Monday, October 31, 2011

To the Pharisees, RE: #Occupy Wall Street

By Mila D. Aguilar


Your population hangs wretched with widespread unemployment and you claim:

Never in the history of the world has there been a system that alleviates human suffering, such as yours.

Your productivity has been down for decades and you jeer:

Never in the history of the world has there been a system that allows for human creativity, such as yours.

How many nations have you destroyed with your arrogance?

How many peoples have you decimated with your weapons?

How many histories have you mangled with your greed?

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:32)

Never in the history of the world?

And you claim to be Biblical?

How could you ask:

“You assume that the wealthiest 1 percent giving up their wealth would solve the problem. How do you know that to be true?”

You have never heard of the rich young man?

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19.21)

Who do you follow, with Ph.Ds after your names? Is it really Jesus?


You are given a narrow path to the lost, and you make a detour.

Who is your god? Is it God, or your country?

Who is your lord? Is it Jesus, or your 1 percent?

- October 30, 2011
10:30-11:16 pm

[Digital Painting by Tala Roque]

Monday, August 29, 2011

In Answer to James Soriano

The Filipino is Multilingual

by Mila D. Aguilar

This is not to disparage James Soriano, a young man who may have learned German, but hasn’t yet seen the world in all its gritty detail. I wouldn’t quarrel with him, especially since I’m a very old woman of 62; but I would love for him to learn a thing or three about his country.

When I was born in 1949, my father, Jose V. Aguilar, was winding up what became known as the Sta. Barbara Language Experiment. Before I turned two months old, he had already proven through this experiment in a remote town in Iloilo, the island of Panay, that pupils who were taught in their mother tongue during the first two years of school learned better than those who were shocked into learning through the medium of English.

But that does not mean that I grew up entirely using my mother tongue, Hiligaynon. My father was wise enough to speak to me purely in English, while he bid my mother and siblings to speak to me purely in Hiligaynon.

Did I grow up confused? No. I grew up versatile in both languages. When I transferred to U.P. Diliman with my family at the age of four, I learned my Tagalog from playmates. By the time I reached Grade 1, I was speaking it fluently.

When, at the age of 25, I was assigned to the underground of Mindanao and consciously mingled with the urban poor, I learned Cebuano in a month. When I made a week-long foray into the hinterlands of Samar at the age of 34, shortly before I left my beloved movement, I was able to get the rudiments of Waray and would not have forgotten it had I stayed in Samar a bit longer.

I also know a smattering of Kapampangan and Ilokano from friends both within and without the underground.

The Filipino is multilingual. You can see that from 10 million Filipinos all around the world, learning the languages of their adopted countries so quickly, you could hardly hear them stuttering. And most of these Filipinos aren’t rich; they’re masa, domestic helpers, drivers, janitors, seamen, nurses with hungry mouths to feed.

As to whether they become grammatical or not is not the point. The point is, they could communicate with anyone in any language.

So what’s this “revelation” about living a princely life with English?

There is nothing new to it. During the Spanish times, the conquistadores herded the datus and their families into town centers and cut them off from their barangays, the better to prevent them from staging rebellions. They brainwashed those datu families into thinking they were a privileged lot by teaching them Spanish, among other things.

The datu families began to think they were princes, living a princely life using Espanggol.

No different from our “princes” today, who think they’re so lucky to be born privileged.

But then this shows that life today is no different from life centuries ago. We still have a privileged class bragging about how good they are in the language of the conquistador.

This is not to disparage James Soriano, a young man who may have learned German, but hasn’t yet seen the world in all its gritty detail. I wouldn’t quarrel with him, especially since I’m a very old woman of 62; but I would love for him to learn a thing or three about his country.

In English, because that is the language he understands. But I could very well switch to Filipino, which serendipitously combines all languages with Tagalog as base; or Hiligaynon, or Cebuano. But he wouldn’t understand.

I have written underground tracts in Tagalog and even tried to translate Bible verses into Filipino right on Facebook, so James can’t say that our languages are meant only for informal conversations. And has he heard U.P. professors teaching biology, physics and chemistry in Pilipino?

Truth is, English is not necessarily the language of connection, because a full three-quarters of the world don’t speak it anyway. One does not have to connect using English; one connects by communicating with the eyes using one’s Filipino smile. The language, whatever language that is, comes after.

That is what Filipinos all over the world, from Europe to Asia to the Middle East to Latin America to Africa, have discovered.

Oh yes -- I left out the U.S. That’s because it’s perhaps one of the few countries in the world left that is largely monolingual, and bilingual only among first and second generation immigrant families. That they’re teaching second languages like Spanish now is a recognition not only of their Latin American migration problem but of their scientific finding that monolingualism makes for a dumb population.

No, English is not a universal language, I teach in TESOL. Does God, who rules the universe, and the multiverses as well, speak in English? Of course not. He speaks to you Spirit to spirit, in any language you can accept with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

At most, English is the language of world commerce. If that is what the upper classes of Philippine society need it for, then so be it. Let them deal with Japanese and Chinese CEOs in English.

But let me tell you what happened to this language of commerce in the 1950s, after my father had so painstakingly shown, through his Sta. Barbara Experiment, that the mother tongue is a better medium of instruction for efficient learning in Grades 1 and 2.

