Plug the gaps in our education

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

Schools and universities will once again open for another school year in just a few months, and the cities will be swarmed with students, the question about what authentic education is should be asked.

It would be a pity if after all the precious effort and money expended for the pursuit of education, something else is achieved. And this, sad to say, is not improbable.

We have met many people, otherwise quite educated in a certain way, but who display precisely the absence, or at least a serious deficiency in education. They do not know how to reason out, how to express themselves, how to relate parts with the whole.

They may be good, even experts, in some specialized field, but gravely wanting in basic virtues, like order, prudence, justice, or ignorant of what full human development is.

They may be giants in the things of the world, but pygmies in the things of the spirit. They may be quite adept with the computers and the other modern gadgets, but awkward with prayer and the practice of the teachings of the word of God.

Extrapolate this phenomenon to the whole of society or a good part of the world, then you will have a tremendous crisis at hand. This is no exaggeration. A good part of the big troubles we have at present can be traced to the kind of education we are having.

There are those who think that education is simply sending children to school, or simply a matter of learning some useful skill, getting a degree and some title, and being able to get a job.

Education is much more than these. It's not simply a commodity to have or to show off. It essentially starts with something intangible or spiritual, for it involves a quality, a habit, an orderly universe of virtues and values that should characterize the whole person, and not just some aspects of him.

Education is the transformation of the whole person. It involves the complete, not partial nor fragmented and broken, integration of all his aspects in accordance to the objective nature of man.

Unfortunately, even many of our higher institutions of learning fail to see this. Many of them just get contented with teaching some specialized knowledge and skill.

There is nothing wrong with that, as long as these specializations are done in the context of the over-all development of man. And as long as these specializations foster, not hinder, the appreciation of the complete and ultimate good of man.

The problem becomes a genuine crisis when these schools and universities do not have a clear vision of what man ought to be. Their anthropology is faulty, in that they focus only on some aspects of man, without a good grasp of what would comprise man's full development.

In other words, there are serious gaps in their vision of human development. This can happen in many ways.

When schools only give technical instruction or mere techniques and know-how, education can be considered incomplete. It's like saying that man is being developed with respect to his hands, but not so much with respect to his head.

When schools only involve themselves in secular sciences or social sciences, ignoring religion and the so-called sacred sciences, education is not served.

Such training makes man knowledgeable only about the things of this world, but quite deaf and blind with respect to spiritual and supernatural realities. Such training ill equips man to face the complete reality that concerns him.

One can become experts in biology and the other sciences, but quite deficient in the moral sense. This explains why there are now serious problems related to bio-ethics, for example.

These gaps and deficiencies should be plugged and attended to. This, to me, is a serious challenge we all have to tackle. It's a long way, there are a million steps to be taken, before we can declare some progress in this direction.

Who's going to take the lead in this endeavor? I would say, both the State and Church, in a manner of speaking, can sit down to thresh out concrete plans to solve this problem.

Education is a mixed matter involving both Church and State, because education is for man, and man is both body and soul, individual and social, citizen and faithful, temporal and eternal, of this world and beyond.

There are right ways and wrong ways of doing things. What is important is what others learned from what we did -- especially to the young and fragile minds.

There was a popular tagalog advertisement which says, "Sa mata ng isang bata, ang mali ay nagiging tama kapag ito ay ginagawa ng mga matatanda."

The Way Out of the Morass

Excerpts from "Whereto, Philippines?"
By H L Neri

Although it was generally believed that the ouster of Mr. Marcos and ascension of Mrs. Aquino to the presidency constituted a severe setback to the communist insurgency in our country, the increasing frequency and boldness of NPA attacks and assassinations has made it quite apparent that the movement has actually gained a lot of ground since then. This would seem to lend more credibility to the extrapolations of experts that - unless checked - such a rate of growth will enable the communists to achieve a strategic stalemate in a matter of years.

Nevertheless, insofar as the generality of our people are concerned, alarm about the escalating problem still has to take on a sense of immediacy or of clear imminent danger. Nor indeed is there enough realization on the part of the beneficiaries of the status quo that they must now move towards letting go of their unjust privileges, in order to eradicate or alleviate the general poverty injustice has spawned and the insurgency is thriving in.

It would seem that some people never learn from history and are therefore "doomed to repeat it." It was this same lack of social awareness that enabled the communist in other countries to bring down the edifice of the existing order while the privileged classes slumbered. One thinks of how termites do it undetected until it is too late; or of how complacent and derisive the doomed remained until right before the great flood which Noah and his family were so sedulously preparing for.

The simple-minded are convinced that all that is needed to crush the insurgency is stronger, more single-minded and solidly cohesive military action. For is not the military still many times superior in numbers and weaponry to the NPA?

Fortunately, neither our political nor our military leadership appears to be so naïve. Time and again they have expostulated that the insurgency cannot be eliminated by military action alone. This must go hand in hand with social and economic approaches.

The problem is that there seems to be no clear or correct consensus on what such approaches should specifically be.

The general view is that what is needed is a more vigorous prosecution of the government's existing socio-economic program, incorporating conventional economic approaches, a much watered-down land reform, and some alleviant welfare measures. But, in general, the structures of privilege are to remain.

The communists, on the other hand, are demanding a radical restructuring of the social order in accordance with their own conception of what a just and democratic social order should be.

Would the communists be willing to put their proposal to a free democratic vote if the Communist Party were to be truly legalized and allowed to freely argue and propagate their proposals in unrestricted public fora? Would they be willing to put down their arms, on this condition firmly guaranteed, plus amnesty> and would they be willing to live with whatever system gets the popular nod, whatever its perceived defects and infirmities, until - if ever - they succeed in swaying the mind and will of the democratic sovereignty in favor of their ideas?

Equally important: Would the Establishment be willing to open up its mass media to all contrary views, and forswear harassment and underhanded persecutions against those whose views might shake the foundations of the existing order?

It would seem unrealistic to expect affirmative answers to these questions. It seems more realistic to expect that neither the communists nor the guardians of the status quo would want to transfer the venue of their conflict from the military battlefield to the battlefield of ideas, where neither can withstand the searchlight of unobstructed public scrutiny or the unimpeded winds of free public debate.

The initiative for such transfer of venue should come from those who believe that the only way - indeed the only right way - to achieve real and enduring national peace and progress is to bring about a restructuring of our national society on the firm and solid foundations of justice and solidarity, in accordance with a national consensus freely and democratically arrived at.

Along Destiny's Road
By H L Neri

Do not cry, my darling,
That we suffer in the night;
The sun will soon be here,
And its light shall dispel our gloom.

The first rays of the dawn
To break into the clouds
Shall kiss our tears away
And set our hearts aglow.

Our pains shall be but memories,
No tear shall leave a trace -
Our hardships shall have steeled our hearts
For the challenges of day.

The fruits that we shall reap
Will not spring from Mammon's fount;
They will be that cheerful feeling
That shall well up from our souls -

The feeling of being alive,
With all our powers tickling;
The sense that we are equal
To any task ahead -

The knowledge that we are marching,
Along Destiny's road,
To the heights of light and glory
Where alone our hearts can rest.


The Way to Defeat Communism in Our Country

Excerpts from "Whereto, Philippines?"
By H L Neri

Ask the average Filipino if he is against communism and he will unhesitatingly tell you that he is. Ask him what communism is and he will give you a blank look. He does not know.

