Film review of Rosario: Love's many faces

Film Review: Rosario
Love's many faces
By Danton Remoto (The Philippine Star) Updated December 29, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (1)

MANILA, Philippines - I remember those days when one went to the Metro Manila Film Festival to see the likes of Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Marilou Diaz Abaya, Celso Ad. Castillo, and Mike de Leon compete for the December prizes with their amazing films.

It’s in this spirit that I went to watch the film fest on its first day, and I chose Rosario, the first film offering of CineMabuhay and Studio 5. I was not disappointed.

Duty and love are the twin poles that Rosario (Jennylyn Mercado) had to contend with in 1920s Philippines. Back from studies in New York and stuck in a tobacco hacienda in Isabela, she meets her match in the bright but poor Vicente (Yul Servo), the administrator of their vast estate.

Duty and love are also the twin poles confronting Vicente, who was sent to school by Rosario’s parents. Bright thought he may be, he will always be at the bidding of Rosario’s feudal father (Philip Salvador). The mansion and the opulent dinner, the hectare upon hectare of land are shown. Subtly, these vast wealth is possible because it sits on the backs of the poor, the ragged farm workers — and their children and children’s children — who will be servants of the landowners.

While having dinner with American administrators, the feisty Vicente recites a Spanish poem about a parakeet, this beautiful bird, in its golden cage. The Americans walk out of the dinner table, and Rosario’s estimation of Vicente grows. He lends her a book of poems in Spanish, and in turn she lends him a book of poems in English. Then she asks him, “What is your favorite poem?”

He answers, The Road Not Taken. This now-classic poem by Robert Frost, this poem about taking “the road less travelled by” seals their fates.

For schooled in New York (it must be a music school, but we are not told) and wizened to the ways of the modern world, would Rosario choose a rich but weak man? Would she really settle down to the boring and cloistered life in the vast estate?

But their love is doomed, Vicente is tortured, Rosario is sent to the nunnery. She flees, elopes with Vicente and they leave behind the hacienda, to live in the new world.

It’s a world of work, where people sit behind desks from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an insurance company called Shimon & Schuster Insurance Company (complete with the S & S publishing logo in NY) to receive their just wages and not some entitlement from the harvest of the land. It’s a world of work where women are equal to men, in both their lives, their loves, their lusts.

However, the hardworking Vicente falls ill to the sickness of the times — tuberculosis — and Rosario is seduced by her cousin’s boyfriend (Dennis Trillo). What I love about this film, among others, is the camera. Carlo Mendoza's cinematography shows the candle-like fingers of Rosario caressing the back of her ailing husband while giving him a bath. The camera later shows the car of Dennis stuck in the rain, steaming and steaming. He is wet from the rain, his shirt is unbuttoned, and inside the closed car sits Rosario, torn again between duty and lust.

Sent into destierro (exile) in Hong Kong by the court after they were convicted of adultery, Rosario and Vicente suffer. Because this film is framed by the narration of Rosario’s son, Jesus (Dolphy), the life in Hong Kong is just told. They must have suffered, but how? A shot or two showing us what they did for a living would have convinced us that an insurance salesman and a disinherited woman did indeed suffer in HK.

From hacienda to entresuelo is the distance that Rosario’s life travels. Upon returning to the Philippines, they wander from town to town, in a subtle allusion to the pariahs of society who have to shuttle from place to place, unwanted. They settle in lowlife Manila, with the grasping landlord played with wicked glee by Ricky Davao and his sensitive and kind nephew, Carding (Sid Lucero).

Music binds this film together like a thread. Rosario plays on the piano, painfully showing a refined and sensitive woman like a beautiful bird caged by her fate. Rosario’s daughter and namesake (played by Empress Schuck) is renamed Soledad, and in her solitude the daughter plays Lizst’s Lebenstraum in a concert. If life, indeed, is a dream, Rosario must have surmised, watching her daughter play with such intensity and fire, then why am I caught in this nightmare?

Life is the enemy, the film seems to say, and in the end Rosario had to choose between another love and a life alone. What is the punishment for the sins of lust and love?

Aside from the cinematography and the music, the production design by Joey Luna is faithful to the era — from gramophone to mansion to the office in Binondo. Director Alberto P. Martinez stitched the film together in an almost seamless way.

The ensemble acting is very good: Dolphy, Yul Servo, Chanda Romero, and Dennis Trillo stand out. Jennylyn Mercado has a face perfect for the role, and acquits herself well in her role. Her last scene with Carding (Sid Lucero) alone is worth the price of admission. Look at the eyes of love, the bright and expectant eyes of Carding, the slight movement like a tick in his right jaw, before Rosario turns away, and the blade of sadness descends.
December 22, 2010


Contact Person:

Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla, JD
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Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders Won Vote
in the UN General Assembly Resolution Protecting Against
Extrajudicial Executions Based on Sexual Orientation

Manila , December 21, 2010 – Yesterday, Tuesday, December 22, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trangenders (LGBTs) won the inclusion of a provision in a resolution on extrajudicial executions protecting them from extrajudicial executions based on sexual orientation at the United Nations General Assembly.

“This a very important resolution for LGBTs especially since there are countless extrajudicial executions made on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is the only UN resolution to ever include an explicit reference to sexual orientation,” said Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.

Ninety-three States voted to include the reference to sexual orientation, 55 rejected the inclusion and 27 states abstained, including the Philippines.

Atty. Padilla added, “Despite our efforts in lobbying with the Philippine government, it is unfortunate that the Philippines ab stained in supporting the inclusion of such provision. I am personally dismayed. With the Philippines ’ ab stention, it is as if the Philippine government is making a pronouncement that it is fine for anyone to execute on the basis on one’s sexual orientation. Instead of ab staining, the Philippine government should have clearly supported the provision thereby sending a strong message that no extrajudicial executions should be done including on the basis of one’s sexual orientation. The Philippines should uphold universal human rights where all rights apply to everyone including if one is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The Philippine government also failed in its obligation to uphold equal protection of the rights of LGBTs. In this important resolution, the Philippine government failed to stand up for the rights of LGBTs not just in the Philippines but around the world.”

“The abstention of the Philippines is a step backwards from its previous support when it voted to include sexual orientation in the EJE resolution at UN GA in 2008. In the past years, there have been numerous reports of gay men being murdered in the Philippines without clear investigations and active prosecution being conducted leading to the perpetuation of the gay murders with impunity. The Philippines must perform its obligation to prevent, investigate and prosecute all killings including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Atty. Padilla concluded.


Copy furnished through email:
Amb. Lesbie B. Gatan
Asec. for UNIO
Dept. of Foreign Affairs, Philippines

Amb. Libran N. Cabactulan
Ambassador and Permanent Representative, New York
Philippine Mission, Geneva

Office of the Executive Secretary

Office of the Presidential Management Staff

Presidential Human Rights Committee

Office of the Press Secretary

Philippine Commission on Women

ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights – Philippine Representative

Commission on Human Rights

Response to TOFIL

Dr. Isagani Cruz of the Manila Critics Circle is one of my good friends. Congratulations, Gani, for winning the TOFIL. I am reprinting his wise words on how writers shaped -- and gave a habitatin and a name -- to our country. Then and now, our writers are public intellectuals who never shirked from their roles as voices and commentators in our quotidian lives.


Response to TOFIL
MINI CRITIQUE By Isagani Cruz (The Philippine Star) Updated December 23, 2010 12:00

Here are excerpts from the response I prepared for the awarding ceremonies last Dec. 9 of The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL), which had the theme “Of Hopes and Heroes” (I have translated the Filipino portions into English):

Thank you very much for the great honor you gifted me with this Christmas season. I cannot possibly repay your kindness.

Please allow me to use my three minutes of fame to appeal for outstanding writing and outstanding reading.

You gave the TOFIL to Dionisio Salazar in 1994 for “Drama and Literature” and to Crispin Maslog in 1995 and Florangel Braid in 2007 for “Literature and Journalism.” You have always attached literature to another field. This is the first TOFIL you awarded solely for literature.

Although I am happy that I am the first awardee solely for literature, I am unhappy that this is apparently the first time you have acknowledged that there are many writers that have contributed to national development.

Why do I mention this? Because literature united and will unite the Philippines.

The Philippines is a country created by writers. The first natives to imagine the Philippines as a separate and free country – the first true Filipinos – were writers. The poet and novelist Jose Rizal, the poet Andres Bonifacio, the poet Marcelo del Pilar, the novelist Pedro Paterno, the essayist Apolinario Mabini – these were all writers, wrestling with words, using words as weapons against oppression, using their imagination instead of, or in addition to, their hands. They shaped our past. They shaped the present we are living in now. They are still shaping our own future.

They were our original heroes. They gave us hope, hope that we could be free from foreign domination, from our own weaknesses, from our own tendencies to be corrupt and to be greedy and to think only of ourselves and our families. They placed country above self and family. They showed us, through the example of their own lives and through their writings, what it means to be Filipino.

They were not the last Filipino writers to be heroes. Epifanio de los Santos was a poet. Claro M. Recto was a playwright. Diosdado Macapagal was a poet. Ninoy Aquino was a poet. And since the NDF is seriously talking peace, I should mention that Jose Ma. Sison is an internationally awarded poet. There are so many writers that have played major roles in the history of our country.

But there would not be heroic writers without heroic readers. Had they not read the writings of Rizal, Bonifacio, and our other heroes, Filipinos would not have fought against Spain, America, and Japan. Had they not taken to heart what our heroes wrote, they would not have stoked the fires of nationalism and revolution.

It is true that times have changed. We can no longer live by ourselves in the world. We can no longer treat foreigners and foreign countries as enemies. Media, television, and the Internet now rule the world, no longer books, poems, plays, stories, novels, and essays.

This is the reason I stand here before you tonight.

To read today is an act of heroism, an act of hope. It is an act of heroism because it means going against the tide. It is an act of hope because it means going for sustained thinking, rather than the compartmentalized, short-lived thrills that we get from reading a newspaper or a blog or a post in Facebook. It means sitting down and talking, not with flesh-and-blood persons around us or online, but with authors long dead but who used to be as flesh-and-blood as we are, who had all kinds of things to say about what it really means to be human.

