EDSA: HIGHWAY OF THE STARS

Lifestyle

EDSA: HIGHWAY OF THE STARS

No Comments 30 May 2010

When going down EDSA, try playing the Celebrity Spotting game – point out as many celebrities as you can see on the road. From SM North to the end of the MRT station, it is easy for the gamers to rack up a shared fifty sightings. Fifty, you may think, seems like an exaggerated number. It isn’t. There are celebrities on billboards. There are celebrities on buses. There are celebrities on MRT banners. There are celebrities on roadside store signages. There are celebrities on huge tarpaulins plastered against malls. Since the advertisements that feature the celebrities are often current, you can more or less gauge who’s the hot celebrity of the moment. If Hollywood has its Walk of Fame, Manila has EDSA, the Highway of the Stars! READ FULL STORY

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ISLAND PARADISE IN THE PACIFIC

Travel

ISLAND PARADISE IN THE PACIFIC

1 Comment 26 May 2010

By Maribel Castillo

Like many Filipino empty nesters residing abroad, my husband and I have come to that point in our lives when travel to parts unknown has become a much-anticipated annual ritual and a well-deserved reward for years of hard work in a foreign land. We pore over travelogues, scour the shelves of the local library’s travel section, and roam the internet for interesting and affordable travel finds. Too often, like many kababayans, we overlook our own backyard in search of that perfect vacation paradise in exotic locales.

This year, we’re glad we didn’t.

We focused our searchlights on a tiny speck of land in the Pacific. Badian Island Resort and Spa is located on an island on the Tañon Strait, a protected seascape off Cebu. It was a gem of a find! Nestled on eight hectares of pristine white sandy beach fringed by swaying coconut trees, the island getaway easily rivals the best in the world, including world-famous waterfront playgrounds in Greece, Italy, Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Thailand and Bali.

We were picked up by a friendly guide at Cebu’s Mactan Airport for a comfortable two-and-a-half-hour drive through the Cebu countryside to the water’s edge. A motorized banca was waiting to ferry us across the crystal waters of Badian Bay and in 15 minutes, we could hear the strains of “Mabuhay” sung with gusto by a band of welcomers. It signalled the start of three days of unequalled pampering at the Badian Island Resort and Spa.

Badian Isaland long shot550

Range of accommodations

The resort has a range of accommodations, from the superbly crafted junior and family suites to the luxurious Thalasso Pool Villas, all tastefully furnished in the fashion of high-end resorts. The decor makes use of native materials such as nipa, capiz, tobacco leaves, shells, etc.

For those vacationers celebrating a special occasion such as a wedding, anniversary, retirement, or birthday, we recommend the ultimate in luxury – the Pool Villa. The Pool Villa has 96 square meters of well-appointed living area and is larger than most North American apartments! Add a sun-drenched deck and a lavish marble tub overlooking sparkling sea, sand, mountain, and blue sky and you have the recipe for a sublime holiday.

Tropical flowers greeted us everywhere! Strewn over the coffee table, on the king-size bed, floating in the tub, the flowers were harvested from the island’s lush vegetation. A luxuriant vine of bougainvilleas was draped over the sundeck, adding a splash of fuschia to the already brilliant tropical scene.

Over the top is what I would call the Pool Villa’s piece de resistance: a private plunge pool overlooking the bay. Our hosts urged us to soak in the pool’s ionized seawater which they say works to rejuvenate both body and soul.

Thalasso-Pools-550

Gastronomic adventure

Dining at Badian Island is a gastronomic adventure. Chef Menchu, a native of the Bicol region, works her magic on the bounty of the sea, foodstuff transported from the mainland of Cebu, as well as island-grown organic herbs and vegetables. The result is a blending of native sensibilities with European haute cuisine. Daily, she surprised us with a “Health & Beauty” menu consisting of local delicacies, and an array of delicious and exquisitely presented Japanese, European and American fare. Daily, the chef created original dishes of what could perhaps be described as fusion island cuisine.

The resort also has a well-stocked tropical bar right on the beach, where guests can enjoy an aperitif just before a beach-front or pool-side dinner.

There is no shortage of entertainment on the island. During our visit, our fellow guests – honeymooners, young families, and a big group of adventure bikers from Switzerland – were pleasantly surprised by the after-dinner entertainment. A troupe of young dancers from the island amazed us with traditional Philippine dance routines, featuring the always popular bamboo dance, the Tinikling. A talented pair of Cebuano singers — a balladeer and a jazz singer — regaled guests with all-time favorites. To cap the evening show, the more energetic guests were cajoled to dance to the reggae beat of the limbo rock, and the evening ended on a lively note.

Wellness Program

A highlight of our stay was a sampling of Badian’s famous Wellness Program, meticulously designed to renew each guest’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Asian beauty secrets blend with traditional beauty recipes as well as modern trends in wellness and health. The Spa’s Health and Beauty Coordinator plans and organizes a daily program together with the guest. For instance, a customized Health & Beauty Program could include: early morning stretching or dancing exercises at the beach; a delightful healthy breakfast from the Health & Beauty menu; swimming and water sports; a picnic lunch at Badian’s Coral Garden; choice of a Badian hilot with pure virgin coconut oil or a deluxe synchronized 4-hand massage; a renewal facial with fresh seaweed mask; and, finally, a relaxing poolside dinner also from the Health & Beauty menu.