He can, however, tell you why he does not like communism. He does not like communism because it suppresses civil liberties. He does not like it because it advocates the violent overthrow of the social order. He does not like it because it denies the existence of God.

The average Filipino has been so bombarded with anti-communist propaganda that he knows everything that is bad about communism. And knowing only what is bad in communism, he concludes that communism is all bad.

Hence, he cannot understand why people talk so much about the communist menace. How can communism ever be a threat? It is so unspeakably evil that he cannot imagine that anyone in his right senses could fall for it.

Our people, he tells himself, may be poor, unhappy and discontented; they may be disenchanted with the way our democratic system has been working and disgusted with the way their elected officials have been serving themselves at their expense; but they could never be so irrational and so stupid as to fall for the communist alternative. What then, he asks himself, is there to fear in communism?

Thus ignorance about the real nature of communism breeds complacency which can lead to disaster. It makes one absolutely helpless in coping with the real challenge communism poses.

Indeed, if communism were all evil, it should not be a threat at all in our country or anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, communism has its attractions side by side with its undesirable features. And these attractions have been underscored by the findings of some Filipino visitors to Red China whose veracity and competence we have no reason to question.

Life in Red China, so their reports go, is not as bad as we had thought. People there are generally better fed, clothed and sheltered than our people here. On top of that, they do not have to worry about education, medicine and medical care. The state takes care of all these. There are even exotic vacation resorts within the reach of everyone. In short, the Chinese in mainland China never had it so good, and this fact was radiated by the smiling and healthy faces which met the Filipino visitors wherever they went.

These reports perplex the average Filipino. It's as if some people had returned from the other life and told him that the problem of burning heat in Hell had been solved by air-conditioning.

To his mind, these reports completely discredit whatever U.S. propaganda he had imbibed before. There is real danger that he will react by thinking that there is nothing wrong at all with communism and that, in fact, it is the panacea to all the ills besetting our country.

We must face up to the fact that communism scored a tremendous propaganda victory in our country from the visit of Filipinos to Red China. There can be no better time to pause and ponder the problems and the dangers that have ensued, particularly if assessed in the light of the war in Vietnam and our own Huk resurgence here.

The thing for us to do is to take a closer look at communism, to know it better the more effectively to combat it.

Knowledge of communism tells us that not everything in it is evil, that it has its good and bad features, and that the way to fight it is not to reject everything in it but to reject only what is bad in it.

How would we appear if we fought communism by saying that we should not try to make our people better fed, clothed and sheltered because that is what the Red Chinese have done and to do the same is to be a communist?

How would we appear if we said that we should not advocate free education and free medicine and medical care because that is what they have in Red China and to have the same is communistic?

How would we appear if we fought communism by saying that we should not mouth nationalist and anti-imperialist slogans or speak against the injustices and abuses of capitalism because that is what the communists have been doing and to do the same is to be a communist?

Such a way of fighting communism would boomerang. It would be tantamount to giving the communists a patent on social justice and social welfare and nationalism and the socio-economic uplift of the masses. And it would be the surest way to make communism win in our country.

Neither should we fight communism by saying that, well, all right, there are good things in communism, but they have had to pay for all these things at the exorbitant cost of their freedom. It so happens that our people have been actually paying the same exorbitant price, without getting what the Chinese in mainland China have gotten for it.

There can be no real choice between bread and freedom because there can be no real freedom without bread. Economic bondage makes a mockery of political freedom, removes the substance from the form and renders the whole thing chimerical and meaningless. There can be bread without freedom, but there can be no freedom without bread. To make one choose between bread and freedom is to make him choose between bread and nothing. Any fool would know which to take.

The only way to defeat communism in our country is to demonstrate the ability of our system to give our people the good things communism offers without making them pay the price communism exacts.

We must show them that they can be as well fed, clothed and sheltered as the communists in mainland China without having to pass through the totalitarian regimentation the mainland Chinese have had to undergo.

We must show them that we can give our children free education up to college level without making them give up the freedom which is the only status worthy of the educated man.

We must show them that this Christian and democratic nation has the collective conscience to see to it that no one languishes in sickness or dies of a curable disease for lack of money to pay for medicine and medical care.

We must show them that we who believe in God and adhere to the teachings of Christ love and help one another through a government which not only fights lawlessness but also serves as our instrument for mutual assistance and national cooperation in the spirit of justice and charity.

I have drafted a Credo. I commend it to those who sincerely want to make this nation truly united and progressive under the benign skies of justice, liberty and fraternity.


We believe in the true and eternal principles of freedom and democracy;

We believe that communism is wrong because it denies these principles and the concept of human dignity from which they spring;

We believe that communism thrives best in the soil of discontent and the climate of despair in which the people find it preferable to surrender these principles in exchange for the essentials of life;

We believe that communism can be defeated only when social injustice is uprooted and the people are given the opportunity to improve their lives under a firmament of freedom, dignity and democracy;

We believe that our progress towards this goal, buffeted as we are by storms and high waves in a shark-infested sea, has been too slow for our comfort and peace of mind;

We believe that social reform should not be made to wait for economic development but should go hand in hand with it in accordance with the spirit of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum;

We believe that the patrimony of the nation and the wealth that springs from it should be equitably shared by all its citizens in the spirit of justice and charity, the fundamental tenets of Christianity to which this nation adheres;

We believe it to be the minimum imperative of Christian charity and justice that every citizen in this country have clothes for his body, roof over his head, food to keep himself alive, medicine and medical care when he is sick, and the opportunity to get the education he needs to become a useful and self-supporting member of society;

We believe it to be the collective duty of the citizens to bear the costs of these essentials of life according to their individual ability - more from those who can give more, less from those who can give less, and nothing from those who can give nothing;

We believe that on this rock of Christian charity and justice we can build a strong and united nation against which the storms and the tempests and the very gates of hell will never prevail.

[Philippines Free Press, July 9, 1966]

H L Neri, a native of Bohol, is author of many relevant and insightful writings. At the age of 23, he was Editor of Filipino First, a fortnightly in the late fifties. In the mid sixties, his feature articles began to come out in various periodicals: Philippines Free Press, The Weekly Nation, The Manila Times. Among the articles he wrote that have come out in the Manila Bulletin are: "The Limits of Authority of the Aquino Government", "The 1973 Constitution Still Stands", and "True Land Reform".

H L Neri has also authored and produced two color posters, "Love Your Work" and "Along Destiny's Road." "Love Your Work" is a familiar sight in offices, workplaces, and homes in the country. "Along Destiny's Road" began as one of the projects approved by the Media Bureau of the Cory Aquino for President Movement (CAPM) where H L Neri was a volunteer writer during the presidential campaign.


The Left, Left Out

By Manuel L. Quezon III
The Explainer, Episode 31, 03/20/2007

The Cultural Revolution thrilled radical students in the Philippines. The idea of Chinese-style revolution gave birth to the New People’s Army.

March 29 will mark the 38th anniversary of the New People’s Army. To crush the NPA, the government has declared war on political parties it claims are allies of the NPA. It’s latest target has been a member of congress: Satur Ocampo, who is now in police custody.

Does crushing the NPA require the elimination of certain legal political parties?


