May 19, 2012

In 500 words or less #002: The Filipinos' love affair with Jessica Sanchez


With American Idol entering its final week, Jessica Sanchez-mania in the Philippines has hit fever pitch. Social networking sites have been flooded by Pinoy Pride campaigns about the AI finalist. She was the banner story in the news program State of the Nation where Jessica Soho called her as our kababayan. News about and pictures of Sanchez hogged the front pages of broadsheets. Even Malacañang jumped on the bandwagon, with Abigail Valte urging Filipinos to “please show your support in any way possible for Jessica Sanchez. This is the last stretch and we know that when Filipinos gather and put their minds into it, it will happen.”

Is Jessica Sanchez a Filipino? The legal system obviously does not distinguish her to be one. Mainstream pop culture does not recognize her as Filipino as well. She is competing as an American idol after all. But for her millions of adoring Filipino fans, these distinctions don't matter. To their mind, she is one of their own as blood and kinship lines are salient. For them, Jessica is as much a Filipino as naturalized basketball player Marcus Douthit is not, legal distinctions of citizenship notwithstanding.

Some say that this is just another expression of a Filipino penchant to reclaim foreign celebrities as one of our own. We have our love affairs with Apl.de.Ap, Nicole Scherzinger, Bruno Mars and other Hollywood celebrities with fractions of Filipino blood. The claim, however, that this is a distinctively Filipino attempt to desperately reclaim national pride is bullshit as other countries and cultures have engaged in similar reclamation projects as well. Kenya and the rest of the African continent celebrated Barack Obama's presidency as the ascent of one of their own into the height of political power. More recently, Jeremy Lin's out-of-nowhere rise to basketball stardom captured the imagination of East Asian - Taiwan and China in particular – as a fairy tale of a son that has done right to overcome the obstacles of living in a foreign land.

These various attempts by people to construct connections along ethnic lines look surprising only in the context of modernity's self-description of having overcome such “traditional” distinctions. Modern society fancies itself as rationally guided by a functional world view as opposed to the personalistic world view of traditional society. In making a choice between modalities of a social object, the modern professes using performance and achievement instead of attributes and qualities as guides to action and choice. The modern would ask, “can't we just admire Jessica Sanchez because she's a good singer and not because of some imagined transcendental connection?” But this is naive modernity, because the reality is that people still find meaning using these personalistic distinctions. Behind its rational veneer of modernity, our society still rests on foundations shaped by practices of ascription. Life chances – including one's fate in a talent contest – are shaped not just by some instrumental performance-based criteria but also by personal attributes, networks and a dose of serendipity.

May 13, 2012

In 500 words or less #001: The airport incident and Big Brother

Amidst the brouhaha over the airport incident which gripped the Filipino imagination like a national disaster, I have been watching with amusement how the broadcast media has been observing the event. One could feel a sense of discomfort from media personalities whenever somebody brings up the right to privacy vs. right to know debate that underlies the argument between Ramon Tulfo and the Santiagos. After all, TV news outlets have been actively promoting snooping into other people's business and capturing them on video for public consumption as a legitimate journalistic enterprise. This voyeuristic practice has even been given a respectable veneer as citizen journalism: audiovisual tsismis repackaged with hip titles like YouScoop, Bayan Patrol and JournalisMo.

It is really ironic that a fight provoked by an unsolicited photo grab has been brought to our attention by an unsolicited video grab that has gone viral. The ultimate irony rests with the Santiago couple who saw hellish intrusion in Tulfo's cellphone camera but, in seeking vindication, hoped that the incident was captured by the airport's CCTV cameras. We know by now that their hopes were misplaced as the CCTV cameras turned out to be blind. But the interesting point is that the Santiago couple's protestations of invasion of privacy stems not from the fact that they were caught on camera but rather that they were caught at an unflattering angle. Invasion of privacy has been reduced to not asking permission to make people look bad in public.

 Our long love affair with television and movies has made us oblivious – most of the time even welcoming - to the gaze of the camera. We find comfort, not fear, when surveillance and CCTV cameras watch over us like an all-seeing security guard. We take pictures in the dining table as if the food's taste would linger less in our mouths if we forget to take snapshots of our meals. We spend half of our vacation time in photo and video documentation as if the happiness we felt would be less real if we entrust our experience only to our memories. We take pictures and videos while giving birth, dining out with friends, singing in karaoke, grieving the dead, sleeping, praying, reviewing for an exam, recovering in a hospital bed, taking a bath, copulating, and everything else in between. We live not a life of lived experiences but a life of audio/visual files stored in memory cards, hard disks and internet clouds.

