 men availed themselves of free vasectomies. This is a clear indicator of social and cultural norms that place the burden of family planning on the woman, rather than on the man.

Kudos to Tagum mayor Rey Uy who has continued the program despite Catholic opposition to it. The program has allowed the city to exclude itself from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program (4Ps) cash transfer campaign, because poverty incidence in Tagum has dropped to 15 percent. The national average is 27 percent.

The RH Bill willl inform more Filipinos, especially women, about the planning options that they have. If they decide to have many children, or few, or none at all, that is their choice.

It is illogical, unfair, and selfish to let one person or one group decide for everyone else the choices that they may have. Freedom of choice is a human right; let us ensure that everyone in our society enjoys this freedom.  *** 

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pop goes the world: a rose recognized

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

A Rose Recognized

The University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (CMC) is pleased to announce Rosa Rosal as the recipient of the 2012 UP Gawad Plaridel.

She received the award from UP president Alfredo E. Pascual and UP-Diliman chancellor Caesar A. Saloma in a ceremony in UP last July 31.

Rosal receives the Gawad Plaridel trophy from UP president Alfredo E. Pascual. Image here.

Rosal, whose real name is Florence Danon Gayda, “was chosen for her outstanding contributions to the broadcasting industry, particularly in the field of television,” according to CMC.

Dubbed the “femme fatale of Philippine cinema”, Rosal was born on 16 October 1931 to a Kapampangan mother and a French-Egyptian father. She started her career in broadcast during World War II as a newsreader on a Japanese-run radio station, and after the war worked at the San Lazaro Hospital.

Rosal is “an accomplished film and television actress whose career spans six decades. She began her film career in 1946 in the Nolasco Brothers Studio’s “Fort Santiago,” followed in 1947 with a small part in “Kamagong”, and by 1949 was starring in “Biglang Yaman” with Jaime de la Rosa and Pugo.

She “received the Best Actress award from the Filipino Academy for Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) in 1955 for her role in “Sonny Boy” and the FAMAS International Prestige Award for “Anak Dalita” in 1956.”

Rosal on the cover of a magazine in March 1956 to promote “Anak Dalita”. Image here.

In the ‘60s, she entered television in a couple of dramas but is best known for being the long-time host of the public service program “Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko” and later “Damayan”.

In the ‘50s, she began serving the Philippine Red Cross as a volunteer-member for its blood program. In 1965, she was elected to its Board of Governors, and is still serving. For her charity work, she was given the 1999 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service.

Her philantrophy, while primarily medical- and health-related, also extends to insurance coverage for volunteers and scholarship programs for poor children.

Education is important to her, as evidenced by this – despite a busy career as an actress, she still managed to obtain a degree in Business Administration from Cosmopolitan Colleges in 1954, taking night classes until she finished the course.

CMC honored Rosal for being a pioneer in using a form of mass communication to “be an effective medium for humanitarian work,” leveraging her popularity and “unquestionable integrity” to “benefit the less fortunate without fanfare and sensationalism.”

Rosal delivers the 2012 Plaridel Lecture. Image here.

The Gawad Plaridel, named after nineteenth century propagandist Marcelo H. del Pilar’s pen name, was established by CMC and is an annual program that recognizes “Filipino media practitioners who have excelled in any of the [mass] media…and have performed with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service.”

The trophy was designed by National Artist Dean Napoleon V. Abueva and depicts del Pilar writing at his desk.

Rosal joins an impressive roster of awardees. The first Gawad Plaridel was awarded in 2004 to Philippine Daily Inquirer founder Eugenia Duran-Apostol (for print journalism); followed by Vilma Santos (2005, film); Fidela “Tiya Dely” Magpayo (2006, radio); Che-Che Lazaro (2007, television); Pachico A. Seares (2008, community print media); Kidlat Tahimik (2009, film), and Eloisa “Lola Sela” Canlas (2011, radio).

All awardees are expected to deliver a talk – the “Plaridel Lecture” – and Rosal spoke about “Harnessing TV as a Public Service Medium.”

