Only 12 more votes for Cha-Cha

BY Ellen Tordesillas
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

THIS is what the five bish-ops warned about just three weeks ago: Gloria Arroyo will ram Charter Change down the people’s throats.

A report from the House of Representatives yesterday said House Resolution 737 amending the economic provision of the Constitution has been signed by 163 congressmen. House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who authored the resolution, needs only 15 more signatures to meet the required 175 signatures, representing three-fourths of the House of Representatives membership to bring the resolution to the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, then to the plenary.

The Cha-Cha train is cranking up. Destination: Beyond 2010.

This is what Press Secretary Jesus Dureza prayed for last Tuesday at the start of the Cabinet meeting: That Gloria Arroyo “have forbearance, good health, and tolerance to lead this nation until 2010, and who knows, perhaps even beyond.”

It was not a slip of the tongue. It was an announcement.

It’ was not a surprise. In fact, it’s a confirmation of what Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz said last Oct. 29 in a press conference.

Cruz said, “When congress opens in Nov. 10, charter change will be an open, public and well funded move in the lower house. Whether it will triumph in the Senate is still debatable. But then I repeat, no more camouflage, no more double-talk, no more indirect insinuations, but Charter Change will be an honest-to-goodness agenda for Congress.”

Cruz further said “that elections in 2010 is a big dream, in short elections in 2010 is a moral impossibility.”

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, president of the United Opposition, said time is running out for Arroyo and her allies. “By middle of 2009, people will be talking about the 2010 elections. If they (majority congressmen) are going to embark on a last-ditch effort for Charter change for Mrs. Arroyo’s benefit, they have to do it now.”

Binay said pro-Arroyo local executives and her House allies conducted public consultations on the issue of amending the Constitution while Congress was on a month-long recess. He said more than 100 pro-Arroyo congressmen are expected to report an “overwhelming consensus” in favor of Charter change.

“The Cha-Cha express is all set. And we should brace ourselves in the next few weeks for a final attempt to extend Mrs. Arroyo’s stay in Malacañang,” Binay warned.

Arroyo and her allies had attempted several times to amend the Constitution to shift from presidential to parliamentary system so Arroyo could remain in power beyond 2010. In December 2006, the House of Representatives led by then House Speaker Jose de Venecia railroaded a resolution calling for a Senate-less Constitutional Assembly. They had to back off after a few days when the Catholic Church and the Iglesia ni Cristo warned of massive protests.

Just two months ago, Arroyo tried to smuggle charter change in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Supreme Court declared the MOA unconstitutional.

Cha-cha advocates are trying another tack with HR 737. Nograles is of the view that Congress can actually amend specific provisions of the Constitution.

HR 737 calls for the amendment of Sections 2 and 3 of Article 12 of the Constitution “to allow the acquisition by foreign corporations and associations and the transfer or conveyance thereto, of alienable public and private lands.”

Nograles said that while a mere resolution, even if approved by the majority members of the House of Representatives, does not have the effect of law, it can still serve as the basis of raising a point of constitutional inquiry before the Supreme Court.

“If the Supreme Court says that Congress can enact laws that in effect will repeal specific provisions of the Constitution, then we might be able to avoid this protracted legal and constitutional wrangling on how we can attune the Constitution to the new challenges confronting our country,” he said.

It is feared that with several Supreme Court justices up for retirement next year, Arroyo would be able to pack the high court with justices who would declare as legal a resolution to amend the Constitution without participation of the Senate.

Binay said survey after survey has shown that the people are overwhelmingly against charter change that will allow Arroyo to stay in power beyond 2010.

“If Malacañang pushes through with Cha-Cha despite public opinion, this could well be the tipping point for the movement to remove an unpopular pretender to the presidency,” he warned.

It could be just what the country needs.


Dove, eagle, lion


BY Danton Remoto
Planet English
The Business Mirror Front Page
November 17, 2008


That was the pseudonym of Jose Garcia Villa, our first National Artist for Literature, who wrote luminous poems in English in the first half of the 20th century. The qualities of the three animals he conflated into one word – Doveglion – and blazoned his poetry as among the century’s best.

