So let’s see, what has Aquino managed to do so far? Chase after his predecessor using slipshod, ill-advised legal tactics, check. Throw a hissy fit after a co-equal branch of government catches his mistake, check. Throw another hissy fit after the same co-equal branch of government decides to finally give the land that his family has claimed for decades to the people who actually own it, check. Throw a massive tantrum and pick an unbelievably childish fight with same co-equal branch of government, check. Send his spin doctors all over the media to widen his bullying efforts, check.

Promise to gradually disavow public tertiary education and focus instead on creating a workforce of merely employable sub-professionals—and thereby giving up on national development efforts—check.

This whole Corona impeachment issue has revealed Aquino for whom he truly is: an inexperienced, whiny, inconsolable brat with more hubris than hair. Even this early on, we know that Aquino is a forgettable President.


It’s December, so I’m maxing my limit.

Flashing the plastic (student identification card) to get my hands on these babies.

From top to bottom:

  1. Salvaged Poems by Emmanuel Lacaba. “We are tribeless and all tribes are ours. / We are homeless and all homes are ours. / We are nameless and all names are ours…The road less traveled by we’ve taken — / And that has made all the difference.”
  2. The Essential Arcellana, works by Francisco Arcellana, edited by Alberto S. Florentino. He’s a National Artist for Literature, and the College of Arts and Letters has a reading room named after him, so he’s got to be pretty cool.
  3. Lipunan At Rebolusyong Pilipino by Jose Maria Sison. Actually, Sison is the author listed by the university’s electronic database, but the book credits itself to Amado Guerrero (literally, loved warrior), Sison’s nom de guerre. LRP is kind of like the Bible of the Communist movement in the Philippines. The original owner of the copy I borrowed from the library signed his name on one of the first few leaves: “Augusto Escueta, Lucio De Guzman Command, NPA – Mindoro.” A quick google will reveal that a person who shares the book owner’s name is the President of a corporation and lives in upscale Barangay Bel-Air. Oh, the irony.

    (At this point I should make it clear that I don’t believe in Communism, although I do think Karl Marx gets some things right. I’ve been meaning to read LRP for a long time now in the hopes of getting a clearer and deeper sense of what the Communist movement is all about, so I decided to finally go ahead and borrow a copy.)

  4. How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Wife And Other Stories by Manuel Arguilla. I read the title story for a Creative Writing class last year and thought it would be fun to go through his other works.

In case you noticed, yes, I do have a newfound fascination with Filipino literature written in English. I’m trying to get out of the dead-white-male box of literature that I’ve been in all my life.

I can, however, borrow one more book. I’ve been thinking of borrowing another Filipino work, but am also tempted to get an English title. Then again I’m already reading (again) The Catcher In The Rye. Chinscratch.


Classes were suspended on Wednesday in commemoration of the birth of Andres Bonifacio, leader of the (to some, unfinished) Philippine Revolution.

Where better to spend it than Intramuros (more popularly associated with the reformist Rizal), right? I’m such a historical dick.

The imposing clock tower of the Manila City Hall—and the ugly gray of SM Manila in the background.

Bunch of cannons.

Manong Guard getting his daily tabloid news fix. They still use the guard tower thingies as guardhouses.

Calesa convoy. If I remember correctly, a ride on one of these (including a guided tour) cost me and my family around P2,000 last year.

Just behind the outer walls, garbage.

Imagine the guardia civil and their lovers HHWW-ing along these walkways.

Fartsy strikes a pose. (That’s the Lyceum of the Philippines University tower in the background.)

Those are dormitories! Right within Intramuros! How charming. “Parang wala sa Pilipinas,” commented Katz.


If you look closely, you’ll see that street signs in Intramuros were placed on the walls of buildings and not on freestanding posts.

Chinese-language newspapers still enjoy wide circulation in the Philippines. Even the owners of the big hardware stores in my hometown read them at their desks, next to their abacuses. Copies of the previous day’s issue are used to wrap small purchases like nails and screws.

Not all of Intramuros is colonially quaint. Some alleys, such as this, are simply unremarkable.

And then there’s the vulgar (or the stark raving mad, we can’t be sure). “Putol ari ang sinomang umihi,” announces the poster. That’s Filipino for “Try to piss on this GI sheet wall and I’ll hack your penis off.” Right next to the sign is a poster announcing the activities for a Marian celebration of some sort.

