“Malicia”: What’s wrong about that lettuce bikini?

I felt that my blood pressure went up to 130 as soon as I saw that 25-by-15 cm photograph of Alicia Mayer on Manila Standard’s issue today, on front page. Gee, it was too gargantuan to escape the public fancy, especially those of my gender.

Before we genderize the issue here, that Alicia Mayer’s pose was done in behalf of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an international group that fights for animal rights. Manila Standard has no text story for the banner photo except a caption, so I assume that PETA’s slogan “Let vegetarianism grow on you” calls on people to eat animal meat less in favor of vegetables like lettuce on which PETA based Alicia’s bikini.

So there. I’m sure women organizations will not take that sitting down. It will even stir debate between moralists and liberals. Does the cause that Alicia carried with that lovely pose excuse the idea’s sexist undertone, equaling vegetables and women as yummy stuff? Does her pose beget evil as it gratifies men’s fleshy desires? Perhaps the message was also to convince people that eating vegetables will make them sexy?

People of my gender in general will not mind. But gender-sensitive men like me 😉 of course will think twice. The first thought, of course, is understandable. What matters more is the second thought: that there’s something not good about that propaganda gimmick, that leaves me asking:

  1. What convinced the Manila Standard front page editor to make the photograph a banner one? Was it to sell the copy like a hotcake?
  2. Can environmentalists not be gender-sensitive at the same time?
  3. Did Alicia Mayer know what she did?

That’s why I entitled this entry “Malicia”. I think that that captures the issue here. Is the gimmick inherently wrong? Doesn’t it beget malice among the public? Does Alicia Mayer want to be a sex goddess?

Let me take another look.

UN special rapporteur’s best foot forward

Finally, I was able to see the profile of the United Nation’s special rapporteur for an inquiry into the extrajudicial, summary or abritrary executions in the Philippines. Colleagues in the human rights community had been talking positively about him, so I could not wait to see and hear him myself.

Despite his hectic and tight 10-day stint–which entailed his composure and openmindedness meeting with various groups having stake in the field of inquiry–Professor Philip Alston, with an indubitable track record for the promotion of human rights across the globe, managed to give a debriefing session with civil society organizations this morning at Arnaiz Ave., Makati City, a few hours before the time he had to be in the airport for a flight back homeAlston.

I read his press statement, more or less a summary of the findings that he will detail in a report that he is to produce and submit to the UN Human Rights Council.

Alston is not your type of a human rights advocate that states the HR principles in an emphatic manner, undeniably because he is a UN diplomat who must be ‘above suspicion’. I guess it’s not because of his enervating stint but because of his sober personality that he delivered his statement a bit lacking in passion.

His statement said it all, though. The State is the party most accountable to the state of extra-judicial killings in the society. He made a little mention of the culpability of the non-state actors but not directly. It was easily obscured (which is alright, I believe) by the accountability of the State forces like the ‘rogue elements’ (to use his term) of the AFP as a result of the counter-insurgency policy in the Philippines.

Alston bewailed that the accountability mechanisms and democratic spaces (that must be enjoyed even by the leftist groups) engendered by the 1986 revolution and mandated by the Philippine Constitution have gradually lost ground.

A diplomat indeed, Alston concluded his press statement with this sentence: “The various measures ordered by the President in response to Melo constitute important first steps, but there is a huge amount that remains to be done.” Inasmuch as I take that statement with a grain of salt, I understand his situation. It’s the only way he could have to leave the Philippines without being antiphatic to the Arroyo government. At the end of the day, just as he said it, the problem is a Filipino one. No outsider, despite his or her technical and moral support, can resolve that problem except the Filipinos themselves.

His press statement is here: press-statement-alston.pdf

‘Sugod mga kapatid!’

dsc00551.jpg I was inside a taxicab en route to UN Special Rapporteur’s debriefing with the civil society organizations regarding the outcome of his probe into extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. While in the heat of the traffic along Paseo de Roxas in Makati, my eyes could not escape that monument by Andres Bonifacio, who was brandishing a bolo and gun with his hands as if motioning motorists to charge on at a big target.

It’s as if Andres Bonifacio rose from the dead and  hopelessly agitated every motorist to make his or her horn blare out and reverberate in the city against the system that is still marked by inequality and inequity. Andres of the 19th century is no longer communicating with his kasamas (comrades) but with kapamilyas (people treated like family members)  [no association to Channel 2, please].  Sugod mga kapatid! (Let that popular song by Sandwich play on!)

