Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wishing the best for Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is free again. After seven years of house arrest imposed by the Burmese military junta, she is free again to walk outside her lakeside home and resume her work building the democratic movement in Burma.

As the many Burma observers keep pointing out, we have been at this same juncture before. The military junta has in the past released Suu Kyi only to have her re-arrested again. News reports say her latest release is unconditional, but she is free only at the pleasure of the junta and could be re-arrested anytime.

I sincerely wish and hope that Suu Kyi will not be re-arrested, and the other 2,000 political prisoners be released from Insein prison. What is so sad about Burma is that because of this political struggle, many young people, perhaps the country's very brightest, lost their youth. Instead of plotting their future career paths, they are languishing in jail, driven to exile abroad, or killing time in a refugee camp in Chiang Mai. If you are interested to know some of their stories, you can read Christina Fink's Living Silence.

It is very, very sad. Personally, no other international issue affects me more than Burma's struggle for democracy. It is, for me, Southeast Asia's greatest issue of our time. The ASEAN can not move forward as one regional bloc that could discuss such issues as,say, a regional currency, without resolving once and for all the Burma impasse. Suu Kyi will have to face the question of what to do with international trade sanctions against Burma. The Wall Street Journal reports today that she has given signals she might be revising her thinking on that matter.

I heard Suu Kyi being interviewed and she said she's having a hard time deciding how to connect to younger generations and to the world: Facebook or Twitter. It is nice -and oddly comforting - that after many years of being cut off from the world by a brutal military, The Lady who is the world's most inspiring advocate for democracy and human rights is now dealing with questions as mundane as what social network to register to.

we are all keeping our fingers crossed as we hope for the best for Burma(and those status updates to come soon from Aung San Suu Kyi).

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The difficult life of a teetotaler

Last night, I was at the oath-taking of the officials of the Barangay Defense System (BDS) and after the short program, an old lady approached and reproached me repeatedly for being so young. I kept answering: Thank you, it's a compliment. Gaining no traction with her harangue, she then asked me for money to buy a bottle of gin. She was incredulous I didn't have cash. All the while I was thinking, "Shouldn't she be home knitting and minding her liver?"

It is a real health concern: Some heavy drinkers are afflicted with Hepatitis B (see information on the disease from the Mayo Clinic here), and because they never got tested for the disease, are unknowingly inflicting further damage to their livers by drinking alcohol.

One of the hazards of being a mayor is that you invariably get asked for money to buy alcohol, sometimes by people who obviously have had so much to drink already. During the election campaign, I was initially torn about the subject of alcohol. Personally, I could live without it. The Taliban could take over the Philippines tomorrow and I won't be pining for beer.

One classmate who operated a sari-sari store before simply refused to sell alcoholic drinks and cigarettes. She was not Muslim or Iglesia, but as a matter of principle simply refused to sell those items.