Kalayaan in a time of Kurakot

Holidays like yesterday reminded me of my college days, when I was also taking up my Minor Degree in History. I have forgotten many of the research techniques, names and dates, but I don’t think I can forget the different way with which my teachers made me see our history and our people.

We used to celebrate June 12 with parades. Then flags were made more available even through Takatak Boys. Then today, social media affords us a chance to declare our affection for our country, remind us of our duty, and even display cute pictures of how we celebrated Independence Day by celebrating freedom from our diets.

If, however, you felt pressured and obligated to celebrate Independence Day with the same fervor as your Facebook Friends, take heart. Here are some sobering thoughts to help us put June 12 in a bit of a more level-headed context, but also inspire us to act concretely and daily.

independence day 5 peso bill 2

  1. Independence in Tagalog is NOT Kalayaan.

Some well-meaning statesman or politician must have translated it as thus. The US, for example, has no problem with loss in translation, since they know what they celebrate: independence on independence  day. For us, however, we run into all sorts of expectations from just one day.

I remember, in Grade School and High School, a favorite essay questions (worth 10-15 points, mind you), is “Ngayong araw ng kalayaan, tunay nga ba tayong Malaya?”

I don’t know about you, but that formed me to expect too much from the celebration, and it expected a greater deal of patriotism for me than what I was ready to give. The reality is – we are INDEPENDENT.

Sure, Independence can lead to freedom. It is a necessity toward freedom. However,  the word FREEDOM just puts a lot more pressure on us than there actually is. FREEDOM is a very loaded word: it belongs to discussions that have to do more with God, Love and Justice, than it does to government-mandated holidays.

I am NOT SAYING that we shouldn’t put pressure on ourselves to work for freedom. All I’m saying is that FREEDOM is our goal. Freedom is what we work for – daily. All I’m saying is  – don’t get disillusioned and angry at our country just because you can’t find it.Don’t call the holiday meaningless just because you don’t feel “free” as a Filipino.  It’s not meaningless to celebrate Independence Day, because it should remind us that our Independence was already won for us, and now we must work for our Freedom.


  1. It was a declaration. Not a celebration.

When the scene on the 5 PESO bill (the newer generation might not be able to relate. Gosh.), was first played out, we were in the middle of a war. In fact, Emilio Aguinaldo had just come off declaring one of the first Martial Laws our country will experience. Mabini, for one, didn’t think we were ready to hoist flags and declare anything. Yet, we did.

The trials of our country wasn’t ending at that time. Sure, there were bright spots in the military campaign, but it was probably due more to the fact that Spain itself was weakening as a world power. In December of the same year we declared our independence, (Dec 12,1898), we were sold to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. The following year, the Fil-Am war was going to be played out. So by no means were we independent yet. Yet, we declared that we were going to be.

So don’t be disheartened if you feel that the country is not in the shape you want it to be yet. I agree, we must be incensed by evil and cry out against it and combat it everyday, but don’t throw in the towel just because it’s been tough.

Simply because independence, while not perfect, or achieved in its fullness, is something we declare. It is something we shout to the world: that though we are not perfect, we desire to be better. Though we are crippled by malaise our own hands have wrought, we will heal. That though we have courted darkness, we will struggle to turn our faces to the light. We declare.

Just as in 1898, our Republic was not perfect. But Aguinaldo and our heroes believed and declared who we could be. So heroism in our context today is, when you think about it, that same declaration done daily.

So when you’re asked the question, “Why celebrate June 12 when we’re still in the middle of our fights against corruption?” The answer is, we declared it in the middle of a fight way back in 1898. And today, we resolve to continue to declare it in the midst of whatever fight we find ourselves in.

  1. JUNE 12 is an arbitrary date.

It’s a lot like Christmas. Jesus wasn’t born on December 25. Scholars say he was born sometime during the summer months. So when was Jesus’ real birthday? And if his real birthday wasn’t really on December 25, then why are we kind and compassionate only during that season? Which gives more reason for us to say that every day should be Christmas day, that every day should be a day of love, giving, and charity.

