Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for 2009

Be inspired by meeting the 2009 Ramon Magsaysay awardees:

  1. Krisana Kraisintu (Thailand) for "placing pharmaceutical rigor at the service of patients, through her untiring and fearless dedication to producing much-needed generic drugs in Thailand and elsewhere in the developing world."
  2. Deep Joshi (India) for "his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India, by effectively combining 'head' and 'heart' in the transformative development of rural communities."
  3. Yu Xiaogang (China) for "his fusing the knowledge and tools of social science with a deep sense of social justice, in assisting dam-affected communities in China to shape the development projects that impact their natural environment and their lives."
  4. Antonio Oposa, Jr. (Philippines) for "his pathbreaking and passionate crusade to engage Filipinos in acts of enlightened citizenship that maximize the power of law to protect and nurture the environment for themselves, their children, and generations still to come."
  5. Ma Jun (China) for "his harnessing the technology and power of information to address China's water crisis, and mobilizing pragmatic, multi-sectoral, and collaborative efforts to ensure sustainable benefits for China's environment and society."
  6. Ka Hsaw Wa (Burma) for "his dauntlessly pursuing non violent yet effective channels of redress, exposure, and education for the defense of human rights, the environment, and democracy in Burma."

The awarding ceremonies will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Monday August 31 (a holiday). The public is invited. Free entrance.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Chinese New Year Proposed As National Holiday

I have just learned from the online version of China View that our congressmen "are deliberating on a bill to declare Chinese lunar new year a regular national holiday." The entire article is reproduced below verbatim for the reader's quick reference:

Chinese lunar new year might become national holiday in Philippines too

MANILA, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Philippine lawmakers are deliberating a bill to declare Chinese lunar new year a regular national holiday, along side with New Year's Day, Christmas, Independence Day and 16 others.

The House of Representatives reported over the weekend that the bill, which would strengthen the relationship between Filipinos and Chinese/Chinese-Filipinos, has passed a Committee reading and it is on its way to the plenary deliberation.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the bill was drafted to recognize the contributions of Chinese-Filipinos and of their rich cultural traditions. "Considering our long relations with the Chinese, many of whom have adopted the Philippines as their home, it is but just to help preserve some of their valued traditions," he said.

Chinese immigrants sailed to the Philippine archipelago long before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and the Spanish colonists in 16 century. From northern Luzon to southern Sulu, barter trade flourished. Chinese brought silk, porcelain, ornaments to exchange for tortoise shells, swallow nests and mother of pearl from the native.

Today, about 2 million Chinese immigrants settle down in the Philippines but cultural scholars said Filipinos who have Chinese ancestry could number 18 million, or 20 percent of the Philippine population. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former president Corazon Aquino and a number of the countries' wealthiest businessmen all known to have Chinese blood.

Lunar new year is the most widely celebrated holiday among Chinese communities around the world. The start of a year in the lunar calendar does not have a fixed date but usually falls in January or February. It is also the most important holiday for Chinese because it is one of the few moments that an extended family gathers.

But legalizing the lunar new year also faces hurdles as some congressmen say there are already too many holidays in the Philippines and might hurt the business productivity.

The World News, the most widely circulated Chinese-language newspaper in town, urged Chinese communities to mobilize all resources in pushing the legislation.

"As Filipino-Chinese, we aspire to have our ethnic holiday legalized as a regular one. It's important to us and now we have a chance," it said in Sunday's editorial.


What do you think of the proposed legislation for another regular holiday as detailed above? Is this a commendable move of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and other like-minded congressmen?

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Last Journey of Ninoy Aquino

Don't fail to watch this Sunday (August 23, 2009) at 10:30 p.m. over ABS-CBN and ANC the true-to-life film aptly title, The Last Journey of Ninoy: As Told Through the Last Interview of Cory.

The official trailer:

The write-up from the PCIJ Online:

IT TOOK Jun Reyes three years to do put together a 52-minute documentary on the last 10 days in the life of martyred opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr. from the time he left his family in Boston until he was felled by assassin’s bullets 26 years ago.

And it may well be the best way of retelling The Last Journey of Ninoy: As Told Through the Last Interview of Cory. What will now be known as the valedictory interview with Cory Aquino was captured on camera just a little over four months before her own death last August 1.

The digital docu-drama was born out of director Reyes’s desire to make a “timeless film” about Ninoy. He wanted “a film that will make him real to audiences who have never witnessed him alive nor remember him for what he has done—hoping to inspire future generations, to spread Ninoy’s ideals and to make him known as more than just the face on our 500-peso bill.”

“The film (is) told from two voices and points of view only: Ninoy’s and Cory’s. The stories of these two unique individuals—their struggles & victories, the transformation of Ninoy from a man-of-the-world to a spiritual man, and Cory as a loving witness to all these, (is) heard and seen throughout the film,” said Reyes, great grandson of the late Severino Reyes of the Lola Basyang fame.

The documentary became a fitting tribute to Ninoy and had its public screening at the Rockwell cinema in commemorating the 26th year of Ninoy Aquino’s death.

