Philippine Daily Inquirer: You Got Trolled!

It was no surprise that for most of us who have been religiously following the happenings on the cyber world (half of which are journalists and the other half are bored individuals like me) – whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr – that President Aquino made it to this year’s list of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. The news came last April 18 at 7:03 PM, Manila time.

In response, President Noynoy Aquino said that he was merely the “face” of the Filipino people, that the recognition is due to his countrymen and of the whole country and that if success was achieved, it would be the success of everyone.

As most of you know, I have always been fascinated with covers and front pages of various local and international broadsheets and magazines. In fact, it is my daily habit before starting a day’s work to browse and to look at various front pages and covers whether it be in print or in digital format. I consider it as an exceptional art and as a part of history as well. So when the list came out, I eagerly waited on who would be on the cover of TIME’s special issue.

An hour past midnight earlier, while waiting for the developments on the manhunt of the marathon bombing suspect in Boston (and while waiting for my ‘Homeland’ episode download to finish), I dropped by the website of the Philippine Daily Inquirer to see if they have already uploaded their page one for today. As I looked at the digital format of the front page, aside from the photos of the two Boston bombing suspects, I saw the photo of President Aquino in an apparently, a cover of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

 

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But here’s the catch: The cover looked fake and the photo of President Aquino that was used was one of his, excuse me, unflattering photos. I immediately searched TIME magazine to verify its authenticity and lo and behold, it turned out to be fake. The cover for this year’s special issue is Jennifer Lawrence. Not President Aquino.

So what? Some trolls and pranksters probably made that “false cover’ to fool on people.  But here’s the thing, it landed on the cover of one of the most respected broadsheet in the country (and they have repeatedly said that they are the leading broadsheet in the country, which, I believe by the way). The fake TIME Magazine cover landed on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. What a shame! (I later discovered that this fake cover came from one of the memes of Showbiz Government, a satirical Facebook page. Good job guys!)

I have a love-hate relationship with that broadsheet. Though I have repeatedly praised some of their creative front pages (like the false cover and the bloodied cover for the Philippine Independence Day celebration), I have also criticized (if not make fun of) some of them. to name a few, there was the juxtaposition failure, their tabloid-esque layout, and the headline that’s more appropriate in the entertainment section.

It has been a buzz in the social media that the Inquirer is “too yellow”,  a broadsheet that is always in favor of President Aquino. In fact, my (new) favorite blog, The Spin Busters, describe the Inquirer (or PDI) as thePresident’s Daily Inquirer. The Inquirer later apologized in a tweet saying that it was an honest mistake. But here’s the catch, they also said that they wish it was President Aquino on the cover. With that being said, I think it is evident that there is no statement “more yellow” than that.

I once worked for the publishing industry and it is a mortal sin among us to run and print non-factual information and materials. Though my previous job is not that of the news industry (I worked for a private company publishing textbooks), this broadsheet, In my opinion, with their hundreds of employees, should have exercised diligence in publishing their paper. Now that the boo-boo has been published and distributed nationwide, I think this broadsheet has lost a bit of their credibility. That’s the price you pay of falling for a troll’s trap.

Going back to President Aquino’s statement that he is the face of the Filipino people, I cannot but take a look again at his unflattering photo. The trolls have successfully used the President’s signature “nganga” image. In the local pop culture, “nganga” – or the act of leaving your mouth wide open – has a connotation of emptiness, laziness, tardiness, and stupidity.

If this is the real face of the Filipino people, then we are travelling not in a promised Daang Matuwid. We are in a Ngangang Matuwid.

Elsewhere:

Yes, this is the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Today

Since the advent of my bumming in our school library and in my parents’ office library, I have been always fascinated with covers and front pages of various local and international broadsheets and magazines. In fact, it is my daily habit before starting a day’s work to browse and to look at various front pages and covers whether it be in print or in digital format. I consider it as an exceptional art and as a part of history as well. (See my blog’s archive for some of my articles written in the past regarding that matter).

One of my favorite websites is that of the Philippine Daily Inquirer which has been my favorite broadsheet since those bumming days in the library. But it is no secret here in my blog that I have a love-hate relationship with that broadsheet. Though I have repeatedly praised some of their creative front pages (like the false cover and the bloodied cover for the Philippine Independence Day celebration), I have also criticized (if not make fun of) some of them. to name a few, there was the juxtaposition failure, their tabloid-esque layout, and the headline that’s more appropriate in the entertainment section.

