Sunday, August 31, 2008

New blog template for September 2008


I usually change my blog template around this time of year. I don't quite know why. Must be a certain restlessness around September.

I thought I'd revert to something a little more basic. The previous template was getting a little cluttered, and the fonts were too small. I hope the new one is a little more readable.

This template was hand-customized. Standard three columns, main column is leftmost. I'm experimenting with fewer posts per page. I might tweak it with some Javascript in the coming weeks, as time permits.

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Obama is the antichrist


...well, maybe. Or maybe not. Not that I would believe it, or particular care.

It's funny, though, how the thought popped into my mind, possibly independently of anything that I had actively seen or read. It came after I saw footage of the revival-like Democratic National Convention. To be honest, I found the fervor a little unsettling.

It seems several other blogs have beat me to the punch. A quick search on Google for "obama antichrist" will produce hundreds of results. CNN, believe it or not, actually did a story on this. The "Left Behind" people have weighed in. Snopes has an article. (What do they say? Well, click to find out.)

Now I wonder how that meme got around?

Secretly I rooted for Obama during the democratic nominations because, well, I couldn't stand Hillary Clinton. She reminded me too much of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. So, ewww on that.

But after he got the nomination? It was pretty much downhill from that. The reason is the increasingly populist and increasingly empty message of "change." As GK Chesterton says, not all change is necessarily good.

So am I rooting for John McCain? Meh. Probably more of the same from the past eight years.

Then again, my vote doesn't count.

Friday, August 29, 2008

1337


Heh. Just noticed it right now.

If you don't understand the significance....

...you're old and not with-it.

In which case, you should read up.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Solicitation for North Cotabato refugees

Solicitation from Mindanao Tulong Bakwet, a group that's assisting the internal refugees affected by the fighting in Cotabato. If you want to help, contact MTB at the address after the jump.

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Partners,

Greetings of Peace and Justice!

The renewed fight between the government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels forced at least 10,358 families in Maguindanao based on the DSWD-ARMM report.

The Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN-Central Mindanao) through its lead convenor Mindanao Tulong Bakwet (MTB) conducted three-day ocular inspection and documentation on August 22, 24-25, 2008 in Maguindanao. The group is alarmed over the mounting number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as the fighting continues.

In evacuation centers, cases of diarrhea, cough, dengue fever, chicken pox and measles are the common illnesses encountered by the IDPs especially women and children. In fact, Seni Wahab, 70-year old woman died at Datu Piang gymnasium evacuation center on 25 August 2008 due to diarrhea. MERN documented five victims of common illnesses in evacuation centers, three of these were children aging one month, 6-month old and 11 years old. Also, various human rights violations against the civilians during the military operations against the group of MILF Commander Ameril Umbra Kato were documented.

The situation had stopped the economic activities of the IDPs and even left their about to harvest crops. It is very hard for the Muslim evacuees to sustain their needs as the holy month of Ramadhan is fast approaching. Supply of foods is highly needed.

In this light, we are appealing to those concern groups and individuals to help us alleviate the level of suffering that the IDPs have been experiencing since the fighting flared-up.

At present, lack of foods, medicines, shelter, sleeping materials, kitchen utensils and water container plagued the IDPs in Maguindanao.

We are anticipating your timely and positive response to this matter. Thank you very much!

Respectfully yours,

MS. FAIRUDZ "ROSE" IBRAHIM EBUS
Executive Director, Mindanao Tulong Bakwet [MTB], Inc.
Lead Convenor, Mindanao Emergency Response Network [MERN]
Door 4 Guiapal Apartment, 38-B Anacleto Badoy Sr., Street
Cotabato City, Philippines
Telefax: [064] 421-9425
Tel No. [064] 421-5521

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kadayawan 2008 Float Parade


Snaps from last Sunday's Kadayawan 2008 Float Parade, the culminating highlight of the festival. More float parade and street dancing pictures over at my photo site, www.sketches.kom.ph.

Just remember: you can use these photos on your web site, but only with proper attribution. For high-resolution photos intended for publication, contact me.






Some Kadayawan 2008 street dancing videos


Armed with a lousy Chinese-made "MP5" multimedia gadget, I took over 30 videos of the Kadayawan street dancing. Output wasn't very good but these shots should give you some idea of the kaleidoscope of color, sound, and motion of the festival.








Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kadayawan 2008 pics

Kadayawan street dancing today, one of the highlights of the event. I took my bike to the city center this morning, armed with my point-and-shoot camera and just started shooting. As with everyone else, I staked out the dancers at Magsaysay Avenue, which was the perfect spot for taking pictures and videos. There was plenty of room and the dancers were still fresh and rehearsing.

I'll post more videos and photos soon. In the meantime, here are the best of the lot. (Note: I'm asserting my moral rights to these photos. If you want to reuse them for your web site, please include the proper attribution. If you want to buy these photos for publication, contact me. High resolution copies are available.)


This Ovu-Manuvu gent was dancing his heart out. His performance was accompanied by hilarious facial expressions such as winking and puckering. I caught this one at just the right moment.


This princess of the sea was ensconced in her own gigantic clamshell. She gamely posed for photos while waiting for their performance.


A quick break from the dancing to pose for the camera. It's shots like these that I really like.


This girl's costume must have been really hot. It was made with feathers for some sort of eagle dance. She still managed to smile though.