Badian beach-relaxation550

Peaceful and private, Badian Island is a far cry from other popular beach resorts all over the Philippines, where rowdy crowds descend upon the beach and packs of noisy tourists dot every square meter of sandy shore. Perhaps drawn by Badian’s promise of quiet and serenity, local and international celebrities have been known to visit the island incognito, enjoying the comfortable seclusion that the resort is known for.

Dive spots

Another major attraction of Badian Island Resort & Spa is easy access to some of the country’s best dive spots. At the guest’s request, the Badian Diving Center can organize a diving expedition to any of the 16 nearby dive spots such as Coral Garden, Garden Eels, Badian Wall, Fisherman’s Cove, Pescador Island, Tongo Point, among others. The dive spots are from five to sixty minutes boat ride from Badian Island. Needless to say, Badian boasts of some of the region’s most experienced dive instructors, dive guides and boat captains.

Service, hospitality and attention to each guest’s every need are what makes Badian Island Resort & Spa stand apart from other run-of-the-mill resorts. The resort’s highly-trained management and staff exude the island’s traditional graciousness and hospitality. The facility employs 175 staff, at least 60 per cent of them locals. The resort’s Chairman, Hartwig Scholz, and its General Manager, Maria Catral, have put in a lot of effort for nearly 30 years not only to design and develop the amazing facilities of the resort, but also to educate islanders on the varied facets of the resort business. Not surprisingly, many islanders are only too grateful to have Badian Island Resort and Spa on their island.

For more information, go to www.badianhotel.com. To inquire about the resort’s special Balikbayan Rate, email badiancebu@aol.com.

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FERDINAND MARCOS IS BACK IN THE PHILIPPINES

Politics

FERDINAND MARCOS IS BACK IN THE PHILIPPINES

3 Comments 20 May 2010

By Karl Malakunas

Agence France-Presse

His name used to be poison in the Philippines but Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is now talking about becoming president after elections showed him to be one of the nation’s most popular politicians.

The dictator’s son also insists his family has nothing to apologize for in regards to his father and namesake’s 20-year rule of the country that ended in 1986 with a “people power” revolution and a humiliating escape into exile.

“My father doesn’t need me to vindicate him,” a relaxed Marcos told AFP last May 19 in his first major interview since the national elections on May 10 that saw him secure more than 13 million votes and a seat in the Senate.

“What will vindicate my father will be the academics and the historians who will look back on his time in the cold light of day and see his administration for what it was.”

To many, Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s reign was dominated by widespread human rights abuses, the family stealing billions of dollars from state coffers and the wholesale slaughter of a fledgling democracy aimed at holding on to power.

But Marcos Jr. said his father, who died in 1989 in US exile and now lies embalmed in the family home in the northern Philippines, committed no major crimes and was a superior president to those who succeeded him.

“To compare between him and the presidents since, he was a much better president than they have been,” the 53-year-old said as he sipped on a fruit juice in an upscale Manila cafe.

He dismissed charges that his father cheated to win the 1986 elections, one of the key moments in modern Philippine history as it triggered the so-called “people power” revolution led by the democracy heroine Corazon Aquino.

Marcos was similarly black-and-white when asked if the family stole even just one dollar while in power.

“Good Lord no, of course not,” he said, then emphasized that hundreds of cases had been lodged against the Marcosos in an attempt to recover alleged ill-gotten wealth, but none had succeeded.

On human rights abuses, Marcos initially said that some minor incidents — such as a drunken soldier beating someone up — may have occurred while his father was in power.

“But it was not part and parcel of government. It was not national policy to commit human rights abuses,” he said.

Pushed further, however, on issues such as the detention of journalists, newspapers being closed and the imposition of martial law, Marcos said such measures were needed to contain “wars” against Muslim and communist rebels.

“So the war rules applied, I suppose, in that regard,” he said.

Further boosting his confidence that his family will fall on the right side of history were parallel victories in the national elections by his famously flamboyant mother, Imelda, and sister Imee.

With Imelda, 80, winning a seat in the nation’s lower house of parliament, and Imee the governorship of Ilocos Norte province that is their family stronghold, the clan is at its strongest politically since being overthrown.

“It’s a result that we all wanted. You can’t do better than that,” he said.

Marcos said the trio’s victories showed that ordinary Filipinos had never abandoned the family, and that its downfall was only because it fell victim to a plot by the United States and powerful local oligarchs.

“The EDSA (people power) revolution was American-inspired. It was a regime change… and although they’ll deny it and swear on everything that’s holy that they weren’t involved, it’s very clear that they were,” he said of the US government.

“In the family, we always knew that, but it’s very gratifying to see that other people have come around to that way of thinking.”

Marcos said he had decided to step up to the Senate — after serving for nine years as Ilocos Norte governor and three as a lower house member — purely to give ordinary Filipinos a voice on the national stage.

“I really felt that I could help, I really felt that I had learned very much and I could bring those lessons to a national stage,” he said.

