Learn how to cry!

January 20, 2015. After watching ‪Pope Francis‬’ speech in his encounter with the youth, I am even more amazed and inspired with his words and ideas. I hope the message is not trivialized or watered down because the message is actually a very strong criticism and challenge for many of us young students.

He did not speak simply of the love we are so used to. He was speaking of the love of Christ, through others, especially the poor. That is why he extolled that we have to “learn how to love and be loved”! Because we don’t! He even said it is the “most important subject we have to learn in a university” which is a strong criticism of how our universities are run. We are not being taught how to love others with true compassion. The focus has always been on becoming employable professionals for a ‘globalised’ future. We have lost our sense of community and compassion with society!

When he told us that we have to learn to cry, certainly hindi niya tayo sinasabihang maging iyakin. It is not an affirmation of young people’s propensity to cry when they are heartbroken. NO! It was his way of emphasizing his message of compassion, of feeling and suffering with the poor and the abused. We do not weep with the oppressed and the abused because we do not feel their suffering. That is what the Pope meant when we have to learn how to weep!

He actually criticized how many of us practice our brand of “compassion” through charity. The Pope said “It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on. But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives.” Hindi sapat na ‘tumutulong’ o nagbibigay lang tayo sa mga inaapi. We have to learn how to “cry” with them.

He actually criticized many young people with his words. He responded to “Ricky” after he narrated how he helped the poor with his project. Thank you Ricky, the Pope said, but he asked him “You give and give help but do you know how to receive?” The camera didn’t show it but Ricky probably answered yes to the Pope but the Pope gestured to Ricky not so say it but “answer in your heart.” Because the Pope knew that many young people today don’t know how to receive because we think we “need nothing” and that we are “self-sufficient”. He kept repeating these words throughout his speech.

Young students today are so used to occasional charity works and relief operations, which makes us feel good for helping others. But the Pope asked us, “Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?” The Pope emphasized this when he repeatedly told us the we “lack one thing” and that we have to “learn how to beg” and “become a beggar”. We keep giving and yet we do not “let ourselves be evangelized by those [we] serve”. It is so often that I see and hear to many young students with matapobre comments against the poor, na que sa tamad, na que sa puro bisyo, na que sa anak nang anak. But the Pope now challenged us, “Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty.”

Let us go to the ‘peripheries’! Let’s learn from the plight of the marginalized and the oppressed. “Let us open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the corruption, social inequality, and the evil reigning in our society — and let us collectively and actively struggle against the system that perpetuates this.”

On the laziness of many poor Filipinos

April 19, 2012. There is this prevalent and misguided notion among several sectors of the ‘educated class’ that the cause of a person’s or a family’s poverty and want is a function of one’s lack of “diskarte” as they call it, or even more insulting, a function of one’s indolence (echoing Spanish colonial friars), or worse, a function of the number of children in the family.

If that were the case, then they should agree with the idea that the primary solution, then, to the persistent poverty that cripples majority of Filipinos is a nationwide psychological self-help and motivation seminar and the mass castration and ligation of couples nationwide. But clearly, that is absurd as it is naive.

Poor millions of Filipinos are but lazy they are certainly not. They are neither a class of irresponsible offspring-makers as some insultingly try to portray them to be. God knows how many Filipinos work tirelessly in the fields and in the factories and workplaces in the country and overseas from sun-up to sundown and yet their lives do not improve. (For if you are looking for the laziest people in the planet, you need not look further than the corner offices of men and women who take no part in production but acquire the wealth of collective labor). Certainly, the hand to mouth existence of millions is not a mere consequence of individualized and separate circumstances of their God-forsaken lives, as some religious conservatives insist (and thus the solution is simply–prayer). The poverty of any one Filipino family is a condition that they share with millions of others across the archipelago, not because of some common trait of indolence or libido, but because we are all subject to the same political and economic rules of the status quo. Indeed, larger political and economic forces are behind their shared misery.

So, to my idealistic friends, who remain hopeful but misguided by the onslaught of a cacophony of bourgeois solutions to poverty: perpetual charity work, seminars, scholarship drives, outreach missions, “fun runs” just won’t do. The challenge is to unite with the different sectors of society to collectively confront the political and economic roots of this centuries-long calamity.

* Charity is a virtue?

The dishrag calling the dust cloth dirty

January 15, 2012. A few days ago, a paper written by ex-President Gloria Arroyo entitled “It’s the economy, student!” was released to the public. In the piece, the ex-President went on great length to champion her economic programs on one hand and to and bash President Aquino for failing to ‘sustain’ the gains she boasts to have accomplished on the other.

