Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Streams of Thought Again

Here's another bunch of ideas running in my head due to excessive exposure to the late-night news.
Same Old, Same Old. Exactly 21 years have passed since the infamous Mendiola Massacre that left at least 13 farmers dead from anti-riot police gunfire. And yet, nothing has changed -- except for the people in power. Or so I think.

Farmers are still pushing for genuine agrarian reform. Police are still trigger-happy. Put these two groups together in one place -- chaos ensues.

I pity these poor farmers who almost break their backs to till land that is not theirs. Up to now, it still has to sink in their minds that there is no such thing as genuine agrarian reform. Not in the Philippines, not anywhere.

For as long as our legislators and leaders are dominated by the landed elite, these people from the grassroots will simply wither away and still not achieve what they have long dreamt of: a land they can call their own.

A Question of Ethics. The recent Manila Pen siege has really brought out the worst in the Philippine Armed Forces. Not only were they exposed for their ineptitude and over-agressiveness in securing a small band of disillusioned military officers: their major faux pas was also seen on national and global TV and splashed over the pages of all major dailies.

It's no small wonder that they decided to turn the heat on journalists covering the event by detaining mediamen for several hours.

Now, the military top brass are threatening journalists that if ever the latter decides to "intervene" in future military operations, then they will not hesitate to round up these media people -- again.

Of course, the media is screaming bloody murder over the whole thing.

Isn't it enough that the military has already been tagged several times for extra-judicial killings of mediamen in the recent past?

Perhaps these officers in the military, including Department of Justice Head Raul Gonzales (a favorite of mine from the Arroyo administration -- not), may have forgotten the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution specifically states: "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances." (Geez, I will always have Atty. Victor Avecilla -- my former teacher of Law in Mass Media -- to thank for literally tattooing this particular law in my mind.)

Or maybe the AFP just doesn't understand the meaning of the word, "abridge."

On the other hand, there is also an ethical dilemma present in this situation regarding military operations. More specifically, it borders on the age-old clash between effective insurgency operations and the right of the people to know. For example, the military intends to launch an attack on an Abu Sayyaf stronghold, and details of this are kept in confidential documents. If a journalist either gets a hand on these said documents, or tails the military -- complete with camera crew -- all the way to the venue in question and catches live on camera the said offensive, then the military's cover is blown. Those Abu Sayyaf members who manage to lock in on the news can easily escape before any harm is done to them. At the end of the day, the planned military offensive becomes a failure, all because of over-eager media people trying to get ahead on the latest scoop.

Another former teacher of mine, Atty. Romeo Candazo, taught us in our Media Ethics class that journalists conform to a strict code of ethics. However, when an ethical dilemma like this comes about, one question must be answered: "Will your action prove beneficial to the majority, or only to a chosen few?" Actions based on their potential beneficial effects on the majority should be the ones undertaken. It is the benefit of the majority that has to be upheld, no matter what kind of ethical dilemmas are posed.

This only goes to show that the military's decision to deter journalists from military operations are not at all that spaced-out. Or maybe just a little.

Destabilization Plots. Still on military boo-boos, these guys are getting all paranoid again, saying that there are recent reports of destabilization plots against the Arroyo govovernment.

They can't even provide solid evidence to prove their paranoia.

Honestly, who wouldn't want to go against this present administration? A lot of Filipinos are still going hungry while these well-heeled people in Malacañang are celebrating over the strong performance of the Philippine peso over the dollar.

Geez, these people are talking about statistics, while there's still no food on the Filipino family's table.

If statistics can only be eaten...

Cat Murder. Okay, so I'm a little delayed in making a ruckus out of this news article (see GMA's Saksi video here) that happened during the early part of January. More than 20 cats -- all former strays -- living in a shelter inside the posh Dasmariñas Village in Makati were found killed inside their cages early one morning. Autopsy reports on the dead cats showed that they were gunned down using a pellet gun. Thank God, eight of them managed to survive the massacre.

