Activism

Tita Cory: Leader of EDSA revolution, mother of new hopes for real change

Former President Cory Aquino’s (1933-2009) demise did rend my heart. It did because she hung right there in that node in my political development during the latter 80s. I was an “EDSA baby” as my fanboyism with Marcos then ended when my foray into activism began.

I had a neither-hate-nor-like appreciation of Tita Cory (that was our usual term of endearment for her). The right side of my mind says she did great for the nation for leading the way to freedom without bloodshed. But the left side kept haunting saying that she wasted the dearly-earned freedom by letting oppression prevail (my political officer even argued that the EDSA uprising was not the correct path to change). Ah, I do remember what the national-democratic movement impressed on us at that time: That the Aquino government became the precursor and agent of the CIA-sponsored Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) that caused a great number of human rights violations particularly in the countryside. (This was the mantra that continued to play on in my mind even during the days of my campus paper involvement in college.)

There were surely many criticisms at the Aquino regime that practically outshone raves it had enjoyed from all over the world. Because of my deep involvement in student activism then, I was conditioned to think of the Aquino regime as no better compared to its predecessor. My political officer, while leading a basic course in an ED (our term for education activity), told us that dialectical materialism, or the revolution, for that matter, did not allow for centrism to influence our view of the path to change. It was plainly black or white. Or red or yellow. If you’re for real change, go red. If not, you’re yellow. And if you’re yellow, you’re actually an enemy of change.

I really feel sorry that during those days, I lived apathetic to Tita Cory. At best, though, this was a great disposition despite the flurry of critiques hurled at her at her every utterance of ‘propaganda’ statements. Remember that “mura pa din ang galunggong” statement of hers? In no time did we lash back at her as soon as the price of galunggong went up.

I even had the political reason to join the movement against her, along with her family, because of the Hacienda Luisita case, which had lives lost and which remains untouched for land reform. But I remained apathetic. Perhaps, that noble contribution of Tita Cory (of being our leader for the so-called “EDSA revolution”) served to counterveil or offset my supposed hatred of her administration.

It’s really sad that I had to be frank about my view of her in the wake of her passing away. But I have to admit that while I wrote this post, my eyes turned teary, re-realizing (my own concocted word) the great deed she contributed to our nation, which vindicated the great Ninoy Aquino’s death and pleased our God of history and peace.

Indeed, no one can escape from the fact that despite the failings of her administration, Tita Cory wrote a page for world history and sits beside Gandhi and other greats pushing for peaceful revolutions. May she continue to reign in our hearts of hearts and bring forth newfound hopes for Filipinos for real change. Perhaps her demise says it all: Let’s start working together NOW.

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Virtual beer for the soul

“Want a beer?”

This invite from friend Arnold T. has been sitting in the queue of requests on my Facebook account. In fact, I also got a couple of “booze mails” already which I just ignored (sorry to friends who sent them) and failed to send virtual drinks to others as a way to “pay it forward”.

But that invite from Arnold is still there. I just feel amused at the sight of his avatar. He looks like a genius monk (baldheaded and wearing eyeglasses) with the neck of a bottle of Red Horse touching his forehead. That reminds me of my personality back in my college days. I was a person who could not last being a religious person in the midst of a mundane world of Quiapo, where MLQU was located. Love for beer and company of barkada, the very precursors of over-indulgence, were the main factors why I couldn’t even pretend to be like an ascetic. I have to admit that I was heavily influenced by fellas (some of them better off) to get hooked to mundane stuff like being in drink binges. I also have to admit that, in turn, I was an influence to others my junior.

The only consolation I had (for failing to be a faith worker) back then was my being a social activist. I spent two years in college (and then many years in my NGO work since then) being part of the larger community that wanted real better change in society. Guilt of not loving God eloped me from then on.

The love for beer extended to my being part of the country’s labor. Over ten years ago, I made it a habit to frequent a jazz bar in Malate after work, drinking at least four bottles of San Miguel Beer pale pilsen. Sometimes I did it with co-workers, sometimes I did it alone. (I developed love for jazz along with my addiction to drinking.)

I tend to believe that drinking beer with your clique is both a social function and a personal pleasure. It eases tension accrued from work and at the same time reinforces one’s sense of belongingness. But (and this is a big but), when done on a frequent basis and in an excessive manner, the social and personal functions turn into life’s dysfunctions, like work tardiness and health problems.

This is a hard lesson I got from decades of making romance with beer. I guess that my being a father since 1998 has also contributed to my dwindling passion for it. I’ve had to scrimp on my hard-earned money to ensure steady provision for my family. That means that I only drank (or threw drink parties) when there were reasons to celebrate like my kids’ first birthdays and baptismals. And the last of the factors is my health. Predisposed as I am to heart and liver diseases, I have to fight off the temptation to engage in a (heavy) drink now that I’ve already reached 40. (They say life begins at 40.)

