Saturday, May 22, 2010

Santacruzan: Passion and Fashion

Santacruzan is Filipinized term for the way to the Holy Cross. It is one taste of the Filipino culture that anyone could see as part of the May flower festivals, at least in largely Catholicized places in the Philippines. Sagala is a more common term that refers to a parade of beauties. Hence, the term is interchangeably used with Santacruzan, because the stars in the commemorative event are bevvy of beauties, that local community has. But not everytime though.

The Santacruzan is a parochial affair. A Hermana Major is assigned in a community to make the necessary arrangements for the parade. This is usually a woman, of an older age, someone who has leadership potentials or at least influence in the community. Santacruzans are organized locally, as in a baranggay or a village. She also chooses who will be in the parade, and who would portray the most coveted Reyna Emperatriz and Reyna Elena titles.

It's not just a parade, there is a competitive aspect into it. The Reyna will have to dress the most beautiful gown she could have, find something from the baul, have one custom-made, buy from the ukay-ukay or rent from a gown collector. They just have to dress up gorgeously because everyone else in the community will lay their eyes on them.

The ladies dress up fashionably. Some others just dress up even though they end up to look like a fashion victim. So we see and hear people after the Sagala to be conjuring up comments, some good others bad. More often it becomes a fashion event rather than event that shows the passion of women and men to find the way to the Cross.

The historicity of the Santacruzan is associated with the representation of the Queen Rome, Constantine's mother, and her passion to find the original cross where Christ was nailed. It portray's Christianity's growth. Thus, it must present what Christ values the most - filial love, simplicity, charity, piety and fortitude in faith. Where are these now?

These queens go with a consorte or an escort. But sometimes you can find a lady with two escorts or an escort with two ladies. This is a confusion of modernity so to speak. To critical mind, it is understood to imply a message that it is alright to be not so filial. In life, monogamy is a virtue. Portraying such situations reflect postmodernity, worst a hedonistic lifestyle - that one can choose to have several partners or have two or more lovers at one time.

To shine at night, the ladies and even the men could not give an excuse to wearing make-up. To some ladies, make-up does the magic, but to others make-up makes them look "parang natutulog lang".

Citiwide, regional or national Sagala's are rare and they are organized for commercial purposes. The authentic Santacruzan or Sagala is what you can find in the local community streets. The ladies here dress up so fashionably, and sometimes exposing much of their skin. The preparations are too grand and expensive.

As a cultural artifact, the Santacruzan adds to the richness of the Filipino culture. As to its religious association, there are many things that we have to reexamine. How is fashion event shaping the passion of the Christians that view it? This I think will be more meaningful in holding this annual community event.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lessons from the 2010 Election

The Filipinos have voted a new government to be led by President Elect Benigno Aquino and the Vice-President Elect Jejomar Binay.

Vox Populi vox dei. The voice of the people is the voice of God. It should be better understood that God has given the people their voice to participate in democratic processes through election. It is the people who choose the people whom they want to lead the country. Deux et Machina, the hand of God at work in politics is something else to be understood in theosocial terms.

Based on the election returns, the vote turn out have shown that the Filipinos have elected the same people who have served the government before, or the same names of people who have been in the government before.

Noynoy came in first, but Erap second, while Villar ran third. Clearly, still many of the Filipinos did not examine the track record of these people for them to be there in the top three ranks. Popularity and familiarity remained two important factors that influenced voters' decisions. From the readings of turnout per municipal and specific precints, Erap often advanced from Noynoy. It was also noticeable that there was such a thing as a "hometown vote". That people would vote for those people who were from the neighborhood.

The same people have been elected. Although this could also be attributed to their electoral machineries, the turnout of the election reflects much of the Filipinos decide the fate of this country. Bombarding the Filipino voters with ads did not really work best for Villar. Aquino's name as engrained in the people who revere Cory and the late senator, or maybe the fans of Kris, must have helped Noynoy gain the vote. The pre-election surveys got it all wrong. Noynoy and Binay were elected, their names were never really consistent with earlier survey results, except for the trust rating of Noynoy. Probably, trust is much more reliable factor to consider of who will be elected in the government.

