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 ebookbrowse.com

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.

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Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words 4: The Psychology of Moral Certainty

Here’s the fourth 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 Sylvia “Guy” Estrada-Claudio, the current director of the UP Center for Women’s Studies. Claudio, a Professor at the Department of Women and Development Studies, UP Diliman College of Social Work and Community Development, is both a doctor of medicine and psychology.

Dr. Claudio is a much traveled resource speaker on activism, feminism, reproductive rights and sexuality. She began her life of activism in high school when she began organizing fellow students against the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos. After completing her medical studies at the University of the Philippines, she formed the Medical Action Group to organize health missions to treat injuries and psychological trauma in communities torn by counterinsurgency operations.

Together with Dr. Junice Melgar she founded Likhaan, an organization working with grassroots women on issues of reproductive health and rights. She is also Chairwoman of the board of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights.

Her book Rape, Love and Sexuality: The Construction of Women in Discourse was published by the University of the Philippines Press as part of the UP Press “Read Up!” Campaign. These excerpts are from her blog, Pleasure and Subversion, from a post titled The Psychology of Moral Certainty.

“As a teacher, a nerd and a psychologist, I feel only frustration and concern. Yet another person who thinks that, ‘because my God (or my Marx) says so,’ is an acceptable form of engagement in democratic and secular society.

I am treading carefully here. Not all Marxists or religious people resort to this argument. Not everyone who has a religious or political belief finds it necessary to cling to the idea that his or her belief is the right one, regardless. I am not also certain that the young woman who had an exchange with me is one of these. I wish she kept engaging me, perhaps I could have known for sure.

But I am certain that the psychology of the ideologue permeates the views of the religious right that has gone all-out against the RH bill. This is also why, I get hate mail and hate tweets after each televised debate. The comments can be quite mean, making me wonder what it is that I have said, no matter how scandalous, would make them feel so threatened that they would lash out with such anger.

I have been challenged often too about my agnosticism. Even the nicest ones seem to think that being uncertain is some kind of a defect. But there is to me, a spiritual gain to be had by accepting ambivalence, ambiguity and uncertainty. For one thing, that is how things are. The truth about what those who believe in a God call “creation” is that it is ever-changing, immense and un-graspable.

Perhaps there is a Truth (yes, with a capital T) out there. But it is not something, little-old-me can ascertain. I remain humble about the presence and laws of what a horoscope writer I follow calls, “the Divine wow”. God is not my FB friend. I ask Her often enough if She is out there and She does not answer. When I die I may dissolve and lose the consciousness that will say that the atheists are correct . If I am wrong and I awake—ooohlala—I will have more questions than a curious 5-year-old.

But for now, I have no need for grand answers in order to lead a harmless, happy and hopefully meaningful life. It is a comfort to me that I do not need ultimate guarantees. I am not a high maintenance child of the universe. I have a brain and enough energy to keep on figuring things out as the need arises. I plod along and get by not having yet committed things like abuse, theft or murder.

On really good days, the idea that no one can know for sure when human life begins really makes me ecstatic.

The psychology of moral certainty is the psychology of fear and/or laziness. Maybe when they were growing up, the parents who nurtured those who are morally-certain-Dr. Claudio-is-wrong-on-RH (and therefore we will never yield her a point, besides she is a lackey of the big pharmaceuticals and the imperialist population controllers) laid down the law about what to do, what is right and what is wrong. That can be comforting when one is little.

Simple and unquestionable rules can be comforting while parents can control the external environment against the views of those who disagree or the harm brought by those who are mean or criminal. Perhaps the very young ones need not be asked for the courage to face the immense unknowable.

But those of us who are hoping to live happy lives in a just society must find it in us to face our limitations. Parents must change the parameters of what they teach as a child matures morally and intellectually. Children must be taught not to be afraid of heterogeniety, diversity and uncertainty. They cannot be afraid of difference. Fundamental differences.

If we are afraid to be unsure, to accept that perhaps we and our family, religion, tribe, institutions, science, political party can be wrong, then we will be unable to accept when we are defeated on twitter or we will lash out in anger against people we only see on television.

And I am frightened indeed by the man who is so angry at me because of what I have said on television that he takes the time to tweet me venom. My heart goes out the woman who cannot find the grace to end a debate she started with some decorum.

Perhaps someday, we will raise all our children with enough moral courage so that they can face profound uncertainty with good cheer. At least we can rejoice that there are enough brave and moral people out there such that the scientific surveys show that the RH bill has wide support.”

Watch her make a subversive presentation on TV.

Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words 1: Excerpts from the Diary of a Bargain-Book Addict

So you think the word ‘Filipina’ means maid? Well, think again. For all of you who reached this blog looking for  bargain Filipinas –whether Filipina maids or hot Filipina bodies at bargain basement prices — well, this is for you! You should also know that Filipinas/Filipinos are also among the world’s most efficient people — on the energy from eating really small pieces of fish and a cup of rice, we can spew out great thoughts! Ha!

As proof, starting today I am going to splice into my blog short pieces that together make what I like to call Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words. These are excerpts from, and links to, the personal blogs of Filipino thinkers who are living today.

Today’s thoughts are those of Romel Regalado Bagares, the Executive Director for the Manila-based Center for International Law, a non-profit engaged in strategic human rights litigation. Bagares  is one of the lawyers representing the families of 14 journalists who perished in the Ampatuan Massacre, said to be the worst single attack on press freedom in recorded history. The anniversary of the massacre will be commemorated on Nov. 23. Bagares also lectures on international law at the Lyceum Philippines University College of Law. Romel’s personal blog is at http://sanpedrostreet.wordpress.com/

Excerpts from the Diary of a Bargain-Book Addict.

“But perhaps, I digress. After all, we’re talking of bargain books here.
Still I think just as well of the famed library at the ancient city of
Alexandria which, in the grandeur of its time, was the scale against which
the intellectual wealth of other nations and races was measured. One legend
– almost surely false, notes Harvard Professor Stephen Jay Gould in his book
Eight Little Piggies: Reflections on Natural History (P215) – that the
library was still intact when Muslim invaders captured the city in the
seventh century. The library, built by descendants of Alexander the Great
about 2,000 years ago, housed the largest collection of books in the ancient
world – more than 700,000 volumes – including the works of Homer and the
library of Aristotle. Historians tell us that Euclid and Archimedes studied
there, as did Eratosthenes, the first mathematician to calculate the
diameter of the earth.”

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

Image via Wikipedia

“Or am I just taking my reading habits too seriously? There are times when,
having finished a book, I fling it to the floor, feeling exhausted and used
up. A certain guilt overwhelms me, indeed, a “complete distaste for words,”
all at the thought that in the end, knowledge becomes puffed up and the
wisdom of this world is mere vanity, “a chasing after the wind,” in the
words of Ecclesiastes. I open my Bible to the New Testament. “Where is the
wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age,” asks
the apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthian Christians. “Has not
God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

“A certain mawkishness. The computer’s thesaurus lists the following
synonyms: sentimental drivel, mush, sentimentalism, maudlin act, gush,
affectation, exaggerated sentiment, excessive sentiment.
But no sooner had I promised myself not to indulge in yet another buying
spree than I’d find myself inside yet another Booksale outlet, poring over
the books it has to offer, wishing I have all the money in the world to
satisfy my cravings for words. It’s as if my day by day struggle with words
as a newspaper reporter wasn’t enough!”