A man named Clifford Prator, from the University of California in Los Angeles, came up calling vehemently for a return to English as the medium of instruction on all levels in Philippine schools. His reason was, in a word, in my view, something like: Ah basta! English is superior.

Subsequently, my father’s findings were twisted statistically to show that, indeed, his findings were wrong: English was really the better medium of instruction on all levels.

I’m sure these same tactics are being used and will be used again and again to push the superiority of the English language in the Philippine scene, including and especially in the Constitution.

Sige, go ahead. Meantime, I will use the language of the reconquistador to shout down its proponents.

So have I connected?


N.B.: It appears (no pun intended) that James Soriano's teacher has since retracted for him. Please see for that.

The original essay by James Soriano is here, after the Manila Bulletin withdrew it from its website:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to Become an Honest Bureaucrat

Wilhelm G. Ortaliz: He Grew Orchids

By Mila D. Aguilar

[From Good Morning Philippines, Vol. 1 No. 10]

How does one stay honest as a government bureaucrat? Wilhelm G. Ortaliz’ answer seems to have been to grow orchids. With the campaign against corruption in government as well as in the private sector under way, officials may want to look into his solution.

Ortaliz, fondly called Willie by family and friends, got to a position as high as Assistant Minister of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under Roberto Ongpin. However, he refused to be appointed permanently in government, preferring to finally become a consultant to Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA) head Lilia De Lima, though he was a CESO -- a Career Executive Service Officer. In government parlance, that means he could not be booted out of government unless under grave circumstances such as a criminal or serious administrative case.

Willie was so fond of orchids that he became Vice President of the Philippine Orchid Society. This was not his only advocacy, however. He was also a Board Director of The One Algon Place Foundation, an advanced behavioral health facility dedicated to the cure of addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, and even computer games.

But no, he wasn’t addicted to orchids.

How he came to love orchids

The only boy among five siblings, Willy had been his mother’s assistant in her small orchid-laden yard in Iloilo, commanded to fetch this and fetch that, water this and water that in lieu of play. As a boy he sort of resented the idea, not knowing that he would later fall in love with it.

Willie’s mother had not graduated from high school because she had gotten married early to a military man, who later retired as an army captain. That made her concerned about her children’s education; she made sure almost all of them, particularly her only son, graduated from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. And he did in 1966, as a consistent scholar of the National Science Development Board (NSDB), with a B.S. in Chemistry. He even went on to get his M.B.A. also from U.P. Diliman after he had obtained his M.S. Chem from Ateneo.

Though he didn’t exactly relish his role in his mother’s garden, in college he “accidentally stumbled into a Philippine Orchid Show in the site where Harrison Plaza now stands” -- as he himself writes. It was here that he met the doyen of the Ponce Enriles, who was also into orchids. However, he noticed that orchids were at that time a prerogative of the rich. Filipina airline stewardesses would bring them into the Philippines at the behest of the rich, who would then grow them exclusively in their gardens. That gave Willie the dream to grow orchids not to hobnob with the rich nor to get rich, but, he told his sister -- so that “time will come when these orchids will be for the common tao.”

Poor as he was, Willie was amiable. He soon made friends with the doyen whom he would come to call Mama Ponce Enrile as well as the other wealthy ladies who knew all about growing the flowers. After his mother, he got his life’s lessons on orchids from them. Later, he would even write about his saga with this family of flowers in his self-deprecating way, proceeding from phalaenopsis to cattleyas to dendrobiums to teret-vandas and then, he writes, “to something else” he does not quite name.

Where he grew them

Since Willie wasn’t wealthy, he grew his first orchids in the compound that his parents had transferred to from Iloilo so that his mother could supervise her children’s college education. But orchids need the morning sun, and his family’s house faced the afternoon sun, so he had to transfer them to the garden of the Lung Center in Quezon City. At that time, the Lung Center was renting out some of its open spaces. Since the hospital executive director then, Dr. Calixto A. Zaldivar Jr., an Ilonggo from Antique and a friend of a family friend, also liked plants, Willie’s orchids were able to stay at the Lung Center for a long time.

But Dr. Zaldivar had to leave the Lung Center at some point, and his replacement did not renew Willie’s contract anymore. Again, Willie was blessed with an offer. A Mr. TaƱedo, who owned unused property in Fairview, offered it to Willie’s orchids for free! He even allowed Willie to put up a house there, the only proviso being that Willie would have to pay the taxes on land and improvements.

It was a good deal, and so Willie stayed on at Fairview for 10 years, up to his death from illness on February 26, 2011.

And he became Willie the gift-giver

At this point you would be asking, so what did Willie’s orchids have to do with being an honest public servant?

Well, let’s put it this way: Willie’s father had taught him and his sisters the value of honesty. Their father told them time and again, “Safeguard the family name because it’s the only thing that you can bring to your grave.”

From the time Willie graduated from U.P., he was already employed in government, first by Ting Paterno in the Economic Development Foundation, then at DTI, as assistant minister in charge of such powerful bodies as the Iron and Steel Authority. Once, he received a Betamax at home; the Betamax was accompanied by a calling card. He immediately returned the “gift,” saying he wasn’t interested, but if the donor was serious, to please replace it with two ceiling fans and two floor fans for the Elementary Laboratory of the Philippine Normal College, which he knew to be a hothouse.