Earlier this morning, I woke up to the sad news about the Boston marathon bombing. While reading articles from foreign news outfits (like the Associated Press, Hufftington Post, and The Atlantic), I decided to pay a visit on some of our local news websites to double-check the facts and figures and at the same time, to check their banner stories for today. Lo and behold! It’s our favorite Presidential sister headlining today’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

I have nothing against Kris Aquino being the top tax payer. I have nothing against Kris Aquino being Kris Aquino. In fact, just like Lourd De Veyra who has repeatedly wrote about her on his This is a Crazy Planets column on Spot.PH, I have also repeatedly wrote (satirical piece and praise) about her (with this being my all-time favorite). What moved my palm into my face was the fact that she conquered the front page and that she and her multi-million tax is today’s banner story for the respected broadsheet.

But of course, I have nothing against the story showcasing this country’s top taxpayers. As what every students in College learned in their taxation class, taxes are the blood that supports and gives life to a country. We need taxes. We need efficient tax collection. We need to penalize those who do not declare their taxes correctly and those who do not pay them. But unfortunately, with our favorite Presidential sister being this country’s top taxpayer, we also need to know that fact. Or do we really need to? Have we had enough of her life and her stories? Is it necessary for the Philippine Daily Inquirer to shove her story in our faces?

But maybe, just maybe, it was a slow news day yesterday and the biggest story (at least, based on their discretion), is Kris Aquino’s. I have seen this story being repeatedly tweeted yesterday but I did not expect it to land into theInquirer’s banner story. Well, with their history of previous facepalm-inducing front pages, I was not completely surprised.

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Enough of my disappointment. I miss doing this in my blog so let me do this once again – dissecting and giving the items on the front page a bit of scrutiny, sarcasm, and humor. Here we go:

  • NKKLK! – According to the news, Kris Aquino, with her three television shows and tons of product endorsements, paid almost 50 million pesos in taxes in 2011. Aside from me, who among you thinks that you can earn that amount until your retirement? Why not? Explain using the BIR form no. 1700.
  • “Daang Maalog” – Yesterday, President Aquino rode the locally-developed monorail at UP Diliman for a test run. He described the ride as “bumpy” and the tracks “wavy”. And according to the resident trolls, er, readers (who leave their comments via Disqus) of the the Inquirer’s website, that ride perfectly describes this administration’s “Daang Matuwid”. Boom!
  • Beauty. And brains. – I failed to catch last Sunday’s Binibining Pilipinas Gold (because I was busy watching the Jose and Wally concert on the other channel). But do you know what’s more gold? Twitterverse. And the tweets, comments, and reactions on the pageant, the hosts, and the contestants. Twitterverse was so awesome the pageant itself became so boring. Anyway, congratulations to the winners and to the aspiring beauty queens who are planning to join next year’s pageant, please don’t forget to bring Mongol pencil no. 2.
  • Practice what you Preach. – Pope Francis told Priests to practice what they preach. This news item has a special place in my heart. It is not a secret here in my blog that I almost became a Priest. But I was too awesome, er, badass so they have to send me out of the Seminary. (How badass? Let’s just say that I wrote this controversial piece entitled “Of Sacerdos and Politicos: A Comparison Between Priests and Politicians”. Read on!)
  • Smart Communications is the number one corporate taxpayer. I guess Globe Telecom, as usual, is having a problem with their network at the BIR Office.

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It has been ages since I last wrote a decent blog entry. My work as a high school teacher – and the real world – drove me away from my love of writing and sharing my thoughts and a part of my crazy imagination here in my blog.

But I guess, I have had enough rest. It’s time to resurrect this blog and once again, share stories and opinion with the rest of the Tumblrverse and the interwebz. I hope I am still welcomed here in the blogging community.

Brace yourselves, it’s gonna be a fun ride.

#AshTag Wednesday

“It’s Ash Wednesday. Let us spread the #ashtag”

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates Ash Wednesday. This day marks the beginning of the Lenten season, or the 40-day period of fasting to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection (Paschal Mystery). It is the season where we are reminded to repent from our sins, to fast and abstain, and to do charity works for the poor and needy.

It is an open secret here on Tumblr and in my blog that I am a former seminarian (or more appropriately, a seminarian on regency or break). I studied in the Seminary for eight years – from high school to college, and I have been writing reflections about Lent and being of service to the poor and the needy since I was twelve (I entered the seminary at a young age, so there goes the explanation).

But there is something that I have to confess to you. Something that whenever I remember those events, I have a mix feelings of being ashamed and laughing at it. During my first years in the high school seminary, I look at Ash Wednesday as a punishment. You see, even the required age for fasting and abstinence is 14, there are no exemptions in the Seminary (for obvious reasons, of course). I treat Ash Wednesday then as a ‘hunger strike day’ for we are only served one full meal during the day without merienda. And if you personally know my eating capacity, you will know why I despise a meal-less day.

