A NEW YEAR’S WISH LIST FOR THE PHILIPPINES

Current Affairs

A NEW YEAR’S WISH LIST FOR THE PHILIPPINES

No Comments 30 December 2013

It’s 2014!

The Mayan calendar ended on December 21, 2012, suggesting that cataclysmic or transformative events would occur on or around that time.  We have now officially survived the Mayans’ end-of-the-world prophecy for over a year!

Since then, the Philippines has faced a series of events that elicited a fusion of reaction from our countrymen – from shock and anguish to outrage and defiance. The past year has been one of the toughest in recent memory.  Our country was devastated by natural calamities. Earthquakes shook Bohol and Cebu. Powerful storms lashed at large swaths of the Visayas. On the political stage, the pork barrel scandal rocked the nation and brought the level of public loathing for some elected officials to a new low. Over in Mindanao, the siege of Zamboanga cast a pall over peace negotiations.

Through it all, Filipinos have remained steadfast, resilient and hopeful. The youth, particularly, still feel that they can hurdle the challenges and move onward to a brighter future.

With all these catastrophes still fresh in mind, several college freshmen got together to create a list of the top 10 things that they want for the country in the coming year. Like it or not, it is our generation that will be running the country in the near future, and it is because of this that we must be aware of what is going on beyond our comfort zone. The following wishes for the new year were chosen based on the issues that we, as young citizens, feel need to be addressed. 

 

Proudly Pinoy

Proudly Pinoy

1. We wish for more Filipinos to love and be proud of our country. The Philippines is highly visible on the international stage nowadays because of Filipinos who represent the country abroad — beauty queens, singers and athletes. When Filipinos see their kababayans competing or showcasing their talents onscreen, many show their full support because they want other countries to see the kagalingan or brilliance of the Filipino. Sadly, love for the country itself is dwindling. Due to factors that make the Philippines a Third World country (such as poverty), many people are quick to belittle our country and point out its flaws. Instead, more Filipinos need to understand that one way to show their pride is to find ways to fix these flaws. There are several ways to do so, but the most basic would be to be good citizens and to abide by the laws of the country.

Education is a right

Education is a right

2. We wish for education to be a right rather than a privilege by obtaining more funds for scholarships and subsidy for public schools (See http://budgetngbayan.com/summary-of-allocations/). It is a sad reality that a great percentage of Filipino children do not go to school because of poverty. For these children, it is a dream to even get a high school diploma. This should definitely not be the case, because education is a must in order to improve the state of the country. Last year, the Department of Education received the most out of the 2-trillion peso budget. We hope that this continues in the coming year, and that all of the money will be utilized to create more scholarships (for all levels of education) and to provide for increased subsidy for public schools.

3. We wish for people to have enough morality to choose to do what’s right and not only what’s legal. We wish that this year, people are guided by their own morality, or their own beliefs of what is right and wrong, instead of just working within what the law permits. The core of a society is its people, and this is why they should be able to make the right choices.

Boats as lifelines

Boats for Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ victims

4. We wish for increased funding for livelihood projects. As the (overused) proverb goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This in itself explains why livelihood projects are important. These are the kinds of projects that the government should be spending on because they equip people with skills that they can utilize.

5. We wish for an increased push for vocational and technical courses instead of “glamour courses”. (See http://planetphilippines.com/migration/a-disastrous-oversupply-of-unemployable-graduates/) For quite some time now, the country has been seeing an oversupply of unemployable graduates because more students are taking up “glamour courses”, or courses for more “high-profile” careers such as nursing and hotel and restaurant management (HRM). The urgent need for in-demand careers like respiratory therapists and cardio technicians needs to be stressed, and more students need to be informed of the various opportunities that could come with taking these kinds of courses. 

6. We wish for more awareness among Filipino citizens about issues such as the environment, the government, etc.  With social media becoming an integral part of almost everyone’s life, it is almost impossible to be ignorant of the issues that plague our country from day to day. We say this, and yet so many people seem to stay uninformed. This coming year, we really want more people to be socially and politically aware so that they can make more informed opinions that can hopefully lead them to act on these issues.

7. We wish for a nationwide public transport system. Having an extensive public transportation would make it easier for both citizens and tourists to go to and from places. It would be nice if we could emulate the public transportation system (trains) of Japan and Europe, where a web of trains can take people to different provinces. Extending our current rail lines such as the MRT and LRT could help in achieving this. Improving the trains we currently have (and adding to them as well) would help make it a long term thing.