Rosal at the Gawad Plaridel ceremony with  UP-CMC professor Pinky Aseron, noted radio broadcaster, who was the live voice-over talent at the awarding. Thanks to Ms. Aseron for allowing use of this image from her private Facebook page.

What is amazing about Rosa Rosal is her tireless dedication to the philantrophic causes she has selflessly taken up. I don’t recall seeing any of her films, but I do remember watching “Kapwa Ko” as a young child; Rosal’s face filled our TV screens every evening as she appealed to the public to help the endless number of patients on her show. For me and many of my generation and of the next, she is the face and voice of public service.

She also laid the groundwork for other public service TV programs and showed the world how to run an effective public communication campaign.

Other people of her age – she is 80 – are retired, immersed in their own concerns and that of their immediate families. She, however, has no plans of slowing down her efforts to help the less fortunate, and for this the country should be grateful.

UP-CMC gives this splendid woman her due through the Gawad Plaridel. May she and others who have dedicated their lives to genuine public service receive from the public the appreciation that they well deserve.  *** 


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pop goes the world: a primer on the national artist award

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste

Published in two parts: Manila Standard-Today,  19 July 2012 and Manila Standard-Today, 26 July 2012

A Primer on the National Artist Award

The Philippines was plunged into mourning by the recent death of the media-dubbed “Comedy King”, actor Rodolfo “Dolphy” Quizon.

To a degree unprecedented, the nation avidly followed the 24/7 media reports and coverage of his illness, death, wake, and funeral rites over several weeks until its culmination with the interment of the actor in his massive metal casket last July 15.

The Dolphenomenon spawned renewed interest in the actor’s life and his career. Born into an impoverished family, from an early age he had to work selling peanuts at theaters to support himself and loved ones.

Given a break to learn the thespian’s craft and allowed to hone his technique in vaudeville skits, he learned to sing, dance, and act, and found he had a knack for comedy. This he parlayed into fame and fortune with his drag-dressed portrayal of gays and carefree enactment of poor men in films and on television.

Not only was Dolphy an excellent all-around actor (all too rare in these times where mere good looks without talent are enough to merit media exposure), he was also that uncommon thing, a genuinely good man, who had not a bad or mean thing to say about anybody, who welcomed all into his fold, who emptied his pockets to help those less fortunate.

It is not surprising then that a grateful and sentimental nation wishes to honor such an admirable man in any way it can. Thus the clamor for the conferment upon Dolphy of the National Artist Award.

This was debated as early as 2009. In a July 5 article that appeared in another publication, former NCCA executive director Cecille Guidote-Alvarez said in a radio interview that were it not for the disapproval of Dr. Nicanor Tiongson at the second stage of deliberations, Dolphy could have received the award back then.

A noted author, academician, and critic, Dr. Tiongson was once vice-president and artistic director of the CCP in the late 1980s to mid 1990s and chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

Tiongson replied soon after saying that the “accusations” made by Guidote-Alvarez are “selective and misleading,” making it “appear that one person (in this case, myself) can actually engineer the outcome of the second stage of the National Artist selection process, when in reality it is a council of about 20 experts representing various disciplines that chooses, through majority and secret vote, the candidates to be short-listed for the final deliberations.

The selection of a National Artist is done in three stages by three bodies and it is simply impossible for any one person to influence all of them into making the same decision.”

Tiongson also said Guidote-Alvarez’s revelation was a “grave breach of the confidentiality” since she was co-chair of the 2009 National Artist Awards Selection Committee, and questioned its timing, made three years after the fact.

Tiongson also clarified that the opinion he expressed on Dolphy’s body of work “in no way diminishes my continuing admiration and respect for Dolphy as a most talented comedian and a very kind human being.”

The conflict between the two led to more questions on the award, its criteria, and its very purpose.

What is the National Order of Artists?

According to information on the National Commission for Culture and the Arts website, it is “the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts; namely, Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film and Broadcast Arts, and Architecture and Allied Arts. The order is jointly administered by the NCCA and Cultural Center of the Philippines and conferred by the President of the Philippines upon recommendation by both institutions.”

What are the criteria?

