I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.


Now, his memory will be emblazoned on shirts sold by some popular local brands, on billboards along the capital’s major avenues, on television, in the newspapers and on the Internet.

That’s the iamninoy project in a nutshell: a merchandising campaign that prostitutes Ninoy Aquino’s image (euphemistically called his ‘memory’) in the same way that Che Guevarra’s handsome mug is now seen on everything from t-shirts to toilet seat covers (i kid you not!). Way to go spreading “the man’s spirit and values within pop culture.”

The “iamninoy” collectible merchandise—mostly clothes, eyewear and sports gear—will bear an image of Aquino’s eyeglasses as the campaign icon.

“The idea is to inspire young Filipinos to look at where we are now and what is it that we need to change in ourselves, so in the process we can change the country,” Raphael Lopa, executive director of the foundation, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.

“It’s seeing the country in Ninoy’s eyes,” Lopa said.

I own a heath ledger-as-the-Joker t-shirt. I suppose “the man’s spirit and values” are ingrained in me now. Wait … why so serious, Mr. Lopa? LOL!

This moronic scheme, hatched by the Benigno Aquino Jr. Foundation, “ride(s) the buying trend of the young Filipinos of today.”

“Young people want to buy things [and] we thought that if they buy a Ninoy shirt, they may be inspired to claim ownership of his values and beliefs, his fight for freedom and justice,” Lopa said.

So, it’s not just a crass attempt at cashing in on Ninoy’s death, its also a way of promoting crass commercialism. As if having a Starbucks franchise within the school grounds of a high-school campus weren’t bad enough, we have to wrap consumerism in the flag and tell kids – a vast majority of whom spend money they haven’t earned – it’s ok to buy stuff because it might – MIGHT – inspire you to fight for freedom and justice. What stupidity is that?

ninoy is not bono

The “iamninoy” project was inspired by rock star and activist Bono, who launched “Project Red” in 2006 to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa, and bicycle racer Lance Armstrong for his “Livestrong” campaign to help people with cancer live healthy lives.

The two men partnered with several companies to offer products under their respective campaigns to raise funds for their causes.

Here’s where the Foundation started to screw up, thinking that Ninoy is Bono. Both the Red and Livestrong projects are fund raisers. These are attempts at creative capitalism where the consumerism of the haves is made somehow beneficial for the have-nots.

Believe it or not, people who buy Red products or those yellow baller IDs don’t really bother learning about AIDS or cancer. It is enough for them to know that a bit of their money went to some kid with HIV or to some cancer victim. It’s a frigging psychological comfort; a salve for the guilt that comes with the power to purchase.

But that isn’t the avowed purpose of the iamninoy project, is it?

Said Lopa: “With this campaign, we want the young people to see the country and [its] problems and create a full experience of having to make a very important choice, like what Ninoy did, [that may eventually change] the destiny of our country.”

IS the purchase of an iamninoy product supposed to make Ninoy more significant in your life? Are you going to look at your Ninoy t-shirt and go “what would ninoy do?” Is your Ninoy wristwatch going to make you more punctual? Or prevent you from slipping that hundred peso bill to the traffic cop who pulled you over for running the rd light because you were late for work? HAH! Not fucking likely.

Ninoy isn’t Bono; Ninoy isn’t Lance Armstrong; and even if you got every single fucking Ninoy collectible, you are not fucking going to be Ninoy.

Ninoy who?

In fact, who is Ninoy, and what makes him a hero?


What does Ninoy actually represent, other than that he was a victim of a dictator (just like hundreds of other public intellectuals, labor leaders, journalists, and so on)?

Kids today don’t know squat about him, or about what he did. His place in our pantheon of heroes was secured for him by the fact that he was assassinated. Prior to that, he was just one of the many who were victimized by the Marcoses. Fine, he was primus inter pares or something, but at the end of the day, I tend to admire more those who stayed and lived their lives in constant danger of death, rather than those who fled.

I mean, Joma is in the Netherlands, isn’t he? And don’t we all laugh at how he runs the communists here by remote control? Well, if you’re being honest about it, that was exactly what Ninoy’s exile was all about.In the meantime that he was gone, people at home were being harassed, hounded into the hills, and getting impoverished by the importunings of the dictator.

The only time he returned was when, according to him, he felt that the time was right to convince Marcos to hand over the reins of government to him in order to prevent the turmoil that would inevitably result when Marcos died and his lieutenants began fighting for their share of empire (kinda like how Alexander’s generals – Ptolemy and all the rest – carved up Alexander’s empire into smaller kingdoms). Sure he braved death, but at least part of that bravery was openly motivated by the will to power. Not very heroic that, eh?