“Gifts” that were brought to his office, on the other hand, were raffled off and distributed to indigents.

Anthropologists would tell us that gift-giving was practiced by tribal chieftains from way back to affirm and confirm their power over another tribe. The one who gave the greater gift was deemed to have the greater power over the other.

Willie turned around this gift-giving syndrome by giving gifts himself. Not out of pocket, but out of his orchids, which he grew by the sweat of his brow. For birthdays, he made corsages cradled in beautiful boxes that he fashioned himself. For weddings, he supplied not only corsages, but all the flowers needed going up to the altar. In every office affair, he would stand out with his contribution of orchids to the occasion. Once he even arranged floating flowers with candles in a swimming pool for a Chinese friend in Forbes Park!

Not content with that, for Christmas he would give away his special ensaymada, which he himself kneaded and baked using a total of two sacks of flour!

What can be more valuable, and therefore more powerful, than gifts proffered using one’s labor of love?

Willie’s elder sister Cynthia Ortaliz-Ranada once took over his Lung Center orchids just before they were transferred to Fairview. All those who saw them wanted to buy some, but he would never sell. So finally, just before the transfer, he relented -- he gave his sister the authority to sell them for a brief two days. “Bahala ka na,” he told her.

She sold P25,000 worth of orchids in two days.

That was how much they were worth if he had deigned to become an orchid businessman. But it was not his calling. His calling was to give them away free, cum labor on flower arrangement for corsages worth as much as P350 each.

So his friendships lasted beyond death

And so Wilhelm Ganzon Ortaliz survived the government bureaucracy unscathed, his head held high, the admiration for him abounding. It was in these circumstances that he met Rudin and Annie Gonzales, whose business was trading in steel at the time Willie was in the Iron and Steel Authority. He did not ask anything from them, nor did they offer anything to him. Instead, he even helped them establish The One Algon Place Foundation, a healing center for the behaviorally disabled, taking time out every weekend he was available to brainstorm on the idea in Barangay Mamatid, Cabuyao, Laguna, where the center is based. Willie’s orchids are there now for all to see.

As to why they are there now is a story in itself. While Willy lay sick at the Kidney Center not wanting to be visited, Annie and Rudin showed up, wanting to take care of him. He tried to shove them off, but Rudin protested vociferously, refusing to forego the privilege of taking care of him even just for a day.

Before he died, Willy mentioned to his sister Cynthia that he wanted to let go of some of his orchids when he recovered. So Cynthia thought of the large Algon property in Cabuyao. On February 26, as he lay comatose at St. Luke’s, she showed the orchids to Annie at Fairview. They then proceeded to St. Luke’s to visit him. Annie distinctly heard Willie say he wanted Algon to have his orchids, comatose as he was. He died soon after.

Today, the organization Willie helped establish, The One Algon Place Foundation, is on its way to well-deserved fame in the field of behavioral sciences. In honor of Willie, it will launch a definitive biography of the man who defied corruption in the government bureaucracy -- by growing orchids. It’s a biography worth waiting for.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

In Response to Merlie's Seas

Someday is Here

(For Merlie Alunan)

By Mila D. Aguilar

Somedayishere somedayishere somedayishere
It came in waves. Foul smells come in waves
Like the cars and the trucks on the highway
By my bedroom sounding like waves surging
Engulfing all sanity, insisting on the right to control
Your life and the babies unborn before and after you.

Somedayishere somedayishere somedayishere
The waters have been rising for years, skyscraper tall,
Rising and ebbing and rising again, smashing onto shores
Rushing down mountains while the earth under quakes
And sinks and ingests one third of humanity in its
Wake, in its wake without your even noticing it.

Somedayishere somedayishere somedayishere
The waters have turned bitter, who knows if it's gnawed
One third of the life in the ocean, and is Wormwood
Fukushima, and Chernobyl and Three Mile Island
And those two nuclear plants in Nebraska whose
Fate we can't fathom -- because they're hiding it?

Somedayishere somedayishere somedayishere
The locusts are already droning somewhere in
Afghanistan, stinging the Taliban and all else
With their scorpion tails, giving them five months to live
While their insides crumble, rumble and stumble
All over and they ask to die but death wouldn't take them.

Somedayishere somedayishere somedayishere
Even the elect are deceived, the trumpets have sounded
The trumpets have sounded into their ears, into
Their ears but they did not hear, they refused to hear
As fire, smoke and sulfur gutted their land while
Their nation sent fire, smoke and sulfur into other lands.

Somedayishere somedayishere somedayishere
We are merely in wait for the two hundred million
Drones will they be? What are the seven thunders
Will they march into Israel or fly by the by? And yet
As we watch, do we change? Do we clasp our Creator
By the hem of His skirt and ask to be taken up with Him

Not someday, it is here, but now, while we can.

