Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words 5: In Memory of Chit Estella

Here’s the fifth installment in a series that, taken together, make up what I like to call Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words.

Today’s excerpts are from Filomeno Santa Ana III, an economist and coordinator for the Manila-based Action for Economic Reforms.

AER is a policy advocacy group that promotes a development strategy for the country based on sustainable and equitable growth. Since its founding in 1996, AER has pushed for national tax reforms in order to mobilize domestic resources to finance development (and lessen dependence on foreign debt, an issue that cripples the country’s economic development ). Today, it is at the forefront of the advocacy to reform the excise tax on tobacco and alcohol products, as a critical first step to increase the tax effort significantly.

Men, as his colleagues and friends call him, is typically low-key, often relinquishing the limelight in favor of his many protégés. He is, after all and at his core, a mentor—and the country is truly a better place today because of the staunch nationalist activists and thinkers that he has, over the past 30 years, helped mold.

Men is a brilliant economist and communicator, and has been published in several volumes and journals.

finance or penance for the poor pdf
Found at

Many of his writings published in the column, The Yellow Pad, illuminate the pressing issues of the day and use everyday language to make the rarefied field of economics understandable to ordinary Filipinos like you and me—the way economics should truly be. You can find many of these discussions here.

But for this blog, I am passing up Men’s more intellectual pieces for a heartfelt one that reveals his true genius both as a mentor and as a dispassionate analytical thinker able to identify workable solutions to issues, even in the middle of tragic circumstances:

In Memory of Chit Estella

“Friday the 13th is but a normal day for me. I do not believe in superstitions. In fact the 13th of May 2011 should have been a happy day for me. It was my youngest sister’s birthday, and we had a lively family affair and delightful dinner at Chef’s Table.”

“Then, in the course of the dinner, I received the tragic news through a text message from a journalist friend. The short message said: Chit Estella died in a vehicular accident near Philcoa.”

“A speeding bus hit the taxi that Chit boarded. At Chit’s wake I learned that two buses, outracing each other, were involved in the manslaughter. The first bus sideswiped the taxi, and in a trice, the second bus rammed the taxi’s body.”

“Chit’s death was senseless. Chit could have likewise died from an assassin’s bullet that befell many Filipino journalists. In her early life, she could have met a more heroic death.”

“Chit joined the revolutionary anti-dictatorship movement at the height of martial law repression. In doing so, she was ready to die for the cause. The Marcos regime had no compunction in jailing, torturing, and “salvaging” activists, especially during the early years of martial law. Chit belonged to that risk-taking, fiercely independent, and assertive band of young women journalists just out of college, the likes of Sheila Coronel, Malou Mangahas, Rochit Tañedo, Chuchay Molina, Yvonne Chua, et al., whose mighty pens pierced the dictatorship and contributed to its downfall.”


“An unforgettable funny story during her college days is worth recalling. It was an incident in a party of the Philippine Collegian staff, involving Chit and Ronald Simbulan. Chit and Roland (they would later become husband and wife) felt ill during the gathering. Roland surmised that a Marcos agent could have poisoned the food that they ate. It turned out though that it was not a case of the food poisoning. What happened was that the party’s host baked brownies that he laced with marijuana.”

“Of course, Roland’s fear was not without basis. Marcos’s agents were known to use dirty tricks to silence enemies. Marcos and the military wanted to crush the Collegian. Marcos jailed its two previous chief editors, namely Diwa Guinigundo (current Deputy Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) and Ditto Sarmiento (a martyr). Protected by academic freedom, the Philippine Collegian, the official student newspaper of the University of the Philippines was then the only legal publication that consistently denounced the Marcos dictatorship.”


“The death of a brave and committed woman, a hero of our times, should not be in vain. We hope that she and the many faceless passengers who encountered the same death will obtain justice. This is not just about offering a reward of PhP100,000 for information that will lead to the arrest of the bus driver involved in the manslaughter. It is not simply about the order to “go after reckless drivers.”

It is high time authorities scrapped the “boundary system.” The “boundary system” requires the driver to give the vehicle owner a daily quota.The driver and his party earn the residual amount; that is, what is over and above the minimum quota. This is the kind of incentive that encourages bad driving habits.”


Even as we grieve over Chit’s death, we hope that her death will result in the prevention of similar deaths, which are a normal occurrence on the streets of Metro Manila. Changing the rules—specifically by removing the boundary system and replacing it with a wage system—will be the key.

Read the full piece here.


Beyond Prison and Hospital Arrest for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Remember this? Remember how we felt this way after the NBN-ZTE scandal?