As I grow up and as I learn more in the Seminary, my perspective has changed. And I should, because Seminary is a place of formation – spiritually, academically, socially, and formation as a mature, young man with the direction to the Priesthood. And even after I left (or shall I say, after being advise to leave) the institution last March 2009 after graduating in Philosophy, even now that I am living in the real world away from the comforts of her confines, I continuously live (and share) most, if not all, the things that I have learned inside. There are no clear indications yet if I would return and pursue my Theological studies but the important thing is, I should and I must strive not to forget those good things. 

 

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Last night, I planned to attend the Ash Wednesday Mass at the School. But since I have to leave early for Tagaytay City with the parents of some of our fourth year high school students on retreat, I just decided to hear my Ash Wednesday Mass at the retreat house since it would be the  retreat’s culminating activity.

The Holy Mass went as usual and, God forgive me, I wasn’t able to hear something ‘new’ from the Priest who presided the Mass. Maybe because I have repeatedly taught the message of Ash Wednesday and Lenten season to my students and the Priest earlier said the same. Coming home from Tagaytay, I decided to open my blog’s archives and look for last year’s Ash Wednesday homily that moved me.

It was the homily of Fr. Thor Villacarlos, former Parish Priest of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish inside UPLB.

He started his homily sharing a stuff that he found on the internet. He said that a particular Christian denomination put up in their website that a mixture of ash and water burns the skin. As most of us know, the ashes being placed on our foreheads is a mixture of ashes (from the palms used on the previous year’s Palm Sunday) and (Holy) water. He consulted the Chemistry Professors of the University and they told him that yes, it is possible to burn one’s skin by a mixture of ash and water (he told us the name of the chemical compound but I forgot it) but the ashes used on Ash Wednesday have a very minimal effect to cause burning. So are they bluffing? Or scaring the faithful? We don’t know.

Why put ashes on our forehead? It is a reminder for us that we came from dust/earth and we would return to it after our death. Faher Thor told us that the mixture of ashes and water is very symbolic since ashes represents a lifeless man and water, the breath of God that created us (if you read the book of Genesis, this will be quite familiar to you). When God breathed to the earth, there was life.

So what is the challenge for us? Father Thor told us that when the Priest (or the Minister) put ashes on our foreheads, this is a invitation for us to ‘return to the earth’. It is an invitation for us to be stoop down from our level, be ‘dirty’, and to be humble. After all, humility came from the Latin word humus which means earth or soil.

But how could we do that in these modern times where everything is fast and everyone is busy? That is where fasting and abstinence would enter. Fasting and abstinence is not just eating less and abstaining from meat. It is also doing less the things that we find addictive – television, alcohol, cigarettes, internet, and everything considered as ‘excess’ and not an essential. And when we have a free time after abstaining (and fasting) from these, then it would be the time to go back to the earth and be dirty.

And after all of these, during the celebration of the Easter Vigil (or the end of the 40-day preparation) and the blessing of fire and water, it is there when we would burn ourselves and walk to God, our savior. So basically, those who posted that a mixture of ashes and water will burn us, is in a way, correct.

Seminarians are known to Priests as omniscient creatures (it is a inside joke actually). I am guilty of this when I was in college since there are Priests and speakers who give us something that we already know and I (together with most of my brothers) would just fake our attention, pretending to be listening. I know, it is a sign of being proud and not being humble.

But I have learned my lesson. Though I cannot say that I am totally doing it, I chose to listen and digest what Father has given us. I have learned that yes, we know things and sometimes, it is our expertise, but we should always be reminded. And we should see things from other people’s perspective.

The Season of Lent is about preparing ourselves. It is the period to give up something and be of service to the needy. Actually, as I have mentioned above, some of the things that we have saved during this season should go to helping the poor and the needy. Some would say that this is hypocrisy on our part, but should it be? I think doing something good at least during a particular period of a year is better than having done nothing at all. And as long as you know what you believe in, as long as you are steadfast on your faith, no hecklers, trolls, haters, and non-believers can shake you.

This is a period of giving up our excess. What would you give up? for me, I think it wold be extra rice. Aside from helping me lose wight, it will help those who are in need by giving them what I should have eaten for my excess consumption. (Lent, as they say, is the best way to lose weight and be of shape.)

In these modern times, is the celebration of Ash Wednesday still relevant? Yes. We need it more during these times when we seem to just think of ourselves and our personal gains.