The last I heard about this incident, the suspected gunman is the shelter caretaker. Probably sick and tired of cleaning cat poo and pee, this guy decided to end his suffering by using the poor cats as target practice.

Of course, animal welfare groups are up in arms over this gruesome incident. Even the residents of the village were concerned -- but not much for the cats but for themselves. According to them, if this cat-killer has the guts to do such a thing to caged animals, then what will keep him from killing people next?

Talk about false concern. In this case, I'd rather have them placed in the cat cages instead of the cats.

Whenever I encounter stories like the Makati cat massacre, I would sometimes think of the concepts of karma and reincarnation. If ever these are really true, I wish that perpetrators of cruelty to these gentle animals would eventually die and turn into the very same animals they were cruel to in their next lives. And I hope the very same pain and torture that they inflicted in their past life would also be inflicted on them.

This cruelty to animals is no longer new to us human beings. In the provinces, cats and dogs are being skinned alive and eaten. Roosters are pitted in cockpits to fight to the death. Pigs are brought to the slaughterhouse in the most inhumane way -- tied down in groups and hung at the back of a motorcycle, placed in a sack and thrown inside the baggage compartment of a bus, etc. Unfortunate dolphins that get caught in fishermens' nets end up sliced up and sold in the wet market. And we just turn a blind eye to these occurrences as if nothing happened.

No amount of information dissemination can take away the innate cruelty of some humans.

Pit Señor Sto. Niño! Cebu City was dressed up to the nines and turned into one big party place last Sunday, thanks to the celebration of the Sinulog Festival, held in honor of the said city's patron, the Sr. Sto. Niño.

This was my second time to watch the Sinulog, and this time I watched it from a very strategic vantage point: my TV in the comfort of my room.

Last year, I was still very new in Cebu and eager to see how Cebuanos party. Thus, I braved the crowds with an officemate and we trekked the long stretch of road where the grand parade was held.

While the dance steps are not that new to me (I half-hail [Is there such a word? LOL!] from Tanauan, Leyte where we have our own Pasaka Festival in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption.), I was astounded by the sheer number of contingents and their elaborate costumes.

And yes, I was also astounded by the sheer heat of the sun and the difficulty to get a ride home. But it was an experience not to be missed, so no regrets -- only lessons to be learned.

That's why this year, I just watched the Sinulog on TV.

Of course, the experience is not as exhilarating as watching the real thing -- but at least I got to see most, if not all of the contingents strutting their stuff in the Cebu City Sports Center.

However, for some strange reason, every time I see the TV footage of the Sinulog, I couldn't help but shed a tear or two. I dunno: I guess I'm just moved to tears by seeing the true beauty and richness of Philippine culture through these magnificent dancers. Or maybe I just remember my daughter when she took part in our Pasaka Festival three years ago. Whatever it is, my tears are tears of pride -- pride in the Filipino.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Website Watch 3: CostumeCats.com

Okay, so this is a choice not without bias. (I'm a cat-lover, so sue me.)

Check out http://www.costumecats.com/ and die from extreme cuteness.

Here are several samples of pictures from the website:

The nice thing about this site is that it has a wide selection of links to other cat websites. Cat-lovers are sure to get their feline fix from exploring this site.

My most favorite picture which I found on CostumeCats.com is this:

I have an aversion for worms, but if these slimy critters looked like this cutie, I may probably take up vermiculture. Hakhakhak!!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Real University of the Philippines Defined

Leave it to my former professor,organization adviser of the UP Journalism Club (my college organization), and former dean of the UP College of Mass Communication (my alma mater) to so eloquently state his thoughts on the University of the Philippines in its 100th year of providing the best education to deserving Filipino youth. In reverence to Prof. Luis V. Teodoro, I am quoting in entirety his article entitled, "A Philippine University." You can also read this same article using this link.


Despite funding constraints, the University of the Philippines (UP), which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, has grown from a small institution on Manila’s Padre Faura street into a national university system of 12 campuses (including the cyber or virtual campus of its Open University) and seven constituent universities.

