Archive for the ‘ponderings’ Category


Wanted: New Heroes

January 8, 2009

Andrea: Unhappy the land that has no heroes.
Galileo: No Andrea. Unhappy is the land that needs heroes.
Bertolt Brecht

The Philippines has its fair share of national heroes who were chosen to inspire the people to become better citizens. It boasts heroes from the intellectual archetype Jose Rizal to Mariano Gomez, one of three priests executed for supporting the Cavite mutiny. Most of these heroes hail from the Spanish colonial period and the war for independence. More recent ones like the women’s rights advocate Josefa Llanes Escoda hail from the American Period to World War 2.
Elementary students are forced to memorize their names along with their achievements, or else they fail. Most of these students forget about them once they finish examinations. More hardy heroes, especially those printed or embossed in currency are remembered mostly by their looks, and rarely by what they did.
Yet these heroes, even though elevated to archetypes, have mostly failed to inspire the docile nation that is the Philippines. Intellectual Jose Rizal is honored only in name. Old woman Tandang Sora’s name is mostly forgotten by widows and spinsters. Paraplegic Apolinario Mabini has failed to awaken the differently abled to national pursuits. Priest Jose Burgos is mostly ignored by the Catholic Church.
Even though the government of the Philippines has officially declared several men and women as heroes; these, however, are not the heroes that its people have set up for themselves. The unofficial heroes are the movie stars, boxers, and every Filipino who has made a name in the international scenario.
Movie stars perceived to be agents of good in the fantasy world of television have been elected to become politicians in the real world. Filipinos who have shown to the world that the Philippines is at par or even better than all the other nations have been elevated to soaring heights in the hearts of those who see them as their heroes.
And in a bid to ensure that the Filipino people be given heroes who can inspire them to become better citizens, the government declared the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) as the “bagong bayani” or new heroes. These new heroes slave away in foreign countries in order to support their families at home.
Yet the elevation of these new heroes is a slap to the sacrifices that the national archetypes represent. The Philippine original national heroes fought against foreign oppression in Philippine soil. Many of these new heroes are now allowing themselves to be oppressed again by foreigners. This time, not in Philippine soil, but in foreign soil.
It should, however, be noted that only their very presence saves the country from bankruptcy. Nevertheless, it is their counter-example of escapism that is threatening to undo the country. Sacrifice for the country is all but forgotten. Sadly, it is their type of heroic example that is being emulated in this country.
The Philippines needs newer and better heroes. The old archetypes have failed to lift the Filipino nation. Many of them were not even worthy examples of nobility and sacrifice. Only the whitewashing of their reputations made them what they are known today. Jose Rizal was a philanderer. Andres Bonifacio was an incompetent general who was murdered by another national hero, Emilio Aguinaldo.
The newer ones do not have a major following. Even the millionaire who frequently lays hold of P1000 bills can’t even name the three heroes printed in them. Ninoy Aquino’s commendable sacrifice was nullified by the advent of the corrupt politicians prevalent in our country today.
The most recent ones, the OFW, although contributing to the economy of the country, do not inspire the Filipino to become more nationalistic. Instead, the Filipino receive them as missionaries to the wonders of foreign countries. Their elevation as national heroes has promoted the culture of escapism in the country. People are no longer inspired to sacrifice for their country when even a fraction of their efforts in foreign soils gives them multiplied earnings.
The Philippines needs new heroes. Yet who can find someone worthy to step into such shoes…


