Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Descending into Bathos: on substance, critical thinking and the nature of the public discourse

The overarching issues

So my buddy Peter and I were grumbling over gyoza one rainy NY evening. Where are all the policy platforms?, I exhorted. Where do the candidates respectively stand on issues like the VFA, the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, the MILF/MNLF/Abu, indigenous populations and Muslim/tribal land, land reform, free/fair trade and protectionism, family planning, corruption charges against the Macapagal-Arroyos (and the Marcoses, for that matter, although I wasn’t about to hold my breath) and the environment? What were the policy directives going forward to ensure that the post-Ondoy and Pepeng flooding fiascos never happened again? Because they would happen again, of course, since typhoons and other environmental disasters are simply a reality in our little corner of the planet. I wanted to hear more about urban planning, zoning and waste management, and had been encouraged to see Miriam DS’s efforts to at least penalize people/groups who continued to inhabit waterway intrusions.

But why did everything still have to be so dumbed down, we wondered, as if Filipinos didn’t have the equipment to understand the critical issues that informed their everyday realities and very existence? Wasn’t all this genuflection towards personality rather than party ideology -- the infernal carousel of singing and dancing and the kissing of babies -- a form of elitism that was ultimately infantilizing the public?

Because it seemed to me that the onus was on the candidates to learn to communicate these urgent concerns in ways that were directly accessible, rather than concluding that the people were incapable of comprehending them. What this has led to, regrettably, is a public discourse that often alternates between a kind of mud-slinging (which does not of course include some of our finest writers and thinkers), on the one hand, and sustained adulation, on the other. Pathos descending into bathos, it has all become a rather crass form of popular entertainment. What Peter and I wanted, in short, was a little substance.

Now Manolo Quezon might argue that we Fil-Ams in the US are complaining again about the Philippines, but I would venture to suggest that the argument stands. With OFW remittances to the Philippines likely to reach $17 billion this year -- a large bulk of which comes from the US -- the potential Fil-Am contribution to the Philippines is nothing to sniff at, particularly in terms of funds and potential votes. After all, we had all contributed a great deal to the post-Ondoy/Pepeng relief efforts, particularly in terms of mobilizing the Pinoy NGO groups here in the US. The social capital we represented was enormous (Peter is a brilliant investment analyst on Wall St, for instance), and could only be an asset to the country.

There should, moreover, be nothing wrong with demanding that the public discourse be constructive, critical, stripped of family and political loyalties, and a form of civic engagement. Because America (to use an example with which we are all no doubt familiar) -- for all its foibles and embellisments, its similar propensity to dumb things down -- had attempted to do at least that during its recent presidential debates. However problematic they eventually became, they at least presented some of the hard issues – Afghanistan, Iraq, health care, big business and gay rights, to name just a few – to a largely under-educated public.

So how was the Filipino public supposed to decide on the issues, if we could only speculate on where the candidates stood? We knew that Noynoy was for reviewing the VFA and a non-interference on family planning, and that Chiz was suddenly indignant -- out of the nether blue, it would appear -- about corruption and big business. We knew that Gibo was pro-VFA and that his stance on charter change still called for a presidential-unicameral set-up (“the Filipino people still want to elect their leaders”), while Loren continued to ride the wave of environmental concern (although, as of this writing, she has yet to decide on who she plans to run with, displaying a rather alarming absence of ideological gravitas).

The blogosphere’s primary impression of Manny V was that he had certainly milked the post-Ondoy effort for all it was worth, stamping his name on all the relief goods he had offered the typhoon victims. A decision, I might add, that struck most of us as being indescribably tacky, given the desperation of the historical moment. Erap -- well, what Erap stands for, apart from the need to vindicate himself (the hubris alone of running for that sole purpose continues to stagger me, unless he is actually an administration spoiler, strategically entering the fray when he did just to split up the opposition vote) -- is anybody’s guess. Apart from that, the public has not really heard from the candidates themselves. Clearly, we shall have to continue this discussion over the next few months.


The love letter

But before I go any further, I feel I should discuss my letter to my uncle (please see my first blog) briefly, in view of the heated response and vigorous debate it has since engendered. To say that I’m slightly overwhelmed by it -- the firestorm that has since ensued, in short -- would be a colossal understatement. I had somehow thought, like Dostoevsky’s underground man, that I would never have any readers… As of this writing, there have been at least a thousand comments on different sites (mostly on Facebook, but on others as well) and 2000 views of this new blog, even as I continue to try to make sense of an increasingly unmanageable e-mail Inbox. Clearly, I owe it to my readers to try to at least address some of the concerns they have already raised. There are apparently issues that beg clarification.

