Nothing shows precisely, efficiently, and succinctly the vulnerabilities and strengths of a political leader more than a public debate.

Binay is deeply entangled in the lies he’s woven in the past. He’s unbelievable. And he doesn’t seem to believe in what he is saying, too.

Miriam is showing signs of senility. She hasn’t placed anything new on the table beyond the usual cynical rhetoric of a politician who’s in public service for way too long. I fear blood will spurt from her eyes anytime soon.

Duterte is cool, street smart-alecky, and composed. I hate to say this, but this man knows how to use television to his advantage very well.

Grace Poe sounds knowledgeable and very calm.

Mar Roxas is burdened by the present admnistration’s inaction. He talks about too many anecdotes and specifics that do not matter to the general viewers. He should have asked for some tips from his broadcaster wife.

This debate has many aspects to improve on, but it is a good start. There is no clear clash of platforms of government. The five running for the post of President end up agreeing with what each has said almost all the time. What this debate shows however is the individual personalities of the candidates. If for anything, the people will be judging TV-mediated character rather than picking the candidate with the best solutions to the country’s problems.

How the local media cheapened the coverage of 2010 elections

I am now beginning to question the wisdom behind blow by blow accounts of the election process all over the Philippines conducted by the big three television networks. Yes, the coverage was comprehensive, in fact it was hyperbolically comprehensive that they all hardly left minute details unmentioned. In fact sometimes, viewers would get an idea that the contents of news did not vary, only the place and the people involved.

The three big networks, ABS-CBN, GMA7, and ABC5, all fell in the shallow puddle of mere events reporting. Although it is worth mentioning that ABS-CBN went a bit against the grain by including a small analysis of the candidates. But this was an exception rather than a rule.

Yes, the Commission on Election was, as it has always been, sloppy and inept in doing the only thing it was supposed to spearhead and supervise, thereby giving our overeager journalists a field day reporting about malfunctioned PCOS, flying voters, disorganized system, and other election related incidents such as massive vote buying, killings, intimidation, and cheating.

The problem was that nothing got past the already negativistic and cynical perspective taken by the media, a point of view they take usually by default.

Little was reported about the quick and efficient conduct of polls in other parts of the archipelago. Little was reported about the heroic deeds done by our public school teachers who have been plunged in such dangerous places doing responsibilities no one would be willing to undertake in exchange of 1500 pesos allowance. My mother, a public high school teacher in South Cotabato, who chaired a cluster, can not even answer my calls until this time. I wonder if she has already eaten her dinner. Little was reported about the people who braved it all — fatigue, heat, hunger — just so they could vote and despite this still maintained their calm because they know they are doing something for the future of this country.

But reporting about long lines, overheated PCOS machines, irate voters who until this time have not even voted, and the grim future that lies ahead, it appeared to me, was local media’s very definition of newsworthiness. Boring analyses made by experts do not rate therefore a waste of precious airtime.

The networks and the reporters have chosen the easier way, a methodology that requires nothing much but stating the obvious.

Local media survive in redundancies and repetition. It is mind blowing how they do these. They do not get tired hearing themselves saying things they’ve already said moments ago. For a reporter, to be an effective election reporter in the Philippines he must love how he sounds so much so that he would not mind hearing himself saying the same thing every fifteen minutes in a 24-hour cycle.

Watching television coverage of election in the Philippines had been a traumatic experience. One will simply bleed in the shallowness of reportage.

A field reporter reporting live from Naga related that there were 16 ballots rejected by the machine; someone from Commonwealth, Quezon City reported about seven ballots rejected; from Davao City 11 ballots. But who cares? Should we owe it to the public to spare the people these unnecessary information?

Or that Noynoy Aquino got 237 votes from a precinct in Tondo, Joseph Estrada got 212 from the same polling cluster, and that Binay lead by 36 vote over Roxas who only got 17? Do we waste that same precious airtime on the pettiness of these pieces of information?

I say no. But I was traumatized to learn that the local media’s response was a resounding yes.