 When the novel 1984 was published, George Orwell sent chills down the spine with his vision of a negative utopia called Oceania where everybody is subjected to the videotaping surveillance of a totalitarian regime. “Big Brother is watching you,” was the dictatorial party's constant reminder to the populace of their encompassing gaze. Half a century thereafter, we have become an Orwellian world turned upside down. Big Brother is not needed anymore to engage in the voyeuristic documentation of our everyday actions. We are already busy taking care of that by ourselves.

September 24, 2009

Creative solutions to society's problems?

To improve our employment statistics, pinalitan ang definition ng unemployed nung 2005 para maalis sa unemployed ang mga hindi active na naghahanap ng trabaho. To improve our poverty statistics, ipinako ang poverty threshold nung 2008 sa P10,000 monthly income for a family of five.

To improve our completion rates sa mga schools,ibababa sa 67% ang passing mula 75%. Ngayon naman, to improve our classroom shortage statistics, babawasan ang oras sa mga subjects sa klase.

Baka gusto na rin nilang bawasan from 3 complete meals to 2 complete meals a day ang standard para mabawasan ang nagugutom sa Pilipinas.

September 21, 2009

Haaaayyy...magtuturo na ako ng Economics

Ngayong Sabado, sisimulan ko nang ituro ang kinatatakutan kong parte ng aking syllabus. Magtuturo na ako ng Economics!

Hindi naman sa wala akong masasabing matino tungkol sa subject na ito. Ang hirap lang kasing magturo ng mainstream theory (na ngayon ay neoliberal) na medyo nadiscredit dahil sa global crisis. At ang masaklap pa diyan, review subject na pamboard exam ang tinuturo ko kaya hindi ito panahon para magbigay ng sariling mga kuro-kuro at opinyon at sa halip ay dapat ituro ang "tamang" sagot na hinihingi ng mga examiners.

Ang hirap talagang magturo kapag di ka naniniwala sa itinuturo mo.

August 24, 2009

Salamat, Mang Gary

Masaya ako at naglabas ng bagong album ang aking paboritong manunulat ng awit na si Gary Granada - ang Basurero ng Luneta. Pero malungkot din ako dahil ayon sa kanya, ito na rin ang kanyang HULING album.

Sa totoo lang, mas nangingibabaw sa akin ngayon ang lungkot. Ang laki ng impluwensiya ni Mang Gary sa pagbuo ng aking pananaw sa buhay. Ang kanyang Hierarchic Selection Theory ang isa sa aking mga guiding principles. Napakaraming aral na mapupulot sa kanyang mga awit. At paboritong paborito ko ang kanyang masterpiece na Lean: A Filipino Musical na para sa akin ay ang pinakamagandang hidden treasure ng OPM. Sayang lang, konti ang nakakapakinig.

Salamat, Mang Gary. Dahil sa iyo, naging "cool" ang maging aktibista. Ikaw ang TUNAY na National Artist.

July 5, 2009

Oo nga naman

Ako ay nagtuturo sa isang "English-speaking university" kuno. Required ang lahat ng teacher na magturo in English at required rin kami na i-require sa mga estudyante na magsalita in English. Hindi lang sa classroom iyan ha. Kahit daw sa labas ng classroom, basta nasa loob ng school premises dapat English ang gamit.

Minsan tuloy gusto kong tanungin yung presidente namin na "Mam, marunong ba kayong magsalita nang diretsong Tagalog?" Hinala ko di niya kaya.

Heniweyz, dahil sa policy na ito, kapag may mga Accounting graduate kami na medyo hirap magsalita ng English, pinapagalitan kaming mga taga-department. Kesyo hindi raw namin sinusunod ang policy, ek ek. Sabi tuloy ng isang batang prof na dati kong estudyante, bakit ba kami ang pinapagalitan? Bakit di niya pagalitang ang mga prof ng English department na puring puri niya?

