Wednesday, May 05, 2004


I have often wondered where people like Fidel Castro (a geriatric) get the energy to go on for hours straight perorating on every social injustice under the sky. I once saw a footage of Castro speaking in a crowd, declaiming against injustice while torrential rain was pouring. I read a psycho-babble article that said people like Castro refuse to grow up and enter the world of the adults, that is, the world of compromise between ideals and reality. Reading Eva Peron's grandiloquent La razon de mi vida, I got another explanation. She wrote:

I think now that many people become accustomed to social injustice in the first years of their lives. Even the poor think the misery they endure is natural and logical. They learn to tolerate what they see or suffer, just as it is possible to acquire a tolerance for powerful poison.

I think that, just as some persons have a special tendency to feel beauty differently and more intensely, than do people in general, and therefore become poets or painters or musicians, I have a special inherent tendency to feel injustice with unusual and painful intensity.

Can a painter say why he sees and feels color? Can a poet explain why he is a poet?

UP naming mahal

I've been re-reading Yan ba ang natutunan mo sa UP and I cannot help but smile and think a few thoughts on the University of the Philippines:

Marami daw kasing kalokohan sa UP. Andun na ang tumatakbong nakahubad, ang mga nagpapalu-an ng tubo, mga taong hindi naniniwala sa diyos, mga estudyanteng wala nang nakitang maganda sa pamahalaan, mga taong namundok, may mga buntis na ayaw magpakasal, may mga anak-mayaman na tumalikod sa karangyaan, mga nag-aaral ng mga kursong hindi mapagkakitaan, mga taong nagdyu-dyugdyugan sa damuhan, mga taong mukhang di naliligo, etc. Sa UP ba natin natutunan yan?

Whenever some friends ask me which Philippine university is the best I invariably say the University of the Philippines. They, of course, would conspiratorially smile, and say, "Ah, that is, of course, because you went there."

But I always explain why I think UP is the best. It is the best because only in UP will you see the child of a domestic help sitting side by side with the child of his mother's amo and sometimes, just sometimes, performing even better. I knew one such pair before who, by chance, got enrolled in the same elective class , and both, I observed, felt awkward, as if there was something not quite right in the arrangement.

The general public, after a cursory glance and an incidental passing through the campus on the way to Katipunan, sometimes get the impression that UP has degenerated into a university for rich kids. They point at the cars at the parking lot, the well-groomed students at the AS steps, the sorority convoys around the Sunken Garden celebrating an anniversary. Even President Estrada pointed out the traffic congestion at the University Avenue as proof that the taxpayers' money are paying for the education of the elite. Senator John Osmena also made the same observation, thwarting the efforts of UP President Nemenzo to reform the university.

There are many, many well-off kids at UP. Sometimes, I even think, far too many. They pay matriculation fees at UP far lower than what they paid for their high school. But while there are many rich kids in UP, there are also many poor almost destitute ones. How then do we explain the impression that some people get that UP has gone upmarket ? Because it is far easier to notice well-groomed, goodlooking students on the campus than emaciated provinciano jologs-looking students.

My sister told me once the story of a classmate of hers who was not able to take a calculus exam because he fainted on the way to the Math Building. Upon talking with the classmate, my sister learned that he had not had a decent meal in a day because the meagre STFAP food allowance has run out. My sister also learned that to save on precious money, her classmate hitchhikes on garbage trucks on the way to a Laguna landfill to visit his family.

UP is the only genuinely democratic institution in the country where the rich commingle with the poor as equals and get to learn about each other during their four-year sojourn in the campus. (Some will say there is another institution, the ROTC, but its class-mixing mechanism is effectively diluted by the well-known fact that the rich and the inflential buy their ways out of it or feign asthma.) Students in other universities come from more or less the same socioeconomic backgrounds. The Ateneo and La Salle, I know, have some destitute scholars in their schools, but their presence is more to assuage the guilt of the priests. I have also heard that to be on a a scholarship grant in those institutions was to wear a scarlet letter in hell.

It is because of this class mixing, unique among Philippine institutions, that, I think, UP is the best Philippine university hands down.

Perils of politics

An imaginary exchange between Mahatma Gandhi and Osama Bin Laden.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The infidel Americains
The Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, as CBS reports, had a taste of what Lee Kuan Yew and Jiang Ze Min used to call American decadence, or what the more diplomatic sectors of the international community now term as egregious violations of international law.

The Iraqi prisoners are being tortured, raped, beaten, humiliated, degraded and killed in Abu Ghraib (see the pictures here), and, as Seymour Hersh reports for the New Yorker, there is reason to believe that the CIA, the military intelligence officials themselves, sanctioned the depravities in order to break the spirit of the Iraqis and facilitate intel gathering. The socially conservative Arab society in the Middle East is, of course, shocked and disgusted. Critics of the American occupation all over the world cry that the pictures confirm what they suspected all along: the American standard of morality and decency is no higher than Saddam Hussein's. Who knows what is happening in Guantanamo ?

The militant bombers all over Iraq and all those fighting in Fallujah know that their compatriots are being despicably sexually humiliated by the Americans. The pictures no doubt will be used by Al-Qaeda to further foment hatred in a region where the population is inclined to believe the worst of the infidel Americans. One can only expect therefore a further spiralling of violence.

We would do well now to be reminded of some rules of international law regarding torture:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 7
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Article 10
1. Each State Party shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.
2. Each State Party shall include this prohibition in the rules or instructions issued in regard to the duties and functions of any such person.

Article 16
1. Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

The Ghraib mistreatment clearly violated international proscription against torture. And what is frustratingly galling is that it is the Americans, the self-proclaimed bright shining light of the world, who are doing it this time and, as the pictures reveal, the Americans perversely enjoy the practice. Some critics are claiming racism.

I am not too familiar with the practices of torture in history, but some of the world's brutal regimes never resorted to BDSM. The authorities on Robben Island, for example, under the apartheid regime, humiliated its prisoners by asking them to parade naked, as was done to Nelson Mandela, but I am yet to read of anything remotely close to this American way of doing it. The notorious Insein prison in Burma also has yielded no tales remotely akin to what was shown in the Ghraib pictures. Our own martial law abuses never went this far. As Today sarcastically asks, Has the United States become a global dominatrix ?

Monday, May 03, 2004

Peyups ng buhay natin
For some time now, I've been reading with guilty pleasure the many essays at posted by anonymous UP students and alumni. The stories are some of the funniest and heartbreaking in all of the world wide web. From fresh grads trying their damn best to eke a living to jologs asking God why were they not born coño, people pining for lost and unreciprocated loves, is a secular Catholic confessional where UP students bare their souls, perhaps hoping the internet sun would dry them up and make them clean and innocent again. For a sampling of Peyups, click Yan ba ang natutunan mo sa UP?, Isang mabigat na isyu, and All I really need to know I learned in kakikayan.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Quijano de Manila
Manolo Quezon's blog has some links to Nick Joaquin's writings as a political journalist.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Web prowl
The search engine Google has announced its IPO later this year; The Economist has two articles (here and here) dousing the expectations and enthusiasm of the IT community, the like of which was last seen in 1995 when Netscape's IPO effectively launched the dotcom bubble. The Institute for International Economics's Michael Mussa shares his own take on Global Economic Prospects in 2004. The Scientific American on the myth of the begining of time. Two former students of Leo Strauss, the great lodestar of the neoconservatives, write on the late professor's opinion on the true meaning of philosophy.