Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Filipino Animator Wins First Emmy Award

Jess Espanola (right) with Emmy Award

By David Casuco

Los Angeles: Multi-awarded animator Jess Espanola put the Philippines in view during the 60th annual Creative Arts Emmy Awards last week, bagging one Emmy trophy for his work as Assistant Director for the The Simpsons' "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind," which was named "Outstanding Animated Program (for programming less than one hour)."

Also given recognitions, along with Jess, are the top executives of Fox Gracie Films and Starz Film Roman, namely: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening (the creator of "The Simpsons"), Al Jean, Ian Maxton-Graham, Matt Selman, and Tim Long, executive producers; John Frink, Kevin Curran, Michael Price, Bill Odenkirk, Marc Wilmore, Joel H. Cohen, Ron Hauge, and Rob Lazebnik, co-executive producers; Lurie Biermacki, and Rick Polizzi, animation producers; J. Steward Burns, writer; Chuck Sheetz, director; Mark Kirkland, supervising director; Patricia Shinagawa, animation timer.

"The Simpsons" (FOX, Gracie Films in association with 20th Century Fox), bested four top nominees, namely: Creature Comforts America "Don’t Choke To Death, Please" CBS, Aardman Animations production in association with The Gotham Group; King Of The Hill "Death Picks Cotton" FOX, 20th Century Fox Television in association with 3 Arts Entertainment, Deedle-Dee Productions & Judgemental Films; Robot Chicken "Robot Chicken: Star Wars" Cartoon Network, ShadowMachine Films, and SpongeBob SquarePants "Inmates of Summer / Two Faces of Squidward" Nickelodeon, Nickelodeon with United Plankton Pictures, Inc.

Jess, who graduated with a fine arts degree from the University of the Philippines, is the first ever Filipino to receive an Emmy award. Although some long-time Filipino residents in Los Angeles are ambivalent on the distinction heaped on him, saying someone else — a Filipino-American engineer — set the milestone in the early 80s, a claim that remains unsubstantiated as of this writing.

Meanwhile, Jess is riding on a crest of mainstream accolade, a feat that validates the common knowledge that Filipino animators are among the best in Hollywood.

"That's correct, a lot of Filipino artists are in the cutting edge of the animation industry. I guess I am lucky that I worked with "The Simpsons," said Jess.

Actually, this is the second time that Jess got involved in an animation project that won an Emmy. He was also an assistant director for "Futurama," an animated show that won the Emmy in 2002. Unfortunately, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences did not include the assistant director in the nomination process then.

How does he feel rubbing elbows with the prime movers of the American entertainment industry?

"It was cool. All of us nominees had a party on August 26 at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences where everybody was given the certificate of honor, but the announcement of winners were set a couple of weeks later on Sept. 13 at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles where the formal announcement was done. During that day, all of us from the studio anxiously waited. And when the final reckoning came, the master of ceremonies called out, 'and the Emmy goes to... The Simpsons!' I thought I punched the air and hollered yeah! It was a surreal experience for me. The excitement was just so overwhelming at that moment," Jess told this writer in an exclusive interview.

Jess, who was given permanent U.S. residency status as a "person with exceptional ability," has an equally compelling life story. Raised by a single mother in a depressed area in Central Luzon, Jess used his artistic talent to survive when he came face to face with hunger.

"I experienced real hunger while I was a boy. There was no food on the table most of the time. Sometimes I just imagine I already ate. It was a hard life," said Jess.

Amazingly, despite the great odds, Jess still remained on top of his class, and people started helping him out when they noticed that he was an exceptionally talented kid. He was among the high achieving students in high school that gained scholarships at the University of the Philippines.

When Hanna Barbera put up Fil-Cartoon Inc., a subsidiary outfit in Pasig, Metro Manila, Jess was hired as a team supervisor and lead animator. Jess's works were, and still are, considered standards of excellence in Philippine animation.

Jess and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1994.


Raquela Rios (Center) and friends (from L to R) Via (Olivia Gaudio) and Aubrey (Brax Villa) pose above Cebu City in a scene from the 2008 Berlin Film Festival Teddy Award Winner, THE AMAZING TRUTH ABOUT QUEEN RAQUELA, the entertaining and empowering semi-autobiographical story of Raquela Rios, a ladyboy and internet star from Cebu, which opens in US theaters this weekend. The multi-award-winning independent film, which centers on Raquela's dreams to see the world and travel to Paris in search of love, is directed by Olaf de Fleurs and is believed to be the first Philippine-Icelandic co-production in cinema history. Distributed by Regent Releaseing/here! Films, THE AMAZING TRUTH ABOUT QUEEN RAQUELA opens Sept. 22 for week-long runs in NY (Quad Cinemas), LA (Regent Showcase La Brea), Columbus, Ohio (Drexel East) and Palm Springs (Cinemas Palme d'Or). For more information,

photo credit: Regent Releasing/here! Films

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Telltale Signs/ THE PALIN EFFECT ON S.1315

Rodel Rodis, September 15, 2008

Before Congress adjourned for its August recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assured supporters of the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill that she would put S.1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement bill, to a vote when Congress resumed its regular session in September. It has been two weeks since then - with less than two weeks left to go before Congress adjourns - and there is still no word as to when, or if, the House will vote on S. 1315. What has happened since?