Let me quote from my favorite Filipino poet, Balagtas, who wrote about people experiencing too much joy, just as I am experiencing tonight: “Dito naniuala ang batà cong loob / na sa mundo,i, ualang catoua-áng lubós, / sa minsang ligaya,i, talì nang casunód, / macapitóng lumbáy ó hangang matapos.

There is a natural law called regression towards the mean or the law of averages or “weather-weather.” Balagtas says that I should not be too happy tonight, although of course I have great reason to be. Similarly, the Bible, which is the greatest work of literature, says that “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

What I am trying to say is that this award makes me proud, yes, but it also humbles me, because I now have to live up to its name.

This award inspires me to continue ensuring that our authors furnish the public with words of wisdom and beauty, that readers inside and outside our country view us for what we really are – a race with remarkable literary achievements second to none in the world.

Since we cannot have good writers if we do not have good readers, my Christmas message to you is this: Give a Filipino book for Christmas.

My suggestion for your New Year’s resolution is this: Read a Filipino book.

Thank you, JCI Senate and Insular Life, for having chosen me for this award. Thank you for encouraging good writing and good reading.

Thank you to my family, my mentors, my students, my fellow writers, my readers, and my friends inside and outside of Facebook.

Pope's clarification reveals significance of condom statement

For Immediate Release
23 November 2010
Media Contact:
David J. Nolan
+1 202 986 6093

Pope's Clarification Reveals Significance
of Condom Statement

Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement on the most recent news from the Vatican on condom use.

"The Vatican's acknowledgement that Pope Benedict's acceptance of condom use to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections relates to everybody shows how significant the pope's comments are.

"This morning, the Vatican's spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said:

I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine. He told me no. The problem is this ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship. This is if you're a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We're at the same point.

"Conservatives, who immediately raced into action to deny the significance of the pope's statement - after the text of the interview was published on Saturday - are left clutching at straws. Their attempts to contain condom use to male prostitutes are shown up for what they were - a sham. They have long sought to make the case that church teachings on these issues are unchanging and unchangeable. One can only hope that they will embrace this new position and advocate for condom use whenever necessary.

"Some people have criticized the glacial pace at which the Catholic hierarchy moves. Certainly, this acceptance of condom use is more than two decades too late. But it has now happened, and organizations that have been hesitant to provide condoms to those living with HIV and AIDS must move immediately to put this new teaching into action.

"The first step on any journey is always the hardest, but it is also the most important one because without it change is impossible."

UNAIDS welcomes Pope's statement on condoms


GENEVA, 20 November 2010—UNAIDS welcomes the reported statement of Pope Benedict XVI calling for “a humane way of living sexuality” and that the use of condoms are justified “in the intention of reducing the risk of HIV infection”.

“This is a significant and positive step forward taken by the Vatican today,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “This move recognizes that responsible sexual behaviour and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention.”

UNAIDS has worked closely with the Vatican. In 2009, Mr Sidibé held far-reaching discussions with Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski on HIV prevention issues, including the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, protecting young people and reducing sexual violence against women and girls. “This will help accelerate the HIV prevention revolution, in promoting evidence-informed and human rights-based approaches to achieve universal access goals towards HIV prevention, treatment, care and support,” said Mr Sidibé. “Together we can build a world with zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

With more than 7,000 new HIV infections each day, UNAIDS advocates the use of a combination HIV prevention approach that utilizes all proven methods for HIV prevention including use of male and female condoms, choosing to have sex later, having fewer multiple partners, male circumcision, reducing stigma and discrimination, and the removal of punitive laws. The male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

After May 10, 2010

By Danton Remoto
Remote Control
29 October 2010

After May 10,2010, when Ang Ladlad Party List ran on sheer adrenalin and campaigned for only three weeks –when the other party lists campaigned for three months – and lost, I quietly returned to part-time teaching. But let me tell you the odyssey of finding a part-time teaching job.

In all humility, I took the grammar and writing test in a State University so I could teach part-time in its Department of English and Comparative Literature. But after a month and no word came from its esteemed chairperson, I called her up and asked about my chances.

“Well, you passed the grammar and writing test!” she enthused, for which I thanked her. “But we don’t have a slot for you as a teacher.”

“I’m only applying for a part-time teaching position,” I said.

“Yes, we have no slots for full-time teachers.”

I repeated my answer and she repeated hers. Now, I do not know why some state universities have English Department chairpersons with nothing between their ears except dry wax.

Next, I sent my CV to a Catholic college where my cousin taught. My cousin said the dean, who was a priest, was so happy about my application for part-time teaching. But the chairperson sat on my papers.

“But why?” I asked my cousin.

“Because the good chairman thought that one day, you’ll take over his job.”

“But I only want to teach part-time!” I said.

“Not in his insecure mind.”

Next, I sent my CV to another Catholic university, one of whose top officials was a friend of mine. You see, in all my applications, I never went to the top honchos, although I knew some of them well. I sent my CV, took grammar and writing tests, and would have wanted to attend interview panels and give teaching demonstrations.

This time, the chairperson wanted me to teach, but the Vice-Rector did not, “because he said that your media exposure in Ang Ladlad might prove detrimental to the teaching pedadogy in the university.”

I wanted to laugh, the way I laughed when I received the decision of Comelec Commissioner Ferrer (Eucharistic Minister of the Church), Commissioner Yusuph (Imam from Marawi City), and Commissioner Tagle (Director of the Christian Family Movement, Cubao chapter) calling me “Immoral” and “abnormal” for having the balls to found an LGBT party in a conservative and Catholic country.

This university is afraid of media publicity? Well, it is doing its darnedest best to attract media attention for its 400th year or something celebration. I could have helped them with the publicity for free.

Next, I sent my CV to a school in what Alma Moreno once called on TV “the University of Belt.” The chairperson was so glad I was applying, and so was the dean. But the daughter of the owner miffed, and sulked, and pouted, and mightily proclaimed, amidst lightning and thunder: “No, he cannot join our faculty. He did not campaign for Mar Roxas. Instead, he campaigned for that peasant Jojo Binay.”

My laughter when I heard this one reached all the way to the zig and the zag of Kennon Road. I was sending a CV which was called “a strong CV” when I applied for a teaching post at Rutgers University in the US (I got it), and here comes Lady Dementia telling my friend that I cannot join their university simply because I campaigned for a peasant and not a blue-blood like them?

I did not know that people – especially the greedy elite – take their politics so seriously in this country. I resigned from my cushy job in an international development organization when I filed the Ang Ladlad papers in October of 2009 and when the party lost, I just wanted to return to teaching. But Lady Dementia could not be appeased, sitting in her perfumed chamber in her university run like a corporation, with millions of pesos in net profits.

I’m the one who should have taken all this personally, because I was being vilified in public when myold and sick parents were both dying and we shielded them from this terrible news that was in all media 24/7. I’m the one who should have taken this personally, because I was rating high in the real senatorial surveys, only to be junked by the political parties because 1) I questioned their stand on land reform and the fake sincerity of the people in their elitist party, and I am not a landowner; 2) the other senatorial candidates are “scared” of me in the 2016 elections (their words, not mine); 3) they offered me PHP 30 million and I just smiled at them because that was too small, mere coins, for a national senatorial campaign; 4) I did not want GMA to raise my hands in public, and since I am 5’11” that would be very hard for her to do.

So where did I end up teaching? At the Ateneo de Manil University, where I taught for 22 before I retired, the only university whose faculty are not insecure about the chaos and color of my CV.

And now, I am back working for an international development organization, quietly working to spur progress in the land, especially in the poorest places.

Places where Vice-Rectors and Daughters of university owners and Deans and Chairpersons have never reached, stuck as they are not in the groves, but the graves, of academe.

Ang Ladlad says 'no' to separate rest rooms

Danton Remoto
Remote Control

Ang Ladlad says ‘no’ to separate restrooms

I am back after a short absence, since I have retired from teaching and now working for an international development organization. I would like to publicize Ang Ladlad’s stand on separate toilets, an ordinance filed by a Provincial Board Member in Cebu.

Cebu Provincial Board Member, Arleigh Sitoy, recently filed an ordinance requiring business establishments in the province to designate a separate restroom exclusively for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTs). The ordinance's explanatory note says, "Separate restroom is the solution to end the confusion of what public restroom should a member of the LGBT avail for them to feel safe, comfortable and convenient wherein there are only male and female comfort rooms."

While Ang Ladlad lauds and appreciates the intent of Mr. Sitoy to address the needs and concerns of LGBTs, its members, especially from the Cebu chapter, have expressed strong reservations about this ordinance. Ang Ladlad believes that a separate restroom for LGBTs perpetuates our already marginalized existence.

Jubelle Toledo, one of Ladlad's focal points in Cebu City, stresses that, "requiring all establishments to put up a separate facility means that LGBTs are being treated differently and this could isolate or marginalize us even more. It is also another form of discrimination." Toledo was also puzzled where Mr. Sitoy got the idea that LGBTs in Cebu are confused on what restroom to use.

Ms. Bemz Benedito, the Chairperson of Ang Ladlad, further explains, "I am a transgender woman and so I use the female restroom. LGBTs get confused on what restroom to use when other people start calling their attention on this matter." She added, "We think that Provincial Board Member Sitoy has good intentions, but this proposed ordinance could potentially alienate and isolate LGBT Filipinos from the rest of society. However, we do need more public officials like him who are sympathetic to the cause."

Atty. Germaine Leonin, the Vice-Vhairperson of Ang Ladlad, suggests that the local legislators should conduct consultation meetings with their LGBT constituents to know what issues and concerns they face and what responses need to be done.

"I am appealing to Mr. Sitoy to talk to the local LGBT community instead, and ask them about their concerns and address those issues through proper legislation," Leonin stressed. "Why not pass a local version of the Anti-discrimination Bill?" she asked.

Ang Ladlad Partylist is a national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos, which has members all over the country as well as abroad.

Comments can be sent to This column is the author’s own opinion and does not represent that of GTZ, German Technical Cooperation, where he works as the Communications Manager.

Laying down the baseline

26 July 2010

PRESIDENT Aquino’s State of the Nation Address is expected to focus on the problems inherited from the previous administration, especially the anomalies pulled off in the last months of Gloria Arroyo’s nine years of misrule. That kind of stock-taking is an absolute necessity so Aquino can lay down the baseline from which to build on in the next six years.

