Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nominations for the Civil Courage Prize

Nominations for the Civil Courage Prize are now being accepted to honor persons who have fought for civil rights in various parts of the world.

"The Prize of $50,000 honors steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk. It has been awarded annually since 2000 by The Train Foundation (formerly known as the Northcote Parkinson Fund)." - quote taken from Imprisoned in China for 15 Months for Aiding North Korean Defectors available at

Deadline for nominations: March 3, 2008

More details below:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Erap chooses sipag at tyaga

If he were forced to make a choice today and assuming he has the clout to do it, it is very obvious President Estrada would choose Senator Many Villar as the opposition's standard bearer. During last week's trip to Bataan, the hometown of Villar's mother, Estrada said Villar is the "better candidate,'" although he hadn't made up his mind yet on who to support in 2010.

There is, however, also talk in the media that Sen. Mar Roxas wants Estrada's support in 2010, some of the media reports quoting Roxas as intending to invite Estrada to his hometown too in the Visayas although "much later."

Plenty can happen before 2010, but Villar seems to be the natural inevitable choice for Estrada. Like many gamblers, Estrada likes supporting the llamado from the start, and no one is more llamado than Villar now, not only because Villar has the best popularity ratings but also because he has a fortune to spend in a close race.

Mar Roxas, I guess, could still persuade Erap to support him, but it is difficult to see how he could manage to do it. Estrada's camp is too different in style and disposition to Mar Roxas's camp that it is difficult to engineer their effective coalition. They simply don't jibe, walang kemistri. Picture this: Erap's drinking bouts with buddies versus the Liberal Party's cocktails with piped-in music.

And Roxas has an obvious problem building bridges: To become the president of the Liberal Party, he had to oversee its meiosis and have the issue brought to the Supreme Court for resolution. It could very well be the fault of Sec. Lito Atienza that the two wings of the Liberal Party don't get along together (perhaps all those Hawaiian shirts made the old man too ornery), but democratic politics, sadly, is all about addition. The more people you have on board, the more people there are to vote for you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Singapore with a happy ending

Singapore is supposed to be a nanny paternalistic state, affluent, dull and uninteresting. Well, it may be that, but at least some of its establishments are refreshingly honest and frank:

BJ Massage is near the Geylang District and just a few meters away from the Kallang train station.

Of course, when talking about Singapore, there is no way of skirting the obligatory polemic on the so-called Asian values. All I can say is that it's mostly hogwash. Men are ruttish wherever you go. And in Singapore that's the most ironically comforting thought of human solidarity I have ever had.

Religion and the formation of new publics

A Mid-term International Conference

January 24 - 25, 2008
University of Santo Tomas
Espana, Manila

For the first time, an international conference on the sociology of religion will occur in the Philippines. “Religion and the Formation of New Publics: A Mid-term International Conference” will be held on January 24-25, 2008 (Thursday – Friday). This international conference will be hosted by the oldest Catholic university in Asia, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Manila.

The speeches and sessions of this conference intend to draw attention to the role of religion in fostering these “formations of new publics,” as the impact of religion goes beyond the boundaries of its accepted turfs and forges new bonds, aspirations and problem-solving perspectives in society. This international conference is organized by the International Sociological Association (ISA) - Research Committee (RC 22) on Sociology of Religion and the Philippine Association for the Sociology of Religion (PASR) in cooperation with UST’s Institute of Religion (UST-IR).

RC22 was founded “with the intention of opening up a broader range of opportunities for participation in the activities of the ISA in the field of the Sociology of Religion.” For more information about ISA and RC22, go the ISA Home Page at

PASR aims to pioneer the institutional practice of the sociology of religion in the Philippines through research, publications, conferences, and forging international linkages. This professional association also intends to bring the sociology of religion and its broader implications on cultures and social worlds to public awareness.

PASR members come from the ranks of the different disciplines in the academe, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), all motivated by the interest to explore the dynamics of religion in the different facets and areas of Philippine society. PASR’s Founding President is Prof. Esmeralda F. Sanchez, Ph.D. (faculty, UST-IR). The other Founding Board Members of PASR are the following: Vivencio O. Ballano, M.A.; Emmanuel D. Batoon, M.A.; Patria Gwen M.L. Borcena, M.A.; Emanuel C. De Guzman, M.A.; Alon D. de los Reyes, M.A. Cand.; Eduardo M. Domingo, Ed.D.; Cristita A. Mallari, M.A.; Virgilio A. Rivas, M.A.; Manuel Victor J. Sapitula, M.A.; and Precious E. Velasquez.

Prof. Bryan S. Turner, PhD. will deliver the ISA-PASR Conference’s key note address, “Public Space and Social Conflict: Some Sociological Approaches.” Dr. Turner was a former professor of sociology at the University of Cambridge (1998 - 2005) and is currently professor of sociology in the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (NUS).

During this international conference, sociologist Prof. Emma Porio, Ph.D. (faculty, Ateneo’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology), as a Member of ISA’s Executive Committee, will give the opening remarks. One of the Plenary Speakers, anthropologist Jesuit priest Fr. Albert Alejo, S.J., Ph.D. (Director, Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue, Ateneo de Davao) will be give a talk about “Religion and Corruption in Philippine Church and Society.”

