Monthly Archives: October 2005

Eating in the time of E-VAT, bird flu and food poisoning

Para sa tulad kong kaunti lang ang alam sa pagluluto, dapat alam ko ang mga kainang mura, masarap at mukhang malinis. Sa panahon ngayon, lutong bahay pa rin ang nararapat para sa mga gustong umiwas sa iba’t ibang sakit na nakukuha mula sa maduming pagkain. Nakakasakit din ng ulo ang tumataas na presyo ng mga pagkain.

Pero hindi talaga maiiwasang lumabas ng bahay at mapipilitang kumain sa mga carenderia at restaurant. Eto ang ilan sa mga binabalik-balikan ko:

Kapag nagagawi sa Quezon Avenue-Banawe, masarap mag-merienda sa Ma Mon Luk. Nandito ang pinakamasarap na siopao at mami.

Malapit sa Ma Mon Luk ay ang Savory restaurant. Masarap ang manok dito, mas masarap kaysa sa Serye. Gusto ko rin ang Halo-halo nila, maraming mais at langka. Mayroon ding Savory sa Ever Commonwealth.

Paborito ng mga kaibigan kong aktibista ang Mister Kabab sa may Quezon Avenue-Delta. Lagi kong order ang Keema pero Beef Korma kapag kasya sa badyet. Espesyal din ang yoghurt shake dito.

Katabi ng Kabab ay Ongpin restaurant. Mura ang maki dito. Pero mas makakamura kung marami kang kasama dahil may barkada meal menu ang Ongpin.

Sa Diliman naman ay binusog ako ng mga luto ni Aling Lina sa tabi ng Eduk (andun pa kaya siya?). Noong freshman ako (1996) ay araw-araw akong umiinom ng home-brewed lemon tea sa CASAA – yun nga lang tumatabang ito taun-taon. Pagkatapos ng ROTC, diretso ako sa Rodic’s para sa kanilang tapsilog na sobrang mahal na ngayon. Walang kupas ang mga isawan. At kapag nagyaya ang mga kaibigan, dun kami manananghalian kina Mang Jims.

Kapag nasa Taft ako, pagkakataon ito para kumain sa Gary’s sa tapat ng PGH. Kahanay naman ng Adamson ang mga murang kainan sa kalye Zobel.

Kapag nagagawi sa Quiapo, lalakarin ko hanggang Delicious restautant sa Chinatown. Pagkatapos babalik sa may palengke ng Quiapo para sa masarap na hopia, pasalubong sa aking asawa’t anak.

Nadiskubre ko kamakailan lamang na may nagtitinda ng pancit cabagan sa loob ng St. Thomas Square sa España-Morayta. Makakatipid din ang pagkain sa During’s sa España-Blumentritt. Ilang hakbang mula dito ay ang Bulaluhan sa España.

Mababa ang tingin ko sa mga mall na walang Bodhi sa kanilang foodcourt.

Bumabalik ako sa mga fastfood at mamahaling kainan para sa french fries at salad ng Wendy’s, sundae ng Jollibee, mashed potato ng KFC, kape sa Dunkin Donuts, Native Tsokolate ng Chicken Bacolod Inasal, sandwich ng Tropical Hut, rootbeer float sa A&W, pizza ng Don Henrico’s, sisig sa Gerry’s, kare-kare sa Max’s o Aristocrat, chicken empanada ng Goldilocks, cake ng Red Ribbon, blazing burger ng Burger King at red tea ng Tokyo Tokyo.

Siyempre lahat ito ay hindi uubra sa lutong bahay lalo na kapag kasalo mo ang iyong mga mahal sa buhay.

**********

Binabasa ngayon: Katatapos ko lang basahin ang Candide, Micromegas at Zadig ni Voltaire. Sinisimulan ko ang Ingenu. Akma para sa kalagayan natin ngayon ang sinulat ni Voltaire: “If this is the best of all possible worlds, then what must the others be like?”

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Who is the real meddler?

The Bureau of Immigrations (BI) wants to deport the activist foreigners who took part in a public demonstration last week. Government officials are accusing the foreigners of interfering on our domestic affairs. This is unfair since the activity in question was an annual event sponsored by peasant organizations to show how neoliberal economic policies are destroying the world’s agriculture. Is it wrong then for a visiting foreigner who after listening and seeing the sad plight of our farmers to call for the resignation of a (fake) president known for pushing free trade policies?