Aquino’s team, however, has been on the job less than two months. The time might be enough to uncover the more egregious last-minute fast breaks, but it would take much longer to determine the depth and breadth of corruption that attended the unlamented Arroyo administration. And we are not talking yet of the failed programs and policies which must be discarded if Aquino is to redeem his promise of a brighter future for the nation.

But first things first. The people should not entertain overly high expectations from the new administration. An administration does not assume office with a blank sheet. The challenges are daunting. About 70 percent of the P1.541 billion budget for 2010 has been spent. Revenue collections remain in the doldrums, triggering fears that the deficit could hit a record P325 billion this year.

The overall economic outlook, nonetheless, is improving. After the first quarter’s strong 7 percent growth, the economy is seen hitting a growth of 6 percent for the full year. Growth, however, is seen tapering in 2011 and it’s anybody’s guess what the prospects would be after that.

In the days of Arroyo, we used to regularly warn that promises made in the State of the Nation Address should be taken with a bucket of salt. It was easy to conjure dreams of prosperity. The reality test, we used to say, was the budget proposal which the administration must submit within 30 days of the opening of Congress. In all the nine years under Gloria, the bright picture painted was not supported by the funding programmed for the coming year. This was already on the assumption a good portion of the money would not be skimmed.

The Aquino team does not have the luxury of time to minutely scrutinize the budget proposal drafted by the previous administration. His instructions to adopt zero-based budgeting, for example, cannot be complied with by the line departments within the 30-day period prescribed by the Constitution.

We should not expect a detailed program in Aquino’s first SONA. It is not in his character to spout glowing statistical targets and we would be disappointed if he started talking technocratese. He promised good governance. It is by this covenant that we should bind him.

Rivers run through it

Rivers run through it - REMOTE CONTROL | DANTON REMOTO
Posted at 07/23/2010 7:17 PM | Updated as of 07/23/2010 7:18 PM

Ilustrado means the enlightened ones, the indios during the dying days of the Spanish regime who could afford a European education. And in the true tradition of all colonials, they soaked up the education, filtered it, and then used it as a weapon against their colonial masters. They were the seeds that later bore fruit in the Philippine revolution of 1896.

The modern ilustrado is the subject matter, point of departure, and even the writer of this whirligig of a novel. Winner of the Palanca Grand Prize for the Novel and the estimable Man Asian Literary Prize for the Asian Novel of the Year, this much-awaited book generally lives up to the raft of accolades and reviews it has received.

Full disclosure: the author, Miguel Syjuco, was my former student at the Ateneo de Manila University. I still remember well his hair dyed blue, his clipped and laconic words, his elliptical stories about love and life among the bored and the rich. I am even listed in the acknowledgement section, and thus I will try to maintain full journalistic objectivity.

The novel begins with a physical body and ends with a non-physical one. The corpse of Crispin Salvador is fished from the Hudson River. Obviously a take-off from National Artist for Literature Jose Garcia Villa, the hermit of Greenwich Village, who had a love-hate relationship with the Philippines. But unlike Villa who stopped publishing in 1958, this professor of literature and eccentric writer is supposed to have finished The Bridges Abalze (TBA), a novel that will restore him to the front ranks of Philippine writing. But alas, he is gone. So his student and remaining friend, named Miguel, goes back to Manila to, as they say, put the pieces of the puzzle together.

The missing novel is supposed to expose the horrendous crimes of the elite, the greedy ones who are responsible for the narcoleptic state of the country. Back in Manila, the capital of chaos, Miguel tries to tie the strings together by talking to Salvador’s few friends and his many, many enemies. He sifts through poems, interviews, novels, polemics and memoirs.

Thus, the novel Ilustrado begins to run on several tracks along with the other books of Crispin Salvador (Manila Noir, The Enlightened, Autoplagiarist, Kaputol Trilogy), the biography-in-progress, Crispin Salvador: Eight Lives Lived by Miguel Syjuco, blog entries, and jokes, some of them salacious and scandalous.

The result is a novel that has at least three dimensions of reality, all going on at the same time: an angry and dizzying excoriation of how the Philippines ended up in this sinkhole.

Of course, this novel is not for everybody. I’ve met people — literate ones — who asked me, “What did you teach him that made him write like this?” Well, I would answer, I just taught him how to write sentences. The postmodernism he got from his teachers at Columbia.

But there is nothing wrong with postmodernism -- with its spirit of play and its self-consciousness -- especially if applied to a halo-halo, upside-down, horizontal-vertical culture and history like the Philippines’s.

Ilustrado is a brilliant performance, all right, but what remains with me are the small moments between lovers, between family members.
There is the lover’s quarrel between the narrator and Madison, his American girlfriend. “That was one of the lovers’ things Madison and I did, our own affectation of Atlantic academia: we referenced fictional characters as they were people we to learn from…

“It’s because for people who live in the mind, real people are blurred, not fully-fleshed out, compared to characters who come alive when read on the printed page.

There is the fleeting memory of his parents, a short sketch that is vividly drawn: “Both my parents dancing a waltz at a wedding in the garden of an ancestral home somewhere on this island, Dad whispering something in her ear, Mom pulling him close and laughing as the crowd behind them watched — this is how I best like to remember my parents.”

There is the quarrel between the narrator and his rich grandfather called Grapes, who sent him to Columbia and put him up in an expensive condominium. The old man is disappointed because his grandson is just an editorial assistant at a NY magazine.

“Grapes placed his seven-day pillbox in front of him, opened it to Tuesday, and began talking out tablets and capsules and arranging them on the tabletop. They looked like candies. He hadn’t even glanced at me since I walked in. Granma sat in the corner, looking at her hands. Grapes sighed. It was a brutal, crushing sigh. Like Acolus, the windwarden from Greek mythology, blowing down all too easily every wall I’d constructed within myself to contain my confidence and pride in the new life I’d just begun….”

The old man wants him to write “nice stories” and avoid stories about corruption. In fact, he wants his grandson to become a politician himself! Who would take over the, uh, mantle of leadership?
The lunacies of the rich are not spared. And what makes Syjuco different from you and me is that he writes about the milieu from the perspective of an insider. His strong suits are crisp dialogue and broad characterization. Here is an excerpt from a matron: “The poor girl died [in exile], while bicycling in Monaco. I’m convinced her hard life was because she was never baptized.”

Or the same matron who funds one of the cottage industry projects for the poor: “Weaving, that’s what they do. Remind me to give you one of the loincloths they make. They’re wonderful as table runners…”

Or the young, drug-addled set known by you and me, children of the famous and the rich, staples of the society pages: asleep by day and alive by night, like the social-climbing zombies that they are. Syjuco only has the harshest words for them.

Or the tiger — king of the jungle — who is terrified of the fried bacon Grapes threw at him for breakfast. And the Boy Bastos jokes that would make your neighborhood thugs hoot with laughter fired by liquor.

Or the merciless satire of the mad denizens of Philippine Literature. Good God thank you I was once this guy’s teacher, I was spared from his pen dripping with acid

Ilustrado begins with a cliffhanger at the Hudson River and ends with one at the Pasig River. Between these two rivers lies one of the best contemporary novels a Filipino has written. Glistening with style and wit and leavened by humor, this novel kicks open the door of global fiction for Filipino writers. We may do well to follow in his enlightened footsteps.

Snapshots of a Life

BY Danton Remoto
Remote Control

(Excerpts from a novel)

The Magic Box

I was four years old, sleeping soundly on my parents’ big bed. One morning, my mother woke me up, brought me to the bathroom where she washed my face, and made me rinse my mouth. When we returned to their room, she said. “This is the day I told you about. The man with the magic black box will arrive.”

And so she proceeded to dress me up. She pulled my new white, short-sleeved polo shirt from its plastic bag, and shook it in the morning air. Against my skin the shirt was crisp and clean. Mama made me wear my new khaki shorts. She buttoned up my shirt, and then knotted a green tie under my stiff collar.

“Now, you look so formal already,” she said. “When the man stands before his magic black box and disappears under the strip of black cloth, you should give him your widest smile.” Still groggy from sleep, I just nodded lazily.

Whiteness, there was whiteness everywhere! The walls and ceilings of our house with its French windows. The bark of the pine trees in the yard painted white, as Brigadier General Bautista, the commander of the base, ordered. And then, when we stepped out of the house, the whitest of sky, whiter than the paper Mama would give me, along with a big box of crayons. From this box, I would take out the crayons one by one, memorizing their colors, their shades and tones. Mauve. Aquamarine. Jade green. Ahhh, rainbows.

The man inside the van had hair stiff as a toothbrush. He was also as big as a cabinet. He asked me to sit down on a wicker chair in the middle of the van. Behind me, a curtain in pale green. Mama was just outside, I kept on telling myself, so there’s nothing to fear. The man then lumbered over to where the magic black box stood.

“Okay, son, ready?” he asked.

I just nodded, noticing the cracks on his pair of brown shoes.

Then his head disappeared under the black cloth. “Smile, son,” he said.
I smiled as he began to count. Ready, one, two, three. But at the count of three, I stopped smiling. I just looked at him straight, behind that magic black box, then tilted my head slightly to the right, as if listening to a voice only I could hear.

Now as I look at that first posed shot (thin hair, oblong head, the most piercing eyes), I still find myself listening to a voice coming as if from afar. But in vain I would wait, it would never arrive, and then there would only be the sudden explosion of light.

The Piano

A month after they were married, Papa bought Mama a piano. It was an upright piano, its body darker than wine, which Padre Pelagio had put up for sale because he planned to buy a new Yamaha organ for the chapel.

Papa borrowed money from the savings and loan association in the air base, added his savings from a year’s stay in Colorado as a military scholar, then one day brought Mama over to the chapel.

“But we have no choir practice today,” Mama protested loudly.

“I think Father Pelagio wants to tell you something,” Papa answered.

Mama must have smirked (that petulant smirk I also have), put on her Cat woman sunglasses with its frame studded with rhinestones, threw a sheer red bandanna over her permed hair, then sat beside Papa in our jeep.

Dust trailed the jeep. It was summer, and the heat blew right into the very pores of your skin. The leaves fell, the houses snored in their siesta, the sun was an intense eye in the sky. It blinked when Papa’s jeep stopped before the chapel and Padre Pelagio, his belly round like a watermelon, waddled out of the rectory.

