and what have you done?

And what, Danton, have you done?

Cynics, their noses up in the air and their eyebrows arching up their Botoxed foreheads, ask me. You do not have P100 million to run for senatorial elections in 2010, so, aver, what have you done?


1. I've answered all calls for radio and print interviews regarding the cases of Jan Jan (Cebu canister victim) and gay sagalas. I also appeared on TV from 6 am to 10 pm to answer all questions, from the serious to the impertinent.

I did not plan all these. Jan jan was drunk that New Year's night and the gay sagalas have been making rampa for 2,000 years before the priests noticed the sagalas were gay. In short, these events that threw me in the media spotlight the last four weeks are -- well -- they seem like acts of god.

2. I've smiled and talked to everyone who talked to me at the malls, the department stores, the airline ticketing counters, the bank reception counters, the taxis, the schools, the tiangge, the hospitals, the slum areas. I smiled and talked when, at times, I would rather do my shopping or my checking in of luggages at airports quietly and privately. Before politics, I was a shy and reticent person. Amen.

3. I've started a column online ( and should really start writing for a tabloid. They asked me months ago, but there is just no time to write another thrice-a-week column. I only have two hands and one brain.

4. I've been all around. When it's sem break or long weekends, I travel around the country. In the past year, I have been to Ilocos Norte, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, Camarines Sur, Albay, Capiz, Aklan and Iloilo. I have talked to governors, congressmen, mayors, vice-mayors, councilors, barangay captains, kagawads, teachers, students, drivers, farmers, fishermen, housewives, and laborers. Many of them are happy I am talking to them early. When I tell them I have no pasalubong for them, they just smile and say that is all right.

5. I'm trying to proofread all my books. I have published Ladlad 3 last December. I have just finished proofreading Rampa: Gay Essays. I will next proofread Modern Philippine Love Stories. I will then proofread Philippine Gay Dictionary. My assistant is busy typing my Selected Poems: English and Mga Piling Tula, as well as my book of short stories.

When a new mall opens, I am happy. That means there is a National Bookstore, a flagship store in all the malls. And that means my eight books still in print -- which occupy one whole shelf in the front part of National Book Store -- will give me the free publicity and buzz that I need.

I have turned down an appearance in two game shows. I argued, what if I lose against a Grade 5 student? Or what if I lose against 100 geniuses?

And I have just finished shooting an independent film where I play a wicked English teacher. It was the most difficult role of my life.

Ahh, the sweet smell of elections

By Mon Casiple

Suddenly, promotion ads by presidentiables (ads, not political ads, they would emphatically remind you) are sprouting (or spouting) all over the media and in posters. One advocate supports our OFWs, another supports national discipline, and still another education of the young. Others are more mundane, only promoting certain commercial products (though one wonders how politicians can draw consumers towards a product rather than away from a product).

Suddenly, parties and coalitions, negotiations and fund-raising started in earnest-–precursors or preliminaries of the 2010 electoral campaigns. We are witness now to what may well go down in history as the longest election campaign yet in our political history–two years to the day of the May 2010 elections.

This is the logical result of a perception (and a conclusion) that president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has at last relinquished her plans to extend her stay in power. No charter change, no martial law, no state of emergency–no supra-constitutional scheme to get around the severe constitutional constraint of one presidential term to end on 12 noon, June 30, 2010.

Ah, presidentiables smell the sweet (or addictive) aroma of the 2010 elections–their arena, their destiny (yearning), and their life’s ambition (where’s the people?). Welcome to the circus.

Obama's speech to young people

Senator Barack Obama’s Commencement Address at Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremonies
Middletown, CT, USA
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Thank you, President Roth, for that generous introduction, and
congratulations on your first year at the helm of Wesleyan.
Congratulations also to the class of 2008, and thank you for allowing
me to be a part of your graduation.

I have the distinct honor today of pinch-hitting for one of my
personal heroes and a hero to this country, Senator Edward Kennedy.
Teddy wanted to be here very much, but as you know, he’s had a very
long week and is taking some much-needed rest. He called me up a few
days ago and I said that I’d be happy to be his stand-in, even if
there was no way I could fill his shoes.

I did, however, get the chance to glance at the speech he planned on
delivering today, and I’d like to start by passing along a message
from him: “To all those praying for my return to good health, I offer
my heartfelt thanks. And to any who’d rather have a different result,
I say, don?t get your hopes up just yet!”

So we know that Ted Kennedy’s legendary sense of humor is as strong as
ever, and I have no doubt that his equally legendary fighting spirit
will carry him through this latest challenge. He is our friend, he is
our champion, and we hope and pray for his return to good health.

The topic of his speech today was common for a commencement, but one
that nobody could discuss with more authority or inspiration than Ted
Kennedy. And that is the topic of service to one’s country — a cause
that is synonymous with his family’s name and their legacy.

I was born the year that his brother John called a generation of
Americans to ask their country what they could do. And I came of age
at a time when they did it. They were the Peace Corps volunteers who
won a generation of goodwill toward America at a time when America’s
ideals were challenged. They were the teenagers and college students,
not much older than you, who watched the Civil Rights Movement unfold
on their television sets; who saw the dogs and the fire hoses and the
footage of marchers beaten within an inch of their lives; who knew it
was probably smarter and safer to stay at home, but still decided to
take those Freedom Rides down south; who still decided to march. And
because they did, they changed the world.

I bring this up because today, you are about to enter a world that
makes it easy to get caught up in the notion that there are actually
two different stories at work in our lives.

The first is the story of our everyday cares and concerns — the
responsibilities we have to our jobs and our families, the bustle and
busyness of what happens in our own life. And the second is the story
of what happens in the life of our country — of what happens in the
wider world. It’s the story you see when you catch a glimpse of the
day’s headlines or turn on the news at night — a story of big
challenges like war and recession; hunger and climate change;
injustice and inequality. It’s a story that can sometimes seem distant
and separate from our own — a destiny to be shaped by forces beyond
our control.

And yet, the history of this nation tells us this isn’t so. It tells
us that we are a people whose destiny has never been written for us,
but by us — by generations of men and women, young and old, who have
always believed that their story and the American story are not
separate, but shared. And for more than two centuries, they have
served this country in ways that have forever enriched both.

I say this to you as someone who couldn’t be standing here today if
not for the service of others, and wouldn’t be standing here today if
not for the purpose that service gave my own life.

You see, I spent much of my childhood adrift. My father left my mother
and I when I was two. When my mother remarried, I lived in Indonesia
for a time, but was mostly raised in Hawaii by her and my grandparents
from Kansas. My teenage years were filled with more than the usual
dose of adolescent rebellion, and I’ll admit that I didn’t always take
myself or my studies very seriously. I realize that none of you can
probably relate to this, but there were many times when I wasn’t sure
where I was going, or what I would do.

But during my first two years of college, perhaps because the values
my mother had taught me — hard work, honesty, empathy — had resurfaced
after a long hibernation; or perhaps because of the example of
wonderful teachers and lasting friends, I began to notice a world
beyond myself. I became active in the movement to oppose the apartheid
regime of South Africa. I began following the debates in this country
about poverty and health care. So that by the time I graduated from
college, I was possessed with a crazy idea — that I would work at a
grassroots level to bring about change.

I wrote letters to every organization in the country I could think of.
And one day, a small group of churches on the South Side of Chicago
offered me a job to come work as a community organizer in
neighborhoods that had been devastated by steel plant closings. My
mother and grandparents wanted me to go to law school. My friends were
applying to jobs on Wall Street. Meanwhile, this organization offered
me $12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car.

And I said yes.

Now, I didn’t know a soul in Chicago, and I wasn’t sure what this
community organizing business was all about. I had always been
inspired by stories of the Civil Rights Movement and JFK’s call to
service, but when I got to the South Side, there were no marches, and
no soaring speeches. In the shadow of an empty steel plant, there were
just a lot of folks who were struggling. And we didn’t get very far at

I still remember one of the very first meetings we put together to
discuss gang violence with a group of community leaders. We waited and
waited for people to show up, and finally, a group of older people
walked into the hall. And they sat down. And a little old lady raised
her hand and asked, “Is this where the bingo game is?”

It wasn’t easy, but eventually, we made progress. Day by day, block by
block, we brought the community together, and registered new voters,
and set up after-school programs, and fought for new jobs, and helped
people live lives with some measure of dignity.

But I also began to realize that I wasn’t just helping other people.
Through service, I found a community that embraced me; citizenship
that was meaningful; the direction I’d been seeking. Through service,
I discovered how my own improbable story fit into the larger story of

Each of you will have the chance to make your own discovery in the
years to come. And I say “chance” because you won’t have to take it.
There’s no community service requirement in the real world; no one
forcing you to care. You can take your diploma, walk off this stage,
and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and all the
other things that our money culture says you should buy. You can choose
to narrow your concerns and live your life in a way that tries to keep
your story separate from America’s.

But I hope you don’t. Not because you have an obligation to those who
are less fortunate, though you do have that obligation. Not because
you have a debt to all those who helped you get here, though you do
have that debt.

It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our
individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking
only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs,
betrays a poverty of ambition. Because it’s only when you hitch your
wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true
potential and discover the role you’ll play in writing the next great
chapter in America’s story.

There are so many ways to serve and so much need at this defining
moment in our history. You don’t have to be a community organizer or
do something crazy like run for President. Right here at Wesleyan,
many of you have already volunteered at local schools, contributed to
United Way, and even started a program that brings fresh produce to
needy families in the area. One hundred and sixty-four graduates of
this school have joined the Peace Corps since 2001, and I’m especially
proud that two of you are about to leave for my father’s homeland of
Kenya to bring alternative sources of energy to impoverished areas.

I ask you to seek these opportunities when you leave here, because the
future of this country — your future — depends on it. At a time when
our security and moral standing depend on winning hearts and minds in
the forgotten corners of this world, we need more of you to serve
abroad. As President, I intend to grow the Foreign Service, double the
Peace Corps over the next few years, and engage the young people of
other nations in similar programs, so that we could work side by side to
take on the common challenges that confront all humanity.

