There Are Problems, and There Are Problems

Yes, perhaps COVID-19 is the #1 problem (looking at you, PDutz. LOL) that we have right now, but there are also quite a few problems out there that are of equal weight.

Off the top of my head:

1. White people denying that white privilege exists.

2. Misogynists who promote the idiocy of “men’s rights.”

3. Dutertards who, at this late stage of the game, are STILL dutertards.

4. Quite a few Cebuanos actually believing that Mayor Edgardo Labella’s hair is REALLY his natural hair, SMH.

Throwback: On the Grab, Uber, and LTFRB Controversy

Three years ago there was a controversy between the two main ride-hailing services in the Philippines—Grab and Uber—and the Philippines’ Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). You can read all about it here.

So in response, I wrote this:

[tl;dr] This Uber/Grab brouhaha has at least successfully put a spotlight on the big problem of public transportation in the Philippines. In Manila there’s this train system that was screwed up to begin with and which was screwed up even more during PNoy’s time by Abaya and Roxas, which Duterte doesn’t seem to want to fix, what with his fixation on this drug war and the Marawi crisis and whatever seems to keep him busy these days (or maybe it’s not his job, who knows?). In Cebu the highways are so narrow that putting up a train system similar to the one in Manila is going to be a challenge, if not virtually impossible, so people rely on jeepneys and now even this so-called MyBus that goes from one SM mall to another, and which is owned by billionaire Henry Sy (who, by the way [yes, you guessed it!] owns the SM malls himself), which again shoves in our faces the fact that public transportation that should be a PUBLIC SERVICE is done for PROFIT, for profit of big corporations (kind of what Uber and Grab are, when you think about it). So what happens is that those who can afford to buy cars and SUVs do so (making the traffic problem even worse, because, whether we like to admit it or not, there are just too many private vehicles on the streets already), those who can’t buy cars but can afford to take Uber/Grab do so, those who don’t have smart phones or can’t afford Uber/Grab but can afford to take taxis do so, and meanwhile the poor who can’t afford any of these live a life of living hell every day of their waking lives taking the crowded MRT or LRT trains that are packed even if it’s not rush hour or taking jeepneys or buses whose drivers don’t care if the passengers who are going to work are already late or if the passengers who are going home are already tired and hungry because, of course, naturally, these drivers themselves are also looking for profit, to earn money to put food on the table. So yeah, if there should be anyone to blame for this shit, it’s still the government. Dilawan, Dutertard, fuck that, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that people are looking out for themselves and for their own personal comforts because the government, which should be looking out for them, has been remiss. And it has been remiss long enough, not just in this administration, not just in PNoy’s administration, but in many administrations past. Maybe it’s time for the people to seriously demand those in the government to give them a safe, affordable, and efficient mass transportation system that’s long overdue, no?

Wow. I really need to chop up those long sentences. LOL.

Pathetic

Just for kicks, I decided to dig up my previous Facebook posts many, many years ago criticizing the Noynoy Aquino administration, and I have to admit that a lot them were so vicious, I’m wondering now if I posted them while I was under the influence of bathtub gin (not an impossibility). There were quite a few vicious posts as well, coming from me, which were directed at Jejomar Binay, who was the vice president at that time.

Come to think of it, it was normal to read negative posts back then that targeted both PNoy and Binay, which always included a common slur directed at PNoy alluding to the possibility of him having intellectual disability and a common slur directed at Binay that made fun of the color of his skin (and one even comparing him to a species of ape). I never stooped that low, however, and never used slurs (so far, to my knowledge, although there’s no accounting for the times I was under the influence of alcohol) in my criticisms of both the former president and vice president.

My point?

What’s the difference between the ad hominem attacks against Duterte and Bong Go today and the ad hominem attacks against PNoy and Binay years ago? Nothing, really. One difference, though, is not in the attacks themselves but on the originators: the people railing against criticisms directed at Duterte and Bong Go today were actually the ones who loved to insult and make fun of PNoy and Binay years ago.

Another difference is that PNoy and Binay weren’t thin-skinned. They could take both legitimate criticisms and ad hominem attacks. The same can’t be said for Duterte and Bong Go, with the former using that oft-repeated line by DDS trolls in one of his press conferences to address his critics: “Bakit, ano ba ang naiambag n’yo?” As if criticizing the government has suddenly become illegal nowadays. And the latter? He actually asked the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate social media posts that were critical of him.

Pathetic.

