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Click on the categories above if you only want to read about a particular topic. The articles below have gotten the most hits in my previous blog

I Hate Filipino Culture -Society/Politics

Sunday, November 10, 2013

On Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

I actually lived in Tacloban for a year. It was a relatively small city so a lot of the locals recognized each other by their last names. Unless I’m mistaken, Gaisano was their only major mall at the time (97-98). Jollibee was just about to open its first branch and I remember that it was a pretty big deal for the locals. To some of them, it seemed like significant step towards becoming like manila, which I guess was the ideal city for some of them. I remember the househelp saying “may Jollibee na. bakit pa kelangan pumunta ng manila”.

Tacloban changed a lot since I left the city.  Last time I checked, not only did they have Jollibee, they also had KFC, mcdo; They had a robinsons mall and an SM mall was scheduled to open next year.  To see Tacloban in its current state is heartbreaking mostly because of the loss of humanity but also because the typhoon wiped away decades of slow but steady progress. -Progress that the locals cheered for every step of the way.

Photo grabbed from CNN

Sunday, August 25, 2013

On the Litol Prince and cuteness in general

Let’s say you were walking along a bridge and you saw the puppy in the picture above. It's immediately obvious that there's a high likelihood that the puppy would be facing a dismal fate as a stray dog or a sumptuous dish in a buffet sometime in the near future.
What would you do?
  1. Walk past the dog if you saw nothing while pondering in your head how you came to be a heartless husk of a human being.
  2. Using a voice that’s a few octaves higher than your regular speaking voice, talk to it using nonsensical word-sounds like ”anununununu”, “ajooeyjooey”, “moooooeee you’recominghome withmeajoojoo” and proceed to take the dog home.
I was faced with such a conundrum a few years ago while I was passing through the bridge connecting MRT north station and trinoma. I was walking along, blissfully minding my own business when I saw a man with two puppies in the corner of my eye. I stopped to absorb the scene. The man looked homeless. The puppies looked like they were barely a month old, one male and one female. The man was giving the puppies away… in exchange for a little money of course, as capitalist tradition dictates. The dogs were cute so he didn’t have trouble attracting positive attention. A woman passed by, went with option 2 and promptly left with the female puppy, leaving the male puppy behind.

A took a good look at the remaining puppy. A number of thoughts went through my head. With each passing thought, the prospect of brinigng the dog home with me became more and more tempting.
As with every decision involving the heart, I tried to justify the idea in my head until eventually it made so much sense that it was as if the universe itself was telling me to take the dog home. I thought to myself I’d be helping this man, I’d be helping this dog, the man would finally leave the bridge thereby easing the flow of pedestrian traffic, I’d rid the world of one more stray dog and its future progeny, the world will be a better place to live in and therefore peace for all mankind will inevitably ensue. It just seemed like I was making a decision for the betterment of everyone in the immediate area and the world in general.

And so I made my choice. I didn’t say “mooeee you’re coming home with me ajoojoo” … audibly. I did it within the confines of my own head, as all proper men should.
It was after I gave the man my “donation” that it struck me that taking care of another life form that would be entirely dependent on me was like plugging in a USB device in one try.  I had done neither in my life and both required skills that I did not possess.  In my excitement, I also conveniently and intentionally forgot that my family hated animals profusely. Either I had to upgrade my puppy hiding skills to ninja level or the introduction had to be made as perfect as possible

To ensure the highest level of success, I made sure that the little prince was as presentable as possible before I brought him home. I brought him to a veterinarian friend who gave him the appropriate shots. I bought him a cute little collar with bells on it. I think I may have paid more for the collar than for the dog. Written on the collar was the name “Prince”. I’ve never been good at giving names. I’ve come up with names as uninspired as “Pussy” for a stray cat that used to visit our house often,  “Browny” for a dog that was brown and “Blacky” for another dog which was “coincidentally” black.  I probably would’ve named the puppy “white-with-brown-spots-y” if left to my own devices. As creative as a claim to be, my brain just shuts down when it comes to coming up with names. Rather than be blamed in the future for coming up with a very lame name, this time I let the collar decide so it can take the blame instead of me. The dog was gonna be named Prince. Not everyone liked the name but it’s not like they gave me suggestions…  Also, it was the collar’s fault.

