2013.12.28    Selfies 

There was a time, as a young man traveling to different countries for the first time, I took photos of every building, statue, or landscape that caught my eye, hoping to share these with family and friends when I got home. 

2013.12.25    Names and their times 

The other day, ABS-CBN carried an amusing report about unusual names that were spotted among the list of successful examinees in the recent UP College Admissions Test.

2013.12.21    Who will regulate the regulators 

Asked to explain and reverse the steep increases in electricity rates, Malacañang was quick to say this is an issue beyond the control of the President. 

2013.12.19    The Bangsamoro future 

As one who has avidly followed the twists and turns of past efforts at forging peace with the Bangsamoro, I can only marvel at the diligence, care, and patience that the present negotiators from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have shown in crafting a document that can be accepted by their respective principals.

2013.12.14    Trapped between the old and the new    

One can only ask, in horrific disbelief, what kind of person would fire a gun at a vehicle after a fleeting altercation with its driver over the former’s blinding headlights? 

2013.12.12    Rebuilding communities 

When one looks at pictures of the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda”, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the rehabilitation work that is required to make the affected cities and towns livable again.  

2013.12.07    Nelson Mandela: master of his fate 

Nelson Mandela lived so long that he outlasted all of his contemporaries.

2013.12.04    Nonbinding endorsements

Endorsements and recommendations are such a commonplace in a sharply hierarchical society like ours that is is difficult to say what legal significance they may have.

2013.11.30    Bonifacio’s significance

It was he who founded the underground movement that ended centuries of Spanish colonial rule over our people.

2013.11.27    Being a hero

A day after returning to a grateful and adoring nation from his redemptive win over Brandon Rios in Macau, boxing legend and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao faced the press to complain about the way Philippine tax officials have been treating him.

2013.11.23    The looting crowd 

In the early hours following the exit of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” from Leyte, residents staggered out of their flattened homes like zombies. 

2013.11.21    After excising the PDAF tumo

By striking down the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for lawmakers’ projects for being unconstitutional, the Supreme Court signaled the urgency of reforming the way we conduct the affairs of government. 

2013.11.16    Danger as a social construct 

Dr. Vicente B. Malano, Pagasa’s OIC administrator since June, must be one of the unhappiest public officials in the country today.

2013.11.13    Looting and civic culture 

Struck by calamity, a nation may be able to withstand the most horrific loss of lives and the most extensive destruction ofhomes, factories and farms, public facilities and private property. 

2013.11.09    Immunity to calamities

Of the first images of the devastating power that Supertyphoon “Yolanda” bore as it barreled through the Visayan islands, what struck me most was the grinyfootage of the frenzied swaying of chandeliers in an old cathedral in Leyte whose roof was torn pieve by piece by the howling wind. 

2013.11.07    Janet at the Senate 

For the sheer drama it packs, the scheduled appearance of Janet Lim-Napoles at the Senate could rival in TV viewership the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona and of former President Joseph Estrada.

2013.11.03    The President’s speech 

President Benigno S. Aquino III came out swinging at his political opponents and critics the other night in a special televised address to the nation.

2013.10.31    Rethinking the functions of Congress 

Seeing how closely our congressmen and senators guard their power to recommend projects for their districts and constituencies, I wonder if the pork barrel issue is not mainly a problem of expectations about the functions of Congress.

2013.10.27    Barangay autonomy

As the nation goes to the polls on Monday to elect officials of the barangay, the smallest administrative unit in our system of government, it is well to reflect on what it means for barangay elections to be non-partisan. 

2013.10.24    The politics and ethics of giving 

In an ideal world, the truly benevolent give for no other reason than because their cup overflows. 

2013.10.20    When those who rule us are thieves 

Something dangerous can happen to a society when people no longer trust their leaders because they perceive them to be no different from ordinary thieves except that they steal more and can buy respectability.

2013.10.17    Meditation on earthquakes

Active geological faults, or fractures in the Earth’s crust that show movement over time, have been known to cause most earthquakes. 

2013.10.13    The Supreme Court’s crucial role

A lot of vagueness attends current discussions of the pork barrel.

2013.10.10    Worse than the pork barrel 

The original pork barrel system we borrowed from the United States pertains to projects introduced into the appropriations bill by members of Congress.

2013.10.06    Where do we go from here? 

Toward the end of his privilege speech on the pork barrel scam last Sept. 25, 2013, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, one of the lawmakers who have been charged with plunder, claimed that he and his colleagues in the opposition have been unjustly singled out and persecuted for something that is widely known and/or practiced by perhaps every member of Congress.

