Monday, December 31, 2007

Exeunt 2007

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Here in the Philippines, we don’t think twice greeting people “Merry Christmas”. None of this nonsense about “Happy Holidays” or “Season's Greetings”. December 25 is all about the birth of Jesus Christ. Have a problem with this celebration? Suck it up.

Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

God's Three Answers to Prayer

1. 'Yes!'

2. 'Not yet.'

3. 'I have something better in mind.'

Monday, December 17, 2007

New Horizon

There was a transport strike and school was out. The natives said it couldn’t be done, they said we were not in America. But we were determined to drive to Mactan, though mapless a mere 90 miles away as the crow flies. So we set out at the break of dawn for San Carlos City where there was a ferry that would convey our car across the Tanon Strait. There is a previous entry describing this scenic route that cuts through Mount Mandalagan.

While waiting for the ship, a relative in Cebu tried to dissuade us from making the trip citing the difficulties in finding directions. His advice was ignored. We drove the car inside the cargo hold of the 35 year old Japanese freighter and went up to the steerage section. We weren’t about to trade feeling the sea wind for a silly movie in a dark, air-conditioned enclosure in the “Business Class” section.

Just watching our 4 year old shriek with excitement as the engines of the ship bellowed into life and listening to the younger kids shouting at the top of their lungs, copying the foghorn blasts made the trip worthwhile. In 90 minutes we reached Toledo, in Cebu island. The roads were excellent and with the assistance of those indispensable Coca Cola and Jollibee signs we reached Shangri-la in fine shape.

I wouldn’t have felt like Conway if I had taken another way.

There were many high points in this unplanned getaway but one of them was surely when I skyped Dr. Paul and Dr. Todd and I panned the webcam across the pools and the bars and the beaches while it was snowing in 25’ Guymon.

Now the strike is over and the kids are back in school.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Phone is Mightier Than the Sword

I didn’t realize how dependent I had become with my cellular phone. I haven’t been able to contact anybody because all the numbers I need are stored in the phone that is sitting in my clinic in Oklahoma. I also wonder how many people have unsuccessfully tried to reach me. Until my friend brings the phone back to me on the 20th, I will remain scarce. What can I do?

There was a survey that came out today detailing how Filipinos perceived GMA as the most corrupt president ever. She even came out ahead of Marcos. Obviously, many of the respondents (ages 18 and over) had not been around when Marcos was in power. Or a substantial population that had been thoroughly disillusioned during that period were now unavailable to be surveyed, having migrated to other countries. Or simply how easy people forget.

We tend to take for granted our relatively untrammeled freedom to express ourselves. All these blogs and speeches and published opinions would never have existed when Marcos was King. Everybody was afraid then.

Travel was restricted, the educational curriculum was tightly controlled and the Military was feared. For all her phone calls to election officials, her husband’s unsavory meddling, an assortment of corrupt cronies, the Marcos dictatorship was the absolute pits. Corruption was ruthlessly centralized. Many “opposition” personalities who are very vocal today in condemning GMA were either active collaborators to the dictatorship or are the progeny, direct beneficiaries of that cursed era.

There’s just too much politics in our country. We should be talking about the deteriorating dollar, the sky-high prices of oil, worsening infant and maternal mortality rates, widespread malnutrition … Instead, many pundits are spending too much time fantasizing about various presidential permutations for an election that is still 2 ½ years away.

We desperately need to conserve energy, and develop indigenous sources of fuel including but not limited to ethanol, solar and wind. We should rationally re-examine reviving the mothballed nuclear plant. We must make the strengthened peso work to our nation’s advantage (paying off some of our debts to save on interest expense, investing in technology to achieve greater productivity) . We must continue to increase our trade with China and become self-sufficient in rice production. We should consider taking over some of the security responsibilities of the US in Iraq (and avail for ourselves a portion of the billions of dollars being poured in that region weekly).

We need to be doing things other than engage in the same old politics which will get us nowhere. These musings are the effect of cell phone deprivation. The phone is mightier than the sword.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Season for Thanksgiving

Below is my article for

Since after the elections, I’ve had to spend a lot of time in our clinic in Oklahoma. Totally unforeseen was the medical leave that one of our physicians had to take. It hasn’t been bad at all, as a matter of fact I appreciate more than ever the many advantages that can be found in another country. Since the majority of the readers of this publication are Filipinos living abroad and in the spirit of the Christmas season, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect upon the many blessings we all need to be grateful for.

