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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
11:55 PM

Markmomukhamo copied AFI's list of 100 Greatest American Movies and crossed out all that he had already watched. Very nice idea, Mark! Hope you don't mind if I do something similar ... I tried desperately to resist the temptation but I'm such a sucker for lists ....

So here is my list of the movies on AFI's list that I have watched ....

2. Casablanca (1942)
3. The Godfather (1972)
4. Gone With the Wind (1939)
6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
7. The Graduate (1967)
9. Schindler's List (1993)
13. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
15. Star Wars (1977)
20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
25. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
32. The Godfather Part II (1974)
34. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
48. Jaws (1975)
49. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
55. The Sound of Music (1965)
58. Fantasia (1940)
59. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
60. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
62. Tootsie (1982)
64. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
65. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
71. Forrest Gump (1994)
78. Rocky (1976)
83. Platoon (1986)
91. My Fair Lady (1964)
95. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Ang konti! :-/
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11:26 PM

Mike writes about how things are looking up in the world of music.
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Monday, March 29, 2004
11:36 PM
The Passion opens here this week.

I still haven't found that amazing review of The Passion that I read a few weeks ago.

But I've found this moving one and this one that comments on the secularists' criticism of the film.

I've also found this excellent thought-provoking review from a cultural perspective. The writer is African-American and points out that the violence in the film which many people have chosen to criticize actually speaks very powerfully to African-Americans because of their history of slavery. I commented to my friends the other day that if all these Christian critics are mortified that a film should show Christ's suffering and death rather that his life, they should all come to the Philippines and see how Holy Week is remembered here. I truly believe that a people who have experienced much suffering tend to have a spirituality of the Cross; that is, a spirituality that identifies very strongly with Christ's Passion and Death. And Filipinos are a people who have suffered much. (Besides, Mel Gibson wasn't trying to rewrite Scripture; he wasn't trying to make the definitive movie about Christ. He was merely trying to make one film that grew out of his own, unique, personal spiritual experience.)

I also found this litany that reminds us what it's all about.

Finally, Brownpau linked to this article by a Lutheran criticizing some anti-Catholic reactions to the film. (Reading some of those anti-Catholic reviews by people who vigorously claim to be defending Christianity makes you wonder whether they remember that little commandment in Exodus--you know, the one that goes, "Thou shalt not bear false witness" ....)
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10:54 PM
That phenomenon called Reality TV.

Here is NY Times' quote of the day:

"If film is a director's medium, and television drama is a writer's medium, reality TV is without question a casting director's medium," said Robert J. Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University.

The rest of the article is here (free registration necessary).
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1:04 PM
Graduation speeches.

At the Management and Science graduation on Saturday evening, commencement speaker John Gokongwei, Jr. recounted his moving life story and the lessons he learned: (1) help the country by being an entrepreneur, (2) learn to delay gratification in the service of the country, (3) learn to adapt to change without sacrificing your fundamental principles and values, and (4) see crises as exciting opportunities. Powerful speech, and I hope it especially gave the more-than-500 management graduates something to reflect on as they begin their job hunt. :)

Fr. B's speech at Friday's commencement exercises was as witty and inspiring as anyone would expect from Fr. Bernas: he talked about the principles of truth, peace, justice, and love, especially in these uncertain times.

Congratulations to all the new graduates; venture forth and bring hope to our nation! :)
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12:36 PM

The meaning of Lent, from Catholic Online.

Also read the Pope's Lenten Message for 2004. It begins:

... This year's theme - "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me . " (Mt 18:5) - invites us to reflect on the condition of children. Today Jesus continues to call them to himself and to set them as an example to all those who wish to be his disciples. Jesus' words call upon us to see how children are treated in our families, in civil society, and in the Church. They are also an incentive to rediscover the simplicity and trust which believers must cultivate in imitation of the Son of God, who shared the lot of the little ones and the poor. Saint Clare of Assisi loved to say that Christ, "lay in a manger, lived in poverty on the earth and died naked on the Cross." (Testament, Franciscan Sources , No. 2841)....

Read the rest here.
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Saturday, March 27, 2004
9:57 PM
Kerry on the Web.

Republicans for Kerry? Believe it.

This article tries to debunk the myth of the Catholic vote.

And Kerry's Friendster profile. Yes, it's real--scroll down (by the way, Salon, that's a kiteboarding picture, not a windsurfing picture).

