Monthly Archives: May 2008

Handa na ba kayo?

Kahapon ay pambansang asembliya ng Youth Act Now! Dumating ang mga lider-kabataan mula sa ibat ibang rehiyon at eskuwelahan ng bansa. Nagbigay ng mensahe sina Engr. Jun Lozada, Bro. Eddie Villanueva at Joey De Venecia….

Mayaman at mahirap ang Pilipinas. Akma itong pahayag sa kasalukuyang kalagayan ng bansa. Ayon sa gobyerno, maunlad ang ekonomiya. Kakayanin daw nating maging first world nation sa 2020. Ang tunay na mensahe ng pamahalaan ay ganito: Patuloy na uunlad ang Pilipinas kung si Gloria Arroyo ang pangulo.

Kung maunlad ang ekonomiya, bakit marami pa rin ang mahirap? Bakit may mga Marianette Amper na nagpapakamatay? Bakit may mga Pilipinong binebenta ang kanilang kidney organ?

Natatandaan ko ang mensahe ni Pangulong Gloria Arroyo sa kanyang SONA ilang taon na na nakakaraan. Sabi niya, may dalawang Pilipinas. Yung isang bahagi ay nakaarangkada na sa pag-unlad. Yung kalahati ay handa nang lumipad. Kaso pinipigilan daw ng pamumulitika.

Sa totoo lang, tama naman siya. May dalawang Pilipinas. Yung isang bahagi ng Pilipinas ay gusto siyang patalsikin. Yung kalahati naman ay gusto siyang sakalin.

Pitong taon ng pangulo si Arroyo. Pitong taon na ring nagtitiis ang kabataan at mamamayan. Kamusta na ba ang kabataan sa panahon ni Arroyo? Malaki ang pananagutan ni Arroyo kung bakit maraming kabataan ang nawawalan ng pag-asa sa buhay at sa ating bansa. Hindi natutugunan ang pangangailangan ng kabataan.

Bago natin pag-usapan ang partikular na kalagayan ng mga kabataan, magkokomentaryo muna ako sa mga “kakaibang” desisyon ni Arroyo. Ginulat tayo ng mga direktibang binigay ni Arroyo na tila pumapabor sa kapakanan ng masa.

Halimbawa:

Ibaba ang presyo ng kuryente!
Itaas ang sahod ng P20!
Freeze tuition! Tuition refund, ngayon din!
Backdoor peace talks!
Free texting!

Tinukoy na ng maraming tao na ito ay mga bogus na reporma. Hindi sincere o mapanlinlang ang mga utos na ito. Kung tutuusin, bakit kailangang lumipas pa ang pitong taon bago ito naisip ni Arroyo? Kasalanan ni Arroyo kung bakit tumaas nang husto ang presyo ng kuryente, tuition at iba pang bilihin.

Kung seryoso si Arroyo, dapat higit pa dito ang gagawin niya. Halimbawa, may tuition freeze nga pero paano ang iba pang pangangailangan ng mga estudyante. Kulang sa libro, classroom, computer at mga guro. Dahil sa kapos na badyet ng edukasyon, patuloy ang paglala ng krisis ng edukasyon. Marami pa rin ang hindi makakapag-aral dahil limitado ang mga scholarship.

Talaga bang gusto ni Arroyo na bumaba ang singil ng kuryente? O baka ginigipit lang niya ang mga negosyanteng hindi palakaibigan sa kanya?

Manipestasyon ito ng impotence ng mga programa ng pamahalaan. Kung epektibo ang mga proyekto ni Arroyo nitong mga nakaraang taon, bakit hindi bumaba ang presyo ng kuryente, tuition, texting at iba pang serbisyo? Nangangailangan pa ng mga emergency o shock measure para ipakita sa tao na sinusulong ni Arroyo ang interes ng mahihirap.

Nagubulag-bulagan si Arroyo sa tunay na hiling ng sambayanan. Oo, gusto natin malaman ang katotohanan kung bakit mataas ang singil ng Meralco. Pero gusto rin natin malaman ang katotohanan tungkol sa korupsiyon sa burukrasya. Bakit siya nagpunta sa ZTE office sa Tsina?

Pabor tayo sa tuition freeze. Pero ang panawagan ng kabataan ay isang makabayan, makamasa at siyentipikong tipo ng edukasyon.

Hindi token o papogi reforms ang nais natin. Ang sigaw natin ay demokrasya, tapat na pamumuno at katarungan.

Kapag sinabi ni Arroyo na siya ay magbibitiw sa puwesto, magdidiwang ang lahat.

Hindi karaniwan ang ating kalaban. Lagi tayong ginugulat ni Arroyo. Nagdesisyon ang Malakanyang na ipagdiwang ang Labor Day sa araw mismo ng Labor Day dahil ayaw daw ni Arroyo na magalit ang mga lider-manggagawa. Ayon sa pamahalaan, gugunitain natin ang Araw ng Kalayaan sa Hunyo 9 para mahaba-haba raw ang bakasyon ng tao. Hayaan na lang daw ang mga opisyal ng gobyerno na gunitain ang Araw ng Kalayaan sa Hunyo 12. Hindi natatakot si Arroyo sa mga patay na bayani dahil hindi naman sila nakakaboto.

Eto ang ating kalaban. Walang pagpapahalaga sa kasaysayan. Walang respeto sa alaala at iniwang aral ng mga ninuno natin.

At dahil magaling si Arroyo sa panlilinlang, gusto niyang pangunahan ang pagpapakita ng pagmamahal sa bayan sa pamamagitan ng pagpapakalat ng mga poster na may mensaheng “Pilipinas kong Mahal.”

Ang layunin ni Arroyo ay ipihit ang atensiyon ng tao tungo sa mababaw na pagbibigay galang sa watawat. Ang tunay na mensahe niya ay ganito: Mahalin ang Pilipinas. Suportahan ang Pangulo. Kalimutan ang katiwalian, karahasan at kahirapan sa bansa.

Huwag nating hayaang angkinin o gamitin ni Arroyo ang diwa ng pagkamakabayan para lamang makapanatili siya sa puwesto.

Dapat dagdagan ang laman ng mga poster. Magdikit din tayo ng mga poster sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Maynila. Eto ang aking mungkahi:

1. Pilipinas kong mahal. Ang mahal-mahal ng mga bilihin. Mahal ang bigas, pagkain at kuryente.
2. Pilipinas kong mahal. Ang mahal-mahal ng mga tongpats at bukol.
3. Pilipinas kong mahal. Si Gloria hindi namin mahal.

Tama ang mensahe ng ating asembliya ngayon. Tuloy ang protesta sa mga eskuwelahan. Hindi nagbakasyon ang kabataan, tuloy ang laban.