UP has the most extensive undergraduate and graduate degree programs of any university in the country, and the largest, most competent corps of faculty from creative writing to law, communication to nuclear physics.

Because a UP diploma is by general consent the key to successful careers, annually it attracts the brightest and best students from the country’s secondary schools, tens of thousands of whom take the dreaded UP College Admissions Tests (UPCAT).

UP programs are the benchmarks for other institutions—the private and (non-chartered) government colleges and universities under the supervision of the Commission on Higher Education. UP graduates are not only leaders in the professions, the arts, and the sciences in the Philippines. They have also excelled in foreign climes. And despite talk about its “decline,” it is still the only Philippine university that always makes it to any list of the world’s best.

It sounds like a success story, and in many ways it is. But neither growth nor reputation should be the measure of an institution of higher learning’s success, at least not in a country like the Philippines. Of even more crucial moment is whether the University of the Philippines can now truly be said to be a university for the Philippines and for Filipinos.

This is at the heart of a statement issued last Tuesday by the All- UP Workers Alliance, and the Congress of Teachers and Educators for National Democracy, an organization of UP faculty members across the entire UP System.

After describing what both organizations claim is a commercialization and privatization policy in place in UP today, the statement declares the urgency of transforming UP into an authentic “University of the People” able to address the basic problems of the Filipino nation it serves.

The complaint against commercialization refers to the policy various UP administrations have adopted, to a greater or lesser degree, of utilizing the university’s assets to augment its finances. It’s a response to dwindling budgetary support from every Philippine government that’s come to power in recent times, from that of Ferdinand Marcos to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s.

A major expression of this policy were the increases in UP tuition and other fees, which many UP faculty and students fear will erode a major UP advantage as well as mandate: its capacity to attract and educate the most gifted students from all over the country.

The fear is not without basis. Several UP colleges have reported declining enrolments after fees were raised, as would-be UP students discovered that they would be paying almost as much for a UP education as they would in certain Catholic schools with better facilities, newer buildings and prettier campuses.

It’s futile to argue that the value of the education it offers can’t be measured in terms of how many computers a school has and how well maintained are its flower beds, and that the worth of an educational institution lies in its human resources. For years, however, high school graduates have flocked to UP despite its rundown facilities because at least the fees it used to charge seemed reasonable.

As shallow as that may seem, it worked out well in the end. UP had the pick of the best and deserving, and the latter received the education the best minds of the country could provide. The fee increases seem to be changing all that, and in this sense the future may yet prove the decision to raise fees misplaced, though prodded by the need to augment inadequate funds from the state.

Its doors’ being open to as many Filipinos as possible is a major factor in its lead as an educational institution. But there’s also the fact that as a state university, UP’s educating the poor would seem to be a considerable part of its mandate.

It’s in this sense that the demand that it be a university of the people is being made, and you can’t do that if your fees are beyond even middle-class reach. At another level, however, being a university of the people also means offering a kind of education that’s devoted to both nation and country rather than to self. It’s always been implicit in UP culture—the assumption that, having been educated by the people whose taxes support UP, graduates will give back something in terms of using their skills and knowledge to help the people realize their aspirations for a better, more just, more equitable society. It’s summed up in the admonition, known to every UP student, to “serve the people.”

In a university ironically established under colonial auspices, but now immersed among a people struggling still for the same goals—social justice, freedom, progress—that over a hundred years ago the first Republican revolution in Asia had raised, it’s a commitment that should occupy a special place in every UP student’s and alumnus’ heart.

Comments and other columns: http://luisteodoro.com/


All I can say is Amen to that!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Network Wars

These TV network wars are getting too old.

ABS-CBN and GMA are once again at loggerheads over ratings. This time, it has escalated to the point of one suing the other for libel.

What irritates me is that they're involving the gullible TV viewers in their skirmish. Both networks have been airing station announcements, stating how one has been wronged by the other. The Kapamilya network says that GMA is behind rigging the ratings. The Kapuso network, meanwhile is screaming hogwash with a libel suit on the side. Both are saying that they have the TV audience in mind while fighting for the so-called "truth" behind this ratings hullabaloo.