Young drummers for the Ovu-Manuvu, probably the liveliest group in the Indak-Indakan.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The tragedy of KAL 007

I'll start this off with a bad joke, and I hope you'll forgive me. No offense is intended, and I mention it because it's my own reminder for the other tragedy in 1983. Here goes:

Ferdinand Marcos, calling up the Soviet premier: "Andropov, you idiot! I said C-A-L on the 21st, not K-A-L on the 31st!"


A little black humor there, but trust the Filipinos to come up with zingers like these until eternity.

Anyway, that's why I remember KAL 007. On September 1, 1983, a Korean Airlines passenger jet wandered off into Soviet airspace and was shot down by MiG. All 269 people onboard, including a US congressman, were killed.

More from the Wikipedia:

Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was a commercial Boeing 747-230B (Serial Number CN20559/186, registration: HL7442, formerly D-ABYH[4], was previously operated by Condor Airlines) flying from New York City, United States to Seoul, South Korea. The aircraft—piloted by Chun Byung-in[5]—departed Gate 15, 35 minutes behind its scheduled departure time of 11:50 P.M. local time[6], and took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on August 31. After refueling at Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska, the aircraft departed for Seoul while carrying 240 passengers and 29 crew at 13:00 GMT (3:00 AM local time) on September 1. KAL 007 flew westward and then turned south on a course for Seoul-Kimpo International Airport that took it much farther west than planned, cutting across the Soviet Kamchatka Peninsula and then over the Sea of Okhotsk towards Sakhalin, violating Soviet airspace more than once.

It was the practice of Korean Air Lines to sometimes delay a flight so that it would not arrive at Kimpo Airport in Seoul prior to 6:00 a.m., as customs and passenger handling personnel began their operations at that time. Accordingly, 007 was delayed one hour because of strong tail winds, departing Anchorage International Airport at 13:00 GMT (4:00 a.m. Alaskan time). Climbing, the jumbo jet turned left, seeking its assigned route J501, which would soon take it onto the northernmost of five 50-mile (80 km) wide passenger plane air corridors that bridge the Alaskan and Japanese coasts. These five corridors are called the NOPAC (North Pacific) routes. KAL 007’s particular corridor, Romeo 20, passed just 17 1/2 miles from Soviet airspace off the Kamchatka coast.

At about 10 minutes after take-off, KAL 007 began to deviate to the right (north) of its assigned route. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) analysis of the flight data recorder provides no reason for this deviation.

Soviet air defense units had been tracking the aircraft for more than an hour while it entered and left Soviet airspace over the Kamchatka Peninsula. Soviet aircraft had initially tried to contact the pilot of the aircraft by radio and by making visual contact. When this failed, the pilot of the lead aircraft reported firing rounds from his machine guns in four 30-round bursts, but the pilot of KAL 007 still failed to respond. The order to shoot down the airliner was given as it was about to leave Soviet airspace for the second time after flying over Sakhalin Island. The lead aircraft of two Su-15 Flagon interceptors scrambled from Dolinsk-Sokol airbase fired two air to air missiles around 18:26 GMT,[11] and shot down KAL 007. The airliner crashed into the sea north of Moneron Island, killing all on board. It was probably downed in international airspace,[12] although the intercepting pilot stated otherwise in a subsequent interview. Initial reports that the airliner had been forced to land on Sakhalin were soon proved false. Transcripts recovered from the airliner's cockpit voice recorder indicate that the crew were unaware that they were off course and violating Soviet airspace (at the end they were 500 kilometres to the west of the planned track). After the missile strike, the aircraft began to descend from 18:26 until 18:31 when it leveled out at 16,424 ft (5,006 m). (The end of the cockpit voice recorder recording [18:27:46] was prior to its leveling out). After almost 5 minutes of level flight, 18:31-18:35, the aircraft began to descend from that level [13]in a spiral descent over Moneron Island. At the time of the attack, the plane had been cruising at an altitude of about 35,000 feet (11,000 m). Capt. Chun was able to turn off the autopilot (18:26:46) and it is unknown whether he was able to regain control[14] as the aircraft spiraled toward the ocean.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

25 years ago


Found this on Wikipedia and thought I'd put it up. (Post antedated as I was down with a virus yesterday.)

In related news, Ricky Carandang's interview with Steve Psinakis was quite insightful, both in terms of the Ninoy Aquino the Man and Ninoy Aquino the Political Strategist.

The real kicker was the tape-recorded last conversation between Aquino and Psinakis: apparently, Aquino had already lined up the ducks, so to speak, with the other leaders of ASEAN prior to his return to the Philippines. The motivation was the poor health of Ferdinand Marcos (who would actually live on for another three years) and the possibility of takeover by Imelda, a prospect not welcomed by other ASEAN leaders.

Take it for what it's worth: all references to Imelda Marcos were under "The Woman."

The interview is also a reminder of why Marcos lasted as long as he did. For all his nationalist rhetoric, he was America's golden boy. As per Psinakis, it was in the United States' interest to keep him in power in order to maintain the US bases. Ninoy Aquino, a more independent thinker, was less controllable. This is something to think about in light of recent US interference in Mindanao.

Ninoy Aquino did have an inkling that he would be assassinated as soon as he landed. He mentioned that explicitly in the taped conversation. That was one of the three possibilities he considered. He was aware of the risk; hence, the bulletproof vest.

His hope, though, was that he would merely be sent to prison. Even incommunicado, his arrangements with the Nakasone, Suharto, and other ASEAN leaders would eventually lead to negotiations. Aquino was quite optimistic that Marcos would be more pliant since the dictator was already at death's door. What he was less sure of were the parties around Marcos, who might take a more hardline stance.