May Araw Din Kayo

Kung makaingon mo ug “mirisi” noh, lagot kaayo mo sa ABS-CBN noh? Bahala na ug 11,000 ang mawad-an ug trabaho? Pero wala mo naglagot nga sa tanan gi-saad ni Duterte kay ang pagpanirado ra sa ABS-CBN ang iyang natuman? Hain naman tong zero drugs and zero criminality after 6 months? No more corruption? No more red tape? No more oligarchs? No more contractualization? Wala mo naglagot nga sagpaon kuno niya ang virus pero karon nagsigeg saka ang COVID-19 cases sa Pilipinas? Wala mo naglagot nga nagsige s’ya’g pangutang and naabot na ug 1 trillion kapin ang iyang gi-utang pero walay sakto nga accounting? Wala mo naglagot nga sayun-sayunon ra ug dakop ug pag-preso ang mga ultimo ug ordinaryong mga tao nga naka violate kuno sa quarantine guidelines pero wala gyud nasilutan sila Koko Pimentel, Debold Sinas, Mocha Uson, et al.? Wala mo naglagot nga ang nakapabor ra aning gobyernoha kay ang mga duol sa luwag? Apil na ang mga POGO nga dili mubayad ug tax, mga Chinese nga mang-bully sa atong mga mangingisda sa West Philippine Sea?

Hinuon dili ko mahibung nga wala mo naglagot aning gobyernoha unya lagot kaayo mo sa ABS-CBN kay hangtod karon gani ang inyong gikalagotan gihapon ug ang gibasol sa tanan kay ang previous administration nga mao’y sad-an sa Yolanda funds, Dengvaxia, SAF 44, tanim bala. Upat na ka tuig ang milabay, mga Dilawan gihapon inyong gikalagotan? Inyong basulon? Gagmaya ninyo’g utok noh? LOL

Pero matud pa sa akong amahan nga taga-ilog, hindi araw-araw pasko, may araw din kayo. Ayaw mo’g balimbing inig human aning termino ni Digong ha? Bantay bitaw. Tan-awon nato. 😁

News

When a reporter goes out to look for news, he or she isn’t going to say, “Okay, let’s ONLY look for GOOD news today, we don’t want to put the country and the president in a bad light.”

When cops molest a 15-year-old girl and eventually kill her, it gets reported because it’s news. When cops murder a group of soldiers in cold blood and then try to pass it off as a shootout, it gets reported because it’s news. When the Philippines’ COVID-19 cases surpass Singapore’s, it gets reported because it’s news. When the country’s inflation rate rises this month, it gets reported because it’s news. When ordinary Filipinos are dying of starvation and the virus, when the corpses of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Middle East that died of COVID-19 can’t get transported home (and when surviving OFWs in the Middle East resort to selling their own blood so they can buy food to eat), when hospitals are running out of beds and can’t accept more patients–all those are reported because, guess what, it’s news.

If you read or listen to or watch all these and think that the reporters are just biased and are, worse, purveyors of fake news, then don’t blame the journalists. You really don’t want to consume and digest and analyze the news and make sense of this country (or the world); you only want to read a piece of propaganda by a DDS troll or some press release written by a hack from Malacañang or a blog post by Mocha Uson or a Facebook post by Jay Sonza. You only want to listen to Harry Roque defend the president; you only want to listen to the president’s incoherent ramblings. And somehow that makes you feel better?

Confirmation bias, a type of cognitive bias, is when you search for and interpret information that confirms or supports your prior personal beliefs. You end up believing what you want to believe.

Whitewashed

Of course the bigger problem here, obviously, is the desire to whiten one’s skin and not the simple renaming of a product. All these personal-care companies–like those pharmaceutical companies that produce glutathione pills–are, after all, just supplying a demand. That demand, by the way, of wanting to get rid of one’s brownness, which many Filipinos are guilty of.

That’s not all. I’ve met Filipinos who’ve wanted to get a nose job (she’s now in the United States; I don’t know if she pushed through with her plan–many Filipinos have naturally flat [or big, or round] noses), who’ve taken growth pills as a kid (now fully grown, he never grew past five three; Filipinos are naturally short), who’ve wanted to slim down a round face (majority of Asians, Filipino-Chinese included, have naturally round faces; she pushed through with the surgery, and now she looks like Madame Auring).

If someone is naturally racist against being Filipino, as evidenced by the discomfort (I prefer to call it an “allergy”) of their natural physical characteristics and the subsequent desire to change those characteristics by slathering copious amounts of whitening lotion on the skin, ingesting pills, and going under the knife, etc., then no wonder a lot of these individuals are also racist and are quick to pass judgment against other people of color.

It’s easier (or is it?) to try to look like the “masters” (or at least try to look as close to them as possible), or at the very least to try to distance one’s self from one’s original “indigenous” appearance, than to sympathize with the people that are trying to emancipate themselves from those who–after centuries–still actually think like “masters”–consciously or unconsciously.

You’d think that after more than 300 years of being colonized by the Spaniards and almost 50 years of being under American rule, we as a people would know better. Apparently not.

After all, there are several definitions of the word “whitewashed.”

Flashback Friday: Guatemala Part 1

I was more than halfway done with my first Guatemalan beer (I’m particular about beer brands, but the brand of that particular beer eludes me, perhaps because of the traumatic border-crossing experience I was subjected to before I reached Guatemala, but that’s another story) when a white car pulled up in front of the restaurant–Jade, a Chinese restaurant–where I was waiting. I was seated facing the door, and there weren’t any other cars parked in the slots, so the car was impossible to miss.