Enough of the circus

Enough of the circus

8. We wish for the public to make more informed choices during elections. This could be done through public discussions of issues during the election campaign (media could spearhead such move). If people were more aware of the issues, they would be more likely to vote for someone based on their belief systems, and not based on who the lesser evil is. The election of more highly qualified officials would contribute to a more stable democracy, one that is more dependent on the quality of its institutions rather than the officials elected at present. This system would indirectly contribute to all the other stated wishes.

9. We wish for proper relocation of the slums, better urban planning (exclusive to designers/urban planners licensed in the field) and planning for communities/provinces in light of increased risk from natural disasters. Originally, we wished for the relocation schemes currently being carried out in the country to be improved, and for our cities to be better planned in order to solve the awful traffic situation. This wish was modified in light of the recent typhoon Yolanda that hit areas in the Visayas region. Most of the towns that were hit hard, such as Tacloban, Leyte, and Guiuan, Samar, are almost completely wiped out. Though it is unfortunate that so many people lost their homes, this also comes as an opportunity to rebuild these areas in a way that addresses the risks posed by various natural disasters.    

10. We wish for more Filipinos to open their eyes to the need for gender sensitivity, female empowerment and LGBT awareness. There are common misconceptions that we really wish would change in people’s minds — the downplayed role of women in society, the lack of opportunities for women job-wise especially in business leadership, and the misogynistic culture that still prevails to this day. Honestly, we have a long way to go before women’s rights in the Philippines truly become realized. The controversy over the Reproductive Health Law and the Divorce Bill says a lot about the rights women are expected to have. The same is true for members of the LGBT community, who are put in boxes and given predetermined roles in society (hairdressers, comedians) and are also deprived of rights as human beings.

Compiled by Gaby Gloria

Contributors: Olivia Villanueva (Ateneo de Manila University), Patricia Perez (University of the Philippines), Rocco Ongsiako (De-La Salle University), BP Valenzuela (ADMU), Camille Cervantes (UP), Miguel Gana (ADMU), and Gio Gloria (DLSU)

 

 

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PORK TALES

Current Affairs

PORK TALES

No Comments 30 December 2013

Among 2013’s most explosive stories, how multi-billion-peso public funds were so blatantly misused shocked and angered the nation. That the abuses involved public officials, obscure private individuals, and fake non-governmental organizations added to the outrage. How could corruption be masked so well? READ FULL STORY

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A BORROWED CHRISTMAS

Culture

A BORROWED CHRISTMAS

No Comments 22 December 2013

By Ana Villanueva-Lykes

It’s the night before Christmas and children are singing carols at the door. “Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh, through the fields we go,” they belt out, laughing all the way. Inside, People watch, smiling, not thinking that if the kids were indeed dashing through the snow, their toes would freeze in their tsinelas while jingling, not bells, but makeshift tambourines. None of them have ever seen real snow either.

Next door, a little girl is dreaming of Santa leaving gifts under the tree. She is not worried that Santa may not be able to get in their locked house without a chimney.   

Filipinos don’t worry about freezing toes or how Santa can’t get in the house. None of these matter, yet we embrace St. Nick who would probably die of the tropical heat or the Snowman who would melt in an instant should we set him in our front yard (if we can find the snow to make one). We make these characters and traditions our own even when they are not applicable to us or have no significance to us.

The-Peninsula xmas tree550x418

Cards and décor are festooned by Western icons that do not apply to us. We deck our halls with fake garlands and sing about white Christmases, the ones that we’ve never known before. Even singing “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” at people’s doorsteps, like the giving of cards and gifts and the commercialization of the holiday, are copied from the Americans. 

Inside the house, the baby in the manger is overshadowed by the plastic tree twinkling with a hundred little light bulbs and fake snowflakes. We revere it like an altar, offering gifts at its feet, not really knowing its origins.

Eastwood xmas tree270

There are a number of speculations to the tree’s beginning and none of which are relevant to us. The Christmas tree’s roots trace their way back to early modern Germany, symbolizing evergreen trees in pre-Christian winter rites and the conversion of German pagans. Tree worship was popular among pagan Europeans, a practice that survived their conversion to Christianity. The decoration of evergreens was said to scare away the devil.

For the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews, the tree and the wreath symbolized eternal life. For us Filipinos, the PVC tree, introduced by the Germans in the 19th century, is where we set up the gifts for loved ones and where we gather to celebrate family.

belen550x368

Close by is the Nativity Scene, an image that we hold close to our hearts as a predominantly Christian country. We make the crèche our own, calling it the belén, the Spanish word for Bethlehem, owing it to our Spanish colonizers.