According to AsianWeek columnist Emil “Amok”Guillermo, what happened was the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah “the Bridge to Nowhere” Palin.

“The Palin effect is so great that not only has it changed both the gender and the change issues in the race, but it has also impacted the Filipino vets issue,” Guillermo wrote. “With such a tight presidential race, the politics of protecting congressional seats is now a priority. What was a slam-dunk feel good vote in the Senate has now become a hot potato for House members up for re-election.”

Because S.1315 is about 40 votes short of the 218 needed to secure its passage in the House, there is widespread speculation that Speaker Pelosi is reluctant to bring the issue to a vote for fear that Democrats in close races would lose their seats if they voted for the bill and their Republican rivals point to this vote as an example of how the Democrats cared more about “foreign” veterans than “our own” American vets.

Instead of voting on the issue of whether Filipino veterans deserve to be properly compensated for their military service to the US during WW II, House Republican opponents of S. 1315, led by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Indiana), have redefined the issue to now be whether the House should overturn the Hartness decision.

Hartness refers to a 2006 United States Court of Appeals veterans claims decision that overturned the Department of Veterans Affairs decision that denied an 86-year-old legally blind World War II veteran, Robert A. Hartness, a VA benefit called a special monthly pension. The court reversed the VA’s denial of benefits to Mr. Hartness, and required the VA to begin making those payments. During a floor debate on the veterans bill last July 31, 2008, Buyer declared that “we are not going to repeal Hartness.”

Because the “Pay-Go” policy of the House requires Congress to determine where the money would come from for any bill requiring appropriations, Congressional supporters of S.1315 used the savings that would come from reversing the Hartness decision to finance the Filvets bill.

As Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) explained in his Senate speech on June 2, 2008, “Despite the fact that the purpose of the provision in S. 1315 which reverses the Hartness decision is to do nothing more than restore the clear intent of Congress, it has been mischaracterized by some as an attempt to withdraw benefits from deserving veterans in order to fund benefits to Filipino veterans. That is simply not the case. Such accusations fail to appreciate the facts of the matter that led the Senate to take corrective action.”

Despite Sen. Akaka’s clarification, there is still the fear that Republicans will run ads in the congressional races of vulnerable Democratic supporters of S.1315 accusing the Democrats of eliminating the veterans’ benefits of blind 86-year old American veterans like Robert Hartness just to pay 13,000 “foreign” Philippine-based veterans.

Perhaps the most outspoken veterans’ organization opposing S.1315 is the American Legion. While attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the “Amok” columnist had the opportunity to discuss the Filvets issue with Steve Robertson, director of the American Legion's National Legislative Commission.

Robertson, Guillermo learned, is not opposed to S.1315 and in fact suggested “two sure-fire ways to bypass the fears of some congressmen all in a tizzy”.

Robertson’s suggestions: “First, Congress could simply waive the budget rules, which is done all the time. Second, it could attach S.1315 to an emergency supplemental bill or a continuing resolution, which do not fall under the provisions of the Balanced Budget Amendment.”

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is prepared to introduce a bill this week that would give Filipino WW II veterans a lump sum amount, similar to what Japanese Americans received for their WW II internment. Filner’s bill would provide $15,000 for US-based veterans and $9,000 for vets in the Philippines. When Filner proposed this same amendment last July 31, it
prompted Speaker Pelosi to come down to the floor and assure Filner and other Filvets supporters that S.1315 will be brought to a vote. Based on that assurance, Filner withdrew his amendment.

But since S.1315 has not been brought to a vote, Filner is prepared to use the same lump sum proposal to draw the Speaker to address the issue of S.1315 again.

Whatever it takes. Just get it passed. The clock is ticking. We’re running out of time. Please email Speaker Nancy Pelosi at and ask her to bring S.1315 to a floor vote now.

(Please send comments to or write to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis, 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 o call (415) 334-7800. For past issues, log on to

'Legalizing' Jueteng

PerryScope: Perry Diaz

Like the popular "transformer" toys, the illegal numbers game -- jueteng -- has transformed by way of bureaucratic legerdemain into a legalized game called "small town lotto" or STL. But the game hasn't changed a bit, it is still jueteng. The only difference is that the jueteng lords are raking in more money.