The initial reception for prince back at home was less than tepid. The reaction ranged from shock to disgust. I didn’t tell them right away that I picked him up near the MRT station to limit the disgust factor but that didn’t help much. It's good that he was already toilet trained when i got him otherwise he probably would've been kicked out of the house without my knowledge. They didn’t want him inside the house. They didn’t want prince to get near them at all. That wasn’t a problem for prince as he was a very shy little puppy. He avoided all contact with people whenever he could. He hid under one of my book shelves for most of the day and made no sound at all. For the first time in my life, I officially had a pet dog. It just so happened that he was invisible for most of the day. One of the aspects of dog ownership that I was most looking forward to was seeing that wagging tail waiting for me upon getting home. I started thinking that I was gonna be missing out on that with prince.

I’ve always had a soft spot for non-human mammals. I find them easier to like than humans on average. When I was a kid, I’d secretly adopt stray kittens that wandered into our house. I didn't get to keep them very long. I wasn't very good at hiding stuff. It’s a little embarrassing to admit because adopting little kitties is not among the manliest of activities. But I believe that even the manliest of men have a little soft, vulnerable spot that an innocent, wide-eyed stare from a juvenile canine or feline should be able to penetrate, given enough time. Even Hitler, the very face of evil himself, kept and loved animals. I think that some of us do need a dose of cuteness in our lives.
It may be an aberration of evolution that a member of one species would raise an individual from another species but I’m willfully playing along knowing full well that my biological need to nurture is being fooled by one of nature's little tricks. Cuteness is indeed a powerful tool for survival. I shall illustrate the power of cuteness below:

I had to photoshop the tears in because they were nonexistent in the original photo but replace Puss with a puppy and the Dawson's Creek guy's mug with my awesome-albeit-douchey face and this is pretty much a reenactment of what happened when i first met Prince.

It's now been quite a while since I first met the Litol prince. He's not so litol anymore. Some might say that he’s also not as cute but I think that he’s no less amazing.  He shed his shyness after a few months. He's now an uncontainable ball of energy. You leave for a few hours and he greets you like he hasn't seen you in weeks. He's not a big dog but he'd knock you down if you get him excited enough. I didn't quite miss out on the "dog experience" like I thought I would.

Prince wasn't our last dog. A few months after I introduced the litol prince to the dog haters club (my family), my sister brought home Rambo, a pomeranian puppy.  Rambo had it easy. By the time that he came along, everyone in the house was a dog lover or at the very least a dog tolerator.  So even if Rambo was an indiscriminate defecator and urinator he was loved right off the bat. From the time that I brought prince home to the first time he elicited a smile in the face of a nonbeliever, he won every heart in the house one by one. It’s quite amazing to see people who were once animal haters talk to dogs as if they were their own kids; talk about dogs as if they were the staunchest of animal rights advocates. The local dog haters club was eventually abolished. Rambo helped a lot but it was prince who first tore the walls down. Such was the legacy of the litol prince. He changed hearts, minds, he got himself a home and a family without even trying. He now even owns a little bit of internet real estate through my blog. Not a bad life for an “askal”. He's living example that overcoming hate is sometimes only a matter of spending some time with the subject of your hate... and that a little bit of cuteness goes a long way.

Friday, May 31, 2013

On Nationalism, Pride and Individuality

It’s hard to say what passes for nationalism in the Philippines nowadays. If it’s crying “pinoy pride” or claiming that Filipinos are good singers everytime a Filipino appears on a foreign singing competition then you can count me out because I totally don’t care. I don't see how being born in the same country can give people the right to claim achievements of other individuals that they had nothing to do with.

If it involves supporting Filipino products, I’m not really sure how well I’m doing. A lot of times I buy things without knowing where they’re made. I just bought an outlast battery for my car which apparently is a Filipino brand. I only found out a year ago that Figaro was a Filipino company after  patronizing their coffee shops for a while. They didn’t lose my patronage. I almost never watch Filipino movies. I do listen to some Filipino musicians but that has nothing to do with nationalism. I listen to what I like, I buy products from companies that give me good value and have a decent reputation.