Magbubukas na ang mga klase sa susunod na linggo. Kaya linisin na ang inyong mga uniform, bag at sapatos. Ihanda na ang mga libro, panulat at ID sa pagpasok sa mga paaralan. Makipag-ugnayan muli sa mga kaklase, guro, kaibigan, empleyado sa inyong mga kampus. Irebyu ang mga kontak sa inyong mga cell phone, friendster at slumbook. Ilabas na ang mga placard, flag, streamer, megaphone. Ihanda na ang mga polyeto.

Magsimula sa mga pag-aaral. Mag-organisa. Magmulat. Magpakilos. Kapit-bisig. Taas-kamao. Ayusin ang hanay. Piket, rali, walk-out, boykot, welgang bayan.

At siyempre, sumanib sa puwersa ng manggagawa, magsasaka. Kasama ang mga inaapi, kasama ang masa. People Power ang isusulong natin.

Related entries:

Sulyap kabataan
Katotohanan at kabataan

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Myanmar and relief invasion

Southeast Asia: Coping with food and rice crisis, a roundup for Global Voices. Join us tomorrow, Saturday, 1pm as Bloggers Kapihan will launch the blog of Mr. Jun Lozada. Kape Tasyo, Quezon City (Anonas near Aurora Avenue)

This article should have been published a week ago.

When the Burmese junta refused international aid, the U.S. Air Force proposed food drops to deliver aid in the cyclone–ravaged regions of Myanmar. The U.S. military should have pushed through with its plan even without U.N. backing. After all, it had no qualms dropping lethal bombs in Indochina forty-years ago. It would have been symbolic if U.S. jets are dropping aid boxes instead of napalm bombs.

The junta is still obstinate as they continue to limit the entry of international relief in Myanmar. It is this stubbornness which provokes world leaders to call for bold measures like relief invasion in the name of humanitarian intervention. Myanmar’s neighbors and the rest of the world are obviously concerned over the rising death toll and the deteriorating situation in the flooded regions of the country. The junta should not assume that the world will turn a blind eye to the unprecedented human catastrophe in the Irrawady Delta.

In order to deliver emergency assistance to Myanmar’s flood victims, the “responsibility to protect” doctrine has been invoked already. It is a legal instrument which was passed by the U.N. a few years ago to justify military attack on the grounds of preventing genocide, war, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. But who will judge whether a country is undemocratic or not? Who will decide which government is committing a crime against humanity? This controversial matter is still unresolved.

The arguments to attack Myanmar can be used to invade other “failed states” as well. Numerous governments are engaged in a violent war against their own people. Rampant human rights violations in despotic countries can be described as crimes against humanity.

So why is the U.S. and other rich countries ganging up on Myanmar? Why are they not proposing an invasion of other poor countries ruled by cruel regimes?

Is it because Myanmar is too close to China? Or maybe the energy-hungry countries are salivating over the rich gas deposits in Myanmar. These powerful governments want to invade Myanmar in order to reap economic benefits. They are invoking the names of cyclone victims and Myanmar’s local activists to justify a possible military aggression. This is hypocritical.

The discourse of relief invasion represents a shift in the foreign policies of the U.S. and other rich countries. There is now a new rationale to justify foreign intervention. Environmental disasters could now be used to advocate regime change in “unfriendly” countries and install a new government which would be accommodating to the agenda of the West.

Outright military occupation has always been the preferred mode of dominating small nations. In many instances, military power was replaced by economic subordination. Today rich countries can choose what type of intervention is most effective in subjugating a poor country.

Local wars had been exploited to defend military intervention. This was accomplished in Kosovo and East Timor a decade ago. Then the Bush doctrine of preemptive strike was adopted to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. In Eastern Europe, civil society groups were funded to intensify local uprisings which would lead to the so called “Colour or Flower Revolutions.”

Here comes Myanmar, devastated by a deadly cyclone, ruled by a callous and evil junta, and the Burmese represented by dissident groups clamoring for change. Myanmar is a perfect target for military invasion.

Myanmar showed how natural disasters can be manipulated to undermine the national sovereignty of countries. Many governments seriously contemplated of entering Myanmar without the approval of the latter’s government. The junta may be unpopular and oppressive, but it is still the head of Myanmar’s bureaucracy.

Since global warming is expected to worsen in the future, the world should expect stronger cyclones, hurricanes and long periods of drought. Poor countries with little resources to cope with these disasters are vulnerable to foreign intervention. In the name of humanitarian mission, rich countries can “invade” small countries or intimidate uncooperative governments. Climate change will facilitate this new mode of colonialism.

Bowing to international pressure, the junta agreed to partially allow the entry of relief goods in Myanmar. This softened the hardline stance of rich countries who want to invade Myanmar. Now they want to occupy certain areas in Myanmar which are not effective controlled by the junta. This is still military aggression.

If the junta is suspicious of the motives of relief workers from the U.S. and other rich countries, Myanmar’s neighbors could have volunteered to lead the international relief campaign. But why was the Association of Southeast Asian Nations too slow in organizing the so called “coalition of mercy?” It is a united ASEAN aid campaign which could have defused the tension in Myanmar’s borders where relief goods are awaiting to be shipped. Like the junta, the ASEAN underestimated the damage wrought by cyclone Nargis.

If the ASEAN acted quickly, the U.S. and other rich countries would have no compelling reason to propose a relief invasion.

Related entries:

Myanmar and cyclone
Myanmar and aid

Ka Bel: Lider, bayani, rebolusyonaryo

Ito ang bibigkasin kong talumpati mamaya sa parangal kay Ka Bel. Salamat Carl Ramota para sa mga dagdag na punto.

Para sa aming henerasyon, hindi na namin nakasama’t nakilala sina Kasamang Felixberto at Lando Olalia. Silang mga magigiting na lider ng kilusang paggawa ay mga pangalan na lamang para sa marami sa amin. Binabasa namin ang kanilang mga akda; humahanga kami sa kanilang ambag sa kilusang pambansa-demokratiko. Pero hindi kami pinalad na makasama sila sa mga martsa sa lansangan o marinig ang kanilang mga payo tungkol sa pagsusulong ng ating pakikibaka.

Kaya’t isang karangalan para sa mga kabataan ngayon ang makilala si Kasamang Crispin Beltran, dakilang lider ng bayan at tapat na tagapaglingkod ng masang anakpawis. Ikukuwento at ipagyayabang namin sa mga susunod na henerasyon na minsan ay nakasama namin si Ka Bel sa iba’t ibang laban; kakapit-bisig, kasamang nagtataas kamao.

Kilala si Ka Bel bilang palaban, mapagkumbaba, matalino, palabiro at higit sa lahat, prinsipyado. Ito ang ilan sa mga dahilan kung bakit mataas ang paghanga ng kabataan sa kanya.

