Wake Up, Philippines!

Is the law on national anthem extremely puritanical?

Posted in History/Origin, Law and order, Music by Erineus on May 22, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:24:00 05/20/2009

I find it rather strange that in all of Manny Pacquiao’s fights, not one of those who sang the “Lupang Hinirang” passed the standards of the National Historical Institute (NHI). It is a sad fact, indeed, that the NHI criticisms have always dampened what otherwise should be an undiluted national celebration of a Pacquiao victory. On the other hand, I still have to hear of any American, Mexican or Briton airing any comment, good or bad, on how their respective anthems had been rendered by different artists, each one of whom, common sense simply dictates, must surely have his or her own singing style and interpretation. Aren’t we becoming extremely, and unduly, puritanical in this respect?

Of course, the NHI takes refuge under Republic Act 8491, which provides that “the rendition of the National Anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.” RA 8491 punishes the failure or refusal to observe such provision with public censure, as well as with one-year imprisonment or P5,000-fine, or both, at the discretion of the court. (Inquirer, 5/03/09).

Unfortunately, the sheer mention of that law only inevitably brings to worldwide rebuke another of this country’s many “national embarrassments,” to wit: our propensity to make laws that we cannot implement. Why? Simply because practically all the artists who sang the “Lupang Hinirang” in Pacquiao fights before Nievera did not follow the original musical composition and arrangement of Felipe; yet not one of them has ever been formally indicted. Also, that perception is not only highly debatable; even the NHI has not actually demonstrated how the anthem is to be perfectly sung. Neither did our grade school teachers teach it to us as they did English or Arithmetic. Let’s admit, we all learned our national anthem essentially “a la oido.” And so, we would probably have to resurrect Felipe to sing and record it in a diskette, or to have graduates of the Conservatory of Music to correctly interpret it, if we are to implement RA 8491 to the letter.

I am not a musician, but methinks none of the artists who had sung the “Lupang Hinirang” in past Pacquiao fights may be said to have maligned the spirit of patriotism that it connotes. Comparatively, the harm done, if any, is not as much as the Church might have “murdered” the originality of the “Ama Namin” by re-inventing that prayer in as many tunes and variations as we have parishes.

Alack, to such extent that, if similarly done to “Silent Night,” for example, we would no longer feel the coming Christmas when that song begins to fill the air as early as September. But that is entirely another matter.


Saving Bohol’s past

Posted in Cultural Heritage, Culture, Heritage, History/Origin, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on May 22, 2009

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:14:00 05/22/2009

Once in the great Paris flea market, at the Porte de Clignancourt, I saw a handful of Bohol “santos” on display. Before asking for the price I innocently asked for their provenance—where were these wonderful folk images of the Virgin Mary originally from—and was told they came from Latin America! I did not argue because I was certain that if these were correctly labeled as coming from the Philippines, they would cost much less. I had a similar experience in an antique mall in New York City where Bohol “santos” were said to be South American and cost more.

The Philippine “santos” came into their own two decades ago when an Architectural Digest cover story carried pictures of Elton John’s sitting room ornamented with Philippine “santos” of wood and ivory heads. In the recent Christie’s Paris auction of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent, there were two Hispano-Philippine ivories from the 17th or 18th century. One of the ivories, a head of Christ figured prominently on YSL’s coffee table. There is belated awareness of Filipino heritage these days, helpful if only to preserve the little we have left.

Fifteen years ago, I was shown an empty niche in Dimiao church where an ancient retablo once stood. It was sacrificed to fund church repairs in the 1970s and pioneering antique dealer Nene Cortes shipped it to Manila. Is this the same one now displayed in the National Museum? If large objects like retablos, pulpits and architectural details can be moved, what more portable valuable objects like church silver and ivories? What about old books, manuscripts and archival material that are the first consigned to a fire?

