Thursday, November 29, 2007

Updates on Cheating and then more...

Once again I reinforce my statement on the notoriously-Pinoy culture of cheating with a recent issue involving the latest civil engineers' board exam.

According to some news reports, civil engineer wannabes may have to repeat at least two segments of the board exam due to questionable exam results of some of the board-takers. Of the 30 questions listed in one of the segments, some were able to even get all 30 correct answers. Then there were also sketchy reports of one exam-taker who was caught with answers to one of the two controversial segments on his cellular phone. As it turned out, 21 out of 30 of the answers listed in the high-tech kodigo were correct.

Imagine the kind of engineers they will be if these cheaters do get their licenses.

No wonder the Department of Public Works and Highways is always considered as one of the most corrupt government agencies in our country.

No wonder we get substandard buildings and other faulty structures.

We only have ourselves to blame for allowing these cheaters to dominate the professional ranks and run our country to oblivion.

When will we ever learn?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Deluded Supremacist Pigs among Us

And I thought I was racist...

Check out this link to a blog with an entry entitled, "If you Hate America so much, Get the Hell Out!", supposedly written by a Jay Gould III who not only introduces himself as a CEO but is one helluva...well, I think you guys should just click on the link and make your own opinion of the sonofab****.

This Jay Gould III makes the Ku Klux Klan look like Barbie dolls in white gowns.

Please note: don't copy this guy's article and paste it on your respective blogs if only to generate more traffic. Yes, I'm fully aware of the freedom of expression -- but if this is the kind of junk that is going to be scattered online, then it would be more prudent to just make your own critique with this asshole's blog entry as reference.

Somehow I'm suspicious about this Gould's real motives. He's just too evil to be true. My guess is that he's simply a fictional character generated to build more traffic in some person's blog. This is why I didn't place his article here. It would only serve this person's devious objectives.

Well, what do you guys think?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Censorship Rears Its Ugly Head

When do supposed stalwarts of the freedom of expression suddenly turn into its very own oppressors?

This is the question present in the minds of the people concerned in these two seemingly different real-life situations.


The first case involves a group of media people, a group of artists, and a mural.

The group of media people is the National Press Club (NPC). The artists' group is the Angono Artists' Collective. The mural was a project commissioned by the NPC to the Angono artists for the former's anniversary.

After the artists completed the mural, the NPC didn't like several elements painted in it and thus ordered the artists to alter the said elements. The artists hated the idea and refused to change anything in the mural, contending that this is their own artistic depiction of the NPC's achievements in the past years. Thus, the NPC decided to get another artist to make the changes in the mural. This angers the artists who cry foul over what the NPC did. the NPC people meanwhile accuse the artists of a breach of contract. It was later revealed that the contract itself was faulty.

Several verbal tussles ensue between representatives of the NPC and the president of the artists' group. The former insists that they paid for the mural and this makes it their property. In fact, they add, they can even burn the mural if they wanted to. (Gasp!)

The latter, meanwhile, insists that they have intellectual property rights to the mural. This means that they have the right to place any element in the mural that they deem would properly depict the NPC as a core media group. This also means that no one is to tamper with any element in their mural without their expressed consent -- even if the mural is a commissioned project.

The latest in this drama is that the NPC is trying to get the administration of the Philippine Daily Inquirer to buy the so-called "flawed" mural. I'm not sure as to the veracity of reports that the NPC was successful in selling the said mural, but if they were, they'd be making a clean "Pontius Pilate" escape. With that, the artists would have to contend with a new mural owner.


The second case happened much closer to home. Not many knew that this occurred but perhaps now is the time for this to be brought into the open.

Flashback to February 2005 -- the celebration of Arts Month which falls every February. In the University of the Philippines in the Visayas-Tacloban College (UPVTC), the Division of Humanities (DH) would always organize activities for this said month, and it was the DH division head who christened it with the name, the Saringsing Arts Festival. Saringsing, by the way, is a Waray-waray term for the growth of new leaves or buds. Thus, the Saringsing Arts Festival is not only dedicated to the arts but also to the new ideas and creative genius of the UPVTC community.

The DH faculty members are very busy during this time, thinking of ingenious ideas to make the Saringsing a festival in every sense of the word. During that particular time I was still a member of the DH faculty, having been connected with the University for almost two school years already. My idea of an activity for that year was inspired by an event during my college days in UP Diliman wherein several students' organizations in cooperation with Fine Arts students would turn an entire stretch of road into a canvas for their paintings. The result was a massive street mural that stretched along the front of the Arts and Sciences Building.

