Sunday, January 31, 2010

From Within: ‘Inside the Philippine Revolution’ Book

I do not intend, in any way, to make an extensive exposition of the contents of the book; I do not have the full arsenal of strength, even the capability, to lift this narration into the level of a review. Instead I desire to put the book in a personal perspective. Communism in the Philippines has been, and will always be, a topic that would attract people and studies. Not just for the sake of the ideologies from within them. The stories of the Red have figured in the 20th-century Philippines, and books like this should not be considered taboo. They are important in the way history books serve as documentaries of the past, and the moving present of the Philippine politics and its people and living.

The Sojourns of a Journ

Without resorting to the easiest way of searching the name William Chapman in the internet, he is obviously a foreigner, not simply because of the name, but he himself have admitted his work as journalist and his experiences in digging into this contemporary ‘revolution’.

The book unfolds the story of the CPP, starting from its roots after the Second World War and its decisive break from their original group. Most of the contents are first hand – interviews reinforced the narrations of details of their history and ‘development’. A book like this is essentially accessible to anyone, but without truly dealing with it, one cannot possibly internalize some of the seeming small aspects of the whole group. There were the stories of how some of the members finally decided join the Party and the Army: friend of a husband being nabbed by the military, a husband getting shot for no apparent reason, people brought up amidst the guerrilla people, among other.

Pivotal to the book is the narration of the beginnings of the problems on land ownership, a thing that has always been highlighted in the problems the revolutionaries are attempting to solve – from the Spanish era, to the maneuvers to salvage American investments during their stay in the country, to the seemingly random ‘abuses’ and excesses of the Filipino landowners that resulted to equally (seemingly) random retaliation against these. And although short, a life story of Jose Ma. Sison is introduced in the context of his divergence from Claro M. Recto and his ideas.

Into the Path of the Martial Rule

I do not know how I should put it here for, alluding again to the admission of my lack of necessary abilities to fully effect a well-prepared exposition, it is definitely hard to make a note on the origins of the imposition of Martial Law. Chapman wrote of the uncertainty on the realness (or fraud) of the disorder before martial law. Much of what the government did at that time is now found to be staged. And on the part of the ‘subversives’ (as the book have termed it), they really have posed no real threat to the stability of the government. And so whether the Marcos government really had a profound knowledge and has truly assessed the situation to bring down Proclamation 1081, it would most likely be left to his group. But to a certain extent, the existence of the insurgents was taken as a stepping stone for the dark times of the martial rule.

At the Demise of the Dictator

What I found most interesting, I would admit, is the explanation (if that word would suffice) on how the party misjudged their action towards the 1986 snap election. Believing that their successful move in the past, both in 1981 and 1984 in which boycotts were effected, would certainly have its strength again, they were inevitably isolated in what was to become an event of international acclaim, when people went to cast their votes, believing for the first time perhaps all through the martial rule, that they could make the difference, and eventually win back the democracy (a word that is now being abused) that has been forcefully taken away from the citizens. All led of course to the first People Power.

A singular part there, enough to explain the action, was the belief that the moment Marcos is able to assert his power again, and Cory set aside, people would really have that openness that an armed struggle is but the only way to achieve back their freedom. This did not happen. And when Cory assumed office, the inevitable happened in the existence of a popular leader: peace negotiations were made between the government and the rebels.

In the End

In the end, it is a very enlightening read. Not too bias on one side or to the other, but is bravely replete with personal comments and views. Certainly, it was informative as to the issue on the roles of CPP, NPA and the NDF and their connections; and the important function that mass strikes assumed to strengthen and move these groups (as well as their ideologies) into action. I hope that this has not been a spoiler and a short read on this, hopefully, would compel you to find his book.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Under the Spot Light: San Pablo City

The fun week is over.

Almost a week of celebration for the feast in honor of Saint Paul the First Hermit (what a treat for a lonesome hermit) and the Coco Festival is all there is to it. Back to work. Back to school. Back to reality. And back to Viole(n)t Mugs.

But it is somewhat difficult trying to gauge the fete for I was not there – physically and essentially. Yes, yes, it would be too boring again to discuss my contempt for the things. But what is more in-place to discuss is the aftermath of the activities. Indeed, back to reality.

I do not wish to promote some of the ‘adhikain’ of our vice mayor. It’s just that they are more reasonable and plain to be understood. The reigning one, which appeared as early as the Christmas season was the presence of the cederas (side street makeshift stalls) in the streets of the city proper. They have been constant eye sores and contributors to the heavy traffic in the city. (Traffic, I observed, is getting heavier and heavier now; now that big stores like Puregold is in town.) Now that the festival is over, when can we possibly find out streets clear of these stores?

