Monthly Archives: October 2004

Ang Batang Pinoy ay Jollibee Kid daw

There is this values education program of DepEd and Jollibee where the latter will teach about half a million kids about the importance of honesty, integrity, etc themed “Ang Batang Pinoy ay Jollibee Kid.”

Quoting Frank from Everybody Loves Raymond: Holy Crap!

Exactly what moral ascendancy can a company engaged in cutthroat competition bordering on the devious claim in teaching values to our children? What will they impart to the young: That perpetual hiring of underpaid contractuals is good? Using plastic and styrofoam is ok?

This is another deceitful marketing ploy, possibly to lower taxes too, aimed to entice children to patronize Jollibee. The unfinished theme runs this way: Ang Batay Pinoy ay kumakain sa Jollibee.

How can DepEd which recently raised alarm over rising number of obese children, ink an agreement with a company whose business offers unhealthy products like hamburger and fries? Let them watch Super Size Me.

We should learn from America’s experience with Channel One. Schools are provided with TV sets but the donor obliged school children to watch their programs including the advertisements during class hours.

Beware of the wolf disguised as a sheep.


The Brown version

Thanks to Ederic Eder, I am now one of the zealots in the quest for the Holy Grail. Yes, I’ve read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci’s Code which I ignored last year because of my snooty attitude that what sells big in the mainstream market is least likely a great work of literature.

What convinced me to devote five working days to read Dan Brown’s three novels about codes, secret societies and algorithms? (Da Vinci’s Code, Angels and Demons, Digital Fortress)

First was the decision of Paris authorities to offer Da Vinci Code tours in the Louvre museum. Second, the voluminous response of the Vatican to refute the arguments of a popular fictionist. Scholars validating, refuting ideas contained in the book. And lastly, Ederic sending me his e-book copy of the novel for free.

Brown borrows a lot from Ludlum’s style and he dishes out intelligence secrets like Tom Clancy. I would certainly disagree that his novel can stand at par with the Booker’s best but we have to acknowledge his deft in writing about artworks, religious symbols and other serious academic stuff while entertaining readers.

You may find his prose too bland after reading AS Byatt or Iris Murdoch but after finishing the book, you will google Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Madonna on the Rocks. You will read more about the history of the early church, pagan groups, occult movements and the holy grail. You will re-read the bible particularly the chapters about Mary Magdalene. You will search for news about Opus Dei members and activities in the Philippines.

A curious reader will never be disappointed because there is a plethora of books about the issues touched by Da Vinci’s Code. Boring academicians have to thank Dan Brown for creating a market for their treatises on religious icons, goddess worship and art history. Umberto Eco’s books are enjoying renewed public interest.

I am mildly surprised that there exist a vast literature on the subject of Holy Grail and Dan Brown’s work is only the latest version of it. BAYAN-NCR leader Tad Ifurung narrated how he got copies of Holy Blood Holy Grail and Templar Revelation in a book stall in Recto during that violent dispersal in Plaza Miranda which saw a bleeding Dr. Carol Araullo after being hit in the head.

A movie buff I call myself yet I was oblivious that Hollywood has been featuring the Holy Grail and the Sacred Feminine for many years. Martin Scorcese made a controversial film about Jesus and Magdalene. Even Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges starred in a film about the quest for the Holy Grail.

I do not believe there is a woman in Da Vinci’s Last Supper or that Magdalene is the Holy Grail. But I believe the Church helped in subjugating the role and voice of the WOMEN in history. I believe in the Pagan contributions to Christianity. I believe the true teachings of the historical Jesus were lost when the institutional Church banished many of the early gospels of Christianity. That Dan Brown’s novel stirred many controversies is healthy in re-examining many of the dogmatic doctrines of the Church.

Whether Dan Brown plagiarized a 1983 novel entitled Da Vinci’s Legacy, readers are hopeful the film version of the book will usher in more debates about the role of the Church in our time.

It’s my personal wish that the film will not upstage Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. But that is another story.

textbooks of mass idiotization

This is the first time we are actually quite grateful the government has been remiss in its duty of providing textbooks for every public school student. If it had done its job well, millions of children will grow up believing the Chinese people are fond of opium or that we have a coconut-shaped planet.

Indeed we have entered the Information Age where knowledge takes precedence over possession of other forms of capital. In a lifetime, a person can absorb tons of data that reading an error-filled textbook today can easily be corrected in the future.

But this is wishful thinking for a country where functional literacy is low, drop-out rate in schools is high and access to computers is limited mainly in urban areas.

