Saturday, July 29, 2006

Titans' lessons to fellow mortals

YOU CANNOT be cynical.

So says a journalist whose work, one can imagine, can make cynicism easy. She remains pigheaded, a slave to hope, a fighter at heart.

In a room of merely 50, but a room full of idealism, she urges us to be aware of those ideals, to not let go of them. The fight for righteousness is a hard one; she urges to stand by the non-negotiable.

She counts off three factors crucial for her field in our country:
1. skill level
2. sophistication of message
3. world view

You’re only as good as your last story.

She prides herself in working harder than anyone else.

Objectivity is thrown out the window. It is not human. She embodies this. Her emotion. Her passion. It shows.

She understands her role. She understands the immensity of it.

In journalism lies power. She urges to strive to be worthy of it. She urges to be humbled by it.

She presents the facts. She tells the story. She’s fair. She knows what we care about. She makes us care about what we should.

She matters. In our country. In our world.

She leaves. He steps up to the podium.

He poses a challenge. He questions our intent.

To be on TV? To be popular? To run for office?

Or to truly make change?

He jokes about the preposterousness of his industry. Models as anchors. Anchors who don’t write. It’s as if news and entertainment are no different.

He sets us straight. He tells us how it should be.

You can tell the news. But you can make change. The latter is the noble cause. The former is nothing more than a stenographer.

The biggest battles will be in the newsroom, he says. So when is a story a story? What story is worth telling?

That we should know and learn.

A young man from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) speaks out. So does a young woman from the police academy. She specifically makes a plea. We all have our roles. Let’s do them justly and in accordance to truth and righteousness.

Nation-building. It’s what becomes of everything in the end when things are done correctly.

Outsiders may say that in all of us in that room lies romance, youthful idealism, ignorance.


But in that room lies integrity.

The world will try to take that away. Pragmatism is always easier than righteousness.

People will wait for us to fail. But we don’t want to be like what they’ve become.

We thank the likes of Maria Ressa and Ed Lingao for imparting their knowledge and sentiments.

We pray to be like them. To remain pigheaded, slaves to hope, fighters at heart.

This is a reflection of sorts about “Clash of the Titans,” a forum on journalism and media ethics in the Philippines, organized by Katipunan. Journalists Maria Ressa of ABS-CBN and Ed Lingao of ABC were the two speakers.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

MV recommends:
Clash of the titans

I’m usually not one for plugging events unless I’m truly interested in attending myself. Here’s an event I’ll be attending organized by a publication I write for (coincidence?). Feel free to leave a message if you have any questions.


invites you all to

Clash of the Titans:
A forum on media ethics
and the state of Philippine Journalism


Maria Ressa
Head, News and Public Affairs

Charie Villa
Head, News Gathering

Ed Lingao
Head, News and Public Affairs

Saturday 29 July 2006
12NN - 4:30PM

ISO Conference Room 3
Ateneo de Manila University

For reservations and/or inquiries, please contact:
Human Resources, 09209516532

(Walk-ins are also accepted)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Smiles and smirks (Part 2):
The SONA edition

I’ll make this quick because “President” Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her Philippine Idol moment—AKA the State of the Nation Address (SONA)—isn’t worth the effort…

Her irritating smile
+ the biased in attendance applauding
+ the Power Point presentation
+ the geography lesson in the slides
+ her lofty goals of infrastructure development
+ the lack of money for those plans
+ the persistent talk of charter change
+ the taunting of oppositionists
+ the political use of true Filipino heroes like Manny Pacquiao, the Everest Team, and the SEA Games athletes
+ the political use of one of the prettiest Filipinas in the land (the international beauty pageant winner whose name I’ve forgotten)
+ the call for unity and not acknowledging that she is a source of disarray
+ avoiding issue of population control
+ avoiding issue of education

= a skeptical, disappointed, unsurprised smirk.

I’ll let the professionals and people with more time and patience handle the more formal criticism.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Smiles and smirks

THERE’S A FINE line between a smile and a smirk.

Getting a hug from a close friend merits a smile. Having your article dropped from next month’s issue deserves a smirk—the smirk being more civilized than hunting your editor down and pounding her to the ground.