STL is a government-sponsored numbers game administered by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Launched in 1987 during the time of then President Cory Aquino, STL failed for a variety of reasons. It was shelved in 1990. In 2005, in the aftermath of the jueteng scandal which implicated some members of the First Family --one of whom was referred to as the "Lion King" by whistleblower Sandra Cam -- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed Edward Hagedorn, the Mayor of Puerto Princesa, as National Anti-Jueteng Task Force czar. Hagedorn advocated for the revival of STL. He was convinced that STL was the right tool to stamp out jueteng. With optimism and great expectation Hagedorn set a deadline -- September 15, 2006 -- to totally stop jueteng in the country.

In reaction to the STL revival, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, the chairman of the "Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng," said that STL was meant as a "shameful substitute for jueteng." He said: "just the same it is also a corrupt and corrupting numbers game as jueteng. It was already tried before and proved to be a big failure."

Recently, jueteng made the front pages again when Auxiliary Bishop Lucilo Quiambao of the Diocese of Legazpi City in Albay alleged that PCSO employees were also working as jueteng collectors for the local gambling lords. He suggested that the government should investigate the PCSO employees if the government was indeed serious in stamping out jueteng. But how can the government -- or to be more precise, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo -- stop jueteng when her "kumpadre," town mate, and political benefactor is reputedly the biggest jueteng operator in the country. To my knowledge, jueteng in Pampanga and the rest of the country has never been better during Gloria's presidency. Ironically, it was the jueteng scandal during Joseph Estrada's presidency that catapulted Gloria to power in 2001. Indeed, corruption begets corruption.

In Albay, the only STL operation in the entire province -- and all of Bicolandia -- was franchised to the Pilipinas Pacific Rim Corp. (PPRC) on November 29, 2006. Within a year, allegations of fraud were made that the STL operation was just a cover up for jueteng. It is interesting to note that PCSO granted the STL franchise to PPRC on the latter's representation that it will use STL to combat the jueteng operation in the province. Nothing was farther from the truth. Once STL became operational, the number of jueteng "comadors" -- or bet collectors -- increased substantially, a clear indication that jueteng thrived under STL.

STL is supposed to generate revenue for the government. There are three draws everyday at 11:30 AM, 4:30 PM and 9:15 PM. The STL franchisee is supposed to remit the proceeds as follows: 5% to the provincial government, 10% to the local governments, 4.5% to the local PNP (police), 0.5% to the national police, 2.5% to the three congressional districts, and 7.5% to PCSO. PPRC keeps the lion's share -- 70%. But here is the stinger: it was reported in the news last year alleging that PPRC was "raking big money from the Albayanons while only a pittance is being remitted to the provincial government" by manipulating the remittance reports. The STL operation in Albay rakes in about P500,000 daily. That's a whopping P182.5 million a year!

The plot thickens when Sandra Cam accused PPRC of not properly declaring its income from STL. Cam claimed that falsified bet collection reports were widespread in more than 15 provinces in Luzon, particularly in Albay. She criticized Gov. Joey Salceda for failing to act on the "doctored" collection reports. She also alleged that Salceda and three other Bicol governors -- Sally Lee of Sorsogon, Jesus Typoco Jr of Camarines Norte, and Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur -- were responsible for the jueteng revival in their respective province. In a surprise move, Salceda reacted and issued a directive to stop STL in Albay. He instructed the provincial police director to relay his directive to PCSO to stop all STL operations in his province. But PCSO defied Salceda's order. Meanwhile, Malacanang has been quiet about the whole scandal.

Three years after Czar Hagedorn declared war on jueteng, jueteng is still alive and kicking with vigor. The people continue to bet on jueteng or STL… or both. It wouldn't matter whether they're betting on jueteng or STL -- what difference would it make other than gambling away their hard-earned money. And it wouldn't matter whether it's legal or illegal. It's a social disease and there is no known prescription to cure it. None yet.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

'The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela' film opens in NY and LA

New York and Los Angeles – September 26


Raquela is a transsexual - or “ladyboy” - from the Philippines who dreams of escaping the streets of Cebu City for a fairy tale life in Paris. In order to make her dreams come true, she turns from prostitution toward the more lucrative business of Internet porn. Her success as a porn star brings new friends, including Valerie, a ladyboy in Iceland, and Michael, the owner of the website Raquela works for. Valerie helps Raquela get as far as Iceland. From there, Michael offers her a rendezvous in Paris. Will Paris be everything she dreamed of? And will Michael turn out to be her Prince Charming?

Director’s Note
In my first visit to Cebu City in the Philippines, I happened to be walking in one of the poor neighborhoods when I saw three girls who were at odds with the location. They were dressed more like famous movie stars than someone on an every-day stroll amongst the locals in Cebu City.

This caught my attention, as anything with such contrasts often bears the light of a possible film. The girls turned out to be Transgendered men, who said they had the "soul of a woman," as they explained it to me, in layman’s terms.