Last week, I was able to track KSA-based Larry W., my best pal during my third and fourth years in college, through Friendster. He had been my great influence when it comes to drinking lots of beer like it would run out of supply tomorrow and forever. He asked me over email to see him in December this year and engage in a binge like we did in college. I kiddingly said yes.

OK now. I just ignored Arnold T’s beer invite just because he did it in the spirit of Octoberfest. It’s already November now. But perhaps, when I get another round of virtual booze requests from him and other Facebookers, I’d just oblige. Because, however vicarious, virtual drinks taste like food for the souls of the physically-challenged beer lovers.

Can the Trillanes’ online petition strike while the iron is hot?

While the Arroyo government looks distraught as shown by a political blunder after another (e.g., Erap pardon and whitewashing probes into Glorietta 2 bombing and “cash gifts”), Rebel-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is able to generate gradual support for his call for the resignation of the country’s top two leaders and a snap election within 60 days from their resignation. This is via his online petition that as of this writing (3 Nov. 11:00 am) already has 831 valid virtual signatures (from out of 1225 that includes 291 voided, 41 rejected, and 62 pending approval).

Probably because of the day of the dead and saints when people got disconnected from the Internet that the increase in number of signatories is much less from October 31 to present (average of 70 signatories per day) than from October 27 to October 31 (average of 108 per day). The government must have rejoiced deep inside while appearing contemplatively silent on behalf of the dead.

November 5 will be an ordinary day again and everyone’s going to have a hold on their keyboard. Will the online petition gather much more support from then on at a faster speed while the Arroyo government is beleaguered by corruption issues?

Meanwhile, there’s an offline petition supposedly going on as well. I checked the related blog site and was surprised to know that the signatories include three Senators (including a former one), church leaders (including one Bishop), former military officials, former government officials, media persons (including my favorite Conrado de Quiros), businesspersons, lawyers, and of course, a number of social and political organizations.

However, the blog site has wasted the campaign’s chance to get further traction as its supposed signature form download service is out of function.

Trillanes’ online petition to change government leadership now moderated

Rebel-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s online petition for Pres. Arroyo and VP De Castro to step down and for a snap election to be held thereafter has received moderation from the petition’s author. That move has sent a message to the public that Sen. Trillanes’ camp is serious about its calls. While everyone is free to say his/her piece through this petition, the author has all the prerogative and obligation to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Each signature entry is automatically marked “pending approval”, subject to the author’s screening.

When I blogged about the petition 4 days ago, the number of signatories was 470. I noted a number of observations that point to the petition’s apparent lack of potential to deliver. As of this writing, the number shot up to 1,014, making the petition signed by 136 people each day.

Out of the 1,014 signatories, 289 are marked “line voided”, 23 “signature rejected”, and 12 “pending approval”. A potential nuisance signatory should then be advised not to waste his/her time as his/her entry will definitely not be “counted.” I quoted the word “counted” because the “pasaway'” signature is still added to the total number that is indicated on the total signatures page.

My only beef is that the petition’s total signatures page must be revised so that it also separates the number of signatures marked “line voided” and “signature rejected”. For if we’d deduct these types from the total, it will show that those who subscribe to the petition are 702 only, or 69%.

Lastly, let me tell you that I did sign the petition, not as a “pasaway” but as a social activist disgruntled at the kind of government we don’t deserve to have.

Making things easy through Perl

I want to be known as a social activist who uses Perl. Are there any in this doggone world? It sounds outlandish, yes, but that’s just me. Besides, there are two kinds of human beings in this planet: the freaks and those struggling not to be freaks.

My interest in Perl started when I was a budding Linux enthusiast in 2001. Although, the interest did not immediately morphe into an expertise because I was too tied to my work then. (I was in a work transition from IPD to PEACE.) I can’t imagine myself hacking on a terminal while I’m busying myself with writing terminal reports.

But I couldn’t resist it. Linux is to blame because with it goes my curiosity as to what makes the free operating system stick after all the years. Perhaps, my experience in VBA programming (Microsoft Access flavor) fed into my continued passion for tinkering with codes to automate things. But of all the programming languages, why Perl?


use heart;
my $learning = undef;
my @apps = ();
&write_apps;
foreach (@apps) {$learning++;}

A typical programmer surely understands that poetic code. I found Perl cryptic at first. I felt like having to wander far to look for the treasure trove containing the secret to understanding Perl. But as soon as I started to use my heart (sounds corny, right?), and understand the fundamentals like the basic variable types (scalar, array, hash) and regular expressions, I began to feel like focusing more on my coding objective than being bogged down by my learning of the language.

Until of late, social activism and hacking have been two separate worlds. The two have crossed paths when the software development industry became highly commercialized and politicized and when the digital age was criticized for its contribution to social divides. Thus, the birth of the Richard M. Stallman-led free software movement and other free-software-inspired communities like Linux users groups, Open Source Initiative, Alliance for Progressive Communications, and Creative Commons.