Laging pinag-uusapan ng kabataan ang mga talumpati ni Ka Bel. Kumprehensibo ang pagtalakay niya sa mga usapin; inuugat niya ang mga problema; at laging binabaybay ang mga aral ng kasaysayan. Laging naiimbita namin si Ka Bel na magbigay ng opening remarks o reaksiyon sa mga porum hinggil sa mga napapanahong isyu; at pagkatapos ng kalahating oras hanggang isang oras, dudulo ang talakayan sa pagpapabagsak ng imperyalismo. At ito ang gusto namin kay Ka Bel!

Ang buhay ni Ka Bel ay insipirasyon sa mga kabataan. Dapat tulad ni Ka Bel, matapang na hinaharap ang mga hamon ng panahon. Dapat tulad ni Ka Bel, hindi sumusuko sa mga laban. Matiyagang nagpapaliwanag ng mga isyung panlipunan sa mahihirap. Nakikinig, handang matuto sa dunong ng masa.

Mabuting huwaran si Ka Bel. Ipinaglaban niya ang karapatan ng manggagawa, tinaguyod niya ang interes ng mahihirap. Pinatunayan ni Ka Bel na pwedeng tumanda ang mga kabataan nang hindi nagiging trapo, reaksiyunaryo at kaaway ng mamamayan.

Kabilang si Ka Bel sa mga kahanga-hangang senior citizen ng bayan. Si Ka Dan Vizmanos, huwaran para sa mga batang sundalo; si Ka Satur para sa mga mamamahayag; si Ka Romeo Capulong para sa mga abugado; si Nanay Mameng para sa mga kababaihang maralita; at si Ka Bel para sa mga manggagawa at kabataang aktibista.

Noong 2001, kasama ko si Ka Bel sa pangangampanya para sa Bayan Muna. Kasama ko siyang umikot ng Bikol, Bulakan at ilang lugar dito sa Metro Manila. Noong isang taon ay nagkaroon ulit ako ng pribilehiyo na makasama siya sa pangangampanya sa halalan; siya bilang kinatawan ng Anakpawis, at ako bilang nominado ng Kabataan Partylist. Nasaksihan ko ang pagmamahal sa kanya ng mahihirap at ang karisma niya bilang lider.

May natutunan akong mahalaga mula kay Ka Bel: ang pagpanig sa mga isyu ay hindi lang dapat nakabatay sa mga abstraktong teorya; dapat laging magsuri mula sa punto de bista ng mga inaapi.

Ang mga diktador, pasista, korap at mga mapang-api ay paparusahan ng mamamayan. Pero si Ka Bel ay hindi malilimutan ng sambayanan. Siya ay mananatiling buhay sa bawat Pilipinong nangangahas na makibaka para sa tunay na kalayaan at pagbabago.

Mabuhay si Kasamang Crispin Beltran!
Isulong ang pambansang demokrasya!

Related entries:

Joma Sison
Grand Old Man

Eat your pork there*

Interesting link: Tweetwheel. I use Tweetscan when I’m searching for certain tweets in Twitter.

The House of Representatives has published a pamphlet entitled "Understanding the Pork Barrel," in order to make the people appreciate the pork barrel system. This move is reasonable since ordinary Filipinos are equating the pork barrel with corruption.

According to the website of the Lower House, the pamphlet will be distributed to various business organizations, non-government organizations, tri-media agencies and other sectors to help the public better understand the pork barrel. The pamphlet is also proposed as part of the required reading material in schools.

The primer is a good reference to learn the legal and historical basis of the pork barrel. But it will achieve little in making the people appreciate the controversial system.

The authors of the primer are Speaker Prospero C. Nograles and Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman. It is peculiar that they cited Wikipedia as one of the sources of the document. Is this unprecedented in Philippine legislative history?

The authors correctly mentioned that the pork barrel system was an original American legacy. Since the mid-1800s, American politicians have been dependent on the pork barrel. Like the Filipinos, Americans have a low regard for the pork barrel.

Nograles and Lagman forgot to cite any document defending the pork barrel system in the United States. But they mentioned several criticisms of the pork barrel. For example, they quoted Brian Kelly who wrote the book “Adventures in Porkland” in 1993: "Pork is the politics of self-interest, and – let’s be realistic about this – it’s human nature. Pork is a free lunch. It’s spending other people’s money. It’s check without balances, school without teachers, highways without traffic cops, law without prisons.”

The primer points out that the use of pork barrel funds in the Philippines dates back to the 1930s during the U.S. colonial occupation. The pork barrel system was continued even after the independence of the country in 1946. During Martial Law, pork barrel distribution was dictated by former President Ferdinand Marcos. Pork barrel became synonymous to cronyism.

After the EDSA revolution, Congress imposed “definitive parameters, equal apportionments, built-in accountability and clear transparency” to democratize the pork barrel system.

In 1989 the Mindanao Development Fund and Visayas Development Fund were created. But Senators and politicians from Luzon also clamored for a similar privilege. Thus, the Countrywide Development Fund was established in 1990. A decade later it was renamed as Priority Development Assistance Fund. For many people today, it is still simply known as pork barrel.

Today each member of the House of Representatives is entitled to P70 Million PDAF while senators are entitled to P200 Million PDAF allocation each. Lawmakers can choose between “soft” and “hard” projects.

Soft projects are basically “non-infrastructure projects like scholarship programs, medical assistance to indigent patients in government hospitals, livelihood support programs, the purchase of IT equipment and financial assistance to local governments for the latter’s priority projects and programs.”

The primer explains that the PDAF can also be used to fund small infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, footbridges, pathways, multipurpose buildings, school buildings, potable water systems, flood control, drainage systems, irrigation facilities and electrification projects.

According to Nograles and Lagman, there is nothing dishonest in the pork barrel system. They wrote that "Members of Congress neither handle the funds nor implement the projects. Their authority is limited to the identification of projects and designation of beneficiaries, subject to a specific menu. The implementation is undertaken by the appropriate government agency after an open public bidding."

Pork barrel projects are governed by “a requirement of utility and relevance, stringent procurement and public bidding procedures, accountable implementing agencies and mandatory post-audit review by the Commission on Audit.”

Nograles and Lagman stressed that the power of the purse is constitutionally vested in the House of Representatives. They added that even the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of the pork barrel. The Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that:

“The Countrywide Development Fund attempts to make equal the unequal. It is also a recognition that individual members of Congress, far more than the President and their congressional colleagues, are likely to be knowledgeable about the needs of their respective constituents and the priority to be given each project.”