So it is with June 12. It could have been July 4 – when we were freed by the Americans after their occupation and the Commonwealth government ended. It could be that date when Lapu-Lapu’s troops stopped Magellan’s. It could even be February 25, that date when the power of the people stopped the mayhem and madness of evil. But for some reason, we chose June 12. The load of celebrating who we are fell on the shoulders of this one date.

Which leads us now to this: Declaring our Independence and our love for our country shouldn’t be on just one date. It is something we should live out everyday. The flying of the flags is necessary, I guess. And it’s cute, too. However, the very arbitrariness with which we selected the date tells me that the date itself is not what’s special. It’s what we celebrate. And that it should inspire us, whatever the date on the calendar may be.


This Independence Day gives me hope. It tells me to steady myself, that this seeming onslaught of corruption is happening in just the first quarter of what’s going to be a long basketball game that we can still win. The celebration this year allows me to think of patriotism and freedom as a scale. That though we are not yet there, we desire to be fully free. And we will declare that with our deeds. Daily.




Sport is not immortal.


It is the demigodlike deeds of the ordinary folk, the heroic feats of those who give their heart for a people that might have no place for them in theirs, the passion that thunders beyond the halls of arenas – those are what transcend generations. It is when we remember greatness, and reflect on how we could be, too, are these deeds catapulted into eternity.


And that is what Pagpupugay – an exhibit of art and artifacts of Filipino heroes at the Resorts World Manila from now until June 15, 2014 (with a special recognition day on June 12) – is all about. Pagpupugay honors those who blazed new trails from the pre-war age in the 1920s, to the Twitter age. From Dr. Regino Ylanan (The Father of Philippine Sports. I knew about him only today!), to Lydia de Vega, Eugene Torre, Flash Elorde, Onyok Velasco, and of course, Manny Pacquiao.


2014-06-01 13.17.12

(Again, it’s in Resorts World. It’s an entire strip on the ground floor. You won’t miss it!)


Chino Trinidad, the main proponent of this celebration of sorts, was quoted by my father (who is his friend), as saying, “Hindi naman nakakalimot ang Pinoy. Kailangan lang paalalahanan.”


people checking out the stuff

people checking out the stuff

The Daddy of Philippine Sports

The Daddy of Philippine Sports

That is the spirit running across the 500 meters or so of the exhibit placed in a very high traffic area of Resorts World. The pictures and pieces of information are more than enough to inspire this sport-struck country. Families who are about to enjoy lunch, a movie, a play, and even adults who are about to go the casino, can take 5 minutes or so to check out the exhibit. There are pictures from past Philippine Basketball teams (the seal on the heart area is the same until today!), Lydia de Vega’s shoes, and even the silver medal of the late Villanueva, and very interesting artistic takes on the sports greats Efren Reyes, Paeng Nepomuceno, and Manny Pacquiao. You could see the families look at these artifacts, and some of the fathers would narrate some of the stories to their kids. I saw some senior citizens look at the pictures, probably recalling the time they followed and cheered for these teams, or even fact-checking the exhibit. Or he might have actually played for some of those teams, and he was having a moment recalling comrades.

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Lydia de Vega’s shoes!


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Lolo fact-checking the exhibit. or recalling his comrades.

Lolo fact-checking the exhibit. or recalling his comrades.


I was blessed because I had my dad, the sportsman he is, as a tour guide through this exhibit. He educated me on whose the medals were, their histories and significance, and introduce me to some names every Filipino should probably know.


Daddy told me a lot of stories that I think many dads would like to tell their sons and daughters as well.

Daddy told me a lot of stories that I think many dads would like to tell their sons and daughters as well.

A Basketball Bronze

A Basketball Bronze


Villanueva's Silver. My dad told me the story of how Villanueva wanted to sell this because he needed money. I don't think it's right that athletes who fight for us should have to sell their medals just to get money to get by.

Villanueva’s Silver. My dad told me the story of how Villanueva wanted to sell this because he needed money. I don’t think it’s right that athletes who fight for us should have to sell their medals just to get money to get by.