Penguin Classics has just published the Collected Poems of Garcia Villa, to commemorate his birth centennial. The Pope of Greenwich Village, as Villa was known, belonged to the modern literary giants of the 1950s. This global poet set the standards for fiction and poetry in English in the Philippines, through his yearly list of the best and the worst works, notable for the acidic wit of his annotations. Such iconic American poets like Marianne Moore only had awe “for the reverence, the raptness, the depth of concentration in [his] bravely deep poems.” For her part, the grande dame of English poetry, Dame Edith Sitwell, wrote: “[Villa is] a poet with a great, even an astounding, and perfectly original gift. . . . The best of his poems are among the most beautiful written in our time.”

Who was Villa and why did he make a splash on world literature? His mother was a teacher and his doctor-father a colonel in the 1898 Revolution. He was separated from them by language (they spoke Spanish, he spoke English) and by a century (they were still in the 19th, he was moving on into the Jazz Age). He turned his back on a medical, and later, legal studies, and pursued his art with ferocity of vision.

When he was 17 years old, he wrote “The Coconut Poem,” where he compared the coconuts to a woman’s nipples, followed it up with ellipses as a visual mirror to the shape of both coconuts and nipples. And then he ended with this line: “I shall kiss a coconut because it is the nipple of a woman.” Shocked, the administration of UP suspended him, and the courts fined him for obscenity. The young literary lion never went back to school. After he won first prize in the Philippines Free Press short story award for “Mir-i-Nisa,” he used the P2,000 prize money to book passage for the United States.

And thus began his life as a writer in exile. In 1930, he enrolled at the University of New Mexico and started a literary magazine, Clay. It published the masters of American literature: Erskine Caldwell, William Saroyan, Williams Carlos Williams. His own stories also captured the attention of Edward J. O’Brien, who included several of Garcia Villa’s stories in his annual Best Short Stories. He even dedicated the honor roll of 1932 to our Filipino poet. A year later, the prestigious Scribner’s published Villa’s Footnote to Youth and Other Stories. This was to be his first and last book of prose, for after this, he devoted himself completely to poetry.

Poem after poem he wrote, in the cold sadness of exile in New York. And in 1942, Viking Press published Have Come, Am Here. The title alone is a bold declaration of his intention – and he succeeded. The New York Times called Villa’s poems “an astounding discovery . . . . This is a poet of instinctive genius who creates knowingly his own communication.” Writing as a confidential evaluator of his poems for Viking, the English writer Sylvia Townsend Warner said: “It is like seeing orchids growing wild to read him . . . Since I met him he seems to have met God; but a God so much in his own image that I am sure no harm can come of the encounter.”

The other arbiters of literary taste chimed in. In the New Republic, Babette Deutsch said Villa belongs to the “small company of religious poets who have been able to communicate their vision. He belongs to the still smaller company of those who have not needed to cry out their doubt.” Even e.e. cummings, who was the idol of Villa, said upon publication of Have Come, Am Here: “and I am alive to find a brave man rediscovers the sky.” Villa also developed the rhyming scheme of reversed consonance in this book.

In his next book, Volume Two (1949), Villa introduced the comma poems. And in his last major book, Selected Poems and New (1958), he introduced Adaptations, or prose pieces cut up to achieve the tightness and lyricism of poetry. In his introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, Luis Francia summed up Villa’s life and work.

“Villa’s English . . . was not the English of the colonial masters, but it was English nonetheless, or as critics of postcolonial literature describe it, English with a small e. In claiming an imperial language as his own – as such writers as Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov had done — Villa demonstrated how linguistic ownership had nothing to do with borders. There was an accent, sure, but it was that of a prophet. “

This essay was commissioned by the British insurer Pru-Life as part of its Planet English, a project to promote the use of English and English literature in the Philippines.

The Audacity of Hubris

BY Leonor-Magtolis-Briones
The Business of Governance

The entire world is enthralled with Obama’s victory, including the Philippines. It is reported that in France, the search is on for a French Obama. The other day the hosts of a popular radio program asked listeners to mention who deserves to be the “Filipino Obama.” Someone immediately texted the name of a popular young senator. Just as quickly, another texter disputed the choice and suggested the name of another senator.

