Mayo Uno 2014 (Labor Day in Manila)

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May 1, 2014. It was the reportedly the hottest day of the year to date, and perhaps no other description can be more apt to figuratively describe the intensity of the passion that filled those who participated in the annual protest rally. Tens of thousands filled the plaza around the monument of Gat Andres Bonifacio in Lawton, as the same deluge marched the streets of midtown Manila to Mendiola to reaffirm the demands of the working class and other sectors of society for social justice.

Side trip to the National Museum

March 26, 2014. A very spontaneous trip to the National Museum with my law school classmates. I had originally just planned to go to the City Hall to work out some papers, tagging some friends along, and we ended up passing by the National Museum along the way after one of us admitted never having set foot inside.

Labor Day in Manila 2012

This is the Power I referred to earlier – a living, communal constellation of complex, intelligent, fair-minded civic interests most days rendered indecipherable and at times inaccessible by mass media’s atomizing officiating of hegemony passed off as reality. As if only mobilization and manifestation of struggle were, for the moment at least, really capable of displacing the reactionary capture and expropriation of peoples’ collective will. – Jonathan Beller, Labor Day Manifestation

An estimated 20,000 Filipinos trooped to the streets of Manila on Labor Day to demand a nationwide wage hike and to protest against government inaction on massive unemployment and poverty. Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines
Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines
Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

The Big Binondo Food Wok

There’s always something fascinating I find with Binondo. Its being Manila’s Chinatown definitely sets it apart from the city’s other districts, it almost feels like another foreign place, but then it’s just unmistakably very Manila. The Big Binondo Food Wok is one of the “walking tours” of Old Manila Walks conducted by Ivan Mandy. The tour takes guests around the streets of Chinatown and allows them to take in the sights and sounds while enriching one’s mind with bits of history lessons and trivia and while nibbling on unique Binondo treats.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

The tour started off with a brief introductory history lesson at Plaza Calderon dela Barca, which was continued across the street at the historic Binondo Church. Ironically, as Ivan Mandy points out, the baroque Catholic cathedral is Chinatown’s most prominent landmark. It, however, features a bell tower that has pagoda-like characteristics.

The first food stop was Eng Bee Tin‘s second-floor cafe, which is also called the volunteer firemen’s coffee shop. The cafe pays tribute to the volunteer firemen of Chinatown. The earnings of the place are donated to the firemen. There, we had kiampong or salted rice, which didn’t turn out to be that salty, but really tasty nonetheless, eaten together with fishball soup.

The next food stop was Dong Bei Dumplings, the now acclaimed hole-in-the-wall restaurant of a couple from Northern China which serves authentic Chinese cuisine distinct from the Canton-type of Chinese food most of us are familiar with. Guests will be served, well, dumplings. I’ve been to the place twice before, so I knew what was coming. Nonetheless, Dong Bei dumplings are always a unique treat.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

Walking a few blocks from Dong Bei, guests will be treated to tea eggs from a stall along Salazar Street. It’s the first time I tried these eggs out. Tea eggs are made by boiling the eggs in a mixture of special tea leaves and soy sauce for at least two days.

Another block from the stall selling tea eggs, we were treated to siopao with a fried bottom at another stall. The siopao had a filling of ground pork and chives, which tasted similar to the dumplings we had in Dong Bei, instead of the usual asado or bola-bola.

A few meters from the stall, we were treated to hopia from Ho-Land Bakery. (I’m not that much of a fan of hopia so I stepped out and just took street pictures).

The last stop was an eatery inside an art-deco building along Quintin Paredes, where we were treated to a different kind of fresh lumpia. By that time, I was already quite full, as would perhaps any other guest after indulging in the previous treats. Anyway, the lumpia filling was made up of finely chopped carrots, and other vegetables, and oddly enough, sugar.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

The tour appears to be largely catered to foreign tourists (or perhaps because the tour group I was with was composed mostly of foreigners), and Filipinos who are unfamiliar with Binondo and Chinese food. For those who have been to Binondo a couple of times before, and are expecting to see and taste things they haven’t tried before, the hopia, lumpia or siopao might not be that exciting. I was personally expecting something more daring and unfamiliar. Notwithstanding that, the rest of the tour is highly enjoyable and informative. One of the best things, for me, is that you can have second servings of the food. You may contact Old Manila Walks through their contact page.

At the Aquino wake in Manila Cathedral

My mother asked me if I was willing to accompany her to the wake of former President Cory Aquino.