Nograles and Lagman exaggerated when they argued that “Scrapping these allocations would mean more indigent patients not getting free medical assistance, more students deprived of scholarships, more rural folk denied of livelihood support, more people without potable water and electricity, more farmers without irrigation facilities and more unemployed because of fewer infrastructure projects.” Does this mean that all government agencies are non-performing? Delivery of social and economic services is now the main duty of Congress?

Reacting to the aggressive image-enhancing measures of the Lower House, award-winning Naga Mayor Jesse Robredo said these “hardly scrape the bottom of the rot that goes in the implementation of most projects funded by the pork.”

He added: “It might have gone unnoticed. But it is not uncommon that a new District Engineer usually takes over after a new Congressman assumes his post. The District Engineer, who owes his appointment to the Congressman, is now of course hostage to the biddings of his real boss. What follows are rigged biddings, bloated estimates, favored contractors and a patronage laden payroll.”

He dared Speaker Nograles: “If he is truly interested in refurbishing the image of the House, he may want to consider doing more than just issuing press releases. He can do what no other Speaker has done. He will tell his colleagues in the House to lay off their hands in the implementation of their pork-funded public works projects.”

Abolishing the pork barrel has been proposed before. Ofcourse it was not seriously tackled by Congress. A few senators like Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Sen. Miriam Santiago are not using their pork barrel funds. The opposition clarifies that unused pork barrel funds are diverted to the national treasury which can be tapped by the Office of the President. Therefore, they said it is not wise to give more funds to the “corrupt president.”

Nograles and Lagman failed to highlight the key role of the president in distributing pork barrel funds. The president can always withhold the release of pork barrel funds of Congress. It is his/her most effective weapon to buy the loyalty of lawmakers.

The people will appreciate the pork barrel if they see tangible social and economic benefits from the use of these funds. Right now, lawmakers are using these funds to build waiting sheds, basketball courts, greeting streamers, street signs, and ofcourse, mansions, vacation houses and beach resorts.

There is nothing wrong with pork barrel. Robredo notes that “The fault lies not in the pork but in the manner that it is programmed, dispensed, and disbursed.”

Perhaps progressive partylist solons should release a primer to teach their colleagues about responsible, efficient and patriotic use of pork barrel funds.

*Heidegger’s “Mange ton Dasein!” – Eat your being there!

Related entries:

Queen of house
Interview with Solons
Sons and politicians
Sona and Ramos
Vanity politics

Myanmar and the politics of aid

In the previous post, I mentioned that BBC Radio interviewed me about the food crisis in the Philippines. Now, listen to the interview. Global Voices has a special page on the cyclone disaster in Myanmar. I wrote the following round-ups: Survivors of Cyclone Nargis and Twittering the cyclone disaster.

More than 30,000 people were killed when a destructive cyclone hit Myanmar early this month. But the number of casualties is rising since aid is only slowly reaching the cyclone-ravaged regions. Clean water remains inaccessible. Cholera and other diseases are spreading fast in hundreds of communities. International groups estimate more than 1.5 million people are affected by the disaster.

From the very start, the relief work has been politicized. The ruling junta should be blamed for its stubbornness. Its unwillingness to allow the entry of international relief groups has worsened the conditions inside Myanmar’s refugee camps. It does not help that the junta has problem communicating with the international media, foreign governments and civil society groups.

Initially, the junta refused the entry of foreign aid teams. Then the government granted visas to a few volunteer groups. The junta accepted aid from select countries, namely, China, India and Thailand. But it rejected the aid coming from many rich countries, especially the United States.

It was embarrassing and scandalous that Burmese soldiers were caught changing the labels of aid boxes from other countries. It seems the junta wants to get credit for aiding its constituents by “stealing” foreign relief goods.

Many have already condemned the callousness of the junta for deciding to continue with the constitutional referendum last weekend even though hundreds of thousands of Myanmar residents remained homeless and suffering. It was even reported that the junta forced many people to vote in favor of the government position.

Local residents are beginning to complain about the paltry assistance they are receiving from the government. Many have formed volunteer groups to help fellow Burmese who need food, water, medicines, clothes and other emergency supplies. But it is shocking to learn that even this domestic initiative is being discouraged by the junta. It seems the junta wants to monopolize the relief efforts. It is requiring local groups to seek a permit first before they can give assistance to cyclone victims. Helping a neighbor requires a permit? The junta must be crazy.

The ineptness of the junta is further highlighted when people compare the quick and resolute response of the Bangladesh government when a stronger cyclone hit the country last year. Bangladesh was able to minimize the number of casualties because of the government’s efficient handling of the crisis. Recently, the Chinese government’s rescue efforts in the towns ruined by a catastrophic earthquake were hailed by many as swift and well-organized.

Some have compared the junta’s slow and unreasonable actions to the behavior of the U.S. government when Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans a few years ago. Cuba’s offer of aid was rejected. Mexico was allowed to give a token assistance. It took some time before assistance was accepted from Europe and Canada. The junta has learned something from the U.S. government.

The people of Myanmar are crying for immediate help. Engineers, doctors, health workers and other experts are needed to revive Myanmar’s communities. But the junta won’t allow the entry of foreign aid teams. Since the junta is not cooperating with international groups, many are thinking of bold measures in order to deliver aid in the flooded regions of Myanmar. Some have proposed unilateral air drops by U.S military jets to bring food to the remote villages of Myanmar. Some have proposed an outright invasion of Myanmar.

There is a proposal to invoke the doctrine of “responsibility to protect” and ask the U.N. Security Council to allow a military invasion of Myanmar. The doctrine was passed in 2006 as an instrument to justify military attack on the grounds of preventing genocide, war, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The doctrine empowers the international community to assume the responsibility of protecting the people against a despotic government.

Is the junta guilty of committing a crime against humanity? Is it right to bypass Myanmar’s government and give direct aid to the local population? Is humanitarian intervention enough reason to trample the sovereignty of Myanmar?

Perhaps the junta is aware that humanitarian intervention is sometimes a euphemism for military strike. In 1999 the situation in Kosovo was exploited by the United States to wage war against Serbia and transform the province into a NATO protectorate. In the same year Australia justified a military intervention in East Timor by citing the violence of local rebels.

The humanitarian crisis in Myanmar could be used as an excuse to invade the poor country and install a new regime which would be sympathetic to the interests of the United States and other Western nations. Is this Myanmar’s punishment for being too close to China?

Meanwhile, as the debate rages on, the people of Myanmar continue to suffer. Aid is not reaching the remotest parts of the country. The junta should begin to realize that foreign assistance is needed to uplift the conditions of its people. The United Nations should resist the temptation of launching a military strike in Myanmar in order to help the victims. Invasion, whether it is called a relief invasion or humanitarian intervention, is still military aggression.