Oo nga naman. Kung bumabagsak ang mga estudyante sa CPA board exam, saka kami pagalitan.

June 22, 2009

Tamang pagsasala o elitismo?

Nung accounting research class ko, isang grupo ang gumawa ng comparative analysis ng mga passing percentages ng iba't ibang licensure exams sa Pilipinas. Lumalabas sa kanilang pag-aaral ng multi-year figures na ang CPA board exam ang consistent na may pinakamababang passing percentage. Talo pa ang medical exam at ang bar exam. Sa CPA board, mataas na ang 30% national passing percentage.

Mahina ba ang accounting education sa Pilipinas kaya halos tatlo lang sa kada sampung kumukuha ng exam ang pumapasa? Naalala ko na ni-raise ng isang representative ng CHED ang puntong ito sa isang workshop ng Association of CPAs in Education na aking dinaluhan ilang taon ang nakakaraan. Sabi ng ilang mga accounting educators doon, hindi daw tamang conclusion iyon. Dapat nga daw matuwa pa ang CHED dahil talagang mahigpit ang exam ng propesyon namin kaya salang-sala ang mga nakakakuha ng lisensya. Para sa maraming CPAs sa workshop na iyon, isang source of pride pa ang kababaan ng passing percentage sa board exam.

Sa tingin ko, ang CPA licensure exam sa Pilipinas ay overkill. Ilang taon na rin akong nagtuturo at nakita ko naman na maayos ang pagtuturo sa maraming university sa U-Belt. Maraming estudyante ang kapag sinabak mo sa OJT, natutuwa ang mga employers kasi marunong at madaling makuha kung ano ang gagawin sa corporate accounting work at kahit sa audit. Nagtataka nga lang ako na itong mga estudyanteng ito, na pasado sa standards ng mga potential employers, ay di pasado sa standards ng BOA. E di ba ang standards ng BOA ay galing naman sa analysis ng needs ng industriyang pagtatrabahuhan ng mga CPA?

May isang unibersidad sa U-Belt na tinitingala ngayon sa taas ng passing percentage pero ano ba ang susi sa kanilang "achievement"? Intensive marketing strategies to get the best high school students to enroll. Battery at qualifying exam. And getting CPA exam reviewers to teach para makakapagbigay na ng tip kung paano magsagot ng multiple choice questions. My apologies to schools who get high passing percentages, pero ang tunay na nagiging labanan ngayon sa pataasan ng performance sa board exam ay hindi naman talaga sa pagalingan ng pagtuturo. Ang labanan ngayon ay sa pagalingan ng pagrerecruit at paglalagas ng estudyante. Para tumaas ang passing percentage ng eskuqwelahan, kailangang mapapagraduate lamang ng university yung mga taong sobrang taas lang ng IQ na kayang ipasa ang isang exam na hindi naman talaga nasusukat kung handa ang isang tao na maging CPA.

For the past couple of years, I have been handling a unit kung saan ako lang ang CPA. Lahat ng staff ko hindi CPA. Pero hindi ko ipagpapalit ang mga staff kong ito na magaling at maabilidad (we don't have any disallowed expense so far, kahit piso, sa aming multi-million peso project) para lang sa isang CPA kuno na alam sagutin sa exam kung ano ang diluted earnings per share pero kapag nagfi-field work na ay nakatunganga lang dahil di alam kung ano ang kanyang gagawin.

The CPA board exam is an exam that is undemocratic and elitist. Marami namang tao na kayang gawin ang ginagawa ng mga public accountant pero hindi makakuha ng lisensya dahil lang sa letseng exam na naglalaman ng maraming tanong na di naman nagagamit sa actual practice at kung saan inaakala na ang abilidad na magsagot ng one-item question na half-page ang haba ay sign ng katalinuhan. Kung gusto nilang malaman kung relevant ba ang mga tanong sa board exam, ipasagot nila ang exam sa isang CPA na nasa actual practice na. Sinubukan ko dati iyan at ang resulta ay parang gusto kong ipabawi ang lisensya ng mga nagsisagot.

Ang BOA kaya, kayang sagutan ang CPA board exam?

Dapat i-review ang CPA board exam preparation process. It is closing doors of opportunities for people who CAN DO the work required just because of a misguided principle that making the profession an exclusive club is a good thing. Is the board exam really measuring whether an individual can do the work of a public accountant? Or is it just a tool to increase the "market value" of the profession?