Here is an excerpt of the last conversation, taken from an article by Amando Doronila in the Asia News Network.

Aquino: Now this is the latest Steve that I can give you, my source is Cardinal (Jaime) Sin. Number one: Marcos checked in at the Kidney Centre... He flunked all the tests and the conclusion was, if they operate on him, it would be fatal. So he went back to the palace. He is no longer responding to medication and he will have to be hooked up on the dialysis machine now more often.

How he will last with that machine on, I don’t know. Apparently, they are now moving to put Imelda in effective control. And they are going to revamp the Cabinet, with most probably Bobby Ongpin as prime minister and finance minister; Ayala, agriculture minister; Danding Cojuangco, defence minister; O.D. Corpuz, foreign minister.

I don’t know. But there is a major shakeup. Marcos met with his generals and apparently said goodbye to them last Friday. He was on television in Manila 24 hours ago, commenting on the boxing of Navarette and Talbot to show the people he is OK.

But it’s a matter of time, so he wanted three weeks to collect his thoughts, write his memoirs, complete his book and most probably craft the final stages of his administration. He is now on terminal. He knows he’s going and that’s the background that I’m coming in.

Psinakis: If he is going and he knows it, he might show some compassion for the country, and treat your return with more pragmatic...

Aquino: Yes.

Psinakis: That’s the good part. The bad part maybe is that the hardliners like (Gen Fabian) Ver who are without any political savvy, who may think they’re next in line. Obviously such people will look at your return without too much kindness...

Aquino: Well, there are two reports I received along that line. If they pinpoint the plane I am coming in, the rumour in Manila is that I am taking the private jet of Enrique Zobel from Hong Kong, but all planes have been guarded and they may close the airport on Sunday or turn back the plane if they will be able to pinpoint on which plane I am coming in. The third one, and this is really iffy, they have two guys stationed to knock me out at the airport and they will try them for murder, they will convict them but they have assurances.

Those are the things that I have been alerted to. I don’t know what options they will do now but I am meeting with Asean leaders beginning Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday... Now, Japan has sent word that if Imelda is in place, (prime minister) Nakasone is willing to use his economic clout ... to tell Imelda that if you treat Aquino nicely, we can dialogue.

Nakasone is willing to send a private envoy... with a personal letter making a plea for, if I am still alive and in prison, that if they will treat me gently and come up with some kind of an understanding, Japanese economic assistance will continue because they are very uptight and if the woman takes over and there will be chaos, you know, that will be chaos.

Asean today is already one region and any instability in one part of Asean will scare investors. That’s why they are very uptight about the possibility of chaos and instability in the Philippines with Imelda. Now to what extent they will be able to mitigate the hardliners, I don’t know. That’s the chance we have to take. If I survive and I get to prison and I am there in a week’s time, I can start the works going.

Those are the trump card I am bringing home, which of course, can be negated if one character can blow me out. There’s no doubt now. If I get into my prison, there’s no doubt how like 100 per cent I will be brought directly to prison, I may not even get a chance to talk to anybody on the ground.

But that’s okay. As long as I am alive and in prison, I can start using my trump cards. I will try to hold out for a meeting with Marcos. Now that he is about to meet his Maker, I am almost confident that I can talk to him and sell him something, although the cardinal now tells me that if you think you can sell Marcos a bill of goods, forget it, you’re dreaming.

Psinakis: Any indication from the US side that they might be somewhat helpful or cooperative or absolutely nothing?

Aquino: No indication except that they are watching me and they are following all my steps.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Worthy

"It's not enough to survive. One has to be worthy of survival."
--Adama, Battlestar Galactica


There is an old parable that goes like this: One day, the Sun and the Wind had an argument as to who was the stronger. They espied a man with a cloak walking down below. The Wind proposed: "Whosoever can take the cloak off the man will be judged the stronger." And the Sun agreed.

The Wind gathered up his strength and blew as hard as he could. But instead of ripping the cloak off the man's shoulders, the man wrapped them around himself tighter. At last the Wind gave up.

Now it was the Sun's turn. The Sun shone hot and bright on the man. It became so warm that the man took off his cloak on his own account. That was how the Sun won the contest with the Wind.

The lesson is worth noting now for Mindanao. In North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Sarangani Province, terrorists of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have occupied villages, burned homes, looted stores, and killed over forty civilians, including a two-year old girl. This show of force is perhaps meant to intimidate those who object to the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. But rather than forcing capitulation, it may only have the opposite effect as the outrage spreads.

If nothing else, the attacks confirm the fears of what will happen if those territories are ceded to the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. Either the MILF is in control of its subcommanders or it is not. If it is, then all this is a preview of what is to come; and if it is not, then what is the point of talking to its negotiators? Either way, it only promises a reign of terror.

Which brings us back to where we started. The real reason behind the opposition to the MOA-AD was fear: a fear of the unknown, because the course it charted was so radical; a fear of motives, because the government that negotiated it is thus far the most mistrusted.

At the very least, the government negotiators and the well-meaning academics behind the MOA-AD should have taken these fears into account. But instead of warming up the general public like the Sun, they blew strong like the Wind; and so we clung to our cloaks all the more. How so very naive!