- July 8, 2011
7:15 - 8:51 am

[The inspiration for the poem having been Merlie Alunan's "Sea Stories"]
[Images reference Revelation 5-10, Ezekiel 38-39]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Revillame Revisited, Part I of III

A Portrait of Slow Transformation

By Mila D. Aguilar

Yes, "progressive" darlings, I went to see "Wil Time Bigtime" at its reopening inside ABC-5 on Saturday.
And that’s because I never agreed with your self-righteous rants about Willie Revillame, nor your total damnation of his episode with the hapless boy who macho-danced on his show.

Rather, I have always wondered what made Willie Revillame tick with the masses. These are the masses you are supposed to be loving, at least ideologically, but whom you have never really known. Because the masses you know are the indoctrinated ones, the ones we both call "organized," who do not gyrate or sing or laugh spontaneously.

I have been in search of those masses the past thirty years, and have found them. They are not the masses you know.  They are the masses that Willie Revillame knows. He is a representative of those masses.

That is why I have been keeping tabs of Willie Revillame some years now. Not consistently, but closely enough to see that through the years, he has developed, even if by the painful little, shedding his grossness and crassness bit by bit.

My memory of his first suspension was when he, Randy Santiago and John Estrada joked very badly about some sexy vixen beside them, giggling like adolescents with their flies virtually open. Correct my remembrance of the event if I’m wrong.

That suspension, if I remember right, hardly tempered Willie’s attitude towards women, but it did temper his crassness, if only a bit.

Barely-clad women still dance sexily on his shows -- as they do in all viable entertainment extravaganzas -- but he has stopped looking at them lustily, at least in public. For me, this is a very big development both for Willie personally and in terms of his influence over the public at large, even if it happened over a long decade.

But what got me more interested in Willie was when he started to show his compassion for the masses. That was already manifest while he was at ABS-CBN in his tear-jerking interviews with his contestants. You know, if you’re truly in love with the people you pretend to espouse, you show it by the way you ask questions about their personal lives. If you are able to show your sincere interest, they respond to you with the truth -- the naked truth, which may seem vulgar at some points to you who are ensconced in your petty bourgeois ivory towers, but are enough to wrench the hearts of Willie’s masa viewers, who came from the same truth.

At ABS-CBN, however, the money relationship between Willie and the masa often came to the fore. There was even a time when some starlets sang to him something like “Money, Money, Money, Give Me Money and I’ll Give You Love.” You could tell from his face that the song hurt. It was as if the crass jokes he had made with Randy Santiago and John Estrada had come back to him karma-like in the form of a crass song about money. It was as if the reality of his relationship with his mother had struck him dead in his tracks.

At TV5, the money relationship was happily subsumed under his genuine feelings for the people. He still gave away gifts and prizes, and the masses still hankered for them, but the love relationship was on its way to some form of purification -- until, of course, the six-year-old Jan-Jan came onstage, and Willie’s old habit of sincerely trying to give his masses “saya at tuwa” got the better of him.

I don’t blame you for pouncing on that. I do suspect that the media fervor was whipped up in no small measure by parties interested in getting back audience lost during the hours he was on air, but I don’t blame those parties either; all is fair in profit-oriented love and war. But I do stare in wonderment at how none of you who style yourselves as “progressive” saw that Willie Revillame is a child of the class divide and should therefore become a subject of study if not sympathy, but not of utter revilement.

Have you ever tried to get authentic feedback from your un-indoctrinated maids, at the very least? They will tell you that they like Willie because “nakakatulong siya sa tao,” “nagbibigay siya ng saya.” And they will not understand why you have so willy-nilly attacked him.

But anyway, he’s back, to the consternation of the competition. His production team has tried to put together a more thoughtful show highlighted by a state of the art high-definition LED floor. They have integrated your high-brow requirement of a quiz portion at the end of the show. Hopefully that will educate your great unwashed -- your great unwashed, whose priority has, according to the latest studies, always been television, radio and newspapers whether they can afford it or not; in other words INFORMATION, belying your charge of ignorance on them.

Those, however, are not what I noted in my mind when I watched the reopening on Saturday.

What I noticed first and foremost was that the show started with a -- surprise -- prayer! The young man who prayed asked for guidance from the Lord God of heaven and earth. And his prayer, rather long by TV standards, ended with “in Jesus’ name, Amen”!

I asked Jay Montelibano, ABC-5 Managing Director of TV Productions, if this was a practice before the reopening, and he said Yes. Of course I have no one to verify his claim, but my main concern is Willie Revillame anyway. Did I see any change in Willie with regard to his spiritual wellbeing?

I certainly did. While Jay replied that Willie himself had been mentioning God before the reopening, it was my first time to notice. In fact, in the previous show, I was rather concerned that while more and more of his contestants referred to the Lord as their source of strength, he would not respond to them in any way. This time, however, the words came from the man himself.

Does this matter? Isn’t it all a show?

I would say Yes, it matters, and No, it wasn’t a show. The man is transparent -- more transparent than any of your “progressives” or even “saints.” It was his very transparency that got him into all that trouble with the sex jokes, with his 2010 endorsement of Manny Villar, with the Jan-Jan episode. So this time, his transparency speaks of his humbling; he is now, by his very comportment, awed by the God who causes his constant rise and fall; none of his seeming arrogance showed, at least last Saturday.

It was his transparency too that caused him to thank, among others, such Christians as Gary and Angeli Valenciano and Bro. Eddie Villanueva for their heartfelt greetings and concern for him.