I don’t mean to bastardize history and the century-old struggle for true people’s liberation. I just cannot control the wierdness of my mind as induced by snapshots of Philippine realities like that traffic scene in Makati. Perhaps, the picture suggests that, yes, the struggle still lives on but the forms to carry out that struggle must change in accordance with the modernity that the world has attained over the decades. Perhaps, the picture implies that the targets to lead a revolution are no longer limited to the workers and peasants. Taxi drivers and the middle class riding the taxicabs can do so in their own right. But who will lead and what will galvanize them? Andres Bonifacio of the second millennium, be born! New brand of revolution, be formed!

Inside the UP Press Bookstore

dsc00481.JPGI frequent Balay Kalinaw in UP Diliman because of activities that are usually held there. But I only managed to get inside the UP Press Bookstore (located in the ground floor of Balay Kalinaw) the other day when the activity I was attending had not yet begun.

Expectedly, almost all book titles you see inside come from the university’s alumni. And it’s gone multimedia, too. There’s an art frame hanging at one bookcase, which is for sale at P1,000.00 (USD 21). There’s also an audio CD containing a collection of poems from various artists.

When I got inside the bookstore, I had the feeling of pride for UP. (I have never taken any course from it, although I once dreamed of finishing college in there.) But I wonder if the bookstore really houses all the brainchildren of the university’s graduates. It is a very small hangout for bookworms, about 30 square meters. (National Bookstore outlets have got a tiny Filipiniana section which leaves one wondering who are the next Rio Almas, Nick Joaquins, Pete Lacabas, and the like. (Pardon my gender insensitivity here. Honestly, I have not kept tabs on great Filipino women writers since my younger days.)

dsc00483.JPGdsc00482.JPGI wish I had a thousand bucks in my pocket. I would have bought the book entitled “Brains of the Nation” by Resil Mojares. It bore the price tag of P695.00 (USD 14). (When I was in India [two times] and Oakland, California, I managed to buy five to 10 books because I had enough pocket money and the books sold were really cheap.) I thought that Mojares’s book would give me great insights on how the contemporary Filipino intellegentsia has formed and used its knowledge, which would have influenced the way things are in the country’s politics and economy.

I got out of the bookstore partly disappointed (for not having bought any book [I wish I were a klepto] ) and partly satisfied because I had a toast with the great minds of UP.

Philippine election system is trash

I have to say this: The Philippine election system is like this:MMDA cleaning operation men shed off the posters freshly mounted on the center island of Kalayaan Ave. by party-list groups Anakpawis and Amin. Thus this trash.

My illusionary years of believing in it as a means of reforming the government are over. I came to this conclusion when I could not stomach the way the oligarchs and opportunistic elements wash their dirty linens in public. I would puke everytime I see the faces of trapos and big liars on TV, even if it’s not yet time for campaigning. One TV ad shows one Congressman boasting of a bill that he sponsored as if it is already being implemented and has made dramatic change in the people’s lives. Another shows a young trapo (despite his activist roots) waving his hands to a couple who calls his name. Insane, right?

Today, while I was on the road inside a jeepney, I saw the posters of Senatoriable Ping Lacson splashed all over the center island of Aurora Avenue. The feeling even grew when I saw the posters of Anakpawis and Amin splashed, three to five every five meters approximately, all over the center island of Kalayaan Ave.

I got nothing against Lacson and the party-list candidates, though. It’s the thought that lots of money are spent for this kind of campaign scheme. It’s completely a waste of time, labor and money when the posters you mounted overnight would be shed off the next day by government forces. Look at the picture. It’s the trash that resulted from the ‘cleaning’ operation of Metro Guapo men, who flocked to Kalayaan Avenue’s center island to do their stuff. You see, the election campaign has just begun, yet the MMDA has done their stuff as if elections have just occurred.

In the next weeks in the run up to the May elections, expect lots more of energies oozing from the candidates, most of whom would speak nothing but trash. They will sling muds at one another and will utter promises once again to the electorate. And then when they get to power…

It’s sad that progressive candidates must get by under this very backward election system. Many of them gradually get sucked by the stream where sharks and crocodiles live (pardon the analogy). They become a ‘few good men’ no more.

I’m really sick of the system. I want it changed, like NOW. And since it won’t happen, I will just have to live with it. I will just have to continue joining the struggle for a change in the political system. But I cannot wait.