2013.10.03    Between gridlock and greed 

It is difficult to say which is preferable: a party-based politics that sometimes results in government gridlock, or a money-based politics that runs smoothly on pork barrel privileges.

2013.09.29    What the pork barrel scam reveals about us

For more than 10 years, a good number of lawmakers, with the aid of fixers who assisted them, were able to pocket the entire cash value of their Priority Development Assistance Fund, without anyone in government publicly protesting that there was anything wrong in what they were doing.

2013.09.26    ‘Calidad Humana’ 

Fate could not have written it better if this was a movie script 

2013.09.23    The allure of authoritarianism 

Forty-one years after Ferdinand Marcos imposed authoritarian rule on the Filipino nation, we tell ourselves with all conviction that never again should we permit this to happen. 

2013.09.19    Protest in the time of social media 

One does not need to have a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or e-mail account to realize how vastly different today’s demonstrations are from those that led to the downfall of the Marcos regime forty years ago. 

2013.09.15    Regaining the people’s trust

As a rule, people almost everywhere ted to be distrustful of their politicians. 

2013.09.12    Nur Misuari’s last scream 

It’s an outrageous way of calling attention to one’s lingering presence.

2013.09.08    How do we solve a problem like Syria?

When the world was much less interconnected, it was already difficult to keep the internal conflicts of nations from spilling beyond their borders.

2013.09.05    Targeting presidential pork 

In the light of the P10 billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles with the implied consent of members of Congress, some groups now seek to focus public attention on the President’s own pork barrel.

2013.09.01    Napoles as state’s witness 

The correct term is “state’s witness,” says Dr. Sylvia Ventura, my professor in English at the University of the Philippines.

2013.08.29    De-personalizing governance

It’s been almost two months now since the pork barrel scam was first reported by the Inquirer. The newsworthiness of this event has been unusually protracted.

2013.08.25    A double take on pork 

A “double take,” Webster’s Dictionary tells us, is “a delayed reaction to some remark, situation, etc., in which there is a first unthinking acceptance and then a startled surprise or a second glance as the real meaning or actual situation suddenly becomes clear…”

2013.08.22    Can pork be good?

Rather than heed the growing public clamor to scrap the pork barrel in the current national budget, President Aquino has justified retaining it while calling for tighter control over its use. 

2013.08.18    The scourge of discrepant governance 

The pork barrel scam — whose intricate web of ghost projects, fictitious beneficiaries, and fake non-government organizations (NGOs) is unraveling before the nation’s eyes — is a good example of a “discrepant event.”

2013.08.15    Watching Janet

The Inquirer periodically hosts no-holds-barred sessions with people in the news who seek to air their views on current issues.

2013.08.11    Law and its uncertainties

During certain periods, crime acquires a high visibility, the result usually of diligent reporting by the mass media.

2013.08.08    Inclusiveness begins with language

In the three years he has been president, P-Noy has been able to maintain exceptionally high trust and approval ratings. 

2013.08.04    Allocating responsibility

It has been roughly two weeks now since the Inquirer first broke the news about the pork barrel racket that allegedly permitted businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles to siphon as much as P10 billion in public funds into her private accounts

2013.08.01    A thesis on corruption 

Even if only half of the allegations against her turn out to be true, Janet Lim-Napoles, the supposed brain behind the mind-boggling pork barrel scam that is the subject of ongoing Inquirer reports, would easily qualify as the country’s foremost expert on corruption.

2013.07.28    A hard look at the pork barrel 

The pork barrel system of allocating public funds to benefit a local constituency is a feature of politics we borrowed from the United States.

2013.07.24    More than a moral crusade

The advantage to society of having a president like P-Noy who, unlike most of his predecessors, has kept his popularity and credibility intact halfway through his term, is that people are able once more to look at their government with hope and less cynicism.

2013.07.21    Faith in modernity

A new papal encyclical has just been released and, as its title Lumen Fidei(Light of Faith) suggests, its subject is faith. 

2013.07.18    Milking the government

It was bound to happen. Given an existing system that makes it possible for legislators to get a kickback of 10 to 20 percent from their pork barrel allocations, someone, sooner or later, would come up with a scheme that allows greedy lawmakers to pocket not just a portion but the bulk of the funds.