At a time when our ice caps are melting and our oceans are rising, we
need you to help lead a green revolution. We still have time to avoid
the catastrophic consequences of climate change if we get serious
about investing in renewable sources of energy, and if we get a
generation of volunteers to work on renewable energy projects, and
teach folks about conservation, and help clean up polluted areas, if
we send talented engineers and scientists abroad to help developing
countries promote clean energy.

At a time when a child in Boston must compete with children in Beijing
and Bangalore, we need an army of you to become teachers and
principals in schools that this nation cannot afford to give up on. I
will pay our educators what they deserve, and give them more support,
but I will also ask more of them to be mentors to other teachers, and
serve in high-need schools and high-need subject areas like math and

At a time when there are children in the city of New Orleans who still
spend each night in a lonely trailer, we need more of you to take a
weekend or a week off from work, and head down South, and help
rebuild. If you can’t get the time, volunteer at the local homeless
shelter or soup kitchen in your own community. Find an organization
that’s fighting poverty, or a candidate who promotes policies you
believe in, and find a way to help them.

At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of
inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much
cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again.

Now understand this - believing that change is possible is not the
same as being naïve. Go into service with your eyes wide open, for
change will not come easily. On the big issues that our nation faces,
difficult choices await. We’ll have to face some hard truths, and some
sacrifice will be required — not only from you individually, but from
the nation as a whole.

There is no magic bullet to our energy problems, for example; no
perfect energy source - so all of us will have to use the energy
sources we have more wisely. Deep-rooted poverty will not be reversed
overnight, and will require both money and reform at a time when our
federal and state budgets are strapped and Washington is skeptical
that reform is possible. Transforming our education system will
require not only bold government action, but a change in attitudes
among parents and students. Bringing an end to the slaughter in Darfur
will involve navigating extremely difficult realities on the ground,
even for those with the best of intentions.

And so, should you take the path of service, should you choose to take
up one of these causes as your own, know that you’ll experience
frustrations and failures. Even your successes will be marked by
imperfections and unintended consequences. I guarantee you, there will
certainly be times when friends or family urge you to pursue more
sensible endeavors with more tangible rewards. And there will be times
when you are tempted to take their advice.

But I hope you’ll remember, during those times of doubt and
frustration, that there is nothing naïve about your impulse to change
this world. Because all it takes is one act of service — one blow
against injustice — to send forth that tiny ripple of hope that Robert
Kennedy spoke of.

You know, Ted Kennedy often tells a story about the fifth anniversary
celebration of the Peace Corps. He was there, and he asked one of the
young Americans why he had chosen to volunteer. And the man replied,
“Because it was the first time someone asked me to do something for my

I don’t know how many of you have been asked that question, but after
today, you have no excuses. I am asking you, and if I should have the
honor of serving this nation as President, I will be asking again in
the coming years. We may disagree on certain issues and positions, but
I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good. I intend to
make it a cause of my presidency, and I believe with all my heart that
this generation is ready, and eager, and up to the challenge.

We will face our share of cynics and doubters. But we always have. I
can still remember a conversation I had with an older man all those
years ago just before I left for Chicago. He said, “Barack, I’ll give
you a bit of advice. Forget this community organizing business and do
something that’s gonna make you some money. You can’t change the
world, and people won’t appreciate your trying. But you’ve got a nice
voice, so you should think about going into television broadcasting.
I’m telling you, you’ve got a future.”

Now, he may have been right about the TV thing, but he was wrong about
everything else. For that old man has not seen what I have seen. He
has not seen the faces of ordinary people the first time they clear a
vacant lot or build a new playground or force an unresponsive leader
to provide services to their community. He has not seen the face of a
child brighten because of an inspiring teacher or mentor. He has not
seen scores of young people educate their parents on issues like
Darfur, or mobilize the conscience of a nation around the challenge of
climate change. He has not seen lines of men and women that wrap
around schools and churches, that stretch block after block just so
they could make their voices heard, many for the very first time.

And that old man who didn’t believe the world could change — who
didn’t think one person could make a difference — well, he certainly
didn’t know much about the life of Joseph Kennedy’s youngest son.

It is rare in this country of ours that a person exists who has
touched the lives of nearly every single American without many of us
even realizing it. And yet, because of Ted Kennedy, millions of
children can see a doctor when they get sick. Mothers and fathers can
leave work to spend time with their newborns. Working Americans are
paid higher wages, and compensated for overtime, and can keep their
health insurance when they change jobs. They are protected from
discrimination in the workplace, and those who are born with
disabilities can still get an education, and health care, and fair
treatment on the job. Our schools are stronger and our colleges are
filled with more Americans who can afford it. And I have a feeling
that Ted Kennedy is not done just yet.

But surely, if one man can achieve so much and make such a difference
in the lives of so many, then each of us can do our part. Surely, if
his service and his story can forever shape America’s story, then our
collective service can shape the destiny of this generation. At the
very least, his living example calls each of us to try. That is all I
ask of you on this joyous day of new beginnings; that is what Senator
Kennedy asks of you as well, and that is how we will keep so much
needed work going, and the cause of justice everlasting, and the dream
alive for generations to come.

Thank you so much to the class of 2008, and congratulations on your graduation.

2010 candidates start organizing

2010 candidates start organizing
Written by Carmela Fonbuena
Thursday, 15 May 2008

To see some of the top campaign and media strategists, political party officials, and senators’ political staff in one room talking must be a sign that the country has really entered the 2010 presidential campaign season.

During the recent launch of the book, Selling Candidates, some of them confirmed to that they have been approached by prospective presidential candidates.

Campaigns and Grey president Yolanda Ong, for one, said she has been approached by four camps. She would not divulge the four camps but she confirmed that "some" of them are senators.

But she has not agreed to a candidate yet. "I’m not ready to commit because I really would like to study who I’d like to support," she said. In past elections, Ong had worked for senators Manuel Villar (2001), Benigno Aquino III, the late Senator Raul Roco, his wife Sonia Roco, and former Senator Ralph Recto.

Senator Manuel Roxas II’s 2004 campaign manager Marilou Tiquia likewise confirmed that she was approached by at least one camp. The head of Villar’s advertising agency in 2007, Jacinto Puno of TBWA, was also present.

Among rumored 2010 presidential candidates are former President Joseph Estrada, Vice President Noli De Castro, Senators Villar, Manuel Roxas II, and Loren Legarda. (Read "2010 Polls A 5-Way Race—Forecast" here.)

It was a powerhouse conference that was also attended by Lakas stalwarts executive director Rey Roquero and VP for Christian-Muslim Affairs Francis Manglapus, former Speaker Jose De Venecia Jr.’s chief of staff Noel Albano, former Rep. Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad of one faction of the Liberal Party, and Nacionalista Party’s Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla, Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong, former senator Heherson Alvarez, former Surigao Del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay among others. sighted several campaign strategists, whose work required them to keep a low profile. One confirmed he was also hired by a losing senatorial candidate in 2007 who will run for the same position in 2010. Local government officials, NGOs, and academics were there to discuss the past elections and the upcoming 2010 presidential elections.

The conference was organized by the German foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), in partnership with Newsbreak and the Ateneo School of Government.

KAS country representative Klaus Preschle said the whole day affair was meant to deepen the campaign and make it more substantial and strategic. He also invited polling experts from Germany to share the new trends in voter demographics. Ong and Tiquia shared their knowledge on political advertising.

RP campaigns moving forward
"Most of them have realized that 2010 elections will be decided by media," Preschle said. "Political ads is rather a new development. It’s a new world of political campaign."

According to Ong’s estimates, about at least 70 percent of the campaign pie is spent on communications.

Campaigning in the Philippines has moved forward, Tiquia said. Until 1992, candidates were using direct mailers to pump up their campaign. Now, candidates have also learned to utilize the new technology—web sites, blogs, media. "Something is moving. I think that is good for Philippine democracy."

She also said that it’s only right that campaign strategists should start to prepare the organization, which she said is very crucial in campaigns.

Tips to 2010 candidates
Among the tips given to prospective national candidates were:

Have at least P50 million. "If you do not have P50 million, don’t run."
Running for the Senate is quite different from running for the top position of the land.
The best candidate is an "able and qualified candidate with not too many secrets."
Don’t manage your own campaign. "This is wrong. Candidate does not have the required distance and objectivity. You cannot run your campaign and be the product itself."
Product ads are different from political ads. "Make sure the ads are not a waste of your money."
Both Ong and Tiquia said they don’t mind sharing the techniques to their possible competition. "In the end it’s in the execution," Ong said.

Way out for GMA
Abad believes that "after overcoming one crisis after another, more and more people are becoming convinced that the way out of this leadership is the 2010 elections," Abad said.

"The anti-GMA sentiment died down a bit. [The election fever may be] a momentary diversion," Abad said. (

Anatomy of elite politics by Mon Casiple

When political issues appear (or reappear) in the media, presidential appointments start flying around, and high-level meets are being whispered (and denied), that can only mean one thing–a decision has been (or is being) made at the highest level. In the current state of the political crisis of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government, that can only be one thing–its future, both in relation to the 2010 end of term and to the post-GMA scenario.

The dynamics of elite politics unfolds before us as key elite players–the presidentiables, the ones who sits in power, the economic giants, kingmaker institutions–play out their respective roles in trying to agree on a future power arrangement and the political rules of the game. Of course, this process largely hides from the public and we only get glimpses from time to time especially during periods of disagreement. Then one or some of the protagonists go to media and try to get the leverages they need in the negotiations.

The GMA administration, it seems, has already left behind its obsession to stay in power. It may have failed to get the critical political mass to push it through the various obstacles to such a scenario. Its moves in the past week or so has been to satisfy loyalists, ensure their transition, and blunt opposition. These point to a 2010 election scenario.