Marcos insisted that entering the Senate was not part of a well-orchestrated plan to run for the presidency in the next elections in 2016.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next six months so I think to plan for that is actually not even a practical thing to do, a wise thing to do. Because you have to watch and wait really,” he said.

Nevertheless, he said that he did want to emulate his father by becoming president.

“In the way that every foot soldier wants to be a general,” he said.

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WINNERS AND LOSERS

Politics

WINNERS AND LOSERS

No Comments 18 May 2010

Culled from election results from all over the country, we have listed here some of the more prominent winners and losers in the just-concluded May 10 elections. Many are familiar and renowned names, others are controversial and infamous.

Winners

– Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made history by being the country’s first president to seek a lower position. She won by a landslide over two unknown rivals in the congressional race in the second district of Pampanga. She replaces her son Mikey, who returns to the House of Representatives as nominee of the party-list group Ang Galing Pinoy, which purports to represent tricycle drivers and security guards. Mrs. Arroyo’s youngest son, Diosdao “Dato” Jr., won a second term as congressman in Camarines Sur. The President’s brother-in-law, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo Jr. (brother of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo) was reelected in the fifth district of the province.

– The Marcoses scored a triple victory, one in the senatorial race and two in their home turf in Ilocos Norte. The late strongman’s only son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. won a Senate seat, landing a strong 7th in the 12-man race. Former First Lady Imelda Marcos made a comeback as congresswoman (she was previously Leyte congresswoman), this time representing the second district of Ilocos Norte, succeeding her son Bongbong. Eldest daughter Imee beat incumbent Governor Michael Keon, a first cousin, in the gubernatorial contest.

– Manny Pacquiao finally won a congressional seat after two tries. This time, he beat Roy Chiongbian, a scion of a wealthy clan, for the lone congressional seat of Sarangani province.

– Reelectionist Batangas Governor Vilma Santos easily sailed to a second term, trashing the widow of former governor Arman Sanchez, who replaced her husband after his sudden death a few weeks before the election.

– Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, husband of one of the 57 people massacred in Maguindanao last November scored a big win in the province’s gubernatorial race trashing Datu Umbra Sinsuat, an ally of the Ampatuan clan, who allegedly perpetrated the massacre. Andal Ampatuan Sr., who is in jail for his alleged involvement in the incident, lost to Mangudadatu’s runningmate, Ismael Mastura.

– Three kin of deposed President Joseph Estrada won in separate races: his son, reelectionist senator Jinggoy Estrada, came in second to bosom friend and showbiz colleague, Bong Revilla, in the senatorial race; his mistress Guia Gomez was elected mayor of San Juan mayor, replacing her son by Estrada, JV Ejercito, who easily won as San Juan congressman.

– The Binays’ 24-year reign in Makati continues as Councilor Junjun Binay succeeds his father, vice presidential frontrunner Jejomar Binay, as city mayor, beating former Binay ally and long-time vice mayor Ernesto Mercado. Junjun’s elder sister, Abigail, retained her congressional seat in the second district.

– Luis “Chavit” Singson, who has lorded Ilocos Sur as governor for 26 years, is back at the helm of the province. His son Ronald was reelected congressman of the first district of the province. Eleven other members of the Singson clan won in various local races

– The father-and-daughter team of Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and vice mayor Sara Duterte traded places and trounced their respective rivals. The young Duterte beat former Speaker Prospero Nograles no less, while the father trounced former mayor Benjamin de Guzman.

– Shalani Soledad, girlfriend of prospective President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino Jr., topped for the second time the race for councilor in Valenzuela City.

– Gina de Venecia succeeds her husband, former Speaker Jose de Venecia, as representative of the first district of Pangasinan.

– Alfredo Lim won a second term as mayor of Manila, beating former mayor Lito Atienza and ex-PNP officer Avelino Razon.

– Three-term vice mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista takes the helm of Quezon City hall, edging ex-congressman and DENR secretary Michael Defensor and former QC mayor Mel Mathay.

– Outgoing Quezon City Mayor Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte regained his old House seat in the fourth district. He is tipped as the incoming administration’s bet for House Speaker in a possible face-off with incoming Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Belmonte’s daughter won as QC vice mayor.

– Commercial model-TV host Lucy Torres became an instant, albeit reluctant, congresswoman, representing the fourth district of Leyte. She was a last-minute replacement for her husband, actor Richard Gomez, who was disqualified from the race for lack of residency.

– Dramatic actor Christopher de Leon was elected provincial board member of Batangas. In 2007 he lost in the province’s vice gubernatorial race.

– Actress Lani Mercado, wife of Sen. Bong Revilla, is the incoming congresswoman of Bacoor, Cavtie.

Losers

– Multi-awarded actor Cesar Montano failed in his gubernatorial try in Bohol. In 2007 he lost in the senatorial race.

– Priest-turned-governor Eduardo Panlilio lost in his reelection bid as Pampanga governor to Lubao town mayor Lilia Pineda, an ally of President Arroyo and wife of alleged “jueteng” lord Bong Pineda.

– After two terms as Isabela governor, Grace Padaca was finally vanquished by Rep. Faustino Dy III, a member of the Dy political dynasty that ruled the province for 30 years.

