Wednesday, December 21, 2005

i'm pro-BONO

This year Time Magazine chose to honor Bono, along with two others as 2005 “Persons of the Year.” Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the 1980s, Bono or Paul David Hewson is the frontman of the biggest rock band in the universe, U2.

According to the magazine, “Bono charmed and bullied and morally blackmailed the leaders of the world’s richest countries into forgiving US$40 billion in debt owed by the poorest.” For the past years now Bono is actively involved in campaigning for debt relief for heavily-indebted countries in Africa and Asia. He founded Debt, Aids, Trade for Africa (DATA), a London-based non-profit organization that works to raise awareness about the problems of Africa and seeks to influence wealtheir governments' policies toward it. In 2000, he teamed up with the late Pope John Paul II in calling on the rich countries to cancel Third World debt.

Why debt relief? For countries such as the Philippines, writing off billions of dollars in debt would mean more hospitals or more roads for farmers to transport their produce thereby lessening the cost of basic commodities such as rice. It would also mean more budget allocation to increase the salaries of our teachers and health workers thus abating the exodus of Filipino professionals to other countries to work as hookers, maids and ass-wipers.

At present, the country’s allocation for debt servicing is pegged at 34.4% of the total national budget. That's 310.3 billion pesos! And every year budgetary allocation for debt repayments increases by 21%. That's a lot of money which should be spent on social services i.e., health, education, water, etc. Clearly, debt servicing is a heavy burden for poor and middle income countries already overwhelmed with countless problems i.e., high population rate, famine, drought, floods, etc.

Anyways, I am a big fan of Bono and U2 since the release of War album which for me is their best. Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Year's Day were our anthems back in sixth grade. I hope Bono will never tire of churning out good rock and roll and continue to take up the cudgels for the world’s poor. Bono is the man.

Friday, December 16, 2005


My first encounter with pinoy’s Fab Four was in 1993. I wore my hair in a pony tail and was perpetually in black clothes then. No nose ring though and tattoos either. Two radio stations ruled my musical universe that time, NU107 and LA105.9 and it was in the latter that I first heard Toyang. Since then I was hooked. Who among us did not sing our hearts out to Pare Ko, Alapaap, Magasin, Wag Mo Nang Itanong? From ultraelectromagneticpop to circus to cutterpillow the E-heads did not let us down.

They had inspired me to form a band of my own. Since I could not play a decent tune on the guitar I decided to be my band’s own front man. Aside from E-heads we covered GI and the Idiots, Pearl Jam, The Cure and Stone Temple Pilots. We played at school, in seedy bars full of drunken old men who did not give a damn to our music. Their main concern was who among them would get home with the waitress with the big boobies. It was fun though. All the money we earned we spent on booze, San Mig Grande or Beer na Beer.

Then I discovered Joey Ayala, Noel Cabangon, Gary Granada, Jess Santiago, Susan Fernandez-Magno and Inang Laya and met a couple of bubbly girls who introduced me to the ‘isms’. That was in 1994. A few months after, I ran for the student council and won. Thanks to Marlboro! I distributed cigarette sticks which were marked with Vote for Joey as Vice President of the Student Council. In 1995, I packed my bags and worked for a non-government organization helping the urban poor. Ten years later, my passion for E-heads and pinoy rock continues and so is my commitment to contribute sanity to this mad, mad world.

So what is your favorite E-heads song? Mine is Wag Mo Nang Itanong.

(Right photo: Benedik and TwistedMan in previous life)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

pearls of shame

That is an apt description of the south sea pearls made by Jewelmer. They are making money out of the misery of the displaced folks of Pala'wan and Molboc tribes. I wish Angel Aquino, Daphne Oseña and the people of F knew about this. Angel is a good actress and from what I've heard from people who know her she seems to be a nice person as well. If you are a friend of Angel Aquino please tell her to stop endorsing Jewelmer.

If you want to know more about the plight of these indigenous peoples, visit google video where I have uploaded a video documentary.

Friday, December 09, 2005

My Christmas Wish List

If i have the spare moolah I certainly would...

hop on a plane and go to Greece and visit the Acropolis.

buy and watch Pretty in Pink DVD...perhaps a copy of The Breakfast Club too.

grab a copy of Banana Yoshimoto's new and fell in love with Asleep, Kitchen, NP and Amrita.

gather all my enemies and send their sorry, stupid, lazy asses to Vanuatu where a volcano with a very violent temper is spewing flaming lava!!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

tao muna bago perlas

I am a volunteer of Task Force Bugsuk, a consortium of greens, browns and other NGOs helping the Molbog and Pala'wan tribes of Palawan. These people are are slowly dying of hunger because Jewelmer International Corporation, maker of south sea pearls and owned by Marcos crony Danding Cojuangco, barred them from fishing in their traditional fishing grounds. This action of Jewelmer resulted to the loss of access by these indigenous peoples to their only source of livelihood.

