Monthly Archives: January 2013

Selective Freak-out

If you found a stranger in your garden with shards of your once beautiful bonsai plant under his feet, would you graciously and kindly accept his apology if he can’t explain what is he doing in your garden in the first place?

That’s the simple and quaint description of this week’s latest news that drew uproar among Filipino netizens: US Navy Minesweeper rams into Sulu’s Tubbataha Reef, one of the most biologically-diverse reefs in Asia and also a protected wildlife area. What mostly angers us Filipinos is that how can these ships entered this part of the sea without any permit, or even a shred of explanation.

US Minesweeper stuck in the Tubbataha Reef for one day and counting

They didn’t even have the gall to report the incident on the Park Managers. I bet if the Rangers haven’t discovered them stuck in the first place, the story would be all hush-hush and they will leave Tubbataha peacefully without having to pay for the damages dealt.

Tubbataha Reef is one of the country’s five heritage sites under UNESCO. Spanning 97,000 hectares, it’s a favorite spot among divers and marine scientists for housing wild and exotic marine life, rivaling Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

With the ship stuck in the reef until now, the winds and the currents wedges the ship’s hull deeper into the corrals, increasing the damage even further. Two more ships reportedly came into the aid of the Minesweeper, but they seemed to ignore the park’s regulations and entered the park without any permit. What raises many eyebrows is how the Navy fails to explain WHAT ON EARTH ARE THEY DOING IN THE SULU SEA IN THE FIRST PLACE. They can’t explain any answer. Are we going to take that nicely just because we are US allies and US support us with the tension in South China Sea (West Philippine Sea)?

But what concerns me the most is how most of us Filipinos seem to react more passively with this issue than the time when a Chinese ship rammed down into an atoll within our territory. Public outrage was so high then, people were talking about how China is destroying the reefs and the marine life there. How they weren’t supposed to be there. How they wander in the West Philippine Sea so arrogantly and seem to be convinced they own the whole Philippine islands. I can understand the rage going on there, since it’s in the peak of the Scarborough Issue and China is really being a bully back then, having to demonstrate its naval power and all, but do we have to distinguish between China and US as the enemy and the supporter? Do we give special treatment to US and let bygones be bygones because it’s our ally?

I’ve seen a lot of tweets saying, “Look at the bright side, at least it wasn’t a China ship” or “It wasn’t China”….Whaaat…….Seriously, are you kidding me? Are we really Filipinos that narrow-minded to see that a damage is still a damage and no amount of friendship nor special history together can afford that? It’s in our territory and even if it’s a China ship stuck in there, or a US ship, or a Japan ship, or hell, even our own ship from our own rag-tag navy, we must DEMAND apology AND complete explanation to the perpetrators’ action.

Right now, in the South China Sea issue, we can’t even tell who the real enemies are, or the real allies. What I’m asking for Filipinos is to be vigilant and critical on every move being conducted within the disputed sea, may it be China’s movement or the movement of our allies. We have to understand where we stand, and that we stand with our sovereignty and constitution, and we must demand explanation when our rights are being abused or violated, may it be by the enemy or by our so-called friends.

A trespasser is a trespasser. Simple as that.


Are we Pinoys really lacking in Originality?

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.

– Victor Hugo

Other countries have always something to say to us Filipinos. There are positive things, good things that we’ll agree with passion, and bad things that we either accept, or in a brief spark of patriotism, defend ourselves with passion. Regardless, if there’s one thing most Filipinos and foreigners seem to agree is that we Filipinos seem to lack originality, creativity and new ideas.

I’m not speaking in general term, but I’ll focus in this one facet of our society that shapes our minds: the media. Specifically, in our films, shows, teleseryes and even songs.

Last week, during the post-climactic phase of MMFF excitement, I just saw a tweet from about how Star Cinema’s entry for MMFF movie, One More Try managed to rip off an award-winning 2008 Chinese movie titled In Love we Trust. Sensing some kind of propaganda play, (since Star Cinema is under ABS-CBN which is a bitter rival of TV5 both in ratings and mining issues), I read the article and verified the claim. I also watched the trailer of the Chinese film just to make sure if the similarities are that huge, or it’s just a question of creative people coincidentally thinking of a same idea and plot.

