Saturday, August 30, 2003

Madonna hooking up with Britney

I failed to catch the MTV Video Music awards on TV yesterday, but I have read the newspaper accounts this morning. Apparently the highlight of the show was Madonna tongue-kissing Britney Spears. Washington Post reports:

The first musical number epitomized the kind of commercialized outrageousness that MTV has perfected in recent years. It featured Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, decked out in white wedding ensembles in a homage to Madonna, who famously wore a wedding dress on MTV's first Video Music Awards broadcast in 1984, when she performed "Like a Virgin." Madonna appeared dressed as a groom, and the number, which also briefly featured Missy Elliott, provided the evening's first gyrating rumps, as well as a truly yechy moment: The sight of oversexed old Madonna tongue-kissing oversexed young Spears. It didn't seem outrageous or sultry; it smacked of desperation.

Britain's Guardian reports (with a picture of the kiss, so go click the link!):

She didn't win anything, but last night's MTV Video Music Awards belonged to Madonna. The 45-year-old singer proved that middle-aged respectability is still far off with a sexed-up rendition of Like a Virgin and Hollywood.
Clad in black with dominatrix-style boots as she performed alongside Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, she caused a commotion when she fondled them before kissing them both full on the lips.

Lacson v. Arroyo

Isagani Cruz today has an opinion piece in the Inquirer on the expose of Senator Lacson against Mr. Arroyo. In Cruz's column today, he opines that:

... it does not seem proper to simply dismiss the senator's privilege speech against Mr. Arroyo for being, as the latter insists, baseless. That dismissal should not put an end to the matter, which has aroused the curiosity and suspicion of the people. It is a clear subject of public interest on which we citizens have a right to be informed.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Lacson's gambit

Any conscientious Filipino citizen must be quite at a loss on how to properly regard the recent allegations of Senator Panfilo Lacson against Mr. Mike Arroyo. The country�s political atmosphere has simply been too poisoned following EDSA 2 that one does not know whom to believe anymore. In fact, with all the muckraking going around, it is arguably judicious for one to simply tune out, assume a pose of Laodicean neutrality, ignore the venomous words being spattered everywhere and forget all things political like long-suffering docile citizens do most of the time.

Members and sympathizers of the political opposition are all too eager to believe. Administration stalwarts and sundry critics of Lacson are all too sure the allegations are nothing more than sick convolutions in the mind of an inveterate dissembler. Caught between the two camps of opposing faith are citizens who simply are at a loss, citizens who would only be too happy that the accusations be proven wrong but who nonetheless continue to harbor nagging suspicions that Mahusay�s accusations could all be true.

Granted, Sen. Lacson is throwing the kitchen sink at Mr. Arroyo for his own self-aggrandizement. No doubt, his explosive speech at the senate floor is part of his concerted effort to malign the present administration, destabilize the current political configuration and lay down the red carpet for the opposition�s ascension to power. By the senator�s reckoning, anything remotely dimming the President Arroyo�s political star couldn�t possibly hurt his own bid for the presidency. His legal problems in the United States are also effectively brought to a less harsh light given the far sexier controversy involving Mr. Arroyo.

Yet the allegations made by the senator cannot all be readily dismissed simply because the senator is a polluted source. Governor Chavit Singson, not so long ago, was also a polluted source. Singson then, as Sen. Lacson now, was also doing the exposes for equally self-aggrandizing reasons. Singson then wanted to stay alive; Sen. Lacson now wants to be president.

That the media are treating these news reports in what may appear to some a carnival manner is understandable. After all, President Arroyo came to power with a promise to begin things anew. It is only natural for people who were outraged by the corrupt Estrada administration to hold the Arroyo administration against the same exacting standards they set against Estrada.

The solution to the sorry impasse we are now is, alas, the one championed by Ms. Bunye, Mr. Arroyo�s spokesperson. The courts must now thresh out all these accusations. (I do not know how this will all work out since the allegations in Mahusay�s sworn statement are not exactly actionable criminal offenses: entering the LTA Building, calling Mr. Arroyo on the phone, receiving money from messengers, making bank deposits.)

The papers this morning reported that Mr. Arroyo has already filed libel charges against Sen. Lacson et al (including Rep. Gilbert Remulla of the NPC and Lacson�s chief of staff Lito Banayo). All well and good. The only hitch is that the Senate seems to be unstoppable in its own investigation regarding the matter. Some senators, no doubt, deeply regret that Mr. Arroyo, unlike former President Estrada, cannot be impeached (as what? husband to the president?) With elections just around the corner, I guess many of the senators can make use of some time appearing on the television, hugging free publicity and confounding our minds.

