Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Best and worst national anthems

Taking off from a criticism of the "Star-Spangled Banner" as nothing more but a "warmed-over drinking song," Pupu Platter discusses how national anthems, however corny and atrocious the lyrics, unify a nation. Quoting from Benedict Anderson:

T]here is a special kind of contemporaneous community which language alone suggests -- above all in the form of poetry and songs! Take national anthems, for example, sung on national holidays. No matter how banal the words and mediocre the tunes, there is in this singing an experience of simultaneity. At precisely such moments, people wholly unknown to each other utter the same verses to the same melody. The image: unisonance.* Singing the Marseillaise, Waltzing Matilda, and Indonesia Raya provide occasions for unisonality, for the echoed physical realization of the imagined community. (So does listening to [and maybe silently chiming in with] the recitation of ceremonial poetry, such as sections of The Book of Common Prayer). How selfless this unisonance feels! If we are aware that others are singing these songs precisely when and as we are, we have no idea who they may be, or even where, out of earshot, they are singing. Nothing connects us all but imagined sound.

I have often considered it a curious fact that most people I know never seem to remember the words of the Philippine national anthem when singing alone, but has no problem remembering the lines when singing in a crowd. I ike to think that this curious fact shows the value of a community in everyone's effort to find a political voice, that, as Aristotle put it, we find full expression only as part of a political community. My friends however dismiss it as nothing more but lousy writing on the part of Felipe Buencamino and Jose Palma (did i get these two right? My history class seemed eons ago.)

"Lupang Hinirang," otherwise known to many as Bayang Magiliw, certainly is no masterpiece. Critics, for example, have been gnawing at its defeatist finale line "Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo,"' which pales in comparison with America's melodramatic--but highly affirming-- "land of the free, home of the brave."

If national anthems were to be popularly vetted and ranked Billboard-style, which would become hits? Which are the best national anthems? My own favorite is South Africa' s Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika. It has the distinction of being the only anthem that makes you want to dance on your feet. It is also in sang in four languages, following South Africa's Rainbow Nation all-inclusiveness. The sound of the drums are simply amazing, almost too good to be found in a national anthem.

Another favorite is Israel's Hatikva, a solemn anthem of such great and profound sadness that I always think I could feel the pain of exile just listening to the lyrics. In heaven it would probably be highly inappropriate and parochial to sing one's national anthem in front of God and the angels. But the Jews can sing Hatikva and be forgiven. Whenever I hear the anthem, I am struck by the tragedy of the present conlict in Israel: the Jews who were oppressed in Europe are now the oppressors of Palestinians. It is a real tagedy, and listening to Hatikva always reminds me of it.

China's National Anthem "The March of the Volunteers" also makes me think of hardships, self-sacrifice, and climbing mountains and bivouacs. Leon Lai's techno version of the March of the Volunteers (for which he was banned in the mainland) would surely shoot up to number one in a Billboard of national anthems. It is, of course, hard to argue with the European Union's choice of anthem--Ode to Joy: Beethoven is a master. The unooficial anthem of the American blacks--Lift every voice and sing-- is also worth mentioning.

Which are the worst anthems? I have heard it said that Australians do not disabuse foreigners in thinking "Waltzing Matilda" is the Australian national anthem because the truth is even more of an embarrassment. Although highly affective, the American national anthem is unsingable, save if you're Whitney Houston. If i remember correctly Argentina's anthem is too long. I heard it played once in a film festival and I was standing too long I thought my feet would begin sprouting veins all over.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Best movie songs

The American Film Institute ranks the best movie songs. I wonder where The Godfather's Speak Softly Love figures in the ranking.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Call for papers and Panel Proposals

4th National Philippine Studies Conference
Conference Theme: Ethnic Identities in the Philippines
September 17-18, 2004
Sponsored by: Philippine Studies Association, Inc.
Institutional Host: University of the Philippines Baguio
Venue: The Golden Pine Hotel and Restaurant, corner Cariño and Legarda Roads, City Center, Baguio City