Apart from citizenship requirements, the National Artist award is to be given to “artists who through the content and form of their works have contributed in building a Filipino sense of nationhood…who have pioneered in a mode of creative expression or style, thus, earning distinction and making an impact on succeeding generations of artists…who have created a substantial and significant body of works and/or consistently displayed excellence in the practice of their art form thus enriching artistic expression or style; and…who enjoy broad acceptance through prestigious national and/or international recognition, such as the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining, CCP Thirteen Artists Award, and NCCA Alab ng Haraya; critical acclaim and/or reviews of their works; respect and esteem from peers.”

The NCCA also recognizes folk and traditional artists through the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasures Award. Established in April 1992 through Republic Act No. 7335, the GAMABA honors artists who “reflect the diverse heritage and cultural traditions that transcend their beginnings to become part of our national character” and engage in a traditional art uniquely Filipino and characterized by a “high level of technical and artistic excellence.” Their presence is required at NCCA events such as “the Philippine National Arts Month, the National Heritage Month, and other important national and regional cultural celebrations.”

Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said last month that President Benigno Aquino III “personally believes that Dolphy has contributed immensely to the arts. And in fact, in his words, he has contributed tremendously to what we call ‘art for man’s sake’.”

Since it is the NCCA and the CCP that recommends the awardees after much research and discussion, the President himself cannot give the award. Lacierda also cited the temporary restraining order that the Supreme Court issued in 2009, after a group of national artists led by Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera and Dr. Virgilio Almario accused former president Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo of “grave abuse of discretion” for adding the names of director Carlo J. Caparas, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, architect Francisco Mañosa, and fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno to the list of National Artist awardees.

The President did give Dolphy an honor that was within the scope of his powers to confer. In November 2010, within a few months of his assumption of office, the President invited the actor to Malacañang Palace to receive the Order of the Grand Collar of the Golden Heart, which was first awarded to humanitarian Helen Keller in 1955.

At the occasion, the comedian joked that he no longer wished to be given the National Artist award, and that at his age, a “National Arthritis Award” would be enough.

It is clear that the conferment of the National Artist award is a multi-layered process that cannot – and should not, like Macapagal-Arroyo tried to do – be influenced by the head of state or partisan politics.

There are strict criteria regarding its bestowal that must be honored if the award is to have any credibility. If it can be conferred without a rigorous and objective selection process, if it can be swayed by sentiment or clamor, it is worthless.

Dolphy could have been given the award upon further deliberation after 2009, if so deemed worthy by the selection committee. However, they could not do so because of the TRO issued by the Supreme Court.

At the moment, then, it is up to the SC to take the next step, so that the NCCA and the CCP can get on with its task of sifting the nominees for this supreme cultural honor. It is too late to award it to the living Dolphy; perhaps he may still receive it posthumously?

As to its purpose of the National Artist award, that remains part of the ongoing discourse. But if we agree that a nation’s art contains and reflects its heart and soul, then it is essential for us to honor its creators, either through such an award, conferred by the state, or through popular acclaim, manifested in the tears and laughter that accompanied the beloved Dolphy to his final rest.   ***

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pop goes the world: the higgs boson

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  12 July 2012, Thursday

The Higgs Boson

The announcement by Geneva-based CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) last July 4 about its latest accomplishment in its search for the elusive Higgs boson spawned searches and queries on what exactly this thing is.

Also called the “God particle” because physicists theorized that the universe would not exist without it, the Higgs boson is a proposed elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics.

A particle is, according to Wikipedia, “a small localized object to which can be ascribed several physical properties such as volume or mass,” while particle physics studies “the existence and interactions of particles that are the constituents of what is usually referred to as ‘matter’ or ‘radiation’.” Elementary particles “are the basic building blocks of the universe from which all other particles are made.”

CERN itself is cautious in the wording of its announcement, saying on their website that their ATLAS and CMS experiments “see strong indications for the presence of a new particle which could be the Higgs boson.”

The experiments “found hints of the new particle by analyzing trillions of proton-proton collisions from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2011 and 2012.”