Meanwhile, the local council of the Municipality of Balabac passed an ordinance that
constituted its entire municipal waters as a protected marine eco-region, and parts of Coral Bay surrounding Bugsuk and Pandanan islands as a strict protection zone where all forms of fishing and gathering of marine resources (with the exception of products resulting from authorized pearl culture) are prohibited. The area designated as strict protection zone is the location of the pearl farm project of Jewelmer, which is within the ancestral domain of Pala’wan and Molbog tribes.

This ordinance is now the focus of protest actions by TF Bugsuk and its partners. On December 9, hundreds of people will stage a 'Jericho March' around the provincial capitol of Palawan to ask
Governor Joel Reyes to use his oversight powers and urge the Balabac mayor to suspend the implementation of the Balabac Ordinance 1-2005; compel the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to withdraw its approval from the ordinance; and for the NCIP to implement the much-delayed validation survey for its ancestral domain title. The Concerned Artists for the Environment is also holding a Protest Art Exhibition at the Palawan Museum. The exhibit will move to Metro Manila in January 2006.

I urge you to help us by spreading the word that Jewelmer and its cohorts in the municipality of Balabac are 'killing' the people in the southern part of the Philippines. Don't buy their pearls. If your friends, girlfriends, bosses are fond of pearls make sure that they are not from Jewelmer. Below is a situationer prepared by TF Bugsuk.

In 1974, at the height of martial rule, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, foremost crony of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos, with the government’s military, forced around 500 families in Bugsuk and Pandanan islands in Southern Palawan, to leave their lands and farms, under an unjust land swap agreement. The people were made to sign blank pieces of paper, threatened to accept payments for their standing crops and were made to realize that whether or not they accepted the payments they would still be forced to leave the islands. These families belonged mainly with the Palaw’an and Molbog tribes as well as some long-time Christian settlers.

In the name of various corporations, the Cojuangcos set up a seedling nursery for hybrid coconut trees. Entry in the islands was very much restricted for they were heavily-guarded by military men. Five years later, in 1979, the Cojuangcos partnered with a Frenchman, Jacques Branellec, and set up the Jewelmer International Corporation, which then established a pearl farm on the waters between these islands. Jewelmer soon became one of the world’s largest south sea pearl producers.

However, in its effort to protect its business, Jewelmer deprived the surrounding communities of their rights. The traditional fishing grounds of indigenous and non-indigenous fisherfolk, as well as the usual navigational route to the town proper of Balabac, became prohibited areas; the areas were closely guarded by the military, and later on, by SCAA personnel under supervision of the government’s armed forces. Without fertile farms and fishing grounds, poverty in the surrounding communities worsened, forcing many families to stop sending their children from school.

Emboldened by the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the Fisheries Code, the Palaw’an and Molbog tribes filed an application for a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) in February 2001. Together with long-time settlers and subsistence fisherfolk, they organized Sambilog (meaning “one circle”). They also sought the help of the government to hold a dialogue with Jewelmer and the Balabac government, so that they could be allowed to fish in their traditional fishing grounds. However, after the first dialogue in Malacañang Palace in July 2003, Jewelmer refused to sit down again. Instead, their guards became stricter, and harassed and intimidated a number of men who tried to fish in the area.

Later investigations revealed that Jewelmer does not have the required Environmental Compliance Certificate, that the closing of traditional navigational routes is a violation of existing laws, that the Balabac local government leased the marine municipal areas without the required ordinance for such lease, that the lease rental was grossly inappropriate at P15/hectare/year, and that it violated its own lease agreement by not complying with major provisions like delineation of the coastal marine area of Bugsuk and Pandanan, the delineation of boundaries of the pearl culture area and the marking of each corner with a mooring bouy.

The inconsiderate response of the Balabac government was Ordinance No. 1-2005, declaring the entire municipal waters of Balabac as a marine eco-region and specifying that Jewelmer’s concession area is a “strict protection zone” where absolutely no fishing is allowed. This ordinance in unjust and illegal because (i) it did not go through the procedural requirements, such as public consultations with the affected communities, prior to its enactment; (ii) the declaration of the strict protection zone does not conform to existing laws, particularly the SEP Law, the Fisheries Code and the NIPAS law ; (iii) ) it deprives the Pala’wan and Molbog tribes of their right to manage and conserve natural resources within their ancestral domain, and of their right to preserve their culture, traditions and institutions; (iv) it is partial or discriminatory; heavily in favor of big business and marginalizing small fishers; and (v) it violates the principle of sustainable development as it will lead to the destruction of livelihoods of fishing communities and the people’s eventual displacement.

