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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Filipino Catholics

Steve Ray authored many best-selling books, among which are, Crossing The Tiber (his conversion story), Upon This Rock (on the papacy), and just recently John's Gospel (a comprehensive bible study guide and commentary). Steve is also currently filming a 10-video series entitled, Footprints of God. The first two videos are out: Peter, Keeper of the Keys, and Mary, Mother of God (now available here in the Philippines) .

STEVE RAY'S OPEN LETTER TO THE FILIPINO CATHOLICS:

We stepped into the church and it was old and a bit dark. Mass had just begun and we sat toward the front. We didn't know what to expect here in Istanbul, Turkey. I guess we expected it to be a somber Mass but quiet and somber it was not-I thought I heard angels joyously singing behind me.

The voices were rich, melodic and beautiful. What I discovered as I spun around to look did not surprise me because I had seen and heard the same thing in other churches around the world. It was not a choir of angels with feathered wings and halos but a group of delightful Filipino Catholics with smiles of delight and joy on their faces as they worshiped God and sang His praises. I had seen this many times before in Rome, in Israel,in the United States and other countries.

Filipinos have special traits and they are beautifully expressed as I gazed at the happy throng giving thanks to God. What are the special traits which characterize these happy people? I will share a few that I have noticed-personal observations- as I have traveled around the world, including visits to the Philippines.

FIRST, there is a sense of community, of family. These Filipino Christians did not sit apart from each other in different isles. They sat together, closely. They didn't just sing quietly, mumbling, or simply mouthing the words. No, they raised their voices in harmony together as though they enjoyed the sense of unity and communion among them. They are family even if they are not related.

SECOND, they have an inner peace and joy which is rare in the world today. When most of the world's citizens are worried and fretful, I have found Filipinos to have joy and peace-a deep sense of God's love that over shadows them. They have problems too, and many in the Philippines have less material goods than others in the world, yet there is still a sense of happy trust in God and love of neighbor.

THIRD, there is a love for God and for his Son Jesus that is almost synonymous with the word Filipino. There is also something that Filipinos are famous for around the world - their love for the Blessed Mother. Among the many Filipinos I have met, the affectionate title for Mary I always hear from their lips is "Mama Mary." For these gentle folks Mary is not just a theological idea, a historical person, or a statue in a church - Mary is the mother of their Lord and their mother as well, their "mama."

The Philippines is a Catholic nation-the only such nation in Asia-and this wonderful country exports missionaries around the world. They are not hired to be missionaries, not official workers of the church. No, they are workers and educators, doctors, nurses and housekeepers that go to other lands and travel to the far reaches of the earth, and everywhere they go they take the joyous gospel of Jesus with them. They make a somber Mass joyful when they burst into song. They convict the pagan of sin as they always keep the love of Jesus and the Eucharist central in their lives.

My hope and prayer, while I am here in the Philippines sharing my conversion story from Baptist Protestant to Roman Catholic, is that the Filipino people will continue to keep these precious qualities. I pray that they will continue loving their families, loving the Catholic Church, reading the Bible, loving Jesus, His Mother and the Eucharist.

As many other religions and sects try to persuade them to leave the Church, may God give the wisdom to defend the Catholic faith. As the world tempts them to sin and seek only money and fame and power, may God grant them the serenity to always remember that obedience to Christ and love
for God is far more important than all the riches the world can offer.

May the wonderful Filipino people continue to be a light of the Gospel to the whole world!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How to legally kill Filipinos and profit from it

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The schemers in the House forced a midnight provision in their Cheaper Medicines Bill which sought to compel physicians to prescribe only generics. If passed, this 'GENERICS ONLY' provision of the House Cheaper Medicines Bill will kill more Filipinos than dangerous drugs.

The House's 'GENERICS ONLY' provision empowers pharmacists and even the drugstore clerk to select our medications, rendering our physicians inutile in extending their expertise and knowledge to critical and life-threatening situations. I shudder to imagine the many terrifying consequences that can happen from this unthinkably stupid proposition.

Take my case. I am a kidney transplant patient. To sustain my borrowed kidney, I have to take two immuno suppression drugs everyday for the rest of my life. If I don't take my medication at the same designated time and at the same designated dose everyday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., I risk a 99 to 1 chance of suffering a kidney rejection. I will then be wrecking coffins, instead of chairs.

My 10 a.m. anti-rejection medication is a Cyclosporine sold under the brand name Neoral. My 2 p.m. anti-rejection medication is a Sirolimus sold under the brand name Rapamune. Both drugs are costly. The Rapamune alone, taken at 2 p.m., costs me P420 a tablet a day.

If Iloilo Representative Ferjenel Biron and his 'Generics Gang' have their way, I can no longer bring a prescription to Mercury Drug for my daily dose of Rapamune. My prescription must now state Sirolimus (not Rapamune) and it will be up to an untrained clerk at Mercury Drug (or any of those new botika ng bayan outlets) who will then decide what Sirolimus I will take.

Considering how quickly anything fake and substandard can proliferate in this market (given our experience with pirated films, branded bags and signature eyeglasses) — poor quality generic drugs will no sooner fill the market before you can even say 'Ferjenel Biron!'

Of course, it is easy for generics to make a killing since they do not invest in R&D. They can therefore even price their Bombay-made alternative from India or Pakistan for a fraction of the cost of Rapamune. Who knows, coming from India, the Sirolimus may even be curry-flavored!

It is very possible that Sirolimus can be imported from the Indian Subcontinent for as low as P50 per tablet. Adding a 150% profit for the local importer, they can sell this to me for just P250 per and still offer the drug store clerk a P30 incentive for pushing the generic alternative.

On the surface, this sounds like good economics. As a Sirolimus consumer, I will save P170 a day or P62,050 a year. The local Sirolimus generic alternative importer will make a 150% return on his investment while the drug store clerk will make P30 a day for pushing the Generic alternative to me.

But what happens if that Sirolimus generic alternative is a fake (and fakes have been known to characterize poorly-policed generic drug industries) or radically substandard? That means that when I allow myself to be suckered into that GENERICS ONLY House version of the Cheaper Medicines Bill — I am also volunteering myself to be the subject in a game of Russian roulette!

Well, thanks for the savings but on second thought — damn you Congressmen but no thanks!

I do not exaggerate and my medical condition is not an isolated case at all. The dangers present in my medical case will be repeated in many more other medical cases all over the country and will put many Filipino lives at risk.

When you cease buying Coumadin (an anti-coagulant that ensures that your blood does not thicken and puts you at risk for phlebitis or a stroke) for cheap Bombay-made curry-flavored blood thinners, don't sport that wide-eyed surprised look of Rodney Dangerfield inside your casket after you collapse on your way to work.

In fact, the more sensitive the disease you have, the greater the danger that these substandard or fake generic drugs will kill you.

This 'GENERICS ONLY' provision effectively legalizes a form of mass murder and sentences the poorest of our poor to death by ignorance. This is even worse than dangerous drugs. At least in the case of dangerous drugs, the users understand the trouble that they are getting themselves into.

Once 'GENERICS ONLY' is passed into law, many Filipinos will not even know what is causing deaths and deterioration of health.

We Filipinos have long established a reputation for shooting ourselves in the foot. This tops everything else we did in the past. This one is like blasting ourselves in the temple with a 12-gauge shotgun.

Our present plunderers have exceeded themselves this time. Marcos and his band of 40 thieves impoverished us with their itchy fingers. But Marcos had never done anything so evil as to compromise our lives and safety for the sake of profit.

This 'GENERICS ONLY' law, if passed, will exceed all the exploitation and predation we've had in the past. This is evolved evil, a legalization of greed and bloody murder!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TRIP TO WAL-MART

You are in the middle of some kind of project around the house.
You are mowing the lawn, putting a fence in, painting the living room, or whatever.

You are hot and sweaty, covered in dirt or paint. You have your old work clothes on. You know the outfit, shorts with the hole in crotch, old t-shirt with a stain from who knows what, and an old pair of tennis shoes.

Right in the middle of this great home improvement project you realize you need to run to Wal-Mart to get something to help complete the job.

Depending on your age you might do the following:

In your 20's:

Stop what you are doing. Shave, take a shower, blow dry your hair, brush your teeth, floss, and put on clean clothes. Check yourself in the mirror and flex, add a dab of your favorite cologne because you never know, you just might meet some hot chick while standing in the checkout lane. You went to school with the pretty girl running the register.

In your 30's:


Stop what you are doing, put on clean shorts and shirt. Change shoes. You married the hot chick so no need for much else. Wash your hands and comb your hair. Check yourself in the mirror. Still got it. Add a shot of your favorite cologne to cover the smell. The cute girl running the register is the kid sister to someone you went to school with.

In your 40's:

Stop what you are doing. Put a sweatshirt that is long enough to cover the hole in the crotch of your shorts. Put on different shoes and a hat. Wash your hands. Your bottle of Brute Cologne is almost empty so you don't want to waste any of it on a trip to Wal-Mart. Check yourself in the mirror and do more sucking in than flexing. The spicy young thing running the register is your daughter's age and you feel weird thinking she is spicy.

In your 50's:

Stop what you are doing. Put a hat on, wipe the dirt off your hands onto your shirt. Change shoes because you don't want to get dirt in your new sports car. Check yourself in the mirror and you swear not to wear that shirt anymore because it makes you look fat. The cutie running the register smiles when she sees you coming and you think you still have it. Then you remember the hat you have on is from your buddy's bait shop and it says, "I Got Worms".

In your 60's:


Stop what you are doing. No need for a hat anymore. Hose off the dog crap off your shoes. The mirror was shattered when you were in your 50's. You hope you have underwear on so nothing hangs out the hole in your pants. The girl running the register may be cute but you don't have your glasses on so you are not sure.

