Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Little Known Way to Appreciate Philippine History

Philippine history from 750,000 BC until 1946 in 60 beautiful dioramas, what a bargain! Anyone who goes to Makati has no excuse for not visiting the Ayala Museum.

(Take note of my earlier post on how to be a better Filipino!)

Philippine history is interesting. It tells us who we are and who we are not. It tells us of our struggles and explains to us that all that we see around us now did not come from the clouds, but from the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors. Anyone who asks, "Who am I?" should go see the Ayala Museum. It won't cost you much to go there and it's absolutely easy to go there. It's between Greenbelt 4 and Greenbelt 5. You wouldn't miss it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Filipino by Choice, Oh Yeah?

It's easy to say be a Filipino by choice, but what's the price to pay?

To me, being a Filipino by choice does not have to mean staying here in the Philippines and remain a Filipino citizen til you rot. The reality for a lot of Filipinos is, some of us just have to leave either to maintain their existence, or at least their sanity. You work your brains out here and what do you get in return for the 20-32% the government takes away from your salary?

Indeed, what do we get in return for what gets deducted from our profits, dividends or take home pay? How I wish I see statesmanship, unity in purpose, strong and principled leadership worthy of respect and admiration in the annals of our country's history.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three Things To Do to Be a Better Filipino

There are at least three things one can do to be a better Filipino. Certainly, there are more. But these are my contributions to the table.

There are two kinds of Filipinos. Filipinos by default, and Filipinos by choice. There's a world of difference between the two.

Filipinos by default. When you were born, you became a Filipino by default. You did not choose what would appear on your birth certificate, nor did you choose the nationality of your parents, much less the place you were born in. Then, as you grew up, you had all these impressions--good or bad--about the Philippines, but were largely uninvolved because of your very young age.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A humbling realization

Emails about the relative size of the earth with respect to the giant creations in the cosmos abound. But it took Louie Giglio to startle me with the implications of these pieces of knowledge. Before, to me, such stuff were just science. But Louie Giglio gave it a spiritual dimension. Yes, I do believe God is the Creator of all things, but I didn't immediately realize how that really feels...once we look out into the cosmos.

The images below are from although this site does not claim ownership of these images. I received these images myself through email, but I cannot locate them now. Perhaps the email browser already deleted them.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When will this war end?

Being someone from Mindanao, I cannot help but get concerned about the news of renewed hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The question, "when will this end?" echoes through history in the Christian-Muslim confrontation in the South. I too ask that, when will this end? Honestly, I do not see an end to it. But I admit my vision is limited on this matter. There are seemingly irreconcilable forces at work here.

The history of Christian-Muslim relationship that dates back to the middle ages in Europe has somehow translated itself into the southern part of the homeland. We honor Lapu-Lapu, who was Muslim, for slaying Magellan, who, incidentally, brought with him priests who introduced Christianity into the islands. We honor Sultan Kudarat for his sense of nationhood and his defiance against Spain, which ruled us for 400 years and brought the influence of the Catholic Church into our lands. See the conflict that is raging inside me. I am a Catholic. I also am a Filipino patriot.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why is RP Poor? Catholicism is the Reason?

You want to be "IN"? Blame Catholicism for our country's woes.

This post is a response to the post of (almost) the same title at In that post, Jerome Nadal makes five arguments as to why the Philippines is poor, and somehow attributes those arguments to Catholicism.

This post isn't going to be long (hopefully), but let me summarize Jerome's arguments as follows:

1. Filipinos are taught (by the Church) to "hate himself and the world."

I cannot relate with this statement. A Catholic, and every so-called Christian for this matter, is taught about Faith and Repentance. Faith in God, first, then repentance. The purpose of repentance is to reconcile one's self with God, whom one has faith in. So, faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. It's about union with God who creates man and the world. One can't reconcile one's self with himself and the world if he is taught to "hate himself and the world."

Is it because Jerome got his information wrong? Or, is it because Jerome has gotten it wrong in his mind?

2. A Filipino seeks to "save himself" from the world by "escaping from it" with a "sense of powerlessness."

How can one "escape" from the world that God created? Why would one want to escape from it? How can one feel powerless when Catholicism teaches union with God? I cannot relate with the argument. I am lost as to where the thinking comes from. Filipinos are known to travel to the ends of the earth to shape a new reality for his family. Is that escapism? Is that having a sense of powerlessness?