Obviously, presidentiables are waiting in the wings for this. We can expect a more active effort on their part to get the Malacañang quiet endorsement without unduly exposing themselves to an anti-GMA voting public. The ruling coalition may not escape unscathed–it will be subjected to severe pressure from all sides and will be hard-pressed to unify behind one candidate. It does not have a viable candidate at the moment.

However, the more significant thing is that all of these are happening without the participation of much of the democratic constituency. Traditional politics is elite politics–only the privileged are players in this political game. The votes are, however, not of the elite’s, but of the people.

We need someone like Barack Obama by Carlo Osi




Philadelpia, PA – When you are abroad and you take a look at Philippine newspapers online, there is an incessant feeling of despair and surrender. Killings and violence are heavily reported, desperate acts by some people, politicians tearing each other apart, and scandal upon scandal rocking Manila.


You clearly see that people are angry, agitated, frustrated and disempowered. And one of them is you, the Overseas Filipino.

You feel that you are an outsider looking into the mess called Manila. Thankfully, you are out of it. But then again, you wonder, what would it have been like if you were, as millions of others, caught up in the scandal storm there.

Many people, including your relatives, surely want to get out of the country and seek a "better life platform." But leaving is not always a tangible option and has many considerations. People like you also want to replace the leadership but that isn’t pragmatic since constitutional succession will bring us back to post-2001 – or even worse.

On the contrary, what is happening in the United States is simply miraculous. It’s quite envious as to why it’s not happening to our own nation. No, it’s not about the economic recession, job loss, or the lack of health insurance of 46 million Americans. It’s about the sweeping and galvanizing call for change initiated by Democrat frontrunner Barack Obama.

Not only is his call pushing erstwhile dormant voters into the polling booths, he is also inspiring people who aren’t even Americans and who are not physically located within the 50 U.S. states. Do we, in our midst, have someone like him?

New politics

Despite the imperfection of the U.S. political system, Barack Obama is trying to unite the people with his call for true change. Born of an African father and Caucasian mother, schooled in part in Indonesia, trained in law at Harvard, and served as a community organizer in downtown Chicago, he may likely be the 44th President of the United States of America. Charismatic, articulate and unwilling to directly engage in negative campaign, he has captured the soul of much of America despite having served only two years in the US Senate.

Obama is young and energetic. Youth is a factor in his candidacy, something Republican John McCain has none of.

Another quality of Obama is his being highly educated, finishing Law at Harvard. This quality, if applied back home, eliminates on our list presidential aspirants who have no significant educational background, those who never finished college, and don’t therefore have the requisite academic knowledge to run a country.

Sadly, Joseph Estrada was once our president and Fernando Poe, Jr. almost followed in his footsteps, yet both of them barely finished anything academically. The cold truth is, unschooled movie actors or teleprompter readers don’t deserve to run the country.

Obama has no or little ties with big business. This is a fascinating hallmark of his campaign, which is why he can easily attack the formidable marriage between government, business interest, oil agenda and the Iraq war. Many of our politicians are attached to or personally run big businesses, among them business conglomerates in food, real estate fiefs, and old money.

Not an agent of continuity

Obama has little ties with the present government of President George W. Bush, hence his freedom to criticize it at will. In our case, how can a young former senatorial candidate who lost in the last elections and who is too close to the current Philippine president be able to effectively criticize those who literally feed him? He can’t be an agent of change as he is in a John McCain-like position, a heavily compromised spot. He’s an agent of continuity – something the Philippines doesn’t need as of now.

Obama runs the campaign as himself; he doesn’t use the popularity of his spouse and the endorsements of movie stars are just incidental. Hillary Clinton, a very decent leader, has unfortunately been using ex-President Bill Clinton to actively campaign for her and act as spokesman.

Bill Clinton has even chastised Obama several times that eventually backfired big time. Philippine politicians tend to use actors to be their spokespersons, using the latter’s mass popularity to entice voters.

Obama is not a member of any political dynasty. Very unfortunate in our system is political nepotism. After three Congressional or local terms, the wife or the eldest child runs in lieu of the father. After a term or two, the father re-runs and reclaims his seat. But this happens, too, in the United States with one author stating, "It is perhaps not very surprising that so many children of politicians go into politics. After all, it's daddy's business." If Hillary Clinton wins, then the US Presidential setting from 1988 to 2012 (at the very least) would be Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton.

Not heroes, just good leaders

Obama is not running because of his name. In fact, his name is distracting, if not a disadvantage. It sounds very near Osama, America’s notorious public enemy. Many of our politicians run and win because simple name recall. Their father was a national hero or former Senator, a sibling or parent is a Senator (brother-sister or mother-son), was once a TV or movie personality, a host of a TV outdoor sports show, or a one-time military agitator who campaigned from his prison cell.

Obama represents Real Change. Now this is something highly debatable. In the United States, many claim to be representatives of change. In the Philippines, change is a word often used in elections but almost never implemented in political practice.

In essence, where is our future presidential candidate who has the qualities of Barack Obama and personifies a genuine concern about the dismal and downward-spiraling image of the Philippines?

The country doesn’t need more heroes. We just need straight, honest, visionary political leaders. As a nation, we always believed in hope. Surely, there’s somebody out there who’d salvage the drowning image of the nation and the vulnerability of its people.

The author is a Master of Laws candidate at the University of Pennsylvania Law School concurrently undergoing a cross-disciplinary program at the Wharton School. Send comments to or through

on the presidential elections

i have just returned from an all-too-brief visit to bicol. sorry if i was not able to see some of you in naga city. please just send me your postal address so i can send you a copy of my books.

anyway, highway, by the way... in my informal conversations i had with the many bicolanos the past three days, this seems to be the pattern of voting for the presidential candidates:

1. mar roxas -- because of his father, sen. gerry, who has a clean record. and mar is also marangal.

2. manny villar -- because he is perceived as hardworking.

3. noli de castro -- because he speaks clearly (although i asked the bicolanos to please, please sieve through and find the substance, if there is any, among this guy's pronouncements)

4. loren legarda -- because she is everywhere, but many of them said they do not want another woman for president.

even if erap runs again, they said he has had his chance, blew it, and should just help the country in his capacity as private citizen erap.

as for bicolano chiz of sorsogon, all bets are on in Bicol that he will run as VP of Loren, will win, and will become the first Bicolano President of the countryin 2016.

I did not talk just to the usual middle-class suspects, but also to farmers, drivers, market vendors, teenagers, mostly out-of-school youth -- in short, the poor that many candidates praise in their boring speeches but hardly know at all.

the poor are not stupid, believe me. they are just biding their time. they can see through the ads that the candidates are now putting on show on tv.

with gas prices, rice, transpo fare, tuition fees, everything going up, up and away, they just have this dim hope that things will change in 2010.

i hope so too, i told them, and bade them goodbye. And for all those who teased me I know nothing of the bikolano language, let me end this blog with these short words culled from thin air, addressed to my beloved, the poor and suffering Bicolanos:

Dios mabalos senyo, mga Bikolano, magi-agi na ako pabalik sa Maynila. Nakita ko na ang Bikol herac man, inabandonar naman ng mga lider na nagi suru-sadiri na sana. Mala kan ta ang bikol baga, adobado na. Magibalik ako sa Agosto para sa kumperensiya ng mga profesor, asin sa Septiembre para sa Ina ta sa Penafrancia. Tabangi man ako ta di ko man kamo pabayan. Magtarabang na sana kita sa 2010.

Lopez, Pidal, Rolex

By Lito Banayo

Their paths will always cross. Across generations of their family even.

Mariano Arroyo used to be the appointed governor of Iloilo back when we were yet to be a commonwealth of the Americans. Together with a Chinese rice trader named Sualoy, he introduced jueteng into his province. And what a hit it made with the timawas who bet daily on the numbers game. Such that the illegal numbers racket hit the pages of a local newspaper published by Benito Lopez, who turned it into a crusade.

In time, Benito Lopez got the government in Manila, through Manuel Luis Quezon, to dispatch a Negrense lawyer named Francisco Moran to investigate. His findings eventually caused the ouster of Mariano Arroyo as governor. Sualoy was thrown out of the country, back to Amoy, now Xiamen in China’s southeast. Eventually, Moran was to become a distinguished Supreme Court justice.

Mariano’s family was in shock at the disgrace that befell them. In time, the Arroyos left Iloilo and transferred to Negros, where they settled in their large haciendas. They were never successful in politics since. Meanwhile, Benito’s sons carved out careers in business and politics. Fernando became a senator of the realm, later, vice-president of the Republic. Eugenio founded a business empire that was among the country’s largest, and he named it in honor of father Benito and mother Presentacion—Benpres Corporation. When the Americans who owned the largest electric power company in the country decided to sell, it was Eugenio who bought what has since become the Lopez crown jewel — Meralco

But though unsuccessful in politics, the Arroyos were successful in marriage. One of them, Jose Ignacio, married an heiress to the Tuasons in her second marriage. Lourdes Tuason married Jose Arroyo, and the union begot Jose Miguel (Mike), Maria Lourdes and Jose Ignacio (Ignacito). Jose Miguel married the daughter of Diosdado P. Macapagal, a wisp of a lady called Gloria. On January 20, 2001, after a phenomenal rise in politics from senator to vice-president in all of six short years, Gloria was proclaimed president of the land on the eighth year of her foray into electoral politics. Phenomenal, even if the method was controversial. Thus changed the fortune of the Arroyo family.

Sometime in the year 2003, one Panfilo M. Lacson, a former no-nonsense chief of the Philippine National Police, forced by political circumstances to become senator of the realm in the summer of 2001, exposed a not-so-intricate money-laundering operation headquartered at the LTA Building in Perea St. in Makati. LTA stands for Lourdes Tuason Arroyo, the mother of the First Gentleman, who as of today, owns two floors of said building, the rest having been sold, condominium style, to several buyers.