In your 70's:

Stop what you are doing. Wait to go to Wal-Mart until they have your prescriptions ready too. Don't' even notice the dog crap on your shoes. The young thing at the register smiles at you because you remind her of her grandfather.

In your 80's:


Stop what you are doing. Start again. Then stop again. Now you remember that you needed to go to Wal-Mart. Go to Wal-Mart and wonder around trying to think what it is you are looking for. Fart out loud and you think someone called out your name. The old lady that greeted you at the front door went to school with you.

In your 90's:


Stop what you are doing.

From a forwarded e-mail

Among Ed

GLIMPSES
Jose Ma. Montelibano

Like most Filipinos, I had first heard of Fr. Ed Panlilio when his candidacy for governor of Pampanga was announced. From then on, it was hard to avoid noticing him, his campaign, and his almost miraculous victory over rival candidates who were fully loaded with the necessary ingredients to win over a traditional campaign and electoral exercise. But early on, Fr. Ed's candidacy showed the classical look of a populist movement as he seemed to excite all sectors of Pampanga society.

Mutual friends connected with the Ateneo School of Governance who were helping Fr. Ed and also helping Gawad Kalinga kept me abreast of the dynamics of his campaign. Another unusual candidate, one of three in the senatorial race, also caught my attention, a Dr. Martin Bautista who returned to the Philippines despite a flourishing medical career in Oklahoma in order to offer his services to a motherland he never stopped loving. Martin Bautista seemed to me like many heroic Fil-Am doctors who were sacrificing personal time and resources to build their Gawad Kalinga villages for poor Filipino families here.

When Fr. Ed began his term as governor, he immediately exposed what smells like a scam and looks like a classic case of plunder. By simply doing his job and protecting the interests of his constituents, Fr. Ed saw to it that the province would collect quarry fees correctly and then submit the same in full to the provincial treasury. Collecting quarry fees is not a heroic act, it is a simple duty of officials who are elected to perform normal duties in accordance with their position. What is heroic and patriotic is to resist pocketing quarry fees and enriching oneself by depriving the constituents of one's province of their just benefits.

An honest act in a dishonest environment reverberates like a strong wind to push away foul smell, like a flood which cleanses an estero. Fr. Ed, in becoming Governor Ed, simply continued to live out his set of values, social, cultural and religious. He did not have to stop being honest and sincere and dedicated in the shift from active priesthood to active provincial governance. He is showing that an honest and sincere and dedicated Filipino citizen can remain so even in public service, proving that a man can stay clean even if others are not. Fr. Ed the governor serves as an example to other Filipinos who may be interested in public service but afraid of surrendering to corruption.

News reports said in several screaming headlines that the one month collection of quarry fees by Fr. Ed, also known as Among Ed to Kapampangans, exceeded the annual collection of quarry fees by at least two of his predecessors, a father and son tandem with a name once famous for chicharon but now also for missing quarry fees. As a result of these reports, the Internet had been flooded with derisive jokes about how arithmetic is mangled by dishonesty, how plunder is committed by a day-to-day commission of theft which runs to hundreds of million annually. By simply being honest, Fr. Ed exposed a can of worms which a national government claiming it wants to fight corruption appears reluctant to investigate.

Collecting quarry fees correctly and honestly is not the only simple act of dutiful public service by Among Ed. He also is trying to stop illegal gambling, the most famous of which is jueteng, a local numbers game. Stopping illegal gambling is an ordinary duty of public officials, like stopping illegal recruitment or anything illegal. But applying the law can suddenly be a heroic act in an environment that defies the law. Among Ed again becomes heroic with an ordinary act. He simply wants to be a dedicated public official who has not even gone out of his way to do something extraordinary. He just stays honest even when many other public officials are not.

If we can accept that collecting the right amount of quarry fees and trying to stop illegal gambling are good acts and part of a public official's executive duty, then those who are trying to make Among Ed's administration a difficult one look like they are the enemies of law and order. They may even be enemies of honest, transparent and dedicated service. They may even be traitors who sell public interest for some personal gain, or for some perverted personal value. It should be an interesting future in Pampanga. When honesty becomes the standard and not the exception in Pampanga society, those who betrayed the Kapampangans can be caught, exposed for their crimes, and made to pay for them.

But strange and dirty acts are committed everywhere, not just in Pampanga. Among Ed must have shocked when he went to Malacañang and was given a package as he left. When he opened the package, it contained P500,000. The simple, honest man that he is, he public asked where the money came from, what it was for, and how he was supposed to account for it. Again, it was not a heroic act, just a simple question from a public official who is called on by law to account for monies received. There was deafening silence for a long while before some funny explanation was finally given. Up to now, Among Ed does not know how to treat the P500,000 and give an accounting for it.

Ordinary acts become heroic when these acts are honest, sincere and dutiful in a public context of corruption. Among Ed is delivering a message to ordinary Filipinos - be heroes by simply being good people. It does not take much to be a hero in the Philippines, it does not require awesome feats and deeds of great courage. Just be a person of faith, believe in a God and take His side in the battle between right and wrong, be a citizen who loves country and fellowman and will not step on them just to earn extra but dirty money. Just make Juan de la Cruz a happy and simple honest man who does not sell his soul and his family's honor for thirty pieces of silver.

Filipinos have much to thank Among Ed for. In his simplicity, he has become heroic. He affirms that heroism is possible in the most ordinary way. All it needs is extraordinary love for God and country. Love is always extraordinary; just have it, just show it, just give it. And when evil comes and tries to take over our lives, just hold on to love and it will conquer all. ***

Monday, January 28, 2008

'On the Other Hand'

Contrarian Voices
By Antonio C. Abaya
Written on Jan. 23, 2008
For the Standard Today,
January 24 issue

This column is called 'On the Other Hand' because it is hospitable to serious opinions, aside from my own, that question or deviate from the conventional wisdom. And that includes opinions on current environmental issues.

Global warming and climate change have acquired such an infallible cachet of a Revealed Truth that we may have forgotten that there are serious reservations from serious thinkers who have contrarian views about the matter.

Reader Jun Valenzuela of Naga City referred me to the following website:

http://thereconstitutionrevolution.blogspot.com/2007/07/suvs-on-jupiter-warming-trend-solar.html.

The website belongs to one Paul Joseph Watson who claims (in Nov. 16, 2006) that global warming and the resultant climate change are not due to human activity i.e. the burning of fossil fuels – as the high priests and gurus of the New Religion claim – but are natural cyclical phenomena caused by the evolution of the Sun.

Watson cites data and reports in www.space.com that purportedly demonstrate that a) global warming is occurring in the thin atmosphere of the ex-Planet Pluto as it moves farther from the Sun on its long elliptical orbit; and b) that the Planet Jupiter is in the midst of global warming that can raise its surface temperature by 10 degrees F.

Watson also cites a report from the Current Science and Technology Center of the Museum of Science in Boston ( www.mos.org/cst) that the polar ice caps on Mars are melting, in much the same way that the polar ice caps on Earth are melting.

NASA, as cited by Watson, reports that its Cassini spacecraft detected on Nov. 9, 2006 a massive hurricane on the surface of Planet Saturn's south pole, nearly 5,000 miles across, which could be a sign of climate change on that planet. ( www.saturn.jpl.nasa.gov )

Global warming has also been detected on the Planet Neptune's largest moon, Triton, since 1989, according to astronomer James Elliot of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ( www.scienceagogo.com )

Watson also cites an Associated Press report that solar radiation reaching the Earth is 0.036 percent warmer than it was in 1986, according to a study to be published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal.

Finally, Watson cites a London Telegraph report that purports to explain Global Warming: the Earth is getting hotter because the Sun is burning more brightly than at any time during the past 1,000 years. ( www.telegraph.co.uk ).

I do not know the academic and professional credentials of Paul Joseph Watson, but the scientific sources and journals he cites are impressive enough. The credentials of Zbigniew Jaworowski, MD, PhD, DSc., of Poland are even more impressive.

According to the bio-data attached to a paper that appeared in March 16, 2007 issue of the journal Science – forwarded to me by American environmentalist Alexandra York – Dr. J is a senior adviser at the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw. In the winter of 1957-58, he measured the concentration of CO2 in the atmospheric air of Spitsbergen Island (Norway).

From 1972 to 1991, he investigated the history of the pollution of the global atmosphere, measuring the dust preserved in 17 glaciers: in the Tatra Mountains in Poland, in the Arctic, Antarctic, Alaska, Norway, the Alps, the Himalayas, the Ruwenzori Mountains in Uganda, and the Peruvian Andes.

Dr. J's paper is titled "CO2: The Greatest Scientific Scandal of Our Time" and is a counter-argument against the thesis personified by Al Gore, that CO2 – specifically CO2 generated by human activity – is to blame for global warming and climate change.

He argues that a more important greenhouse gas is water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere, which contributes some 95 percent in the total greenhouse effect. He claims that 97 percent of total CO2 is from natural emissions; human activities contribute only 3 percent.

As anyone who has watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth knows, his thesis is based on ice core samples extracted from a glacier in Antarctica which seem to show that CO2 levels from as far back as 650,000 years indicate low concentrations until the modern era, especially since the 1970s.

Dr. J, who knows about ice core samples, says ice cores cannot be regarded as closed systems, and that low pre-industrial CO2 concentrations are an artifact caused by more than 20 physical-chemical processes operating in situ. For example, according to Dr. J, in cold water, CO2 is 70 times more soluble than nitrogen, and more than 30 times more soluble than oxygen. Therefore, CO2 trapped in ice cores ages ago have long been dissolved in the surrounding ice and snow, and cannot be regarded as valid indications of CO2 levels in the past.

Dr. J also claims that environmentalists who point to ice core samples to prove their thesis, have deliberately ignored more than 90,000 direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere, carried out in America, Asia and Europe from 1812 to 1961, though the data were published in 175 technical papers.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change regards the last 50 years as the warmest period in the past 1,500 years and blames this on the burning of fossil fuels. This monothematic line of reasoning, says Dr.J., does not take into account the astronomical evidence that these last 50 years had had the highest solar activity of the past several thousand years.

