A world of readers

BY Danton Remoto
Art & Culture section
Philippine Star
December 29, 2008

"Read to lead” is a soundbite that we hear more often these days. Happily for us, the National Book Development Board (NBDB), the government agency tasked with doing this, is working hard and fast to make sure that our people — especially the young and those glued to their YouTubes — would also find the time to read.

But words need not be fixed just on the page. The NBDB, under the inspired leadership of executive director Andrea Pasion-Flores, has taken the act of reading into the 21st century. Proof number 1: their “Tulaan sa Tren” project in the LRT Line 2 station that runs from Recto in Manila to Santolan in Marikina. It is a take-off of the poems read and posted at the Tube (subway) of London, but who cares?

In partnership with the Optical Media Board and the Book Development Association of the Philippines, the NBDB chose poems from some of the country’s best writers, asked a host of celebrities to read them, and printed the poems on small posters. The readings are broadcast on the LRT stations every morning and late afternoon, in time for the rush hours, and also at noon. And the poems? Printed on coated paper and set beside colorful photographs by Jay Alonzo, the poems are posted on the LRT trains, at the eye level of our harried commuter.

Our lawyer and fiction writer who now heads NBDB said: “We hope that people who will perhaps encounter our poetry for the first time in this novel way will realize that Philippine literature is something that we can all be proud of. I hope that they will also look up the authors, whose works we featured, so that they could discover more treasures.”

Among the readers of the poems were Edu Manzano, Miriam Quiambao, Nikki Gil, Matt Evans, Lyn Ching-Pascual, Romnick Sarmenta, Harlene Bautista, Chin-Chin Gutierrez, Rhea Santos, and Christine Bersola-Babao.

And the list of poets is headed by National Artist Virgilio Almario (a.k.a. Rio Alma), Jose Corazon de Jesus, Cirilo F. Bautista, Gemino Abad, Benilda Santos, Marjorie Evasco, Jose Lacaba, Vim Nadera, Conchitina Cruz, and myself.

When they were asking my permission for my poem “Rain” to be included in the “Tulaan sa Tren” project, I teased the NBDB by saying: “ I have written nationalistic poems and religious poems, why do you want an erotic poem?”

“Rain” is my most anthologized poem, written a thousand years ago, and I am glad that Harlene Bautista did a great job of reading it. Several students of mine sent me text messages when they heard the poem inside the train, or being broadcast on the LRT stations. They said it was, uhh, kinda sexy and one of my fellow teachers at Ateneo said that now, you are a public poet, à la Pablo Neruda, because your poems are no longer read just in the solitude of one’s library carrel.

So on that sunny afternoon, celebrities and poets took the LRT train from Santolan to Recto and back, then launched Rio Alma’s latest book of poems, the appropriately titled Mga Biyahe, Mga Estasyon (Journeys, Junctions), with luminous translations by Marne Kilates and published by Anvil. One of the assigned readers failed to make it to the event, so Karina Bolasco of Anvil asked me to read one poem in Filipino with an English translation. I promptly said, “Yes,” and read the two works en face. Anvil gave me a free copy of the book, and the one I bought I cheerfully gave to my fellow Ateneo teacher Danny Reyes.

And if you think that was clever enough, NBDB then sponsored a reading of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere from Nov. 8 to 9. Yes, an all-night reading that continued well into the next morning. We read from Virgilio Almario’s excellent translation of the Noli, which was a winner of the National Book Award, handed out by the Manila Critics Circle.

I was assigned to read the hilarious chapter on the neighbors who outdid each other in counting their accumulated rewards in heaven. It just convinced me that, indeed, Rizal is not just our national hero but a great writer as well. He could X-ray the very motivations of the characters, then show to us their shadow and light against the sun.

Proof positive of Rizal’s timeless novel is the Penguin Edition of Noli Me Tangere, whose first printing has sold out. The second printing is also selling briskly. A hundred years ago, one man wrote two novels that led to his death — and to the precious freedom that we now all enjoy.

Merry christmas

Merry christmas to all. Including to those who send me text messages and email telling me I should not even think of running for any political office in 2010 because I will lose.

Thank you.

If you are so sure I would lose, then why are you and your cohorts of sleaze balls spending time and money harassing me?

Because I am sure your principals -- rich but sure losers -- are having sleepless nights about their impending defeat in the 2010 elections.

You cannot fool all the Filipinos all the time. We all said it even before Barack Obama came -- the time for change is not tomorrow, but now.

So for the young and the first-time voters, please register and show the power of your vote in 2010.

Super mega hyper thanks.

A kingdom of colors

BY Danton Remoto
Remote Control
Views and analysis
Dec 23, 2008

One bright spot in the bleak national landscape is the writing and production of children’s books. Recent harvest shows that the bumper crop continues, and will likely to do so in the next years. The best of these books introduce values without the leaden moral lessons and pieties that deaden one’s sensitivity. And the illustrations not only blaze but also sing!

The Cat Painter by Becky Bravo, with illustrations buy Mark Ramsel Salvatus III (Adarna Books) is a witty story that teaches the importance of diversity. Miral, the chief cat painter, has decreed that cats can come only in three colors: black, white, and yellow. But one day, a playful and young angel, a painter named Rahal, comes along. He asks: “Has a cat ever been colored partly black and partly white? Or partly white and partly yellow? . . . [or] in all three colors? In brown? In grey? In stripes and patches? In spots.”