Lacson exposed the financial undertakings of one Jose Pidal. He had with him copies of cancelled checks paid to Jose Pidal, even statements of account from several financial houses addressed to Pidal. As the name sounded unfamiliar, Lacson’s source, a former utility and all around gofer for Jose Miguel Arroyo y Tuason called Udong Mahusay, guessed that it was perhaps Lapid spelled vowel-backwards. The governor of Pampanga then was a Lapid, and an ally of the first family. But then so is the country’s top purveyor of cholesterol, Lapid’s, which just might have been Pidal’s favorite snack. Mystery of alias notwithstanding, Lacson went to town, through a power-point presented privilege speech which showed an uncanny sameness in the strokes, loops and penmanship of Jose Pidal and Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Malacanang was dumbfounded. A congressman from the fifth district of Iloilo, one Rolex Suplico, called Lacson to say the name Pidal rang a bell, even if no one in Manila knew anybody else with that surname. But while Rolex scouted around Molo and Jaro and the city, ABS-CBN beat him to the draw. They sent a crew to Iloilo, and established by tombstone and historical marker, what ancestry the Pidal surname had. It turns out that Jose Miguel Arroyo’s paternal grandmother was the daughter of a Pidal, the same mother of Don Mariano Arroyo, the pre-commonwealth governor who introduced jueteng to the fair province of Iloilo. Thus did the paradox of Pidal unravel.

More than a week after, an obscure Jose Ignacio Arroyo Jr., gentleman-farmer from Negros Occidental, appeared before ABS-CBN rival, GMA 7, to claim that he was “Jose Pidal”. Later it was to be discovered that this guy with the self-proclaimed Pidal alias paid income taxes of ten thousand pesos or thereabouts, during the years that his bank account was bulging with tens and hundreds of millions. Through invocations of his “right to privacy”, the Pidals got a temporary “clean bill of health” from the chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon, one Joker Arroyo of Ba-ao in Camarines, neither Molo in Iloilo nor Boao in Hainan. (These coincidences leave you breathless). Ignacito, a.k.a. Jose Pidal even had his clumsy John Hancock’s certified by a Keystone Kop called Mosqueda, another (surprise!) Ilonggo later linked to jueteng (another surprise!), and now recently-elected mayor of an unfortunate town in the province. Ignacito meanwhile, now called Iggy, has since become a congressman of neighboring Negros.

ABS-CBN is controlled by the Lopez family, and is headed by the great-grandson of Benito Lopez, the newspaper publisher whose expose destroyed Mariano Arroyo’s racket and with it, his political fortunes. He is the son of Eugenio (Geny) Lopez Jr., son of Eugenio Sr., the original buyer of Meralco, now headed by his son Manolo. Benpres Holdings, the mother corporation, is headed by another son of Eugenio Sr., Oscar Lopez.

How history turns full circle. The president of the land, through surrogates in GSIS and in Congress, has unleashed the furies against the Lopez family, through their most vulnerable possession, Meralco, which buys power generated both by government and its sister firms which are “independent” power producers, transmitted to them by a government-owned Transco that has been “privatized” recently and awaiting franchise from Congress, which they in turn distribute to consumers like you and me.

Now you and I have been complaining about high power rates, and Mrs. Arroyo seeks to use our vexation and turn the same into unbridled anger against the Lopez family. Is this the revenge of the Arroyos?

So where does Rolex Suplico fit in to merit being in our marquee, along with the fabulous Lopezes and the inglorious Pidals?

Well, Rolex who is now the vice-governor of Iloilo after three full terms as congressman of the fifth district, has of late been in the public eye because he filed a case with the Supreme Court in August last year, against a contract entered into between the government of Mrs. Arroyo and one ZTE Corporation of Shenzhen in China’s southeast. He has since been a resource person in the celebrated Senate-produced telenovela, co-starred with Joey de Venecia in Part One, and appeared in occasional cameo roles in the more explosive Part Two, this time starring Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr.

The villains in this high-rating telenovela, until power interruptions engineered by nine justices of the Supreme Court cut it off the air, include another disgraced official, Benjamin Abalos of Mandaloyon, formerly chair of the notorious Commission on Elections, which under his watch has since become the Commission for Electoral Cheating, a prevaricating bureaucrat called Lorenzo Formoso, a clueless cabinet member called Leandro Mendoza, and even a nervous coward called Romulo Neri. But all signs point to some people higher up in the ladder. Everybody knows who they are, but as Mikey Arroyo, the Pidal-Arroyo great grandson who co-chairs Powercom with an Ilongga kasimanwa (na pud?) always chimes in, guilt requires “proof beyond reasonable doubt”.

Of late, Rolex has produced a certain “Alex” who apparently took photographs of an Arroyo sojourn to Shenzhen in the fall of 2006, where Mikey’s mama y papa played golf with ZTE officials. The telenovela, off the air for two months now, might get a new season, thanks to Rolex.

Whereupon the Arroyos and their hacks called Rolex a Lopez footstool, trotted out in the nick of time to discombobulate their full-court press against the Lopezes of Meralco. One of these hacks is a fellow from Iloilo (again?) called Raul Gonzalez, who accuses Rolex precisely as such.

But Rolex is undaunted. He will not allow the public to forget the excessive and unconscionable greed that surrounds the NBN-ZTE deal, just like Benito Lopez in his time did not give Mariano Arroyo a moment of peace in small-town (then) Iloilo. “The issue of power rates is valid, but equally valid is the issue of corruption in the highest of places”, Rolex told me over the phone. This “footstool” wants to put his foot firmly down against the corrupt.

I could have entitled this article “Iloilo”. Or even “Batchoy”, one of my favorite comfort foods, where the Ilonggos of Molo mix generous slivers of good lean meat with “bitter” slices of pork liver on top of noodles, ladle slowly simmered and truly savory broth, and then top the concoction off with cholesterol-laden bits of pork chicharon (May tindahan na ba ang Lapid sa Iloilo, o Pidal ?).

Who among the characters are like “good lean meat”, and who the “bitter” liver, who the chicharon? Well, tell you what. We are like the noodles, ang dami-dami natin, niluluto sa sariling katas. And Rolex? Paminta, ground pepper, without which the batchoy will not taste as good.


Selling Candidates: The Promise and Limits of Political Ads

Posted in

After the pioneering book, Spin and Sell, a sequel, Selling Candidates: The Promise and Limits of Political Advertisements was recently launched.

Written by Ana Maria Tabunda, Carmela Fonbuena and Aries Rufo, the book discusses the political ads of the 2007 senatorial elections and how the media covered the 90-day campaign and election period.

In the launch held at the Hyatt Hotel in Manila, the book, published by Public Trust Media Group in cooperation with the Kondrad Adenauer Stiftung, was the take-off point for discussion by panelists from the media, politics, and advertising sector.

Losing senatorial candidate Prospero Pichay is an example that political ads are not enough to put one in the Senate. He said that reasons for his defeat include not having an organization, not being carried by the biggest religious groups, and the fact that he is not known nationwide.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano added that free media or publicity—meaning being covered by the press—is a more effective vehicle than political ads.

Yoly Villanueva Ong, president and CEO of Campaigns and Grey, said that image is not fabricated and a costume you put on. Rather, it is rather based on the truth.

Charie Villa, vice president for news gathering of ABS-CBN, said that people are now more discerning on who to vote for public office.

Against ad ban
The highlights of the book include a chapter written by Tabunda, Shifting Preferences: Image, Personality, and Political Party in the 2007 Senatorial Elections. She describes the contents of the political ads of both the Genuine Opposition (GO) and Team Unity (TU).

In another chapter, Tabunda concludes that three out of four voters are against a ban on political ads since these campaign materials are among the sources of information for the voters.

For her part, Carmela Fonbuena studied the communication strategies and plans behind the political ads. She enumerated four factors that affect the candidates’ chances of winning: political advertisements, news coverage, political legacy or political baggage and dagdag bawas or vote padding.

Aries Rufo, in his chapter, Hostaged by Spin and Gimmickry, discusses how the media covered the whole campaign and election period. -Stefanie Leuterio (

second novel

super mega hyper thanks to all who wrote and said they like the novel. i have written only five chapters so far.

i applied for a university research grant at the ateneo so i could get help in writing the novel, but guess what? the phds turned me down. they said i needed a framework for my novel.

for an unfinished novel?

you only give a framework for reading or interpretation to a text that is already finished. i gave a framework for the five chapters, and told them that creative writing is a work in progress. you cannot pin down or freeze a framework, and stick to it.

but i guess the program is vetted by social and physical scientists who know nothing, really, about what my guru father roque ferriols called the mysterium tremendum of life, and the mysterium tremendum of the creative process.

and so, i am now writing a new chapter in my novel. it is called "the framework."

On the suspension of the dectors and nurse in the cebu scandal

Ang Ladlad welcomes suspension of 2 doctors,
nurse in rectal surgery scandal

Ang Ladlad, the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender Filipinos, welcomed the suspension by the Department of
Health of two doctors and one nurse involved in the rectal surgery
scandal at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC).
Department of Health regional director Susana Madarieta imposed a
three-month preventive suspension.

Danton Remoto, chairman of Ang Ladlad, said "This is only the
beginning of the end for these callous and inhuman doctors and nurses
who turned the operating room of the hospital into a circus. They not
only stripped Danilo of his human dignity, but also stained the
Philippine medical profession, which has already been besieged by a
series of scandals."

However, Remoto also wants the nursing student who uploaded the video
in You Tube barred by the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC)
from taking the nursing licensure examinations. "He or she has no
right to practice the profession of nursing, which is a caring
profession. Moreover, the PRC should also look into the revocation of
the licenses of the doctors concerned. We also wonder why only three
people were suspended when the Central Visayas Ombudsman fact-finding
investigation found out that seven doctors and five nurses must face
administrative charges. I think they should all be suspended to give
a lesson to all that we should not discriminate based on sexual
orientation and class in society."

Danilo is a minimum-wage earner in a flower shop who had sexual
relations with a male sex worker on the night of Dec. 31. When he
woke up, a perfume canister was already lodged in his rectum. He was
operated on at the hospital two days later.

