Thursday, September 15, 2005
THEY flapped their wings, scratched the ground, and wiggled their tails as they danced and romped through the main streets of Calbayog City, during the vesper day parade on Sept. 7, held in celebration of the city fiesta in honor of the Our Lady of Nativity.
People lined both sides of the street to witness another performance of the Sarakiki-Hadang Festival. They also went to the Christ the King College grounds for the formal presentation of a dance ritual by the skilled dancers dressed like chickens. In fact, the dancers had become the joy and pride of the locals who would always crow about the dance group's success.
The group was first organized as the Sarakiki Festival in the mid-1990s, during the term of then Mayor Reynaldo Uy, who is now the representative of Samar's first district. The city government wanted then to have a festival that would instill pride and sense of identity among the Calbayognons and to unify them as one community. They settled on the Sarakiki Festival.
Sarakiki is said to be based on the legend of Ilahas and Mahusay, which means wildlife and beautiful. According to legend, Ilahas invented a new dance that he and Mahusay performed before their tribe in Ibatan (now Calbayog). The dance movements were patterned after those of a cock.
Sarakiki is a Waray term that describes the movement of a rooster when it tries to court a hen or to provoke another rooster to a fight. The cock spreads one of his wings down and moves fast with one leg up, around the object his love or enemy. Imitating the rooster, the dancers also clench their fists with the thumbs out, to represent the fowl's gaff (tadi in Waray and tari in Tagalog).
Incidentally, the dance movements can also be seen in the kuratsa, a popular courtship dance of the Warays.
Since its first public appearance, the city government, through the City Arts and Culture Office, has sponsored the Sarakiki Festival. Aside from the city officials, parents, students and members of private organizations have also been supportive of the event.
When Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento assumed office in 2001, the holding of the festival was temporarily stopped. It was revived the following year as the Sarakiki-Hadang Festival.
Hadang is an ancient rite said to have been performed by early Calbayognons when asking the gods for a bountiful harvest, cure of the sick, or the defeat of the enemy, among others.
A Hadang Ritual Competition marked the opening of the recent week-long festival. The first prize went to the Trinidad National High School, while the national high schools of Oquendo and San Joaquin bagged the second and third prizes.
Among the other features of the celebration were cultural shows, body-painting contest, band competition and a regional brain and beauty contest dubbed "Search for Miss Anyag 2003," which was won by 18-year-old Ruby Rose Reyes of nearby Gandara, Samar.
The Sarakiki-Hadang Festival group is composed of 109 student-dancers from different city schools and 15 city government employees. It uses at least 12 bamboo drums, 12 snare drums and six bass drums.
And whenever the beating of the drums starts, lead dancer Eddie "Wacky" Flores again leads his flock of dancing chickens in what seemed to be a frenzied but actually well-coordinated movements that never fail to enthrall the crowd.
With adrenaline rushing, Wacky and his fellow dancers perform the rooster's courtship movement by swaying their body, stomping their feet, and flailing their hands to the rhythm of the drumbeats.
On his own, Wacky would perform his own version of the "chicken walk" or wag his long feather tail to the delight of the crowd.
The Sarakiki has already won several awards in regional competitions. During the recent Tandaya-Ibabao Festival of Festivals in Tacloban City, it no longer competed but performed an exhibition number.
In the national scene, the group was recently adjudged second runner-up during the Aliwan Festival dance competition in May at the Star City. It was also invited to perform during the opening on Sept. 18 of the "Best in Region 8," an activity sponsored by the Department of Tourism under its "WOW Philippines" program.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Pinoy Big Brother who? Pinoy Big Brother is the owner of the Big Brother House, the place where 12 complete strangers will try to live their bizarre lifestyle for 100 days. He is the mysterious voice that delegates tasks and challenges to the 12 housemates. He also listens to the confessions of the 12 strangers as they go through their rigorous Big Brother lifestyle. The Arrival From a hotel located in Ortigas, the housemates arrived one by one infront of the house as hosts Willie Revillame, Toni Gonzaga and Marielle Rodriguez introduced them to the millions of viewers watching in their homes. This was also the first time that the twelve housemates saw and greet each other. First to arrive was housmate Frederico Barrera. He was followed by Chx Alcala, Jason Gainza, Nene Tamayo, Bob De La Cruz, Sey Alonzo, Cassandra Ponit, JB Magsaysay, Racquel reyes, Uma Khaouny, Jenny Suico and Franzen Macaraeg. The 12 complete strangers were very emotional as they bid goodbye to their family members and close friends, whom they will not see in the next 100 days. Most of them cried as their close loved ones hugged and kissed them for the last time, before they entered the house.