The new science of cosmo-climatology has documented, since 1961, a close relationship between solar activity and the surface temperature of the Earth. Later studies have shown that the main mechanism by which cosmic factors regulate our weather are cosmic rays penetrating the atmosphere.

Cosmic rays, says Dr.J, rule the climate by producing an ionization of air molecules at the rate required to have a measurable impact on clime. Ionization – the process by which electrons are stripped from or added to an atom's outer structure, making it more ready to combine with another ion – helps create condensation nuclei in the troposphere, the lowest region of the atmosphere.

During low solar activity, says Dr. J, more cosmic rays penetrates into the troposphere and more clouds are formed, which act as an umbrella to protect the Earth against solar radiation. Conversely, during periods of high solar activity, less cosmic rays penetrate into the troposphere and less clouds are formed, allowing more solar radiation to hit the Earth's surface.

(To which let me add that when I was in my teens, shortwave radio was one of my hobbies. I learned even then that solar flares, which come in 11-year cycles, disturb radio reception because the troposphere, against which radio waves bounce to allow them to go around the Earth, were affected by solar activity.)

"Human beings may be responsible for less than 0.01 degree C of warming during the last century. The hypothesis that the currently observed Modern Warming is a result of anthropogenic ('man-made') CO2, and of other greenhouse gas emissions, is a myth."

Can we believe all this? Dr. J's assertion that global warming and climate change are due largely to solar activity coincides uncannily with the independent observations culled by Paul Joseph Watson from different scientific sources, that global warming was/is also occurring in the planets Pluto, Jupiter, Mars, Neptune and Saturn. It does look much more than coincidental.

So should the world abandon all efforts to find energy sources other than oil? Of course, not. Whatever the truth or untruth about these contrarian views on global warming and climate change, I share the possibly politically incorrect sentiment expressed last month by, of all people, Republican presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee who said: "I look forward to the day when we can say to the Arabs 'You can keep your oil!'"

It would have sounded more emphatic with an expletive inserted. *****

OPRAH SHOW

In one of Oprah Winfrey's talk shows, a survey was conducted among her
audience. Since the subject was about ghosts she started asking her
audience these survey questions:

Oprah: How many of you have seen a ghost? Please stand up!

Amazingly, about 20 people stood up.

Oprah: Wow , isn't that really phenomenal? And now for the next
question- For you guys standing up - how many of you have actually spoke
to a ghost?

About five stayed standing up.

Oprah: (At this point, really getting tremendously
excited!) Wow, imagine that? These people actually spoke to a ghost.

And now for the last question, how many of you five guys have actually
made love to a ghost?

Four guys sat down except one, at the last row of seats.
The crowd exploded.

Oprah: May we call the gentleman to come to the stage please!

At this the cameras focused on an aging old man and guess what, a
Filipino guy.

Oprah: Wow, that was unbelievable: Sir, may we know who you are?

My name is Topacio Mamaril - my friends call me ' Top Gun' for short.

Oprah: What do you do and where are you from?

Top Gun: I am a retired Navy man from Ilokos , am living in Napa Valley,
Calif and am a farmer by trade.

Oprah: Interesting! So, you really made love to a ghost?

Top Gun: Huh???...(adjusted his hearing aid) What ghost? I thought you
said GOAT!

Cheers!!

-- Shared by Freddie Hernandez

Friday, January 25, 2008

Replica of Bomb used at PAL Flight 434



This replica shows the nitroglycerin bomb Ramiz Yousef used in an attempt to blow up Philippine Airlines flight 434. The bomb went off, but it didn't take the flight down. Unfortunately it did kill Haruki Ikegami, a passenger who had taken Yousef's seat during a later flight.

More are at Wired.com

The ONION and the CHRISTMAS TREE

The family is sitting at the dinner table. The son asks his father; “Dad, how many
kinds of boobies are there?”

The father, surprised, answers; “Well son, there are three kinds of breasts. In her
twenties, a woman’s breasts are like--- melons. They’re round and firm. In her
thirties & forties, they are like pears. Still nice, but hanging a bit. After fifty,
they are like onions!”

“Onions?”

“Yes, when you see them, they will make you cry.”

This infuriated his wife and daughter so the daughter says; “Mom, how many types
of ‘willies’ are there?”

The mother, surprised, smiles and answers; “Well, a man goes through three phases.
In his twenties, his ‘willie’ is like an oak tree, mighty and hard. In his thirties
& forties, it’s like a birch tree, flexible but reliable. After his fifties,
it’s like CHRISTMAS TREE!!!”

“A Christmas tree???”

“Yes, DEAD from the ROOT UP and the BALLS are for DECORATION ONLY...”

Hope this brighten up your day.

Laughter is still the best MEDICINE!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Filipino Monkey" is No Monkey Business

PerryScope

Perry Diaz

On January 6, 2008, the United States was just a few seconds away from triggering a war with Iran -- and possibly ignite World War III. Three American warships were cruising down the Strait of Hormuz when five Iranian speedboats menacingly approached them. According to news accounts of the encounter, a radio transmission from an unidentified person called out in English, "I am coming to you. You will explode in a few minutes." The incident happened the day before President George Bush traveled to the Middle East on a diplomatic mission.

I searched the Internet for a video of the incident and the following was what I found: "I am coming to you," the unidentified person said. An American crew member responded, "Inbound small craft, you are approaching a coalition warship operating in international waters. Your identity is not known, your intentions are unclear. You are straying into danger and may be subject to defensive measures. Request you establish communications now, or alter your course immediately to remain clear of me. Request you alter course immediately to remain clear…" Then the unidentified person said, "You will explode after a few minutes." As one of the speedboats was heading towards one of the American warships, the American captain was about the give the order to fire when suddenly the speedboat veered away and the other Iranian speedboats followed suit.

The Iranians disavowed any connection to the mysterious. transmission. They claimed that they were just trying to get a reading on the American warships' ID. Some observers thought that the Iranians were just playing "chicken." If the mysterious person did not call out in the radio, the incident would probably have been dismissed as just another harassing act by the Iranians.

Many believed -- including American military staff -- that the mysterious voice was the "Filipino Monkey," a prankster that many believed has been making harassing transmissions on the international ship-to-ship radio frequencies.

Who is this "Filipino Monkey"? I googled it and I got more than 100,000 hits. But the most interesting information I got was from www.museumofhoaxes.com -- or Hoaxipedia. It said, "The Filipino Monkey is the name of an infamous rogue radio operator who interjects lewd jokes, threats, obscenities, and animal noises into ship-to-ship radio communications conducted on VHF marine channel 16 in the Persian Gulf." VHF Channel 16 is the maritime International Emergency Distress Frequency which requires all vessels to monitor for SOS calls and other emergencies.

Hoaxipedia further said, "The Filipino Monkey was first heard in the Persian Gulf around 1984, during the Iran-Iraq War. Despite the fact that VHF Channel 16 is supposed to be used only during emergencies, he would play music over it and taunt other seamen in a sing-song voice. He usually spoke in English. He had particular disdain for Filipino sailors -- as the name he gave himself would indicate. However, he was also extremely hostile to Iranians."

Hoaxipedia cited several incidents, one of which happened in 1987 when an Iranian warship locked its weapon radar onto a U.S. warship. The U.S. warship warned the Iranian vessel to stand down. The "Filipino Monkey" interjected, "Iranian warship, Iranian warship. You gonna get it now."

In another incident that same year, an Iranian gunboat confronted a cargo ship: "What is your cargo? What is your cargo?" The "Filipino Monkey" said, "Rockets, grenades, tanks, missile launchers, all bound for Iraq." The cargo ship frantically responded, "That was not me! That was not me!"

In the past 20 years, attempts to triangulate the location of the "Filipino Monkey" failed due to the large number of possible locations of the transmitter. The original "Filipino Monkey" is believed to be a group of Iranian pranksters who heckled American tankers and warships during the Iran-Iraq War. The "Filipino Monkey" today, however, could be any person who has access to VHF Channel 16. It is not uncommon for someone to call "Filipino Monkey… Filipino Monkey…" to provoke responses from everyone in the area.

By all indications, the original "Filipino Monkey" was not a Filipino. However, a large number of Filipinos work as merchant seamen. Today, there are approximately 250,000 Filipino seamen.

The recent incident in the Strait of Hormuz has made a lot of American military officers jittery at the prospect of an attack similar to the Al Qaeda suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Some U.S. military experts might be thinking that the "Filipino Monkey" provocation may have been deliberately planned by the Iranians. The questions are: If it would happen again, would the commander of the U.S. warships think twice before issuing an order to fire? Or would he rely on his instinct and issue an order to fire as soon as he deemed it necessary?

Indeed, the specter of another suicide attack on an American warship in the Persian Gulf is real and American naval commanders probably have standing orders of what to do in the event a similar attack occurs. Should they shoot first and ask questions later?

The "Filipino Monkey" is no monkey business. It is serious business. Peace in the Middle East hangs in the balance as long as the "Filipino Monkey" continues playing this dangerous game.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Time for Universal Computer Education

01.14.08

Dvorak

by John C. Dvorak

There's a huge knowledge gap in this country when it comes to computers and technology in general. I blame the educational system, as well as the big computer companies, which have done nothing to encourage public education about the dangers of the computing environment. How many normal people out there know how hackable everything is? You know it. I know it. Does Aunt Tina know it? I doubt it.

Two recent episodes bring home the problem. The first example took place in Eastern Europe, where some kid hacked the local tram transportation system, using a modified TV remote to match switching signals used by the trains to change tracks and move about the city. While he was fooling around with the system, four trains crashed and all sorts of problems ensued, including a few injuries. This happened only because the people setting up the system never considered the possibility that anyone would or could do this—perhaps because they didn't have the know-how to do it themselves.