I remember a fiesta in Bohol where I watched the town band perform pop hits. While everyone had their eyes on the legs of the majorettes who twirled batons seductively, my eyes spotted the drum tops covered with Gregorian chant. Someone had put these ancient pig-skin choir books in the bodega to good use: when the drums of the town band broke they replaced it with a page from the over-sized choir book. Frankly, if it were possible to convert these choir books into chicharon, these would have disappeared much earlier and Dr. William Summers would not be able to tell us about early music in Bohol, including the crude but historically important “Misa Baclayana,” a musical setting for the Mass reconstructed from old music found in Bohol churches.

While I am happy that foreigners come to study Philippine culture, one wonders why Filipinos don’t seem to care. One reason is that we see our culture every day but we rarely sit back and notice. With the exception of Bohol historians Marianito Luspo and Jess Tirol, much of what I know of Bohol heritage comes from Manila-based researchers: Regalado Trota Jose (now a Dominican), Fr. Rene Javellana (Jesuit), Augusto Villalon (secular), Romeo Allianigue (ex-Carmelite), Osmundo Esguerra (furniture expert), Ramon Villegas (antique dealer) and Esperanza Gatbonton (independent researcher). Why isn’t more research on Bohol being done in Bohol? By Boholanos? Now that is both a challenge and a wish.

Heritage awareness these days is often focused on structures at risk, those that are being torn down to make way for modern buildings, or those being renovated beyond recognition. There is much more to Bohol than churches, watchtowers and natural landscape—the draft for the pre-history of Bohol, the history of Bohol before written records, is waiting to be written up from archeological records and artifacts in the National Museum and the writings of the pioneering pre-historian of the Philippines, H. Otley Beyer. Then there is the Guthe collection in the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology in Ann Arbor.

Carl E. Guthe headed an archeological expedition to the Philippines from 1922 to 1925, and from his base in Opon, Cebu, he excavated thousands of artifacts that now form the core of the museum’s Asia Division. These artifacts and records were brought back for future study and research, but 84 years later these material still cry out for a researcher to piece this unwritten history together.

Bohol is a success story for eco and heritage tourism, it has everything a tourist will want: beaches, Chocolate Hills, tarsier, colonial churches and watchtowers, plus a hospitable people. Loboc is a smashing success with its choir and river cruise. The Baclayon church museum is run by Baclayanons proud of their “native” delicacies: the Bohol chocolate, Baclayon broas, and Dauis torta are welcome contributions to the development of our national cuisine.

Loose tongues from narrow minds often argue that cultural heritage is a useless expense in a country with so much poverty. But in Bohol cultural heritage has generated jobs, encouraged small businesses and given Boholanos a sense of pride, self and identity. Perhaps there is truth to the saying that familiarity breeds contempt, worse, it often breeds apathy—that is why four historical markers were installed in Dauis and Maribijoc last week so that people will see and notice. That Bohol is culturally rich led to a suggestion that the National Historical Institute declare the whole province a national landmark.

At the very least it will save on historical markers from Manila, and preserve and develop what’s left of Bohol heritage.

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Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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Supreme Court lenient with erring judges

Posted in Uncategorized by Erineus on May 22, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:23:00 05/22/2009

Chief Justice Reynato Puno may be mistaken. The oligarchs do not rule. But they hold sway because corrupt executive, legislative and judicial officials do business with them. Let us not demonize the tycoons because they are simply forced to play by the dirty rules of our officials.

Our officials have made a mockery of the constitutional prescription that “Public office is a public trust.” For them public office is for private gain.

The Chief Justice should spend less time going around the country, mobilizing the “moral force.” He should spend more time focusing on his turf and he should realize that much more has to be done to make the judiciary the model government institution that it should be.

One thing he should not do is protect his justices and judges from criminal prosecution for the grievous wrongs that they have committed. For instance, recently we read of a judge who was simply dismissed for extorting P30,000 from a litigant. But his stenographer, the bag man (who presumably was acting upon the orders of the judge), was not only dismissed but also recommended for criminal prosecution. The judge should have been prosecuted and the stenographer made state witness.

