Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Parables of Juan Flavier

I remember my grade 4 Language professor fondly, because of many things. Firstly, because his first name—Henry—was such an oddity for a ten-year old Pinoy who mostly read American books but was surrounded with names like Jose Luis, Robertino, and other such remnants of our Spanish forefathers. Secondly because he was such a strict man who liked reading a lot.

In hindsight, perhaps he wasn’t really as strict as I made him out to be. I was, quite possibly, just a child who had too much respect for authority back then, and would quail from the sight of a teacher who raised his voice even by just a bit.

But the most memorable thing about Mr. Avecilla (that was his last name) was that one of his weekly projects for the class was the collection of Senator Juan Flavier’s—then DOH secretary— weekly parables. I forget which paper it was his stories appeared in, but Mr. Avecilla’s demands had us children scrambling for clippings of Senator Flavier’s stories around every Friday, I think it was.

juan flavier

I don’t ever recall enjoying those days, because it meant poring through a newspaper—something I disliked back then—but the benefit of age gives me the chance to review those days from a different perspective, and perhaps more than just a little bit of fondness.

One of the most interesting realizations I made recently when thinking back to the days of fourth grade Language class was that the fact that Senator Flavier had the time to write a parable week after week for a newspaper was nothing short of amazing. As the DOH secretary, he was subject to the whims of Fidel Ramos, his president at the time, and one of the more controversial presidents since the 1984 Constitution was made. Life wasn’t very easy for Ramos and his cohorts, especially during the latter part of his presidency.

And on the more localized battlefield of public health, Senator Flavier didn’t have it any easier. He was instituting changes that the powerful force of the Catholic church disagreed with greatly. The good senator had to deal with the repeated criticisms of both lay and clergy officials, and I can just imagine how vexing it must have been to have to rebut each and every one of these without losing his cool.

And yet, he did. Perhaps his weekly ritual of writing had something to do with how he handled the stress from his day job. But it still doesn’t make it any less than amazing.

I write this because of the recent news of Senator Flavier’s passing. At 79, he was at a ripe old age, and he had achieved much in his life, having been one of the most successful heads of the Department of Health. And while his years as a senator were a bit less lustrous than his career as a member of Ramos’ cabinet, he was instrumental in passing some of the most time-enduring laws we have today.

But more importantly—at least for me—he was a man who had, without knowing it, a hand during my formative years.

Thanks, Mr. Avecilla, for making us read all of those stories back in Grade 4. And thank you, Dr. Flavier, for showing us how to DOH it. No matter how much that slogan made you sound like Homer Simpson. Requesciat in pace, sir.

Monday, October 27, 2014

LTFRB’s Uber Problem

I don’t Uber. I think it’s expensive. I think it’s stupid for people to pay that much for a ride, when you can just as easily use GrabTaxi or EasyTaxi to get a cab who won’t charge you exorbitant fees, unless the cab’s just as greedy.

I also read a friend’s post saying that Uber is just as greedy. I don’t think the company’s a saint in any way. And if they refuse to cooperate with the LTFRB, then they deserve what they received; operating under the radar of a government institution isn’t just illegal, it’s also dangerous. There’s no regulating body, which means that if a Uber driver decides to rip you off, you’re in the lurch.

But the problem is, this is the Philippines, and the regulating body in question is the LTFRB, or Lotsa Traffic from Recto to Buendia. These guys don’t know the meaning of the word regulate; they just keep on giving out franchises, and the only people they regulate are the ones who don’t do what they say.


I mean, what have they done with all the taxi abuse cases that have piled up over the years? Nothing. The average person could get mugged on the way home from work while on a cab, and the police will say that it’s a run-of-the-mill case, and the LTFRB can’t do anything because the driver’s on the run, and can’t be properly identified.

Or how about the jeeps that ply the roads of the country day in and day out? Do you really think that there aren’t enough jeeps to cater to the needs of the public? Go to the PUP jeepney stop along Ramon Magsaysay boulevard at any given time of the day, and you’ll see three Cubao-bound jeeps for every thirty seconds. THREE. Some of them aren’t even full.

And I don’t think I even need to mention the big-wheeled buses and trucks. Instead of finding a way for the trucks and buses to travel without causing traffic, the LTFRB blames the local governments for keeping these monsters hemmed in. But dude, how many trucks and buses do we need? How many of these vehicles do you even keep track of?

In other words, LTFRB, what good are you?