Writer Eric Augenbraun is right to quote historian Winston James who wrote about the hurricanes which hit the Caribbean islands at the start of the 20th century. James pointed out that “The effects of natural catastrophes are profoundly mediated by social, economic, and political relations. Put simply, God may send hurricanes, but their consequences are not God-given. The damage that hurricanes, floods, and droughts do is clearly related to the degree of power one has over the effects of these natural phenomena, and the mechanisms at one’s disposal to cope with their aftermath.”

Related entries:

Myanmar and Cyclone Nargis
Disaster preparedness

Reformist speaker?

BBC-Radio interviewed me about the food crisis and its impact on the Philippines. The interviewer said he is reading my blog. CNN’s Larry King Live emailed me about the articles I wrote on Cyclone Nargis. My reaction to the so-called Young Turks: Bright versus Spice. Tweet Clouds is amusing.

Speaker Prospero C. Nograles is an influential politician in Davao City. He gained national prominence (or notoriety?) when he served as Majority Floor Leader of the House of Representatives in 2004. He made history when he became the first elected Speaker from Mindanao early this year.

His election as Speaker was very controversial. He had to “betray” his political patron, Rep. Jose de Venecia, in order to clinch the support of the ruling coalition. He was perceived to be a stooge of Malacanang. After his victory, critics condemned the continued subservience of the House to the personal agenda of President Gloria Arroyo.

Today Speaker Nograles is still known as a loyal ally of the president. The House is still regarded as a rubber stamp of Malacanang. But the efforts of Speaker Nograles to “reinvent” the House are recognized and appreciated by many groups and individuals. The Speaker’s proposed solutions to some of the country’s problems are innovative (corporate farming), bold (moratorium on land conversions) and sensible (Mindanao Railway System).

It is curious that among the initial acts of the new Speaker was to create a four-man "management team" to implement various image-building projects for the House of Representatives. The team is composed of Virgilio Bugaoisan, a veteran in election-related media campaigns; Reggie Velasco, Secretary-General of Kampi; Ed Malay, spokesman of former President Fidel V. Ramos and Bong Serrano, political officer of Lakas-CMD. It seems the Speaker really wants to overhaul the negative image of the House.

Speaker Nograles bared his program by criticizing the performance of the previous House leadership. Somehow he blamed De Venecia for the low public trust rating of the House. He said in a speech:

"The House leadership is taking steps so that the people may know what their representatives, and not just their Speaker, are doing for them – or to them. This will be a House with no secrets. No secrets payrolls, no secret deals, no secret votes. There will be no more discrimination in the House, whether a member is a member of the majority, or of the minority. The mandate of the new leadership is even clearer. The House wants to work even more and better than in the past. The House wants to work, looking exclusively to the national interest and without looking out for 2010. That is the big difference between the House today and the House before the leadership changed. A Speaker should be seen more often than heard. He is not around to impose his agenda but to move along the agenda of the House.”

Speaker Nograles also took steps to make the people understand the pork barrel system. He published a pamphlet about the legal basis and economic benefits of the pork barrel. This pamphlet will be distributed in schools and communities. The Speaker also mobilized House members to conduct public meetings “to openly explain where their pork barrel funds go.”

Speaker Nograles has also vowed to promote full transparency in the House and transform the institution into a "true house of the people." The Speaker announced that a new website will be created which will contain the details of every congressman’s countrywide development fund. Weekly public tour for students, local officials, and tourists in coordination with the Department of Tourism will be organized. The schedules of committee hearings will be also published in newspapers. The House Journal will be transcribed into readable form so that the public will be encouraged to contribute in the legislation process. The proposal for live television coverage of the plenary proceedings has been revived to discourage absenteeism among House members. Finally, nationwide regional consultations were conceived “to bring the House of Representatives directly to the people.”

The Speaker’s social reform agenda focuses on “protecting the environment, people’s cultural diversity, health, and promoting mobility to ensure a globally competitive and productive manpower.” The Speaker also wants to make Mindanao the new food basket of the Philippines. Among the priority social reform measures are the following:

1. Creation of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos;
2. Land Administration Reform;
3. Repeal of the Agri-Agra Law;
4. Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Management Act;
5. Responsible Parenthood and Population Management Act;
6. Amendments to the GASTPE Law; and
7. Creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This summer period, the Speaker said the House will prioritize discussions on the Baselines Bill, Cheaper Medicines Act, tax exemption, agrarian reform extension, corporate farming and anti-hoarding, The Speaker also said the House plans to approve the following measures before June 30:

1. The omnibus proposals to strengthen the Political Parties;
2. The proposal to amend the EPIRA Law;
3. The proposed Access to Information Act
4. The proposed amendments to the Overseas Absentee Voting Act;
5. The amendments to the Cooperative Code of the Philippines;
6. The proposed Magna Carta for Agricultural Development Workers;
7. The proposal to establish the Career Executive System; and
8. The proposal to Establish Personal Equity and Retirement Account or PERA

Also on the agenda for approval are the following proposals:

1. The creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology;
2. The Sustainable Forest Management Bill;
3. The proposal for Additional Retirement Benefits for the members of the Judiciary;
4. The proposal to grant Special Allowance to Judges of Municipal Trial Courts and Shariah Courts;
5. Compensation for Human Rights Victims;
6. The proposal to grant Old-Age pension for life for senior citizens; and
7. The transfer of Philippine Coast Guard to the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Despite the seemingly pro-people platform of the new House leadership, Speaker Nograles has not veered away from the legislative agenda of President Arroyo. Speaker Nograles remains a reliable ally of Malacanang. He praised the Supreme Court decision on the doctrine of executive privilege which clipped the oversight functions of Congress. He supported the Malacanang-backed proposal to hold public hearings on high power rates which was seen by many as an act of harassment against the Lopez family which owns Meralco and the highly critical ABS-CBN media group. The House is still the House of Gloria, not House of the People.

Speaker Nograles should continue the reform measures which he has already implemented. But he should remember that improving the image of the House is not a simple task. Websites, tours, brochures, grassroots consultations and image management teams are not enough. It is not difficult to explain the high public trust ratings of senators. The senate as an institution has shown its independence from Malacanang by investigating anomalies in the executive department.

If Speaker Nograles wants the people to appreciate the pork barrel, the best thing to do is to remind House members not to use public funds for personal enrichment. Speaker Nograles should punish lawmakers who use the pork barrel for illegal and unethical uses.

In short, there is nothing mysterious in reinventing the House. Follow the Constitution. Serve the people. Promote good governance. Strive to be independent from Malacanang.

The credibility of Speaker Nograles will be tested in the next few months. An impeachment case might be filed again against the president. Charter Change or the Federalism proposal will be tackled soon. Speaker Nograles should not derail the impeachment process. He should not endorse the ChaCha that will extend the term limits of incumbent elected politicians.