The Start of 100 days of Pinoy Big Brother Lifestyle
After they were introduced, The hosts escorted them to the house. They were all excited and immediately went around the house and checked the place where they will stay in the next one hundred days. They were about to eat dinner, when, for the first time, Pinoy big Brother spoke to the housemates and asked them to do their first tasks, which was to capture three pigs in the Pinoy big Brother house garden
This is only the start as the twelve housemates face other difficult tasks and challenges of Pinoy Big Brother in the coming days. Will they find each other nice or will conflict set in as they discover each others’ complex personality. Find out on Pinoy Big Brother, nightly on ABS-CBN Primetime Bida after kampanerang Kuba. Other pinoy big brother updates can also be seen on Pinoy Big Brother Up-late, the
midnightedition of Pinoy big Brother. Studio 23 will also provide the latest information about Pinoy Big Brother on “Si Kuya, Kabarkada mo,” Mondays thru Thursday 630pm to
7pmand on Saturdays, 630pm.
Parating na siya!
1 house12 complete strangers100 days of isolation from the outside world
No phones, newspapers, radio or television setsNo contact with their loved ones
But there is someone who sees everything they do.He guides, he challenges, he inspires…He is Pinoy Big Brother.
Taking the whole world by storm, this reality show started in Europe, enthralled the US, Austraila, North & South America and is beginning to mesmerize Asia.
And now, Big Brother has set his eyes on the Philippines.
Ano nga ba ang pakiramdam kung ang bawat kilos mo ay minamanmanan bawat araw, bawat oras, bawat minuto?
Hanggang saan ang iyong titiisin mabigyan lang ng magandang buhay ang iyong pamilya?
Ito ang kapalit, upang pangarap mong isang milyong piso, bagong kotse at house & lot ay makamit.
In Pinoy Big Brother, 12 housemates will take on challenges as individuals or as a team,which will bring out the best and worst in them.
All of this will take place under the scrutiny of 26 cameras and numerous microphones mounted all over the Pinoy Big Brother house, broadcast on national television.It’s real-life drama, real comedy and real victories… and failures.
Tunay ang iyakan. Tunay ang tawanan. Tunay ang bawat emosyon na mararamdaman.
Ito ang teleserye ng totoong buhay ng Pinoy!
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Friday, September 02, 2005
I thank GOD i was blessed with the skill of understanding the technology of ours today...i am very thankful i have learned how to use the computer especiall the internet...as i have considered it the best in our modern technology...being an adopted son of science, technology is quite inseparable to my life...i just wonder why of all the people on earth...these three little singaporean exhibit interest in me [and that i don't know...whew!]...needless to say that i cannot [frankly speaking] understand what they are saying and expressing because they are not good in speaking the english language...in fairness to them because they form part of my friend circle...they try their best in able to have me as their colleague...to these gracious people [mimi, momo, amd mumu] mere acknowledgment will not suffice for all the good things you have shown me in the times of our friendship...there is no enough room in these page to even begin to thank you for all the sincerity you have shown me, the good chatting times even we don't see each other [for we are just permitted to talk virtually], but still you give your utmost respect to me as your dearest friend...i just hope what we have statrted will last till our friendship breathes...thank you for making my world a brighter place to live in...madamo nga salamat mga sangkay ko sa singapore[thank you very much my friends in Singapore!]
Good Luck and God Bless!
THE FOOD and Drug Administration (FDA) has barred the entry into the United States of some 300 products from the Philippines for failing to meeting its standards.
The barred products, as reported in BusinessWorld, include food and beverages manufactured by some of our biggest companies, including US multinationals: Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc.'s Royal Tru-Orange, RFM's White King Champorado Mix, Moo Chocolate and Ube Milk, Kraft Foods' Tang Guyabano and Ponkan C juice drinks as well as Sugarland's Eight O' Clock powdered juice, Del Monte's Italian-style and sweet-style spaghetti sauces, Philippine Beverage Partners' Jellyace snacks, Century Canning's Century Tuna, Liwayway's Oishi and Prawn Crackers, Zesto's Quik Chow Instant Pancit Canton, Leslie's Nacho Chips, Monde Denmark Nissin's Lucky Me instant noodles, Mama Sita sauces and even Universal Robina's Maxx and XO candies, Payless Instant Noodles and Nissin Yakisoba instant noodles.
A number of cosmetic and beauty products are also on the banned list, including skin-whitening products from Sara Lee and Splash, Getz Brothers' Salonpas, Johnson & Johnson's Modess and Clean & Clear Facial Wash, Kimberly Clark's Kotex and Interphil's feminine hygiene wash. Even the giant multinational Unilever was affected, with the following products barred: Leave-on hair conditioner, Closeup toothpaste, Pond's Cream, Wash and Fluid, and Vaseline Amino Collagen.
The list reminds us how powerful homegrown tastes can be even when one moves several thousand miles away. I can imagine Filipino-Americans protesting: What do you mean no more Maxx candies? Even worse, why aren't we getting Choc Nut anymore?
Note, too, a reversal of the colonial mentality. In the Philippines, we crave for "Stateside" products and yet when Filipinos finally make it to the Promised Land, there's nostalgia for Filipino products, from Closeup toothpaste to Salonpas. There are strange twists here as well: note the colonial mentality is still operational in the demand for skin-whitening products.
Which takes us to why the products were barred from entering the United States. For the cosmetic and "beauty" (I just had to add the quotation marks this time around) products, the ban was imposed because those products were not licensed by the FDA. Some products, like those skin whiteners, will never make it through FDA requirements, whether for safety or efficacy; yet, they're among the best-selling cosmetic products here in the Philippines (just check out Mercury Drug's shelves next time you visit and you'll find several versions).