If Filipinos who matured in the first half of the 20th century defined politics and society in American terms -Lincoln’s a government for, by and with the people, Jefferson’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, by the 1960s such sentiments seemed horribly old-fashioned. A new generation of Filipinos that grooved to the beatles, became long-haired hippies, and discovered marijuana, and many thrilled to a different set of beliefs.

The beliefs were known as Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. And if their parents parroted Jefferson, Filipino students, to be different, parroted the Sayings of Chairman Mao Zedong. In a sense, the same kind of colonially-minded dog, but this time wearing a Mao collar.

The bible of these young radicals were the collected sayings of Mao Zedong. They are authoritative, concise, and therefore, convenient. Particularly when you’re doing indoctrination or what’s called the teach-in. They’ve come down in history as The Little Red Book.

What Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought teaches is a particular framework for history:

Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are eliminated. Such is history, such is the history of civilization for thousands of years. To interpret history from this viewpoint is historical materialism; standing in opposition to this viewpoint is historical idealism.

-”Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle” (August 14, 1949), Selected Works,† Vol. IV, p. 428.

If, said Mao, you adopted that framework, then you would seek to work with like-minded people to accomplish victory; and victory would be the aim of an organization, the Communist Party:

A well-disciplined Party armed with the theory of Marxism-Leninism, using the method of self-criticism and linked with the masses of the people; an army under the leadership of such a Party; a united front of all revolutionary classes and all revolutionary groups under the leadership of such a Party - these are the three main weapons with which we have defeated the enemy.-”On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (June 30, 1949), Selected Works,† Vol. IV, p. 422.

Therefore, the Great Helmsman advised,

It is up to us to organize the people. As for the reactionaries in China, it is up to us to organize the people to overthrow them. Everything reactionary is the same; if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself.-”The Situation and Our Policy After the Victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan” (August 13, 1945), Selected Works,† Vol. IV, p. 19.

And because class struggle required hard work and making tough decisions, it would be well to remember, Mao said in one of the most famous passages he ever wrote, that

A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. -”Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan” (March 1927), Selected Works,† Vol. I, p. 28.*

And finally, Mao said, it is necessary to know thine enemies:

Our enemies are all those in league with imperialism - the warlords, the bureaucrats, the comprador class, the big Landlord class and the reactionary section of the intelligentsia attached to them. The leading force in our revolution is the industrial proletariat. Our closest friends are the entire semi-proletariat and petty bourgeoisie. As for the vacillating middle bourgeoisie, their right-wing may become our enemy and their left-wing may become our friend - but we must be constantly on our guard and not let them create confusion within our ranks.

-”Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society” (March 1926), Selected Works,† Vol. I, p. 19.*

I’ve quoted Mao extensively because only by reading what he wrote can we know how thoroughly Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was indebted to foreign influence. He crafted a modernized, Beijing-oriented Communist ideology for in the wake of the defeat of the Moscow-oriented Huks. Listen to his words from 1964:

Kabataang Makabayan, in its historic role as the vanguard organization of Filipino youth, should know the balance of forces between imperialism and feudalism on the one hand and national democracy on the other. On the side of U.S. imperialism are the compradors and the big landlords. On the side of national democracy are the broad masses of our people, composed of the working class and the peasantry to which the vast majority of the Filipino youth today belong; the petty bourgeoisie, composed of small property-owners, students, intellectuals and professionals; and the national bourgeoisie, composed of Filipino entrepreneurs and traders.

From the present scheme of social classes, we can derive a new and powerful combination of youth-the students, young professionals, labor youth and the peasant youth. Above all, the Filipino youth should integrate themselves with the masses in order to achieve victory in the fight for national freedom and democracy.

Sison’s words became the theoretical and rhetorical foundation for a way of thinking that won’t go away. Two concepts from Sison’s ideology concerns us in particular tonight.

The first is class war. The second is the concept of the united front.

Class war is fought in the mind and in the mountains: through the study of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology, and its application in reorganizing areas controlled by the NPA, areas secured by fighting it out with our armed forces.

As Human Rights Watch in 2006 said,

The NPA and CPP continue to enact “revolutionary justice” against civilians in areas under their control, including the killing of individuals they consider to be criminals, despotic landlords, or business owners.

Writing in the Asean Focus Group newsletter, historian Patricio Abinales, gives us more details:

The NPA has largely survived on its own, amassing its weapons from carefully planned small attacks against government forces. Military victories in the countryside have been complemented by successes in “revolutionary taxation”. Businesses and entrepreneurs operating in the rural areas have now come to include NPA extortion as part of their annual budgets, with such allotments sometimes going as high as 2 million pesos.

These triumphs have prompted the Party’s eternal chairman Jose Ma Sison to encourage the formation of larger company-size units to replace the smaller platoons. But this move has been a major stumbling block for the NPA… now that the NPA has just about returned to the level it was in 1980.

At its height in the early 1980’s, that level was 25,000 armed fighters. If Abinales is right, this explains to us why AFP chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. would rather that the Communist Party of the Philippines be outlawed once more.

But so much for the NPA. What of other parties, perfectly legal ones, who also believe in Marxism. Should they be lumped with the NPA, and fought in the same way?


A while ago, we took a broad look at class struggle.

Let’s look at another concept, that of the united front.

The united front is forged when Marxists participate in the political arena, by building alliances or by using other groups and parties to create an atmosphere conducive to their movement’s goals.

Opponents call such efforts subversion. From 1957 to the Ramos administration, the Communist party, Communism itself, indeed, anything that might be considered, even confused, with Communism, was declared illegal, and anyone the government disliked could be branded a subversive.

There was no fiercer anti-Communist fighter and lover of the Anti Subversion Law than Ferdinand Marcos, but his policies came in for criticism from Pope John Paul II.

As Rodel Rodis pointed out in 2005, John Paul II castigated President Marcos for human rights violations. He did this on February 17, 1981, in Malacanang itself:

Even in exceptional situations … one can never justify any violation of the fundamental dignity of the human person or of the basic rights that safeguard this dignity.

Hating Communism didn’t excuse hateful methods in fighting, the Pope said then. This is what critics of our government’s policies towards political parties disliked by the government are saying now.

From 1986 to 2005, or almost 20 years, the policies of our presidents from Aquino to Estrada, was to convince rebels to come down from the hills.

Mrs. Aquino set political prisoners free. President Ramos issued an amnesty proclamation in 1994, had the the Anti-Subversion Law repealed by Congress, and established the National Amnesty Commission to process applications for amnesty.

President Estrada extended the NAC’s existence twice, in 1998 and 2000. From Ramos to Arroyo, our government encouraged united front politics, on the principle that intigration is preferable to discrimination.

But on March 22, 2005, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Executive Order 415, abolishing the National Amnesty Commission. This was the prelude to abandoning two decades of peace-building.

In June last year, President Arroyo gave the army a two-year deadline to eradicate the New People’s Army (NPA): in itself, that wasn’t so different from anything her predecessors had said. What is different is that the very same parties president Ramos had encouraged to be set up, and join in mainstream politics, have been declared the targets of the government.

Testifying before the US Senate last week, G. Eugene Martin of the United States Institute for Peace, said he’s pessimistic -that’s the precise word he used- that political killings would stop. Let’s quote verbatim from his testimony.

