Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On Power, Federalism and One Incident on a Tee

This can't go un-blogged before the year ends. I'll be expecting a surge in workload come 2009 and my thoughts on the above subject might just swish away. Unless I go home early due to the current political turmoil here.

Going back to that incident in a golf course involving a middle-class family and a notorious political clan in Mindanao, it made me think again the idea of federalising the Philippines. I personally am an advocate of federalism. On paper, it is best suited on a nation where regional and ethnic identity seem to create unofficial boundary within. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel's proposed framework is deemed fitting; for instance, a Luzon with states to Kapampangans, Tagalogs, Ifugaos, Ilocanos and Bicolanos. Moreover, it will bring an end to the Imperial Manila that deeply centralized everything in the country. No more going to the metro just to get paperworks you need in proving your existence. No more LGUs (Local Government Unit: Governor down to Barangay Chairman) that are like dogs waiting for scraps from his master's table.

But then again, decentralising power to states might just make power centralised to the ruling clan in that region. As MLQ3 pointed out, the warlord culture of the provinces is prevalent to this day. Mention a province and one can tell a Family Name attributed to it, nay, ruling it. Moreover, it is proper to quote his opinion on the recent incident:

So we have here a clear clash of civilizations: between the entitlement and warlord culture of the provinces, which compels obedience by force, and which doesn’t hesitate to use that force to compel submission by anyone who isn’t part of the ruling clan’s pecking order of enforcers; and the national capital culture which expects self-control of officialdom, which doesn’t think twice about standing up to official bullying; which, even if beaten to a pulp thinks it’s possible to rally support from like-minded people who actually believe in justice and notions of equality -because there are more decent people than the bad.

So here is where it all collapse; I mean my optimism to a federalised Philippines. I bet there are a lot of this kind of incident in the provinces but of course it wouldn't make it out and make a fuss such as this one. The mayor involved in the incident who imposed a Hindi-mo-ba-ako-kilala? threat reminds me of a feudal relationship between a peasant and his landlord; a picturesque of a future feudal state here where the only difference is that we own the land. Having to create state laws with these warlords on the pen is like having a death sentence written for us. Having to control the flow of taxpayers' money with autonomy given to these thugs is like having to invest in a scam; from GMA to little GMAs (Gremlins anyone?). And giving the power to the states is synonymous to making the gods more than gods.

Would there be anything higher than a god? Only the devil knows.

GMT 0 Accra, Ghana

Spectator in Ghanaian Election of 2008

Election in December? End of the year? I remember Anthony (my driver) lamented that this year's Christmas season has been overshadowed by their presidential election – imagine that happening back home. And I could empathize with him seeing campaign materials more than the usual holiday decorations and hearing bickerings over the airwaves instead of inspirational messages on the season's spirit. What's more interesting is the way they do the elections. There is a semi-finals then the finals. First week of December witnessed the first round of 5 presidentiables. Their constitution mandates that a president-elect should have 50%+1 of the total votes. As with our presidential elections, having so many candidates results to fragmented vote blocs; it was not surprising that in that round no one mustered the required number of votes to emerge as the victor. But the law also mandates that who ever got the top 2 spots on the first round shall qualify to the finals. Parang game lang. And that round went on last Sunday. I know because no Masses celebrated that day.

One good thing that I personally see with the Ghanaians as politically mature (maybe I'm just using a very strong description but something like it anyway) is their way of affiliating and identfying themselves with a political party. The question "What is your party?" is common here. They have the local versions of Democrats and Republican. There are also those you can call third parties. You can't hear them say that they will vote for this person or for that. It's usually this party and that. As for me, I don't know who I am with. Back home the game is about who throws a party and who's invited. But I have to check out this Kapatiran Party and see if I can start identifying myself to one (this would be for a future blog.)

"I will vote for the administration because I want continuity."
"I will vote for the opposition because I want change."

