Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Color me Green?

A recent Friendster bulletin got me thinking about the aspect of how narrow the Filipino world really is. It's about a celebration of Lasallian spirit and unity, in all La Salle campuses.

It's not for a Green Archer game. It's not for your LPEP. It's simply to show that we're one La Salle. Two colors, but one La Salle. Green and White Day, to be launched on Jan. 28, poses to be a new tradition for the Lasallian family. Gathering all members of the university, from students to faculty to alumni to the staff, the Green and White Day is geared at uniting all the sectors of the university in the name of Animo.

A brainchild of the Animo Taskforce, this celebration aims to inspire the Lasallian school spirit in the individuals of our community. The main event will be ushered with a prayer service organized by the Lasallian Pastoral Office.

After these moments of silence, we will bring in the big drums as the DLSU Pep Squad will rouse the crowd with cheers and acrobatics. Next will be the collective partaking of food. A program showcasing our Cultural Arts Office (CAO) talents will follow. As a final toast to the day, a concert in cooperation with the FM station Magic 89.9 will end the festivities.

Such a huge assembly could only be held in one place - the DLSU football field.

So mark your calendars and iron your green shirts. On January 28, come light your Green Fire and dance on the Lasallian Field of Dreams. Wear green or white and show us what One La Salle looks like.

For many Lasallians, it's easy being green. Sheltered amid the cacophony of Manila sounds, many have no idea of what life is beyond the ivory tower.

And so at the risk of being belittled, here goes.

I don't want to be just GREEN. Does that make me less of a Lasallian? What does school spirit have to do with, say, local matters or even world matters, if all that's going to be uplifted is the school? (and students, for that matter)

We might be a first-class school (shut up, tongue-waggers), but we are not a first-class country. I find the (show of) celebrating a bit ostentatious, given the circumstances. First-class posturing, maybe.

But more than just La Salle, it's a habit that seems to be inherent in all Filipinos. To never see beyond the family, the friends, the barangay, the coworkers. The bigger picture is a failed concept.

Remember our raucous New Year's celebrations? A host of other countries affected by the Asian tsunamis ostensibly toned down their own celebrations, due in part to remember those who had perished.

And we brought out the beer and the firecrackers.

What will a One La Salle carry over for the Philippines? Perhaps that we can never look beyond the four walls of the university. And that's a mighty scary thought.

But what do I care. I'm just a corporate sell-out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Prince Formerly Known as Nazi.


From Britain's daily tabloid, The Sun. Image taken from Reuters.
In the last week, the British media have been all astir over Prince Harry's wearing of a Nazi costume at a friend's fancy dress party. They have provoked replies such as the prince's promoting fascism, to people saying it was just a silly prank.

Here are excerpts from journalists all over the UK:

Aaron Barschak, for TheGuardian:

Bad taste, bad timing, bad prince ... these are the rotten epithets being hurled at a 20-year-old in tabloid stocks. I can guarantee that had anyone other than Prince Harry worn a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party, no one would have blinked an eye...
If a middle-class 20-year-old from the suburbs went to a birthday party dressed the same way, we would say, "He is so obviously trying to be outré and piss his parents off, it's laughable." But when Prince Harry does it, we're ready to put him on trial at Nuremberg. His legacy is that everybody is now going to go to fancy-dress parties dressed up in Afrika Korps uniform, trying to be Prince Harry."

David Aaronovitch, for The Observer (in essence, the same as TheGuardian):

He presumably thought it was a bit of a laugh rather than a political statement; funny Nazis and tapdancing Ku Klux Klanners seem to be an important element in successful musical comedy at the moment. And he also may have chosen the swastika symbol unconsciously precisely because it is transgressive. My psychoanalyst friend tells me that he hasn't yet seen a young male patient who, given a notepad, has failed at some point in their consultations to doodle a swastika. In its own way, it's a little like the Che T-shirt worn by many adolescents who haven't the slightest idea who Mr Guevara was.

...It doesn't really matter how materially privileged they are, they are still miserable and we connive at making them even unhappier. If that's how we get our jollies, then maybe we have more of the fascist in us than a prince who wears inappropriate fancy dress.

Andrew Gumbel, for The Los Angeles Times:

It's hardly news that a British royal has, once again, made a prize twit of himself. That seems to be the House of Windsor's lot. But this is in a whole different category. Even a 20-year-old (and particularly one in line to the throne) should know that the world is still colossally and understandably sensitive about the Nazis and their monstrous crimes.

Nigel Farndale, for The Sunday Telegraph:

It is literal-mindedness bordering on autism to assume he was in some way endorsing fascist views just because he wore a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party... That is like assuming a woman who wears a nun costume to a party must practice celibacy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

*&^*(#$#%@) book tax?!