 

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Earlier at the Ash Wednesday Mass at the retreat house, since the Priest has no one to assist him, I volunteered to render my services as a sacristan. I have avoided in purpose to do services in the Mass after my ‘eviction’ from the Seminary since I want to see things ‘from the opposite side’ and ‘from a different perspective’.The last time I rendered service at the Holy Mass was on April 22, 2009, as a Lector, during my cousin’s wedding. It was also the last time I wore my cassock. It feels good to be back at the Sanctuary, serving the Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Coincidentally, I was also mistaken as a Priest by some of the Augustinian Nuns at the retreat house. I politely said ‘No I’m not’ to the Nuns and told them that I am one of the students’ teachers. I was surprised to hear their next words. They told me that I have an ‘aura’ (or a ‘vibe’) of a Priest. I just stood there, speechless, and thanked them afterwards when they promised to pray for me and my return in the Seminary.

For years, I have turned away from the possibility of returning to the Seminary to continue my Theological studies. Maybe because I am ‘enjoying’ my life outside the Seminary’s confines. But what if these events are God’s way of waking me up from a deep sleep of denial? Of hardheartedness? Of not answering his call – again?

Personally, this Lenten Season is a challenge for me to pray hard(er) and to discern what path to choose in my life. But for now, I will try my best to live and share the message of the Lenten Season to my family, friends, and students. I will strive to give up my ‘excess loads’ – sin, self-centeredness, pride – and to burn myself with love, passion, and dedication to share God’s words and message.

How about you? What would you give up and burn this Lenten season?

Today is the beginning of the Lenten Season. Let us spread the #AshTag. Vaya con Dios!

Photo Above: Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle celebrates Mass on Ash Wednesday at the Arzobispado de Manila Chapel in Intramuros, Manila on February 13, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Noli Yamsuan/Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila)

Elsewhere:

EDSA Dos at Twelve: A Historical Repression

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the conspiracy that ousted Former President Joseph Estrada from Malacañan Palace and put Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the helm of power in January 2001. We commonly know it by the name of EDSA Dos. And no one seems to give a damn to throw a celebration.

 

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I have been observing the internet (Twitter, Facebook, and news websites) the whole day and only a handful posted stuff about the day that changed our Political history. I searched the word “EDSA” on Twitter earlier and I only saw less than 10 tweets (mine included) about EDSA dos. GMA News’ YouScoop tweeted a query, asking their followers about the lessons of EDSA dos but that was it. The results are mostly MMDA’s traffic update on EDSA and some commuters’ rant on how horrendous the traffic situation at EDSA is. 

How come nobody commemorated the events that happened eleven years ago at EDSA Shrine? Maybe because we are too busy celebrating the Sinulog Festival and the feast of the Santo Nino.  Maybe because some of us choose to watch and discuss Les Miserables and Ricky Lo’s interview with Anne Hathaway instead. Or too engrossed with the Atimonan, Quezon shooting and the US Warship that destroyed a part of the Tubbataha Reef.

Or is it because EDSA Dos is considered a nightmare, a dark part of our history that should be forgotten and should never be repeated again? Maybe yes.

Where were you eleven years ago?

I was eleven years old then, a graduating student in Elementary. The last days of the impeachment trial and the mass protest in EDSA Shrine coincided with our third quarterly exams. Prior to that, whenever I go home early from school, I see to it that I watch the impeachment trial. I can still remember how my classmates and I would horse around, imitating the Chief Justice, the Prosecution, and the Defense Panel. The words Objection your honor, overruled, and sustained became a part of our daily conversation.

I remember watching the controversial voting whether to open the second envelope or not with my father. I can still recall how Senators Pimentel and Drilon hugged each other and in tears, how Senator Legarda wept, how Chief Justice Davide removed his judicial robe, how the Prosecution panel resigned and walked out in disgust, and how the aunt of our current President, Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta danced a la dougie in jubilation. Minutes after the controversial decision, the streets are filled with protesters, the car owners are blowing their horns, and the members of the crowd in EDSA Shrine, increased in number.

The next day, I remember my father putting up a printout of JOE’S COHORTS in the windshield of our car as a sign of protest. It is a mnemonic of the Senators who opposed the opening of the second envelope – Jaworski, Oreta, Enrile, Santiago, Coseteng, Osemeña, Honasan, Ople, Revilla, Tatad.

Text messaging was a new technology then (there were no unlimited text and calls promos though) and it also helped to spread the message to gather in EDSA Shrine and force the President to step down from office. As expected, ERAP jokes became rampant to taunt President Estrada. The Senators who opposed the opening of the second envelope were also not spared from taunts and heckling. Some of the famous lines then which I can still remember are Tadtarin si Tatad!, Oreta Dancing Queen!, and  Ninoy Aquino’s photo with the lines ‘My sister is not worth dying for’.