And you can hear these on any Ghanaian you meet on the street. Ok, if I were to pass through EDSA and ask whom to vote in 2010 (God forbids GMA's Cha-Cha) and why, I wonder what will the responses be? I can only wonder but with hope. Yes, we have our own versions of the administration and the opposition but we also have those political butterflies. Unfortunately, there are still some Pinoys who seem enthralled by the colorful wings of these bugs (no offense to butterflies).

But then, violence seems to mar any elections around; maybe, except classroom elections where classmates are friends. This vehemence seems to negate the abovementioned positivity. Apparently, the administration has lost footing in this year's election (second round). They say that in the first round they have the highest number of votes and now perplexed as to how numbers shifted away from them. Ah, the usual I-have-been-cheated mantra; and I thought it's only in the Philippines. I opined that maybe after Christmas Ghanaians had a change of heart with the Star of Bethlehem guiding them. Then I got some stern looks from the pro-administration that were in the same room. I should have just shut up. Learning from this, never give a political insight (even if said in jest) in a hostile environment; not to mention, foreign. You'll never know who's on the other side. But at least I just got frowns. Outside it's a different story. People are starting to mobilize; a looming clash between the two major political parties, between administration and opposition who usually get the top votes on the first round. And heaven knows what form of "clash" we are talking about. People in the office (yes, they were my only source of news outside) said that this Friday (walang New Year New Year dito) would be the height of this tensed period; one city is to cast its postponed vote and their number shall serve as a crucial arbiter of the warring sides. All Ghanaian eyes are now fixed to them. I might not witness fireworks this new year but I can expect either fires or works. I'd rather think not.

The management of the company I'm working with released a memo for early dismissal of their employees. Why was it so familiar? Ah, the Manila Peninsula seige by Trillanes et. al. in Makati a year ago. Globe Telecom issued a memo of the same kind back then and we went out straight to watch a movie in G4. Apathy? Maybe. But it was like a here-we-go-again moment that made an Andres Bonifacio falter inside me.

For Ericsson consultants, however, we stayed for work. We saw it as an opportunity to lengthen deadlines. Local employees started to stir an agitated environment yet in the middle of the commotion someone joked of airport being closed down; a direct gag on most of us expatriates in the office. Had I been anxious? No actually. Maybe because of that joke. I don't know. I am more concerned with the progress of our project though. And what else can I do? My flat is just a block away from the office. If someone would detonate an explosive it would be within the same radius. Nah, this is just too extreme to be reckon with.

Maybe they all just want to go home.
Maybe jealous of the 11-day holiday back home.

No, wait, that would be me.

GMT 0 Accra, Ghana

Monday, December 29, 2008

Becoming Power

"Power does not corrupt men; fools, however,
if they get into a position of power, corrupt power. "
George Bernard Shaw

One of the greatest legacy of modern civilization is government. May it be authoritarian or democratic, it places society into order. It is definitely preferred over anarchy. As Thomas Hobbes put it, we as rational animals tend to submit in an entity that embodies sovereignty for the purpose of order. And as pluralistic as we are, we cannot deny the fact that there should only be one who would have a final say on things, or else we go on forever squabbling. That is the ingenuity of it all: giving part of our freedom to the government so that we can live freely in peace and order.

And it is power.

Fools in our government misses this point. Yes, we have given them the power yet order, let alone peace, has not been in the same ascent. I reckon it is inverse proportional: as the politician's power increases, people's freedom decreases. The recent incident involving a cabinet member and his mayor son is an addition to the "power play" that has been plaguing my country. I used to believe that power corrupts. This is the reason I will never throw a hat on the political ring. But then, power is an abstract concept that will take form (either good or evil) depending on who embraces it. Why do you think there are lots of politicians vying for power? Personally, I believe there is a self-serving reason to start with. Usually you don't find those who have the passion and the real concern for the people and the country in the government. They are there on the grassroots – people in NGOs, non-profit foundations and community groups. They are not there on the same pedestal as these self-proclaimed gods or under the same spotlight as these buffoons. Most of them have personal problems of their own; barely making both ends meet. Yet they are there. They are there because they believe that they have the power to make a difference.

