31 December, 2010


My curtain hangs crooked and loose in the center of a large and wide window pane. Its lateral sides not stretched far and wide for absolute shade - a design neither intentional, nor intelligibly fashioned. In the narrow passages, while indulging in the dreams of my slumber, the sun's bickering light tightly passing through. On a daily basis, it peeks to color my pale face yellow. I never wake to be blinded by its immensely insurmountable radiance, however.

Eyes firmly shut from reality, I await only the howl from downstairs - of my sister, at the top of her lungs, calling out my name. The familiar resonating cry of urgency rings me wake from dawn. Then I continue my journey to a more distant world. Standing lost, I shudder the first few steps out my door. It takes a few moments before sobering up from my daily recurring stupor, a self-inflicted sleep-induced coma. An overdose of it.

Once again acquainted with the arcane reality, I wrap myself around the blanket of safety, as if going back (to sleep). Awake, I ensconce myself in the niche of family: my only remnant of haven. As to events of daily life, I play the blind role, mute my hearing and tie my own tongue in avoidance of it. Then half the day ends; and I once again indulge in the dreams of my slumber while the star up above gleams its hopeful eye onto mine.

15 December, 2010

Short Story Menace

When an idea for a possible short story masterpiece enters my mind, my heart starts thumping fast; as though in hot pursuit of something fulfilling yet incredibly tantalizing. I seem to have an apt for following thoughts that flow like a river across an uncharted territory - one I can claim my own genius. Often, I'd escape reality and join the adventures of my own creation.

Ask me what they are, and I'd gladly paint them as extravagantly as I could. I will stutter. I will stop for a while. Then with apparent diligence, draw the gist out flat on the table sooner or later. My mind wanders in the virtual recesses of my cave-dwelling soul just to keep me amused with the stories it brings back to my consciousness. It tells it so well, I would have a hard time falling asleep at night, already itching to put them down on paper.

My imaginative introductory momentum, unfortunately, remains within the confines of my memory, unable to extend itself out any further. Perhaps, admittedly, I lack the skills in the creative writing sphere. My long awaiting queue of stories to write and tell are rusting even before they materialize for my eyes to reread and others to find inspiration from.

26 August, 2010

Eye Opener In The Philippines

August 23, 2010 - What happened Tuesday in the Quirino Grandstand is none other than the result of both bad luck and law enforcement delinquency combined in a mix.

A Chinese myself, I know (and I believe) that July in the Lunar Calendar marks a full month of tragedies. While mere superstition cannot solely be the basis to explain the turn of events, police performance reinforced the claim into something agreeable. What seemed innocuous at first turned for the worse when the hostage-taker started opening fire inside the bus. All gleamer of hope got instantly snuffed out, and the gravity of the situation had to employ force into the equation.

Unfortunately for the victims, those in command were not able to exercise their authority to take full control of the situation. A bunch of journalists were broadcasting every second of the intensifying drama from start to finish. The hostage taker, SPO4 Rolando Mendoza, was watching the standoff being televised in every major local news channel. Gaining access to the information beyond the confines of the tourist bus played a major role on how the drama had suddenly turned awry.

Seeing his family suffering - his brother being dragged into custody like a pig waiting execution (on TV) - Mendoza was quick to react, beginning with several gunshots heard from within the bus, and later ending with some devastating M16 machine gun sprees directed outward. Bullet-holed glass windows, and people taking cover were not uncommon scenes. A stray bullet even hit one bystander on the lower limb. Hostage-takers gamble their lives into do-or-die situations. How their mood swings determines the outcome - the number of lives saved or lost. Feeling himself responsible for putting his family at risk fed him all the guilt that was the LAST THING negotiators want a hostage-taker to carry on their shoulders.

