Kenosis: The message of Christmas

I grew up believing that Christmas is a time of joy, merriment, and love – but never quite knowing why the birth of the infant Jesus in a barn should occasion such sentiments.  I learned that this was not an ordinary child — that he is God’s son sent into the world to save man, … Read more

Between senility and sedition

The Secretary of Justice, who is himself no longer young, first called the defiant 80-year-old retired general “senile” and in need of a psychiatrist.  On second thought, he labeled him dangerous, and his declaration of a transitional government “an incitement to sedition.” He sent policemen in civilian clothes to effect a “citizen’s arrest.” In custody, … Read more

Demanding closure

Of the many questions that have been asked since the nation first became aware of the “Hello Garci” tapes, two have stood out. Did President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo conspire with Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to rig the canvassing of the 2004 election results in Mindanao?  Did the Armed Forces of the Philippines allow its personnel and … Read more

Garci’s gambit

In chess, a gambit is a calculated move that offers the sacrifice of a pawn or another piece in order to secure a positional advantage. Former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano made a clever one, and the nation took it. He has re-appeared, and so he is no longer missing.  He has talked to the media, … Read more

Open wounds

My daughter Kara asked me the other day, “Papa, do you know what happened in Barrio Mapaniqui, Candaba on Nov. 23, 1944?”  A documentary she has been researching on Filipino “comfort women” has led her to this little village in Pampanga. From her interviews, she has learned that the residents of this place have suffered … Read more

The origins of the crisis

If the only issue the “Hello Garci” tapes raise is cheating in an election, what, indeed, is new?  All Filipino politicians are known to cheat in one form or another.  The whole organization of our elections encourages it.  But access to cheating is fairly distributed, and so the candidate who emerges victorious is in all … Read more

The return of the repressed

When the Philippine Senate in 1991 voted against a new proposed treaty that would extend the stay of American bases in our country, we thought that, at last, we had finally slain the great American father that for generations controlled our national psyche.  We knew then that we would be made to pay dearly for … Read more

Overcoming a heritage of mimicry

In the small town of Betis in Pampanga, where I come from, furniture makers invented the paradox of the “modern antique.”  Gifted artisans are put to work to produce flamboyant Louis XIV replicas that the new-rich buy to adorn their stuffy living rooms. Over the years, many small shops that make such furniture have migrated … Read more

Formal institutions and people power

In a democracy, it is natural for the public to wish to be freed of the burden of having to take direct action when there is a grave crisis in government. Yet, on two occasions in the recent past, under the spell of a diffused social movement, Filipinos found themselves taking the whole system in … Read more

When religious leaders speak

When the Iglesia Ni Cristo speaks, politicians have to listen.  Of the country’s numerous religious communities, the INC alone commands the kind of organized vote that can make or unmake politicians. To a lesser degree, El Shaddai wields a similar political clout.  This is the power of small but tightly organized groups.  The Catholic Church … Read more