The new technologies, instead of empowering the public and involving the people in the exercise of democracy are cheapened by pseudo-journalists who parrot mindless reporting, predictable storytelling, and unverified reports which only heighten public distrust on our institutions. Forgetting that although there are parts of the process that are found wanting, in general automated election is better than manual. If only we get over our fear of technology.

If one entirely based his assessment of the election on the news he is getting from the media, he will without doubt think that the Philippines is the worst country in the world, even worse than little heard and hopeless countries in Africa such as Mozambique, Somalia, and Rwanda. If he believed in everything he hears and sees on TV, I’d be wondering why he had not committed suicide until this time by slitting his throat, licking the indelible ink on his index finger until high silver nitrite content poisons him, or simply running amuck until the military shoots him dead.

Good thing the Filipino is left with a little sense and maintains an almost unconditional and supernaturally-inspired hope for the future.

I’m still wondering what has happened to my mother. She has not returned my calls until now. I’m worried.

Cynical thoughts on this week’s politics

Ben and I were walking our way along Makati Avenue to an obscure street facing a chapel on Buenavista Hill to buy his daily paper as he makes sure he has a copy of all the big three broad sheets: PDI, Star, and Bulletin, everyday. For what reason? That I will have to find out.

From nowhere, “Who are you gonna vote for president?” I asked him.

Without any trace of hesitation he flatly replied, “Roxas.”

Having your opinions on Philippine politics is tricky if not altogether futile. As one is about to step on a stable ground, thinking that everything is going to be all right then he will realize that he stepped on a quick sand. So it is suggested not to have anything definite, especially opinions (well opinions are often changing), regarding politics in the country.

Mar Roxas and Noynoy Aquino


Let’s pick as an example Mar Roxas’s case. Weeks ago, we read on the news his pathetic performance in both polls made by the Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia, number six and seven, respectively. This week came and we found him abdicating the official endorsement of his Liberal Party, giving way to Noynoy Aquino (his childhood friend) to bid for the highest post in the land as their party’s standard bearer.

All of a sudden, people are talking about Roxas’s statesman-like character, his discernment, his virtues. Solita Monsod in her column even praised the senator and presidential wannabe.

Now let me share you an opinion by somebody raised and who still remains unweaned from Philippine pop culture:

This is a grand telenovela plot. Noynoy Aquino has no plan whatsoever to run as president. He knows his capability and he knows he’s not cut for the job. His parents’ heroism, unlike their Hacienda Luisita that has remained untouched by the Agrarian Reform Law, is non-transferable. Since Roxas’s popularity is trailing behind the rest he can use this to his advantage, as he finds out that marrying the high profile newsreader Korina Sanches is not enough to do the task. So he’ll be a thespian for a while, appearing undistraught in giving up his party nomination “for the country’s sake”. A mark of a true statesman.

Noynoy will then be back from his week-long retreat in a convent in Zamboanga, feeling all refreshed and ready to face his fate. And on national TV, teary-eyed he’ll declare that the post of the president is not for him, but will be content being the vice president in the mean time. He will add that somebody more worthy (as if it is a privilege), definitely not he, can do the job. The camera will then pan to Roxas feigning an unassuming posture. “Mar Roxas shall be the Liberal Party’s presidential nominee, and I will be just behind him as vice.” Noynoy will then do the cliché raising of Roxas’s hand.

Well, opinion do change, but Philippine politics seems to remain as is.

Mar Roxas’s sense of the ridiculous

Sa loob ng beerhouse:

G.R.O. (Sumasayaw): Ganito po sa amin, walang maayos na trabaho. Walang tutulong.

MAR ROXAS: Anak tumabi ka…ako ang gigiling.

(Inside a beerhouse:

G.R.O. (Dancing lasciviously): It’s been always like this. I cannot find a decent job. No one is going to help.

MAR ROXAS: Anak move over…let me do the dancing.)

Padyak Mar Roxas.jpg

I was in the toilet during my break when I received this SMS joke from a classmate in college. Political jokes do not interest me. They are uninteresting, funny in a very shallow way, and they lose their humor pretty quickly. Besides politicians in the Philippines are more laughable than the jokes they inspire. It’s like doing a parody of a joke. And that’s not at all funny.