In my essay "I hate Filipino culture" which went viral last month, i  enumerated a few Filipino qualities that i hated. I got some flak for it especially when I implied that those who've been exposed to foreign cultures usually grow up to have more open minds. I was accused of having colonial mentality and of worshipping the west (which is curious because i never mentioned the west. I actually mentioned the Chinese.) Regardless, the point was not that other cultures are superior to our own but that  having an open mind necessarily entails being open to other cultures

The world is moving towards internationalism. Differences in culture in the past were mostly due to geographical boundaries limiting contact between different groups of people.  Peoples that closely interacted with each other usually have similarities in  architecture, art, philosophy or language. Colonization isn't necessary for cultural exchange. It naturally happens when there's contact between different cultures and there's nothing wrong with it. Modern technology has practically removed those geographical boundaries. The pacifistic trend in the world today has removed most political boundaries as well. Countries work together to advance human knowledge;  artists draw inspiration from all over the world; architecture, fashion and art are becoming geographically indistinct. -differences in style have more to do with the designer's/artist's individual sense of aesthetics than with which country he or she was born in. We are starting to see a global culture that is becoming more and more homogenous. You may like it or hate it but it's inevitable.

Filipinos are a very proud people. We excessively boast about whatever we can boast about -one only need to look at the comments on a youtube video featuring a Filipino appearing on foreign television to see how prevalent this pandemic is. People would scream pinoy pride, claim that claim that filipinos are good singers/dancers and then we'd bash the hell out of the nonfilipino contestants. I have a problem with this not only because it's annoying but also because we're praising ourselves collectively as a nation for an achievement of an individual that his or her nationality and our nation had nothing to do with. Rather than claim other's achievements as our own, wouldn't it be better if we emulate them? And i don't mean to belittle the accomplishments of our filipino compatriots who've made a name for themselves abroad. I'm happy for them. but doesn't it say something negative about us when we scream pinoy pride with such militant fervor as if our identity as a nation hangs on the shoulders of an american idol contestant?

We want compliments, so much so that we sometimes ask for them directly from foreigners. We are extremely sensitive to criticism. We criticize and make fun of other countries and other races yet we’re up in arms when a fictional novel mentions us in a not so flattering light. The more extreme of the "pinoy pride" crowd exhibit isolationist mentality, rejecting all that is foreign, especially those coming from the west, and labeling those who patronize foreign media/literature or speak or write in a language other than filipino as having colonial mentality.

I love the Philippines because it is home. It’s where the people I know live, the places I visited growing up. I am Filipino but I don’t see myself being defined entirely by that fact. I’m more of a humanist than a nationalist. I’m more proud of what humanity as a whole has achieved and i'm more excited by what it can achieve. I owe more of what i am to being human, a biological fact, than to being a Filipino, which is a sociological construct.

There’s nothing wrong with loving one’s country. I draw the line between mere love and blind nationalism where rationality ends and zealotry begins, where individuality is stifled in the name of the collective. Where the superiority or inferiority of an individual is determined by imaginary borders drawn up by wars past. Love what is good, hate what is not. Try to do something to change it if you can. If it cannot be changed, you do not have to love it simply because it's Filipino and you don't have to think or live a certain way because it's the "Filipino way". Being excessively proud of your heritage sounds like a good idea until you hear someone else mouthing off about how special he is because of his heritage. It gets old very quickly. Nationalism is similar to racism and sexism in that you put people in boxes based on factors that they had no choice over and then you judge each other's value collectively.

Throughout history, nationalism has been responsible for wars, genocide, racism, slavery. It did have a hand in ending colonialism. But the age of colonialism is long over. Wars in the name of country have gone out of fashion. There's no need for a slave revolt when there are no slaves and no masters. 

I'm a strong proponent of individualism and freethought and a lot of things about nationalism run counter to those concepts. When you stop seeing people, including yourself, as individuals but as part of a herd with one mind; When people somewhere, let's say, near the vicinity of Taiwan would beat up innocent foreigners because of an act of their country that they had nothing to do with simply because they were born in that country; When people start thinking that they have a special place under the sun because of the soil under their feet; When people start seeing other people as good or bad, superior or inferior, human or inhuman without knowing anything about them aside from the country where they were born.  -I see nothing constructive or honorable about it. It's primitive and it should go the way of the dodo. The sooner the better. 

In an idealist’s world, people will not be divided by geographical boundaries, not by race, not by religion. Ideologies and morals will not be set by the religion you were born into, the country where you were born or the color of your skin but something that you develop or find yourself by sifting through what’s available out there in the world. In this idealist's world, we all ride under one banner -that of mankind.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Replies to comments on “I hate Filipino culture”

So apparently one of my articles went viral (I Hate Filipino Culture). I wrote the article back in 2007 back when I wrote without caring so much who I offended. Yes, I was also a lot angrier and a lot less politically correct then. It got a bit of attention when I first posted it but nothing like what it’s getting now. I was surprised when I checked my counter and  I saw that it had almost 50,000 hits in less than 24 hours. It’s now at almost 100,000 hits and still rising. It got a lot of comments as well, some agreed with me some didn’t. I don’t think that I’d be able to reply to all of the comments individually so I’ll be addressing some of them in condensed form in this entry.