“Good afternoon, Father,” Mama said, kissing the hand of the priest.

“O ano, are you here to get it na?” the priest asked.

“Get what?”

Papa smiled smugly (the way all those smug Hollywood lead actors must have smiled), then led Mama inside the chapel.

“This,” Papa said, touching ivory keys with the color of moth wings, “is my gift to you.”

Seven years later, I would sit before this piano, required to practice three times a day by my teacher, who also happened to be my mother.

“But it’s summer!” I wanted to protest. The dragonflies were hovering over the stream, their bodies the color of amber and fire. Our homemade kites were waiting to be flown in the clear, blue sky. The fruit trees were waiting in the orchard — mangoes, guavas, aratiles, duhat — the fruits ripened by the sun, waiting for our young and greedy hands.

But I had to stay at home and play the piano. Sometimes, I would just sit in my room and sulk. But my sulking Papa would not let pass, so he would make me sit before the piano. Then, he would install himself on the perezosa, the lazy chair beside the piano, and listen.

He would ask me to play Sarung Banggi, a love song from the Bicol Region where he and my mother were born.

Sarung banggi
Sa higdaan
nakadangog ako
hinuni ning sarong gamgam
Sa luba ko, katurugan,
bako kundi simong boses
iyo palan.

Dagos ako hangon
Si sakuyang mata iminuklat.
Kadtong kadikloman ako
ay nangalagkalag.
Kasu ihiling ko si sakuyang
mata sa itaas,
simong lawog nahiling
ko maliwanag.

Kadtong kadikloman kan
mahiling taka.
Namundo kong puso talos
na nag-ogma.
Minsan di nahaloy idtong napagmasdan
sagkod noarin pa man dai ko

(One night
as I lay in bed
I suddenly heard
The singing of a bird.
I thought it was a dream
But it was your voice
I heard.

I then rose at once
And opened my eyes wide.
In that darkness I looked around
And when I raised my eyes,
I saw your face very clearly.

In that darkness when I saw you,
My sad heart found happiness
At once.
Though I saw your image
I will never forget
That night

But when I looked at my father, he was already asleep. Perhaps it must be the heat. Or my bad playing. Or the song itself, carrying him on its wings, back to a past when he was still young, looking for the images of love on a night washed by the milky light of the moon.

The Man on the Moon

Like somebody with a Ph.D., Papa was explaining to my grandmother and I how the Apollo 11 would fly to the moon.

From blast-off at Cape Canaveral to the rocket’s head splitting from its tail to the actual landing on the moon—he explained all this with verve. First, he slipped his right arm in his brown imitation-leather slippers, tracing a trajectory. Then, slipper and hand separated, like molting skin. Soon, only the slippers were left, standing for the rocket landing on the cold, windless landscape of the moon.

That night we watched in our new colored TV. A blur of images. The Stars and Stripes. Then, the astronauts in their white, bloated uniforms, looking like aliens. The rocket blasting off, hurtling in space like a bright comet, and then many hours later, the moon: full of craters deeper and wider than anything I had ever seen. After the Apollo 11 had landed on the moon, the three astronauts free-floating in space (A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind). Men on the moon, my father said, the greatest country in the world staking its claim on a territory millions of miles away from home.

Years later, my grandmother would bring me to Manila in one of her summer vacations. Nora Aunor — the short, brown actress whose rise to fame defied the colonial notions of beauty in the country, she whose eyes spoke a language of their own — has a new film called Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo (Once a Moth). Complete title: Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo Ang Lumaban sa Lawin (Once A Moth Fought A Hawk).

In the film, Nora plays a nurse, Corazon, whose ambition was to go to the United States and work there. She lived near Clark Air Force Base in Angeles City. But one day, her younger brother was shot by an American soldier on the periphery of the base fence, mistaking the young boy for a “a wild pig.”

Another image: Corazon’s grandfather (played by the magnificent Pedro Faustino) was already alive during the Philippine Revolution against Spain in 1896-98, and later, the Filipino-American War from 1898-1904. As a young boy of 10, he wore calzoncillos, like long johns that reached down to the knees. Inside the sewn edges of his calzoncillos was a piece of paper folded many times over. It would contain, in code, the enemy positions, the number of the men, the tactics of the revolutionaries, whom the Americans called bandidos (bandits). When Corazon’s grandfather saw the Americans landing on the moon, he asked, “Kanila na rin ba ang buwan? (Do they now own even the moon?)”

That night, after a heavy dinner of shrimp sinigang, I went out to the backyard. Everything was silent, as if the night itself was holding its breath. Beyond the acacia leaves, the moon rose clear across the Zambales mountains.

While helping her set the table, our housemaid Ludy had told me that there was already a naked man on the moon even before the men of Apollo 11 came. She said he looked like the man in the five-centavo coin.

So tonight, I took out the coin I had stolen from Papa, and in the light of the moon I looked for the naked man. Curly hair, a face well chiseled, broad shoulders. His buttocks were firm and his legs, long and powerful. He was bending down, his body frozen in an arc. On his right hand he held a hammer, pounding something on the anvil in front of him. He was trying to make an object from ore, a shape from all that rawness. Like a god. Patiently he bent down, waiting to be blasted by something like lightning, or by a flash of revelation.

I squinted at the night sky, as if I had the Superman’s X-ray vision, or the eyes of Lee Majors, the six million-dollar man. But try as I might, beyond the trees and the mountains I saw no man on the moon. There was only a lighted disk suspended in the air many, many miles away, alone, beautiful, and pure.

Who's who in Noynoy's rise to the presidency

This comprehensive article by a crack team of reporters from GMA 7 captures well the people around and behind the rise of Noynoy Aquino to the presidency. And it correctly includes ANG LADLAD Party List as one of the groups that supported Noynoy. Let it be said that in its first political endorsement, ANG LADLAD correctly read the temper of the times, and endorsed Benigno Aquino III for President and Jejomar Binay for Vice-President. Both guys, as we know now, won. Watch us make our moves in the 2013 elections.


Who's who in Noynoy's rise to the presidency
06/23/2010 | 06:24 PM

A ragtag army of volunteers - many veterans from the glorious fights against Marcos, Erap and Arroyo, but perhaps millions more electrified by the emotional days of Cory Aquino's wake and funeral - delivered the presidency to Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III with their tireless campaigning.

Now with Noynoy at the cusp of assuming power, the action around the president-elect has become the game of the generals.

This was not how it was supposed to be. Aquino's running mate Mar Roxas was expected to be his clear second in command as vice president, waiting for his turn in 2016.

Instead, the feisty Jejomar Binay - nicknamed Rambotito in another era - emerged as the surprise vice president-elect, bringing along his own loyalists, people power credentials, and presidential ambitions.

Binay and Aquino share a light moment in August 2009. Both weren't candidates yet at the time. Less than a year later, they would win the two highest elective posts in the land.

Roxas and Binay's candidacies famously divided the Aquino camp during the campaign, with some of the president-elect's own relatives reportedly supporting Binay.

Since Aquino's and Binay's proclamations, the fissures have only occasionally bubbled to the surface, a sign perhaps of Aquino's growing command. Or simply the calm before the storm. Roxas after all still heads the Liberal Party, Aquino's party, which formulated his platform and will be represented in the new administration through some key appointees. Roxas is also expected to assume a key Cabinet post next year when the ban on appointments of 2010 candidates expires.

On the other hand, Binay may not bear being a spare tire for long without his own political fiefdom. He was reported to have declined several positions offered by Aquino that were presumably not to the vice president-elect's liking, or considered below Binay's stature.

How the rivalry between Binay and Roxas plays out in the months and years to come will be a main test of the new government's teamwork.

Yet their factions are not the only circles around Aquino, all of them angling for influence and key posts, and banking on their roles in the ragtag army's victory. Our infographic above displays the constellation of personalities around Noynoy. It was based on interviews with campaign volunteers and party members, and cross-checked with other insiders, none of whom agreed to speak on the record.

Some in his inner circle, like his sisters, the President-elect has known for most of his life. Others gained his trust only during the campaign. More than a few are remnants from the old Cory crowd that was politicized by the assassination of Aquino's father, Ninoy Aquino, in 1983.

The main nerve center of the Noy-Mar campaign was the "executive committee," or the exe-com, composed of insiders and trusted loyalists, or so the members thought. More than a few will occupy key posts in the incoming administration.

Among the exe-com members were Noynoy's sister Pinky Abellada, his cousin Rapa Lopa, long-time friend and adviser Jojo Ochoa, campaign manager Butch Abad and his daughter and Noynoy's Senate chief of staff Julia Abad, Hyatt 10 stalwarts Cesar Purisima and Dinky Soliman, Cory veterans Margie and Popoy Juico, and Liberal party leaders Jun Abaya, Erin Tañada, Chito Gascon, and Mar Roxas himself.

The group met on most Mondays in Parc House along EDSA in Quezon City.

Noynoy's first cousin Maria Montelibano replaced ad agency doyenne Yoly Ong as communications head and had already attended several exe-com meetings when the other members got wind of rumors that she was secretly supporting a Noy-Bi tandem, injecting political intrigue into the heart of Noynoy's campaign.

The Abads, Purisima, Soliman and Ochoa have all been assured official positions in the Aquino administration.

Like any political enterprise, the Aquino camp is not one big happy family. His own well-known clan on both sides have had bitter disagreements. Ninoy's sibling Lupita Kashiwahara, for instance, was a fixture in President Gloria Arroyo's Malacanang when both Noynoy and his mother Cory called for Arroyo to resign.

Noynoy and his mother's siblings Peping and Pedro apparently don't see eye to eye on what to do with Hacienda Luisita, the most contentious issue thrown at Aquino during his campaign..

If Noynoy learned anything from observing his mother in power, it should be the pitfalls of factionalism, which almost brought Cory Aquino's government down.

All in the Family

Viel Dee, Pinky Abellada, and Ballsy Cruz flash the "Laban" sign minutes before their brother, Benigno Aquino III, is proclaimed President. AP file photo
Aquino's sisters Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, Viel Aquino-Dee, and Kris Aquino-Yap all actively campaigned for Aquino.