Reading this joke above, however, made me reconsider my prejudgment. It was intelligently written. For one it is making a commentary on the supposed questionable sexuality of presidential candidate Mar Roxas. Not that it matters to me. In fact it doesn’t. But my take on this is a minority; in patriarchal Philippines a leader is compelled to live within the confines of stringent gender roles. Hybridizing is anomalous; and an anomaly is not easily accepted in Philippine politics. It is a sign of weakness, incompetence, moral degeneracy. So being a homosexual or being rumored as homosexual, even a trickle of this flamboyant blood running in one’s vein means a doomed political career.

In the Philippines they want to liken their male leaders to boars inseminating as many mistresses as their semen sac can ejaculate.  And their female leaders to be feminine and virginal. In the event she exhibits any sign of ‘libertarian’ tendencies then all is going down the drain for her.

Confused, unsure, or men and women opting to be in the middle ground are forever barred from politics. So they either remain closeted or come out and forget about politics altogether. This is Roxas’s problem. Unless he disproves this accusation hurled at him on his being binabae, baklush, bayot, bading, fairy, etc. then his dream of being in Malacanang is laid off. This will explain his much publicized rushed engagement with popular newreader Korina Sanches.

But the more important subtext of this joke is the politicians over-eagerness to help their voters that they end up disenfranchizing them in the crucial part of decision-making, of letting them decide their fate. Instead of empowering the voters and letting them find solutions to their individual problems by themselves, through their own effort and intellect, our politicians claim the burdens to themselves eventually making the forget them very reason why they are in public office.

Politicians in the Philippines are the most braggart lot; they’re so full of themselves, and are self proclaimed messiahs.

Mar Roxas, in his comatose-inducing Padyak ads, took the place of the boy in the driver’s seat, seated him in the passengers’ seat with his sister and drove the pedicab and jejunely uttered the flavorless tagline: Lalaban tayo! (We’ll fight this out!) He never proposed a solution, probably he meant to drive for the boy for a day, an earning insufficient to feed the boy’s family. Or he might have even wanted for himself the contemptibly small amount the boy will earn for a day in driving pedicab.

The greed.

Filipino politicians need to do a thorough system review and ask themselves whether their public relations department is doing its job. Gone are the days of gullible voters. Technology and the media are breeding more educated and sophisticated citizens. Why not instead of waging ad wars based on soap operatic themes, politicians consider presenting us definite platform of government? Enough with neurons-obliterating tactics. We demand substantial discussion of issues and not pa-pogi stance that has been repeatedly tried in previous elections. We’re sick and tired. And the political jokes circulating around is our response.

Don’t take us seriously and we’ll make fools of you.

SONA 2009 redressed

Was it a sardonic statement or a reflection of the descent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer to accommodate the readers shallow taste? Interspersed with photos depicting the demonstrators who picketed in front of Batasan this afternoon that criticized the president in her State of the Nation’s Address and Mar Roxas in his soon-to-be classic wet and wild pictures  boycotting of the SONA to be with the rallyists are Hollywood-like shots of our congressmen and senators strutting in their colorful ternos and Filipiniana on the red carpet.

Philippines Arroyo

The photo montage reminded me of Marie Antoinette saying her “Give them cake.” while the people of France starved in front of her.

It must have been appalling to see your representative in the House looking like wannabe celebrity who thought that the SONA was an annual parade to showcase her taste in fashion. Even hard-liners, activists congresswomen like Liza Maza and Risa Hontiveros-Baraqueil did not let go of this opportunity to make a political statement to the effect that their gowns have meanings, that they were made from indigenous materials, and that they are symbols of protest.

Now I understand why as a nation we are not taken seriously by other nationalities, it’s because we’ve never taken ourselves seriously in the first place. It is this “if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them” stance that is almost farcical if not absurd way of looking at our politics that makes us a subject of jokes. The same approach Sen. Pia Cayetano has been employing these years when she has constantly stolen attention with her statuesque figure and class. Or Jamby Madrigal’s old rich and subdued taste. Or a congresswoman from an unknown district who totes her couture gown she had made-pasadya only for this media-magnet event.