Some of the larger food and beverage manufacturers whose products were barred have told BusinessWorld that their products are safe. Coca-Cola said it followed the same standards for production worldwide and that the ban was due to differences in labeling requirements in the Philippines and the United States.
An example of this difference is that here we only require manufacturers to indicate that food coloring has been used, while in the United States, the FDA requires that the actual name of each food coloring is indicated on the label.
But these differences in labeling requirements should make us rethink our own labeling requirements. Food coloring and other additives aren't as innocuous as we might think. Tartrazine, a yellow dye commonly used in candies, soft drinks and other foods, as well as additives such as sulfites (very common in preserved fruits) can cause severe reactions such as skin hives and asthma-like symptoms. These are not banned substances, but many countries require that labels indicate their presence in foods or beverages, as a warning to consumers who may be particularly sensitive to those chemicals.
A proper listing of all the foods that went into a package is also important. Muslims and Jews, for example, need to know if the product has any pork or pork derivatives in it. Very strict vegetarians will not take any food product with dairy or eggs.
Many of us are aware of allergies to seafood, but there are many other common foods that can cause sensitivity reactions in some people, including eggs, wheat and the different kinds of nuts, including peanuts. As with the food coloring and additives, these foods need to be indicated on the label as a warning. (On some British food products, I've noticed they even use an exclamation point accompanied by text that reads: "Contains Nuts.")
I have written about the dangers of excessive sodium intake because it can send blood pressure soaring. Again, a proper food label will tell you how much sodium comes with the product, and how close you're getting to the maximum recommended daily intake of 1,500 milligrams. (Lower that to 1,200 mg for people over 70.)
The Americans are also very strict about food products not making any therapeutic claims. This is important because many so-called herbal medicines are approved not as drugs but as foods, and when approved that way, they are not allowed -- both in the United States and in the Philippines -- to make any claims for preventing or curing diseases.
Recently I caught an ad on one of the larger radio stations for an herbal product, where the announcer dutifully read out, "Approved by the Bureau of Food and Drugs. No therapeutic claims allowed." He paused a split second then went on to enumerate something like 20 diseases that the product supposedly could cure! I could almost imagine the product label reading "No therapeutic claims allowed" accompanied by the claims.
Instead of complaining about the United States barring our products, we should pick up some lessons on proper labeling of our food, beverage and cosmetic products. Schools should be teaching students how to read these labels, including detecting hype and false claims.
EVERY evening at the Rockwell Center in Makati City, as plush boutiques wind down their activities, there is a building that goes in the other direction, coming alive as hundreds of students stream into Ateneo de Manila University's Professional Schools for their classes in law, government, and business.
For two nights this week, the building was busier than usual as the school brought several hundred students together for plenary lectures, part of an extraordinary exercise called Mulat-Diwa -- an opening of the mind or, in the words of Dr. Alfredo Bengzon, who heads the business school, "the eyes of the heart" -- to get the students to reflect on how business might contribute to the task of nation-building.
I was invited to lecture on culture and nation building while Ateneo's own Father Jojo Magadia spoke on economics, politics and poverty. I will admit that even after years of teaching, I found the assignment daunting. After all, we were being asked to deal with some 800 people at each session, our lectures transmitted live to several sites within the Rockwell campus, as well as to Ateneo's extension sites in Santa Rosa, Laguna, Subic, and Cebu City.
Skeptical? I will admit I was that way too; after all, talk about social conscience and nation building isn't usually done in a business school. Yet, by the end of the second round of talks, I could feel the atmosphere in the auditorium, and in the remote sites, was charged. People were, well, disturbed, and that was the most important point of the exercise.
Before the plenary lectures, the students got to see an episode of GMA Network's TV program "Imbestigador," titled "Pobreng Pinoy" [Poor Filipino]. I have worked with the poor in rural and urban areas for many years, but "Pobreng Pinoy" still had new shocking revelations.
What was most striking about the documentary was the way the poor find ways to survive: subsisting on instant noodles, setting up shacks on rivers (to get around the ban on squatting on land), taking over abandoned vehicles to build a home. But its most disturbing revelations were about the selling of body parts, "kinakalkal ang katawan," or "mining the body," as program host Mike Enriquez put it. We hear of such cases, but I was not quite prepared to learn the extent of what could be sold.
"Pobreng Pinoy" featured professional blood donors, something the public has been aware of for a long time. But that was the mildest example of body mining. It also featured a man who had sold all his teeth to dental students needing subjects to practice tooth extractions. He still goes to these dental students, this time to let them practice on his mouth for the fitting of dentures. He has also become an agent, looking for other people willing to let dental students practice their extraction skills on them.
Another man interviewed on the show talked about how he had donated some of his skin for a patient needing grafts. He got P5,000 for a small piece of skin from his leg, and now plans to sell his kidney. The trade in kidneys is actually thriving, with buyers sometimes coming in from overseas.
The most shocking example of body mining was a man who had sold one of his eyes, for P50,000, the money used up to treat his mother's heart condition.