– Former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita lost in the race for congressional seat of the first district of Batangas. His son Edwin was likewise trounced in the race for vice governor of Batangas.

– Former justice secretary and presidential legal counsel Raul Gonzalez failed in his candidacy for mayor of Iloilo City. His son, Raul Jr., also lost in his reelection bid for congressman of Iloilo.

– Agnes Devanadera, Gonzalez’s successor at the Department of Justice, also lost in the congressional race in the first district of Quezon.

– Disgraced ex-agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, alleged mastermind of the P728-million fertilizer scam, was defeated in his quest for the gubernatorial post of Capiz.

– Former APF chief Hermogenes Esperon lost his bid for a House seat in Pangasinan. He was linked to the “Hello Garci” election scandal in 2004.

– Losing VP candidate Bayani Fernando and his wife, outgoing Marikina City mayor Marides Fernando, lost their almost 20-year control over Marikina City after their political allies were trounced in the local races for mayor and congressman.

– Vivian Tan, daughter of billionaire Lucio Tan, lost to Rep. Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo in the congressional race for Quezon City’s first district.

– Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin, who are detained for involvement in a coup plot against President Arroyo, failed in their attempt to replicate Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes’ successful senatorial bid in 2007.

– Comebacking Joey Marquez was unsuccessful in his bid to reclaim the mayoralty of Paranaque City. His ex-wife Alma Moreno won another term as councilor of the city.

– Former Environment Secretary Michael Defensor and his father, QC Rep. Mat Defensor, were clobbered in the contests for mayor and congressman in Quezon City. Both were former LP members who chose to side with the Arroyo administration.

– Actress Aiko Melendez’s bid to jump from Quezon City councilor to vice mayor was foiled by Joy Belmonte, daughter of QC Mayor Sonny Belmonte.

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JOKE THE VOTE, PUN THE BETS

Current Affairs

JOKE THE VOTE, PUN THE BETS

No Comments 17 May 2010

By Camille de Asis, Ivan Lim, Mark Tare and Angela Poe

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Barring last-minute surprises in the election count, the Noynoy-Nognog tandem will lead the next casting at Malacañang Palace in the next six years, according to funny-boned Filipinos.

Nognog, dark-skinned Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay in real life, will also be installed as the country’s “first black vice president,” they say.

But before he could become president, Noynoy, who goes by the full name Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, may need to convince closest rival Joseph Estrada to concede.

Estrada can’t and won’t, supposedly because when he voted, his victory had been guaranteed. Proof of this, and so the tale is told, was that after Estrada fed his ballot into a PCOS machine, it popped this message: “Congratulations!”

In the most serious moments, trust Filipinos, acclaimed to be among the world’s happiest peoples, to joke and pun and laugh at themselves.

The last elections, a historical moment for being the country’s first national automated balloting, sparked a bumper harvest of humorous tricks and treats across media old and new. The jokes have been played most often on the candidates for national office by jokesters of all political persuasions.

It is not that poverty and politics are a laughing matter. On the contrary, these are matters so serious with implications so grave hence the resort to humor by some Filipinos.

For one, through jokes anyone could fire off sharp commentary without inflicting real or serious injury.  For another, because jokes are made to provoke laughter, the jokester is allowed to submit the most acerbic opinions with minimal accountability, or even complete anonymity.

Painless, faultless

Criticizing in a painless, faultless manner – that could well be the reason why Filipinos resort to jokes in the era of elections or other acute political debates, according to anthropologist Dr. Clemente Camposano, director of the Institute of Political Economy in the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P).

Jokes, he says, allow people to talk about real problems “in a manner that does not create tension.” In a sense, the lightness of jokes allows Filipinos, deemed to be generally non-confrontational, to engage in political debate with minimal complications.

And because hard political talk is the acclaimed domain of the intellectual, the affluent, and the elderly jokes have turned into an accessible platform for political discourse for those much younger and with less money and education. The problem emerges, however, when to the average Juan and Juana, the joke remains just a joke, a laughing matter.

Dr. Maria Rhodora Ancheta, who has studied patterns and images of humor, says, “the comic’s object… as people will remember it is really just (to elicit) laughter. Parang as soon as I laugh, okey na ’yung joke na ’yan.”

Public conversation

But political jokes in particular are an important public conversation, except that its content values are too often eclipsed by facetious form, she says.

For instance, she says comedians tend to always play on the periphery to mask the seriousness of politics, leaving to their audience a big burden: how to sift the serious messages from a comic rendering of the big issues.

Ancheta, a professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, also studies the cultural context of images in literature. Sometimes, she says, political jokes veer away from folk precepts well established in literature.

She says: “Sabi nila, ’pag may dwende sa bahay, swerte raw at masagana ang buhay. Eh bakit may dwende sa Malacanang pero mahirap pa rin ang ’Pinas?” [They say that a house where a gnome dwells is a lucky and blessed house. But there is a gnome at Malacañang, so why is the Philippines still so poor?]

Dwende sa Malacañang is a moniker that some Filipino comics have bestowed on outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in reference to her Lilliputian frame.

In this instance, Ancheta notes that the joke suggests that Malacanang Palace and the home are parallel concepts, poverty is the problem, and that Arroyo is to blame for the people’s destitute state.

