Haayy! ’twas finally over

December 19, 2006

MY ROLE as a stage father-cum-designated driver, that is. I was meant to post this one last Saturday evening before we packed for home but the free WiFi connection at Avenue Square was not cooperating. Most probably because of the sheer number of users sharing the available DSL line for the entire building. Hands down, Avenue has, in less than a year, become the place to be in Naga. And the free WiFi is surely one of the come-ons. The Cu family, and Donald, must be grinning from ear to ear.

Anyway, last Saturday afternoon, my two daughters Pia and Pep — and 36 other classmates — finally did their recital at the Madrigal Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Naga University. It went quite smoothly, except for a little snafu at the beginning (a little past lunch) that ruffled some feathers at the nearby Ignatian House.

Lead workshop facilitator Jobert Narvadez, and Julma, too, should be proud of the outcome nonetheless. The weather cooperated well — with rainclouds massing to the south, I thought it would rain towards the end but fortunately it did not. I took some photos and video footages — using a Sony DCR-HC40 — of the occasion, but is still having trouble downloading them to my PC, mainly because of the Firewire thing.

Which made me pine all the more for that Nokia N73, which remains a little pricey.:) But I will get there, at one point in time.


Bikol lit renaissance is afoot

December 15, 2006

FIRST, it was the Palanca. Then the 2004 Premio Arejola. Now, here’s yet another proof that a renaissance in Bikol literature is afoot — powered both by traditional and new media, the latter including blogging — with no less than the portal to Philippine literature heralding its coming.

Let’s savor together what I think are the choicest cuts:

By the time Kristian Cordero’s name was announced as 2006 Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award winner, everyone at the Claro M. Recto Hall knew that the awarding was to be an event of many firsts. It was the first time a volume of poetry won. It was the first time a trilingual book won. It was the first time a book published by a small press won…

A hush fell over the Recto Hall as Cordero related moments of creativity in the face of the storm battering the region. Mga Tulang Tulala: Piling Tula sa Filipino, Bikol at Rinconada, then, is a testament not only to the emerging success of Bikol literature but also to the artist’s ability to triumph over the external life in the face of the most heart-wrenching of circumstances…

The unanimous decision of the 2006 judges bodes well for Bikol literature and writing from the regions in general….

As I wrote Kristian many fortnights ago: “Ma-o talaga a taga-Rinconada!” My heartfelt congratulations.:)

UPDATE (6:02pm): Want another proof that blogging is helping power this renaissance? As I was furiously composing the above, little did I know that Kristian (who I have yet to meet in person) has been here at Koko Café all along — until I asked him, noting that the photo I nicked bears a striking resemblance to the young man in sandals who is leisurely enjoying the free WiFi in this joint.

Photo nicked from Kristian’s blog

A Naga seafront a hundred years hence?

December 15, 2006

THIS Reuters news item that greeted me in my Yahoo! newsbox this morning grabbed my attention and sent my mind spinning.

The world’s oceans may rise up to 140 cms (4 ft 7 in) by 2100 due to global warming, a faster than expected increase that could threaten low-lying coasts from Florida to Bangladesh, a researcher said on Thursday.

And it led me to this Wikipedia article, which led me to this interactive Google-powered flood maps, and finally to the three maps for the Metro Naga area (right), arranged in the order of flooding scenario: 0 meter (status quo), 1 meter and 2 meters. I did not try the worse scenarios (it can go as high as 14 meters) for the fear of the unthinkable.

This weblog entry by Alex Tingle, the guy behind the flood maps, and the comments that flooded it, and continues to, showed some limitations of his work: there are six, including tides as non-factor. So I googled “tides in the Philippines” and got this: a graphical and tabular data on the high and low tides in Legazpi City (which is just 100 kms away) over the next two days. It appears the difference between high and low tides in our corner of the world ranges between 0.5 t0 1.25 meters.

Which makes the lowermost map very plausible — assuming Stefan Rahmstorf’s calculations are correct. Effectively, it would put a seafront right beside Naga City as the San Miguel Bay as we know it will extend deep into the Bula-Minalabac area.

