What makes a Filipino…

duco ex umbra@2015

Part 1 of 3 parts

Funny you would say, why would a Filipino ask what he or she is? Unless he is not a real Filipino. But let’s turn around and ask someone, an American for example – what is an American? And I did, one time when I was hanging out with a few friends, I did pop this question to an American friend and you know his answer?

An American is a citizen of the strongest country in the world, whose currency is the only monetary system that the world respects, a country who can wage war with any in the world and would emerge victorious. He is man from a place called a land of milk and honey, of golden opportunities and where democracy is the counterpoint, where people can say what they want, do what they want, dream what they want, and for as long as it does not hurt or endanger anybody they are free to do what they want. He actually continued to the more banal and diverse things that makes an American, from the financial to the historical. Sadly, though, he never answered my question.


Yup, it is very true, like the “brown Americans” that we have always dreamt ourselves to be, our response to this question would very much be in the same vein as my old friend said. Just take note of the number of people, young an old, who would give an arm and a leg just to become an American citizen. Frustrating to know that statistically, 90 percent of the college graduates that our universities and colleges spew out every year dream of going to the good ol’ US of A, believing that the land of milk and honey will usher a life of plenty and glam.

Frustrating to listen to young girls on social media mimicking the twang and even giving the effort of convincing others. Irritating to listen to mothers and yaya’s saying – “No don’t go there, the aswang will catch you.” Well, at least aswang is already an accepted English word. But the tone and delivery makes it sound like a tin plate as it is ripped apart by the incredible hulk. It literally makes my short hairs stand and my skin fell like a thousand ants are crawling over it, as I listen to 5 and 6-year old girls belting up the “twerk it like Milley” song and undulating as if their lives depend on it.

Frustrating because we all know it is not right, but we tolerate it, accept it and even endorse it. Just note the number of likes that you see after the post. Hmmm, I did like a few performances though, count me as one of the guilty.

Back to the topic…

I know, I know, I digress. I am just, like you, human and the desires you have run true in my veins and brain. Although, when I say this, I kinda hear my mom’s voice in the background, with her poetic and shrill call – “wala ka talagang utak…(you don’t have a brain)”  followed by a few sentences and her finale – “hindi mo talaga ginagamit ang utak mo…(you’re not using your brain).” I, once did respond, “sabi mo wala akong utak, paano ko gamitin ang wala ako? (You said, I don’t have a brain, how can use what I don’t have?” If you can imagine the explosion of the Nagasaki bomb during world war II, it was kinda like what happened after I said those words. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and after that it was all “yes mother – no mother”, safer that way.

Moving on, really, what is a Filipino? What makes you one? We can’t say we’re a land of democracy, for in truth we’re more like a theocratic-monarchial-democratic-dictatorship.

Theocratic – I would day, as our churches play and ply our religiosity to the person sitting in power. Why am I seeing some raised eyebrows? You don’t believe me? Haven’t you notice our politicians taking a knee at religious gatherings pro-offering support and subservience especially during election times? The laws that can’t be passed because they cannot offend the church. Such that more children are born to families who cannot afford to have them, simply because the government must cater to the sensitivities of the pro-lifers lead by the church who does not appreciate the freedom and common-sense of a condom. Women who continue to suffer the beatings of husbands, because our “kongresistas” and “Cenadores” won’t buck the Roman Catholic church and pass the divorce law. It is better for these women to suffer, rather than get the ire of the Almighty who said – ‘what God has put together, let no man put asunder’.

I am not saying it is wrong, a belief is a belief. But God in his ultimate greatness and compassion knows that his love does not allow people to suffer, go hungry or die. It is our humanity that has limited our vision and our desperate ways to interpret God in the most human and common of ways, which if I was God, I would call all my angels and send lightning bolts to all these charlatans in our beloved halls of congress and all those who conspire with them. Sadly, that I am not, and not only do I not have angels, I also do not have lightning bolts. I can only ask, why can’t these leaders, as they call themselves, see the greater good of the many?

Monarchial – this is another outrageous thing that we Filipinos, me included, love. We love our politicians with so much genuine passion, that even decades after the election is done, we still have those election posters lining up our walls, some even next to the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Our love for our leaders surpasses the love of the British for their Queen. I know, for I have been to places where leaders are treated with reverence.

People sacrifice their beloved farm animals, knowing their economic lives depend on it, just to feed the VIPs, as if they came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of stone with the commandments of God. And what do they get from these? A wave? A nod and a 3-minute face to face? He who gave his beloved “kalabaw” is not even given the chance to say a word, as the “GUARDS” are screening every word said so as not offend, every person is taken a threat. And the lowly Pinoy says “it’s okay, at least I saw him.” WTF!!!

Other than these, notice how the teachers and their pupils spend hours to practice dances, parents saddled with the costs of make-up, dresses, costumes and diving deep into their savings just to ensure that their children will look nice and prim and proper. And then they present themselves in front of the dignitary, sweating under the noonday sun, while the dignitary is busy talking to the person beside him, not even pretending to appreciate what the teachers, pupils and parents went through. After all these, the teachers thank the pupils and parents for their support and everyone goes their merry way. Those that will remain to at least glimpse the dignitary are being pushed aside, often roughly, by the “GUARDS”. A fucking royal treatment for girls and boys who suffered the noonday heat to entertain a person who was not fucking paying attention! WTF!!!

Democratic “kuno” (as if) – this is our form of government. That is what teachers and everyone else with 2-cents of brain will tell us. REALLY??? (visual aid – eyebrows raised). A government of the people, by the people and for the people, a nation governed by laws, with equality and justice for all… AGAIN REALLY? (same visual aid).

Stand up anyone who believes that his congressman has really done something for them, without getting something for himself in return? Raise your hand if the senator, whom you voted for, has gone to an old man and brought him food, without a bevy of newsmen and cameras around him. Raise the roof if your governor has constructed a road to exact specifications and pricing. These are the people selected by us – our people – so to speak. But have they been talking about us? About the rising prices; the dilapidated roads; schools whose roofs are falling down; non-existing bridges but reported completed; books that are either full of errors or out-moded information; medicine that have long expired; hospitals with no doctors or nurses; traffic that cannot be resolved; killings and muggings that have exploded; rape, torture and kidnappings; etc. Have they talked about these and have they laid down CONCRETE PLANS of resolving these?

We are supposed to be a government of laws – true, we have as much laws that if you put each of these laws volumes, you will fill the whole floor area of SM North EDSA. But are their laws for economic development? Laws to support farmers? Laws to develop the countryside? Laws to better-off the lives of the OFWs? Laws to ensure that labourers are getting the best benefits? Laws to allow foreign investments to thrive? Do you think we have laws for these? Sadly, we have presidential directives, presidential orders, department memoranda… But, these are transitory laws – laws that that next leaders can easily erase and replace, if not manipulate. So what government of laws are we talking about? The disparity of laws for the poor and the rich is so blatant that if a lawyer worth his salt would be true to his profession, he will sit down and weep.

With justice and equality for all – don’t you even get me started on this, else this becomes a 5-part essay rather than a 3-part. Do any of us have any idea of the number of cases now pending in the courts? How about the number of convicted people, who are actually guilt free? How about the people whom the rich have abused? Those of our fellow Filipinos who spoke the truth and then simply disappeared? Government employees, who abused their positions. Imagine waiting in line, while a pouting employee wants to finish her make-up?  Does she care that your time is as precious as hers? Imagine a government employee berating a lowly farmer for not being able to pay his irrigation fees? Or your feeling when you are so desperate in need of money for medicines and you filed a loan from SSS or Pag-Ibig and the clerk while attending to the few ahead of you starts chatting to another clerk about her date last night.

I am simply stating that injustice does not have to manifest itself as a direct affront to a person or his property. Injustice can also be something that is due to you by law, yet someone in a position denies it from you. Injustice can be a person of authority berating you, because his wife didn’t want to have sex last night. Injustice can be someone who refuses or delays to give you your due attention, especially when you need it most. In justice is when lowly employees are out rightly taxed, while their bosses hide incomes in off-shore accounts. Injustice is seeing our “public servants” riding in air-conditioned SUVs while the taxpayers cower under almost-to-give-out umbrellas under the rain waiting for their public conveyance to arrive.

Finally, the apex – dictatorship! What dictatorship you may ask. I am free. I can do what I want. I can say what I want and when I want it. Congratulations, you win my toilet bowl! Are you sure you are free? Think again, for there have been a lot who exposed the truth, people with honour and dignity who came forward and spoke their minds. My question, where are these people now? Have the questions they espoused before been answered? Were the issues they championed resolved? There are still a few of them around, but when you ask them, they will simply smile and turn away. Have you asked yourself why? Yet there are also others, you see them now on television shows, still the raging on, but singing songs of praise for those they criticized before, basking in the glory of what they shunned before and bathing in the aromas of the stench they have questioned before. The remaining few, they still continue to shout, but they voices are slowly fading, like lamps whose useful life has long gone past.

So again, if we say if I say I am a Filipino and Philippines is my country and I am proud of it. How honest are we when we say so? How proud are we really of the country that gives us our identity? Can we stand in the market square of the big apple and declare, I AM A FILIPINO?

End of Part 1…


A Simple Voice…



I was never a nihilist nor a pessimist. In fact, I would more call myself as an objectivist, following a simple precept – Man can do better, if he sheds off the ties from which his predatory nature causes him to prey on others. With this, I felt quite comfortable and safe as I go through the daily rigors of life. I pretty much avoid political topics, as they are traps for useless banter and philosophical allegories.

The other day, in a retreat for graduating college students, fielded a question from the outfield. Understandably since the country is going through a national political exercise, the questions along this subject was anticipated, but not expected. Who is my presidential choice and why?

I wanted to dodge the question, not because I don’t have an answer, but mainly because I haven’t made up my mind. But, as innocent as the question was, it is like a loaded gun that can explode at my face, whether I answer it or not. Thus, after a moment of contemplation, I decided to form my reply.

I honestly told them, I haven’t made up my mind, and the only answer I can give, for them to seek answers based on what and who they think is best. I knew the follow-up question would be – how. This brought me to a situation that I hoped I could avoid. But, as I was already soaked, as a saying goes, it’s time to get wet. I gave them how I look at it.

The government has one simple job to do – protect and support the welfare of the people. That is basically it…! The many agencies and offices of government is to provide the mechanism and process so government can effectively deliver its job. There are a lot of thing that government must do and must not do. However, since the time when government were created, the concept of subjugation has always been the main principle of the so called leaders, with the citizens being docile and willing participants to this.

The interpretation of laws, the manipulation of taxes, the allocation of monies, and even the appointment of people to sensitive positions where sole authorities given to our leaders. The right to be pampered and treated like kings and queens, are more often the rule and not the exception. So much so that the people to which these services are intended, as per the mandate of the law, are often sacrificed in the altar of “leadership convenience”.

However, it is unclear whether the rules on these perks are written, or are they subsumed to be part of the deal? Nobody knows, because inspite of the multitudinous laws and rules, there was never a clear rule on etiquette for elected and appointed officials. Rules are made by the leaders as they go along – as in wars, the spoils go to the victor.

All nations, including the Philippines, have always been strong, by its natural resources, but the industry and resilience, and the spirit of its people. That strength is not debatable or questionable. What weakens a country is the way the laws are interpreted. Lee Kwan Yu of Singapore, proved that if a leader puts his feet firmly and detaches himself from political strings, a nation can move faster towards self-sustainability.

This being so, the weakness of government, is not on the delivery of service, but in our selection of the people who we task to deliver those services. It goes without saying the, that – we deserve the government we get, because it is our choice.

And then we say, we did not expect this person to be like this when we voted him or her. Herein goes the age old chicken and egg question – is it the system corrupting the person or the person corrupting the system? Then again, we say, an incorruptible person, no matter where you place him will remain pure. Oh, really?

The truth is whenever a person owes something to another, that alone becomes a weakness of the person. A leader may maintain his innocence in matters that he doesn’t know, but people to whom he owed a debt, will soon find themselves in positions where the lure and temptation of hanky-panky will eventually lead them to use the markers that a leader owes them. In response, then the leader plays the 3-monkey game: Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil.

If any government really wants to deliver the services due to the people, from whom their existence is derived, the leader must have the will to defy what is called as “political normal”. A leader must be willing to lose his friends and even become a pariah among the people who spent money for his ascendancy. But, who wants to be that person?

This is the sole reason of the campaign and the election, for people to know and be sure. So people can discern who is best to lead them. Lead them where? To a vision- a clear, achievable and realizable future. Based on what is real, what is here and what is now. Political rhetoric and propaganda are useless means of convincing us. We have to know, we have to study and be sure – not just for us but for everyone.

The selection maybe our individual acts, but the effect of which covers everyone. Satisfying ourselves because we got personal gain; leaning on personal friendships; or concepts of achievement; popularity and fame; and affiliations, may be good, but the basis of selection should be not we wants for ourselves – but what we all want. For a leader is not just there for you, but for everyone.

As I concluded, I simply said – “look at yourselves now, and imagine yourselves 6 years from now – where do you want yourselves to be? Do you want to be standing in the same place? Would you want to move 10 paces or would you want to be kilometers from where you are now? And, where do you want others to be?

The answer is in the name we write in our ballots! That is our legacy and the legacy of the government we chose.