The other example took place at CES, where some joker used a universal remote to shut down demos all over the show.

Nobody thinks to prevent these situations through good architecture—or, if they do, they aren't skilled enough to implement security measures. Get it straight, people: Everything is hackable.

This basic lack of technological understanding is not restricted to the area of computer science and securing against hackers. Just watch the way people drive. Obviously they've never taken a physics class: They drive like maniacs and tailgate like fiends without realizing that they cannot stop in so short a distance. Rear-end accidents are everywhere.

People know nothing of the dangers inherent in natural gas, static electricity, lightning, or anything else. None of this is taught in school; instead we have diversity studies and self-esteem lectures. When I was in school, we were taught how to do income-tax returns, how to balance checkbooks, and how to fix cars. There were ethics classes, health classes, home economics, shop, and everything in between. All this was in addition to physics and science classes.

It's only recently that the so-called Darwin Awards emerged, as we've accumulated so many dummies in the country that they are literally killing themselves through their own stupidity (often in hilarious ways). The public knows more about Britney Spears than, well, just about anything. Kids know nothing about poisons, skunks, Lyme disease, covering their mouths when coughing, TB, or even ear protection. (Wait until the earbud lawsuits hit Apple 20 years from now. Ever heard of Johns-Manville? Look it up.)

Too many people carry day-to-day obliviousness deep into adulthood and make decisions for others that are frightening. Even within the tech scene, few people actually know much at all. Those of us who were brought into the scene at the beginning of the desktop revolution often assume that other people know more than we do, and then we're surprised by the general lack of knowledge. Apparently we're idiots, too, for expecting otherwise.

There are, for example, computer users between the ages of 25 and 45 who can't do a simple Google search and are stunned when you show them how. Where have they been hiding over the last decade? Don't schools generally offer a universal study of the computer? That's a high-school course everyone should take, and it should be a requirement for graduation.

Education is the key, and it is never too late to start. At least a single year of computer training—the sophomore year would be my pick—would benefit high schoolers no end. Yes, many of them can put up a Facebook or MySpace page, but what else can they do? The nerds in the school can do a lot (up to and including hijacking public transportation using a TV remote), but the rest need to be taught, and even a single course would be valuable and fun.

A good school course about computers, if done right, would reinvigorate a lot of other studies, too, like science. And one aspect of doing it right would be sharing information among the teachers and students, because we all know that there are things kids can teach us about technology. There is no single fountainhead of knowledge; it needs to be shared.

Genuine universal computer literacy—for everyone, not just the geeks—should be a top priority in the U.S.

Picked up from:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2704,2248931,00.asp

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Filipino Applies for a Job at Wal-Mart

An office manager at Wal-Mart was given the task of hiring an
individual to fill a job opening. After sorting through a stack of
resumes he found four people who were equally qualified. .. An
American, a Russian, an Australian and a Filipino. He decided to call
the four in and ask them only one question. Their answer would
determine which of them would get the job.

The day came and as the four sat around the conference room table, the
interviewer asked, "What is the fastest thing you know of?"
Acknowledging Dave, the American on his right, the man replied, "A
THOUGHT". It just pops into your head. There's no warning that it's on
the way; it's just there. A thought is the fastest thing I know of."
"That's very good!" replied the interviewer.

"And now you sir?" he asked Vladimir, the Russian."Hmm.... let me see.
A blink! It comes and goes and you don't know that it ever happened. A
BLINK is the fastest thing I know of."
"Excellent!" said the interviewer. "The blink of an eye, that's a very
popular cliche for speed."

He then turned to George, the Australian who was contemplating his
reply. "Well, out at my dad's ranch, you step out of the house and on
the wall there's a light switch. When you flip that switch, way out
across the pasture the light in the barn comes on. Yep, TURNING ON A
LIGHT is the fastest thing I can think of." The interviewer was very
impressed with the third answer and thought he had found his man.
"It's hard to beat the speed of light" he said.

Turning to Eleuterio, the Filipino, the fourth and final man, the
interviewer posed the same question. Eleuterio replied, " Apter
herring da 3 frevyos ansers sirrr, et's obyus to me dat the fastest
thing known is Diarrhea." "WHAT!?" said the interviewer, stunned by
the response.
"O I can expleyn serrr ." said Eleuterio . " YOU SEE SERR, DA other
day I wasn't Peeeling so good and I run soo fast to the CR or
bathroom, But, before I could THINK, BLINK, or TURN ON THE LIGHT, ay
'tang ina, I already had a poo-poo in my pants.

Eleuterio is now the new "Greeter" at Wal-Mart.

Monday, January 21, 2008

GMA's Successes

By Antonio C. Abaya
Written on Jan. 16, 2008
For the Standard Today,
January 17 issue


There should be no doubt or argument about it. The Philippine economy has done better under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo than under any of her predecessors since Ferdinand Marcos.

In the last two years under President Marcos, the economy contracted or shrunk by about nine percent. The assassination of the beloved Ninoy Aquino on August 21, 1983 spawned massive capital flight, which in turn caused the exchange rate to balloon, if memory serves, from about 20 to 60 pesos to one US dollar.

As wealthy families and investors, both domestic and foreign, scrambled to change their pesos into dollars, inflation soared to double-digit levels, the likes of which have not been known by most Filipinos now living, except during the Japanese Occupation.

This economic meltdown, combined with moral outrage over such a dastardly act, moved the usually complacent middle-class to political activism, which manifested itself in weekly street demonstrations against the Marcos Regime. The presence of a well-known figure around whom the middle-class could rally – Ninoy's widow, Cory Aquino – gave the public protests the animus it needed, as it snow-balled into the snap elections of February 1986.

Under Cory, the Philippine GDP grew 3.5 percent in 1986. 4.3 in 1987, 6.8 in 1988, 6.2 in 1989. The coup attempt in December 1989 by then Col. Gringo Honasan and then Capt. Danilo Lim dragged the GDP down to 4.4 in 1990, and subsequently to negative 0.6 in 1991. The average GDP under Cory was 4.1 percent.

Under President Fidel Ramos, GDP grew 0.3 percent in 1992, 2.1 in 1993, 4.4 in 1994, 4.7 in 1995, 5.8 in 1996, and 5.2 in 1997. The Asian Financial Crisis that started in July 1997 dragged the GDP down to negative 0.6 in 1998 as it devastated economies all over the world. The average GDP under President Ramos was 3.1.

It should be mentioned that the low GDPs in 1992 and 1993 were due, not just to the coup attempts of Honasan-Lim in December 1989, but also to the daily power outages of up to 8-hours that plagued the economy.

And the power outages were due largely to the mothballing by President Aquino of the 620 mw Bataan nuclear power plant just before it was to be commissioned, a concession to the anti-US bases and anti-nuclear agitation of the Communist movement. The slack would have been taken up by the 300 mw Calaca plant and the 300 mw Masinloc plant, both coal-fired, but the commissioning of these plants was blocked by environmentalists.

The net effect was that thousands of businesses and industries, and tens of thousands of families were forced to buy and operate their own generators, thus creating as much pollution as, or even more than, Calaca and Masinloc put together. There is a lesson to be learned here, but I doubt if Filipinos have learned it. But I digress.

Under President Joseph Estrada, GDP grew 3.4 percent in 1999 and 4.0 in 2000, until he was deposed from office in January 2001 by a military coup d'etat pretending to be people power. The average GDP under President Estrada was 3.7 percent.

Under President Arroyo, GDP grew 1.8 percent in 2001, 4.3 in 2002, 4.7 in 2003, 6.0 in 2004, 5.1 in 2005, 5.6 in 2006 and 7.1 in 2007. The average GDP under President Arroyo was 4.94 percent. Forecasts for 2008 range from 5.0 to 6.7 percent.

(It takes GDP growth rate of at least 8 percent per annum for 20 years for an economy to reach First World status. This is the level of the achievement of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, from the 1970s to the 1990s.)

Under President Arroyo, the economy has developed an upward momentum. And the biggest element in this upward momentum is the remittances from overseas contract workers, which will reach $14 to !5 billion in 2007, compared to practically zero in the 1970s..

The corollary is that if Presidents Aquino, Ramos and Estrada enjoyed a $10 to $15 billion annual OCW windfall during their watch, the GDP during their presidencies would have been substantially higher. (If any reader has the annual figures for OCW remittances staring in 1980, I would appreciate receiving them.)

The other corollary is that if President Arroyo did not have this $10 to $15 billion annual OCW windfall, the Philippine economy under her management would not have grown as much as it has in the past five years.

This is not to say that President Arroyo did not make any substantial contribution to economic growth from her own initiatives. Far from it. Her biggest success, in my opinion, is the growth of the call center-business outsourcing industry, which now employs more than 200,000 young, urban middle-class Filipinos, and is still growing fast.

If one were to revisit her Mid-term Development Plan, which was drafted at the start of her presidency in 2001, one would note that it had three major foci: agriculture, tourism and information technology or IT. So the call-center phenomenon was an Arroyo initiative and it is a major success, for which she deserves full credit.

The passage and implementation of the EVAT. is also an Arroyo success, which substantially increased government revenues, enabling it – theoretically at least – to invest more in infrastructure and social services.

But this has its limits, which may have been reached already, judging from the frantic efforts to sell government assets, such as those in the power sector. Without the sale of government assets, the government seems to be running out of money. Economists tell us that a government's tax collection efforts should amount to at least 16 percent of GDP.

Even with his dictatorial powers, President Marcos could manage only 9 to 12 percent. Presidents Aquino and Ramos were able to raise it to 13 to 14 percent. President Arroyo may have been the first president to raise that percentage to 15-16 percent, but apparently not much more than that, which suggest unresolved problems from chronic tax evasion and smuggling.