Basically, the plot is similar. Two couples had one kid in their earlier years. They parted ways (in the Chinese version, they divorced), and now years later when they are happily married to their current partners, the mother finds out her child has a serious disease and is in need of a bone marrow transplant. Since neither father and mother are unqualified donors, the doctor suggested they should reproduce another kid as a sibling to their poor child. In short, the former couple has to have sex until they can have a child. That’s where the conflict sets in, battling their own inner turmoil at the same time, hurting the people they loved for the sake of their kid. It’s a matter of putting someone you love above yourself, no matter how high the costs.

When I watched the trailers of One More Try at ABS, I was instantly hooked with the trailer. Finally something new. Not just your ordinary  wife-and-mistress-catfights which is making me sick down to my guts, nor the issues of infidelity that’s getting tiresome, which in Tagalog phrase, nakakaumay na.  Aside from Thy Womb, I wouldn’t mind watching One More Try because the plot is new, and there’s a powerful and though-invoking conflict of morals, which I didn’t really expect from MMFF.

Still, even if you say One more try is inspired by the Chinese film, it has a Filipino-kind of twist on it: melodramatic lines and dialogue, passion under the silky sheets, long shots of contemplation in each character as if their screen exposure isn’t enough. It tackles on Filipino audience. If you released a movie like In love we trust which deals more on the domestic implications of the characters, the highest it can go is on Cinemalaya which is rich laden with original stories but overly underrated. Since both sides haven’t proved or confirmed that the film is inspired by the Chinese movie, I rest my judgment for now, but this issue somewhat made me reflect on what’s happening in our creative industry right now. 

Among the debate of movies acting like a copycat with each other is the Hunger Games and the Battle Royale. Both has a fight-and-kill-to-survive element, but the similarities are not that perceivable. I would hardly compare these two gems because each has different effects on me, plot-wise.

On the question of originality as not our strongest traits, my classmate Nikos shared to us that his aunt who works in a local TV network once tries to submit original stories to Star Cinema, but they were rejected. Instead, they told her and other writers to research on international films who have good plots but never gained cult or popular status. Then they should copy that down, change some elements and voila, you have an original movie.

This can sadden anybody. Can we come up with something that is ours? Can we not copy the Western stereotype and make a revolutionary idea of our own? Are we really that inferior? Are our filmmakers just care about the money and as audience, are we really that ignorant and easy to please?

Come to think of it, the only original TV Show I enjoyed so far is the epic serye of GMA, Encantadia and even, Mulawin. I just love the mix of fantasy and love story combined in a magical world with creatures borrowed from our folklore. I enjoyed ABS-CBN shows too but none really marked a memory in me.

Is our lack of originality derived from our film industry’s drive to make money? Are we really that desperate to gain some audience? Come to think of it, audience also plays a major role. Are we capable of accepting a new idea or continue to cling to the old status quo, same old storylines and same old conflict only because the leading man and lady looks so good together?

Films and movies work in the same law as Supply and Demand. If we the consumers continue to look for mediocre films, the filmmakers continue, and will always continue, to give us a mediocre ones. And if we aspire to break from that mediocrity, we should look for the inner creativity among themselves. The Martial Law saw a flourishing of world-class films that shocked the world, we don’t need to enter a dark period to bleed our creative juices out and come up with something original, creative and that is uniquely  ours.

Delve on the K-12

“Share tayo ng libro” – Will K-12 solve this? (courtesy of

The holidays revelry is about to end and it’s back to the classrooms once again, dear children. It’s time to dust away the cobwebs from our backpacks and open the ancient tome of knowledge left untouched since last year. I know it pains you to return but there is no replacement for learning and education, as you will realize later on. Meanwhile, just do your math homework!