The BI has a distorted sense of what constitutes a flagrant intervention of unwanted foreigners on our affairs. Recently, a foreign investment group described the “increasing inability of PGMA to govern.” Why did BI and other government officials refrained from issuing a threat to this agency for saying something unpleasant about the president?

If BI is sincere in protecting the integrity of our laws, much more our national interests, then it should order the deportation of US embassy officials, credit rating analysts and lobbyists in Congress.

I am curious how the BI interpreted the past statements of US diplomats that our country is a “doormat” of terrorists or that Mindanao could be the next Afghanistan. What was BI’s reaction when it was reported in the news that foreign lobbyists are actively influencing legislation in the Senate? The BI may have overlooked it but we believe these powerful foreigners behaved badly by dictating what is right or wrong for our country.

When the activist foreigners joined the rally in Mendiola and asked PGMA to step down, they merely echoed what the audience are shouting in the streets. They did not influence anyone’s opinion. They did not cause disturbance in the lives of our people.

The BI should therefore stop harassing the activist foreigners and focus its sudden interest on meddling aliens to the statements, reports and lobby papers of foreign economists, analysts and arrogant diplomats.

An activist foreigner can shout to the heavens that PGMA should resign but in the end it is us who will decide our political fate. Meanwhile, the real meddlers are entrenched in the political and business circles giving “scholarly” advice on our domestic policies whose usually dire consequences are shouldered by the poor people. A few examples of institutional meddling are the EPIRA law, Balikatan exercises, E-VAT, anti-terror bill and the debt policy of the government.

That BI and the government in general are suddenly sensitive about the issue of meddling foreigners is laughable not only because of the more dubious intervention of foreign interests in the country but also because the Philippine government is guilty of meddling in other country’s affairs.

Have we forgotten the misadventures of Filipino troops in the US-led invasion of Iraq? Have we forgotten the Venable contract signed by Secretary Norberto Gonzales which was intended to convince the Americans to support the Charter change initiative?

If the Philippine government will deport the activist foreigners, it will be a showcase to the world that we are no different from other less democratic countries which has no tolerance for dissenting opinion. It will also highlight the irony of protecting the nation’s sovereignty while welcoming foreign governments and big corporations to come and plunder the country’s finite resources.

Fake capital of the world

Do you need diplomas, birth and marriage certificates? No problem, you can have one in Recto Avenue of Manila in a just a few minutes for an affordable fee. In fact, almost all important documents required by schools, companies and government agencies can be purchased in the vicinity of Recto. From thesis to affidavits, driver’s license and passport, you can easily acquire them without the hassle of waiting for days and paying costly processing fees.

Pirated VCD and DVD copies of local and Hollywood films also abound in the area. The best collection of memorable TV and film series in the country can be bought not in the classy malls of the metropolis but in the dingy alleys in Recto and Quiapo. Kids can also buy their favorite computer games here.

Near-perfect imitation of designer clothes, bags, shoes and cellphone accessories are also found near Recto.

Indeed, the area surrounding Recto is the fake capital of the country. It deserves to be recognized as the national center for counterfeit products. But because we Filipinos love to brag our achievements and even our follies to the world, we might as well try to boost our claim that we have the fake capital of the world.

This would not be a difficult task since we can point out that the infamous Recto Avenue is very near to the Malacañang Palace, the official residence and office of the President of the Philippine Republic. It would astound Ripley’s and perhaps even Guinness that just a few meters away from vendors selling fake documents is also a fake president with a fake mandate and a very insincere smile pretending to lead the country.

We can entice tourists to visit Recto, Mendiola and Malacañang Palace: the only place in the world where you can find the biggest trading ground of fake goods thriving too close near the nation’s seat of power presently occupied by a sham president.

We can surprise even more our visitors by explaining that in the midst of this fantastic lawlessness is the university belt, the biggest concentration of universities in the country. Churches also surround the area.