2013.07.14    Surviving the government gauntlet

Dealing with the government’s front line offices often feels like running the gauntlet. Meaning: it’s not a pleasant experience but a kind of hazing.

2013.07.11    Water woes

One of the first things we had to face after my wife and I decided in 1973 to live with her grandaunt, music professor Jovita Fuentes, inside the University of the Philippine Campus, was the water problem.

2013.07.07    The coup in Egypt

Here in the Philippines, we like to call such events “people power revolutions,” a self-description that oozes with political romanticism but carries little analytic value. 

2013.07.04    The American panopticon 

The term “panopticon,” coined from the prefix “pan” – meaning all – and the word “optic” – pertaining to the eye, refere to an observational tower in the center of a circular compound that is supposed to see everything around it. 

2013.06.30    The bases redux

In September 1991, the Philippine Senate voted to reject a new bases treaty that would have allowed the United States to keep its military facilities in the Philippines.

2013.06.27    Why the poor come to the city

The P-Noy government’s plan to clear Metro Manila’s esteros and waterways of informal settlers by offering the latter money and resettlement is commendable. 

2013.06.23    Haze over Singapore 

Singapore prides itself in having the greenest and cleanest city in all of Asia. Its environmental laws are exacting. A government agency religiously monitors the quality of the country’s air.

2013.06.20    What’s in a name? 

Whatever it was that motivated our colleagues and students at the University of the Philippines College of Business Administration to name their college – the academic program itself, and not just the building – after their esteemed alumnus and former dean, Cesar E.A. Virata, I am quite sure it had nothing to do with the pledge of an endowment.

2013.06.16    The vocation of fatherhood 

What is it exactly that we praise in fathers? The answer, of course, very much depends on the culture. While there are traits (like being a good provider) that are universally admired, our notions of what constitutes ideal fatherhood will tend to vary not just across cultures but across generations. 

2013.06.13    1898

When General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine Independence from Spain on June 12, 898, he had only the vaguest idea of how to proceed to establish a self-governing nation. 

2013.06.09    Parenting

A parent whose biggest goal in life is to see all her children graduate from UP wrote me the other day to ask what advice to give to her son who had taken a leave of absence from his studies in UP in order to work in their town’s local government. 

2013.06.06    Trouble in Turkey

Something unusual is happening in Turkey today that is not eliciting much local interest, mostly because there are not many Filipinos working there about whose safety we usually worry. 

2013.06.02    Generations 

Invited to give the keynote speech at the 7th National Social Science Congress the other day, I welcomed the occasion not as a celebration of the work we have done but as a cue to allow the next generation to shine.

2013.05.30    POPS in the city

POPS is an acronym for “privately-owned public space,” a concept that is fast replacing our traditional notion of public space.

2013.05.26    The return of traditional politics in Pampanga

From the moment we first beheld the unique magic of people power in 1986, we have scanned the political horizon for signs of its recurrence. The possibility that it will appear again gives us eternal hope. 

2013.05.23    When neighbors fight 

To my last column on the current conflict between the Philippines and Taiwan, a country whom, until recently, we have had only friendly relations, a reader from Canada has written a most thoughtful rejoinder. 

2013.05.19    Nations and their governments 

In an ideal world, how would the recent shooting by the Philippine Coast Guard of a Taiwanese fishing boat, which resulted in the killing of one of the fisherman, have been handled?

2013.05.16    Vote-buying and its deniability

“What do you make of this, Kuya?” my younger brother Ambo, auxiliary bishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, asked me last Monday, as he showed me an envelope addressed to him containing the campaign leaflet of a party-list nominee and a crisp 200-peso bill.

2013.05.12    Build with every vote

Electing public officials is the most important act of any citizen in any democracy. Here we choose people who will have the power to make decisions that bind all of us.

2013.05.09    Politics and its consequences 

It is a testimony to the undifferentiated nature of our political system that many other social institutions are mobilized during elections 

2013.05.05    Prosperity without growth 

The rise in the number of unemployed Filipinos in the midst of economic growth has made our government take a serious look at the current economic strategy.  

2013.05.02    The ‘kasambahay’

Some moral progress is noticeable in the way we now refer to our house help, though not always in the way we treat them. 

2013.04.28    Voting independently of surveys 

Pre-election surveys do often take the form of self-fulfilling oracles. This happens when voters find the published results so compelling as to make them vote accordingly to the predictions.