The counsel for the suspended doctors are appealing their decision,
saying that this deprives Cebu of medical service. "It does,
factually. But do you really want to be served by people whose
reputations have been stained by this scandal, which has dropped the
surgical masks they wear and showed them for who they really are? How
can you even expect competent and professional medical care from
people like this?"

Ang Ladlad has offered to beef up the legal team of Danilo and has
also offered professional therapy to the victim of the scandal.

answers to queries

sorry for the late response to all your queries. first, it was the case of jan jan of cebu. then cardinal rosales said nobody could swish in the santacruzan. so i had my hands full talking to media, from 6 am to 8 pm, on radio, on tv, in print.

now i have four sets of student papers to check.

and questions from you to answer.

1. yes, the color of the dome in the manila cathedral is not gray, but blue-green. but what i wrote is fiction, and i chose gray to forebode the ashen sense of things found in the neighboring building, the old, decrepit comelec.

2. ninotchka rosca wrote a good novel in state of war, and i think we should be thankful she did. noting how hard it is to be a filipino writer, with little money and lots of flak all around, it is a wonder good novels still get to be written by the pinoy wordsmith.

3. yes, i was supposed to start a column in a tabloid, but i could hardly find the time to write.

4. the radio station is still looking for more advertisers for my radio show.

5. i did not watch the 24 oras report on the young turks, but the voice over was done by a reporter who doesn't know me, or is homophobic. i have reported this oversight to gma 7 news management.

6. i am committed to the issue of environment. i am a signatory to the ecowaste coaliation in the last elections, and have given information to the coalition for its publicity campaigns. the kyoto protocol agreement should push through, and soon, it's been ten years it was signed. and we should look for cheaper, cleaner alternatives to oil, ie, wind power, electric car, hydro electic power, biogas/ methane use, etc.

7. i am teaching books of the century this summer. we have finished james joyce, virginia woolf. franz kafka, albert camus and t.s. eliot. all in four weeks! this week, we will wrestle with the poems of rainer maria rilke and the great, big tome of gabriel garcia marquez, cien anos de soledad. may heaven help us.

8. did you read mr gatmaitan's prognosis for 2010? i agree with my friend manolo quezon that he seems to be dismissive, though, of blogs, social networking sites, etc. eh si manoy sonny trillanes made a splash first because of his friendster account, ano?

afraid and mga old sa internet. i wonder y.

you keep dry in the rain.

2010 polls a 5-way forecast

By Isagani de Castro Jr.

The 2010 presidential elections will likely be a five-way race among Vice-President Noli de Castro, Senate President Manuel Villar, Senator Loren Legarda, Senator Manuel Roxas, and former President Joseph Estrada, in case he qualifies. And in case De Castro doesn’t get the support of the administration, the Lakas-KAMPI alliance will have a dark horse candidate, a political futurist said.

In a paper to be presented Friday at a forum organized by the Center for Philippine Futuristic Studies, Antonio Gatmaitan, head of the research outfit, Political Economic Applied Research Foundation, said there are nine other "early frontliners" for May 2010:

§ Senator Francisco Pangilinan;

§ Senator Francis Escudero;

§ Senator Richard Gordon;

§ Senator Gregorio Honasan;

§ Senator Panfilo Lacson;

§ Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay;

§ Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte;

§ Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Bayani Fernando; and

§ Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro.

Gatmaitan said he whittled down the list to the five major candidates since they are "well positioned to convert their vote-generating capabilities into the next elections."

Out of the 14 possible bets, De Castro, Legarda, Roxas, Estrada, and Villar have the track record to show they can get votes. De Castro, Legarda, Roxas, and Estrada have been "topnotchers" in past elections. Estrada, Roxas, and Villar "can raise money" for a credible campaign from their "family net worth", while Legarda and De Castro can access funds from major donors.

In an interview with, Gatmaitan said these five candidates can be competitive in the three arenas where the 2010 electoral battle will be fought:

1) battle of the airwaves (50% of the contest);
2) ground level war (35% of the battle); and,
3) cyberspace, (15%).

Battle of the airwaves
The lifting of the ban on political advertisements, starting in the 2004 elections, makes the 2010 elections primarily a "battle of the airwaves." Prior to the 2004 polls, when political advertisements were banned, he said the influence of television and radio was only around 10%. In 2010, the battle of the airwaves will have a 50% weight.

"Prime time television is going to be inundated by political advertisements coming from all sides. There will be a shift from politicians to image makers. The latter will take the place of political operatives. The traditional areas controlled by politicians will now shrink," he said.

In the battle of the airwaves, there will be no time for substantive discussion of issues. "It’s going to be one-liners, no time to pontificate on any issue. How can you pontificate in 30 or 45 seconds?...Propaganda is the game, and the message should be simple, straightforward," he said.

A candidate who does not have the funds for an expensive "political ads" war will be "out of sight" during the 90-day campaign period. A credible candidate will "have to be visible to prevail," he said.

Comparing the top five vote-getters, Gatmaitan said Estrada, a former movie actor, and former television broadcasters De Castro and Legarda have the edge in familiarity with television and radio. Roxas and Villar lack experience in this field.

Ground level war
With 184,000 precincts nationwide in 2010, Gatmaitan said candidates must have as many volunteers as possible to man the precincts and guard their votes. In this arena, the candidate needs the support of traditional politicians and political operators.

"The political organization is very important, and it requires special skills," he said. These organizations are involved even during pre-registration of voters to election day and post-election.

With media’s growing influence, the importance of the "ground level war" has been reduced from over 50% in previous polls to around 35%.

Among the five likely bets, Estrada, Roxas, Villar, and De Castro, assuming he is the administration candidate, have the advantage in getting the support of traditional politicians and political operators, Gatmaitan said.

The ground level war includes the national canvassing of all city, provincial and other electoral returns by Congress. And in this battle, the administration candidate has the inside track. "In a tight contest, they can ram through [Congress] anything," he said.

While Internet penetration is still low in the Philippines, Gatmaitan said the influence of cellphones has increased to "63% of the population and still growing." By 2010, it may reach 72%. "By 2010, voters will be read to accept imaginative SMS messages from candidates and political parties," he said.

Administration dilemma
The administration Lakas-KAMPI alliance is faced with the problem of not having a strong bet. De Castro is officially not a member of either party.

"Noli de Castro is perceived to be a Lakas nominee but he is not an insider of Malacanang. In the event that he is not chosen as candidate of Lakas, he will have to mount a challenge from the outside," Gatmaitan said in his paper.

In case he’s not the administration bet, one option for De Castro is to "go with Villar." Villar may be convinced to give way to De Castro, he said.

If De Castro is not the administration bet, Gatmaitan said the administration will have to choose among Senator Richard Gordon, Mayors Feliciano Belmonte, and MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando. Belmonte and Fernando are not viable candidates since they do not have a "national stature."

"My premise is somebody will emerge from Lakas-KAMPI. It’s impossible for them not to have a candidate," he said.

Gatmaitan said the battle for control of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), between the Lopez family and the government, "may make Noli de Castro the unintended or intended casualty."

"With the way they’re acting, the Lakas-KAMPI and the Palace are gearing up toward a major offense politically. It could also be through Constitutional change," he said.

His forecast is that Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno may emerge as the administration bet given his close ties with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Citing an anonymous source, Gatmaitan said "KAMPI leaders are eager to test their powers after successfully taking over from the old guards of Lakas. This could come in the form of a presidential candidate from their ranks." Puno is president of KAMPI or the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino, Arroyo’s original political vehicle for the 1998 elections.

"The party nomination process will likely serve as the elimination of other players," he said.

Independents, Erap factor
Independent campaigns, such as the 2004 bid by Senator Panfilo Lacson, are unlikely. "There is no clamor for an independent candidacy. The mood is not there," Gatmaitan said, adding that the current mood is anti-Arroyo administration, especially in light of high food and oil prices.

A legal battle on whether ex-convict Estrada is qualified to run for the presidency is to be expected. In case the Commission on Elections, and eventually the Supreme Court, disqualifies Estrada, Gatmaitan said Estrada’s "masa" support will be shared by the other candidates.

Even though the electorate will generally be younger by 2010, he said this will not affect the polls since "young voters are poor, the impoverished poor, and they know the value of the vote." "That’s the demographic: out of school youths, they’re the watchers, they’re the paid volunteers. The lower middle class play with the politicians, because of the money."

my first novel

thanks for those who texted and commented about my second novel.

My first novel was finished in the year 2000, on a Fulbright grant to the US at Rutgers University in New Jersey. It is my dissertation for my Ph.D. in Creative Writing, which I will defend in the first semester of 2008. Anvil wanted to publish my novel three years ago, in 2005, but I told them I will first defend it before my Ph.D. panel for additional comments.

So it is finished. Don't worry about that. All 350 pages of it. The original draft was 550 pages. I threw away the rest.

As for the short story collection, it is finished, too, and I will give it to a university press. I am choosing one that will not censor the stories, because some of them are too risque by Catholic university press standards. Maybe UP Press is the best bet.

Some people told me I will stop writing once I run. I think they are wrong.

I am giving to the UP Press a manuscript of new poems in English that I have just finished writing. I am also proofreading a new book of essays in Filipino that Anvil will publish in time for the Philippine Book Fair in September.

I am not in the same league as William Butler Yeats and Pablo Neruda. Far, far from it. But remember, guys, when they won as senators, they continued writing as well.

They are role models to emulate.


A lighted matchstick, a novel-in-progress

I am writing a novel based on what happened to me and to Ang Ladlad in the days before, during and after the last elections. I am having a grand time writing this. Let me caution you that this is fiction. Oh, yes, indeed.

“Power is like a lighted matchstick.
The closer your fingers are to it, the more you will get burnt.”

--Tu Fu

Chapter 1

The Commission on Independent Elections (CIE) was housed in a three-storey wooden building erected right after World War II. Its dark-brown paint was peeling off, and the musty interiors were hardly lit by bulbs filmed with dust. One hundred meters away to the north, the Manila Cathedral sat on raised ground. Its round gray dome could be seen from the Manila Bay, and the long central aisle towards the grand altar had already exhausted many old women who walked to the altar on their knees. In front of the cathedral was the plaza built by the Spaniards. When the wind from the bay began to blow, the fire trees would move like waves touching each other. The orange-red flowers of the caballero trees lifted the hearts of the newlyweds as they walked down the stone stairs of the majestic cathedral.