With words seemingly graven in stone, Miral says no. “They have always been only black, white, or yellow.” Undaunted, the young angel begins to paint a rainbow of colors for the cats. “He borrowed a jar of red paint from the angel in charge of birds and a jar of green paint from the angel in charge of frogs. When they asked him why, he said he needed red to add to green to make some brown, and that he needed red to add to yellow to make some orange. . . ”

This book is a painless introduction to the mixes, tones, and textures of colors. The shocked old angel turns to God for arbitration. He was sure that God would punish the young subversive. And pity the young angel, his wings begin to quiver in fear.

The angel “Rahal adjusted his halo and nervously waited for the storm to break. God looked at the mewling three-colored cat in the palm of His hand, which he thought looked as if it had been pelted by a torrent of paintballs . . . and He laughed. In a deep, hearty sound that rang through the chamber like church bells at Christmas.”

God was so pleased with the cat that He asked the young painter for more cats with in various colors. “I know a good, little child who would be very happy to have him. And I know many other people who would love to have cats as pretty as this. . . . A single color is a beautiful thing, but two or more can be beautiful as well.”

Colors in Mindanao

The beauty of colors is also found in Tony Perez’s interactive children’s book, Inang Bayan’s New Clothes (Mga Bag-ong Sinina ni Inahang Nasod) illustrated by Frances C. Alcaraz (Anvil Publishing). The book is funded by a grant from Ambassador Kristie Kenney of the U.S. Embassy, which help was acknowledged by the Manila Critics Circle’s National Book Awards in its awarding ceremony at the book fair last year. I am one of the members of the Manila Critics Circle.

The setting is Mindanao and the characters are the young girls Feliza (Christian) and Nurhana (Muslim). If you think this is one of your mindless we-are-sisters-we-are-one tra-la-la, think again. Perez is one of our best writers, and this book shows us why.

Feliza and Nurhana meet Inang Bayan on the road, the implication being that Inang Bayan’s journey is never done. Inang Bayan is wearing rags for clothes, and all her accessories come from foreign places. They bring her to a dress show and make new clothes for her.

“Feliza created a flower-printed skirt from Quezon with a matching tapis from Iloilo, to go with wooden clogs from Quezon and a salakot from Cavite. . . .” They also give her the three other dresses she has request. A black dress, “to remember those who experienced violence, those who faced danger, and those who suffered for their country. . . a second white dress for my children who are noble of heart, who believe in peace, who encourage religious tolerance, and who are blessed by their Creator.”

The last dress is the one I like best: “blue, red, and gold, for my brave children who believe they can live united in peace under one great Philippine nation. And so Feliza and Nurhana created for Inang Bayan a dress in blue, red, and gold. Nurhana’s blue was like the sky and sea. Feliza’s red was like roses, and rubies, and ripe apples. Their gold was like the fiery power of the sun, of dignity, of royalty.”

In war-torn Mindanao, such stories deserve to be told, and re-told.

Fernando Zobel

The rainbow of colors curve and shimmer too in the book Fernando Zobel: The Man Who Painted Ideas by Maria Elena Paterno, illustrated by Marcus Nada (Ayala Foundation). The story’s frame is that of Marco, a young student writing a report about the great painter Fernando Zobel. The book traces the growth and development of the artist, from his sketches, to Harvard studies, and his early works on watercolor and oil. Then we reach the high point of his works.

“Fernando’s next series of paintings was the Saetas, lines on a colored background. Some people say they were inspired by the bamboo scaffolding on buildings. Other people say that they look like lines made by a rake in a Japanese garden. Saeta is a Spanish word for dart, or arrow. Whichever meaning you choose, they make you think of something moving fast.”

I like this book because, like the works of Zobel, it wrestles with ideas, but told subtly, simply, and well. That paragraph points out the multiple meanings that art can generate, and highlights the importance of the reader and the viewer’s response. For after all, a work is a dead until it has been read, or seen, and has created ripples of meanings in the viewer’s mind and heart.

In 1961, after working as a businessman with the Zobel empire and painting in his spare time, Fernando Zobel left Manila. He donated his whole collection of modern Philippine art to the Ateneo Art Gallery, whose former curator was my excellent Literature professor, Emmanuel Torres. Imagine reading poems and discussing creative writing in an art gallery whose walls are aflame with colors!

In Spain, the good painter established the Museo de Arte Abstracto Espanol – now a landmark in Spain – and created luminous paintings until 1984, when he died at the age of 60.

Fernando Amorsolo

We end with The Boy Who Lost a Father and Found the Sun: The Life of Maestro Fernando Amorsolo. Written with sensitivity and grace by Rene Villanueva, the original art work for this book was done by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero (Ayala Foundation).

Narding’s father died when he was young. His mother brought them all to Manila, where he apprenticed under his uncle, the noted painter Fabian de la Rosa. “The young lad imagined his father watching over him. He felt his father’s presence as the sun that shone brightly above him. His father was like the brightness from behind the lush caballero trees or the light that filtered through clumps of bamboo.”

Amorsolo is famous for capturing the shimmering brilliance of the Philippine sun – and rightly so. He painted rural scenes to remind him of his boyhood. The poet Dr. Gemino H. Abad said that “Memory is the mother of all writing,” and rightly so. The clearest, vividest work I’ve read or seen are those drawn from the wells of the artist’s memory.

