Hey, Bongbong, here’s a dictionary

Just in case all the partying during your dad’s glorious reign sidelined basic vocabulary lessons, here’s the Merriam-Webster definition of “gain”:

So let’s talk about “value” or what we hold dear.

Life is at the top of the pyramid, dude. Cavalier would be a kind adjective for your dad’s attitude towards the basic right to life. At last count, more than 75,000 have filed for compensation for human rights abuses under daddy dearest.

True, they’re still killing, torturing and arresting activists and journalists. Not that you’d be weeping tears for them.

But AFTER Edsa, the courts at least offered some chance of redress.

Under the Marcos dictatorship, everything was hostage to the whims of your father’s henchmen, including that fossil who owes his freedom – in the face of plunder raps – to the Supreme Court.

Your father’s regime cut short the lives of some of the country’s best and brightest. You’re alive and hale enough to pollute the air with your lies. Allowing even idiots their right to life is a real gain, don’t you think?

Had those guys with the same dictatorial bent succeeded in their putscht, you and yours would be buried in some deep pit.

Also, unless you think “Constitution” is a synonym for toilet paper, we do have a chance now to challenge autocrats who abuse power.

That right, which we wrested back from your dad’s stranglehold, led to landmark decisions on the pork barrel. Perhaps that’s a gain wasted on the son of a kleptocrat, who propped up his regime by borrowing gazillions to keep his minions happy.

bongbong2You don’t think people care about what happened under two decades of tyranny? And your empirical evidence is the dearth of people asking you questions about martial law and human rights violations?

It never occurred that people don’t bother asking you because of all the news reports detailing your memories of some warped wonderland?

Yes, news. We’re even printing your pratling. You’re allowed to peddle your fantasy. Of course, we’re also allowed to shoot down your lame fiction. I can see why you don’t count this as a “gain.”

“Gain” also includes the breakup of the monopolies your dad showered on his pals.

joel abong2
Joel Abong, the boy who became the poster child of famine in Philippines’ Sugarlandia — on www.revolutionrevisited.com

Go check out what the thousands of agricultural workers in Sugarlandia think of your dad and his cronies — not that opposition landowners were any better. Their children are still poor but no longer look like starving, sub-Saharan waifs.

Read what UcanNews reported way back in 1985:

In a pastoral letter draft in July, Philippine bishops said the famine “raised the spectre of a generation of brain-damaged children” …

Severe third-degree malnutrition among Negros children reached 7-8 percent, according to a UNICEF survey in July. This doubled the 1984 rate.

UNICEF officials told UCA News some countries declare 3 percent an emergency.

Doctor Violeta Gonzaga of La Salle College in Bacolod City says the third-degree malnutrition rate was 10 percent or more in August.”

There have been gains for the sugar workers — no thanks to the old-style oligarchy and the new-style kleptocracy. Those gains weren’t gifts from anyone but the fruits of their struggle.

You think life under Ferdinand Sr. was so flush?

The Businessworld points out:

“The average GDP growth rate from 1972 to 1985 (Marcos’s last full year) was all of 3.4% per annum. Per-capita GDP grew annually at less than 1% average over the period — more precisely 0.82%… For comparison, the average GDP growth from 2003 to 2014 — even under a bumbling and quarrelsome democracy — has been 5.4% per annum — with a rising trend. On a per capita basis, GDP today is rising 3.5% annually, more than four times the growth rate under the dictatorship.”

It’s laughable when you lament the lack of jobs that force people to brave foreign shores. The dearth in employment that pays enough for a decent life is true. But dude, the diaspora was launched and encouraged by your dad to mask rising unemployment and bring in foreign reserves needed to pay for the debts he racked up – to keep the party going.


You think all young Filipinos are so guillible? Let’s see what happens in May.

I may not think much of those seeking to lead the nation. But you talk like gains are on the account of a few leaders. In fact, gains have been won despite leaders. And young people know this.

Duh. This country owes you and your family  nothing for nothing.

The Philippines isn’t beyond saving. It can be made better. It will be made better. You and yours  are the last thing we need.


OFW behind petition to probe ‘Laglag Bala’ says scam reaps collective shame for PH

Like many overseas Filipino workers, Ednalyn Purugganan uses social media to keep in touch with her family and follow events back home.

Ednalyn with her children (in stripes and blue shirt) and their cousins). Photo courtesy of Ednalyn
Ednalyn with her children (in stripes and blue shirt) and their cousins). Photo courtesy of Ednalyn

Ednalyn’s Facebook page, one of the many millions from the world’s social media capital, is sprinkled with inspirational quotes (today, from the Dalai Lama), photos of her children, aspirational shots of the latest models of bags and shoes and, of course, selfies: Doing yoga in the mountains, playing with her employer’s huge dogs and relaxing with kin and friends.