Yet aside from Arroyo, those who seek to succeed her have found themselves too often at the receiving end of jokes.

Bigo, C-5 at Tiyaga

Online, jokesters have christened administration candidate Gilberto ”Gibo” Teodoro Jr., who championed the campaign ”Galing at Talino,” as ”Bigo” Teodoro.

Nacionalista Party candidate Manuel B. Villar Jr. had proclaimed himself as the aspirant with ”Sipag at Tiyaga.” In the jokesters’ book, that reads as ”C-5 at Taga,”  in reference to a controversial road project that supposedly benefited Villar’s real estate project and earned a huge right-of-way payment for his family-owned company.

Liberal Party candidate Benigno C. Aquino III, thrust to national prominence by his pedigree as son of democracy icons Cory and Ninoy Aquino, did not have a personal pitch. He got this from the comics: “Mama at Papa.”

Impersonator and satirist Willie Nepomuceno likens jokes amid a heady political exercise to popping candies because “it perks you up a little, pass it on and delete and it’s just a thought.”

Nepomuceno has parodied nearly all male Philippine presidents from strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos to Fidel V. Ramos to Joseph Estrada. These days, Nepomuceno parades on television as “Noynoy Palaboy,” his comic styling of winning presidential candidate Aquino.

While candies offer a sugar fix or a virtual adrenaline shot, Nepomuceno says jokes amid the confusion and noise that mark elections are also “a way of letting off steam… of (making) you think.” This seems especially true, he notes, for two groups of citizens – the most politically aware and the most unhappy about the country’s state of affairs.

Decade of jokes

The past two decades may well be considered the halcyon years of political jokes in the Philippines, judging by the volume and speed of spread of jokes, across old and new media platforms, vented at political personalities.

And it is probably not only because Filipinos have gotten funnier. Greater assertion of freedom of speech, text messaging, as well as blogging, social networking, and a slew of freeware applications on the Internet have all allowed a downpour of comic content online.

What used to be the domain of trained professionals, online publication has become accessible to anyone with message or content to push in a jiffy, thanks to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and blogs.

Without any firm standards of quality, the Web has allowed everyone to post or upload funny or serious commentary, and instantly, it spreads virally — exponentially, unpredictably — through networks of readers across the globe. This is also the route that has been charted by the untraceable, if virtually unstoppable, group text.

The May 2010 elections yielded jokes of varying shades of green, black, brown and dark. During the campaign period, social networking sites and popular blogs meshed caustic commentary with piping pranks.

On Facebook, fan pages poked fun at the presidential candidates. One of the most popular was the anti-Villar fan page called “Sige MANNY VILLAR ikaw na ang MAHIRAP.” It has enrolled 126,082 members.

Other popular pages include the “Sige Noynoy, Hindi ka na Magnanakaw at Anak ka na ni Ninoy at Cory,” and the “If Erap Estrada is elected president again, I’M LEAVING THE COUNTRY!”

On these fan pages, the edited images of the candidates have been uploaded beside which fans could post their own quips and status messages.

‘PCOS’ tweets

Twitter has also become a playground for political satire.

On Election Day, tweets by an anonymous twitter account named “PCOS machine” started to draw traffic. It posted tweets on the glitches and mishaps in the automation process such as, “Please don’t blame us PCOS machines. We’re doing our best. Just shade the bilog na hugis itlog and I’ll do the rest for you.” Another read: “@CF card – I’m not talking to you. You almost ruined my career.”

Three days after the vote, the authorities found 60 PCOS machines at the house of a technician in Antipolo City. The incident sparked this tweet from the “PCOS Machine”: “f I find out that they’re actually having an outing in Antipolo and I wasn’t invited, somebody gonna get a hurt real bad.”

Political humor has become a staple fare of bloggers. “The Professional Heckler,” a popular blogger, has become an even bigger name on the web for his relentless bashing of politicians. YouTube has hosted a smorgasbord of funny video clips, including spoofs of the candidates’ political advertisements. Villar’s “Dagat ng Basura” ad has morphed into various jocular versions.

But it is not only the candidates who have commanded top billing on the humor mill.

Toward the end of the campaign period, Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra grabbed the punters’ attention after he issued a resolution absolving two members of the Ampatuan clan from the Maguindanao Massacre. For his action, he became the “Agra-vating” or “Agra-byado” weekly special on the web.

Aquino’s youngest sister, television star Kristina Bernadette Aquino, earned her fair share of jokes as well. This happened after Kris’s younger son Baby James Yap blurted out the name of “Villar” when asked at a campaign rally about his choice of presidential bet. An abundance of online jokes has also focused on a supposed plan by Aquino to hire Kris and showbiz buddy Boy Abunda as Cabinet members.

The top TV networks that are incessantly locked in a ratings war were not spared, too. The so-called hologram technology that ABS-CBN Channel 2 and GMA7 separately claimed to be their cutting edge in the coverage of the elections triggered this comment from “Professional Heckler”:  “GMA News and Public Affairs ushered in a first on Philippine television. Howie Severino became the first Filipino to be beamed in ‘a hologram’ on live TV. But rumors say it wasn’t really Howie but his boss, Jessica Soho, who was supposed to be beamed first during the coverage. There wasn’t just enough ‘beam’ to make it possible.”

