Monday, June 22, 2009

A question on independence

(This was printed in the June issue of the community newspaper True Friends. They requested me to write my thoughts on Independence day.)

Considering that there was a time in our history when the question of whether Philippine Independence Day started on 12th June 1898 or 4th July 1946 was raised, I cannot help but ask: are we really sure of our independence?

Some will probably say that it is a very simple matter for such a serious question. Some may even stop reading this article now thinking that it's a too serious topic to spend your free time with. Still others may ask the same question.

Since I started learning about Philippine history in school – which in the larger part was more of memorizing names, dates and places – I've been led to embrace the idea that Philippine Independence Day started there at the balcony of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo's mansion in Kawit, Cavite. An event perfectly pictured in the two-peso bill I grew up with.

I am pretty sure that anyone who has ever heard of Magellan, Lapu-Lapu and Andres Bonifacio knows that we have been colonized by Spain. As well, I am confident that anyone who has ever heard of the Philippine-American War, Macario Sakay, and the term 'benevolent assimilation' knows that we have also been colonized by the United States of America (USA).

But what I may doubt is that anyone who has ever heard of the Bell Trade Act, parity rights, US-RP Military Bases Agreement, Visiting Forces Agreement, World Trade Organization and war on terror knows or even believes that we have never really strayed far from US' control.

Celebration of Independence Day does give us a sense of history. But history did not stop in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898 nor when the US supposedly granted us freedom on July 4, 1946.

Independence is not only the freedom to wave your own flag or even speak your own language. Independence is not also merely having a Filipino as head of state or conducting rounds after rounds of elections. It is also not merely about having a defined territory. It is neither just a mere date nor a picture in a now forgotten bill.

It is the liberty to chart the country's destiny, to have sovereignty over own resources, and to make decisions and policies free from foreign dictates.

Based on these, if I may ask again: are we really sure of our independence?

If we are, then we probably do not have a proposed Charter Change that'll give up our resources for other nations to take over. We probably do not have US troops roaming all around the country – free to enter and leave – in the name of joint military exercises. Daniel Smith probably will still be in jail.

Probably, Nora Aunor wouldn't have shouted "My brother is not a pig!" in the movie Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo after her brother was shot dead by US military men who mistook him as a wild boar.

Probably, the more than 3,000 Filipinos who are forced to go abroad just to survive will not be at the airport everyday.

Probably, not everyone knows who Mickey Mouse is.

Also, probably all of those who have been president of the country would not have hurried over to speak before the US Congress and pledge support and cooperation with the US as soon as they got elected.

In many ways, we are still in the tight grip of the US. Our economy is still dominated by US investments, our trade is dependent on the needs of US and other more powerful countries, our country is neck-deep in debts to the IMF and World Bank that are controlled by the US, and our culture and mindset are very much Americanized.

After growing up believing in Independence Day, waving mini-flags and dressing in barong tagalog, it may really be hard to believe and, more so, to accept that our independence has been more in words and less in practice.

But then again, starting to question what we have been led to believe is probably the best way to get us working for the real thing.

So if someone asks me if we should celebrate our Independence Day on June 12 or on July 4, I will probably answer: soon, I hope.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pahabol sa Father's Day

May point pa bang mag-sulat ng post hinggil sa Father's Day kung wala ka ng tatay?

(from left) Ka Nilo Arado, Chair, PAMANGGAS (KMP Panay Region), victim of enforced disappearance; Ka Randy Echanis, KMP Dep. Sec. for External Affairs, victim of 'arrest and detention'; Ka Fermin Lorico, Chair, KAUGMAON (KMP Negros Oriental), victim of extra-judicial killing


Wala na ang tatay ko. Wala na akong magagawa dun.

Pero sa mga tatay na nasa itaas, meron pa. Kahit man lang sa antas na maipaabot sa ibang mga anak na may mga tatay na katulad nila. Kahit man lamang masuportahan sila sa paglaban para sa hustisya.

Para sa mga palabang ama, para sa mga amang biktima ng karahasan, para sa mga amang nangangarap at humahakbang para sa mas magandang buhay at lipunan sa lahat ng mga anak …. Maligayang Araw ng mga Ama sa inyong lahat!

(Ang picture ay mula sa facebook ni roy)

Friday, June 19, 2009

A virus like no other

Together with the rising cases of swine flu in Hong Kong, another threat looms above Filipino domestic workers: that of racial profiling. This one can prove to be even more virulent than A(H1N1).

Our kababayans have not yet fully-recovered from getting tagged as 'Superbug' carriers a few months ago. Now here comes the HK government declaring that Filipino domestics – after one has been diagnosed with it together with three others who just arrived from the Philippines – are carriers of the dreaded A(H1N1) virus and has called for employers to restrict them in their days off and their mobility. What a lot of bull!

Alright, I don't mean to downplay the seriousness of the rapid spread of swine flu. Even the World Health Organization has declared it as an epidemic already and they are already stonewalled on its origin and how to effectively stop it from spreading. We do need to seriously take precautions and probably, foreign domestic workers are as concerned as most of us because their work is their family's bread and butter.

Still, why zoom in on Filipinos? To set the records straight, the first cases of swine flu in HK were not Filipinos and most of the recorded cases now are also not Filipinos; not even domestic workers to boot. So why are Americans, Australians, British and the whole dang HK population not given the same advice as a preventive measure?

In reality, foreign domestic workers are not as exposed to crowded places as the rest of the people in Hong Kong. They only have one day off in a week for chrissake! The only time they leave their employer's house for the rest of the week is either to go to the market or send and pick up their wards from school. They also do not have the capacity to travel outside of HK whenever they want to. If truth be told, who is really more prone to this epidemic?

Already, some people I know of have been warned by their employers against going to the places they frequent during their days off, were ordered to go out on a different day, or were commanded not to take a day off at all. They have already been uprooted from the Philippines and now they are again uprooted from their communities, friends, families and social practices – a whole way of life.

Public health is indeed the public's concern. But when it gets racist and discriminatory, it breeds a sickness to our humanity that is an epidemic of probably even greater proportion.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Con-Ass: Up yours!

House of Representatives or House of GMA?

What a shame!

Should we allow ourselves be conned by these asses?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I just spent the best part of the past six hours wracking my brain to come out with a decent write-up about wage and foreign domestic helpers. I failed.

It's irritating to say the least and worrisome at most when – as you seem to think – you have the analysis, the language and the outline but you still cannot put them into words that'll make sense and better yet, gather support for the cause of domestic workers in Hong Kong.

So what did I do today? Stared blankly at my computer screen, wrote sentences, deleted sentences, answered phone calls, dipped into other people's affairs, smoked, drank coffee and yeah, slacked. Probably the most productive things I did were to take the minutes of a meeting and finalize the title of what I was supposed to be writing.

I need to do better. If I don't, then these will probably happen:

  • My list of things-to-do will only get longer
  • I will not be able to go to Volume
  • I'll gain more weight
  • I will get cranky and ill-tempered and probably lose my Ms. Congeniality title
  • "@work" will be constantly plastered on my YM and only the most daring of my friends will send me a message
  • I will miss another week of Tayong Dalawa


All because of a freakin' FAQ. FA-Q!