Later, Amorsolo painted portraits and historical figures, but it was his landscapes that will always grip the viewer – brilliant evocations of a time now past. “Like the father he lost early but as a presence throughout his life, the sun continued to be a presence in the artworks of Fernando Amorsolo, National Artist of the Philippines.”

If you’re thinking of gifts for your kids this Christmas, grab a cool book for children written by the Philippines’ finest!


Manila Pride March 2008

Remote Control

It was time once again to paint the whole country pink last December 6. Occasion: the annual Pride March of the Philippine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos at Remedios Circle, Malate, Manila. The march is organized by Task Force Pride Philippines, an organization of LGBT groups and individuals. After the march, the Miss Queen Philippines Beauty Pageant was held at 5 p.m., followed by a street party at Maria Orosa Street with techno DJs at 10 p.m. Celebration was the theme of this year’s Pride March. And as before, we are still pushing for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that I helped write in 1999, and which is still pending in the lethargic Congress, nine years after it was filed.

This year’s Task Force Pride was co-chaired by Miss Sass Sasot of Society of Transsexual Women Philippinnes (STRAP) and Miss Pau Fontano of STRAP and Ang Ladlad, the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos. Changes in this year’s Pride March included a colorful website, www.manilapride2008.com, more floats, and the march done by new members of newly organized LGBT groups, including guys who climb mountains (Brokeback Mountain?) and lesbians who raise families. I was happy to see that we the veterans could now go behind the scenes and work at the sidelines while the young, the fabulous, and the organized got the work done, and done generally well.

This year’s Pride March was also different in that it was the first time that LGBT Pride was celebrated nationwide, in Luzon (Manila), Visayas (Cebu), and Mindanao (Lanao del Norte). In Manila , the 2008 Manila Pride March turned the streets of Malate into one big and colorful space for celebration, even if a small group of Born-Again Christians – and foreign at that! – tried but failed to rain on our parade.

In Cebu, the Visayas Pride Network, a network of LGBT organizations and individuals promoting LGBT human rights led by Joseph Patrick Uy held the first ever Pride Day in the Queen City of the South. In Lanao del Norte, the Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders United for Peace and Solidarity (GUPS) led by Ang Ladlad member Bong Enriquez celebrated LGBT Pride by conducting a reflexology and therapeutic massage training for Mindanao LGBTs on 6-7 December 2008. As part of the training, participants got free foot reflexology, foot spa, and back and head massages to NGO workers on Dec. 8 and 9.

As Chairman of Ang Ladlad, I also introduced the Yogyakarta Principles of LGBT Rights signed in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, last year as the framework for the rights of LGBT Filipinos. Grace Poore of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) explained the context of the Yogyakarta Principles.

The Yogyakarta Principles collate all the international human-rights laws and applies these legal standards to issues concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. They were put together by a distinguished group of human rights experts who met at Yogyakarta in November 2006. It has since been introduced formally to the United Nations (UN) system, translated into the six official UN languages, and launched in several countries.

The launch of the Yogyakarta Principles in Manila is part of Ang Ladlad’s response to IGLHRC’s 16 Days of Activism campaign to end violence against Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) women. Ang Ladlad – along with other groups in Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China and India – launched the Yogyakarta Principles in their respective countries, helped create a banner consisting of panels of fabric representing Asian LBT activism, and sent a representative, Pau Fontanos, to the gathering of LGBT activist and groups in Yogyakarta, Indonesia for the 60th anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). For more information on the Yogyakarta Principles, please visit www.yogyakartaprinciples.org.

But the Pride March done during Human Rights Week was not a one-shot affair. The five months leading up to the Pride March were hectic, indeed, with LGBT-related activities. They included a forum on transfemale rights, the dyke dialogues, UP Babaylan’s medical mission, the launching of a new LGBT magazine called Invoice as well as the launching of GALANG, or Gays and Lesbians Activist Network for Gender Equality. Club Government in Makati Avenue also had its 4th anniversary party, while Ang Ladlad held literary readings at Mag.Net Katipunan on the second Mondays of October and November, courtesy of its owner, the painter Rock Drilon.

One Bacardi, a group of young gay men, held their 2nd anniversary at Bed Malate Bar and Club, while Circle of Friends held a Fright Nite, Pride Nite Halloween Costume Party. GALANG also held a month-long festival of LGBT films at Mag.net Katipunan. A Manhunt fund-raising party was held as well at Club Government, while an LGBT Bloggers’ Night launched the Rainbow Bloggers’ Philippines group at Red Box in Greenhills 3. Bed also held its Pride Nation fund-raising party while another Trans Dialogue was held at UP, jointly organized by Ang Ladlad, Rainbow Rights, and STRAP.

My latest book, Rampa: Mga Sanaysay, published by Anvil, was launched at Powerbooks Greenbelt 3. Powerbooks also chose me as Author of the Month for November, putting up a display stand of all my books in their branches. A pre-Pride party and launch of Miss Queen Philippines was held at Palawan 2 Bar in Cubao, while a Task Force Pride Meet-up was held at UP Diliman. A World AIDS Day Form was also organized by Girls, Woman, and HIV-AIDS Network (GWHAN) and a Pride March victory party was held at Club Government last Saturday. As you can see, it was a beehive of activity, made possible by the sheer hard work of organized groups under the fairy wand of the the three fabulous trans divas – Sass, Dee, and Pau.