What will happen to the public hearings on high energy rates? Will there be a House investigation on corruption cases involving the president?

Related entries:

Brokeback politics
Con-ass
Interview with solons

Cyclone disaster isolates Myanmar’s junta

I have written three weblog posts on the cyclone disaster in Myanmar: The perfect storm, Unprecedented cyclone disaster, and Slow relief work. Reuters and the New York Times uploaded the articles in their websites. Oh by the way, join the discussion in the Yehey! Message Boards.

Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar last weekend. The cyclone devastated several regions which claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people. The number of missing people is even higher. Hundreds of thousands of homes and vital public infrastructures were damaged.

The situation on the ground is heartbreaking. Monasteries are overflowing with refugees. Food prices have already doubled. Water is inaccessible. Sick children are not receiving proper medical attention.

The cyclone could also worsen the global food crisis. Myanmar’s rice producing regions were among the badly hit areas. This will affect the capability of Myanmar to feed its own people. Myanmar might be forced to import rice which will make rice prices more expensive.

Reactions of the people around the world were almost unanimous when news broke out that a strong cyclone had hit Myanmar last weekend. Not only do Myanmar residents have to live under military dictatorship, they also have to struggle hard to survive when deadly natural disasters like Cyclone Nargis hit their land.

Indeed, the cyclone disaster was a terrible tragedy. It worsened the sufferings endured by Myanmar’s people. It will take some time before the devastated communities of Myanmar can bounce back. But the tragedy could also fuel more hatred against the ruling junta.

More people are expressing anger over the ineptitude of the junta to minimize the damage caused by Cyclone Nargis. People are blaming the junta’s lack of decisive leadership as to why the cyclone death toll has reached an alarming level. The cyclone has further isolated the junta from ordinary people.

Rezwan, a blogger from Bangladesh, notes that a stronger cyclone hit Bangladesh last November but the number of casualties was lower. He wrote that Bangladesh did prepare a lot for Cyclone Sidr. He added that "a total of 2 million people in Bangladesh were evacuated to emergency shelters. Otherwise the death toll would be catastrophic. Most of those who were dead defied the warnings and stayed home. The after cyclone relief and rescue operations were also swift. Over 40,000 Red Cross volunteers were deployed to order residents in the 15 affected provinces into special cyclone and flood shelters. In contrast to the Burmese situation, the Bangladeshi military forces played a significant role in providing helicopters and boats to reach the remote locations and of course helping in relief and rescue."

Sophie Lwin of the Burma Global Action Network said that NASA already warned the junta that Cyclone Nargis would hit Myanmar several days before the disaster yet the regime did nothing. The death toll could have been minimized if the junta heeded the warning and instituted emergency measures to prepare for the coming disaster.

The response of the junta after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar was also slow and deplorable. Blogger Agam’s Gecko observed that "very few soldiers have been spotted lately doing any of the recovery work, although state television did show a couple of uniforms pulling branches around. Monks and other citizens have organized themselves, and seem to be doing most of it."

Another ill-advised decision of the junta was to declare that the controversial constitutional referendum, which is scheduled to take place this month, will still push through. This reflects the apathy of the junta to the sufferings of its people. This smacks of insensitivity to the collective grief of the Burmese nation. The junta insists the referendum is part of the democratization process. Well, the junta’s version of democracy can wait. Meanwhile, what the people of Myanmar need today are basic necessities of life like food, water, clothing and shelter.

It is also unfortunate that the junta initially restricted the movements of foreign aid volunteers who were assessing the situation in the affected regions. This angered many residents who were in desperate need of immediate relief. Later, the junta allowed international relief organizations to enter the country. Somehow, this reversal of decision on the part of the junta shows the extent of destruction that Cyclone Nargis left on Myanmar.

The entry of foreigners inside Myanmar’s poorest provinces is a welcome political development in the struggle against the junta. Foreign volunteers can report the real political and economic situation of Myanmar. They can highlight the cruelties of the junta against Myanmar’s poor. They can write about the activities of the resistance movement inside Myanmar. The junta should prepare for stronger international political pressure.

The cyclone tragedy in Myanmar points to the link between good governance and disaster management. A credible leadership is needed to mobilize the people in times of crisis. The junta insists it warned the public about Cyclone Nargis. But people will only trust leaders who are legitimate and trustworthy.

After hearing about the cyclone disaster, hundreds of individuals, groups and governments pledged to deliver aid to Myanmar. However, many individuals are worried that their contributions could end up in the pockets of Myanmar’s leaders. Again, this reflects the low reputation of the junta. It emphasizes the role of credibility to sustain effective leadership.

Myanmar is suffering today. Disasters, both man-made and natural, are causing tremendous social and economic dislocation. But there is a chance to turn the recent cyclone tragedy into an opportunity to inspire the resistance against the oppressive junta.

The people are aware that the junta neglected its duty to protect the public. The junta failed to implement decisive actions which could have minimized the cyclone casualties. The people of Myanmar will not forget the incompetence and insensitivity of the junta. In the next few months, further social unrest, bigger than last year’s Saffron Revolution, is expected to develop in Myanmar.

Related entries:

Myanmar and Philippines
Human rights and Asean
Rice and Southeast Asia
Refugee nation

Festivals and politics

To know more about Kadayawan and Panagbenga, visit Davao Today or Northern Dispatch.

The government has been promoting the Philippines as an exotic tourist destination by highlighting the numerous festivals celebrated in the provinces. There is nothing wrong with this approach. After all, tourism creates jobs and other livelihood opportunities. It can bring substantial investments in the countryside. But profit should not be the only goal of tourism. Respect of local traditions should be highlighted as well.

Over the past years, cultural festivals have been commercialized. Local traditions have been infused with a modern twist to attract and entertain more tourists. This is bastardization of culture. Bureaucrats are now more concerned with the marketability of festivals. Last month, the Department of Tourism conducted a seminar workshop on festival management in Region 8 in order to teach Samarenos the “correct way” of celebrating their own local traditions.

Merrymaking is overemphasized which prevents many people from appreciating the histories of festivals. For example, Flores de Mayo is celebrated every month of May. It is a procession honoring the Virgin Mary. The Santacruzan re-enacts the search of Queen Elena for the cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. Today it is reduced into a simple parade of beautiful ladies in many parts of the country.

The Obando Festival is popular among couples who want to bear children. Originally, it was a festival which involved different dance rituals honoring three patron saints: St. Paschal, St. Claire and Our Lady of Salambaw – the patroness of fishermen.

The Ati-Atihan and Dinagyang festivals are celebrated to honor the Infant Jesus. But showbiz stars are grabbing the limelight when they organize shows during these events.