Participants from the Philippines are required to pay the Conference Fee which covers the conference kit and meals for 2 days. The fees are as follows: PhP 3,500.00 for residents of Metro Manila and PhP 3,000.00 for residents outside Metro Manila. Registration will begin at 8 in the morning of January 24 (Thursday) at the Thomas Aquinas Research Center (TARC), UST, Espana, Manila. Other information about the upcoming ISA-PASR Conference 2008 (i.e. Conference Programme) and other activities of PASR are available in the following website,

Monday, January 21, 2008

Where are the engineers and scientists?

A letter to the Inquirer's editor by Flor Lacanilao, a retired professor of marine science at the University of the Philippines, has this to say:

"The rapid growth of China is not surprising because so many Chinese leaders are scientists and engineers by training,” a science publication noted in its Dec. 7, 2007 editorial. Whereas in our country, even leading officials of the National Research Council of the Philippines, National Academy of Science and Technology, and the Department of Science and Technology have been mostly nonscientists.

The problem, however, is that our present scientists and engineers are just not interested in government or anything else outside the confines of their own narrow professional field. If scientists/engineers are not heading the National Research Council or the Department of Science and Technology, they only have themselves to blame if you ask me.

In a democracy where the ultimate arbiter in the allocation of resources are the people, power and position are to be fought for; they cannot be expected to be handed down to our scientists by an all-knowing central committee. If scientists and engineers want to head agencies or occupy public office, they must first offer themselves in the public sphere, declare themselves available so to speak by engaging in the conversation of governance.

Most of our scientists, however, are too condescending to bother themselves with such mundane things as explaining themselves to the people. For instance, during a heated public dispute at the DENR with regard to a particular set of emission tests, one senior scientist, a vice-president of a national professional organization, haughtily declared she wouldn't want to talk with the opposing panel because she would be talking "way above their heads." Even the great Richard Feynman took the trouble of explaining science to the masses.

Our scientists and engineers are now marginalized because they are uncomfortable in a democratic setting where their ideas have to be argued and vetted publicly, and judged by people whom they consider are their intellectual inferiors. I once heard Sen. Pimentel complaining that one of the reasons why the government is not supporting local science is that when scientists come to the Senate to promote their projects, they are incomprehensible - plus, they dress and look weird.

As long as our scientists don't address this handicap, we will never see more of the likes of Engr. Bayani Fernando or Dr. Juan Flavier in the public sphere.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The miserable treatment we get from our own people

Chief Justice Panganiban for two consecutive columns now (read here and here)in the Inquirer has been writing on the miserable treatment OFW's get from the POEA. The first one was triggered by his daughter's problems getting an exit clearance during the holidays. Panganiban admitted, rather embarrassingly, that he had to personally seek the help of Secretary Brion just so his daughter would not miss the flight back to the US.

Imagine yourself at the airport, your flight three hours away and you are informed haughtily by the almighty civil servants of the POEA/OWWA that sorry you have to line up at the EDSA Office for a clearance.

Apparently, even if you are a direct hire (meaning you didn't go through an employment agency or the POEA), you still had to go to POEA and seek clearance. According to POEA Administrator Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, the POEA processes are required to monitor the OFW's and facilitate helping them in time of crises. Noble objective really, but is a waiver of government support available somewhere for those who need to catch a flight?

If it's any consolation, Luli Arroyo also got the same shabby treatment from people at the airport so the grumpiness of the people there is just about fairly distributed (unless, of course, you're white, but that's another story).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tearing up in a campaign

Most polls projected Hillary Clinton as bound to lose the New Hampshire primary bigtime, with Obama leading her as far as thirteen points, capitalizing on the massive momentum he got in the Iowa caucus. But thanks to an emotional moment where Clinton almost cried when asked how she manages to muster the energy and who does her hair (see Youtube video here), the women voters rallied for her and made her the winner in New Hampshire.

According to some, the emotional Clinton on the verge of tears looked so genuine she must have rehearsed that moment for hours. The woman won a Grammy before for the audio version of her book and now should be up for an Oscar: Who else could choke up and still manage to stay on message?

Richard Nixon realized the great political value of such lachrymal displays. In order to secure the nomination for Eisenhower's vice-presidency, he cried and hugged the general in public. Crying in public is so effective Nixon claimed he never cried in private.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Women against Hillary

Hillary Clinton has always tried to project herself as the champion of women. She has ads with her mother and daughter, she appears most often with women in discussions, when she got clubbered in the debate she sought solace at Wellesley College complaining that the men are piling up on her. But in Iowa it is said the women went for Obama instead. (One reason I guess is the attraction to Obama by some women like Youtube's Obama girl.) Why do some women not like, even loathe, Hillary Clinton?

Many years ago, I met a Chinese American lady who was denouncing Hillary Clinton so vehemently one would think Clinton was guilty of murder or some unspeakable heinous crime. Clinton, she said, is so ambitious and doesn't know where her proper place should be.

In the now infamous video footage one septuagenarian woman also asked John McCain "How do we beat the bitch?" McCain didn't ask back who was the bitch the old lady was referring to but just laughed. Watching that video, I couldn't help but think how could women be so cruel to other women. Perhaps women didn't so much need to be free from the tyranny of men as they need to be free from the vile opinion of their very own sex.