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

A brave new world

It does seem like a brave new world out there, doesn’t it? One that is no longer bound by old conventions or even old sensibilities. It seems like the world has found a new normal, and many of us are floundering.

Take Rustom Padilla, f’rinstance. He’s gone from matinee idol, to husband of one of the most attractive girls in show business, to estranged hubby, to showbiz exile, to a wannabee come-backer, and finally to re-emerge again as – he says – a brand new person who wants to be called Bebe Gandanghari.

I have to admit, I was one of those at a loss at what to say when I saw Padilla – Gandanghari – sashaying onstage with all the trappings of a woman, but still being quite unmistakably a man.

Was it noble self-actualization – as one netizen put it?

ang galing niya, siya na ata ang pinakamatapang na taong nakilala ko ngayon. hindi takot na magpakatotoo. mas mabuti ng magpakatotoo kesa ang maging hipokrita.

Or was it a last ditch attempt at reviving a career which – while not exactly moribund – was certainly on the skids? So hard to tell, and so easy to heap accolades on someone for doing something different simply because he did something different. Just as it is incredibly easy to brand as bigots those who refuse to embrace Gandanghari as unquestioningly as Oprah might.

Here’s what I think: I think Rustom Padilla might’ve been heavily influenced by drag queens in the States. Seeing the lack of serious drag queenery in Philippine show business (the nightclub circuit of course not being considered showbiz in this discussion), seeing the lack of any serious chance of him standing out in the biz as yet another pigeonholed gay actor, and finding in himself both the predisposition and the courage to be Priscilla Queen of the Desert for this country, he took the plunge. 

But could it really have been as mercenary as that?

Why not?

He is, after all, an entertainer and all entertainers need something to set them apart from the crowd. Without the comedy chops of the other gay entertainers, without any stellar acting skillz to speak of, what else did he have going for him except his willingness to dive into the outrageous?

Of course, he’s not likely to admit to such a base motivation. Knowing our penchant for drama, the emergence of Bebe Gandanghari will evolve into some self-affirming act, complete with complex psychological underpinnings, butterfly imagery, and a Danton Remoto-esque social agenda. But in the end, I think it will all be revealed to be more a fabulous fight for continued relevance in a business that seemed on the verge of forgetting him, than anything else.

The bravery of this new world, we will find, is nothing more than an act of desperation.


Filed under: pop-culture, sex, society, , , , , , , ,

Wrong on so many levels

Like everyone else, I was really stoked to find out that Charice Pempengco, that little girl with the big growling voice, was going to sing at one of the pre-inaugural balls for the new American President.

At least I was until I found out what she was going to sing.

The kid is singing God Bless America. Now that is just so wrong on so many levels.

God Bless America, 
Land that I love. 
Stand beside her, and guide her 
Thru the night with a light from above. 
From the mountains, to the prairies, 
To the oceans, white with foam 
God bless America, My home sweet home.

While we must of course avoid being too literal minded about songs and such, the fact remains that this is not an ordinary song. As far as anthems go, God Bless America is right up there with the Star-Spangled Banner and Hail to the Chief. 

It’s a song that is so steeped in American tradition and sentiment that, one would think, it is a song that only an American should sing. Or a foreigner wanting to become an American.

After all, what is she supposed to sing? God Bless America, land that you love,  your home sweet home?


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

Raped at 12

From a a girl pregnant at eleven, we now have a girl raped at twelve. WTF is going on in the world?

The girl claimed she was raped in the mornings of June 16, June 17, Nov. 25, and Dec. 18 and in the afternoon of Dec. 28. The last incident happened on Jan. 5 when the teacher even allegedly said “Isa pa mamaya huh (Let’s do it again later).”

Almost makes you long for the good old days when criminals could still be drawn and quartered, don’t it?

Actually … news like this makes me think that maybe I should seriously consider homeschooling my future spawn.

In the nearer term, this sort of shit makes me wish that instead of bland and platitude-spouting politicians tooting their own horn, we had real choices with real platforms, especially platforms for improving the public education system and improving protection for children against known – or potential – sex offenders.

