Backward and forward

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It’s customary for newspapers and TV networks to end the year with some kind of review or assessment of the past 12 months and even to look into the next 12.

This year-end practice isn’t entirely due to the lack of anything much to comment or even report on, although the main news source in these parts, the government, is pretty much in recess. The logic of such reviews rests on what should be an old saw among Filipinos, but isn’t: it is the need to remember what has gone before, so one doesn’t end up repeating the past’s errors. Continue reading

A failed system

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A successful politician is someone who has been elected, and/or who has managed to stay in power. As those who thought him presumptuous for aspiring for the presidency have begun arguing, Fernando Poe Jr., by this definition and despite his success as an actor, was a failed politician.

That judgment leads to another: that the political impact of his death is being deliberately exaggerated despite his supposedly having lost by a million votes to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This view contests the validity of warnings that, despite his widow’s appeal to keep “politics” out of it, Poe’s funeral tomorrow could morph into an anti-government demonstration focused on the Arroyo government’s downfall. The same view argues that the political significance of Poe’s funeral is not in the same league as that of Ninoy Aquino’s in 1983, and thus unlikely to signal the beginning of the process that ended with the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Continue reading

Bad manners

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Former President Joseph Estrada need not have bothered, and neither should certain other members of the opposition who now stand accused of the singularly bad taste of trying to turn mass grief into anger against the Arroyo government.

Whatever they do and whatever they and others may say, there is no helping it for Malacanang. No matter how much Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita may beg and plead, and no matter how much Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye may whine, among Fernando Poe Jr.’s millions of supporters are many who ascribe the death of their idol to his disappointment and anger over what happened last May 10. Continue reading

Their last hope

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Fernando Poe Jr.’s entry into politics was not a particularly Filipino phenomenon. Celebrities worldwide have been running for office for years, although it was actor Ronald Reagan’s winning the US Presidency in 1980 that convinced others that they too could govern a city, a province, or even a country.

The constant presence of celebrities in the public mind and eye via the media is of course their key advantage over others, assuring them at least enough name recall for voters to write their names on the ballot. Continue reading

Exquisite timing

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The timing, though unintended, could not have been any more exquisite. A week after the Supreme Court ruled that 100 percent foreign-owned companies could exploit Philippine mineral resources under the Mining Act of 1995 came the twin typhoons Winnie and Yoyong, devastating vast areas of Luzon through widespread flooding and mudslides.

Last week’s disaster has been correctly blamed on the ecological destruction caused by logging. The Supreme Court’s own, disastrous ruling of the week before was of a piece with that disaster, in that large-scale mining, together with logging, has also been blamed for environmental disasters on a scale to rival last week’s as well as that which devastated Ormoc, Leyte in 1993, when the denudation of surrounding mountains caused a flashflood that killed 5,000 people. Continue reading

A moral government at work

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Last week, barely a month after George W. Bush had won reelection, the United States announced that it will increase the number of troops it has in Iraq from the present 138,000 to 150,000. An additional 12,000 troops will be deployed by mid-January, or two weeks before the January 30 Iraqi elections. Earlier plans had called for the reduction in the number of US troops. In 2003 the plan was to have no more than a force of 50,000 by the end of that year.

The deployment shows that the security situation in Iraq is still as bad as, or even worse than, before US forces attacked and took Falluja, the base of the Iraqi resistance, last month. With 138 US dead, November was the deadliest month for US troops since March 2003 and April this year. But Iraqi police and security troops are being killed in larger numbers, with over a hundred killed in the first week of December alone. Continue reading

The Undiscovered Country

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The Undiscovered Country
Stories by Luis V. Teodoro

The Undiscovered CountryYear Published: 2004
Specifications: 6×9; PB/BP
No. of Pages: 148pp
ISBN: 971-542-405-8
Price: PhP 300.00

Writing in the sixties, “Luis Teodoro … stood apart from his generation in going back to the tradition represented by journalist-artists of the early twentieth century,” not to mention Rizal and the writers of the Propaganda Movement. Collected here for the first time, these stories fill the gap in most accounts of Philippine literature in English, a gap that must surely bother both avid reader and literary scholar. Didn’t the sixties produce powerful stories in the social realist tradition? What happened to them?

Here are some of the best, produced by a writer better known as journalist and academic. It is time to make the stories available to readers again, for, as Ramon Magsaysay awardee Bienvenido Lumbera says, “in our time, the need of our milieu is once again for creative writers who do not apologize when their fiction or poetry partakes of the concerns and functions of journalism. Continue reading