The same people who stand in top of the social heirarchy have been elected. No "real" poor man was there to represent the widest sector of the Philippine society. By electing the same people, we can assume that the same traditional politics, from the same traditional politicians will be evident. The same corrupt practice, or may be even more will surey happen. How many of the elected senators, have legal backgrounds to be in the legislative? What can a dancer-fashionista, married to an actor propose as a bill in the congress, that the Leytenos would benefit from? How often will Manny Pacquiao attend the congress sessions, and how many bills will he pass, or how many bills from him will become a law?

We were able to manage, a generally peaceful automated elections. Thanks to the COMELEC, the teachers, and the PPCRV volunteers. We can count that we will have a more efficient system next time. Opponents of the President elect have conceded like true gentleman. Virtually, there was no sign of fraud, except the great fraud that the Filipinos have done to themselves by electing the same traditional politicians.

Another lesson we can learn from this election is that there will still be political dynasties. Recto will be in the Senate, his wife will be the governor of Batangas. Binay will be the Vice President, and another Binay will be in Makati. Change comes not just by changing political posts. Change is afforded by changing the people who run the government. When the time comes that the Filipinos or at least some of those who share the political power are aversed by the plans and actions of this elected government,the Filipinos will go to the streets again and call for change.

This election should have been an opportunity for a genuine change.

I thought, the Filipinos are ready for change. But I was wrong. I do not see any tangible change to happen in how the government of this country will run its affairs for the Filipinos. I can only hope and pray that something better will happen. That God's hands will move the spirits of these elected people to genuinely serve the interest of the country.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Nation, My Vote, My Experience

Today is an historical moment for the Filipino nation for many firsts. It is the first time for the youth to have their voice, with half of the 42 million registered voters belonging to the youth population, ages 18-33. It is the first time for new voters. It is the first time to have a fully automated voting in place. It is the first time that the Filipinos will not have to wait for lenghty days to finish counting ballots. It is the first time that 9 candidates are vying for the presidential post.

I was probably too excited for this election that I could not sleep.I had to get up my bed when the cocks cockled. I showered so early, like I was going to work. Then I asked my mom with eagerness to get to the polls early. As usual, I turned on the TV and saw candidates headed early to their polls. Edu Manzano was in an island somewhere in Iloilo. Surprisingly, not so long years ago, he was the Vice Mayor of Makati, although his family residence was somewhere in Bicutan. Manny Pacquiao and his wife Jinky were in the polls even before they openned.There was both order and chaos in the precints.

At the first hour, there were throngs of people gathered at public schools already. Lots and lots of papers were scattered all over the polling stations.How much was spent to all these? How many trees were cut down to print special sample ballots that only keeps the names of the candidates or their allies. Crazy, the most recent sample ballots from candidates that I got have so many blank spaces, and the names that appear represent various parties. I guess I should believe that Philippine politics is not really partisan politics, but indivdidual politics.

On Manila papers, responsible individuals have placed maps of the school with the baranggay numbers to give directions to the voters. To facilitate the voting process, there are people who would rather keep a queue, no matter how long it takes and how many twists and turns it would get. The PPCRV main desk could be found right there at the lobby, they are equipped with a computer that has online access. Some supervisors of the PPCRV have radio communications to coordinate activities and report spurious incidents.

In our precints, seats were provided in a designated waiting area. A room was assigned for two baranggays. But the room was only occupied by the voters from our baranggay. Ten by ten, poll watchers call in voters. In the polling area, ten were lined up near the BEI desk, and ten more were lined up near the door. It was just a crowd. When our turn came, there were just very few inside, and I saw someone who was not really there in designated waiting area. Nobody even knew that person. As we idly stood there waiting, we got more curious about how the PCOS machine work, we got closer to it, which angered one BEI officer.