* Campaigning for national elections on May 14 is well underway. Little if any serious effort will be exerted to investigate killings of political significance.

* Candidates from left-wing political parties will be particular targets. National Security Advisor Norberto Gonzales stated on March 8 that such candidates must not be allowed to win seats in the Congress. The Gonzales view [is] that party-list candidates “are under the direct influence of the communist party” gives a potential hunting license to military and local officials who agree with him.

* The new anti terrorism law, which President Arroyo signed on March 6, gives new “legal teeth” to the government’s war on terrorism. The Arroyo administration describes the law, titled the “Human Security Act of 2007,” as being “very concerned on human rights.” Many observers fear the law may increase unfettered military operations against opponents deemed to be terrorists. National Security Advisor Gonzales has already stated that the NPA will be labeled a terrorist organization when the new law is promulgated. Legal leftist organizations and elected individuals may be designated.

* The new Defense Secretary, Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr., is a retired police officer. He succeeds a civilian… Secretary Ebdane likely will promote military perceptions of security threats. UN Rapporteur Alston stated “the AFP is in a state of almost total denial…of its need to respond effectively and authentically to the…killings…attributed to them.”

Why is the government so upset at political parties it claims are merely fronts for the CPP-NPA?

Here’s why.

Recently, the Social Weather Stations, conducted for the Ateneo School of Government, with support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation a survey on political parties and guess which three parties did best? Lakas-CMD, then the Liberal Party and -surprise, surprise- Bayan Muna.

Yet of the three, Lakas is as traditional as a party gets, the Liberals are divided, and the government claims Bayan Muna is the enemy. Rep. Satur Ocampo, who was arrested over the weekend, is a Bayan Muna representative and it’s a sign of how badly the mainstream parties are doing, that Ocampo has more credibility in a survey than say, Kampi, the President’s pet party.

Here’s another reason. According to the First Quarter 2007 SWS Survey, the top three choices for the party list are all parties the government says are Communist fronts. 17 percent of respondents said they will vote for Bayan Muna; 9.4 percent for Anakpawis; and 8.1 percent for Gabriela.

SWS says that given the survey result’s scenario: “Bayan Muna would keep its current 3 seats… Gabriela would gain 2 from its current 1 seat, while …Anakpawis [is] poised to gain 1 more seat to [its] current 2.”

Anakpawis is represented by Rep. Crispin Beltran, who has been under hospital arrest for over a year, accused of conspiring against the Marcos government. The Marcos government is gone, eliminated by millions of decent Filipinos having rebelled against it in 1986.

President Aquino granted Beltran an amnesty; but apparently an amnesty isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Under similar logic, despite President Roxas’s amnesty in 1948, successive presidents could’ve imprisoned Laurel, Recto and other covered by the amnesty for charges of collaboration in the 1950s.

Finally, there’s the question of the electorate. In the 2004 elections, for party list Bayan Muna came in first with 1,203,305 votes; Anakpawis came in fifth, with 538,396 votes; Gabriela Women’s Party came in seventh with 464,586 votes. That’s millions of Filipinos entitled to representation -and who should deny them that? Any other congressman with as many votes wouldn’t tolerate being deprived of their seat.

So I ask you, isn’t there a major betrayal going on here? From 1994 our government had said, join the system. And when, time and again, the Left has done respectably, insteading of respecting their mandate, now our government reacts by denying those that elected those parties, representation?

My view

If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. If you can’t cheat ‘em, kill ‘em. If you can’t kill ‘em, harass and arrest them. In a nutshell, that seems government policy today. It’s brutal, and stupid.

Creating martyrs is not the way to go.

Cory Aquino released Jose Ma. Sison from jail, and it provoked coup attempts against her by the military.

But the end result of that policy was to reduce Sison to singing karaoke in the Netherlands and dancing with Ara Mina.

A rebellion needs martyrs. Sison is not a martyr. Those martyrs are being created here, at home, by a military unable to see how counterproductive it is when people dedicated to legal political work are killed. How subversive it is, to law and order when a turning a blind eye to liquidation squads becomes military policy.

An idea, which Communism is, can only be fought if other ideas remain relevant and prove they can accomplish social justice better than Communism ever can.

You do not fight Communism with fire. You fight it, as it has been effectively fought before, by dazzling a previously oppressed and hopeless citizenry with the blinding light of a democracy that works.

You do it by means of a corruption-free military, where honest generals command well-fed troops respectful of the civilian population; where government delivers justice, and doesn’t indulge in political persecution; where the state delivers basic services, and holds fraud-free, credible elections.


Pray For The Philippines

Originally Posted: 03/23/2003

The following are excerpts from a Filipino Community Internet forum.

Forum Member #1:

Sometimes I wonder if the Filipinos in the Philippines realize that each one of them must help solve corruption everywhere in that country. Do they really believe that the government will do it for them? Most, but not everyone in office, fought for their position to become rich and/or get the power to tell the more ignorant people what to do so later, they can easily persuade them to become corrupt.

The need for an honest government must begin from everyone's home. Then honesty will filter up to the government. The first thing to do is have the parents not only teach their children to be honest but show their children "how" to be honest.

Our prayers from outside the country may reach God, but do you think that God will answer our prayers if the people in the Philippines continue the way they live their lives? I will "not" stop praying for them, but as surely as the sun rises in the morning, God will not take each dishonest person there and make that person suddenly honest.

Each Filipino must take a good look at his/her morality and analyze it. If it does not meet God's qualifications to enter the kingdom of heaven, then it is time to change.

The government of the Philippines will stay corrupt unless the people themselves do something drastic to change it. A handful of people will not be able to do that. But with the Filipino attitude, "when you and your children are hungry, nothing else matters." And so the cycle begins... So what should we pray for?


Forum Member #2:

By her own admission, Gloria M. Arroyo rightfully assessed that "over the last decades, our republic has become one of the weakest, steadily left behind by its more progressive neighbors."

Forty years ago, we were only second to Japan in economic stature, and way ahead of Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand. Today, at our present growth rate, it will take us 30 years to get to where Thailand is today.

By the year 2030, our children will experience far worse conditions than what we have today if nothing positive will change in our country:

1. A population of 160 Million

2. Of those, 70 to 90 million (equivalent to our current population) will live below the poverty line

3. Our national debt is estimated to be at US$200B (compared to US$28B when Marcos fled, and US$53B today)

4. We will be competing, not against Thailand or even Vietnam, but against Bangladesh

5. We will be the most corrupt nation in Asia, if not in the world (we are already ranked 11th most corrupt nation by Transparency International)

The signs are clear. Our nation is headed towards an irreversible path of economic decline and moral decadence. It is not for lack of effort. We have seen many men and women of integrity in and out of government, NGOs, church groups and people's organization devote themselves to the task of nation-building, often times against insurmountable odds. But not even two people's revolutions, bloodless as they may be, have made a dent in reversing this trend. At best, we have moved one step forward, but three steps backward.

As a people, We need a force far greater than our collective efforts can ever hope to muster.

It is time to move the battle to the spiritual realm. It is time to claim God's promise of healing of the land for His people. It is time to gather God's people on its knees to pray for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation.

Is prayer really the answer?

Before you dismiss this as just another rambling of a religious fanatic, I'd like you to consider some lessons we can glean from history.