2013.04.25    Permit to campaign 

Bizarre as it is, politicians running for local positions have come to accept it as part of the political reality: That in some remote Philippine communities, candidates must secure a clearance from armed illegal groups before they can enter an area and campaign.

2013.04.21    Riding and dining in Panay 

I had strong reservations about going on a long motorcycle ride in this sweltering summer heat. When you are on a bike and you are going fast, you don’t notice you are sweating.

2013.04.18    Citizenship 

It’s one of those moments in a democracy when we’re reminded that the rights of citizenship come with corresponding duties.

2013.04.14    Is the Catholic Church in crisis? 

A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in February this year highlights three interesting findings on the state of Catholicism in the Philippines.

2013.04.11    Why political families are more brazen today 

There’s no hard evidence to confirm it.  But the growing perception is that at no other time in our nation’s political history have political families become more brazen in promoting their interests than in this year’s election.  One quickly notes this in the senatorial slates of the two dominant coalitions.  The opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) slate is led by the children of the three key figures who formed the coalition namely, the son of former President Joseph Estrada, the daughter of incumbent Vice President Jejomar Binay, and the son of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.  The administration’s Team P-Noy is not any different.  Two-thirds of its 12 candidates belong to political families.

2013.04.07    Surveys and public opinion 

For many senatorial candidates who take elections seriously and exert great effort to address the important issues of the day, it must be terribly frustrating to be confronted by the results of pre-election surveys.  Nothing seems to matter except sheer media exposure and possession of a familiar name in order to score high.  The preference for incumbents leaves one wondering if the Filipino electorate is content with the way things are. 

2013.04.04    The continuing tragedy of a divided country 

To the generation of Filipinos who went through the horrors of World War II, the Korean War (1950-1953) signaled the advent of another global war that had to be stopped before it could spread any further. On this understanding, the Philippines sent 7,500 of its oldiers t fight in the Korean civil war on the side of South Korea. 

2013.03.31    The teacher and the pastor: 2 

As a sociologist, my interest in religion does not proceed from the axioms of faith, but from an understanding of human society as a system that serves a multiplicity of functions.  Whether one is a believer or not, one cannot deny the place that religion occupies and continues to occupy in the human community.  It is not a static role.  Its boundaries are continuously contested and negotiated, and, indeed, what it means to live a life of faith in the world is constantly being redefined.

2013.03.28    The teacher and the pastor: 1 

The media have made much of the contrast between the shy aristocratic aloofness of Pope Benedict XVI and the folksy approachability of his successor, Pope Francis.  They point to the latter’s disregard for the trappings of authority as a refreshing departure from the stiff Vatican conventions of pontifical projection.  But a more meaningful analysis of the divergences between two popes, if any, must focus not so much on their outward style but on their understanding of the Church’s mission in the contemporary world.

2013.03.24    Meditation on lament

Someone’s death is always a cause for sorrow and grieving – especially when it is unexpected and unjust.  Such is the instant impact of University of the Philippines student Kristel Tejada’s death on all of us who have links with the university.  Lament is our first response.  We shake our heads in utter disbelief, and, even as we try to pin the blame for this tragedy on particular individuals, we silently seek expiation for our own guilt. We cannot be blameless when one of our promising students is forced to drop out because she cannot pay her student loan. That is how I see the flurry of efforts to repair and compensate for a system whose built-in wickedness has victimized this young student.

2013.03.21    UP and Kristel 

Because UP Manila freshman student Kristel Tejada took her own life shortly after she went on a “forced leave of absence” for being unable to pay tuition, it is easy to conclude that this was the cause of her suicide.  This is perhaps the only way we can rationalize a tragedy that, on its face, is simply senseless.  Often we need to do this because, whether we are aware of it or not, the death of any promising young person by her own hands assails our collective conscience.   Searching for someone to blame diminishes our own share of the guilt.

2013.03.17    Pope Francis and Argentina’s dirty war 

When you are the head of an institution that is as old and as influential as the Catholic Church, your life is bound to be minutely scrutinized to determine how well it measures up to the vision and ideals of the institution. Benedict’s record as a young man was dug up to see if he was ever an ardent Hitler supporter.  He was not. 

2013.03.14    Loss and healing in post-tsunami Japan 

When I was in Japan early this year, I expressed a wish to visit the community on the eastern coast of Japan that my daughter Kara had featured in one of her “I-Witness” documentaries.  This was the town of Ofunato in the Iwate Prefecture, which was washed away by the tsunami that followed The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.  My wish came true last Sunday.