It was his transparency that caused him to gush over being regaled to lunch or dinner by rich men and women -- he who came from the poor, he who once had no manners!

So has he totally changed once and for all?

I would like to say Yes, but I remember how long it has taken me to shed all my sins since I surrendered to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Master and was born again of the Holy Spirit. It took God ten years to sweep off the major cobwebs in my mind and another ten years to wash me further of my past. I’m now on my twenty-first year in His service, and He still has to squeeze me of my earthly habits a little bit more!

So now here’s the rub: At the Saturday reopening, Willie brought out a tiny elephant that he said had been given to him by Cristina Ponce-Enrile because it was “maswerte.”

That tiny elephant is indicative of the idols Willie still has to smash in his life. One of those idols is his relationship with his mother. Successful men (and maybe women too) usually have a troublesome relationship with their mothers. It took me sometime to get over my own, and my mother wasn’t even the problem; it was my own rebellion. I was more terrible to my son than my mother ever was to me. So I could imagine how Willie must feel about his mother.

As long as he doesn’t get over that, he will keep on making mistakes, and the competition will keep on pouncing on him.

But once he gets over it, once he has forgiven her fully, once he starts talking openly about her, about his dire poverty and how he grew up; in fact, once he starts to genuinely love a woman for what she is because she loves him for himself -- not his money, nor his talents --, he is certain to become the greatest entertainment host in Philippine history.

Part II: The Great Class Divide
Part III: What Then Should Be Done?

Revillame Revisited: Part II of III

The Great Class Divide

By Mila D. Aguilar

Transformation is not an easy thing to understand if one tends to think statically.

It’s a slow process, especially if one is not willing to change. If can be hastened only by two types of surrender -- first and foremost, total surrender to the Jesus as one’s Lord and Master; and next, surrender of that particular aspect of one’s life that has to be changed.

One can, on the one hand, try one’s best to change a particular trait or habit by one’s lonesome, without Jesus. That makes for a totally bogged down process, a process that repeats its mistakes over and over again like a broken record without end. It’s why I couldn’t truly, totally change in that period of my life when I denied His existence.

One can, on the other hand, surrender to Jesus as one’s Lord and Master and yet not surrender a particular aspect of one’s life. That makes for a slowing down of the process of transformation. It’s why God took so long to change me.

The process of transformation has to be dialectical. God can change you, but you have to be willing to change. Being a respecter of persons, He won’t move until you ask Him.

But once you do with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you can be sure He’ll do wondrous things for you. For he can make the blind see and the deaf hear -- as long as they ask.

Has Willie asked? Has he surrendered to Jesus as His Lord and Master?

I don’t know; I haven’t met him personally. I can only tell that there has been some amount of change in the way he conducts his show, as outlined in the first part of this article. Those changes are indicative of some amount of transformation, but how deep the transformation is, we don’t know yet. As I suggested, he will have to surrender himself totally to God, as well as keep contending with certain areas of his past to fully surmount his conduct.

In the meantime, God must love him so much that He keeps shaking him with all manner of personal and professional crises. It looks to me like He really wants him to keep changing.

For the better.

Transformation is a process that a person or society undergoes for the better. The opposite of transformation is retrogression. While a great many individuals in our society have been transformed to some extent or other, our society in general has been retrogressing.

And that is the context in which we must place Willie Revillame, not to excuse him, but to objectify our sentiments regarding his misdemeanors.

Retrogression: The Social Context

History professor and National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) commissioner Ferdie Llanes has suggested that the solution to the problem of Willie Revillame is education. He is right. But before we get to the solution, let us identify the problem.

Those of you who went to primary and secondary public school in the Philippines before 1972 will remember that your classes opened at 7 am and ended at 4 pm. In other words, you spent a total of eight hours in school.

Each of your subjects lasted at least 45 minutes. Am I correct?

And the absolute maximum number of classmates you had was 40; 30, however, was the average.

For English, you had one 45-minute subject for Reading, as well as a separate 45-minute subject for Writing. In high school, another 45-minute subject, Composition, may even have been added. That made many of you rather good in English, and most of you at the very least passable.

For Tagalog, you had at least one 45-minute subject. It didn’t result in mastery of the language, but at least it taught you to distinguish between the two languages and your vernacular, if any.

Then you had three separate subjects of 45 minutes each: History, Geography, and Social Science.

Since they were three separate subjects, you were able to learn facts and figures from the history not only of the Philippines, but even of the United States. That was History.

You were able to memorize maps; you knew where Cotabato was even if you were from Ilocos Norte. And you even knew the relative location of New York! That was Geography.

You knew that in the olden times, before the Spaniards came, the tribes had aliping namamahay and aliping sagigilid. You knew that the tribes were called balanghay or barangay. You knew that each barangay had a datu. You even knew that the Native Americans, called American Indians at that time, were also tribal, and that they had a council of elders led by a chieftain. That was Social Studies.

In fact, many of you were so good that you became outstanding students at the University of the Philippines, bringing with you the names Arellano, Araullo, Ramon Magsaysay and other public high schools.

But do you know that things have changed drastically since, and pupils aren’t taught the way you were?