On September 17-18, 2004, the Philippine Studies Association, Inc. and the University of the Philippines Baguio will hold the 4th National Philippine Studies Conference. The theme of this year's conference is "Ethnic Identities in the Philippines," which is intended to cover broad multi-disciplinal perspectives and approaches to the issues associated with the general theme. Ethnicity and identity being the major themes, they can be treated both as interrelated topics or distinct and unique constructs. The conference also intends to cover the following sub-themes:

* Philippine Ethnic Identities in Historical Perspective
* Ethnic Politics
* Ideology, Identity, and Ethnicity
* Ethnicity, Identity, and Communications
* Gender, Sexuality, Identity, and Ethnicity
* Literature, Ethnicity, and Identity
* Ethnicity, Identity, and Popular Culture
* Economic Development, Ethnicity, and Identity
* Environmental Issues and Ethnicity
* Demographic Perspectives and Philippine Ethnic Communities
* Globalization, Ethnicity, and Identity
* Pre-colonial, Colonial, and Post-colonial Identity

The conference also intends to discuss other issues and concerns that may be related to the general theme or sub-themes.


16 July 2004 -Submission of Proposal - Title and One-page Abstract
31 July 2004 - Notification of Acceptance of Paper
30 August 2004 - Confirmation of Participation with Submission of Full Paper


The final paper should be no more than 25-page double spaced, 12 points font size, Times New Roman. Notes, bibliography, illustrations, and pictures are not included in the 25 pages. The authors are welcome to use all relevant theoretical frameworks and analytical methods. All papers must be original, unpublished, and not yet delivered in previous conferences, and will be peer reviewed.

The organizers are doing their best to get sponsors to provide speakers with full board and lodging and travel reimbursement. Meanwhile, please do your utmost to secure institutional support to attend the conference. Presentors of accepted papers will be advised accordingly on the progress of our solicitations.

Registration fee:

Php 3,300 each participant to cover full board and lodging on triple sharing for three days (at The Golden Pine Hotel and Restaurant) and conference kit with bag. Conference papers can be ordered for duplication at participants' cost. The special package rate offered by the hotel is for limited slots, hence, it is advisable to reserve early (on/before 31 August 2004) as accommocation is on a first come, first served basis (arrival on the afternoon with dinner on September 16, departure with breakfast and lunch on September 19). Other hotels may require additional transportation expense for commuting to-from the conference venue, or charge more expensive rates.

For live-out participants, registration fee is Php 1500 to cover the conference kit and bag, snacks and lunch for two days. Breakfast and dinners will be the responsibility of participants. (Please contact Rowena Reyes-Boquiren for information on other accommodations in Baguio City.)

Mailing Address:

The Philippine Studies Association, Inc.
Philippine Social Sciences Council, Inc.
Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City 1101
Attn: Karen Barrios

For inquires, please contact the following:
Bernardita R. Churchill: or TeleFax: (02)926-1347
Eufracio Abaya: or Tel. (02) 928-1928
Francis A. Gealogo:
Rowena Reyes-Boquiren: or or Telefax 074-442-2427

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Book launching

Presentación literaria
Two Spanish Books on the Philippines

29 de junio de 2004
7 de la tarde
Salón de Actos
Instituto Cervantes
2515 Leon Guinto, cor. Estrada St.
Malate, Manila

Instituto Cervantes invites you to the joint presentation of two Spanish writers Pedro de la Peña and Jaime Rosa. De la Peña will launch in Manila LOS PRIMEROS DE FILIPINAS, a novel which garnered the 2003 Ciudad de Salamanca Award. Rosa will present his anthology on contemporary Filipino poetry, LO úLTIMO DE FILIPINAS. He will be accompanied by various Filipino poets in the reading of their poems.