The protest to became festive with artists and bands performing at the stage and with the presence of, uhm, some artistas. (The most memorable personality then was President Estrada’s friend, Nora Aunor, who joined the crown on calling him to resign). But if there is one song which I can associate with the protest, it would be Sam the Sham and the Paraoh’s ‘Wooly Bully’ which the protesters sang as ‘Huling-huli! Si Erap! Huling-huli!

Though I was not present with the protesters during that time, for obvious reasons, I made myself updated by constantly tuning in to news programs on television. And some of the memories were still vivid because when I was in high School, my tambayan is our library and I have repeatedly read this coffee table book:

 

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The President was twelve eleven years ago today and his Vice President succeeded him – with the help of the high-ranking military officials, political and business elites, and the Catholic Church led by Jaime Cardinal Sin. Conspiracy, as they say, to oust the President extra-constitutionally, a de facto coup that led to the  proclamation of Gloria Arroyo.

In the later months and years, Erap would be arrested, EDSA tres would happen, Erap would come out saying he was forced to sign a resignation paper during the height of EDSA Dos, and Gloria Arroyo would become the infamous President that we know today.

Was EDSA Dos a historical success? No. Did it play an important part in history? Maybe, but what we learned more are lessons for the future of our country.

A contemporary Filipino writer who goes by the pen name Bob Ong, wrote something about EDSA Dos in his book Stainless Longganisa. He compared the protest in EDSA to drinking antibiotics to cure a disease.

He wrote that it is wrong to immediately go to the street to call for the resignation of a leader – or to immediately drink antibiotic without first consulting the doctor. Time will come that the bacteria would become immune to antibiotics and it would be more difficult to cure the disease. Just like the cancer of our society, the more we use the usual way of cure, that is, to march in the streets and call for change, time might come that the usual way will no longer work for us. And worse, during the time when we really need change.

Many of the prominent personas involved during the EDSA Dos have already expressed their regret on being a part of that event. And maybe, most of the participants in EDSA and in key cities of the country who helped, in a way, put Gloria Arroyo into power in 2001 did the same.

It is said that we cannot change history, and that there are no ifs in it. But we can always carve the future of our country. May the lessons of the events of yesteryears be a guide on making a better future for our country.

Today is the twelfth anniversary of EDSA Dos. Did it already become a repressed memory? Do you still give a damn about it?

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the EDSA Dos. And no one seems to gives a damn to throw a celebration. And I don’t think the woman who replaced Joseph Estrada, who is now detained at the Presidential Suite of Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center, is celebrating either.

Elsewhere:

From Apprehension to Comprehension

When I was a little kid, there were two things that come to my mind whenever I hear the words AIDS and HIV. The first was Sarah Jane Salazar. Second, that it was a contagious, incurable, fatal disease, a death sentence of sort, and is something to be feared of.

Sarah Jane Salazar was a prominent figure during the late nineties. She was a Filipino AIDS activist and educator and the second Filipino with HIV to go public. She stirred controversy in 1997 when she was charged with child abuse for having sex with 16-year old Ritchie Atezado without protection. She later bore two children who were both tested negative for HIV. Her partner Rithchie, on the other hand, was later tested positive.

 

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I was raised watching the evening news and current affairs programs (like Brigada Siyete and Magandang Gabi Bayan) and the story of Sarah Jane was like a serye that was being followed during those years. I can still recall the story of a young Arnold Clavio on Brigada Siete that documented Sarah Jane’s life, health, and advocacy. (Arnold Clavio would later become her kumpare when she asked the latter to be her child’s godfather.) In June 11, 2000, Sarah Jane died of AIDS complications.

Watching the stories of Sarah Jane and other victims, I saw AIDS then as something to be feared of. Seeing the images of victims from Africa and Cambodia, who have lost their appetite, thin, very sick, and abandoned by their loved ones added my fright to the disease.

 

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Because of my fear of HIV/AIDS, I developed these beliefs. It has no cure. If you contacted it, then you must count your remaining days on this planet. You will be abandoned. You will be hated. You will be feared. It’s the modern-day leprosy wherein the victims must be isolated from the public.

But that was before I was educated on the disease. That was before I see things differently. That was before I expose myself to different stories of hope, survival, compassion, and love.

My first experience of awakening was when I watched one episode of Hirayamanawari (I’m not sure if it is that program or some other educational program during the last glorious days of quality local television programs)There was this boy (played by child actor Eman Abelada) who accidentally contacted HIV after undergoing a blood transfusion while undergoing an appendectomy. After being tested positive for HIV (and later, AIDS), his friends, due to their ignorance of the disease, started to isolate him for fear of contacting the same disease for they thought that mere physical contact can bring AIDS. The young boy died at the end of the story but thanks to the doctors and his parents’ help, his friends understand more what HIV and AIDS are.