While Arroyo boasted about her accomplishments during the previous year, our vision was directed to her subliminally and sexually charged fuchsia gown. I may sound like a chauvinist pig here, but her choice of color spoke of both dominance and oozing sexuality. It was almost a good opportunity for the rest of the nation to validate whether her boob job was a success, or whether the leak made them less swollen.

Still she has failed to reflect in her SONA the real state of the nation. She boasted the GNP growth that is relatively higher than the rest of Southeast Asia but has never trickled down in the lives of ordinary Filipinos, or her non-committal statement of her stepping down the office next year, or the CARP programs that did not benefit its supposed recipients. Empty promises never kept, or if kept, remained illusory.

Arroyo did not bid a definite good bye, instead she left a looming fear in us that come 2010, she will hold on to her office as hardly as a scum.

Only her dress reflected her true motivations: power, dominance, and a libido that can only be described as “plenty”.

I’ll cast my vote this time

I am a registered voter in Barangay Calansanan Badiangan, Iloilo. I registered with my grandmother in 2004, traversing streams and rice paddies and riding a tricycle swarmed by young elementary school students just to reach the municipal hall located on the other side of a mountain. Although I am a registered voter, I never voted in any single election since I turned 18. Some crooks might have already used my name to vote for some corrupt politicians who can afford to pay, as is always the case in Philippine elections.


This barangay, located several kilometers from the nearest high way, is blocked by ephemeral streams from roads that would have connected it to other barangays for trading and other commercial endeavors, so until this time civilization is still at bay wondering when it will be allowed access. The place exists in a dream-like painting by Amorsolo minus the smiling lasses and able lads basking in a golden afternoon sun because the place is poverty incarnate. And the smiling lasses and able lads are either forced to leave and find a living in the city to send back money or they endlessly manufacture, so long as their hormones allow them, smiling lasses and able lads like them and hoping that these replicates of themselves go to the city and send back money someday.

For if somebody in the field of anthropology wanting to conduct a research using hermeneutics to live in a place where cycle of poverty mindlessly cycles or a biology major finding evidences to support the theory of spontaneous generation, as in this place babies miraculously sprout from any available space like mushrooms after a shower and thunderstorm, then the place is perfect.

I was asked by my lola to register in that place because my uncle, her son, was running during that time for municipal councilor. I agreed. He won without my vote because I chose to volunteer then for a radio station to cover the election in a district of Iloilo City.

I was not able to vote in the succeeding election as well. That time my grandmother’s son found himself at the bottom of the list. By the third time, he failed to occupy a position. The last time I heard he was wallowing in memories of his failed career as a politician but was contemplating to do a grand political comeback in 2010.

I read in the news this morning about the forum organized by the businessmen of Makati that invited aspirants for the presidency in 2010. In the forum, the presidential wannabes we’re asked to give a presentation of their platform of government. It must have been a riveting gathering of five men and a woman. Both Noli de Castro and Manuel Villar declined. Ping Lacson (for reason that he has already given up his bid) refused the invitation.


Gilberto Teodoro is an untested yet imperious, cocky is a better adjective, guy from the Armed Forces who has deluded himself that he can win the election despite him standing in the shadow of Arroyo’s corrupt administration and his name that spontaneously appeared from a virtual anonymity. This, of course, is with the help of his wife whose take on being ambitious can only be described by the word overkill


Loren Legarda, a broadcaster turned senator tuned griping vice presidential loser has said nothing concrete in her entire life and who has mastered the use of politicalese to a high level of efficiency that nobody understands her anymore, not even she. “The absence of an integrated, unified, and coherent road map is the culprit for the snail-paced Philippine economic and security development. We need to fuse national economic growth with national security in the development of an integrated plan.” By integrated plan she means…

Dick Gordon

Richard Gordon needs to seriously consider changing his nickname, Dick. He is an idealist who speaks in sweeping and stirring declamatory style. I first heard him speak when I was fourteen, and I was awed, but after several times of listening to him my eardrums started to show signs of exhaustion. He delivers his speeches like a televangelist, which explains why he was the most applauded during the forum. He’s a cross between Bro. Edddie Villanueva and your favorite Amway sales representative. (I am considering voting for him, though.)