The Big Difference

The Big Difference

The greatness that transcended generations and the stories that transcend time and space are probably what make the heroism of these sports greats most potent.




Some of these athletes reportedly just disappeared into obscurity. Some of them did not even get the recognition due them. Through this, however, our collective recognition of their sacrifice will not just be for them, but for generations to come. Generations that will want to remember the blood of heroism running through their veins.


Making a Big Difference. Maybe Loyzaga would have been proud.

Making a Big Difference. Maybe Loyzaga would have been proud.

Thanks to Chino Trinidad and all those who helped him in this cause, in a time when Filipinos need to recall that they are great, they need only to go to Resorts World and remind themselves that they are. That they always have been.They only need to take the time para magbigay-pugay and remember.



Hey, it’s been a while.

I think I broke a big rule in maintaining a blog: always feed content.


Yeah, yeah…


But I’ve been busy! Really, I have…


There have been projects that I’ve been engaged in, I’ve been resting (which we need! Promise!) —- but here I am! Re-committing to this practice!

So, I promise some new material coming out, and also, here are some inspirations I’ve been discovering today, courtesy of this great site I discovered because of a friend.


It’s brainpickings.org.

This first one leads you to books that you might want to consider reading if you are a writer – at any stage of your career. Actually, if you’ve been writing for a while now, you will surely have some of these on your shelf, bedside table, or writing area.



These next two are really more to the creative’s heart, and explores the spirit of creativity. Fear, vulnerability — what role do they play?


This link was actually what started this whole inspiration exploration:



Aaaand, finally, if you’re learning. If you’re a student in school, or if you honestly believe that we never stop learning ever, then take heart and enjoy.



So have fun going through brainpickings. I do promise I’ll be here more often now. I realize that I’m making that promise to myself.





WAITING FOR CHANGE: Inspiration from Tsukiji

I entered Tsukiji as a tourist. I came out of the fish market, a believer in the Japanese race.

The Tsukiji Market is one of Japan’s tourist attractions. For Sushi lovers, they get to see where the raw material comes from, and the effort it takes even at the raw material stage.


I came at lunchtime. No way I could make it to the 4/5am Fish Auction. But the tour guide said, “Tsukiji is still great to visit.” So I did. I was looking for a place to eat sushi. I assumed that if all the fish and their corresponding stalls and vendors had gone home, then the fish would all be in the nearby restaurants. I guessed right. For someone raised to love this kind of food, it was glorious to smell the scent of a thousand gorgeous fish waiting to be eaten. The market itself was very interesting – octopus stalls, scallop vendors, uni and scallop vendors, and the hundred and one kinds of sushi restaurants.


One problem: The lines.


It was half past 12. I had just come from Odaiba Island to see the Giant Gundam and was properly amazed to forget my hunger at noon.

Probably because the place had terrific sushi restaurants, or because it was the heat of lunchtime, every restaurant had at least 5-10 groups of waiting customers. There were actually only a few tourists. The locals dominated the queues.


The Pinoy in me didn’t want to wait another minute to get food into my stomach. After all, I come  from a culture that considers shaving ten minutes off a traffic-infested road a victory.

But I looked at the Japanese. They just lined up.

Like it was the most normal thing for any human being to do.

So I did, too.

Of course I’m glad I did because I got to eat in this really interesting sushi place and got to eat sushi in Tsukiji. But I’m glad I lined up, too. Because I got to see – and experience – something that makes humanity the amazing  thing it was probably meant to be.

This habit of lining up echoed throughout Tokyo. Or at least wherever I went throughout my stay there. No matter how busy the city got, no matter what time of day, whether there was an old lady trying to count her coins, or a cash register took too much time computing, the discipline in lining up, as well as the disposition of the people in the lines – never changed.

Of course, as a tourist, I couldn’t help but contrast this with my own culture.

Right when our group landed at NAIA Terminal 1, I let out a sigh that said: “Toto, We’re not in Tokyo anymore…” The NAIA 1 immigration lines zigged and zagged without heads nor tails easily visible. People were criss-crossing, cutting, and shoving. Upon commuting the next day, there was the usual rumble to get up a bus. When I tried entering a mall, I was shoved from behind for no apparent reason.