Sige pa, aso! Umihi ka pa!” If you aren’t intimidated by threats of genital mutilation, then maybe name-calling will tame you.

I was surprised to find that there are neighborhoods like this one even within the walls of old Manila. I’ll bet you none of the tours pass through this part of town.

Katz was aghast at the sight, which surprised me because she grew up in the Metro. “If the squatters leave then Intramuros will look really pretty,” she quipped.

Yeah, but this way it stays faithful to the truth.

After quite some walking, we found ourselves on cobblestone streets instead of paved roads. How romantic.

Katz thought we should look for urban art.

Punks doing ollies and grinds in the soft light of dusk in what used to be the center of power of the colonized Islands. I hope the irony isn’t lost on them, because it’s really nice.

Ancient artifacts! One of the few remnants of the pre-bilog na hugis itlog (egg-shaped circle) era of Philippine history.

Me pointing out to Katz that over yonder is reclaimed land.

Katz got tired of walking. Actually she wasn’t particularly excited about the idea of taking a walk in Intramuros for Bonifacio Day. (“Pupunta pa ba tayo? Tinatamad ako, hehe,” said she when we met up at SM Manila). But I think she could tell that I really wanted to go, so she very politely agreed to stick to the original plan.

We’d been partly ambling around, partly trying to get to Fort Santiago with a little help from Google Maps. But when we got to the ballot boxes, we decided to go up the nearby wall and check out the view. A few minutes later I started back down the steps and asked her, “Aren’t we going to see Fort Santiago?”

Anong gagawin dun?” she asked, which was my cue to raise the white flag, so I said okay. We headed for the gate through which we had entered, on the side of the district facing the City Hall. The sun had begun to set by then.

Soon after we decided to head back it started to rain—a drizzle at first, then a quick but frantic downpour of enormous raindrops, until everything receded and a cool post-precipitation breeze swept in. Katz and I had to walk through puddles of water on cobblestone streets, amidst the voices of children and the chatter of people in a neighborhood just awoken from the hour of siesta, with light that was growing weaker and shadows that were growing longer.

It could have been any point in the history of the Walled City, and I would not have been any less happy.

Questions evoked by Pinoy primetime TV

(Specifically, tonight’s episodes of My Binondo Girl and the first five minutes of Nasaan Ka, Elisa?)

  • Jesas, who told Kim Chiu she can act?
  • And while we’re talking about Kim Chiu, could somebody please tell whoever does her makeup to go easy on the pencil. Surely her brows can’t be that bushy. (If they are, I apologize for the remark.)
  • Kim Chiu, playing the formulaic rich girl, and some dude playing the equally formulaic rich douche courting the formulaic rich girl and screwing up, are fighting because he wants to change her car’s tire but she doesn’t want him to. THEY’RE FIGHTING ABOUT CHANGING A TIRE.
  • What’s a CEO doing having documents delivered to him by a security guard (or glorified doorman)?
  • Hee hee. Villain, identified by the inordinate amount of bling on her neck and the scowl on her face, arrives just in time to hear the protagonists talking about her suspiciously. She hides outside the office door, close enough to eavesdrop, and times her entrance for maximum dramatic effect. Bravo.
  • It’s nice how a girl on the second floor of a sprawling mansion can still hear her parents bicker downstairs well enough to come down and tell them to please, please, stop.
  • That’s one fashionable police chief, and one stylish way to serve a search warrant.
  • With the obvious exception of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, no one should be subjected to this kind of TV, especially while seated on the headrest of the driver’s seat of an air-conditioned bus hurtling down Quezon Avenue at nine in the evening. 

On fairness, balance and the worldwide Interwebs

Noemi Dado wrote about a video that recently made the rounds that claims facts about the Cojuangco-Aquino family. It’s a treasure trove of biting accusations, dubious data and water-cooler fodder. You can watch it here.

The merit of the video is another matter. All I’ll say about it here is that it looks like propaganda to me, so I won’t accept what it says at face value.

I hoped that Ms Dado would have, too, especially since she wrote the post for BlogWatch, a reputable online “citizen media” site that, in theory, should be fair and balanced. In fact, she said on Twitter that she wrote the post in the interest of fairness and balance.