The Standard Model of physics predicted that “a Higgs boson would decay into different particles – which the LHC experiments then detect.” The experiments gave a 5 sigma level of significance, which is counted as a “discovery” in terms of certainty.

The Higgs boson is named after British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs who with five others postulated its existence in 1964. If it and its associated Higgs field existed, the theory goes, it would explain “why some elementary particles have mass”, also giving an insight into how matter came into being. In other words, it gives other particles mass.

And as we know from elementary science, all things – living and non-living – are made of matter.

Knowing whether the Higgs boson exists or not helps scientists gain a better understanding of the origin of the universe – which could lead to more technological advancements that could benefit humankind. Warp drive, anyone? Terraforming? The conquest and occupation of space?

The CERN announcement spawned jokes on social media:

The Higgs boson is my co-pilot. (Clarke Kant, Twitter)

Did you hear about the dyslexic physicist who wasted his career searching for the Dog boson? (also Twitter)

What does the Philippines have to do with the Higgs boson?

On the Internet there’s a world map dated 10 July 2012 of countries whose scientists work for, collaborate with, or have linkages to CERN and its projects. This map presents the Philippines as one of 19 countries with which CERN has “scientific contacts”.

Perhaps, eventually, given more emphasis on the development and promotion of science in the country, we might even join the roster of 20 member states of CERN and directly participate in its groundbreaking projects.

It’s an exciting time to be alive, to witness the expansion and advancement of human knowledge in fashions that were only dreamt of before in science fiction, now coming to pass as reality.

This reality is something reconcilable with our mindsets. Adapting to scientific changes is a phenomenon we are used to – in just a few short decades, we have seen the birth of the portable music player, mobile telephone, and laptop computer, gadgets once only seen on Star Trek and other SF shows but that we have absorbed into our daily lives with surprising ease.

Not everyone was optimistic about finding the Higgs boson. Physicist Stephen Hawking lost a $100 bet with Michigan University’s Gordon Kane, having insisted that the particle would not be found.

According to The Economist, it took “five decades, billions of dollars, and millions of man-hours” to find the Higgs boson; “all worth it” in the “quest for knowledge for knowledge’s sake.”   *** 

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pop goes the world: anthology

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  5 July 2012, Thursday


Last week I received a final “call for manuscripts” notice from University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication dean Dr. Rolando Tolentino, who is collecting critical, personal, popular, and creative non-fiction works for an anthology called “The Ballads of Malakas and Maganda: Marcosian and Imeldific Essays.”

This is a sequel to the “Mondo Marcos” volumes, published in 2010 and edited by Tolentino and veteran journalist Frank Cimatu.

Such a collection would be a significant addition to the histories and memoirs written about the period, a time of struggle and pain, a time that many young people do not know about.

If the stories of that time are unknown or forgotten, how will generations to come benefit from the lessons learned during that time?

Imelda Marcos’s 83rd birthday rolled around last July 2, with a concomitant barrage of posts on social media of pictures of her in the bloom of youth. The comments were mostly flattering, referring to her beauty and singing voice.

At the height of their power, she positioned herself as the semi-divine Maganda of Filipino creation myth, with Ferdinand Marcos as the counterpart Malakas.

Musician David Byrne, who in 2005 recorded a two-CD rock opera with Fatboy Slim called “Here Lies Love” revolving around the Imelda story, has blogged about Imelda’s deliberate assumption of this persona.

Having seen portraits of the Marcos couple in Malacañang, Ilocos, and Leyte, he wrote about their depiction as the “ur-couple of the Philippines…the strong man and the beautiful woman,” with Imelda cast as a “nurturing goddess.”

Many from Generation Y, the millenials, have never even heard of the Marcos couple, except as names in history books. Imelda is still a congresswoman, and even launched a fashion line in 2006 using her recycled belongings; she is known to the youth mostly as some sort of celebrity. Her legacy and that of Ferdinand – Martial Law – is shrugged off as a historical tidbit.

Those who were at the forefront of the struggle during the 1970s will never forget what they endured during Martial Law. One of them is lawyer Eduardo Araullo, who in his student years at UP was a member of the Left. He fought against the dictatorship with blood and bone and life and love laid on the line.