As one of our international participants, a guy from Malaysia whose name I will not disclose, said: “I am still stunned at this Pride March. We do not have something like this in Malaysia. This is called freedom.”

Only, as they say, in the Philippines. But said this time, with a wide grin on the face and the rainbow colors of pride.

The twisted manifesto

Updated December 12, 2008 12:00 AM
Philippine Star

Several weeks ago I got an e-mail from my former professor, Dr. Elmer Ordonez of the University of the Philippines. As one of the conveners of the annual conference of the Philippine PEN, he was inviting me to be a panelist in the second session, “Gender Issues in Literature.”

I approach literary conferences with some trepidation: I am ignorant of the critical jargon, plus I’m not entirely sure what a gender issue is and whether I have one. However, this was an invitation I could not refuse. It is an honor to be asked to speak at a PEN conference, and it would be churlish to decline a summons from my thesis adviser.

In my senior year, when I had to decide on a topic for my thesis in Comparative Literature, I picked my favorite writer, J.D. Salinger. It was the post-EDSA I era, and The Catcher In The Rye and Franny and Zooey were not generally considered socially-relevant nationalist material. To my great surprise, Dr. Ordonez evinced no surprise at my choice. I was allowed to write about Holden Caulfield, a literary character whose voice I literally heard in my head and sometimes confused with my own. I actually enjoyed writing my 100-page thesis, and I submitted it ahead of time, which is unheard of.

I am an object of horror at literary conferences: I am a bestselling author. No, Oprah is not aware of my existence. Let’s define our terms. In the Philippines, population 90 million, a book that sells 2,000 copies is considered a bestseller. That makes my books bestsellers, technically, because the minuscule percentage of Filipinos who regularly buy books, have the leisure to read them, and can afford them in the first place, buy the Twisted series. I know these readers so well, I could give you their phone numbers.

As far as I can tell, my audience is composed largely of women and gay readers. In fact, the first readers to take my work seriously were gay men, so one might argue that the Twisted books fall under Gay Writing.

I know I have heterosexual male readers because they post the longest ruminations on my blog (Jessica Rules The Universe), but when a guy asks for my autograph, it is usually “for his girlfriend/wife/sister.”

For my talk, Dr. Ordonez suggested the topic, “The Dominatrix as Literary Icon.” “Icon” of course is a huge stretch, but “dominatrix” meant I could appear in character. I would not have to do research or produce references. Happy happy, joy joy.

I will begin by quoting an influential 20th century philosopher. “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have a guy like me for a member.” This sums up my world-view, so I guess this makes me a Marxist. A Groucho Marxist. I don’t identify with any group in particular, nor do I feel I belong anywhere. I’m certainly not a “serious writer,” not only because my work is viewed as comic (which is tragic, if you think about it), but because I write for the general reader. I actually make a living off my writing, which makes me an aberration.

I obviously don’t belong in the academe. I’ve never taught, I have no patience, there would be a body count in the classroom. Also I am very attached to the Dead White Male-Dominated Literary Canon which shaped the way I think, and which has been largely repudiated by today’s scholars. I’ll cite two Living White Males who are huge influences — J.D. Salinger and Woody Allen; and one Dead White Male author who was probably a woman — “J”, the unknown author of the major thread of the Old Testament. One might argue that I was raised Jewish.

Recently I found a Wapedia entry on me that quoted an academic study. This study reached the conclusion that I hate men. It somehow failed to note the primary element in my work: irony. If I’m ironic and I frequently say I hate men, what could it possibly mean? Also, the study stopped at Twisted Volume 1. The academe really ought to keep up with publishing developments: there is a tool called Google, which by the way is now a verb.

Although I was born and raised in the Philippines, I can’t say I identify with the nationalist struggle. I prefer to think of myself as a citizen of the Internet, a borderless, chaotic, wonderfully anarchic multiverse. When I write about Philippine events, it is usually for their absurdity value rather that their Philippine-ness. I don’t think of myself as a feminist. I grew up assuming that I was as good as, and probably better than, any boy. I cannot claim to have been oppressed, victimized, or repressed — at least not to my knowledge. Cash-flow problems, sure; underemployment and romantic disappointment, yeah; but nothing worthy of a Lino Brocka movie.

The only group I feel a kinship with are the geeks, the hoarders of information, the walking repositories of film quotes, literary trivia, Monty Python sketches, Dune genealogies, and scientific theories — the people to whom Middle Earth and Star Trek are not fiction but the parallel dimensions from which we have been unjustly exiled.

If I have a reputation as a literary “dominatrix,” it’s less for the things I’ve said than how I said them. I’ll say whatever the hell I want and I don’t particularly care whether the reader agrees with me.

I have been fortunate to have the kind of upbringing and education that encouraged independent self-expression. Despite being a child of martial law, I have never been shushed. Then again, only the socially-relevant have the privilege of being shushed. Comics, being “irrelevant,” have always had more space to shoot their mouths off.

What exactly am I, then? How should I be classified? Where do you put me? I am Nothing in Particular. This makes me free to be Whatever. And there are many of us, we just don’t want to be labeled and forced into categories. Take a good look at this aberration. This is what the 21st century looks like.