Sure they are sources of cheap products for consumption and use of San Pableños, but will it always be in the good side? Can we possibly foresee the implications of their presence in the city? This is in fact a two-edge sword thing. For one, they amount to the collective status of the people. I do not mean to disparage or belittle those who have only a few to spend. For all I know, I belong to them. But these stores cater only to the promotion of substandard and most of the time smuggled and/or pirated products. If they did not have any permit at all, we are not guaranteed of revenues from them. More so, it shows our acceptance of widespread compromise. Even if some of our fellow Filipinos clamor for change in the society, we cannot see such things unless we initiate it ourselves.

Second, it somehow mirrors the city’s incapability to handle urbanization. Indeed, we are witnessing transition of San Pablo to a more urbanized setting. And if we are to rise to that economic level of activity, then we should try to come up with the necessary measure, policies if possible, to face the things that go with it – population explosion, migration, rise of vagrant groups, among other. If at this point in time, we cannot even handle properly what they term as ‘illegal’ activities, then what can we expect more from the future?

I am not in any way tickling the issue of local governance incompetence or self-inflicted blindness. The point is that we, as citizens, should have our respective say to the issues concerning the place in which we live in. Take the case of the SM currently in construction. Although still not evident, there is a looming possibility that it would kill the small and local businesses. Why would I choose some other place when SM would give me an air-conditioned place, stark clear movies, good food, and branded product stores? Really enticing. But at this point in time, one cannot possibly commit suicide in the face of giant companies. I appreciate the efforts of Ultimart to modernize somehow its facilities to have a more attractive place for shopping. Local business at work.

But what is worrying is the fate of the San Pablo Shopping Mall. I will always remember the demise of a local mall ion Lucena when the SM there opened. It used to be the only hub for shopping and leisure but it suffered an instant death in the coming of the giant company. I have no idea if fees are high in the place but it could weather the coming of SM by opening it to local businesses of good reputation. I take the suggestion of Sir Hemenes ‘Jim’ Bagsic, current principal of San Pablo Central School to whom I was able to talk to about these things. By providing place for small players (we took the fruit stands as an example), we could have a healthy competition and cleaner market vicinity for we could eliminate the isolated and often untidy stores and stalls outside the market proper. Even at this point it is entirely in the Utopia zone, but I say that revolution, even at this low level, would be necessarily bloody. But of course, if the local leaders have the open mind and charisma (should I say political will?) to sort things out, then things would not be that difficult. Add to that the faith of the people themselves that all these can be effected.

There is already a rumor of yet another big mall to rise on the outskirts of the city. Whether this is true, the thought alone poses bigger challenges to the local administrators on how to handle these bigger companies that would surely give bigger revenues and the survival of city’s local businesses. This time, we cannot only look at the unfolding events. An active participation in the proper and healthy organization of economic activities in the city is a de facto role of each San Pableño.

* Much thanks to Sir Jim Bagsic for helping me out with my task when I visited his school, and for providing me with insights on some local issues and as well as stories about scouting

Saturday, January 9, 2010

San Pablo Festivities in Black and White

San Pablo is again in the midst of anticipation and excitement as the Coco Festival and the feast in honor of Saint Paul the First Hermit approach.

I have personally no ill feelings towards the city’s almost lavish celebrations for I have even participated in the festivities before. For one, it attracts tourists, introducing our city’s culture to other people, and of course, revenues to the local government and temporary jobs for some of our fellowe San Pableños.

But then, it would be a merrier celebration if we are to tackle along with them the issues that almost always arise with each year’s Fest. There is the long-standing issue of the cederas that have swallowed almost half of the main streets going to the market. Our vice mayor have issued a question regarding this, and yet his tarpaulin installed beside our famed Mangga in the plaza seemed to get lost now in the sea of flaglets and posted greetings by politicians and aspiring ones. Then there is the emerging groups of vagabonds in the streets of San Pablo which I have mentioned already last year in my Viole(n)t Mugs’ opening entry. If people, or should I say the local government can organize and even finance such colorful and extravagant events for the fiesta, then I think there is no reason for them to ignore the obvious needs of these helpless ones (though this term, of course, is debatable). The point is, we could at least work together to put them into decent situations (i.e., put them in the custody of our social welfare workers, things like that).

I know it’s pretty hard for one to tackle such things in times of distractions of coming famous bands and showbiz personalities. But in the end, it’s the public, indeed social, issues – local as they might seem to some – that would remain after all those beer cases have been emptied and those flaglets torn down.
“I share in your hopes for better things this coming New Year!”(my New Year’s message to friends this year, passed through cell phones on January 1)