And this would echo throughout Manila. Or at least wherever we ought to see lines. In government offices. In Bus Stops. In Malls. Sure. There are bright spots here and there, but who are we kidding? We’re a culture not known for lining up.

Is the difference patience? Or discipline? Or a need to get ahead someone? Maybe these, too, are merely symptoms. Perhaps we can get to see a clearer picture during the times these two contrasting cultures were pushed to the extremes. For isn’t it true that the worst of crises pushes human beings to show who they are?

The Japanese’s recent crisis was the Tsunami. Sheer terror gripped not just the Japanese, but the whole world, as we all watched the wall of water move from the Pacific and slam into the Japanese coast. Devastation. Decimation. Even a Nuclear Disaster.


But the whole world dropped their jaws, too, when we saw the pictures of the Japanese people lining up to receive their relief goods. When they lined up to help one another. Lining up here wasn’t a simple cultural quirk. It had become so ingrained that it became a way to help save themselves.

 The Filipino’s recent crisis was Yolanda. The whole world warned the Philippines that no storm in the recent history of humanity was this huge. And we watched in anguish, together with the world, at how the storm claimed entire cities, buildings, houses and lives.

Now I want to make a clear point here: We are a resilient people, yes. Yes that is one of our positive cultural traits. We know how to help one another, yes. I am not dissing us as a people. All I’m saying is we can learn something from the Japanese.

Our relief efforts were crippled by a lack of clarity in logistics. Even corruption. And when relief goods did come to the places that needed them, people would come in swarms. Rarer are the sights of lining up to get relief, and perhaps the lines came only after much shouting and fighting. Isn’t it true, too, that we are told to be very wary when we come to devastated areas with relief goods because “dudumugin kayo”?

You can tell me, of course, that disorganization is a natural reaction to devastation. And I would agree with you. And no, I don’t expect anyone to actually line up properly even in the face of death.

But the Japanese do. And they did. And when their humanity was stretched, they did one of the things they do best – they lined up.

Is it because they have a bigger capacity for discipline? But even discipline can be a symptom, rooted in a more fundamental cultural element. Why are you disciplined?

I look at our utter disrespect for lines in the Philippines – for LTO, for NBI clearances, for elections, name it – and perhaps it is rooted in a lack of faith in one another. We cut lines because we don’t think our government is competent enough and compassionate enough to provide help for all. That because resources are not enough, my kapitbahay will get some while I won’t.  Even if we ourselves are patient and disciplined enough to stand in line, we don’t believe that the person behind us or in front of us is the same. Here in these islands, patience is not a virtue anymore, but merely for the weak and those who won’t take life into his own hands.

So we make do. Every Juan, Pedro and Diego for himself. Suit yourself if you choose to stay in your line. Those who have faith in the system usually find themselves disappointed. So we take matters into our own hands  – or into fixers’, or other corrupt means. We do not line up because of our poverty. Not just materially, but because of our poverty of faith – in one another.

Could it be that the Japanese can line up in the best and worst of times and all times in between, simply because they believe that their system works? Because they believe that there is enough for all? Because they believe that their government does take care of them? Could it be that they could wait properly in line, because they have faith that the guy behind them and the girl in front of them will do the same?

Maybe we can learn this from the Japanese. Just as we have recently imbibed a taste for ramen, a love of robots, and a predisposition for their cars, maybe we can also import this character trait from them.

I guess that’s easier said than done. The web is thicker and and spun a thousand times in ways more twisted than we can believe. I guess that’s what happens when the your own government steals from you and this thievery has become commonplace. I guess we’ve just waited too long for change, and have refused to believe that waiting yields results: whether it be change in government, change in culture, relief goods, your license, or even good sushi.