We wouldn’t be living as foreigners in various lands if we could attain the same benefits in our own country. That was certainly a no-brainer of a statement. Why choose loneliness, prejudice, alienation and most importantly time away from family when you can live well in your own country? The reason 10 million of us are scattered somewhere in this planet is because the sacrifice of living our lives away from our country far outweighs the essential need to provide for our own immediate families.

We choose to live in countries with security, cleanliness, educational and job opportunities. We prefer to live in societies where corruption is not as endemic as what we have in our own country, where we don’t need to waste so much time engaged in petty, unproductive politics. We don’t miss the monstrous traffic that converts a 2 mile trip into an hours journey.

Not many realize that the ever-shrinking middle class in the Philippines is heavily taxed because the poor can’t pay and the very rich always find ways to minimize their share. Whenever we work abroad, we pay our rightful taxes diligently not just because it is the law but because we see the taxes we pay go into projects and investments that serve the common good.

Filipinos who return for Christmas are generally the newly-arrived or the recently-retired. Either you haven’t caught on or you’ve accepted the reality that whenever you go back, relatives and friends seem to crawl out of the woodwork, eager for a small piece of the bounty. But who can blame those whom we have left behind? With all the good news about the thriving economy and the unbridled construction boom, all you need to really do is look around and you will understand for sure that trickle-down economics does not apply in the Philippines.

According to the government, there are 3.67 million malnourished Filipino children. There is one physician for every 26,000 Filipinos. Schoolrooms are utilized in 3 shifts. Potable water continues to be a hand-delivered commodity to the majority of the people. Even the US Ambassador needs to bring her own stash of toilet paper for her out of town travels.

It’s quite easy to forget the living conditions in our country when you’re far away from it. The moment we forget about the hardships our countrymen left behind confront daily is the moment we lose our connection to our country.

And this connection must never be severed. We must always be conscious that we will never be able to totally purge from our souls the deeply imprinted genetic codes that make us Filipinos. Try hard to deny your origins and you end up becoming dysfunctional.

This is no plea for massive repatriation. Just keep in mind that for as long as you don’t stop thinking about the millions left behind and you don’t stop thinking about how even the tiny bit that we give back goes a very long way, you never left the Philippines.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

After the Coup

Now it’s coming out that had the Trillanes coup succeeded, a National Transition Council (NTC) vested with executive and legislative powers would have been formed. This Council would have the authority to "crush with iron fist all pockets of resistance by remnants of the old regime" and to “mete out severe penalties for acts of lawlessness that usually follow the collapse of an ancient regime.”All present government appointees will be summarily dismissed and replaced “by interim bases” and "to avert disruption of government operations, local executives who are not notorious for corruption and abuse of authority may remain in their posts on an interim basis, provided that they cooperate with the new government."

This NTC would immediately convene a constitutional commission that would write a "freedom constitution that incorporates the Bill of Rights; adopt an emergency relief program to address the problems of hunger and malnutrition; repeal the automatic appropriations law and set up a special commission to conduct a debt audit."

In order to forestall a bank run, bank withdrawals "in excess of what an average middle-class family needed to survive" would be temporarily suspended. The conversion of agricultural lands into industrial parks and residential subdivisions will immediately cease and haciendas would be placed under "compulsory sequestration", their owners compensated with long-term bonds.

"Independent boards consisting of professional journalists and academics and representatives of people's organizations," will oversee all media operations.

The police and the military will be purged of the "notoriously undesirable". After the situation has stabilized, elections will be held and "after elections, under the new constitution, the National Transition Council should dissolve itself and turn over state power to the duly elected officials".

If this wishful thinking would only come to pass. Who would compose this Council? Would they not be the same personalities who have already been given a chance before? Who will determine when honest and free elections will take place? Will the option for violent overthrow remain permanently hence?

There are just too many questions that we won’t be able to answer, ever. When we endow imperfect and flawed humans with the responsibility to govern a nation just because they have the capability for armed upheaval, we will be treading upon very dangerous ground.