Since we didn't have streets running through our college, I decided to use the concrete pavement of the Arts and Sciences covered walk instead. I was quite excited about my plan, knowing that this was going to be the first time the whole UPVTC community would witness an event like this. I was even planning on turning this event into an annual thing.

Unfortunately, the UPVTC administration didn't share my enthusiasm. The DH division head told me that my proposal was disapproved, and that if I wanted to make an appeal, I should take it up with the college dean herself -- Marieta Sumagaysay.

I immediately headed for the Dean's Office to find out exactly why my proposal was junked. Dean Sumagaysay initially explained that a group of people from the administration discussed the proposal and came to the conclusion that using the AS Covered Walk for mural painting was not a good idea for the following reasons:

- Since we don't have Fine Arts students, it is possible that instead of coming up with an attractive mural, the student may just make a mess out of it.

- Bad weather and constant trampling will eventually destroy the mural, and it will turn into an eyesore instead of an art piece.

I contended that one doesn't have to be a Fine Arts student to express himself/herself creatively. Besides, this is a perfect venue to unleash the hidden talents of some of our artistic students. And since I had the resident art organization backing me up, I'm sure they'd be around to check on the artistic aspects of the event.

As for the mural eventually getting destroyed, I noted that this is the same thing that happens to the UP Diliman mural. However, this sets the stage for another round of mural-painting by the next year. The students can just paint over remnants of the last mural.

Dean Sumagaysay's arguments withered with my reasoning. However, she pulled out the argument to end all arguments: How are we going to check for content?

I was taken aback by the good dean's specific concern. Ever since I started teaching in UPVTC, I always had faith in the students in the sense that they were reasonable and responsible enough to air their concerns in proper venues. They know the difference between art and profanity, which was why I never worried about content. However, I was disturbed that the dean and her cohorts were concerned -- as in deeply concerned -- about what the students may say through the mural. This activity was supposed to be an outlet for the UPVTC community to express themselves. Why must there be a need for censorship?

In my shock, I think I stumbled through my reasoning against the dean's argument. She then suggested that we meet halfway. Instead of painting on the AS Covered Walk, we were to provide participants with yards of streamer fabric to paint on. These streamers were to be put on display on the side of the AS Building for the duration of the Arts Month. By the start of March, they were to be taken down.

At first, I thought that it was a lame idea. There simply was no substitute for mural painting. But the dean just pulled a fast one on me: If I still insisted on mural painting, then it will have to be discussed in the next general faculty meeting which was slated for the last Wednesday of February.

That was a low blow. If we still debated on whether to push through with the mural painting or not in the general faculty meeting, then by the time the project did push through (IF approved), it would already be March. The initial intent for the mural painting to be held in time for the Saringsing Arts Festival would all be for naught.

Thus, I had to settle for the canvas painting. While it was quite a rousing success, I didn't repeat that activity the next year.


Censorship reared its ugly head in these two situations. For this monster to manifest itself in two institutions that purport to stand for idealism, ethics, and responsibility is a phenomenon that is beyond me.

Has media -- as in the case of the NPC mural -- forgotten its sworn duty to remain neutral in its stance, and to respect other people's intellectual property rights? Have they -- in their desire to be on the good side of none other than Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was guest of honor at their mural unveiling -- avoided to step on the polished shoes of prominent people in government, and instead decided to step on the slippered feet of the Angono artists?

Why are the people of the UPVTC administration afraid of what powerless students would say about them through the mural? Is it because the students may just force them to face a certain fact splashed upon the pavement for all to see? What is this "fact" that they're so hesitant to face?

Unfortunately, there are no answers to all these questions -- only speculation.

In the end, censorship scores two points. As for the truth? Zero.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Racism, Cheating, Philippine Culture, and Desperate Housewives

Okay, so probably I'm already one of the last to climb on the bandwagon of critiques regarding the controversial issue of that so-called racist remark stated about Philippine medical schools on the new season of Desperate Housewives.

I don't see why we're hopping mad about this. Yes, I admit that the remark was racist -- but isn't everybody? I mean, we Filipinos also have our own assumptions about people of colors other than ours. Heck, we're even racist about our own kind: Waray females being war freaks, Ilocanos being cheapskates, Batangueños being full of hot air...

Let's analyze events prior to this comment that may have given rise to such a remark. Case in point: the recent cheating in the Nursing Board exam. Lord knows how long this has been happening, and probably someone got sloppy which is why this thing was blown out into the open. How many cheats in nursing uniforms have we already exported to the US, Middle East, and other countries? And since we have been sending out below-standard nurses abroad, how many of these people have also manifested below-standard traits in their respective workplaces?