For those of us who went to public schools, a textbook is the single most important learning tool inside the classroom. Teachers have to be very convincing if he/she wants the children to believe in his/her lecture that is contrary to what is written in the textbook.

Radio and television are for entertainment, computers are for games and internet, but the textbook is a sacred material for children. Its role is to dispense relevant information about our world. It is highly valued that students share their textbooks with their younger friends, relatives and neighbors.

Very few or no student will ever question the accuracy of the contents of school textbooks. The questioning will start in college. Too late for those who dropped out of school and pity the children who inherited the books.

Reviewing all learning materials in schools is the least the Department of Education can do. It should also punish textbook reviewers, force the publisher to reprint amended copies and overhaul its screening process for future learning resources. We propose that DepEd request scholars from reputable universities to write elementary and high school textbooks.

The textbook fiasco partly answers the question why many of our students are poor in math and science.
Before we label our students as unfit for high school instruction, can we at least guarantee that they are provided with accurate learning materials?

Outlaw ‘no permit no exam’ policy

Classes are over and final examinations are ongoing in most colleges in the country today. But not a few students are barred by school authorities from taking the tests. Their fault: they have no money to pay for the remaining balance in their tution.


With poverty worsening and the fiscal crisis affecting everyone, the number of these students will swell this year. Perhaps they will also fail to enroll for the second semester next month. 


Congress must outlaw this unpopular practice. The new chairman of the Commission on Higher Education should intervene in behalf of the discriminated students.  Private schools should be more sensitive to the hardships of the people.


We believe schools will not lose money by allowing students who have outstanding financial obligations to take examinations. Rather than humiliate the students by excluding them from their classmates who will take the exams, the more humane and practical approach to the issue is to withhold the release of their transcript of records until they have settled their dues.


The ‘no permit no exam’ policy is biased against the poor but intelligent students who have done well throughout the grading period but whose academic success may be jeopardized because they were unable to take examinations.


This policy smacks of hypocrisy especially for Catholic schools who teach students the value of service and piety. Education is not like other sectors of our society that puts a premium on acquiring profits. Schools exist to nurture children and inculcate the good values of life and not to make children feel that being poor prevents them from enjoying the rights and privileges of their other more affluent classmates.

Defining the Filipino youth

It has become fashionable to heap scorn on the youth for being an apathetic lot. We are often derided as the crazed generation of party-goers, mall creatures and texting fanatics who have little or no sense of civic duty.

We are accused of forgetting the nation’s past in favor of MTV. The young know more about the lives of Startruck/Star Circle Quest winners than Wenceslao Vinzons, Lorena Barros or Lorenzo Tanada.

We are labeled as belonging to Gen-X, Y or Z (now Gentext) or the lost generation who wanders aimlessly in the postmodern era.

Rizal may be either regretting in his grave for placing high hopes on the youth or biting dust in anger on people who mocks the youth without reason.

I submit to the charge that we prize hedonistic activities, and yes we are addicted to TV, texting and mall-hopping. I disagree that we are apathetic or has no concept of social responsibility.

Is not the active participation of the youth in People Power II enough proof to erase any doubt on young Filipinos? In fact, students have been knocking at the gates of Malacanang even before the Chavit expose to protest tuition increases and budget cuts for the education sector.

Indeed we are text maniacs but we also use texting to gain political victories for the people like spreading Erap-Pidal-FPJ jokes, updating the public on EDSA Dos activities and recently, pressuring Speaker De Venecia and Malacanang to thumb down the proposed tax on text.

There were moves to abolish ROTC as early as the 60’s but it was our generation who achieved the goal by boycotting military training in July of 2002 as protest to the killing of cadets who wanted reforms in ROTC.

The generation before us opposed the Vietnam war and the US Bases by marching in the streets. Our generation protested the illegal invasion of Iraq by joining then Vice President Guingona in a Peace Assembly at Luneta last year. So far it remains the biggest gathering of Filipinos who opposed the war in Iraq.

Scholars are now re-interpreting the complaints by American Thomasites such as the refusal of Filipino children to attend school, making-up of stories in order to skip classes and being oblivious to the lectures given by the foreign teachers as the natives’ ingenious way of showing dissent to colonial rule.

Perhaps this partly explains the behavior of some young people who are disillusioned with the kind of society we have. By withdrawing from the community and concentrating on oneself or forming ties with like-minded, angst-driven, confused individuals, they hoped to be immune from the corrupting virus of mainstream culture. By rejecting politics, they wanted escape from uninspiring, shallow and greedy traditional politicians.

