Friday, May 28, 2010

MOnsanto and Food Security

Monsanto Philippines,I read in GMANEWS.TV, is set to give away a new corn variety that is said to be more pest resistant. According to the report, this will be a secong generation genetically-modified corn variety.
This is the same Monsanto company that recently donated “475 tons of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides.” Haiti, having no law regarding GMO regulation, rejected the donation. But Monsanto is claiming that these are “not” GMO seeds, merely hybrid seeds.
But what Monsanto did not say, according to Global Research, is that the chemicals which the seeds have been treated with are very dangerous to health. Farmers are advised to wear protective clothing when handling the seeds.
Furthermore, Monsanto is known for giving away seeds and then filing complaints against the farmers whose farms have been contaminated by their seeds or seeds have sprouted or “volunteered”. It currently holds patent to 650 seeds. I have seen a documentary on this, Food Inc. I think, and what Monsanto does to the farmers is simply cruel.
Monsanto, by the way, is also the company that produced Agent Orange used in Vietnam War that has caused birth defects in the Vietnamese people.
Haiti resolved to burn the Monsanto seeds, GMO or not, because they firmly believe that it will not help them solve the hunger that has plagued them after the deadly quake.
Maybe we can learn from this in light of the government’s roadmap to “rice sufficiency” in 7 years (?) using genetically-modified rice varieties that also promise high yields and high pest-resistance. Over the years, we have become more and more rice insufficient, probably precisely because of these high-yielding varieties (HYVs). The yield may be high but so is the cost for the pesticides and other farm inputs that it needs.
A final word lifted from the Global Resarch article written by Bev Bell (thanks!)
“Fighting hybrid and GMO seeds is critical to save our diversity and our agriculture,” Jean-Baptiste said in an interview in February. “We have the potential to make our lands produce enough to feed the whole population and even to export certain products. The policy we need for this to happen is food sovereignty, where the county has a right to define it own agricultural policies, to grow first for the family and then for local market, to grow healthy food in a way which respects the environment and Mother Earth.”

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Diner Dash

I have just recently started playing Diner Dash. Call me a late-bloomer. I don’t care. I hate the Techies worst because they piss everyone off, except families and lovebirds. Next to the Techies, I hate the lovebirds for the same reason.
Bussing the tables pumps my adrenaline and makes my right shoulder ache. This pasttime, this supposedly relaxing activity after a day’s work has me tensing up instead of winding down. Every group has its own personality, attention span and length of patience. As the game progressed, the Quota gets higher and the customers more demanding. But as in real life, however, if you don’t meet the quota, you won’t get ahead in life, even if in Diner Dash, it only means having enough to get a new wardrobe, and the promise of a vacation.
And while I am enjoying Diner Dash, I cannot help but think afterwards that for most people waiting on tables and being pressured to keep the customers happy is more than a game, it is the very real life. When I get tried, and irritated, of being told what to do, what to get, who to serve, I can always click the Quit button and have an instant break.
I wonder how many waitressses, janitors, busboys, chambermaids, drivers, cashiers, callcenter agents etc, who would want to be able to click that Quit button too, even if for a little respite only.
This is a salute to all those often unnoticed and little appreciated workers in the service sector.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Tale of the Koala Bear

Mr. Koala Bear has captured our attention these past few days. Anyone who gives a damn about the recent elections has Mr. Koala Bear’s attention. I hate to say, “I told you so” but I think that this is what this blog’s gist will be.
After the drunken stupor brought about by a very strong dose of automated elections comes the sick hangover when all you want to do is belch out the nasty stuff and regain your senses. In our country’s case, out comes the nasty stuff but with no regaining of senses in sight. People who immediately after the automated elections and a few hours into the canvassing voluntarily began eating their humble pie might now as well be choking on that. And there are those, like Prospero Pichay and PPCRV chair Henrietta De Villa, who despite glaring accoutns of cheating or “machine malfunctions”, continue to beat the broken gong of “credible and successful”elections.
True, machines can’t be cheated, De Villa said, but it can be programmed to cheat. It is still programmed by a human, after all, to do its bidding. A machine doesn’t have a mind of its own but a paid programmer does.
And here is Prospero Pichay saying that cheating was not rampant because the results were consistent with the surveys. Since when are surveys the basis of the correctness and validity of elections results, may I ask? Pichay is issuing this statement, unwittingly confirmed that cheating indeed happen, with only a slight disclaimer, that it’s not that “rampant.” Are we supposed to be assured by that?
If I remember correctly, one reason that proponents of the AES pushed for it despite the clear lack of sufficient time to prepare, is to “combat” the all too well known secret of dagdag-bawas. But in the aftermath of the highly celebrated, over-hyped automated elections, Mr. Koala Bear stepped out of the woodworks to expose the evil that is “electronic garci”.
Some quarters dismiss him as nothing but an uncomfortable bump on the road. He has, after all, chosen to come out of the television via a personal video, wearing a mask, thus the koala bear resemblance. But I cannot blame him. Knowing how hotly contested elections are in this country, it would be ill-advised to expose oneself completely to the force majeure in politics without a clear backing of a person or group that is equally powerful and persuasive.
Of course, the “mother-of-all-tapes” whistleblower, whatever was his name, died quietly just recently. The scandal that followed his exposure only slightly denting the political train run by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. What about Jun Lozada, the NBN-ZTE whistleblower? If not for the unwavering support of a religious congregation, where would he be know? Probably in self-exile abroad just to escape from the deathly talons of FG Mike Arroyo himself.
Whistleblowers, like Mr. Koala Bear, especially in politics, should always be given the benefit of the doubt. Assume that their statements are true, unless proven otherwise. It should be up to an investigating body, whether the Senate or the Lower House, or whomever given the task, to determine the truthfulness of their accounts. Considering historically, our country is a country run generally by pack of public thieves.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Yellow Fever