The thinking is that anyone who is relatively young, tall, good-looking and smooth-talking can be a Filipino Obama. An important question to ask is: who is funding wanna-be-Obamas? Obama’s funding largely came from the public. Are our Obama pretenders using public funds for their campaigns? Are they depending on big business and trapo money?

Another important question is: what is their track record? For presidentiables who are senators and congressmen, what is the output of the committees they chair? A simpler question: are they working in the Senate or out touring campuses on public funds to seduce the youth vote?

A large percentage of those who voted for Obama are young. In the Philippines, the race is on for the youth vote. Every other candidate has its youth arm. This is not really a new thing. The youth has always been recognized as a potent force for change. At the same time, cynics note that corruption starts at a very young age, say, in the Sangguniang Kabataan.

In a forum with young political leaders, a young man asked the anguished question, ”Too often, the youth have been disappointed by those who promise to lead them. They end up worse than their trapo parents, handlers and funders.” The youth then recited a long list of politicians who wooed the youth vote and turned trapo. “What is your guarantee that you will not disappoint us when it is your turn?”

An enthusiastic journalist wrote that the Obama victory was “the first global election.” He has been described as a “historic and transformational” figure. It is too soon to swoon over a self-proclaimed Filipino Obama. We need a Filipino for the Filipinos, not a grotesque Obama imitation.

The second book which Obama wrote is entitled, “The Audacity of Hope.” Let us not be seduced by those who offer “The Audacity of Hubris.”

My favorite teacher


By Danton Remoto
Remote Control

I was a Legal Management major who shifted to Interdisciplinary Studies in my third year at the Ateneo. I could not balance the accounting books even if my whole life depended on it. The only thing I wanted to do was to go to the Rizal Library every afternoon, stand in front of the books in the PS 9991 category, and read the books of the best Philippine writers. One day, I told myself, I will also publish my own book. One book would be enough.

That semester, I enrolled in a class on Modern Poetry. Our room was on the third floor of Bellarmine Building, 4:30-7:30. The teacher arrived in a brown jacket, his hair tousled by the wind. He was Professor Emmanuel Torres. Before this class, I had read books of essays and fiction, but rarely poetry. I found poems impenetrable.

But Professor Torres simply made me see. He had that quality that many English teachers lacked – passion. He was brilliant, of course, but he also had passion for the subject that he was teaching. It was the kind of passion that – if it were tapped by the authorities – could generate enough megawatts of electricty for the whole country. He reminded me of the words of Joseph Conrad, one of my favorite novelists, in his introduction to The Nigger of the Narcissus: “My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see.”

Professor Torres introduced me to a universe of words. It is a luminous world inhabited by Baudelaire and Rimbaud, Verlaine and Rilke, Eliot and Hopkins, cummings and Lorca, Pound and Moore. And do not forget The Beatles.

I was the class beadle, and I collected the coins for the stenciled copies of the poems and pooled them together in a beautiful blue bowl. We had by then transferred to the Ateneo Art Gallery. When I learned that the bowl must be a Ming, I just put all the coins in a rainbow-colored purse I bought in Baguio. That bowl must be more expensive than my parent’s house in the suburbs.

Not daunted

In my fourth year, moderator Joey Ocampo of the Filipino Department appointed me as the editor-in-chief of Heights. To further hone my sense of craft, I enrolled in the Creative Writing Class of Professor Torres. It was the first class offered by the Ateneo in many, many years. Professor Torres was in his element, tearing our juvenilia apart with singular wit and irony. His eyes would widen, his nostrils would flare, and the words iof criticism would blaze from his mouth like fire.

But I was not daunted. People were afraid of him, but I was not. I knew that he only wanted us to learn. And since my father was a military officer and I grew up in a military base, I knew that the steel of discipline was good for one’s soul.