But before I do so, I’d like to thank everyone for the generous and truly heartwarming comments they have been kind enough to share with me. These are the impalpable gifts that matter, in the end, and I will be certain to cherish them forever. Because I think most of my readers ultimately understood that the letter was not in fact an anti-FVR/pro-Noynoy letter: it was, truth be told, a love letter to the Filipino people. To see it as a partisan letter – to reduce it in the crudest possible way, in fact -- is to miss some of the more profound and subtle points I was trying to raise. But more on that later.

First, I should clarify why this and why now. Well, people have been trying to get me to write for over twenty years. But I had gone to a Chinese school in Manila, and had lived in the Philippines, Romania, Australia, Austria and India as a young woman -- so which universe was I going to write about, which frozen architecture to be given life? I had gone to school in the US and the UK, and had worked both in the Philippines (CCP and UP) and in the US (Oxford University Press, UNICEF, UNDP). I had restricted my writing to my academic work and my poetry, most of which has remained entirely private. Quite simply, a writer cannot write until the writing comes. At the end of the day, you can only write about what truly matters to you. And, ultimately, you can only write about what you have truly experienced, however raw and visceral that experience might be.

And then Ondoy happened, followed by Pepeng, and I literally didn't sleep for a month. I couldn't stop following what was happening in the Philippines, even as I continued to monitor events in other parts of the world. If I had ever had any doubts about where my heart lay, I don't anymore. I suppose, after years and years of watching and waiting, of hoping for change, I had become increasingly aghast at the unspeakable excesses of GMA. Saddened, too, that many of my nieces and nephews -- that entire generation, in fact -- no longer believed in the possibilities of revolution and social change. I suppose -- after seeing the Ondoy images, the absence of lifeboats, the endless horrors of mudslides and preventable flooding -- something in me just snapped. To have the Filipino people go through this again the next time around was simply too inconceivable for words.

So I did what I thought I had to do. I wrote my uncle, because I knew that the Liberal Party machinery, particularly in the provinces, was not particularly comprehensive. The Lakas Originals (those who had moved away from Lakas-CMD-Kampi) could hypothetically carry a strong machinery with them, as well as an unparalleled international component, in view of their relations with the Social Democrats in Europe and elsewhere. So to the many people who have said: “Sino ba si FVR? Wala na siya; hindi siya kailangan ni Noynoy, etc, etc,” I would argue that, as a matter of fact, the LP very much needs all the help it can get, particularly in terms of the kinds of logistics the Lakas Originals might be in a position to provide. From a purely strategic point of view, therefore, FVR was critical (although it now appears that this hope might not have been realistic after all).

I drafted the letter and sent it to my Mom and two brothers. They had ten days to go over it. Some changes were demanded, and eventually it was approved and sent to my cousin, FVR’s daughter. But once she had it, my immediate family had a change of heart, and asked that the letter not be delivered. The exchanges were, to put it mildly, rather heated. In a nutshell, everyone in my family was pissed at me, in one degree or another. Why are you haranguing us now, particularly when 80% of Pangasinan is under water? Don’t you understand that we’re dealing with matters of great consequence??

The inadvertent allusion to the Little Prince, of course, was not lost on me. It was a lonely and very painful time. But I thought long and hard about it for a week, and concluded that I owed it to the Philippines to at least try. I decided to ask my cousin to deliver the letter. Once FVR had it, my cousins and nephew (those in the family who cared about such issues, at least as far as I knew) got copies. I waited ten days and then put it in my blog.

Since the actual letter says that I would blog it, I feel that everyone was given fair warning. There was, in my view, time enough to let me know if in fact there had been deep misgivings about my decision to make it an open letter. The cold reality is that, as the youngest and as a mere “girl” in a family such as mine, there was the very real possibility that my letter would be ignored. And I couldn’t afford that, in view of the urgent points I felt I was trying to make. Since I encountered nothing more than a stony silence throughout those ten days, I felt I had the right to make it open. Regrettably, it now appears that the letter had not been read very carefully and the import of my intention not clearly understood.