3. A Filipino holds a concept of salvation "that seeks to transform this present, real world so that there can be justice, freedom and abundance."

Very true. What's wrong with that?

4. The Filipino "sees life as something that happens to him (not something that he can make happen).

This can be true to most Filipinos, having been suppressed for hundreds of years by foreign colonizers. This is a process we have to go through. We have to start reclaiming our stake in the Universe our God created.

Catholicism may have been here for 400+ years, but is it correct to say that being fatalistic is the teaching of the Catholic Church? I grew up under Jesuit education, and what they taught me was farthest from what Jerome is claiming the Church is teach. To believe in God is to believe in an all-powerful God, who created us in His image and likeness. Filipinos have to claim that. That's the real teaching of the Catholic Church.

5. The so-called "preferential option for the poor," says Jerome, "condemns the rich as 'sinners.' Thus, no development happens."

The Catholic Church does not condemn the rich. It reminds the rich to share their riches with the poor. Now, for the poor to just lie down and wait for the graces to knock his door is farthest from Church teachings. Look at the parable of the talents, the ten lepers of whom only one thanked the Lord. So, even as the Church reminds the rich to share their riches, it teaches the poor to be grateful and not demanding. When the rich share and the poor are grateful, that's the kind of development the Church envisions.

Catholicism is a very liberating religion. It's the wrong understanding of Filipinos about Catholicism, and Christianity in general, that's the problem. The solution lies in educating one's self, by drawing out what one understands, and checking out with the Church if that indeed is the teaching.

Blaming per se does not get us anywhere, whether one is blaming the Church, the government, the ancestors, one's color, one's neighborhood, etc. The Church is there to show the way, but one has to do the walking.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Five Reasons Why Filipinos speak English, rather than Tagalog

Filipinos speak English, even to each other. I went about browsing different Filipino-oriented blogs and forums yesterday to get a more thorough insight into how overseas Filipinos think and feel. I felt uneasy when I gathered that some overseas Filipinos took issue of the fact that some Filipinos do not speak the native tongue even among each other. The native "tongue" was specifically referred to in one entry as "Filipino," which in fact is Tagalog.

Hey, I'm Cebuano-speaking (a.k.a. "bisdak" or "bisayang dako"), so that already gives you an idea why I cannot relate with the sentiments. Cebuano and Tagalog may have common words, but hey, they're different. An untrained Cebuano will not understand, much less speak, Tagalog and vice-versa.

My wife is Tagalog and my children will grow up speaking Tagalog and English because we live in Metro Manila. I don't mind that at all. I'll be teaching them Cebuano in due time. This post is not about people speaking the languages, but about how people from different parts of the Philippines perceive the languages .

The non-speaking of the "native tongue" in the foreign land was misconstrued as something akin to lack of identity, inferiority complex, or worse, embracing a foreign culture. In short, those who did not speak the "native tongue" was perceived as "plastic" or hypocrite. That at least was my impression of what the blogs were saying. Clearly, that was not my thinking and belief.

It may hurt to say that such impression is born out of lack of understanding, a.k.a. ignorance, of the diversity among Filipinos but sorry I must say so. Being "plastic" is a guilt we can accuse Filipinos of (and the rest of humanity to put this into proper perspective), but I do not see it among the primary reasons why "Filipinos speak English."

In fairness though, Filipinos from all over the country have learned to adapt to each other and appreciate the differences as well as commonalities. Out of the many, many, many blogs I browsed yesterday and early today, I saw this issue in only around two or three. So, this is not a major issue, really. But it's worth getting into if only to dispel once and for all this "myth" that Filipinos are somehow ashamed of their "native tongue."

The issue touched on something beautiful about Filipinos, only misunderstood. There is more to the question than meets the eye, and proper understanding of the reasons I am about to cite deepens our understanding of the diversity among Filipinos, wrapped in a common culture and spirit. That, I say, is what's beautiful, almost in a romantic sense, about our country.

Reason #1. The USA established our educational system in 1901 and English became the medium of instruction. It's 2008 and this has not changed. I believe it never will.

That's right. A little of history here. We have been a colony of the United States of America for almost half a century, from 1898, the year they conned Aguinaldo, until 1946 the year the USA granted independence to the Philippines. (Of course there was a 5-year Japanese occupation from 1941-1945 during World War II, during which Filipinos fought valiantly as guerillas.) During the US occupation, they sent to the Philippines what we refer to now as the Thomasites (after the transport vessel USS Thomas), who "expanded and improved the public school system, and switched to English as the medium of instruction."