Like the belén, many of our Christmas traditions were inherited from our Spanish colonizers. One of them is Noche Buena, the Christmas Eve dinner. Although the traditional midnight feast was handed down to us, we made the menu very Filipino with pancit, hamon, queso de bola (although it is a Dutch cheese), lumpia, and bibingka surrounding the lechon. Even the dishes we copied, we “filipinized”, sweetening the spaghetti and sprinkling cheese to our fruit salad.

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Another borrowed custom is the Misa de Gallo, the midnight Mass celebrated on Christmas Eve inspired by the early Christians of Jerusalem who honored the birth of the Lord with a midnight vigil in Bethlehem. The Simbang Gabi is our own version of the Misas de Aguinaldo, the dawn Masses of Christmas held from the 16th  to the 24th of December. Although historians claim that the devotional Mass, originally celebrated in the evenings, was said to have been moved at dawn as a compromise for exhausted Filipino farmers, the Misas de Aguinaldo is also being observed at dawn in other Spanish-speaking countries.

Then there’s the aguinaldo, the customary gift given to godchildren. The Christmas aguinaldo usually comes in the form of crisp peso bills handed in red envelopes, inspired by the Chinese. But not surprisingly, the word aguinaldo is a Spanish word meaning gift. Countries like Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Mexico have their own form of aguinaldo as influenced by the Spaniards.  

Without a doubt, it is the Spaniards who have greatly influenced our Yuletide celebration. After all, it is our 300-year colonizers who introduced Christianity and ultimately the practice of commemorating the birth of the Savior. Mixed into the pot are the contributions of the British, the Germans, the Americans, and the Chinese which resulted into a heterogeneous tradition. Every year we cook up a celebration that is something of our own with all these influences as our ingredients, spicing it up with our generosity, creativity, and a grateful heart.

We reinvent what is borrowed by making everything grander. A 12-day celebration for others is stretched into a three-month extravaganza. While New Year’s is reflective for most, ours is a big bang with fireworks going off till dawn to drive away evil and bring good luck (a belief that originated from the Chinese). And the celebration isn’t just a day, it’s a three and a half-day holiday with the 31st made into a sandwiched holiday and the 30th, Rizal Day, also another reason to celebrate.

Even Filipinos overseas have redefined the meaning of the art of giving at Christmas. Around December, remittances pour from Pinoys abroad and the balikbayan boxes arrive, packed with canned goods and fluffy towels. Relatives hope the box arrives before Christmas that they may partake of an American Christmas, a whiff of evergreens. And although we copied caroling from the Americans, we sweeten the songs with Filipino generosity by rewarding the songsters with coins or treats.

So yes, we borrow Santa in his thickly insulated red suit and even Jesus in his manger. Most of us may not know the origins or the true meaning of some of these symbols like the tree or the wreath, but all that matters is that they signify for us a time of giving and thanksgiving.  Gift-giving may be an inheritance from the Americans, but giving is inherently Filipino.

parol550

You might say that the parol, an iconic Filipino Christmas image, is also inspired by the Spaniard’s Christian teachings (even the term parol was coined from the Spanish word for lantern), a reminder of the star of Bethlehem, but for us, its significance shines brighter than the tinsel and is purer than snow. After all, Christmas for Filipinos goes beyond the packed malls or the songs of good cheer played over and over until it has lost meaning. Christmas for us is all about family, giving, and ultimately bringing glory to God.

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HOW TO END POLITICAL DYNASTIES

Politics

HOW TO END POLITICAL DYNASTIES

No Comments 20 December 2013

In a civilized society, the citizenry relies on laws to govern human behavior and to protect them from abuse by those in power. The evils of economic monopolies are checked by the existence of anti-trust or restraint of trade laws. READ FULL STORY

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CHRISTMAS DESTINATIONS ON A BUDGET

Lifestyle

CHRISTMAS DESTINATIONS ON A BUDGET

No Comments 13 December 2013

The perfect Christmas gift is always a nice vacation with family and friends. Since we also have to give dozens of godchildren gifts, we sometimes lack the funds to travel to expensive places. So here’s a list of the more affordable places to visit for the long Christmas to New Year break. READ FULL STORY

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8 TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS DISHES

Culture

8 TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS DISHES

No Comments 10 December 2013

‘Tis the season for the merry Pinoy food! Here are 8 dishes that will most likely be on our checklist this Christmas. Ushering the start of simbang gabi or the traditional misa de gallo is the huff puffing of steam coming from the puto bumbong cylindrical bamboo steamers outside churches. READ FULL STORY

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IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME IN THE CITY

Lifestyle

IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME IN THE CITY

No Comments 04 December 2013

Metro Manila is all dressed up for the season. Here are snap shots of the 10 most popular holiday attractions that have become part of the Christmas scene in the metropolis. CLICK HERE

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