Because of this cheating in the Nursing Board exams, a cloud of doubt now hovers over other licensure exams given in this country. For all we know, we now have quasi-doctors, pseudo-lawyers, feeling-engineers, etc. who also earned their stripes from cheating.

Has cheating become so rampant among us Filipinos that it has now become synonymous with the term, "Philippine culture?"

On the lower end of the spectrum, cheating can be seen in the academe. Some start early as students who smuggle in the staple kodigo during quizzes and exams. If you think that examination time is the only instance where cheating is prevalent, let us not forget the copy-and-paste methods of some resourceful individuals in their academic papers. I know for a fact that one can survive academic life without cheating because I graduated from college without ever giving in to the need to cheat. However, there are those who simply go for more "exciting" methods. I just can't understand why people go through such lengths just to cheat when it's much easier, safer, and more correct to just study and do the research. Up to now, I have yet to hear a valid argument which states that cheating is good for one's scholastic life.

As for the high end, I'll just go for two words: Philippine elections. Enough said.

Going back to the Desperate Housewives issue, people are just so overacting about the whole thing. Last I heard, inspite of the ABC network apologizing to the Filipino community about the remark, the Filipinos still want to see blood. Now they want the whole episode rewritten and all. Aw, come on! People have already seen it: why make a bigger mess out of it? At the back of their minds, ABC network executives must be thinking that Filipinos are just trying to get as much media mileage from the issue.

Once and for all, why don't we just admit that we DO have many crappy med schools, we DO have many crappy nurses, and that we cheat to our hearts' desire? Why get slighted for something that's as true as George Bush's war on terror?

Sometimes I think it just serves us right for being the butt of racist remarks. Remember the one stated by Joan Rivers about Filipinos being dog eaters? If that's not true, then tell me what azucena means. I don't eat dogs, but I admit that I see other Filipinos eating dogs -- so why deny the fact?

Besides, in the anthropological sense, there are certain indigenous tribes in the Philippines that do eat dogs as part of their rituals. They even raise dogs just to use them as "offerings to their Gods." Please correct me if I'm wrong but I think it's these tribes in the Cordillera region that have these rituals (Igorots, Ifugaos, etc.). I cannot say that this is a travesty because their culture is different from ours. On the other hand, in their culture, we do things that may be offending to them. All we can do is to just accept their customs and rituals.

Igorots and Ifugaos are also Filipinos, and they eat dogs. And Joan Rivers is certainly right. If she thinks that we're barbarians because we do that, then that's her opinion. From one racist to another, I think her race feels that they're all that, anyway -- even when they're not. (Touche!)

And to further stress how racist I am, I believe that many Filipinos are better at the English language than the Americans themselves. They may have created the language, but WE ARE THE MASTERS OF THE LANGUAGE!

So to these fellow Asian countries who insist on hiring Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and other caucasians as English teachers in their respective countries, you guys should better think twice, you racists (like me)....

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Beauty of Teaching

One day, a former student of mine texted me to say hello. He said he's already into writing his thesis, and will be graduating very soon from the UIniversity of the Philippines in the Visayas-Tacloban College (UPVTC), the university I used to teach in. He added that he's disappointed with my departure from the university, considering that I was one of his "best" teachers.

Whew, that really made my day. I've been out of the academe for quite some time now, and yet my essence still hasn't left the university. I still get calls from former students like the thesis-writer who thank me for a job well-done. I must have done something right.

I have truly come to understand and appreciate the nobility of the teaching profession, especially after one particular incident. I was in media prior to my stint in the academe, and one time my former media colleagues and I had a reunion of sorts during one of my visits to Manila. All of them came to the venue in cars, while I had to hitch a ride with one of them. Just when the party was in full swing, one of them commented, "You know, you're one big fool. Imagine: if you stayed with us in media, your own car would be parked alongside ours. You'd always have money in your pocket. But you just had to go to the academe -- and how much are you being paid there?" Enraged, I retorted, "I may not have as much money in my pocket as you guys, but remember this: you people wouldn't be the professionals you are today if it wasn't for people like me!"

The rewards of being an educator, after all, cannot be measured by how much money one has in his/her pocket. In fact, a teacher who is true to his/her calling only has a take-home salary just enough for a decent subsistence. Also, compared to others, the teaching profession is a 24-hour job. Classroom work is but a mere fraction of what a teacher does. Spare time is spent studying and preparing for the next lectures, checking papers, researching to hone one's skills and to add to one's knowledge, and maintaining an interpersonal relationship with students that borders on becoming a surrogate parent.

Notwithstanding all the pitfalls that come with being an academician, seeing that "eureka" expression in my students' faces after explaining lessons of the day is worth all the riches in the world. Teaching even becomes more fulfilling when a student names me as his/her mentor after garnering an accolade. Now, this is something my former media colleague will never be able to equate -- not even with 10 cars and money in a Swiss bank.