I went on the Internet to find interesting subjects, as I often do when I begin research for a film. I spoke with about 30 Tgirls (trans-woman) in the Philippines. One in particular caught my attention for how smart, charming and creative she was: Raquela Rios, whose birth name is Earvin. I fell in love with Raquela and the story she represented. Coming into the world with so many odds against her encouraged me to do the best film possible as one human to another.

Very quickly, I established a film crew in Cebu City near where she lived and started filming her life. As a filmmaker I had finished four feature docs in three years, and initially assumed I was moving towards the fifth with "Raquela." I soon realized that I was not in the least bit interested in copying so many others who create sob stories about how hard life is for Tgirls. Slightly stranded but undeterred, I knew I did not want to make a documentary but I didn't have the kind of funding it takes to create a standard narrative feature. I would allow myself to do anything I wanted to do, in order to tell a story as vividly as possible.

Raquela would act partly as herself, adding narrative elements as her dream began to take shape under our influence. I brought in actors, (some were amateurs), and added dramatic content as the story began to take on a life of its own. I was acquainted with an Austrian hotel owner in Cebu who always had a life-long dream of acting, and cast him as Johnny K., the porn photographer. My own grandmother was also suitably cast as an extra. I decided not to follow the rules about aesthetics or methods I had learned. The main thing was to trust my "gut" feelings and just breathe with the story.

Director’s Bio
Olaf de Fleur was born 1975 in a small village in Iceland called Budardalur. He studied physics in Reykjavik, graduating in 1995. Since then he has participated in numerous film projects, including both feature and documentary films. After deciding to pursue filmmaking, instead of going to film school, he founded an independent production company, Poppoli Pictures. Headed by de Fleur as director and producer, the team created Blindsker, which won the Best Documentary in the Icelandic Film Awards 2004 and Africa United, which won the same prize in 2005. Olaf de Fleur was nominated as the best Icelandic Filmmaker in 2005 and 2006 at cultural DV (newspaper) Awards and Best Director in 2005 at the Icelandic Film Awards. He was selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2002 and 2003. He won the Berlin Film Festival Best Queer Film Award, the “Teddy,” for The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela.

“Queen Raquela is not about sex-change operations or identity quests, but the touching, dreamlike, quasi-autobiographical tale of Raquela Rios, a transsexual Cebu City prostitute who longs to leave the Philippines, meet a nice straight man and visit Paris.”
- Premiere Magazine

“Raquela’s story lives with us and not for us. A remarkable achievement.”
- Pop Matters

Friday, September 12, 2008


24” by 36” oil painting entitled “Dusk at Port Huemene” by Lynda Reyes

GLENDALE, CA (September 2008) – Once again on Sunday, September 14th, from 12 pm to 6 pm Glendale artists and art organizations will open up their studios and art venues to the public. This free, self-guided tour is a rare opportunity to peek into the creative spaces and minds of many talented and award winning artists who live and work in City of Glendale. Visitors will be able to meet, interact with, and see the work being produced by Glendale’s widely diverse artists and arts organizations at their own pace. Artworks will be available for purchase.

Over 110 artists will have displays set up in 45 homes, galleries, studios, cafés and businesses exhibiting painting, sculpture, collage, photography, digital artwork and ceramics throughout the greater Glendale area. Artists from Burbank, Los Angeles, Pasadena and other cities in the region will also exhibit their art alongside Glendalians and become part of this valuable tradition in the City of Glendale.

Since its incorporation in 1906, Glendale has been home to notable creative types, ranging from painters and sculptors to musicians, actors and writers. Entertainment industry giants like Dreamworks and Disney also have their headquarters in Glendale. The multi-venue event is geared to expose that rich community to local residents and the region as a whole.

The 2008 Open Studio Tour is proud to showcase Filipino American artists and photographers which include Salvador Arellano, Ana Cruz, Carlo Cruz, Ronald Cruz, Irwin Jazmines, Don Magno, Vics Magsaysay, Hubert ‘Bong’ Malabanan, Larry Pelayo, Ver Penaranda, Lynda Reyes, Rodolfo Samonte and Rene Villaroman. The exhibit will be held at Patrick’s Café, 6720 San Fernando Road in Glendale from noon to 6pm on Sunday, September 14th.

Patrick’s Café owner Rogel C. Aragon, a Filam and avid arts supporter, has hosted the annual exhibit for the last four years. “My intention is to give Filipino artists a venue and the utmost representation on a professional level and introduce them to the mainstream,” says Aragon. In this regard, his brain child, the Aragon Entertainment Productions, was created to cater to the Filipino community.

All participating artists will have the opportunity to showcase one piece of art at the Brand Library Art Galleries from September 9 through September 19. The public is also invited to an Opening Reception for the artists and tour kick-off at the Brand gallery on Saturday, September 13 from 3 – 5pm. Brand Library Art Galleries are located at 1601 W. Mountain. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 12 – 8pm; Wednesday from 12 – 6pm; and Friday and Saturday from 10am – 5pm.