The annual Kadayawan Festival celebrates the good harvest of crops, vegetables, fruits and orchids in Davao City. But Kadayawan used to showcase the Lumad culture of Mindanao. Tribal leaders are complaining that Kadayawan festivities “hardly depict the struggle of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples to pursue their unique way of life and retain control of their ancestral lands.” Even Davao City officials admit that Kadayawan had “lost track of its indigenous beginnings and has turned commercial and too tourist-oriented.”

The Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga is celebrated at the time of the year when plants start blossoming in the Cordillera region. Panagbenga was conceived in 1995 to symbolize Baguio’s comeback after the July 16, 1990 earthquake. But Cordillera activists note that over the years, the festival “has destroyed the real essence of the Cordillera peoples’ ethnic culture.” They added that Panagbenga has been reduced “as a profit-driven tourism event capitalizing on the culture of the Cordillera indigenous peoples.”

Even politicians have used the Panagbenga to campaign during elections. Remember the senatoriable who joined the parade by riding on a horse? How about the politician who performed a Cordillera dance ritual to the tune of Boom Tarat Tarat?

Many people have already forgotten the reasons why festivals are organized. The Concerned Artists of the Philippines said “Fiestas are originally celebrations for a good harvest and pleas for a bountiful next. These are community affairs that affirm and reinforce the spirit of bayanihan or collectivity.”

The Pahiyas Festival in Lucban and Sariaya, Quezon is a thanksgiving festival to San Isidro Labrador for the past year’s bountiful harvest. The event is popular for the hanging of fruits and vegetables in the houses of residents. The Tinagba Festival in Iloilo City is a harvest-offering activity for Our Lady of Lourdes. Farmers organize a parade using carabao-drawn carts filled with agricultural products while Agtas come down from the mountains to dance.

Festivals also remind us of our colorful past. Cotabato City commemorates the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan and Islam to Mindanao every December. Binabayani Festival re-enacts the war between the Aetas and the Christians through dance in Olongapo. Sanduguan Festival recaps the first contact between the inhabitants of Mindoro and traders from China. Halaran pays tribute to the history and culture of Capizeños during pre-Hispanic times. Balanghai Festival in Butuan highlights the coming of the early migrants from Borneo and Celebes.

Festivals should showcase the richness of Filipino culture. They celebrate the yearning of Filipinos for a more prosperous living. They depict the people’s struggles to overcome the difficulties of life. Sadly, festivals today are celebrated to make the tourists happy. Profit comes first before culture. Festivities lose their cultural and social relevance as commercialization rears its ugly head. In short, festivals become “organized spectacles.”

Festivals are celebrated “with a sense of surface glitter and transitory participatory pleasure, of display and ephemerality.” They reflect what cultural theorist Fredric Jameson calls the “contrived depthlessness” of modern cultural production. In some way, the Pagoda Festival tragedy in Bocaue, Bulacan during the 1990s symbolically foretold the cultural decline in the Philippines.

Festivals are considered by the government as peaceful, politically-neutral and exotic tourist attractions. But festivals can also be “an essential aspect of a revolutionary movement.” Didn’t Lenin refer to the revolution as the “festival of people?”

Organizing festivals today can radicalize certain segments of the population. What if farmers realized there is no bountiful harvest to celebrate because of the bad agricultural policies of the government? What if the Bicol Food Festival in Naga encouraged the people to ask policymakers to do something about rising food prices? The Baguio Flower Festival could be used to highlight the insane policy of promoting cash crops instead of food production.

The rice and food crisis have provoked food riots in many countries. The government believes no such thing can ever happen in the Philippines. On the other hand, festival protests are distinct possibilities.

Related entries:

Month of May
Tudaya falls
ARMM and the Ampatuans
Politics is local

Month of May

May is the fifth month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. The month is named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility. May is associated with the arrival of spring or summer in many parts of the world. Spring fertility festivals are held in India and Egypt. The Roman festival of Flora, goddess of spring, is celebrated between April 28 and May 3.

In the Philippine context, the month of May represents beginnings and endings. The long hot days of summer give way to sporadic rain showers in the afternoon. The wet season is nearing. Vacation period is about to end as students start enrolling for the incoming school year. Returning Overseas Filipino Workers are preparing to leave the country again.

Harvest season also takes place during the month of May. Hopefully, farmers will celebrate a bountiful harvest this year. Rice supply woes have eased since farmers have begun transporting their goods to the markets. Farmers’ incomes are up which stimulate consumption in the countryside.

Numerous festivals are organized throughout the country in connection to the harvest season. Filipinos also use these occasions to pay homage to their patron saints. For example, Pahiyas Festival in Lucban and Sariaya, Quezon are celebrated to thank San Isidro Labrador for the past year’s bountiful harvest. Other notable festivals of the month include the following:

May 1     – Pasalamat Festival, La Carlota, Negros Occidental
                 Magayon Festival, Albay Province
                 Pista’y Dayat Festival, Pangasinan
May 2     – Boa-Boahan, Nabua, Camarines Sur
May 3     – Carabao-Carozza Race Festival, Pavia, Iloilo
May 1-3 – Lanahan Ritual, Balabag, Digos, Davao del Sur
                 Balanghai Festival, Butuan
May 11   – Barangay Boat Festival, Aparri, Cagayan
May 15   – Carabao Festival, Pulilan, Bulacan
May 17-19 – Obando Festival, Obando, Bulacan
May 19-25 – Pahoy-Pahoy Festival, Calbiga, Samar

Festivals are now tourist attractions. They bring cash and media attention to remote towns and villages. But profit-oriented tourism distorts the local cultures of our people. Many people have forgotten the real reasons why agricultural festivals are celebrated. (more on this issue next time)

Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan are conducted throughout the country every May. Mother’s Day is also celebrated this month. The 1987 Constitution has designated the second Monday of the month of May as Election Day every three years.

Various social issues are tackled with symbolic activities every month of May. The world highlights the following issues this month:

May 3 – World Press Freedom Day
May 6 – World Asthma Day
May 8 – World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day
May 10 – World Fair Trade Day
May 12 – International Nurses’ Day
May 15 – International Day of Families
May 21 – World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
May 22 – International Day for Biological Diversity
May 28 – Flag Day
May 29 – International Day of UN Peacekeepers
May 31 – World No-Tobacco Day
               World Fisherfolks’ Day

By the way, it has been proclaimed that the month of May is Anti-Graft and Corruption Awareness Month. This is very timely and appropriate. Politicians should lead the awareness campaign.

Labor Day

The month begins with the celebration of the historic Labor Day, or International Workers’ Day, or simply May Day. This is celebrated to recognize the great contributions of workers to human civilization. Labor Day rallies are held to condemn the anti-poor and anti-worker policies of governments.