Well, I have a gentler but more radical proposal for these people whose greed has gotten the better of them.


After all, most progressives are at their very core, pro-life in the real sense of the word, and against cruel and inhuman punishment and the death penalty. So, too, is the Catholic Church.

Ergo, let’s unite forces on this one (despite our differences over the Reproductive Health bill) and pray for the speedy and just resolution of all the cases filed against ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit or the spirits of our anitos—or ancestors—hover inside the (un)august halls of the Supreme Court, helping shine the light on what should have been the nation’s last bulwark of democracy.

Let’s pray that Chief Justice Renato Corona gains the delicadeza to inhibit himself from all Arroyo cases.

AND JUST what do we have in mind for these people who have acted for so long with arrogance and impunity? 

Rehabilitate them.

Yup, rehab not extrajudicial killing, as evil is the resort of the weak, the challenged and the cowardly. 

Here are my suggestions:

1. Prosecute them, without impunity, in an impartial court. 

2. Give them time in a jail. No special treatment for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But no need to give her extra difficult treatment on the other hand. I mean, who believes in an eye for an eye? Just give her what is  the normal treatment in our normal, overcrowded jails.

3. While in jail, give them time to review Philippine history, the Philippine Constitution, the Civil Service Code. For a few weeks, put them under a regimented schedule that includes lots of prayer, study time (topics above), and for leisure, watching movies like this:

4. Keep these images (and that of other heroes) around their room: 


Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro (30 November 1863 – 10 May 1897) was a Filipino nationalist and revolutionary. He was a founder and later Supremo (“supreme leader”) of the Katipunan movement which sought Philippine independence from Spanish colonial rule and began the Philippine Revolution.He is considered a de facto national hero of the Philippines.

Macario Sakay y de León was a Filipino general in the Philippine Revolution against Spain and in the Philippine-American War. He continued resistance against the United States following the official American declaration of the war’s end in 1902 and in the following year became president of the Tagalog Republic.Sakay was conned by the Americans into coming down from the mountains on promise of amnesty for him and his officials—on top of the formation of Philippine Assembly composed of Filipinos to serve as the gate of freedom. He was invited to receptions and banquets, one of which was a colonial trap where Sakay and his principal lieutenants were disarmed and arrested while the party was in progress. He was accused of banditry and hanged.

5. Remember, rehabilitation means:

“To restore to useful life, as through therapy and education or to restore to good condition, operation, or capacity.”

The assumption of rehabilitation is that people are not natively criminal and that it is possible to restore a criminal to a useful life, to a life in which they contribute to themselves and to society. Rather than punishing the harm out of a criminal, rehabilitation would seek, by means of education or therapy, to bring a criminal into a more normal state of mind, or into an attitude which would be helpful to society, rather than be harmful to society.

Because we recognize that these people who act with impunity are simply not in good mental condition, we also suggest psychotherapy? Try accupuncture. Perhaps there is an acupuncture spot that lessens greed? 

6. Part of their rehabilitation should also include:

a. Labor. Oh, no, not hard labor. Just the usual labor that 2/3 of our compatriots are forced to do everyday. Even better , the kind that many Filipino children have to undertake:

b. Separation from family. For years, please. In the same manner that thousands of Filipinos are forced by a collapsing economy and a dysfunctional government to separate from their families and go abroad. We also suggest a six-month stint, at least, as a maid in Singapore. Read:

c. Six months living in one of Metro Manila’s slums, where 40 percent of Manila denizens now live. I suggest Payatas or Baseco, Tondo, where generations after generations of Filipino families have lived without hope.

Don’t forget the daily fare of Lucky Me, Lucky Me and more Lucky Me!Oh, for rehabilitation to be effective, we have to take away some things:
No more breakfasts here:

No more limousine rides with a whole barangay of policemen with wang-wangs (sirens) blazing.
Instead, more rides here:

You know, Zen and the art of tricycle riding? Oh, and  please, don’t forget the exercise: 

AT THE END OF IT ALL, I am sure those once arrogant, greedy and power hungry will see the light.

So you see, our proposed solution is nothing, NOTHING compared what those in power have done to the best and thebrightest who offered their lives for a better country!

Let me end with a song dedicated to those who need to be rehabilitated from their greed:

My personal revenge will be the right
Of our children in the schools and in the gardens

My personal revenge will be to give you
This song which has flourished without panic

My personal revenge will be to show you
The kindness in the eyes of my people 
Who have always fought relentlessly in battle
And been generous and firm in victory.