Now obviously, this particular predator isn’t the first – and sure as hell not the last – but I’ve got to wonder how these types get to be given the opportunity to be with kids at all.

Filed under: education, law and order, sex, society, , , ,

Unfinished Business

I felt sorry for myself that I had no shoes, ’til I saw a man with no feet.

But I still had no shoes, and no amount of sympathy from me could give the man back his feet.

So I walked on, gathering new blisters for every mile, even as the load on my back got heavier as I tired.

Eventually, bent double from my load and tracking bloody footsteps, I looked back and saw that the man still had no feet.

Then I realized I too still had no shoes. 

That’s my unfinished business.

Filed under: musings, society, ,


The PDI editorial says:

Or take the case of Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor. He took a call from the family of Richard Brodett, who was facing an investigation for drug dealing. He took it because he knew the parents of Brodett. He took it upon himself to inquire as to the status of the case, when “inquiries” by officials have become notorious as instances of influence peddling (“Will I still win by one million?” comes to mind). Blancaflor, by all accounts, is widely respected. He may have acted on the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. But these are times when deviating from official procedures by resorting to the gray areas, in which officialdom often tries to find ways to humanize the inexorable harshness of the law, has become increasingly impermissible.

The public has an increasing intolerance for such cases of official consideration because it has come to expect a more impersonal, and thus, equitable, approach to the justice process. We all know our institutions are understaffed and overworked. What we expect is the democracy of the queue and of not jumping the line merely on some official’s (well-intentioned or not) say-so.

First off, anyone – PDI editors included for sure – who has ever had any reason to deal with government above a certain level has called on a well-placed acquaintance to – at the very least – ‘follow up’ on his interests. And anyone who knows anything about this sort of shit should know that members of the media rank among the worst followers up. They throw their weight around for this friend or that relative and badger government officials to exert whatever influence they can to secure a positive outcome. And it doesn’t have to be blatant either. It can be as subtle as saying “I don’t care what the outcome is, as long as everything is done fairly and transparently and the truth comes out.” The problem with that, of course, is that people who say shit like that have often decided what the “truth” ought to be.

And because they have microphones bigger than their dicks, they come on strong – their words laced with the implicit threat of negative publicity in case they are rebuffed. So it smacks of irony that PDI should be taking this tone now: since they seem to acknowledge that even ‘inquiries’ are impermissible, why do they keep doing it? Why keep  on egging or even badgering government officials to do them ‘favors’ when those favors are the exact same things they then turn around and condemn?

And to add to the irony, the editorial attempts to paint the public as some morally outraged group that demands the democracy of the queue. HAH! What a load of bullcrap.

Your average Filipino cares nothing for the democracy of the queue if a means exists to shorten the wait. It’s when we see other people getting a jump on us that we complain. And no one is immune. It’s like that thing they say about money being the root of all evil: the only people who say that are those who don’t have money.  

Oh sure, there are those who make valiant attempts to stay in line but given the opportunity – and the probability of doing it with impunity – how many of those won’t take advantage? And how many of people of stature will stay away from situations where even their mere presence will influence the fate of the queue? 

Once I was talking to this very high-profile private lawyer – a public intellectual he was – who bitched endlessly about traffic. He ends his rant by saying: ‘when I get caught, I roll down my window and give the cop a chance to recognize me!’ HAH! I’ve wished often enough that my face could be just as effective a passport out of inconvenience. But since it isn’t, I rant and rave – however privately – about the injustice of it all.

A modern, democratic society substitutes official discretion and similar gray areas, for a fussy, often slow, and tedious devotion to doing everything by the book. Blancaflor is simply the latest example of the adjustments officials — and not just the public — have to endure, if we are to eliminate the more flexible but highly corruptible present for a more orderly and fair future.

Eliminate the highly flexible but more corruptible present? Might the PDI be talking about the endless calls for an extra-constitutional end to the Arroyo presidency? Might it be referring to how the media and the senate relentlessly pillory those that have the temerity to disagree with them? Or could it be referring to glorification of putschists like Trillanes who toss out the law to have tea-time at Oakwood, and then again at the Pen? 