According to Rapa Lopa, project director of the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation, Inc., the film will be taken to the different colleges and universities across the country for viewing. This would be part of the campaign to create wider awareness on the sacrifices of Ninoy for democracy and freedom in the country.

“The past 25 years since Ninoy Aquino’s death have witnessed a creeping amnesia in the national psyche,” notes Lopa.

“Ninoy’s legacy of spiritual transformation, heroism and commitment to democracy has slowly been dissipated by the gradual erosion of our democratic institutions and the weakening of our collective initiative for change. The nation is experiencing the fading of memories of the historic struggles that led to the Filipino’s glorious shining moment.”

The Last Journey of Ninoy: As Told Through the Last Interview of Cory takes an intimate look at the man — his strengths and weaknesses, his triumphs and failures, his dreams and fears, as well as his simple joys as a husband and family man. It presents a tapestry of insights on the man and the martyr in particular, and about the Filipino people in general.

Bam Aquino, who was picked to portray Ninoy in the re-enactment of some scenes in the film, observes that Ninoy and Cory looked like they were finishing each other’s sentences in the way the events were presented using video clips of speeches of Ninoy and the interview of Cory done in March.

Bam’s father, Paul Aquino - younger brother of Ninoy - did the thought voice of Ninoy in the film. Both Bam and Paul were reluctant to do their respective parts, but were later persuaded upon learning that most of the people behind the project were doing it for free or for minimal fees.

Why did it take three years to make this film?

“Getting the funding was a challenge. Scripting and research took time also since it was a new format for us. Casting was likewise a challenge,” says Reyes.

The film has been rated General Patronage by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. It will be shown over ABS-CBN and ANC on Sunday, 10:30 p.m. as a tribute to both Ninoy and Cory.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Pres. Arroyo's $20,000 dinner tab

From the New York Post, self-explanatory:

August 7, 2009 --

THE economic downturn hasn't persuaded everyone to pinch pennies. Philippines President Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was at Le Cirque the other night with a large entourage enjoying the good life, even though the former comptroller of her country's armed services, Carlos Garcia, was found guilty earlier this year of perjury and two of his sons were arrested in the US on bulk cash-smuggling charges. Macapagal-Arroyo ordered several bottles of very expensive wine, pushing the dinner tab up to $20,000.


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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Remembering Cory Aquino (1933-2009)

Like many Filipinos, I haven't had the opportunity to personally meet Pres. Cory Aquino but I do cherish her memory. The following article was published by Time magazine on Jan. 5, 1987:

Woman of the Year: Cory Aquino, A Christmas Conversation

Throughout Malacanang Palace there was a festive air. In the hall below the President's office, a large Christmas tree stood festooned with white ribbons and ornaments. The weeks of coup rumors were over now, and the presidential staff was visibly relaxed. The 60-day cease-fire with the Communist insurgents was under way, despite some violations, bringing the promise of the first peaceful Christmas in the Philippines in 17 years. Dressed in a navy blue dress with red piping, President Aquino was in a holiday mood as she greeted Hong Kong Bureau Chief William Stewart and Manila Reporter Nelly Sindayen. At the end of the hour-long conversation, however, there was a moment of great poignancy. As she spoke about her memories of her husband and her obligations to her country, the President's eyes filled with tears. It was, by all accounts, the first time she has cried in public since becoming Chief Executive.

Excerpts from the talk:

Q. How do you feel after ten months as President?

A. Well, much better, of course. Ten months of experience is definitely very helpful. It's helped my self-confidence. It's still not an enjoyable task. I don't think it ever will be, but certainly it is most fulfilling. I think that's the rewarding aspect of the job.

Q. Why do you think that you have become such a worldwide phenomenon?

A. Well, both my parents influenced me a lot. While it is true we were very comfortable, we never had too much. My mother saw to it that we would appreciate everything that we had. As she put it, it was not good to have anything in excess. It was also impressed upon us that we should respect our elders. I remember when I was little, they said I asked a lot of questions. It wasn't the thing to do at the time. But it was a very happy childhood. Because we had such a close-knit family, I was determined that I should also be very attentive to my children.

Q. People often comment on your remarkable composure. Does some of this come from your family?

A. I think from my father. He was very calm. I don't remember him getting angry very often. In fact, in my whole childhood, he scolded me only once. He was so quick to forgive that it was difficult to understand. My mother was not so forgiving. She was more the fighter. This is where I must get it from. Normally I'm a peaceful person, but if I am threatened, I fight back. I'm not about to take everything that comes to me.

Q. Did your husband have great influence on you?

A. From the beginning. There were many things I didn't have to do when I was single that I had to do once I was married. During his campaign for mayor of Concepcion, I was very shy. When I felt that people were looking at me, I just wanted to hide. So my husband really forced me to come out in public. I would have done anything but that. I had to ride in a carabao ((water buffalo)) cart so that people could say, "Look, Ninoy's wife may have studied in New York and she may come from a wealthy family, but she can ride in a carabao cart." This was not my idea. We walked in the rice fields, and once we had to cross a stream. It was thigh deep. I looked at that water and thought, Am I supposed to wade in there? So I called to Ninoy, and I was expecting him to help since we had been married only a year. But he called to one of his security men and said, "Carry her." (groaning and laughing) I would have gladly waded in, but here I was in the arms of one of his security men. I was so angry and thought, Gosh, the least he could have done was carry me. We slept that night in one of the barrio homes that didn't have a bathroom, and I said, "Ninoy, you know I really have to go to the bathroom." And he said, "There's a pineapple can." (great laughter) I said, "Oh, no! There's nothing else in the house?" And he said, "No." Later, he said it was my baptism by fire. And I thought to myself, What did I do to marry somebody like this?