(Update: Business Week also mentions Kerry's Friendster profile here.)
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Thursday, March 25, 2004
4:50 PM
Political Music.

In the late 60s and the 70s, my parents' generation--they of the First Quarter Storm--swayed to the music of Bob Dylan, CCW, and the entire line-up of Woodstock, musicians who gave voice to a generation's angry revolution. In the 80s, local musicians and musical groups like Joey Ayala, Gary Granada, Asin, and Buklod saw themselves as agents of cultural transformation, using their music to wake Filipinos out of their false consciousness. In the 90s--the decade in which I spent much of my youth--U2 was still around, and Rage Against the Machine called on us to question the establishment.

M and I were talking about political music today, and we wondered who today's musicians of dissent are ... or are going to be. Paging all musicians ....
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
2:20 PM
More on Brain Drain.

Still browsing through academic studies on Brain Drain, and the kinds of policies that our government might implement to address it. Here, in PDF format, is a summary of an International Labor organization study on the impact of Brain Drain in developing countries. (The Philippines was one of the eight developing countries from which data was gathered.)

In case you don't want to download the file, here's a quick, er, summary of the summary:


The report shows that some skilled emigration may stimulate economic growth, but when the outflow becomes significant in volume, a brain drain may occur. According to 1990 data from the developing countries studied, the losses of highly educated persons were at around 10 to 30 percent, and in a few countries, much more.

Direct negative effects of brain drain:
-- the reduction of the number of educated workers who are critical to productivity and economic growth
-- brain drain slows economic growth; also, "new growth" models may reduce economic growth even further (according to neoclassical economic theories)

Potential longterm positive effects of brain drain:
-- Migrants who come back may bring back their skills and work experience from abroad, hence boosting productivity.
-- Expats who remain abroad may contribute money via worker remittances.
-- Expatriates may transfer knowledge or technology back to developing countries, increasing productivity and economic development.
-- Driven by the possibility of emigration for higher wages, locals might be encouraged to pursue higher education, thereby increasing average workforce skill.
-- Potential for the developing country to engage in the exchange of skills in the global labor market.

Policies that are already being implemented by various countries to address brain drain:
-- return, restriction, recruitment as migration policies
-- resourcing, for those who already abroad (the "diaspora option" I mentioned in an earlier post)
-- long-term policies that build educational institutions and assist in economic development to encourage retention of highly-skilled workers

The study also has policy suggestions for developed (first-world) countries, as to how they can maximize the benefits of migration, yet in a way that encourages economic growth in the developing country as well.
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9:03 AM
New Year.

For some strange reason, I've been finding myself humming Christmas carols these past few days. Christmas carols in March? At first I thought it might have something to do with the fact that Easter's around the corner, but now I'm beginning to think it might also be because the end of the school year is just a few days away. My brain must've gotten things mixed up and and thought it was actually the end of the year.

On the one hand I'm exhausted with the things that I need to do to wrap up the semester, but I'm also looking forward to all the new things on which I can concentrate now. There's a thesis to complete, a new syllabus to write (I might be teaching a new course next year), and a money-making venture I've put on hold that I can finally finish.

Aside from that little bump in the road called the elections, things are looking pretty good.
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Monday, March 22, 2004
11:19 PM
Gawad Kalinga: Another Story of Hope.

Picked up a copy of the undergraduates' student council newsletter today. It featured the school's participation in the Gawad Kalinga project.

Explanation: For those of you who haven't heard of it, Gawad Kalinga is the Philippines' version of Habitat for Humanity. It began a few years ago as a Couples for Christ project, and has since grown into one of the most impressive volunteer movements of the past several years. What makes it different from Habitat is that aside from just building houses for former informal settlers ("slum dwellers," in less PC language), Gawad Kalinga also helps the homeowners organize themselves into empowered communities. Their current goal is to build 700,000 homes for 7,000 communities in 7 years. So far, they've built 5882 homes in 249 comunities all over the country. This year, our school began to build one such community in Payatas 13 (a place I used to visit for volunteer work in college!).

Pictures borrowed, with sincere apologies, from the original website.