In another case, Court of Appeals Justice Vicente Roxas, who was accused of committing improprieties in the Meralco case, was simply dismissed while Francis de Borja was referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution for merely trying to broker a P10-million bribe to Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio who was being asked to inhibit himself from the case. De Borja should have been made a state witness.



Pork barrel is root cause of corruption

Posted in Congress, Graft and Corruption, house of representatives, Pork Barrel, Senate by Erineus on May 22, 2009

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:58:00 05/22/2009

The gold rush area that is Compostela Valley is a disaster waiting to happen. The steep mountainsides are honeycombed with tunnels dug by small-scale miners lured by that yellow mineral that many people are willing to die for. Well, they are dying for it. A landslide during heavy rains last Monday has killed 27 persons so far, and the digging and counting for more bodies have not yet stopped. That was the second fatal landslide in the area in two years.

Even without the tunnels, Compostela Valley is prone to landslides. The steep mountainsides surrounding it are devoid of trees whose roots should have held the soil together. Loggers raped the forests a long time ago. Miners made the soil even looser by digging tunnels into it to look for gold. Then they built their huts on the valley below, at the foot of the mountain. It was like committing suicide.

About 50 miners were taking shelter in these huts last Monday when a loud noise roared like thunder. Then they saw boulders and mud tumbling down the mountainside toward them. They all began to run but the wall of mud and boulders overtook them and buried them. Isn’t it ironic that the miners who took great pains to burrow into the soil looking for gold are now buried under that same soil, perhaps with gold nuggets buried with them?

This is not the first landslide that has killed scores of people in the Philippines. Nor would it be the last. As the typhoon season dumps more rains on the mountainsides, there would be more landslides, killing the people below.

As in Compostela Valley, authorities have identified areas in danger of landslides and have advised people in the path of these potential landslides to move to safer locations. But people are hardheaded, especially those in the gold rush area. Greed has closed their eyes and common sense to danger.

But death also lurks in places away from the gold rush area. Any area below mountains where loggers operated years ago is in danger. For the greedy loggers had stripped the mountains of the forests that held the soil together. We are now reaping the whirlwind that these people started.

Mark my words, there would be more floods and landslides during rainy seasons. With no trees to hold the rainwater soaking the ground, the water would rush down the mountainsides to flood the lowlands. The creeks and rivers would not be able to hold the abundant water. So they would overflow their banks and flood the surrounding countryside.

Worse, the rains would loosen the soil and without plant roots to hold them, the mud, together with boulders, would cascade down the mountainsides and bury the sleeping villages below. It had happened many times before; and it would happen again.

Have you noticed that there are more frequent floods and landslides now with the slightest rain? Those are the handiwork of the loggers, the charcoal-makers and the kaingineros (slash-and-burn farmers).

Local government officials should take great pains to move people living in danger areas to safer locations. If they don’t, there would be nobody left to vote for them in future elections.

* * *

The 2008/2009 Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR), financed by the United Nations, put the blame on the spread of graft and corruption on the executive branch of the government. Congress has abdicated the power of the purse to the executive, the report said.

Wrong. The executive and the legislative branches are actually in cahoots to rob the people of their taxes.

The root cause of all the corruption is the pork barrel hidden in such innocent-sounding appropriations as Countrywide Development Fund and Priority Development Assistance Fund. What is developed is not actually the countryside but the private pockets of legislative and executive officials. Almost half of the appropriation of each and every project goes to corrupt officials. In the process, these officials contaminate private persons who do business with the government such as contractors. Contractors have to kick back about a third of the contract price to government officials or else the contract would be given to somebody else willing to give “commissions.” As a result, the work of the contractor becomes substandard as he has to get back somehow the money he kicked back to officials. There is almost no government project, big or small, that is not tainted with corruption.

Members of the House of Representatives use the sobriquet “power of the purse” in giving themselves the pork barrel allocations. So it has not abdicated this power to the executive. But it is true that Malacañang has an even bigger pork barrel hidden in “intelligence,” “confidential,” “representation” and other high-sounding names. The generic name for all of them is “stolen funds.” They were stolen from the taxpayers.