England's ascendancy to world power was preceded by the Reformation - a spiritual revival fueled by intense prayers.

The early American settlers built the foundation that would make it the most powerful nation today -- a strong faith in God and a disciplined prayer life. Throughout its history, and especially at its major turning points, waves of revival and prayer movement swept across the land.

In recent times, we see Korea as a nation experiencing revival and in the process producing the largest Christian church in the world today. No wonder it has emerged as a strong nation when other economies around it are faltering.

Even from a purely secular viewpoint, it makes a lot of sense. For here there is genuine humbling and seeking of God through prayer, moral reformation necessarily follows. And this, in turn, will lead to general prosperity.

YES! We believe prayer can make a difference. It's our only hope.

Today, we launch this email brigade, to inform Filipinos from all over the world to pray, as a people, for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation.

We do not ask for much. We only ask for 5 minutes of your time in a day, to forward this email to your close friends and relatives.

This is the kind of unity which can make a big difference. Of course, if you feel strongly, as I do, about the power of prayer, you can be more involved by starting your own prayer group or prayer center.

We have tried people power twice; in both cases, it fell short. Maybe it's time to try prayer power. God never fails.

Is there hope? If we humble ourselves and pray as a people, God will heal our land. By God's grace, we may yet see a better future for our children.

God bless and God save our country!

If we, the people, who are called by God's name, will HUMBLE ourselves and PRAY and SEEK God's face and TURN from our WICKED WAYS, then will the Lord hear from heaven and will FORGIVE our SIN and will HEAL our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)


Forum Member #3:

This message should be sent to the Filipinos in the Philippines so they can see how they are perceived by other countries. Their actions combined with our prayers will make a big difference. But our prayers are not enough. Someone has to do the leg work.

This year 2007, is crucial for us Filipinos because this is an election year and it is a great opportunity that God has given us to HUMBLE ourselves and PRAY and SEEK His face and TURN from our DISHONEST WICKED WAYS so that He will hear from heaven and will FORGIVE our SIN and will HEAL our land.

Four years have passed since that Cyber Filipino Community initiated the prayer movement (of which I too was once a "passive initiator" of topics). This year is God's appointed season for that prayer to start being fulfilled. And the one important factor for its fulfillment is this: that we must TURN AWAY from our WICKED WAYS -- from our mind-set of dishonesty that corrupts our nation.

The root of our society's corruption is our culture of dishonesty which has already been hardened by years of experience. From the lowest to the highest members of our society, there is a strong mental attitude to lie, cheat, deceive, steal, or falsify without fearing God.

Dishonesty triggers a chain reaction of miseries; from corruption to poverty to hunger to crime to violence to rebellion to anarchy to chaos.

Because of dishonesty, in one aspect of our society, we are entangled in a vicious political system that we find ourselves hopeless of being freed from. Consider our elections in our recent history. Can any one of us cite an election where there were no massive vote-buying and fearless cheating happening? In another aspect, how many of our businesses and citizens are honest in paying taxes? How many are not engaging in bribery? How about leakages in professional licensure exams, how many have occurred during the recent years? All these and many more are manifestations of our DISHONEST WICKED WAYS that we must TURN AWAY from so that God's grace can work to heal the miseries that our nation is suffering.

Forum member #2 said: "We have tried people power twice; in both cases, it fell short. Maybe it's time to try prayer power. God never fails."

The true power of a people to change a nation is in the power of their collective prayer, together with their contrite and genuinely repentant hearts pleading to God for the healing of their land. This is the true spirit of patriotism -- not any form of ideological patriotism.


'Bakya' Mentality: A Lesson To Think About

Author's Name Withheld

Since a couple of decades ago, a rush of several Filipino showbiz idols throw their hats into the arena of politics. Wherever these movie stars go, a huge flock of fans are thrilled to see their idols in person trying vigorously to get exclusive photos or autographs for their memorabilia collections. Thinking of a great political advantage, traditional politicians turn to drafting popular entertainers to woo the enormous 'bakya' crowd to their side.

With the public's distrust of the traditional politicians, these new breed of entertainer-turned politicians handily win over the traditional politician opponents. It's still fresh in the public's mind how the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, a bright and brilliant lawyer systematically and brilliantly robbed the country. It was believed that Erap was one of Professor Marcos' alleged cronies during his infamous regime. After all, a good student (they say), in any way, does a much better job than his professor.

Barely two and a half years in office, the not-so-bright Erap has already amassed a great fortune derived from bribes, jueteng payola, kickbacks, tongs, etc. crowning his mistresses with huge amount of financial supports, colorful jewelries and luxury cars and mansions. Considering the little time in office, Erap is already dubbed as the worst President the Philippines ever have. He has gone from the most popular president (since the late President Magsaysay) to being highly unpopular in a short period of time. President Estrada is not fit to govern the country and must quit the highest office of the land. Since he is not fit, he must quit.

In the early part of this year, a visiting World Bank President challenged Estrada's administration to get its act together and implement its plans to fight corruption and poverty. President Estrada responded that he is trying to eradicate corruption and inefficiency in the government. He said, "Poverty eradication was the central plank of my platform when I sought the presidency. It is now the central driving force of my strategy."

But what has happened to that beautiful platform he declared. 'Gone with the wind'! He has betrayed the trust of the Filipino people. He has lost his credibility and moral ascendancy to govern. The 'bakya' community, who once cherished and adored him as their idol feeling betrayed, are now covering their face and sitting in the dark, ashamed and hurting.

As the clamor for impeachment or resignation filled the air, Erap wanted the people to decide his fate by referendum thus adding insult to injury. A referendum puts a proposed law on the ballot at a general or special election. It is unconstitutional to remove a sitting president other than by impeachment or resignation.

President Estrada's popularity is now declining faster than expected and has lost its luster and connection with the poor 'bakya' crowd majority who voted him to the highest office of the land. His slogan 'Erap Para Sa Mahirap' was only an illusion in fantasy land. It was only a pure political gimmick to entice the 'bakya' population for his personal gain and to that of his relatives, drinking buddies, friends and cronies especially the elite class. The 'Erap Para Sa Mahirap' slogan now becomes 'ERAP NAGPAPAHIRAP."

Estrada thinks that he is still acting in the movies. He does not know realistically how to differentiate between acting in the movies and acting presidential. He has carried his hero persona in the movies into politics. Estrada's administration has failed the dreams of the 'bakya' community and to the Filipino people in general.

What happens to the Philippines now under Erap's administration is a real lesson to think about. The Filipino people deserves better candidates to run for public office. With the surge of several movie stars running for public office, it's time to do away the 'bakya' mentality and to think a little harder which candidate is most qualified and a much better public servant.

This article was written years ago. We should be thru with this kind of destructive criticism, but why are some of us still doing such thing in blogs, commentaries, and opinion columns? It only satisfies the souls of the people who has the same spirit as the writer. Let us grow mature and instead pursue to uplift our fellowmen who may have gone astray. Now, who among us is still wearing 'bakya'?

Restore a Brother in the Spirit of Gentleness
Galatians 5:25-6:10

If we live by the Spirit, let's also walk by the Spirit. Let's not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another.

Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also aren't tempted.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each man test his own work, and then he will take pride in himself and not in his neighbor. For each man will bear his own burden. But let him who is taught in the word share all good things with him who teaches.