Featuring Filipino American Artists & Photographers:


The Tour and the Reception are free to the public. Everyone is welcome. Maps for the self-guided tours will be available at the Brand Library Art Galleries and designated areas. A free Beeline bus will shuttle visitors to the different venues.

The Glendale Open Studio Tour is sponsored by the City of Glendale Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, Arts and Culture Commission, Brand Library, a division of the Glendale Public Library, and the Associates of Brand Library and Art Center.

For additional information, please call (818) 548-2780 or check our website at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What Price Peace

PerryScope by Perry Diaz

In her fervent desire to have peace in Mindanao, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo went to the extent of secretly forging an agreement that would virtually cede a huge portion of Philippine territory to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The treaty would have expanded the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into a virtual state within a state replete with all the functions and authority of a sovereign and independent state.

But, in a twist of fate, the day before the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) last August 5, 2008 in Malaysia, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order in response to several petitions claiming that the treaty was unconstitutional. What followed next was a tragedy of error that cost lives and property in Mindanao.

In the aftermath of the public uproar over the attempt to partition the country, Gloria decided to scrap the controversial MOA-AD. She also dissolved the government's peace panel negotiating with the MILF. Basically, it's back to square one for the peace process. And, worst, Mindanao is now in a virtual state of war or, to be more precise, a civil war between Muslim Filipinos and Christian Filipinos. In reaction, Mohaqher Iqbal, the MILF's chief peace negotiator declared, "The peace process is now in purgatory."

One might wonder if Gloria could have done better to achieve a lasting peace in Mindanao. In my opinion, yes! she could have done better to achieve peace without dividing the country and pitting the Muslims and Christians against each other, particularly in the ARMM region.

ARMM was established in 1989 through Republic Act 6734 pursuant to the 1987 constitution which mandated its creation. It consisted of the predominantly Muslim provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. ARMM is headed by an elected Regional Governor and has a unicameral Regional Legislative Assembly headed by a Speaker.

Although ARMM is not a perfectly "autonomous" body, there is much to be desired to truly fulfill the mandate of the law that created it. Like the government that begot it, ARMM is, to say the least, congenitally corrupt. The recent ARMM elections, while generally peaceful, was marred by anomalies and irregularities. The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) Foundation, which was accredited by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), reported vote-buying and what it called "a culture of corruption."

What MOA-AD would have accomplished was anything but peace. As a matter of fact, it already has started the opposite -- war! For the first time in the past 30 years, the spectre of "jihad" -- holy war -- looms in the horizon. The snafu created by the Arroyo government has angered leaders from both sides of the conflict: the MILF militants were incensed because they considered the MOA-AD a "done deal" while Gloria and her henchmen were frustrated because they were stopped by the Supreme Court a day away from signing the agreement.

With 500,000 people already displaced by the war and increasing daily, peace has once again eluded us. All the work built up in the past three decades by government peace negotiators were blown to smithereens -- a setback that would take time and effort to rebuild.

Now, that the "peace process" is back to square one, it's time for the government to take a hard look at what it would really take to achieve peace. In my opinion, any peace formula that doesn't address poverty is doomed to fail. Religious differences are not the issue. They can be bridged. But as long as the people are mired in poverty, there will be no peace in Mindanao.

Mindanao, with its rich natural resources is being exploited by profiteers. The local population -- particularly the Muslims -- have been relegated to second-class citizenship. The Arroyo government is lacking in programs that would alleviate the plight of the Muslim poor. Giving the Muslims an "ancestral domain" is meaningless unless there is a sincere attempt -- not the usual lip service -- to develop the economy in Mindanao.

In its June 2008 survey, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that self-rated poverty in Mindanao rose by nine points, from 59% to 68%. In comparison, Metro Manila rose from 44% to 51% and Balance Luzon from 48% to 53%. The hardest hit was the Visayas from 47% to 66%. However, poverty in the ARMM region was the highest in Mindanao.

The polls would tend to support Gloria's critics who have been saying all along that she neglected the Visayas and Mindanao, favoring the ruling elite based in Metro Manila. Indeed, the strongest supporters of federalism -- or partitioning -- come from the Visayas and Mindanao. Their complaints have been ignored by Gloria whose dole-out programs have caused more resentment among Visayans and Mindanaons.

Indeed, the price of peace in Mindanao is more than just giving the Muslim Filipinos their "ancestral domain." As long as the Muslim Filipinos are treated as second-class citizens and kept in perpetual bondage, peace will never blossom in Mindanao. The seeds of discontent have been sowed and have taken roots in Mindanao. The bottom line is: peace can only be achieved in Mindanao if the people saw real economic progress in the ARMM region. And if real progress was made, autonomy or statehood becomes moot. The Muslims would opt to remain in the Philippine republic


Monday, September 8, 2008


Rodel E. Rodis, September 8, 2008

While there was considerable discussion in cyberspace about the issue of a name change for the Philippines, it was generally limited only to the Filipino chattering class, those folks who regularly express their opinions in various blogs and e-list groups. Most Filipinos are generally apathetic to this issue partly because it would be at or near the bottom of their list of priorities and partly because of lack of information.

