Monthly Archives: March 2005

A father’s lament

Excuse the cynical and pessimistic tone of this article. This was a hasty reaction to the Makati bombing while I was at the hospital last month….

I dread the day my daughter would ask me what was happening in the world on the day she was born. Would I tell her that while she was struggling to get out of her mother’s womb, innocent people died after terrorist bombs exploded in different parts of the country? How would she react if I let her know that the euphoria we felt when she was born was not shared by our fellow Filipinos in Jolo and Sulu caught in the crossfire between military and Moro rebels?

Would it help if I explain that even at the time of my birth, such is the state of affairs in our land? But that would mean we are such a stubborn and war-mongering race.

Well, my fears could be premature. At the rate of our propensity to make things worse, my daughter might grow up under the same spiteful and violent temperament of those in power. Perhaps the situation might worsen to a point when people will have little or no recollection of an unperturbed world.

We have lost the moral right to inhabit this beautiful planet because of our dirty and diabolical activities which can annihilate all that is good and living. The world according to schools is only the sanitized version of an otherwise nasty, ugly and cruel place to live. Textbooks depict the society through the looking glass of disney films. Children is given a bite of reality the hard way outside the schools where crooks and hooligans abound.

We are running out of sanctuaries that can provide refuge to people seeking solace from the harshness of the world. Even the Church has squandered its claim as the moral bastion of the land. Fleeing the country is an option but friends would be quick to remind that all things considered, our society is still the most friendly place on Earth.

A British historian described the 20th century as the age of extremes. Democracy and dictatorship flourished. Communism and capitalism pitted against each other. Science boomed, religion waned. Wealth was appropriated by the few while mass poverty engulfed the globe.

How about the 21st century? Would it go down in history as the age when man will lose all affinity with social institutions preferring to live alone and isolated from mainstream society? Would man turn its back on the rational world which can only boast of a degenerate society?

I grew up having faith in my fellow men to do good but this is quickly being eroded with each passing day.
We seem to be incapable of fostering goodwill and we condone the wicked values of man. We abandoned decency and peace in order to embrace hate. We pollute the minds of the young by glorifying their adoption of the adult’s evil mindset.

Like any other parent, I want to shield my daughter from all the scourges of evil in our society. But how would I accomplish this without exposing her to the moral decay of man and its effect on the community? As part of the cursed society of man, I fear I might afflict her with the madness sweeping the land.

Oh what tragedy if my daughter would grow up us one of us! Her innocence lost and a human desensitized to pain, suffering, poverty and violence.

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The Spy

Napanood ko ulit ang pelikulang ‘The Spy’ kanina at naalala ko na meron pala akong nasulat na rebyu dito. Akmang-akma ito sa paggunita ng anibersaryo ng pagsakop ng US sa Iraq at sa kasalukuyang panghihimasok ng Amerika sa ating bansa….

Mahirap hindi mabighani sa pelikulang ‘The Spy’ lalo na’t may kasalatan sa ating bansa ng mga obrang nagtataglay ng parehong pagpapahalaga sa estetika at panlipunang komentaryo.

Halaw ito sa nobela ni Graham Greene (The Quiet American) tungkol sa kuwento ng isang matandang Ingles na peryodista, isang batang ahente ng CIA na may prenteng miyembro ng economic aid mission at isang Vietnamese dance-hall girl na gustong “iligtas’ ng dalawa sa kanyang kalagayan.

Ang bumubuhay kay Fowler ay ang pag-ibig niya kay Phuong na hindi niya pwedeng pakasalan dahil may asawa siyang iniwan sa England. Sa pagdating ng batang-bata at inosenteng si Pyle na agad nag-alay ng kanyang pagmamahal ay nayanig ang kanilang mundo. Pumaibabaw ang natatagong ligalig sa kanilang kalooban at nasiwalat ang usapin ng moralidad na kinakaharap ni Fowler sa kanyang utak.

Ang taon ay 1952. Sakop pa rin ng France ang Vietnam subalit malapit ng magwagi ang mga pwersa ni Ho Chi Minh. Nagsisimula pa lamang ang interbensiyon ng Amerika sa Vietnam.

Ang pelikula ay tungkol kay Fowler, Pyle at Phuong subalit naratibo rin ito ugat ng digmaan sa Vietnam. Hindi lamang ito pag-usisa sa motibo ng bawat karakter sa kanilang piniling sitwasyon, ito rin ay pagtukoy sa kahinaan ng tao na nakikipaglaban sa mga demonyo ng kanilang utak at damdamin. Higit sa lahat, ito ay pagkilala sa kahungkagan ng digmaang naganap sa Vietnam na binunsod ng pananakop ng banyagang kapangyarihan.

Hindi lantaran ang pagtutol sa gera subalit ang buhay ng mga karakter sa pelikula ay nagpapatotoo sa ideyang ito. Si Phuong, tulad ng Vietnam ay gustong iligtas ng mga banyaga mula sa kanyang katayuan kahit hindi niya ito hinihingi. Ang pagtulong nila Fowler at Pyle, kahit busilak ang inihahayag na intensiyon, ay tutumbok din sa huli para sa kanilang makasariling karnal na interes.