My personal revenge will be to tell you good morning
On a street without beggars or homeless
When instead of jailing you I suggest
You shake away the sadness there that blinds you
And when you who have applied your hands in torture
Are unable to look up at what surrounds you
My personal revenge will be to give you
These hands that once you so mistreated
But have failed to take away their tenderness

It was the people who hated you the most
When rage became the language of their song
And underneath the skin of this town today
Its heart has been scarred forevermore

It was the people who hated you the most
When rage became the language of their song
And underneath the skin of this town today
Its heart has been scarred forevermore
And underneath the skin of this town today
Red and black, it’s heart’s been scarred forevermore

The Happiest, Funniest People in the World or How to Dance in a Club by Ashleyslips

Just a short break from all those serious,!? pieces. 

Here’s a post about a really hot Filipina — the hilarious Petra Mahalimuyak (Fragrant Petra)– whose really hot, hyperbolized Filipina accent and super hot Filipino humor make her sooo endearing.

Frankly, when I see my fellow Filipinas, I often have this defiant, wicked, un-feminist thought cross my mind: That–power issues and poverty aside–one of the reasons why the Philippines is the choice source of mail-order brides is because, well, we Filipinas are so sexy and pretty and fun to be around, after all. We’re the world’s topnotch trophy wives! Ha!

I mean, how often do you see get to see an ugly Filipina, anyway? Come on, be honest. It’s kinda rare, ano? Filipinas are among the world’s most delectable women, I say.

And where else can you get a pretty woman who will “lovingly clean your toenails with a toothbrush?” – That’s what YES editor-in-chief Jo-ann Q. Maglipon said in one of her 1980s articles (published in the book Primed) on Filipina mail order brides, then just an emerging problem.

Before you accuse her of “objectifying” women, note that before Maglipon became the entertainment editor that she is today (and consequently, one of the country’s highest-paid editors), she was an underground activist who fought against the Marcos dictatorship and wrote articles on slain doctor-to-the-barrioDr. Bobby de la Paz.

So her toothbrush-for-toenails comment was truly just an accurate portrayal of life as it really is—complex and difficult, astonishing and ugly, joyful and awful, comic and tragic, trivial and sublime—sometimes all at the same time—and always multifaceted, resisting the black-and-white labels the religious and the righteous would like to confine it in.

As I write this, there are hundreds of thousands of Filipina maids deployed  all over the world. Many of them will be beaten, raped. Some will be killed. Most of them suffer milder forms of abuse, but abuse nonetheless. But life does not stop dead because these terrible things happen. And the spirit of the archetypical Filipina lives on, resilient, and as lighthearted and bubbly and hopeful as ever.

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Phl Issues Arrest Warrant for Ex-President Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested in her hospital room on electoral fraud charges Friday in a high-profile tug of war set off by her attempts to leave the country ostensibly for medical treatment.

Read the rest of the post here (and rejoice!) and here.

Read the full text of the Warrant of Arrest here.

Filipina Maid Asked to Queue Overnight for H& M Clothes

AsiaOne reports that a 25-year old female Singaporean student asked her Filipina maid  to queue overnight in a bid to get her hands on pieces from the latest Versace for H&M collection.

Lianhe Wanbao reported that the Filipino maid, who declined to be named, began to queue from 2pm a day before the collection was unveiled at the Orchard Road store.

She said her employer had given her a shopping list which stated the desired items and sizes, and handed her S$2,000 in cash to make the purchases. She also said she did not mind doing this for her employer, who was in the midst of preparing for her exams asked her maid to queue overnight on her behalf.

The Chinese evening daily reported that there were at least three maids in the queue since yesterday afternoon. Shoppers have been queuing to buy the Donatella Versace x H&M collection since yesterday afternoon. The launch of the collection was today.

Read the original report here:

United States in Asia

Visiting United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday faced a grilling from Filipino students, as the United States scrambles to counterbalance China’s growing power in Asia.

I thought this made it a good time to republish this piece by radical nationalist Joel P Garduce, as background.


KEEP THE FIRE by Joel P. Garduce
(published in Cebu’s The Voice, February 5, 2010, page 6)

Yesterday, February 4, marked the 111th anniversary of the beginning of what still stands as the bloodiest war in the history of the Filipino people. On that day in 1899, open hostilities broke out between invading U.S. troops and soldiers of the first republic in Asia.

Uncle Sam at the turn of the 20th century

The war came to be known in history classes and textbooks as the Filipino-American War. It’s a misnomer, really. Calling the war this way invokes an image no different from a boxing fight, where protagonists do battle as an end in itself, where there are no aggressors to speak of and no justice to be had. Which is obviously not the case with this war.