A week after the first “fully automated” election in the country, there is a great chance that Noynoy would be the President. But why am I not at peace at that? Raul

Pangalangan, in his May 14 column in the Inquirer, reminded me why. He cited seven reasons why we should be cautious instead of catharthic. Pangalangan concentrated on the technical side of things which involve a “vindicated” COMELEC and Smartmatic-TIM. However, my reasons go beyond that.

I am an EDSA DOS baby. An activist whose political consiousness was awakened by Erap’s not-so subtle travesty of the presidency. Clearly, I would not want a deposed president, convicted of plunder charges, pardoned by a fake president to return to power. It just doesn’t make sense.

But Noynoy’s presidency would make littler sense, because clearly, the man is run by many advisers. Ergo, his presidency will be the presidency of his advisers. Which, by the way, he could not even unite.

The Noy-Mar tandem has been effectively counter-acted, as of the lastest poll counts, by the Noy-Bi tandem. Notice the difference? These two groups are united for Noynoy, but have a different choice for his vice-president. Personal (personal is also political) gains at stake must be behind this discrepancy. Why, even the angelic-faced Mikee C. Jaworski is involved in this devious plan.

But one thing is sure. Noynoy’s presidency will not be a presidency for the people and of the people. For how can a big landlord supported by big businesses embody an electorate composed mainly of farmers and the urban poor.

His integrity has already been put into question when he allegedly lobby for the Subic-Clark Express to pass through Hacienda Luisita, thus the Subic-Clark-TARLAC Express (SCTEX). They, Noynoy and his clan, gained millions of pesos from taxpayers money used to construct this passage.

I could also never forget the 2004 (or was it 2005?) Hacienda Luisita Massacre. He has downplayed this event and even hinted that “outside elements” were to blame why the bloody dispersal happened. He simply could not understand then and now why their own farmhands would revolt againts them. “Isn’t P9 a day enough for them?” he probably thought. And when he promised to distribute Hacienda Luisita’s land to the farmers after he is elected president is a lot of bull. That is a plain electoral promise uttered only to diffuse the heat and gain “pogi” points. Add to this the fact that the Cojuanco head of the corporation has denied ANY intent to distribute the hacienda any time soon, in a recent interview with an intenational publication. How’s that for honesty?

Noynoy does not represent the genuine change the people are looking for. Rather he is proof that the bourgeiosie is still taking the reins in this country. All this is making me rather feverish.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

15 minute Critique

Fame usually is a twin association of fortune. If one is famous, one would also be, inevitably, as if a natural consequent, rich. This would explain the proliferation of variously themed reality shows which would provide a “normal Juan or Maria” is 15 minutes of fame, which SHOULD be followed by fortune. I remember Direk Jose Reyes in a Pinoy Dream Academy scolding a PDA scholar, “Akala mo paglabas mo dito, pagkakaguluhan ka na ng tao,sikat ka na?” Well, he as a point there, afterall a short uneventful stint on TV is hardly any guarantee that showbiz will come knocking on your door, presenting you with limitless raket opportunities.

However, an unusual achievement or life-long passion with a flair for the dramatic might catch the eye of the media. The weirder, the better. Or worse, the gorier, the better. Remember a cinematic history which had an era of dramatizing the chop-chop ladies and rape victims. But worse, is the “demand” for the life stories of convicted killers, like Baby Ama, Crisologo and the like. The films which only serve to glorify these anti-social beings cannot but send a mixed message. Is it bad to kill people, burn down houses and rape women, or is it cool to be able to do such things in defiance of social norms?

As John Herzfeld’s 15 minutes sought to explore, the media is a very powerful tool. In a time when almost everything is judged according to one’s projected image, the media, indeed, is crucial.

15 minutes opens in a long queue for people entering the United States. It shows two men, Emil Slovak (Karel Roden) and Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov) , talking to a US officer. Oleg explains that he is “here for movies.” True enough, he ended up robbing a video equipment store in broad daylight just to get himself a nice video camera that can “document their trip.”

Things start to fall apart for the two when they found out that their share in a bank stick-up they got busted for has already been spent by another partner in crime. Oleg ended up documenting how Emil lost his temper and ended up killing their third partner and his wife.