The executive branch allows Congress to steal the pork barrel funds because Congress also allows it to steal a bigger share. A case of you scratch my back, I scratch yours.

Also, the pork barrel allows Malacañang to control the congressmen and senators by the simple expedient of not releasing the pork of uncooperative legislators. Cooperate and you get your pork; play hard-to-get and you get nothing. That is the Malacañang practice.

Abolish the pork barrel system by obeying the Constitution (it is not in the Charter), and you cut corruption by about two-thirds. Malacañang and Congress will not do that, so it is left to the Supreme Court to overturn its earlier decision that the pork barrel is legal. How can it be legal when the Constitution says that the job of Congress is to enact laws and that of the executive is to implement them? But with the pork, legislators usurp the functions of executive officials such as the secretaries of public works, education, health, etc. Plain common sense.


Ong: Illegitimate debts and the economy (1)

Posted in Debt Policy, debt problem, Debt Service, Sovereign Debts by Erineus on May 21, 2009

By Ted Aldwin Ong
Saturday, September 08, 2007

I FIND some sense in the statements of Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, when he said that “”If we want to sustain and enhance the economic gains we have achieved and ensure that our people will truly reap the benefits of economic growth, we have to first resolve the twin problems of a ballooning population and huge debt service.”

Debt servicing has been eating almost 50 percent of national budget through automatic appropriations. The Arroyo regime is considered the run away winner as far as debt accumulation is concerned in financing its government among post 1986 EDSA administrations The Arroyo is also the record holder in terms of debt payments. In such a short period of time Mrs. Arroyo has borrowed a total of P2.82 trillion in while paying a total of P2.83 trillion.

While Representative Lagman expressed a significant point on the impact of debt servicing to economic growth, it needs to take an important step by looking into the legitimacy or illegitimacy of government debts especially the contracts entered by the Arroyo regime.

It is undeniable that the national government has entered into numerous projects which proved to be disadvantageous to the Filipino people. At the end, it is the people – the taxpayers, who bare the responsibility of paying anomalous projects. Ultimately, it is also the people who suffer the lack of appropriations for social services because debt servicing automatically absorb a big chunk of the national budget.

Let us look into the concept of the illegitimacy of debt in order for us to fully understand why some projects are by nature illegitimate, thus it must not be paid by taxpayers.

Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development who is also the vice-president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition-Philippines, has thoroughly discussed the concept of illegitimate debts.

The concept of legitimacy is a broad concept that touches on the principles of human rights and sustainable human development, justice and fairness, accountability and responsibility, sovereignty of people’s and nations, democratic rights and processes.

Loans which violate these principles are deemed to be illegitimate – or unacceptable. This violation occurs in the elements necessary in the acquiring of the debt and its impact, which includes, illegitimate processes, illegitimate terms and contractual obligations, illegitimate purposes and illegitimate use of the funds, illegitimate origins, illegitimate impact of debt servicing and illegitimate practice of using debt, debt relief, and access to credit as leverage for imposing conditionalities.

So much of the word “illegitimate” but numerous projects fall under this concept and category like the Social Studies textbooks and teachers’ manuals for public elementary and high schools, the Austrian Medical waste Projects, the North Luzon Railways Project, the Small Coconut Farms Project and the Power Sector Restructuring Program. (To be continued)

(Comments to tao.kolumnista@gmail.com)