With that simple presentation, the way I view the disease changed. It also thought me the importance of the support of the patient’s family and friends.

Fast forward to year 2000, I was in Grade 6 when we discussed HIV and AIDS in school. If my memory serves me right, it was included in our Science and Health subject. Our teacher, who happened to be one of my favorites, tackled the basics of the disease and on how it would be prevented. She even let us do a skit on how to avoid contacting the disease (infected needles, blood transfusion, etc.). Though included in our school textbook, for obvious reasons, we did not demonstrate how to practice safe sex then.

It has been more than a decade since I stopped fearing the disease. And in those years, I have encountered numerous movements, groups, and advocacy to raise the awareness to the disease.

In today’s world where sex can be as casual as a fist bump, various ways and movements to help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS have sprung up. Safe sex, condom, protection, you name it.

Safety. It’s as if it is stupid to go on a joust with another knight without your armor, it is also stupid to have sex without, er, protection.

Though some of the ways, beliefs and advocacy challenge my personal beliefs (and faith, if you may permit), I believe that we can all agree on a common ground wherein our similarities will help us fight together for a good cause:

Awareness. Education. Understanding. Empathy.

Awareness. In the course of history, battles are won primarily by acknowledging the peril, danger, and the possible aftermath of attacking the enemy. Before all the planning of military tactics and possibleattack, one must first acknowledge that there is an imminent threat or danger. The same thing goes with HIV and AIDS. they do exist. We may not have a cure yet for it but that doesn’t mean that we cannot do something about it.

Education. In my opinion, if there is one thing more fatal than the disease itself, it would be ignorance. HIV and AIDS have been here for quite sometime now and there are a lot of people who are willing to shed light on this feared disease. Know the disease. Know its symptoms. Know its cause. Know how to possibly avoid it. Your paranoia over the disease might be the cause of your early demise. Be educated. Call it a cliche but still, prevention is better than cure.

Understanding. Being aware and educated of the disease is not enough. There are HIV positive patients whose sufferings are doubled because of discrimination and the wrong and lack of understanding of the disease. I believe that there are bad things in this world which are brought primarily by misunderstanding. And we can be a part of changing these things.

Empathy. It is the capacity to recognize and share feelings that are being experienced by others. Unlike sympathy, empathy is like putting ourselves in the place of others. It is more personal. By putting ourselves into the mental shoes of another person, especially the victims of HIV and AIDS, we will know them better. It is only then that we can show wholeheartedly our love, support, and compassion.

I will not preach here about the different ways to prevent HIV and AIDS. I will just leave it to the experts. And I know that you are educated with the basic knowledge about the disease.

It doesn’t matter to me if you are a supporter or a critic of safe sex, condoms, and other protection. I believe that no matter how HIV and AIDS volunteers/counselors or your religious institutions teach you about how you use your personal and sexual freedom, the decision is still up to you.

An international group of scientists has traced the ancestry of the virus that caused AIDS back to strains found in African monkeys. If we will believe Charles Darwin’s theory, we humans are descendants of the earlier species of monkeys. But there are two things that differentiates us from this creatures aside from appendix – freedom and intellect.

We are creatures endowed with freedom and intellect. We are the ones who drive our own life. We have the control of our body. We are free to choose an option. We are intelligent creatures.

 

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The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, zero discrimination. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is praising the drop in new HIV cases throughout the world. Unfortunately, it is the opposite for the Philippines. You may have seen or read it on the news over the past weeks and months that the Philippines is one of the countries where the number of new HIV infections has increased by over 25%. While the threat of HIV and AIDS has been decreasing on the other parts of the globe, our country (together with 2 others in the SEA region) is now being categorized by UNAIDS and UNICEF as “having an expanding epidemic.” Isn’t it ironic?

Now what? Are we just letting the percentage of new infections increase? Of course not. We can all be a part of information dissemination and education about HIV and AIDS. What’s the use of our country being a social media capital of the world if we don’t use our power for a good cause? And with a beacon of hope manifested by the decrease of new infections in other parts of the globe, I think it’s a huge step to finally reverse the rate of new infections if not totally wipe out HIV and AIDS on the face of this planet. Just like small pox. eh?

As we commemorate today’s World AIDS Day, let us be aware of the disease, be educated on how to prevent it, understand the victims, and empathize to help them fight the disease. Together, we can defeat this. I hope this year’s celebration is one of the last ones.

Spread the love. Spread the word. Spread the knowledge. Not the virus.