President Arroyo has also achieved moderate success in tourism, one of the three foci in her Midterm Development Plan. Tourist arrivals topped three million in 2007, for the first time ever. I say 'moderate' because Thailand drew 13 million tourists, Malaysia 16 million, in the same period.

In 1991, Indonesia and the Philippines drew more or less the same number of tourists: one million. Since then, Indonesia's tourist arrivals have reached five million, despite the Bali and Jakarta bombings, while we are celebrating only three million. Don't look now, but tiny Cambodia just topped two million in 2007, and Vietnam is investing heavily to develop its entire South China Sea coast into a tourist magnet..

President Arroyo's third economic focus: agriculture is, in my opinion, a mixed bag. Even assuming that production has increased in some sectors, the stark fact remains that we are not self sufficient in such staples as rice, corn, sugar, poultry, etc and must import several billion dollars worth every year to meet domestic demand.

This by the country that set up the UP College of Agriculture in Los Banos (when the Americans were running this place), and hosts the International Rice Research Institute (also established by the Americans), both of which trained the agriculturists of Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia etc, which ironically now surpass us in agricultural production.

Perhaps the weakness of our agriculture is not a paucity of modern technology, but an oversupply of people, because of a galloping population growth rate. In the 1970s, the Philippines and Thailand had more or less the same population size: 45 million.

Because it had a population management program all these years, in 2007 Thailand had only 65 million people, while the Philippines had 89 million. By any yardstick of commonsense, it is easier to feed, clothe, house, educate and find jobs for 65 million people than 89 million.

For this, President Arroyo must share the blame with Presidents Marcos, Aquino and Estrada, for their wishy-washy attitude towards population management and their fear of offending the Roman Catholic bishops. (Only the Protestant President Ramos dared to defy the bishops on this issue.)

In summary, it can be said that President Arroyo's relative success in managing the economy can be credited largely to the $10-$15 billion windfall from OCW remittances.

Therefore it is not accurate to claim that there is no alternative to or substitute for her. In fact it can be said that the increase in workers deployed abroad – about one million a year – is due to her failure, and the failure of her predecessors, to create enough jobs in the domestic economy, forcing millions of Filipinos to seek employment abroad.

This means that she can be replaced by such reasonably qualified wannabes as Mar Roxas, Manuel Villar, Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda, or Panfilo Lacson – even by Governor Fr. Ed Among Panlilio or Antonio Meloto – and the economy would still chug along at least at the same pace as it does today, as long as whoever succeeds her enjoys the $10-$15 billion windfall from workers' remittances.

The $64,000 Question is: who among the actual or potential contenders can provide the MORAL LEADERSHIP that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has so spectacularly failed to provide. *****

Reactions to this email: tonyabaya@gmail.com.

15 Things You Probably Never Knew or Thought About

1. At least 5 people in this world love you
so much they would die for you.

2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.

3. The only reason anyone would ever hate
you is because they want to be just like you.

4. A smile from you can bring happiness to
anyone, even if they don't like you.

5. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you
before they go to sleep.

6. You mean the world to someone.

7. If not for you, someone may not be living.

8. You are special and unique.

9. Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.

10. When you make the biggest mistake ever,
something good comes from it.

11. When you think the world has turned its back on you,
take a look: you most likely turned your back on
the world.

12. When you think you have no chance of
getting what you want, you probably won't get it,
but if you
believe in yourself, probably, sooner or later, you
will get it.

13. Always remember the compliments you
received. Forget about the rude remarks.

14. Always tell someone how you feel about
them; you will feel much better when they know.

15. If you have a great friend, take the
time to let them know that they are great.

From a forwarded e-mail

Friday, January 18, 2008

Benazir Bhutto's disclosure was her fatal mistake

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:14am (Mla time) 01/15/2008

The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is not only the latest twist in the muddled situation in the nuclear-capable but fractious Pakistani nation. It also betrays the mysterious hand played by powerful forces out to mangle whatever chances Pakistan has to restore democracy and eliminate the deleterious effects of strongman rule in a frontline state in the so-called war against terror.

Strange as it may seem, Bhutto was murdered after she was interviewed by BBC's David Frost. The interview was never aired on BBC, but it can be seen on YouTube.com. The interview exposed what has been common knowledge in Pakistan -- that Osama bin Laden has been dead for six long years.

This bit of information may have struck the militarist wing of US policymakers and their supporters in Pakistan, particularly the anti-Bhutto factions in the intelligence services and the military hierarchy.

It was a deadly bit of information that could not have passed unnoticed, not only among Middle East experts but also the clutch of forces pushing for a war against al-Qaeda and Bin Laden. Maintaining the myth about the lingering terrorist threat posed by Bin Laden and his ragtag troops was necessary for the war dollars to pour in, increasing the annual budget of $600 billion, and thus justify continued US military presence and hegemony in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bhutto was a victim of international intrigue, for she was nurtured well by the Department of State, particularly by Condoleezza Rice, and encouraged to return to Pakistan and participate in elections that were clearly rigged in favor of Pervez Musharraf. The United States knew well that she was the target of an assassination plot much deeper than the one that got Indira Gandhi; and reported -- after Bhutto's death naturally -- that the Pakistani opposition leader was apprised of the threats but these warnings were "ignored."

There is a basis for suspicions that Bhutto's murder was the product of the confluence not only of events but also of interests, with the US militarists and the Pakistani fascists agreeing that her revelation about Bin Laden's demise was a fatal mistake that must not be replicated.
ENRICO SAN JUAN (via email)

-- Shared by Aurora Pijuan

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

John Gokongwei , Jr.'s Ad Congress Speech

Nov 21, 2007

Before I begin, I want to say please bear with me, an 81-year-old man who just flew in from San Francisco 36 hours ago and is still suffering from jet lag. However, I hope I will be able to say what you want to hear…

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Thank you very much for having me here tonight to open the Ad Congress. I know how important this event is for our marketing and advertising colleagues. My people get very excited and go into a panic, every other year, at this time.

I would like to talk about my life, entrepreneurship, and globalization. I would like to talk about how we can become a great nation.

You may wonder how one is connected to the other, but I promise that, as there is truth in advertising, the connection will come.

Let me begin with a story I have told many times. My own.

I was born to a rich Chinese-Filipino family. I spent my childhood in Cebu where my father owned a chain of movie houses, including the first air-conditioned one outside Manila. I was the eldest of six children and lived in a big house in Cebu's Forbes Park.

A chauffeur drove me to school everyday as I went to San Carlos University, then and still one of the country's top schools. I topped my classes and had many friends. I would bring them to watch movies for free at my father's movie houses.

When I was 13, my father died suddenly of complications due to typhoid. Everything I enjoyed vanished instantly. My father's empire was built on credit. When he died, we lost everything—our big house, our cars, our business—to the banks.

I felt angry at the world for taking away my father, and for taking away all that I enjoyed before. When the free movies disappeared, I also lost half my friends. On the day I had to walk two miles to school for the very first time, I cried to my mother, a widow at 32. But she said: "You should feel lucky. Some people have no shoes to walk to school. What can you do? Your father died with 10 centavos in his pocket."

So, what can I do? I worked.

My mother sent my siblings to China where living standards were lower. She and I stayed in Cebu to work, and we sent them money regularly. My mother sold her jewelry. When that ran out, we sold roasted peanuts in the backyard of our much-smaller home. When that wasn't enough, I opened a small stall in a palengke.

I chose one among several palengkes a few miles outside the city because there were fewer goods available for the people there. I woke up at five o'clock every morning for the long bicycle ride to the palengke with my basket of goods.

There, I set up a table about three feet by two feet in size. I laid out my goods—soap, candles, and thread—and kept selling until everything was bought. Why these goods? Because these were hard times and this was a poor village, so people wanted and needed the basics—soap to keep them clean, candles to light the night, and thread to sew their clothes.

I was surrounded by other vendors, all of them much older. Many of them could be my grandparents. And they knew the ways of the palengke far more than a boy of 15, especially one who had never worked before.

But being young had its advantages. I did not tire as easily, and I moved more quickly. I was also more aggressive. After each day, I would make about 20 pesos in profit! There was enough to feed my siblings and still enough to pour back into the business. The pesos I made in the palengke were the pesos that went into building the business I have today .

After this experience, I told myself, " If I can compete with people so much older than me, if I can support my whole family at 15, I can do anything!"

Looking back, I wonder, what would have happened if my father had not left my family with nothing? Would I have become the man I am? Who knows?

The important thing to know is that life will always deal us a few bad cards. But we have to play those cards the best we can. And WE can play to win!

This was one lesson I picked up when I was a teenager. It has been my guiding principle ever since. And I have had 66 years to practice self-determination. When I wanted something, the best person to depend on was myself.

And so I continued to work. In 1943, I expanded and began trading goods between Cebu and Manila. From Cebu, I would transport tires on a small boat called a batel. After traveling for five days to Lucena, I would load them into a truck for the six- hour trip to Manila. I would end up sitting on top of my goods so they would not be stolen! In Manila, I would then purchase other goods from the earnings I made from the tires, to sell in Cebu.

Then, when WWII ended, I saw the opportunity for trading goods in post-war Philippines. I was 20 years old. With my brother Henry, I put up Amasia Trading which imported onions, flour, used clothing, old newspapers and magazines, and fruits from the United States. In 1948, my mother and I got my siblings back from China. I also converted a two-story building in Cebu to serve as our home, office, and warehouse all at the same time. The whole family began helping out with the business .

In 1957, at age 31, I spotted an opportunity in corn-starch manufacturing. But I was going to compete with Ludo and Luym, the richest group in Cebu and the biggest cornstarch manufacturers. I borrowed money to finance the project. The first bank I approached made me wait for two hours, only to refuse my loan. The second one, China Bank, approved a P500,000-peso clean loan for me. Years later, the banker who extended that loan, Dr. Albino Sycip said that he saw something special in me. Today, I still wonder what that was, but I still thank Dr. Sycip to this day.