I don’t know if you’ll agree, pero look at these pics…



1. Aga and JL = magkapatid kaya sila? O magkaparehong tao??? Mag-ama? 



2. PIOLO and GOMA = mag-ama? 


Fine. If hindi kayo ma-conspiracy theory, baka ganito paliwanag:

Archetypes. (See: Jung) 


There are certain motifs, certain characters na inuulit-ulit natin throughout literature and life – and the Boy Next Door and Macho Lover are some of them. Richard did Macho Lover for his generation. Piolo’s doing it for his. It’s possible lang naman na pareho ang molde na hinahanap natin sa Macho Lover natin. The bigger question is what does that say about us? Ang susunod din bang macho lover, ganun din ang molde? Same for Aga and JLC. Eto mas malapit ang pagkakahawig. And mas magkahawig din ang roles. Romantic boy next door na maraming pelikulang pamagat ng kanta ang pamagat. 


O mas masaya bang isiping magkapatid o mag-ama sila? O na parehong tao lang sila? 



Technical fouls for profanity. For the middle finger. For directly fighting a player of the opposing team. For lashing out against the officiating. Getting banned from semifinal games. Calling out coaches of opposing teams. For another profanity. Another suspension. The commissioner has even called him “unbecoming” of a coach. 


You can say he’s SPG. Or even Rated R. You can say he’s a bad example to our young. You can say he’s one of the most polarising figures in Philippine Basketball. But you can’t argue with the results. And even the love of his players. 


If you look at Wikipedia, he has 6 championships with three teams: Swift, Red Bull and Rain or Shine. 

If you look at the sidelines, yes, he’s the bald coach with arms folded, eyes focused, with fire running in his veins. He has also coached the National Team, and he has made champions out of teams that aren’t necessarily stars or the most athletically gifted of the lot. 


So whether you like him or hate him, his style works. And somehow, some players respond tho this style. And even fans. Maybe on a cultural level, he represents us. 



Here’s why he works. 


1. Machismo.


Basketball, despite being more accessible now to ladies, is still dominantly and even decidedly masculine. It’s played by boys. A lot of rules are built for boys. Coaches, locker rooms, venues, and language is still boy-skewed (which reveals a lot, I guess, why it’s still immature in some respects). 


The Guiao approach appeals to this. His language, metaphors, and demeanor are very machismo-inspired, which his players – usually macho-mentality-inspired, too – appreciate.


Some examples:

“I will go to war with these men.” 


During the Red Bull days. That’s some Braveheart Stuff. 


““Even in their body language, even in the way they carry themselves. Never show me that you are going to give up anything in this series, even if we’re down 1-3. Pag pinakita nila sa akin yun, sabi ko, ‘tatapusin ko yung career nila dito (in the PBA). 


“There are no ready-made superstars in this team.”


 Clear on no special treatments. 


He seems to talk to them in a way which we colloquialize as “Usapang Lalaki.” You know it’s straightforward. You know he means no nonsense. And you know he means business. We will win. Or we all die. It’s as simple as that.


And he keeps it simple, too. 


It’s almost kanto-ball every night. Sure he knows his X’s and Os and his back-cuts and screens. But at the end of the play, he’s going to make sure that you fought hard over the screen, or make sure that your head wasn’t somewhere else, or that you played defense like a man. Wesley Gonzales and Paolo Bugia, his former players, tweeted some motivational quotes from Coach Yeng. Here’s an example: 





Doesn’t it remind you of other coaching greats which aren’t necessarily society-conformists, or sometimes even called assholes? Like Bobby Knight, and even Gregg Popovich. 



2. Ginebra-ism lives. 


Speaking of reminding you of other coaches, doesn’t his “never say die” attitude remind you of the Big J? I know some Ginebra fans might be cringing a bit here, but look at this piece in the Bulletin that came out this week: 



“I told them not to show any signs that they’re no longer going to put up a fight, that they’re giving up,” – BULLETIN 


He has this knack for transforming a group of almost ragtag players who aren’t the most athletically gifted, into a swashbuckling and even powerhouse contender. Everywhere he goes, he makes winners. Underdogs into fighting dogs. 


And because he has this spirit, and because the Pinoys always love the underdog, the inapi, the kinawawa, the achiever despite the odds, he has a place in our hearts. Albeit secretly for some. 