A more irenic political atmosphere is much desired nowadays. It is not congenial hearing anyone�s reputation besmirched with such freedom and ill will, be it one�s neighbor or the president�s husband. The president must do whatever is in the legal power of her office to settle these recriminations once and for all so that we could all apply our faculties to far weightier matters, like the coming WTO Cancun meeting, or, thank God for the Chinese, the Meteor Garden.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Top Filipino films of all time

Nestor Torre of the Inquirer lists his top ten Filipino films of all time (in no particular order):

Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag
Biyaya ng Lupa
Juan Tamad Goes to Congress
Geron Busabos, ang Batang Quiapo
Kundiman ng Lahi
Ganito Kami, Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?
Batch '81.
Sister Stella L
The Moises Padilla Story
Jose Rizal

A President's Worth

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism offers an analysis of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's asset statements since she became senator in 1992.

Mahusay's statement against Mike Arroyo

Below is the sworn statement of Eugenio P. Mahusay executed on July 21, 2003.

Ako, EUGENIO P. MAHUSAY Jr., sapat ang gulang, Filipino, may asawa, at naninirahan sa Kaingin 1, Barangay Pansol, Lungsod ng Quezon, pagkatapos maka-panumpa nang sang-ayon sa ipinag-uutos ng batas ay malaya at kusang-loob na dito ay nagsasaysay:'

1. Na kami po ni Atty. Miguel Arroyo ay nagkakilala ng ako ay kasalukuyang Sangguniang Kabataan Chair-man ng Barangay Pansol. Ako po ay madalas na dumalaw sa kanyang tahanan sa 14 Badjao Street, La Vista Subdivision. Quezon City;

2. Na nang ako po ay ikasal noong Sept. 14, 1997 sa simbahan ng Sta. Maria dela Estrada sa Katipunan, Lungsod ng Quezon, si Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo at Senadora Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ang isa sa aking ninong at ninang;

3. Na ako po ay nagsimulang maglingkod kay Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo at Senadora Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo noong 1996 bilang isang mensahero sa Velco Bldg., Port Area, Manila;

4. Na nang si Senadora Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ay nahalal bilang Bise-Presidente ako po ay inilipat ni Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo sa LTA Realty Inc. na matatagpuan sa 118 Perea Street, Makati City bilang mensahero hanggang Marso 2002;

5. Na nang ako po ay nasa LTA Realty Inc. ako po ay madalas maatasang mag-deposito at mag-withdraw ng salapi na umaabot po ng milyun-milyong piso sa mga sumusunod na bank accounts

(See table page 7 - eds.)

6. Na kasama sa aking mga naideposito sa Jose Pidal account at Lualhati Foundation ay mga tseke mula sa mga kaibigan o ka-negosyo ni Atty. Miguel Arroyo at Presidente Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tulad nila Honeyboy Palanca, Bob Go Tong, Amable Aguiluz, Dante Soriquez, George Ty, Ramon Jacinto at marami pang iba (Annex A);

7. Na mayroon din po akong naideposito na cash mula sa iba't ibang tao na nag-kakahalaga ng milyun-milyon na kanilang dinadala sa opisina ni Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo tulad po nila Benjamin Chua ng La Tonde?a, Efraim Genuino ang Chairman ng PAGCOR, Kishore Hemlani - isang rice trader at in-charge sa rice importations ng NFA, Atty. Ching Vargas - Office of the President, Finance Division, Pantaleon Alvarez - DOTC Secretary at Jeff Cheng ng PIATCO;

8. Na ang pinakamaraming salapi na dinala sa aming opisina ay mula kay G. Efraim Genuino ng PAGCOR. Halos dalawang beses isang linggo kung magdala ng salapi na nakalagay sa malaking bag si G. Ryan Cordeta, katiwala ni G. Efraim Genuino;