The ordinance first came into attention when the Balabac government passed it to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for review. Sambilog leaders made representations in the province, as well as delivered a petition paper to the Balabac mayor signed by hundreds of Balabac residents. The advocacy was a success at first as the Provincial Board declared that the ordinance was “faulty in form and substance”. Yet, after some superficial amendments were made by Balabac, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved the ordinance.

Knowing that the ordinance meant hunger and slow death to the six fishing villages surrounding the pearl farm, and determined to show their resolve to reclaim their ancestral lands and water, Sambilog staged a weeklong 250-km solidarity march-caravan from Sitio Marihangin of Barangay Bugsuk to Puerto Princesa last October 12-17. Many groups, including local churches, non-government organizations, artists and indigenous groups sympathized with the plight of Sambilog. Hundreds of Palawenos signed the petition to support Sambilog’s cause. Local media fully covered the event.

The Provincial Government is yet to heed the demands two months after the solidarity march and the camp-out at the Provincial Capitol. No concrete response has been given; no definite timeframe defined. Meanwhile, those camping out at the Provincial Capitol have been threatened to be forcibly evicted.

For three decades now, the injustice committed to the Pala’wan and Molbog tribes when they were forced out of their ancestral lands and seas have not been corrected. Jewelmer has secured an exclusive exploitation of the seas in the name of marine conservation, raising an invisible wall that is depriving indigenous peoples and subsistence fisherfolk of access to their traditional fishing grounds and source of livelihood. Such “greenwashing” cannot be tolerated. Sustainable environment protection can never be achieved without protecting the rights of the people.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Die, Thaksin, Die!

THAILAND IS TAKING the luster out of the Philippine triumphs in the Southeast Asian Games, accusing the host nation of "cheating" and prompting Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to suggest a summit meeting to discuss fair play in sports.

This headline banner story from the Philippine Daily Inquirer absolutely spoiled my day. This is the consequence of having a president who is a big-time cheater. Let us kick Gloria out of office now! She is dragging us all down to hell.

What makes me really angry is the fact that the accuser himself, Thaksin Shinawatra, is a loathsome, human rights violator in his own country. He is hated by Muslim Thais because of his murderous repression of legitimate dissent in the south of that country. His family, who owns the mammoth Shin Corp, is persecuting freedom of speech activist and journalist Supinya Klangnarong. Clearly, Thaksin has no business lecturing us about fair play!

I think we should boycott the Asian Indoor Games in Thailand next month. Grrr. To our athletes, we throw our full support to all of you, with or without medals. And thank you for making Filipinos proud.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

the rape of our nation

I am really upset over the alleged sexual assault by six US servicemen on a young Filipino woman in Subic. Together with the whole nation, I share and feel the anguish being felt by the victim and her family over this tragic incident.

I find this assault a terrible affront to our country’s pride and dignity. The barbaric act of the accused clearly showed a complete lack of respect for the Filipino people’s culture and human rights. When they left the helpless victim on the side of the road, it is almost as if the attackers are boldly challenging us, taunting us.

Rape is a violent and heinous crime. Its perpetrators must immediately be put under the custody of the Philippine government. It is only the only way we can ensure that the suspects will not be unfairly protected by the American government. That is why we strongly denounce efforts of some quarters to transfer the servicemen to Okinawa.

Mrs. Arroyo should assert our sovereignty and defend the diginity of the Filipino people over this injustice. Her seeming indifference and lack of decisive action against the matter is infuriating. She should have ordered the immediate suspension of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) at the very least. Instead her administration’s actions appeared to favor the servicemen. By dismissing this case as an isolated one, authorities showed their ignorance and utter insensitivity to the plight of the victim. Since the time of the US bases and the ratification of the VFA, we have been seeing this abhorrent behavior among US servicemen who treated the whole country as their own personal playground. . It is now the time to put an end to these never-ending abuses against our people. The soldiers must be punished and the VFA should be terminated immediately. No more to American military presence in our country!

The nation will be closely watching this case. If the Arroyo government bungles this one we are sure that the Filipino people will rise up in anger to exact justice and seek retribution. When that time comes Mrs. Arroyo’s government will be history. And that will be a big relief.