Ah, but here’s the prestige.

When he returned and died everyone rallied around him as a SYMBOL. And that’s what made him the hero he is today. As heroes go, he is being packaged as a kind of messianic figure – a secular Jesus almost – whose greatest contribution was that his death moved US to fight for our freedom.

Get that right.

Ninoy Aquino’s death didn’t free us.

We freed ourselves.

What sets him apart from all his peers – people like Tanada and Salonga – is that his death happened at the right time and under the right circumstances that allowed it to be used by US as the seed of OUR revolution. The idea of him being killed by the dictator gave us the focal point we needed for our simmering discontent to boil over into massive mobilization. Except, of course, if Ninoy hadn’t died, he would have succeeded Marcos (prolly) and his feet would be touching the same base clay as Salonga and Tanada, and the discontent would have escaped into the atmosphere as nothing more than so much vented steam.

In fact, the EDSA revolution wasn’t even about Ninoy, was it? It was about Enrile and Ramos battling their way out of corners they’d found themselves painted into. It was Cardinal Sin who turned it into a Ninoy Aquino lovefest – and to great effect. The soldiers Enrile and Ramos were smart enough to recognize a tactical advantage and were quick to jump on the bandwagon.

But when the smoke had cleared, the two soldiers parted ways: Enrile clandestinely sought to continue his coopted coup – making the Cory Administration the most coup-bedeviled regime; while Ramos embraced the new order and ended up President.

iamninoy positioning Ninoy Aquino as the coffee-club hero

But no one remembers that now. Or at least, no one wants to remember it that way. Which isn’t to say that Ninoy is no longer relevant.

The cool kids and the kids with money to burn on iamninoy merchandise, they’re the same untethered bunch who, in between cups of coffee frap, cast about for an intellectual way of fighting the perceived injustices of a system that is – all things considered – treating them pretty well. And Ninoy is nothing if not a hero on an intellectual level in that his heroism is is rooted in the willingness to sacrifice a comfortable life for a higher goal – something that the coffee-sipping clique all loudly proclaim from the comfort and security of their middle-class lives. And so, it is a perfect fit.

Radical street fighters love Bonifacio the brawler; while the cool, coffee-club kids who rail against injustice at Starbucks adore Ninoy (when they bother to think about it, at least) who won the martyrdom they’ve all convinced themselves they will be capable off – when the time is right to leave the latte behind. And the iamninoy merchandise? Well, it’s a way of proclaiming that capability to all and sundry, without having to say a word.


All that aside …

As an aside – if the idea is to get kids to buy this crap to give them an entry point to some nobler ideas like patriotism, then what entry point will there be for kids who can’t afford to buy the merchandise? Oh, but I forget, this campaign isn’t really high-minded enough to aspire for any kind of egalitarianism, is it? It’s targeted at kids who have money to burn.


Filed under: Filipino, politics, pop-culture, society, vacuity, ,

Manny Pacquiao is not the Philippines

Manny Pacquiao is a superlative athlete. After his win over Diaz today, I heard people referring to him as the best pound-for-pound fighter today. Whatever that means. So, yeah, its a given: the boy can box. But since we’re Filipinos, you can expect that there will inevitably be an orgy of race-based self-congratulations where everybody will take as much credit – no matter how vicariously – as they can for the awesome felling of Diaz.

Stupid stupid stupid. Today was not a victory for Filipinos; it was the victory of a Filipino.

First of all, talent and skill at any discipline is never a function of race. It is a result of natural ability, good training, and dedication to craft. Manny has all three; despite his frequent -and frequently abortive – forays into non-boxing pursuits, his dedication to the sport cannot be questioned. When he starts training, he fucking disappears, except when Roach says the world can see him again. The sad truth is, Pacquiao could be ethnically Mexican and he would still be as good.

Secondly, Pacquiao’s Filipino-ness is totally eclipsed by the fact that his boxing ability is honed by foreigners. This means that he is not the product of Filipino intelligence and values, but of foreign, specifically American.


Remember Rocky IV (I think)? Dolph Lundgren played the role of Drago – the Siberian Express. A fucking giant of a man who felled Apollo Creed, then a symbol of America.

Drago was the product of Russian technology (yes, he shot steroids and so was a fucking cheat), and his training was directed by Russian values – a cinematic exaggeration of course, and prolly not an accurate representation – and intelligence. He was, therefore, Mother Russia focused to a laser point in one man.