But the poor country cousin that was the Commission on Independent Elections was never to be bothered, and continued with its merry way. Its three commissioners served eight-year terms, which meant that they oversaw the election of two Presidents, who served four-year terms. And being a Constitutional Commission, the Commissioners were exempted from the threats of dismissal, dissolution, or impeachment coming from the Philippine Congress—that honorable Chamber that God, in His or Her Infinite Glory, had filled with cobras, vipers, and scorpions whose venom could send government officials shaking in their half-boot shoes.

And on the last midterm election that I ran for public office, the Commissioners were composed of three middling lawyers. Jorge Luis Borges, the chairman, was a balding man with bee-stung lips and an accent so thick you could freeze it overnight and use it to fry the next morning’s cold rice. His associates included Italo Calvino, who had a face was as dark and thick as carabao hide and a voice as sibilant as the hiss of a snake; and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with a body bigger than a Kelvinator refrigerator that his staff would, behind his back, of course, snicker that the Commissioner should walk sideways, like a crab, so he could enter the main gate of the decrepit building.

Chairman Borges was a former activist during the time of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. When Angel Aquino, I mean President Cory Aquino, kicked Marcos out of the Presidential Palace, she appointed Borges as the Officer-in-Charge of a sleepy town in the southern island of Mindanao. Borges lost no time in cutting down the huge trees that grew on the mountains nearby, and thus became immeasurably rich.

Calvino was a former speechwriter of Marcos who, since his skin could molt like a snake did, slithered his way into the circles of power in Cory Aquino’s time. Garcia Marquez, bless him, was a former military general in charge of Procurement during the time of Marcos. He went with Da Real Macoy in the dictator’s exile in Hawaii, and was with him when Marcos’s Madame Tussaude-remade face and figure returned to Manila, for burial. With a monkey-like agility nobody would suspect he had in that rhinoceros of a body, he was able to grab a branch and bound into the middle of the circle, and have himself appointed.

The only thing I wanted to do was to run as one of the Congressional nominees of Coming Out, the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender party, sit for one term in the venomous Congress, pass the anti-discrimination bill, and return to my quiet life teaching English to rich brats in a Catholic university.

But the three Commissioners, their Friends in the Presidential Palace, and perhaps God Himself or Herself had other plans for me.

Chapter 2

Three years ago we formed Coming Out, and started chapters in major cities from, as they say, Aparri to Jolo. We have gay members working efficiently and well for Manong Chavit in the North, for Ate Bombo Grace in Luzon, for Inday Susan in Bacolod, and for Governor Adel Tamano in Mindanao. In short, we had the whole country covered with our dainty fingers.

Our members had livelihood programs courtesy of Mother Ricky Reyes’s Isang Gunting, Isang Suklay, Hanapbuhay, which trained both gays and non-gays alike to wield the power of a pair of scissors to earn their keep for the day. We had medical missions courtesy of Doctor Joey Montemayor, who is our magnet to those med reps (many of them gay), who gave us tons of free medicines. And lastly, we had literacy and reading programs courtesy of Nanay Coring, The Lady with a Bookstore, who gave us free children’s books so we could teach the young to read before they entered elementary school.

And every year, we also held the annual Pride March, to celebrate our Pink Power.

I had always worked behind the scenes, as chief fund-raiser of the annual Pride March. I would call up my rich and bored classmates at the Ateneo, and ask them for ten thousand pesos each to fund the floats and the costumes. If they were abroad or haven’t withdrawn yet from their trust funds, I would go to Mother Ricky, Kuya Boy, and Ate Fanny; I would badger Direk Joel, Manay Ichu and Tita Armida, for donations. With my begging bowl I went around shamelessly. I wanted to make sure that we had costumes fabulous and floats to-die-for, that we had a small but brilliantly-lit stage, with a sound system loud enough to broadcast the Pussycats’s “Don’t Cha” into the blasted air.

During the last Pride March, I was besieged with calls up to the night before the march itself. One of the callers was from Manila’s Finest, a corpulent policeman on his motorcycle, who would escort our marchers from the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, down to Quiapo, and our eventual destination, the Square of Democracy called Plaza Miranda.

The cop on wheels said, “Ser, we need two pulismen. Lash year, you paid us one thousand pesos. Dahil may e-vat na dish year, you should pay us one thousand five hundred per pulisman. So ser, three thousand ol in ol, payabol bepor da march.”

“Okay,” I said, since we still had extra funds from the donations.

The next caller had a very soft and a very slow voice. It seemed to come from someone on his last legs. “Elow, ez theze Danota, da organizer of da Pride Marsh?”

“Yes po,” I answered.

“Ah, this is Gloria.”

Huh? I thought. The Vice-President of the country?

“Gloria Manila. Remember me? I waz a zinger in the 1970s.”

And then I remembered Gloria Manila, the Queen of Philippine Impersonators. With her curly eyelashes, high cheekbones and rubbery lips, she did not lip-sync but sang all the hits of Motown. She was Dionne Warwick and Diana Ross and Tina Turner rolled into one. She pouted and gyrated and jumped, and then dropped to the floor in a perfect split.

“Of course, I remember,” I said quickly, dismissing the thought of how painful that split could be. “What po can I do for you?”

“Ahhh, I am with the Golden Gayz of the beloved Councilor Justo C. Justo. May we join your Pride Marsh tomorrow? I also want to sing.”

“Ah, that is okay po, Madame Gloria.”

“How long is the march?”

“Around one kilometer po. You can just wait for us in Plaza Miranda, if you like.”

“Ay shempre, no,” Gloria Manila said. “We want to join the marsh, but we are worried that with the heat, our makeup will melt.”


“Actually, our oldest member, Mama Chuvaness, also wants to join. Pero she is already 85 years old.”

“Oh, maybe she can wait for us na lang in Plaza Miranda?”

“I think zhe will do that.”

“Eh, where po si Mama Chuvaness now?”

“Ay, she went to her friend in Santa Ana. She will borrow a white ballroom gown for tomorrow’s march.”


“O sige, Danota, zee you tomorrow, ha?”

Chapter 3

Maria Orosa and Julio Nakpil were the names of two streets in bohemian Malate. They were not very long, but they formed what was known as Manila’s gay enclave. The Library karaoke bar was still there, on nearby Adriatico Street, and from there to Orosa and Nakpil was like liberated territory. Every guy who walked was either gay or a rent boy, and the eyes, of course, spoke a language of their own.

The White Party was held every June. The dukes and duchesses of Big Business fell into a swoon and would hang big tarpaulins of their products all around. After all, the Pink Peso was one of the few profitable marketing niches in a country that had long ago gone to the dogs.

But the bitches were still there, taking various forms.

One of them was the Marketing Manager of a bar whose cultural pretensions included poetry readings, film showings, and such. The bar sat beside a dance club; both of them were owned by ten guppies (gay urban professionals, so-called). The cultural chi-chi was held on the second floor, which our Marketing Manager made sure would be colder than a morgue. I did not know what it was about Filipinos in a tropical climate that made them put their air-cons on full blast. You were supposed to condition the air so the customers would feel cool, not let icicles form and drip down their chins.

Once I read my poems in this Center of Culture, for which I was given a free drink of tepid gin tonic. That was all right. But then our Marketing Manager asked me to write about their place. I tried to eat the food he served – indigestible meat from some poor tamaraw in Mindoro – and of course, I did not write about their place.

When I came back and asked him to hang the tarpaulin of Coming Out in front of their bar, he said “yes.” But he did not hang the tarpaulin – and even promptly lost it. The tarpaulin cost all of one thousand pesos. If it were my money I would have just listed it under “bad debts” and forgot all about it, after asking my psychic to put a hex on him. But since it was bought from donated funds that had to be audited, I texted, e-mailed, and called up our Marketing Manager. The man with the forked tongue hissed “yes,” “yes,” “yes,” but he never returned the tarpaulin. So I wrote to one of the ten owners, a man I had known at the State University many years ago, when he was younger, thinner, and poorer. He sent me a frosty text message: “Send messenger.” No “please,” no apologies. I sent the messenger to collect the money that did not belong to me, and promptly struck the owner off my list.

I did not what it was about gay people who were making money from the suddenly booming Pink Peso and never, ever returned anything to the community. The ringing cash registers of the Pink Peso transformed them from starving fresh graduates and intellectual social climbers to people whose gym-buffed bodies were splashed on the back pages of the glossies, in photo spreads labeled “Events of the Month.” They ran gay joints that tried to imitate the ones in London and New York, but without the comforts and the civilization offered by the originals. Cigarette smoke swirled in their clubs: you literally parted the smoke with your hands as you entered. And inside, you would have a crowd packed tighter than sardines in a rusty tin can. Not only did you have the seeds of lung cancer implanted inside you, you also suffered from the threat of suffocation. There was a fire exit, of course, but it was on the second floor and was tinier than the hole that swallowed up Alice in her Wonderland.

Another bitch used to own a bar in Malate. He told me he would make a donation of three thousand pesos to the Pride March, which I could collect any time. So I advanced my own money, used his donation to help pay for the printing of the souvenir magazine, but when it was time to collect, he was always absent. He would text me to go to his bar and collect the money, but he was nowhere to be found. One time, the waiters said he was in Puerto Galera, the next time he was in Boracay, the third time he was in Phuket. He seemed to be getting farther and farther away from my grasp that I just forgot about it, listed it under “bad debts,” and asked my psychic to put a boil on his buttocks, so that the next time he sat on the beach the boil would burst and bring him to paradise.