Do most Filipinos care that millions of their Moro brothers and sisters in Mindanao and Sulu have never considered themselves “Filipinos” because they successfully resisted Spanish colonial efforts to make them “Filipinos” (subjects of King Felipe)? Would not a new name that included and encompassed all the inhabitants of the 7,180 “Philippine” islands bring together those who were colonized by Spain and those who resisted colonial rule?

With indifference, we may never know. But could there be another reason for this seeming apathy? Do we possess some sense of “useful nationalism” that would make us concerned about the national interests?

An American writer for the Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows, visited the Philippines for six weeks in 1987 and wrote an article, A Damaged Culture, which remains one of the most painfully incisive articles about Filipino culture.

Do Filipinos have any loyalty to the nation and to the Filipino people? No,according to Fallows.“Filipinos pride themselves on their lifelong loyalty to family, schoolmates, compadres, members of the same tribe, residents of the same barangay... When observing Filipino friendships I thought often of the Mafia families portrayed in The Godfather: total devotion to those within the circle, total war on those outside. Because the boundaries of decent treatment are limited to the family or tribe, they exclude at least 90 percent of the people in the country. And because of this fragmentation--this lack of nationalism--people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen.”

After Fallows’ article appeared, Filipinos were quick to refute his sweeping allegations by citing as a prime example the People Power revolution that overthrew the Marcos Dictatorship in 1986.

Fallows anticipated this argument: “The EDSA revolution seems emotionally so important in the Philippines not only because it got rid of Marcos but also because it demonstrated a brave, national-minded spirit. I would like to agree with the Filipinos that those four days revealed the country's spiritual essence. To me, though, the episode seems an exception, even an aberration.”

In reviewing Philippine history, Fallows found that “the Spanish hammered home the idea of Filipino racial inferiority, discouraging the native indios from learning the Spanish language and refusing to consecrate them as priests. (The Spanish are also said to have forbidden the natives to wear tucked-in shirts, which is why the national shirt, the barong tagalog, is now worn untucked, in a rare flash of national pride.) As in Latin America, the Spanish friars taught that religion was a matter of submission to doctrine and authority, rather than of independent thought or gentleness to strangers in daily life.”

After 330 years of Spanish rule, the Filipinos waged a revolutionary war for independence from Spain which succeeded but was thwarted by the American occupation of the Philippines in 1899. “The United States quickly earned or bought the loyalty of the ilustrados, the educated upper class, making them into what we would call collaborationists if the Germans or Japanese had received their favors,” Fallows wrote.

Once in control of the country, the United States “rammed through a number of laws insisting on free "competition' between American and Philippine industries, at a time when Philippine industries were in no position to compete with anyone. The countries that have most successfully rebuilt their economies, including Japan and Korea, went through extremely protectionist infant-industry phases, with America's
blessing; the United States never permitted the Philippines such a period. The Japanese and Koreans now believe they can take on anybody; the confidence of Filipino industrialists seems to have been permanently destroyed,” observed Fallows.

“In deeper and more pernicious ways Filipinos seem to have absorbed the idea that America is the center and they are the periphery,” wrote Fallows. “Much local advertising plays to the idea that if it's American, it's better. "It's got that stateside taste!' one grinning blonde model says in a whiskey ad. An ad for Ban deodorant warns, "Hold It! Is your deodorant making your skin dark?' The most glamorous figures on TV shows are generally light-skinned and sound as if they grew up in Los Angeles…This is a country where the national ambition is to change your nationality.”

Was Fallows attacking the character and integrity of Filipinos?

Fallows pointed out early on in his essay that the problems he observed were not caused by “any inherent defect in the people: outside this culture they thrive. Filipino immigrants to the United States are more successful than immigrants from many other countries.”

Fallows believes that the problem of the Philippines is cultural and “it should be thought of as a failure of nationalism.”

“Nationalism can of course be divisive, when it sets people of one country against another. But its absence can be even worse, if that leaves people in the grip of loyalties that are even narrower and more fragmented. When a country with extreme geographic, tribal, and social-class differences, like the Philippines, has only a weak offsetting sense of national unity, its public life does become the war of every man against every man.”

Don't shoot the messenger.