The ratings game is not about truth "in the service of the Filipino." At the end of the day, it all boils down to money. You see, ratings play a big part in advertisers' selection on where to place their advertisements. These people will pay big bucks to the network that has the most number of televiewers because this will also translate to their ads reaching a wider consumer base. Their basis for finding out which network has the bigger audience share is through these ratings. The higher a network's ratings are, the more people are tuning in to them -- and advertisers will be jockeying for choice spots in that network with the higher rating.

At present, GMA is lording it over ABS-CBN in the ratings game, especially for evening primetime. The Kapamilya's Pinoy Big Brother which used to be their flagship program for primetime was overshadowed by the meteoric rise of Kapuso's Marimar, and the former is at a loss on how to change the status quo.

Suddenly, in comes this news about attempts to bribe target households of AGB Nielsen in Bacolod so that they would switch to GMA from ABS-CBN. This is just the kind of news ABS-CBN was looking for. And now they're screaming bloody murder.

Actually, this kind of bribery has been happening for the longest time -- and GMA is not the only station doing it. Even radio stations engage in this underhanded maneuver. I should know: I used to be part of this industry. And I'm very sure that no one is exempted from cheating at the ratings game, just as much as almost all people in the broadcasting industry receive bribes from those who want extra media mileage.

For Chrissakes, ABS-CBN: before you go pointing at the dirt on GMA, better try looking at the mirror first!

Sigh: this is precisely the reason why I sorely miss watching cable TV.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

University of the Philippines: Celebrating 100 Years of Academic Excellence

I've always been loyal to my alma mater, the University of the Philippines, primarily because it was here where I had so many good memories in my scholastic and career life. And now that UP has finally reached its centennial year, I can't help but get caught up in the jubilation of fellow members of the vast UP community.

For this blog entry, I'll be writing random thoughts pertaining to the UP Centennial, as well as my days in the premier university in the Philippine archipelago. (Sorry, Ateneo and La Salle folks: my school takes the limelight here.)


Many non-UP people have always asked me why we have a man who revels in his unabashed nakedness for a school symbol. He is, of course, the Oblation, or Manong Oble, as we fondly call him. Originally made by Prof. Guillermo Tolentino of the UP College of Fine Arts, Manong Oble has become the school's symbol of academic freedom and the pursuit of truth and liberalism.

I was surprised to find out that the "original" bronze Oblation in Quezon Hall of UP Diliman is not exactly the original one. It was merely crafted in a mold taken from the original which, according to Wikipedia.com, is now being kept in the upper floor of the UP Main Library -- the original site of the College of Fine Arts where Prof. Tolentino used to teach. Several replicas of the Oblation were then sculpted by National Artist, Napoleon Abueva, and are now standing proudly in most of the UP campuses scattered all over the country.

During my days as an instructor in UP Tacloban, I remember having a running joke with a fellow female colleague about waiting for the leaf on Manong Oble to fall before we ever get married (in my case, again). Of course, that would never happen...but secretly I think we wished it would.


I graduated with a degree in Broadcast Communication from the College of Mass Communication in UP Diliman in 19....never mind. But if you insist on finding out exactly how far back it was since I was in college, I'll simply give you my student number: 87-05354. The first two digits indicate the year when I entered UP. Yeah, yeah: I know I'm ancient...

Confront a fellow UP alumnus/alumna about his/her student number, and most likely they will still be able to recite it correctly to you.


UP students and graduates have always been branded as "activists," simply because of their affinity with the school. For the record, this perception is not always true. While liberalism and academic freedom is being practised in UP, it does not turn everyone there into screaming rebels ready to wage rallies against the Establishment. We have our own share of passive and even apathetic individuals who turned into the kind of people they are for several reasons: first, they are too scared of repercussions, like in the case of many of our UP Tacloban students who are privy to the many irregularities being perpetrated by some of their very own teachers, but who keep quiet to avoid bearing the brunt of their teachers' grudges. Second, they are simply uninformed, or refuse to be informed because they're quite satisfied with their respective comfort zones already. Third, they just don't care. (Die, you a**holes, DIE!)