What really is the fundamental difference between economic policies of the two? Nothing. President Aquino merely continues the same economic policies of President Arroyo.

Both Presidents’ economic programs adhere to the same dogma of neoliberal globalization. It’s the economy, all right–the economy of big businessmen, foreign investors and their local counterparts. Whether or not ordinary Filipinos benefit from such economic growth is merely incidental. They have a phrase for it–“trickle down” effect. Numbers that proclaim economic growth are rendered meaningless by the fact that poverty has continued to worsen over the decade, so much that the government had to re-define and lower the poverty threshold. The vision of economic prosperity and survival is entirely dependent on foreign investors and all the economic programs of President Aquino and his predecessors are aligned with the agenda of these monopoly capitalists and their local counterparts.

Both Presidents have pushed for the further privatization of public utilities by selling contracts to roads and other public services to private profiteers. Both administrations have strengthened the deregulation of industries imbued with public interest and rejected clamors to repeal the laws that allow such deregulation, from the oil industry (Oil Deregulation Law) to power generation and distribution (EPIRA) to education (Education Act of 1982), which have resulted to public services that are increasingly out of reach to ordinary Filipinos and are increasingly profitable to private corporations.

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On Squatters

Nakiusap ang mga nanay ng Corazon de Jesus na makabalik sila sa kanilang sinisira nang mga tahanan para maisalba ang natitira nilang mga gamit. Pero pinipigilan sila ng mga pulis. (photo and caption by KR Guda of PinoyWeekly.org)

January 12, 2012. There is something particularly bothersome with the condescending arrogance displayed by some people with regard the issue of the urban poor and their problem on housing. Relying on pure legalese, they forward an overly simplified position that since “squatters” do not own the land where their shanties are built on, they deserve to be evicted–by force–using the entire arsenal of the state to protect the property rights of the owners.

These people fail to recognize the social context of the problem. A fourth of Metro Manila, a staggering 584,425 families according to the National Housing Authority, are informal settlers. When the problem affects a significant portion of the population it ceases from becoming a purely legal problem of property rights and land ownership. It becomes a tragic social phenomenon, in much the same way as peasant landlessness is, and thus calls for fundamental political and economic solutions like agrarian land reform. It is a social phenomenon because it finds its roots in political and economic forces that compel hundreds of thousands of Filipino families to move to urban centers and “squat” on idle lands.

If you think squatters are not entitled to live in their homes, you might as well ask for the eviction of a fourth of Metro Manila for squatting on idle lands. Wow. If you don’t realize it, many of Manila’s laborers come form the urban poor. They do everything from cooking and serving your food, doing your laundry, and ironically–building your homes. You might as well ask for the paralysis of economic activity in the national capital.

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Christmas is our drug

Tumitingkad tuwing kapaskuhan and ‘di pagkakapantay-pantay sa lipunan. ‘Di lahat siguradong merry–at alam ito ng bawat isa. Kaya nga wish tayo nang wish ng Merry Christmas sa isa’t isa.

Sana, sa bawat sambit natin ng salitang Merry o Happy ay kalakipang kahilingang mapunta sa ating kapwa ang sa kanya’y nararapat at ang pagnanais na makaambag sa pangyayari nito.

Para sa mulat na pagdiriwang ng pasko at sa pagpapanibagong hubog sa bagong taon!

It’s not the most sentimental Christmas greeting I received, but it’s probably the one that I thought was quite meaningful. In a season when glaring social inequalities are grossly reinforced, sure it’s comforting to surrender to a collective temporary amnesia where we all seem to agree to forget our worries and just be happy. But we all know no matter how much we wish or pray for every day to be like Christmas, it will never happen. Sa mundo at panahong hitik sa tunggalian at kontradiksyon, isang pangarap lang ang paghiling na ang araw-araw ay maging Pasko lagi. Which all the more makes this brief season worth savoring. Merry Christmas, folks. Glad to be back blogging.

Sipag at tiyaga

[This is my simple contribution to Blog Action Day 2008.October 14, 2008. The most prevalent idea being perpetuated by mass media and other traditional establishments with regards to how poverty could be solved is the notion that it’s all up to the individual’s hard work and perseverance. Nasa sipag at tiyaga lang ‘yan. Kayod lang nang kayod. Mag-trabaho lang nang mag-trabaho. Dadating din ang asenso.

To reinforce this idea, it’s not seldom that we are made witnesses to countless life stories of individuals who rose from poverty rags-to-riches style. Just this weekend, over ABS-CBN, we are made audience to TV biographies of the country’s business tycoons and how they achieved their status through “hard work” and how they return to the poor their riches through humanitarian efforts and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects.