I gather that I have incurred some hurt and surprise (my uncle was kind enough to respond), and for that I am deeply sorry. But I feel that my effort to be as inclusive and democratic as possible -- rather than ignoring everyone and simply writing my own thoughts down, the way most writers do -- had been in fact rather Promethean. It was apparently harder to reach a multilateral consensus in my family than it is to do so at the UN! So I take full responsibility for my own ideas, and would add that the only real intellectual influence in the family, as far as this letter was concerned, is my brother Chanda, whose striking intelligence doesn’t always receive the credit it is due, particularly in a family such as ours, where political figures often loom larger than life. My mother and brother Ranjit, in fact, are simply much too busy with their respective activities to discuss such issues with me at length.

The other intellectual influence is my jovial and rather brilliant band of friends on Facebook – Sylvia Mayuga, Jo de Veyra, Peter Casimiro, Mac McCarthy, Marcel Antonio, Marian Roces and Oscar Campomanes – who pretty much counseled against sending the letter, although some, like Sylvia, left the decision entirely up to me. All, that is, except for my friend Jo, whose sense of integrity has been inviolable throughout. His opinion -- that there was nothing that couldn’t be discussed openly, whether in families or in the public discourse itself -- finally convinced me that it was very much the right thing to do.


Closing the circle: the implications of the response

So what was all the fuss about anyway? I say this not to sound disingenuous: yes, FVR is a former president, but so what? People blog their ideas and letters all the time, even if they happen to be relatives of famous people. What was it exactly about this little blog that appeared to captivate the public imagination? I gather many of my readers understood exactly how I felt. I would also suggest that it is precisely the lack of constructive criticism at home (at least in large measure), where substantive issues are not raised and where elders are most certainly not taken to task by younger generations -- that led to the intense collective response. Of the thousand or so comments I had to read over, the overwhelming majority where warm and supportive. Only about 10% disagreed, not all of whom were particularly civil. One was inordinately rude, although I have since gathered that his ideas are not his own as much as they are those of his financial backers. All appear to have been somewhat taken aback by a stance that was at once respectful and critical -- because the approach was so culturally new. 

The vast majority, thankfully enough, immediately recognized my love for FVR and the country of my provenance. The fact that my letter became a love letter to my country in the end, I suspect, was what had indeed struck such a deep chord. So I would suggest that we have actually come full circle here: that what Peter and I had been grumbling about over dinner might be precisely what the public is in fact now looking for. Perhaps, indeed, they are tired of media hacks casting aspersions at political personalities and are instead looking for a kind of constructive and critical debate in the public arena. It demonstrates all too well, I think, the importance of being earnest.

Perhaps what we need is precisely to go beyond personalities and their pragmatic (and often ideologically dubious) parties and coalitions. What we want is an open and substantive debate about the issues that concern us all. Not in legalese or off-putting economic jargon, mind, but in the type of language most Filipinos can absorb and appreciate. Instead of stooping to conquer, perhaps candidates might focus more on who they represent and what they are fighting for -- as opposed to the mere bottom-line. Because the stakes for our people have never been quite so high, and it is critical that we all understand what we are voting for.

What this also suggests is that we need to stop being so balat sibuyas and need to accord people with opposite points of view the space and respect they deserve. That we need to resist the parasitism that demands that candidates single-handedly solve all the problems in the country in one fell swoop. It is this very expectation of Obama in the US that may well be his undoing in the end. Indeed, all citizens are responsible for the realities around them, and everyone -- the candidates and the public -- would do well to think critically about their own positions, while responding with generosity to those of others. As Bertrand Russell would put it, "The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment." Even for non-Liberals, this has always struck me as a valuable methodology: being self-critical, at all times, and open to new information.


On constructive criticism and the public discourse

I think by now it should be fairly clear that I didn’t in fact “trash” FVR: as his niece, I was simply asking my uncle to preserve his valuable legacy. No, he was not the only hero of EDSA 1, to be sure -- the people were, without a doubt, along with Cory, Johnny E, Cagayan 200 and others – but he was most certainly a critical catalyst. Even his most strident critics will have to grant him that. So: if I can attempt to think analytically and objectively about my own family and its endless kinship system, so can we all, in my opinion. Clearly, GMA and Erap deserve much harsher criticisms than those that I had leveled against him, but I am after all not their relative (the gods being fairly decent, in the end), and for now I don’t have my own column. In this case at least, I am restricted to writing directly to those whose lives I might inadvertently touch, simply by virtue of being in my family.