It would be more accurate and honest to call it the First Great Patriotic War of the Filipino People. For indeed, it was the first war waged by a newly born nation, the first patriotic war in Asia in fact to defend a republic against an invading army of 20,000 imperial troops (that eventually ballooned to 120,000 throughout the war) intent on taking out so soon a people’s freedom freshly gained from centuries-long colonial rule.

It was a war that was as ugly as it could get, a signal tragedy where both the peoples of the Philippines and the US lost their respective republics. On the Filipino side, more than a million Filipinos were killed to regain colonial oppression, most as victims of the barbaric “scorched-earth” policy of the U.S. armed occupation, employed via torture, hamletting, food blockades, and massacres of entire towns, including children.

Wounded granny during the Philippine-American war

On the American side, the victorious U.S. subjugation of a new foreign race consolidated the vicious rule of the robber barons, at a cost of 8,000 American lives and racism, workplace abuse, corruption and oppression running rampant in the homeland. Through systematic indoctrination of succeeding generations, this war, “among the cruelest conflicts in the annals of Western imperialism” as one American author put it, would be gutted out of the historical memory of both Americans and Filipinos.

Filipino civilians being interrogated at the start of American colonial rule.

Well, almost. Were it not for the effort—among others—of Americans of conscience like historian Howard Zinn, who died last week, the outstanding war crimes against the Filipino people may well have been entirely forgotten. Thanks to him and his most popular book, “A People’s History of the United States”, arguably the biggest-selling book on the full U.S. history, today’s generation in the U.S. has been made aware of a bloody and disdainful history of U.S. empire, and of the continuing epochal class struggle of the American people against it.

“A People’s History” was hugely successful. By the time Zinn collapsed fatally from a heart attack last January 27, it had already sold two million copies and gone through six editions since it was first published in 1980 with only 5,000 copies.

A 2008 graphic adaptation he co-authored with Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle, called “A People’s History of American Empire”, would go further and boldly parallel the U.S. atrocities against our forefathers more than a hundred years ago to the human rights outrages that attended the U.S.-led war of terrorism ongoing since 9/11.

A 2009 TV docu titled “The People Speak” and based on Zinn’s book brought his views to a far-wider audience. Narrated by actor and his former neighbor Matt Damon, it featured readings and performances by various U.S. celebrities, like Viggo Mortensen of the “Lord of the Rings” fame, black actors Morgan Freeman and Danny Glover, Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, and musicians Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan, Pink, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and John Legend. That a nontraditional take of U.S. history would gain much mainstream acceptance and admiration proves that the time for Zinn’s progressive standpoint and viewpoint has clearly come.

Zinn’s work complements efforts by select Filipino historians to speak historical truth to power. Half a decade before “A People’s History” first came out, anti-imperialist author Renato Constantino had already made the case for a people’s perspective in writing history with his acclaimed twin history volumes “The Philippines: A Past Revisited” and “The Philippines: The Continuing Past”. Then there’s the seminal “Philippine Society and Revolution” (PSR) written by Professor Jose Maria Sison using his nom de guerre Amado Guerrero. What may well be the most well-known history book in the Philippines, specially among the majority who remain downtrodden, PSR came out a full decade before “A People’s History”. (This year marks the 40th year since its publication.) In it, Sison tersely outlined Philippine history and society from a standpoint of an oppressed people daring to make history and change society.

A picture of a “water detail,” reportedly taken in May, 1901, in Sual, the Philippines. “It is a terrible torture,” one soldier wrote. Picture found in “The Water Cure”, Paul Kramer,, Feb 25 2008. Original photograph attributed to Corporal George J. Vennage c/o Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.

Zinn, Constantino and Sison all firmly believe the authentic heroes of history are the unlettered masses and that we ought to champion their hopes and aspirations if we intend to usher in a world of justice and social progress. We are honored to have them remind us all the need to intensely study history to reexamine seemingly unwanted but terribly vital memories, and unearth its lessons pregnant with guidance towards a bright future bereft of ugly and unjust wars, empires of greed, widespread misery and shackled freedoms—a bright future Filipinos, Americans and humankind at large truly deserve. ##

Joel Garduce is with the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). This and previous contributions can be viewed online here.

View these historical photos:

Watch this:
(for the footages, but ignore some parts of the commentary, which can be wrong)

Watch this:

“A Maidservant’s Lot in Early Modern England” — Parallelisms

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

A few days ago, news linking Dominique Strauss-Kahn to a high-profile probe of an alleged prostitution ring at a luxury hotel in Lille broke, causing the story of how a New York hotel  maid had accused him earlier this year of rape to resurface.