I came across Ped Xing's post about one of Malacanang's proposed revenue bills for 2005, House Bill (HB) 3105. This bill seeks to impose a 10-percent value-added tax (VAT) on the "sale, importation, printing and publication of books."

My Isis, Anubis, Venus, Zeus, Athena, Jupiter (and every other god and goddess in religion and mythology).

After all this time, the geniuses in Congress can't come up with a better way to collect (yes, I do mean collect) taxes! Where does the government spend our tax money? Education? Right. Infrastructure? Guess again.

Instead, you see badly dilapidated waiting sheds with boldly printed words such as, "Donated by Cong. Eng-Eng", "Donated by Mr. and Mrs. High-and-Mighty", and signs on bumpy roads that say "This is where your taxes go".

Donated? Are we supposed to grovel at their feet and thank them for providing a public service that the public paid for in the first place? How stupid do they think we are?

But, I digress.

Ronnel (of Ped Xing fame) writes that

"The imposition of this tax would, of course, mean pricier books, thereby further discouraging, according to National Book Development Board Chair Dennis Gonzales, the reading of books in this country. But what is especially absurd about the proposed tax is that it will spare locally printed publications and imported magazines and newspapers, which means FHM, Philippine Tatler, Vogue and Cosmopolitan can retain their old price tags. "

There's absolutely no logic there, given that these magazines are surely a more popular commodity than imported books. Aside, of course, from the obvious slight to books and reading.

But as if (note, I write as if) to add insult to injury, the Brazilian government is doing the exact opposite of what our Congress hopes to push through. Brazil is eliminating those very same taxes in an effort to get people to read.

Ronnel enjoins those who feel strongly about the bill to write to the two chairmen of the Congress's committees on ways and means: Sen Ralph Recto (telefax No. 834-8974) and Rep. Jesli Lapuz (telefax no. 931-4955).

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Now I can finally understand how some people are driven to suicide.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Me Missions.

This year, I want to accomplish several goals - to help other people and to broaden my seemingly narrow perspective of life.

That's why I've decided to open the floor to several suggestions from you guys (meaning those people on the left side of the page).

1. Go to Infanta, Quezon on an aid mission and give out old clothes and books.
2. Plant trees.
3. Visit orphanages and give out milk, noodles, baby clothes, the like.
4. Attend a talk of wealthy business people.
5. Attend a talk given by leftists in the academe.
6. Attend a talk about media under fire.
7. Sneak inside a UP journalism lecture.
8. Learn a native dance.

That sort of thing.

I will welcome all sorts of suggestions, really. I'm running out of ideas now and will sincerely appreciate any kind of assistance.

I'll post all your suggestions in another entry, and then, maybe, I can choose from there.

My thanks in advance. =)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Can you look a gift-horse in the mouth?

Via FriskoDude.

Apparently, the editors of Thailand's The Nation can. In a somewhat scathing editorial published last December 31, the editors criticized the meagerness of American aid even as they (US) established themselves to be the lead country in the recovery effort.

Here is the editorial in full.

EDITORIAL: A generous global relief effort

Published on Dec 31, 2004

But the United States stands out for its hesitation and meagre first response

The devastating tsunami caused by Sunday’s undersea quake in the Indian Ocean, which killed tens of thousands in this part of the world, was followed by a swift and generous response by the international community, which has so far raised more than US$220 million (Bt8.58 billion) in cash and emergency supplies, in addition to a wide array of logistical support. More than 50 countries around the world have already contributed or pledged to provide cash, in-kind assistance and expertise to help Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives, which bore the brunt of the violent seismic wave.

The outpouring of sympathy and offers of material help, described by the United Nations, which is coordinating the emergency response, as the biggest relief operation in its history, is perhaps proportional to the devastation that struck coastal towns and cities around the Indian Ocean rim so suddenly and without warning.

The level of the relief operation can be attributed to the comprehensive coverage of the horrifying consequences of the giant wave in terms of the staggering casualties, millions of shattered lives and ruinous property damage.

Few will fail to be moved by the shocking images of how the killer waves laid waste to whole coastal communities and their unsuspecting inhabitants and the seaside resorts packed with carefree holidaymakers. It reminded people of the precariousness of human existence against the forces of nature. In mere minutes, the tsunami wiped out what will take years to rebuild, while many of those who lost their family and loved ones will be scarred for life.

The UN is leading efforts to address problems arising from the immediate aftermath of the deadly waves, including the recovery of dead bodies from affected areas and providing survivors with shelter, food and basic necessities as well as ensuring sanitation and preventing the outbreak of disease.