There were other heartbreaking stories in this trade of body parts, ending with a mother who had accepted P50,000 from someone who wanted to adopt her newborn child.
A nation dismembered
During one of the plenary sessions, the topic of overseas Filipino workers came up.
While recognizing the extent of remittances coming in, Father Jojo wondered if overseas labor was really making a dent on people's lives. Sure, homes are built and children get to finish college because of the remittances, but Father Jojo also wondered how much of workers' earnings go into productive activities to make a difference for national development.
I had to speak out, too, again acknowledging that our overseas workers are making heroic contributions to the Philippine economy but wondering what the long-term costs would be. I shared the story of a 21-year-old girl who had been recruited to work in Japan. She had become pregnant before she could leave, and after the baby was born she began to consider the possibilities of paying her way out of her contract.
The people at the promotions agency did not take kindly to her request to withdraw from the recruitment, first telling her she'd need to pay at least P70,000 for expenses they'd incurred for her training and documentation. Not only that, the staff lectured her on the need to be more responsible: "Aren't you ashamed to your younger brother and sister? By not going to Japan, you're letting them down."
As if that statement was not bad enough, she was always hectored: "Someday when your baby grows up, don't you think you'd be ashamed telling your child that you chose not to go to Japan to work?"
My regular readers know I've always been supportive of overseas workers but there are times, and they are becoming more frequent, when I wonder what the long-term social costs will be for such large-scale deployment.
The anecdote about the young girl who had just delivered stirred up the audience, and got Dr. Alfredo Bengzon to speak out, too, and to compare this massive exporting of labor to the trade in body parts. As our Filipinos leave, we become a nation dismembered, much like the poor who sell vital body organs.
My main concern is the way overseas work has totally changed, well, distorted, our priorities. Our national development plans seem to hinge on this export. Business establishments aim for the returning overseas worker, and their families, for their market -- everyone else seems too poor to afford to buy anything. Many of our schools have become mass assembly lines for a global labor market. And, most sadly, families now tell their kids, "You have to at least finish high school so that someday you can work abroad."
Finding the stars
Our plenary talks at the Ateneo had started out with a prayer written by South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was appropriately entitled "Disturb us, Lord," calling on God to stir the spirit "when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have become true because we dreamed too little; when we have arrived in safety because we sailed too close to the shore... when because of the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the water of life; when, having fallen in love with time, we have ceased to dream of eternity." The prayer dares us to be bold, to venture out to the seas during a storm so that, "losing sight of land, we shall find the stars."
During the open forum, someone asked, "How will we find those stars?"
Maybe poverty, because it is so overwhelming lulls us into collective denial of our problems. If we are to chart our own national destiny it is time we put up signs that read, "Please do disturb."
WHEN I was little, very little, my mother and I used to have a daily ritual: Every evening, after she returned from work, she'd plug in the radio and we'd listen together to classical music.
I can still see the little white box that always seemed to take ages to warm up, a few tentative notes slowly floating out, a slow crescendo before the full piece would burst into our living room.
One evening, tiny impatient Mike just couldn't wait for his daily dose of Bach and Beethoven and decided to get started on his own. I guess I figured it would be easy: Just plug the cord into the wall. You guessed it: I got zapped, surviving (obviously) but still leery today, many years later, of plugs and sockets.
The radio I still love, with a passion -- AM, FM, and more. Shortwave I discovered one summer in Legazpi City when I was sent there for a vacation with one of my father's business associates. They had one of those clunky but powerful radios (I'm imagining it now looming as large as a television set), with a dial that had all the different wavelengths. I was mesmerized by the way you could tune in to the entire world.
We didn't call it surfing then, but surf I did, from one end of each bandwidth to the other, across the exotic cacophonies of alien tongues and music, pausing occasionally when I'd hear some English.
It was the height of the Cold War so there were enough of these English broadcasts vying for young gullible minds like mine. Voice of America (VoA) had the strongest signals since it had relay stations right here in the Philippines. Radio Moscow came through, too, made all the more significant because our neighborhood grocery had started selling Sputnik, a Soviet propaganda magazine, which offered schedules for Radio Moscow, as well as lessons in the Cyrillic alphabet and stories about Soviet achievements. I was so impressed by their story about Laika, the Soviet astrodog, that I named one of our dachshunds after her.
When martial law was imposed, together with media censorship, shortwave became useful as an alternative source of news. By then a University of the Philippines student properly initiated to the politics of the Left, I had stopped listening to VoA, convinced it was nothing but US imperialist propaganda. Instead, I tuned in to the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC). While one could have argued this was the voice of British imperialism (I learned only recently that the BBC World Service was once called the Empire Service), they at least used the King's English.
Radio Peking (it wasn't Beijing then) was another favorite. Somehow, the Chinese had found a way to get Tagalog broadcasts in through the edge of the AM frequency, with weak but audible signals. In retrospect, it was a rather dull station but there was a bit of a thrill listening in because technically it was considered a subversive activity. There were rumors, too, that the broadcasters' flawless, albeit formal Tagalog, had been trained by Filipino political activists who had gone into exile in China.