(Please send your comments to or write to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call (415) 334-7800. For past articles, log on to )

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Telltale Signs/ MAHARLIKA

Rodel E. Rodis, September 1, 2008

Reader response to my column about a name change for the Philippines was phenomenal. From Mindanao, Kauban M. wrote that Moros prefer Maharlika as “it is the name suited to our culture and character”. A local reader, Joseph Vizcarra, also liked Maharlika “because it pays honor to the advanced indigenous civilization we had before the coming of the Spaniards. It also betrays our Hindu roots as well as blood
links with the rest of the Austronesian family. On top of this we would all be called Maharlikans!”

Many readers pointed out that our Moro brothers and sisters in Mindanao and Sulu despise the names “Philippines” and “Filipinos” because of their colonial stigma. Alunan C. Glang asserted that only those who were subjugated by Spain and who bowed to the authority of King Felipe II should be called “Filipinos”. Since the Moros were never Spanish subjects, they were never “Filipinos”. In fact, for 350 years,
generations of Moros had spilled blood precisely to avoid becoming “Filipinos”. Those unable to resist becoming Filipinos were regularly subjected to "Moro Moro" plays with the Spaniards depicted as the heroes and the Moros as the dastardly villains.

While the Spaniards named their farthest-flung colony “Filipinas”, they did not call its inhabitants “Filipinos0, they were “indios” as all natives of Spanish colonies were called. In Las Islas Filipinas, those who were pure full-blooded Spaniards from Spain were called “peninsulares”. Those with even a 1% drop of native or non-Spanish
blood were contemptuously referred to as “insulares” or “Filipinos”. “Filipino” was a pejoratrive then and even now, a “Filipina” in England and other countries is a “domestic helper”.

By the 18th century, a new Ilustrado class emerged, an aggrupation of upper class indios and lower class insulares, propelled by indio intermarriage with the Chinese(The Spaniards decreed that no Chinese man could leave Parian, the Chinese community just outside Intramuros, unless he was married to an indio woman). The first documented use of the term Filipino to refer to indio was in a poem written by an 18-year old boy named Jose Rizal. In his 1879 poem, “A la Juventud Filipina” (To the Filipino Youth), Rizal challenged the Filipino indio youth to
be the hope of the motherland. Even though they were not “insulares”, Rizal and his classmates at the Ateneo still considered themselves “Filipinos”, what historian Ambeth Ocampo referred to as "little brown Spaniards".

When Rizal went to Spain to study in 1881, he exhorted his fellow ilustrados to take pride in being an “indio”. In fact, he called his group “Indios Bravos". Eventually, the Ilustrados in Spain would agree that “Filipino” should mean all people born in the islands, not just the insulares.

This position was not universally accepted. Andres Bonifacio, the founder of the Katipunan, called the people "tagalog" and referred to the country as “Katagalugan”. The Katipunan’s Cartilla, written and published in 1896, expressly stated: “The word tagalog means all those born in this archipelago; therefore, though visayan, ilocano, pampango, etc., they are all tagalogs.”

As Dr. Nathan Quimpo points out, “the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was a misnomer” as it really was the Katagalugan Revolution. “It became the Philippine Revolution only in 1897 when Emilio Aguinaldo, the former gobernadorcillo (mayor) of Kawit, ousted Bonifacio from the helm of the revolutionary movement and had him executed. Aguinaldo, who had continued all along to use Filipinas, dropped Katagalugan.”

At the Malolos Congress in October of 1898, Aguinaldo sought to establish a federation with the Moro sultanates of Mindanao and Sulu, an explicit recognition that they were not part of the nation that was being forged in Malolos.

After the US "annexed" the Philippines and captured Aguinaldo, members of the Katipunan loyal to Bonifacio established the Tagalog Republic in 1902 with Macario Sakay as president. This republic would last until 1906 when Sakay was captured by US troops and hanged as a bandit.

While in exile in Japan in 1913, Katipunan General Artemio Ricarte proposed that the Philippines be renamed “Rizaline Islands” and Filipinos, “Rizalines”. Ricarte called for the overthrow of the "foreign ghovernment" and drafted a constitution for the “revolutionary government of the Rizaline Republic”. Ricarte returned to the
Philippines with the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942 but he could not change the name of the puppet republic.

There would be no serious effort to change the name of the country untl a new constitution was drafted and ratified in 1971. Article XVI, Section 2 of the new constitution states that "The Congress, may by law, adopt a new name for the country…which shall be truly reflective and symbolic of the ideals, history, and traditions of the people.”

After Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he convened an Interim Batasang Pambansa to replace the Congress that he had abolished by presidential decree. One of the representatives appointed by Marcos was Eddie (“Kuya Eddie”) Ilarde, a popular TV-radio personality from the 60s and 70s, who sponsored a parliamentary bill on August 14, 1978 seeking to change the name of the Philippines to Maharlika.

Unfortunately for Ilarde, Maharlika was inexorably linked to Marcos who claimed that it was the name of the guerilla unit he formed and led in WW II. It turned out to be a hoax along with his claim that he was the
most decorated soldier of WW II.

