Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Love's labor lost

Into the boundary of each married man, Sir Elton John sings in Sacrifice, sweet deceit comes calling. In the case of James Yap, the calling must have happened sometime between the facial and the scrub. As the old skin and corporeal detritus sloughed off, the matrimonial vow must have washed off with the exfoliation, such is the efficacy of Belo's various treatments.

Ricky Lo reports today that a close friend of Kris Aquino believes the couple would eventually break up. Why should a single infidelity ruin a marriage? James Yap already said sorry, he never cohabitted with Hope Centeno, and has no plan whatsoever to carry on whatever trysts may have happened between them in the past. Why can't the couple simply move on?

In married life, exactly what is it that is so hurtful about an infidelity? Admittedly, unless there's sexually transmitted disease involved, a sexual tryst outside of marriage is of middling practical cost to the offended spouse. Bill Clinton got sucked by Monica Lewinsky; it was big deal alright for the uptight Republicans (who presumably never get any) but marital infidelity hardly ruined Hillary Clinton's weltanschauung. Or Loi Estrada's marriage, for that matter. Why then should Kris not just sleep this over, patch things up with James Yap and simply buy those facials and scrubs you see at Watson's?

If you break up your marriage just because your spouse had sex with another person, you are in effect admitting that your marriage is nothing more but a venue for legit sexual relation. As John Milton wrote in Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce, "What is this but secretly to instruct us, that however many grave reasons are pretended to the married life, yet that nothing indeed is thought worth regard therein but the prescribed satisfaction of an irrational heat?"

If you as a married couple tide over a lifetime without a single infidelity, that's outstanding and worthy of emulation. But there is more to marriage than sexual monogamy. Writing in Against Love, Laura Kipnis said "Adultery is one way of protesting the confines of coupled life; of course there's always murder." Let's just all be happy James Yap didn't grab the kitchen knife.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bituing nawawalan ng ningning?

Senator Pangilinan has recently been thrown into unflattering light when he didn't show up in the opposition's proclamation rally at Plaza Miranda. Some of the members of the opposition apparently are not too happy that they are campaigning for Senator Pangilinan while the latter is only campaigning for himself. Some of the senator's critics are exploiting the situation and making it appear that Senator Pangilinan is namamangka sa dalawang ilog while having his cake and eating it too.

Senator Pangilinan's position is that he is running as an independent and that, as any candidate wishes support from any sector that will deign to give it, he is happy to have been adopted by the opposition, but he is still running as an independent, thank you very much.

If you come to think about it, Senator Pangilinan's decision to run as an independent is the morally superior choice. Both the administration and the Estrada opposition have been discredited; therefore, any reasonable and honest man must mark and blaze a third way. There's something eerily perverse about the opposition senatorial slate avowedly running for good governance while fawning at the foot of Joseph Estrada.

Of course, Senator Pangilinan can afford to be so high and mighty now because he is the man Sharon Cuneta go home to at the end of the day. And this is probably the reason why many politicians find Senator Pangilinan's political stance now especially infuriating. They all need a political party to campaign effectively; Senator Pangilinan only needs to stay married (and these days when women are too forgiving that's not too hard to do, ask Mr Yap).

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Web prowl

Thant Myint-U argues in What to do about Burma? that the economic sanctions against Burma, given the support of China for the Burmese military junta and the intransigence of the generals, have no chance of working to liberalize the country. He argues instead that institutions that can challenge the military as an effective national institution be developed, pointing out a little woefully that the top leaders of the National League for Democracy (save Aung San Suu Kyi herself) are all retired military officers. From the New York Review of Books, an essay on the women of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Japan is also negotiating with Thailand a free trade agreement similar to our own JPEPA (which was denounced by local environmentalists) and an article in the Bangkok Post asks if Thailand is going to be An international dumping ground?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Curse of the golden flower

First things first: Go watch it pronto (see official website here). It is so good if I'm not going to Davao tomorrow I would probably be watching it again. The story is about Gong Li's empress being slowly poisoned by Chow Yun Fat's emperor because she is sleeping with the emperor's favorite son and crown prince. The empress, in an imperial power struggle, solicits the help of her own talented son played by Jay Chou, asking him to command an army in rebellion againt his own father.

The story is like a Chinese Oedipus Rex (there's incest, father-son struggle, a kingdom to gain and lose although I bet Jocasta didn't look quite as good as Gong Li) and the palace eunuchs act like some Greek chorus monitoring the passage of time.

SPOILER: Just about everybody ends up dead at the end except for Chow Yun Fat's emperor. On whose shoulders then lay the onus for the tragic ending? I find Gong Li's character despicable: She sleeps with her own stepson and continually seduces him. To lure her own biological son to fighting his own father, she was also economical with the truth: She merely said that the emperor was poisoning her and never told him about her incestous relationship with the crown prince. Had she told that bit of truth, I doubt if Jay Chou's Prince Jai would have led the rebellion. Like in any great tragedy, a small piece of truth unshared proved the undoing of everybody.

Although it was Gong Li's transgression that started the tragedy ball rolling, the different members of the imperial family had their own sins and faults. The emperor was championing natural law at the beginning (filial piety, loyalty), but he also killed his third son in anger. The only untainted character was that of Prince Jai, who, as far as his knowledge is concerned, merely defended his mother.