Don’t worry, when you’ve reached college just like me, those kill-joy paperworks would leave you alone bit by bit. You don’t have to look another textbook, workbook or intermediate pad ever again unless you have a little brother which I have.

My brother, Miggy is a preschooler in some private Catholic school because of the scholarship he got. He’s a bright kid, likes to argue and curious about most things, but after seeing how thoroughly advanced all their lessons, homeworks, quizzes and tests are, you know that even the smartest of kids will need some time to adjust under it.

Miggy, just like the rest of preschoolers, gradeschoolers and highschoolers are already under the newly-implemented K-12 program of Department of Education. It’s deliberately similar with the educational curriculum in US, Canada, Australia and big-shot countries out there. It adds two additional learning years in the curriculum, with 6 years of primary education, 4 years of junior highschool and two years of senior highschool.

I just realized how serious K-12 really is when I discovered that they are already teaching kids as young as 5 to read and write down their full names.  Introducing reading to 5-year-olds is actually fine, since their brain is in the peak of development around this age, but boy, the words in their reading lists are the things you usually find on novels. While we remembered reading “a”, “an”, “dog”, “cat” on our first year in school, the toddlers now have words like “through”, “because”, “although”, and “laugh” to deal with. (I didn’t encounter those words until I’m seven years old!)

Not only that, Kinder math already has basic arithmetic like Addition and Subtraction. Man, when I was around that age, I remembered only having to count the watermelons in the basket, not adding them up with the watermelons from another basket!

K-12 kicks in for the school year (Courtesy of UNTV-News)

As far as I can tell, Miggy is adjusting fairly well. I heard their teacher is great. And since Miggy’s a part of the first batch to start from Kinder-1, he might had less trouble on succeeding years. K-12 is actually very good program. It’s comprehensive, continuous and constant on its goals to invest on long-term solution for what the administration perceived to be the problems on the country’s quality of education.

Under K-12, each regional school or university will have to teach the students about the means of livelihood on that area, so that even if they can’t go to college, they can get a job and have the right skills for it. It also builds proficiency on mother-tongue based education. Apparently, research indicates that students learned best using their mother-tongue and in this linguistically diverse country like the Philippines, K-12 will focus first on the methods of  teaching technical subjects like science and math through a familiar language before formally introducing them to Filipino and English later on. Of course, with the additional years of education, you can also get a chance to study abroad which prefers at least 16 years of education compared to Basic Curriculum’s 14-year curriculum.

What future awaits our students under K-12? (courtesy of

All in reality, K-12 is a good program, but let’s be realistic here, people. In a developing country like the Philippines, there’s a small chance that the K-12 may fall short on its ambitious goals.

First let’s look at the situation of the students who started on Basic Education but were suddenly thrust into K-12. I took pity on these students, because their background started out from the traditional curriculum. Although they will adjust, it will take some time for them to grasp the reins yet before they get  used to it, they’re put it into another higher level with more challenging subjects. I’ve talked to some kids’ mothers and they all said the same thing: Their kids are struggling. Some are even losing confidence to themselves and self-esteem. Some who haven’t hire home tutors before are now looking for one. A middle-class family can afford some help, but what of the larger masses? With the additional years came the possibility of additional expenses and they need to keep both ends meet.  Tutoring lessons and supplementary materials are completely out of the question.

DepEd should have initiated K-12 on the fresh batch of students last year, or this year, but in eagerness to solve the problems on education, or meet the demands of the administration, they deemed it important to include the Basic Education batch under K-12 experimental group.

Philippines is reported to have the only Asian nation with ten-year-basic education program, but you see, unlike our Malay and Thai neighbors, our teachers aren’t forced to seek greener pastures abroad. Not only that, the ones who go are our best teachers, specializing in a certain discipline of education and the ones who decided to remain are left to struggle different levels of education instead of focusing on teaching one. In Indonesia, teacher-training programs are varied and gradually being updated. Malaysia is under British-designed K-12 but tertiary education is heavily subsidized by the government, resulting to less expenditures for the families.