It is unfair to gauge the youth’s love of country today by comparing them with how the youth of the 60’s and 70’s demonstrated their concern for the ills of society. We also want change. We also want to eradicate poverty, corruption and injustice. All of them are obstacles to a bright future. We may not be using the streets as often as before, but the passion and idealism to be catalysts for change have not diminished.

family ties in the time of diaspora

Once or twice a week, my mother would call to check on my situation, especially about my work, finances and health. Our conversation would last for about five to ten minutes depending on the time and day of her call and the remaining balance in her ‘budget tipid’ calling card (weekends and off-peak hours have cheaper calling rates).

My father would text to confirm if I received my monthly allowance or to share his thoughts on sundry issues like the FPJ candidacy, kidnappings and even the unconfirmed reconciliation of Joey and Kris.

I maintain regular contact with my younger brother through internet chat and my elder sister through e-mail.

I live alone in Manila while the rest of my family is based abroad. This has been our set-up for the past three years although my family has not been physically intact since thirteen years ago.

My mother left the country in 1990 to work in Dubai. My father immigrated to San Francisco, California in 1993. Eight years later, he was joined by my mother and brother while my sister decided to settle in Dubai with her husband.

My memory of my parents was formed during the years I spent with them from infancy to early adolescence. After that, our bondage was facilitated by long distance calls, holiday and birthday greeting cards, photos, and most recently, electronic communication.

We are briefly reunited almost every year when my parents come home for a one month summer vacation. We maximixe the little time we have together to refresh ties and familiarize ourselves with each other before we become total strangers. No time is wasted in our mutual intention of establishing the most memorable, warm and funny moments together that will make up for the long time that we were separated.

One month is a long break for tourists but it is painfully short for overseas Filipino workers who need to forge the most meaningful parental ties with their children.

Every time my mother or father would be visiting the country, I found myself rehearsing the right words to express my affections for them. But in the end, there would be no sentimental exchange of feelings between child and parent. Instead, we channeled our emotions into fulfilling activities an ordinary family is doing like watching TV in the evening, cooking and dining together, cleaning the house, reporting of our performance in school, visiting relatives in the province, gossiping and shopping in the malls.

This semblance of ordinariness strengthens our affinity and provides comfort in our relationship especially after realizing that it would take another year or more before we can see each other again.

In many ways, our family is more ‘traditional’ than the traditional Filipino family. Despite our distance, we continue to be a closely knit family who perceives our present situation as a transitional phase to a near future where we can be reunited permanently.

We may be continents apart but it is blurred by our constant reassurances of love, concern and understanding. Never did I feel I was abandoned by my parents. Never did I doubt they were doing their best to build a strong and united family. My parents were my constant source of inspiration and guidance in both times of joy and despair.

Perhaps I was used to being far from my family that eased the loneliness of living alone. But I believe it was also mitigated by the fact that migration and working abroad has become an accepted norm in modern Philippine society.

Back at school, my situation was no different from my other classmates who also have a father or mother who works in another country to support them. Now we have more than eight million of our countrymen who are scattered in different parts of the world to earn a living which they could not hope to raise in our land.

My parents have never really discussed their work or living conditions in detail every time we have the chance to talk. They would always check our status then remind us to be extra-careful in the streets and persevere in our studies.

They were silent about their grief of living away from their children. For the past ten years or so that we were apart, I never remember each one of them complain about getting sick. Much more, they never mentioned about getting low pay, cold treatment, racial discrimination or working under harsh conditions. These were things I learned only in college which my parents never told us so that we would not worry.

Despite the hardships of our situation, I still feel lucky. Many families fall apart because they could not stand the pressure of their alienating situation.. Bitter sacrifices end up to nothing for many Filipinos who come home in cadaver bags. Some disappear never to be found. I derive a humble happiness in the fact that my family is still intact and that my parents are still alive.

Many times I wish things are different for our country so that families need not be separated to survive. I know that my mother would not leave if her income from selling rice is enough to raise a family. My father was forced to migrate after being retrenched from his work in the South Harbor. My sister would have chosen to settle here if her office would not continue to relegate her as a casual employee.

On his last visit here two years ago, my father told me that life in another country as a second-class citizen is not good. But it is better to be a second-class citizen which pays enough to sustain a family than to eke out a living here and die from hunger and poverty.

For me, what remains to be the most compelling argument why our society must keep its people together is that when you feel the urge to express your love for your family, the painful reality is that you need to have a visa, a passport, and a plane ticket to see them or that you need to have a telephone to fulfill this basic human interest. I have to add, you need money, lots of money to acquire these tools of communication.