This evening I read this piece reminding us of the deplorable conditions of many of our public schools. Recalling the updates on our school's Gawad Kalinga community, I began to wonder whether the Gawad Kalinga idea might be broadened: How about a GK-like project that focuses specifically on the building of school facilities? It can be a school-to-school project: one school helping and raising funds for another school. Fixing the roofs of schoolhouses, building classrooms, filling libraries with books.... Imagine the possibilities.


Wanna help Gawad Kalinga? Aside from volunteering for house builds, you can also donate money or materials (everything from computers to plywood), or volunteer your other talents--and you don't have to be in the Philippines to help! Click here for details. (You may also want to read this inspiring story about how an 8-year-old Fil-Am boy in Texas raised enough money to build three houses.)

If you're from my school and you'd like to help, call OSCI at 426-6001 local 5090 for details on joining the school-wide effort. Current house builds are on-going until March 27.
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10:36 PM
Brain drain, brain gain.

Yes, believe it or not, I'm still thinking about the topic. (I was a little embarrassed in a foot-in-mouth kind of way after reading my good friend Brownpau's reaction, and so I started reading up on the positive aspects of the phenomenon. Mea culpa, Ordo!!!)

This article from UNESCO outlines how various countries who have gone through Brain Drain have sought two kinds of solutions:

(1) the "return option," where the country manages to create sufficient networks to attract expatriates home (examples: China, Singapore, India, South Korea); and ...

(2) the "diaspora option," where the country takes for granted that many expatriates will not return, and instead creates links through which they can be connected to its development.

The article is an interesting read, and given that 3500 people a day emigrated from the Philippines this January alone, these solutions are possibilites that the next administration might want to consider.


Also read Angie's inspiring post on the topic.
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Saturday, March 20, 2004
11:20 PM
The way Spain mourns.

After so many years of bombings (mostly by Basque separatists), the Spanish, I learned, have developed a moving gesture of solidarity for bomb victims. At noontime, people, wherever they are--at school, at a factory, at the office--gather somewhere and stand there in silence for a few minutes. (Not having caught the details of the concentrations on the news, I read about it here of all places.)
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10:51 PM
One year.

As Spain still mourns, I was surprised to realize that it's already been a year since the Iraq war began.

Last year, the UK's poet laureate captured, in 30 lines, what a lot of us were asking:

Causa Belli
by Andrew Motion

They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn
Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad;
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad.

Today, another poet's words, written about another war, may sober us into recalling the reality of war beyond its politics:

The Last to Leave
Leon Gellert

The guns were silent, and the silent hills
had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze
I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,
And whispered, "What of these?' and "What of these?
These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Some crossless, with unwritten memories
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
Their only minstrels are the singing trees
And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully

I watched the place where they had scaled the height,
The height whereon they bled so bitterly
Throughout each day and through each blistered night
I sat there long, and listened - all things listened too
I heard the epics of a thousand trees,
A thousand waves I heard; and then I knew
The waves were very old, the trees were wise:
The dead would be remembered evermore-
The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,
And slept in great battalions by the shore.

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10:21 PM
Lost links.

Half of the links on my new archives page mysteriously disappeared. Eep.

Here's a metaphysical question for you: When a page disappears from the Internet, where does it go?

Update: Fixed.
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Thursday, March 18, 2004
5:25 PM
St. Patrick.

Brownpau reminds us that it was St. Patrick's Feast Day yesterday. I also got this in my inbox, from one of my mailing lists:

Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me.
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,

Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Salvation is of the Lord, salvation is of the Christ.
May Your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

- The breastplate of St. Patrick

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11:11 AM
Part One: Patronage politics and other Philippine cliches.

One of the most common criticisms that middle- and upper-class citizens have against Filipino voters en masse is the blindness of paternalism. Why is ours a country where a movie star with no political experience is the front runner in the presidential race? Why do we constantly vote into office trapo's known to be corrupt? The answer? Patronage politics. "Mga ibang botante kasi, mabigyan lang ng plastic bag na may pagkain, iboboto na ang kandidato, kahit hindi nila alam ang plataporma ng kandidato," is the usual assessment.

I've been thinking about this lately, however, and I'm beginning to think that maybe, the people who consider themselves to be "thinking" voters are as much perpetuators of patronage politics themselves, as the voting majority they often criticize.