As always, phenomena like this will cut both ways: a seafront will be nice but it means goodbye to the low-lying areas of the Bicol peninsula as we know it. And the danger of storm surges, which is what brought about the terrible flooding in Legazpi City in Reming’s aftermath, especially given the increasing ferocity of typhoons that regularly pass our way. While we may not see this in our lifetime, and I definitely do not want to be an alarmist, but I think this is one set of data we should etch in our collective consciousness because the future Naga City of our children is at stake, and most probably at risk.

A very powerful religion

December 15, 2006

WHEN I was cruising last night along the lightless Naga-Carolina Road on the way home to Pacol, I thought I saw a flying saucer (aka UFO) land to my right — reminiscent of the Close Encounter movie — somewhere in barangay San Felipe. Only that when slowed down and looked closer, it was really the Caceres Sports Arena.

It was only around 7:30pm yet the edifice is already full up to the brim, peopled by local cockfighting enthusiasts from all walks of life: there are those who came in their SUVs, cars and pickup trucks; many through their scooters and motorbikes; and the lesser-off onboard passenger jeepneys (PUJs) that have converted one side of the road as their parking area.

To my shock, when I came back to the city center early this morning to deposit my wife and eldest at Cam High — it was only around 10 minutes past 6am — the place is still full of life, although a number of enthusiasts are already lumbering their way to the awaiting PUJs with shoulders drooping, while some have the sprightly bounce in their steps.

A week ago, I texted Mike and Grace in their popular afternoon program over RMN-DWNX that only four days after Reming pummelled the city, the sports arena is already operating. “Grabeng pagtubod ki San Pedro!” I said in an attempt to humor the two.

But Grace, who I assume is not an aficionado (I have yet to see a woman paying homage to the Catholic saint most associated with this bloody sport), curtly dismissed my remark, even rationalizing that the local bolangeros probably turned to cockfighting to make money and rebuild their homes.

Which made me realize — being a daily passerby of the sports arena — that cockfighting is actually a second religion to this particular segment of local society, more powerful if not of equal footing with their mostly catholic faith. Day in and day out they come without fail whenever there is a cockfighting event, analogous to the traditional day of worship of the regular faithful; the kristos serve as the high priests in their rituals which, today, lasted until the well into early morning: all in the greater glory of the God of Luck.

If somebody can point me to a definitive study into the sociology and psychology of the Filipino cockfighting aficionado, and into this fascinating phenomenon, I will be most grateful.

A parliamentary government? No, not yet

December 14, 2006

I WAS meaning to write about it early this morning, but not only did I misplace my copy of his slides but also had a hard time finding his final quote of Plato by way of Leo Strauss, which I — and most everyone in the audience, particularly Councilor Miles Raquid-Arroyo — think summed up the essence of his lecture.

Our guest was Dr. Patrick Riordan, a member of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, who talked on “Power and Charter Change: Control or Tyranny?” last night at the Madrigal amphitheatre at the Ateneo de Naga University.

My difficulties notwithstanding, he essentially pointed out the danger of pursuing systemic change which, he said, must always be viewed with the worst-case scenario in mind, when everything else fails. This is a very critical point that had been conveniently swept under the rug in the reckless drive for charter change — first via the people’s initiative route, then lately the rushed constituent assembly attempt by the House leadership; a failed power grab, says Manolo Quezon — that the Arroyo administration and its allies has been foisting on the nation.

In his concluding remarks, Riordan — who teaches political philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London and is on his fifth visit to the Philippines — asks: Are the benefits to be achieved through charter change so great that they are worth the threat to stability and predictability that any change would entail?

The affable Irishman reminded me of what David Ellis, a classmate at Cambridge, said when I first told him about the effort to change the Philippine system of government from parliamentary to presidential. David, who once worked as a housing manager in a local authority outside London before deciding to give graduate work a stab after retirement, is fed up with the apparent limited choice under the British parliamentary system. Hence, he cannot understand why Filipinos would want to give away their right to directly choose their leaders. (As things stands though, as shown by the recent unfolding events, only the House leadership and their ilk want to give it away, and in the process control everything.)