Is it odd that everyday students go to school, people flock to churches and government policies are drafted by a bogus president in the fake capital of the country? Well, not if you’re in the Philippines.

Gameplan – battle of the streets part 3

Recap: In part 1, I wrote that the campaign to remove Gloria from power will be won or lost through street protests. In part 2, I offered my views on how to conduct the siege of Malacañang. I also emphasized that rallies are not enough. In fact, I insisted that the main task today is still to convince more people to join our battle.

Malacañang’s calibrated preemptive response policy has actually encouraged more people to continue holding provocative actions near Mendiola. Protesters responded with their own version of CPR – a calibrated peoples’ resistance to show Gloria and the police that the people will not be cowed into submission.

The full force of the protest movement has not yet been unleashed. Activists are actually seriously studying how the police forces are responding to rallies near Malacañang. And the past weeks have shown us their vulnerability and a predictable reaction which can be easily dealt with in the next big wave of protests. The police has little space to maneuver in the narrow streets of Mendiola and Recto but protesters can always attack from different points near Malacañang.

The police could not defend the CPR in a protracted struggle and we must continue demoralizing their ranks. This is bad news for Gloria; she must realize that the people are slowly, persistently and systematically embarking in a takeover bid of Malacañang Palace.

While we are busy preparing for the next rally in Mendiola, we must not lose sight of our other task of soliciting support for our campaign. We must imbibe a mentality that victory does not come after the war but even today, when we are still the opposition, we must project an image that our forces can dictate on our enemies.

Here is a reminder from Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci: “A social group is dominant in two ways. It leads the groups which are its allies, and dominates those which are its enemies. Therefore, even before attaining power, a social group can (and must) lead; when it is in power it becomes dominant, but continues to lead as well…there can and must be ‘political hegemony’ even before the attainment of governmental power, and one should not count solely on the power and material force which such a position gives in order to exercise political leadership or hegemony.”

Acquiring state power therefore involves building “consent” among the people even before acquiring such power. Gramsci mentioned that fighting involves “force and consent, authority and hegemony, agitation and propoganda” (similar to the dual nature of Machiavelli’s half-human half-animal Centaur).

Gramsci also mentioned that political struggle involves three forms of war: war of movement, war of position and underground warfare. He described Gandhi’s passive resistance as war of position, strikes as war of movement and preparing combat troops as siege warfare. He added that in politics, the war of movement continues as long as the war of position has not been won because the latter is more decisive. But the siege warfare will commence when the other two forms of war loses its value. It is also a signal that the ruling power has dispatched its full resources to win the struggle.

In our present campaign against Gloria, the war of position and war of movement are in full swing. There is also the challenge to build and consolidate consent among the people. Political forces are also regrouping for siege warfare, though this does not involve armed troops as of the moment.

To intensify the war of position, we can take cue from the inspiring stories of the Algerian revolution as narrated by Frantz Fanon. He once wrote that if the oppression is “maintained by violence from above, it is only possible to liquidate it with violence from below.”

Let our resistance be pervasive, adopting various forms which will surprise our enemy. If police uses violence in dispersing our assemblies, then we should punish them by filing charges in the courts while preparing for the next street action armed with conviction and defense gadgets. We should deceive our adversaries, use their tactics against them and drown them with small but effective protest actions.

We could develop support for our campaign if we can prove to the people that change would start now, not after Gloria is removed from power. Being part of a struggle is also an act of liberation, an opportunity to learn new things and see the world from a different perspective. In the process of learning and un-learning, we are building a new army for the emerging political power.

Fanon described how the Algerian women agreed to change their lifestyle not in support fro the French culture but for the resistance. While the men were fighting in the mountains, the women, children and old citizens are left in the cities where the colonizers govern with terror. The Algerian revolution made the initially disadvantageous situation into an advantage for the struggle by mobilizing the people to become part of the extended arena of the guerilla warfare in the cities. We can actually learn from this attitude.

For example, analysts are pointing out that the anti-Gloria movement lacks a charismatic leader who will unite the political forces and embody our struggle. If that is a weakness, then let it become our strength. Sometimes, the rise of a charismatic leader signifies not political strength but the immaturity of progressive forces which can represent the interests of the people.