I blamed the pollwatchers for calling us in when it was not really our turn yet. I thought, the crowding in the room could confuse the BEI and to minimize the crowd, they will resort to more efficient but not foolproof process. Just like they never really ask us for a valid ID and they never really looked at the picture. I just told my name and the registration number which was posted in the voters registration list posted outside, presto I got the ballot. My cousin just pointed to his name and reiterated the number (not the registration number)and he also got a ballot. Without verifying the identity of the voter, this process makes the election prone to fraud.

There were so many poll watchers, each representing a party or a specific candidate. I find this chaotic, because there is really no sense of watching voters. POLL WATCHERS from parties may not be necessary at this type of voting. When the BEI asks for 10 voters to come inside the precint, another watcher would call another ten. With so many calls, the 10 voters come to be tripple. Poll watchers are not just necesasry because they add to the crowd inside and outside the precints. There is PPCRV, a COMELEC recognized entity, then what are Poll watchers for? At the sidelights they only take the opportunity to be close to voters then at the least try to sway voters for the candidate who paid them fees for poll watching. With so many people inside the precint, a malicious individual can sneak in and do something with the machine and so maligning the system and the validity of the process.

Five people can man the polling station. In our precint, I saw this could work. One BEI personnel can handle the validating voters identity. The other BEI personnel can give the ballot, the secrecy folder and pen, then register the voter as confirmation that a ballot has been given. The next BEI personnel should be assigned to the PCOS machine to assist voters, and likewise keep a manual tally of approved and disapproved cast ballots. Two PPCRV volunteers can help the BEI personnel, one of which should be assigned to keep the flow of voters entering and leaving the precints, the other can stay inside to keep a close watch of the proceedings and to readily assist voters if they may need help in filling out their ballots.

Poll watching is not a career, it is every Filipino's responsibility. Poll watching is not watching the voters, but keeping the integrity of the electoral process, and the sanctity of the ballot. Unaware of these fundamental concepts, the BEI and partisan poll watchers are not promoting democracy but leaving it prematurely prone to corrupt practices.

Since schools are designated polling stations. Volunteers should prepare seats and waiting areas for the voters. Immediate attention or preference should be given for the Senior Citizens, persons with disabilities or individuals who underwent or are in severe medical conditions (ie.stroke, asthma, rheumatism, etc.) since they can not stay waiting for a long time in the precints during hot summer days. My aunt who suffered a mild stroke came in with us and even got to the polls minutes earlier. She was registered in another precint, a precint that was just not so systematic in managing the flow of voters. They gave numbers to voters, 50 at a time. With my cousins, we finished earlier voting in another precint. Ten more finished, and she was still waiting with her daughter without a number.

A police nabbed one pollwatcher in our precint, because he did not really attend the required seminar for poll watchers and that his identity could not be verified or supported by anyone from our baranggay. The police were alert and responsive to calls. In our area, there are organized civic groups who work closely with the police officers to keep peace and security. At least, with this I noticed a responsive government unit.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Pinoy Jeepney

On my way to the Commission on Higher Education, I got a good tete a tete with Tatang, the taxi driver. Tatang was just so surprised to see a Sarao jeepney still on the road. He could tell the engine type of that jeepney and then he asked: Ba't nawala na yang Sarao?

While I was in Bahrain I happened to work with one descendants of the Sarao clan who pioneered the jeepney phenomenon in the country. He was my boss, a fellow English teacher. If I remember from his story, Sarao is not really gone, the patent on its engine is bought by a huge car company that operates in the Philippines. The Sarao family may have divested into other businesses. But I don't care. What is with the jeepney is the representation of the Filipino inguinity.

As what Tatang and I shared, you could look at other cars on Philippine roads, but the elegance, the strenght and the pride of the jeepney is really incomparable. One could only imagine, that jeepneys have longer life spans than that of other cars manufactured here or abroad that run on the roads. The engines in the jeepneys, are they ever new? 'Newness' of a jeepney is just virtual. The engines, according to my brother who is jeepney operator, are just refurbished, reconditioned, cannibalized from old jeepneys and then accessorized with new parts.