Don't be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don't give up.

So then, as we have opportunity, let's do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith.

The World's Wisdom is Foolishness with God
1 Corinthians 3:1-20

Brothers, I couldn't speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to babies in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for you weren't yet ready. Indeed, not even now are you ready, for you are still fleshly. For insofar as there is jealousy, strife, and factions among you, aren't you fleshly, and don't you walk in the ways of men?

For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," aren't you fleshly? Who then is Apollos, and who is Paul, but servants through whom you believed; and each as the Lord gave to him? I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the increase.

So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are the same, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's farming, God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it.

For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; each man's work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man's work is.

If any man's work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire. Don't you know that you are a temple of God, and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for God's temple is holy, which you are. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone thinks that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He has taken the wise in their craftiness." And again, "The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is worthless."

Overcome Evil With Good
Romans 12:1-21

Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don't have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good. In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate one to another; in honor preferring one another; not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don't curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Don't set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don't be wise in your own conceits. Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men.

If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Don't seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God's wrath. For it is written, "Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord." Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head."

Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Voters' Prayer

(Adapted from the prayer of St. Francis of Asisi)
From ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC)

Lord, make us instruments of your presence in the polls.

Where there is coercion and violence,
let us sow seeds of love;

Where there is bribery and vote buying,
let us sow seeds of integrity;

Where there is discord,
let us sow seeds of unity;

Where there is electoral fraud,
let us sow seeds of honesty;

Where there is duplicity and propaganda,
let us sow seeds of truth;

Where there is indifference,
let us sow seeds of care and concern;

Where there is despair in the electoral process,
let us sow seeds of hope;

Almighty God, grant that we may not think so much
of our individual selfish motives when we vote.

Instill in us a deep sense of communal solidarity
in our ethical choice of candidates who will
rise above the traditional politics of PAY-OFF,

Enlighten us to elect worthy men and women who embody
the true spirit of public service in their
moral consciousness;

For it is in voting responsibly that we receive the
fruits of true democracy.

Let it be so.

Hear oh Lord the earnest desires of an increasing number of citizens whom You have enlightened. Continue to add to their number by renewing many more hearts and minds as our nation start to resume treading the right path of the journey that You once set for us so long ago -- but we veered from.

As a people, for many decades we have seen and experienced the undesirable fruits of our disobedience to God's will which only led to the needless miseries brought about by our wicked ways.

But the faithfulness of the Lord is eternal; for He never abandons anyone who believes and trusts in Him. His mercy is fresh each day like the rising of the sun. His fatherly love is full of wisdom; for even the sufferings of the miseries of our own doing He utilizes to work for our chastening so that we may experience the fruits of wickedness which is the curse of disobedience, and yearn for the fruits of righteousness which is the blessing of obedience.

With this renewed strength that the Lord has given us, together as a nation let us rise up from where we fell and move forward to the destiny that long awaits us.

Let us keep our feet from every evil way, that we might observe God's word. Let us not turn aside from His ordinances, for He have taught us. How sweet are His promises to our taste, more than honey to the mouth! Through His precepts, we get understanding; therefore let us hate every false way. Let His Word be the lamp to our feet, and the light for our path.
(Psalms 119:101-105)


My Essay About The Philippines

By Jaeyoun Kim, A Korean Student 2003

Filipinos always complain about the corruption in the Philippines. Do you really think the corruption is the problem of the Philippines? I do not think so. I strongly believe that the problem is the lack of love for the Philippines.

Let me first talk about my country, Korea. It might help you understand my point. After the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Koreans had to start from scratch because the entire country was destroyed completely after the Korean War, and we had no natural resources.

Koreans used to talk about the Philippines, for Filipinos were very rich in Asia. We envy Filipinos. Koreans really wanted to be well off like Filipinos. Many Koreans died of famine. My father's brother also died because of famine.

Korean government was awfully corrupt and is still very corrupt beyond your imagination, but Korea was able to develop dramatically because Koreans really did their best for the common good with their heart burning with patriotism. Koreans did not work just for themselves but also for their neighborhood and country. Education inspired young men with the spirit of patriotism.

40 years ago, President Park took over the government to reform Korea. He tried to borrow money from other countries, but it was not possible to get a loan and attract a foreign investment because the economy situation of South Korea was so bad. Korea had only three factories. So, President Park sent many mine workers and nurses to Germany so that they could send money to Korea to build a factory. They had to go through a horrible experience. In 1964, President Park visited Germany to borrow money. Hundred of Koreans in Germany came to the airport to welcome him and cried there as they saw President Park. They asked him, "President, when can we be well off?" That was the only question everyone asked him. President Park cried with them and promised them that Korea would be well off if everyone works hard for Korea, and the President of Germany got the strong impression on them and lent money to Korea. So, President Park was able to build many factories in Korea.

He always asked Koreans to love their country from their heart. Many Korean scientists and engineers in the USA came back to Korea to help in developing the country because they wanted their country to be well off. Though they received very small salary, they did their best for Korea. They always hoped that their children would live in well off country.

My parents always brought me to the places where poor and physically handicapped people live. They wanted me to understand their life and help them. I also worked for Catholic Church when I was in the army. The only thing I learned from Catholic Church was that we have to love our neighborhood. And I have loved my neighborhood.

Have you cried for the Philippines? I have cried for my country several times. I also cried for the Philippines because of so many poor people. I have been to the New Bilibid prison. What made me sad in the prison were the prisoners who do not have any love for their country. They go to mass and work for Church. They pray everyday. However, they do not love the Philippines. I talked to two prisoners at the maximum security compound, and both of them said that they would leave the Philippines right after they are released from the prison. They said that they could start a new life in other countries and never come back to the Philippines.

Many Koreans have a great love for Korea so that we were able to share our wealth with our neighborhood. The owners of factory and company distributed their profit to their employees fairly so that employees could buy what they needed and saved money for the future and their children.

When I was in Korea, I had a very strong faith and wanted to be a priest. However, when I came to the Philippines, I completely lost my faith. I was very confused when I saw many unbelievable situations in the Philippines. Street kids always make me sad, and I see them everyday. The Philippines is the only Catholic country in Asia, but there are too many poor people here. People go to church every Sunday to pray, but nothing has been changed.

My parents came to the Philippines last week and saw this situation. They told me that Korea was much poorer than the present Philippines when they were young. They are so sorry that there are so many beggars and street kids. When we went to Pagsangjan, I forced my parents to take a boat because it would be fun. However, they were not happy after taking a boat. They said that they would not take the boat again because they sympathized the boat men, for the boat men were very poor and had a small frame. Most of the people just took a boat and enjoyed it. But my parents did not enjoy it because of love for them.

My mother who has been working for Catholic Church since I was very young told me that if we just go to mass without changing ourselves, we are not Catholic indeed. Faith should come with action. She added that I have to love Filipinos and do good things for them because all of us are the same and have received a great love from God.

I want the Filipinos to love their neighborhood and country as much as they love God so that the Philippines will be well off. I am sure that love is the keyword which Filipinos should remember. We cannot change the sinful structure at once. It should start from person. Love must start in everybody in a small scale and have to grow. A lot of things happen if we open up to love. Let's put away our prejudices and look at our worries with our new eyes. I discover that every person is worthy to be loved. Trust in love, because it makes changes possible. Love changes you and me. It changes people, contexts and relationships. It changes the world.