Pride March Photos

Photos from last Saturday's Pride March of the Philippines lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement can be seen at:

www.ilokano.multiply.com taken by Jasper Espejo of Ang Ladlad
www.leaflens.multiply.com taken by Libay Linsangan Cantor of UP Film Institute and Ang Ladlad

Happy viewing!

Editorial of Malaya

Ang Pahayagang Malaya

It’s about time the fight against the plot of Gloria Arroyo and her allies in the House to amend the 1987 Constitution be brought to the streets. The people are overwhelmingly against tampering with the Charter at this time. The efforts to railroad changes by the House, specifically via constituent assembly sans the participation of the Senate, are patently unconstitutional.

Gloria and her allies, however, are no longer open to honest dialogue and reasoned arguments. They have a demonstrated history of disrespecting the Constitution, violating the laws and transgressing moral norms. It is wishful thinking to expect them to start playing the game by the rules in the twilight of their reign.

The organizers of today’s anti-Charter change rally in Makati are correct. The people must send Gloria and her allies a message via the only language they know. She was carried into Malacañang on the shoulders of the people who had had enough of the abuses of Joseph Estrada. She should be reminded that the people could bodily carry her out of Malacañang just as well.

We understand that some sections of the broad anti-Arroyo alliance are worried that carrying the fight to the streets might be premature. The rally might not attract enough warm bodies. Such a "failure," it is feared, might only further embolden Gloria and her confederates.

Such attitude is self-defeating. Today’s rally might not be attended by the people in the hundreds of thousands. But such a "failure" should be viewed as just a dress rehearsal for more actions to come. At the height of the "Hello Garci" scandal, the mass actions calling for Gloria’s resignation were as widely attended as those mounted against Estrada in the months immediately preceding his ouster. The difference was that Gloria had no compunction in unleashing the full might of the police and the military against protesters.

She followed this up with additional measures – the preempted calibrated response and the declaration of a state of emergency, among them – aimed at sustaining her crackdown against dissenters.

No doubt Gloria would do the same if and when street protests reach a critical mass that would threaten her rule. But if there is any lesson to be learned from history, it is that repression should be met with heightened defiance. The alternative – to keep silent – is to be complicit to the very crimes committed against us.

Youth Quake: Register and Vote!

Every week, at least three groups of students interview me for topics ranging from gay rights, Ang Ladlad, Philippine Literature, or to my probable senatorial run in 2010. I get their names, cellphones and e-mail addresses, and every week, my database is growing longer and longer.

I also enjoin these young people to register and vote for young candidates who would haul this country into the 21st century. Invariably, my interviewers are bright, sassy, inquisitive kids, full of hope for this country. I remind them to register in the Comelec offices located in their municipal or city halls. You are the biggest bloc of voters in 2010, and you should prove your detractors wrong.

Detractors call them apathetic, shallow, emo-focused. But I think that was what we were, also, 25 years ago. And then Cory came, giving us the spark. And then there was darkness, and a deeper darkness.

And so we must all join ranks to ask the young and the restless to register and vote. And to make sure that the stupendous stupidity that is the Cha-Cha campaign goes to the sinkhole, where it truly belongs.

The Pinoy bagets speak

By Danton Remoto | Remote Control | 12/10/2008 10:08 AM

The Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils takes credit for the conference whose papers have been collected in a book called Youth in Transition: The Challenges of Generational Change in Asia.

Joseph H. Puyat of UP Diliman’s Department of Psychology draws a sketch of the Filipino youth in the 21st century. Philippine laws say that youth ends at age 21, when a citizen can already get married. The Department Health, meanwhile, stretches youth into the age of 24 while the Department of Education and Culture says it ends at 30. Likewise, the National Youth Council agrees youth ends at 30, while the United Nations Educational, Scientific Organization (UNESCO) says youth starts with the teen years and ends at age 44. Bless the United Nations, then, for including us in this category.

But whether youth ends at 21, 24, 30, or 44, the facts exist. The youth vote is the biggest in the country, pegged at 70 percent. Maybe that is why, as some quarters insist, inadequate info was given about voter registration last year because the Filipino youth vote is a thinking vote. As this school of thought suggested, if the thinking vote gets to vote, indeed, they might choose the young and the bright and the candidates whose faces are not too oily with corruption and greed.

A 2003 study by Raymundo and Puyat also shows that the Filipino youth value high self-esteem. “About 7 to 10 Filipino youth are quite satisfied with them selves or feel they are capable of doing many good things or take a positive attitude towards the self.” What is the importance of this? Aside from having lesser pimples because one doesn’t worry too often and having a better posture because one stands up straight and tall, having a good self-esteem has its other bonuses. “Young people who feel good about themselves tend to be less vulnerable to pressures from various sources to engage in high-risk behavior.”

All those books we read in college and graduate school about Philippine history and colonialism seemed to suggest that the pervasive effect of colonialism was completely negative. But in the postmodern and postcolonial age, and certainly in this new century, we have seen otherwise. Our collective and racial experiences with different colonial masters and authority figures have shaped us to be more malleable. We could shift shapes and mould ourselves into different phases and faces depending on the situation and the person we are dealing with.