What I am recommending is not so much a “my country right or wrong/my candidate right or wrong” way of looking at things. On the contrary. What I am suggesting, instead, is that we practice a kind of critical nationalism (although this only in a constructive fashion), just as we need to remain vigilant about the candidates we support. While our moral failings no doubt merit deeper sociological investigation as well, our short-term policy decisions are still very critical.

Do I romanticize Noynoy and the LP? As a matter of fact, I don’t think I do. My friends on Facebook will confirm that I questioned his candidacy from the very start, on precisely the same grounds of birthright that Patricia Evangelista has raised ("The Aquino Son," Philippine Daily Inquirer). What had he achieved on his own merits, etc, etc? Of course I was well aware of the Hacienda Luisita/CARP maneuverings, the “Mendiola massacre”, the PCGG capers, the few questionable asset sales and other issues. Where, for instance, had the funds for the Mt. Pinatubo relief and rehabilitation gone? Tita Cory, too, had had her IPP issues and some questionable sales in relation to Clark and Subic, the continued national maintenance of which she bitterly defended. Not to mention human rights questions in relation to CAFGU, Alsa Masa, Tadtad and the rise of other violent armed groups. We will always love and respect Tita Cory, but these questions should most certainly be asked, for the sake of our country’s future.

But, again, Noynoy is not Cory, just as I am not Eddie Ramos, although we no doubt love our respective families deeply. It should therefore not be assumed that we necessarily agree with them hook, line and sinker. Noynoy cannot be held responsible for decisions his parents might have made, or things that happened when he was not in office. Indeed, even after having raised the issues above, I will still say that he is my candidate (unless I learn something new that might force me to change my opinion). Because, as a public figure, he has not himself been tainted by any hint of public corruption, at least as far as I know. As my mother’s daughter, this issue happens to be deeply important to me.

In the interests of keeping the discussion constructive, I would ask the following of my preferred candidate: if Benpres, say, is one of the corporate backers of his campaign, how might this influence, for instance, his future policies on Meralco fees? Where does he stand on the issue of debt relief in general (beyond the "fraudulent loans" that the Freedom from Debt Coalition was asking Cory’s government to study and investigate)? What of the Muslim real estate problem, which is not merely a tribal lands issue, after all? What exactly is his stance on land reform, and on Hacienda Luisita in particular? And, finally, what of the charges against the Macapagal-Arroyos, not only in terms of corruption, but also in terms of tax evasion, unexplained wealth and other family abuses?

I would suggest that all Filipino citizens ask equally probing questions of their own respective candidates. We owe it to ourselves -- and the future of the country -- not to let ourselves be bribed or duped by glib and facile promises.

So: by all means, let’s elevate the public discourse and address the issues. I’m not anti-FVR, nor am I an FVR apologist, just as I am not for Noynoy no matter what. I’m a critical thinker who recognizes the merits of some actions, even while I may question others. Context, in all things, is paramount, as is specificity. Based on what I have personally seen and read, Noynoy is my candidate. But I may well change my mind, depending on the information at my behest. People are free to throw their arguments my way, and I will certainly do my best to engage with them. If you'd like me to specifically address your concerns, I would ask that you leave your comments under the blog itself, rather than on other sites, so it's a little easier for me to collate. I would ask further that you remain civil and avoid getting personal, since that is precisely not the type of discursive level we are striving for. We can all agree to differ in a courteous manner, and I am open to having my opinion changed (although I should add that I came to it fairly carefully). Perhaps then, with or without the economic incentives, more ex-pats like Peter and myself might consider coming home. Critical engagement is not only an act of respect, after all, but also an unspoken act of love.

To the candidates, I would say simply: please share your respective visions with us. The people -- intelligent and hopeful, as always -- are listening.


  1. are you the daughter of Ms. Leticia Ramos-Shahani?

  2. To the lovely Lady: Wow, what a nice read from an intellectual (I bet). I'm a fan from now on.

  3. hello lila,
    i am amazed with your views on past and present Philippine issues considering that (as you wrote it) you were raised outside of this country. indeed you are the daughter of your mother. i felt you are more aware of the things that beseige the Philippines and with that i am so ashamed of myself and for all of us who never left this country since birth and yet so ignorant or such issues or shall i say blind of the realities. i am so thankful that by just reading your blog i came to realized that somehow we should do our share for the future of the Philippines. i hope you will continue to post your views thru blog in the days to come.