Tanong tanong

Ano ang mas effective na paraan ng pagtuturo ng CPA Board Exam review: takutin mo sila na mahirap ang exam o kumbinsihin mo sila na madali lang at yakang yaka ang exam?

June 21, 2009

Trapped?

Not feeling good...

Naramdaman niyo na ba yung alam mo kung ano ang gusto mo talagang gawin pero parang nalilimit ang options mo ng napasukan mong propesyon?

Damn it. I should listen to advice that I myself give to my students...kailangang lang huwag matakot tumalon...

June 17, 2009

First day of school (na naman)

Sa Sabado pa talaga ang first day of school namin kaya lang nagpunta na ako sa FEU kanina. May kukunin kasi akong mga "epektos" (hehehe) na gagamitin ko sa torture ng mga estudyante ko. Mabuti at nakuha ko naman. Naaliw rin ako nang harangin ako sa gate para i-thermal scanner. Nung pumasa ako sa kanilang pagsusuri, tinatakan ako ng passed sa aking braso, para akong karne na ipinasa sa quality control.

Ewan ko ba't pitong taon na akong nagtuturo e kinakabahan pa rin ako sa unang araw ng pasok. Sabi ng iba, hindi daw normal yun. Pero sa tingin ko, mas nakakatakot nga kung mawawala na ang kaba sa isang teacher. Gusto kong maniwala na yung kaba ko ay dahil concerned pa rin ako kung magiging epektibo ako sa klasrum o hindi. At least nandun pa rin yung sinasabi nilang "puso" sa pagtuturo.

Isang review subject ang hawak ko ngayon. Parang napapalapit ang aking "culpability" sa pagpasa o pagbagsak ng aking mga estudyante sa board exam. Hahaha!!! Sabi, dapat daw turuan ko ang mga estudyante ko ng tamang exam preparation techniques. Paano kaya yun e nung nagreview ako para sa board exam ko, nanonood pa ako ng impeachment at nakirally pa sa EDSA?

June 16, 2009

Housing complex

"Di baleng magdildil sa asin, basta may sariling bahay..."

Importante ang usapin ng pagkakaroon ng sariling bahay at lupa dito sa ating bansa kung saan napakaraming walang matirhan habang may mga panginoong may-lupa na daang ektarya ang "pag-aari". Pero katarantaduhan itong itinuturong "words of wisdom" kuno ni Manny Villar. If anything, it seems like an endorsement for property developers' practice of charging exorbitant prices for the houses they sell - BUMILI NA KAYO SA AMIN, SA SOBRANG MAHAL MAGDIDILDIL TALAGA KAYO SA ASIN!!!

Alam mo kung ano ang magandang plataporma?

Di DAPAT magdildil sa asin PARA LANG magkasariling bahay.

Natural family planning

Napaisip lang ako. Sabi ng Roman Catholic Church, agree lang daw sila sa tinatawag na natural family planning methods. Pero gaano nga ba ka-natural ang methods na ito?

Natural ba na i-withdraw ng lalaki ang kanyang ari kapag siya ay lalabasan na?

Natural ba sa babae na piliing laging makipagtalik sa mga araw lamang na hindi siya fertile? E di ba wala siyang gana sa mga panahon na iyon?

June 11, 2009

Mukhang may atat...

...naglaglag agad ng alas.

Masyado ka namang excited, Mr. Antonino. Sinisira mo ang script ng PaLaKa.

June 10, 2009

Pilipinas kong Mahal?

Nung nakaraang eleksyon, naging talk of the town ang Pampanga dahil sa kanilang "People Power." Against all odds, nailuklok nila si Among Ed Panlilio sa pagkagubernador. Kahit na kalaban nila ang mga makapangyarihan na Pineda at Lapid.

Sa susunod na eleksyon, makakaya kaya uli ng Pampanga na gumawa ng himala? Sino kaya ang maglalakas loob na tumakbo bilang Congressman upang pigilan ang pagpasok ni GMA sa House of Representatives?