Please love your neighborhood and country. Jesus Christ said that whatever we do to others we do to Him. In the Philippines, there is God who is abused and abandoned. There is God who is crying for love. If you have a child, teach them how to love the Philippines. Teach them why they have to love their neighborhood and country. You already know that God also will be very happy if you love others.

That's all I really want to ask you Filipinos.

Why I Have Hope For the Philippines
By Franco Varona

I lived in the Philippines for a grand total of two-and-a-half years after growing up in Vancouver for a majority of my life. I finished off high school in Manila, then went on to college there for one semester.

I left Manila in the beginning of 1999 for Syracuse, but something happened to me during my short stint in Manila -- I began referring to it as "home." My brief stay in the Philippines had affected me so deeply that I have subsequently geared the rest of my life toward helping the country out.

I took up International Relations, with a concentration in Foreign Policy, War and Conflict Resolution -- because I believed that a deep knowledge of all three of those aforementioned subjects can and will help the Philippines eventually. Before living in the Philippines, my motives were selfish and self-serving. I wanted to be a lawyer to make money, or be a journalist so I could, in my own way, shape the world through my words. But living there and getting to know the country intimately helped me develop a love for the country that can only be compared to the love I have for my family. Now, I have every intention of using that degree to its fullest potential in any way I can for the country.

Even though my birthplace is Canada and I spent my formative years in the US, the Philippines has somehow found its way to my mind and my heart. And I say "my mind" because I see the Philippines as a challenge, not as a sinking ship. And I believe there is a whole generation of young Pinoys that feel the same way as me.

The Korean essay was right in some ways -- sometimes I meet up with second-generation Filipino-Americans and they simply do not care. They don't identify with the Philippines and perceive it to be a dirty, corrupt society. Although initially annoyed when I speak to these types of people, I eventually realize that it's not their fault -- they have lived in a developed nation all their lives and know no better. I myself used to be like that before moving back.

But you know what the Korean essay didn't mention? It happens with all second- and third-generation immigrant kids living in developed countries. Although I have met many Fil-Ams who don't wish to go back home, I also have met many Korean-Americans, Japanese-Americans, even
Irish-Americans who don't have any connection to home. There is love for the Philippines --
the Korean essay was just looking in the wrong places.

Do you want to know where national pride is? It's in every Pinoy's face on the streets of Manila, Cebu, Davao, or any other place in the Philippines. Life is hard for Filipinos -- I see that everytime I'm home. But there is a mutual love shared between Pinoys. They enjoy the simplest of the simple things of everyday life -- from the fishball vendor dancing outside a nightclub in the wee hours of the morning to the late night security guard that wakes up just to give you a nod and a smile. Although generally the country has come under hard times, the Pinoy has somehow found a way to survive, and do it with a smile.

When I go back to the Philippines, I don't see the jaded looks of misery I see in the streets of North America. I see in every Pinoy's face a glint of hope -- that everything can only get better from here on out. National pride is also in today's college student -- today's young working Filipino. I have been lucky enough to have run into a rather large, very motivated group of young Filipinos outside of the Philippines that harbor an immense love for the country. I've seen these people in college, I've hung out with them in different cities and among these young Filipinos, there is one prevailing theme. They have goals, they have passion, and they are driven to succeed.

Sure, they may spend a few years out of the Philippines after schooling, but they will go back. And when they do, Mom, I promise you a Renaissance. These are the people that will lead our country into better times -- these are the people that will bring back with them the knowledge and the drive to motivate others. These are the people that will bridge the gap between the "masa" and the rich. These are the people that will take that glint of hope in every Pinoy's eye and create a wildfire of productivity and efficiency.

The Philippines is still, by definition, a young country. There have been mistakes made in the past, but we will learn, won't we? It's just human nature. I don't look at the Philippines as a country that "was" one of the richest in South East Asia and now is one of the poorest -- I look at the Philippines as the country that has the largest upside.

Just be patient, and watch as the younger generation moves into place. You will see a more educated, less selfish government take the seat of power. You will see plans put into effect that were formulated and perfected which were fueled by years of anger against the poverty we now see. A new Philippines will emerge soon, and soon we won't have to bear the pity of a Korean student. I can promise you that much mom, because I know I'm one of the many that will be working toward that.

This essay was a letter written by Franco Varona for his mother, Candy Varona. It is in reaction to the above Korean student's essay about the Philippines.


Cultural Reasons Why Philippines & Mexico are Poor

(And ideas to cure this aberration in our national psychological DNA)
By Ernie D. Delfin, "A Voice from America"

What do the Filipinos and Mexicanos have in common?

Both have been afflicted with AIDS, meaning Acute Income Deficiency Syndrome, while a lot of Americans suffer from HIV (Hair Is Vanishing).

Hey, kababayans,

I hope this opening will make you laugh in order not to cry as the prognosis of the Philippines' socio-economic conditions will most likely become worse with the continued melt-down of global economy.

Between Christmas and New Year, when almost nobody wants to work, my family, computer guru David Paraiso, and several American business associates of mine, Holmes Stoner, Dr. Bruce and Alma Bush, Arturo Moldivia and Steve Toops spent a few days in an upscale resort in Tijuana, one of the largest Mexican cities, just south of San Diego, California. While away from the maddening and stressful holiday crowd, we discussed our 2002 business plans in addition to having a great time that also recharged our batteries. Leaving a first world country and visiting a third world country like Mexico has heightened our awareness of the socio-economic plight of many countries of the world.

Once you crossed the border at Tijuana-San Diego, you know you are in another world although in the same continent. My wife said it was just like being in the Philippines with thousands of cars and people going back and forth. With the post 9-11 event in New York, the INS border patrol has become stricter by asking more questions and inspecting everything including the trunk of your car trunk before entering the United States. Whereas before 9-11, to pass the INS border inspection took less than an hour or two, it has now taken twice as long. For a mile or two before the border, the traffic going back into the U.S. is far worse than Manila's especially on weekends.

Why is this Mexican-US border like this, but not the Canadian and US border? As Americans simplify things, "it's the economy, stupid!"

Although the U.S. economy is also under its downturn, it is still much better than Mexico or the Philippines. The poor, especially the young and able-bodied Mexican men, flock into the U.S. legally or otherwise and work in any menial (in agriculture, busboys or housekeeping) jobs at minimum wage of about $7.00 an hour, often under the table if they are undocumented aliens, the p.c. term for "illegal" aliens or TNTs. A hundred U.S. dollars earned in a day or two is a lot of money in Mexico or in any third world country for that matter.

There are so many similarities between the Mexican people with our kababayans in the Philippines. Like their Philippine counterparts, the Mexican government officials just condone thousands of people, some with babies, to peddle just about anything from religious statues, food, rugs, blankets, you name it, just to make a buck to the millions of people in their cars waiting for their turn to be inspected year-round. Despite their poverty, however, the Mexicans are happy and spiritual people. Like their Filipino cousins, they can smile even though they have almost nothing. Life's simplicity is God's gift, I suppose.

As many Mexicans consider children as additional farm laborers and eventually the source of their "social security" in their old age, many families produce twice or thrice as many babies compared to American or Canadian families. Because of their high birth rates, the Mexican population in California is now over a third and growing every year. Our business associates in Mexico jestingly predicted that it is one sure strategy that Mexicans can get California back from the U.S!