Despite this, the United States has announced that it is taking a leading role in the recovery effort organised by itself, Australia, Japan and India to begin with, and in which other countries and regional groupings will be invited to participate later. Let’s hope that the US-led grouping will coordinate its work with the UN’s – and not against it.

President George W Bush’s announcement followed criticism by UN aid officials, who said the US was not providing enough aid to countries suffering from the tsunami. The US Agency for International Development added $20 million to an earlier pledge of $15 million to provide relief after Bush realised the magnitude of the disaster.

The charge of “stinginess” that has been levelled at the US will probably not be easy to shake off despite the fact that the US remains one of the single biggest aid donors in absolute terms. Though comparatively speaking, the US does come off a bit stingy and short-sighted when it comes to humanitarian aid.

US leaders, especially President George W Bush, apparently have no ability to think beyond their own national interests. Since it started the war in Iraq, the US has spent more than $1 billion on military operations. But when this region was hit by the epic disaster on Sunday, the US was not only slow to respond but also offered a negligible amount of assistance, leading to the derisive remarks by UN aid officials.

US State Secretary Colin Powell went out of his way to defend the Bush administration’s paltry response, reminding the world that the US is still among the world’s most generous aid givers. This is not the first time the US has said that.

But Powell was actually missing the point. Money is not the only thing that the affected countries are looking for. They are looking for sympathy, understanding and long-term commitment. If the US wants to lead the world, it has to lead the world in humanitarian operations as well – not just in aggressive militaristic or hegemonic economic terms.

It may be true that most of the foreign deaths in the tsunami-hit countries were Europeans who came to the sunny part of Asia for their vacation and Christmas holidays. The American reaction to the tragedy was apparently a reflection of that fact. It might have been different if the victims had been mainly American tourists.

But this exposes the rationale of the US in its altruism towards others. Washington is willing to pour money into any undertaking if it benefits US interests directly. If not, then it is a slow boat coming.

The situation also brought back to mind the US attitude towards other problems of the recent past.

When the Asian economies were brought to their knees in 1997, the US was once again reluctant to help. This kind of consistency will continue to hamper the US in the conduct of its foreign policy.

The Nation
And here is one response:

Your editorial was far too quick to judge

I read with dismay your editorial of December 31 ["A generous global relief effort"] wherein you criticise the US for being slow to respond with sympathy and aid because it was not in our interests to do so. The US government does of course care and is responding as best it can, and in fact it began assessing the situation immediately. The constantly changing casualty figures attest to the fact that everyone needed time to understand the full extent of the damage and how best to assist. The US government, corporations and private citizens together will surely end up being the largest aid donors by a long shot, so let's withhold judgement for now, shall we?

You might be advised to remember two bits of sage advice before lashing out again with unwarranted criticism: "haste makes waste" and "don't bite the hand that feeds you".

Why not direct your criticism towards the Meteorological Department, which, given a small window of time to sound the alarm, put its own interest in self-preservation above its duty to inform the public about the possibility of impending disaster?

Kurt Heck


You be the judge.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Angels, and Devils.

Every little bit of knowledge helps.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald on January 3 tells of a story of how one little girl saved hundreds of lives in Maikhao Beach in Thailand, minutes before the tsunami reached inland.

Tilly, who was on holiday with her parents in Phuket, was able to understand what was taking place when the tide went out from the beach. She alerted her mother, who then promptly spread the news to the people on the beach and a neighboring hotel, "thus saving hundreds of people from death and injury."

Tilly was quoted by The Sun, a daily tabloid in Britain, that "Last term [geography teacher Andrew] Kearney taught us about earthquakes and how they can cause tsunamis."

Kearney laster told the tabloid he had explained to his class that there was about 10 minutes from the moment the ocean draws out until the tsunami strikes.

Nobody on Maikhao Beach was seriously injured due to her quick recognition.

...And choices are hard to make.

Jillian Searle and her family were having breakfast poolside at the Holiday Inn in Phuket, Thailand when the tsunami struck. She grabbed Blake, her 20-month old son, and Lachie, her five-year old, and held on to them tight as waves washed over.

In this CNN article, Jillian recounted that "I had both of them in my hands -- one in each arm -- and we started going under."

"I knew I had to let go of one of them, and I just thought I'd better let go of the one that's the oldest."

Eventually, she did let go.

And most fortunately, she was able to get her son back.

"They found Lachie two hours later in a flooded room. The boy had mud marks up to his ears. Lachie told his parents that he'd dog paddled as fast as he could, then caught hold of a door handle and held on as water rushed passed him."

For all the victims, you have my deepest anger at having been put in a reversible position.