The third bitch was the Advertising and Promotions Manager of one of the country’s biggest underwear and clothing brands. Began 20 years ago, I used to buy their products since I wanted to help local brands. But after a month, the bands of their underwear fell. After two months, their shirts lost all shape. And after three months, the blue dye on their jeans simply paled. I complained to one of my former columnists in the Philippine Daily Planet, a guy our publisher’s niece hired when I was still editing the Satureday Special section and who, unbeknownst to me, also did PR for the underwear and clothing company. After hearing my complaint, the PR Twat simply said, “Ikaw naman, you know their products are for the local market, what else would you expect for such cheap prices?”

My jaw fell. Since I counted all my hard-earned centavos, I just stopped buying their products. But with a savvy marketing campaign that featured the hottest and newest bodies as models, this company was soon making billions. Their shirts became tighter, their jeans more low-slung, and their underwear ads catered most obviously to a gay market.

And so, when I was raising funds for the Pride March, I wrote them to ask for a donation. No answer. After I filed for the party-list registration of Coming Out, I wrote them again. No answer. Okay, all right, no skin off my nose, I said to myself, then taught my Freshman English students the virtue of arsenic poisoning in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”

But on this White Party, there he was, the Advertising and Promotions Manager of the company. He was all done up like a horse. His newly-dyed aubergine hair was made to fall waywardly down his head. His face belonged most succinctly to the equine kingdom. He was older than me, but since he had just gone through another round of botox and cosmetic surgery, his forehead and cheeks were so tight you could see the capillaries like small rivers on dry sand. His collagen-implanted lips were puckered and he could barely speak, much less laugh. Speech and laughter would have ripped the stitches done behind his ears.

And so when he saw me he was apologetic and almost curtseyed. He said he had gotten my letters but his slim wrists were tied. “You know naman how my Chinese bosses are. They are such tightwads,” he simpered.

I just looked at him, my eyebrows reaching my forehead rivered with lines.

“But I promise you, we will give you all the T-shirts and tarpaulins you need for the campaign of Coming Out Party List.”

I smiled without showing my serrated teeth.

“I am just an e-mail or a text message away. Don’t be a strangeh,” he muttered, before curtseying again, almost, and joining the noise and the lunacy around him.

Of course, he never delivered. Before the 90-day political campaign started, I texted and e-mailed and wanted to collect on his promise of “all the T-shirts and tarpaulins you need.” But all my messages were coldly ignored. He must be sitting somewhere, in a cabana on Kho Samui, or a sofa in Dr. Belo’s, or on a bench in Quiapo, looking at the newest designs of their shirts and jeans. More like a bench in Quiapo.

Chapter 4

Many people thought it was foolhardy for me to run for public office. I did not have a political machinery, I did not have money, and I had heard it said of me, within earshot, that “he’s just a mere English teacher.”

I would just smile my Mona Lisa smile of the aching molar, and clamp my teeth shut. They did not know that my father was a military officer and a lawyer during martial law, that I grew up in Camp Aguinaldo and mother was a brilliant Music teacher at the State University. My father came from a poor family in Bicol and finished high school by taking night classes for what seemed like a century. Then he took the entrance exams at the Philippine Military Academy, passed it and finished in the top ten of his class. When already a young lieutenant, he was assigned in Camp Aguinaldo and promptly enrolled himself in Law School at the Far Eastern University. And so after work, he would change into his civilian clothes and take a series of jeepney rides that took him to F.E.U., where he read tomes and listened to teachers who seemed to be drugged by the sound of their own voices. He finished, passed the Bar, and was assigned at the Judge Advocate General’s Office.

I was born in the military camp, studied in the public high school there, and got a scholarship grant to study at the Ateneo during the height of the martial-law years. My classmates were scions of the rich and famous, and went to school in their Bang Bang jeans bought in Hong Kong and Espadrilles from Madrid. I wore shirts from Ali Mall in Cubao, and trousers whose textile my mother bought in Divisoria. My shoes, of course, were from Marikina.

My only similarity with my classmates was that we were all ferried to and from the university by cars. My father was already a colonel by then, and he had ordered his driver to bring me to school every morning, and pick me up by five o clock, after Theology classes. And so Sergeant Avelino Reyes, whose hair was always short and who never smiled, would steer the black Toyota Crown with red government plate numbers to and from the university, to my great embarrassment. I had told my father I wanted to take the jeepney, but he gave me a look that meant “No.” Later, he explained to me that it was still martial law, and the children of military officers were ripe for the picking by “undesirable elements,” who roamed the land.

My father opened his vast library to me. There, I read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince, the bloody plays of Shakespeare and The Analects of Confucius. My mother made me read Antoine d’ Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince, and warned me, with a wicked smile, “not to believe everything your father makes you read.” Then she would remind me to return to my piano lessons, which I had abandoned, because it seemed so much easier to read books on how to win a war without firing a single bullet into the air.

Which was like winning an election without the millions of pesos required of your usual politicians. Aside from the 4.5 million solid, ethnic votes from the Bicol Region, I could also count on another 4.5 million from the military bases – officers, soldiers, their families, their friends, the friends of their families, the families of their friends. In this country, blood was thicker and more expensive than gasoline.

After college, I also wrote speeches for Minister of Public Information. I got the job not because of my father. I saw the posting for vacancy in the university, I applied, and was happy to know my boss would be the fiction writer Jose Antonio Rotor. Johnny, as he was called, taught me to write with concision and wit, even if you were just writing speeches for the Minister, which he read every day and which I would sometimes catch being reported on the late-night news. It made me wince, the idiotic Minister reading my polished prose and mispronouncing them, but I gave myself a year in the job.

We also made publications on demand, which meant the First Lady would go to Brazil and needed a nifty brochure about the Philippines that had a lot of pictures (sun, sea, sand), which we had to produce in a fortnight. The First Lady, of course, never went to Argentina because (unlike Evita Peron), she said, “I was never a prostitute.” Or President Marcos would visit the United States, which meant producing a handbook whose photographs were color-separated in Hong Kong, printed on coated paper in the Crown Colony, and bound handsomely there, in black leather.

Which meant that, after the Marcoses had fled the country and landed in Hawaii and not in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, I still had links with the dictatorship. Such that when I ran for public office, all I had to do was to ring up old friends, who promptly called up the First Lady’s brother who had reclaimed the ownership of a big publishing company – and lo and behold!, I had all the campaign posters, leaflets, fliers, and sample ballots I could distribute in the 7,107 islands of the archipelago.

And since I looked young and had taught college students for 20 years, I knew I also had the youth vote down pat. Young people would vote for you if you spoke their language – wala lang, they just did not like the traditional, old politicians, sobra, they really looked older than God, ha! If you were talking of the youth vote, you were talking of 75 percent of the electorate. But Senator Dick, who had the gift of gab, blithely told me in a press forum at Café Fernandina that, “No, Danota, you’ve got it all wrong. There is no youth vote because they are all busy texting, or watching MTV, or drinking coffee at Starbucks.”

I just smiled at him, and wanted to ask when was the last time he talked to the young? Yes, they send interminable text messages, but some of them are the nastiest political jokes about the last election. They watched MTV, yes, and MYX too, but their current favorites were the nationalistic songs of Rivermaya or Sponge Cola. And no, they rarely drank at Starbucks, because it was expensive, and if they did, they never drank coffee, but iced tea.

And what about the Left? After I resigned from writing speeches for the Minister, I began reading books by Teodoro Agoncillo, Renato Constantino, and Jose Maria Sison – books that my Philippine History teacher at the Ateneo never asked us to read, busy as she was with reading about dead names, dates, and places from the pages of her ancient notebook. I attended discussions, listened to the poems of Amado V. Hernandez recited at the old Heritage Art Gallery, read the memoirs of Pablo Neruda. I met Satur Ocampo in a book launching, asked Fr. Luis Jalandoni to sign a book about the Left written by the unsinkable Ninotchka Rosca, danced to a New Age hymn with Bobbie Malay-Ocampo during the birthday party of Gilda Cordero Fernando at the ballroom of the Marikina Riverside Hotel. Once, I joined a protest rally for Agrarian Reform but I never signed any paper and never carried any card, except the membership card at the Moro Lorenzo Gym at the Ateneo. The only thing I wanted was to gain weight.

That was why I was so pissed with my father when he met me one night and threw at my face what he said was my dossier with the military. “Why are you consorting with the Left?” he had demanded. He had already retired and his hair was already graying and we were living in Industrial Valley near Blue Ridge. And I wanted to laugh, because earlier that day, I had attended a book launching at the State University. The book was a posthumous collection of stories written by Roberto Tarroza, the former Executive Secretary of Mr. Marcos, before he joined the government. They were elegant and poised stories, but Mr. Tarroza stopped writing when he joined the Cabinet of Mr. Marcos.

The function room at Balay Kalinaw was clearly divided into two. On the right stood the family, relatives and friends of the late, lamented writer who had worked for the Marcos government. On the left stood the faculty of the State University, many of whom were former political detainees who were jailed and tortured, allegedly, by the Marcos government.

I stood squarely in the middle.

I had gone to the Mrs. Tarroza earlier – another brilliant writer – and congratulated her on her husband’s book. I also greeted Mrs. Castrence, the wife of a general who was one of my father’s best friends. When I returned to the canapés at the back, Charlson, one of the young literary lions at the State University, pointedly asked me: “And what were you doing consorting with the enemy?”

I told him I liked Mrs. Tarroza’s sardonic books of fiction and Mrs. Castrence’s husband was one of my father’s best friends. Then he continued, “So where were you during martial law?”

“In Camp Aguinaldo,” I answered, “swimming in the pool at the Officer’s Club, or practicing golf in the driving range.”

Stricly Politics

there will be a replay of the stricly politics episode at anc tomorrow, 1 pm, channel 27. hope we can watch it.

The Young Turks

Atty. Adel Tamano invited me to join a group of young politicians. We have no name yet, although The Young Turks could be a tentative handle.

Aside from Adel and myself, the group includes former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla, San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito, Bukidnon Rep. TG Guingona and Atty. Ernesto Maceda Jr.