Wow! The jeepney is the mother of the transformers. It changes shape, sizes, colors and parts, but there are parts that are kept, the most important of all - engines. Tires are sometimes just recapped, the flooring is just sometimes padded or welded with new iron sheets. The chassis is sometimes just extended. Yet, the jeepney remains the king of the road.

There are jeepneys all over the country. There a laughing jeepneys. There are jeepneys with huge music amps. There are jeepneys with aircons. There are jeepneys used as trucks to transport goods. There are jeepneys with grills. There are jeepneys with fans. There are jeepneys with television. There are jeepneys without breaks. There are highly accesorized jeepneys. There simple jeepneys. There are jeepneys with ceilings painted ala Sistine chapel. There are jeepneys with seat springs that could prick your ass. There are just so many jeepneys to choose from. But during rush hours, its just an enduring challenge to get on one.

The jeepney is a representation of the Filipino inguinity. There is nothing in the wolrd like the jeepney. It's a symbol of the Filipino value for community and the sense of kapwa. At one time, I got a chance to ride a jeepney with several Korean students learning Tagalog. They were with their teacher. The teacher asked one student to pay. The Korean bent forward, bumping his head on the ceiling, was stopped by the teacher. She told her student that he didn't need to stand. He just had to stretch his hand then politely say "bayad po". She added someone else will get your fare and pass it on to the driver.

So, the jeepney can be classroom to learn manners, politeness,servitude and gratitude, and to learn about people's psyche and communicative behavior. Why did the jeepney engineers think of the seats to be placed that way? I could only rationalize that it must be because we value each other, we wanted to see each other while talking, and we wanted to be near with each other. The "bangko" in the pondohan or tiendas, are positioned in the same way. The stores are a place for small talks and gathering, a place called "tambayan" where friends gather.

I love the jeepney. There is just so much to learn about our nature as a Filipino as we try to understand more about the jeepney and the poeple we ride with it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Farce, Fantasy and the Philippine Election 2010

There is a farce now showing on stage of the Philippine 2010 Elections. This farce is all filled with fantasy and humor, which probably happens only in the 'd Pilipins.

In one speeech activity we had in the class, I asked my students to present a profile of the person who they were fans of. Some named presidentiables, others popular icons,and some more other cartoon heroes. What thsee make sense of me, is that the young generation in the Philippines is needing a leader to look up to, such as a hero whose powers can do the unimaginable. Yet, that leader is confused to iconic images of popularity, fame and fortune. In another way, such can be understood as fantasy merging into the "reality", or a desire for something greater, that seems to be impossible.

No wonder names of presidentiables like Manny Villar, Nonoy Aquino, Dick Gordon and Gilbert Teodoro, and vice presidentiables such as Jejomar Binay and Loren Legarda came as exemplars of whom my students were fans of. But, they came along with names of Michael Jackson, Marylyn Monroe, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Kris Aquino and Manny Pacquiao. Other names that were dropped included cartoon characters and anime icons such as SpongeBob, Naruto, Ironman and Barbie. Objects personified and personalities that people look up to, idealized and idolized are to me a reflection of the sublime effect of repressed desires coming into our conscious lives. In one training I attended, one speaker commented that the superheroes we look up to are our alterego.

We get fascinated with them, because we just don't have what they have, which we would like to have. The abilities that they possess, and the powers that they have, the popularity that they gained, which we enjoy seeing, reflect our inequities as individuals. Thus, we fantasize with our desires, then we think we would want to be like them. Last night, I brought my neice and nephews to see Ironman, and after the movie, while having dinner, there I noticed how they would like to defeat Tony Stark's talent and genius in producing the element. One wanted to make a wired house with computer holograms. They thought of so many magnanimous things far beyond the reach of reasons. What they saw seemed to be so real to them, fantasy seeping into their realities.