9. Ang karamihan po ng salapi ay akin pong naideposito o na-withdraw sa Union Bank-Perea Branch, sa Account No. 00-0073001483-6 na nakapangalan po kay Jose Pidal at ang signatory po ay si Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo at sa Account No. 073-001283-9 na nakapangalan po sa Lualhati Foundation. Marami rin po akong naideposito sa Account No. 073-001820-9 sa pangalan po ni Victoria Toh at sa Account No. 073-001993-7 sa pangalan naman po ni Thomas Toh Jr. na kapatid ni Victoria Toh. Mayroon din po akong naideposito at nawithdraw na nagkakahalaga ng milyon-milyon sa bank account ni Kevin Tan. na bayaw ni Victoria Toh, sa Union Bank-Perea Branch, sa Account No. 073-001833-7 at sa International Exchange Bank, Perea-Legaspi Branch na may Account No. 041-02-0-001720 na naka pangalan rin kay Kelvin Tan. Lahat po ng nasabing bank account ay may address na c/o Vicky Toh, 8th Floor, LTA Bldg., Perea Street. Makati City, Si Victoria Toh ay naabutan ko na sa LTA Realty Inc. na gumawa ng trabaho ng accountant
Siya pala ay kalaguyo ni Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo.

10. Na bilang patunay na ako po ay napag-uutusang mag-withdraw ng milyun-milyong salapi buhat sa mga nasabing bank accounts, makikita po ninyo ang aking lagda sa likod ng mga tsekeng nagamit na kung atin pong ipapakuha ang lahat ng record ng bangko sa mga nabanggit na accounts.

11. Isa sa mga nahawakan kong tseke ay mula kay Congressman Mark Jimenez na ibinigay kay Atty. Jose Miguel arroyo at aking ideneposito sa Jose Pidal at Lualhati Foundation accounts sa Union Bank-Perea Branch. Sa katunayan ito po ay lumabas sa pahayagang Daily Tribune noong Disyembre 29, 2002 at nagsasabing sa Union Bank-Perea Branch Account No. 0073-001483-6, isang pribadong bank account, naideposito ang ilan sa mga tseke ni Congressman Mark Jimenez.

12. Na ang lahat po ng utos patungkol sa pag-deposito at pag-withdraw ay nanggagaling kay Victoria Toh. Maging ang mga tseke nina Thomas Toh at Kelvin Tan, Jose Pidal at Lualhati Foundation ay si Vicky Toh ang gumagawa. Ang lahat ng aking ginagawang mga transaksyon sa bangko ay maaring patunayan ni G. Nestor "Atoy" Pineda, isang opisyal ng Union Bank-Perea Branch at aking personal na kakilala sa kadahilanang ako po ay laging tumatawag sa kanya sa telepono bago ako mag-withdraw ng salapi upang maibasta ang pera ng nagkakahalaga ng milyun-milyong piso;

13. Na kung susumahin ang halaga ng salapi na dumaan sa aking kamay bilang mensahero na napag-uutusang madalas sa bangko, aabot po ito ng Isang Bilyong Piso o higit pa hanggang ako po y umalis sa kumpanya noong Marso 2002;

14. Na ako po ay nauutusan din ni Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo sa kanyang mga personal na pangangailangan katulad po ng pagpapainom ng gamot, pagluluto ng kanyang paboritong pritong galunggong at pinakbet. Ako rin po ang taga-bili ng bulaklak na rosas para kay Victoria Toh sa tuwing sasapit ang araw ng mga puso. Ako rin po ang taga-masahe ni Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo kung wala si Ernesto Beltran o mas kilala bilang si "Tiyana". Nagsisilbi rin po ako ng red wine kina Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo at Victoria Toh sa silid ni Atty. Arroyo sa opisina hanggang alas diyes ng gabi lalo na kung wala si Presidente Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at may biyahe sa probinsiya. Ako po ay naisama na rin ni Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo at Victoria Toh sa pag-gagala sa Tagaytay sakay ng dilaw na helicopter, pag-aari ni Atty. Arroyo. Ito ay mapapatunayan ni "Nestor" at Weng Salud, mga maintenance crew ng helicopter.

15. Na noong pangalawang linggo ng Hulyo ng taong 2001, makaraan ang kaarawan ni Atty. Mike Arroyo, nagpa-withdraw siya ng pera sa account ni Jose Pidal at mula piso ito ay ipinalit sa dolyar sa Union Bank. Ito ay nagkakahalaga ng higit kumulang sa sampung libong dolyares. Ito ay aking binigay kay Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo at kanyang inilagay sa isang brown envelope at nakita kong ibinigay kay Col. Corpus at narinig ko po na ito ay gagamitin sa pagkalap ng mga impormasyon laban kay Senator Lacson.