Revisiting heritage

Posted in Churches, Culture, Heritage, History by Erineus on May 21, 2009

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:14:00 05/20/2009

The past few weeks I revisited places I had known as a boy. First stop was the ruins of the Dingras church in Ilocos Norte. In my nostalgia, I would remember the church as some abandoned Benedictine abbey after Henry VIII had looted it and had its monks hung, drawn and quartered on Tyburn Square. Memory does play out its own fictions because Dingras was wild pasture made smelly by a few goats awaiting slaughter for signature Iloco dishes. (I have been corrected by e-mail, Ilocano refers to the people, Iloco is the language.) Where the pasture used to be there is a church. Creative parish priests have put the ruins to good use—as a support for the steel roof that now covers a living place of worship. However, after a recent earthquake that left the church intact, there is fear that the posts supporting the roof could fall like dominoes when the ruins move and place stress on the roof. The suggested quick fix was to dismantle the ancient church façade, in whole or in part, to keep the church usable. To cut a long story short, a public hearing was conducted there, and it was agreed that the controversial ruins would be preserved and strengthened, and that a new church would be built around the ruins. The old need not be sacrificed for the new. Following the architects’ recommendations submitted last May 15, the bishop of Ilocos Norte and the National Historical Institute (NHI) will sign an order to begin preservation work.

Next stop was Bohol province where the NHI identified, installed and transferred to the church, the government and the people of Bohol not one but four historical markers: first, the Church of Maribojoc was marked; then Punta Cruz, the ancient watchtower (also in Maribijoc) that faces a crystal clear sea, was declared a National Historical Landmark; the same day the church of Dauis was marked, and this was followed by the declaration of the Dauis church complex as a National Historical Landmark. This covers the church, the watchtower and the kumbento (convent) in this sleepy town best known for its postcard pretty views and those heavy ensaymadas made with pork lard known as “torta.”

What do all these markers mean? Simply, that these sites and structures deemed historic and historical now form part of the fabric that is slowly being woven into that unfinished tapestry we call Philippine history. These four places newly inscribed in the NHI registry are not just part of the history of Dauis and Maribojoc; they form part of the history of the nation.

I spent two childhood summers at a farm in Bohol, but I can’t remember which town it was. All I recall was that it took an uncomfortable overnight trip by boat from Cebu to Tagbilaran in those days. Halfway to the farm, I was roused from sleep to see a tree sparkling in the dark like a Christmas tree in April, as it was filled with fireflies. I rediscovered Bohol in 1995 when I made a day trip from Cebu. I took a fastcraft from Cebu, rented a tricycle in Tagbilaran and visited all the churches possible: Tagbilaran, Loboc, Loay, Baclayon, Dauis, Maribojoc, Alborquerque, Dimiao and more. I learned a lot about Jesuit and Recollect architecture in Bohol but I returned to Manila deaf after spending hours beside a noisy motorcycle engine.

My next trip was better organized as I was introduced to Fr. Milan Ted Torralba of Baclayon and to Lutgardo “Gardy” Labad, better known for his involvement in cheesy Regal films. For many Boholanos who grew up in the shadow of these churches, they are just that—old churches, everyday sights that they see but do not notice.

Why did people from Manila come all the way to see these dilapidated structures. What did the visitors find so wonderful? Historical markers are a means to direct their attention, to make Boholanos see and notice the treasure in their midst. We are fortunate Bishop Leonardo Medroso of the Diocese of Tagbilaran is sensitive to heritage and what it contributes to make liturgy more meaningful. When I saw his predecessor Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak on the plane to Tagbilaran last week, he sighed and said, “We should have started earlier, Ambeth, we could have saved more heritage.” I replied that we should not fret, for experience is a polite term we use to describe our mistakes. There was no need to regret what is past, but to rejoice in what we still have.

Visiting the churches of Bohol these days I realize how much of the moveable church art and architecture are now gone. A carved side altar from the church in Dimiao is now in the National Museum. Images of saints that used to adorn the now empty niches in church retablos and the intricately designed silver liturgical vessels and other decorations are now in private collections in posh Makati enclaves. Even religious images from private homes have been exported to Manila, the most popular of them being those hardwood images of the Virgin Mary, many of which are carved in the shape of a bell with small pin-sized heads of ivory, painted in a riot of colors: blue, yellow, red, and orange. These folk religious images came with elaborately carved and painted home altars or “urna”; and, of course, the distinctly carved cabinets, tables and chairs of molave and balayong all have been brought to Manila. Worse, many of these things have been exported to Europe and the United States where they are now lost to us.