So, what that meant was, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were educated by the American system, and they were very good English speakers, which most of us inherit if not consciously, then subconsciously. My mother (now 81 years old) used to tell me that at Grade VI, she was already so good in English that she taught younger grades the language. That's unimaginable these days, I know. But the use of English as medium of instruction, to me, is there to stay, regardless of what our nationalist friends say.

Why is that? You'll find out in Reason #5, but please don't skip. Reasons #2 to #4 are even more important in the present day context.

Reason #2. English is the language of governance. It has not changed too since 1901.

That's right. Go to Malacanang, the Senate, Congress, any government department or bureau, even the police and the military. Everybody there uses English as medium of communication. Look at the letter heads of their communications and you will see "Office of the President of the Philippines," "Senate of the Republic of the Philippines," "House of Representatives," etc. etc. Look at your SSS card or Driver's License and what's on top? Does it say "Republika ng Pilipinas"? No, sir. It says, "Republic of the Philippines."

Look at our constitution and laws. They're in English for goodness sake. You can look for the Tagalog versions, if you want. I wish you luck.

Look at our streets, street signs, public notices. They're all in English! The major streets are called Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, South Expressway, North Luzon Expressway, etc.

What this means is, anyone who deals with the government --- and that's everybody --- must somehow learn to at least read in English! Thanks to our educational system, that's possible.

Reason #3. English is the language of business. This is the ONE THING that I don't think will ever change.

Business in the Philippines is English. No English? No business. All you have to do is go around the streets and you'll see that even the smallest store has some English in it: "Marvin's Store," "Eloy's Barber Shop," etc. I didn't make up these names. These are stores in my neighborhood and "Marvin's Store" isn't my store, it a namesake's store.

Go to any bank and you see English splashed all over. The largest banks here are called "Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company," "Bank of the Philippine Islands," "Equitable-PCI Bank," and so on.

All communications in business are in, guess what? English! I still have to see a business letter between two companies written in Tagalog. I'm 39 years old. Maybe I haven't looked very meticulously the past 19 years I've been working.

What that means is each Filipino must learn English not just to move around but to also to eat three times a day!

Reason #4. English is the language of mass media.

The major broadsheets are in English. There are three major broadsheets in the Philippines that I can think of and they're Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Bulletin and Philippine Star (not necessarily in that order). Of course there are Tagalog tabloids, but none that I know that is of national circulation as big as any of these three.

Most of the magazines are in English. Just go to any magazine stand and do a count. How many are in English? How many are in Tagalog? It will be fun. Chances are, if you close your eyes and pick up any magazine, chances are it's in English.

Radio stations are bilingual. Well, you'll hear English in almost all FM stations that broadcast music. You'll hear Tagalog and other local dialects usually in AM stations. You don't want English, stick to AM stations, which many Filipinos do, by the way.

TV stations are bilingual. TV stations now broadcast news in Tagalog, I concede to that. We are a bilingual country, that's why. Thanks to mass media, non-Tagalogs now have a greater exposure to the "Filipino" language, which is in fact Tagalog. But English is not completely out. The newscaster may be speaking in Tagalog, but the one in the news can be speaking in English, especially if it's a government official or corporate executive; and you don't get any Tagalog translation for the English you get.

What this means is, one must learn English to better understand what's going on in the country!

Reason #5. English is the Great Unifier among Filipinos. Without it, I could not see how Filipinos would understand each other when Spain left.

Be ready for this: English is the second language of most non-Tagalog Filipinos. Would you believe that? They count a total of 172 "native languages and dialects spoken" in the Philippines, "all belonging to the Austronesian linguistic family. " The major branches are Cebuano, Tagalog, Ilocano and Hiligaynon. Cebuano is the largest homogenous group, which includes not just Cebu but also most of Central Visayas (Negros Occidental, Cebu, Siquijor, Bohol, Leyte provinces, parts of Masbate); as well as practically most of Mindanao with the exception of provinces with Muslim majority.

I was handed a set of data in November 2007 (the month the Excel file was created). While the population figures may no longer be valid, I do not see why the percentages would significantly change.