Friday, October 21, 2005

English-Visayan dictionary in Thailand! Posted by Picasa

Tuktuk Posted by Picasa

Me and the bible-wielding White Guy in Khao San Posted by Picasa

Tha Pra Chan Posted by Picasa

A Buddhist monk Posted by Picasa

Tha Pra Chan Posted by Picasa

Sanam Luang Posted by Picasa

Is it a bird? Posted by Picasa

Facade of the Thai National Museum Posted by Picasa

Chinese jars and vases in Jim Thompson's house Posted by Picasa

Traditional Thai House Posted by Picasa

Twisted Posted by Picasa

The ferry Posted by Picasa

Thai kids on their way to school via the ferry Posted by Picasa

A father and his daughter and their dog. Im in a river ferry Posted by Picasa

Chao Praya River Posted by Picasa

The Democracy Monument Posted by Picasa

Center of the World Mall in BKK Posted by Picasa

Bangkok Man Posted by Picasa

inside BTS  Posted by Picasa

My twisted Bangkok adventure

I just wanted to share my Bangkok adventure. I arrived in Asia’s City of Angels on 30 September at around 6:30 pm (7:30 pm Manila time) via Thai Airways. Flight service was okay but there was no personal in-flight movie for economy class passengers! Singapore Airlines service staff was more efficient and had more entertainment options (sumasayaw na flight attendants? Not.). Meanwhile, the Bangkok International Airport is not unlike NAIA. It’s old. During my stay in Bangkok, Mr. Thaksin had a media stunt promoting the new airport which will be operational early next year. Oh by the way, when I went home last Sunday night I noticed some letters of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport don’t have lights. Paging PTA and DOT. You don’t want the tourists to interpret that as a portent of things to expect in our 7,107 islands. If we want to WoW the tourists we should impress them upon arrival right?

On our way to Trang Hotel (It was a story by itself. Horrendous. Ghastly hotel service) I noticed that you could not see much of Bangkok if you're using the elevated highway because the view was blocked by walls! Hmm. I immediately recalled Imelda's way of eliminating eyesores in the 70’s di ba? And I was right! The walls did not cover the whole stretch of the highway eh and somehow if you have a keen eye you’d see the urban poor areas, the old and dilapidated buildings behind the walls. Anyway, a big part of my Bangkok adventure happened during the last two days of my stay.

Traditional Thai Houses

First stop is the house of Jim Thompson, an American architect who volunteered for service in the US Army during World War II and decided later to stay and live in Thailand. Enamored with Thai culture, he dismantled old houses from rural Thai and reconstructed them in a compound in Bangkok and on 1959 he moved in. In 1967, Mr. Thompson disappeared while on a visit to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. The house is now administered by a foundation named after him.

To get there Corinna Lopa and I rode the BTS, Bangkok’s version of MRT. Boy, it was gleaming! And there were no hawkers outside the station and no huge billboards of scantily clads starlets that will derail and spoil the ride. We bought tickets using the vending machine. There were a few people on the train because it was after 10 am.

According to the Thai guide, the houses represented the best in traditional Thai architecture. The teak houses were elevated a full story above ground to avoid flooding during the monsoon season. If you’ve seen Bagong Buwan, these Thai houses look like the Muslim home of the Sultan character played by Ronnie Lazaro. They have high ceilings for good ventilation. It was cool and airy inside.

Most of the furnishings inside are Chinese-influenced especially the jars, vases and bowls. The Thais have a long history of interaction with the Chinese. That’s what I’ve learned when I visited the Thai National Museum. One interesting item in the bedroom of Mr. Jim Thompson is a porcelain orinola. The guide said it was a child’s orinola. However, Thompson is childless and lived alone. My over-imaginative brain started working. Why is there a child’s orinola inside the master’s bedroom? But I kept my mouth shut lest I be dragged away outside the compound.

Jim Thompson’s house is just a hundred meters away from MBK, Siam Center and Central World, three of the most popular shopping malls in Bangkok. Siam Center is near Chulalongkorn University and is teeming with students and fashionistas. Siam Square which is just outside the Center is Bangkok’s answer to the Shinjuku district of Japan. And you’ll be amazed that outside every mall there are Buddhist altars. Even along the sidewalks!

The National Museum: Violence as a showcase of one’s culture

Thailand is a Buddhist society and Buddhism is known for its adherence to a peaceful way of life. Ironically, the impression that you will get when you visit the Thailand’s National Museum, especially the main gallery, is that Thai history is all about wars and conquests. There was even this account in one of the exhibits that goes something like “Cannons are one of the most important contributions of the westerners to Thai society…” What the f@345!

I also noticed that most of the clay figures depicting different periods of Thai history are men. Where are the Gabriela Silangs and Tandang Soras? I think Melody, Paula and Hazel will agree with me that this is not acceptable. Ngapala, Christianity first landed on Thailand in 1511. That’s a full decade ahead of the Philippines. La lang.