Always with zing

Truth is, according to impersonator Nepomuceno, political jokes, while meant to entertain, “always offer purposeful commentary, message or comic object.”

As a matter of course, he says he puts a light touch to important news so he could help raise awareness without alienating people.  “I’m just a facilitator… More or less okey na sa akin basta may naiwan na akong seed of thought.”

While all media platforms have been invaded by jokes during the elections just concluded, Nepomuceno says text jokes are his favorite because these are “simpler and raw, easily digestible, nothing fancy.”

“I’m not a techie, and (gets) easily bored with too much text copy. They’re too fancy for me,” he says, adding that “too much jokes in one serving gives you an overdose and makes the whole thing bland.”

They are fun and light but there is a downside to jokes, according to UP’s Ancheta. Sometimes, after a good laugh, she rues that ”nobody thinks about thinking.”

Camposano of the University of Asia and the Pacific says that as much as Filipinos love to laugh about politics, they also take politics seriously. “People die for their candidates. People kill for their candidates. People spend billions [on] their campaigns…. Why would you invest 220,000 pesos for a 50-second spot on TV?  It’s serious.”

Still and all, he sees a need to distinguish between a serious discussion of politics and the way Filipinos take politics seriously. “Elections are very much a personal enterprise,” he says. Whether it is some kind of reward, relationship, or opportunity, elections affect the future interests of individuals, she notes.

In her published studies of the hugely popular comic strip Pugad Baboy (Swines’ Nest) of cartoonist Apolonio “Pol” Medina Jr., Ancheta illustrates why the fictional Pugad Baboy community appeals to Filipinos. In the comic strip, “distant things are internalized, we share our personal struggles with the community, the micro and the macro are deeply intertwined,” she says.

Politics matters

Adds Ancheta: “Remember the parallelism within the Gloria-dwende joke?  Apparently, in the Filipino mindset, we liken any space we occupy or value to our concept of home.  Thus, politics matters to us.”

Camposano laments, however, what he calls the lack of a civic culture, hence the lack of “inclusive and serious political discourse,” in the Philippines. To candidates and voters, politics seems to be built largely on selfish interests,” and this, he says, may explain why many Filipinos end up trivializing politics rather than becoming involved.

In Ancheta’s view, it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. It is said that Filipinos should consider themselves “lucky” if they could get honest public officials elected. If luck remains the arbiter of elections, how is anyone supposed to trust the public sphere enough to do more than laugh, and finally work for change? “We have yet to see a reward for good citizenship,” she says.

“Much of the laughter that we have is really a lack of space. We laugh a great deal because we need to survive… to cope with pressure,” adds Ancheta.

“[And because] we’re not a talk-about-it people… we’re the culture that says, ‘Sorry, yeah, hayaan mo na lang, bahala na, bahala na s’ya’… given the misery of our situation, joking becomes our outlet.” (The authors are interns at PCIJ.)

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PHILIPPINE POLITICS JOLTED INTO DIGITAL AGE

Current Affairs

PHILIPPINE POLITICS JOLTED INTO DIGITAL AGE

No Comments 14 May 2010

Philippine politics will never be the same after the country’s first automated ballot electrified voters long used to cheating, violence and disputes over delayed results.

Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, whose parents led the struggle to restore Philippine democracy, may soon become the country’s first digitally elected president after a rapid vote count showed him winning by a landslide.

Despite daunting logistic challenges in a sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago with 50 million voters, ballot-counting machines were activated just in time for the May 10 elections for 17,000 positions.

The saying that “guns, goons and gold” lord it over Philippine elections may no longer be totally true after a new weapon, the microchip, entered the scene.

In the past, paid thugs as well as rouge soldiers and policemen working for politicians snatched ballot boxes, intimidated voters and doctored tallies. This time, Filipinos were thrilled by the chance to slip their own ballots into digital scanners and know the results were being stored electronically for delivery to a central computer server in Manila, safe from theft and tampering.

“It was really an overwhelming experience for me because I knew that at that moment, I was making history for the country,” said Franz Jonathan de la Fuente, 19, a first-time voter studying journalism at the University of the Philippines.

“I understand that other kids my age during past elections voted manually. Somehow I felt assured that through automation, there was a better chance of my vote being counted,” he told Agence France-Presse.

The United States and other countries welcomed the overhaul of the flawed election system in one of the world’s most boisterous democracies.

European Union Ambassador to Manila Alistair MacDonald said after observing the elections that “voters seemed generally comfortable with this new system” and the process seemed to work well.

But not everybody was happy— former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, trailing Aquino by five million votes, has indicated that he will raise technical questions when Congress certifies the electronic results in a few weeks.

Violence remained a problem, highlighted by last November’s massacre of 57 civilians by gunmen loyal to a powerful Muslim politician in the southern island of Mindanao. The clan’s leaders are now in detention.

Dozens of other people were killed in election-related violence, including 10 on polling day, mostly in restive southern Mindanao where Muslim militants and communist guerrillas are a perennial threat.