For all we know, a Moro-led Mindanao could actually be a more just, more equitable, more peaceful, and more prosperous Mindanao than what it is today. But now, looking down the barrel of a Moro's gun, it's hard -- very, very hard -- to be convinced of that.

It's no longer enough to point to skewed interpretations of history. It is not only the Moros now who have a stake in Mindanao. There are all the rest of us who have made Mindanao what it is today. Some of us may not have historical claims dating back to the sultanates, but make no mistake, we have a history here, too.

Mindanao is also our home. And that's why we cling to it with the desperation of life.

From Ezekiel

Today's First Reading, Ezekiel 34:1-11, seems especially apropos to our situation today.

An excerpt:

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep.

The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nothing more to say


...and with that, there is really nothing more to say.

Well, maybe this.

If you are one of those who think that we had it coming, because we didn't seize the chance for peace, as the apologists put it, then I will just say:

Go to hell.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kadayawan 2008


It's Kadayawan week in Davao so the city is in a festive mood. Celebrations will last throughout the entire week, with highlights being the opening on Monday and the street celebrations on Saturday and Sunday.

You can get the full schedule of activities from the Kadayawan web site. Below, I'm presenting a simplified schedule.

Just a couple of notes:

* Throughout the week, the different lumad tribes will have performances at Rizal Park.

* The street performances usually go through C.M. Recto street and end at the City Hall area. Best location for photos is near Ateneo de Davao University.


August 18, Monday
Kadayawan Festival Grand Opening
4:00PM People's Park

Indigenous People's Festival Opening Rites
6:00PM Rizal Park / Osmeña Park


August 19, Tuesday
Hiyas ng Kadayawan
Evening - CAP Auditorium


August 20, Wednesday
Tunog Mindanaw World Music Festival
6:00PM - NCCC Mall of Davao


August 21, Thursday
Sayaw Mindanaw
6:00PM - SM City Davao


August 22, Friday
Tugogan sa Kahiusahan
Mindanao Indigenous People's Music Festival
Morning - Victoria Plaza
Afternoon to Evening - Rizal Park

Davao River Festival
2:00PM - Davao River

Mindanao Fashion Night
6:00PM - The Venue


August 23, Saturday
Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan
Street Dancing Competition
Afternoon - Streets of DAvao


August 24, Sunday
Pamulak Kadayawan
Floral Float Parade and Competition
8:00AM - Streets of Davao

Kalasikas
Contemporary Music and Dance Concerts at the Parks
3:00PM - Rizal Park and People's Park

Pahalipay ni Mayor sa Kadayawan
6:00PM - Rizal Park

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Contraceptive may cause women to choose the wrong partner

Yet another reason to steer clear of artificial contraceptives: the pill may cause women to choose the wrong partner.

"Wrong", in this case, refers to a union that results in offspring with sub-optimal immune systems.

Apparently, this level of partner selection is influenced by pheromones. Chemical contraceptives disrupt this process.

From the article:

The pill is thought to disrupt an instinctive mechanism that brings together people with complementary genes and immune systems.

By passing on a wide-ranging set of immune-system genes, they increase their chances of having a healthy child who is not vulnerable to infection. Couples with different genes are also less likely to experience fertility problems or miscarriages.

Women are naturally attracted to men with immune-system genes different from their own because of their smell, experts believe.

The major histocompatability complex (MHC) cluster of genes, which helps to build proteins involved in the body’s immune response, also influences smell signals called pheromones.

Although pheromones may be almost unnoticeable at a conscious level, they can exert a potent effect.

Serenity


As much as I'm able, I make it a point to buy legitimate copies of movies and video games I enjoyed. Such was the case with Joss Whedon's Serenity, which I first saw via, um, BitTorrent back in 2006, and again just recently on HBO.

I never did pick up the DVD when I first saw it, though. Reason being: at P575, it was still expensive.

And then, I saw it marked down to P200 at a local video retailer. That was finally my sweet spot.

Enjoyable as it was for a moderate Firefly fan, it's not hard to see why it didn't do well in the box office. I think Serenity was made with far too much baggage from the show. While still accessible, story-wise, to the first-time viewer, it still comes across as an extended television episode. For the first-time viewer, it lacks the oomph; that probably left many people wondering what exactly it was all about.

Still, I don't see how Joss Whedon could have made it any other way.

Anyway, the DVD was certainly worth the purchase. I enjoyed the commentary because of its insight into the creative process. Whedon is still one of the better contemporary world-builders out there today. If not the best.

I also liked the outtakes and the deleted scenes.

The best deleted scene was in the last conversation between Mal and the Operative. The Operative asks Mal how he managed to go on after he had lost everything. Mal answers, obliquely, that you just keep right on walking (partly in reference to the Operative standing so close to the thrusters.)

Then, as Mal walks into Serenity, he mutters:

"What a whiner...."

That was a classic!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cotabato Aid

Wherever you stand on the BJE MOA-AD, it's time to put that aside for the moment to deal with a very real problem: internally displaced refugees.

This message from Sarah Matalam, who's directly involved in the relief efforts:

Our medical/dental relief mission to four internal towns of Pikit will be this TUESDAY, AUGUST 19. Just in case you guys want to drop off your old clothes, canned goods, old blankets, towels or anything else of substance, please do so at my house or at the Jesuit House in Ateneo University. Look for Fr. Albert Alejo.

I'm appealing to your kind hearts to donate whatever you can. An old tattered shirt in your closet can cover a poor childs back for a few years. Please please lets help while we can.