Ballsy — who was their late mother Cory's chief of staff — and Pinky, the two elder sisters, were more active in behind-the-scenes campaign organizing. They were in charge of finances, and screened individuals who expressed intentions to help Noynoy's campaign.

Kris, the celebrity sister, has been helping spruce up Noynoy's sartorial image with the help of stylist Liz Uy, and giving her brother the ill-advised idea to float talk-show pal Boy Abunda's name for a key position.

Noynoy cannot appoint any of his sisters to any government post because of the constitutional ban on appointing relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity. But he continues to consult them, particularly Ballsy and Pinky, regarding his official decisions. The four sisters are also increasingly visible in public through their charity work.

Some of Noynoy's cousins were also active in the campaign. His second cousin Tony Boy Cojuangco was listed as having donated a whopping 100 million pesos to the campaign kitty.

Even though business tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr. did not openly express his support for any candidate during the May polls (his supposed favorite nephew, Noynoy's cousin Gilberto Teodoro Jr., also ran for president), his daughter Lisa Cojuangco-Cruz joined campaign sorties for the Noynoy-Mar tandem.

Former actress Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, daughter of Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. and Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco, hosted some of the bigger events like the Liberal Party miting de avance in Quezon City. Another cousin, Maria Montelibano — who headed Radio-TV Malacañang when Cory Aquino was president — was one of the leading figures in the media affairs bureau of Noynoy's campaign; she is now co-chair of the inaugural committee.

Both Mikee and Maria, however, were reportedly among those who supported Binay instead of Mar.

To counter rumors that he secretly supported Binay, Peping has insisted in various media interviews that he campaigned for Mar. But he also said some of the people who helped Aquino in the campaign, whom he refused to name, are just jockeying for government posts.

Balay vs Samar

Some members of the Hyatt 10, former government officials under the Arroyo administration who quit at the height of the "Hello Garci" scandal in June 2005, played active roles in Aquino's campaign. A few are set to return to the Cabinet.

Former education secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad was overall campaign manager; he is reported to be on the verge of being named budget chief. Abad is also a Liberal Party stalwart. With wife Dina a newly elected congresswoman from Batanes and daughter Julia the rumored incoming head of the Presidential Management Staff, the Abads have become one of the more formidable families in the new administration.

Former trade and finance secretary Cesar Purisima, who contributed P10 million to Aquino's campaign kitty, is part of the transition team that is paving the way for the turnover of Cabinet portfolio positions. He is said to be returning to his finance post.

The first two future appointees that Aquino confirmed were former social welfare secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman and former peace adviser Teresita Deles, both members of the Hyatt 10 and the civil society group Black and White Movement. Both will be returning to their old positions.

Former Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Guillermo Parayno Jr. is rumored to have been appointed chief of the Bureau of Customs, a post he once held during the Ramos administration.

Liberal Party bets Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas join Quezon City Rep. Sonny Belmonte and Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada at an LP caucus.
Roxas himself is almost certain to get a Cabinet post after the one-year ban on the appointment of defeated candidates. No less than Noynoy gave that assurance.

Roxas, members of the Hyatt 10, and groups like the Aquino-Roxas Bantay Balota group hold office at a Roxas-owned property in Cubao called Balay, giving rise to the tagging of their faction as the "Balay group."

Meanwhile, the supposedly pro-Binay group composed of Montelibano and PiNoy Lawyers — a group of lawyers who volunteered to be Aquino's legal watchdog — hold office at an old house on Samar Avenue in Quezon City, which is why they've been tagged the "Samar group."

Sen. Chiz Escudero and incoming Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa face the media after meeting with President-elect Noynoy Aquino in his Times Street home.

Senator Francis Escudero, the only prominent politician to have openly campaigned for Noynoy and Binay, is considered part of the Samar group.

Escudero's involvement in the Aquino campaign caused a breakout of tension in the Aquino camp. Escudero initially intended to run for president, but he backed out of the race reportedly due to insufficient support from his political financiers. After he withdrew, Escudero lent his Senate staff to his friend Noynoy; they had served together in the House of Representatives and both won in the May 2007 senatorial elections.

Escudero's staff was in charge of handling the media, which did not sit well with the camp of Roxas, especially when Binay started to catch up with Roxas's ratings. Roxas and Escudero are also prospective rivals in the 2016 presidential elections. In the middle of the campaign, Escudero's staff were removed from the media bureau, but negative reactions from reporters prompted the campaign handlers to bring them back the next day.

The Noynoy Aquino for President Movement, the Council on Philippine Affairs headed by Pastor Boy Saycon, and gay rights group "Ang Ladlad" also reportedly campaigned for "NoyBi."

Behind the Scenes

Members of both camps continue to be involved in the planning of Noynoy's incoming administration, although pro-Roxas forces appear to be more active in transition preparations.

Another person in charge is lawyer Pacquito "Jojo" Ochoa Jr., who is being groomed to be Noynoy's executive secretary. He has said in an interview that he is presenting Noynoy with the road map to the presidency, which includes inauguration details and possible Cabinet appointees (at least three for each post).

Noynoy appears to have complete trust in Ochoa — the son of a former Pulilan, Bulacan mayor who was a friend of Ninoy — as Ochoa had served as Noynoy's legal counsel since he entered politics in 1998.

Ochoa, who was Quezon City administrator for nine years, has said that he plans to keep a low profile "so the real boss gets to be in the limelight." Unless it's absolutely necessary for him to speak up, all questions about the incoming president would be answered by lawyer Edwin Lacierda, who will move on to become presidential spokesman after his stint as Aquino's campaign spokesman.

Noynoy's platforms for various sectors are hinged on the views of his party. Many of his plans are mapped out by the LP think-tank National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS), which counts among its policy analysts defeated LP senatorial aspirant Neric Acosta (who is rumored to be slated for environment secretary after the one-year ban), and professors Mario Taguiwalo and Dina Abad, wife of Butch.

Political commentator Manuel L. Quezon III, who is serving as Noynoy's inaugural spokesperson and is in charge of explaining inaugural rites and protocols, is a member of the Board of Trustees of NIPS.

Aquino presents to the media Col. Ramon Dizon, his choice as head of the Presidential Security Group. GMANews.TV file photo
Noynoy is currently staying at his home on Times Street, Quezon City, where he holds meetings with his inner circle, other rumored Cabinet appointees, supporters, and visiting dignitaries. Throughout the campaign, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jose Angel Honrado oversaw Noynoy's security detail.

Honrado, who is also a distant cousin of Noynoy, served in the Presidential Security Group during the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino.

Another former PSG member during Mrs. Aquino's time, Col. Ramon Dizon, has been named the incoming PSG commander once Noynoy assumes the presidency on June 30. — Jam L. Sisante, RSJ/HS, GMANews.TV

'Letter to a Young Teacher'

BY Danton Remoto | Remote Control
Posted at 06/25/2010 10:50 PM | Updated as of 06/25/2010 10:50 PM

This is the title of Fr. Joseph V. Landy’s small and sensible book for those who want to teach. The Jesuit teacher lives up to the subtitle of this book — The Art of Being Interesting — by giving us a book filled with pearls to be cast in the classroom.

The nine chapters are concise and written in a tone almost conversational, as if a wise, old man is giving a pep talk to a young person during College Placement Day. It is also freighted with honesty.

“Why teach? Many answers are possible, but one spells death to a career in the classroom. If your overriding motive is money, go elsewhere.” How true, how true. When we hold our college reunions, my college classmates at Ateneo would tell me how youthful I still looked, with a full head of black hair and hardly discernible lines on my face. I would cackle with laughter and tell them that, indeed, God is fair. “I may look young, but I hitched a ride coming here. But you? You came here in your Benzes or SUVs!”

So why should one live a life of genteel poverty and teach? Fr. Landy says a good teacher has a “touch of the actor, perhaps even the ham actor,” in them. They like to perform. Or they have the sense of mission similar to that found in doctors and nurses. Or you remember your confused days as a young person, and want to help those navigating the maze themselves. Or you just loved school when you were a student, and found this world can be for you, even after college.

Be that as it may, it is not a profession free from boredom. You and I and our friends who taught know that you have to prepare for a class. That is not so bad, because that is necessary. But the endless checking of papers! No sooner had you checked the quizzes than the group reports come in; and your green or red ink has just dried on them when you have to check the midterm exams, or the book review! And sometimes, as the good Jesuit Father intuits, you also have to arm yourself with the “inevitable misunderstanding with students and clashes with school authorities. Weathering such storms is part of the teaching profession.”
How, then, to stay alive in the classroom and not be like a parrot reading notes from the yellowed papers you have kept with you in the last 1,000 years?

Fr. Landy, who like all Jesuits have a solid training in Greek and Latin, quotes a line from old Latin: “Nemo dat quod non habet, meaning you can’t give to others what you don’t have yourself. Interest passes from person to person the way electricity passes through a wire.”

This means you should constantly update yourself on the subject you teach. Just because you have a college degree, or a master’s degree or a PhD, you should not just shut the door and consider yourself the fountain of wisdom on your subject. No, Sir, you just can’t wing it. Having a syllabus is fine, but you have to enrich it with contexts, subtexts, stories, why, even jokes and humorous tales about the subject you teach.

Some teachers could be like the magical bird of the forest in Ibong Adarna. You attend their classes and you fall asleep with the droppings from their dead tree of knowledge. “Because their own interest in their subject has expired. They have lost their appetite for it and no longer believe in its value. They have stopped reading about it, talking about it, caring about it. Once their students sense that a teacher is scraping bottom, is no longer growing in curiosity and knowledge about the subject of instruction, their attention level sinks too. Stale bread is uninteresting bread.”

If memory is the mother of all writing, then preparation is at the heart of all teaching. Fr. Landy says a teacher should re-read the text a day before. One should never come to the classroom cold. But preparation is not just an intellectual enterprise. Sure, Aristotle defined a person as a “rational animal,” since our reasoning ability separates us from the buffalo and the bee. But the major challenge one faces in the classroom is not intellectual but psychological.

You have to catch the attention of the students — especially in this Age of Farmville. Luckily, there is a whole archive of materials on pedagogy, and Fr. Landy gives us the gist.
One, it is not what one is teaching that captures the attention of the students, it is the way it is taught. The five psychological factors of attention-getting include activity, reality, the vital, humor and novelty.