Elsewhere:

  • Getting to Zero– Philippine STAR’s editorial about the World AIDS Day 2012.
  • I am no expert when it comes to AIDS and HIV but you can talk to my good old Tumblr buddy Gelo (@pananaghoy), an HIV counselor from the AIDS Society of the Philippines. You can also visit his blog and see the other important links on his page.
  • The AIDS Society of the Philippines – The AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP) is a leading association of individuals from the government, non-government agencies, and the private sector, with a common unifying interest in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS.
  • Take the Test Project – they provide adequate information about HIV and AIDS and make HIV test more accessible to everyone.

Three Years After

This day marks the 3rd year, the 1,096th day of the gruesome Ampatuan Massacre, a horrible event in our history where 58 people were killed, 34 of whom were journalists or working for the broadcast industry. Justice is yet to be served, but do you still care?

It seems like the attention of the public on this issue is slowly going to the depths of the abyss of the forgotten. It’s in one of the infamous characteristics of the Filipinos. We have a short attention span. We tend to forget our past easily. Mabilis makalimot. Mabilis magpatawad. Or it is being overshadowed by other news and events.

 

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I partly blame this mentality in our Teleserye culture. For years, or for decades, we have been fed by these drama series shown every weeknights. The stories, though made of recycled plots and formulas, are fast-paced. We are not given an ample time to process what we have seen. We are bombarded every night by the same stories to the point that most of us hardly remember the development of the story, the plot, and the characters. Most TV series abroad are shown on a weekly basis. After each episode – with a definite plot and development – viewers are given an ample time to think, to scrutinize, to discuss, and to process what happened. That ample time, in my opinion, is the way people remember what they have received. And in a larger view, I view this as the way of constantly remembering events that affect our lives in general.

Or perhaps we no longer care about the issue anymore? As I write this piece, the local Twitter trending topics are filled with obscure statements of support for these pseudo-reality love teams and famewhores and other unimportant, self-gratifying topics that would make oneself ‘known’ on the cyber universe. I have always believed that the trending topics on Twitter in a particular country reflects its people’s priority, interest, and views. It’s a tragedy that these fantards behind the so-called ‘famewhore trends’ on Twitter seem to be more influential than the people behind the voices of reform, vital information, advocacy, and policy making. What a shame! 

Whenever there is a viral sensation sweeping online, most of the Filipinos (or those with access on the internet which, I think, is a substantial number) rally behind that thing – giving opinions, fumed reactions, and emotional outbursts. Like an angry mob during the medieval era holding torches and pitchforks, storming the house of an alleged witch or heretic. Take for example the Amalayer brouhaha last week. Almost every Filipinos with social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter expressed their two cents on the issue. It even caught a national attention when the news programs and news portals made a story out of the Amalayer incident.

If we can stand, forgive me for the term, united on this Amalayer thing with lesser significance, then why can’t we do the same with the issues of health, education, poverty alleviation, information, and social reform? Why can’t we do the same thing to rattle the authorities, the justice system, to call for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre and other extrajudicial killings?

By letting this event just pass us by our consciousness, it would appear that we are condoning the perpetrators of this crime. Or depriving justice to the victims and their families. Or killing the fifty-eight (58) victims repeatedly. The victims’ death will not be given justice if the perpetrators of the crime are not prosecuted and punished.

The victims of this gruesome massacre died doing what is right – the victims, in the sense of a change of leadership by means of a lawful and honest election and the mediamen, by telling their (victims’) story and by acting as our eyes, ears, and mouthpiece of that event.

This massacre is caused by the warlord’s struggle to keep their power and to protect their self-interest against any possible threats. Bad politics, bad leadership, and people continuously feeding these beasts by means of the culture of tolerance, impunity, and patronage politics. But we have seen that it is not impossible to have a good, efficient, and selfless leader to rule among us.

 

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One of the factors why these horrible events happen is because nobody seems to be punished. People choose to be silent for fear of retribution. People choose not to speak out to avoid trouble for them and their family. We are allowing the culture of impunity in our country

Impunity. Kawalang pakundangan. It’s like saying “Go ahead, kill everyone who are against your plans! Shoot the story tellers! We allow murder in our country! No one is punished by the way.”

And we don’t want it that way, right? So what can we do as an ordinary citizen?