I still recommend a visit to the museum if you want to get away from the usual tourist trail. The buildings are impressive especially the carvings on the doors and roofs. The National Museum also has its share of local visitors, mostly art students who visit the various temples and old buildings all over Bangkok to sketch.

Sanam Luang and Wat Po

Across the National Museum is Sanam Luang or the Grand Park or the Royal Field. If you like pigeons, there are hundreds and hundreds of them at the park. Some enterprising Thais are selling plastic sachets of corn bits so you can feed the pigeons till kingdom come and pretend that you’re in a piazza somewhere in Italy or a square in Paris or Rome. Just don’t bring out your coat and your stylish shawls because it is hot and humid.

A few blocks away, about 200 meters are the Grand Palace (home of the Royal Family) and Wat Po, the home of the reclining Buddha. I wasn’t able to visit the Grand Palace because the admission price is 200 baht. Heck, I can buy a decent shirt and a bowl of hot and spicy tom yung goom for that. May sukli pa.

Unlike in the other temples and the National Museum, cameras are allowed inside Wat Po. Shoes, however, are a no-no. The reclining Buddha is mind-boggling. It’s big and beautiful. The compound is dotted with smaller wats or temples and you’ll find numerous Buddhas in different poses.

Pra Chan and Chao Praya River: Savor the smells of old Bangkok

By this time, Corinna and the rest of the SEACA family is now back home and I’m all alone in my quest to find the true Bangkok. Fortunately, just a stone’s throw away from the National Museum is Tha Pra Chan, one of the oldest communities in Bangkok. According to a marker leading to the ferry station in the Chao Praya River, Tha Pra Chan was used to be the palace of Prince Prachak Sillapakhom.

Tha Pra Chan now is a small street near the Grand Palace and the National Museum. What sets it apart from the rest of city are the hawkers. They are everywhere, selling everything and anything from antique coins, old Buddha statuettes, to fruits, noodles, silver jewelry and the ubiquitous wooden penis. Is it (the wooden penis) an anting-anting? I have to ask some Thai friends.

Pra Chan road is enchanting. You’ll get dizzy with all the sounds and smells of Old Bangkok. It is unlike Divisoria and Quiapo in the sense that you have a feeling of security and safety. Just throw away your caution to the wind and enjoy the orderly chaos of Pra Chan.

At the end of the road is the Pra Chan ferry station. From there to Pinklong Bridge the ferry ride is bout five minutes and will cost you 3 bahts. You’ll get a good view of the Chao Praya River and the skyscrapers of Bangkok’s financial district. During the ride you’ll also get the chance to mingle with the ordinary Thai, who are on their way to work and school. I’ve heard that we’ll soon have a ferry system in our very own Pasig River. Tama ba?

Democracy Monument: Testament to the heroism of the Thai people

Thirty-two years ago, thousands of Thai students, workers, men and women converged in the heart of Bangkok near the Old Chinatown and demanded for a return to democracy. Why was it important for me to see this monument? Because it happened on October 14 just two days away from my birthday! O inuman na.

Khao San: The backpacker’s ghetto

Khao San or Chao San is a world-famous street due to its cameo role in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “The Beach”. It is about 200 meters of shops, bars and budget hotels. A true backpackers’ haven.

My first encounter with Khao San happened on the 3rd night of my stay in Bangkok. I was suffering from stir-craziness and cabin fever and was itching to get away from the hell-hole that was my hotel room. I tagged along with Maya, Reggie, Tatcee, and Farha (a Malaysian intern in IID). Fortunately, Trang Hotel was just a 35 baht ride to Khao San, about 15-minute walk.

Snapping away some pictures was fun. The people in Khao San just didn’t care. You’ll see all sorts of characters there: from bible-wielding mormons to cross-dressing kathueys. Unshaven hippies and rastafaris with unruly dreadlocks compete with Japanese punks with Mohawk-styled hair grab your attention. You just can not take your eyes off them. I feel old and normal when I was there. Maybe, I’m just really old, normal and boring. Pero I’m a type 4 in enneagram. I’m supposed to be unique, eccentric, MAD. hehehehe

Anyway, a funny thing happened on my second visit to Khao San on the last day of my Bangkok adventure. I was walking along one of the sidewalks listening to Easy FM Bangkok in my N6610i radio (all foreign songs format and the number one song is Christian Bautista’s “The way you look at me”!!!) when a book being sold by one of the hawkers caught my attention. It was an English-Visayan dictionary! Hahahaha.