Activity means the teacher should not be like the Sphinx solid before the desk. The teacher should move. What I do the moment I walk in is to make sure the classroom is comfortable. I turn on all electric fans, open all windows, and make sure the lights are on. These are part of what my venerable teacher, Fr. Joseph A. Galdon, SJ, called classroom management. Then I call the students by their first names for attendance, and later sit on the desk, a gesture that, I am happy to note, Fr. Landy also likes to do.

Write on the blackboard, point to what you’ve written, walk around the classroom. Activity also hums in the classroom when the students are involved in the learning process, in what we now call student-centered learning. Lectures are still good, but not all the time. Ask questions from the students, in true Socratic fashion. Call the students who nod from time to time. Or better yet, teach the students to ask questions from their classmates, with you acting as a moderator, like in a talk show.

But ever the priest, Fr. Landy adds: “Your method of questioning should always be Platonic in the sense that like him, your manner should be gentle, never sharp and imperious. Martinets may make good marine instructors but not good teachers of the young. In my experience, the most successful teachers had a classroom manner that was relaxed and conversational.”

Reality means bringing the colorful world outside school right into the classroom. Bring a map, a globe, a stack of postcards or photographs. Lug along a chart, a slide show, a Power Point Presentation. Imitate the characters in the fiction you teach — their voices, their facial expressions, and why not, even their very clothes if you have them at home. In my Poetry classes, I ask the students to go to the Ateneo Art Gallery — which has an excellent collection of Modern Philippine Art — and ask the students to describe the images in a painting. And in my Fiction classes, I ask them to go to the same gallery and retell the story found in a painting.

The Vital means emphasizing the importance of the course. In my History class, my late teacher Fr. Leonard stressed the strategic value of the blitzkrieg during World War II, a quality which one can use in life after college. Or the ability to ask difficult questions — to others and more importantly, to one’s self.

Humor, of course, is the tonic that makes a teacher sparkle. The great teacher Gilbert Highet said that “I consider a day’s teaching wasted if we do not all have one hearty laugh.” The atmosphere in the classroom should be friendly, not threatening, and easygoing. If your teachers are Nazis, you fear them, but did you ever learn anything at all, except to make fun of them behind their backs?

Novelty means varying your teaching strategies, bringing or doing something new each time. And voice — ahh, that is the prime apparatus of an excellent teacher. “Living voices, not libraries, are the most indispensable transmitters of learning.. I have always described the ways in which a public speaker should avoid monotone as the three P’s — Pace, Power and Pitch.”

Short pauses are like silences in a conversation — just enough time to let an important idea sink in. The power of one’s voice should reach the person in the last row. Vary also the loudness of your voice, like a theater actor using his voice like an accordion of ideas.
In his Postscript, Fr. Landy said that “those who taught us in college we remember mostly for what they did for our minds. But those who taught us in primary and secondary schools made their mark on our characters, our ways of thinking about life, our ambitions, our immortal souls.”

That is why I teach part-time even now that I am between 40 and death. I am writing books and preparing for a career in the public realm, but still I find time to teach. There is nothing like that eureka moment when the students’ eyes widen because of the arrival of an insight, blooming like light in their minds

* * *

No room for Church meddling

June 21, 2010

‘Our officials should keep their piety private. In exchange, the people would let their hypocrisy pass unnoticed.’

THE Catholic hierarchs earlier said they would not accept the invitation of the education department to review the sex education subjects that will be pilot-tested this year. Now, the word is some representatives of the Church would be meeting with educators after all, but this would only be to reiterate its position that sex education is not the business of the schools and should be left exclusively to parents.

If that’s the Church’s stand, the education department might as well declare that its officials are prepared to humor the Church representatives but are determined to implement the order come what may.

Gloria Arroyo herself issued the order for education officials to dialog with Church representatives. She is exiting on June 30, to be succeeded by Noynoy Aquino who has a more enlightened appreciation of the need to address reproductive health. The officials can dribble the ball during the transition.

We have not seen an administration more servile than Gloria’s to the Church. To reciprocate Gloria’s servility, we have not seen the Church more forgiving of a sitting administration’s legal and moral trespasses.

"Sama sama na sila," as the saying goes, with the coming into power of President-elect Noynoy Aquino.

We recognize, of course, the Church’s right to express its stand on any moral issue. Bishops, priests and the laity are after all citizens with a constitutionally guaranteed right to the exercise of free speech.

But the separation of the Church and State, according to the Constitution, should be inviolable. This means, in the Philippine context, not only for the government not to listen to any religious groups but to turn a deaf ear to all of them. The principle of Church-State separation is a reaction to the Church’s – basically through the friars – meddling in governance which reached its peak during the Spanish colonial rule.

(The constitutional principle is meant to stop Church meddling. It is sets a far higher wall on Church-State separation than the "no-establishment" clause in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," the US Constitution says. This is universally interpreted as, at the maximum, a prohibition against favoring any religious group and, at the minimum, a ban against the setting up of any state religion.)

Our officials should keep their piety private. If they did, we the citizens, in exchange, would let their hypocrisy pass unnoticed.

Bright, Catholic -- and gay

BY Danton Remoto
Art and Culture section
The Philippine STAR
June 14, 2010

Raymond “Bong” Alikpala seemed like the perfect guy any girl would love to bring home to mother. He is a blue-blooded Atenean from grade school to law school, an honor student and student council leader. He is also a practicing Catholic; cheerful, bright, and personable.

But for many years he hid a secret in the innermost chamber of himself — his homosexuality. After almost four decades in the closet, he has finally come out and written what may be a most controversial book, God Loves Bakla: My Life in the Closet.

Published by the author himself in Cambodia where he now works as a lawyer, the book’s Philippine edition was launched by Ang Ladlad Party List a fortnight ago. In reportorial mode, Alikpala begins his narrative this way.

“I am a gay man, a homosexual. I engage in sexual relations with the same sex. I have paid other men to have sex with me. I have never had sex with a woman. I have a husband.”

The words come out staccato-like, unblinking. The prose is like fizz from a soda bottle that had long been covered.

After a closeted life in Manila, being an over-achiever and super-competitive in everything he did, Alikpala took his Master of Laws at the National University of Singapore. Then he returned to Manila and began training as a priest at the Jesuit Novitiate in Novaliches, but was asked to leave after 16 months. Days of depression made him feel like a boat without anchor: in a stroke of irony, he would later go to Cambodia and work with asylum seekers and refugees — people without moorings, like him — at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. And at the age of 42, he began writing this book.

In 21 chapters, Alikpala sketches for us the brief history of a life. But unlike Western coming-out books that rage and rage against the light, this one is very Filipino in the sense that it is, eventually, anchored on family and God. He acknowledges love and devotion for his hardworking parents, who sent him to a good and expensive Catholic school; to his circle of friends, most of them male, with whom he (tried to) have a platonic relationship as comrades-in-arms.

His teachers at the Ateneo are also mentioned, described in terms more sweet than bitter: Dulaang Sibol, Prayer Days for Coeds, generally liberal advice dispensed by his Jesuit mentors.

“Fr. Joel’s initial advice was to try to be at peace with myself, to learn to accept myself as I was. He told me to pray for the grace of peace and self-understanding. In later sessions he would tell me that I was too preoccupied with my own self, and he encouraged me to join student activities which were others-oriented, which could draw me out of myself and place my problems in perspective. He said that I should learn to accept my homosexuality peacefully, and then learn to go beyond it, to transcend it, because it did not have to limit or define who I was.”

And so our young and confused gay man in the closet began doing apostolate work for an urban poor community in Commonwealth, Quezon City. Later, he would throw himself headlong into the student council, leading protests against the Marcos Government in the mid-1980s. But still, at the heart of it lies a life of contradiction: because unable to accept one’s self, one abandons the inner core and offers one’s self to the altar of community and country. But when there is a black hole inside one’s self, what then can one offer, except hollow words and acts of charity?

With confusion hounding him like a shadow, Alikpala graduates, takes up law, and becomes involved with human-rights cases. He teaches at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, cuts his legal teeth with the law office of the legendary Senator Rene V. Saguisag. Already 30 years old, but still lost. The photograph at the end of Chapter 11 captures it perfectly: a man with an umbrella on a rainy day, carrying a cane as he walks on the slippery street.

And as with the case of many Filipinos who lived abroad, his stint there freed him in a way. He received an ASEAN Scholarship to take the Master of Laws at NUS.

“Living abroad for the first time, I was able to move and behave in a way unencumbered by past frustrations, embarrassments, and failures. I felt liberated, for once, to be myself, and not to have to be the dutiful son, diligent student, model Atenean, and hardworking attorney. I felt young, carefree, and irresponsible. I still remained closeted all my life in Singapore, and yet the feeling of being a student all over again made me happier, friendlier, more fun to be with, more happy-go-lucky. And this happier Raymond, the backpacker Raymond traipsing with them across Malaysia and Indonesia, was who my European friends got to know and grew to cherish.”

It’s like the Chinese poem of a beautiful parrot suddenly freed from the golden cage of home. And again, in a life of ironies, only to find another golden cage in the Jesuit Novitiate, where he stayed for 16 months and was finally expelled by the Father Provincial for a homosexual act. Set adrift and gripped by depression, he later found solace in work as a lawyer for refugees in Cambodia under the Jesuit Refugee Service.

There he met an 87-year-old priest, Fr. Pierre Ceyrac, who counseled him: “Umbra lux Dei, [he said], drawing with his finger a sundial on the cabinet door. He illustrated how the shadow on the sundial told us the time, and that without the shadow the sundial would be useless. ‘The shadows are the light of God.’ he translated. It was the shadows in our lives through which God revealed Himself to us. . . .”

After the metaphysical, it was time for the physical — and out of the closet at last. Alikpala was en route to attend summer school at Oxford when he had a stopover at Bangkok and a friend brought him to Silom area, to have “massage for men by men.” Suffice it to say that he had finally tasted the forbidden fruit in an atmosphere that was free from Catholic guilt.

The coming-out part of the book is written in prose that is shorter and more crisp, as if the liberated Raymond is taking a jaunty walk in the park. He has found his own voice, own friends, and finally a lover — Robert from Saigon.