In my four-year term in UPVTC, I would tell my classes at the start of every semester that lessons in my class are not limited to the four walls of a classroom. This is where I introduce the concept of critical thinking that allows my students to have a better understanding of the world through intensified use of their five senses (and even their sixth -- if they have one) and a thorough analysis of things they have observed in their environment. I also taught them about the higher value of a question as opposed to an answer. Questions have to be well-formulated to elicit significant answers. On the other hand, stupid questions also merit stupid answers. With constant injections of these two paradigms all throughout classes, I would finish every semester with my students armed with tools not just to guide them through the rest of their respective courses but also through the rest of their lives.

My former students -- including the thesis-writer -- may soon forget my name, but they will forever bring with them lessons I taught them in and out of the classroom. I am also happy that as my former students turn into the greatest minds this country has ever produced, I know that at one point in their lives, I was a contributor to their success.

Intangible as it may seem, this is the beauty of teaching.

The Oil Debacle

Recently we have experienced another round of debilitating oil price hikes. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, over the weekend gasoline prices have gone up by 50 centavos a liter, while prices of liquefied petroleum products now have an additional 56-centavo increase. Various transport groups like PISTON (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) -- the largest group of jeepney operators and drivers in the Philippines -- are now planning to stage a series of transport strikes to air their demands for a one-peso increase in jeepney fares.

Meanwhile, Filipinos are once again faced with the debacle of making ends meet with the rising costs of basic goods and services -- a typical after-effect of oil price hikes. What a way to greet the Christmas season.

The people so comfortably seated in Malacañang are now trying to appease poor Juan dela Cruz by saying that the situation with the oil price hikes could have been worse had not it been for the "strong economy" we are experiencing right now.

What an irony: our local foreign exchange says that the Philippine peso is now at 42 against the dollar, but I have yet to see Filipinos dancing in the streets because of its effects. C'mon, Malacañang hotshots: stop pulling our leg! The only time I'm going to believe in a Philippine economic recovery is when there are no more reports of children like Marianet Amper committing suicide over hunger and extreme poverty.

Going back to the issue at hand, local oil firms are only reacting to the continuing rise in the prices of oil, or the so-called "black gold" in the world market. As of late, world oil prices have already soared at an all-time high of $100 a barrel. The Philippines is a major oil importer since it cannot generate its own oil resources. Thus, it becomes prone to any price fluctuation in the world market.

In the meantime, members of the OPEC as well as non-OPEC but oil-producing nations garner a windfall over the plight of numerous oil-importing countries -- the Philippines included. Such is the vicious cycle of dependence between these oil-rich countries and the Land of Pinoys.

In fairness to the Malacañang people, one of them managed to share a nugget of wisdom in the light of recent events. Palace Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye stated last Friday that -- well, maybe I should quote him verbatim: "...Now is the time to pool our collective patriotic efforts to intensify the search and development of alternative energy sources, as well as provide the appropriate legal environment to accelerate such initiatives." Nice quote. Whether there's a follow-up to that or not is another story.

Once and for all, we must face the fact that this dependence on a non-renewable resource like fossil fuel -- oil being one of its by-products -- is causing all of us Earthlings more harm than good. On the global scale, oil is now becoming a politically and economically viable bargaining chip in the race for supremacy. He who owns the oil has the oil-driven machines and weapons at his disposal. And oil eventually becomes a tool in the quest of some quarters for world domination.

On local shores, some government solons still insist that oil is the lifeline that keeps the Philippines alive. In fact, inspite of several environmentalists' warnings that it could destroy marine life and habitat, the government through the Department of Energy (DoE) proceeded with its project to drill for oil off the coast of Aloguinsan and Pinamungahan (Cebu).

It shocks me that DoE Secretary Angelo Reyes himself is supportive of such a move. Once again, it has boiled down to a question of economics versus the environment. And we know what this government chose. Apparently, Reyes and Bunye are not seeing eye to eye with regard to this issue.

And so Filipinos are back to another round of belt-tightening, especially this holiday season. Plans of having roast pig (lechon) for Noche Buena may well end up with roast chicken (lechon manok). Others may not have anything for Noche Buena or Media Noche at all.

Oh well, come to think of it: we won't be the only ones in this world to suffer this Yuletide. Take solace in this fact -- if there is any.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Horrors of An Inconvenient Truth

"By far the most terrifying film you will ever see."

This is the tagline used by one of the most controversial documentary films to date. Its title: An Inconvenient Truth.