However, when you look at her post, you can tell where she’s leaning towards. She begins with “Thou shalt not be ignorant,” then proceeds to reproduce, in full, the description of the video, which explains the motivation behind it and where it sources its facts. After posting the entirety of the description, she inserts excerpts of comments about it by historian Xiao Chua. Not the entirety of Chua’s Facebook note, just the first few paragraphs. In fact, the body of Chua’s reaction, which Dado excluded from the post, largely disproves the arguments of the video, but she makes no mention of it. This is followed by a long list of tweeted reactions to the video, the overwhelming majority of which were approving of it.

You’ll have to read her post yourself, but I think you’ll find that she herself approves of the video. The tweets she posted about the issue reveal her stand, too.

Fielding criticism from bloggers, she said she posted about the video in the name of fairness and balance. Her aim, she said, was to present all sides. But the post itself betrays a lack of will on her part to keep the discussion fair. Furthermore, her tweets, more than anything else, challenged the Cojuangco-Aquinos and their supporters to disprove the video.

Of course, we all have our own personal biases, human as we are. But the lack of balance in Dado’s post, which (I will repeat) she wrote in the name of fairness and balance, is a disservice to her readers and to the discourse on the matter. She says she presented both sides, but instead she presented one of them, then inserted excerpts from the other. Inserting Chua’s comments was a nice gesture, I guess, but I think it was a cop-out, a token act. It didn’t balance her discussion of the issue.

I pointed this out to Dado on Twitter (in much fewer words, obviously), and she said, “Well if you think I was not balanced, maybe you can make a blog post about it and share it here instead of splitting hairs.” She suggested I curate my own Twitter reactions, and added, “Sorry na lang if that is all I found. Verify it yourself.” I found her response disappointing, especially since I only pointed these out to her because she had written the post in question for want of fairness.

In short, she said she was fair, and I (and many others) begged to differ. The discussion kind of disintegrated from there.

Praybeyt Benjamin is crap. That’s why it’s SRO.

Let’s be honest: Praybeyt Benjamin is crap. The roundest character in the film is probably the protagonist, Benjamin (Vice Ganda), a gay guy who enlists for military service in his father’s stead—and that’s not saying much. The conflict of the story is plopped before us bluntly; it is ridiculous by any standard, but we agree to work with it, accustomed as we are to the silliness of our contemporary popular cinema. The story progresses so predictably that throughout the entire screening in the provincial standing-room theater I watched it in, people were yelling their (mostly correct) guesses at what would happen next. The climax, the denouement, even the bloopers as the closing credits roll: it’s all crap.

If you know this already but are planning to see it anyway because you want Vice Ganda to make you laugh on the silver screen, let me save you money and break your hopes this early. She manages to make us laugh for some time, but it all gets tiring eventually. Oo, nakakatawa, eh ano ngayon? It’s nothing that we can’t see on Magandang Gabi Vice.

So banal was the film that midway through I tried to make out what it was trying to contribute to the national dialogue on gender roles. Easy enough, I thought. Benjamin saves the day for his grandfather, who loathes him because of his sexuality, and earns his approval. So, ha! Just because you’re queer doesn’t mean you can’t do stuff. Sure. It’s not like the LGBT community in our country is hiding in a cave somewhere and needs approval of this kind. Vice Ganda herself is an example of accepted, even celebrated, homosexuality; Boy Abunda would be another. There is much more to be done in the way of raising awareness for the LGBT cause, of course. It’s just that Praybeyt Benjamin does not measurably help things—not by a long stretch.

A still from Mike De Leon’s Alpha Kappa Omega Batch ’81

But I guess we knew that already, didn’t we? No one walks into a Praybeyt Benjamin screening expecting a performance that would send the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on a plane to Manila to beg the cast to attend next year’s Oscars. As Filipino moviegoers, we interact with our local contemporary popular cinema with copious doses of digression. We know that our plots are thoughtless and our characters flat. With some exceptions, our films are exercises in selective blindness: we pick out the good stuff and push the rest to the background. “Good stuff” in itself is subjective, of course, but—yes—we digress.

I wonder if we’re still on the way to the level of cultural consciousness that does not permit Praybeyt Benjamin standing-room screenings, or if we took a U-turn somewhere along the way. In Film class we looked at a couple of Mike De Leon works, and spoke quite a bit about his contemporaries, and they were always discussed with such reverence that it made me wonder why there isn’t so much talent to slather praises on today.

Do you ever think, when you watch a Star Cinema or Viva Films flick, that you’re wasting your money? When do you think will we start having to think that less often?