Community Floods

January 6, 2009

Rain had been pelting in Iligan for several days before last Saturday night. I usually don’t care about the weather as long as I am safe inside the house and tucked in for the night. I just hide under my blanket and pillows if it’s too cold, or have my electric fan running all night if it’s too hot. That night, however, I sensed a strange nudging that reminded me about the families assigned to my care in the Tambacan community. I then made a quick prayer, “Lord, protect my families in the community. In Jesus’ name. Amen,” then quickly retreated to sleep.
I only learned later the next day that a tragedy had occurred while I slept. The light rains in Iligan had heavy counterparts in the mountains. Water from these mountains fed rivers and streams, which poured down the city. It was about 3am in the morning when they overflew; and flooded the towns of Bayug, Manuang, and Tambacan.
About 7,840 families were displaced totaling to some 38,674 persons in Northern Mindanao. Cagayan de Oro bore the brunt in terms of property damage and persons affected.
Yesterday, a classmate mentioned that most of the families left their houses during the flash flood. Some of them slept on the highways as the evacuation centers had not yet been opened. Some of these families were also expecting aid from the ones who regularly went to them for “survey”*. A visit to the Barangay Captain** made the situation bleaker, he mentioned that our community was the hardest hit. So it was no wonder that I was prepared for the worst when I stepped inside the community.
Mud paved the dirt road to my families. Children scampered as they played. Well meaning folks told us to go the other way as the usual short cuts were too mushy for stepping. People stared at us as some of us ventured wearing clean, all-white apparel in an environment that stands as a stain reservoir. In short; except for the increased mud volume, the community was just as it was when we left it for the Christmas break. It seemed that the houses were already looking their normal selves, despite the fact that many of them had water reaching their residents’ shoulders 3 days ago.
I went to my families, and was relieved to find that their housing complex still stood strong. Despite the fact that their houses were just beside the river, they were among the few in the area were no water even managed to reach their doors.
They mentioned that the water level in the river rose to the height of the dyke, and was a few inches to their doors. Fortunately, the river stopped rising, and their houses were saved from flood damage.
The same, however, cannot be said for those living below the dyke level. A break*** in the dyke caused water to flow to what should have been protected areas.
As I returned to my classmate’s car, I thanked God for protecting my families. I also prayed that He continue to watch over the community as it seeks to rise from their recent ordeal. I could see that they are hardy enough to withstand future calamities. If only they were given the necessary boosts from the city and from landowners…

*That would be us, medical students.
** The barangay is the basic unit of the Philippine government. It is headed by the barangay captain.
***Residents blame the break on someone with the family name Lluch won’t allow the city government to build a dyke on the land. Either the city government is not offering enough compensation, or the landowner is asking for too much. Yet it is the people who suffer in such battles.

1. Flashfloods hit Iligan City villages
2. Arroyo orders quick aid for flash flood victims in Mindanao
3. Heavy rains, flash floods mark start of New Year
4. Arroyo to visit flood victims in north Mindanao


Suspects:Muslim Women

December 18, 2008

UPDATE: (Current news reveal that the suspects were men in Arab gear. Confusion regarding the sex of the suspects may have been due to the similarity of the form enclosing Arab gear of both sexes. Disregard post. I’m keeping it open for posterity’s sake.)

I thought the day would not come when Filipino Muslim women would take up arms in the cause of terror.
Apparently, 2 of them just recently did. A closed circuit television video camera (CCTV) recording from Unicity reveals women in full Muslim religious clothing* checking in baggage that were recognized to have contained the bombs that blew up at Unicity and Jerry’s Shoppers Plaza earlier today.
Two deaths and the wounding of 45 others resulted from their actions. I’m afraid this is only the beginning of more terror. Male suicide bombers might come next. Female suicide bombers might come later.
I must admit that despite growing up Christian in a predominantly Christian city, I had never been afraid of seeing Muslim women wearing full religious clothing. This incident, however, has given me alarm. Unless I know who is inside that Islamic gear, I don’t think I would be able to stay within sight of a fully veiled Muslim woman.

*The type where only the eyes can be barely seen.

1) 2 dead as blasts rock Iligan

PS The News link mentioned that women were involved. Current investigation reveals that men were involved. Just as well. I won’t be going near a fully veiled Muslim woman, or someone in Arabic gear anytime soon.


Stuff I Like in Manila #2: Bookstores

November 22, 2008

Stacked inside Manila, often found in shopping malls, are sanctuaries to Knowledge.
Their sizes range from tiny chapels to grand cathedrals. They have different ways of recruiting the devotion of buyers. Some sell overpriced coffee and food as a message that they offer books of high quality. Some merely stack the books into their respective genres, silently telling buyers that the stores also belong to them. Yet there is one offer that is particularly tempting: reading chairs.