This is the same situation that I sense among some voters today. Manny Villar presents himself to be the messiah of the poor, who could make the Filipino masses rich and wealthy, as he claims he was able to rise from poverty. One of my student justified that he would vote for Manny Villar so that "at least" Las Pinas, where Villar had been elected representative to the congress, could be better, and whatever he had done there could also be done in the Philippines. I retorted, Villar had been a representative, and was a senator for several years. With the billions of pesos alloted for his pork barrel, nothing much has improved in Las Pinas except for his subdvisions. Manny Villar is not for the Philippines, but for his own business interest. How could he give house to the homeless, when his business is the housing business. A true philanthropist never takes anything that is not his own, most especially if that is from the poor. Would he be able to house the poor of payatas in his mansion in the US?

Some Filipino voters are still not liberated from applying traditional knowledge, that lacks logical thinking, as to making their decisions for the election. A local axiom says: "Kung ano ang puno, siya ang bunga" translated "you'll know the tree from its fruits". The English translation goes beyond the meaning of the Filipino axiom. For a local, the axiom means that children take after their parents. The English version would say otherwise, because it could mean that the fruit is yielded by the tree. Hence, good-rearing of the tree will yield good fruits. This applies to how some voters look at Nonoy Aquino. Even though he has not done much in the lower house or in the senate, some people are drowned into the iconic image of the deceased Former President Cory Aquino, and the late senator martyr Benigno Aquino. These are the parents, but who are the fruits? Kris Aquino who had several affairs, got STD from a partner, and who has been using her popularity to promote the candidacy of Noynoy. Her Brother Nonoy is now 50, single and plays PSP in the senate sessions. How could a Peter Pan who just never wants to grow up lead the country when he was not able to manage his life by his own?

Visionaries are good leaders, but good leaders have focus and consistency to realize their visions. Admirable indeed, Dick Gordon had had great visions for the subic base as a free-port version of HongKong in the Philippines. But, all those dreams are gone, as swift as the Americans fled the Philippines after the Pinatubo eruption. When he was a mayor, was it part of the city ordinance to allow the Filipinas to prostitute themselves for a few dollars in Olongapo? Is it our national duty to service the Americans through prostitutions? Visit Subic, there is just no comparison to HongKong, the bats even have fled because of the disturbance to their natural habitat. This could be the responsibility of the SBMA chair, Gordon used to be one before he became the Tourism secretary and then a senator. Such positions would grant him the means and the power to put through his visions into reality. Visions are like children that one fathers. Leaders don't just conceive visions, then abort or abandon them to the streets.

The hardest laugh one could get is to see an impeached president, thrown over by people power, publicly known plunderer, and eminent womanizer to be up there again running for the presidential seat. Joseph "Erap" Estrada, the action star has turned to be comedian. But, this is the acid test to the intelligence of the voters. He may have been allowed by the Commission on Elections to run, because of legality loopholes. It would be the damnest thing that the Filipino people could do to mock their selves, if they should vote Erap again. There would be no fraud if he wins, for him, or for anyone who will win, because fraud is just for the losers.

There is one presidentiable among the six who have a base of supporters and possible voters. However, this guy seem to be neglected by the President Glore herself, as her party's official candidate. One interesting information a student shared to me, is that Gilbert Teodoro, "will not win", just because he is just a decoy since Macapagal's "manok" was really Manny Villar. But Gilbert Teodoro is the silent warrior. He might be ignored and left out, and so tandemned with movie actor who has lost his flare, but he honorably kept himself through the race. Among all the presidentiables, Gilbert Teodoro's integrity is one that is tainted. He is not just articulate in speech, but his ideals and visions for the country are just what the Filipino needs right now. His educational background is outstanding. He has performed his duties well. He dreams and pursues his dreams, his are realities are not just fantasies. He couldn't even be and should not be compared to Obama, jsut because he is young and promising. But, the truth is all the Philippines need is probably a change of people in the government. With that we can hope for something new if not better.