On the title of the article: Yes it’s a bit extreme and yes it’s also intentional. It’s the kind of title that would rouse emotions in the reader before they even read the article. It got its intended effect.  I wrote about the average filipino’s sensitivity when it comes to criticism about their own race and the title is a sort of stab at that; A test if they can go beyond the title and actually read the entire entry. If you’d read the whole entry, you’d know that I wasn’t hating on Filipino culture in general, whatever that may be. I was expressing my “annoyance” at certain aspects of our society. And in no way did I imply that masa culture is Filipino culture. I actually said the opposite.

On me having colonial mentality:  Filipino culture can be a pretty iffy term. Almost all remnants of pre-colonial culture have been wiped out. Our own alphabet, baybayin, is practically dead now (a lot of Filipinos don’t even know that it ever existed), our language is littered with Spanish words, Most of our customs, traditions and religions are of post colonial origin. I’m not saying that that’s good or bad, Im just saying that if you’re gonna be xenophobic and hate on all things foreign, recognize that a lot of the things that we consider Filipino arrived at our shores pretty recently. I’m not touting the culture of any particular country and I’m not saying that any of those cultures is superior to our own but there’s a wealth of information out there if we’d not close ourselves to the boundaries of our shores, especially considering that what we have within our shores are a lot of material that cater to the masses. Yes I’m aware that the negative qualities that I enumerated about our people also exist in other countries but just because those qualities exist in other cultures, that doesn’t mean that I hate them any less.

-On depression: nope hindi ako depress …or depressed and I have no plans of killing myself anytime soon, thank you

-On my douchey profile pic. I apologize for my face. Well not really but I probably would’ve chosen a different profile pic if I had known that one of my entries would’ve achieved a bit of notoriety. But it’s there, people have seen it anyway so what the hell. I’ll replace it with something more artsy fartsy soon.

-On elitism. I said that I wasn’t elitist but I guess this is a matter of perspective now. One person’s elitist is another person’s fearless writer. One thing that the entry was NOT about though was about class divisions. Like I said, I’m not even rich in the first place. I’d rather rub elbows with a penniless, starving artist than Willie Revillame or Joey deleon. I don’t look down on the poor because I know that shallowness doesn’t always come with poverty. And to be clear, when I say “masa”, I don’t mean the poor in general.

-On my rant on local TV shows:  I know a lot of respectable people who watch eat bulaga and wowowee. I have nothing against them at all. The rant really was NOT about the people who watch the shows, it was mostly about the people who appear on them, particularly the TV hosts and the way they almost seem to make a mockery of their “masa” live audience. It was one of these TV shows that actually inspired the rant in the first place. If you feel like I insulted you when I insulted your favorite TV show, I apologize. And this is the only part of the article that I will apologize for because I didn’t qualify it clearly.

On not saying anything good about our country: Yes I only highlighted negative aspects of our society. That was the point of the article, really. It’s a rant. In case you’re interested, I also have a travelblog where I write about some of the nicest places that I’ve visited in the Philippines - I don’t only write about negative stuff but why would anyone expect to read positive things about our people on a rant.  One more thing that I’ve noticed about us Filipinos is that not only do we only want to hear the positive, we sometimes ask for it too much.  Whenever foreigners are interviewed about the Philippines, it’s almost like we expect them already to say very rosy things about our country and if they don’t say anything good, they should be deported. We even took up arms when some foreigners said that they didn’t like the food at jolibee, as if our nation’s identity rests squarely on the shoulders of the fastfood giant. And I remember that Ricky Lo interview where he practically was goading Anne Hathaway to say that Lea Salonga was a better singer than her. That was very difficult to watch and it just shows how insecure we are as a people. I sometimes wish that we’d wait for the compliments to come, not expect them and not ask for them directly.