Let's think about it. Patronage politics is a view of political systems wherein citizens view their leaders as their patrons or their "godfathers." The dynamic is simple: the clients (the citizens) promise undying loyalty to their padrons, and in return, expect the padrons to personally look after them. Historians and social scientists tell us that this was and is the relationship between land-owners and land-tenants in neo-feudal rural Philippines; political scientists tell us that much of our politics is driven by the same mentality, and this is what has stunted our growth toward democratization today.

Yet could it be, that this provincial thinking is not just the bane of rural Philippines, but also of the liberal, left-leaning sector of society that considers themselves to be the "thinking" citizenry? As a liberal myself, I've been assessing my own criticisms against government, and I've been realizing that maybe, at the root of my own attitude towards government still lies a paternalistic view. The paternalism, perhaps of "progressive" Philippines, lies in that at the end of the day, many of us still subconsciously expect our leaders to fill a messianic role. We see our own civic duty as ending at the polls (our expression of loyalty to our padrons), after which we insist that our leaders do the rest of the work and conjure up miracles for our country.

Perhaps the twin of paternalistic politics is a lack of sense of civic responsibility, and this, I think, plagues all sectors and the entire political spectrum of the Philippines. If there were one thing we ought to have learned from our 50 years of American colonization, it ought to have been the sense of civic virtue and independent enterprise: that good leaders are important because they are our chosen representatives, but that the tasks of nation-building and of improving one's state of life also rest on the shoulders of the people.

Yet when the going gets rough in this country, it seems that our common Filipino habit (including my own) is to place all the blame on our leaders, and none on ourselves.


Part Two: Civic Responsibility and Self-Examination.

A vigilant citizenry wary of government misdeeds is, of course, vital. But perhaps, just as crucial on the part of the public is a willingness to take responsibility for our problems. In times of crises, maybe we ought not only to ask what our country is doing wrong to us, but also what we are doing wrong to our country.

In response to medical board topnotcher Elmer Jacinto's controversial decision to work as a nurse in the U.S., Conrado de Quiros (for whom I have utmost respect), suggested that Jacinto "be haled before the presidential candidates not so he could justify why he has to leave but so the candidates could justify why he shouldn't." De Quiros was making an important point about the accountability of our government to Everyfilipino. But perhaps the question de Quiros wants Jacinto to ask should be addressed to all of us. Perhaps Jacinto should be asking all Filipinos--including himself--why we as citizens of this country are not doing more to make fellow-Filipinos want to stay.

So, these are the questions I'm going to ask myself today:

As a teacher, why am I not doing more to instill in my students a sense of civic responsibility?

As a consumer, why am I not spending in a way that will benefit my countrymen?

As a scholar, why am I not doing more research that can contribute to nation-building?

And maybe the next time that I feel tempted to criticize my government officials for promoting only than their own and their families' self-interest, I ought to confront myself with the same question. Am I doing anything for my countrymen, apart from myself and my family?
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10:16 AM
Generation Debt.

Generation X'ers and Y'ers in the US are now increasingly becoming a generation of yuppies in debt, according to this article from NYC's Village Voice. And they are becoming so not because of mindless spending, but because of a system of higher of education that awards the college graduate with, alongside her diploma, a whopping debt that she will spend the next several years of her life paying off.

In the meantime, while young Europeans are discovering the joys of the credit card, young Koreans are discovering what happens when the credit-card-pushing strategy of consumerist capitalism goes terribly awry. Newsweek's article on South Koreans in debt begins:

Cho Gyung Hee says she sold her soul for a toothbrush. One summer day in 2000 the 30-year-old mother of two sons was accosted on a Seoul street by recruiters who offered her a free electric toothbrush if she would sign up for a credit card. She got the card on the strength of her verbal assurance that her husband had a job. Soon she had five more cards from other solicitors and was embarking—along with millions of other South Koreans—on a massive shopping binge, paying one card off with another. Now Cho is $20,000 in debt, can't afford a phone and is about to lose her electricity and water. By the time she and her husband sought relief last week at the new Credit Counseling and Recovery Center in Seoul, Cho was near bottom. "We thought about committing suicide several times because of the debts," she says. "I wish I never applied for the credit card."
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1:12 AM

And people continue to talk about brain drain. Want a quick rundown? Click here for the original editorial; here, here, here, and here for letters to the editor mostly against the editorial; here and here for letters more supportive of the editorial.

Then look here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here (to which I just commented) for blog and Internet forum reactions to the editorial and other opinions on the topic.