Here it is:

Other Visayan2,289,0003.1%

Do we now see why the USA imposed English in 1901? Clearly, there was no alternative. Had Spain taught us Spanish, then that would have been an alternative. Tagalog may be spoken in Manila in 1901, but 81% of Filipinos did not share that language. Only 19% of Filipinos speak Tagalog (or "Filipino") as the "native tongue." It was only much later when Manuel Quezon moved for the adoption of "Tagalog" as the national language, which proud Cebuanos resisted, even to the point of telling "imperial Manila" that they would reword Lupang Hinirang into Cebuano and sing the Cebuano version instead of the official version (I just heard this over the radio).

Now, do we still accuse Filipinos of not speaking the "native tongue"? In the light of the Reasons #1 to #5, clearly that's not fair.

Reasons why Cebuanos prefer English over Tagalog

There are only three vowels in Cebuano, and Tagalogs think that's very funny. It is a typical experience for a Cebuano to be an object of amusement by Tagalogs the moment they open their mouths and speak Tagalog. But the moment they speak English, which is the second language, they are able to express themselves better. For some Cebuanos, every experience like that is just a day in a life. Unfortunately for some Cebuanos, it drives some pain in their hearts such that they resist Tagalog all the more.I believe other linguistic groups in the Philippines can relate with this, or at least have their own versions of this.

English is an option for Cebuanos to express themselves. While I felt that Tagalogs were not comfortable with my Tagalog, I found that they were able to relate with me better when I spoke English. They would speak back to me in English or at least Taglish. Things went very well that way with me.

But when I decided to shift course and transfer campus from UP Diliman to UP Los Banos, things were different. The second campus was (and is) in the heart of "Southern Tagalog" where the die hard Tagalogs were (and are). When I spoke to them in English, they would talk back to me in Tagalog just the same. That really put a lot of pressure on me to speak Tagalog.

I had to practice Tagalog's two extra vowels. For instance, I had to practice pronouncing the word "bola" differently. Tagalog's pronounce it as "ball-a" while Cebuanos pronounce it as "bull-a." For Cebuanos, "e" and "i" are the same, while "o" and "u" are the same as well. Tagalogs say, "ba-be-bi-bo-bu" and Cebuanos would tend to pronounce it as "ba-bi-bi-bu-bu." No kidding there. It's just the way it is.

Here's more: there are similar words in Tagalog and Cebuano, but the meanings are completely, and even outrageously, different. The Tagalog word for cotton is "bulak," which is the Cebuano word for "flower." So Cebuanos must never buy "bulak" in the flower shop in Cubao. The Tagalog word for ants is "langgam," which is the Cebuano word for bird. When someone yells "langgam" in a crowd, you'd know who the Tagalogs and Cebuanos are. Those who look at the ground are Tagalogs. Those who look up are Cebuanos.

On weekends, the "probinsyanos" (from the province) were usually the ones left in the dormitory. Tagalogs were in their respective homes. But on one Sunday morning, a Tagalog was around. As me and my Cebuano friends were rushing to go to mass, one impatient guy yelled from the lobby, "agpas mo diha bay!" (Hurry up, friend!). Then almost in unison, one replied, "Kadyot na lang bay! Kadyot na lang!" (Just a few more moments, friend! Just a few more moments).

But the word "kadyot" did not go in well to that unfortunate Tagalog around; so he yelled at all of us, "magsisimba na lang kayo, ang babastos nyo pa rin!" (see you're about to go to Mass and you still have the gall for foul language!).

So, don't ever wonder again why Cebuanos would rather speak in English, rather than Tagalog. Trust me, they mean well.

What about Cebuanos to a Cebuano in a foreign land? Do they speak Cebuano to each other?

In my experience, it depends. If they just met each other, they would tend to be cordial and speak the language by which they started the conversation with. But as the conversation progresses, they would end up switching to Cebuano. That can happen very fast, or gradually. That's my experience here in Manila. It happened to me in Hong Kong. My wife befriended a Filipina with an Australian husband during a tour, and the Filipina happened to be Cebuano-speaking. So when it was my turn to speak to this Filipina, we spoke in Cebuano immediately.

My brother has a prank of speaking Cebuano wherever he goes, just for fun, whether in Manila, Vietnam or Australia. In Melbourne, he bought something from an Asian-looking guy and spoke to him in Cebuano. The guy looked intently at him for about a few moments, then replied, "taga dis-a man diay mo?" (oh, where are you from?) My brother said, "butangi!" (no English translation for that, but, "what the heck!" would be close.)