I initially intend to write this entry as a latest addition to the lashing out by the blogosphere to the appalling incident. I intend to name names and call them names. Afterall, in this digital age where SMS/text can bring down a president, a blogger has the power to stimulate minds; the blogosphere the power to spark a revolution. But then I realised anger is an impulsive response to a negative stimulus. The first time I read the news in the Inquirer I got infuriated. Even with a report deadline I suddenly stopped working and went on clicking every links there are. Any news on any folly by a politician is as sensitive as poking my head with a stick, nay, hit by it to contusion. But as I said I have the power and, also, the intension of not corrupting it by hate or anger. I will just be as fool as they are if I did. Not that I denounce those blogs that tend to lean to the idea that a curse can kill, but I personally believe that this will just be a replication of corruption; this time to the power of a blogger. Lots of bloggers, nonetheless, have re-posted the blog entry of one of the aggrieved (i.e. with lesser power than the gods) and it spread like wildfire. Everyone knows the incident and takes time to check on updates over the news. Hey it even reached me here in Africa. The power of information reaffirms itself. The power to get justice not only for the de la Paz' but for every Juan de la Cruz now comes through a high-speed highway. The power is ours to change the country, then the world.

As long as we stay not fools.

GMT 0 Accra, Ghana

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Day Spent on Christmas

I was waken not by the alarm set on my mobile but by the missed call from my driver Anthony. He was already on the compound to pick me up as discussed the night before. Apparently the exhausting workdays had taken their toll and my body just won't let go of the comforting slumber. Realising that I only have 10 minutes to get spruced up, I jumped to my feet; the warm water washing all traces of laziness. For a person who usually spend 30 minutes in the shower, this is a feat. With a hair still damp I got into the car; "Merry Christmas, Anthony."

The car passed the usual heavy traffic-stricken road (still not familiar with the names since going around Accra always involves Anthony and his Chevy). The scenario, however, is somewhat different. It maybe due to the fact that I usually pass this road on a rush hour (yes, Africa has a fair share of this urban mayhem). Or maybe because I usually pass this road at night when I want to replenish my week's supply of survival from the nearest grocery. The scenario is different. The sun is up. A handful of vehicles (quite the opposite of Manila's holiday frenzy). I can see green and blue. And I can make out the peddlers' faces that seem to be on camouflage at dark. Apples, chocolates and other street delicacies tapped on the window waiting to be bought. But aside from these, smiles and St. Nick's hats were there on the other side. Like them I know I have to survive; at least emotionally. I felt lucky still. I don't have to endure the Sub-Saharan outdoors. But the smiles were there and there is a reason to smile about.

The Christ The King Church is about 20 minutes from my flat. I am still blessed because I can celebrate this day with the community. Imagine if I'm still in Georgia where there is only one Catholic Church and I live 400 kilometers from it. Imagine if I'm still in Brasil and have to nose-bleed hearing a Portuguese Mass. The Mass here is in English and there is somewhat Lion King-ishness with the music they sing and dance to. Maybe because of the drums. Maybe because of the way they sing. Maybe because of the claps and hand-raising. And it was infectious. Then there were the smiles again. It was a two-hour celebration; mostly singing. Towards the end there was a small presentation from the kids from Sunday School and it reminded me how people attribute Christmas to children. Indeed, we all need to be children again; without the world's corruption, without worldly burdens. Just children.

I thanked Anthony as he brought me back to the compound. I know he has his family to be with. As for me, I still have the rest of the day to spend. Several SMS's and YM messages/greetings (friends, thank you!). A bowl of spaghetti I prepared myself and sharing it with some of the Pinoys left here. A nap to fill some hours of deprived sleep. A movie I intend to watch weeks before. And then this blog.