2013.03.10    The Sultan who became Christian 

One of the most interesting figures ever to rule the Sultanate of Sulu was Muhammad Alimuddin I, who, in 1735, took over as sultan from his older brother Nasaruddin.  He was a complex man with an advanced instinct for statecraft and diplomacy, which was not common among Sulu’s lesser nobility. 

2013.03.07    The real sovereign 

We should be wary of talking about North Borneo or Sabah as if it was just a piece of real estate without inhabitants.  There are people there who regard themselves as natives to the place, and identify themselves as Sabahans.  They are descended from the various ethnic groups and races that over the centuries had settled and developed the place.      

2013.03.03    When religion becomes political 

As a student of society, I see religion primarily as a form of communication.  In simple societies, it may often permeate all of everyday life, making it difficult to say what belongs to religion and what does not.  

2013.02.28    ‘Habemus Papam’ 

“Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope) – these are the words the cardinal deacon uses to announce the election of a new pope to the expectant crowd at St. Peter’s Square.  It is also the title of an Italian movie shown in 2011, which tells the story of a fictional conclave of cardinals convened to elect a new pope.  In the film, the assembled cardinals repeatedly fail to produce a clear choice.  As the ballots are read, some of them are heard mumbling: “Please, Lord, not me.” 

2013.02.24    Who owns Sulu? 

In what appears to be an impromptu interview, President Aquino last Thursday spoke of his apprehensions over the tense situation that has developed in the wake of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s decision to send his “royal army” to reclaim Sabah as part of the Sulu “homeland.”   Asked about his position on the country’s dormant claim to sovereignty over Sabah, he deftly avoided making any explicit statement on the issue, saying that his Cabinet was still compiling the data and studying the documents.    

2013.02.21    The Sabah standoff 

There is more to the ongoing standoff between Malaysian forces and the 200 or so armed men holed up in a coastal village in Sabah than meets the eye.  The latter are Filipino nationals, though they identify themselves as members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.”  They have announced that they have sailed to Sabah to reclaim their rightful homeland.  Heaven forbid that any harm should befall them.  For, that will play right into the hands of those who, for some reason or other, wish to derail the current peace effort in Mindanao and foment a rift between Malaysia and the Philippines.

2013.02.17   Migration as a way of life 

In a previous column, I wrote of the ease with which my 3-year-old granddaughter Jacinta can point out the exact location on a globe of the world’s most obscure nations.  The other night, the little girl surprised us again by her uncanny ability to name the other countries that share a boundary with a particular country.  No doubt she has a strong photographic memory.  But I wonder if this familiarity with nations as constituting one cognitively accessible world is not the same mindset that has induced many Filipinos to pursue a life of migration.

2013.02.14    Modernity and Benedict 

Joseph Ratzinger’s rise to the papacy in 2005 was preceded by a reputation for die-hard conservatism.  This was no doubt in part due to his having headed for more than two decades the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the powerful Vatican body that draws the orthodox line on doctrinal matters.  Yet, when he became pope, Benedict surprised many for the nuanced encyclicals he wrote, and for his public effort to comfort the victims of sexual abuse by clerics and to reach out to other religions.  As one observer put it, he has turned out to be not as conservative as liberals had feared, or as conservatives had hoped.  It is perhaps more accurate to call him the first truly modern pope.  Any doubt about that has been erased by his shocking resignation.

2013.02.10    Understanding senatorial preferences 

Not a few have asked how we can make sense of the senatorial preferences expressed in recent surveys leading up to the 2013 elections.  What seems to be the basis of these preferences? Is it all about “name recall”? How much value is attached to political programs and visions? 

2013.02.07    Dynasties and democracy 

For the second time the other day, the Supreme Court denied a petition asking the high court to compel the Commission on Elections to enforce a constitutional provision that prohibits political dynasties.  There is a third petition waiting in the wings.  But it is highly unlikely that the Court will change its view on the matter – namely, that the cited provision is a statement of a general principle; it is “not self-executing,” and thus requires a law to clarify its scope and meaning.  