Charges have since been dropped, even as DSK was forced to quit as head of the IMF and to shelve his aspirations to become the next French president. But the story of DSK’s accuser — called just that until the moment she came out, or alternately, “the DSK maid” — reminds us of how Filipina maids are at all times vulnerable to all forms of abuse — emotional, physical and sexual.

I thought I’d republish excerpts of this history article here as a way to contribute to the better understanding of the lot of thousands of Filipina maids in foreign lands.

By doing so, I hope to shed light on the power relations between females in subservient levels of society and their “masters” — something that many of my British friends seem to forget, as they are now accustomed to thinking of maids as Filipinas. Watch this episode of BBC’s Harry and Paul:

For me, it’s clearly an issue of power: Not much has changed between then and now; only the nationalities of the maids and their masters involved have changed.


Author: R.C. Richardson

Title: “A Maidservant’s Lot in Early Modern England”

Publisher: History Today

Date: Volume: 60, Issue: 2

Pages: 25-31

“The life of a maidservant in early modern England was one fraught with perils with young girls often prey to the advances of their masters. In 1693 the London newspaper The Athenian Mercury carried the story of a manservant who, with his employer’s active encouragement, married a maidservant in the same household, only to discover that she was already pregnant with the master’s child. The employer said he was grateful to have ‘such cracked ware [taken] off his hands’ and gave financial compensation to the couple. Most maids made pregnant by their employers were not so fortunate.

“Servant-keeping was a ubiquitous and defining feature of society in the 16th to 18th centuries — around 60 to 70 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds, the majority of them female, were employed in domestic service even in poor households as pauper servants. Most of them lived, worked and slept in close proximity to their employers, sometimes in the same room. Privacy even in great houses with features such as corridors and backstairs was often impossible to achieve. Poverty was an endemic aspect of life in service. There were many like the ‘poor maid’ in a 1567 Canterbury court case who possessed ‘nothing but her personal apparel and 16 shillings a year wages and no other goods.’

“Maidservants therefore were often precariously positioned both physically and economically. This made them sexually vulnerable to the whims of their masters and other men of the house as well as to lodgers, guests, manservants, and apprentices. Some would-be maidservants newly arrived in London were procured by pimps or by patrons of disreputable labor exchanges almost as soon as they set foot in the capital.

“There were maidservants too who exploited their sexuality to gain advantage. An early 17th-century Somerset maid giving evidence in a court case unwittingly revealed she was flattered when she attracted the advances of her employer and ‘did not tell her dame because her master promised her new clothes.’ Much later in the following century Jonathan Swift in his satirical Advice to Servants (Dublin 1745) advised housemaids on how to strike the best bargain when their sexual favors were solicited by their masters. At all costs, Swift urged the eldest son of the house should be avoided ‘since you will get nothing from him but a big belly or a clap and probably both together.’ In 1763, Mary Brown a maidservant in Glamorganshire, was still blackmailing Dr Morgan, her former employer, who had fathered her illegitimate child six or seven years previously.

“Church court records are filled with cases involving illicit sexual relations between master and servant. At the beginning of the 17th century, Edward Glascocke from Enfield, Middlesex found himself in court since he had been discovered in bed with his maidservant as well as his wife. In the same period church wardens in Stoke St. Mary, Somerset were scandalized by disclosures of an employer’s open preference for his maidservant over his wife. When they went to work in the fields the maid rode on horseback, while the humbled wife was made to walk. The master and maidservant slept in the same bedroom while the mistress of the house was consigned to another.

In Glamorganshire in 1763, the death of a master produced revelations about his ‘vile life’ in keeping a maidservant as his concubine ‘to the great disturbance of his house and to the great grief and vexation of his loving wife.’ A London moralist J. Moir warned parents in 1787: ‘You had better turn your daughter into the street at once than place her out to service. For ten to one her master shall seduce her or she shall be made the confidante of her mistress’s intrigues.’

“Masters would often consider it their right to molest their maids. It was made clear to a London maidservant in 1605 that providing sexual favors to the master on demand was simply part of her job. She was told: ‘Thou art my servant and I may do with thee as I please.’ ”

And check out this blog on how Lebanese employers perceive the sexuality of Filipina maids, which reads:

Filipina women, compared to their Ethiopian and Sri Lankan counterparts, are seen as fairer, sexually more attractive, and promiscuous. These images of Filipina women legitimate employers’ tight control of their bodies and persons…Just in case you’ve been wondering why some families lock the doors on their maids when they leave home.

Or, alternately, you can google the words Filipina, maid, rape. I got more than 2 million results.

Do Filipina maids form the base of the new slave trade?