So, does this mean the progressive forces in the country are already strong? Well, we can always appreciate the fact that the present campaign against Gloria has led to the inclusion in the public discourse the need for sweeping changes in our political culture. We have recognized that change should not be limited to personalities and we must not allow the rightist agenda of exploiting the situation to advance their own interests.

This is not the first time that a movement is criticized for not having a charismatic leader. Teodoro Agoncillo once wrote (Will the revolution of 1896 be repeated?) that the fiery protest marches against Marcos during the late 60s will not succeed because there is no Bonifacio or a leader who will rise up and challenge the system. I have to disagree with him because the student movement of the late 60s has produced a generation of activists who became the forefront of the anti-Marcos struggle and the leaders of various advocacies (not necessarily belonging to the militant Left) up to the present which have made a lasting impact in Philippine society. In a way, the student movement fomented a silent revolution which we are still continuing today.

In the last three months of the year, let us build consent among the people. We should recruit more people in our campaign. Let us energize our protests and radicalize seemingly non-political activities like playing computer games or texting. Our success in this war of movement will guarantee that the siege warfare we are embarking today will lead to the removal of Gloria and the establishment of a potentially revolutionary government.

Ibang rali ito

Naging bahagi ako kahapon ng Youth Pledge 4 Progress ng Penshoppe sa Glorietta. Kakaibang rali ang ginawa namin dahil walang mga streamer at plakard laban kay Gloria. Wala rin pulis at dispersal unit. Bukod sa akin, nagsalita ang mga lider ng La Salle at UP student council. Nagbigay din ng kanya-kanyang ‘pledge for progress ang mga modelo ng Penshoppe. Tapos todo kantahan ang sumunod na pinangunahan ng mga sikat na banda ngayon.

Marami akong mga kaibigang natutuwa sa bagong patalastas ng Penshoppe dahil tila hinihimok ang kabataan na magsalita, kumilos para sa kabutihan, magsumikap para kamtin ang tagumpay at magpunyagi para sa isang magandang edukasyon – sa madaling salita ay may tangka na itaguyod ang youth empowerment.

May pagkilala ang Penshoppe sa ideyalismo ng kabataan at sa potensiyal nito na maging malaking salik sa pagbabago sa ating bansa. Dapat suportahan ang inisyatibang nagtutulak sa mga kabataan na maging matapang, tumindig para sa karapatan at pagkapantay-pantay ng lahat. Dapat lang tiyakin na hindi ito mauuwi sa mga walang-saysay na slogan.

May pakiusap ang mga organizer na huwag lagyan ng pulitika ang aming mga talumpati. Pumayag naman kami subalit imposible talaga itong mangyari. Ang biro nga namin, paano maiiwasan ang pulitika samantalang nasa harap kami ng Oakwood, isang tanda ng pag-aalsa ng mga batang opisyal ng militar laban sa korupsiyon sa pamahalaan. O kaya paano hindi mababanggit ang marahas na pagbuwag sa mga rali o ang pagkumpara sa panahon ng Batas Militar kung ang isang paksa ng talumpati ay ukol sa pagtatanggol ng karapatang sibil?

Hindi namin nabanggit si Gloria, Garci at ang panawagang pagbabago sa gobyerno pero naisingit namin ang ilang pasaring sa kaayusan ng ating lipunan ngayon at ang pangangailangang kumilos para sa ating mga adhikain. Kahit ang mga modelo ng Penshoppe ay may binitawang mapangahas na mga salita.

Umaasa kami na sana’y tangkilikin at maintindihan ng publiko ang bagong handog ng Penshoppe. Mula sa slogan na ‘one country one people’ ay tumungo ito sa isang internalisasyon na pwede itong mangyari kung aalisin ang pekeng pangulo sa Malakanyang. Malaki ang tungkulin nating angkinin at ipalaganap ang palabang mensahe ng mga slogan ng Penshoppe ngayon. Dahil kung hindi natin ito gagawin, magiging daluyan lamang ito upang gatungan ang konsumerismo sa lipunan at ang mababaw/malabnaw na pagbabasa ng mga mensaheng may rebolusyonaryong potensiyal tulad ng ginagawa ng mga kapitalista sa mukha ni Che Guevarra.