The only difference between those examples and what’s going on with Blancaflor and those drugpushers is that with Blancaflor, it looks like the extra-legal route is going to benefit the perceived bad guys. But hell, if those drugpushers had been savvy enough to gain the sympathy of the public – maybe they should’ve told their friends to blog about what nice boys they actually are – no one would be raising so much as a squeak now. HAH! So much for the wisdom of the mob.

In a perverse way, the editorial might actually be read as a lamentation on the fate of Blancaflor, but the PDI’s predisposition to pander to the righteous outrage of a public that feels it’s been one upped – and it’s track record of throwing its weight behind moves to undermine the rule of law in favor of swifter and seemingly poetic justice – tarnishes what might’ve been a refreshingly honest piece. 

Because it is true that even honest and upstanding government officials do try to accomodate requests as best they can without crossing over the line into impropriety; and it is true that our culture places extreme pressures on each of us to bend over backwards for people who invoke friendship, blood, and mercy; and because it is true that a strict democracy of the queue would be a wonderful thing.

But because the PDI couldn’t resist taking the pulpit with it’s holier-than-thou shtick, it missed the opportunity to rise above the fray – demonstrating only that, like the rest of us, that mighty newspaper is just as prone to castigating people for doing as we do, instead of as we say.

Filed under: journalism, law and order, news, society, , , ,

Land Reform

Seriously. What is the argument for land reform?

The Inquirer’s Juan Mercado published a summary of angry reactions from – apparently – land holders and those comments beg the question: shouldn’t land reform, as our law defines it and puts it into practice, be revisited at least?

Filed under: society, ,

Is it wrong?

Caffeinesparks called it the “inane platitudes of those who would seek greatness where there is none.” Marocharim spun off an angry manifesto about it. And yet, all Alex Lacson really did was to propose a little bit of gratitude and positive thinking.

Izzat so wrong?

I see nothing in Lacson’s article that suggests any sort of surrender to the shitty way things are. Lacson does not advocate burying our heads in sand, nor does he say that we live in a social paradise. All I see is a listing of things we can be thankful for and suggestions of where we might draw inspiration from, presumably to struggle our fight to uplift ourselves. All Lacson really says is that we shouldn’t consider ourselves – in Marocharim’s words – an embarassment. 

Izzat so wrong?

It would be wrong, I suppose, if one were to heed Lacson’s advice to “have a positive and healthy image of ourselves” and stop there – happily wallowing in what we call our greatness. And perhaps that is what Marocharim and Sparks are railing against: our tendency to be overawed by our perceived heroism and magnificence that we slip into complacency. 

Make no mistake about it: we do tend to rest even on those laurels we crown ourselves with. benign0 would prolly call that the shawarma effect or something – whatever his latest buzzword happens to be; I call it the golden age syndrome – or at least a variation of it: the predisposition to fixating on what is good about us, to the point of ignoring what is wrong about us.

But see, one of the things wrong about us is that we also tend to beat ourselves senseless about our inadequacies. We do so like to wallow in our misery and to thunder at the heavens for not giving us everything we want. Nothing wrong with that either, but if that’s all you do, well then, you have a problem.

A negative outlook is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like fear, it enervates you to the point of paralysis. And when you are drowning in your own despair, how can you fight your way out of it?

You can be angry, as Marocharim is; or resentful, as Sparks says she is. But at the end of the day, what does your anger and resentment net you? Nothing but more reason to be angry and resentful.

Positivity, on the other hand, allows you to accept that things are shitty, but that there are still some things you can do to make things a little less the color of crap. Maybe not big things that will shake the world necessarily, but things that can bring about change nonetheless. 

Of course, positivity is not in vogue. It is often seen as pathetic or sterile. But is relentless anger better? 

Positivity and anger are two sides of the same coin. We can work for the betterment of society – and our lives – fueled by the belief that we are intrinsically capable of being better than we are; or we can work for the betterment of society – and our lives – fueled by rage at the way things are. 

Without a doubt, either approach untempered by its opposite, is fraught with peril. Too much positivity and you become Barney; on the other hand, too much anger and you become just another angry man, shaking his fist at the world and never quite managing to get his arms around it.

The trick, therefore, is to find the happy union of these two extremes. A middle way that acknowledges the power of each, without lapsing into saccaharine pap or vitriol.