Maraming dahilan para panoorin ang ‘Spy’ ng bawat Pilipino. Maaaring ilahad ang mahusay na pagganap ni Michael Caine, ang cinematography ni Christopher Doyle (na huli nating napanood sa pelikulang ‘Hero’) at isang pagtuklas sa kahusayan ni Greene na maghabi ng matapang na kuwento tungkol sa karuwagan at makitid na pag-iisip ng tao. Pero ang pangunahing dahilan ay ang napapanahong halaga nito sa buhay ng mga Pilipino sa kasalukuyan.

Madali nating makilala si Pyle. Madalas siyang bumisita s Pilipinas. Maaaring siya si Lansdale noon at si Meihring ngayon. Bumuo ng ‘third force si Pyle pantapat sa dalawang nagbabanggaang puwersa ng France at mga komunista. Sa Pilipinas, maraming ‘third force.’ Nagpasabog ng mga bomba sa gitna ng Saigon si Pyle sa pamamagitan ng kanyang alagang si General The at sinisi ito sa mga komunista. Lumang kuwento, pero balita yan sa Pilipinas.

Tapos na ang gera sa Vietnam at malamang nasa proseso ang bansang ito sa pag-eexorcise ng kanilang mga pinalayas na halimaw ng nakaraan. Habang pinapanood ko ang ‘Spy’, hindi ko maiwasang isipin na Pilipinas, hindi Vietnam, ang bansang tinutukoy sa pelikula.

Overdrive

Nananatili pa ring Hari ng EDSA ang mga bus. At halos monopolyo nito ang paghahatid ng mga Pilipino sa iba’t ibang sulok ng bansa. Subalit nitong mga nakaraang taon ay madalas natin itong iugnay sa trapik, holdapan, pagtaas ng pamasahe at pagsabog ng bomba.

Noon pa man ay gusto ko ng alamin kung paano ang sistema ng sahuran ng mga drayber at konduktor ng bus. Medyo pamilyar ako sa boundary ng mga dyip at taxi pero wala akong ideya sa mga bus. Pero itong kagustuhan kong matutunan ang kalagayan ng mga drayber ay lagi na lang napapangibabawan ng pagkadismaya sa mga gahamang bus na matagal kung maghintay ng mga pasahero at lagi na lang sa gitna ng kalye kung magbaba at magsakay ng mga tao.

Hindi nakapagtataka at di iilan ang umaayuda sa mga patakaran ni Bayani Fernando na naghihigpit sa pampublikong transportasyon.

Nitong nakaraang linggo ay binasa ko ang isang pag-aaral na isinagawa ng aking asawa hinggil sa kalagayan ng manggagawa sa sektor ng transportasyon at nanlumo ako sa kadusta-dustang kalagayan ng mga drayber at konduktor.

Ilang halimbawa sa natukoy na pag-aaral ay ang sumusunod:

– Kadalasang nagsisimula ang byahe ng mga bus ng 2:45 am at matatapos ito ng 10 pm. Halos apat na oras lamang ang pahinga ng mga drayber. Parang 24 Oras ng GMA-7, hindi natutulog ang balita, ganun din ang mga drayber. Kaya siguro laganap ang paggamit ng amphetamine sa hanay ng mga drayber para manatiling gising;

– May mga dayber na walang basic pay kundi bahagdan lamang ng kita ang makukuha nila. Ang karaniwang praktika ay 8% ng kita ng byahe ang mapupunta sa drayber at 6% para sa konduktor;

– Karaniwan para sa mga ordinary bus, ang quota ng mga drayber ay P4,000 kada araw at P6,000 para sa mga aircon;

– Kung buong araw ang byahe, maraming pasahero at walang aksidente o nangotong na pulis o MMDA, maaaring kumita ang drayber ng P900 araw-araw. Pero ibabawas dito ang pambayad ng toll gate, video rent at pagpapalinis ng bus.

– Bago ilabas ang bus sa garahe, magbabayad ang drayber ng cash bond sa may-ari ng P5,000 bilang garantiya na maaksidente man ang bus ay kikita pa rin ang kumpanya;

– May insurance ang bus kung magkaroon ng aksidente pero wala ang mga drayber;

– Uso na rin ang pagkuha ng mga kontraktuwal na drayber at konduktor para hindi magbigay ng ilang benepisyo ang kumpanya. Tig-lilimang buwan ang kontrata at may mga kaso na kahit tatlong taon na sa serbisyo ay kontraktuwal pa rin ang status ng mga manggagawa;

Ang mga tinukoy ko ay ilan sa mga hinaing ng mga nagwelgang drayber ng Tritran, Jam, JAC Liner at Dela Rosa. Halos hindi nag-iiba ang kalagayan ng mga manggagawa sa iba pang kumpanya.