The incompetence of the police force that counteracted to the ongoing killing spree only led many to depend on miracles instead. Either he gets shot by snipers quick or he comes to his senses and surrenders. Clearly from the video news channels were broadcasting, the police force that stormed around the bus had made common sensual mistakes that put their names on the line for even more bashing. One, breaking in. Steel door versus fiber ropes? Two, taking too long to neutralize the frenzied Mendoza. It lasted an hour before victims got their medical attention. Three, wrong people to finish the job? They were panicking - not exactly sure what to do.

By the time Mendoza finally had his share of "Death" after his prolonged "Doing," some innocent lives had already been lost. Others were rushed into different hospitals for treatment, with some dying on arrival. A total of 9 people including Mendoza, died in a span of a few hours. He died from a single sniper rifle bullet to the head.

Rolando Mendoza, after receiving several medals for his good conduct within his 30 years of service to the Filipinos, marred his name by ending it like a terrorist - bringing innocent people along. However, his cause should never be ovelooked nor ignored; he is also a victim of injustice from a country limping from misgovernance since who knows when.

Now that the world has been disappointed by yet another "Made in the Philippines" action, the government must begin scrutinizing itself and look for loopholes that need covering. Implemening lapses on media coverage, for instance, should be handled with steadfast prudence depending on the context of the situation. And discernment must come from the authority - not the media. Strict regulations, together with improvement in our public servants's salaries and benefits, must also follow suit.

The incident was an isolated case; the victims were at the wrong place at the wrong time. But had Mendoza been taken with serious care and attention when he first filed a complaint about his case, the incident would have never happened. Now that it has already passed, however, learning things the hard way is what's left for Filipinos to reflect on again.

16 February, 2010

Correlation between Atheism and Voting in the Philippine Democracy

The Philippines – from 1898-2010 – is still in the “process of” a revolution. Some say our “being Catholics” is to blame for all the mess we have created. Poverty so rampant and a government like a market place full of crooks are just some indicators a country is underdeveloped. The Filipino tendency to see government as the “God of their image” seems to result to an unreflective surrendering of power thru voting. Understanding the aesthetics of atheism may become a helpful tool to deterring this Filipino tendency to be over-ruled by the God of his image. Confronted with no strings to cling on to, survival instincts may fuel the Filipino appetite for a true and meaningful revolution under the democracy banner.

The Philippine Status
In a democracy, it is “power to the people” – not the leaders. However, in the Philippine political atmosphere, this only remains an ideal shaded grey. Government officials voted into office are not the public servants hoped for. They are more known as oppressive leaders, whose will is imposed on their subordinates, including the people who put them in place. Ironically, in the article of Paul D. Hutchcroft, The Arroyo Imbroglio in the Philippines, he states no country in Asia has more experience with democratic institutions than the Philippines. This system of government dates back to the Assembly created by the revolutionary republic that declared independence in 1898. However, the questions remain: How did the Philippines do since then? Is the Filipino truly independent?
Two world wars have passed, one dictatorial government brought down and EDSA Revolutions still counting in roman numerical values, but still a true revolution non-existent. Today, Arroyo still sits on a high chair inside Malacanang Palace despite several numbers of scandals directly involving her. The most famous of them is the Hello Garci Scandal, where the president’s voice is heard talking to a COMELEC commissioner amid the counting of ballots in the weeks of May 2004 election. In one oft-quoted segment said to be from late May, a female voice expresses concern for the electoral margin (“So I will still lead by more than one M., overall?”) while a male voice promises to work things out.