Sure, okay. Regulate Uber. You need to do that. But regulate everybody else. This isn’t a democracy wherein only the few should be put to task. If one sector of society has to be tried for their mistakes, then everybody should suffer the same. Just because jeep and bus drivers can’t pay you anything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your job. Why not put a Php200,000 bounty on cab drivers who smoke-rape women? Or the same for jeepney drivers that regularly cut corners? Or trucks that don’t follow proper protocol?

Seriously, guys. Get your shit together. You’re a national agency riddled with corruption. If you can’t get rid of that stigma, then we’re better off without you, because as of now, you’re completely useless.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ateneo Hardcore

So last Tuesday, I was floored by the following news item, which I will tag to through an image, since I don’t want you readers to miss clicking on, and reading through, the subject of my ire today:


Go ahead. Read it first.

You done? Okay, let us proceed.

If you’re anything like me, then you would have found this outrageous. For plenty of reasons, most of which, I’m betting, is the fact that Pinoy teleseryes are drivel-driven pieces of pandering commercialism disguising themselves as art. Feel free to disagree with me if you want.

Now here’s the thing: my parents watch ABS-CBN’s teleseryes often. And I usually catch glimpses of it every once in a while. So I’m not unaware that some of these shows do try, and can actually be entertaining, if not decent.

And if the intellectual society wants to study teleseryes, then who am I to argue? I think it might be a good thing to actually figure out how the local culture lends itself positively to the acceptance of these things.

But I read from a friend’s Facebook feed that this class was being offered as a LitPop class.


Will they be studying the actual scripts for these? If yes, then I'm ok with it. But if they're not, then there's no point in putting it in a literature class. If you want to study moving pictures, there's a completely different course for that.

If you want to study literary themes, study Edilberto Tiempo and F. Sionil Jose, because they've got it down. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if teleseryes get their scripts from the success of these books.

So some of you are going to tell me that litpop classes in the past studied comics. And I’m going to tell you now that that’s like comparing apples to meatloaf. Komiks are an accepted medium because it is at the same time sequential visual art and literary art. There is nothing literary about teleseryes, except the deplorable fact that they're literally senseless most of the time.

I mean, if you're going to study pop lit, read ABNKKBSNPLKO. Or Xerex Xaviera. Hell, Mars Ravelo or CJ Caparas, or even Manix's News Hardcore are GREAT, too.

Or if the point is to give some of the potentially upper-crust Atenistas a taste of what the masses are interested in, why not make them read those love novels? Yung mga binabasa ng mga kasambahay? That's low-art popular culture, too, right?

Give me a break.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I Don’t Know How I Survived

So for most of last week, I was without a computer as water managed to get to my laptop. I managed to survive it, somehow, but I learned that after nearly a decade and a half of being connected to a computer, living without one was like scraping my nails slowly across sandpaper. I could imagine the rough paper slowly eating away at the edges of my nails, barely perceptible but you know it’s happening. You know it’s happened.

nail sand

So the question is, I suppose, how I passed the time without a laptop. I suppose I could have just borrowed one of the other laptops lying around in the house, since, you know, they’re computers too right? Well, I didn’t. Mostly because they weren’t mine, they didn’t have my stench, and I’m very territorial. But it was also because they didn’t have the files I needed to get my work done.

Luckily, I was raised as part of the generation that actually did stuff. We were only allowed three hours on the Super NES before we had to go do something else. So I learned to live off the land, so to speak.

For starters, I learned (or re-learned) how to work off my phone. I was lucky enough to have Dropbox installed, so I was able to open my files on my Blackberry with ease. The hard part was getting used to writing in longform; the problem with mobile phones is that, for most texters, brevity is kin to thriftiness. So you tend to keep what you’re writing short and to the point—which is terrible in my line of work, where you have to be able to keep the reader’s attention for paragraphs.

Then I went back to reading. I have in my library probably around twenty books I haven’t read. I’m badly underestimating that number, but I think it’s fairly close to the actual amount. So I went and grabbed the first big book I could find…which happened to be Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. If you haven’t read it, and if you don’t mind literature that will pull at your heartstrings, go get yourself a copy. You’ll be very glad you did. I know I am, as evidenced by how I couldn’t stop myself from buying another of his books, You Shall Know Our Velocity! last weekend.

And finally, I went out. I was out the entirety of the weekend! Going out of the house had become something of a rarity for me, and while I still go out to meet friends once in a while, I haven’t been fully absent from the house for three straight days in a long time. Granted, I was conked out for most of Sunday, but that counts as being absent, because honestly.

Now, my laptop is back. She’s battle-worn after the whole ordeal, but I’m glad she’s back in the safety of my room. I don’t know how I survived being separated from a computer for a week, but I did, and it was pretty fun. I don’t ever want to have to do that again, though.