A sobering thought but politically speaking, it could happen within another generation, 20-40 years from now.

* * * *

The Mexicans and Filipinos are in the same poverty boat. Intellectually speaking, any academician, politician or journalist can analyze and debate for another 400 years, until kingdom come, the countless reasons why both nations are poor. Everybody has heard of the foremost excuse why we were poor is that because we have been colonized by the same arrogant Spaniards (the bible and the sword conquistadores) since Magellan "discovered" the Philippines in March 16, l521. On a lighter side note, while in Mexico, my friend Holmes Stoner, the incumbent president of our Pan Pacific Chamber of Commerce, who was married to an Ilocana RN for over twenty years before they got divorced told this funny joke:

"Why is it that the number of Filipinos decrease when they become a little bit richer?"
Reason: they become Spaniards!

Although the Filipino Americans now rank number one among all Asians in recent immigration statistics, the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese beat us in terms of socio-economic political clout in mainstream America. Even the most recent immigrant groups, the Vietnamese Americans are now apparently ahead of us.

For instance, in Orange County, California, where about 250,000 Vietnamese-Americans who are concentrated in the Asian enclaves of Westminster and Garden Grove (Orange County total population is over 3 million of which Filipinos account for only about 45,000 scattered all over the county, out of about one million Filipinos in the entire California according to the 2000 census) there is now a robust, vibrant and interesting commercial district called Little Saigon, which the State of California has officially designated us another tourist attraction. Last year, I toured STAR publisher Max Soliven and Preciosa Soliven all over Little Saigon before we visited the world famous Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove; over lunch in a French-Vietnamese restaurant in Little Saigon, Mr. Soliven commented that:

"The Vietnamese work like ants while Filipinos just buzz like bees and fly like butterflies."
Very sad but pungent observation how Filipinos act and behave even in this so-called land of opportunity.

Unlike the other Asian groups like the Chinese, Japanese or Koreans, there is still no Filipino town in the entire state of California yet. I also drove Mr. Soliven and his secretary Tess Santos a few months back around the Alvarado-Temple area in Los Angeles downtown where Filipinos are still hoping to build a Filipino Town. Without any commercial base where economic activities sustaining the place, it will never happen in the next hundred years. To add insult to injury, the bust of Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, is erected without class and shamelessly displayed in the parking lot of two Seafood City grocery parking lots, one in National City and one in Carson, California. This is a cheap and crazy token, consuelo de bobo, to all the Filipinos who have made this grocery giant very successful.

Politically speaking, the other Asian groups have more elected government officials than Filipino Americans.

* * * *

My impressions of Mexico brought me back to my fond hopes for the Philippines. Our economic plight will never experience a dramatic change until we change. The latter must happen first. Sadly, we were conditioned to have good grades in school, that knowledge is power, and most people believed this fallacy until they die. Fortunately, I discovered out of school in the real world that that maxim is a lot of nonsense, lots of bull's manure! It is the application of good and appropriate knowledge, coupled with hard work, determination, integrity and harmonious working relationship with all kinds of people that is the REAL power that makes people become successful.

There are probably more intellectual derelicts in the Philippines right now than the endangered species of tilapia, gurami or dalag in our rivers due to dynamite fishing! But where is the Philippines in the ranking of all nations of the world right now? I always commiserate with Teddy Benigno whenever he cries and laments about the "damaged culture," the apparent flaws of Philippine society. Like him, I also feel the pulse and the longing of the Filipinos to be really FREE because I am still a Filipino although I have been here in the USA for more than a quarter of a century.

(Teddy, whenever you come to San Diego again, our friend publisher Simeon Silverio Jr., you and a few others can just sit down for dinner or lunch indulging in some mentally stimulating conversations at the Seaport Village where your favorite, unassuming neat bookstore called UpStart Crow, or simply have a leisurely drive along the vast Baja California coast. I admire you for your fine finished products up to this day! Incredible passion for cerebral journalism. But you also deserve to relax a little bit and take it easy during your golden years. You alone cannot change Philippine society unless the people want to change themselves. Lamentably, the leader that the Philippines truly needs is probably NOT even born yet!)

When all is said and done, it is us, the LIVING, regardless who our colonizers were, who can change our political and socio-economic plight. It starts with a spartan attitude, not a wishy-washy bahala na attitude or urong-sulong leadership style.

Dr. Thomas Parham, a nationally known psychologist in the United States who is the Vice Chancellor of Counseling at UC-Irvine, describes it best when he admonished to the Black Americans about their sad socio economic plight in America, "The biggest problem facing our African-American community isn't drugs, violence, racism, or white supremacy, but rather the need for mental liberation. Removing the physical shackles of slavery didn't remove the mental shackles."

I believe this also applies to the mental state of Filipinos even after almost 500 years since our Spanish occupation in the 16th century. We must seek to help the young as well as the adults to understand the way we are mentally incarcerated and how to break the cycle of a victim mentality.

I like the metaphor that Dr. Parham uses to deliver his message:

"Shop less for gifts and more for your truer self. If you look for it, you can find still hope in the face of despair, strength in the face of weakness, courage in the face of fear, compassion in the face of insensitivity. And be sure to pass it on!"

A descendant of African slaves who were brutalized, demeaned by a racists, intolerant society that sought to erase every vestige of African pride and culture from the lives of millions of slaves in America, Dr. Parham traveled to Ghana a few years back to tell the spirits of his ancestors that he, and the millions of other descendants of slaves are all right, thereby closing an important personal circle, and passing on a vital message to his predecessors who sacrificed so much.

There is great wisdom in Dr. Parham's counsel and I think the same can also apply as a valid prescription to our damaged Filipino psyche. It can start from each one of us, from grade school, from every family and every barangay in the Philippines. Once it is learned and imbedded in our national consciousness, we must pass it on as it gives the one passing the torch some semblance of immortality. I hold dearly in my heart, as a Filipino living outside the Philippines for over half of my earthly life, that by influencing others, by giving them a piece of ourselves, our spirit will live on in all those people whom we have helped become a truer person and a useful citizen.

Yes, Filipino deserves a break, but every Filipino must break this victim syndrome, this old colonial mentality that continues to shackle the Filipino people as one nation!

Kababayans, do you see or feel what I feel!?

For your sake, stop listening to many political charlatans and bimbos (they are not your role models, they are just images of the citizenry of the land!) and stop watching "Sa Pagkat Kami ay Tao Lamang" movies. For once, start listening to your own feeble voice inside of you and do what it tells you to do religiously, like the ants building their colony! In one generation, when the babies of today become adults, Filipinos will become what they truly deserve, either dead or alive as a nation. The choice is all yours!

* * * *

With the indulgence of my editors, I resolve, beginning with this first column of 2002, to cull and share from my library some "Empowering Thoughts To Live By" (ETTLB) with my fervent hope, against hope, that it will cause some mental metamorphosis or a paradigm shift in some of my readers' outlook in their lives.

Here is the first ETTLB taken from the inaugural speech of Nelson Mandela of South Africa in l994:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate;
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and Fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel insecure around you.
We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let own candle shine, we consciously give others permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others!"

A Forwarded message years ago in an email-based internet forum.