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.