During the great massacre of ten thousand soldiers at the end though, I was thinking, "Why cant' Jay Chou with a whole army with him manage to storm the same palace Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung briskly invaded in Hero?" And is the art film Gong Li too stately to do onscreen martial arts? Would have loved to see her whacking Chow Yun Fat like feisty Jade Fox. Also, come to think of it, Gong Li's palpitations and dizziness probably wouldn't be so bad if only the Tang Dynasty had White Flower.

Curse of the Golden Flower
is a great movie, but, I must admit, Hero is still my all-time favorite.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cayetano's beef

Sassy Lawyer succinctly writes today that the bank certifications presented by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo during the rather acrimonious congressional hearing do not conclusively prove that not one of the Arroyos has or ever had a bank account at Hypo Vereins Bank in Germany.

Even if there are no accounts under the name of any of the Arroyos, there could very possibly be accounts under a corporation or some other juridical entity of which an Arroyo is a shareholder. Also, there could be investment accounts not named under the Arroyos but designate them as beneficiaries. The wording of the certifications coming from the bank does not include these accounts.

The waiver drafted by Congressman Cayetano, which Mike Arroyo refused to sign, was clearer and encompassing all possible accounts the Arroyos may have or have had at one time at the bank. Had Mike Arroyo signed the waiver as drafted by Congressman Cayetano, he would have put all doubts to rest.

There is the primal question though with regard to the appropriateness of Cayetano's requesting Mike Arroyo to sign a blanket waiver. Supposing a barangay captain lives a stupendously profligate life with no other possible source of income whatsoever, can one rightfully demand the barangay captain to sign a waiver to vouch for his honesty in public service? What Cayetano demands of Mike Arroyo we can demand from just about everyone in government. Why single him out? No case, as far as we know, has been filed against him with regard to these supposed accounts. If Mike Arroyo just plays deadma to all these, he has every right to do so. But perhaps he wants to see Congressman Cayetano, now in fourth place in Pulse Asia poll according to Ellen Tordesillas, in the Senate next year.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Butch Dalisay's Upgraditis

When cheeky mountain climbers are asked about their motivation for their hikes, they retort that they climb mountains because the mountains are there--that simple. It has always appeared to me though that it is this same logic that undergirds people's inexcusable consumerism: Why do you buy that bag when you don't need it? It's there.

Butch Dalisay has just succumbed to the consumerist temptation when, as he writes here for the Philippine Star, he ditched his Palm Treo 650 for Sony Ericson M600i for no reason other than he somehow felt compelled to buy a new gadget. He was perfectly happy with the Treo but he just had to buy something new.

I like to think of myself as a relatively frugal person, but sometimes the power of advertising is just too much for us mere mortals to bear. I once bought a 3G phone even though I have no plans whatsoever to make a video call and was in fact perfectly happy with my clunky old phone. But, thank God, we are not the Americans who were exhorted by their president to fight terrorism by shopping more.

Reading Elizabeth Royte's Garbage Land, I was struck by this statistic offered by author and entrepreneur Paul Hawken: for every 100 pounds of product that's made--products that hit the store shelves--at least 3,200 pounds of waste are generated. Now, whenever I go to the mall or walk into a bookshop, I remember that.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Where will Pacquiao find the time?

Manny Pacquiao is running for mayor of General Santos City under the banner of Lakas. He will be challenging his ninong and (former) ardent supporter incumbent Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. The question though is where will Pacquiao find the time to campaign and if he wins, how does he intend to fulfill the duties of a mayor since apparently he does not plan to retire anytime soon? And if he does retire after winning the mayoralty race, wouldn't it be such a big loss considering that he has just reached his peak earning capacity as a boxer?

One thing is for sure though: Pacquiao, with his immense popularity, has no need for this campaign training course at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro on February 27 to March 3. And even if he does, he would probably be too busy training with Freddie Roach.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

In defense of political dynasties

With JV, Jinggoy, Pimentel fils, two Aquinos and Cayetano all gunning for the Senate, there's resentment about how the country's political affairs have been reduced to familial intramurals with public office constituting part of several family heirlooms. And the image of former President Estrada playing the role of a highhanded godfather in the selection of senatorial candidates also didn't help.

Senator Tatad was so incensed of the "mad and shallow family park" he had to pay the newspapers to publish a missive to the nation. There's no question politics here are sometimes mad and often shallow, but suggestions to ban dynasties are even madder. How does one define a dynasty? If we disallow one to run for office simply because one of his kin is already in politics, is that really just? We may be able to give the electorate more choices, but the sphere of individual freedom would be needlessly harmed.

All this talk about curtailing political dynasties is really impractical political engineering. It is disturbing though that while Koko Pimentel defends his right to run, he at the same time says if elected he would file a bill banning the relatives of the president from running. Eh, what's good for the gander not good enough for the goose?

The reason why families are fielding more and more of their family members (aside from the understable natural feeling of every parent to see his children follow in his footsteps) is that running for office is like getting married. Two formerly single unattached people discover in a marriage that both of them can easily live on the previous budget of one. Similarly, one family member running for office costs just about the same as two. For the price of one, a family therefore gets two. (Read Alex Magno on the electoral financing gap today). Seamless logic.

Perhaps another reason why many family members are flocking to politics is the relative drought of exciting things to do in this country. This also partly explains why many actors are now running for office; the local film industry is dead and the television is swarming with younger and younger faces prettier than you (pace Richard Gomez).

Seriously, let them all run and let the people decide. If the people prefer and vote for akin blood, tough luck but that's smaller gene pool and democracy for us.