These chairs are like relaxing pews that give a pilgrim respite from his physical wanderings and a boost for his mental wanderings. On them he is able to settle comfortably as his mind is transported to the worlds inscribed in books. The books, btw, can be had around him without charge. He merely has to grab any unsealed item, and he is free to do whatever he wants short of damaging it.
When I traveled inside a mall in Manila, I was like a pilgrim seeking an oasis to ease my mind in my wanderings. I rested for a while in Powerbooks, Mall of Asia. The place was like a temple dedicated not just to knowledge, but also to those who sought whatever kind knowledge. I looked around for the knowledge that I could barely find in Iligan. I found books under the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre.

Then I realized that my mind was no longer a pilgrim. It had found its home…


Stuff I Like in Manila #1: Malls

November 14, 2008

For someone who lives in a city that officially has one shopping mall, but in actuality has only less than a quarter of a mall, Manila shopping malls are must-see places.
Yet if someone were to strip away those malls’ fancy building designs, air conditioning, security guards, and cleaning staff; what would be left would be hot, dirty, and smelly stalls manned by loud vendors. Those stalls would fit in the marketplace environment, because the truth is that shopping malls are nothing but glorified marketplaces.
Not to disparage malls, I think they are way better than marketplaces. Buying necessities and luxuries with convenience and at comparable prices to market prices is a great improvement. In malls, the customer is no longer confronted with offensive smells, dirty streets, and untrustworthy goods’ prices.
Btw, here are a few pics I took in the Mall of Asia while I was waiting for my brother to pick me up.

Yet, to be always confronted with a good thing is to lose appreciation with that thing. For me, one mall is as good as another. It’s just like in the saying that if you’ve been to one, then you’ve been to all. I was not struck with the architecture of Trinoma because I had already been to the Mall of Asia. These were malls I didn’t have opportunity to visit when I still studied in Manila. Yet when I stepped into them, I realized that they were no longer “big deals” to me. I didn’t even visit Glorietta and Greenbelt again.
They were just malls. They were just places where people buy and sell. They were just marketplaces, but just a little bit glorified.


Stuff I Hate in Manila #4: Poverty

November 2, 2008

The poor are flooding Manila.
They flock to the city hoping for a better life than what they had in the provinces. Too often they are greeted by a harsher life in Manila. They cramp themselves in squatter settlements, risking life and health under squalor conditions. Very few of their children grow up to escape the cycle of poverty. They and many of their children fall prey to crime, or succumb to a life of crime. Thus the city is filled with drug traffickers, petty thieves, hold uppers, rapists, kidnappers, and two-headed-vampires.

Squatter Settlement near the Recto LRT2 Station.

Same Squatter Settlement, Different Angle.

The Very Same Squatter Settlement, which also doubles as an arsonist fantasy.


Stuff I Hate in Manila #3: Price

October 31, 2008

Everything is expensive in Manila.
What I can buy cheap in Iligan can cost twice as much in Manila. Food I can eat for less than P40 in Iligan can be bought for twice as much in Manila, and to think I’m still referring to ordinary fare. Borderline fancy fare in Manila can cost more than twice the average wage in Iligan. Genuinely fancy fare in Manila may very well cost someone his life in Iligan.
Even basic commodities are very pricey in Manila. Coffee-shop-served coffee is beyond the reach of ordinary folk of Iligan or Manila. Personally, I do not crave pricey coffee and rarely buy it even when I was still studying in Manila. Nevertheless, who am I to decline if somebody offered to treat me with it.

Shown above is coffee courtesy of D*, a generous Kalayaan batch-mate of mine.

Coffee, btw, is not the only expensive ordinary product in Manila. The list includes ice cream, burgers, steaks, soaps, perfumes, and perhaps every other item known to modern man. Whatever product that can be sold for pits in Iligan can be sold for diamond dust in Manila. Whatever also that product may feel like when it’s first used, it will eventually become bland and tasteless in the future.
Yet strangely, people do buy the expensive stuff as opposed to the cheaper ones. I can understand them if their main priority in buying expensive goods is product quality. Yet I fail to see the point on why they would buy those stuff for altogether different reasons. Do they even know what the word S-A-V-E* means?
I must admit that I was tempted to enjoy the pricey luxuries of Manila. I could afford many of the usual Yuppie luxury fare. Yet I know that to succumb to that lifestyle is to live and work in Manila, and to abandon my pursuit of medicine. I could easily pay that coin, but I dare not. The price is too expensive for such a fleeting luxury.

*Strangely, despite the credit crunch; people still flock ind droves to malls in Manila.