The retrogression of the Philippine educational system can be traced back to 1968 with the formation of the Presidential Commission to Survey Philippine Education, or PCSPE. The survey was funded by the World Bank. It was supposed to see how Philippine education could be improved.

The findings of the PCSPE were published under the title Education for National Development in 1970.

These findings recommended the use of public primary and secondary schools as training grounds for technical workers with middle level skills. This, PCSPE said, had to be done in the name of national development.

In order to achieve this aim, PCSPE further recommended that the time for teaching science and math be increased.

But in order to increase the time for teaching science and math, PCSPE recommended that the time for teaching Languages be decreased.

But that wasn’t enough. PCSPE also recommended that the three 45-minutes-each subjects of History, Geography and Social Studies be merged into ONE 45-minute subject.

The Philippine Congress at that time, being of a progressive nationalist bent, resoundingly objected to the PCSPE recommendations.
They deduced that the decrease of Language subjects would result in students who had no skill in science and math either -- for the teaching and learning of science and math necessitate language skills.

They smelled that the merging of History, Geography and Social Studies would result in students without a sense of history, national culture and nationhood.

They suspected that the only reason the World Bank wanted a massive training of technical workers with middle level skills was to feed the factories of foreign corporations with cheap labor.

Moreover, they knew that the sixties were a turbulent era of worldwide student revolts over the Vietnam War, and therefore the real intent of the PCSPE “Education for National Development” was to rid the curriculum of the liberal arts and humanities orientation that led students to revolt against the reigning order.

The recommendations of the World Bank, by the way, were not confined to the Philippines alone. They were imposed in various forms and degrees on all countries of the world, the United States and Europe included, where most student revolts had occurred.

So the PCSPE recommendations did not pass the scrutiny of Congress.

1972: Martial Law is Imposed

Then Marcos, with the apparent blessings of the U.S., imposed martial law on September 21, 1972.

A day or two later, he signed P.D. 6-A, known as the “Educational Development Decree of 1972,” its Objective #2 being: “Train the nation’s manpower in the middle level skill required for national development.”

Like all bills and laws, P.D. 6-A by itself sounds innocuous enough, with its great and glorious phrases and terms for national ek-ek -- except for its giveaway Objective #2.

But then, when the next school year came, all the recommendations of PCSPE began to be implemented. English became one subject, and History, Geography and Social Studies were merged into one subject called “Sibika.”

So all public school pupils who were born in 1967 and were age six in 1973 started to lose their mastery of the languages, their sense of history, their sense of geography, their sense of national culture, and their sense of nationhood.

These pupils graduated from public elementary school in 1979. They would step into high school the same year.

But while P.D. 6-A allotted ten years and included high school for the development of the iniquitous curriculum, it seemed that a decree wasn’t enough to cement martial law babies and the succeeding generations in its mire.

By 1978, Marcos was forced to form an Interim Batasan Pambansa, and by 1980, he was forced to cosmetically “lift” martial law. So, to further cement martial law babies and the succeeding generations in the mire, Edgardo Angara sponsored an Education Act, which became the Education Bill of 1982.

The Education Bill of 1982, like all bills and laws and P.D. 6-A as well, sounds innocuous enough, with its great and glorious phrases and terms for national ek-ek, except for its giveaway Objective #2 -- which, exactly like P.D. 6-A, states: “Train the nation’s manpower in the middle level skill required for national development.”

So the first generation trained purposely without a mastery of the languages, without a sense of history, without a sense of geography, without a sense of national culture, and without a sense of nationhood graduated from high school in 1983, and from college in 1987.

Those who graduated with an education degree in 1987 became the teachers of the succeeding generations of educational victims.

The next generation of teachers graduated in 2001.

But these two generations were not as hapless as the generation that followed them.

Further Retrogression: RBEC 2002

By the year 2002, despite the millions sent abroad as overseas contract workers starting in the early eighties and increased substantially as a matter of economic policy by the Cory administration after 1986, the education budget was getting smaller by ratio to the national debt and military spending.

Not enough money was allotted to build more classrooms and train more teachers, and the government was unwilling, unable and/or instructed not to spend more.

So Raul Roco thought of a brilliant idea: reduce the number of subjects to five starting with Grade 2 (four in Grade 1), with only 35 minutes allotted to each subject. The five subjects are: English, Pilipino, Science, Math, and Makabayan, which FURTHER squished the five subjects of P.E., M.S.E.P., E.K.A.W.P., and Sibika at Kultura into one!

“Makabayan,” with all its pretensions to the name, is actually physical education, practical arts, music and what not rolled into one.

It is “Et Al,” “Maka,” but definitely not for the bayan.

As a result of Roco’s RBEC, schools were able to hold not only one shift of classes but THREE -- one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.

Parents became happy with the arrangement, because then they could send or employ their young as child labor the rest of the day. These child laborers will be graduating from high school next year, 2012. In 2016 some of them will be college graduates.

Such is the educational situation up to this very date, May 17, 2011.

The hapless teacher majority, who had graduated after 1987 or worse, 2001, are hard-pressed to teach 80-100 students, 35 minutes taking up all of their time just to call the roll.