Upon launching our first product, Panda corn starch , a price war ensued. After the smoke cleared, Universal Corn Products was still left standing. It is the foundation upon which JG Summit Holdings now stands.

Interestingly, the price war also forced the closure of a third cornstarch company, and one of their chemists was Lucio Tan, who always kids me that I caused him to lose his job. I always reply that if it were not for me, he will not be one of the richest men in the Philippines today.

When my business grew, and it was time for me to bring in more people—my family, the professionals, the consultants, more employees—I knew that I had to be there to teach them what I knew. When dad died at age 34, he did not leave a succession plan. From that, I learned that one must teach people to take over a business at any time. The values of hard work that I learned from my father, I taught to my children. They started doing jobs here and there even when they were still in high school. Six years ago, I announced my retirement and handed the reins to my youngest brother James and only son Lance. But my children tease me because I still go to the office every day and make myself useful. I just hired my first Executive Assistant and moved into a bigger and nicer office.

Building a business to the size of JG Summit was not easy. Many challenges were thrown my way. I could have walked away from them, keeping the business small, but safe. Instead, I chose to fight. But this did not mean I won each time.

By 1976, at age 50, we had built significant businesses in food products anchored by a branded coffee called Blend 45, and agro-industrial products under the Robina Farms brand. That year, I faced one of my biggest challenges, and lost. And my loss was highly publicized, too. But I still believe that this was one of my defining moments.

In that decade, not many business opportunities were available due to the political and economic environment. Many Filipinos were already sending their money out of the country. As a Filipino, I felt that our money must be invested here. I decided to purchase shares in San Miguel, then one of the Philippines' biggest corporations. By 1976, I had acquired enough shares to sit on its board.

The media called me an upstart. " Who is Gokongwei and why is he doing all those terrible things to San Miguel?" ran one headline of the day. In another article, I was described as a pygmy going up against the powers-that-be. The San Miguel board of directors itself even aid for an ad in all the country's top newspapers telling the public why I should not be on the board.

On the day of reckoning, shareholders quickly filled up the auditorium to witness the battle. My brother James and I had prepared for many hours for this debate. We were nervous and excited at the same time.

In the end, I did not get the board seat because of the Supreme Court Ruling. But I was able to prove to others—and to myself—that I was willing to put up a fight. I succeeded because I overcame my fear, and tried. I believe this battle helped define who I am today. In a twist to this story, I was invited to sit on the board of Anscor and San Miguel Hong Kong 5 years later. Lose some, win some.

Since then, I've become known as a serious player in the business world, but the challenges haven't stopped coming.

Let me tell you about the three most recent challenges. In all three, conventional wisdom bet against us. See, we set up businesses against market Goliaths in very high-capital industries: airline, telecoms, and beverage.

Challenge No. 1: In 1996, we decided to start an airline. At the time, the dominant airline in the country was PAL, and if you wanted to travel cheaply, you did not fly. You went by sea or by land.

However, my son Lance and I had a vision for Cebu Pacific: We wanted every Filipino to fly.

Inspired by the low-cost carrier models in the United States, we believed that an airline based on the no-frills concept would work here. No hot meals. No newspaper. Mono-class seating. Operating with a single aircraft type. Faster turn around time. It all worked, thus enabling Cebu Pacific to pass on savings to the consumer.

How did we do this? By sticking to our philosophy of "low cost, great value ."

And we stick to that philosophy to this day. Cebu Pacific offers incentives. Customers can avail themselves of a tiered pricing scheme, with promotional seats for as low a P1. The earlier you book, the cheaper your ticket.

Cebu Pacific also made it convenient for passengers by making online booking available. This year, 1.25 million flights will be booked through our website. This reduced our distribution costs dramatically.

Low cost. Great value.

When we started 11 years ago, Cebu Pacific flew only 360,000 passengers, with 24 daily flights to 3 destinations. This year, we expect to fly more than five million passengers, with over 120 daily flights to 20 local destinations and 12 Asian cities. Today, we are the largest in terms of domestic flights, routes and destinations.

We also have the youngest fleet in the region after acquiring new Airbus 319s and 320s. In January, new ATR planes will arrive. These are smaller planes that can land on smaller air strips like those in Palawan and Caticlan. Now you don't have to take a two-hour ride by mini-bus to get to the beach.

Largely because of Cebu Pacific, the average Filipino can now afford to fly. In 2005, 1 out of 12 Filipinos flew within a year. In 2012, by continuing to offer low fares, we hope to reduce that ratio to 1 out of 6. We want to see more and more Filipinos see their country and the world!

Challenge No. 2: In 2003, we established Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc. and developed a brand for the mobile phone business called Sun Cellular. Prior to the launch of the brand, we were actually involved in a transaction to purchase PLDT shares of the majority shareholder.

The question in everyone's mind was how we could measure up to the two telecom giants. They were entrenched and we were late by eight years! PLDT held the landline monopoly for quite a while, and was first in the mobile phone industry. Globe was a younger company, but it launched digital mobile technology here.

But being a late player had its advantages. We could now build our platform from a broader perspective. We worked with more advanced technologies and intelligent systems not available ten years ago. We chose our suppliers based on the most cost-efficient hardware and software. Being a Johnny-come-lately allowed us to create and launch more innovative products, more quickly.

All these provided us with the opportunity to give the consumers a choice that would rock their world. The concept was simple. We would offer Filipinos to call and text as much as they want for a fixed monthly fee. For P250 a month, they could get in touch with anyone within the Sun network at any time. This means great savings of as much as 2/3 of their regular phone bill! Suddenly, we gained traction. Within one year of its introduction, Sun hit one million customers.

Once again, the paradigm shifts - this time in the telecom industry. Sun's 24/7 Call and Text unlimited changed the landscape of mobile-phone usage.

Today, we have over 4 million subscribers and 2000 cell sites around the archipelago. In a country where 97% of the market is pre-paid, we believe we have hit on the right strategy.

Sun Cellular is a Johnny-come-lately, but it's doing all right. It is a third player, but a significant one, in an industry where Cassandras believed a third player would perish. And as we have done in the realm of air travel, so have we done in the telecom world: We have changed the marketplace.

In the end, it is all about making life better for the consumer by giving them choices.

Challenge No. 3: In 2004, we launched C2, the green tea drink that would change the face of the local beverage industry -- then, a playground of cola companies. Iced tea was just a sugary brown drink served bottomless in restaurants. For many years, hardly was there any significant product innovation in the beverage business.

Admittedly, we had little experience in this area. Universal Robina Corporation is the leader in snack foods but our only background in beverage was instant coffee. Moreover, we would be entering the playground of huge multinationals. We decided to play anyway.

It all began when I was in China in 2003 and noticed the immense popularity of bottled iced tea. I thought that this product would have huge potential here. We knew that the Philippines was not a traditional tea-drinking country since more familiar to consumers were colas in returnable glass bottles. But precisely, this made the market ready for a different kind of beverage. One that refreshes yet gives the health benefits of green tea. We positioned it as a "spa" in a bottle. A drink that cools and cleans…thus, C2 was born.

C2 immediately caught on with consumers. When we launched C2 in 2004, we sold 100,000 bottles in the first month. Three years later, Filipinos drink around 30 million bottles of C2 per month. Indeed, C2 is in a good place.

With Cebu Pacific, Sun Cellular, and C2, the JG Summit team took control of its destiny. And we did so in industries where old giants had set the rules of the game. It's not that we did not fear the giants. We knew we could have been crushed at the word go. So we just made sure we came prepared with great products and great strategies. We ended up changing the rules of the game instead.

There goes the principle of self-determination, again. I tell you, it works for individuals as it does for companies. And as I firmly believe, it works for nations.

I have always wondered, like many of us, why we Filipinos have not lived up to our potential. We have proven we can. Manny Pacquiao and Efren Bata Reyes in sports. Lea Salonga and the UP Madrigal Singers in performing arts. Monique Lhuillier and Rafe Totenco in fashion. And these are just the names made famous by the media. There are many more who may not be celebrities but who have gained respect on the world stage.

But to be a truly great nation, we must also excel as entrepreneurs before the world. We must create Filipino brands for the global market place.

If we want to be philosophical, we can say that, with a world-class brand, we create pride for our nation. If we want to be practical, we can say that, with brands that succeed in the world, we create more jobs for our people, right here.

Then, we are able to take part in what's really important—giving our people a big opportunity to raise their standards of living, giving them a real chance to improve their lives.

We can do it. Our neighbors have done it. So can we.

In the last 54 years, Korea worked hard to rebuild itself after a world war and a civil war destroyed it. From an agricultural economy in 1945, it shifted to light industry, consumer products, and heavy industry in the '80s. At the turn of the 21 st century, the Korean government focused on making Korea the world's leading IT nation. It did this by grabbing market share in key sectors like semiconductors, robotics, and biotechnology.

Today, one remarkable Korean brand has made it to the list of Top 100 Global Brands: Samsung. Less then a decade ago, Samsung meant nothing to consumers. By focusing on quality, design, and innovation, Samsung improved its products and its image. Today, it has surpassed the Japanese brand Sony. Now another Korean brand, LG Collins, is following in the footsteps of Samsung. It has also broken into the Top 100 Global Brands list.

What about China? Who would have thought that only 30 years after opening itself up to a market economy, China would become the world's fourth largest economy? Goods made in China are still thought of as cheap. Yet many brands around the world outsource their manufacturing to this country. China's own brands—like Lenovo, Haier, Chery QQ, and Huawei—are fast gaining ground as well. I have no doubt they will be the next big electronics, technology and car brands in the world.