“Robert and I were married on 14 June 2008. It was not a legal ceremony; neither Philippine nor Vietnamese civil laws recognize same-sex marriages. It has been the fashion to call this a ‘commitment ceremony,’ but for Robert and me, ours is a real marriage — we have made our own vows before God, promising to love each other, for better or for worse, until the end of our days.”

And where did they get married? In Angkor Wat, the ancient ruins in Cambodia. This is also the place where the character played by Tony Leung in the film In the Mood for Love finds a crack in the wall. And there in the ageless ruins, he confesses his most secret love for the already-married character played by Maggie Cheung.

* * *

God Loves Bakla sells for P400. Copies are available at Achieve office, 162 Sct. Fuentebella Ext., Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City (426-6147). Or you can deposit P490 to Ang Ladlad BPI savings account 1993077425, inform me at and we will send your copy by courier.


If you think 2016 is still too far away, then think again.

My pink crystal ball sees the following combinations for President and Vice-President in 2016. And I'm telling you these guys are beginning to lay the ground work. As I told the emissary of a presidentiable who talked to me in July 2009 and who invited me to join their senatorial slate, you don't prepare for a presidential election a year before the election. You prepare for it a day AFTER the previous election. Thus, the campaign for the next Presidential and VP elections started on May 11, 2010.

Combinations are as follows, in random order:

1. Jinggoy Estrada - Bongbong Marcos (Partido ng Masang Pilipino and Kilusang Bagong Lipunan)

Both families have been friends for ages; the alliance is sealed tighter than any glue could seal it. Jinggoy has his father's 20 percent following, and Bongbong has his billions...

2. Mar Roxas II - Kiko Pangilinan (Liberal Party)

A decent and charming team, but will the masses -- who constitute 80 percent of the voters -- bite?

3. Manny Villar - Alan Peter Cayetano (Nacionalista Party)

Tingnan natin if Villar's wealth and Alan's motormouth can do the trick -- this time.

4. Jojo Binay - Koko Pimentel (PDP-Laban)

Binay would be 74 by this time and Koko was 12th in the 2007 elections, but it's worth a try.

5. I am sure Chiz Escudero will run but he has no funds and no political party and no VP candidate yet in sight. But he is not a wunderkid for nothing.

Remember, before Cory died and Noynoy ran, I wrote in this blog that Erap would win the 2010 elections, in spite of Villar's fabulous wealth. And he almost did, if Cory did not die and if Noynoy did not run...

My choices for 2016?

I am keeping my bets close to my chest. For now.

Mr. Aquino will expand and reform CCT programs

Mr. Aquino will expand and reform CCT programs
The Manila Times
Thursday, 10 June 2010 00:00

YESTERDAY’s press conference immediately after the proclamation of President-elect Noynoy Aquino was a demonstration of his mastery of the national condition.

All his answers—in perfect English and sometimes Tagalog—were impressively those of a person who knows how our country fares in the key departments of life.

One of the questions touched on poverty. Responding, he spoke of the Arroyo administration’s successful CCT (conditional cash transfers) program. Cash is given to the very poor—by the Social Welfare department. But DSWD does not touch the money. Recipients go to the Land Bank.

These are dole outs to the “targeted absolutely poor”—families who need cash so they can have food on their table and some of their basic necessities for survival.

There are conditions to being included in the program. The family must fulfill the basic duties of going to a health clinic for treatment. Toddlers and kids below six must go to the daycare center. And each qualified household’s children of school age must be enrolled. Not only that, the children must have at least 85-percent attendance record. Failing these conditions, the family loses its monthly cash gift from the state.

Through this method, millions of children between 6 and 14 years of age cease to be out of school youth or dropouts. They get some basic education.

Yesterday, President-elect Aquino promised something The Times has been campaigning for: That his new administration will not stop but actually improve and expand the CCT program. All the needy will be helped to surmount their crippling poverty and no child, no matter how poor, is left without an elementary and high school education.

There are now (as of May 2010) 1,015,542 household beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program with the result that 1,739,353 children aged 6 to 14 years old are now enrolled in and attending the neighborhood elementary and high schools.

Yes, he said yesterday. The CCT will even be expanded (which means millions more dropouts will be brought back to school) so that instead of covering only 38 percent of all families that should be in the program, 100 percent would be. Mr. Aquino actually knew the percentage figure! This means no poor child would be left behind by his or her cohort. No poor Filipino child will go unschooled.

He also promised to reform the CCT program. It will become less politicised. (“Babawasan lang ang pamumulitika.”)

Wonderful! God bless you, Mr. President-elect.

Having millions of dropouts equals ever-poor Philippines

In 2006 to 2007, primary school enrolment was down to 83 percent from 90 percent five years earlier. For secondary education, participation rate was a mere 59 percent of our youth—and this figure was steady over five years.

The education secretary then put the 2007 to 2008 participation rate at 85 percent. This early, the National Economic and Development Authority has said we won’t make our Millennium Development Goal of universal participation by 2015. But present Education Secretary Mona Valisno is confident it can be met—with unstinting support from incoming president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd.

There have been improvements, the 2007 to 2008 the dropout rate was 16.7 percent. In 2008 to 2009, the Arroyo administration claims, it has been reduced to 9 percent. This is owed to the various Education for All (EFA) programs, the 4Ps Program (conditional cash transfer for poorest families discussed above), the MISOSA (Modified In-School and Off-School Approach to allow children to study at home while employed as parents’ farm help) and other alternative schooling system. These are parts of the DepED’s Drop-Out Reduction Program (DORP).

But much more must be done.

In poorest regions, a quarter of children are out of school
In the poorest regions, such as in Western Visayas, 25 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are out of school while in the National Capital Region, the participation rate is 92.9 percent.

The number of young people aged 12-15 who are not in high school is 41.4 percent of that population group.

Many pupils don’t even get to Grade 2
For every 100 pupils who enter Grade 1, only 86 will continue till Grade 2. Over the last 30 years, this has been the highest dropout rate (14 percent) in the basic school cycle.

By Grade 4, only 76 will still be in school. By Grade 6, only 67 of the original 100 would still be enrolled—and only 65 will finish elementary school.

Our neighbors have left us far behind
Of the 65 children who graduate from Grade 6, only 58 will move on to high school. And of the 58 who enter high school, only 42 will graduate.

This completion rate of 42 percent is too low for the middle-income country we’re supposed to be. Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia—which started at the same level, or lower, in the 1950s—have left our country far behind.

Inequality starts at ‘play’ school
The children of Filipino parents who could afford the expense go through 14 to 15 years of basic education, starting with “play” and “prep” school. The great majority get only 10 years: six of elementary and four of high school.

We’re one of only three countries among 155 Unesco-member states with a 10-year pre-university education system. The others are Djibouti and Angola. Even Laos and Mongolia have elected the 12-year basic system: seven of elementary and five of high school.

We also spend far less on our schoolchildren than comparable neighbor states do. Thailand spends six times more; Malaysia 10 times more, on every schoolchild. Singapore spends 13 times more.

As long as millions of Filipino kids are unschooled and grow up to be adults bereft of basic education, our country will continue to be doomed to deepening poverty.

Tickled pink

Tickled pink
By Büm D. Tenorio, Jr. (The Philippine Star) Updated June 10, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - They all came garbed in different colors but the mood of the night was definitely pink. After all, for the first time, the US Embassy hosted the Gay Pride Month celebration in Manila to show respect for the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) community in the Philippines and to recognize their contributions to their culture and society.

No less than US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. topbilled the celebration. Thomas, who said he was disheartened to hear tales of woe and injustice committed against the LGBT community, was candid and warm as he delivered his speech that momentous night.

“Discrimination is a waste of talent,” he told more than a hundred of LGBT members gathered at the cozy Makati residence of Richard Nelson, the counselor for public affairs of the US Embassy.

Nelson, who was very comfortable hosting the party, said US President Barack Obama proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month in the US. Obama, in a statement distributed at the event, said: “We must give committed gay couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. We must protect the rights of LGBT families by securing their adoption rights, ending employment discrimination, and ensuring Federal employees receive equal benefits.”

The occasion was maintained at a convivial level throughout the night. At the end of Thomas’ speech, the gracious ambassador even said: “I was too nervous to ask Boy Abunda for his autograph.” TV personality and STAR columnist Boy Abunda, one of the prominent figures who graced the affair, broke into laughter. So did the rest of the LGBT community of journalists, writers, TV reporters, publicists, fashion designers, chefs, lawyers, professors among other professionals.

Many straight men and women were also seen enjoying the party sans the dreaded homophobia.

Abunda was recently the subject of discriminatory remarks when his name was mentioned by President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as possible Secretary of the Department of Tourism.

“I really find it very offensive when people say that I am just a TV host and not a lawyer or a doctor, therefore I am not capable of running a public office,” Abunda told The STAR.

Ang Ladlad party-list founder and STAR columnist Danton Remoto was also “happy and gay” to be at the momentous occasion. He said, “The first black American President has declared June as the LGBT Pride Month and the Manila embassy hosted this reception for us. We are no longer in the closet. We are now in the center of the room.”

Nelson’s Filipina wife, Pinky Sabinosa-Nelson, was just too delighted to welcome members of the LGBT community to their residence as she led guests to the buffet table that consisted of sumptuous Filipino fare including fresh lumpia in pink wrapper and pink rice. Pink is the international color of the LGBT community.

(E-mail the author at

Homophobia and the case of Boy Abunda

Homophobia and the case of Boy Abunda
Posted at 06/08/2010 12:17 AM | Updated as of 06/08/2010 12:17 AM

Ang Ladlad -- the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos -- wants to express its alarm over the quality of the debate and discourse regarding Mr. Boy Abunda and the alleged offer for him to become Secretary of the Department of Tourism.

Mr. Abunda -- who is a close friend and ally of the Philippine LGBT movement -- does not deserve the vilification being done to him in print, online and in conversations going on around town. President-apparent Benigno C. Aquino III allegedly wanted Mr. Abunda to be the DOT Secretary to help market the Philippines and its luxuriant tourism potentials to a global audience.