Poets included in LO úLTIMO DE FILIPINAS:

Nick Joaquin, Ramón C. Súnico, Ricardo M. de Hungria, María Luisa Cariño, Gémino A. Abad, Alfred A. Yuson, Marjorie Evasco, Lorenzo M. Alberto, Herminio Beltrán Jr., Erwin E. Castillo, Wilfredo Pascua Sanchez, Eric Gamalinda, Marra Lanot, Noel Guivani Ramiscal, Salvador Malig, Mario Aguado, Ramón Guevara y Biel, Emmanuel Perlas Andaya, Amador Rey Beloncillo, Macario Ofilada Mina, Wynstan de la Peña, Virgilio Almario, Benilda Santos, Lilia Quindoza Santiago, Joi
Barrios, Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, Rogelio Mangahas, José F. Lacaba

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Bill Clinton's life

Clinton's My Life is outselling Hillary's memoirs seven to one. Those who are looking for the sleazy details though may be disappointed. The juicier details are not included in the book, but can be found in Bill Clinton's blog.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Political celebrities on the net

The Weekly Standard reports on former US Speaker Newt Gingrich's secret life as an avid reviewer of books for Gingrich mostly reviews spy novels, mysteries, and thrillers, but he occasionaly slips in some non-fiction like Bob Woodward's Bush at War, which he deems "useful" and Wesley Clark's Waging Modern War, which is "Required, timely reading." Last week, the Guardian also reported that Cherie Blair, the wife of the British prime minister, shops at ebay, an online shopping site for secondhand items. Among her purchases: 99p for Winnie the Pooh alarm clock, £1.99 two Disney videos, Dumbo and Aladdin, £15 for a pair of sandals described on the blurb as "great for summer, weddings or evenings out" and a pair of second-hand Roland Cartier shoes advertised as "gorgeous, retro, vintage, disco-diva, 80s, bright red shoes".

The milk of human kindness

I was rummaging through my old things today, looking for things i can throw away, when I saw my xeroxed copy of Brecht's The Good Person of Setzuan, which I photocopied when a friend appeared on a production of it by Dulaang UP. I was very happy to find it after such a long time.

Shin-Te of the play, is a kind and good person, the epitome of godly virtue, but her kindness has not brought her any worldly happiness. Instead, she lives in destitution and even derided by the people whom she sought to please. There is this part in the play where one character says that if you extend one arm to help people they would rip it off. That line is the one thing I distinctly remember about the play, and in many occasions when I was feeling dejected at the seeming absence of kindness in the world, I found myself mulling over and over again that particular line: extend and arm and it will be ripped off.

Another book, Marquis De Sade's Justine, dwelt on this same topic. The protagonist of the novel was good; her sister was evil. Justine suffered (and was struck by lightning at the end); her sister was rich and triumphant at the end. Justine has such incendiary memorable lines that whenever I feel momentarily Machiavellian, i would re-read some passages. Here's some:

What is virtue if it cannot prevent the tyranny of the strong over the weak, or the rich over the poor, or those who are in power over those who are not in power! Filled with the will for power, the voices of virtue forge irons in which to chain men.

Then there's this passage which I quoted in a paper (on the demand for social justice as the most potent political force in the modern period) for my Political Ideologies class:

"The justice of God!--his rewards! his punishments!--all nonsense. Don't you see that the cruelty of the rich forces the poor to rebel! Why don't they open their purses to our needs? Let humanity rule their hearts, then virtue will rule ours! Our misfortune, our patience, our faith, our servility only strengthen our fetters. We are all created free and equal by nature; but if chance puts out of order this first law of nature, is it not up to us to correct its caprices by our strength and numbers? Because we are poor, Therese, must we crawl in humiliation, must we quench our thirst with gall, must we satisfy our hunger with stones! Would you have us abstain from crime and murder, which alone can open the gates of life to us? As long as this class domineers over us we'll remain degraded, in want and tears! No! no! Therese, either your God is rich or impotent! Understand, my child, that if your God puts us in a situation where evil is necessary and at the same time gives us the ability to perform it, it is evident that your God gains as much from the one as the other!"