Lee Kwan Yu's book "From Third World to First" captures Singapore's aspiration to join the First World. According to the book, Singapore was a trading post that the British developed as a nodal point in its maritime empire. The racial riots there made its officials determined to build a "multiracial society that would give equality to all citizens, regardless of race, language or religion."

When Singapore was asked to leave the Malaysian Federation of States in 1965, Lee Kwan Yew developed strategies that he executed with single-mindedness despite their being unpopular. He and his cabinet started to build a nation by establishing the basics: building infrastructure, establishing an army, weeding out corruption, providing mass housing, building a financial center. Forty short years after, Singapore has been transformed into the richest South East Asian country today, with a per capita income of US$32,000.

These days, Singapore is transforming itself once more. This time it wants to be the creative hub in Asia, maybe even the world. More and more, it is attracting the best minds from all over the world in film making, biotechnology, media, and finance. Meantime, Singaporeans have also created world-class brands: Banyan Tree in the hospitality industry, Singapore Airlines in the Airline industry and Singapore Telecoms in the telco industry.

I often wonder: Why can't the Philippines, or a Filipino, do this?

Fifty years after independence, we have yet to create a truly global brand. We cannot say the Philippines is too small because it has 86 million people. Switzerland, with 9 million people, created Nestle. Sweden, also with 9 million people, created Ericsson . Finland, even smaller with five million people, created Nokia. All three are major global brands, among others.

Yes, our country is well-known for its labor, as we continue to export people around the world. And after India, we are grabbing a bigger chunk of the pie in the call-center and business-process-outsourcing industries. But by and large, the Philippines has no big industrial base, and Filipinos do not create world-class products.

We should not be afraid to try—even if we are laughed at. Japan, laughed at for its cars, produced Toyota. Korea, for its electronics, produced Samsung. Meanwhile, the Philippines' biggest companies 50 years ago—majority of which are multinational corporations such as Coca-Cola, Procter and Gamble, and Unilever Philippines, for example—are still the biggest companies today. There are very few big, local challengers.

But already, hats off to Filipino entrepreneurs making strides to globalize their brands.

Goldilocks has had much success in the Unites States and Canada, where half of its customers are non-Filipinos. Coffee-chain Figaro may be a small player in the coffee world today, but it is making the leap to the big time. Two Filipinas, Bea Valdez and Tina Ocampo , are now selling their Philippine-made jewelry and bags all over the world. Their labels are now at Barney's and Bergdorf's in the U.S. and in many other high-end shops in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

When we started our own foray outside the Philippines 30 years ago, it wasn't a walk in the park. We set up a small factory in Hong Kong to manufacture Jack and Jill potato chips there. Today, we are all over Asia. We have the number-one-potato-chips brand in Malaysia and Singapore. We are the leading biscuit manufacturer in Thailand, and a significant player in the candy market in Indonesia. Our Aces cereal brand is a market leader in many parts of China. C2 is now doing very well in Vietnam, selling over 3 million bottles a month there, after only 6 months in the market. Soon, we will launch C2 in other South East Asian markets.

I am 81 today. But I do not forget the little boy that I was in the palengke in Cebu. I still believe in family. I still want to make good. I still don't mind going up against those older and better than me. I still believe hard work will not fail me. And I still believe in people willing to think the same way.

Through the years, the market place has expanded: between cities, between countries, between continents. I want to urge you all here to think bigger. Why serve 86 million when you can sell to four billion Asians? And that's just to start you off. Because there is still the world beyond Asia. When you go back to your offices, think of ways to sell and market your products and services to the world. Create world-class brands.

You can if you really tried. I did. As a boy, I sold peanuts from my backyard. Today, I sell snacks to the world.

I want to see other Filipinos do the same.

Thank you and good evening once again.


-- Shared by Armando B. Aspiras

Monday, January 14, 2008

Just for Laughs: REFRIGERATOR

It was getting a little crowded in Heaven, so God decided to change
the admittance policy. The new law was, that in order to get into
Heaven, you had to have a really awful day when you died. The policy
would go into effect at noon the next day.

The next day at 12.01pm, the first person came to the gates of Heaven.

The Angel at the gate, remembering the new policy, said to the man,
"Before I can let you in, you have to tell me what was happening in
your life the day on which you died."

"No problem", the man said. "I came home to my 25th floor apartment
during my lunch hour and found my wife half-naked. I thought she was
having an affair but her lover was nowhere in sight. Immediately, I
began searching for him. My wife was shouting at me as I searched the
apartment."

"Just as I was going to give up the search, I looked out onto the
balcony and saw there was a man hanging over the edge by his
fingertips! Well, I ran out onto the balcony and jumped on his fingers
until he fell to the ground. But he landed in some bushes that broke
his fall and he didn't die!"

"I was so mad that I went back inside to fetch something that I could
throw at him. Strangely, the first thing I thought of was the
refrigerator. So I unplugged it, pushed it to the balcony and tipped
over the side. It fell the 25 stories and crushed the man.
Unfortunately all this excitement was too much and I had a heart
attack and died instantly!"

The Angel sat and thought for a moment. Technically, the man did have
a bad day. It was crime of passion.

So he announced, "Okay, sir. Welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven," and
let him in.

A few seconds later the next person came up.

The Angel said, "Before I can let you enter, I need to know what was
happening to you on the day you died."

"No problem", said the second man. "But you are not going to believe
this!"

"I was on the balcony of my 26th floor apartment doing my daily
exercises. I had been under a lot of pressure, so I was really pushing
hard to relieve my stress. I think I got a little carried away,
slipped and accidentally fell over the side!"

"Luckily, I was able to catch myself by the fingertips on the balcony
below mine. But suddenly, this crazy man comes running out of his
apartment, swears at me, and jumps on my fingers! Well, I fell and
just before I hit the ground, I landed in some trees or bushes which
broke my fall. But I didn't die immediately."

"As I am lying there, looking up, unable to move, and in great pain, I
notice the crazy man push his REFRIGERATOR off the balcony. It falls
25 floors and lands on top of me - killing me instantly!"

The Angel is quietly laughing to himself as the man finishes his
story.

"I think I like this new policy", he says to himself. "Okay", said the
Angel to the second man. "Welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven."

And he lets the man in. A few seconds later, a third man comes up to
the gates.

The Angel says, "Please tell me how you died."

The third man says, "You will never believe this. I am naked, hiding
inside a refrigerator..."

Why we can't expect salvation in 2010

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo
Sunday, January 13, 2008

If you still nurture foolish optimism about attaining positive
change in 2010, you're in for the big jolt.

Emerging front runners for the 2010 presidential race are
already displaying signs that they will be delivering only
more of the same. This means that there will be an extended
opportunity for mass manipulation — something that actually
traces back to 1521.

Solving our problem requires more than electing a president
who is neither a liar nor a thief. Our problem sprung from a
convoluted political system that had been shaped by the
economic elite and, naturally, also caters to their interests.

To find solutions, we must first know the real problem.

Our nation has cancer, the vicious kind. Only people who have
been reconciled by their doctor with the truth about their
problem can be treated and cured of their ailment. In our
case, we were never really told what causes our socio-economic
problems. No one wants to acknowledge the fact that we have
this social and political cancer as the very cause of our
debilitation.

But even if someone did level with us about the nation's real
ailment, the truth alone will not provide a cure — although
it is a good start.

A 2010 president who will steal less than the previous
plunderers will merely ease the taxpayers' burden but can't
really remove the cause of the disease. Only the removal of
the age-old mindsets and practices which has disabled the
mechanisms of a functional democracy will set us on the
road to progress.

The Filipino in 2010 is like a traveler so badly behind
schedule that he will need nothing less than a supersonic
vehicle to enable him to catch up. By comparison, those
front runners who present themselves as our 2010
presidential wannabes are, at best, riding on antiquated
engines and are all headed towards the wrong direction.

No front runner is even discussing values. All we hear day in
and day out are the usual promotional spiel that traditional
politicians employ — the same shell game where we, the voters,
always end up the big losers.

How come nobody among the leading presidential wannabes is
even talking about the real roots of our problems and how
they will address these?

We as a people will never really attain nationhood unless we
come to grips with our real history. We must discard the
stories of our nation that were written and directed by people
who serve the interests of the economic and political elite.
Instead, we must dig deep to find our national self. Only then
can we understand why we have lagged behind our neighbors who
all share a common advantage — their strong sense of national
self.

It is quite logical that our traditional politicians will not
want to go through this national self-realization exercise.
It is against their interest to enlighten people and release
them from the very ignorance that forces them to submit and
comply with the lopsided economic and social infrastructures.

How come nobody is talking about the Wealth Gap and the
Opportunity, Education and Information Gaps that fuel it?

We are being sidetracked towards cosmetic solutions like
population control as the means to eradicate poverty.
Bringing down the population to 42 million, the level 30
years ago, will be useless for as long as 3% continues to
control over 85% of the national wealth and, of course,
national policies.

Who has dared enlighten the citizenry about this 3% that
corners over 85% of the national wealth? Who is willing to
go against the 3% elite, the oligarchy, and change the
lopsided Philippine economic equation? Even if we succeed
in electing the most honest person as president in 2010,
even if a miracle happens and the next administration is
able to eradicate graft and corruption, we will still find
ourselves in the same economic mess. Imbalances can only be
addressed by empowering the poor while at the same time
dismantling the mechanisms that promote their poverty and
enrich the few.

Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga (GK) and those promoters of the
Focolare Movement's Economy of Communion (EoC) are the ones
who offer real solutions to our age old problems. So how come
none of these so-called leading presidential wannabes are even
proposing similar measures?

GK and the Focolare EoC offer solutions that effectively deliver
the underprivileged class from their never-ending cycle of poverty.
More than just providing homes and basic social services, they
restore the dignity of the human person that grinding poverty
easily erodes. A new person evolves — enlightened, motivated and
fully empowered to make our democracy work.