Additional messages from Fr. Albert:

"Yes, we are collecting help. P30 per water container, good for one family. Very important! Tent is P45 per meter. Perhaps we can mobilize the bloggers."

"Can we get a truck to bring goods to Cotabato? Major problem pa na karon. We may collect but Ateneo vehicles can't go beyond Kidapawan."

Fender ripper

Now for something a little closer to home...

We usually hear about fender benders, but what I saw this morning was a fender ripper.


If you look at the picture above, you'll see where that twisted piece of metal in the side of the Corolla came from.

A closer look at the damage. I hope the passenger wasn't injured. This car was most likely dropping off a student.

A little rubberneckin'.



Thursday, August 14, 2008

Internal displacement in North Cotabato

From Mindanao Tulong Bakwet, a closer look at the internal displacement wrought by the fighting between the MILF and government forces: 4,456 families flee warzone. Note: This report is three days old.

COTABATO CITY-Over 4,000 families forced to leave their homes and farmlands due to armed conflict in Midsayap, Aleosan and Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

The Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN-Central Mindanao) thru Mindanao Tulong Bakwet, Inc. conducted ocular visit and data gathering in areas affected this morning.

In Pikit, North Cotabato the number of displaced families is yet to be identified as the roads this morning were rendered impassable and the massive evacuations are still on going.

As of 10 August 2008, the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) in the areas reported about 2, 679 IDPs from barangays of Baliki, Central Bualan, Lagumbingan, Patindeguin, Gayunga, Upper Labas, Central Labas, San Isidro, Bagumba, Nes, Rangaban, Palongoguer, Macasendeg and Olandang who sought refuge in 15 evacuation centers in Midsayap, North Cotabato while some are house based.

In Aleosan, 1, 460 affected families from barangays of Bagolibas, Dualing, Pagangan, san Mateo, Dunguan and Tapodoc also vacated their homes. The 739 families of the 1, 460 sheltered in different evacuation centers in the area. The 721 families are outside evacuation centers.

In Pigcawayan, there are 317 families sheltered in evacuation centers mostly in schools near the high-way. These evacuees are from barangay Tubon, Cabpangi, Bulucaon, Upper Baguer and Had. Maria-Balogo from sitios Marges and Sitio Balogo.


If you want to help, please contact (064) 4219425 or email MTB at mtb_inc @ yahoo.com.

Gloria is a Skrull!

Thanks to Spidamang for this hilarious link:



Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a Skrull!

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, let me point you to Marvel's Secret Invasion storyline.

Brief summary: shapeshifting aliens known as the Skrulls have infiltrated the earth. They have eliminated and replaced superheroes and, apparently, government figures.

Secret Invasion is written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Filipino Leinil Yu.

That explains why she's doing her darnedest best to destroy this country.

My only complaint: the face is too square. It should be drawn round. And frumpy. Di bale, halata naman si nunal. Blech!

Legalism gone mad

Alexander Solzhenitsyn passed away just last week. I have not yet read any of his books but I think I will start soon.

It was thanks to the Philippine Daily Inquirer that I caught his Harvard address, "A World Split Apart." As an essay it resonates with me on so many levels.

What struck me was the sections on Legalistic Life, which is quite apt for the present situation in Philippine politics.

From the essay (highlights mine):

Legalistic Life

Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes, based, I would say, on the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting and manipulating law, even though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames. An oil company is legally blameless when it purchases an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to buy it.

I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses.

And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

North Cotabato situationer

Got this from Sarah Matalam by way of the Mindanao Bloggers mailing list:

I have a few updates on my blog and will update soon on some stuff I went through when I was around the ARMM on election day itself. I took lots of pictures and will post them too when I get the extra time. By the way, maybe you guys can help me with this:


Evacuees from the recent skirmishes in the North Cotabato area are doubling every minute.They say there is a ceasefire but that is not what is happening in the grassroots. They are scattered in these areas:

Pikit : 5366 families
Aleosan : 533 families
Libungan : 415 families
Pigcawayan : 246 Families

We are targeting Pikit area.

From Malu Mangasakan, principal of government school where the evacuees are:

Maliban po sa food na pangunahing kelangan nila eto po yung iba: Water container, trapal,, Jetmatic at yung tubo nya, mga meds for skin diseases and ubo. sipon. Address is Datu Bitol Memorial School, Paidu Pulangi Pikit, North Cotabato.

To inform all of you, I am closely coordinating with Fr. Alejo and the Ateneo De Davao BAtch 87 - Sinag Foundation.


I'll update this post with details on how we can help.

June / Hunyo

PEN, the international association of writers, held a poem relay for freedom of expression in China, using jailed journalist Shi Tao's poem, "June" as the subject. The mechanism of the relay was to translate the poem into 100 languages, a goal they achieved last August 8, in time for the opening of the Olympics.

Below are the English and Bisaya translations of the poem.


June
by Shi Tao

My whole life

Will never get past “June”
June, when my heart died
When my poetry died
When my lover
Died in romance’s pool of blood

June, the scorching sun burns open my skin
Revealing the true nature of my wound
June, the fish swims out of the blood-red sea
Toward another place to hibernate
June, the earth shifts, the rivers fall silent
Piled up letters unable to be delivered to the dead

Translated to English from Chinese by Chip Rolley.


