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Showing posts from September, 2007

Burma at the crossroads

The two Burmese colleagues I have worked with in academe are both exiles. They have got their PhDs but can't return to their country. One studied at the Australian National University but before then he was a tutor in one of my tutorials when I was doing my own PhD. The other worked on his science PhD in UP and taught for a time at my department after graduation. When his some in his (including children I was told) were imprisoned by the despotic regime in Rangoon, he went home to pick up his kids but was eventually able to escape and live in Scotland since he had British citizenship. In an email from a Scottish university, he wrote that he did not decide to come back to democratic Philippines since according to him we are to "friendly" to the generals. To which I replied it isn't us but the current Malacanang tenant!

The other Burmese friend of mine is now in India where his family (related to Aung San Suu Kyi) has been in exile for 25 years, where he was born. His …

Who invented Miriam's loose cannon?

I really have no windows to how Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago's mind operates. My eyes do not function as a PET scanner. But her latest and most famous tirade about China "inventing corruption" is some fodder for comment.

Rightly the Chinese Embassy and the Chinoy community were outraged. But some Chinoy businesspeople I think went overboard when one Chinoy bigwig emphatically stated that in China corrupt people get executed! Now we respect a country's legal system when it determines what penalty to match a crime. But there is a really big question on the fairness of the Chinese legal system. That's why the Hong Kong SAR citizens of China always have the shivers!

Unlike when she broke her word to jump off a plane without a parachute, Miriam Santiago has apologized to China and to the Chinoy community. In an interview with a TV network, she admitted that she was emotional and had "chronic fatigue syndrome". I think this apology isn't enough. Whil…

Living with a Muslim

In Louisiana I shared an apartment with a Shiite Muslim from Iran. He was an Engineering student. People asked me what it was like living with a follower of Islam. Some people even thought I was dumb for doing so. They thought that I was living with "terrorists".

The level of distrust between Christians and Muslims is still there though on the surface people try to look "tolerant". Tolerance is really in the heart.

Let me share my experience. I learned from my Shiite friend that people in Iran are fond of beans and I got to taste how Iranians cook their beans and lamb. I also showed him what Filipinos eat. He liked "laing".

We talk about the latest Hollywood flicks and of course Iranian and Filipino cinema. My friend was surprised that Iranian movies are shown in Manila.

And when we talk about the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible, our discussion is really what is common to both Holy books without putting down the differences.

And I learned why Muslims pray 5 ti…

Baywalk at a moonsoonal sunset

Now that Manila Mayor Fred Lim has got rid of the pubs, Baywalk regains its laid back ambiance. We just hope the good mayor can soon spruce up the Baywalk as many of the fixtures and landscaping here have become rundown.

Manila Bay Beach

The nearest white sand beach to Manila is right on her shores. Manila Bay has a white sand beach that is purely made of shells. There was a time when this beach stretched from Ermita to Pasay. Early American era photographs and a Fabian de la Rosa painting show Pasay Beach at sunset. Pasay Beach was a favourite bathing beach of locals and colonials where the World Trade Center is now. We can imagine from this September 2007 photo of the "US Embassy Beach" near the northernmost end of Baywalk what it may have looked like. The picture reeks of nostalgia that is until you smell the sewage and see the garbage!

Sorry to take you out of nostalgia ville, this is what this white sand beach really looks like! Under piles of trash is the white sand.

If we can just clean up the bay then Manila can give Boracay a run for its money! Sometimes I wish I was born in the early 1900s if just to see what Manila was. But what we have are the sepia and colorized photos and paintings. This stretc…

It's about time! Looking at the Marcos years

Mr Manolo Quezon has done this country (at least its intellectuals and those who pretend to be one :) ) a great favour by writing about President Ferdinand E Marcos in today's Philippine Daily Inquirer. Mr Quezon's piece is the most objective to date about the late president. It is about time that we put an objective eye on the Marcos presidency for the sake of our nation so that we can avoid the same mistakes.

I don't know if someone has tried to do a study about the political and social ideology of Mr Marcos. My late dad had a complete collection of Marcosiana and guess who inherited it? Me! So I have begun to read some of Mr Marcos' books. I just realised that there is a heap of possible PhDs and MAs to be made from this. Someone can do a PhD on why Marcos' ideology is really scientific in his rebuttal of Marxism (Marcos admits that even his ideology can be falsified in the Popperian sense! Can anyone remind Jose Maria Sison and ex-colleagues at the Poli Sci dep…

Off to the Tower

In Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons", the Earl of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of England was sent to collect the Chancellor's chain of office from Cardinal Wolsey, who was dying in Leicester Abbey. Norfolk said "Thank God you're dying here. The King would have sent you to the Tower!"

The Tower is where Lords, other members of the nobility, knights, princes and princesses and even Kings were jailed. This leads us to an ancient tradition where these people are held in comfy detention. In some cases they have their whole household with them.

In 1995, I went on a special tour of the Tower of London. I got to see where the nobles were detained, their heads chopped off, where funeral services were held and where their remains lay. Of course the main tourist drawers then as now were the two ravens (legend says that they guarantee that the monarchy survives) and the beefeaters (who until 2007 were all ex-servicemen of reputation. Now London has a servicewoman bee…

Comments on a Saturday

Boracay Mansion

The pictures in the blurbs of the Erap Estrada's so called "Boracay Mansion" reminds me of the pictures of and my quick visit in 1995 to Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli just outside Rome. Tsk tsk. How the mighty have fallen!