In fact, Cebuanos, in my experience, have the collective guilt of speaking Cebuano even in a crowd to the exclusion of others. Then we tend to giggle about the others who wonder what we're laughing about. That can be fun. Cebuanos refer to anyone who understand a bit of Cebuano as someone "dili mabaligya" (cannot be sold). That can be fun indeed, but that can also be rude. So, when a non-Cebuano is in a group, Cebuanos MUST speak the language of the land, as a matter of courtesy.

In closing...

Outside of linguistic differences, Filipinos share a whole lot of warmth, hospitality, sense of humor, sense of adventure, adaptability, and many other good things about our culture that clearly defines us distinctly as a people. Language has never been a barrier among us, and language has never been a barrier in our relationships with other nationalities. That's the way we are.

Fortunately for the world, that's the way we are.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thriller Dance by Inmates

Matagal nang pinag-uusapan ito and, admittedly, ngayon ko lang nakita.

I'm amazed. Paano kaya nila inorganize ito?


Filipino Dream vs American Dream

I'm researching the internet about the Filipino psyche: how a Filipino thinks, what his aspirations are, and things of that sort. This research is related to a project I'm engaged in right now. In the process, I came across a lot of blogs that either talks about or makes references to the Filipino psyche.

Among the many entries I found, I find this post very interesting:

It opens and ends with these paragraphs:

The once famous American Dream have already been absorbed by many cultures around the world. The American Dream is not exclusive for the Americans alone, but for the global citizen.

. . .

To achieve their goal is the most important thing for a Filipino. To give their family a better life, to help others, share their knowledge to their fellows, and bring smile to everyone, even in times of problem. This is what the true Filipino dream is.

I like the way she puts it. The American Dream, to Filipinos, is a tool to achieve the ultimate Filipino Dream: "to give their family a better life, to help others..."

My applause.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cool "Proudly Pinoy" Logo

When a friend referred me to the Proudly Pinoy site, I didn't know what was waiting for me there would captivate me. I saw there a the coolest logo I ever found that captured the Filipino spirit, as well as the Filipino pride. I couldn't explain it yet.

Two friends saw the logo too, and they too were captivated, and I meant, totally captivated. They had all praises for the logo. Again, they couldn't explain it.

Reading about the logo further, you will see that it is the one voted best among 297 entries. Amazing process they had there. Perhaps it's why we can't explain it. We can only appreciate it, with our hearts.

All I can say at this point is I like its simplicity, round shape and the red and yellow colors shaped like two hands carrying the round thing, which to me looks like the globe. The star smack in the middle of the globe is powerful. It's like, hey, Filipinos, we're making our own mark on the globe!

Go, look at the logo yourself and tell us what you think.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Who Else Wants to Move?

When we were in high school, we asked, "What did they {the 'old guys'} do to our country?" In as little as 20 years, we're already the 'old guys.'

One of my high school classmates ran for Congress. While I remember this classmate to be a bright and passionate guy, in my unguarded moment, I found it difficult to reconcile this man with that classmate of mine. Time passed. I didn't notice it, or was not conscious of it. That young lad (like myself) back then, became a full-grown man, and he was running for Congress.

In my discomfort I asked him why, on earth, did it cross his mind to run for a political office? His reply stunned me: "We're 35. If we don't move now, who will move? When these old guys fade, who would replace them? Who would take care of this country?" What immediately ran in me was, "who cares about who'll run this country? Certainly it can't be us, for goodness sake."

I was passing the buck.

You see, that classmate of mine taught me one thing. It was easy to let things be when we were in high school. We were young and powerless and too excited about girls and gimmicks to care. But now--my high school batch is now in the 39-41 age range--can we maintain the same absolutely comfortable outlook?

Obviously, no.

My friend said, politics was the arena he chose move. He said he could see that I chose business. I agreed with him. Either way, we're both contributing to the land. The question was, what sort of contribution do we give? When we become the 'old guys' how do we answer the question we as young teens threw to our parents' generation?

We couldn't accept a zero. We wanted to be heroes.

Most of us may feel that patriotism is a word that may as well be associated with the infamous Jedi order who lived a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away. I refuse to believe that.

Jose Rizal was martyred at the age 33. Bonifacio was 34 when he organized the Katipunan. Emilio Aguinaldo was 28 when he declared Independence in Kawit. Gregorio del Pilar was 22 when he died defending Aguinaldo from the Americans.

Where are the young heroes of today?

They are here. We just need to recognize them. Some of them may be in the halls of power now. Some of them may have already chosen a more silent path. But they're here. They're moving.

Who else wants to move?