16. Na ang salaysay na ito ay aking sinagawa bilang patotoo sa lahat ng nabanggit.

SA KATOTOHANAN NG LAHAT NA ITO, ako ay lumagda sa ibaba nito ngayong ika-21 araw ng buwan ng Hulyo, 2003 sa Makati.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Filipino entertainers in Japan

Yesterday, I chanced upon entertainers rehearsing their numbers prior to leaving for Japan come September. I was with a friend working for a talent agency hurrying the talents for the opening of a club in Kyoto (I think) on September 3. I thought we would be there briefly but it turned out my friend had to be there until the end of the rehearsal.

A quick observation first: These entertainers, contrary to popular notion that you may have of them, really do take their numbers seriously. You probably think they just improvise and be haphazard in their numbers, but no, they actually rehearse and as far as I saw were absolutely earnest in their desire to put up a good show. Professionals.

They were practicing until almost midnight. My friend, who had to supervise the rehearsal, and I had to eat our dinner at past midnight. The gaudy colorful costumes come straight from Kuya Germs and Belle Dancers� tailors, and one of the big bosses of the agency was particularly exacting in her sartorial standard. Shoulder pads had to be added to the shirts of the male entertainers to make their shoulders fuller. The bra top of one okama (gay transvestite) had to be tightened to better highlight his (or is it her?) ample bosom. And in a flash of great immodesty, one okama, questioned by the big boss on how to better highlight his breast, took off his bra top so that anybody passing on the street fronting the dance studio could have perfectly seen the display. My friend said the okamas are particularly proud of their breasts so they flaunt them every chance they get. Well, I guess if they aren�t real why be modest about them? Besides they look real and even look better than some of the real things. I am, of course, just guessing about the comparison.

It is easy to be dismissive of the work Filipino entertainers do in Japan. For one, their massive presence in the Land of the Rising Sun (which, incidentally, is no longer in the rise) effectively makes them the de facto ambassadors of our country--whether we like it or not. Most Japanese with any modicum of contact with the Philippines would have had the acquaintance with Philippine culture through an entertainer. And the dancers I saw at the rehearsal are all highlighting the hackneyed aspects of our dance culture from bamboo poles for their faux tinkling production number to a Tagalog song which sounds awfully reminiscent of the American group that sang the YMCA (the name escapes me presently). Besides, the Japanese government has not yet formally apologized for the crimes perpetrated by the Kempetai forces against our women during the Second World War.

But I guess those entertainers are simply doing their jobs. Surely there�s no harm in trying to earn a living. With our dear country in such a shitty state of affairs, it is almost a sin to begrudge our young people the chance to move up the social ladder in any way they can.

I wonder though how our entertainers in Japan could possibly contribute to Jessica Zafra�s grand plot to rule the world through our domestic help network, those bagong bayani dusting the seats of power in almost every country in the world. Our domestic helps are present in the houses of world leaders. I don�t know if the clientele of our japayukis and hostos include the party bosses of Japan�s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Hmmm, that should be a big enough thought to last me a day at least.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003


Adam Bellow, son of novelist Saul Bellow, talks about his book In Praise of Nepotism in a Booknotes interview with Bryan lamb. The transcript of the interview is available online.

Monday, August 25, 2003

The pleasures of Chinese pop

My younger sister Leny is currently moving heaven and earth to get enough cash to secure a good seat at the coming September concert by the two members of F4. She has been frantically calling on her friends, inquiring if they happen to be interested in the mobile phones she is selling. (Nokia 8850 if anyone is interested.) She is, I think, batting for the P3,000 seat at the Ultra.

Leny does not speak Mandarin, but, like most fans of the hit show Meteor Garden, will nonetheless troop to Ultra come September. For most Filipinos, no doubt, the coming concert will be their first encounter with Chinese music. Judging from the sales of the F4 cds and the rumored impressive early sales of the concert tickets, yes, the intsik behos, are now matinee idols.

I hope the enthusiasm for F4 music will lead Filipinos to discover other Mando- and Canto-pop singers. For those who are interested to hear more Chinese pop music, try listening to Jackie Cheung, who enjoys a reputation in Chinese pop equal to Michael Jackson�s in Western pop music. His repertoire is mostly saccharine-sweet love songs, but for people hopelessly in love Cheung may just be the singer they need to reinforce--and hopefully extend the duration of--their feelings.

Jay Chou, a much younger singer than Cheung, is also hugely popular in Taiwan. Although not as good-looking as most of the other Chinese pop singers, Jay Chou writes great lyrics. Time magazine has recently done a story about his music here. (The Time story tells that people thought he was simply stupid and just plain ugly;he later proved them all wrong.) I personally like his Ban Shou Ren, Xing Qing and Kai Bu Liao Kou.