Signing animal petitions on Change.org, the world’s largest petition platform, was the extent of her social, political advocacies. Then came Mary Jane Veloso, the hapless Filipino OFW sentenced to death by Indonesia after airport authorities there found heroin in her luggage.

Mary Jane Veloso: The power of social media partly helped her win a stay of execution.
Mary Jane Veloso: The power of social media partly helped her win a stay of execution.

Ednalyn identified with Veloso, also a mother of two. She could relate with the feelings of fear and helplessness, and having to deal with authorities of a country with a strange language and culture.

Most of all, Ednalyn says in a Facebook Messenger interview, she, too, knew the slow burn of anger when government officials treat you like a burden or a cross to bear.

All those permits, those quizzing at airports, the frustration of having to prove you are innocent and not out to break the law, of learning to swallow the slights and just focus on the tasks needed to get out to greener pastures.

The domestic worker from Lantau Island joined the 447,747 other signers — many of them Indonesians who also identified with the risks faced by migrant workers — to #SaveMaryJane. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo granted Veloso a stay of execution following dialogues with his country’s migrant rights activists.

“Ang sarap. May nagagawa din pala pag nagkakaisa.” (It’s a good feeling, knowing we can change something if we act together.)

OFWs in Hongkong active in churches. This is Ednalyn's Catholic church choir.
OFWs in Hongkong active in churches. This is Ednalyn’s Catholic church choir.

She soon settled back into her weekly routine, including singing in a Catholic Church choir and bonding with mother and sister and brother and assorted relatives, all also working in Hongkong.

“Angkan kami ng OFWs,” says Ednalyn. An uncle is in the US, an aunt in Finland; other cousins are in Canada. Many of her Facebook photos are of the clan’s children, vacationing in Hongkong during class breaks to catch up with parents who can go home only once every two years.

Ednalyn recalls seeing the first stories of “tanim bala” or “laglag bala” two months ago. The terms refer to what victims and critics say are schemes to plant a bullet or two in the bags of tourists of OFWs at the country’s premier airports. The goal: forcing them to cough up bribes or lose their places on flights bound for precious jobs.

“Mga foreigner yun.” (Those were foreigners they nabbed.)

“Naisip ko tuloy, parang nakakatakot nang umuwi ng Manila. Baka ikaw ang sunod na mabiktima. Laglag bala tapos hihingan ka.” (I got scared. Going home to Manila suddenly became a scary prospect. You might be the next victim. They’ll plant a bullet and then fleece you.)

After some victims claimed they were forced to shell out bribes, and heat was trained on the X-ray machine handlers and aviation cops, law enforcers turned to harsher tactics.

 Ednalyn felt her world fall apart with the arrest of 56-year old Gloria Ortinez, also a Hongkong-based OFW, who has served the same employer for decades.

“Kami na yan,” she points out. (She is one of us.)

Ednalyn fell back on a familiar weapon – a petition asking Senators Miriam Santiago and Grace Poe to investigate the “Laglag Bala” incidents and surface the truth.

Read: Online petition seeks probe of ‘tanim bala’ at NAIA

TOGETHER AGAIN. Children of Ednalyn's largely OFW clan visit Hongkong during holidays to catch up with parents who can only come home once every two years.
TOGETHER AGAIN. Children of Ednalyn’s largely OFW clan visit Hongkong during holidays to catch up with parents who can only come home once every two years.

“Ang batas dito sa Hong Kong napakahigpit. Walang sira ulong mag dadala ng alam nilang bawal na ikakapahamak nila. Si Nanay Gloria, 30 years nang nagtratrabaho dito sa Hong Kong at nagawa nyo paring biktimahin. Paano naman po kaming, sa mga dekada na ang inabot dito, tawag sa amin baguhan parin. “

(Hongkong has strict enforcement of laws. No one would be mad enough to even try to bring in or out something against the law. Nanay Gloria worked for 30 years here and you still managed to victimize her in the scam. What about us, who are still treated as newcomers?)

Ednalyn speaks to truth with power. Hers is an authentic voice that manages to condense in four paragraphs the angst of OFWs, called “new heroes” in the Philippines because they prop up the national economy, allowing some pressures of a social volcano to escape.

“Nagpapakahirap po kaming mag trabaho dito at pangalagaan ang pangalan namin at ang pagiging Filipino namin, para lang sirain ng mga taong walang magawa sa buhay.” (We toil here and keep our name and the reputation of the Filipino clean, just to have these torn down by people who have nothing better to do in life.)