Hunyo
ni Shi Tao

Ang tibuok kong kinabuhi

Dili makalabang sa Hunyo
Hunyo, dihang namatay ang akong kasingkasing
Dihang namatay ang akong balak
Dihang ang akong hinigugma
Namatay sa romansang baganaw sa dugo

Hunyo, gibuka sa makapasong Adlaw ang akong panit
Nagbutyag sa tinuod nga kinaiya sa akong samad
Hunyo, misalom ang isda sa dugoong-pula nga dagat
Padulong sa laing dapit aron matulog
Hunyo, ang kalibotan miirog, mihilom ang mga sapa
Nagtipun-og nga mga sulat nga dili mahatod sa mga patay.

Translated into Bisaya by Dr. Macario Tiu.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Large Hadron Collider rap video


Because I need a break from Philippine politics, here's a cool rap video about the CERN Large Hadron Collider. It's got karaoke lyrics so we can sing along.

This is what the future is all about. Heck, I would say it's a cool way to go to be sucked into a man-made black hole. (Or, say, to be turned into Dr. Manhattan.)

From the Wikipedia:

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a particle accelerator complex intended to collide opposing beams of 7 TeV protons. Its main purpose is to explore the validity and limitations of the Standard Model, the current theoretical picture for particle physics. This model is known to break down at a certain high energy level.


The world ends on September 10. I can't wait. I just can't wait.

Olympic BSOD


From Gizmodo: Blue Screen of Death during Olympics opening ceremonies.

It's probably because it's a bootleg copy of Windows. Nyuk! nyuk!


More on the MOA

Trouble is in the offing in North Cotabato. But really, what did they expect? All it needed was a bit of prudence and transparency, but these are words not in the vocabulary of the administration.

And that's the whole point, really. The Mindanao Insider, courtesy of Debbie Uy's Writings (Peace Process Bigger than GMA), offers this back story:

On the lack of consultation to people about the MOA, [Rudy] Rodil said it was the fault of the panels that they “kept things very quiet. But we agreed upon that. Had we been transparent, the majority will shoot down every issue of the minority,” he said. “(There is) so much prejudice in the population that happens to be anti-Muslim in character.”


This statement shows to me two things: first, an utter lack of respect and understanding of the democratic process; and second, presumption on the majority's unwillingness to negotiate. Isn't that also prejudicial thinking?

But just who is Rudy Rodil? Other than the news reports, I found this less-than-flattering description in PreMEDitated's entry, Disgraced:

Currently, however, Iliganons who know about his part in the negotiations for the formation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity are smoldering in anger against him. They feel betrayed that a fellow Iliganon was instrumental in the would-be-giving away of 8 barangays, constituting 82% of the city’s area, to the MILF rebels; and that that Iliganon kept the deal secret from his fellow citizens.

[H]e hasn’t returned to the city yet since his incursion to Malaysia when the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was nipped. Much blood is still boiling in the city, and the sight of him might aggravate the already tense situation.


From Mon Casiple's blog: Needed: A Cautious Civil Society

...The MOA-AD has basically gone beyond the concept of ancestral domain and strayed into the realm of Moro statehood. No amount of calling it “ancestral domain” will change its substantive treatment, particularly when framed within the “human right of self-determination of peoples.” The statement should have made this clear at the start to avoid useless debate on the concept and thereby tackle the more substantive right to self-determination.

In insisting on the fiction of “ancestral domain” for the Moro people, the statement made an awkward point (as the MOA-AD itself): It cited the agreement’s provision that “the freedom of choice of indigenous peoples shall be respected.” There are two points here. First, it recognized that the Lumad are not part of the Bangsamoro, and their claim to ancestral domain is inferior to that of the Moro claim. Second, choice is not the same as recognition or respecting their claim. This is the reason why a Lumad conference held recently denounced the MOA-AD. The statement should not have glossed over this basic weakness of the agreement.


Mon Casiple makes several other points well worth noting, including consensus agreement, the framework of federalism, and the charter change Trojan horse.

Speaking of Charter Change, Dean Jorge Bocobo looks at the real motives behind the agreement that was planned to fail in The Other Shoe Comes Off.

The Mount Balatucan Monitor is a bit more explicit: GMA should resign for the Moro Peace Pact to be signed.

Frodo and Gandalf


Hintay ka lang, merong madyik na magaganap. Cha cha cha!

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Swiss President Pascal Couchepin. Photo from Inquirer.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bridge to Terabithia


Finally saw Bridge to Terabithia on cable last night. I was surprised -- pleasantly -- in more ways than one.

To begin with, I was expecting a fantasy movie. Something along the lines of Narnia I was wondering why it took so long to get to the start of the journey. But never mind, the actors' performances were strong enough to draw me in.

Turns out that this is a fantasy movie of a different sort. There is fantasy, yes, but it's in the minds of the two young protagonists. Terabithia is an imaginary kingdom into which they escape from the doldrums of life.

At its core, Bridge to Terabithia is a touching childhood story that explores the themes of friendship, imagination, and death.

That said, all the promotion around this movie is deliberately misleading. According to the Wikipedia entry:

The filmmakers have distanced themselves from the advertising campaign for the film saying that the advertising is deliberately misleading; making the film seem to be about or occurring in a fantasy world like that of Spiderwick, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, or His Dark Materials.


Which is really a shame because the movie was good enough to stand on its own.

The movie was based on a 1977 book of the same name by Katherine Paterson. Gabor Csupo, whom I know better for his Nickelodeon cartoons, directed the film.