As television sets became more affordable, there were predictions radio would disappear. That hasn't happened. I still tune in quite often to AM stations, especially for their live coverage of breaking news, from the EDSA People Power revolts to attempted coups and political crises and natural disasters.
Sadly though, the fare on both TV and radio have deteriorated over the years as stations turn to tabloid formats of shrill sensationalized news and really bad music. It hasn't helped that the only classical musical station in the Philippines, dzFE, has been reducing its broadcast time.
Fortunately, new technologies provide us with fresh alternatives for listening to radio. The Internet now allows us to tune in to radio stations from around the world. I can be in Manila listening to a classical station in San Francisco, or to BBC, which is generally more critical and comprehensive in its coverage of news, whether cloning, the Iraq "wo" [war] or the archaeology of music. Conversely, one midnight, sequestered and homesick in the middle of a lake in Italy for a conference, I actually derived comfort listening to Metro Manila morning traffic updates on GMA Network's radio station dzBB, a link to which you can find on the Inquirer website.
Internet radio does have its limitations: Unless you have a high speed connection like DSL, listening to these broadcasts can become an ordeal, with constant interruptions and repeated attempts by the computer to unscramble the digital data.
An alternative is satellite radio. As far as I know, there's only one company doing global transmissions of this type, and this is Worldspace. You need a special radio, selling from 100 to 200 dollars, to pick up several radio stations beamed out through satellite. You can get more information on this service, including dealers who distribute their radios, on www.worldspace.com. (There are no local distributors yet but I got a good deal from a retailer in Thailand.)
The selection is quite good, from BBC and CNN to classical to African pop and Latin music, the broadcasts coming in crystal clear and in stereo. The only drawback to Worldspace is that you have to position a small satellite dish (about five inches in diameter) out in the garden or on the roof, making sure there is nothing, not even a tree branch, to interfere with the satellite signal.
You might ask why anyone should bother listening to BBC on the radio when you can get it on cable television. Well, with radio, you can continue working, as I am doing now, while getting the latest news or listening to a concert. There are times, too, when radio is more appropriate for unwinding, ending a day well spent, as my mother and I used to do when I was a child.
There still is room, certainly, for improvement. I can imagine writing, maybe in the year 2030, about those good old days when we listened to radio through incredibly slow high-speed Internet, or the times I had to climb the roof to install and, later, adjust the Worldspace satellite dish, my dogs watching from the ground apprehensively, whining away almost as if to warn me of the time when a much younger Mike got into trouble, all for radio.
Being attractive is the most important thing there isIf you wanna catch the biggest fish in your pondYou have to be as attractive as possibleMake sure to keep your hair spotless and cleanWash it at least every two weeksOnce every two weeksAnd if you see Johnny football hero in the hallTell him he played a great gameTell him you like his article in the newspaperI'm the party starI'm popularI've got my own carI'm popularI'll never get caughtI'm popularI make football betsI'm a teachers pet.I propose we support a one month limit on going steadyI think It will keep you both more able to dealwith weird situationsAnd get to know more peopleI think if you're ready to go out with JohnnyNow's the time to tell him about your one month limitHe wont mind he'll apreciate your fresh look on datingAnd once you've dated someone else you can datehim againI'm sure he'll like itEveryone will appreciate itYou're so novel, what a good ideaYou can keep your time to your selfYou don't need date insuranceYou can go out with whoever you want toEvery boy, every boy in the whole world could be yoursIf you'll just listen to my planTHE TEENAGE GUIDE TO POPULARITY
HERE are some tips for success from the "Intsik," the earlier generations of Chinese migrants to the Philippines. The secret to success isn't "feng shui" and good luck charms or staying home on Friday the 13th. Instead, the "secrets" involve common sense, as we see in the first tip, which is to find, or create your own niche.
The second pointer we can pick up from the Intsik relates to the first: Start small. The original "dyaryo't bote" -- people buying up old bottles and newspapers and, generally, junk -- were the Intsik. Others started as sidewalk vendors (my maternal grandfather sold handkerchiefs on the street in Chinatown's Rosario).
Another example is the SM mall chain. I still remember the original ShoeMart in the 1960s, a small shoe store on Rizal Avenue in Manila. Who would have predicted we'd see all those SM malls today? Today, older ethnic Chinese visit SM and sometimes comment, after seeing some of the stores, that they are worried that younger entrepreneurs have lost touch with reality, wanting to start too big, too soon.
The third tip again relates to the first two: Go for volume sales, rather than quick profits. The Intsik went for a few centavos' profit at a time (well, okay, these days, a few pesos), as with my grandfather's handkerchiefs. You still see this principle working, whether for jewelry in Chinatown, clothes and school supplies in Manila's Divisoria flea market area or cell phones in the Virra Mall bargain center. The reality is that there is no such thing as instant wealth; in fact, anyone who offers some investment scheme with quick returns is probably a con artist.
