Sunday, August 29, 2010

One Beauty Queen & Eight Dead Tourists

If one question were to define the character of your people and if two events were to be pivotal in defining the character of your nation – what question and what events would you choose?

Maria Venus Raj, 22-year-old Miss Philippines contender for the Miss Universe crown, likely did not anticipate she would be at the center of the above-mentioned situations. The question that became a character definition, not only for her but for her entire country mates, was whether she had committed a big mistake and what she did to correct it. Ms. Raj replied candidly that she’d never had a major, major problem and thanked her family for guiding her – not in perfect English, granted, but neither unintelligible nor incomprehensible either. I've heard worse from winners and losers alike. 

Ms. Raj placed fourth and thereby became the object of intense criticism, and a cause for a general self-abnegation on her country people's part, as if she herself, not the judges, chose Miss Mexico for the title. Or as though this was and will be the only chance at a beauty title for the Philippines.

Worse, ex-cop Rolando Miranda decided in the same week to hold hostage a busload of Chinese tourists and allegedly killed eight of them before offing himself. I say allegedly because with all those bullets flying, I prefer to wait for the forensics.

One beauty queen and eight dead tourists then merged into an absurd symbol of the character of the entire nation called the Philippines and an entire people called Filipinos – to wit, that they are flubbers, fumblers, incompetent, corrupt, stupid, murderous, etc.

And now there are rallies in Hong Kong with the Chinese demanding apology, compensation, etc., etc. It shouldn't surprise us when, at some point, there's a demand that the Philippine government reinstate the ZTE broadband project, which was scuttled for corruption under the previous regime.

Filipinos themselves are adding fuel to the fire by blaming Ms. Raj (in lieu of the judges who, btw, were never asked why they chose Miss Mexico), not even understanding the source of their own anger, which in my view is our common perspective on OFWs: bring home the bacon or else... Ms. Raj was born overseas of an OFW mother and an Indian father, hence by legacy is cloaked by the same expectations of OFW women.  Give those of us at home what we want or die trying.

Filipinos as well add to the fury over the eight dead Chinese tourists by immediately blaming one another, passing the buck, falling to their knees and smashing their foreheads on the floor in self-abnegation.

Get a grip, people. The Philippines has had and will have beauty titles galore. Beauty contests are judged on the basis of (1) how close to Western beauty models a girl is; (2) how appealing she and her country are to those looking for product endorsers; and (3) whether there’s a political and commercial advantage to recognizing her country.

Get a grip as well, people and P-noy, re: the eight dead tourists. While it is proper to apologize for this unfortunate end to this murderous madman's actions, enough already with the kowtowing and feeling bad and blaming yourselves.  Hong Kong never apologizes for the cruel and sometimes murderous treatment of Filipina domestic workers; nor did Beijing apologize for the crazed guy who hacked  Filipino father and daughter tourists. If the Chinese feel it’s too dangerous to go to the Philippines, then tell them to go elsewhere.

For the sake of the nation's self-respect, stop acting like the country with its 100 million population is a beauty title contestant and/or a Chinese suzerainty. - #

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Flora Lansang

Ms. Flora Lansang, known to many University of the Philippines alumni, passed away last Monday.

She and her family were long-time advocates for national independence and social justice.  They were also stalwart participants in the resistance movement against Marcos.  And a very good supporter of GabNet. 

She inspired one of my short stories, "Our Apostle Paul."   The last time I saw her, which was ages ago, apropos of nothing, she gave me what looked like a tektite ring.

We will miss her. 

So many deaths these two years.  An era is ending.

Monday, August 09, 2010

One Nation Indivisible

The wind had become a cool river flowing through the neighborhood sun-tortured streets when the house ewok Guapo demanded a walk – meaning he skipped and hopped six, seven times on his hind legs, chased his tail four, five times and then dug forepaw nails into my knee, So I brushed back his forelocks, tied it into a topknot with a green ribbon and we sauntered out to join the Congregation of Small Dogs on the sidewalk for a brief orgy of sniffing, yelping and pouncing.

Judge Vaughn Walker had just ruled against Proposition 8 in California; even as, the Center for Reproductive Rights released its study on abortion in the Philippines and Engender Rights demanded the legalization of abortion.

The latter inspired the lawyer-counsel of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to compare women seeking abortions to dope addicts even as Judge Walker was being outed and his ruling questioned, never mind that no one questioned the presumably heterosexual orientation of a court that previously upheld Proposition 8.

The CRR report tabulated more than half a million back-alley abortions per year in the Philippines, with 90,000 women suffering complications and a thousand dying.

I am of course in favor and in support of the entire range of women’s rights – from the right to equitably end unsatisfactory marriages, to the right to marry whomever one wanted who’s of the age of consent, to sex education in schools (which the bishops contend will cause “developmental harm”, unlike pedophilia which many priests consider as NOT breaking their vow of chastity), to reproductive safety and health, to full and equal representation in power institutions, organizations and agencies of whatever tendency.

Pwew! That was a long sentence. This range is indivisible.

The argument in California is that majority want marriage to be defined as between male and female only; the argument of the bishops is that the Philippines is a Catholic country by majority.  Both argue that the "will of the majority" should be respected, even as such a will rests, not on democratic logic, but on mutable social/religious norms. 

But the actual democratic principle is that no majority can impose its will upon a minority in such a manner that the rights, freedoms and privileges of the minority are restricted and eroded.

This is the same principle that protects the rights of ethnic groups (to speak their own language, for instance), of indigenous peoples and others recognized to have a different lifestyle from that of the majority.

In the Philippine case, the bishops/priest minority is actually suppressing the rights of a majority (women).

All these were running through my head as Guapo and I took a walk this early morning. The Congregation of Small Dogs was absent; there was only this white, middle-aged man with one of Guapo’s cousins and he was happy to see my dog. “A girl, ha? A girl?” No, I said, he’s male. “But the ribbon, his hair, why is it like that…” I said I didn’t know what to do with his hair, just to keep it off his eyes, never mind it was a gender-bender… “He’ll fit right in,” the man said. Say what? “Oh, you haven’t hcard, this is the new neighborhood for HOMOSEXUALS.” I thought my eyeballs would drop to the sidewalk, I was that shocked. “Yup, you haven’t seen them – the HOMOSEXUALS! This is their new area.”

I scooped Guapo up and ran. -- ##