The Filipino will make a tough decision this May 10, 2010 election. Fraud is a far fethched idea unless the systems have been pretampered. We've always been tried to be conditioned with this. Historically, except for during the Marcos regime, no election fraud had ever been verified in the national election. What we ought to remember in this election is that we can not make mistakes in marking our ballots, or that would make our vote invalid. The reality in this new mechanics of voting, is that we can not make mistake with whom to vote. We need to vote. We need to vote not for the candidate. We need to vote for the Filipino people and for our country's sake.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Learning in Facebook?

I embarked on an exploratory journey towards pre-assessing the potential of integrating the use of social networking sites to instruction. In my content analyis, the five most popular sites all over the world are Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Friendster and Hi5, they are visited and subscribed to by millions to billions of users. Facebook top all of them.

My interest was drawn out of the observation of their popularity among young people. Everyone in my classess, had bugged me for several months as whether I have an FB account. Surprisingly, but I just forgot I had an idle account. I used to be active in friendster, posting pics and reading testimonies, nothing else. I have reserved that to very close friends, relatives and some previous students.

I signed up for a new FB account. Out of the need to communicate with some of my students for some very important reasons, I invited a limited few into my network. Then everyone else sent me friend add requests. Online, I would see them in the Net, some would send me private message in the chat with simple "hi" or "how are "you" but other's would simply ignore my presence.

One morning in the faculty room, during the conduct of my investigation, a math teacher came in and with a farce tone exclaimed: "Tomorrow, I will have my laboratory class in facebook. Many of them are absent, but they are all in Facebook." Funny, indeed. I have never heard of anyone from the faculty using an OSN to augment instructional processes. Some teachers are using Moodle, or maximizing yahoo groups, but none was into using Facebook.

In one news over the television, a teacher was featured to be using Multiply in instruction. That was a high school teacher, and the students interviewed appreciated her effort, because for them, it was convenient since they can go through the lesson modules the teacher uploaded and shared in the site.

I know of some teachers using texts, objects, files and other stuffs from the Internet. Many of my colleagues use videos from Youtube, or other games, quizzes that are avaiable as freewares from the Internet. I myself use them sometimes, like when I sense that my students are just not interested to listen to what I have to share anymore.

As a teacher, it surprises me that I have more of my present students (25%) than my actual friends (16%), or my relatives (24%) or my previous students (22%) out of the 255 listed people in my FB network, and only 5% of those in my network are my present colleagues. Allowing a few of my present students to add me into their network has provided me access to their networks.

At several times, it was useful for me to reach students whom I didn’t have email accounts, when I needed to remind them of deadlines or check on their progress with their assigned projects. Sometimes, I just happen to connect with those students who hardly get to hear participating in classroom discussion. Those casual conversations gave me the chance to get to know more my students at personal level and an opportunity to encourage them to do well in the class.

At one time, I tried to upload some videos on climate change, and posted a message seeking on what an ordinary person can do about it. None of my students commented on them. When I am online, some students would bother to greet me, and most of them exploit FB’s chat function with me as their teacher only when they need something. At the end of the term, students tagged in the photos I have with them. There are just three instances that I got many comments from my students to what I posted in my FB wall: 1) when I gave ‘heart-hitting’ assessment of my experience with one class as comment over a photo; 2) when I edited my stats; and 3) when I coined a funny word to refer to some kind of people. But through the chat, there were several instances that I get to help some students develop a thesis statement for their essay, one on one.

I may be able to share video, audio and other links, but FB can’t support instructional needs to share word documents or presentation slides, not unless I scan them or upload them to other online applications.

How much have I impacted the students whom I have encountered in FB? Much, not all, moderately? Affectively, if I were to consider their replies, the emoticons they added in our conversations, I can assure myself that probably I am making an impact. As to what degree that affects their learning, I can not approximate. I guess, my exploration has not finished yet.

Personally and based on the data that I have obtained, OSNs are useful tools to communicate with students outside the class borders, with some limitations. Theoretically, communication bridges, it moves people into action, it enlightens, it inspires,it teaches -- and so we learn. How it is useful, does not really rely on its power or potential, but as to how it is actually implemented and integrated to achieve some educational purpose.