Quite often, this matter of yielding to the temptation to make quick profits relates to an unwillingness to start at the bottom. On a recent flight from San Francisco to Manila, I was seated beside a Filipino-American businessman who had done very well in the United States. He lamented how Filipinos in the United States, in contrast to the Chinese or the Thais, seemed to prefer working for someone in a white-collar job rather than being his or her own boss. A new Chinese migrant would start out maybe as a waiter but with the intention of saving up enough to open up his own small restaurant, putting in long hours, while aiming for small profits while serving good food. Eventually, they build up their clientele, and a little business empire.
Fourth, cultivate the "suki," a Tagalog word derived from the Hokkien Chinese "ju ke," which means No. 1 customer. Make all customers -- even first-time walk-ins -- feel they're No. 1 with little perks, like serving coffee and snacks. More importantly, offer special discounts, credit terms or even referrals to other businesses if you don't stock what they need.
Fifth, live within your means. I've written about our tendency, especially among the Filipino male, to splurge, and to avoid work that is "beneath" us. This "señorito" complex is found throughout the region. Indonesians call it the "priyayi" [aristocrat] mentality, the need to show off even if one doesn't have the means. Businesses flounder, then collapse, because money from sales, rather than being reinvested to generate more capital, are being squandered on prestige activities.
Sixth, put money into social investments. Tessie Ang See, one of the "Chinoy" [Chinese-Filipino] community's leaders, put it very well in a recent TV interview, "The reality is that you actually rarely see very rich, or very poor, Chinoys."
The reason for this is that the Chinese have all kinds of mutual-help projects extending from womb to tomb: clan associations, Chinese schools, hospitals, homes for the aged, even cemeteries. The schools were built, recognizing that the most important capital any community has is that of human resources. The Chinese schools are now among the best in the country, attracting even non-Chinese families.
But there was more to these social investments than human capital. Educating the young, caring for the sick and the aged, even burying the dead, all converged to build up a sense of community and of civic duty. Early in life, the Intsik learned that each hungry or homeless person, each child who drops out from school, was a source of shame, impoverishing the entire community.
Some of you may be asking, what's Mike Tan's "k" ("karapatan," or right) to talk about making money when he isn't even in business? I make no such claims, or rather I'm not limiting myself to talking about making money in the business sense. The "Intsik" principles apply as well to government and to NGOs, the sectors I'm involved in.
I've seen too many government projects fail because of policies that are shortsighted, failing to anticipate long-term needs and niches. I see projects that remain on the drafting stage for years because we talk too much, unwilling to buckle down to handling the most difficult yet crucial part: starting the project. And when other people decide to take the initiative, moving the project and producing results, we see demolition jobs to put down those who have tried to move the organization forward.
I see constituencies neglected, when every citizen should be treated like a "suki" since it's his taxes that pay for government employees' salaries. But no, government people tend to think the public owes them, rather than the other way around.
I see agencies living beyond their means-scarce resources wasted on large buildings, plush offices, vanity brochures and advertisements in newspapers (especially these days, as politicians make a last-minute pitch for votes).
I see government and NGO executives transforming tight operating budgets into personal expense accounts. While supported by all the correct necessary vouchers and forms, the purchases are often based on the official's whims and penchant for the latest technological gizmos, rather than the agency's needs. All this is really another form of corruption, and corruption is always bad business sense.
The Intsik secrets aren't really confined to private businesses. We're talking here about being successful in anything we do, whatever our sector might be. And if you ask how we might distill all those "secrets," I'd say they boil down to one very basic principle: Make good by doing good.
THE SANTO Niño (Holy Child) is a quintessential Filipino Catholic icon, much loved and venerated, a little boy vested with the most extraordinary of powers. To be able to heal, many faith healers go into trances, their voices transformed into that of a little child to signify that the Santo Niño has taken over. Mothers pin Santo Niño medals on babies to protect them from illnesses and from harm in general. And what Filipino Catholic home would be complete without at least one image of the Santo Niño?
I know there's an entire coffee-table book produced on the Santo Niño in the Philippines but I haven't been able to get a copy, so I don't know how they explain this image's popularity. My hunch is that God, as God the Father, and Jesus still remain distant for many Filipinos. Too alien (especially God the Father, who looks too much like the Spanish friars), too male. When the Filipino needs succor and comfort, the gentle Virgin Mary and the innocent Santo Niño are so much more approachable. Note how Filipino mothers instill this love for the Santo Niño early in life, instructing children to pray to "Baby Jesus."
A plethora of Santo Niños
The Santo Niño comes in many versions: fair-skinned or dark-skinned, in simple or elaborate clothes. Perhaps reflecting my own personality and lifestyle, my favorite is the "Santo Niñong Gala," the vagabond Santo Niño looking like a hobo, complete with a stick and a bundle of clothes, always on the road.
Gay couturiers love the Santo Niño, designing the most elaborate costumes for their statues, which are then paraded with other images when there are neighborhood religious activities, in a kind of fashion show.
The Santo Niño's popularity stems in part from its ability to be "adopted" by anyone, simply by changing its clothes. It's not just gay couturiers who love the Santo Niño, your epitome of machismo, soldiers and police, also have their Santo Niños perched on an altar and looking over their shoulders, decked out of course in the proper uniform.