Riordan essentially echoed the same thing, pointing out that UK’s strength is also its weakness: the absence of a bill of rights, of a written constitution, and a deficient separation of powers under a parliamentary system can easily degenerate into tyranny — shades of V for Vendetta. Only an operative culture to pursue the common good has prevented it from happening.

That kind of culture underpinning an effective parliamentary system is what the Philippines lack at the time being. What will prevent the same defects — which charter change is envisioned to cure — to arise again and again, when the flaws are actually in the people themselves? the elusive Platonian quote (as I recalled it) said in a perfect windup.

And so it is not yet appropriate for the country, Riordan finally said when coaxed by Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado about the bottomline of his lecture.

A perfidy, this time in the 1st district of Cam. Sur

December 14, 2006

NOW THAT con-ass is dead, and 100 of the 161 congressmen who co-starred with the accused Gangbangers (see also this post by Dominique Cimafranca; and I like that bit about “negative votes”) are belatedly hand-wringing as they shout their ‘mea culpas,’ it is time to focus on another perfidy that is going on in Camarines Sur.

For this, let me yield to Dave Bercasio’s most recent post, which is about a carpetbagging presidential son, a former congressman who sold out his district, and the main sponsor of the failed con-ass measure who cobbled up the whole thing.


The renowned Bicolano historian Prof. Danilo Gerona once wrote about Oragon as a virtue. A word, in which Bicolanos are known and are associated with outside of the Region. But while the word would most of the times (since at times it would have a negative connotation) bring pride to us Bicolanos, it is being endangered today.

In the first district of Camarines Sur, the oragon politicians and political families gave a new meaning to oragon by offering the seat as the district representative to the presidential son, Dato Arroyo in golden platter, with all the garnishments at the sides (this is how one businessman describes the situation). What the Andayas and their allies did was to invite Dato to run for Congress and offer not to run against him. They said that having Dato as Congressman would ensure that benefits from Malacañang will surely flow to the district. I say that they are not of thinking anything else but themselves. What development? For whom?

For them. They think that to be oragon is to be able to create a situation wherein one could amass great wealth, and at this time, by making Dato run for Congress.

Echoing a sentiment from a punong barangay from the 1st district, this will go down in history that our politicos sold out the 1st district to the monied and the powerful non-bicolano. More painfully, it will be a stigma that will rob our young of the pride of being Bicolanos!

This is also TraPo at the highest level. A politics of patronage and not of platforms, character, capacities and track record.

But the fight is far from over, though. Some groups are now going around the 1st district to talk to capable and promising individuals to stand up against this blunder. We hope to stage One Big Fight inspired by the story of David and Goliath.

By the way, if we don’t do anything now, congressmen from Albay may in 2010 sell-out some districts to Luli Arroyo or Mike Arroyo.

If you have thoughts on this, and if you know of persons whom you think we can ask to run against Dato, please send me an email at dbercasio@gmail.com or post it as a comment.

Image nicked from www.returningsoldiers.us

There’s still time to help little Jack

December 13, 2006

IMAGINE having a child with a serious, life-threatening disease that’s mostly unheard of where you live. Imagine not having health insurance, and living in a country that’s medically a few steps behind the first world when it comes to rare cases like Fanconi Anemia (FA)….Imagine getting up every day hoping your child will get through it without getting sick or needing a transfusion.

I know these are hard times, especially for a city like ours that had just scraped through the most destructive natural disaster in the last 50 years. But the quote above is something else, especially for a father like myself. And I’d like to believe we still hold the other half of the sky.:)

As I write this, Urbano’s campaign on behalf of Jack Simbulan still has 12 days to go. So there is still time to help little Jack. (I hope provisions for Philippine-issued credit cards can be made.)

Those who want some more details, there’s this detailed explanation — which contains the above quote — from Urbano’s latest post on Jack and the rare medical challenge he faces.