Pumasok ang ideyang ito sa aking isipan nang masilip ko sa bintana sa opisina ang itinatayong istruktura sa Quirino Grandstand. Preparation yata sa Independence Day celebrations. Ang backdrop sa entablado ay isang malaking tarpaulin ng isang Philippine Flag na may nakasulat na Pilipinas kong Mahal. Ang tagal ko nang iniisip kung sino ang pasimuno ng mga poster na ito na dati nang nagkalat at tama ang hinala ko na ito ay pinaprint ng gobyerno.

Pilipinas Kong Mahal

Ano ba ang significance ng Pilipinas kong Mahal na poster? Basahin niyo.

Pilipinas kong Mahal.

Di mo pa rin makita?

Pilipinas kong Mahal.

Ulitin ko ha.

Pilipinas kong Mahal.

Di ako sumama muna sa rally kanina. Sa tingin ko, this is another case of the plotters in the administration making us look the other way.

Sa tingin ko pinasa lang ang HR 1109 para mag-rule ang Supreme Court in their favor and state that the House of Representatives can go at ConAss alone without the Senate. Kaya nga kinabahan na ako nung nagfile ng case sa SC si Oliver Lozano.

Sa tingin ko, malamang hindi gagawin ang No-El. Next year pa talaga iyan, kapag nanalo nang Congressman si GMA. Di naman kasi pwedeng maging Prime Minister ngayon si GMA kasi hindi pa siya nakaupo sa House of Representatives.

Kaya ang tunay na laban, sa aking palagay, ay tatlo. Una, dapat bantayan ang Supreme Court at ang magiging ruling nito sa HR 1109. Bantayan kung may mga secret meeting na nangyayari.

Ikalawa, maliban sa pagfocus sa national positions, dapat gumawa rin ng effort upang mabawasan ang PaLaKa sa House of Representatives. Ibig sabihin, magpatakbo ng mga kandidato sa pagka-Congressman na credible at kayang mainspire ang mga apathetic na. Bawasan ang mga oposisyon na Trapo rin naman. (Incidetally, imbes na magpatakbo ng kandidatong presidente na hindi kilala at walang track record, dapat magfocus ang partidong tulad ng Kapatiran sa pagpapalakas sa local positions. Local positions ang final stronghold ng PaLaKa.)

Ikatlo, kailangan ay magkaroon ng bagong Among Ed na ngayon naman ay tatalo sa mga Arroyo sa Pampanga. Malaking hamon, but it is time again to ask for our brothers and sisters in Pampanga to step up. (Pasensya na, kayo na uli ang inaasahan namin.) Sino kaya ang maglalakas loob na hahamon?

June 6, 2009

Published in PDI!

Computer illiterate solons unmasked
by Erwin Rafael

The inclusion of blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook in the coverage of the proposed Right of Reply (RoR) bill (“Right of reply bill to cover bloggers, texters,” Inquirer, 5/31/09) betrays our lawmakers’ lack of technological savvy. If these “honorable” congressmen are Internet-literate at all, they would know that these websites have interactive features which already provide them a venue to post their replies in real time.

In the case of some websites which moderate or do not allow viewer comments, an “aggrieved” party can easily set up his own free blog or sign up for a social networking account so that he can post his rebuttals for the whole worldwide web to see. In the interactive world of “New Media,” demanding the right of reply is a redundancy.

Then again, we have lawmakers who are so technologically inept that they do not even know what a USB is (clue: it is not a software) and wonder how somebody who is not a computer technician can transfer videos from a camera to a computer (clue: ask your teenage children how to do it). I doubt if they can create their own Blogger or Facebook account. Heck, I don’t think they even know how to open their e-mail. I have been e-mailing a lot of lawmakers for the longest time on several issues and not once have I received a reply or even a confirmed read receipt from them.

I was also amused when I read the reply of the primary sponsor of the bill to Rep. Raymond Palatino. The reply—“Primarily, this bill refers to media publications and practitioners. I would think it will be defined more on the IRR”—sounds so unsure. Maybe lawmakers should start writing laws by themselves instead of letting their lowly paid staff do the work for them so that they can be sure about the contents of the bills they sponsor.

For anybody who feels aggrieved by this opinion, you are most welcome to exercise your right of reply on my blog: http://akosipaeng.blogspot.com.

—ERWIN RAFAEL,
akosipaeng@gmail.com
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OK, nakaka-once a month na ako. Career na ito. Hahaha