(Conclusion on Friday)

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu


Book burning in Manila

Posted in Censorship by Erineus on May 21, 2009

By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:02:00 05/20/2009

“Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”—Heinrich Heine

BOOK burning has a long and dark history. According to Holocaust Encyclopedia, book burning refers to the “ritual destruction by fire of books or other written materials.” Usually done in public, the burning of books “represents an element of censorship and usually proceeds from a cultural, religious, or political opposition to the materials in question.”

One of the most famous of these events, the encyclopedia points out, is the burning of books under the Nazi regime. On May 10, 1933, university students in Germany burned up to 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books at Berlin’s Opernplatz. The bonfire was a “symbolic act of ominous significance … presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture.”

Prodded by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, in an action to bring German arts and culture in line with Nazi goals (including anti-Semitism and the superiority of the Aryan race), right-wing students threw onto the bonfire the “unwanted” books with great ceremony, band playing and “fire-oaths.”

On April 6, 1933, according to the encyclopedia, the Nazi German Student Association’s press and propaganda office proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the un-German Spirit,” to climax in a literary purge or “cleansing” by fire. Local chapters were to supply the press with blacklists of “un-German” authors.

Among the authors whose books the students burned on May 19 were well-known socialists such as Bertolt Brecht and August Bebel; Karl Marx; critical “bourgeois” writers like the Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler; and “corrupting foreign influences,” among them American author Ernest Hemingway. Also torched were the writings of the 1929 Nobel Prize-winning German author, Thomas Mann, whose support of the Weimar Republic and critique of fascism raised Nazi ire, and the works of best-selling author Erich Maria Remarque, whose anti-war novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Nazi ideologues had vilified as “a literary betrayal of the soldiers of the World War.”

Other writers on the blacklists included American authors Jack London, Theodore Dreiser and Helen Keller, whose belief in social justice encouraged her to champion the disabled, pacifism, improved conditions for industrial workers and women’s voting rights. Also burned were the writings of the 19th-century German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, who wrote in his 1820-1821 play, Almansor, the admonition: “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.” Almansor referred to the burning of the Qur’an during the Spanish Inquisition.

Wikipedia points out that some particular cases of book burning are traumatically remembered, “because the books destroyed were irreplaceable and their loss constituted a severe damage to cultural heritage, and/or because this instance of book burning has become emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime.”

Such were the destruction of the Library of Alexandria and the burning of books and burying of scholars under China’s Qin Dynasty. The chronology of book-burning is long. It has been pointed out that torching books has a long history “as a tool wielded by authorities both secular and religious, in efforts to suppress dissenting or heretical views that are perceived as posing a threat to the prevailing order.”

It need not be belabored that, according to scholars, “when books are ordered collected by authorities and disposed of in private, it may not be book burning, strictly speaking—but the destruction of cultural and intellectual heritage is the same.”

According to the scholar Elaine Pagels, in AD 367, Athanasius, the zealous bishop of Alexandria … issued an Easter Letter in which he demanded that Egyptian monks destroy all such unacceptable writing, except for those specifically listed as “acceptable.” The chronology of book-burning incidents includes the destruction of the House of Wisdom during the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258, along with all other libraries in Baghdad. According to legend, the waters of the Tigris “ran black for six months with ink from enormous quantities of books flung into the river.” Books have been attacked and have suffered at the hands of regimes or religious authorities in many climes and regions, and for various motivations.

In Orwell’s “1984,” Wikipedia points out, “the euphemistically-called ‘memory hole’ is used to burn any book or written text which is inconvenient to the regime.”

Closer to home, it has been pointed out that “the advent of the digital age has resulted in an immense collection of written work being catalogued exclusively or primarily in digital form. The intentional deletion or removal of these works has been often referred to as a new form of book burning. This reference is more closely related to the relationship between book burning and censorship than the systematic and categorical elimination of a particular body of literary work. In general, book burning does not refer to individual censorship, but rather to an act of mass censorship”—at the hands of a bureaucratic thought police. We will examine this issue in the next column.


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