An additional study by Miralao in 2003 suggests that the Filipino youth are comfortable with being individualistic and unique. That thumb mark of individuality is not a sign of weakness but of strength. “Likewise, the Filipino youth of today are able to continually fuse diverse and distinct roles and expectations into a coherent whole that defines who they are in their everyday interaction (Pena, 1998). A typical Filipino youth tends to have a well-rounded personality and is able to seamlessly shift from one role to another (i.e., brother/sister, son/daughter, friend, student, leader, athlete, musician) depending on the demands of the situation.”

What about God?

This reminds me of that long, famous poem “Like the Molave” of Rafael Zulueta da Costa that won the Commonwealth Literary Prize in 1940. Strong, sturdy and stubborn, the Filipino youth will stand tall and proud in the 21st century. Aside from individual strength, whence comes nourishment?

From spirituality and from the family. Admit it, many of us would rather go malling on a Sunday than sit it out in Mass with a priest droning on and on about Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippines (Philippians, please, Phillipians). But fully 99.6 percent of the respondents believe in God or a Supreme Being. “Though many of them are less familiar with the teachings of their church compared to their parents, most of them still believe that how they conduct their lives today would have a bearing on what would happen to them in the hereafter, in heaven or in hell.” (Raymundo, 2003)

And would one be a Filipino without the family? What accounts for the popularity (still) of Big Brother is the sight of grown-up men and women bawling at the sound of their parents’ voices on the phone, or the sight of their siblings on the screen telling them they are much missed. In spite of the negative social costs of migration and the OFW phenomenon, 83.2 percent of those surveyed were raised by both parents living together.
“Even in families that have only the mother or the father (due to economic reasons) to supervise the household, adverse effects on the youth’s socialization have not been reliaby established. In many cases, the reason for a parent’s absence and not the absence itself is more determinative of whatever behavioral problem the youth may develop (Philippine Social Sciences Council, 2003).”

But in this postmodern age, we now know that strengths are also weaknesses. Faith and family might be fortresses, but they do not offer enough windows of opportunity to discuss the important issues of sex and sexuality. Until now, a coherent sex-education program is not in place in the schools. I still remember, with vividness enough to make me blush even today, the sight of my Religion teacher in high school, the spinsterish Miss Zamora, bravely talking about masturbation to a class of high-schoolers. Although we had galloping gonads and all, we could not look at Miss Zamora talking about something that we would not even discuss among ourselves in Practical Arts class.

Fast forward to 2008 Philippines. My nephew’s mother is working abroad, like a million others, and his dad is dead. He stays with my parents in the sunny suburbs. He turned 12 this year and one day last summer, I wanted to talk to him about the birds and the bees and the silent trees. I tentatively began with, “Hijo, uhhmm, let us talk about, uhmmm, sex.”

He looked at me with his big, wondering eyes lit with innocence. I looked at him, at that face wreathed with sunlight, and I high-tailed. “Ay, ahhh, I will just buy you the book, Boys and Sex.” End of the sex-education lesson. For, really, it is difficult to talk about sex to young people who are like your children. I was the one who carried this infant from the hospital to the house (his mother too scared to carry him because he looked so red and so frail). I would leave my classes and run to the hospital when he would have convulsions. And now, now he is 12 and I have to talk to him about sex?

Political donors

The Task Force Pride gave me authority to write letters of solicitation from our senators to raise funds for the Pride March. Only the following donated:

1. Senator Mar Roxas II
2. Senator Chiz Escudero

Therefore, I told my friends in the staff of the other presidentiables not to come near me or the LGBT groups beginning today.

Where were they when they were needed?

I am sure they will besiege us with offers when the campaign season begins. But now we know who our friends are.

See you tomorrow at the Pride March. 2 pm assembly time. Remedios Circle, Malate.

Pride March 2008 tomorrow, Saturday, Remedios Circle


Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
Filipinos hold grand parade

The annual Pride March of the Philippine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos will roll on Saturday, December 6, at 3 p.m. Venue is Remedios Circle, Malate, Manila. The march is organized by Task Force Pride Philippines, an organization of LGBT groups and individuals. After the march, the Miss Queen Philippines Beauty Pageant will be held at 5 p.m., followed by a street party at Maria Orosa Street with techno DJs at 10 p.m. Celebration is the theme of this year’s Pride March.

In what is being anticipated as a historic first, events celebrating LGBT Pride will happen simultaneously in Luzon (Manila), Visayas (Cebu), and Mindanao (Lanao), making this year’s LGBT Pride festivities nationwide. In Manila , the 2008 Manila Pride March is expected to turn the streets of Malate into one big and colorful Pride festival.

In Cebu, the Visayas Pride Network, a network of LGBT organizations and individuals promoting LGBT human rights, is gearing up for the first ever Pride Day in the Queen City of the South. To join and for more information, visit the Visayas Pride Network website at www.cebupride2008. webs.com.

In Lanao, the Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders United for Peace and Solidarity (GUPS), will celebrate LGBT Pride by conducting a reflexology and therapeutic massage training for Mindanao LGBTs on 6-7 December 2008. As part of the training, participants will offer free foot reflexology, foot spa, and back and head massages to NGO workers on Dec. 8 and 9. To join and for more information, visit the GUPS website at www.gupsi.org.

Danton Remoto of Ang Ladlad will also introduce the Yogyakarta Principles of LGBT Rights signed in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, last year as the framework for the rights of LGBT Filipinos. Grace Poore of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council will explain the context of the Yogyakarta Principles.
More information about the Pride March can be accessed at www.manilapride2008.org

Sing and dance and act

My friend Adel Tamano is in the movie "One True Love," still showing to full houses at your nearest mall.