I know, because I talked to about a hundred of them taking their masteral and doctoral education courses at U.P. Diliman last week.


So what do all these have to do with Willie Revillame, you ask.

Nothing and everything. Willie may not even have gone to school; so secretive is he about his private life, we don’t know what grade he reached.

But certainly, the vast majority of his audience come from the ranks of these martial law babies.

They not only have no firm grasp of any language, no sense of history, no sense of geography, no conceptual sense of national culture, no studied sense of nationhood; they could, at this point, hardly read and write, having been given so little time in school to learn to do it.

None of them could be proud to have come from Arellano, Araullo or Ramon Magsaysay High School anymore.

Much as they would like to succeed in life, therefore -- and they do, they do, I can assure you -- they know, unless they are exceptionally bright and gifted, that they have nowhere to go except abroad, as domestics, drivers, dancers or prostitutes -- despite their diplomas.

In the meantime, while they cannot afford the fees, they are forced to live vagrant lives in the cities.

Their only salvation is jueteng, or the lotto, or some kind soul who would send them or their children through school if not employ them despite their delimited brains.

That kind soul can be Manny Villar, or Jojo Binay, or whatever other politician they could hang on to.

Or it could be Willie Revillame.

Otherwise, without that shot at jueteng, at lotto, without that kind soul who would look at them with empathy in his/her eyes and employ them or send their children to school, what choices are they left with?

They could pick pockets at Divisoria, slither into your houses or cars to steal, kidnap your children, carnap your vehicles, hold you hostage for a million or so, sell shabu.

But most of them still have enough of a fear in God to not want to do that.

So they hang on to Willie Revillame.

The Great Class Chasm

But you know, the most painful factoid in this desperate scenario is that those who had enough resources to go to private schools from elementary up did not suffer the same fate.

While they too were deprived of the separate subjects of History, Geography and Social Studies, they could, up to now, still go to school from 7 am to 4 pm.

If their school administrators are particularly progressive, these could even go around the strictures of “Sibika” and later, “Makabayan,” to infuse more national content into their curricula.

And there are still just a maximum of 30 of them per class.

So now, isn’t that great? The middle classes, the OFWs who earn a little extra to send at least one child to a private school, are saved!

The problem is, the majority are damned.

Where before 1972, the problem was between the rich and the poor, now it is between the rich, the middle classes, and the poor. The middle classes have lost all empathy for the poor, are ever more distant from them, and now treat them the way the rich always did -- like dirt.

That is your great class chasm today.

Part I: A Portrait of Slow Transformation
Part III: What Then Should Be Done?

Revillame Revisited: Part III of III

What Then Should be Done?

By Mila D. Aguilar

A political genius once advised me: “Take the long view.”

Though that political genius has long since been reviled, I have never forgotten his advice.

Taking the long view enables us to see solutions instead of just problems.

It enables us to zoom out of ourselves so that we may see us interacting with our fellows, the situations that surround us and our fellows, the world around our respective situations, and even the multiverses that envelop our world.

If we are able to admit that the multiverse is composed not only of matter but also of spirit, of thought, of energy, of diwa, we might even see the wars in the heavenlies that are being waged at the same time as and in parallel with our wars on earth.

At the very least, it could bring us away from our preoccupation with the minutiae of character assassination and its tendency to divide the nation.

So, having taken the long view away from the seeming nuisance that is Willie Revillame, let us look into the solutions to our vast, and some do think hopeless, social problems.

1. Extend Class Hours, not School Years

When I spoke as a member of a panel of three at the College of Education last week, the hundred masteral and doctoral public school teachers who were there heartily agreed that 35 minutes is too short a period for them to teach anything.

They agreed even more heartily to my proposition that the solution to the problem of shortened class hours was to build more classrooms and employ more teachers.

And they roundly agreed with my stand that as a nation incredibly endowed with natural resources, in fact with a budget that enables the corrupt to pocket 40 percent of it, we CAN afford to build more classrooms and employ more teachers.

The question merely redounds to a matter of policy, of thrust, of POLITICAL WILL AND NATIONAL RESOLVE.

But then, of course, forces greater than us will conspire against such a move.

These may be the same imperial forces that conspired to bring about the PCSPE in the first place.

They may be the same forces that have conspired for decades, indeed centuries, to keep our masses down on their knees, begging for alms.

They may be the same forces that would extend school years, rather than class hours, compounding the problem rather than solving it.

We need to struggle against such forces.

Indeed, we need to pray for God to break them apart and bind them up, so that they can do us no more harm.

2. Restore History, Geography & Social Studies in all Grade Levels

This will be an even greater struggle than the first.

No empire would want to see a people already disarmed gaining back their sense of history, culture and nationhood.

But we have to struggle and pray for it, because otherwise we will soon be lost as a people, our riches taken over by others who through their own folly have depleted their natural and human resources.

3. Promote Mastery of Knowledge through Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE)

MTB-MLE is education that starts with the use of the student’s first language as medium of instruction, with the graduated introduction of second languages as subjects.

It has already been introduced by DepEd in a memo to all schools and is being implemented with the able help of the U.P. College of Education and other institutions and non-governmental organizations of language learning.

Studies have shown -- including my father’s pioneering Iloilo Experiment way back in 1948 -- that pupils learn faster, better and more when their own language is used as the medium of instruction.