On a road trip this weekend with my Tito Jimmy, Tita Doreen, and their three sons, my jovial tito proudly boasted of the Philippines being ranked the 17th or 14th (he’s not sure) “happiest country” in the world.

He felt that the US’ and Canada’s low ranking (well into the hundreds) only helped the lesson he was trying to teach his sons.

“The Americans and the Canadians are too materialistic,” he said. “They work, work, work…and for what?”

Dramatic pause.

“For money!”

He chuckles.

“They don’t even know their neighbors and they send their parents away when they’re old.”

Haven’t we heard this line of argument before?

“We Filipinos…we don’t need much. We just get what is enough. We’re happy.”

A jeepney cuts him off in front of SM North Edsa at this point.

I don’t know the basis behind the rankings, but I’d like to think that there was some science behind it since it was published in the newspapers.

I also can’t argue about our light-heartedness as a people. If we weren’t so, Lord knows how many civil wars would have broken out by now. We have the innate ability to make heavy situations lighter.

In the face of hardship, we smile—or rather smirk—while just dismissing (or accepting) it by shaking our heads.

If this is what is meant by happiness, is it a good thing?

My horoscope yesterday told me to avoid debate, and even though I’m not much of a believer of astrology, I took it as a sign for me to just take a break from serious conversation. In the car with Tito Jimmy, I kept quiet—smirked—and politely listened.

I’ll take this opportunity now to make quick rebuttals to the statements my tito made in trying to teach virtue to his young sons.

The Americans and Canadians work hard. That’s why their countries are doing better than us. We can blame the richest of their rich for being sinfully materialistic, but we can’t deny the easier availability of basic human necessities in their respective countries for everyone. They have poverty too, but they don’t deal with it on the scale that we do in the “happy” Republic of the Philippines.

Yes, they work hard—but only for a solid nine to five shift. Many Filipinos are in the workplace for over 12 hours a day and still don’t get anything done. We work on hours; they work on efficiency.

Americans don’t know their neighbors? Please educate me on this front. I don’t understand the basis for such a statement. Last time I was in the States, my family had the most pleasant exchanges with the neighbors, as well as the mailman, the pizza delivery guy, and the cashier at the grocery story.

Back to the Philippines. If my Tito Jimmy proposes that being shy, quiet, and sometimes even standoffish among strangers is a sign of being more pleasant or “happy,” then he has a point with this angle on the argument.

I think my tito had a point when he said that Filipinos don’t need much. I think that’s generally true. Whether or not striving for more is a good or bad thing is another argument. My only problem with my tito’s statement is that it doesn’t acknowledge the fact that most Filipinos don’t have enough—the choice of having more doesn’t even exist.

Being a happy, light-hearted people is a good thing. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

We as humans have emotions that we are entitled to feeling. It’s always nicer to smile but when the reality you face is one of struggle and hardship, and when others take away what is rightfully yours, when they take away what you are entitled to as a human, smiling becomes an empty response—an acceptance of a grim inevitability.

These are the real lessons that need to be taught to my tito’s sons.

Tomorrow, we as a people will watch the annual hypocritical circus of an event called the State of the Nation Address. And as our leader makes superficial statements of our country’s state—often hiding reality behind masks of politics—will we, the 17th or 14th happiest people, be able to smile?

Will we be able to even manage a smirk?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Left-side woes

I THOUGHT I sprained the little toe of my left foot and the entire area below it the other day. I don’t know how it happened exactly. As I was walking down the stairs of Gonzaga Hall, my left foot was planted awkwardly, then a sudden shot of pain, and I was hopping around trying to regain balance. The whole time, I was getting flashbacks to my leg fracture of a few years ago. Trauma like that tends to creep back from time to time.

I had my foot checked at the on-campus infirmary. They hadn’t noticed anything—nothing sticking out and no swelling. In between bites from their bananaque merienda (is professionalism is dead?), they wrapped up my foot and sent me off.

Commuting was no longer an option considering the difficulty in walking, so I asked the guard in front of Xavier Hall if he could find me a cab. He was helpful, delivering two cabs in 45 minutes (which is pretty good for campus standards). But the drivers of those cabs refused to go anywhere outside of Quezon City (professionalism IS dead). At 6:30PM, the guard’s shift was over so he merely bid me farewell and left me stranded (charity might be dead too).