I was singing and dancing at All-Star K, the P1 million Videoke singing contest last Sunday. When they called me up I said I do not sing well but I can dance a bit, and they said that is OK, not all the contestants sing and dance as well. When they told me how many people watch their show -- millions and millions of Filipinos, on a cozy Sunday night -- I immediately said yes.

And Pia began airing her Ariel ad last night. It looked like a campaign ad more than an ad for a laundry detergent.

Chiz is still going on with his Circulan, Manny Villar with his OFW spiel, and Loren with her anti-corruption ad.

And on Saturday, we will have the Pride March of the Philippine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement. Assembly time at 2 pm, Remedios Circle, Malate. March at 3 pm. Beauty pageant at 6 pm. Party with techno DJs, go-go boys and (even) go-go girls at 10 pm.

Expect massive media coverage. Tri-media. Radio, television, and print. Local and international.

And all for free. Happy -- and gay.

Chiz: There'll be elections in 2010

And so Cassandra sayeth: My friend Chiz Escudero will announce on his 40th birthday on October 10, 2009, that he is, indeed, running for President of the Philippines in the May 2010 elections.

And as the ye olde Americans would put it, damn the torpedoes, but whether you like him or not, Chiz will run a strong and phenomenal campaign focused on the young.

Chizbama na ito!


By Ben Serrano
The Philippine STAR

BUTUAN CITY – Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said Charter change to extend the term of President Arroyo is already dead as far as the Senate is concerned and the presidential elections in 2010 would take place.

Escudero hinted that seven politicians, mostly from the opposition, would seek the presidency.

But if former President Joseph Estrada succeeds in his unity talks among the opposition, “then it will be narrowed down to two,” he said.

Malacañang said that it sees no reason why the 2010 national elections would not push through, adding that it had nothing to do with the efforts to amend the Constitution.

“The President has always been focused on the economy and planning how to help the people,” Presidential Management Staff Director General Cerge Remonde told radio station dzRB.

Escudero, meanwhile, asked Estrada to identify first who among the present crop of opposition leaders are genuine oppositionists before embarking into unity talks with them.

In a news conference in Surigao City, Escudero said it is important for Estrada to identify who among the current list of presidential hopefuls really belong to the opposition.

He was reacting to Estrada’s statement that he would be forced to seek the presidency in 2010 if the opposition fails to come up with a unified standard bearer.

Escudero refused to confirm if he would join the race, saying he would make a decision when he reaches the required age of 40 on Oct. 10, 2009.

As of now, Escudero said he is not yet qualified to run for president, but would make an announcement on his 40th birthday whether he would run for president or vice president.

He said though he really wants to run while he is young so that he would not be likened to an old, mature and traditional politician “who entered politics like a lamb but retired with seven horns.”

“I like to run now because if I wait until I’m older like them then I would be no different from a trapo (traditional politician),” Escudero said in Filipino.

Escudero, however, hinted that he finds it uncomfortable running, if ever, with Sen. Loren Legarda who he said is not “so opposition” because she was an administration bet in her first election to the Senate.

He said Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay of the United Opposition (UNO), who has signified his intention to seek the presidency in 2010, is the real opposition but would not make a good copycat of US President-elect Barack Obama.

“If the US elected a young president, why can’t the Philippines?” he asked.

He, however, noted the disparity between American and Filipino voters especially in terms of contributing funds to a political campaign.

Escudero said with the exception of Binay and himself, who were with the opposition from the start, other presidentiables who are in the opposition are not genuine.

He said many would like to run under the opposition banner in the 2010 elections because they would have a stronger chance of winning due to the negative popularity rating of President Arroyo.

A nasty e-mail

I got a nasty e-mail which, for sheer toxicity, beats anything I have received so far. In summary, it said the following:

1. My name has been included in both Pulse Asia and Ibon Databank surveys for senators in 2010.

2. In both instances, I am in the top 12 senatoriables.

3. He said I am too poor to be able to afford the rate of P150,000 so my name can be included in the list of senatoriables, but my name is still included any way.

4. He said the surveys -- which have been done quarterly, for two years now, commissioned by two presidentiables -- might be wrong.

5. Hahaha! He said, after saying the surveys might be wrong.

6. I should just run for party list congressman of Ang Ladlad. (This said with such condescension, as if party-list reps are not reps at all)

7. And I should not think of running for senator, since even Ang Ladlad members won't believe I will win as senator.

8. And no big political party will even believe I will win, and nobody will get me in their line-up.

Now, now, now, children. Before we bring out the pitch forks and consign this beast to hell, let us analyze his e-mail for its logical fallacies:

1. As I have said earlier in this blog, I cannot afford to pay P150,000 every three months to have my name in the senatorial surveys. That is P600,000 a year!

2. And YET, the presidentiables who pay for the surveys still put my name. Does that not indicate something, that my name might be strong enough to land in the top 30?

3. I have NOT yet seen these surveys he is talking about, but people I know have seen them. They included other politicians, military officers, NGO leaders, media people, everybody who has P250,000 to pay the survey firms so they could get numerical results of the surveys -- and NOT the analysis. They have teased me about being in the top 12, for two years running, and I just smile at them. I do not believe any surveys I have not seen.