PC games, schools and Gloria

I strongly believe that integrating computer games in the school curriculum can actually be advantageous to the learning process of students. We should not overlook the pedagogic potential of PC games simply because these are addictive and can have obvious ill-effects to young people. TV and the internet can also be a negative influence to the reading skills of students but we never ban them from schools because they are utilized as essential components of learning. Why ban PC games and even cell phones when their educative functions have yet to be maximized?

I suggest that lawmakers who are proposing to prohibit the presence of video arcades and PC game shops near schools to reconsider their position and review the experience of UK schools in their successful assimilation of PC games in the curriculum. There is a variety of games with themes that are peaceful, informative, enjoyable and can be appreciated by everyone.

If a student has more fun learning how to maintain, develop and improve a city, zoo, hospital, theme park or a tower through PC games than listening to his dull teachers in class, the most practical approach is not to forbid him to play but to include the games in the lesson plans.

A country with a public school system known for its error-filled textbooks and inadequate learning facilities should experiment with different modes of learning. Instead of treating the small PC game shops near schools as promoters of bad study habits, school officials must regard them as unofficial partners in extending the reach of education.

If a school is surrounded by game arcades, educators are advised to appreciate the situation as a challenge in tapping these addictive outlets in improving the quality and relevance of education and a chance to show to students that learning can be both entertaining and serious. Besides, we can also view it as a temporary solution to the seemingly eternal computer shortage in our schools.

An example of a game which is used by UK schools in their classes is the Sim City where the player must plan, construct, maintain and improve a city. It is an effective tool to teach urban planning and even basic governance while promoting creativity.

This game, which is my favorite, can also be a subtle reminder that ousting Gloria Arroyo from power is an inherent and lawful right of the people. In the game, the city will not grow if the mayor (player) has been mishandling city affairs. He can be petitioned to be removed from his post. Of course the big difference in our situation is that the “mayor” in our “sin city” is not the leader chosen by the people, but a fake, vicious and arrogant president named Gloria.

Speaking of Gloria and PC games, students are developing “Hello Garci” games which will be released this month. One storyline which was leaked to the media involves a game with three parts:

Round 1: The player against a default character named “Ma’m” must click the presidential seal until they get one million points. The player may have a chance to win but once Ma’am calls Garci, she will be able to score one million points.

Round 2: The player must embark on a worldwide search for the missing Garci by clicking an icon which pops-out in different parts of the globe.

Round 3: Ma’am and Garci will be in jail. How did we beat them? Well, watch out for the game or it would be better if you can supply us with your ideas how to do it.

In other countries, animation and video games are part of the protest movement. We already succeeded in using mobile phones in our campaign. We hope the “Hello Garci” games can help sustain and popularize even more our resolve to get rid of Gloria.

Street tactics

“Successful demonstrations are not necessarily those which mobilize the greatest number of people, but those which attract the greatest interest among journalists. Exaggerating only slightly, one might say that fifty clever folk who can make a successful ‘happening’ get five minutes on TV, can have as much political effect as half a million demonstrators” – Pierre Bourdieu (1994)

This could be the guiding principle which motivates activists without a large mass-base. In fact anarchists may subscribe to this apt observation of the cultural milieu of late 20th century. But we are not anarchists and Philippine governments are not ousted through picket-size media gimmicks. What we need are massive and sustained mass actions around the Palace to force the resignation of the illegitimate President.

After the foiled bid of EDSA Tres to attack Malacañang in 2001, all rallies in Mendiola were organized not to claim ownership of the Palace but to stage peaceful demonstrations condemning inutile government policies. Therefore the next big wave of protest actions in the last three months of the year must seriously plan a takeover bid of Malacañang.

Almost all political upheavals in the country which resulted in the changing of leadership involve a symbolic and mostly violent attempt to control Malacañang Palace: From the time Americans defeated the Spaniards when Major General Wesley E. Meritt occupied Malacañang on the afternoon of 13 August 1898 to that fateful morning when marchers in Mendiola were threatening to forcibly unseat President Joseph Estrada from power.

Mendiola became the historic ground for staging street protests because most of the anti-Marcos actions were held here, not to mention it is symbolically close to Malacañang. But we seem to have forgotten that activists of the late 60’s chose the route towards Mendiola because it was the fastest way to reach the gates of Malacañang.