  4. Reading your blog, I can say that having people like you reinforces my belief that we, Filipinos, still have a chance to get out of this political and economic quagmire that we have been in for a long time.

    God bless you and I pray that we have more people like you.

  5. ate ang ganda ng sinabi mo. sang ayon ako dun sa sinabi mo na dapat ang mga kandidato i-detalye ang kanilang mga plano para sa bansa at hindi yung puro "genaral platform of governance" ang ibinabato satin. kya puro batuhan na lang ng putik at siraan ang nagyayari kasi wala silang detalyadong plano para sa bayan. cgro alam mo na na marami nagbabasa ng artikulo mo sa facebook. karamihan sa kanila mga ordinaryo tao. sana may tagalog na bersyon ka para dun sa marami natin na kababayan na hindi ka maintindihan.High sounding at philosophical kasi letter mo. mabuhay ka at godbless -- pendong

  6. Hi!
    I asked myself that question, and a friend gladly answered. Without a majority of people out of poverty, policy does not win elections, Popularity does.

    Keep on writing, thanks!

  7. filipino ka diba, and sa point of view mo, nkita at narealize mo what is the Philippines and the Filipino noon at ngayon... pero sa nagtatagalog ka para naman maramdman namin, kami mga ordinaryong tao na Filipino ka nga at kapakanan ng Pilipino ang iniisip mo, diba?

  8. L,

    Je suis literallement bouche bée!

    Voltaire a dit, "Il faut être prudent, mais non pas timide..." et tu lui donne tout à fait raison.

    Cette article fait preuve non seulement de ta grande générosité intellectuelle mais aussi de ta sagesse infinie.

    Un grand bravo et mille mercis pour cette deuxième article tant attendue.



  9. pardon the ignorance of many who tend to take a defensive stance and not pursue an intellectual exhange of thought.
    it is a given,that, despite all oppurtunities for change and for the filipino life to move forward we never did, the issues of the past are still the same issues of today,
    why is this so?
    in my opinion many choose to be complacent and not realy push through with their ideals..

  10. Hi Lila,

    What you've written reminded me of Fox News and the White House fight that Campbell Brown discussed on CNN just the other day. Fox News to the left, MSNBC to the right and according to the White House, they only wanted a discourse (read: preferably positive for them hahaha)!, yet only Fox News got their ire.

    (hmpt! kainis, i can't paste the link! haha basta! search for Campbell Brown on CNN videos)

    now, is it really all about platforms? or social trust? in America yes, platform is important. i certainly would love to hear what they represent, but in the Philippines, it seemed to me that the issue is different. its about trust because these "leaders" continually betray our hopes and our dreams no matter how angelic or twisted their platform is.

    worse, they've never gone past the discussion of government to even touch those important issues you've enumerated.

    malaysia is now strategizing where to position their car industry, trapos are still talking about what type and form of government.

    thailand had continually focused on economy and resolved their nightmarish traffic, trapos are still talking about what type and form of government.

    ondoy and pepeng hit hard, they passed some idiotic [pwedeng magmura?] sa batasan.

    something is terribly wrong

  11. hi Ms. Lila,

    i have read both of your blogs and it struck me pretty well in the heart. people like you should be here in country to educate the masses on what should we contribute for the betterment of our motherland. please continue to enlighten us with your blogs.

    Dios ti Agngina Kenka..

  12. Hi Lila!

    I agree with your point of view, at least you aired your side. I am reading your letter (An Open letter to FVR. Thank you for your concern for the betterment of country and our fellow countrymen. GOD BLESS YOU.

    Emmanuel T. Igar, 38, married, P2, Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, Mindanao, Philippines.

  13. I'm alerting my Seattle Fil-Am friends to this blog entry as well as our families in the Philippines, and our friends' daughter, a Seattlite attending Ataneo. Kudos to an Insomniac! In contrast, so many are so disenchanted with Filipino politics and say "I don't like to think about it. What's on GMA?" Salamat sa this post, Ms. Shahani

  14. Thank u all for your kind and thoughtful insights. ;-)

    Zhenne, nai-intindihan ko naman ang punto mo. Sa totoo lang, marami na rin ang nagta-tanong kung magkakaroon ba ako ng salin sa Tagalog. Kasalukuya'ng ini-isip ko pa ito dahil hindi naman lahat ng mga Pilipino ay mga Tagalog, 'di ba? Halimbawa, kami, galing sa Pangasinan at Ilocos Norte. At marami ri'ng mga manunulat na Pinoy na nagsu-sulat sa Ingles. Pero kung marami pa ang hihingi, maari'ng gawan ko ito ng paraan.