Q. Did things change after your husband was elected mayor?

A. No. We lived for two years in the little town of Concepcion, where we had electricity only from 6 in the evening to 6 in the morning. I would think to myself, This is getting to be too much. Then I got to be a soap-opera addict. It was the only thing to keep me company, so I'd listen to the radio. Thank God for transistor radios! I also learned how to knit, things I wasn't particularly attracted to before. Suddenly I became such a homebody, knitting while listening to soap operas. Then trying to cook. It was really a very boring existence. If I hadn't had my religion and made my vows to stick with this man for better or worse, maybe I would have had second thoughts.

Manila was only 2 1/2 hours away, and I used any excuse I could think of to get to Manila. First I decided I was not going to get a pediatrician from the provinces. I told Ninoy, "Look, this is our first child, and let's have the best pediatrician for her." So, naturally, once a month, I had to bring her to the doctor in Manila.

Sometimes I used to think, What's happening to me? For a time I thought I couldn't speak English anymore because I had nobody to talk to. I really deteriorated. Nobody wore shoes there because it was so dusty. We wore "step- ins." We went to the local movie, but there were fleas and bedbugs galore, so we'd have to bring our raincoats to put on the chairs. (more laughter) I guess I must really have been in love with my husband to have put up with all of this. He used to tease me later that those were the happiest years of my life, and I would say, "Oh, definitely not!" Then it occurred to me that maybe he had thought all this out so that I would be prepared for everything else.

Q. Were you interested in politics?

A. Oh, yes. It was just that . . . well, I marveled at my mother-in-law ((Dona Aurora Aquino)) and how she could campaign. She was perfect at it; she could give speeches. And I thought, Thank God she can do this for me! She was the type who could kiss babies. As the wife of the mayor in Concepcion, I was expected to go to every wake. Initially, the corpses would be in a bed with just a sheet or curtain over them. My mother-in-law could handle all this, but it was all I could do to look at them. Many nights I could not sleep. And sometimes Ninoy promised the widow that we would look after the children. And I would say, "Oh, Ninoy, did you really say that? We already have a child." Talk of culture shock! After spending seven years of my life in New York, to come to this small town where everybody wanted to know how we lived, what we ate! As I said, it must have been because I loved my husband so much.

Q. Was your husband religious then?

A. That came with jail. His incarceration certainly improved him. And improved me. And also our children. In the past, I had figured that so long as I didn't do any mean things, I'd be O.K. In other words, it was a negative thing rather than something positive. But once he was in prison, it brought out a whole new ( set of values for both of us. In the past, he had concentrated on how to get to the presidency, and everything was just concentrated on that goal. For my part, I had followed the path of least resistance: O.K., if I have to show myself, I'll do it. But I didn't go beyond that. I didn't go beyond people I knew. I just didn't reach out. Then, all of a sudden, with my husband in prison, he was suffering, I was suffering. Yet we knew that others were worse off. We didn't have to worry about where our next meal was coming from or whether our children could go to school. So then, I guess, I started to worry about other people. I guess I identified myself with the victims of Marcos' injustice.

Q. Do you believe God has a plan for you?

A. God has a plan for all of us, and it is for each of us to find out what that plan is. I can tell you that I never thought the plan was for me to be President. But it seems it is. During these past ten months, I really believe it has been necessary to have a woman in this position. Women are less liable to resort to violence than men, and at this time in my country's history, what is really needed is a man or woman of peace.

Q. Do you think the cease-fire with the Communists will work?

A. I always believe in trying.

Q. Have you had special troubles because you are a woman?

A. At one point last year, when my opposition colleagues told me not to go to the UNIDO convention, I made it clear to them, "Look, you people are probably all smarter than I am. You may even be right 95% of the time. But I think that maybe 5% of the time I may have some of the right answers. And I am not going to allow myself to be coerced into not doing something I believe I should do. You always say I am very important to you. If I'm so important, why can't I do what I want to do?" So I made it very clear to them that either I do what I believe I should do, or else let's call it quits. That was a turning point for me.

Q. What do you hope for most for the Philippines, and what do you think, realistically, is possible?

A. What I hope for most, what I believe people really want, is a chance to live in peace and the opportunity for a decent life. I always say that my first priority is to generate enough jobs for the unemployed. If I can just come closer to that goal, I think maybe I will have done my job. People really ask for so little. During the floods and typhoons, when I go out and deliver ; relief goods, there is so much appreciation and gratitude in their faces that I think to myself, Gosh, what are we really doing? It's only a little rice, a little food. Yet they are so appreciative. They're not asking me for big things, so if I can just give them the basics . . . They're not even asking for homes. All they're asking for is a job.

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