By contrast, Apollo Creed embodied American disdain for its enemy. He trained lackadaisically, owing to the belief that Russians were inferior and could therefore do nothing to threaten the superior American – and by extension, American superiority. Creed died.

Then comes Rocky. Rocky represented a return to the core values that made America great: hard work, building strength through adversity (Hitlerian shadows there), and individual triumph over deprivation. In the final fight, Rocky brought to the ring everything that Americans believed good about themselves, and clashed with everything the Russians thought admirable about themselves. And since it was an American movie, American values won. Rocky was America.

Manny Pacquiao is NOT the Philippines. He did not go into the ring bearing anything even remotely Filipino, unless you count his rosary and his devout rituals. While it can be said that at least that aspect of him represented us Filipinos – in the sense that almost by default, we think adversity can be beaten by prayer – everything else he needed to secure a tangible victory came from his American trainor – and by extension, America.


I can hear howls of protest: he embodies perseverance under extreme personal adversity – isn’t that Filipino? Yes, it is. However, so did Navarette, so did Velasco, and so did that other guy who looked like my college classmate. But where are they now, eh?

The truth is, Pacquiao’s perseverance under extreme personal adversity was enough to get him knocking on the door of greatness. Beyond that door, how can that perseverance matter? He’s not even in adversity anymore. Beyond that door, other values and traits start taking precedence.

In the case of other almost-great Filipinos, the traits we’ve most often seen are hubris, self-indulgence, and terminal cases of persecution complexes. These things we see everyday in our neighbors and in ourselves; and it takes a deliberate effort of will – also known as discipline – to overcome them. Are we – in general – a disciplined people?

And third, the victory of one Filipino says nothing – absofuckinglutely nothing – about Filipinos in general. Despite Manny, far too many Filipinos are still lazy, unimaginative, and mediocre; far too many of our youth are pathologically enamored with consumerism; and we are still a nation run by morons, who are ‘fiscalized’ by idiots, with running commentary from mercenary retards.

Filed under: Filipino, musings, sports,

It’s what today?

When the taxi driver greeted me with a ‘hapi independens day, mam!’ I had a brief moment of ‘it’s what today?’

When i recovered my wits, I was mortified.

This, i think, is the reason why the independence day holiday should never be moved to the nearest monday or whatever. With all the things you need to do just to survive, the higher things – like remembering to commemorate Independence – tend to get snowed under. If today were a holiday, Independence day would have been the first thing on my mind. Instead, all I could think about was making my ten o’clock meeting.

To a large extent, forgetting was a personal failure. But still, I was pissed to find out that I wasn’t alone in my lapse. After being reminded by that taxi driver, I made it a point to put on a bright smile and greet everyone a happy independence day. Most of the people I greeted returned the same blank stare that I’m sure I gave the taxi-guy. And like me, those blank stares were quickly replaced with memory and a mumbled, ‘I forgot.’

But that’s not the worst of it.

There were some people who just looked at me with a kind of sneer and said, ‘so what?’ They knew it was independence day, but they didn’t care.

This is the kind of trivialization of important observances – independence day included – that ‘holiday economics’ promotes. It kills our sense of history, numbing us to the sacrifices of our forebears and thereby robbing us of the ability to see ourselves as being part of the tapestry of history – if nothing else, then as inheritors of people who fought and died for the freedoms we now take for granted. It’s shameful, I tell you.

By reducing independence day to the status of just-another-excuse-to-skip-work we are slowly but surely inducing a national amnesia of our forefathers’ sacrifices, and we make ourselves more and more incapable of asking what we can do for our country and our people. Instead, we find it ever easier to ask only what our country and our people should do for us.

Without reminders of our place in history, we tend to focus only on what we need to do to ensure individual survival, reducing the national psyche to subsistence levels, and inculcating in us a pathologically mendicant mentality. Ultimately, this will result in psychic stagnation – the state of being so fixated with the here and now, with what our entitlements are, and with the utter sense of despair that we never get everything we have convinced ourselves we unconditionally deserve that we can no longer imagine – much less work for – a grand future.

I’m sorry I forgot it was independence day. I will not forget again.

Filed under: Filipino, musings, politics, pop-culture,

Bashing versus Praise: A synthesis of sorts

So far, these are the positive Filipino traits that my little brainstorming exercise netted. Fourteen positive traits as opposed to thirty-three negative traits.

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Filipino Bashing v. Filipino Praise


I’ve received some CONTRIBUTIONS to my positive and negative lists; and the suggestion that a third list be added – “Interesting.” I’m not sure exactly what would fit under that category, but I’m gonna give it a whirl.

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