I missed watching the movie when it first came out in movie theaters in the middle of this year. However, the buzz about it was just so strong it made me curious enough to consider buying a DVD. When this movie garnered two Oscars and a Golden Globe, it made me even more curious. Then when I found out that former US Vice President Al Gore -- the main character in this movie -- won the highly-prestigious 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, I made it top priority to get myself a copy of the movie ASAP.

An Inconvenient Truth didn't have spectacular special effects, nor did it have a stellar cast of characters. In fact, this film was simply a slide show presentation made by Al Gore pertaining to the worsening problem of global warming. Yes, it's quite "academe schmacademe" as an officemate of mine would put it -- so to those of little or no minds, better stick to watching dense superhero movies or risk getting a nosebleed from too much brain activity.

Watching An Inconvenient Truth not only made me realize how large a threat we people are to our own habitat. It also made me look back at the 2000 polls and consider this philosophical question: could a vast majority of Americans have been so wrong in choosing who to sit in the White House?

I could only theorize how much better the world would've been had American voters chosen Al Gore over the incumbent president. US foreign and economic policies would change under the Gore administration. Instead of American taxpayers' money getting siphoned off toward military reinforcements in the so-called "war on terrorism," it could be realigned toward science and technology so that the world can better address the problem of global warming.

With this new focus in American policies, a trickle-down effect could ensue:
  • The US could have taken part in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, and our country would have taken a stronger stand in the global thrust to save our planet.

  • More studies and breakthroughs can be made in the area of finding and harnessing more cost-effective sources of energy instead of continuing our overdependence on fossil-based fuels.

  • There would be more concentration into the study of nuclear power as a source of energy instead of using this phenomenal power as a means for creating weapons of mass destruction.

  • The US will probably be lessening its interference in the affairs of the Middle East and other countries. In effect, lesser military troops will be deployed overseas and countries like Iraq will have more elbow room to decide on their respective fates.

  • The US can organize and/or more actively participate in international conventions pertaining to climate change and other environmental issues. Considering our nation's influence as a so-called superpower, we can easily bring countries together to rally behind moves to curtail the effects of global warming.
  • Since Gore emphasized in An Inconvenient Truth that there simply cannot be a choice between economics and the environment, I'm sure that he will personally see to it that all present economic policies will have to be rethought and -- if needed -- rewritten, taking into account the current status of the environment.

  • The "war on terrorism" could've been the "war against global warming," and more countries could've been more eager to participate in the latter.

  • There would be stricter laws for companies, groups, or individuals who continue to contribute to the devastation of the environment, and America could set an example so that other countries can do the same.

  • This may be a longshot, but considering Gore's emphasis on saving the environment rather than on meddling in other countries' affairs, there is a possibility that 9/11 may not have happened.

  • Disaster preparedness and the installation of more improved early warning devices would be considered top priority, and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the California wildfires, and other calamities could be kept at a minimum.

But alas, all we could do now is to dream of "what-ifs" with regret because many Americans were apparently impressed by George Bush's savvy talk and empty promises as compared to Al Gore's doomsday warnings that the sky is falling.


Why is America so intent on glossing over the fact that global warming is a real threat and not just a theory conjured in a science laboratory? Is it because of a cover-up by the present administration to hide the fact that the US is the biggest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere -- and that there are no clear indications that they are doing something about it?

This is the "inconvenient truth" -- in fact, one of many inconvenient truths -- that Al Gore exposed through this documentary film. He noted that the situation will only get worse in the next 50 years or so, and only if we all accept this as a fact and do something about it can we avert this environmental crisis. And he made his point clear through well-researched data, graphs, statistics, photos, and mini-movies. Memorable segments included the Futurama segment that explained in the most basic terms how global warming occurs, as well as the 3D segment depicting a swimming polar bear looking for solid ice to climb on. Al Gore's voice was heard over the 3D segment, explaining that there already have been reports of drowned polar bears because they grew exhausted from swimming for miles and not finding ice masses to climb onto.

Al Gore himself has already come up with his own book with the same title to complement the movie, and it has already landed on the New York Times bestseller list in the paperback non-fiction category. In fact, as of July 2, 2006, it snatched the No. 1 spot in the said list. (See: Wikipedia for
An Inconvenient Truth)

I'm seriously thinking of letting the teachers at my
daughter's school borrow my DVD of An Inconvenient Truth so that they can organize a film showing there. I guess this is my way of helping Al Gore in his personal crusade to save our environment. This is truly a must-see movie that would surely jolt us into action.

But like I said earlier, if you do have the brains (and the concern) of a pea, then go rent a superhero movie instead. And bring George Bush with you.