The Villa was considered to be the epitome of Imperial taste that the popes and cardinals plundered the site for statuary to grace their palaces. In Erap's villa the roof was plundered and also steel railings and the legendary gold faucets.

By the plunder we shall know the plunderer.

Plunder begets more plunder!

A lowdown in UP education

I asked my undergrads and not a few freshies about the recent hazing death by a well known frat. The students said that the tuition fee increases are a more important issue than the hazing death.

Since when has a wasted human life been less important than a tuition fee increase?

I think the professors and administrators of the University of Philippines should reflect on the moral dimensions of UP's vaun…

Erap convicted of plunder: A tragedy

I have been monitoring the developments after President Joseph "Erap" Estrada was convicted of capital offence of plunder. He is the first one ever brought to court and convicted. Erap will have to serve a lifetime sentence (40 years maximum) for the crime, the death penalty being abolished by Congress.

I tried to read the Sandiganbayan court's decision online but as expected the site hosting it exceeded its bandwidth. Nonetheless the case should set a precedent and lawyers, deans of law schools and legal scholars have begun to dissect the ruling. While the lawyers will look at the merits and demerits of the ruling and also looking at the apparent weakness of the defence, the case has reopened the debate on what should have been settled by the courts and that is whether the form of Erap's abandonment of the Palace at the height of the EDSA II ruckus constituted a resignation.

Resignation requires a written notice at best or at least an emphatic "I quit" as a…


I belong to only one fraternity. The Terroan frat. We have only one initiation and that is being brought onto planet Earth. All Terroans share a single origin for their DNA. The sentient Terroans as far as we know are members of the Homo sapiens taxon. This species believes that some in their society are different from other members of their species. And to support their belief they hesitate not to kill, maim or hurt.

Thus I have never believed in the wisdom of exclusive associations college fraternities included. Whilst I was at Louisiana State University, I learned that fraternities and sororities are called Greek societies and members are called Greeks. The bus that passes the street where the frat houses are is called the Greek Bus. While they carry on with some of the best of university traditions, only a minority of students apply for membership. Membership may carry certain privileges such as being able to live in the frat house. I learned that in a few decades back frat memb…

On reactions to Joma Sison's arrest

Joma Sison's arrest just merits a single short paragraph in today's papers. In Malaysia whose communist insurgency was crushed by the Brits in their Malayan Emergency in the 1950s, the papers find it anachronistic that someone like Joma Sison is taken seriously. But we contend that Joma Sison is entitled to his liberty of being steadfast to his ideology.

What is definitely more silly is the reaction of the Philippine Left. The rantings of some "revolutionaries" threatening Dutch nationals solidifies the ideological bankruptcy of the Left. The claim of one NPA commander that Dutch nationals will not be harmed is similar to what the Taliban would say.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer's Conrado de Quiros has the sense to write about that Sison must be brought to trial and critiques the silly reaction of the Left. But equating Joma Sison and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is eminently laughable.

This leads us to the conclusion that both are ideologically bankrupt. One hews to …

One Dark Night

The hotel where I am staying has a complimentary copy of Time and this had Mother Teresa's face on the cover. Apparently her letters to her confessor had been made public and a book is due to come out about her more than 50 years doubt on her faith. Mother Teresa even doubted that God exists as she did her ministry to Calcutta's most downtrodden.

I think no sane person contests the public perception that Mother Teresa is a saint. After all in an age where consumerism reigns and we try to get as much for ourselves, her Missionaries of Charity nuns have been doing the exact opposite, giving. But what we see are the externals of what they are doing. We have no windows to their souls until they write about the troubles that rage their souls.

Catholicism does us great disservice when it canonises saints. For Catholics saints are frozen as icons and statues. As statues and icons we don't know how they dealt with lust (as in Augustine's case), greed (all saints), power (Thomas …

Night walk

One of the things I always do when visiting a new city is to take a stroll at night. Of course I consider being street smart. After having a pint in the pub, my grad student and I took a stroll through the entertainment district.

It was my dad who introduced me to the pleasures of a night stroll. In Tokyo, Nagoya and Singapore, dad and I walked through the nightlife districts and he taught me what a man must know. But then I was a minor and wasn't allowed to have a drink!

A city at night is an interesting place. A different cast of characters emerges with the night. The pub denizens come out, single men and women hoping for a cure for their lonesome selves, the cab drivers who can show you around and of course the tourists.

Of course people who provide a night's amour for a fee begin to be seen. I hesitate to use the phrase "commercial sex"since this term is more degrading than the more flowery terms used in literature. This is not to to say that I am condoning this li…

In Kuala Lumpur and reading about Malaysia's PhD debate

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia- This is my second time to visit Malaysia and still I am not on holiday but on a business trip in environment management. But now being a Sunday I have more time to see the sights. I took the Cebu Pacific budget flight to KL. The only irritating thing is during check-in at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila where the lack of check-in counters made a few impatient people fume (These people should note that good behaviour and a sense of decency and cheer goes a long way in these situations.) . Obviously the NAIA is run down and needs to be replaced. We have a mothballed terminal whose ceiling is collapsing.

Cebu Pacific's planes are brand new and being a budget airline, the inflight service and amenities are infinitely better than that of budget airlines in the USA. At least you don't sit in for a 4 hour flight in a 12 seater jet. What Cebu Pacific has to improve is its ground handling

Cebu Pacific pulled out of the gate at exactly 8:50 PM …