So it has been a day.
Not fancy actually.
Like I said, it will just be me.
But you know what stands out from the things I did?

His two-hour birthday party.

GMT 0 Accra, Ghana

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Africa

No Pinoy Christmas for me this year.
No puto bumbong or queso de bola.
No dancing lights or parol hanging by the window.

Tonight it's just me.
Tomorrow I'll wake up to a Christmas morning greeted by the African sun.
So much for a white Christmas eh?

Yeah, seems lame; being alone and all on Christmas day. But I will not feel sorry for myself. I chose this in the first place. Anyway, it will just be my first Christmas away from home. Everyone has his firsts. Besides, celebrating Christmas here is not that bad. I will be going to a morning mass which I believe is the one thing that will complete the day the world awaits. Afterall, Christmas is Christ's birthday. Ghana has 41% Christians so Christmas is a national holiday here; meaning I don't have to go to work tomorrow. It's better than being in an Arab country; better than not having a Christmas day off at all.

But of course, I must admit that nothing compares to a Pinoy Christmas. Being here in Africa makes me numb to the usual Christmas spirit that used to rouse me as the days enter the "BER" months. Then just now I realised that the thing I misses back home is the tradition. And when you take that tradition out, Christmas will still be there. It will surely feel different but Christ remains. Sometimes I think traditions outdo the very meaning and spirit they represent. For instance, people are too preoccupied with how to manage all gifts for friends, relatives and inaanak that they forget to stop and greet that baby who brought salvation to all of us.

Tonight it's just me.
Tomorrow, I'll be making the best out of the day.
Tomorrow it will be me and the birthday celebrant.

Happy Christmas! :)

GMT 0 Accra, Ghana

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


... is over; from blogging, that is.

It has been over a month. Lots of things had happened. Lots of thoughts and ideas that failed to come into writing. The day I left Brasil I know that my blogging endeavor has entered a hiatus.

n. pl. hi·a·tus·es or
A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity; a break

The word seems hifalutin; maybe because most of the Latin words or phrases adopted verbatim by the English language have this sort of grandeur as with their former empire. I even have to "google" it when I first encountered the term in the height of my TV series following (yes, an episode is ready for download the night it aired). Then I became less fond of the word ever since; at least the meaning it applies to my engrossing TV series – having to wait for a month after a cliffhanging episode of Smallville or Heroes! US TV stations usually implement a hiatus for their programs for the sheer purpose of running it longer or to make avid audiences hooked to future episodes/seasons or it's way of evaluating ratings before totally cancelling the show.

Well, hiatus is not bad when in the context of corporate slavery; actually it is in the same pedestal with that of annual bonus and Christmas party. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is next to impossible.

All of us will definitely undergo hiatuses in our lives. We even have hiatuses in our daily lives. They can be forced or they can be planned. They can be desirable or they can be disastrous. It all depends on how we go through with our lives. Of course, everyone needs to have hiatus from the things they are tired of doing because they are simply tired. But then, hiatus from the things they love doing is a different story. There might be some valid reasons. Of course why would I want to stop when I am enjoying. I don't think I can even have that thought in the middle of it all. Yet somehow the universe has its ways of conspiring with itself; an unexpected force that will slow me down to a full stop.

And then, hiatus.

I now understand that this is a natural human cycle; a part of God's grand design. It gives me a chance to re-evaluate life. If the hiatus is due to exhaustion then I might consider doing different things. If the hiatus, on the other hand, just gives me a reason to continue on, then I live the old life yet another day. And then I just realised that a hiatus may also open doors to new things aside from those that I love. Not most people can juggle all balls with one hand so the hiatus becomes a turning point, a crossroad. One thing is certain: no wrong choices; only opportunities. Afterall, we have a lot of hiatuses to last a lifetime.

My archive will definitely regret the fact that November 2008 will never be part of its index. But I don't regret the hiatus that just passed.

It just made me continue writing.

GMT 0 Accra, Ghana