I don't know if I am being weird, but sometimes I have the same disturbing thoughts. If I were a Jedi, I probably would be tempted to walk over to the Dark Side. I remember that as a boy I cheered for Darth Vader whacking Luke Skywalker and desperately wanted the evil Emperor's kuryente power.

Socrates was famously asked the question whether it is in one's interest to be good, his answer--a solid affirmative-- resulted in Plato's The Republic. Many people remain unconvinced.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The ignorance of the people

Professor Felipe Miranda in his Philippine Star column today is highly despondent with regard to reforming the country's educational system. He laments that:

Half a century of historical evidence should be sufficient in demonstrating the improbability of this educational system changing for the better and assisting the larger community, the nation, toward that change. The same evidence also should help in understanding that whoever seriously thinks of effecting mandatory changes in the education of Filipinos must work to change the political character of their society first.

Our educational system is disturbing. Consider this: 99.5 percent of 1.4 million elementary school graduates tested for high school readiness fail to score at least 75 percent; 700, 000 of them also had scores lower than 30 %.
Could this be really true? Our children are a bunch of ignoramuses? I have a suspicion that the real figures are worse than the above, considering the possible leakage that usually happens in achievement tests. Some public school teachers are known to leak exams. ( I know one particular instance of this leakage.) Achievement test results therefore can be rosier than the truth.

So how did these kids able to advance to sixth grade with such little knowledge? Because public school teachers just kept on giving them passing grades. The student-teacher ratio is so lopsided that a single pupil with back subjects is a huge burden for the teacher. Rather than further draining the public resources--not to mention their own patience-- teachers simply opt to pass their underperforming pupils.

Secretary De Jesus's bridge program, while commendable for its attempt at reviving the moribund pulic school system, is ultimately an exercise in futility. It is hard to imagine how one year of remedial classes can turn around six yearsof miseducation, especially since the teachers who will teach those remedial classes are from the same pool of teachers responsible for the miseducation in the first place. I think the more pragmatic solution to the problem is pointed by Raul Roco's Makabayan curriculum: create a super-lean curriculum where all extraneous subjects are excised. All repetitions in the curriculum must be removed. A shrinking ship, so to speak, must jettison all unnecessary baggage.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Bloomsday centenary

Today, June 16, is the centenary of Bloomsday, the beloved 24 hours of Leopold Bloom's wanderings chronicled in James Joyce's Ulysses. The Economist asks the question, Is the fuss over James Joyce's Ulysses greater than the book?

I can only imagine the nostalgic joy of the book's fans around the world for I have not yet had the pleasure of reading it. Ulysses is, simply put, the towering book of fiction in the twentiteth-century Western canon. I have been meaning to read it for a very long time now, but it seems whenever I am about to open the first page I lose the courage. And so Ulysses has remained in my reading backlog for many years now and I don't quite know when I would end up reading it. Perhaps this centenary is a good time to read it. I would once again give it a try next month and will report my opinion of the book as soon as I finish reading.

I read Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for my undergraduate Humanities class. (My crappy paper for that class was on Joyce's theory of aesthetics, which was basically a reformulation of Aquinas's.)I didn't expect I would like the book, thinking it was too dense for my taste, but some of the passages just blew me over. In Joyce's prose, there is no extraneous word that can be excised, every word seems able to justify its presence.

How can one possibly describe Joyce? Joyce at his best reads like Dante writing English prose. He is that good, at least as I read him in the Portrait and Dubliners.


The most jubilantly obscene song I've heard: Gackt's Vanilla.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Web prowl

We have, according to this Wall Street Journal op-ed, a moral obligation to amass wealth. The irrepressible Christopher Hitchens, writing this time for Slate, is unforgiving of Ronald Reagan's stupidity.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Thought of the day

Great men can change the world. Ordinary people like us--all we can do is survive in it.