Imprisoned for acts of “subversion”, he recalls being doused with water from cannons, beaten by the military with bats and truncheons, hauled off to detention centers in handcuffs. He tends to downplay his experiences, saying he knew what he was in for.

He was twenty and in the underground when he was arrested by the Metrocom and taken to Camp Crame, where his father visited him. He was asked, “Kaya mo?”

“Kaya ko,” he answered.

Prison was boring, Attorney Ed recalls, and the inmates filled their time with games and sports – basketball, table tennis, Monopoly. He was not released until six months later. He went underground again, and later became a labor lawyer.

Why did he fight against martial law, I asked.

“Because it was wrong.”

What else had he been prepared to give up?

“I was ready to die.”

Would he do it again?


What did you learn?

“Stand up for what you believe in. It’s worth it.”

It is hard to elicit much from him beyond cerebral responses. I ask, “What did you feel?” Attorney Ed replies, “It was an intellectual exercise.”

Much remains locked inside him. I feel I can go no farther. He will not take me there.

I take my leave of him and wait by the curb for a ride.

He follows me, and whispers, “I still grieve for them, for those who died. I always remember.”

This and similar stories of those years should never be forgotten, because too much went into the weaving of them. Too many lessons were learned that need to be graven in our hearts. Too many people suffered and died for their legacy to be ignored.

If it takes books for us to remember or learn about those years, then we look forward to the publication of Tolentino and Cimatu’s forthcoming anthology.  *** 

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pop goes the world: “it’s just grammar.”

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  28 June 2012, Thursday

“It’s Just Grammar.”

How essential is communication to a corporation?

How important is it for today’s workers to possess communication skills?

The answer seems to vary among the different sectors. There are private corporations, whose revenues depend upon the sales of products, that place such a high value upon communication that they retain high-powered advertising agencies to craft the strategies that enable their message to be transmitted to a vast audience using mass media, thereby providing potential customers with information about their products.

They also hire employees who have good communication skills, both written and spoken, who create their messages for their internal audiences. Often, the employees who have the best communication skills become the spokespersons, receptionists, and greeters – the ones who face the public.

There seems to be a larger gap in this respect when it comes to some public agencies and corporations. The concept of “branding” is almost unknown or haphazardly practiced. Communication and communication skills may not be included in their overall strategic plan. Thus, policy emanating from the top is inadequately cascaded both internally – to their employees – and externally – to their customers or the general public.

Organizations that fail to see communication as an essential aspect of their corporate strategy are likely to transmit messages that are misunderstood by both their internal and external publics.

What is “communication”?

As a concept, it is easy to understand – it is simply the sharing of meaning.

Effective communication, the kind that achieves its objectives to inform and persuade, should be as uncomplicated and unambiguous as possible. Use of jargon, beloved among the business and technical crowd as a symbol of belonging to a special in-group, should be eschewed because it tends to alienate others and is difficult to interpret.

Effective communication is carefully presented and flawless in terms of grammar and style.

Quite often, the number-crunchers within an organization scoff, “What’s so important about grammar?”

Grammar is integral to the use of language, both written and spoken. Language is the tool humans use to communicate. And it is through its communication strategies that an organization shows its face to the public.

If an organization is willing to be sloppy in this respect, then they take the risk that this failing will lead to the public’s negative perception of the organization and its mission and activities.

As a consequence, damage control has to be applied. The cycle continues ad infinitum.

That’s bad for the organization; it dances “one step forward, two steps back”, retarding forward momentum and wasting time by having to apply a fix.

But it’s good for writers and spin doctors – more work for them.

It would be great to see a greater awareness of the importance of communication in the public sector. Among the public agencies that already acknowledge the need for excellent communication skills are Malacañang Palace and the Department of Tourism.

Good communication is so important to the Palace that it formed the Presidential Communications Group, under which are the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (with no less than secretary rank given to its current head, the Presidential Spokesman, and the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

The Group has spruced up the official Palace websites and launched social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter in order to get its messages to as many people as possible.