Obviously, some people whose eyes are dead-set on the position have begun to orchestrate a vile and malicious campaign against Mr. Abunda. They questioned his academic preparation, his training and even his job, calling him a "mere entertainer. " This, Mr. Abunda has ignored, letting them slide like water down his back. But when the attacks became personal -- that he is a "mere homosexual," "that where is the Philippines going -- from republican to democratic to pederasyon ng mga bading" -- it is time for Ang Ladlad to make a clear and strong statement.

Thus, in the month of June -- the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month -- Ang Ladlad would like to serve notice that debates and discourse on a person's qualifications for any job in government should be focused on the professional and not the personal. One's sexual orientation and sexual identity have nothing to do with one's qualifications for the job at hand. Those who stoop down to this level are obviously threatened by Mr. Abunda's appointment.

He has said he is inclined to decline the appointment, and pointedly added that those who want the job can now sleep better. Thus, it is time for the gay-bashing to stop -- now, and in the future, if and when Boy Abunda would have changed his mind and accept an appointment as the first openly gay member of an Aquino Cabinet.

And we are certain that the incoming Aquino administration will give no space to homophobia in its governance standing on the strong legs of change and national renewal.

This statement was signed by our new Chairperson, Ms Bemz Benedito, and myself as the Chairman Emeritus.

Mayor Binay makes history

Photo by Robert Dilan

Mayor Binay makes history:
Win or lose, VP race one for the books
June 7, 2010

Whatever the final outcome of the tightly contested vice presidential race, Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati City has made history by being the first local official to be possibly catapulted to a top national position, just a breath away from the presidency. Unlike another former mayor, Joseph Estrada, Binay bypassed Congress in his quest for a top post.

But Binay’s journey from being a far third at the start of the campaign to becoming the frontrunner in the national canvassing does not surprise fellow mayors and other local executives who say that he prepared for it long ago. The Makati mayor made smart use of vast resources and backed these up with an underground operation that included an in-your-face infiltration of a rival political organization.

The latest count by the Senate and House of Representatives acting as National Board of Canvassers shows the Liberal Party’s Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd with a commanding lead of 5.5 million over former President Joseph Estrada of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

But the vice presidential race is still too close to call with the PMP’s Binay posting 14,084,879 votes against the 13,440,127 votes of the Liberal’s Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.

Binay leads by 644,752 with some 1.4 million votes still to be canvassed.

This cliffhanger finale to the 2010 elections was unthinkable at the start of the campaign period when Aquino and Roxas topped the December 2009 survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) with 40-percent respondents’ approval. Sen. Loren Legarda of the Nacionalista Party was a distant second with 32 percent, and Binay trailed far behind with 10 percent.

But interviews by VERA Files reveal Binay is now merely reaping the rewards of a nationwide network laid out nearly two decades ago when he launched a sister-city program linking Makati with other local governments.

Spreading the wealth
With a P12-billion annual budget, Binay’s Makati could afford to be generous. Since the early 1990s, Makati has forged sisterhood ties with more than 200 municipalities and cities all over the country, advising them on public management, subsidizing computerization training of municipal government employees, providing computer equipment, giving scholarships to poor students from the provinces in Makati City schools and making available the city’s modern medical facilities.

Binay is also known to be quick in giving at least P50 million in financial assistance to a sister municipality in need, such as in times of calamity.

In his visit to Catbalogan, Samar, in March 2009, Binay told reporters that Makati’s sisterhood program had nothing to do with his announced plan to run for president. “Aside from extending assistance and goodwill to other cities and municipalities, the sisterhood is also a good way for LGUs [local government units] to exchange ideas and best practices on governance,” he said.

Binay had initially aimed for the presidency, refusing invitations from the Liberal party to join its senatorial ticket, saying that his expertise is as an executive and not as a legislator. He only slid down to the vice presidency when Estrada decided to run for president.

The Makati mayor gained valuable exposure to the masses in provincial sorties with the popular Estrada. Sources knowledgeable about the Estrada campaign said Binay underwrote the bulk of the PMP campaign expenses.

Mayors, Boy Scouts and fraternity
Binay solidified his linkages with local governments with his friendship with 78 other city mayors who compose the League of Cities of the Philippines. This is best shown in Metro Manila’s results where the winning team was Aquino-Binay.

The SWS exit poll showed Binay’s support cutting across party lines. Majority of supporters of Nacionalista’s Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr., Lakas-Kampi CMD’s Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro and other presidential candidates had him as vice president.

A source close to one of the Metro Manila mayors said Binay campaigned only for himself with his fellow city mayors, telling them he understood their commitment to another presidential candidate. Estrada showed his displeasure by leaving blank the slot for vice president in his ballot, which was captured on camera on May 10.

Another national organization that Binay cultivated through the years was the Boys Scouts of the Philippines and its allied fraternity, the Alpha Phi Omega.

People made fun of the diminutive mayor looking like an overage boy in his Boy Scout uniform. But what many didn’t realize was that whenever Binay donned those khaki shorts, he was re-affirming his ties with the 3.5 million members of the organization and establishing a connection with their parents and other family members.

Binay’s masterstroke
While Binay’s low-key building of national networks would make a good study of effective campaign strategy, his masterstroke was the infiltration of Aquino’s campaign organization.

“There’s no way that Mar [Roxas] could have won with the betrayal from within their campaign organization,” a veteran journalist remarked, sharing his conversation with Aquino’s campaign manager Florencio “Butch” Abad, who was concerned about the activities of the Noynoy Aquino for President Movement.

The movement is headed by Ed Roces, son of the late Joaquin “Chino” Roces, founder and publisher of The Manila Times who was responsible for convincing the late Corazon “Cory” Aquino to challenge Ferdinand Marcos for the presidency in 1986.

Abad, the journalist source said, was disturbed that the movement was campaigning for a Noynoy-Binay ticket from its campaign headquarters in Parc House Building along EDSA, just two floors above the Liberal Party office.

It was not only the movement that was campaigning for a Noy-Bi ticket among Aquino’s supporters. There were the “Yellow Force” reportedly headed by Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski, daughter of Aquino’s brother Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, the gay organization Ang Ladlad, the People’s Patriotic Movement, and Council for Philippine Affairs (COPA).

Friends of the council leader Pastor “Boy” Saycon speak of a roomful of Noy-Bi materials when visiting his Makati office. The council includes Peping Cojuangco and his wife, Margarita, and Philippine Star columnist Billy Esposo.

Other Aquino relatives campaigning for Noy-Bi were Jose Maria “Boy” Montelibano and his wife Maria, who headed Radio TV Malacañang in the Cory Aquino administration and was active in Noynoy’s presidential campaign.

Major blunder
Boy Montelibano, in his column in Inquirer online, said that Roxas has only himself to blame for his defeat: “It [a Binay victory] has caused allegedly well-bred people to cross lines of decency and engage in gutter behavior in blaming others for what cannot be but a serious error of the core of Mar Roxas’s campaign. For a candidate to lose a lead of over 30 percent in three months without realizing it until the last moment is a classic case of political ineptness. The inept, therefore, has to point the blame on others, a usual human tendency.”

Campaign strategist Malou Tiquia of Publicis, who helped Roxas’s senatorial campaign in 2004, has a similar observation, although put in gentler terms. “Mar was too complacent. This is not the Mar of 2004 who was well-prepared with a good message, an organized ground troop and an air war with a storyline strategy.”

“My reading of him was he was too burned-out after sliding down to number two, and my sense was he was banking on the ‘sacrifice’ to get the home run,” Tiquia added. Roxas, who had been nurturing his own presidential ambition for years, gave way so that Noynoy could become Liberal standard-bearer, amid public clamor in the weeks after Cory’s death in August.

Tiquia noted that Roxas’s ads did not “embrace” Aquino’s anti-corruption theme and that he was not able to communicate what a vice president can do. “He was more of Mr. Palengke than a partner of Noy,” she said.

Since sliding down to vice president, Roxas had consistently maintained a commanding lead against his then closest rival, Legarda, until polls showed Binay catching up in April.

And then there was Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero who withdrew from the presidential race in November 2009 and then announced he would be supporting Binay for vice president. Escudero and Binay worked together as part of Fernando Poe Jr.’s presidential campaign in 2004. Escudero did not immediately announce whom he was supporting for president.

Enter Escudero
In February, when Aquino’s rating was declining and Villar was catching up with him, Aquino revamped his campaign organization and brought in Escudero, whose team handled media operations. They are believed responsible for the exposés against Villar that paved the way for an Aquino surge.

In April, Escudero, while managing the Aquino campaign’s media operations, came out with TV ads endorsing Binay for vice president. The next surveys after the endorsement had Binay slightly ahead of Roxas.

Tiquia does not credit Binay’s surge to Escuderos’ endorsement. “Binay was already on the rise when it came out,” she said. “What it perhaps did was to raise the ante. The timing of the endorsement created that kick to the end game.”

University of the Philippines political science Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer agreed with Tiquia. “The vaunted appeal of ‘NoyBi’ is a myth. Let’s not give too much credit to Chiz Escudero, Ang Ladlad, and the faction of the Coryistas who supported Binay,” she said.

Ferrer did an analysis of votes based on figures from the electronic data maps prepared by Cybersoft GeoInfomatics for the Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. The running tallies were computed from about 90 percent of election returns.

“Aquino and Roxas dominated all other tandems in terms of sheer number of votes,” said Ferrer. “NoyBi is leading in eight or majority of the regions, but contrary to what most people think, Binay benefited primarily from being Estrada’s running mate and only in a small way from the NoyBi vote configuration.”

Ferrer pointed out that Aquino and Roxas led the race in Western and Central Visayas and the Caraga regions, while Estrada and Binay prevailed in Cagayan Valley, Northern Mindanao, Davao and Socsargen Region.

“Assuming all Erap supporters also voted for Binay, about 8.7 million of his votes can be accounted for. But he has about five million more votes than Erap,” she said.

Ferrer said the gap between the votes of Teodoro and his running mate, Eduardo Manzano, was a possible source for about 2.9 million votes for Binay. “A secondary source is the 1.2 million more people who voted for Villar but not for Loren,” she said.

“Binay should thank Gibo’s and Villar’s supporters instead,” Ferrer said.

What makes this year’s intrigue-ridden vice presidential race interesting, however, goes beyond the results of this election. It could be a preview of the 2016 presidential contest.

Ellen Tordesillas and and YouthVotePhilippines

Editor’s note: VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look into current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”