Legacy problems such as inaccurate voter lists also cropped up during the vote and Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials admit further improvements are needed.

But the country appears to have bought the idea that computers can safeguard democracy.

In the old system, ballots were dropped by hand into locked metal boxes and counted by hand after sundown, when mischief was easier to commit in outlying provinces under cover of darkness.

Small disputes and transport delays in thousands of polling centers could prolong the process all the way down to the national tally.

Modern-day Philippine democracy can be said to owe its existence to dirty elections.

In 1986, then President Ferdinand Marcos was challenged in snap elections by Corazon “Cory” Aquino. She was the widow of Marcos’s bitter foe, Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., who had been assassinated three years earlier allegedly by government troops.

Amid massive cheating and protests, Marcos was proclaimed the winner of the 1986 elections but Aquino led a “people power” revolt that sent Marcos into US exile and the widow into the presidency.

Twenty four years later, her son, Noynoy, is awaiting proclamation as president on the heels of the most dramatic reform of the Philippine election system. (Agence France Presse)

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POLL RESULTS SHOW DYNASTIES STRONGER

Politics

POLL RESULTS SHOW DYNASTIES STRONGER

No Comments 13 May 2010

Monday’s election was supposed to have ushered Filipino voters into the modern age of computerized voting, but the results show the country will remain stuck with feudal-style politics as dynasties secured elective positions at the provincial, congressional and local levels.

In at least 34 of the country’s 80 provinces, political families won tandem posts—one family member winning as governor and another as representative—in a new configuration that will give them a lock on power for years to come.

In around 20 of the country’s cities, the winning candidates for mayor had relatives also winning as representative, governor or both. READ FULL STORY.

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AQUINO READY TO TAKE ON FAMILY’S BURDEN

Politics

AQUINO READY TO TAKE ON FAMILY’S BURDEN

No Comments 12 May 2010

By Karl Malakunas

Agence France-Presse

Tarlac, Philippines – Sitting inside a museum displaying the bloodied clothes his democracy hero father was wearing when assassinated, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III admits that for a long time he did not want to be president.

Even after winning elections in the Philippines by a landslide as Filipinos put their faith again in his family’s revered name, the 50-year-old bachelor appears not to be entirely comfortable that the nation’s burdens rest with him.

“I look at it as an obligation and as a job,” Aquino told Agence France-Presse in an exclusive interview at the Aquino family museum in their hometown of Tarlac on May 11, a day after the elections. “I cannot look at it as a situation where I can promote myself or put myself on a pedestal.”

Aquino is still to be officially declared the winner of the elections, with the tally not 100 percent completed, but he has an unassailable lead and his team is preparing to take the country’s reins on July 1.

When asked about his emotions the moment he realized he would become president, Aquino spoke not of excitement but personal sacrifice.

“I am still trying to adjust to the fact that there will be a drastic change in lifestyle,” he said, elaborating on the inevitable end to dinners in restaurants and anonymous strolls in shopping malls.

“Now I realize what my mum was saying when she wanted to try and go to a grocery store.”

Aquino often echoes his mother, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, and sees their destinies as the same.

In the deeply Catholic Philippines, Cory Aquino is regarded with near saint-like status for leading the “People Power” revolution that ended Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship in 1986.

But she was thrust into the role of revolutionary only after her husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, was shot dead at Manila airport in 1983 when he returned from US exile to lead the democracy movement against Marcos.

Cory Aquino was famously reluctant to lead the Philippines because it would mean having to take chief responsibility in healing a nation afflicted with so many dictatorship-borne social and economic woes.

But she became increasingly comfortable with her fate, and her six-year term is now looked back upon fondly by many Filipinos weary of corruption and poverty as a time when they had an incorruptible leader.

Her son said that, even though he had been congressman and senator for more than a decade, he had little desire to become president until last year when his mother died.

“I would be inheriting the problems of an administration that for nine and a half years has really wreaked havoc on our country,” Aquino said, explaining his reluctance.

He compared Arroyo’s corruption-tainted reign with Marcos’s dictatorship, saying they both wrecked fundamental democratic institutions and badly damaged the economy.

But Aquino said that, like his mother, he felt obliged to assume the burden after listening to the clamor of millions of Filipinos.

“At the end of the day (I thought) I would not be able to live with myself… if, knowing that I could have done something, I chose not to and the situation became worse,” he said.

In a similar fashion to his mother, Aquino intends to try and lead the country back from corruption-laden despair by example.

“I did make a public vow, I will never steal,” Aquino said, adding he intended to follow in his mother’s footsteps and not live in the Malacanang presidential palace.

“I want to reside if possible in my family’s residence,” he said. “I want to be able to end the day having as much a normal life as possible, to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.”

Aquino wants to emulate another of his mother’s symbolic acts and not use the powers of office to beat Manila’s notorious traffic congestion.

“If there is traffic, we are part and parcel of it because at the end of the day the buck has to stop with me,” he said.

Ultimately though, Aquino’s mother moved into a house close to the presidential palace and her security personnel forced her to travel quickly through the traffic.

And while she is much-loved for being a role model, she was not a panacea for the Philippines’ entrenched economic and political problems.