Links to more scholarly assessments of the effects on the Philippines' Brain Drain can be found here, including some serious reminders that this is a serious issue.

Well, as M commented to me several days ago, one good thing about that controversial "sell-out" PDI editorial, is that it's gotten people talking (and yes, sometimes heatedly debating--though that can often be good too) about the current phenomenon of emigration and the reasons behind it. And I think it's something we should talk about, because it's changing the face of our generation, and it will shape the lives of the next. (Our grandparents had World War 2, our parents had Martial Law, and our generation has a political circus. Ah, the winds of change.)
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
8:34 AM
The next 6 years.

I'm not certain about this, but I wouldn't be surprised if this election has, two months before election day, the most undecided voters yet. I myself am still undecided, and I only have a few more weeks to make my decision. But here are the thoughts that have been running through my head so far.



Most of my friends--middle and upper-class as they are--are terrified of the prospect of FPJ winning. How can a movie actor with absolutely no experience of holding any political office run the entire country?, they ask. Well, I think I know what the respected, experienced members of FPJ's camp (e.g., Nene Pimentel, Ed Angara, Tito Guingona) would answer in response to that question: He won't be running the country. FPJ, to them, is really just a figure-head, a standard-bearer whose sole purpose will be to win the election for the opposition, after which they, the experienced politicians will take over the show. I figure their rationale goes something like this: A vote for FPJ is not really a vote for FPJ per se; rather, it is a vote for Angara, Pimentel, Guingona, and the rest of that crew.

There are certain things frightfully wrong with that line of reasoning, though, and here's what they are. First of all, even a figure-head president needs to have some leadership skill to truly unite a political coalition. Six years is a long time; conflict within the coalition will be inevitable. Even a figure-head president needs to have enough political discernment to be able distinguish between the true statesmen and the crazy opportunists in his own coalition. I doubt, however, that FPJ has that. His own cluelessness about governance will make him unable to discern the character and principle of his coalition-mates. His only experience in any leadership role appears to be his position of respect in the showbiz community, and from what I hear, showbiz is personality politics and paternalism taken to the extreme. At best, we will have a president like George W. Bush, who will blindly allow a small faction of politicians with rather extreme views to take over the entire government (think: Enrile running the country). At worst, we will have someone like Estrada all over again, who will blindly allow a small faction of people who aren't even politicians and who have nothing but their own selfish interests in mind, to make a mockery of governance.

Secondly, whether Pimentel, Angara, and Guingona like it or not, whoever gets elected president will have more power than they will. At the end of the day, the president does need to be able to make sound decisions, and make them quickly. Again, is there anything in FPJ's track record that says he can do that? Well, the guy doesn't even have a track record yet ....

I think I can see the reasoning behind the decision of experienced politicians--such as Angara, Pimentel and Guingona--to throw their support behind FPJ. Still, I think that it's too great a gamble. At the end of the day, sino ba ang kawawa kung mali ang pagtaya nila? Tayo rin, mga taong-bayan. It's sad that even the more clear-thinking among the opposition have resorted to such a risky tactic to try to win this election.



Frankly, I stand opposed to every other ideological item on GMA's platform. I don't like her economics. I shudder at her blind support for the U.S. I'm appalled at the low priority she places on social services and welfare.

Here is a woman who has many traits to be admired. She's known among journalists to be fiercely intelligent (aside from just being fierce--heheh!). She understands and has an opinion on every minute detail of governance. As a candidate, she has incredibly strong support from local government and in that respect, has the machinery to get things done even in the farthest reaches of this country.

But: (1) too many people hate her with enough passion to guarantee another bout of instability in the next six years, should she win, and she doesn't seem to have the charisma to sway them. And, (2) as I said above, I disagree with every other item on her platform.



As far as I can see, Roco has everything GMA doesn't, but at the same time, lacks everything GMA has going for her.

On the basis of platform alone, I'd vote for Roco. Judging from his emphasis on social services, Roco appears to be less out-of-touch with the poor than the incumbent. His record as a legislator is scintillating, having sponsored several bills that demonstrate principle and clear-thinking.

But a president alone cannot run a country, and if Roco wins, it appears that he might be standing alone. His political machinery doesn't have the same tentacles reaching out to the local government, that GMA's has. His choice of vice-president shows his principle, but maybe also his naivete?

Best-case scenario? If Roco wins and the machinery that has been supporting GMA shifts its support to Roco.

But can Roco win? That, sadly, is the question.


So who am I voting for this coming May? I still don't know. Argh.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2004
11:17 PM
To someone I didn't really know.

I just heard. I didn't know you. But thanks for stopping by my blog every now and then. I'll pray for you. God bless.
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10:25 PM

Sigh. Last day of classes. Always a little sad, especially because I, unlike many other instructors, have my students for an entire year rather than just a sem. It's kinda weird having seen them twice a week every week for one entire year, and then suddenly realizing that I will probably never see many of them ever again (except maybe for a quick nod in the corridor). The year always ends a little too abruptly.

I think I wrote a more emotional post about this once in the past, so I won't belabor the point.


On a happier note, I spent my evening in a place which brought back many happy memories--the Loyola House of Studies--on the occasion of the annual thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Jesuit juniors for their teachers. It was great to see a bump into a few Jesuit friends there, and great to feel the atmosphere of that wonderful building. Visiting Loyola House always makes me feel inspired and a little envious of these men who have given their entire lives to God in such a profound way.

And when they sang Salve Regina as their thanksgiving hymn to end the night, I was transported.
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Monday, March 15, 2004
12:32 AM
"Passion" and disposition.

I still haven't watched "The Passion" yet (it isn't showing here yet), but based on various reviews from bloggers who have seen the film, I get the feeling that you get out of the film as much as you bring into it. If you go into the theater a doubter, you will leave as skeptical as you were walking in. But if you go into the theater with a disposition of openness to the experience that it may turn out to be, the experience will probably be that, and much much more.

That having been said, several days ago, I came across a really incredible account of one woman's experience watching the film, but I unfortunately wasn't able to bookmark it. I'm hunting for the page, and will refer to it when I find it.
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Sunday, March 14, 2004
8:41 PM
What can I do for my country?

M and I have decided to start a list of things that twenty- and thirty-something yuppies like ourselves can do to help this country. Here's what we've come up with so far:


A teacher of mine once asked our class to imagine what our world would be like if everyone in our country did their job well. Maan says it perfectly: "I ... help out in my own way ... by being an example of resourcefulness and hardwork."


My tita once said, "Instead of taking a job, why don't we make a job?" If you are a job-holder, however, you don't have to let go of your own job to start a business. But by setting up a business, you help strengthen our economy and concretely contribute to alleviating poverty by creating more jobs.


If you're going to take a trip anyway, take a trip to a Philippine destination and allow your pesos to help build the domestic tourism of another part of the country.


Whether it's teaching a street kid to read or helping a colleague master Windows XP, teaching someone else a new skill can help broaden their horizons and help them to do their jobs better as well.
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7:18 PM
Speaking of hope ....

Speaking of hope, Maan's most recent blog post is a paragon of hope. Lookee here at what she writes:

"... I seriously think that those who say that this country is unlivable are super paranoid. And, most of the people saying this statement are actually the well-off ones! Well excuuuuuse me. I take pride in my staying here in the country to help out in my own way, improving the quality of life thru service and loyalty and by being an example of resourcefulness and hardwork. This country needs all the help that its countrymen can give, especially if FPJ becomes president. People are running away from the problem, not facing it! The crisis can be resolved if a unified people stand up and fight its way to alleviate the country’s status from poverty (regardless of whoever gets elected as president)."

I love what she says about how we can all help out in our own way, by being examples of resourcefulness and hard work. You go, girl! :)
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Friday, March 12, 2004
8:09 PM
The Secret of Hope (in these trying times)

Frustration, depression, panic. I think that that's what a lot of people feel when reading the newspaper these days.

But you know who the most hopeful Filipinos I know are? Strangely, it's the people I know who have dedicated their lives to working for the country in radical ways.

Last month, my friend who travels the poorest sitios in Mindanao as part of her work for her NGO, was all wonder and awe at our country the last time we had coffee together here in Manila. "Grabe," she said, "mapapabilib ka talaga sa mga tao roon! Lumads, Christians, Muslims, all working hand in hand with genuine sincerity, love of country, and love of peace." This, after a series of dialogues she had attended among the different groups in Mindanao.