“Dito sa Hong Kong ang liit na ng tingin ng mga tao sa Filipino, paano pa pag nalaman na ganyan ang ginagawa nila na mismong kapwa namin Filipino ang nanamantala sa amin?” (Here in Hongkong they already look down on Filipinos, how much more if they find out our compatriots are the ones exploiting us?)

Zeny, another Hongkong-based OFW, can recite almost verbatim the lines that brought her to tears.

“Lahat po kami sabik na sabik makauwi sa Pilipinas, mayakap at mahagkan man lang ang mga mahal namin sa buhay kahit sandali lang, Pero sa nangyayari, mas mabuti na daw magpakatulong, kumayod nang kumayod at magpakakuba dito makuntento nalang daw sa skype at tawag sa telepono kaysa sa kulungan ang bagsak pag uwi sa Mahal naming Bayan.”

(All of us yearn to go back home, to embrace and kiss our loved ones even just for a short time. But with these happenings, we might as well just slog it out as servants, labor until we are hunched over, falling back on Skype and phone calls because what we might end up in jail in the country we love.)

Ednalyn launched the petition on Oct. 27.  In a few days, more than 21,000 – many of them OFWs — signed the petition. The top countries according to Change.org Philippines senior campaigner Christine Roque: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, US, Singpore, Qatar, Hongkong, Canada, Australia and Kuwait.

“Tulungan nyo naman po kaming ipa-hinto ang nangyayaring modus operandi ng lag laglag bala sa NAIA. Maawa naman po sana kayo sa aming mga OFW. Di po namin pinaghihirapang alagaan ang pangalan namin para lang sirain ng mga gahaman sa isang iglap lang.”

(Please help us to stop the laglag bala scam at the NAIA. Give some mercy to OFWs. Our hard work, our clean names can vanish in an instant because of these greedy people.)

Senator Santiago has written directly to Ednalyn, saying her petition prompted her to file a resolution seeking a probe into the ‘laglag bala incidents.’ Santiago responded via a platform tool for decision makers. Ednalyn is waiting for Poe’s response.

Some fellow OFWs worry for Ednalyn, fearing she might incur the wrath of the mighty.

“Hindi ko naman iniisip na may mangyayari sa akin. Ang isip ko lang makauwi kami ng tahimik.” (I don’t think about bad things happening to me. All I think of is how we can go back home in peace.)

Ednalyn is happy with Santiago’s response and amused by complaints that her petition sounds like a campaign aid for the two women presidential contenders.

She ticks off some of the comments thrown her way: Why Grace and Miriam? Why not Bongbong Marcos as he beat them to the draw? Why didn’t you just address it to Pnoy?

Ednalyn says the elections never entered her mind. Then she points out the two women are rivals in the presidential race.

Majority of Hongkong OFWs are women and they are capable organisers and movers for advcoacies
Babae ako. Naisip ko sila because most of us OFWs here are women. I chose Miriam because of old articles that depict how she tried to help OFWs.

She is gracious with her critics. “There are many Ilocanos here, like me.” Besides, she adds, many of them eventually got around to signing the petition.

Overcoming differences for an important cause is victory, says Ednalyn.

A safe homecoming, without having to dodge vultures, is the least the government owes these modern day heroes.