  1. Never forget. Let us always put the Ampatuan massacre into consciousness. One way of doing it is to post something about it every 23rd of the month for everyone to see (on Facebook, Twitter, and in your blogs). This will help those who have forgotten to remember. You may notice, especially those who frequent on my blog, that I see to it that I post something every 23rd of the month to commemorate the Ampatuan Massacre and to raise awareness for those who seem to have forgotten.
  2. Be an educated and wise voter. The Ampatuan massacre is an election-related violence which involves (an alleged) private army. Choose your leaders wisely. Do not be swayed by their goods during the campaign season. Yes, we can always say our criticisms against these politicians via our tweets, blog entries, and Facebook posts. But do you know what’s more powerful? Our vote. One single vote can help kick the ass of these ‘powerful’ men of power.
  3. Be vigilant. Stay on guard, be watchful. Let us be our brother’s keeper. And let us keep an eye on the proceedings of the trial (even if it takes 55,000 years, according to Atty. Harry Roque). Let us not lose hope even though it may appear that there is no end in sight for the trial. Believe. Have faith. By means of our watchful eyes, we can achieve justice.

Earlier this morning, I watched the first part of Patricia Evangelista’s documentary ‘58’. Word cannot describe how I felt after seeing those mutilated bodies of the victims. Yes, I used to see gruesome scenes on the movies and TV shows that I watch but this one’s different. It’s real. Nakakapanlumo. Nakakapanghina.

It is painful to admit that the wheels of justice in our country are not well-oiled, causing it to roll slowly. And it is more heart-wrenching to know that the witnesses of this massacre are either being killed one-by-one or being abducted never to be seen again.

But let us not give up, let us not lose hope. As cliche as it may sound, the only way for evil people to triumph – or the culture of impunity to prevail in this country – is for good and responsible people to do nothing.

Let us chase Lady Justice no matter how exhausting, no matter how it seems to be hopeless, and no matter how long it takes.

Justice for the Victims of the Ampatuan Massacre. Never Forget. Never again. 

Photos courtesy of Union Journalists of the Philippines – UP Diliman and John Silva’s Facebook post and Inquirer.net, the website of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Elsewhere:

  • 58 (Fifty-eight) – A documentary by Patricia Evangelista and Kiri Dalena aired over ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.
  • No End in Sight to Trial of the Century – “Three years after the gruesome Maguindanao massacre, proceedings against the accused in what has been described as ‘the trial of the century’ grind at a snail’s pace and have not even reached the  halfway mark.” (Inquirer.net)
  • The Bravest Citizen Journalist I Know: The Maguindanao Massacre Boto Patroller – The story of the Maguindanao Massacre first broke out from a report of a Bayan Patroller. This is the story written by BMPM Head Arlene Burgos.
  • Special Report – Interaksyon.com’s feature on the third anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre. It includes the timeline of the events, an infographic about the massacre, the key events in 2012 about the trial, and other related stuff.
  • #TalkThursday: Remembering the Maguindanao Massacre – “Rappler.com talks to retired Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer about the Maguindanao Massacre and the prospects for peace in Mindanao.”

Myosotidium

“What are your hobbies?”, the interviewer asked me.

“I write”, I told him with my signature smirk, “I watch movies and TV series, I play the piano, guitar, and drums. But I write most of the time”

“I would be happy to read some of your works one of these days”, he smiled as he continued to browse and read my curriculum vitae.

______

Yes, I write. Or I used to. It has been months now since I last wrote a decent entry on this blog. I may have some articles written and saved on MS Word but most of them are unfinished and I can’t seem to my mojo to finish them.

Until one rainy afternoon, out of boredom, I grabbed my copy of Gerry Alanguilan’s critically-acclaimed graphic novel Elmer. Even though I have repeatedly read and finished that comic book, I still browse and admire its way of telling a story. Perhaps to get an inspiration from chickens.

And then it came to me. On one part of the story, Elmer Gallo wrote in his diary that one should write because it is important not to forget. That message inspired his son, Jake Gallo, to write a book about the story of his father and the story of how chickens fought for their rights and equality.

It is important not to forget. Back when I was still in School, I used to keep a journal. I wrote there my reflections, dreams, and even those one-paragraph ideas that would eventually be the basis of my full-length article, short story, and other things that are worth writing and publishing (for our school publication, at least).

I had ideas, great ideas, and to borrow Jake Gallo’s lines, “great ideas that would make great movies”, that were eventually lost just because I forgot it. Because I did not write it. Because I just let them slip past my consciousness.

Sayang naman.

I don’t want to make a promise to myself, or to this blog, or to you, whoever you are who stumbled upon this page, that I would start writing more regularly. I believe that is is a slow process of recovery, of getting used to it, of making it a habit.

But for now, write. Write even the smallest things. Write even the craziest one-liners. Write on any medium – on a piece of paper, at the back of the receipt, or at the calendar hanging on your wall.

Write as if no one will read your work. Write for yourself. Write for the universe. Screw your readers. You don’t owe them anything yet.

Write.

Because it is important not to forget.