This, however, is the reality: anumang sipag at tiyaga ang gawin ng malawak na sektor ng manggagawa, karamihan sa kanila ay hindi talaga aasenso. Not in a prevailing order that thrives on the cycle of inequality that it perpetuates. The success stories we are being made to witness and admire are mere exceptions rather than the norm. Surely, if it’s all up to sipag at tiyaga, then most of our employees, workers and farmers, whom we pride to be hard-working, should be experiencing economic security. Don’t you ever wonder why such is not the case? After all, who benefits the most from the hard work of workers?

We are simply being made to pin our hopes and be content with the way things are done and not strive or fight for something better. Indeed, when it is not coupled with genuine reforms and changes in the core orientation of our economies and in how our governments are run, mere sipag at tiyaga will never be enough to lift the vast majority Filipinos, and even the rest of the world’s poor, out of poverty.

Libo-libong butil

February 21, 2007. There are relatively few classes and students in Mass Comm during Wednesdays, which makes it a small breather among the days of the week in student council election campaign. I nevertheless did not campaign in the morning because my groupmates in documentary film class and I went to Sampaloc, Manila to shoot footages for our documentary.

Along Gen. Geronimo St., in Sampaloc is a long row and community of cardboard and umbrella shanties. The community is called ‘Maisan’ because many of the residents of the community are ambulant vendors of corn who sell them in various streets in different parts of Metro Manila.

The setting and its novelty is not really the main subject of our documentary, but the problems and struggles of the community and its individual residents in the context of a larger national problem and in the context of an upcoming national elections. Let’s see what we can come up with our footage.

I had to go back to UP that afternoon to attend our slate’s photo shoot and also, to campaign in the afternoon classes.


As introduction to alternative scriptwriting, our scripwriting professor asked us to watch a few films, one of which was Kubrador, which I watched last Tuesday at a commercial theater.

True enough, Kubrador, as opposed to movies with traditional three-act storylines, did not have an apparent and cohesive plot. It simply was a narration of the daily life of Amy (played by Gina Pareño), as a jueteng bet collector.

The film was narrated as if everything is ordinary in the everyday life of the film’s characters. Despite being untraditional in its storytelling, I really like and appreciate the movie. It reveals a lot about the situation of Amy and it provides a glimpse into how hard life is for a lot of people in the Philippines.

Back in my first semester as a freshman, I made a short position paper about jueteng. According to a special report in a national daily back in 2000, a total of 64 million pesos is gambled in jueteng every day. That’s as much as 23 billion pesos a year, twice the government’s annual health budget. But in reality, in the case someone wins a bet, he only gets 6 to 15 percent of the total jueteng revenue. A fourth or more goes to the jueteng payola, which includes the police and government officials. Much of the rest goes to the jueteng operators / jueteng lords. And the spoils are left for the kabos and kubradors.

And that’s the irony. Despite the huge revenues this game reaps nationwide, those who toil to bet and collect these bet, remain impoverished. And they will remain betting on jueteng as long as they don’t see a brighter future and better alternatives to escape such situations.

The film, directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, won the International Critic’s Award at the Moscow International Film Festival 2006 and the Osian Cinefan Festival of Asian Cinema 2006, where it also won as Best Film and the Best Actress (Gina Parreño) awards .

Nobody has to live like this

We did a home-visit of our TD students in Nangka, Marikina. It was fun, fulfilling and sad at the same time. I spent almost four hours walking all around the community of Nangka with my kids. One of my kids’ family lived in a small carboard shanty barely four square meters large. That hit me the most. It makes me very angry. At the politicians who spend millions of pesos of public funds and pork barrel on themselves and on useless projects instead of providing these people with better opportunities to make their lives better. Nobody has to live like that. Cramped up depressed communities along the Tumana River. I felt very ashamed everytime they’d ask what school I go to. I’d use all the possible euphemisms for “exclusive all-boys school where many children of affluent and political families study” to tell the parents when they ask.

At the same time, it was fun. I mean, spending about four hours of my afternoon with my kids just roaming around Nangka. Fun. At one of my kids’ home, they all danced the Sexbomb Girls’ Spaghetti Song for me. One of them has a crush on my classmate. It broke my heart when she asked if he was rich. It broke my heart to tell her, yes, we are all rich. I didn’t want to create any gap between us. In a country where class differences create huge gaps in society.

After the home-visits, some of my classmates and I went to Cortez’s house where he treated us to dinner for his birthday.