Government offices also constantly violate the constitutional separation of Church and State by displaying their own versions of Santo Niños, although I have to say I have not seen these Santo Niños decked out according to the agency's work (e.g., dressed as a doctor for the Department of Health).
I've noticed Santo Niños are also very popular in beerhouses, bars and, well, what have been referred to euphemistically as "bahay aliwan" [houses of pleasure]. No, those Santo Niños aren't dressed, or undressed, for the occasion.
In several church courtyards here in Manila, vendors hawk a "Santo Niñong Hubad" -- yes, a naked Santo Niño, anatomically correct but physiologically not quite right. Let me explain that for lay people: yes, the anatomy can be correct, but what they tried to get the correct anatomy to do, for an infant, wasn't exactly possible.
Mind you, this naked Santo Niño now comes in different versions. I've seen at least four different ones. A tiny one, about 1-1/2 centimeters high, which you can carry in your wallet or put under your tongue (more on this later). This image has two other larger versions. Then there's also one where Baby Jesus is on the palm of a hand.
What powers does the Santo Niñong Hubad have?
I've always felt religious beliefs and practices are very malleable, adjusting to people's needs. Ask the Santo Niñong Hubad vendors what the little statues do and they'll tailor their answers according to who's asking.
If it's a woman who inquires, they'll say the image brings good luck, especially the Santo Niño on a palm. If it's an older woman asking, the vendor is likely to suggest that carrying the Santo Niño around helps to keep a marriage intact.
Now if the prospective buyer is a male, vendors will give you that inscrutable smile. To me, they gave the standard generic reply, "Suerte" [Good luck]. I'd heard of other more powerful functions of the Santo Niñong Hubad and asked if it is a "gayuma," a love charm. The vendors were mum. I guess I just looked too academic to need such talismans.The first time I heard about the Santo Niñong Hubad, I did ask Tita Gilda Cordero Fernando, an authority on Filipino popular culture, about it and she scoffed, "Goodness, that's been around for many years. You're supposed to swallow it."
Swallow? Maybe the earlier versions were, well, edible but the ones they sell now are metal ones, and I'd definitely advise against swallowing it. It can be quite awkward explaining to the doctors in the emergency room what they need to fish out of your gut.
Anyway, the mystery of the Santo Niñong Hubad persisted. I bought a few, distributed them to my mother and aunts (one of whom brought it to her parish priest to bless, which he declined) and continued to ask around.
Until one day I showed it to the father of my partner, a crusty working-class super-macho male if there ever was one. He smiled and said it was "mabisa," very effective. A man of few words, he elaborated a bit about putting the image under your tongue and thus armed, anyone you whisper sweet nothings to would not be able to say no.
The next week when we met, he slipped a piece of paper into my hand and told me to follow the instructions carefully. "Buhayin mo," he grunted.
It was chilling: He was telling me to bring the image to life first, before it could work, and he had just passed on prayers and incantations to use for nine Fridays in a row.
Our many Santo Niños, not just the Santo Niñong Hubad, tell us so much about Philippine society. I've mentioned how maybe the child Jesus is so much more approachable. Maybe, too, that's why the Santo Niño is so popular in government offices, displayed to radiate some kind of continuous absolution. I once had to go through Customs to claim a shipment of books and was struck by the many Santo Niño statues in the offices. Why, nearly every desk had one. Then it occurred to me, as I ran the gauntlet of numerous Customs officials signing clearances, that their desk drawers were all open, presumably to receive bribes, oops, I meant heaven's blessings... and the Santo Niño's forgiveness.
And the Santo Niñong Hubad? Who knows? My partner's mother claims, tongue in cheek, she was a "victim" of this Santo Niño and her husband's lethal whisper while my partner's father, when he gave me the piece of paper, warned me, "Don't ever teach this to my son. He knows too much already."
I don't believe in the occult so I've filed the spells away, together with the Santo Niñong Hubad images. We get the partners we deserve and whether they stay or not depends not so much on naked Santo Niños under our tongue, than on how we use our hearts and our minds.
The naked Santo Niño bares Philippine society, daring us to think about all our existential anxieties around love and marriage and life itself.
we are the heroes of our own lives... If you're in trouble, real trouble, the word on the street is that there's a boy who'll help. He'll listen to your story, and he'll make a judgment. If he thinks you're wrong, you're out on your ass. If he thinks you've been wronged, you'll never have a better friend. For once, the word on the street is good. There is such a man. There are still "good" in these world. If everyone turns you down, you get hurt and and cant help but cry...hold back and he'll be just their.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
SMART-ASS kids, I thought when I saw the front-page photo in another newspaper. "Naked truth," the caption read, referring to a rally at the Chino Roces (Mendiola) bridge where 15 young males ran naked around the University Belt. A spokesman of Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan, which organized the University Belt(less) run, explained that the protest action was meant to "symbolize the naked truth on the difficult education in the country due to poor investment resulting in 13.4 million out-of-school youths."
From the statement, you can see why we should protest the state of the educational system.