Nababanas pa rin ako sa mga drayber na matagal mag-abang ng pasahero lalo na kung nagmamadali ako pero may halo na itong pag-unawa sa kanilang kalagayan. Iniisip ko na lang na baka naghahabol ng quota ang puyat at pagod na drayber para may maibayad sa barat na amo.

Mao as educator

Chairman Mao Zedong on sleeping in schools:

“…Teachers giving lectures should allow the students to fall asleep. If the lecture is no good, it makes no sense to force others to listen. Listening to distasteful things with eyes opened wide is worse than sleeping in class. Sleeping may help one to recover from fatigue. Students should be given the choice of not listening to monotonous lectures.”

Mao on examination and copying:

“…The current examination methods contain many surprises, unusual questions and difficult problems. They are designed to deal with the enemy, not the people. I do not approve of them and think that they should be completely remoulded. I suggest taking some sample examination problems and having them published. Let the students study and do them with open books. Students should be allowed to whisper to each other and to hire others to take the examinations for them. If your answer is right, I copy yours. Copying is good, too. We should experiment with this system. “ 

Mao’s reaction to the proposal in one school to dismiss a student who put a “Long Live Chiang Kai-shek” slogan:

“…Well, so long as he doesn’t kill people, we should not dismiss him, nor should we send him away for labour reform. Let him stay in school and continue to study…you shouldn’t be all stirred up by one slogan.”

Mao on student proposal not to attend Sunday school:

“…When you return to school, you should take the lead to rebel. Don’t return to school on Sunday and don’t attend any meeting on that day…Don’t care about the system. Just don’t return to school. Just say you want to violate the school system…Why should you be so afraid of many things. The worst that can come to you is expulsion from school.”

Mao on schools discouraging students to read a classical novel:

“…It is a good book, it is worth reading. Its language is the best in classical fiction. If you don’t read it, how could you know about feudal society? Read it over and over again but not necessarily memorize it… Read the Holy Bible and Buddhist sutras. How can you do translations or handle foreign affairs if you do not study these books?”

Mao on shortening school curriculum:

“…Period of schooling may be shortened. There are at present too many curricula that drive people to death. Students at primary and middle schools and colleges are living in a tense environment everyday. Curricula may be reduced by half. It won’t do to have students having no cultural recreation, such as swimming and sports.”

Mao on grading students:

“…If a student can correctly answer questions and if some of the answers are good and creative, he may be given 100 points. If he answers all questions correctly but are ordinary without creative thinking, he should be given 50 or 60 points.”

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The writings of Chairman Mao should also be considered a rich source for scholars who wanted to integrate Marxism and educational reforms. The education set-up in socialist China from 1949-1976 can be a model for progressive educators.

Reading Mao’s ideas on education is like a review of the works of Jonathan Kozol, Paul Goodman, Ivan Ilich, Marshall Mcluhan – the Radical Educators of the 60’s-70’s. But Mao was neither utopian thinker nor an idealist; his proposals were practical and conformed to the needs of the Chinese people.

The teachings of Paulo Freire cohere with some of Mao’s tenets on education. But Neo-Marxist theorists like Henry Giroux, Peter Mclaren and Michael Apple hardly discusses the work of Mao in relation to schooling.

Perhaps, the black propaganda against Mao, especially after his death, has obscured his relevant teachings that can be of great use to the academe.

Water runs dry

HOW would Rizal react to the government decision to issue food coupons among the poor? Perhaps he would be disappointed that we continue to be a poor nation but he may also appreciate the gesture of feeding the hungry. Back then, people were also hungry but there was not even a token action of the colonial government to help the needy.

But would Rizal also understand water-rationing in Mega Manila? He may dismiss it as a sick joke for how it is possible that the people of his Pearl of the Orient would someday find themselves lacking in potable water? He might add that food and money may be scarce in this country ruled by the elite but water supply in this part of the world is vast and free.

After all, we inhabit an archipelago with the longest coastline in the world. The biggest freshwater lake in the region is in Laguna. And I read somewhere that the biodiversity in our land is ten times richer than Galapagos Island.

But look now; there is a water shortage in the Metro. Water-rationing is being done and in many parts of the city, water is available only from 1-3am. Singaporeans might be laughing at us for they may lack natural source of freshwater but they can always convert their wastewater into drinking water.

Some environmentalists accuse the government of magnifying the water crisis to justify the signing of anomalous water projects like dam conversion in the same way the power crisis in the early 90s has spawned the entry of Independent Power Producers which overcharged consumers to this day.

Malacanang seems insensitive to the water crisis because of its promotion of large-scale mining which can contaminate our water source. Fisherfolks in Laguna are protesting that the planned pumping of water from Laguna de Bay would kill the lake.

And we are also to blame for our activities that pollute the environment. We have long taken for granted that we have unlimited clean water supply forgetting that other nations embark on wars just to settle disputed borders rich in water source.

It will also help if we can decongest the Metro by making the countryside a peaceful and productive place to live.

There is a water crisis in the Pearl of the Orient not because the gods must be crazy but because of man’s folly.