Sunday, July 24, 2011

Change: Government or People?

First published by Tao Po at

If change is the only constant in this world, then why do we go round and round in circles with one bad leadership after another? Always the victim, always on the losing end, we never seem to get a hold of our destiny as a country. Are we all off the hook just because we always have someone to blame-The President of the Philippines?

Let us take a moment to think about this. While it is true that there were a number of them who did a number on us, there must be something fundamentally wrong with us for this to happen over and over again. What is it then?

How about if we start with what we have been dealing with? Patterned after the United States, our country has been under a presidential system of government since our independence from the Americans in 1946. Of course, we are not counting those years under our deposed and dearly departed President Ferdinand E. Marcos who took over all three branches of the government that were meant to be separate and independent from each other.

Which brings me to the heart of my topic. Did we not learn in school that there are three branches in our government-Executive, Legislative, and Judicial? I think we all need to go back to basics, like how is this important?

First we need to understand that to preserve the individual liberty that we all enjoy now, the three branches of government were designed with what they call the separation of powers. The main purpose of this is to distribute authority away from the executive branch which the president falls under. 

In other words, to prevent another Marcos, the executive officer is not supposed to make laws (role of legislature or House of Representatives), or interpret the laws (the role of the judiciary or the Supreme Court).  To put it simply, Noynoy's job is to enforce the law as written by Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. and his crew of congressmen (including those before them), and interpreted by Chief Justice Renato Corona and his justices of the Supreme Court.

Need you wonder why our country is in such dire straits?  Need I talk about the performance of our House of Representatives in formulating resolutions to our country's problems?  How about our Supreme Court who has degenerated into one of the worst courts of justice in the world?

I say that while we keep looking the other way to focus on our own survival, the three branches of our government have been enjoying free reign to wheel and deal among themselves with the supposedly separated and independent powers given to them by the Constitution of the Philippines, to their own selfish advantage.

I think we should think of it like driving a car on auto cruise.  We still need to have our hands on the wheel. We cannot rest on our laurels that we elected a president who does not seem to be dipping his hands in the other branches of our government, like what the lady who preceded him did.

With that said, if today our president fails us, we should never give up. Let us all do something to help him push the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and all the government offices under them to do their jobs as well.

As Mahatma Gandi once said, "We must be the change we wish to see."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Process of Becoming Different

"The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be."  (Isaac Asimov)

With that said, did Google know that they were about to change how we think? A recent study dubbed "The Google Effect," by a team at Columbia University, concluded that we are less likely to remember information, when we know where to find it instead. (International Business Times, July 2011)

Isn't it amazing? The internet seems to be causing a revolution in the same proportion as Jesus Christ did for humanity over 2,000 years ago. Should we be concerned with the power of quiet persuasion falling into the wrong hands?

Knowing this, it would be wise to be more discerning in not only what we expose ourselves and our children to but how as well, especially when we go through information after information on the web. We would not want to find ourselves someday behaving less like the human beings that we are.

On the other hand, it might as well be that the web offers equal chances to the good kind of change. Should I say unlike the real world?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

History of the Inarticulate

The problem is self identity.

With a colorful history painted by people who colonized our country, we remain as fragmented as the seven thousand islands scattered all over the Philippine seas. Look at what our fellow Filipinos in the government are doing to us and always getting away with. Ask around and they will tell you, "that's the way it is," as if we deserve less than the rest of the world.

Where do I begin?  How about going back to Yoyoy Villame's account of our history in a song that goes, "In March 16, 1521, when the Philippines was discovered by Magellan."  This version that we acquired from history books implied that the Spaniards brought civilization to the islands. For your information, recent discoveries say otherwise. (While the Spanish Catholic missionaries piggybacked their way to our neck of the woods on some ruthless colonizers, still I am thankful.)

Picture Tondo with some Arabian-looking  knights in shining bling-blings. These "Rajahs," as they were called, ruled other kingdoms as far away as Borneo thousands of ages ago. Docked in a nearby sea port were ships that could carry 300 men. They would sail back and forth bringing goods from trade partners like China, India, and Thailand.

An artifact called Laguna Copperplate Inscription backs up this part of our history. Discovered by Alfredo E. Evangelista in Laguna de Bay in 1989, this was a document chiseled on a plate in  Kawi Script, dated in an era estimated to be 822 A.D., and even mentioned Tondo as well as other towns. It releases the bearer from his debt in gold, revealing that a civilized state already existed in our islands long before Magellan.

Now, how about our love affair with Jose Rizal?  No doubt, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were the fire that lit the spirit of nationalism across the scattered islands. Finally after 300 years, the little "Indios" found the guts to unite and stand up against their foreign rulers. However, not all of our ancestors before Rizal cowered at the sound of condescending Spanish voices.

For instance, there is an interesting story of bravery and betrayal in Pangasinan. A rebel leader known as Don Andres Malong led a revolt against the Spaniards as early as 1660. His troops were gaining grounds against the Spaniards when a fellow from Pampanga named Don Juan Macapagal and his troops sided with the enemies to defeat the revolt, killing Don Malong.

Interestingly, Don Juan Macapagal was the great grandson of Lakan Dula, who was credited for the Spanish conquest of the kingdoms of the Pasig River delta in the early 1570s. Like father, like son. Would you be surprised if I told you that President Diosdado Macapagal, no need to mention Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, descended from them?

I came to know all these facts as well as myths (for example, it was not the Americans who brought prostitution to Manila but the Europeans) from a book I found in the Filipiniana section of a bookstore in Manila.  Although hard to read for ordinary people like myself because of its references to hundreds of names and Spanish quotes, History of the Inarticulate was written with a mission.

The author, Luis Camara Dery with all his wisdom, mapped out new routes for our history in his book.  He hopes that it would guide other historians in their search for truth about ourselves. To quote him-"Isang-dugo and sama-sama are indigenous terms that describe the ties that bind the Philippine inhabitants before the establishment of colonial rules fragmented them into groups hostile to each other. Highlighting such native traits-and those that survive the colonial onslaughts-are valuable as they can help the Filipino people today to rediscover their precolonial common roots, thus helping efforts fostering national unity."

With enlightened Filipinos like Luis Camara Dery, it is only a matter of time before we finally unearth our God given traits, innate as the color of our skin, like that golden statuette found in an archeological dig in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. (photo above)