I can say that I’m a manifestation of that phenomenon, modesty aside. I do activism (though no longer going to the streets as often as I used to) and use the ICT (basically gadgets and the Internet) to facilitate and spread that activism. But why in a hell am I using Perl?

I use Perl because it’s a great tool to process text data. I remember when I had to translate an NSO dataset (not in spreadsheet but in raw text format) into our database. The manual solution could be to print out the dataset and ask someone to encode it through a user interface. But I was emboldened by the fact that Perl is an expert in processing text files and producing reports from out of them. So I tried to learn Perl and create a script to do the task.

I also created a Perl script for my collection of words that I’ve learned. With it, I can add an entry and look in it for particular words I’d like to retrieve. Then, as I posted here, I created a script to automagically rearrange a list of disordered names according to lastnames.

The latest adventure I had with Perl was in relation to my WordPress.com-hosted blog. I wanted to keep a local database of all my blog entries. So I created a perl script to convert the XML-formatted backup to CSV, which I used to export the entries to my PostgreSQL-based database. Then I wanted to keep local log of visits to my blog entries, so that I can assess which entries are popular and have ideas on how to improve my blog. So I wrote a Perl script to do so. On daily basis, here’s what I do:

  1. Open the blog page showing entry hits on a particular day.
  2. Select and copy the list of entries with the corresponding numbers of hits.
  3. Paste the copied list into an editor buffer and save it.
  4. Run the Perl script, which asks for the date of the hits report. The local database is then updated.

Surely enough, Perl will be there to help me automate more things. I’m bent to use it not only for text-processing tasks but also for system administration and web programming. And I’ll not run out of a string of beads called Perl.

Support popular protest in Burma!


The writing on the wall says that Burma is on its way to achieving real freedom from military dictatorship. More and more Burmese people have joined over 30,000 monks who are in the forefront of the march since Monday. This has ushered in the groundswell of the movement that opposes the current form of government in Burma, which has not done any to address the country’s chronic problems of poverty, lack of access to basic social services, and the general feeling of insecurity in the society.

As of this writing, there are already over 100,000 protesters. And people remain unfazed despite the draconian curfew rule that the government has just promulgated. (See Yahoo! News slideshow on Myanmar protests.)

The Burmese people need our help. Let’s pray for the success of their cause, that there may be no bloodshed as a result of government’s counter-pressure to stop them. Let’s also sign up to two online petitions that are targetted to gather support from the world and to pressure other governments and the UN Security Council to intervene in the seemingly insurmountable political crisis in Burma:

An appeal to the UN Security Council to protect the people of Burma

Stand with the Burmese Protesters

Let’s prod all our fellow bloggers and online loved ones and friends to do the same: Pray for the safety and success of the Burmese protesters and sign the online petitions.

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Can activists organize without mobile phones?

The Burmese military government’s recent move against democracy is ‘hi-tech’. It has cut off the phone services of activists and journalists. This developed as the government had feared that another wave of popular protest would unfold through mobile phones. Because of speed and cost efficiency, campaigners have resorted to mobile phones as indispensable tools to spread information aimed at social mobilizations.

Actually, the government showed “a bit of democracy” by announcing the warning first. And then right after that, the cutting off of the mobile services. Of course, members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) were not exempt from the measure. Even their office’s landline phone was disconnected.

I can’t imagine myself living in Burma when my mobile phone would suffer that fate. It’s like having an accident in the middle of the road without any way to call for emergency. Besides, a mobile phone has been a work gadget, without which I would deliver practically nothing.

Catching up with the digital age, activists consider mobile phones as extensions of their hearts and minds. They are their last resort in tough times, when it becomes impossible for them to reach out to their constituencies. But digital age threatened by the ghost of feudalism has to bear with the “glitches” like what Burmese government did. I call it glitch because government will surely think of ways to retain the business of mobile phones while effectively curbing popular protests. (I wonder if Philippine government would do the same disservice to Filipino activists of all hues without any pressure from telcos which would incur loss from it.)

The problem facing the pro-democracy movement in Burma is that government has the monopoly over the telecommunications through Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications. And it will use all its military machine to stop others who’ll attempt to break it. In fact, in 2006, government successfully launched a crackdown on “illegal” importation and use of cheap China-made mobile phones. Even business people use Chinese mobile phones because of the better services.

Let me digress a bit. Can Filipino activists of the second millennium go on with their political lives without their mobile phones? Look, mobile phones do not only provide quick and cost-efficient delivery of information; they also provide a relative security for the info senders in terms of anonymity. I’m not saying that mobile communications are the only way. Mobile phones are tools and they must be seen as only complementing “offline” tasks of activists.

But I’m interested to know whether new-generation activists can really dispense with their mobile phones. Can they instead use a landline, a fax machine? Can they use what they predecessors loved doing–spreading copies of a piece of onion-skin or palara paper folded many times to avoid attention  from the police or enemies because such paper bears incriminating information?

I cannot live without my mobile phone. And I think I will die (or I will kill) if I’m denied connection to the Internet for life.

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