Filed under: society, , , ,

Manila Mediocre Film Festival

Tonight, watching the awarding ceremonies for the 2008 MMFF, I couldn’t help but cringe when the nominees for a special Gat-something award – supposedly for showcasing Philippine culture and values – was read out and included movies like One Night Only and Desperadas. My mom shushed me and told me that all movies were in the running since they were in the Festival after all.

And then the nominees for best actress were read and the list included Marian Rivera and Diana Zubiri? OMFG. When Anne Curtis hyperventilated clutching her trophy, I couldn’t help but think two things: first, I wondered how victory could NOT taste like ashes in her mouth; and second, that there was a time, not too long ago, when the Manila Film Festival wasn’t held because there were no movies deemed good enough. 

I have nothing against comedy movies winning major acting or production awards – even best movie awards; and I have nothing against young actors winning recognition for their work as well. But for crying out loud, have we been reduced to giving out awards to the best among the mediocre? Is this the genius way we’ve stumbled upon to promote the film industry?



God help us all.

Filed under: movies, society, vacuity, , , , , , ,

Pregnant at eleven

In the UK, an eleven year old girl is pregnant.

Wow, right? And the wow doesn’t end there. 

The girl started smoking at 9, drinking at 10, and in a drunken moment when she was 11, had her cherry popped and got knocked up by her 15 year-old boyfriend. Now, eight months preggers, she still smokes about 20 cigs a day. And her momma is proud of her.

Many of us, when we first read the story of this 11 year old brit will prolly shrug our shoulders and mouth some pious bullshit about how westerners are so immoral and how family life has broken down so completely over there. 

But how about this? In the Philippines – where people wear their religion on their sleeve, and parents proudly proclaim how they make it a point to share quality time with their kids –  an eleven year old girl is pregnant too. 

I doubt that she’s as brazenly vice-riddled as the Brit girl – that sort of thing just doesn’t fit the Filipino upper middle class aesthetic – but apparently, something’s just as wrong here as there. The Filipina pre-teen mama goes to a Catholic school run by nuns, and apparently, she’s carrying her and her driver’s love-child. Yes. She has a driver – paid for by her parents – with whom she supposedly carried on a romantic relationship.  

Wow, right?

When i first stumbled across this story – it’s just now starting to buzz through the social networks – my first reaction was to wish all manner of plague on the driver. It was rape, after all. Regardless of the level of the girl’s consent – even, in fact, if she had initiated sexual contact – her age makes it rape. There is no defense for the driver (unless he can prove that a gun was held to his head) so, yeah, shoot the damned pervert. Or at least send him to some jail where he can learn first hand the meaning of the word sodomy.

But the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that there was no way I could stop at the driver. And more importantly, there was no way that I could wait for a slow and careful settling of blame. Still, absent a clearer picture of what really happened, that may be exactly what we’re gonna get. 

Nevertheless, we have to acknowledge that society failed this young girl. And if she – with all the privilege apparently available to her – could go this way, you can just imagine what a minefield pre-puberty can be for those not so privileged.

We live in incredibly permissive times when children are exposed – daily – to sex and sexuality without the benefit of guidance from parents who are too busy making or spending money; we have a government that is so servile to religious institutions that it has failed to take even the most basic steps towards protecting the young by providing them with age-appropriate education about their bodies; and worse, we have an entertainment industry that when it isn’t promoting the fairy-tale concept of sex as ‘cool’ and casual recreation devoid of serious consequence, relentlessly romanticizes sex as the logical and imperative climax of a loving relationship.

Don’t get me wrong. Sex is fun and sex is the logical and imperative climax of a loving relationship. But that concept is something you want to share only with people who have matured enough that they’re able to hold their desires in check. You teach that shit to young kids – bundles of appetite and id – and you know you’re headed for trouble.

I don’t know how they do things over their in the UK, but I do know that we as a society are not doing right by our kids. Maybe it’s time we accept that and start doing something to rectify the situation.

Filed under: Quick Posts, sex, society, , , ,

Like Cats

Some bloggers are like cats

Even at Christmastime.


Filed under: society, ,