I think we have stayed too long in the familiar and boring Mendiola. What is stopping us from finding other roads leading to Malacañang? Shouldn’t we try to make new historical roads like what we did to Mendiola and EDSA?

Besides, Mendiola is heavily fortified. After EDSA Tres, Gloria was prudent in permanently blocking the street fronting Gate 7 of Malacañang. Police, fire trucks and container vans can be instantly dispatched to block rallyists in Mendiola. And the people, media and even activists are already conditioned by old habits that the protest actions would be either dispersed or tolerated but there would no real plan to grab power in Malacañang.

The next big rally must therefore conceptualize an encirclement of Malacañang. And I think the main battlefront must still be in Mendiola for one fundamental reason: the biggest concentration of able-bodied college students in the country is in the university belt, and Mendiola is an integral part of this area because it hosts the schools nearest to the Palace. If only students of Mendiola will play their Hello Garci ringtones at the same time during lunch break, it would be one hell of an afternoon for Gloria. The point is we should continue attracting more students of u-belt to be active members in our campaign.

Erap knew the strategic importance of u-belt so he ordered the cancellation of classes in the area every time big rallies were planned during the Oust Estrada campaign. Even Gloria would hold a mass for peace, unity, and whatever from time to time in Mendiola (near La Consolacion and College of the Holy Spirit) to secure the support of the schools for her volatile government.

The crowd we saw in Commonwealth Avenue during the State of the Nation Address last July would not only fill the streets of Mendiola and Recto, it could be adequate to encircle the Palace. Aside from Mendiola, we must boldly attempt to reach Malacañang by whatever means near Nagtahan road on one side, and near Ayala boulevard on the other side. These two roads are being used by Palace employees and officials to enter Malacañang. Why concentrate on Mendiola when it is possible to divide the police ranks and block the roads leading to Malacañang?

Those coming from Quiapo can march via the road beside the Technological Institute of the Philippines in Arlegui. The street is narrow here but once the small checkpoint is crossed, rallyists can split into groups and intersect the many alleys leading to the gates of Malacañang. From Quiapo, one can even ride a jeep to reach the vicinity of Malacañang via the San Miguel route.

We can surprise the police forces guarding Malacañang by doing something unexpected: staging rallies not just in Mendiola but around the Palace. Five years ago, youth rallyists were able to reach the front gates of Malacañang because the police did not expect the protesters to cross the Chino Roces bridge. We broke the tradition of stopping the march at the foot of Mendiola every time a blockade is installed and we made our way right in front of Gate 7.

Protest actions in the Pasig river is also possible. We can enter the Hospicio de San Jose through Ayala bridge and from the farthest tip of the islet near Malacañang, rallyists can set to sail their protest boats. At the other side of the river, protests may start near San Juan or the Nagtahan side of Pasig river.

The other concentration of schools in Manila is in Taft Avenue and Intramuros area. They can provide the muscle that will attack Malacañang through Ayala boulevard near the Department of Budget and Management office. Or they can join residents of Sta.Ana and Paco in completing the encirclement of Malacañang by holding rallies near the oil depot in Pandacan.

First Quarter Storm activists would narrate how they escaped the attacking police force by hiding in the protective and sympathetic homes of residents of Sampaloc. We could actually learn from that experience. And crucial to our present campaign is also to enjoin the support of the six barangays (641-646) of the San Miguel district because of its proximity to Malacañang. These barangays could be our reconnaissance areas today, and hiding places in the future.

This takeover bid of Malacañang entails a long preparation and resolve to attain the goal of forcing the resignation of Gloria. But rallies are not enough and should be the culmination of a painstaking and protracted education campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people.

Of course everything else would be a lot easier if Gloria is assassinated or rendered physically incapacitated. But such thoughts lurk only in the minds of terrorists and Miriam Santiago. And we are not terrorists, we are revolutionaries. To wage a revolution, as Joma Sison once echoed, is not mere wishful thinking.

And what I have written here remains a fantasy for the moment.

(Next: Gameplan, because surrounding the Palace is only part of the strategy)