Or some of you may also be interested in Leslie Cheung, who jumped off his hotel suite sometime during the SARS scare in Hong Kong. He is an actor known among international audience for the films Happy Together and Farewell to my Concubine. A Time story on his death is available here.

A techno version of mainland China's National Anthem "March of the Volunteers" was recorded by another Hong Kong icon, Leon Lai. The song is entitled "All Day Love." When it was released the song raised quite a furor from Beijing as authorities denounced it as sacrilege to the Chinese people. I wonder how our local singers would manage a techno version of our Lupang Hinirang. Now who would be the ideal singer to update our national anthem ?

Alas, these artists are not so readily available in Philippine record stores. The only record store I know that has a Chinese pop collection is the Tower Records at the Ayala Center. The collection can be found in the store�s world music section. Or you can visit Binondo. Or better yet, download the songs through the net through you p2p software.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

GMA does an Elizabeth

I don't know if any of you caught this on the news, but a press statement from the president said that she will not intervene to clear her husband and that she is married to the republic.

Whew! First, Mike Arroyo was shown in the media suspiciously close to another woman, Victoriah Toh, and then the president disowns him and claims fidelity to the republic. I am sure the other tabloids had a field day . Abante had for its headline: Gloria kay Mike: Bahala ka sa Buhay Mo.

The "married to the republic" part of the statement seems to be off-tangent. The president, the state of her amatory feelings toward her husband notwithstanding, is still very much married to Mike Arroyo. The allusion to Queen Elizabeth I of England is misplaced. Elizabeth I was married to England because she never married anyone and was therefore known as the Virgin Queen. President Arroyo is not only married, she is also having plenty of sex, as she claimed in one press conference when a reporter audaciously inquired about her bedroom activities.

The statement seemed insincere and the effect desired cheap. Instead on invoking the sense of sacrifice, the statement only managed to portray the president as having an illicit bigamous marriage with the republic. Now this is the kind of thought that is daily fare for people like former President Joseph Estrada.

I guess we'll have to wait and see how the President Arroyo will take to wearing lead make-up as was Elizabeth's wont.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Martin Luther King's Dream

Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech will have its 40th anniversary on August 28. The Guardian reprints the speech and offers an essay on how the speech came about.

I memorized the speech for a high school oratory class. What struck me then was that it was not hard to memorize at all. The speech seems to flow with an unmistakeable
cadeance, the words flowing mellifluously:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

The Guardian essay above discusses how President Kennedy wanted the whole demonstration aborted, fearing that such a large crowd of blacks may be a cause of destabilization for the nation's capital. The general feeling then, I gather, was that the reforms being advocated by Martin Luther King, albeit desirable and just, were simply going too fast. When you really come to think about it, perhaps the great changes that happened in history have all been considered ill-timed. Great reformers have all been considered brash and extremist, Martin Luther and Martin Luther King included.

Incidentally, I have read somewhere that Kennedy, no slouch at public speaking himself, was impressed with the oratorical skills of King. Watching King deliver the "I Have a Dream Speech," Kennedy was said to have uttered, "this man [King] sure is good in what he's doing."

So come August 28, Let freedom ring.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

An English of our own

Every Sunday afternoon, the �Buzz,� a show business magazine on ABS-CBN hosted by Kris Aquino and Boy Abunda, carries a regular feature called �Tigilan Ako/ Stop Me� where up-and-coming sexy actresses are caught unawares spewing grammatical abominations during interviews. After the footage of each unfortunate faux pa is shown, the honest mistake is replayed ad nauseam, with a hysterically scornful laughter playing in the background and a gay reporter, in a �screaming queen� voice, throwing witty jeers at the actress�s ignorance of the English language.

The grammatical lapses in the footages are mostly true horrors. After salivating for the sexy stars, any literate male must necessarily experience a momentary ebbing of the libido upon seeing the actresses murder the language. Ranging from subject-verb agreement to incorrect tenses, the mistakes are indeed elementary that any self-respecting high school student should be able to identify them readily. What makes the segment farcical is the fact that the sexy actresses deliver those blatant grammatical lapses with great bravura and in a feigned co?o accent that, had one not known better, one would think they were weaned on Emily Post and the BBC.

The Sunday magazine confirms, what we have known all along, that our show business people, the sexy stars being a subspecies, are a bunch of word-butchers. These embarrassing episodes are also, mind you, not limited to sexy stars of dubious celebrity. The Philippine Daily Inquirer�s entertainment section regularly prints a congeries of bloopers from almost every star in the firmament of Philippine show business. One star, for example, claims that she is �sweatening.� Another asks, �Did he came yesterday?� When asked of her racial pedigree, another star, desperately trying to emphasize her mestiza value, replied, that she is �half-Filipino, half-American, half-Spanish.� Surely, a marvel of miscegenation.

Even the social circle of Kris Aquino, the venerable doyen of English-speaking mestizas on TV, is not blameless. Pops Fernandez, during an interview with Saksi on prime time TV, was discussing her marital life when she casually dropped in her accented English of the Loyola Heights variety her parenthetical phrase, �for Martin and I.� Now the cloddishness of our sexy stars are easily understandable and forgivable. After all, tout comprendre c�est tout pardonner. Some of them, I understand, come from bedraggled clubs straight from GRO work and a nightly diet of hors d�oeuvre and alcoholic drinks is not exactly conducive to furthering one�s linguistic skills. But this particular gross violation of the English language comes from the woman formerly known as Mrs. Martin Nievera, the same Martin Nievera who, nowadays, is everyman�s beau ideal of someone approaching English nirvana.

Exactly what kind of literacy does our show business celebrities foist on their unsuspecting public? Why do our actresses and actors risk foisting illiteracy on an unsuspecting public and insist on speaking English rather than switch to Filipino? And more importantly, why do we poke fun at their mistakes?

English is the lingua franca of most of the half-breed elite in the Philippines. Ramos�s championing of the free market, even while crushing portions of the country�s poor, have launched the ambitions of a considerable number of people of someday joining the ranks of the upper middle class and the rich. For these people who are suddenly awashed in cash, there is a pressure to adopt the lifestyles of the rich of this country. They now have the house, the car, the bank accounts; by all means, they must have the language.

For most people in show business the same thing applies. If one can not be glamorous and posh, one can always fake being glamorous and posh. For sexy actresses this pressure is doubly intense because the semi-respectability of their status demands that they continually differentiate themselves from lowly untutored hawkers of cheap flesh; the boundary between the glossy FHM and the risqu� Toro is thin and must be continually observed lest the distinction blur all together. Thus, the clumsy resort to English.

An incident at the Buzz is particularly instructive. Belinda Bright, who claims to be a coed at the upscale De La Salle University, was promoting a movie in her posh English of the co?o variety when toward the end she classified her new movie as belonging to the genre of film noire which she pronounced, erroneously, as film nwa without the r sound at the end, as one would correctly say moi. Aquino, bumptious and a little condescending, grilled the sexy actress, telling the audience several times she knew of no such word before acknowledging the correct pronunciation with the r sound. The embarrassment for Bright is palpable. Anyone with a heart can commiserate with her for having given herself away on national television. (The above shows why Henry Higgins, in Pygmalion, is a genius. He is able to remedy this particular handicap because he doesn�t just dress up Eliza Dolittle in a ball gown and get her to use a knife and fork properly: he teaches her to speak posh English�to use a kind of voice-- with an accent and pronunciation indistinguishable from the real thing.)

Another case I saw, the mother of one actress, when prompted to deliver a message to her daughter via telephone patch, read a long Hallmark-type English note in dull monotone. The telephone patch was supposed to be impromptu but the mother�s reading of her message left no doubt to the TV viewers that she was, in fact, reading a prepared message rather than improvising one. The mother did not only manage to sound stupid, she was by all indications insincere in her protestations of love for her daughter.

But through all these embarrassments and pretensions, there is a greater illiteracy at work here�an illiteracy of the soul. Jettisoning the Filipino language on our way to upper-class bliss, especially with English of such ignominious incompetence, is nothing more than misplaced snobbism and truckling ingratiation with the elite in this country.

With Philippine show business people on the lead, just how long can impressionable young people resist the temptation of sounding cool at the price of mangling the English language? When the quality of English instruction in public schools on a free fall and the pressure to speak it on the rise, this is what we get in our sad state of affairs: abominable English delivered with co?otic bravura. The inordinate influence of young stars on the youth is marginalizing the Filipino language, now increasingly viewed as a preserve of the political leftists, the intellectuals at the University of the Philippines and the irredeemably jologs. Woe to one who belongs to all three.

When the sexy stars in the �Buzz� commit flagrant grammatical errors, they should be berated for their pretensions; the lapses themselves are forgivable and should not be mocked as what the �Buzz� has been doing for some time now. The ignorant person, after all, can be enlightened except if he is totally stupid or demented. The Catholic Church has a beautiful phrase for this: �invincible ignorance,� referring to a state of paganism that is forgivable because the word of Christ was not available to it. Such a phrase should also apply to our ungrammatical actors--and to the rest of us who. The ignorance is forgivable because these actresses probably did not have the economic resources to master Fowler. If the Church can forgive invincible ignorants like Plato and Socrates, how can Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino harden their hearts so?

The more decent stance should be one of forgiveness and correction, not mockery. The memorable advise in the opening lines of F. Scott Fitzgerald�s �The Great Gatsby� comes to mind: "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one�just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." But in our confused world of bilingual education and class pretensions, the �Buzz� becomes arbiter of the English language every Sunday, dispensing disdain upon the unlettered members of our benighted realm.

Monday, August 18, 2003

GMA v. GMA 7

The controversy regarding GMA 7's Tina panganiban-Perez's exclusive interview with Sen. Honasan is turning out to be a bigger story than I previously thought (see blog entry below). Two papers (PDI and BusinessWorld) I have read today carry follow-up stories on the controversy. Conrado de Quiros has this to say:

"Even if you grant that Perez did the interview during the state of rebellion and not after, what of it? Honasan is just a suspect, notwithstanding that he is in hiding. His role in the last mutiny remains a matter to be proven. Last I looked, in this country a person is innocent until proven guilty."
Springsteen's Thunder Road

I have just accidentally downloaded a song called Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen on the Kazaa (yup, I am an unrepentant violator of copyright laws). I got curious with the euphonious title and after listening to it, I got totally swept off my feet. I have been listening to it over and over again and could not have enough of it. I too came from a small � but idyllic--beach town about 600 kilometers south of Manila. And yes, small- town life can be limiting. Anyway, those who may be interested, I am posting below the lyrics. Simply a perfect song. Download it now.

The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside
Darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
Oh and that's alright with me
You can hide 'neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now I'm no hero
That's understood
All the redemption I can offer girl
Is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow back your hair
Well the night's busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heaven's waiting on down the tracks
Oh oh come take my hand
Riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road
Oh Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Oh Thunder Road, sit tight take hold
Thunder RoadWell I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back
If you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free
And I know you're lonely
For words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free
All the promises'll be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they're gone
On the wind, so Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win

Sunday, August 17, 2003

GMA�s fury

The Philippine Daily Inquirer has this story about the latest flaring of President Arroyo�s temper. This time around, the one on the firing line is GMA 7�s hapless Tina Panganiban-Perez. The accusation: Perez abetted the rebellion by 1) interviewing Sen. Honasan even before the state of rebellion was lifted and 2) failing to air the side of the government by not interviewing Southern Luzon Army commander Alfonso Dagudag. Perez apparently told the president that the interview took place after the state of rebellion was lifted by president Arroyo and that the GMA management gave prior approval to the interview. In fact, according to Perez, GMA had a set of incentives for anyone who will land a Honasan interview. The story took a denouement when the President herself drove to GMA�s Kamuning office and personally reconciled with the station�s management.

Who is Tina Panganiban-Perez in the grand scheme of Philippine politics? No more than a broadcast transcriber--no matter how proficient--of things that matter in the political life of the nation. Viewed with Machiavellian objectivity, the President�s public displays of anger do nothing more confirm the nagging suspicion of a sizable number of Filipinos that she is a rich spoiled presidential brat weaned on the obsequiousness of servants ( not to mention that the president is probably now in the menopausal age when hormonal changes in the body are known to affect a woman�s disposition) .

All this is utterly unfair because the President, no doubt, is far from such misplaced pettiness. The reasons are ably described by PCIJ director Sheila Coronel in a recent essay. But the President would do well to redirect her animus to people far worthier than a lowly TV correspondent. After all, as Machiavelli advised the great Lorenzo de Medici more than four hundred years ago: One should choose one�s enemies more carefully than one should choose one�s friends.

Our coconut farmers, no doubt, would be jumping with glee if she would give Danding Cojuangco a public dressing down that the San Miguel chairman so richly deserve. Or for a diversion, she could probably do well to publicly berate Sen. Honasan for his latest display of military incompetence and political adventurism. And while she is at it, would the President do the public the favor of asking Sen. Honasan to please present his magic thesaurus which says intentional inaccessibility is different from hiding. Is the thesaurus an arcane, limited edition of Roget�s or an especially recondite one by Oxford University Press which our National Bookstore branches do not sell? The citizenry�s linguistic skills will surely improve if such a thesaurus could be publicly distributed.
Golden blogs

The Economist has an article on the folly of weblogs going commercial.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Unproffesionalism and corruption

In a paper read at a BAYAN-sponsored forum at the University of the Philippines today, retired Captain Rene Jarque, former chief of the AFP Strategic Research of the AFP�s Office of Strategic and Special Studies, pinpointed the twin problems of the armed forces today: unprofessionalism and corruption. Unprofessionalism refers:

"to those practices that undermine the three elements of the military profession as explained by Samuel Huntington: expertise, responsibility, corporateness. In other words, those decisions and/or actions that result in weakening or destroying the manner with which the soldier can optimally perform his duty within a framework of integrity and camaraderie. Examples are poor leadership, tactical and technical incompetence, favoritism and nepotism, ticket-punching, inexperience or lack of combat experience, promotions and appointments not based on merit but on palakasan and bata-bata, extracting personal services from soldiers and criminal activities such as the blackmarketing scandal in East Timor, human rights abuses or engaging in the drug trade or arms smuggling."

Corruption, according to Jarque, is principally the process of conversion, which he defined as �converting procurements to its cash equivalent�. Jarque writes:

"'if an amount is originally intended for office supplies but is instead spent for construction materials, this amount has to be "converted" so that government accounting and auditing requirements are satisfied' (read: circumvented). In the process of conversion, either from one expense item to another or to outright cash, a certain percentage called the �cost of money� is skimmed off the top which goes to everyone in the signature chain, from the supply requisitioners to the auditors. Rates of 25% or higher are normal but the dealer actually only gets somewhere between 9-16% as the rest goes to approving and auditing authorities in various offices."

Unprofessionalism and corruption sap the morale of the troops. While generals and high-ranking officers live luxuriously in camps through corruption, the bulk of the soldiers suffer ignoble conditions fighting in the field.
Magdalo's accusations

Naomi Klein writes about the Philippine government's bombing its own citizens and the curious whisking away of Michael Meiring, a suspected CIA operative in Davao who accidentally detonated explosives in his hotel room. The comment piece is available from the Guardian website.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

UN's relevance

Former US Secretary Of State Madeleine Albright dispels recent cogitation about the irrelevance of the United Nations in an article on the most recent issue of Foreign Policy. A special preview is available online.

My sister and her friend figured in a vehicular accident this morning. After their morning jog at the UP campus, they boarded a jeepney going home. Shortly after passing the PHILCOA overpass and approaching the Department of Agrarian Reform, their jeepney hit a lane-swerving bus. In the ensuing impact, my sister, who was sitting at the midsection together with her friend, was thrown in a pile near the landing together with the other passengers.

My sister suffered no visible injuries, but is sore in some parts of the body. Her friend though was not as lucky with a slight concussion in the head.

Right after the impact, they immediately left the scene and headed for the nearby East Avenue hospital for a quick check-up. My sister�s friend, not used to being in hospitals (and an overburdened hospital one at that ), was grossed out by the quality of care the hospital gives to its patients. They were in a queue standing up with no seats for the patients available. So my sister�s friend was bleeding in the head and trying to remain in an upright position. It was a quick matter altogether. An X-ray was done and the concussion was pronounced non-serious. They were off in a huff.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Enjoying Finding Nemo

I watched "Finding Nemo" over the weekend, and surprisingly found it quite entertaining. The New Yorker gave it a lukewarm, almost hostile, review, something to the effect that a fish becomes expressive only when it hits the grill, but i found it a rollicking good fun. The story revolves around the heroic adventures of Marlin, a non-amusing clown fish who sees his young son, Nemo, borne off in a diver's net. Unfazed by the threat of both sharks and taking on a whole colony of stinging jellyfish, Marlin sets off to rescue his only child.

The most entertaining character is that of Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, a cheerfully blue tang suffering from short-term memory loss, who accompanied Marlin to Sydney to rescue Nemo from a dentist's aquarium. DeGeneres is simply a delight! watch Finding Nemo to know what i mean. A New York Times review of the movie is available here.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Trillanes papers

The papers on corruption in the Navy written by Lt. SG Trillanes for his courses at the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) are posted at the PCIJ website. More comments on the papers later.