4. Ang Ladlad will field newer, younger people for the 2010 party-list elections.

5. If I am such a light-weight candidate for senator, why would he even send me that nasty e-mail?

6. And more important: why are three big political parties sending emissaries to talk to me into joining their senatorial slate for 2010?

As I have said, the 2010 elections is for the young, the brave of heart, the bright. Excluded are senders of anonymous e-mails, political operators with murky records, Jurassic politicians.

Excuse me while I flick the dirt off my shirt.

LP bats for Con-Con in 2010

BY CARMELA FONBUENA, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas, in a newspaper paid advertisement on Monday. reiterated his rejection of convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly. He instead called for the holding of a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) in 2010.

“Instead of pushing for charter change through a Constituent Assembly, the Liberal Party (LP) will sponsor a bill in Congress calling for a holding of a Constitutional Convention in 2010 with elections of delegates to be done simultaneously with the 2010 elections,” said the advertisement of the Liberal Party entitled “Stop the Gloria Forever Constitution.”

The ad was signed by Roxas along with two other LP stalwarts, former Senator Franklin Drilon and LP secretary-general Joseph Abaya. The advertisement comes a day before the scheduled hearing of the House committee on constitutional amendments.

At least one resolution calling for Constitutional Convention has been filed in the lower House. House Resolution 858 was filed by Buahy Rep. Rene Velarde, Marikina City Rep. Del De Guzman, and Shariff Kabunsuan with Cotabato City Rep. Didagen Dilangalen.

Con-Ass vs. Con-Con

The LP advertisement accused President Arroyo’s political party, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI), of “railroading the people’s future through the Gloria Forever Constitution.”

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte is leading a yet-to-be-filed House Resolution calling for a Constituent Assembly that would amend the Constitution through joint voting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Once they get the needed signatures, they expect an opposition to it before the Supreme Court, which will then issue a ruling on whether joint voting is a proper procedure in amending the Constitution.

A Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution may be convened with the three-fourths vote of approval, or 196 votes, by the two legislative chambers. Separate voting would require 179 votes from the lower House and 18 votes from the Senate. Joint voting will make the Senate irrelevant because all 196 votes may come from the 238-member House of Representatives.

Although the resolution filed by administration ally House Speaker Prospero Nograles in the House committee on constitutional amendments only seeks to change the economic provisions of the Constitution to scrap the 40 percent limit on foreign ownership, various sectors fear that any tinkering with the Constitution will open it up to a proposal to extend the term of President Arroyo.

LP congressmen are among the signatories to House Resolution 888 that counters the “Villafuerte resolution.” Led by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, the resolution seeks to prevent "any and all moves to amend the 1987 Constitution before the 2010 elections, including the proposed convening of Congress into a Constituent Assembly."

Ocampo said the goal is to get enough signatures to prevent the administration congressmen from getting the needed signatures to advance charter change. That means they need at least 60 votes to prevent them from gathering three-fourths votes of the lower House or 179 votes. The Senate is generally opposed to Constituent Assembly.

“Our nation is divided; our economy is under threat from the global economic crisis. Politics continues to take the front seat, while the people take severe punishment, corruption, high prices and no jobs,” the LP advertisement further said.

“This will weaken our economy in the face of the global economic crisis. This will mean less jobs, food insecurity and unpeace. This will perpetuate corruption,” it added.

Melo: Con-con can be done

When asked if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can hold a Constitutional Convention simultaneously with the 2010 national and local elections, Comelec chairman Jose Melo told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak, “It can be done....[Con-Con] Elections can be held together with the elections of national and local positions.”

The Comelec is currently preparing for the first automated national elections in 2010. Asked if they have the time to include the elections of the Con-Con delegates, “It will be a little tedious, but we can do it.

The Comelec is just waiting for the government appropriations for the lease of the voting machines. “The President will have to give Congress a supplemental budget,” Melo said. The 2009 budget is currently being finalized in Congress.

Melo is confident that Comelec will get the funding. “They will have to do it. The President herself listed it as one of the ten things she committed to do in 2010.”

The Comelec needs the funding by the end of February. “If we don’t have the money by that time, we cannot pursue automation. Even if they give us the money, but they give it in April or May, it will be too late,” Melo said.

Originally, Comelec asked for P22 billion to fund the automation of elections. With the legislators finding the amount too steep, Comelec was able to reduce it. Melo said they can pursue automation with a budget of P11 billion to P13 billion. “That doesn’t mean to say we’re going to use inferior machines,” he said.

Opposed to cha-cha

Several administration allies have joined the calls against charter change (cha-cha). Earlier, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago warned that the push for charter change may result in a political scenario similar to Thailand, where massive anti-government protests have caused the closure of its international airport. President Arroyo had to order the airlift of stranded Filipinos there.

Senator Richard Gordon also prefers Constitutional Convention instead of a Constituent Assembly. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the lower House cannot push for a Constituent Assembly without the participation of the Senate.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the vice-chair of the House justice committee, which dismissed the impeachment complaint against Arroyo, is opposed to charter change, too.

The leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) also said they are preparing for widespread protest actions.

“The anti cha-cha sentiments are certainly not confined to Metro Manila. Bayan is working with religious, business and civic leaders even in provinces in efforts to oppose charter change,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes.