Monday, November 07, 2005

Marriage in the Season of (Filipino) Discontent

This incident happened about... a week or so? Sorry, bu tmy PC at the house crashed and I don't like making blog posts in public.

Anyway, I was on my way back from Makati. There were three girls behind my seat and I couldn't help overhearing their conversation because they were so loud about it. I was tuning them out, of course, but the Mentat Protocols works on trigger-terms, so when a set of triggers related to immigration cropped up in their conversation, my Mind simply refused to tune them out.

It would seem that one of the three was leaving for a European country, ostensibly to immigrate. All along, I thought she was doing it either as a nurse (and I will have an entry on that later on) or under petition from relatives. Then I heard she was marrying a national of that country she was going to.

Nothing unusual with that. Many Filipinos have tried the marriage route to get a "Green Card" or citizenship in another country. But what really caught my attention was the way this marriage was to be brought about: it would appear that relatives of that woman paid another cousin 70k euros to make it look like he was marrying her. Legally, there would appear to be nothing wrong; the "husband" would be picking up his "wife" here on January and then she'll be a naturalized citizen of that country by virtue of marriage. When she gets there, she told her friends they wouldn't even be living in the same house.

If I was a tad bit more conservative. I'd be scandalized. As it was, Liberal Catholic that I am, it still shocked me, especially with the casual, almost nonchalant way the woman viewed marriage, even more so with a cousin of hers, if only to ease the entry into a new country.

This is not to judge the woman; I don't intend to, scandalized as I am at the way something I was brought up to regard as sacred could be treated so casually. In a very real sense, who can blame people like her for acting the way she did?

But my Soul is... "profoundly disturbed" by this little incident. I brought it up with my Dad about a few days after, and I was surprised to find out that not only was this "practice" more prevalent than I thought, but is quite an old phenomenon! It's been going on since at least the mid-80s so it's not as if it's a product of our globalized world.

I was just wondering... what the hell has this world come to that marriage could be reduced into something so... simple as a means to an end? That people could be so... cavalier in their attitudes towards this most sacred of sacraments?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Martial Rule and the Law

According to the 1987 Constitution, the President can declare Martial Law, but (a) several things remain in effect, like the Consti, the civil courts, nor is the writ of habeas corpus necessarily revoked, and (b) it needs Congressional approval to extend it beyond one month.

When I was born, Martial Law was only just about five years old, so my first-hand recollections of the event are rather nebulous, to say the least. Like most of my generation, all we know of the... horror when Proclamation 1081 was announced is through history books, teachers and professors, tales from our elders in CivSoc, and the occassional docu. Heck, we all thought Erap was going to do something to that effect - I mean, with Lacson and all - but it seemed the guy, in fairness to him, was a lot nicer than we gave him credit for. In fact, as one pundit described him, Erap was, despite everything, in awe of the law.

But from what has been handed down to us, a grim picture emerges. If the docu they showed us at the Ninoy Aquino Center is true, and so goes with history taught to us, Marcos actually acted even before 1081 was proclaimed. That while Tatad was reading 1081 the opposition and activists were being arrested. And there was also a ConCon going on at that time whose provisions would have severly limited Marcos' powers, and that of his cronies.

A lot has been said about the 1987 Consti as a reaction to Martial Law; in fact, many of its provisions that either enshrine civil liberties or prevent the concentration of power on any branch of government, is a clear indication of where the framers of the '87 were coming from.

Before Gloriagate was even on the radar, there were already talks about the charter being changed, especially during the (first) Philippine Political Parties Conference in 2002. As I've recounted before, I had this memorable conversation with Dr. Jose Abueva over Federalism. I wasn't sold on the idea, being a student of history myself, and nothing I've heard from the presentors - including Dr. Abueva - allayed my fears that the inherent extreme parochialism among some Filipinos, alongside political greed, could lead to the dismemberment of a Federal Republic of the Philippines.

So I asked Dr. Abueva: sir, what would prevent ethnic tensions (or something like that) from escalating to the point that States within a Philippine Federal Republic would secede, ala-Confederacy or Yugoslavia?

Dr. Abueva looked at me as if I was such a slow-witted student and said: that's impossible; it will be illegal.

I just sat there and said, "ah, ok." I wanted to pursue the matter, because I knew for a fact that there are some people - and some can be found here in the Philippines - will care less for the law, much less one drafted by academics in Imperial Manila, if it suited their purposes - whether personal or parochial - to leave the Philippines. I wanted to tell Dr. Abueva, "that's well and good, sir, but isn't there more? Because I'll be one of the persons who'll have to lead the charge to restore such 'rebellious' States to the Federation, and I'd like to know if, pretty soon, I'll have to risk my life because of you and your federalista cohorts who seem to be dominating the discussion on ChaCha."

The same line of thinking struck me as the idea of Martial Rule being reinstated by La Gloria went through one avenue of my Mind. Sure, '87 says she can't just declare Martial Law because Congress can nullify it anytime and impeach her for sure. Sure, the '87 has so many legal impediments to Martial Law...

... but the law could never really stop people who are determined not to follow it.

Nor could the law, as shown during the opening hours of Martial Rule, stop a person or the forces at the command of that person, if said entity cares nothing about the law.

Let's assume certain members of the military remain loyal to their Commander-in-Chief. Part of the thinking here is over the fact that (a) many senior officers remain loyal to Gloria, and (b) the military culture of not questioning orders. Of course, many soldiers have shown that this isn't entirely the rule in the AFP, but it still has to be disproven if men like the Oakwood Mutineers (bad example, but i hope you get the point) are the exception rather then the rule, troops who do question certain of the decisions and commands of the higher-ups.

What's to stop Gloria from using the immense powers of her position to tear down Congress, make the Supreme Court dance to her tune at gunpoint ("dance, judges, *bang* *bang*!"), and to haul off ala-1972 all of her opponents?

One of the things I try to teach my proteges is the necessity of taking things into context. And one of the comparisons I use to illustrate my point is that of EDSA I and Tiannemen Square. Ver wanted to bomb EDSA, but Marcos said no. Believe me when I tell you that no amount of heroism will prevent civilians from runninig away when really big explosions surround them and body parts and blood are flying around. Persons not trained for war or for killing follow the most basic of preservation instincts to run from a threat, and people would have run if Marcos had agreed with Ver and unleashed the power of the military on EDSA. Then maybe things would be different.

Maybe it would've been like Tiannemen. Why did the tanks roll over the students and troops gunned them in the hundreds? Because of differences. Because the people who won the power struggle within the Communist Party of China decided there was nothing wrong in killing the dissidents if it would preserve their power. A gamble, sure, because if the Chinese people had been outraged over what happened to their young who were spearheading the call for democracy, no military might or political creed would have prevented the collapse of the Chinese Communists. But nothing of the sort happened.

There was also this alternate story about a world where Britain lost to Germany in the Second World War, and instead of the liberal, democratic British being rulers of India, it was the Nazis that Ghandi faced. In the end, as the author resolved the story, Ghandi was bodily brought to the firing squad for even thinking of going against the Nazis, even if the protest was peaceful. Because the British were different from the Nazis. In fact, it is even said that what made Ghandi so successful in his resistance to British rule was the culture of the British themselves.

How does La Gloria think? How do her advisers think?

Perhaps, as Civil society and the other members of the opposition go about their campaign to take the little girl down, they should be asking those questions. One cannot simply bat against the wind, thinking one's righteousness will make all the difference. This isn't about morals and values anymore, or what's right or wrong because we who have been engaged in this since 2000 are now in the midst of a war.

And in war, some people play only by one rule: to win it all. And nothing, nothing, will stop people like that from doing anything to come out on top. Nothing will stop them. Not morals, not ethics, not "fair play," not deceny. And most certainly not some piece of paper with a lot of legal gobbledygook in it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Distrubing Development

Martial Law is a term commonly heard (at least) among the punditocracy of late. I suppose one cannot fault the Philippine's columnists, writers and bloggers about this: many of them come from the freedom movement of the last Martial Law, and many of La Gloria's recent actions look as if we're headed that way.

I suppose I'm getting worried too. Ever since the Palace came out with its pronouncement of the "calibrated preemptive response," the action on the streets following the defeat of the impeachment has gotten... ugly. As in really ugly. Good Lord, what was Gloria thinking? Saying her government would use "the full force of the law" to prevent "illegal" rallies was like trying to put out a small brush fire with A1 jet fuel. One thinks whether that crazy little girl is asking for it from the Left. Or maybe she really has thrown all the "conventions" and considerations for civil liberties in an effort to silence her opponents: goad the (admittedly gullible) radicals to more street actions and then take them all down.

From what the news have reported, the Left have, indeed, called Gloria's bluff, staging one protest action after another. Two headed for Mendiola have already met with "CPR" anti-riot forces, netting for the government the secretary general of Gabriella and the president of Sanlakas. For the Left, these rather violent dispersals and arrest of several of their leaders and members have netted for them more airtime.

You know, sometimes her strategists and operators really confound me.

But this is, indeed, disturbing. Someone wrote that Gloria, being a Hahvahd-trained economist, would not go the ML route; such an action goes against her training. Yet her government's actions have tested the boundaries of securing the saftey of the state and its people over individual rights and liberties. This is a cause for concern, and I wonder if any of my old comrades in the Union are aware of this. Because we should. We or our succesors in the UCSC should be asking some very hard questions right now about where the country is going, while we still can ask those questions.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Good Within Us

I guess it's time for a balancing. Too much negativity here.

One of my favorite columns of uber-pundit Randy David was that one about his plane ride experience from Davao. Although hearing the sorry state of both PAL's fleet and its management makes me more nervous to fly with them (more than, say, the latest horror flick from NatioGeo's Air Crash Investigations), it was what he said about that inherently Filipino trait to be such an exemplar of humanity when crises come that really mattered in the column. Prof. David must surely have given many of his readers a "warm, fuzzy feeling" moment when he related how several passengers in that ill-starred flight helped each other cope with the stress. Something so simple as a person sharing excess food in such a situation can be such a wonderful occurence in this all-too-Darkened world.

(Dammit, did we fail that badly, that something like the aforementioned can be like a ray of light after a storm? Wasn't this what we were precisely trying to avoid, a near-Gibsonesque future?)

For about two or three days now, PDI has been coming out with news on the Vietnamese Boat People who've been in asylum here for the last 16 years. Perhaps as a break from the huge, stinking crap that is Gloriagate, the PDI editorial for today was precisely on this topic, and yesterday Ma. Ceres Doyo talked about "The Philippines' Non-Discriminatory Embrace."

Sometimes, the Filipino can be really... taxing. Everything from as "simple" as chronic jaywalking or people throwing their trash out of a jeepney window, to corruption and selfishness at the highest levels of government can really be a trial for a young person who genuinely loves his country and badly wants to help not only make it better but return it to the pre-eminent position in the international comunity it once played.

But there are really moments when what I consider the true soul of the Filipino shines through. You don't need to look at People Power, or the many battles we fought for freedom against powerful tyrants, or even in the many innovations this noblest of races made. No. All you have to do is look at that smile - warm, welcoming and true - at the hospitality to even the strangest of strangers. Warrior race we may be, but the Filipino can sometimes be too damned nice that we don't think our guests can do us harm (I mean, look at those who recieved Magellan and de Legaspi...). Our doors are barely locked, if at all, outside of the Metro. During fiestas everyone is welcome to partake even to the most modest of feasts (which is usually quite the gastronomical experience; province food is truly quite wonderful, no matter if it was made in the "lowliest" bahay kubo, especially to a palette that grew up on McDonald's).

But most of all, Filipinos would not think twice to extend his or her assistance to those in need, especially to times of crisis. We can't say no; heck, we don't even think of saying no. Yes, yes, I fully am aware that victims of accidents or crimes sometimes lose their valuables even before they get medical treatment, but I think that's something that's chronic only here in the ratrace of a much-Westernized Metro. Out there, where winds are purer, the grass greener, and the river sparkles with light and life, the moment you fall, people will pick you up and help you get back on your feet with nothing asked in return. People are even thankful they were there to help you when you needed the assistance.

New Orleans comes to mind. Perhaps that's why it was so shocking to my Filipino psyche: at the end of it all, what was boggling my Mind and profoundly disturbing my Soul was not the destruction of a major American city in the age of the Internet, but how... horrible was the reaction by people in the face of the crisis. The looting I can reconcile, it happens. Heck, it happens after a World Series or Super Bowl, so what's new, right? But for rape and murder? For a civil defense officer telling someone in distress to go to hell and it's every man for himself? One statement captured it all: "I don't treat my dog that way." Consider how many disasters we have gone through in this country. Now tell me how many degenerated into what New Orleans experienced? Isn't it a convention of sorts that when crap hits the fan, we humans band together to live through the experience?

When the Philippines goes through major disasters like what hit New Orleans, you'll find relief goods and volunteers by the truckloads and they just keep coming. You'll find the people hit by that disaster helping each other; it's rare to see Filipino communities turning on each other in the name of survival during crisis situations. No: something in the Filipino soul finds it anathema to leave others in need to their own devices when the Filipino can help even in the least bit. Like offering pastries to fellow passengers in a very unlucky flight. Or offering a home to displaced people from a foreign land.

In his Republic, Plato (through Socrates), said that people's souls can be likened to Metals. The better the person's soul, the better the metal that serves its analogy. It wasn't that Plato was being discriminatory; he was simply pointing out that, though all metals are important and have uses, not all metals are the same. The Guardians, the ideal humans of his ideal society, were of Silver and Gold.

I can't recall if it was Prof. David or MLQ3 who said it. Maybe both did. In fact, I see it a lot these days in columns: if something will save us from insanities like Gloriagate, if something will explain to the world why this country hasn't become a "Failed State" despite all the crap that has hit it... it's the quality of the "metal" of the Filipino's soul.

Despite our leaders and the world they've brought us into, we will prevail. Because if the good within the Filipino cannot be cowed by the howling wind and driving rain of a super typhoon, or the devastating force of a volcano, or the many guns, goons and gold of a dictator, what can prevent it from shinging forth once again?

This is why you gave up a bright future with the corporations. This was why you wanted to serve the Filipino, why you earnestly believe what Ninoy said, that the Filipino is worth dying for.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Senseless Death

Last Tuesday, there was a reported case of an 18-year old freshie from FEU figuring in a horrible accident at Pureza, which is the street before Nagtahan here in Manila. The victim was dead on the spot, having been dragged and perhaps - considering the damage done to her - ran over by the 10-wheeler truck that killed her.

When one's job involves dealing with war, famine and all sorts of political chaos, one would think that there is a certain... distance to death. Because death is part and parcel of your job, and your duty to the Republic can call for your taking the life of someone to protect it, you think that there might be a certain level of... insulation to the psychological impact of the loss of a life.

But there isn't. At least so long as one claims to be human. Those who absorb the deeper aspects of the Sword's philosophy know that to draw the blade from its sheath is in itself a failure in the part of the swordsman; all life is sacred, even your enemy's, and if a situation demands that you unleash steel and draw blood, that you end a life, then it only means all avenues to a peaceful solution did not suffice. There must always be sadness at the ending of a life because life is about potential, and when a life ends before its time, it would seem as if a story had been cut in the middle without there being any resolution.

I remember being on the PUJ that evening it happened. Actually, I overheard about it already at the LPHQ; Erick Mante, our sysop, mentioned that his cousin figured in an accident. But it only dawned on me much later, on the jeep on the way to Nagtahan, when two manangs were talking about it.

What is really depressing in this incident is the senselessness of the death. Although it is necessarily the negation of physical life, death need not remove from the human his or her dignity, nor must it be entirely shorn of purpose. Perhaps one eloquent testimony to purpose in one's death is that of John Paul II; in the days leading to his coming to eternal rest and the grand wake and burial that followed, it seemed as if the world had found both a moment of peace and a reminder of the unity in us all, of the good within us. It was a loss that somehow filled you, paradoxical as the statement may be.

Yet even with 15 units in Jesuit theology, and 16 units in Atenean philosophy, incidents like this seem to challenge your ready-made answers to the "why" questions. Why did that girl have to die, and in such a violent manner? Perverse as it may sound, but a Mentat can more readily "understand" the why in a person who died as a result of war, even if that person suffered much first before expiring. C'est la guerre. But for a recently-turned 18 year old who just went to the corner 7-11 to buy something before meeting her boyfriend at school (who even texted her, as her cel showed, "ingat ka") to die, and die like so... it not only boggles the mind but profoundly disturbs the Soul.

Is not the world, even on a quantum mechanical level, a place of causality? Except for the philosophical "Uncaused Cause," is there not supposed to be a reason for everything?

Disturbing. And for a measure of comfort - and I dearly hope the family of that girl finds more than a simple measure, and that her soul rests in peace in God's embrace - I turn to Kant: beyond this small circle of reason, is the realm of faith.

That should suffice, I suppose. Even though your Soul still sits uneasily in the seat of your Being.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Idealism on a Slow Dive (or is it slow...?)

Answering a simple query from old comrades in the Union showed that this topic definitely is what's occupying large parts of my consciousness, to the point that my typos and miss-spells are becoming more and more frequent and I seem to be having a hard time expressing myself, and despite my demeanor I am actually a rather irritated person right now.

And wasn't I at the Gesu not two nights ago? No Questions were answered that night; God refused to take any and told me to sit there and not think for a while. Before I left, I saw the inscription on the statue of Jesus in front of the Church. It was the passage for those who labor on coming to God and laying down one's burden. It was the first time I deigned to read the inscription in all the time I went to the Gesu, and it was somehow kind of apt to what I was feeling.

Idealism. From the word "ideal," a situation where the grand majority of the elements, if not all, are right or at their best. If the young of this world subscribe to any ideology, if one were to interpret that term at its broadest, then this is probably it. Idealism marks the young, is commonly found with them, what fuels their activism and even their rebellion, their desire to bring about change - mostly positive - to the staid order of their parents' generation.

It's also an "age-dependent" worldview. In a world where the term "naive" is a pejorative, idealism is often viewed by the "elders" as something of a phase. Like pimples, hormonal surges and rebellions against the established order. From personal observations, this would seem to start even while the young person is in college; the demands of graduation during senior year - the thesis, job fairs, a foreshortened school year, senior syndrome, etc. - begins the long road for the idealist to a life of pragmatism and, yes, compromises. Although there will always be exceptions to the rule, the minute a young person tightens that necktie or straightens that power blouse and skirt spells the beginning of the end for idealism. Heck, how many student council officers have I seen shine brilliantly during their first three years of service as young leaders only to fade to near-obscurity at their senior year because of the demands of their "other life" as students? And unless these selfsame SC officers join an NGO or major service department upon graduation, many would be eaten up by the demands of their corporations, relegating their advocacies and ideals to little more than weekend jaunts, if ever.

Such a negative view from me. In truth, I understand where they're coming from. And at the same time I don't. Actually, in moments like this, I really don't. In really horrible moments I ask, rather loudly, how can they so easily give up the fight when (a) they're much, much, richer than I am (and thus should be able to weather the low salaries of most NGOs and government agencies), and (b) given the context of what we all fought for during our time in college. Mine was the generation that stood on the Second People Power. I and my contemporaries were the field officers for civil society, their generals and shock troops. Where are we now?

I am constrained both by my upbringing and Training to (further) castigate my generation. But then, I am, actually, putting the cart before the horse, in a manner of speaking. My idealism is in tatters not (solely) because I feel as if my generation "disappeared" after People Power II (or the May 1 Mayhem, at least; that incident seems to have badly injured the psyche of most young moderates), but because of the fallout from Gloriagate. The above is simply a rant that should have followed the reasons for my idealism's death and not the source of its demise.

Idealism, as with any worldview, depends on certain concepts for its foundations. There must be something you believe in that allows you to take such a contrary point of view with the rest of the established order. A word usually linked to Idealism is Disillusionment. There is a word that reeks with so much pain, bitterness and negativity. Disillusionment is the negation of idealism. It is the poison that can quickly kill not only the desire to effect change but also shatter the lens that allows you to view life from a more-or-less positive light.

Actually, Gloria herself is not the source of my... disillusion. She is merely acting the way she was expected to act; there was hope she wouldn't, but it’s hardly surprising she didn't. Too bad. It isn't the antics of the (original) opposition; that was also expected and is really nothing new. Nothing extant can be the source of the fall of one's idealism. It is always sourced from much closer, to the things, people and concepts that really matter and therefore define that idealism.

There are three things that define my Soul. These are my lenses. These define the way my Being relates to and tries to affect the world around me. I am a Catholic Christian, an Atenean, and a Liberal. These three are the pillars that support my world, and (largely) determine how I act and react to any given situation. They are also the reasons for the paths I took that led to where I am right now: at nine years, I swore an Oath of service to God; all the conceptual, ideological, philosophical and theological training of years of Jesuit education led to one fateful morning in Liberation Theology class when, in a mentally-unguarded moment, Ateneo's "Bug" decided to bite me and therefore make me strive to realize that Oath; a Question to God on how I could continue serving Him after college led to one morning when I would be recruited into the Liberal Party, and although hesitant and skeptical at the beginning, I realized that here was a good way to effect the change I wanted, for what better way is there to reform society than through the power and resources of a fully-fledged political party that was not only far-less trapo than the rest but has the potential to be a real political party that is the vehicle for the realization of the dreams and aspirations of those who agree to its philosophy?

One of those pillars is badly undermined right now. I am not alone in the disillusionment with that one; indeed, it is the death of the idealism of my comrades there that weighs heavily on my own moribund belief that we can still make a difference in this country. For the first time in my life I contemplate leaving this country, not only to find better opportunities abroad but simply because, in my worst moments, I can't seem to stand it here anymore and neither do I feel welcome and at home.

I remember a talk Dr. July Teehankee gave us. He said that the reason why a new People Power hasn't happened is the fact that no single institution retains the necessary clout to call the people to the streets. My thinking during PP2 was this should be the last time this would be done. People Power leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling after, but it isn't the solution to the ills of society: indeed, it is merely the beginning of its rehabilitation, and it is a long and often painful way to go. People Powers are enemas at the very least, and usually they are akin to subjecting your country to chemotherapy since the "disease" has become so malignant the normal mechanisms for check and balances in a society are already ineffective.

And where are the people who can command one's respect, the men and women who stoke the fires of idealism in the young? Brilliant as we are, the young, by virtue of age and (as many elders will look at you) "inexperience", do not hold the levers of power in society. Powerful as our voices are, these are oftentimes not enough to bring about the change that we want. The Philippines is lucky to have leaders nominally scared of the public; in other countries, the powers-that-be will not bat an eyelash to ask their soldiers to fire on you or their tanks to roll over you if you disagree with them. Yet, our elders are prepared to go only as far as lip service to the demands for reform. True, substantive change has barely seen the light of the liberating sun in the 19 years since the end of martial rule. Even those who appear as paragons for the young oftentimes fall short of the image they wish to project.

In warfare, one of the worst things that can hit an army is demoralization. In fact, the school of thought that does not subscribe to the idea of victory-through-annihilation revolves around the ways in reducing the enemy's morale. Even the largest or most advanced technologically of armies will wither in the face of determined opposition if the morale of that army is low. If you are going to ask people to die for a cause, then they should believe in that cause, enough that they would be willing to sacrifice their very lives for it.

Idealism is a lot like that. It has to be sourced from a strong belief that what you are doing is both effective and worth the sacrifices you give. It is not that you ask for something in return for your efforts, no: it is simply having something that you can tell that natural, pragmatic aspect of humanity that all this is worth it even if your life is a wreck. Or that the cause is worth your life.

But when things happen that undermine the foundations of your idealism, where do you find the reasons, the rationale, for continuing the struggle?

When the ideology and principles you were made to love and respect are paid lip service by those "above" you, by the ones who taught you those beliefs, what can you believe in?

When your leaders and elders not only fail you but even force you to subsume your principles for personal gain or even for their intramurals, who can you look to for inspiration and guidance?

When your colleagues leave you alone to stop the rush of your country to oblivion for their careers and personal lives, can you still hang on? Especially when you are made painfully aware that your own life and future is a shambles because of this struggle, while theirs is so much brighter in the corporations?

Even worse: when the people and organization(s?) you have served for so long abandons you without any explanation, how are you expected to feel then? Especially when they are making hash of everything you've built and paid blood for?

I was old enough to remember how the world felt when the Wall fell. It was even nicer because it happened on my birthday. That was a time of much hope, when despotic regimes - whether of the Left or Right - fell one by one, the nuclear threat was ebbing, and prosperity seemed like the name of the game. It was a brave new world. Somewhere along the way, something happened to bring us all to this world of darkness, despair and disillusionment.

And with your idealism in bloody tatters and twisting in the gale force winds of pragmatism and personal agendas, how can you still lift your sword and slay that dragon that is before you?

To tell you the truth, Death looks much more inviting...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Blah, Blah, Blah (or the prelude to the more serious posting that SHOULD follow this one)

Pardon me for this post. I just spent the just-concluded workday either re-compiling data for the new LP website or transcribing the proceedings of our last Democracy Forum. In short, my brain is a rather mashed mass of material that might be in very little if any condition to discuss the serious stuff that's been percolating in my consciousness for the last few days.

So, to give myself a mental break, I shall skim through a lot of "light" topics.

A note to my proteges: yes, we MUST have such mental breaks. Yes, even the most formidable of Mentats must take these mental equivalents of pausing and taking a breath, otherwise the sheer load of processes our minds take on as Analysts might crash those same minds.

Okay, first off: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. It rocks. Big time. This isn't Spirts Within, people, but the real thing. Squaresoft - er, Square Enix - has always been known for its cutting edge tech and excellently-crafted role-playing games for the console games. Final Fantasy VII still stands as the RPG for consoles, even though its successors generally have better tech. Like I've said a dozen or more times before, no RPG has involved me so much, has taken me into its world as much, as FF7. I kept playing the game over and over again, whereas I didn't even finish FF8, FF10 and X-2. I didn't even play FF9. The only other console RPG I finished was Xenosaga I, I think.

When Square came out with FF: Spirits Within a couple of years ago, many of us otaku and RPG fans eagerly awaited it. For some, it was okay. For some, it was a disappointment, much like the Star Wars prequel was to fans of the franchise like me who've read the books in between (or the Lord of the Rings fanatics - like me - who've read the books, plus Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, who screamed at some of the things done in the movie, like what they did with Arwen. Aragorn was cool, though). So when news of this "continuation" of the FF7 storyline came out, fans were understandably on edge. But expectant. The demos were cool, but will Square deliver?

Very much so, in my opinion. The CG was smooth; in fact, I think Square was bragging a bit on what they can do now when you see the end credits. But not just the CG, the story was right on the money for the FF7 franchise. It was just as epic and as engaging as the game. And the fight scenes... You just have to see it.

And if for nothing else, their treatment of Tifa Lockheart in FF7: AC made it all worth it, especially her "pa-cute" scene at the end. Good Lord, but that is one beautiful virtual lady... And, yes, she kicks butt. I've always had a weakness for those strong-yet-caring types...


(I told you this was light stuff...)

I also purchased this book titled "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." I've barely started, but the way the author crafts words and sentences has caught my attention, aside from the humor.

I've also designed this character in White Wolf's Exalted in the pattern of a Jedi. Ewan ko ba. I really have this fascination with the Jedi, more than the psychokinetic push that people kept doing after watching Episode I.

I've also not set foot in pROSE since Sunday.

And I've been trying to get a date since Saturday, too (",)

Oh, well.

Listening to Stonefree. Listen is playing, my new fave song. I don't like the fact that it's so similar in theme to "Would you be my number 2?" - I've always been of the opinion that, if you can't give a lady your Heart's full attention, you shouldn't because that lady deserves nothing less and so much more - but it captures my mood.



(bear with me. My Mind is currently doing the biological equivalent of a memory dump)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Funny, but Apt

I'm actually having a bad day, mitigated only by texts to my "princess" and a nice chat session with my Little Sister, Rhea.

When all that's horrible today got through my psyche's defenses, I decided to wallow a bit, since it was definitely impinging on my work. I have something I wish to discuss over this blog, but maybe later.

Meanwhile, I kept scanning news sites and blogs for anything on the Party; despite what I feel right now, I am an officer of the LP and I love this Party and I will defend it as much as I am able given the circumstances. While browsing through MLQ3's blog, he mentioned something Newsboy posted. So I checked it out.

I still feel bad, but I got a good laugh out of the post. Since I am in no condition to tackle that big question on why I am not an active participant in the anti-Gloria movement (despite my earlier participation in PP2 and my admitted dislike for her), and since Newsboy did a much nicer job of explaining, more or less, what I feel and think about this whole sordid mess that is Gloriagate, then I suggest you check it. Click the link above. It's soooooo similar to my sentiments...

And I got to admire MLQ3's... courage to say what he did over ANC to the anti-Gloria people. check his blog out, to see what I mean.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Marriage and the Paradox of Commitment

Ha, ha: Blooey can really come up with the nicest-yet-deepest things. Must be all of those people who taught her at Ateneo; I've always admired Bloo's set of Mentors, who are some of the best and (coolest!) professors of our school. We're not just talking about those who were her in-class teachers, but also those profs she had a friendship with (and, yes, that is very much possible and common in the Ateneo, to forge lasting friendships with our professors, even if they're not your in-class teacher or they gave you a grade below B).

One of those is the legendary Eddie Boy Calasanz, philo prof and heir apparent to Fr. Roque "Padre" Ferriols. Both professors always, always, have long waiting lists of students wanting to get into their classes, and this is considering they're not known for giving really high grades, especially the good Padre. Prof. Calasanz is the only person ever to get an A+ from Padre Ferriols.

Bloo posted an article in her blog Prof. Calasanz wrote on Marriage. I read it through and found myself smiling. What was written was, technically, nothing new to the Atenean: one of the core concepts in Jesuit theology is the Paradox of Commitment. The Jesuits and their theologians at the Ateneo teach us Blue Eagles that, contrary to popular belief, commitment sets you free. Because, at its simplest, commitment gives one a solid foundation for Action and decision. No more is the future a confusing and ambigious mishmash of possiblities because you now have a point of reference to choose which possiblity to take. You are better able to plan your future within the context of your commitment.

Prof. Calasanz' discussion on the issue of Marriage, or what makes a good one and why it doesn't seem to go right many times is truly quite intriguing. Check it out in the link above (or post a comment if it refuses to link and I'll try to post it here), and let's see what you think about it.

Which reminds me about a little incident today. Urban Bank called to verify my intent to apply for the Ateneo Alumni Association Visa card. The caller asked, as is expected for a confirmation profile, if I was single or married. I nearly answered, "wish ko lang married na ko..." (",)


La lang. Just an aside. Actually, I just wanted to share that post Blooey made.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Doronilla and Monsod speaks... and I don't think CivSoc will like it...

Forgive any irrationalities and/or confusion in this post: not one hour after returning from Makati from a meeting, the 5th (!) batch of FEU students to research on the Party came around so I had to answer their (rather insightful) questions and give them the tour of the HQ. Suffice to say, I'm kinda tired and the day isn't over yet.

I'll Recharge first: check the blog of my "little sister," Rhea. Quite a sharp, observant, aware and insightful young lady. Her most recent post about her Socio 10 class is a very, very interesting read. If I was part of the "elder" population - the genealogical one - I'd be inspired to hear that a member of the youth can not only appreciate a course of hers but truly learn from it. If more of the young that followed my age group thought and feel like her, especially regarding what's happening with the country, then there truly is still a reason to hope.

And she isn't even 18 yet. Truly amazing...

On to the serious stuff. Today is Wednesday, the day after the latest protest march against GMA. So what has happened?

Data is still streaming in (and it's hard to fully use the analytical protocols of a Mentat when you're tired), but what caught my attention was the columns of Amando Doronilla and Winnie Monsod. Partly because both expressed in far better ways than I could the reasons and rationale for my actions - or rather, my inaction - since the Gloriagate began. As one of the "field officers" of K2Y during the Erap RIO, as someone who is known as a "passionate fighter" for his causes and beliefs, shouldn't I have been the first to loudly call for La Gloria's resignation?

It looks like Gloria may have survived this latest assault after all. There are no massive crowds. No outrage at the killing of the impeachment. Her foes batter at the walls of her fortress yet it seems not enough, even to make a significant dent.

As I said, the two writers above said it better than I could, especially in this condition, so just look them up. I'll just comment more later. But let me just say this: I don't think a lot of people in Civil Society will be pleased to see those columns...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Siege Warfare

As i write this, former President Aquino is at the Batasan, sitting alongside Susan Roces. As one columnist said, the image of the Republic's two most famous widows is statement enough for the war that is Gloriagate.

This morning, Madame Cory also announced that she will lead a march to the Batasan tomorrow, Tuesday, to... encourage recalcitrant congressmen to side with the Truth. This is akin to a throwing down of the gauntlet from the foremost icon of democracy this country has. This only means that Pres. Aquino has taken up the challenge of leading the pro-impeachment forces, and has joined her still-significant clout and drawing power to that of Fernando Poe's widow.

Truly, this is a very powerful force to send against the walls of Gloria's Jericho.

I can hear the Catholic schools mobilizing; I may not be involved anymore with the operations of the Union, but I have guided its strategies and policies for so long, and trained so many of the current SC officers and operators, to not know how the UCSC member-schools will react. In this they are truly our heirs, as it was our generation that provided the numbers during PP2. Although it pains me to see our successors take to the streets once again against a sitting president not four years after we did - I genuinely thought PP2 was the last time we would do such a thing - it also makes me proud to know that the Union's leaders do not balk when the clarion calls.

Gloria should be afraid...

I just spent a whole day sifting through various columnists and news reports. As usual, Fr. Bernas was informative, and Randy David sets it straight (while de Quiros never fails to raise my ire one way or another; what a cheap jab at Ateneo, Ateneans and the Jesuits in his column today. Can't he praise the La Sallians without having to throw mud at Loyola Heights?). Meanwhile, Sec. Bobby Tiglao gives an interesting piece from the point of view of the Palace.

Again, Gloria is under siege. Once more the forces seeking her ouster bring their trumpets to sound around her walls hoping to see them fall like they did with Erap and Marcos. This time, it appears they are united under the leadership of Cory and Susan, and where few from the moderates joined the earlier actions, perhaps more will this time, if Sunday at DLSU-GH is any indication.

Will she fall this time?

This would be interesting to see. This would be, what, the fifth time she has been challenged? This would also be the first time she is assaulted without a solid backing from civil society, and there seems to be a tacit, if hush-hush, support from the Church, at least from the major religious orders. Remember that the orders run the Catholic Schools, which provided much of the manpower for the moderates during the RIO and PP2.

Will she fall?

In siege warfare, there are merits and demerits for the position of both defense and offense. For the former, there is the advantage of prepared positions, of strongpoints of defense and knowledge of the terrain. For the latter, there is that undisputable fact that the defense has no way of resupply or reinforcement. The defense would either (a) try to sortie and break the invader's ranks to lift the siege, or (b) tough it out until substantial relief forces come to break the siege. The offense, meanwhile, assuming their own lines of supply and reinforcement are secure (isn't Napoleon a genius, when he emphasized that a crucial factor in warfare is the state of one's supply?), has all the time in the world to whittle down the defense through attrition and demoralization.

Gloria's ability to repel this latest assault depends on just how well her own forces are at this juncture. As Prof. David said, she has been waging a multi-front campaign but few if any deal substantially with the issues facing her. Instead, she has fallen back on politics - and the bad side of it, in fact - to save herself. Instead of "feinting" the opposition with a "breakthrough" in her "defences" from an impeachment in the House, she has decided to kill it instead, calling on her political allies and more to buttress her defenses. The opposition, meanwhile, has gotten so incensed over the admin's tactics that, to continue battlefield analogies, they've gone berserk over what happened and now lash out in anger seemingly without the benefit of strategy or tactics.

The way I see it... if Cory had not come out as strongly as she did the last two days, the opposition would have no chance left. Susan Roces alone would not have sufficed because of the people around her that alienates the grand majority of the middle class, the necessary ingredient to any successful mass action, and because of the presence of the Left. Cory's arrival unifies the forces ranged against Gloria, and gives the middle class that "excuse" they're looking for to join the protests. There are still issues that need to be threshed out among the different forces going against Gloria, but Cory provides all of them - the pro-Erap/Poe, the Left and the Moderates - with a leader who can bring them all along. The oust-Gloria movement has now found its Joan of Arc.

Will it be enough, then?

And I hear some of you asking: why will I not be there tomorrow?

I will answer that one when I am sure as to why. Right now, my reasons are my own, but I wish you all the luck in the world.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nightmare in New Orleans

I'm taking a break from Gloriagate to dwell on a situation on the other side of the globe: the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina slammed into it. This is after reading an account of the devastation - there really is no other word to describe it - in the International Herald Tribune website.

Of course I've heard about the storm; I do watch CNN still, every now and then. Besides, it's not everyday you hear of a Category 5 storm, especially one that blew into a major city. I'm not as familiar with the Hurricane Category scale as I am with the Fujita Scale (the one for tornadoes), but knowing that Cat-5 is the highest is info enough for me.

Damage and loss of lives were to be expected. Filipinos aren't strangers to killer storms as we get really rough typhoons every year. We know that despite one's preparation there really is little that can be done against the fury of nature unleashed.

But... the way IHT described the situation at New Orleans you'd think you were watching a post-apocalypse movie. A stadium sardine-packed with refugees, with more streaming in and tempers flaring, sanitation deteriorating, food, medicine and water rapidly depleting. Bodies - thousands might have been killed, despite the early warning, according to government sources - floating in flooded streets. Massive looting. People trying to escape from a city virutally dead in stolen vehicles.

All I could think of while reading the article was, "my God..."

Perhaps it was the fact that the city being spoken of was in America. And not just any city: this was New Orleans. This is the city of cajuns and nice, spicey food. Of vodoun. It isn't New York or Las Vegas or Los Angeles but New Orleans is a city steeped in culture. Heck, it was one of the places I wanted to go to in case I found myself in North America.

But to hear a major modern city being evacuated and abandoned for months on end outside of a warzone is something... new. A city abandoned by its populace becauyse of war or plague is something that seems to still fall under my Training. Those things are nothing new. How many ruined cities stand in the former Yugoslavia, in Africa? But New Orleans...?

I feel for the survivors of this tragedy. The storm may have spent its fury, but their trials are far from over.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Once More, with Feeling


Okay, first off, this is what I get for doing the ostrich bit. In one very real sense, it is infinitely nicer to jump into Junon and go hunt Aqua King along with the rest of the pROSE population than give a damn about what these stupid polticians are doing to the country. Besides, I think I'm more of a use there than in RL, since other players thank my Escort for healing them and keeping them from losing 3% of their experience points.

Anyway, enough off-topic peregrinations. As I said, this Tuesday seems to be the opening act for the nth escalation of the Gloriagate. If I was still acting as the Mentat for my generation (and not, as mentioned above, going adok over pROSE), then perhaps I would have noticed that there was a political angle to one of the most... confusing "holidays" I've ever seen. "Semi-holiday," as other pundits described it.

Sometime today, Ma'am Dinky, along with Sec. Butch Abad and some of the "Hyatt 10" members (Hyatt TEN, okay, Sec. Bunye?) alleged that the Palace, specifically through Gabby Claudio with orders from La Gloria herself, ordered the filing of the Lozano complaint. This is a serious charge. A lot of people, whether in pol-ops or not, CivSoc or general public, believe that Atty. Oliver Lozano filed the first of the impeachment charges as a ploy from Malacañang to torpedo the whole impeachment. One, it can prevent the passage of other charges because the '87 Consti was clear on there being only ONE complaint, per year. If in case some technicality allows the passage of others, like the Amended Lozano, then the thinking was the Lozano complaint could act as fallback for the anti-impeachment people to either strike the complaint on the Committee level for lack of sufficiency in substance, or it'd be a weak case vs. the President if in case it ascends to a now-seemingly hostile Senate.

There have been rumors going around political and CivSoc circles that the House Committee on Justice will "kill" the impeachment today. In fact, we've just heard that LP stalwart Tony Roman of Bataan will vote "abstain," and this is one of the "hardcore" pro-impeachment reps of the LP. Rep. Vargas resigned yesterday from the Party, officially because he was anti-impeachment (being pro-status quo) and as an objection to the pressure being exerted by the pro-resign Liberals for Party congressmen to sign the impeachment. We've heard that the Palace is using a carrot-and-stick approach to keep congressmen from signing the complaint.

What are the implications of what's happening - and probably will happen - this week? People have been talking about, and looking for, Gloriagate's "Second Envelope." This is, of course, in reference to the legendary trigger event that launched People Power II last 2001. God knows the anti-Gloria groups have tried so hard: the setting-up of Bunye with the first release of the Gloriagate tapes; the coming-out of Samuel Ong; the rallies after the fallout stemming from the President's apology; July 8. That's at least four major assaults on a supposedly unpopular president and she's still there. And as Jove Francisco reported in his blog, the President and her men are still largely, kampante, confident.

Is the killing of the impeachment Gloriagate's "Second Envelope?" Two Sundays ago, the former KOMPIL II groups gathered at DLSU-GH to convene the "Black and White Movement." I was supposed to go but my body thought it was much nicer to oversleep on a Sunday and I woke at past 2:oo p.m. I don't know what happened there, and, more importantly, how the gathered Moderates went about the whole gathering. In such crisis situations, the mood of the people involved is a much better gauge on where the body will go than whatever slogans are chanted or manifestos released. When we held the All-Leaders Conference in January 2001, the mood was rather dark, and some of us in the youth contingent were going for each other's throats during debates because of the sense of impending defeat. In fact, the discussions ended on the option for civil disobedience.

One week later, though, the "Second Envelope" happened and PP2 was well on its way...

Nnnnoooo, we didn't plan that. Well, we were hoping for one, since October 2000, but... Well. C'est la guerre, I guess.

So. Do we have an escalation? Still monitoring. In my opinion, the impeachment is dead outside of an Act of God (like last time?). The oust-GMA movement may be, too. The mood of the general public is... different. What about the surveys, you say? Well, what about them? Although I have an appreciation for such tools of research, I am still skeptical about the claim that what a thousand people say is truly reflective of the moods and thoughts of 80+ million people. And as Heisenberg implied in his celebrated Uncertainty Principle, the mere act of observing the subject of study changes the natural state of that subject. A person who probably wouldn't care less about Gloria on a usual day would probably tell you how horrible he/she thinks the prez is when you ask that person. It's like with Values Ed class: everyone will say smoking, boozing, cheating and pre-marital sex is bad, yet will not think twice about doing the abovenmentioned in the first possible instance.

Again, I am not pro-Gloria; I think she has messed up royally. I am also pro-impeachment and would love to see the proceedings happen again.

But, the rules of this war seemed to be so vastly different from the one we fought so ardently four years ago...


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pleasantly Surprised

Sometime ago, I made a post about being "pleasantly surprised" by Pope Benedict XVI. It stemmed from the many - and sometimes acrimonous - discussions and debates about the latest successor to the Throne of Peter and the man who had the ill luck to be chosen head of the Roman Catholic Church after the much-loved John Paul II.

My point in that post was that we were prejudging the man; at that point, what did we Catholics really knew about (the then) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger? That he was the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the body tasked by the heirarchy of the Church to... maintain the sanctity of its beliefs. To some, we know that it's the modern-day version of the once-feared Inquisition. To "liberal" Catholics, Cardinal Ratzinger was the figurehead for the orthodoxy that is choking the faith, which also prevents the Mother Church from both being responsive to the needs of its members and relevant to their lives. Especially to the young of the Church.

But, sometime after seeing the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI give his "urbi et orbi,' I somehow softened, at least, my stance on him. Considering that I am a self-confessed liberal Catholic, I should'v bemoaned his ascension to the Papacy. Instead, I was defending the man, especially in light of the horrible tirades the British press gave. I said that Pope Benedict XVI, instead of being the cause for consternation of us Catholics, just might "pleasantly suprise" us. And what better way to find out than at the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.

From what I heard, I was right. Far from being "God's rottweiler," Pope Benedict XVI came across as a lovable, gentle and inspiring figure. During lunch with a dozen young delegates, one of those in attendance even said that she wanted to give the 78-year old pontiff a hug "because he looked like a teddy bear!" Imagine, comparing the Pope, the most powerful religious figure of our time, to a plush toy. But somehow... it was apt. And it brought a smile to one's lips because, of all the imagery one would expect of the new Pope, a teddy bear was the last thing you'd think of.

Yet this says something of the man, of the impression he made to the future of Catholic Christianity. I've always said that we young people, especially the young of the Catholic Church, are not rebels because of some mistaken Western belief that this was de rigeur for young people, but because we're searching for answers and the world of our parents seemed to murky for our liking. We see too clearly, we who grew up on the celfone and internet. We see our elders keep trying to stuff into us values and beliefs that they themselves do not follow. How would you feel if you get so confused at what exactly is right or wrong? Thus the youth rebel; we refuse the sordid, broken and vicious world of our elders, they who wrecked so much of the future that will be our present. But amidst this darkness the young search for the light, for a sure path amidst the pothole-filled roads of our forebears.

That, I believe, is what Benedict XVI is offering to the Christians of tomorrow: not just hope, but the stability of values and ideals that is the bedrock of Catholicism. Does this mean we "liberals" have to sacrifice many of those beliefs we treasure? I don't think so. If I understood his messages clearly, that won't be the case. It's just a... reorientation. A re-centering of our lives and paths to Christ.

In his opening message for WYD '05, Pope Benedict XVI said, "Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: It is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity! With Mary, say your own "yes" to God, for he wishes to give himself to you. I repeat today what I said at the beginning of my pontificate: "If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation" (Homily at the Mass of Inauguration, April 24). Be completely convinced of this: Christ takes from you nothing that is beautiful and great, but brings everything to perfection for the glory of God, the happiness of men and women, and the salvation of the world."

Many times - and these days it's more often than not - I hate being right, but only because it is in the context of my work as a Mentat, and analyst. I sometimes complain that it seemed as if the things I see as most likely happening that do come true are the bad ones.

But this time, I'm glad I was right.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

An Escaflowne Situation

Well, maybe not really, but it's probably a lot closer to one than I would deem comfortable.

(This from someone who got a 36% hit rate in a Zener test...)

To those not familiar with anime, Escaflowne is a steampunk-and-fantasy mecha series. One of its central characters, Hitomi, has the power to predict the future - among other things - especially when she does a tarot reading. Of course, Esca is also, in my opinion, a very good example of quantum mechanics at work (watch until the near-to-the-end episodes to get what I mean), but for purposes of this post, the tarot readings in the series will be the starting point of my discussion.

And, oh, yes, I just came back from Davao City last Friday. Wonderful place; it's not my Manila, but it was wonderful, nonetheless. Maybe more on that later.

Before we left for KALIPI's Mindanao Congress Monday last week, I went into a frenzy of searching for programs and other files to download to my recently-crashed palmtop. I thought that, since it just got memory-wiped and I was going to the field again, I might as well "stock up" on neat stuff. Besides, my BB asked for games to be installed once again in my "geekisized" Handspring Visor. So there I was on a Monday evening, surfing and looking for programs to install when I came across a program for Zen tarot.

"Zen tarot? And it's in the games section? What the..." But with my curiosity piqued, I decided to include it in the packet I was compiling for installation. Heck, I've always wanted to have my own genuine tarot deck (it's right up there in my wishlist's Top Five), so why not try the electronic version for now? When the program opened, I opted to leap straight in and was presented with a screenful of blank rectangles, which I presumed to be the back of the "cards."

Part of me was very skeptical at this point. Understand that I (believe I'm) psionic. My parents got some sort of training when they were younger and the potential seems to be there when I look at the things I and my siblings have done throughout our lives. I also did some studies on the matter during my time in the Ateneo (and I think Fr. Bulatao couldn't see my aura... clouded, he said...), and scored rather well in the Four Aces test for clairvoyance. I used to frequent the websites of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit of Edinburgh University, the Consciousness Research Labrotary, the old Stanford Research Institute, and found some readings and proceedings of Project Stargate. Heck, I'm from Ateneo's Communications Department, where Spirit Questor mentor Tony Perez is headquartered and where a "nexus" of sorts supposedly exists in the righthand wall of the film room. I may not agree with some of what the Questors do, but I never questioned the reality of what they face.

Besides, mysticism aside, tarot readings can be used as a method of introspection and self-inquiry. Sometimes we really are afraid to face certain things about ourselves. I'm one proof of this: I've been aware of some things hounding my mind for some time now, but I refuse to confront them.

So I began to randomly pick the required number of cards for a Celtic Cross reading. Heck, I didn't even frame a question. I just tapped my stylus here and there, and, oh, here looks fine enough... there we go... last one...

Until now, I haven't wiped the reading from the palmtop's memory. I guess the results truly disturbed me... because they seem so apt.

For the last few weeks, if not months, I've been quite... disturbed (there's that word again)... about the things happening in my life (see my "cascade" posts). It comes from quite truly having a world you've known for a long time, and a life you've accepted you'd be living, oh-so-suddenly seemingly come under threat of utter dissolution. On that morning when Bobby Guevarra did that fateful de Mello reading in LibTheo class, my lifepath was (again) changed when I decided to be true to the promise I made to God when I was nine to serve Him. Not as a priest, no (Light's sake, do you want a scandal?), but in whatever capacity a person who said no to the utmost of Calls can still do.

That was 1998. Seven years later, and I suddenly find my life without direction, and therefore for the first time in my life - even in that time from 1994 - 1996 where we lost everything - I realized I didn't know what future I was facing. Even worse, the foundations of my life were being eroded, if not utterly annihilated by the events that seem to coincide with Gloriagate. It was as if my personal life decided to further complicate matters - as if they weren't complicated enough! - by putting the losses I've suffered within the context of this latest of national crises.

It all seemed so... clear... then. Eleven of the student councils of the Catholic schools gathered at Ateneo's ISO to create an organization that was their own, as a message to the ND-dominated NUSP and its ilk that we were taking our schools' destinies in our own hands, and to the Republic at large that the Catholic schools would be engaging more actively with the concerns of our constituency, sector and the nation but on our own terms. Back then, it seemed that when I asked God, "so where do You need me?", He gave an answer that was immediate, complete and, as I would eventually learn, to my liking. So much so that when the UCSC's current generation began to kind of... ostracize me (heck, even my own premier protege did so one time...), it felt really bad.

Understand that I will be the first to defend the Union's right to non-interference, even from its Alumni; I was the one who asked Roben Savares, then the Chairperson of the CORE, to remove any voting rights for the Alumni representative to the CORE, and insisted that we Alumni and members of the Board of Advisors should attend meetings only "upon request" by any of the officers or members of the Union.

But, still... (sigh)

And then I heard that after the... disaster at the Palace, when GMA's handlers pulled a fast one on the UCSC to make it look like we were supporting her, there were calls for its disbandment, for schools to pull out, and even questions about what exactly were the schools getting out of it. I guess the tipping point for me here is when one even voiced that NUSP was better. NUSP! That training ground for idealogues of the communist movement?! I think I was never insulted in all my years of service to the Union, for someone in the UCSC to say NUSP was better in terms of giving back to the schools, in "doing something," and in being democratic.

And there's the Party. During the start of my service with the LP, I was skeptical. But that was understandable, considering where I came from. Eventhough I never mouthed the slogans of the Left, I was still a part of the new students' movement that rose in the late-90's, the ones who eventually became the "field officers" for civil society in the Erap RIO. To me in 2000, the term "good politics" was as oxymoronic as "democracy in a communist system."

But because I was primed by my upbringing and Jesuit education to appreciate systems, and abstractions, the more I engaged in the promotion of the liberal democratic ideology and the Party that espoused it I realized that (a) I was a libdem even before I heard of the term, and (b) what better way to bring about change than for the "good guys" to take hold of the reins of power and guide the Philippines to a Bright Tomorrow? I had been with CivSoc and understood the inherent weakness in it, despite the the power, reach and capability of the "Fifth Estate." I knew of the corruption of the Fourth Estate, and its being a slave to the almighty Bottom Line as much as the Third was (entites like PCIJ being the exception). I believed in the LP, its ideals, its principles and vision. This was where I wanted to be. I thus found the third of the important defining terms for my soul: Catholic, Atenean and now a Liberal.

But now...

I still believe in the Liberal Party. I still think that, especially with Roco's death and the obvious track of the revived Nacionalistas, we're the best chance to reform the political culture. If the Philippines is to get out of the rut it has been in since the Americans stole our independence in 1898 and get moving, then change must come from all sides. And there have been signs of that in all the other sphers of Philippine society, but in the political sphere we Liberals are supposed to be it. If no reform happens here, the Philippines would just be like a wounded person who didn't get fully treated; there's a big chance that wound you left out will get infected and endanger the whole person again.

It's just... hard. I feel the cold claws of apathy clench around my heart. It seems that everyday it gets so hard to care, to find the fire inside that makes you Move, that makes you Act. I keep thinking, I'm going to be thirty in less than three years and nothing I've done in the last seven have made a difference so maybe it's time I looked after my self now? Because no one else seems to care for me anyomre. Not the org I built, the Party I served, nor the people who I stood by whether as comrade, colleague, friend or lover.

There are times I feel even God has abandoned me, a failed experiment, a failed Knight. I don't feel the surety of His hand in my life anymore, like when he brought me to the Ateneo, to the NYC, to the Union, to the LP. Have I lost so many of the battles He has asked me to fight that I think He may be asking me to go to the rear of the front and let others do the fighting? If I'm not being asked already to resign my commission as one of His Knights and become a "civilian."

For that was what I saw in the tarot cards: a slowing down. Although the cards put it in a positive light - a time to introspect, to take stock, that I should be appreciative of this moment given me by God to look, to study, to see where my life is going - I still feel... bad. Sad. Horrible. Confused. Eversince that first day that I met the other schools in the 1st UCSC Congress, I felt that this was my life. I threw away any chance at a financially- and personally-fulfilling career with the corporations when I took this path. Not becuase I hated the rigid structures of corporate life - hello, I grew up in a corporate family - but because... this seemed right. Because it felt as if I was doing something with my life, helping other people. Because I remember how I felt the last time I looked into the eyes of the anawim, how much revolted and angry I felt that people lived in such conditions, that their souls lost so much of their dignity and beauty and that I wanted so much to do something for them. No, alms, the crumbs of a rich table, aren't enough for me to give: they must share the table with me, otherwise it would be unjust!

Yet, yet...

One of the primary precepts of Precogntion, the first in fact, is that we who see the future do not see an absolute; rather, we see the most potentially real of the varied futures, given the current circumstances (Heisenberg's fault, I guess, as much as it was Einstein's for the lightspeed limit).

The Jesuits taught us that there is a profound Paradox in Commitment: it sets you free. Because you have dedicated yourself to something (or someone) the future is no more a state of confusion or arbitrariness because you now have a solid foundation for decision and Action, freeing one from the state of indecision and from being tossed to and fro by chance and chaos.

My future is the cloudiest it has been in all my 27 years. The foundations of my commitment are breaking down or are being taken from me.

And now the cards tell me something I have long been denying.

So what do I do now?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

After the Cascade

And it was a cascade for me in more ways than one...

For the benefit of people asking me about my take on recent events, especially in the light of yesterday's massive (relatively speaking) rally at Makati, I'm posting that part of my email to the Piraeus Group on the latest developments of Gloriagate.

Another thing, before I paste the excerpt: there is a trick in making a rally look bigger on cam. Remember those aerial photos of the rally? It looks like a lot of people were there, right? Although admittedly 30k is a lot of people, it looks bigger shot that way because the "pinpricks" and "dots" that represent the heads of people blend in a mish-mash kind of way with the gray ferrocrete of the street. So it looks jam-packed.

Also, a camera, even one with a wide-angle lens, can only capture so much of a scene. If you take a shot of the central activity area - say, near the Aquino monument - at a certain angle, then it really looks big even with that ground-level shot. But if you pan the cam around, you'll see that the crowds don't go farther than a few hundred meters from the center of the activity.

Now, for the excerpt:

To those of you asking what will happen to the country... my initial read is that, because of what happened in "The Longest Friday" (or "Presscon Friday", as I call it), GMA stands to stay in power at least until the SONA. If we go the impeachment route - which seems highly probable right now - then... 2 months? If she'll get kicked out, it'll probably be early next year or late this year. If this reaches December, then the Oust-GMA movement will be dead at least until the middle of January 2006, and by then many of the politicians would be thinking of May 2007.

Ah. Oh. Oh shit. That's right...

God help me and for once I wish I can be wrong with this... but I think the Oust-GMA groups will try at least one more escalation and cascade situation like with TLF. They have to. Oh my God...

1. If this reaches September, how can you mob any students from the moderate schools? Finals is near.

2. If this reaches December, or even November, the natural calming effect of yuletide on Filipinos will most likely dampen enthusiasm for the protests as much as it did - or even more so - when we did the RIO back in 2000. C'mon, people, we were there, remember? We all know what December did to the RIO.

3. If somehow GMA reaches January 2006... all I see there is either (a) lack of interest as many politicians begin gearing up for the 2007 elections, or (b) fatigue will set in. Revolts and protests on the magnitude of a near-EDSA cannot be sustained overtime in the same way you can't stay angry for a truly long period of time.

So I think the opposition will once again escalate the situation to cascade it like with the TLF. But... that's a dangerous gambit because they've thrown so much against GMA and she's still there! Like someone I admire a lot said last night, this whole "Gloriagate" thing will make a fascinating thesis. I mean, a very unpopular president has managed to hold on to power despite (at least!) three very major cascade situations... amazing... And the last one was throwing everything (and everyone) including the kitchen sink and all the stinky bits at the bottom of the drain. Yet the little lady is still there... how fascinating...

I don't know what the Oust-GMA side will do for another escalation-cascade manuever. Many of the key ingredients were used up last July 8 with little effect except to further damage the economy and give the pro-GMA people a means to circle the wagons and dig in. In military strategy, the one on defense always has the advantage in a war of attrition, even if outgunned and outnumbered. And right now it's fast becoming a war of attrition, with advantage back to Gloria - who's on defense - after TLF fizzled and the CBCP gave out its statement.

But they (the anti-Gloria forces) have to. Because time isn't with them. Aside from the socio-cultural and political angle, there's also the economic. Eventually, the protests will take a toll on the economy that those people asking her to step down will begin looking like economic saboteurs. I'm not kidding: let's say you see that the forex rate is, say, 60:1, then you see the rallyists at Makati / Mendiola / Wherever, what would you think? Especially if you keep hearing the news as, "the political instability is bringing the economy down..." All GMA has to spin it is by saying, hey, I'm trying to do my job here but these (censored) want to be in power and they're doing all these rallies and down-with-gov't acts for that and making the economy go down. She doesn't even have to refute any statements from thereon. When the economy goes really down and people are still shouting "Gloria out" without more solid proof than what's come out now... the protest is dead.

So expect an escalation once again in the next few days

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Not Exactly (Another) Gloriagate Post

Well, yes, I was thinking about doing one. I mean, it's the hottest topic of the day, and I'm supposed to be a Mentat. Like what Thufir said, you can't stop analyzing your data.

Unless, some part of you decides to... take a leave of absence...

Ha, ha, I'm actually irritated at the anti-Gloria forces not exactly out of a sense of indignation over the mess they made of the economy, but because they screwed up my routine. Since when did I complain that I really can't take my frap anymore?

And why is it soo much better to jusy play R.O.S.E (oh, yes, it rocks big time...) and DW4: Empires than listen to another bit of news on this damnable Gloriagate?

Since when did I become so...

Ha, ha, as if I don't know the answer to that.

And maybe because my systems are beginning to realize that we are, indeed, in the "lemmings" scenario. How hilarious that Gloria fell for it, admitting over nationwide media that, yesh, it wash mai voiice in the tapesh. How stupid can the Palace pol and media ops can be? Now it's escalated and all these leaders are taking the "moral high ground" by asking her to resign.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Fucking Lemmings...

It's soooooo... no, not stupid. All those "middle forces" that have called for her resignation on moral grounds, or because, regardless of guilt, she has lost her mandate to govern, do have a point. If you had stood on EDSA during People Power II, how can you condone what the President did?

But, but...

I wish... I wish they'd thought on it some more. Go past the surface issue of morality, legality and propriety. Look at the dynamics and background of the forces moving and contending the Gloriagate. Ask the questions many wouldn't want to hear: yes, yes, morality and all is dandy, but, children, why now? Why was it just revealed? Why is the opposition so hot to get people on the streets when they can use constitutional measures to take her down? Where are the people who actually did the operation? Surely, if it was ISAFP, and with a divided military, someone should have "rescued" these men if they were incarcerated?

There are so many questions... yet so many of those who've come out for Gloria's resignation have not looked past the morality and propriety issue. This is a little bit off tangent as an analogy, but it's like talking peace with a warmonger: do you honestly expect the other side to smile and shake your hand and leave you in peace? People tend to judge other people through their own values and perceptions, but he/she isn't you. It's like the sacking of Baghdad. The Caliph surrendered after a lengthy siege, hoping to at least have his people and the rich culture in the center of the Muslim world spared the ravages of war and plunder. Unfrotunately for the Caliph, he was suing peace from the Mongol Horde. Check your history books to find out how gruesome it was after they hacked the Caliph and his party to pieces right in front of the gates of Baghdad.

Has anyone really asked themselves why the other side(s) are acting the way they are, even if the call is the same? Do they honestly think that

You see, I've gone beyond the "surface" issues beacuse what we have here is a classic struggle for a country's future. We're talking endgame scenarios, of what will happen if Force A gets their wish, or if Force B does this and that. You skip the surface issues because you know all the sides in this war except maybe for yours plays a very, very dirty game and they don't think in terms of what's good for the people or not. The Opposition wants to be back in power through extra-consti means because they know they will never regain it evermore. The Left see in this a wonderful opportunity to inch closer to their goal. The military thinks that this time may be it, after soo many failed coups.

Gloria has failed us big time, that's not under debate. We all know that. But this isn't the RIO. This is post-PP2, where sociocivic fatigue has set in and the world is much, much darker than when the '90s came along. Back then, there were choices.

Now, what are your choices? Do you even have any?

Honestly, has anyone even considered what will happen in a post-Gloria scenario?

Here's one, for the "Phyrric Constitutional Victory" scenario: Gloria resigns, or is forced to, or gets impeached. Let's say Loren's dispute of the elections fizzles, so Noli really is the Prez now. Let's disregard who he chooses as VP.

Ask yourselves: will the Opposition and the Left settle for this? People, they want a junta because there is no other way for them to sieze power.

Noli will be subjected to intense pressure. Maybe he has a chance, if he chooses a Liberal as his VP because the LP has the network, the resources and the people to back him up. How about the Nacionalista's? Maybe a Villar VP-ship will see the NP grow in numbers again, but can you trust political turncoats? And can Villar not take advantage of all that political windfall? But these are turncoats and trapos; when the pressure gets too intense, they'll leave Noli hanging in the breeze.

So who does he turn to? ABS? Maybe, whether or not he disassociates himself from the media giant. So now you can hit him with allegations of Ch. 2 being the puppetmaster this time, and isn't it the Lopezes who own both Ch. 2 and Meralco?

Let's say GMA resigns in... five weeks. Let's give her until August. September she's out, Noli steps in.

In less than six months, he's also going out...

Ah-ha-ha-ha. Why am I so damned pessimistic? Why do I dream of holding the line, alone, for the Union as our forces flee from a surging mass of anti-Gloria / pro-Erap / Radical Left tidal wave?

Why do I soooo much want to...


Does Rock Ed have any activity soon? I need to do something positive and immediate-feedback, because all this is starting to get to me.

And I'm depressed already...


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Hope, and the Multiplication of It

No, this is not a Gloriagate post. Believe me, I've tried several times to do some along those lines shortly after it burst into the scene - and, really, there are times I wish I was wrong when the precog is a bad one - but time and circumstance have prevented me from doing so. You should see the drafts...

Instead, I'd like to talk about a little something I went to Friday evening (it being 3 in the morning of Saturday, 2 July 2005, when I write this). Besides, you want more on Gloriagate, go to PCIJ's blog.

When this person who came by the rather unique nickname of Gang presented Rock Ed Philippines during the June 2005 CORE Session of the UCSC, a lot of thoughts came to my mind, some of them rather not good. I guess I was thinking like some so-called "veteran" of the last four years of intense political warfare and dozens of failed attempts at social engineering: you've seen it all, come through it all, and what have you got to show for it? Another political battle. You've stared into the abyss so long that you think it's beginning to wave back and call you friend...

But my curiosity was piqued. Rock Ed. The concepts behind it - alternative education to bring about upliftment - sounded familiar, maybe all too familiar, and you wonder what could be new here. We stood on EDSA in 2001, dammit. We went through the bloody PUNK and the 2002 NAPC Youth Summit. We defended Davide, remember? And am I not UCSC? Did we not coordinate the (supposed) forces of change as the Coordinating Council of KOMPIL II Youth? What was Youth Alliance, then?

But go I did. And glad I was that I did.

Maybe it was the sheer... audacity of it. As Jaime Garchitorena put it, we were as... eclectic a bunch as you can find, coming from such diverse fields and backgrounds. Many NGOs and alternative educators there - the publishers of Adarna were there, alongside the marketing manager of MTV - but there were artists, theater actors, managers and the occassional lawyer and law student. Heck, we weren't even one-tenth of the forces my groups mobilized in the last four years since the RIO. These weren't the experienced field operatives and commanders of civil society and the student councils.

Yet somehow... it felt good. Maybe even much better than when Danny Javier announced the one millionth soul on EDSA that fateful January in 2001 when you thought a new dawn was breaking on the Philippines. I think I've been too long in the trenches of this War that I've forgotten how it is to be with, as the saying goes, "like minded individuals" that could still... dream and act on that dream. Yes, perhaps that's what's missing; I've contemplated for so long whether I should abandon the War and let it all go hang because... because the realities of life in the front lines of the Movement eventually does takes its toll on you, on the spirit. You get so beaten up badly trying to hold that line you drew on the concrete with your blood that you can't lift your swollen eyes anymore. And in the last few years it has felt like such a lonely battle, what with the Piraeus scattered, the Union (until this new batch came along) rendered moribund, and the LP becoming more like... government...

The energy in the room was palpable. For the life of me I cannot remember the last time I've seen so much... hope, so much enthusiasm in a room full of young adults who were thinking of ways to do the hardest job of all: end poverty. Nationwide. In our lifetimes. Good Lord and a half, but do these guys have any idea of the sheer... scope of their - OUR! - goal? Do they know that we've been at the status quo with everything plus the kitchen sink yet it not only stood firm but co-opted so many of us into its staid and decayed structure?

Probably. Those weren't naive people there, despite their lineage and economic status. But, but...

... there are plans to buy a flatbed truck, paint it all over, turn it into a makeshift stage, and let it go around the country teaching kids in plazas and eskinitas about issues and values...

... Glaxo has agreed to counterpart-fund a vaccination drive, and Batanes is first on the list January 2006...

... how about wrapping three buildings in Makati with white ribbon - the symbol of the Global Action Against Poverty - including, as Jaime added to the idea, Oakwood, to transform it from a symbol of rebellion into one of hope...

... or how about flooding Malacañang with postcards that ask the President to make good her promise to deal with povery...

Personally, I like the roving school idea best, and I'm wracking my brain as to where we can find funding and non-monetary support for it. But the other ideas, some of them even seeming so simple as compared to those bloody "big" projects of ours in the last four years - ah, yes, the PUNK... there are nights I still wonder whether it made a difference or was I just a party to wasting more than P2 million? - yet their probable effects...

And the people themselves... you'd think that everybody has degenerated into versions of the crass politico or me-first entities that either leave the country to earn more or stay here yet waste all their talent in call centers (and, again, let me make it clear that I have absolutely nothing against call centers; they have made the lives of many ordinary young men and women better without the social cost of overseas employment. But to hear so many in my circle who so easily went that way... or went corporate... *sigh*). It was just... great to hear other people ask the questions you've been asking for so long, or think and feel the same way about issues like irresponsible wastage disposal or road values.

And - heh, heh - being with the Rock Ed people made me realize just what kind of creature five years of political work has done to me. I actually wanted to stand up and ask for proposals and concept papers of these projects to be given to me so I can show them to funders... It's a good I've gotten a hold of my leap-before-looking mentality, or I would've probably embarassed myself... I was actually compartmentalizing my new group's dreams in the black and white of bureaucracy, and somehow that felt rather... wrong... Oh, sure, there will probably be a time when we have to do that, show a potential donor a proj prop, but... not now...

I don't know where this will lead; I am still a creature of the World I have lived in and fought (and nearly died so many times) for since the founding of the UCSC in 1998, after all. I did not get my position of Strategic Director because of any other reason save that of my skill as an analyst and gatherer of information. So I can't help but wonder about all these plans when they start coming up against that wall called the status quo. But that's the tired, overly-cynical, and near-hopeless person who's become a casualty of the very forces he tried to harness for the Bright Tomorrow.

But... just how did revolutions start, anyway? With a few men and women who believed in a certain ideal and were willing to fight for their cause. How did the Berlin Wall - and communism - fall? When so many people pushed that no guns or tanks of a repressive regime could cower.

Perhaps that really is what appealed to me: the people. Not too many, yes, not the battalions that we gathered on EDSA... but dedicated all to the ideal of ending poverty, in whatever form it may be from what I can gather from the conversations. And that's what's important: knowing that when you light a candle in the dark, you're not alone. Because so many people lighting their own little candle can banish the darkest of nights... and that wall isn't so big and tough if more than one person is pushing to bring it down...