[Before his claim was exposed, Marcos' cronies had produced a Hollywood movie entitled “Maharlika” about his alleged war exploits. A Hollywood starlet named Dovie Beams played an American nurse who became the love interest of the fictional guerilla Marcos. What was supposed to only be in reel became real when “Lovey Dovie” became Marcos' mistress.]

The term “Filipino nationalism” is a contradiction in terms. To be a nationalist is to be anti-colonial as “nationalism,” declared Sen. Claro M. Recto, “is the natural antagonist of colonialism.” To be a Filipino is to be a subject of King Felipe II. To be a nationalist is to refuse to be a colonial subject. So how can one be a "Filipino nationalist"?

Whether it is Maharlika, Katagalugan or Bayanihan, the time has come to
discard the name Philippines or Filipinas.

(Send comments to or log on to or write to Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127, or call (415) 334-7800.)

Going to the Dogs

PerryScope: Perry Diaz

With all the scandals and anomalies which have erupted during Gloria Arroyo's tumultuous reign, it seems that the Philippines is going to the dogs or could it have gone already to the dogs. With a highly politicized military and an abjectly dysfunctional Congress, the Supreme Court appears to be the only branch of government that has not yet deteriorated. However, some members of the Judiciary have used their position to achieve ends other than protecting the law and safeguarding the constitution of the land.

In my article, "Reign of the Kleptocrats (January 19, 2007)," I said of former Justice Secretary Hernando "Nani" Perez: "The Perez corruption case is one of the most despicable corruption cases because, as the chief guardian of the law, he brazenly broke the law that he swore to protect. He was responsible for the prosecution of law-breakers and now he is prosecuted for breaking the law."

Gloria appointed Perez, an intimate friend, as the Top Lawman of the land after she assumed the presidency on January 20, 2001 when Joseph Estrada was ousted President during the "People Power" EDSA II revolution. Four days later, Perez approved the controversial IMPSA deal in which he allegedly received a $2-million bribe for his ruling favorable to the Argentine-based company. It was also alleged that this amount was part of a $14-million bribe given to Arroyo administration officials. The First Gentleman, Mike Arroyo, was also implicated in the scandal.

Recently, a "bombshell" was dropped involving the two Sabio brothers in the GSIS-Meralco feud. It all started when Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. of the Court of Appeals complained that a certain Francis de Borja who, on behalf of Meralco, offered him a P10-million bribe to inhibit himself from the case filed against Meralco, presumably a move that would benefit Meralco. As soon as Justice Sabio disclosed the offer of bribery, de Borja countered and alleged that Justice Sabio wanted P50 million instead. According to de Borja, Sabio told him that Malacanang had offered him a large amount plus a promotion to the Supreme Court. Apparently, Sabio would have preferred P50 million to a promotion to the High Court. Needless to say, Sabio denied de Borja's allegation.

As all of these events were going on, Jesus Santos, a lawyer of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and a member of the GSIS Board of Trustees, called Camilo Sabio -- older brother of Justice Sabio and Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) -- to ask for "help" on behalf of GSIS General Manager Winston Garcia. Santos later admitted that he indeed called Chairman Sabio on May 30, 2008. In an interview with dzBB radio station, Santos said: "We are not trying to influence the courts. We were just asking for help for GSIS president and general manager Winston Garcia, for his campaign to give justice to consumers and fellow Filipinos abused by Meralco's policies." Would anybody believe that?

The scandal prompted Senator Ping Lacson to call for the disbarment of Santos and PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also formed a panel to investigate the role of the PCGG Chairman in the bribery scandal. But like what had happened in several scandals involving government officials, Malacanang hastily sent Sabio on an "official" trip to Brazil, Austria, and the United Kingdom from August 14 to 30. When his brother Justice Sabio was summoned to testify before the Supreme Court investigation panel, he admitted that his brother Camilo called him twice to influence him to decide in favor of GSIS. With his testimony, the link from Winston Garcia to Justice Sabio was established with Justice Sabio's brother Camilo as the conduit.

On June 12, 2008, several senators called for Camilo Sabio's resignation or removal from office. It is interesting to note that Camilo Sabio was arrested in September 2006 by the Senate for ignoring a Senate subpoena to answer accusations that he and other PCGG commissioners dissipated funds from sequestered Marcos properties. What I found abominable is that Sabio is supposed to be the anti-corruption crusader and advocate for "good government" but as it has turned out, he may have betrayed his duty to the people he swore to protect. What a shame.

Last September 1, 2008, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) published a paid statement seeking the resignation of Court of Appeals justices involved in the bribery scandal and influence peddling in the GSIS-Meralco case. The statement said that "resignation would salvage what is left of the integrity of the Court and is a necessary sacrifice that needs to be made by those whose names have been dragged into the scandal." Now is the opportune time for the Judiciary to clean up house and restore high ethical standards among its members from the Supreme Court down to the Municipal Courts.