The prospect of falling in line for hours instead of studying for class the next day was not appealing at first. But I agreed, paying respect to a good and upright former president never felt wrong.

Yesterday afternoon, before leaving for class, I watched the live coverage of Cory’s cortege from Ortigas to the Manila Cathedral. It was quite overwhelming. Tens of thousands of people lined up the streets and showered the funeral procession with flowers and confetti. I don’t remember Cory being that popular the past years. Perhaps its because the longing for an upright and moral leader is intensified in times when we are beset under the leadership of an evil woman. Cory’s presence, and the leadership she exemplified, though not perfect, is something that is greatly to be missed today. We appreciate something so much more when we don’t have it. Indeed. The cortege arrived in Intramuros two hours delayed due to the throngs of people that slowed down the funeral procession.

My mother and I had planned to proceed to the Manila Cathedral right after my afternoon class, but we decided to postpone the visit till midnight. We thought there would be much less people queuing by early morning. We were wrong.

When we got to Intramuros by midnight, the line was still probably a mile long, snaking around the streets of Intramuros. We were able to stand before the casket of the former president after almost two hours.

Students walk out of classes vs. charter change

As much as I wanted to join the walk-out, I was apprehensive about missing my one class that afternoon. Excessive absences was, after all, a contributory reason as to why I had bad grades last semester. I was supposed to just pass by the AS Lobby and deliver a solidarity speech before going to class in Malcolm Hall.

When I got to the historic lobby, however, the entire hall was full of students in red shirts. A lot of them were new faces, freshmen perhaps. It’s a sight I’m honestly not used to seeing during regular mobilizations in UP. And it was enough to agitate me to join. Unfortunately, it was one of those days when I forget to bring my camera. I’ve lost the habit of always tagging it along with me wherever I go. In any case, posted below are pictures and a video coverage done by Bulatlat. There’s also a slide show of photos, at their site.

Here are photos from the simultaneous mobilization in Baguio, where hundreds of students also walked out of classes to protest against Gloria Arroyo’s charter change attempt. Photos by Ak Riva. Student groups from Cebu and Davao also participated in the nationwide protest action of the youth.

Perhaps it’s been said over and over again–Gloria Arroyo’s charter change does not address the plethora of problems that confront the youth. It does not provide a solution to the rising cost of education in the country, nor does it provide solutions to the crises that besiege not only the youth but different sectors of Philippine society. It even worsens the present conditions by intensifying the policies that have made the lives of Filipinos worse over the past decade, and, as I’ve mentioned, it only further intensifies the local and foreign exploitation of our national industries and our natural resources.

For me these are stronger reasons for us to reject, not only the current attempt at charter change, but any future proposals to liberalize the economic provisions of our constitution. I’m sure, even if we do have new leaders by next year, extraneous political forces will continue to lobby for these changes. Sure, we want Arroyo out by 2010, we want to select new leaders perhaps. But more to the desire to have an elections by 2010, we should also strive to preserve our sovereignty and dignity as a people.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 4)

My friends in UP and colleagues from Kabataan Party were at the Labor Day rally to affirm the workers’ sector’s causes and to push for the youth sector’s own issues intricately connected with the workers’ struggles. I’ll post some news releases below.

8 out of 10 unemployed Filipinos are youth New grads could end up idle for months, years

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino on Labor Day warned that majority of this year’s 900,000 new college graduates could end up idle months or even years after graduation. “The youth are always at the greatest risk in these economic downturns. Often it is young workers or new graduates who are the hardest hit,” Palatino said. “For every 10 unemployed Filipinos, five fall under the age group of 15 to 24 years,” Palatino said, citing the January 2009 Labor Force Survey. This accounts for 49.2 percent of the total number of unemployed Filipinos. If combined with the 25 to 34 age group, Palatino said the share of young Filipinos in the unemployed accounts for 80 percent of the total number of unemployed Filipinos. “Young, low-skilled workers are easily priced out of entry-level jobs. Young workers are also often disadvantaged in bargaining arrangements,” he added. “The government is trying to hide the high unemployment and underemployment rates in the country by using the call center boom and its new medical tourism program.”

“Malacanang is sponsoring call center and tourism job fairs to create an illusion that there are still decent jobs available in the country. But these jobs are market-driven, meaning they are temporary in nature and are not sustainable for young Filipinos looking for permanent careers,” Palatino said. “The government’s adherence to globalization policies which vulnerably open up the economy to unrestrained entry of foreign goods and capital is slowly killing our own enterprises, leading to mass lay-off of workers and lost job opportunities. Coupled with the present global economic meltdown, they only exacerbate the dismal conditions that our young workers and fresh graduates are already facing,” he said.