My UP experience taught me to open my senses to the goings-on in the world, so that I can properly analyze them and create a sound assessment. If I was contented in my high school days with simply having a roof on my head, food to eat, and a bed to sleep on (no thanks to our sheltered lives in Manila Science High School), UP turned my brain into a sponge of new ideas and schools of thought. It taught me to start asking philosophical questions and to create stronger mindsets.

If this is what is called "activism," then I'm grateful to UP for giving me that.

But I think former UP President Francisco Nemenzo has a better term for it: critical thinking. And this is the kind of thinking I espoused to my students when I became a UP teacher myself.

Critical thinking: one of the wonderful residues of assimilating the UP culture. That is, if you were really serious about your being a UP student then.


You are not a true UP Diliman student if you have never eaten in Rodic's.

Along with CASAA which is located between Palma Hall and the Palma Hall Annex, Rodic's used to be our favorite lunchtime hub. It is a hole-in-the-wall eatery found in the UP Shopping Center. But don't be fooled by its rickety ambiance: Rodic's is actually one of UP Diliman's most popular icons. In fact, it goes down UP history as one of the longest-standing eateries within the UP Diliman campus. I was quite shocked when one time, I was relating to my parents about eating with schoolmates in Rodic's earlier that day and my dad interrupted me with a loud "Whaaatt?!" As it turned out, my dad revealed that during his days of studying in the UP College of Law in the 1950s, they'd also visit Rodic's. That was my turn to say, "Whaaatt?!"

And yes, Rodic's still stands in its same location up to the present day. And I'm assuming that they'd be celebrating their golden jubilee anytime now.

Just what made Rodic's so popular with UP people from way back up to the present? It's their very cheap yet delicious and filling silog dishes. Most commendable is their tapa flakes and their spicy dilis. Just writing about them makes my mouth water...


UP's grading system is set from 5 to 1, 1 being the highest grade one could achieve. A 3 is considered as barely passing, or in colloquial terms, pasang-awa. A 4 is a conditional failure, but one could still appeal to his/her teacher to have this grade changed.

But a 5 is a 5. That's the end of the road for any appeals a UP student may want to make.

I never got a final grade of 5 in my student days, and when I became a UP teacher myself, I somehow expected the same from my students. While most of them managed to make the cut, there were those who just kept slacking away. And when grading time came, I'd give them their just dessert: a bloody-red 5.

Other faculty members would approach me, saying that I may just be a tad too stringent for giving 5s. According to them, having a 5 on the student's Transcript of Records may provide a problem for the student concerned, especially when he/she starts looking for work. My argument is that these kids should have thought about that before they decided on cutting my class and not passing the course requirements.

Oh, and I've had several of these slackers visiting me in the faculty room, begging on their knees to let me change their grades of 5. So far, all of them (male and female alike) would leave the faculty room in tears, fruitless in their appeals.

Two of these slackers were big fratmen who sobbed like little boys when I showed them my Class Record to let them understand exactly why they got a 5. Then as a piece de resistance, I closed my record and say, "Now, give me a good reason why I should change your grade."

If being just in my grading system makes me a terror teacher, then so be it.


And if you think I was a colorful UP teacher, there are other UP teachers even more colorful than me.

Prof. Winnie Monsod, according to my orgmates from UP Sidlangan, would come to class smoking her cigarettes.

I have a colleague from the Division of Humanities who is a self-proclaimed witch of the white order. She sees dead people, auras, and otherworldly beings because of her open third eye.

I used to have Pinoy Big Brother himself, Laurenti Dyogi, as a teacher in my Scriptwriting class. Maria Ressa also was a former Scriptwriting teacher of mine.

I had former teachers and colleagues who came to class in Hawaiian shorts and shirts.

I remember my Communication 1 teacher, Prof. Filonila Tupas, who scared us out of our wits with her terror tactics. Many years later, she was massacred in her own home.