Last week, I attended a talk on the elections given by a Jesuit who had spent his entire life working for true political reform, and had even spent time in jail because of it. He painted a sobering picture of the ugly reality behind the headlines, and yet despite that, he could speak in hopeful terms. "A lot has changed," he said. "Twenty years ago, there were only two groups to choose from: Marcos or the Communists. Marcos said, 'Who do you want? The Communists or me?' The Communists said, 'Who do you want? Marcos or us?' Truly, so much has improved since then."

Another Jesuit was present--an old American priest who I think is in his 70s, and who has most of his entire life working with the country's urban poor. He said, "A lot of people might not agree with me, but I think that the current situation is truly one of hope. What we are seeing now is the self-destruction of elite democracy ... and perhaps the birth of a more genuine democracy for all."

Last year. I was speaking to a colleague of mine who, likewise, has dedicated his life to the hard work of democratization and to the cause of good governance. "Aren't there any easy answers?" I sighed in exasperation. "Why is it taking so long." And in an uncharacteristic Zen voice filled with calm conviction and certainty, he said, "It may be the longer way, but you keep fighting, because you know it's the right way."


Isn't it ironic. You would think, since these are the people who see the despair of the country up close--who encounter the poverty and the bureaucracy and the inefficiency of the country on a day-to-day basis as part of their jobs--that they would be the ones most exasperated. And yet, they are the ones who, despite everything, can still feel joy in the midst of our dire situation. The ones who are most hopeful about the country are the ones who are working the hardest for the country. And I don't think it's a mere coincidence.


Sometimes I wish I could say to those people who don't want to help: just keep quiet, and let the rest of us do the work, then. If you aren't going to pick up a spade and dig like the rest of us, then at least stop complaining so as not to dampen the morale of the ones who are (in our own small ways) trying to do our part in nation-building. I know it sounds really cheesy, but for the first time in my life, I think I appreciate what JFK meant when he talked about not asking what your country can do for you, but asking instead, what you can do for your country.
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12:02 PM
Home Sweet Home.

M blogs on a topic about which we've been having an ongoing conversation: the temptation for Filipino upper-middle class job-holders to go abroad.

Here is what the issue makes me feel. I spent the first nine years of my life abroad, and the first seventeen years of my life studying in schools were, as an ethnic Filipino, I was a foreigner. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity those years gave me to learn about other cultures and to have a broader view of the world. Nevertheless, I was raised without any doubt in my mind as to where "home" was: it was the Philippines. Even if I learned foreign languages before my own; even though, in my childhood, I only spent one month in a year in the Philippines, there was never any confusion as to where our family's compass was pointing, and we knew we were going to return home someday.

Growing up, I would often feel the difference between my classmates and me, the difference in our backgrounds and in the values with which we were raised. I always longed to be in a place where people came from the same culture that I did, to be among people I truly felt "at home" with. That was something I experienced only when I finally got to college.

As with M, I don't think there is anything fundamentally evil about relocating abroad to pursue a more luxurious lifestyle, or for the ease of mind of living in a more politically stable environment. (Many of these people have an overly romantic view of what life abroad is like, but that's another story.) But I do hope that white-collar workers who do not really need to go abroad for survival, do think twice about what they are giving up if they do choose to leave. They are giving up that sense of home, and if they bring their families abroad too, it is likely that they will be depriving their own children of that sense of home as well. That may not be the be-all and end-all of life, and it may not be enough to make a person want to stay, but it is precious, and it is something that people who stay here are truly blessed to have. I hope those who are tempted to relocate count those blessings, and take them into consideration among the other factors that influence their decision, when deciding whether or not to migrate. That's all.
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9:03 AM
80s Revival.

It has begun. The 80s pop culture revival. Whee! The height of tastelessness, which I'm proud in a funny way to have been a part of. So shall I bring out my old shoulder pads, tight baston jeans, plastic jewelry? And while I'm at it, buy a bottle of hairspray (Aquanet, of course; though I never couldn't it back in the day) and blue eyeshadow?

Actually, I wonder. When this is over, will there be a 90s revival? Because that's what I'm truly looking forward to: reminiscent of those wonderful high school years of Angst and Anger. I think I still have my flannel plaid shirt (red, like Eddie Vedder's) somewhere. Bring on the grunge!
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Thursday, March 11, 2004
7:46 PM
People going, "Bye-bye, PDI"?