**Full disclosure: The author used to be campaigns director of Change.org in the Philippines.

Bongbong and a meditation on context

I don’t make a habit of following the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. His dimples are cute and he looks a decade younger than his age (54, we share a birthday). But Imelda, with her black holes and cosmic rays, remains more interesting than the self-proclaimed “new leader for a new decade”.
So it was with curiosity that I clicked on a Facebook link sent by Katrina Stuart Santiago. It was a screen capture of Bongbong Marcos’ November 7 tweet. And it was met with plenty of grouching and griping. Most the comments focused on the senator’s alleged sexism, with a number of FB folk asking why people should even expect otherwise.
My first response: Is this genuine?
I searched Twitter.
There, indeed, is a Bongbong Marcos (@bongbongmarcos).
The offending tweet does appear on that account profile.
But there are all kinds of poseurs on Twitter (and Facebook).  There was a time people were getting heartburn from the posts of someone masquerading as the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Armando Doronilla.
Still wary, I asked if the Twitter account was genuine. A chorus of yesses.
A check with the senator’s staff brought me to his website, which also features his tweets.  There it was, the “makeup” post.
I then asked if the senator was serious or joking. Also, whether he’d forgotten having a mother and sister in politics.
As a discussion ensued on Twitter, RockEd’s Gang Badoy piped up: “I thought the diss was on politicians in general being 2-faced the makeup part was a mere demo of the point?”
Former ABS-CBN anchor Gel Santos Relos, respondent of Gang’s tweet, replied:
“Maybe @bongbongmarcos should clarify such tweet, reads woman-specific to me, Mr. Senator.”
It sure did. But because Gang had brought it up and because a quote doesn’t float in a vacuum, I tried Google. The problem with many quotation sites is, precisely the lack of  context.
The quote is attributed to Maureen Murphy. Together with a half dozen other quotes, the body of quips seemed to indicate Gang was right.
But there’s also precious little on Google about Murphy who, I deduced, had to be the Australian comic who’d appeared on late night shows. The other possibles were an Irish academic (I didn’t think so) or an American Republican politician (even more unlikely).
It drove me batty not to have more of a handle on Murphy and her quotes. Another google search finally brought up this gem of a feature from the LA Times’ Steve Lopez, a favorite of mine for his series (that eventually became a book) on  Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless musician with schizophrenia who sleeps each night on the city’s Skid Row.
Lopez’s “Life as performance art for a family not bound by typical assumptions” almost made me forget about Bongbong Marcos and deciphering his tweet. It’s  a classic Lopez feature, simultaneously chatty and lyrical, a story of two seeming ordinary women who turn out to be pretty special. It also explains why Murphy became, as she puts it, a specialist in “male put-downs”.
So, yes, sisters, maybe the senator wasn’t heaping scorn on women politicians . Maybe he wasn’t being sexist. Maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite like certain men who think they can squirt their sperm into every nook and cranny but expect their daughters to behave like nuns, or men who think the absence of an offspring doesn’t quite make a woman HIS, or men who think it’s a sin to use contraceptives but OK to philander to their hearts’ content. Maybe he was being self-deprecating. Maybe.

But there’s little to tie the senator and Murphy together. Certainly, their life experiences are just so disparate it’s hard to visualize they’re coming from one place. That’s what makes his tweet pretty much a classic case of (maybe, unintended) irony.

From the tumblr blog of "Mr Madlangbayan"
Photo from the blog of “Mr Madlangbayan”

Murphy’s comedy stemmed from “the battle of the sexes”, a time when women were desperately struggling to narrow the economic-political and cultural gaps between the genders.

Murphy’s mom had to flee from cops when she took her children away from an abusive spouse.

Mr. Marcos grew up in Malacanang Palace, with a mother who was one half of what critics called a conjugal dictatorship.

Mr. Marcos has a mother who loves regaling the world about how she single-handedly ended the World Cold War and how her Ferdinand admired her ability to fathom the true, the good and the beautiful.  (Here are my FB notes on the Philippines Graphic 2009 interview series — Imelda’s Truth 1 and Imelda’s Truth 2.)

We have since had two women Presidents. The country is ranked 8th in the 2011 Global Gender Index — the top-ranked in Asia, with “perfect” scores in terms of closing the gender gaps in health and education.

Table from the Philippines country profile, Global Gender Index

Women in this country outlive men. Whether that translates to better quality of life isn’t quite clear; the Philippines still has to meet its Millenium Development Goals in women’s and children’s health.

More young women are graduating from high school and college than males. The gender gap in unemployment has also narrowed, though critics say that has more to do with so many women leaving hearth, village and country for hard, dangerous labor abroad.

There, too, seems to be a disconnect between that top rank in education and being 15th placer in overall economic participation. But an Inquirer editorial notes, this is changing for the better:

“In a research done by Grant Thornton International earlier this year, it was shown that Filipino women held 47 percent of senior management positions in the country, easily the best in the world and higher than the average by as much as 23 percentage points. The Department of Labor and Employment’s statistics show that women in executive positions outnumber their male counterparts. What this shows is that women have succeeded in boardrooms but not as much in workrooms.”
More women have also succeeded in politics, though many who do owe much to the power of political dynasties. Still, the numbers have changed enough to make Murphy’s fighting words now sound like something a hectoring, combative male might say. Which really is more of Raul Gonzales’ style rather than Mr. Marcos.
Even giving Mr. Marcos the benefit of the doubt, one feels a bit sad. Because if he, indeed, used the quote in the context Murphy first raised it, it does bring up some hard questions: Have women politicians changed our lives for the better? Have they reformed the political system? Or have they proven so good at multi-tasking that they are now beyond doble cara?
And really, we’d like to hear more about Imelda and political ideals from her beloved son.
(Thanks Anjo Bagaoisan for the sharp eye LOL)