Enter our main protagonists, Eddie Fleming (Robert de Niro) and Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns), a famed detective and a fire marshall respectively. Eddie is a seasoned detective who is well-loved by the community and the media, while Jordy is an experienced fire marshall who seems adverse to media. They develop a close relationship while solving a case they share, third partner and wife were killed then set on fire.

Meanwhile, Oleg and Emil, imbibing American culture, have thought of a new way to raise money anew and be famous too. They have decided to “document” Emil killing a famous person, and selling its rights to the media. But not until they have tied up some lose ends, such as the witness (very beautiful Vera Farmiga playing Daphne Handlova)totheir previous crime.

15 minutes is far from the usual detective story. It injects humor in it via Oleg’s character, a film buff , slightly dull criminal with a soft spot for women (they got caught in the bank job because he was hitting on a teller). Until his very last breath, he never forgot to capture it on video.

Such is the convoluted plot of 15 minutes based on a very simple premise, the power of media. Despite its tongue-in-cheek humor, 15 minutes is a sharp critique on how the media can be tool for deceiving people rather than a speaker of truths. And this, all for the glory of scoops, exclusivity, high ratings and profit.

This, incidentally, reminds me of philippine politics. How everyone seems to joust for a 15 minute TV spot or something. How people play-up their images as packaged by “image consultants”. A covert mudslinging right hand while the left hand remains clean for the public to see.

Barely 2 weeks until the final say-so, the circus has indeed come into town.

Let 15 minutes remind us that nothing is ever what it seems. The truth can be as elusive as the river eel for the untrained and dispassionate about it.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

PAGKAMATAY: salin ng Dying ni Alice Walker

I have been vocal of my fascination with Alice Walker. This is a Pilipino translation of her poem Dying which she wrote for “those who with our taxes die from torture.” I, in turn, dedicate this to the Morong 43 who continue to be detained by the AFP despite glaring evidences of lapses in procedure and sheer inconsistencies of the bases of arrest.


Para sa mga namamatay sa tortyur gamit ang ating mga buwis

Paano nga ba

Ang mamatay?

Tulad ba ito ng

Paglubog sa

Isang batya

Ng mainit na gatas?

Tulad ba ito

Ng hubo’t hubad

Na pagbibilad

Sa Araw

Sa mga unang



Ng Tag-init

Matapos ang

Isang Taglamig

Sa nagpangatal

Sa iyong

Mga ngipin?

Ang mamatay

Sa tingin ko

Ay maaring

Tulad niyon.

Higit sa lahat,

Sa iyo




Na lugar.



Nila ang


Mga daliri

Sa paa

Sa panahong iyon




Mga kuko mo




Tibok ng


Mong puso

Sa iba pang




Sa pagkamatay













Tanging iyo


Sa iyo


Ang pagkamatay.




Ang iyong nagawa.

Lihim mo

Ang pagkamatay.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Today, I am ending my post-Semana Santa hibernation.

I just lost a dear friend that Holy Week for reasons I cannot simply tell you. However, I do want to share with you what I feel in the aftermath.

Although, death, as I have come to accept, is unarguably inevitable, that fact has not lessened the pain of losing a dear friend. In my lifetime, he must be the third most painful death I have to accept. First was very personal, it was my paternal lola. I was an hour too late for her last breath. The second was a girl friend some of you may know, Erika Salang. She died a brutal death in the hands of the 42nd IB in the Bicol Region. And know this.

It made me ponder on death… and life.

Let me share this little tidbit about me, I have this weird habit of reading the Obituary Section, especially so when I am travelling to other parts of the country. I must confess that this habit to browse the bland pages of the national dailies started only when I began to be away from home for long periods. I would browse the national dailies, if there is one available, head for the Obits and scan if someone I knew died.

In the beginning, my fascination started with language. As this region is highly multilingual, the greetings and messages of thanks and condolence are in slightly, if not altogether, different languages. I was enjoying playing detective then, armed with elementary knowledge of iloko, deciphering which word translates into which.

After a while, I started looking at their birthdates and death anniversaries. Some were as ripe as 97 years, while some were only a few months old. Their pictures, which for the old ones usually have two, one from their younger years and the other from recent times, are almost always smiling, or in a playful tone, never sad.

Then it hit me. These people I am reading about ARE actually people. Walking, breathing people before they ended up in the paper I am reading. And I started to wonder how they lived their lives. How they must be missed so much. How must be remembered.

I know this is a bit too early for a blog on All Souls’ Day, but I cannot help it. This is catharthic for me. To write my thoughts, finally, after a mental bog down.
And I realize that Life does go on, even after death. This life may not be yours alone, but Life itself. My dear friend, in the end, you are judged not by God, but by the people you left behind who directly or indirectly benefit from the selfless endeavor you chose to pursue.
And for this, you will remain immortal in our thoughts and forever etched in history. Your brilliant smile will forever be remembered.

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