2013.02.03    A Japanese public intellectual 

Tokyo.  I finally accomplished last Friday one of the things I had planned to do during my two-week stay in Japan: to visit the grave of a dear friend, Yoshiyuki Tsurumi, who died of cancer in 1994.  Accompanied by his former student, Professor Yasushi Fujibayashi of Saitama University, and Ms Izumi Hirano, an archivist from Rikkyo University whereTsurumi’s papers, notes, and personal library are deposited, I went on a personal pilgrimage to Sagami memorial park in Kanagawa Prefecture, two hours by train from Tokyo.  Tsurumi was such a non-conformist all his life that I could not imagine him being buried in a row of black and gray tombs of unrelenting uniformity. 

2013.01.31    Birdwatching with Hashimoto-san 

Osaka.  The day started promisingly.  Last Sunday, while having breakfast at my hotel, I scanned the clear sky outside and noticed about a dozen tree sparrows perched on the power supply line above the street.  Just then, a black Toyota Crown taxi pulled over into a narrow alley beside the hotel. The driver got off and, as if on cue, the little birds on the wire descended to where he stood.  He started feeding them pieces of the bread he held in his hands while partaking some of it himself.  About five minutes later, he went back into his car and drove off. This fleeting tryst must be a daily ritual for this taxi driver and his winged friends.

2013.01.27    Revisiting Japan 

Osaka.  At the baggage carousel of the relatively new and solidly-built Kansai International Airport, everyone around me was busy on their mobile phones even as they kept an eye on the fast-moving bags.  I was surprised to see a preponderance of iPhones: I’d say, four out of five.  It is easy to understand why the austere lines of Apple’s bestselling product would appeal to the Japanese.  The iPhone is perhaps to technology what the haiku is to poetry.  And so, it puzzles me why the Japanese did not invent anything close to it.

2013.01.24    Suing China 

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced the other day that the Philippines has submitted its territorial dispute with China for resolution by an international arbitration tribunal as provided for under the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (Unclos). 

2013.01.20    Where in the world is Mali? 

There’s probably not a single country left in the world today where one would not find Filipinos.  In any war that breaks out anywhere, any major disaster that happens on land or at sea, in every hijacking of a cargo boat, or any terrorist attack in a crowded public place in any big city – chances are one of the victims could be a Filipino worker. This has made the everyday outlook of the average Filipino global. In the short span of forty years, we have, by necessity, become interested in what is happening in the rest of the world because of the broad dispersal of our overseas workers.  

2013.01.17    Doping and Lance Armstrong 

Even if I am not a cyclist, I am eagerly awaiting the airing this Thursday of Lance Armstrong’s interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey.  I’m keen to know how the 7-time Tour de France champion will finally confess to using performance-enhancing drugs and other doping methods to help him win the yellow jerseys that he still proudly displays in his living room.  Tour officials decided a few months ago to strip him of all the titles he had won at the cycling world’s most famous tournament.  He has also been banned for life from professional cycling.  We are told that he wants the ban lifted so he could compete in triathlons. 

2013.01.13    Help 

Next time our political leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives find themselves awash in so-called “savings” at the end of the year, they might want to drop by at any of our public hospitals.  At the charity wards they would see for themselves how the poor desperately try to cope with the unexpected burden that an illness or an accident imposes on their already fragile existence.  One hopes they would then be moved to share a tiny fraction of their fat bonuses with the ordinary people they are supposed to serve.  Doing so could recover for our political system the perception of usefulness it has considerably lost. 

2013.01.10    Drones 

One can imagine the bewilderment of the Filipino fishermen when they saw a “drone” floating off the coast of Masbate recently.  Four meters in length, it had the shape of a plane, but it was too small to carry a pilot. Also, it looked menacing, and too big to be merely a toy. They eyed it warily.  One of the men might have gently poked it with his paddle, and, when it didn’t stir or make a noise, they towed it to shore.  

2013.01.06    Amok 

When 41-year-old Ronald “Bossing” Bae went on a shooting rampage in his neighborhood in Kawit Cavite the other day, indiscriminately killing 7 and wounding about 11 others, the local media promptly labeled his heinous act as that of an “amok.” “Bigla na lang siyang nag-amok,” reporters said, echoing the words of Bae’s stunned neighbors.

2013.01.03    Living bravely 

Over the holidays, as the old year was coming to a close, I found myself pondering, like everyone else I suppose, what it means to put order and meaning in one’s life.  Most New Year resolutions take the form of lists of what to do to achieve greater efficiency in everyday life – how to keep work from piling up, how not to be late for appointments, how to stay healthy, how to free one’s self from vice, etc. But some resolutions go deeper: they involve a fundamental reorientation of one’s life. Instead of asking how, they ask why.