More on readers' disappointment with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on this PEx thread (first-time visitors to PEx must register). It's a very interesting discussion.
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Tuesday, March 09, 2004
2:24 PM
Lesson in humility.

At Church two Sundays ago, I was getting increasingly annoyed as the two teenagers sitting next to me kept looking at their cellphones. I was sorely tempted to poke them and say, in my sternest teacher-voice, "Hey guys, please put those away. We're in the middle of Mass."

As time passed, I observed that the two--who appeared to be brother and sister--appeared to be behaving with great concern and slight panic. They occasionally nudged each other almost frantically, showing messages on their cellphones. During Communion, the boy knelt in troubled, intense, emotional prayer, looking as he were being weighed down by a great burden on his shoulders.

I'm not sure, but it appeared that the two were in the middle of a crisis of some sort. Perhaps a relative in the hospital? I don't know.

But I'm glad I kept my mouth shut. Somewhat mortified at my own self-righteousness. And greatly humbled by the lesson learned.
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Monday, March 08, 2004
1:11 PM
Blown out.

Our Caliraya trip this weekend was cut short due, not to lack of wind, but to too much of it. On Sunday morning, we were told, the wind was around 25 knots--strong, but still in a good way for Caliraya's weekend windsurfers. By lunchtime, when M and I arrived at the campsite, the wind was averaging around 35 knots. Most of the other windsurfers had gone back to shore by then and M was the only one who had brought a sail small enough to bring out, but even then he was overpowered, and came back relatively soon. Some tarps began to rip, and many sailors began to pack up by this time. By 2 pm, the gusts were howling beyond 40 knots already. M's dad began to worry whether the camper would be able to take the wind, and so our camp began to pack up as well.

The trip was still a wonderful one, nevertheless. We decided to take an alternate route to Manila, which some of the other sailors had discovered a few weeks before. The trip was longer, but it was a beautiful drive, with mountain vistas reminiscent of the drive up Marcos Highway to Baguio, but without as many vehicles on the road. It was quite exhilirating to see so much land still generally uncorrupted by civilization in an area so near Manila. Ah, the Philippines really is such a beautiful country.
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Friday, March 05, 2004
9:57 AM
Lost in Imitation.

M and I watched Lost in Translation last night. My verdict? It was good, but it's been done before. Two strangers, within a finite amount of time, find an isle of familiarity with each other in a foreign land, in a film driven by dialogue and visuals. Come on, Sofia, you can't have known that your concept wasn't original!

Not having read any reviews, I went into the theater last night not knowing what to expect. But halfway into the movie, the parallels just couldn't be ignored. No matter how much I tried to appreciate Coppola's piece on its own merits, I couldn't help but compare the two films, especially when there were so many scenes almost identical with Linklater's cult classic. The awkward scene in the elevator? That was Jesse and Celine in the record store. The prolonged goodbye? Jesse and Celine in the train station. Johannson's line, "Let's never return, because it will never be as good," was murmured throughout Jesse and Celine's single night together, in the undercurrents of their conversation. Throw in the strangeness of the foreign landscape and the headiness of sleep deprivation, and what you have in Coppola's movie is a more realistic, more sombre, but unoriginal version of Before Sunrise.

The films aren't exactly the same. Linklater created for his characters a world of fantasy and magic, detached from the real world of work and mundane worries. Coppola, on the other hand, created for her characters a refuge of normalcy untouched by the craziness and alienation of Japan. The fact that the two characters are married in Coppola's film creates a conflict more real and more uncomfortable than simply living on different continents. And the connection that the two feel is not the mystical, mythical connection of two people who each feel they have found their soul-mate, but one borne from a more complex, more desperate need to escape from the foreignness of their respective lives.

Nevertheless, while Lost In Translation was good for all the same reasons Before Sunrise was good, it had several strong points of its own. I was moved by the sadness and the sarcasm and the tiredness of the two characters. The ending (if the whisper was what I thought it was) was well-crafted and didn't resort to any filmmaking cheapshots. The film was as subtly comic as it was subtly tragic, lending a rich layeredness to a simple plot.

Still, I might have been more ecstatic about the film had I not watched Before Sunrise first. And while I appreciate Sofia Coppola's potential, I'd like to see her make a conventional film and make it well, rather than build on someone else's concept, before I consider her one of Hollywood's best new directors.
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