Seriously, the protest clearly takes off from the University of the Philippines' (UP's) annual Oblation Run started many years ago originally as a protest against censorship during the Marcos dictatorship. If memory serves me right, that was also a time when, in the West, there was a streaking fad, streakers being people who'd suddenly pop out of nowhere and make a mad dash, while stripping down, through an area with many people.
The Oblation Run was a modification, using the Western streaking fad but also using UP's famous (or infamous) Oblation statue, minus the leaf, as a role model. Frat neophytes volunteered (I think) to streak as part of their initiation and all for a good cause, meaning publicizing burning issues of the day. A few years back the naked UP fratmen ended their run by forming a line in front of Palma Hall, baring their backs and butts to spell "ERAP RESIGN."
Shock and awe
In this age of saturated mass media, it's become more and more difficult to launch advocacy and political action events. Catching the public's attention requires a strategic combination of timing with eye-catching visuals and ear-catching sound bytes.
The animal rights group Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is well known for using skin-baring shock (and maybe awe) tactics to grab the public's attention. To protest the slaughter of animals for fur, they've had celebrities (and non-celebrities) parading naked with signs, "I'd rather go naked than wear fur." Actress Pamela Anderson pose for a poster that read, "Give fur the cold shoulder," showing off her shoulder and more. A local Peta poster has model Raya Mananquil wearing little more than angel wings while cuddling a cute little piglet, urging people: "Earn your wings. Go vegetarian."
The student activists' bare run was meant to shock, but also drew on an interesting metaphor of baring the truth. The metaphor's actually more Western, this idea of disclosure, sometimes described as baring one's soul to bring out the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth -- naked, that is.
The word "naked" shocks because it is so bold. Motion adds to the shock value of Oblation-like runs, birds flying in the air, and I'm being metaphorical. With the University Belt run, there was an interesting use of non-motion. According to one newspaper report, at one point the protesters "lay down on the scorching road, some spreading their legs, before a throng of photographers and TV cameramen." A photograph in a local Chinese paper, World News, captured that moment of self-sacrifice, some protesters face down, others face up. Goodness, hot buns and hot dogs.
I've wondered at how effective these skin-blitzkreig tactics might be. Language reflects the way we think and really, we don't actually think of truth as having to be bared. The University Belt protesters used the Tagalog "hubad na katotohanan," a literal translation of the English "naked truth." But "hubad na katotohanan" doesn't have the impact that the English term has. I hear the word and I think of lumpiang hubad. Now you'd need a pretty wild imagination to think of a naked spring roll as phallically erotic. Maybe, albeit tiny, the "lumpia" shanghai but not a naked "lumpia."
We're more nonchalant about nakedness maybe because in a tropical country like the Philippines, bared skin is pretty common, especially with men, who have no qualms about walking around half-naked in broad daylight. Think of a typical Pinoy and you see a pot-bellied man standing on the corner in short pants and sando, pulled up of course as he scratches away at his blubber.
It's intriguing how in Tagalog we differentiate hubad and hubo. Hubad is undressed from the waist up so more accurately, "hubad na katotohanan" is "shirtless truth." Hubo, on the other hand, is undressed from the waist down. Mang Ambo, standing on the street corner scratching his belly, is technically hubad since he has his pants on, about as sexy as the lumpiang hubad.
So, why not "hubong katotohanan"? Truth without pants? It falls flat, too.
Emperors and empresses
But we shouldn't abandon the metaphors around truth and nakedness. Remember the story of the vain emperor who paraded around convinced he had the finest new clothes when in fact he was completely naked? Apparently, his sycophantic advisers were able to convince him he had special clothes and if the public could not appreciate the finery, it was because they were, well, not smart enough.
In many ways, we have a government with our own emperors and empresses. They don't exactly walk around naked; instead, they deck themselves in the finest tailored statistics. All's well, they tell themselves and us, citing the "strong" peso. All's well, they tell themselves and us, pointing to statistics of districts free of the illegal numbers game "jueteng": Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Northern Luzon ... goodness, the entire country is now jueteng-free. All's well, they tell themselves and us, poverty levels are rapidly dropping. I've lost track but two years ago it was something like 38 percent and the latest figures are about 26 percent.
Can people tell what the naked truth is? Maybe not as well when it comes to macroeconomics, for example, about how speculative investments in our casino stock market have artificially boosted the peso or about the Asian Development Bank's warning our government against "poverty reduction through statistics."
But people do know about their shrinking pay checks and how thousand-peso bills rapidly disappear with each visit to the grocery, gas station, pharmacy ... and these days, schools. Sure, tuition's free in public schools but it's amazing how much "extra fees" add up to.
People know, too, of the friendly neighborhood jueteng "kubrador" [bet collector] and of the cop on the take from drug dealers. If the public doesn't seem as interested in the congressional hearings these days, it's because they've always known about the corruption...and have lost faith in having anything come out of those hearings.
So maybe the naked runs serve some purpose. In a way, the smart-ass kids are like the innocently honest children who dared to shout, as the emperor strutted around, "He's naked! He's naked!" Hubad na, hubo pa. Shame, shame!
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This Week's Table of Contents
Additional headlines, summaries, and references. Registered subscribers who have signed in have access to the full text of all articles.
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