Other public agencies such as the Senate and Congress have followed suit.

The DoT relied on the expertise of an advertising agency for its “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” global campaign – our country’s face to the world.

May the excellent example set by these agencies be followed by others; it would be a great service to the public indeed if effective communication by government was the norm rather than the exception. *** 

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pop goes the world: k-12: yay or nay?

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  21 June 2012, Thursday

K-12: Yay or Nay?

The first batch of students under the new K-12 education scheme trooped to school this year, with feedback divided on the merits of an additional two years for basic education.

The rationale for implementing K-12, according to government, is to bring our country in line with world standards in education, where the norm is six years for high school compared to the four we used to require.

The average age of our high school graduates was 16 to 17. So some parents welcome the move for a longer high school period, saying that 18-year-olds would be more prepared for the rigors of college.

The naysayers groan under the additional burden of two years of school fees and expenses. Large families would feel the heaviest impact.

Not only should household finances be considered but also the readiness of government to support this new scheme with infrastructure and personnel. Most reports and statistical data show that both are inadequate at the moment to handle the increased load.

Varying sources claim the shortage of classrooms to be from more than 18,000 to over 97,000. There is also an alarming lack of sanitary facilities such as water and bathrooms, equipment such as seats, and instructional materials including books. There is also a shortage of qualified teachers. The pupil-to-teacher ratio in high school is 35 to 1, compared to Vietnam’s 18 and Indonesia’s 12.

Consider also that kindergarten teachers have been hired at a measly contractual rate of P3,000 per month. Apart from this being unfair, the caveat is that you get what you pay for. Are we willing to take the risk that the teachers instructing our children are not necessarily the most qualified, just the ones most willing to work for low pay?

The additional financial burden on families should not be disregarded. In a September 2011 article by Celia Reyes and Aubrey Taguba, researchers of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, the poverty rate in 2009 was cited as being 26.5 percent.

In other words, one-quarter of our people are, by various economic and developmental indicators, considered “poor”.

In addition to the other causes of poverty, development is delayed or forestalled by various “man-made and natural crises” such as typhoons, which wreak havoc with devastating effect year after year, with some estimates putting the cost at P30 billion.

This ties in with the statement of the PIDS researchers that poverty is “very much an agricultural phenomenon,” with farmers constantly struggling against bad weather, pests, and the negative impact of global warming.

Many of them who are not blessed with good harvests, and those from other sectors below the poverty line, will be hard-pressed for the survival basics, and will let go of expenses such as schooling. Though public school is free, parents and guardians must still provide for their students’ daily needs – food, transportation, and incidental expenses.

Is it a wonder that the dropout rate among youth 12 to 15 years old is around 40 percent?  Millions of people will grow up to be illiterate or only semi-literate; what will be their chances of finding decent jobs? They also pose a possible burden to the state in terms of the latter having to provide funding for social programs that provide livelihood training, greater fund allocation for cash transfer and other assistance, and the like.

A couple years back, I taught college English to freshman and sophomore students in a private university in Makati. I thought I was to teach basic writing skills; instead, I was issued a grammar textbook. I was appalled at how many of my students, aged 16 to 18, lacked knowledge of the fundamentals of grammar.

One day, one of my students asked me, “Can I learn English in two months?”

I told him, “You have been studying English since preschool. If you have not learned to speak it fluently by now, then the system has failed you.”

I quit that same day. I hadn’t realized what I was up against.

Neither can all private schools guarantee a good education. My daughter attends a nun-run private school in Makati. Through the years, she’s had some English teachers whose grammar and pronunciation aren’t of the highest quality; there are times when the students speak better than the teachers. The same goes for science and mathematics.

We need to be sure that students are not going to school hungry; hunger dulls concentration. Other countries provide free school lunches, something we do not even dream of when some classes are held under the trees.

We need school buildings and equipment to be upgraded.

We need more and better-qualified teachers who are paid good wages that uphold their dignity and compensate them fairly for their heroic work of molding the country’s future citizens.

More than “quantity” education, we need quality education. *** 

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