Education is a country’s asset for prosperity and development, but more than anything, it is the investing to the country’s future without having to compromise the financial situation of the majority. Lessening the burden of the people should be the first priority before introducing something as big as K-12. Large projects such as the addition of rooms, facilities, books, supplies and proper funding of good teachers should be the first step forward. Or the least the government can do is to provide more local jobs for the poor to send their kids to school.

Right now, K-12 sits unfavorably on the social situation of the Philippines, but we can do no more but watch and see how it will go. As we Filipinos are prone to say, Make the best out of the situation. Whatever the results, the least we can do is to learn from it, because learning does not stop in 10, 12 or 16 years of education. It’s gradually in process and forever continuing, even if you’re an elementary student or already the secretary of Department of Education himself.

The Script behind our history

Baybayin is the ancient script of pre-colonial Philippines. It comes from the word baybay which means spelling. According to David Diringer, the renowned expert on ancient scripts, the baybayin possibly came directly from the ancient Kavi script of Java, Indonesia. Or, it may have its roots in Kavi but was introduced to the Philippines by way of the ancient script used by the Buginese people of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Another name for the Baybayin is Alibata (Carrows)

Baybayin script (courtesy of

I first stumbled upon Baybayin when as a kid, I saw my dad having a henna tattoo of his Baybayin name on his shoulder. He said that it’s an ancient Filipino code, adding jokingly that only a few great people were able to read and write it. He taught me to write Baybayin in my name. He even downloaded Baybayin font to the computer so I can learn it better.

It never sinks to me then, how valuable it is to our history. Like other kids, I have no clear sense of the past. In History books, the only things I can remember is the barangays, the social hierarchy of Maharlikas and Alipins, and how Lapu-lapu defies and slays Magellan. After that, next lesson, the Philippines under Spanish Colonialism. I learned that during the olden times, the Spanish repeatedly chugs down to the natives’ throat how the Kingdom of Spain saved us, clothed our barbaric selves, and gave us culture and  civilization. I actually believed them because I don’t have any clear understanding of what we are as people before the Spanish came.

That’s why I was surprised when during our highschool, our Filipino teacher taught us how the early Filipinos developed a unique system of writing waaaay before the Spanish came and that’s Baybayin. When she taught us the basics of writing it, that’s probably the most thrilling moment I can recall from her class! My classmates were just as excited. Like me, they were not aware of how we lived before the outsiders came. Like me, they are thirsty for any knowledge of what it’s like before Tawalisi became the Philippines we know as today.

We have a culture before we became a colony of some western power. We build palaces, temples, altars, houses and farms complete with irrigation systems. Our ancestors just carved rice terraces out of mountains!  We have kingdoms in Tundo, Maynila and Namayan in Luzon, Confederation of Madya-an and Rahjanate of Cebu in Visayas, Lanao Confederation, Sultanate of Sulu and Maguindanao from Mindanao. We have a golden city from Butuan whose goldworks were regaled and coveted by our neighboring lands.

Language is an important foundation of civilization, and despite all odds, despite the geographical fragmentation, our ancestors managed to construct an ancient script of their own and build civilizations.  Who’s the uncultured now?

It makes me cry that we were unable to preserve some of our heritage, but I guess like Baybayin, whose revival is slowly trickling down to the modern Filipino consciousness, it’s never too late to discover our past and create an identity that we can all share. It’s never too late to become a nation, to be united and be enlightened.

I encouraged you guys to learn how to write Baybayin. It’s really fun. And you can learn it within a day! With just constant retention of the characters, you’d be one of those few great Baybayin writers and readers, just as my old man used to say. Pass it down to your children, to our children’s children, because it’s something that is ours to keep, ours to give and ours to preserve.


Mabuhay ang Baybayin! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

(I also suggest you take time to browse this site. It’s a gold mine of Filipino culture, thoughts, media and history. I was like, “OH HEAVEN!” when I accidentally discovered it XD)

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