I wouldn’t be surprised if Jawo shows up at the Rain or Shine locker room at halftime, too.


3. He is passion unsheathed. 


 Okay. Some say his style is too physical. Some say his players get away with too much. This accusation, though, is old hat. It’s been called of Jawo. And hey, that’s what rules are for. If he really goes too much, then shouldn’t we change the rules? So I guess so far, he goes within the boundary of the rules – as far as he could take them. 


But I guess this physicality, this almost lion-like approach to the game comes from a heart that just wants to play this game with fire. 


Yeng Guiao, like most of us, also wears his heart on his sleeve. His passion for the game and for winning is never guarded under pretences of coolness or control. He’s not only what you see is what you get. He makes you see he’s fired up, too. 




And being Pinoy, is there any other way to play? 


These are just some reasons why his players love him. Even Big Beau Belga, who professed such when Rain or Shine defeated Petron Blaze in the semis. This was after the game Yeng Guiao wasn’t allowed to go to because of a suspension. Even if Belga gets his share of fire and brimstone from his coach. I don’t know about you, but when you get a guy like Belga to even like you, I think you’re probably doing something right. 



“Naglaro kami ng ganyan para sayo, coach, kasi mahal ka namin”  – Beau Belga to Yeng Guiao 



On a scale of 1 to Yeng Guiao, how angry are you?

My hunch is that the cameras aren’t ready just for the game and the acrobatic plays, but for the antics and drama on the sidelines. These are usually supplied by the coaches. The people who are quick to give credit to their boys when they win, but they man up to own the losses. It’s a thankless job. In a country where every citizen thinks he’s a coach, the pressure is immense. But every now and then, we get to see their human side. 


They add colour to the game. And because we play this game with a lot more passion than we probably ought, it’s no wonder that these guys wear their team’s hearts on their sleeves. 


So here’s an anger scale. Next time something pisses you off, think. Just how how angry are you? What should you do about it? It’s not a personality test, mind you. The answer can definitely change depending on the situation. 


If it’s not yet clear, I don’t mean any harm or disrespect. 🙂 


Well, in any case, if you’re angry, and you feel that one of the descriptions match your current state — check out what to do, or what kind of friends you should have around you. 


Juno Sauler 


Angry? What’s that? 



Ryan Gregorio / Gee Abanilla  


You think you’re angry, but you still look like a nice guy.

“Hey come on. Call a technical on me, ref.”

 REF: “Galit na kayo coach? Ang cute niyo palang magalit.”


Norman Black

You’re growling, you’re seething, you’re scowling

sometimes you’re shouting 

but once you talk it through with the people you’re working with, your voice is cold as steel. 

You’ll be fine. 



Chot Reyes 


You’re probably doing something crazy on the bench.

You’ll have a verbose endgame chat with the reporters. 


At least you’re the best dressed man who’s doing all of that.  


Pido Jarencio 


You’re probably doing something crazy on the bench, and you want the camera to see it. 

From the Jaworski school of “kawawa naman kami!” 

Like motioning the “kill” gesture with your hand going across your neck.


Just go back to your “puso” figures of speech, and make sure you calm down that “puso” kasi baka high blood na yan. 


Tim Cone 

 You’ll still be waving your hands in the air three to four plays after. Or even after a timeout. Even when the referee himself has forgotten what you’re complaining about. 

And you’ll be bright pink in the face, too. Mestiso, eh. 

Get a good assistant like Dickie Bachman or Joel Banal who are bigger than you to calm you down. Or a cool customer like The Jet. 


 Yeng Guiao 


Let’s just say you might have been the cause of the PBA’s MTRCB rating of PG.


From daring the referee to throw you out to getting suspended from crucial games for using the wrong finger to point – name it, you can do it once you’re angry. 


Just make sure your team has good players willing to fight for you. (Beau Belga: “We did this for you coach!”) A management that understands. And a hundred thousand pesos every time this happens. 


I keep thinking, though, that somewhere, Gregg Poppovich might just be laughing at all this.