Friday, August 08, 2008

08.08.08



I'm not superstitious, but what the heck, a day like this only comes every 100 years. (Okay, twice, if you count the date in 2088.) From Wikipedia:

The word for "eight" (八,捌) in Chinese (Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth" (发 - short for "发财", Pinyin: fā). In regional dialects the words for "eight" and "fortune" are also similar, eg Cantonese "baat" and "faat".


Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Big Sellout

With all due respect to constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, the proposed Memorandum of Agreement is not, as he avers, a "mere piece of paper." It is a document that potentially provides the terms of reference for all future government dealings with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Those terms, with dubious historical and social foundations, are lopsidedly in favor of the MILF. While ceding territorial rights and commitments with almost careless abandon, the government makes no corresponding demands of the MILF.

As written, it provides casus belli for the MILF should the government fail to meet its demands. Why else would the MILF negotiating panel, with playground petulance, insist that the document is a "done deal" regardless of the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court?

At the heart of it, the MOA is a territorial agreement. More than three quarters of the text pertains to boundary demarcations, resource rights, joint development, and profit sharing schemes. Its core can be summed up in the following introductory paragraph:

The Bangsamoro homeland and historic territory refer to the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain, the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan geographic region. However, delimitations are contained in the agreed Schedules (Categories).


Note the language: not "part of" but "embracing." There are several ways in which a vague term like this can be interpreted, but in the broadest terms, it lays claim to the entirety of Mindanao.

While the document immediately qualifies the assertion with delimitations, the language is again problematic. The MOA stipulates a phased expansion of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, hence the use of the word "schedule." The first expansion, pending plebiscite, takes place within one year; the second expansion, covering conflict-afflicted areas, will be decided in negotiations running through the next 25 years. There are no set upper boundaries for the so-called BJE territory.

A map generated by the Philippine Daily Inquirer reveals the extent of the ambitions of the MILF over the next 25 years: an area covering roughly half of the entire Mindanao.



The MOA establishes the territorial claim for the MILF on the basis that they represent the Moros and Indigenous peoples of Mindanao. As is said under Concepts and Principles:

It is the birthright of all Moros and all Indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as “Bangsamoros”. The Bangsamoro people refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization and their descendants whether mixed or of full native blood.


This claim is patently false. Not all indigenous peoples of Mindanao can be classified as Moros. There are 18 tribal groups, collectively called "lumad", who are neither Christian nor Muslim. Largely unarmed, they are often caught in the crossfire of conflict; however, they are almost always excluded in negotiations, as in the present case.

Furthermore, the MOA also confers on the Moros the status of "First Nation," similar to Native Americans. This is a highly debatable proposition considering the existence of the lumad groups and the migratory history of the Moros themselves.

The clincher is the eternal and perpetual claim to territory that the MOA makes on behalf of the Bangsamoros:

Ancestral domain and ancestral land refer to those held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through the ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial continuously to the present, except when prevented by war, civil disturbance, force majeure, or other forms of possible usurpation or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of government project or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions.


Following the logic of this claim, then Manila, which Miguel Lopez de Legazpi wrested from Rajah Soliman in 1570, also should be considered Bangsamoro territory.

Ostensibly missing from the MOA are the corresponding demands that the government negotiators ought to have made. The MOA fails to recognize that the MILF is a heavily armed paramilitary, and any precondition to peace talks must necessarily involve the disavowal of weapons. Nor is there any mention of bringing to justice perpetrators of heinous crimes like kidnapping and mutilation. Nor is there any recognition of a civil counterparts. In effect, the Philippine government is capitulating to the demands of an armed group.

With this in mind, much of the ire is rightly should be directed against the government negotiating panel. It is understandable that the MILF, scoundrels though they be, should put forward terms which are most favorable to itself; but such sweeping concessions on the part of government -- without no counter-demand whatsoever -- leads one to think that the government negotiating panel is either stupid or in malicious collusion.

Neither does it add any confidence that the government should have wanted to carry the discussions and sign these documents in secret, under the cloak of its perverse fetish, "Executive Privilege."

Even less when the chief negotiator threatens to withhold army support from the local government that objects to the MOA.

Even less when the same chief negotiator was implicated in the massive cheating scandal in the 2004 elections.

And even less when the same chief negotiator, under whose turn as Chief of Staff of the AFP 14 Philippine Marines were killed and 10 beheaded, should simply let the MILF and Abu Sayyaf perpetrators go scot free.

The MOA begins with such lofty concepts as "social, cultural, and political identity" and "humanitarian and economic needs." But when it delves into joint commissions, resource development, and profit-sharing -- especially with the gang of thieves running rampant in the administration -- under the hand of the man who was supposed to have curbed the MILF, something is very, very fishy.

And they say people like me don't want peace in Mindanao? Please. I'm not the one holding the gun.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Co-opting Mindanao

The controversial Memorandum of Agreement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front finally saw the light of day yesterday, one day before it was supposed to have been signed in Kuala Lumpur.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer published the text in full. It spans over a page and a half of broadsheet space.

I have only skimmed portions of the agreement but at the outset, the MILF is getting the upper hand with this agreement. Which makes me wonder why the government is so eager to go with such deep concessions. These concessions are ultimately untenable in the long run, and will likely run into severe legal hitches.

The very first concept is already questionable. It says:

It is the birthright of all Moros and all Indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as "Bangsamoros." The Bangsamoro people refers to those whose natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization of its descendants whether mixed or of full blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the Indigenous people shall be respected.