We were on ANC last week, Strictly Politics. We will go to the induction of the Jaycees tomorrow, in General Trias, Cavite. And we will be at DZBB on Monday morning at 9:30, in the show of Arnold Clavio and Orly Trinidad.

More young people have been invited to join the group, but they are still thinking about it.

Our blog is at:

Please visit us. Thanks.

Investing in education by Atty. Adel Tamano


Inaugural speech of ATTY. ADEL A. TAMANO
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila

Good afternoon. We have a saying in Islam that the ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr. I cannot think of anything more emphatic than this to show what a high virtue education is in the Islamic faith. As the very first Filipino Muslim to head a major university in Manila, this is a core value that I bring to the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

Education has been such a significant part of my life. I am 37 years old and almost half my life has been spent in the academe. I have taught subjects as varied as Economics, Human Resource Development, and Constitutional Law.

In my career in education, I have made the rounds of the universities from Mindanao to Luzon: from the Mindanao State University to the Ateneo de Manila University and, finally, to my new home here at PLM.

I am no stranger to the pleasure and pain of academic life. The often obscenely low compensation, checking dozen upon dozen of examination booklets, preparing for class lectures, conducting recitation, and the jolt of electricity that we get seeing the spark of recognition in the eyes of our students, which makes all the sacrifices of teaching worthwhile.

In fact, even in my position as the spokesman for the Genuine Opposition during the elections and until now, I have always perceived my role as an educator and not as a politician – as someone with the duty to enlighten the public by presenting the issues as fairly, honestly, and clearly as possible, adhering to the belief that an educated public is the greatest safeguard to democracy.
As one of the youngest university presidents in the Philippines, I hope to instill a sense of dynamism and purpose to PLM because I believe that education is not only a fundamental value but is also the gateway to our national development.

Today, I hope that you will see beyond this young man, looking absolutely ridiculous in his gown, trying pathetically to look wise and deserving of this great honor that the City of Manila, through the Honorable Mayor Alfredo Lim and the Board of Regents, is bestowing upon him. Instead, I hope you will see someone who embodies this institution, the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, an institution whose primary purpose is to transform and uplift the lives of the economically disadvantaged but bright and deserving students of Manila through the power of education.

I can now be the voice of the ten thousand students and educators who not only appeal to you, our national and local leaders, for support and guidance but who also want you to know their aspirations for their University, their city, and their country.

The PLM is a singular institution. It has been called a local university with a national character and reputation. What is more, it is a university with a unique history and legacy. PLM is situated within the historic walls of Intramuros in the great City of Manila. The country’s very first college was established right here at the grounds of PLM, the Colegio de Manila, which was founded in 1590 by the Jesuits. It may be said that the very roots of the modern educational system in the Philippines may be found here at PLM.

On a more dramatic note, PLM stands upon hallowed grounds: The 3 hectares where our university is situated was the military headquarters of the United States’ 31st infantry. During the Japanese Occupation, brave Filipino and American soldiers were slain here. Our own national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, was placed on trial for sedition within the grounds of the University.

As a matter of fact, Philippine history has a sense irony because the walls of Intramuros were precisely made to keep someone like me, a Moro, as well the other marginalized and oppressed people of that time outside, while the those in power – the Spaniards and their minions - enjoyed the safety, the power, and the luxury of the walled city. Intramuros was, at that time, a symbol of oppression, discrimination, and persecution.

However, today, with PLM giving opportunity to the poor and marginalized to have quality education that will enable them to break the cycle of poverty, the walls of Intramuros are a beacon of hope for our countrymen. The lesson of Intramuros and PLM is that things can change for the better. And here at PLM we are at the forefront of making that change.

Among others, we are giving our students the tools they need to compete in the 21st century. When I assumed the Presidency last August, the university’s offices did not even have Internet access, much less computers. Within four months we have equipped our University with computer and Wi-fi facilities. We now have over 30 computer stations with free Internet access for students and faculty as well as laser-printing facilities. It is a modest achievement and we hope that within two years, we will have at least 200 computer stations with free Internet access to equip our students with the technological skills that have become a prerequisite to obtaining good jobs in the modern workplace.

Earlier, I referred to Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero, deliberately because I believe that heroism and education in the Philippine context are intertwined. Some will scoff at the idea of an interrelation between education and heroism, but given the magnitude of the challenges that we face in the Philippines in education and the amount of work that is needed for us to address these problems, then the idea of the heroic nature of our endeavor does not seem so laughable. Moreover, the virtues of our national heroes of patriotism, industry, and courage are the very qualities that we must to instill in our students if our country is to prosper.

In fact, today, more than ever, we need new heroes. Our heroes of the past fought against the heavy yoke of colonialism and tyranny. Today, our challenges loom just as large as our nation is slowly being crushed by poverty, by corruption, and by bad governance. The present challenges us to be live with heroism, patriotism, and to have a real vision for the future of our nation.

Of course, poverty remains our primary problem. According to the latest SWS Survey, 11.9 per cent of our countrymen suffer daily the scourge of hunger. The Human Development Report states that 36.8 per cent of our population, more than 1 in every 3 Filipinos, live below the poverty line.

So what is the answer to the problem of poverty? I believe that given the highly competitive global economy and the fact that our population continues to grow at about 1.5 million new Filipinos year, a large part of the answer to poverty is providing skills and training to our youth that will enable them to find decent jobs, or could help them set up their own businesses.
Education must be a primary component to any poverty reduction plan. The adage is corny and over-used, but it is nevertheless true - Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a life time.

So where are we now in the realm of education?

In a recent test of English proficiency of our primary school teachers, 70% failed. In the secondary level, 80% failed. This is alarming. How do we maintain our competitive advantage, which is our facility with English, against the other growing economies in the region when our very own teachers cannot even speak or write English properly?

In the realm of Math and Science, in an examination taken by high-school students from 45 countries, ranking from the highest to the lowest, our country ranked 41st in Math and 42nd in Science.

These dismal statistics only considers those who actually have access to education, even a poor one. In the Philippines, of ten school age students, only six will graduate from the primary level. Of the six, only four will graduate from high school. Out of these four, only two will complete their college education.

If the Philippines were to develop and remain globally competitive, then we must focus on education. The value of education as the engine for national development is enshrined in our very own Constitution, which states emphatically that “(t)he State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human development. ”

This vital provision of our constitution perceives education as the gateway not only to personal intellectual and moral development but also, ultimately, to our nation’s economic and social development.

Art. XIV, Sec. 5 of the Constitution is even more categorical when it declares that “(t)he State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education…” Have we fulfilled the spirit of this constitutional mandate? If you believe the answer to this is in the affirmative, then why do we have a shortfall of 45,000 classrooms?

A former Undersecretary of Education puts this issue of budgetary prioritization in a clearer perspective when he wrote that “(w)e talk about education getting the largest share of our national budget. In truth, the real measure is how much we spend annually per child -- which is around $150 . . . Thailand spends more than six times as much at $950; Malaysia (spends) 110 times more.”

Perhaps our Asian neighbors – who have sprinted ahead of us economically – realize much better than us the value of education in national development. We are fortunate here at the PLM that Mayor Lim and the City Council spends roughly four times the national amount per student, and that is why the PLM graduates have done so well both in industry and in their performance in competitive examinations.

Modesty aside, PLM is ranked by the Professional Regulatory Commission, in terms of passing the board exams, as third in Nursing, second in Accountancy, and second in Architecture. In Law, we are ranked number eight. The lesson here is simple: with adequate government support, our students can excel.

In fact, globally, spending for education is growing – the average is 6% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the Philippines, spending for education is only 2.7% of GDP.

If we are to invest in our nation's future, let us choose to give priority to investing in education. Now is the time to get our leaders on board to the constitutional mandate of giving budgetary priority to education.

When others talk about the great riches of this country, they point to our natural resources: our beaches, our tourist attractions, our mineral resources, and our marine resources. I disagree. I believe that in the Philippines, our greatest resource is the human one.

Our people are naturally intelligent, creative, inherently cheerful, and resilient. I see these qualities daily in the staff and students of PLM. This is the resource that we must cultivate, and we must shift our focus from investing in capital resources into prioritizing investment in our human capital. Our great people are our country's real strength and the reason why our country moves forward despite the current lack of good leadership.

Before I end my speech, allow me to thank all the people who have helped me achieve whatever modicum of success I have reached in my short life. You all know who you are and there are just too many to mention. However, there is one man who could not be here today, a man who taught me the values that I try to live by – patriotism, discipline, integrity, and service for others. He also taught me something else - a passion for reading and studying. It takes a person who deeply believes in the importance of education to encourage a ten-year-old to read Shakespeare and Plato.

Certainly, not every father subjects his child to book reports and oral examinations. Well, my father did and I think that was a large part of why I am here today.

A few days before my father passed away almost 15 years ago, he told me – as if knowing that we would not meet again – that he would not be able to leave me riches, but he would leave me a good name. I am proud to carry his surname, Tamano. Actually, he was mistaken. He also left me another great legacy, education. Indeed, it is the best legacy we can leave to our children and the best investment that we can make for our nation’s future.

So let me end by sharing with you my simple vision for PLM: I envision this university as a haven where my students are provided quality education with decent facilities and modern technology; where the faculty and staff receive a fair wage as well as medical, health, and transportation benefits; where the resources of the university are used solely for the good of the students; and where the administration is transparent and accountable. My visions are not grand ones but if we are able to achieve this, then we will have set the conditions needed for our students to perform at their very best. In my own small way, I want to know that I am contributing my part for the development of the youth of the Philippines.

Previously, I referred to Dr. Jose Rizal for good reason. Dr. Jose Rizal became the voice of his generation and fought tyranny and oppression through the power of education. Having been educated in the best schools in the country at that time, Dr. Rizal was able to articulate forcefully and eloquently the ideas that nourished the Philippine Revolution. Now is the time for us to create a new generation of Dr. Jose Rizals who, like him, shall have the ideas that will transform this nation.

Truly, the future of this nation lies in the country’s youth. Let us invest in their future.