My Spanish 1-2 teacher, Prof. Paz Miciano, often berated me for my relatively slow understanding of her Spanish lessons. But at the end of our classes (and after my taking two makeup exams), she whispered in my ear and said, "Señorita Rodriguez, I expect you to become a cum laude when you graduate, comprende?"

A former teacher who taught STS in my time (He's dead now, bless his soul...) became (in)famous for coining the phrase, "Kwarto o kwatro?" He eventually landed in jail for lascivious acts.


Speaking of STS, this is a subject that up to now, I have yet to comprehend. STS is Science, Technology, and Society, and it is a GE subject, meaning that all UP students have to take it before graduating.

STS has a little bit of Social Science, a little bit of Natural Science, a little bit of Biology, a little bit of Physics, a little bit of Chemistry...technically, a little bit of everything UP students have already taken in their earlier years. Honestly, I think this subject is quite pointless.

The STS final exam is primarily a reflection of how pointless this subject is. Case in point, one question in the exam which goes like this: "How many fairies would it take to dance on a pinhead?" Duh to the nth power...

I have to admit, I did learn something from my STS classes: how to sneak out of the lectures when the professor isn't looking (Thank God for the overpopulated classes and the strategically-placed back doors of the College of Science auditorium.), and memorizing the answer key to the STS exams. (Answer key is handed down from batch to batch, by the way. Just goes to show that they barely changed the exam contents in my time.)


Hey you UP peeps, don't tell me you don't recall the lyrics to the UP Anthem, UP Naming Mahal! It goes a little something like this:

UP naming mahal, pamantasang hirang
Ang tinig natin, sana'y inyong dinggin
Malayong lupain, atin mang marating
Di rin magbabago ang damdamin
Di rin magbabago ang damdamin.

Luntian at pula, sagisag magpakailanman
Pagdiwang natin, bulwagan ng dangal
Humayo't itanghal, giting at tapang
Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan
Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan.

Thanks to our very own Nicanor Abelardo who penned the lyrics of UP Naming Mahal. I hope we UP alumni are still living up to what we sang during our respective graduations.


When I was in my graduating year in high school, we had the liberty of choosing from any university we wanted to take their entrance exams. While my batchmates took the exams for all the best universities in Manila (UP, Ateneo, DLSU, and UST), I only took exams for three out of four of these schools.

Before the exams, I visited the three schools I chose (UP, Ateneo, and UST) to have a feel of how I'd fit in if ever I did pass their entrance exams. Actually, I just took the UST exam for the heck of it, not because I wanted to study there. When I went to Ateneo, I didn't like the atmosphere. It just seemed too...elitist. But when I went to UP, I felt at home with the crowd.

I passed the entrance exams for all three schools, but I chose the school that I felt would teach me something more about the world than what is stated in books: the University of the Philippines.

I never regretted my choice.


Once again, to all of us in the UP community, a happy centennial to all of us!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Write about UP

I just got an announcement from my Eskwela.com profile, and it goes a little something like this:

"As part of UP's 100th year celebration, we are putting together '100 Kwentong Peyups', a series of columns which will appear in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star throughout the year. We invite all past students of any of the University of the Philippines ' units to submit their stories. Submissions should:

1. Be a maximum of 1,000 words
2. Be a personal experience and written in the 1st person
3. Emotionally engaging---funny, sad, scary, etc.
4. Make the connection between the story and a life lesson that serves you well today
5. If possible, please include an old photo/scanned memento

Please include your name, College or Unit and Course, and year you entered UP as well as your email address. If you remember your Student Number, even better.

Send your submissions to
100kwentongpeyups@campaignsandgrey.net. You will be notified via email if your story has been selected for publication or for use in other Centennial celebrations.

Submissions will be accepted starting January 1, 2008. Btw, please feel free to pass this on to other UP alumni."

So, what are you waiting for, all ye UP peeps? Share your best (and worst) experiences from within the august halls of UP Naming Mahal! Just don't write about how I terrorized my former students, okay? (LOL!) On the other hand, maybe you should. That would be great for my "terror teacher" persona. hehehe...