Manny Villar

Manuel Villar is hounded by scandals of corruption even before he has held office. His paid interview with Boy Abunda that could have cost him millions is too long to be effective and too dragging to be entertaining.


Noli de Castro has not proved anything during his short stint as senator and his accomplishments as vice president are forgettable. He lacks enough political experience to run a country that is as complex as most complicated definition of the word complex is.


Manuel Roxas lacks charisma which explains his strongly advertised engagement with news anchor Korina Sanches, a case of basking in the newsreader’s masa appeal. He inspires in me an image of a henpecked husband once his union with Korina is officially consummated. Any of Mar Roxas’s accomplishments was obliterated by his Padyak ad; he should think of means to undo the damages the ad has caused in the viewing public’s psyche.


Francis Escudero may have exuded confidence and youth, somebody who can usher new politics in the country, but based on his recent media interviews on his platform of government, this man is all but empty rhetoric and vacuous monotone.

Bayani Fernando

Bayani Fernando is a man who never strived to be popular in exchange by and give up the hard changes he viewed necessary. Manila may not be as organized or as livable as say Singapore (kidding) or as any Southeast Asian megalopolis but as chairman of MMDA he has made major strides to lessen the traffic jams and to make the people abide by the rules. Still so much is needed to be done. But Fernando is a no non-sense guy who walks the talk. (I’m also considering him.)

Joseph Estrada

Former President Joseph Estrada. We cannot allow this country to be run by a thief, again.

The election in 2010 is as crucial as any other elections in the past. I do not agree that this is more important that the previous ones. This will simply give us a chance to change the way our country is governed that for the next six years. If we botch this one, it means another six years of again waiting in vain. That, I believe, is something we cannot afford.

A single vote, that is my vote, will hardly matter, but I am willing to tread several streams again, with my lola if she is still alive by then, to cast my vote this time.

On expletives: an idiot’s guide to “putang ina”

Warning: The following entry contains lewd remarks and phrases:

A portrait of Senator Mar Roxas taken from his Facebook account
A portrait of Senator Mar Roxas taken from his Facebook account

Putang ina, roughly translates to son of a bitch, although I still believe that the Filipino original has stronger meaning, was uttered during an outburst of emotion by none other than a senator in the Philippines referring to the proposed Charter Change. Although college students can be heard saying such expletives in a non-malicious manner, hearing such words coming from the mouth of a senator wanting to be the next president of the Philippines can euphemistically be called a gaffe, or if you’re enamored with anything French then a faux pas will be your choice, or a gaucherie if you’re into highfalutin; or in straight-forward news reporting, a slip will do.

Putang ina has two interpretations. The first is putang ina without the apostrophe denotes the relationship between a noun and an adjective – the mother being a whore, simple. But the more common interpretation but also the more complex of the two is puta’ng ina. Note the presence of an apostrophe. In this interpretation, we have contraction and a hidden subject. Written completely, revealing the missing part it would stand as “puta ang ina mo”  which means the subject’s mother is a whore. Obviously an insult for it means that the subject was born of a father whose identity is uncertain for that subject’s mother slept with so many men. In the Philippines, being a bastard is the worst identity one can have.

However, because of misuse and overuse, putang ina evolved into a totally versatile expletive. Anything can be a putang ina: a flat tire, a spilled bouillabaisse on a black Armani suit, a virus infected laptop; or a proposal to change the Constitution at a time when it is least necessary and when the people who are proposing the change are untrustworthy, corrupt, and think of nothing but their interest.

On the other hand, hearing the phrase from a senator of the land, although nothing really ordinary for I can assure that Senator Roxas uses it once in a while to express anger, exasperation, or plain disgust – in private. But saying such in front of a fifteen thousand strong crowd rallying in Ayala Avenue is not a gaffe, a faux pas, a slip (no way), not even a gaucherie. It’s only the phrase he used that can best describe the supposed statesman.