But full and effective implementation of MTB-MLE will not succeed unless class hours are extended. Otherwise, MTB-MLE will fail, contributing merely a more effective method of teaching but heavily burdened by the constraints of time.

Learning is cumulative, and time is of the essence in cumulating knowledge and skills to achieve learning.

But with the extension of class hours as well as the revival of History, Geography and Social Studies in the curriculum, MTB-MLE will be a perfect fit.

That is, once we have gotten rid, through struggle and prayer, of the forces that would enchain us.

4. Build Entrepreneurship into the Curriculum & Establish Entrepreneurial High Schools

For more than a decade I have been so vocal against our culture of dependency, I have even attempted to trace it historically and offer a solution to it.

That solution is entrepreneurship. I am exceedingly glad to see networks like ABS-CBN and GMA7 picking up the advocacy through shows that push it.

More and more NGOs and foundations are organizing the poor in various localities around the skill of entrepreneurship, sometimes calling it by its time-worn name, livelihood, but infusing into these projects the necessary skills of management, accounting and marketing.

Those shows and organizing efforts are laudable and worthy of the highest awards, but are not enough.

To hasten the process of smashing the culture of dependency, we need to establish Entrepreneurial High Schools.

The Entrepreneurial High School will be one in which math is geared to adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying products and payment for products, science to discovering laws and principles that go into the invention of products, history to uncovering our pre-Hispanic weaving, smelting and trading gifts (and how these gifts were contorted and distorted by the Spaniards and Americans), geography and social studies to studying markets, and languages to talking and writing about ourselves as a people and the products of our minds and hands.

If some congressman or senator is willing to sponsor a bill to establish Entrepreneurial High Schools all over the country, I will help him/her write and push it. These high schools will be the entrepreneurial equivalent of our present Philippine Science High Schools, only hopefully they won’t turn out more doctors, lawyers and military men than entrepreneurs (I’m afraid our science high schools do, more than scientist-inventors).

But even this may not be enough.

Public elementary schools, AFTER extending class hours and reinstating History, Geography and Social Studies, may have to pick up the cudgels by building entrepreneurship into the curriculum as early as Grade 1.

This way, we develop children who are ever ready to produce, market and benefit from their own goods, rather than children who are ever ready, at their parents’ urging, to go begging in the streets.


The issue of begging in the streets and in television studios will begin to beg the question once we have instituted the above remedies.

But in the meantime, we are faced with an enormous social problem.

I would have continued to nonchalantly rant and rail against the culture of dependency had I not, in the past months, been increasingly apprised of the rampant and ever more horrible crimes around us.

It’s bad enough to know that your son’s partner’s iPhone 3GS was snatched in Divisoria while she was talking right into it. The snatching came from behind, she wasn’t even scratched, but the audacity of the crime leaves you with a painful realization about the society you love.

It’s bad enough to learn that your nearest neighbors have been robbed from the side and back of their houses, their iron window grilles jacked or sawed off. Though you yourself are under the protection of your Lord’s angels, you tend to shiver at the thought.

But it’s terrible to know that some young pastor’s neighbor’s son in Bagong Silang was snatched from school, then found dead and unstitched, his organs gone, his parents sent a note saying, “Pasensya na talaga, kelangan lang namin mabuhay.”

And the young pastor knows of at least 10 similar cases both in his neighborhood and in Cavite, police remonstrances notwithstanding -- all done to people AS POOR AS their wrongdoers.

I am at a period in my life when God is passing each and every deeply held or hidden belief in front of my eyes and telling me, “You are wrong. Recant.”

Much as I have always hated charity but pressed as I am by the abominable crimes I see growing around me, not touching me, true, since I am under God’s protection, but injuring, maiming and killing many others -- how can I not start to believe in charity?

When charity is perhaps the only way for these hapless people to get out of their poverty traps, given the powerful forces that have held those traps shut for decades, even centuries?

My innate humaneness prevents me from wanting to slough off the population of the poor to solve their problems.

So I have had to come to the painful conclusion that, prior to the complete solutions we need to struggle against all odds for, there is no other way to save the poor from the crimes that engulf them either as victims or doers except: Charity.

At least some poor -- one soul, one family at a time.

Long before I came to this Bildungsroman, this coming-of-age at 62, our people have been doing charity through the practice of bayanihan -- helping each other, carrying each other’s houses when needed.

In the 1920s, some pioneering young Filipino women put up the Gota de Leche -- which means drop of milk -- an institution dedicated to the proposition that rich women would continuously provide goat’s milk to poor women who had nothing to feed their babies.

In our times, there are entertainers like Willie Revillame who, despite all their bad habits, want sorely to snatch the poor around them from the fate that they themselves suffered early in life, and know no other way to do that than to give them money or secret scholarships.

I honestly wish now that I too had the resources to be as generous as they.

Not all of us may have to come to this point, just as not all of us may want to struggle against the odds for equality of education for the poor; but the call to charity, I believe now, is as legitimate as any.

And charity is nothing but love, so the fifth call must necessarily and simply be:

5. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Part I: A Portrait of Slow Transformation
Part II: The Great Class Divide