Track of the Week – Strange Tree by the Mighty Terns

I’d like to experiment with new things on this site, and perhaps it would be nice if it becomes more steady, but here goes:

This is my track of the week.

If anyone remembers the ensemble TOI from a few years back, here’s a new multinational project involving the band’s former lead vocalist, Pauline Diaz.

I miss hearing Pauline’s voice, which was one of the more interesting ones in local music before. But I’m glad that she’s back with friends from all over, making music.

Almost leaving

Someone last weekend was disappointed that I have not been updating this. I could never give him a straight answer.

But tonight, after a bit of a misunderstanding, I think I figured out why.

I could no longer keep this blog up, because I had been writing a lot of things for other sites. I am glad that I am able to do that, because I could reach a wider audience. I don’t really have the nerve or inclination to maintain something separate, for myself. And lately, I haven’t felt the need.

But I do have to break my silence because it’s a pretty difficult announcement. I might have to start pulling away from things I’ve enjoyed doing in the past few years. I won’t say exactly which ones, but some people will find out eventually. I think there have been signs lately that indicate that I may have to do that.

In any case, I think it’s time for me to maintain this as a periodic record of the journey that I will have to make sometime. I hope you can keep me in your thoughts and prayers tonight.

We need to talk about your music festival


Sigh. Here’s what arts and culture writer Alice Sarmiento has to say about a festival that shall not be named. I’ll be staying in town for Art Fair Philippines. Much cheaper.

Originally posted on Alice Sarmiento:

It’s not like I’m going, but I do know that there need to be more productive discussions that don’t involve *gasp* taxpayer’s money or *GASP!* questionable taste, and worst of all questionable ethics. Some of those things have yet to be proven anyway. Others are a matter of perspective. The Peppers have a lot of fans…and that’s great! Isn’t that why they were called in to play this thing?

That I can refer to it as “your” music festival, and still risk being blocked on twitter or sued for libel says a lot though–especially if you’ll be pitching your tent beneath a banner that carries the name of a country I was born in as well.

Which brings me to my first point:

Ultimately, what I think is (because I’m entitled to an opinion) the problem with the Music Festival that will not be named is one of nomenclature. It’s…

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Thoughtful things

Early this morning, before I went off to bed, I saw a post by someone I knew from my graduate school days. She described how, after what seemed to be a very unhappy day, she recalled a few bits of thoughtfulness that happened to her then. It was enough to revive her flagging spirits.

I realized that in a sense, she was having the same kind of recognition that periodically happens to me–the surprise of which parts of my life have been defined. it is with gratitude that I am reopening this place for a while.

I have not been updating often, and perhaps I will emulate the example of someone I know who makes it a point not to update their blog oftener than twice a year. Or perhaps not. There are people who know, wrongly, that I have a lot to say. That is only true in part. On paper or pixel, what I write is a distillation of many encounters, discoveries, even little journeys or diversions. Sometimes this will be the place for it, and other times elsewhere.

Perhaps this will be the space for surprises, for the things I don’t normally say elsewhere. It’s part of a project that aims to prove that, in hindsight, there aren’t any.

For now, though, see you around. Looking forward to hearing your stories for a change.

Baby Steps

Baby steps

This essay is a response in part to what Nik said earlier today.

Last night, I watched Raymond Red’s Kamera Obscura for a second time. Its first release at Cinemalaya 2012 was greeted by a cool critical reaction, but a revisit of the film (with a brilliantly energetic score by Spy) evoked thoughts that ran through my head over the week. The supposedly lost but found silent film is a fable about someone who discovers a mysterious device that wields the kind of power that can rock a nation. And as I watched the film, there were reminders that our political culture relies a lot on “someone else” to do something about our problems, whether it is someone with super-human power or someone with the means to buy out our principles.

It is a political fable, a supposed warning to an age to come. But our hero speaks in parables: “We cannot see the light,” says he, echoing the words of the one who gave him the device, “but we can only see what it touches.” For me, the key to this political fable was the revelation to him by the muse appearing at night, when he sees the truth about both the Establishment and its opponents. She speaks too in parables. “You can think for yourself.” It gives him the courage to say no and walk away, which has always been for me far more difficult to do sometimes.

Fables are in many ways cautionary tales. I would have expected our protagonist to do the opposite, to denounce hypocrisy, and to go to the root of the problem. But he walked away. He kept silent. He could not do anything. And he fulfilled his destiny, it turns out. What that meant in the end was something I fear for the country. We love to bury our heroes when they no longer serve our purposes and freeze them in stone. We rarely learn from them.

This weekend marks the death anniversary of Ramon Magsaysay, and the conferral of the Awards named for him. One recent winner has, more than anyone else, represented for me what we as a people should have thought about. Instead of waiting for a Caudillo to lay down the law, he saw what tools were available to make things better, and he sharpened them.

It is possible that a key refinement to the Philippine government’s budget reform is to institutionalize the local development council system as the main focus of identifying projects, rather than relying on individual legislators. In its present form, we give legislators too much power. In this paradigm, this power must be shared with civil society on the ground. And this was something Mayor Robredo understood in reinventing the Naga City development council as a “People’s Council.”

This is just one of the things Robredo did in his time, and for which he was conferred the award. Many of these reforms are predicated on an emphasis on the local as its source, and the level to which most citizens connect with the idea of the nation. This is of course where the principle of subsidiarity comes in. I will not talk about this for now, but suffice to say that this has to do with the primacy of the local and how the bigger sphere must support it rather than subsume it, for the sake of the common good.

The above reforms are refinements, small steps, one may say. It is not radical enough. But in another sense, it is. These tools have been available in some way from before the present crisis, or at the very least these existed as best practices from here and elsewhere. I have put forward one idea, and it is a baby step. Those are, I think, the most courageous ones to take.

I rarely publish political essays on this site, but a promise (made on Twitter) is, for once, a promise.


This has nothing to do with very recent events, but an upcoming one. 

2013 is supposed to be the Year of Faith, a time when Catholics and institutions run by them are supposed to consider how faith matters in our time. Central to that is going back to the foundations of faith, to the witness of the apostles and the Bible. It is meant to challenge many of our assumptions about the world and what we value in it. It makes me wonder how our big Catholic institutions, especially our universities, are celebrating this.

Nation-building is founded first on faith-building. In what sense can we talk about building a country when the Christian faith, which transcends national, racial, and ethnic boundaries, has yet to take genuine root in the way we live our lives?

Honestly, I don’t know how else to put it, but anything, even a defeat in a big sporting event, ought to be seen as a sign. For, like Paul after whom I was named, I must confess “that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” The Cross is folly, but it is our salvation. Go back to that and our questions will be answered; go back to Christ and our answers will be questioned.

So yes, even if I am proud of my education, I wish we took the challenge of faith very seriously. We lost the ball when we forgot to be charitable about those who believed in the sanctity of life, when we forgot that they were right about how our supposedly “modern” understanding of sexuality needs to be challenged by the “narrow way” of following Christ. We also lost the ball when we forgot to exercise a prophetic witness when it mattered, choosing instead to uphold the trappings and prestige of Establishment and forgetting that our call is to transform the world  according to the mind of Christ.

Yes, I welcome how much my university has changed. There are opportunities that this generation has that I never had during my time. But I am convinced now that it is time for a big rethink, not for tinkering around the edges. 

And this does not just go for my university. Every university that has Catholic (or for that matter, Christian) roots should really start rethinking whether they are true to what Christ preached, what the apostles witnessed, and what the martyrs gave their lives to defend.

I think it’s time we went back to basics.