    A, tellement gentille de ta part -- merci. Tu sais très bien que ton avis compte beaucoup!

    Reyna Elena, I agree: the moral aspect of this problem is a very important point. There are quite a number of economic and sociological factors that might explain corruption, etc, but that will have to be the subject of an entirely different blog altogether. I'm not even sure if a mere blog could address such enormous socio-cultural issues. But I still maintain that specific policy decisions, even for the short-term (is the candidate pro-VFA or anti-VFA?), can be rather critical for the country's future.

    Thanks again!

  15. Hi Lila,

    I'm glad I saw the link to your blogs and read it again, this time without any interruption. Both your blogs are a must-read for all Filipinos, regardless of political affiliation... well, because that is really beside the point you're making. These are truly love letters to the Filipino people. Kahanga-hanga ka and I can't wait for your next blog...

    Thanks for sharing!


  16. Hi Lila,
    The opening paragraph has a list of issues -- thank you for that -- which I sent to Senator Noynoy for his response. A copy of the email is on my Facebook wall. This blog post of yours led to another good discussion with asawa ko sa gabi. Marami marami salamat!

  17. Lila, the very issues you've raised are concerns that filipinos find hard to ask, answer or solve....but these need to be 'discussed' openly to educate ourselves and help us determine the people to lead the country and triage issues that can/should be resolved NOW. I've concluded that as a people, we continue to exhibit the consequences of imperialism but be that as it may, I appreciate your attempt to WAKE US UP. Thank you....expat

  18. Thanks, Lila...(you're everyone's fav niece, nowadays)! Your "An Open Letter to FVR" is a Must-Read: straight-forward & forceful, yet balanced and respectful. Uncle Eddie must be edgy now rewriting his book just to accommodate all of your questions. Well, here's another one: As Constabulary chief, later INP Big-boss during the Marcos rule, then AFP Chief of Staff and finally President, why did he fail in weeding out corruption in the PNP...? You're a Marked Lady now, Lila... your blog-notes are one of the most awaited read-abouts, hereabouts...! keep it up!

  19. Hi Lila:
    When you sent the letter to your uncle FVR, you took a lot of risks But which is more important, the feelings of FVR including, of course, his family or the unheard cries of the millions of Filipinos? This is a NO BRAINER. I believe that you REALLY CARE about our country.
    About Noynoy, I DO NOT THINK that he is the real deal. However, “at this moment”, he is the best option in my opinion. He is from a rich family---less tendency for him to hunger for more wealth when he becomes the president. The problem is that he might have lots of ties with incompetent people---and who is not? These same incompetent people will help put him in power. It will be really hard for him to just cut ties with them. Then, there goes the endless cycle of “utang na loob” or “connections”---allowing some mishaps from these incompetent people---even though these mishaps have great impact on the common Filipinos. He will differ himself from his predecessors if he stops this vicious cycle. I DOUBT it though. Hopefully, he makes our economy better, finishes his 2 terms as president and allows a smooth transition of the presidency—just like what your uncle did. This will allow us to look for a better candidate--far better than Noynoy--- when that time comes.