When the sun had set, people started lighting up their sulos and the thousands marched to the American Embassy in Roxas Boulevard. We were blocked by policemen in a barricade near the embassy, so we decided to hold the protest program right there and then.

Imperialist virus

“Unjust and deliberate retrenchments, slashing of wages and work shifts, and institutionalization of flexible labor schemes have become the worst epidemic ever as it has already destroyed the lives of millions throughout the world,” KMU Chairperson Elmer Labog said. “It was the big businesses mainly from the US imperialist that have created the economic crisis outbreak, and made workers bear the brunt of it to ensure their continued profiteering. Thus, Labor Day becomes most relevant to all because to defend the cause of the workers — for job security, better wages and living conditions — is to champion the interests of the greater majority, that are always subdued by the capitalist elites.” Labog added. “This May 1, we shall bring the fight at the foot of the global crisis epidemic’s mastermind: the US regime.”

The KMU-led rally trooped to the US embassy with a thousand torches and culminated the program there. “The Arroyo government, as one of the US regime’s most favorite puppets, has consistently enacted policies that make the country’s economy serve US the most, such as limitless lifting of restrictions and giving of incentives to foreign trade products, investments, and ownership. “Arroyo is even railroading the ChaCha now to gain further US support to her term extension plans, for the ChaCha will allow 100 percent foreign ownership — meaning greater US imperialist control — to Philippine resources, media, and basic government institutions. And we expect the onslaught or more lay-offs, wage cuts, and labor rights violations if foreign monopolies will have greater control of our economy,” Labog added. The Labor Day rally also served as an anti-ChaCha demonstration.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 3)

After taking some shots of the march at Quiapo, I tried to run ahead of the demonstrators to the other end of Quezon Bridge to be able to take shots of the different contingents that made up the march, from the labor and other militant leaders in front to those from the youth sector at the back. There were contingents from migrant workers, government employees, health workers, teachers, farmers, fishermen, jeepney drivers, among others.

Upon reaching Liwasang Bonifacio, the annual Labor Day program commenced. Agitating and passionate speeches from leaders of Kilusang Mayo Uno and Anakpawis were delivered. Calls reiterating the workers’ demand for the P125 across-the-board wage increase resounded in the plaza. Solidarity messages from other sectors of society, including the youth, were also delivered. There were also cultural presentations and song numbers from cultural workers’ groups.

Towards the latter part of the program, labor leaders from other countries also spoke and delivered their messages of solidarity. It was quite uplifting, and pretty amusing too when the labor delegate from Mexico chanted the quintessential el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido! (the people united will never be defeated!) with the rest of the crowd following suit. For a while it felt like we were in a large workers’ rally in Latin America. The atmosphere wasn’t just agitating, it was also, in a way, festive and celebratory–different sectors of society coming together to reaffirm the role of workers and their collective strength. On a very shallow level, it was also quite fun trying out all the street food that dozens of ambulant vendors were selling at Liwasang Bonifacio, while re-acquainting yourself with colleagues from different youth organizations and taking photos.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 2)

Labor Day or Mayo Uno 2009 was also a day when Filipino workers’ organizations and unions, together with allied organizations, reiterated and reaffirmed the call for the approval of the P125 across-the-board wage increase which the government has slept on for the past decade, despite the fact that even if it was approved today, it would already be short of the average cost of living. The government and big business line, of course, is to equate wage hikes with job cuts and to ultimately pit jobs and wages against each other, where the contradiction is not supposed to exist.

Contrary to claims of government officials in cahoots with big businesses, a P125 wage increase is doable. Just look at the profit margins of any big business in the country. An IBON Foundation study, for one, claims that “the increasing labor productivity of local workers, or the ratio of national output to employment, has been steadily increasing over the past decade.” It added that “between 1999 and 2006, labor productivity has increased by 56.3% in nominal terms and 13.1% in real terms (taking inflation into account). This shows that employers could afford to grant the P125 wage hike, which would necessarily trim their profit margin but will certainly not push them to bankruptcy.”

The unwillingness of government and big businesses to pay their workers decent wages, is simply a manifestation of, aside form the excessive greed of CEO’s and capitalist junkies, the inherent unjust character of the current capitalist order. From Quiapo, the demonstrators proceeded across Quezon Bridge onto Liwasang Bonifacio, where the annual Labor Day program, led by KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno) and Anakpawis, is held.