Voting in a Democracy
The ideal leader for the Filipino is unarguably the “saviour” type; one who possesses the characteristics of Christianity’s enigmatic Jesus Christ. This does not come as a surprise to many. The Filipinos are a people in need of salvation in many respects: economic, social, spiritual – even psychological. From rock-bottom poverty to questioning one’s identity, the Filipino is indeed living under the covers of darkness.
The rise of political icon Ninoy Acquino is a light that resembles Christ’s. People still remember him for his dashing character, his unparalleled decision-making, and most especially his Christ-like wisdom all often used to rectify the Marcos Administration. However, he only remains to be the ideal – a mystery the Filipino People can only wish for.
The Philippines is comparatively religious. In the 2001 World Values Survey, 87 per cent of respondents claimed that religion was “very important”, the highest percentage for any predominantly non-Muslim country, and 99 percent believed in God. In 2004, spirituality took centre stage in the Mass for Peace and Credible Elections, where the major presidential candidates, including President Arroyo, recited “The victory is not mine to take but yours to give … Grant us, O Lord, the perfect expression of the people’s will in this election.” However, despite these manifestations of faith, the public prefers religious nationalism to outright theocracy. In the same 2001 World Values Survey, majorities agreed that “politicians who don’t believe in God are unfit for public office” and favoured officials with “strong religious beliefs”, the most support from any predominantly non-Muslim country.
The country has little choice but to accept elections, since public opinion has rejected authoritarian and military government, communist revolution, and theocracy. Voting is the sine qua non of a democratic state. However, one wonders if the power truly belongs to the people. In Juliet Williams’s interesting essay, On the Popular Vote, she mentions four core democratic dilemmas – one of which is the fact that voting is considered at once the most fundamental and also the least effectual citizenship act. Voting translates to the surrendering of citizenship power. From a democratic standpoint, there is something profoundly perverse, then, about the cult of voting which treats a loss of power as the highest symbol of the people’s power. There can be no denying that democratic subjects vote for representatives precisely because they cannot rule themselves. This practice of citizenship right (to vote) translating to the surrendering of “trusted” power to the state is what creates an ineffective democracy in the Philippines. Greed and irresponsibility creates powerful politicians. At the other end, people are left paralyzed each time they vote. It is their greatest expression of choosing unfreedom over freedom. In the Philippines, development is often left at the leader’s desks piling – and not the people’s.

Catholicism in the Philippines
Catholic Christianity, though it has certain basic identifying characteristics, is expressed in various theologies and spiritualities or “forms of faith.” Another way of saying this is to affirm that in Catholic Christianity "there is one faith, but many theologies and many spiritualities or ‘forms of faith'."
One may include Folk Christianity an expression of such theologies culturally and socially accepted in the Philippine atmosphere. In Eduardo M. Domingo’s study, Intertextuality and the Study of Animism in the Philippines, he relates the interrelationships between animism with different religions aside from Christianity. However, since the country consists of 90% Christians, it is more often than not ‘Folk Christianity’ rather than any other. In his study, animistic rituals were discovered in certain places in the South Philippines. In these places, the older form of animistic rituals related to rice were Christianized. Although the ancient elements were still noticeable, the latter was given new a meaning. In some cases, the invocation to the anitos or spirits of their ancestors and other spirits were omitted; the amulets, charms and other symbols, however, now became their symbolic expressions directed to God. In other instances, even in the christian rituals, the farmers still attribute to the charms themselves the power of giving the rice these qualities. Hence, together with the plants or herbs that they believe will bring the desired qualities for their rice, christian prayers like the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory are recited in honor of the Blessed Virgin, San Isidro, and the patron saint of the parish [sic].
Moreover, yearly processions of the image of the Black Nazarene in celebration of the feast day of Quiapo may be one of the most familiar displays of faith in the country. Hundreds of thousand of people join the long procession, risking safety for what it is worth. They heave together in solidarity of one faith – that however takes many forms. One news article describes the familiar picture, “White handkerchiefs and towels were waved and the crowd erupted into loud cheers as a number of men tried – successfully or in vain – to clamber onto the carriage in an attempt to touch the image.” People gather at this momentous parade because of favors from God. Miracle stories are not rare; regained physical health and financial success amidst poverty are just some few examples of these favors.