Philippine labor groups usually mark this anniversary by demanding better working and living conditions for the working class. Activists are also highlighting the high number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos today. The government responds by announcing new programs that would improve the welfare of workers. In the past seven years President Gloria Arroyo has yet to unveil a Labor Day package which was unanimously cheered by labor groups.

In 1856 an Australian first conceptualized a workers’ holiday with the demand for an eight-hour working day. The cause became popular in the industrialized world. On May 1, 1886, more than 200,000 American workers issued this demand. The actions continued for several days. Many workers were killed in Chicago when police fired upon a demonstration.

On May 1, 1890, the Second International Workers’ Congress organized an international work stoppage in support of the eight-hour day proposal. The campaign was successful and later May Day was adopted as an official holiday in many countries.

In the Philippines it was Isabelo delos Reyes who institutionalized labor unionism in the country. De Los Reyes organized the first trade union in the country, the Union de Impresores de Filipinas in 1902. In the same year, he established the Union Obrera Democratica, the Philippines’ first labor federation. De los Reyes also organized the first May 1 Labor Day rally at the Plaza Moriones in Tondo, Manila. On April 8, 1908, a law was enacted making May 1 a national holiday.

The camp of former President Joseph Estrada is also marking May 1 as the day when hundreds of thousands of supporters of the popular leader marched towards Malacanang Palace which almost led to the downfall of Arroyo in 2001. The historic rally was later called Edsa Tres.

May Day is a political event in the Philippines. The government is afraid that workers would lead other poor sectors of society in overthrowing the established social order. Labor unrest is minimized by offering token measures to the labor sector. Unfortunately, members of the labor movement are also victims of human rights violations.

Related entries:

Labor education
Batas Kasambahay
Exporting labor

Win Natong Buwang Win

Napapansin ninyo ba ang pagdami ng mga kababayan nating naninirahan sa lansangan. Mas kilala sila sa bansag na taong grasa. Pagkatapos ng sunud-sunod na demolisyon sa Metro Manila, biglang tumaas ang bilang ng mga pulubi sa kalye. Naalala ko na may sinulat akong artikulo para sa Tinig noong 2003 tungkol sa isang “sikat” na “baliw sa kalye.” Ikinuwento ata sa akin ni Apo Alvarez at ng isa naming kasamahan ang buhay ni Natong Buwang….

Marahil nababasa na rin ito ng karamihan. Mahirap itong hindi mapansin dahil nagkalat ito sa Maynila.

Ang tinutukoy ko ay hindi ang MMDA (F)Art ni Bayani Fernando kundi ang naiibang sining o mensahe ni Natong Buwang.

Eto ang ilang halimbawa na talagang mapapaisip ka kung ano ang gusto niyang sabihin: win pres lim win, viva nuestra senora, gma nice jesus ok, viva sto nino, win lacuna win.

Nang una ko itong mabasa sa España habang nakasakay ng dyip, hindi ko ito binigyan ng masyadong pansin. Inisip ko lang na ito’y gawa ng isang fraternity o kaya’y ng mga panatikong taga-suporta ni Mayor Lim.

Pero hindi ko nakalimutan ang nabasa ko. At tinangka kong unawain ang lohika nito at ang layunin ng nagsulat.

Halos lahat ng mga pangunahing kalye ng Maynila ay may tatak nito. Kadalasa’y sa mga billboard ng Rotary (the 4-Way test) ito nakasulat at sa mga sidewalk, poste ng LRT at dingding na gigising sa isang naiinip na pasaherong naipit sa trapik.

Tahimik kong hinangaan ang makinarya ng fraternity o ng pulitikong nasa likod ng graffiti na ito. Ang sinumang magagawi sa Maynila ay tiyak mababasa ito at epektibong magtatagal sa likod ng kanilang isip.

Itinago ko ang obserbasyong ito sa iba dahil nahihiya akong malaman nilang pinagkakainteresan ko ang maliit na bagay na ito. Nabasag ang aking pananahimik nang minsang makakuwentuhan ko ang ilang mga estudyante ng PUP. Katulad ko, nabibighani din sila sa kakaibang sipag at pag-iisip ng nagsusulat nito sa Maynila. Sabi nila, gawa raw ito ng isang baliw gamit ang uling.

Sabi ng mga kaibigan ko sa U-belt, ang nasa likod nito ay isang adik na nabaliw sa Sampaloc. Pero sabi naman ng mga taga-Taft, baka raw si Salenga ang may gawa rin nito. Si Salenga, hinihinalang matalinong nabaliw na estudyante ang naglalagay ng mga karatula sa Taft ng kanyang teorya na negatibo ang proton at positibo ang electron.

Nalaman din namin ang sagot kung sino talaga ang misteryosong baliw nang makasabay siya ng mga aktibista sa UST isang hatinggabi bago ang pasukan sa may Morayta. Habang abala ang mga aktibista sa pagididikit ng kanilang plakard laban sa pagtaas ng matrikula, ang ating bida ay masinop na sinusulat ang kanyang obra sa isang bagong pintang sidewalk.

At dun nga nila nalaman na siya ay si Nato. Taga-Caloocan sa may A. Bonifacio at kilala dun bilang Natong Buwang. Dati siyang taga-buhat ng imahen ni Kristo tuwing pitsa ng Nazareno sa Quiapo. Sabi ng iba, siya raw ay nabaliw dahil iniwan ng asawa. Pero ayon daw sa nakakakilala sa kanya, si Nato ay dating relihiyosong manggagawa na nasira ang bait nang namatay ang anak nitong hindi agad nadala sa ospital.

Siguro hindi natin matutunton ang katotohanan tungkol sa buhay ni Nato o ang kanyang nais sabihin sa atin. Sa kanyang sariling mundo, ang sinusulat niya ay may angking sariling lohika at sining na maaring tanging paraan niya upang makipag-ugnayan sa atin.

Mahirap unawain si Nato at ang kanyang sining lalo na kung ang gagamitin nating pamantayan ay ang namamayaning paraan ng paghuhusga kung ano ang tama at mali, maganda at panget, may kabuluhan at walang kabuluhan.

Kung ang layunin ni Nato ay mag-iwan ng isang bagay na pag-uusapan siya ng marami, siya ay nagtagumpay. Hindi man siya kilala, pero ang obra niya at ang kakaibang mensahe niya ay tumatak, nagpatawa, at naging paksa ng kuwentuhan ng napakaraming tao, aminin man nila o hindi.

Sa ganitong paraan nabubuo ang isang urban legend.

Related entries:

Urban Facelift
Displacement
Recto-Doroteo Jose
Queen of the House