Aquino similarly acknowledged he would not be able to fix the country during his six years in power, which cannot be any longer due to constitutional time limits introduced by his mother to prevent another Marcos-style dictatorship.

“We cannot transform our society in six years. But we are hoping to be able to provide that impetus and momentum to carry over into the next administration,” he said.

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IN PHILIPPINES, CLANS AND GUNS STILL RULE

Politics

IN PHILIPPINES, CLANS AND GUNS STILL RULE

No Comments 09 May 2010

By Sheila Coronel, for CNN

(CNN) — The irony is often lost on Filipinos. How can the country that gave the world not one, but two, peaceful “people power” uprisings that ousted corrupt regimes have such violent elections?

On Monday, May 11, more than 50 million Filipinos will have the chance to elect a new president, a new Congress and a roster of local officials. So far the campaign has exacted a deadly toll: Including the Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 people in November, some 100 people have been reported killed in election-related violence, according to news and police reports.

This past week has been especially bloody. Last Monday, armed men fired at two trucks carrying 200 campaigners of a mayoral candidate in Zamboanga del Sur in the southern part of the country. One man was killed, and 32 others injured. On Tuesday, a lone gunman approached a candidate for councilor and shot him several times at close range, as the candidate was shaking hands with voters in a gymnasium in the central Philippine city of Cebu. He died a few hours later.

These incidents merited only a few paragraphs in Manila’s free-wheeling newspapers. Violence is part of the fabric of Philippine elections, and a murder or two seldom gets headline treatment.

Most of the violence is rooted in local political rivalries. Contests for public office at the town and provincial levels are fought so fiercely because the spoils of public office are so rich. Those seeking national office can bank on popularity, celebrity and media exposure in order to win. At the local levels, the calculus is far cruder.

Last November, the private army of a powerful local clan in Maguindanao province attacked a convoy of vehicles on a provincial highway, killing 57 people, 30 of them journalists. The massacre was intended to prevent the clan’s rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, from filing his candidacy. It was so cold-blooded and so gruesome that it shocked even those who had become inured to the violence of politics and daily life in the Philippines.

The Ampatuan family, which has been accused of masterminding the massacre, has dominated local elective positions in Maguindanao for years and become rich in the process. In recent months, investigative journalists have had a field day documenting the family’s 28 mansions, their fleet of luxury vehicles and private arsenal of high-powered firearms.

“The Ampatuans do not have plantations. They do not own factories,” said Albert Alejo, a Jesuit anthropologist, at a forum of religious leaders in Mindanao. “Bullets are not harvested from crops. Where did they get these from?”

Over the years, the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has showered billions of pesos to fund development in Maguindanao, one of the country’s poorest provinces. In exchange, the Ampatuans have delivered votes for the president and her party. But the province has little to show for that money: It has only 18 government doctors for over a million people and one of the lowest literacy rates in the country.

Like many political families elsewhere in the Philippines, the clan has preserved its dominance through a combination of patronage, intimidation and links to the presidential palace. Officials say that the Ampatuans kept a 2,000-strong private army, which included the over 100 men who are now facing murder charges for last year’s massacre.

Six Ampatuans are in prison for their alleged complicity in that massacre. Despite this, at least 23 family members are reported to be running for local office in Monday’s elections. The family patriarch Andal Sr., currently jailed for multiple murder, is seeking the vice-governorship of the province, running against his own daughter.

The Ampatuans are an extreme example – most political families in the country do not wield such hegemonic or terrifying power. But they do show how the dynastic nature of Philippine politics has reached such absurd heights – or depths. The leading presidential candidate, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, belongs to a family that has held public office for four generations. His mother, the late Corazon Aquino, was the country’s first female president. And those leading in the senatorial races — including Ferdinand Marcos. Jr., son of the former Philippine dictator — are part of the country’s entrenched political clans.

The dominance of families demonstrates the dysfunctions of Philippine democracy. Yet, lively debate on democracy and a high level of engagement in electoral politics exist in many places, especially the big cities and mass media. Voter turnout has traditionally been at 80 to 85 percent, higher than in more mature democracies.

Still, guns rule in places like the far-flung villages of Maguindanao. That sad reality will continue as long as families like the Ampatuans are not held to account. With the public outrage at the massacre still fresh, this election is a good time to start.

Editor’s note: Sheila Coronel is the director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University. She is a co-founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Committee to Protect Journalists board member and author and editor of more than a dozen books. She is a 2003 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

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CELEBRITIES RULE IN PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS

Current Affairs

CELEBRITIES RULE IN PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS

No Comments 07 May 2010

Here in the Philippines, where majority of the population are glued to their TV sets for three to seven hours a day, there’s no question from whom someone seeking election into a public office should ask for help. Says Yes! Magazine editor-in-chief Jo-Ann Maglipon: “If you want instant recall, if you want immediate rapport with a large audience, there is nothing like having a celebrity endorser.”

In an ideal world, of course, celebrity endorsers don’t matter. After all, said Rolando Tolentino, dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communications: “What needs to be sold are the platforms of politicians, their ethical positions, where they’re coming from, where they’re planning to deliver the country in the next three or six years — that should be the basis of choice.” READ FULL STORY.

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