Analysis of the Filipino
Understanding atheism per se is not what holds the key to understanding the dynamics of voting in the Philippines. It only acts as a counteraction against the Filipino attitude towards religion, particularly their image of God. For this reason, the discussions will start with the analysis of the Filipino mentality, followed by the counteraction of atheism.
Politics and Catholicism are both central to the Filipino choice of unfreedom. Politics in the country is more God-centered than in most western societies since Filipinos are religious; and a strong favour for religious candidates sound obvious. Does the Filipino treat his leader like God? To some degree, yes. The Filipino fears his leaders’ power; but more importantly, it is his promises that the Filipino looks forward to. When poverty torments him, he blames his poor governance – his unfulfilled promises for a better tomorrow. The image of the true Filipino politician is one who exhibits the ability to save, may it be thru words or actions – just like the Christian God whom he calls Father. In voting, he fully surrenders his citizenship power to his leader – an expression of freedom. However, like the way he treats God, to whom he prays for miracles of better health and financial stability, he chooses to surrender his responsibilities from society as well. It is precisely his tendency to create his own “image of God” that leaves him at the mercy of his leaders – his earthly gods.

Atheistic Views from Freud and Nietzsche
For this reason, Sigmund Freud criticizes religion as an enemy of science. To Freud, religion makes people go astray by means of constructing a restricted Weltanschauung [Worldview], which fulfills three functions: it (1) satisfies the human thirst for knowledge (it does the same thing that science attempts to do with its means); (2) is influential (religion soothes the fear that humans feel of the dangers, and advises them to submit to it); and (3) brings prohibitions and restrictions. Especially, the third function of religion is, to him, psychoanalytically related to the father-image who demands morals and ethics. In this sense, humans still remain just as helpless and unprotected as they were in their childhoods, which are programmed by a system of loving rewards and punishments. For Freud, slaying the father-image (God) will free man from restrictions, thus giving him independence.
Nietzsche, on the other hand proclaims “God is dead.” To him, God is only the created image of man, which makes man the real god who can transcend himself. The news of the death of God is the great liberation. "We philosophers and 'free spirits' feel ourselves irra- diated as by a new dawn by the report that the 'old God is dead'; our hearts overflow with gratitude, astonishment, presentiment and expectation [sic]. There are of course two sides to Nietzsche's hope for man: there is on the one hand the insistence on the full development of man as he is, leading to the "higher man," the flower of culture that is rooted in an actual and historical soil, and there is on the other hand the insistence on the more-than-man, the divinization of man (needless to say, not in the theological sense), in short, Superman

Applicability of Atheism to the Filipino
Atheism could change the way Filipinos surrender their vote. Both Freud and Nietzsche give importance to the development of the human spirit. They wish for men to be truly free. The entrapment of the Filipino from his choice of unfreedom is that which atheism may help shed light to. It is not suggested that the Filipino deny the existence of God. However, it is much preferable (as being presented by atheism) for the Filipino to start depending on his own, and indirectly speaking, to slay his created “image of God and gods” to whom he passes some of his responsibilities as a person and a member of the society at large. With this, hopefully his aspirations for a true revolution may be deemed more likely attainable than if he chooses to stay at his present condition.

Hutchcroft Paul D. “The Arroyo Imbroglio In The Philippines,” Journal of Democracy Vol. 19, No. 1 (01 January 2008): 140-155.

Linantud, John L. “The 2004 Philippine Elections: Political Change in an Illiberal Democracy,” Contemporary Southeast Asia 27, No. 1 (2005): 80-101.

Williams, Juliet A. “On the Popular Vote,” Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 4 (December 2005): 637-645.

Intengan, Romeo J. “Are We Filipinos Poor Because We Are Mostly Catholic Christians?,” East Asian Pastoral Review, Vol. 40, No. 3 (2003), 234-242.

Domingo, Eduardo M. “Intertextuality and the Study of Animism in the Philippines,” Philippiniana Sacra, Vol. XLIV, No. 131 (May-August, 2009): 323-344.

Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 January 2007.

Lee, Sang Uk. “Constructing an Aesthetic Weltanschauung: Freud, James, and Ricoeur,” Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Winter, 2004): 273-290.

Copleston, F. C. “Friedrich Nietzsche,” Philosophy, Vol. 17, No. 67 (Jul., 1942): 231-244