Is it because our traditional politicians don't know the real
solutions or is it because they are not bent on really solving the
problem? Either way, they offer no hope that we will attain
meaningful reform under their leadership.

It is not too late for the people of this country to get together
and seek the right leader who can bring us to the Promised Land.
In the end, it is really only us who can set things right and not
the very politicians who represent the vested interests of the
oligarchs.

It is the middle class and the youth who should spearhead this
effort. Even the revolutions that pushed for a better deal for
the underprivileged of society — like the Russian and Chinese
Socialist Revolutions — were led by the middle class.

The sorry state of Philippine society is a failure of the middle
class. It is the middle class that's the repository of values
and the instigator of reform of a society.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Joke Time

Story 1

One dismal rainy night, a taxi driver spotted an arm waving from the
shadows of an alley halfway down the block. Even before he rolled to
a stop at the curb, a figure leaped into the cab and slammed the door.
Checking his rear view mirror as he pulled away, he was startled to
see a dripping wet, naked woman sitting in the back seat.

"Where to?" he stammered.

"Union Station," answered the woman.

"You got it," he said, taking another long glance in the mirror.

The woman caught him staring at her and asked, "Just what the
hell are you looking at, driver?"

"Well ma'am, I noticed that you're completely naked, and you don't
have any pockets or a purse, so I was just wondering how you'll
pay your fare."

The woman spread her legs, put her feet up on the front seat,
smiled at the driver and said, "Does this answer your question?"

Still looking in the mirror, the cabby asked, "Have you got
anything smaller?"


Story 2

A cabbie picks up a nun. She gets into the cab, and the cab
driver won't stop staring at her. She asks him why is he
staring and he replies, "I have a question to ask you but I
don't want to offend you."

She answers, "My dear son, you cannot offend me. When you're
as old as I am and have been a nun as long as I have, you get
a chance to see and hear just about everything. I'm sure that
there's nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive."

"Well, I've always had a fantasy to have a nun kiss me."

She responds, "Well, let's see what we can do about that:
#1, you have to be single and #2 you must be Catholic."

The cab driver is very excited and says, "Yes, I am single
and I'm Catholic too!

"OK" the nun says "Pull into the next alley" He does and the
nun fulfils his fantasy with a kiss that would make a hooker blush.

But when they get back on the road, the cab driver starts crying.

"My dear child,said the nun, why are you crying?"

"Forgive me sister, but I have sinned. I lied, I must confess,
I'm married and I'm Jewish."

The nun says, "That's OK, my name is Kevin and I'm on my way
to a Halloween party."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Just for Laughs: The Fourth Grader Pedro

It was the first day of school and a new student named Pedro Martinez, the son of a Mexican restaurateur, entered the fourth grade.

The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some American history. Who said 'Give me Liberty, or give me Death?'"

She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Pedro, who had his hand up. "Patrick Henry, 1775."

"Very good!" apprised the teacher. "Now, who said, 'Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth?'"

Again, no response except from Pedro. "Abraham Lincoln, 1863."

The teacher snapped at the class, "Class, you should be ashamed! Pedro, who is new to our country, knows more about its history than you do!"

She heard a loud whisper: "Screw the Mexicans!"

"Who said that?" she demanded.

Pedro put his hand up. "Jim Bowie, 1836."

At that point, a student in the back said, "I'm gonna puke."

The teacher glared and asked, "All right! Now, who said that?"

Again, Pedro. "George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991."

Now furious, another student yelled, "Oh yeah? Suck this!"

Pedro jumped out of his chair waving his hand and shouting to the teacher, "Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky, 1997!"

Now, with almost a mob hysteria, teacher said, "You little shit. If you say anything else, I'll kill you!"

Pedro frantically yelled at the top of his voice, "Gary Condit to Chandra Levy, 2001."

The teacher fainted, and as the class gathered around her on the floor, someone said, "Oh shit, we're in BIG trouble now!"

Pedro whispered, "Saddam Hussein, 2003."

A POPE STORY

After getting all of Pope Benedict XVI's luggage loaded into the limo, the driver notices that the Pope is still standing on the curb.

"Excuse me, Your Eminence," says the driver, "Would you please take your
seat so we can leave?

"Well, to tell you the truth," says the Pope, "they never let me drive at
the Vatican, and I'd really like to drive today."

"I'm sorry but I cannot let you do that. I'd lose my job! And what if
something should happen?" protests the driver, wishing he'd never gone to
work that morning.

"There might be something extra in it for you," says the Pope.

Reluctantly, the driver gets in the back as the Pope climbs in behind the
wheel. The driver quickly regrets his decision when, after exiting the
airport, the Supreme Pontiff floors it, accelerating the limo to 105 mph.

"Please slow down, Your Holiness!!!" pleads the worried driver, but the Pope
keeps the pedal to the metal until they hear sirens.

"Oh, my God, I'm gonna lose my license," moans the driver.

The Pope pulls over and rolls down the window as the cop approaches, but the
cop takes one look at him, goes back to his motorcycle, and gets on the
radio.

"I need to talk to the Chief," he says to the dispatcher. The Chief gets on
the radio and the cop tells him that he's stopped a limo going a hundred and
five.

"So bust him," said the Chief.

"I don't think we want to do that, he's really important," said the cop.

Chief exclaimed, "All the more reason!"

"No, I mean really important," said the cop.

The Chief then asked, "Who ya got there, the Mayor?"

Cop: "Bigger."

Chief: "Governor?"

Cop: "Bigger."

Chief: "Well," said the Chief, "Who is it?"

Cop: "I think it's God!"

Chief: "What makes you think it's God?"

Cop: "He's got the Pope for a limo driver!"

Friday, January 4, 2008

No morals, no rules?

STRATEGIC PERSPECTIVE
René B. Azurin

"God is dead" is such a famous line from Nietzsche that
I remember it from my college days. I thus found it
familiar when his character in a new film, When
Nietzsche Wept (by Pinchas Perry), bellows this line
and is then challenged, "But if God is dead, then
everything is permitted, no morals, no rules; without
God, who will organize our society?" I thought the
inverse of that question more appropriate today: if
those who govern our society act as if there are no
morals and no rules, does that mean that God is dead?

These aren't exactly Christmasy thoughts I know and
Perry's film is not quite what one should be watching on
Christmas eve. Still, the day before, I also received an
email from a friend who reacted to a recent column of mine
on corruption, should we still celebrate Christmas with so
many thieves around? My perhaps too flippant answer:
notwithstanding the proliferation of bandidos, we still
have to enjoy our existence. I am not sure that the unhappy
Nietzsche (who died poor and mad in 1900 after having laid
the foundation for the existentialists) would have approved
of that answer.

It is, obviously, difficult for the 3.8 million Filipinos
who find hunger part of their experience to enjoy their
existence even in the absence of news that our political
leaders use the people's money to annually lavish on
themselves billions and billions in pork barrel funds,
intelligence funds, social funds, contingency funds, and
whatever-else discretionary funds. But, news of such
looting by the people who run our society – like, just
recently, the casual pocketing of P500,000 gift bags and
P200,000 Christmas bonuses – undoubtedly make the
experience of scrounging for food infinitely more difficult
to bear. The disparity is just too grotesque. To
deliberately choose to steal from the people after they
had elected you to a position of power in the hope that
you could make their lives better and the society fairer
is perhaps more than moral callousness. It could be moral
bereftness.

One might wonder how morally bereft people get to govern
societies but another Friedrich, the economist Friedrich Hayek,
writing in 1944, already gave us an answer. In his perceptive
book The Road to Serfdom, Hayek wrote that "the political
ideals of a people… are as much the effect as the cause of the
political institutions under which it lives." That implies that
the morals that lead to such acts of public banditry are the
consequence of institutionalized characteristics of our political
system such as the poorly constrained power of our highest public
officials, the huge discretion given to them, and an extremely
weak and ineffective justice system. Let us admit: our political
ideals have been so compromised that we all tolerate politico
bandits when we should be demanding that they be put in jail and
ostracizing them until they make restitution. Instead, we even
celebrate them and don't bother to ask, why have you become so
rich after assuming a public office that pays so little? We have
become manhid to corruption.

In his book The Joyful Wisdom, Nietzsche has his madman running
around the marketplace announcing the death of God and crying
that "We have killed him!" Of course, we understand that
Nietzsche is referring to man's idea of God, the idea that
there is a supernatural being who cares about – and presides
over – man's affairs. Killing the God idea with science and
philosophy allowed the development of Nietzsche's concept of
the "Superman" who feels exempt from all systems of morality
and beyond any structure of law. The desire to prove that he was
one of them (some of us might recall) is what drove Raskolnikov
in Dostoevesky's classic Crime and Punishment to rob and murder.

I remember that this Nietzschean notion was also the hidden theme
of a late 80s film by Woody Allen (in my opinion, by the way, the
greatest film auteur of our times) called Crimes and Misdemeanors.
In it, one of the two main protagonists, after committing a murder
and suffering through several conscience-stricken weeks when "he
imagines that God is watching his every move", – he relates this
all later in the guise of describing a movie script – wakes up
one morning and finds that "the sun is shining, his family is
around him, (and) mysteriously the crisis has lifted." In his tale,
"he prospers, the killing gets attributed to another person… he's
scot free, his life is completely back to normal, back to his
protected world of wealth and privilege." (In other words, he
succeeds where Raskolnikov did not.) Defending such an ending, he
insists, "this is reality!"

To be free of conscience would certainly be liberating for thieves
and murderers. So, perhaps, that is what they are, these bandidos
masquerading as public officials: supermen not bound by conventional
morality and the strictures that restrain the rest of us ordinary
citizens. Creatures who plunder because they do not feel that this
is wrong and that there is any God to punish them anyway.

The answer Perry implies to the question posed in his film is that,
if God is dead and there are no rules, no organized society is
possible. Well, certainly, at least not one based on justice and
fairness.
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