‘Election fever’ in the Philippines is so called because it implies trapos who are sick and sections of the electorate who are sick of the system.

Elections my neighborhood style

Look at the tally of votes gathered from my homeowners association election this morning. My name was listed fifth and my votes rank is 9th. What follows are my observations from the election:

  1. Just like in the past elections, the Comelec for this year’s election was composed of several staff from Marikina City government. They were very serious about their job but exerting efforts to break the ice when necessary.
  2. The list of candidates (as shown in the image) was not based on lastnames. The first name is our outgoing and incoming President, very popular for her industriousness and zeal as top leader. I found out that the listing was based on the positions taken by the outgoing officers, who happened to be ‘reelectionists’.
  3. Four of the candidates were couples. My wife also ran, but her name as listed carried my lastname. The Comelec should have been conscious about this. During the canvassing of votes, several votes were declared void because the voters indicated just the last names, thus creating ambiguity as to the persons they actually voted.
  4. The ranking method used was absurd. Candidates getting same number of votes were ranked differently–the one that was seen first by the Comelec ranked higher.
  5. The elections in my neighborhood since our President took over were always peaceful and easy to administer. This is because the officers, at least, have trust with one another. Plus the fact that no one has no ambition to get elected to the Presidency, given the busy nature of the work. Thank God our President has always signified to continue on despite her occasional qualms and whines.

Snooping on other people’s private reading

Have you tried to snoop on other people’s private reading?

I have been doing it – more frequently in the airplanes and waiting places – but only after struggling a bit against worry that I’m intruding into other people’s privacy. (Well, it’s not my fault, because the ‘private’ readers don’t pay attention enough to their privacy; they must be blamed for feeding my voyeurism. It’s like ‘femme fetales’ to human men.)

It’s interesting to discover that what one reads does not necessarily describe her personality. I once have witnessed a prim lady beside me in a plane reading a book on the Catholic faith. But I could not believe a man with perverted looks reading a “Chicken Soup” book. My goodness, is that what flights do to mortal souls fearing accidents on air?

I have an advice for those reading books in the presence of snooping folks: Know what you’re reading, moreso when you’re in the middle of the knowledge material. You’ll never know that a person next to you will ask something about the book you’re reading. It will just be so embarrassing that you are not ready for an intellectual and honest response.

Technology to replace artists?

invisible pianist

Originally uploaded by dungkal.

See the piano with four keys depressed? The elegant instrument, placed at the cafeteria inside the Amigo Terrace Hotel in Iloilo City, was actually played performing a popular song.

Yes, the musical instrument you’re seeing is playing without an artist, thanks to technology. People walking at the hotel’s lobby are enticed by the great songs played, with several of them tempted to get near the piano, wondering where the pianist has gone. Amazing technology, they would exclaim.

The experience reminded me of the VCD I watched five years ago. Entitled “Simone”, the film was about a crazy hi-tech savvy film director who created a virtual human actress named Simone, who was made part of movies that had Simone look like a real person. The emotions that exuded from Simone were so real that she was cited many times by film critics. But the critics and her fans as well could not see her face-to-face as the crazy director made alibis in order for them to make do without that opportunity.

That is the danger of technology. Some people may be amazed by it to the point of accepting what it can do to humanity. But there are others who feel deceived and would want technology out of the human business called arts.

Everything is a trade-off

We are not omnipotent and omnipresent like God. We are not like Him who seems to have a zillion eyes and ears used to monitor our intentions and actions and act accordingly. (Or some may argue that maybe God is not that powerful, after all. Why, perhaps He's so limited that He cannot watch over all of us, given the many accidents that come our way.)

Humans as we are, we cannot do all things at the same time. And what we are doing now, at this point in time, is an opportunity cost for other things that can be done. Everything is a trade-off.

When one is reading a good book while riding a bus, she loses the chance of being awed by the majestic natural creations: farms, mountains, seas, and all.

When one works abroad, living a very good life and earning income more than enough for her family in her hometown, she loses the chance to serve better in her own country.

When one excels in work and is hungry for more success, she loses the chance to be with her family and be closer to them.

When I'm home and get immersed in writing with Isda, my technological soul mate, I lose the chance of playing with my kids, who definitely need care and concern from their parents.

So it becomes a question of values that inform our choices. They define the trade-offs. And it requires a skill in how to identify them, so that after all the decisions are done, there is less or no amount of guilt left in our hearts.