To everyone who agreed with me and to everyone who vouched for me, reading your comments was pretty heart warming and flattering. Thank you.  To everyone who disagreed/ disagreed violently, thank you for visiting my humble little blog and I hope you’d see that I meant no disrespect to our people in general but like others, I see certain flaws. If you do not agree with me that they’re flaws then let’s agree to disagree. I hope you read the entire entry though before you posted a comment.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

On Nude Photography

It’s 2013 but there are those who still see nude photography as a hobby for the perverted; that it’s a sort of peep show for us photographers. First off, let me say that I and those who shoot with me are very respectful of our models. I’m sure that there are exceptions among photographers but we are more or less the norm. When I or any of my friends organize shoots, we make sure that nothing other than photography happens during the shoot. Also, about 20-30% of the photographers I shoot with are straight women who also exclusively shoot women. 

While those of us who started off as straight men are still very straight men, we’ve seen enough nudity that, like a doctor who does breast implants on a regular basis (or perhaps a gynecologist?), we can be around a nude model and act normally, professionally and very respectfully. We’re not eunuchs but we know that there’s a good place and time to be proper perverts and that’s usually with our partners where we won’t risk tarnishing the image of nude photography. In contrast, some of those who aren’t as exposed to the naked human body salivate or go into rape mode at the mere sight of an exposed cleavage, some at the sight of an exposed ankle. Perhaps, unlike what the ultraconservative are suggesting, more regular exposure to nudity would have an inverse effect on the number of rape cases? Just a hypothesis =) 

While I’m not exactly advocating nudism, we’ve gone a long way from the olden days when a fully exposed human body was considered dirty. The human form in its full glory can be appreciated in more ways than what we’re normally used to. I’m a fan of the female form. I know it almost sounds like a pick up line but I mean that in the most innocent and the least perverted way possible. Capturing the beauty of the female form can be like capturing the undulations of a vast mountain range or the intricate curves of a winding river in a photograph. The beauty of the human form doesn’t always have to be sexual. 

Art is subjective. One may see it on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel or one may see it in a heap of scrap metal. I don’t see anything wrong with seeing it in the human form, whatever gender that human form may be.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On Dancing

The geek in me never could understand modern dancing. The appeal of bobbing up and down to repetitive music escaped me. I wanted to try it though at least once in my life It seemed like something that was easy to do. That was until I actually tried doing it in public and found myself frozen. My feet suddenly felt like they were made of concrete. And then my inner geek kept telling me”don’t do this. You’d look awkward.” Or “this is herd mentality. Don’t be part of the herd”. I made a vow to be more adventurous at this point in my life though so I tried doing what the others were doing. It’s amazing what alcohol can make you do as a few beer bottles later, I was actually enjoying myself already. Most of the satisfaction came from being able to tell the inner geek to shut the **** up and let me move to the beat
At Urbn. In this supposedly posh and exclusive ecosystem, they'd throw you out if you don't look the part.

Reggae music at B-Side:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On the internet and superegoes

Now that we're about to have another addition to our family, I look back to this tribute that I wrote about a member of the family we lost a decade and a half ago. It's possibly the only detailed record of her life anywhere on the internet

They say that the internet has given birth to superegos, a generation of regular people who think too highly of their own importance. In a way that's true. I think we have statistics to prove this. The internet has given more power to the individual in a way that no other medium ever has. It is the ultimate "democratizer" where the loudness of your voice isn't always proportional to the amount of money in your wallet, the number of celebrities that you know or which cabinet positions your parents or uncles hold. If you have something to say and people wanna hear it, they will find you.

The internet also has become a record keeper of sorts, a place where you leave your, more or less, permanent imprint wittingly or unwittingly. In the words of someone who now lives his life as an internet demotivator : “don’t be an internet meme cos you’ll live on forever in a way that you probably don’t want to.”

The footprint in life that one leaves behind is so much bigger now. Anyone who passes away now, leaves a facebook profile, possibly a blog, an online photography album, a resume of accomplishments, a compilation of poems, photos, personal musings of various depth which anyone from the present or from the future would be able to find by googling his or her name

In contrast, anyone who passed away before internet became mainstream, unless they became popular for some reason or they made a significant contribution to a certain group, left very little to no trace outside the photoalbums and memories of their immediate friends and family. Google their names and it’s almost as if they never existed. 

The internet is a place where one's popularity is not commensurate to the availability of public information on him/her. A public filing system that makes sure that each individual can be picked from from a sea of nameless faces, put under the magnifying glass and be appreciated (or scorned?) as individuals. Under the magnifying glass of the internet, each individual has a voice which can be heard and that voice doesn’t have to die with him. If that does make him feel more important than his pre-internet counterparts, I can’t say that I blame him.

Kathy... you’ll find her on the internet, if you search hard enough.