    Joseph John Masiclat

  20. Just come home now and please take Peter with you.

  21. Hi Lila,
    at first i was just a reader of your blog - with the now famous open letter to fvr. then i went thru the 2nd article. then i went back to the 1st. then i printed the 2nd so i can go thru it again at leisure. what can i say? i was speechless. and ashamed. in my 42 years of living in the phils i dont recall being proud to be a filipino or a filipino-chinese for that matter. so indifferent was i that i have a 2-year-old pending application for migration to canada with my family. but after reading your blog i realized you knew more of what was going on here than i do which leads to the shame. a text joke goes: if you dont listen to the news you're uninformed, if you do you're misinformed. so i dont read the papers coz i figured its full of bs anyway. now that you brought up all the issues related to the fvr regime i was going "what the heck happened ba?" you can say i was living under a rock all this time. after ondoy happened which almost made victims of me and my son, i was religiously poring thru the newspaper to go thru the news about anything and everything, trying to keep abreast of what was happening not only here but everywhere. My point? Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. For opening my eyes. For pushing me out of my indifference and making me start to think of picking my president wisely in 6 months time. i didnt want to vote bec the indelible ink will taint my nail and it would be such a hassle to have to go to the salon and have my nails cleaned. Babaw di ba? And then i will sit back and start blaming the next president for the shit the country is in when i didnt even exercise my right to vote bec of a fingernail. I chose to write you this novel (!) bec of the effect it had on me personally. I read thru all the feedback on the 1st blog, and this blog as well, and some have been painful and senseless. But truly you have inspired a lot of filipinos here and abroad to become more involved and more discerning of the leaders they chose to lead the country out of the seemingly helpless quagmire it is in. my husband and i, we always say in fookien the phils is "boh kiu". hopeless. walang lunas. hence my application to canada, for the children and the hope their future will be better out of here. again thank you for the inspiration. i resolve to involve my children more while we are still here. to open their eyes to the state the country is in and to hope more than ever that they will be proud to come back some day and say they are filipinos. thank you, lila.
    (to hopefully cheer you up, a text message passed to me: God made you in such a way that when people of the world are sitting, you would be standing. And when the world is standing, you will stand out. And when the world stands out, you will be outstanding. And when the world dares to be outstanding, you will be the standard. Heads up..!)

  22. Lila,

    Thank you so much for your blogs. It is amazing how the sincerity and honesty of your letter to your uncle is having a resounding effect across the world. You were faced with a difficult choice and in the end your decision to make the letter public inspired a lot of people. John Stuart Mill must have been thinking about you when he quoted: In this age, the man who dares to think for himself and to act independently does a service to his race." And you have done just that.

    Yes, we can blame the dishonest and self-serving politicians who have done our country great harm. But to stand idly and watch these things happen on the sideline is just as corrosive.

    I recognize that this must be a great challenge and very hard decision for your uncle to make, but we must recognize the inevitability of CHANGE if we want to make a better future for the Phillipines.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail."

    Lila, you have taken your own path and what a trail it created!

    Thank you,

  23. Hey there, Lila. I'm back.

    How are you, my friend? I hope things have settled down.

    Siguro naman, things will be a lot more civil now that you've put in detail what this blog is all about.

    I never did find out how your Uncle Ed took your letter. Care to email it to me? TC.

    Norm :)

  24. im a big fan of yours now lila and i expect more articles from you....amazing

  25. Hello Lila, I am one of your countless admirers (there must be millions by now!!) who instantly fell in love with your soul in your "love letter to the Filipino people." You successfully communicated not just your thoughts on modern democratic governance but your very palpable love of country. You inspired a lot of Fil...ipinos with your courage and inner strength. I am among countless Filipinos who pray that when your tasks at UN and at Oxford are completed, you will return to our country and become a national leader someday. Your character and your integrity and your well-thought-out ideas of modern governance are what our country needs to move forward. More power, good health and Godpseed!!

  26. Thank u all for such kind remarks... In case u haven't seen Sylvia Mayuga's beautiful piece in Philippine Star on the process of my unveiling, here it is:
    Looking forward to reading more of your insights!

  27. Hmmmm... its been a while since I've read a local piece that prevented me from extemporaneously replying with usual vividness and passion. Ergo, allow me dear friend to ground myself on the literal and intrinsic elements of pathos and bathos, as viewed perhaps from a Filipina's dialectical philosophy, while being immersed on " contemporary Oxford tradition".

  28. Im already disappointed with Noynoy altough he still presents the lesser evil.

    Noynoy's camp says it's pursuing a "reformist" agenda which is very laughable considering the LP is like a sponge, sucking and attracting the scum old trapos (Drilon comes to mind, and that Recto, the GMA apologist)...

    Having said that, Villar's camp is in an alternate universe..what with the so-called left and Bongbong Marcos feasting with the opportunist profiteering Senator...

    And finally, one can only wonder how that religious nutter party "Ang Kapatiran" have managed to put an imbecile among the 8 Comelec-approved presidentiables.

  29. Dear Lila:
    You are indeed your mother's daughter. The points you raised are valid and must be answered by all candidates for us to choose the right ones for our country. I posted a question at Yahoo's Purple Thumb that it's easy to promise to get rid of corruption and poverty. BUT HOW? That's what I want to see in their program of governance. And let's not get into the bandwagon of surveys and think that your vote will be wasted. just vote for the candidates who in your judgment will be good for the country. Thank you for waking up the Pinoys who just keep complaining. Keep on writing!