And here's the problem with that statement: not all indigenous peoples of Mindanao can be classified as Moros. To say so would be a lie.

A large part of the indigenous Mindanao population are the Lumads, who are not classified as Christian or Moro. Their voices typically are not heard because they are not armed. Sadly for them, they are caught in the crossfire of conflict. When comes the time for negotiation (as in the new agreement), they hardly have any participation.

And it looks like, from the language of the MOA, that they will be co-opted into the Bangsamoro homeland.

Look, too, at the statistics of conflict in Mindanao. The conflict between armed Muslim secessionists (MILF/MNLF/ASG) and the government constitutes 38%. A large part, yes, but not nearly as large as the 43% that constitutes conflict among families, clans, and tribes, usually as acts of generational vendetta.

If the negotiating teams think they are going to magically bring peace to Mindanao by this backdoor agreement, they are deluding themselves...or trying to fool the rest of us.

Update: This news story, Lumad leaders want no part in the Bangsamoro deal, from the Philippine Daily Inquirer gives us an idea about the Lumad's opinions on the agreement:

Some 140 leaders of indigenous communities in Mindanao have urged the government to exclude their ancestral lands in an expanded Bangsamoro territory.

During a three-day conference here that closed on Friday, the leaders said that they were never consulted in the negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the constitution of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

A resounding “Yes!” echoed when the question was asked during the discussions: “Do we all agree here not to include our remaining ancestral territories in the Bangsamoro homeland?”

Timuay Fernando Mudai, a Subanen leader in the Zamboanga Peninsula, said the lumad, or indigenous peoples, deeply respected the Moros’ “rightful claim to ancestral domain” but stressed that “they should also respect ours.”

He said that based on Subanen oral tradition, parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula, which covers Zamboanga City and the provinces of Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay, never belonged to either the Sulu or the Maguindanao sultanate but to the Subanen.

Clashes erupted when the Maguindanao sultanate attempted to conquer Subanen regions, Mudai said.

Mudai explained that the thriving Moro communities in Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces were a result of trade and migration “and not because they are the original settlers in these areas.”

The lumad leaders expressed concern that if their communities were made part of the Bangsamoro homeland, they would not be able to achieve political, cultural and socioeconomic independence.

“Our Moro brothers must understand that we have a culture distinct from the Bangsamoro identity,” said Apu Marcial Daul, an Arumanun-Manobo leader.

Even Muslim Higaonons that inhabit the mountains along the border of Iligan City, Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon, and the Muslim Subanens in Zamboanga del Norte—both of which are called Kolibugan—identify themselves with their tribal origins.

The lumad leaders demanded that their ancestral domains be delineated and titled based on existing laws so that these would not fall within the proposed BJE.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon Emperor


Well, the title got it right. It feels like this movie was...cursed...to begin with. Actually, I feel like cursing it.

I really wanted to like it, too. While Rick O'Connell may started out as an Indiana Jones copycat, the first two Mummy movies were fun and enjoyable enough to grow on me. After the dismal Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the underdog had the chance to claim the crown. Sadly, they flubbed it.

Mummy 3 sticks to the formula of the first two movies, but shifts the action to China and swaps Rachel Weisz with Maria Bello as Evelyn O'Connell. Both moves were a big mistake.

Evelyn O'Connell's link with Imhotep were what gave the "Mummy" and "Mummy Returns" an air of mystery and destiny. No such plot device here, and she becomes just another adventurer.

Another mistake was the introduction of a grown-up Alex, now an archaeologist. Neither Brendan Fraser nor Maria Bello are old enough to portray parents to Luke Ford. Mummies rising from the dead we can believe; this one, no.

Moreover, Jet Li is miscast as the Dragon Emperor; he doesn't convey enough menace, and his action skills are wasted in the role. Michelle Yeoh, always a pleasure to watch, does what she can with the role but is underused; she deserves better.

The editing and pacing of the movie was horrendous. It just started going downhill from the get-go. I was waiting to see if it would pick up, but it never did. The action sequences were really mediocre, bordering on the silly. To top it off, everything looked patched together.

Final verdict: 1 of 5 Mummy wrappings.


Someone forgot to renew their domain...

Thought I saw an interesting feed on the ABS-CBN web site and when I go check it, I get this:


Looks like someone forgot to renew their domain....

Tsk tsk, multibillion peso multimedia empire pa naman.

Or maybe it's the work of...destabilizers?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Something went wrong...



In response to Michelle's post.

See? Blogging can still be fun.

Lessons from Jeremiah

And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, "You shall die!
--Jeremiah 26:8


It seems that everywhere I turn nowadays, there's a thread of adversity towards Christian living. Not just in terms of apathy and indifference, or even mere blatant displays of violence and sexuality; but now of outright hatred of God and of Christianity.

That's why it's comforting, in a way, to be reading of the prophetic precursor Jeremiah. Commanded by the Lord to bring a hard message to all the cities of Judah, the end result of that endeavor was all too expected.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the relentless assault of the New Atheism. The field of argument is always, well, argumentation, but the end result is fruitless because there's no agreement as to what the foundations are.

Ironically, in comparison with such vehemence and rabidity, it is actually the Church that comes out looking more peaceful and tolerant.

I would like to think that there's a bigger plan behind all this. After all, if you trace the origins of the Church, it started in a period of intense adversity and persecution.

Heck, it might even be refreshing to play the role of "heretic" for a while.