If it weren’t for the loyalty of a great friend (thanks, Liana), I would’ve probably slept over in school. I rode with Liana to her house where the guards of the village were more adamant in finding that cab for me. I was on my way home 15 minutes later.

As soon as I got home, I iced my foot down while conducting two online interviews for next month’s Katipunan (now that’s professionalism).

The pain was still there the following day but there was no way I’d be caught dead on crutches again. And I was determined not be absent, for two days of drinking over the weekend left me behind in work. So I strapped my foot up and hobbled my way to my two classes.

I finally got to see my doctor today. After an x-ray, the doctor concluded that there was no sprain, rather a fracture near the joint where my little toe is connected to the rest of my foot (biological name unknown to this writer). Thankfully, it was a slight fracture and nothing was dislocated—everything was where it should be.

The pain will supposedly go away in two weeks; the fracture will heal in four. In the meantime, I am to wrap it up and where covered shoes while walking around on campus. Commuting is out of the question; it's going to be cabs and cars for the following month.

A lot has happened to the area from my left leg down over the years.

“You been through worse; I’m sure you can survive a broken toe,” my doctor said.

He’s right.

But sometimes I feel like I’m going back in time.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Library:
My Portal to Other Worlds

by Jannine Margaret “JAM” Gorriceta-Rojo

Jam is my niece who lives in Burbank. She is the daughter of my cousin Jhoanna and her husband Zyrel (both librarians by trade and graduates of UP Diliman).

Jam recently got accepted in the Magnet Program (Highly Gifted - Math & Science) of Sylmar High School where she’ll be starting her 9th Grade.

Reproduced below is the piece that won Jam the Best Essay Award (Middle School Category) in the 2004 "What My Library Means to Me" Essay Contest sponsored by the Mayor's Office, Burbank City, California.

Though I can't relate to her prowess in math and science, it's good to know that others in my family have developed the insanity of taking to task the role of writer (award-winning one, at that).

And she reads books! Wow! There's hope for the future!

Proud tito and kapwang manunulat shares with you a niece's masterpiece.

I HAVE BATTLED with St. George against the evil dragon, defeated the White Witch of Narnia with Asland by my side, and aided the light against the rising of the dark. I’ve solved mysteries; escaped danger with Nancy Drew, laughed with Harry Potter, traveled back to Civil War and stayed with Emma Simpson. I helped Butler protect Artemis Fowl against fairies, been on the incredible ship the Wanderer with Brian, cried with the Baudelaires when their houses was burned down, and also traveled through India with the renowned Gandhi. I even stayed with the Greek God Zeus and had a small conversation with Marie Curie. I was riding through the Shire when I heard a voice from a distance… “The Library will be closing in 15 minutes…” I was saddened by the momentary interruption, yet excited to continue my adventure at home. The library – my portal to other worlds where I travel from the past, present and future.

The library means many things to me. It’s a nice, safe, comfortable and quiet place; perfect for studying. There are many books of various topics, magazines, and other audio-visual materials we can borrow, as well as use the computers for free. It’s an endless resource that encourages learning and development. Other times we use it as a place to meet friends.

Can you imagine a world without a paper, books and libraries? How could students and teachers do research to gain knowledge? How would new inventions be created? As a place of learning, the library helps individuals make a difference in their communities. I am truly grateful for the many benefits of having a LIBRARY.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


IT JUST SOUNDED like classes were going to be suspended. The heavy rain was violently rattling against the roof. The air conditioning was off but it was still cold. It had all the makings of a “walang pasok” announcement.

I fumbled around the bed in the dark and finally found the remote to the television, but it didn’t want to turn on. I tried the clicker again, still nothing. Brown out.

All the more to believe that classes would be cancelled.

I went down to the typical hustle and bustle of the pseudo-catering company in our kitchen. Head Chef Mom, as usual, was no help; she hadn’t heard of any announcements on the radio.

It was 7AM. My first class was at 10:30—that is if they weren’t suspended.

I went back up to my room to get a book (Roth’s The Human Stain) and my notepad (just in case the rain unleashes the inner poet in me). I positioned myself by a table near the window—the only place where I wouldn’t need a candle to read or write.

I texted a coursemate who normally has a 7:30 class; asked her to text me if ever classes were suspended.

While waiting, the feeling of helplessness prevailed. Nature would make commuting a struggle, I had no idea if I was even supposed to be in school, and the fact that a certain someone had snubbed my last text the previous night still bothered me.

Whatever the force (God, school administration, or girl), I was left as the powerless one—the one left to wait, the one left in limbo.

My coursemate never texted; I had to go to school. It was announced that the MRT was temporarily shut down, so my dad allowed me to take the car—the same car with no headlights after my dad’s recent drunk-driving accident.

I arrived at Loyola Heights around 10AM. Ten-thirty to 11:30 saw me again in a powerless position against the confusion (or genius) of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. Eleven-thirty to 12:30 saw me powerless against the propositions of theology. Then finally, after only my second class of the day, a mere two hours after I had arrived on campus, classes were suspended.

I had lunch at Shakey’s with Gin (a coursemate and rumored girlfriend—no, we’re not together and she isn’t the girl who didn’t reply the night before) before bringing her home and going home myself.

In the afternoon, the sense of powerlessness continued as I found myself with basically nothing to do.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


When Karla Delgado (Creative Nonfiction) asked us to pick an object that represents us, I looked down and made a natural, obvious, but pathetic choice.

YES, IT WAS pretty stupid defining oneself by a preference in footwear, but it’s really a quirk I feel strongly about.

Before I begin, I’d just like to formally put in writing that from now on, sandals, slippers, and flip-flops will be referred to in this piece as the colloquial Filipino term tsinelas. There’s probably some historical or linguistic explanation for the adaptation of that term, but I’m a bit too lazy to do any research.

After all, my love for tsinelas does not stem from profound historical references, or shallow following of fads, for that matter. It stems from two seemingly forgotten entities in high-browed points-of-view of fashion: comfort and practicality.

Tsinelas gives you a five minute head start to the day, assuming it takes you that long to put on socks, to slip on your shoes, and to tie the laces. If you account for the time it takes you to get your socks from the drawer, and the time it takes to choose the shoes to be worn that day, tsinelas saves another five minutes.

But then you have those days where you run out of socks and you have to go look for a pair in the laundry room. That’s another 10 minutes. And finding the other sock that goes with the first sock you see in the laundry basket can take another five minutes.

Count them up. Tsinelas can save you up to 25 minutes in the morning.

That’s 25 minutes that can be used to actually have a proper breakfast—a luxury for someone like me.

That’s 25 minutes to write that damn reaction paper you were planning to waste your on-campus break for.

My favorite use of the 25 minutes? Easy. Sleep. Twenty-five extra minutes of shuteye is a lot to gain by just placing those dirty tsinelas by your bedroom door, waiting to be simply slipped on.

Some hate the gritty feel of dirt and dust that inevitably settles on your exposed feet while walking the streets of the city wearing only tsinelas. It’s not so bad.

As a commuter, frequent obstacles posed to my tsinelas and I include the unwary leather soles that step on us in crowded MRT trains, rough and uneven sidewalks, and puddles from what I hope is rain. But I don’t mind these things so much.

I don’t expect everyone to completely understand, but I suppose in some weird metaphorical way, all these things keep me grounded, as if I’m attuned to the inner pulse of the city.

That was my attempt at profundity—obviously a lame attempt at that. What do you expect from a guy who defined himself by a preference in footwear?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A call for romance

MY THEOLOGY PROFESSOR this semester sees the world as being so “messed up” that the choices we are presented with are all bad choices.

He says that we are morally corrupt. A conscience enabling good is a proposition that has supposedly lost all relevance in our world.

The reality we face is a corrupt and compromised one, where bad choices are the norm.

My professor, a European, used Philippine Politics as his example. However optimistic politicians are upon entering this line of work, they eventually get caught up with the system, the culture of Philippine Politics, where “service” remains an abstract notion that is thrown around without being practiced.

My professor questions the innate goodness of man. He says that somewhere along the way, man lost something. Man got caught up in choices made, and it has come to a point where the choices made and the options available are all negative ones. Even good choices come at a price.

I don’t completely agree with my professor, but I do believe that the reality we live in is a corrupted one. It IS a fucked up world. YES, we lost sight of something.

I remembered my professor’s musings on choices while I was in a cab yesterday. The driver, a jolly man of less than 40 years of age, proposed that we’d be better off in the hands of colonizers because Filipinos simply can’t lead.

Being re-colonized sounds as scary as living with our current leaders; it also sounds like a good proposition at the same time.

Bad choice and bad choice leaves us with bad outcomes. And eventually, bad is all we know.

When you have a man disillusioned in the heat of the desert with no water, he’ll drink the sand. He’ll drink the sand because there is no other choice. And when a puddle of water miraculously appears, he’ll still drink the sand because he has forgotten the difference.

The moral fabric of society has deep stains. But I’d like to focus on the innate goodness of man, which my professor never dismissed. He merely suggested that reality might’ve taken control of that innate goodness.

If we’ve gone astray, I’d like to think that we can get back on the right path. If we lost something, then we can get that thing back.

I echo certain insights made during my poetry class: maybe we have to go back to the romantic ideals that were never lost on us—just merely forgotten.

Realists and rationalists (AKA politicians and washed up hippies who’ve sold out) are quick to dismiss such notions and tend to operate at “face level.” They talk about the importance of institutions, economics, governance, etc. Basically, they talk about things that make them money.

There lies the germ of conflict.

We focus and think on “realistic” and “rational” levels knowing that it’s a corrupted reality. That doesn’t make sense. It feeds the problem.

Rationally and logically, to change our reality we must revert back to the romance of goodness, righteousness, and dreams.

A professor in Science and Society once criticized my class, for when asked for the reasons we want the jobs that we want, most answers were on the realm of making money, success, and power.

Have we lost the ability to dream about being what we want to be? he asked.

It’s true.

Why can’t somebody just want to be a doctor because he wants to be a doctor, as opposed to resting his convictions on being able to count those professional fees?

Why can't we fall in love with those who we've fallen in love with without considering that person's chances of petitioning us to go abroad? (Don't pretend not to know what I'm talking about.)

There must be a change in our moral fabric. We need to go back to romance.

Al Gore calls global warming a “moral issue.”

It’s true.

With all the talk of economics (costs too much to find alternative energy), politics (can’t piss off the oil companies that fund our campaigns), and a lack of will (it’s too hard; we have bigger problems), we simply lost sight of the fact that destroying the world is WRONG.

Sadly, reverting to good morals takes will, as opposed to it being natural. This exemplifies how morally corrupt we are.

Realistically, to fix the world’s problems, we need the will to be romantic again.

And to take a cue from Gore, that’s the “inconvenient truth.”

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Pacquiao, ANC, Pinoys win

MINUTE’S BEFORE ABS-CBN’s “live” coverage of the bout between Manny Pacquiao and Oscar Larios at the Araneta Coliseum, the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) wrapped-up their live coverage of the post-fight news conference, after Pacquiao had already defeated Larios in 12 rounds.

Kudos to ANC for releasing the news as soon as possible, despite the danger of threatening their mother station’s ratings of the fight. ANC displayed true professionalism in their primary mission of journalism. In the end, the values of getting the story fast and right overshadowed any temptation to manipulate a delay in release of information for the benefit of ABS-CBN.

Even if ANC can be accused of being “spoilers,” I don’t think a majority of the Filipinos had known of the coverage of the news conference anyway. And we all know that press conferences don’t do fights justice. Many things can be said under a disillusioned state of disbelief, denial, and pride.

If anything, ANC’s coverage may have actually helped ABS-CBN, as the news of victory might’ve enticed more Filipinos to flip the channel to watch the actual fight.

It was a good fight. Pacquiao and Larios were class acts; the fans were biased, supportive, but respectful and classy in their own right. The fight coverage was decent, and ANC displayed solid journalism.

At least for today, tagumpay nga ang Pinoy!