Sensing that this car was the one sent to pick me up, I quickly finished what remained of my beer, stood up, grabbed my backpack, and waved my thank-you to one of the waitresses. A woman stepped out of the passenger side and entered the restaurant, looking around. She was pretty, about my height, with bobbed brown hair. As I was the only patron, she looked at me inquiringly, smiled, and asked, “Mark?”

“Si,” I replied and took a step toward her, extending my hand. She took it, shook it warmly.

“Jennifer.”

“Mucho gusto,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”

She led me to the car, whose trunk was already popped open and waiting. A guy with jet-black dark hair, bushy eyebrows, and a dusky complexion was holding the trunk lid aloft. “Carlos,” he said, smiling, offering his other hand. I shook it and dumped my bag into the compartment.

In no time we were on our way, putting as many miles as we could between the border town–that, just an hour ago, I crossed on foot from Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico–and Quetzaltenango (or Xela, for short), Guatemala, our destination.

So this was Guatemala.

Visible vegetation, green and jungle-like, on either side of the narrow and winding road that we were traversing on was a welcome sight. I was already used to the concrete jungle of Mexico City, where I was currently living at that time before I visited Guatemala, so this was a breath of fresh air—literally. We drove with the windows down, and I could immediately tell that the air I was breathing was a lot cleaner than the smog-filled air of the Mexico City. In the city it doesn’t take long after I step out of the apartment for my allergies to act up; here, though, it was a different story—it seemed as though my sinuses were cleared up.

In my limited Spanish, Jennifer and I made some small talk, with Carlos content on putting in a word or two but mostly focusing on his driving. About an hour into the drive we stopped by a roadside stall that sold pollo rostizado or roast chicken; apparently Carlos was famished. He asked me if I was hungry, said no but thanks anyway, and he proceeded to pick at his roast chicken and tortillas in the front passenger seat while Jennifer took over the driving.

We made another stop, which was a pleasant surprise for me—at a tattoo parlor. We met Jennifer’s teen daughter Andrea, at the shop, and she proudly showed off her freshly inked tattoo to her mom. It was Jennifer’s turn to get a matching tattoo, and we waited in the shop as I chatted up one of the tattoo artists, the husband of the artist currently working on Jennifer. I was pleasantly surprised that the guy—heavily inked, of course—spoke very good English, and he introduced himself as a former English teacher before finally deciding on switching up careers and becoming a tattoo artist full-time. Carlos went to a nearby corner store and got me a big can of beer, a local brand—Cerveza Gallo—which was pretty amazing. (I would try other Guatemalan beer brands but would stick to Gallo for the remainder of my stay.)

Finally Jennifer’s tattoo was done, and we all piled into the car—with Andrea and her friend joining me in the back seat—for the long drive home to Xela. By this time it was already dark.

(To be continued . . .)

A Modest Proposal

Cops in the United States are becoming frustrated that they’re increasingly being policed (pun definitely intended) for their past–and present–abuses and violence against black citizens.

Majority of these frustrated cops are, of course, whites who have a racist bent. They are the types who don’t mind bringing a Confederate flag to a Nascar race or those who are up in arms (literally) at the dismantling of Confederate statues, which Donald Trump calls “beautiful.”

Well, who says that these white racist cops have the right and privilege TO BE cops just because they are white? Who says they can’t become garbage collectors or caregivers or janitors? (Not that I’m looking down on these jobs; I’m not.)

You want to reduce violence against blacks caused by systemic racism in the US? Prohibit whites from entering the police force. LOL. Problem solved.

(Photo by USA Today via)

Vignette, 06/20/2020

I still dream of cigarettes.

I think it was at the two-month mark after I smoked my last stick of Marlboro red that I started having those dreams. And they’re all the same, give or take a couple of details. Sitting at the gutter beside the corner store across the apartment building where I lived, happily puffing away, painfully knowing it would be my last taste of nicotine.

That was more than a year ago, in the Philippines. But every few nights I’d be reminded of that scene, in my dreams, and I’d be jolted awake. And every time that happened, I’d sit upright in my bunk bed, sweating in my boxers, licking my lips.

Sleep would elude me. Again.

Oh that glorious, glorious smoky flavor.

This time, though, I didn’t have to imagine.

Carlos had just finished ripping the top off a soft pack of Camels. He took a stick, popped it into my mouth.

“I quit, Carlos. You know that.”

I didn’t spit out the cigarette, though.

He lit my cigarette for me, and lit one of his own.

“Go on,” he said. “Smoke.”

I did. I sucked in my first taste of cigarette smoke in more than a year. Inhaled. Allowed the lightheadedness to consume me. Sweet, sweet nicotine. Exhaled. I took another long drag; Camel filters, like Marlboro reds, have an amazing throat hit—the best I’ve ever tried. I added more nicotine to my brain, increasing the lightheadedness, my vision blurring a bit. It felt amazing, though. I was in heaven.

This was supposed to be the part where, removing the cigarette from my lips, I’d use my index finger to tap out the ashes. I couldn’t do that, though.

Not with both hands tied behind my back as I sat there on a plastic chair, sweating, puffing.

“Now,” Carlos said, blowing smoke. “Let’s get down to business.”