And so every Monday morning, I would step into his office at the Ateneo Art Gallery to show him my latest poems. He would welcome me with a smile, get his red ballpoint pen, and then proceed to make his corrections. In the deadly silence of that beautiful room, his ballpoint pen slashed into my poems. I would just look at him, and the painting behind him – an Amorsolo dazzling with light. And then, he would hand me back my poems with his corrections. He called my poems “effusions,” and I would just laugh

But I think I was – and still am—stubborn. Persistence is my middle name. I went on and wrote poems and stories and essays for his Creative Writing class. One of the essays I wrote for his class was “A Quick Visit to Basa,” a narrative essay on one of my rare visits to Basa Air Base, Floridablanca, Pampanga, where I was born and where I stayed until I was 12 years old.

A writer!

In my mind’s eye I still remember that day I dropped by the Art Gallery one hour before class so I could consult with him on a one-on-one basis. He read it – and oh yes, he reads so fast! – said he liked my essay. But in the next breath, he picked up his red ballpoint pen and pointed out certain holes in the text.

We went through my essay sentence by sentence, punctuation mark by punctuation mark, the way he does it with our poems. He always told us to avoid stereotyped situations and words, to throw away “all those rusty razors.” The point, he said, quoting Ezra Pound, was “to make it new.”

During the class discussion, Professor Torres said: “This essay is written by somebody already on his way to becoming a writer!” For an apprentice who was supposed to finish a degree in Legal Management and take up Law after college, this was high praise – and I went home in such a daze that I almost stubbed my toe on a rock on the way out of the gallery.

President Obama’s acceptance speech

He said, from almost nothing 21months ago, to the presidency of the United States today. Nothing seems impossible.


Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama-as prepared for delivery
Election Night
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Chicago, Illinois

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Catholic faculty heads will roll?


One of our letter writers asked if the Vatican pressured Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, President of the Ateneo, into writing a memorandum to the university reminding us that the Catholic line is anti-Reproductive Health? And that heads — presumably that of the faculty — will roll? I am sure no heads will roll, since Ateneo — like all universities, I presume — value academic freedom and freedom of expression.

I do not really know if the Vatican did that, and why would they? Based on news reports, what I know is that Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of the CBCP wrote to Fr. Nebres asking him why we, the Ateneo professors, wrote a declaration of support for the Reproductive Health bill. And since when last I looked the Jesuits are still Catholics, naturally they would follow the Catholic line of thought. That is just pure and simple obedience, which is one of the three things a priest is sworn to follow, along with celibacy and poverty. Some of of my priest-friends (both Jesuit and non-Jesuit) tell me that of these three, obedience is the most difficult to follow. I am sure.

Anyway, all this reminds me of what a former Ateneo administrator told me, before I left for a Fulbright Fellowship in 2000 and I said I might not return to the Ateneo anymore because I found it such a small pond. She wickedly told me that a decade ago, when my gay anthology Ladlad first came out and became a bestseller, the secretary of the CBCP, a monsignor himself, called up Ateneo and asked if, indeed, I am teaching there? And then he demanded an explanation.

But the Ateneo administrator’s executive secretary — an elderly lady with the coolness of a cat and the claws of one — just answered nonchalantly with one word: “Yes.”

The monsignor at the other end of the line was waiting for our executive secretary to explain why this heathen who will be consigned to the flames of hell was teaching in a bastion of the Catholic Faith.

But our executive secretary herself just held the phone, and when no words came from the holy caller at the other end of the line, she just said, “Monsignor, I still have papers to type. I hope you will have a good day.”

‘Yan ang bongga.

Second-sem blues


Danton Remoto
Remote Control | 11/04/2008 1:00 AM

The gloom of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days were lifted when I read my e-mail. I receive lots of letters every week, but this one from a young reader made my day.

“I would just like to express how much I appreciate your columns. You write with such wit, frankness, and passion that I often find myself laughing silently or agreeing ardently with your thoughts and views. You talk just about anything in your columns and no matter how varied the topics are, each article proves to be very much worthwhile. I highly value your opinions and insights on the different aspects of life.

“What you say and do, I believe, have helped hone my own ideals and principles as a person. You have inspired me to be more proactive about issues regarding our country through your writing. I applaud you for being the brave person that you are, continuing to rally for a better Philippines. I pray for more Filipinos like you; you are what our country needs. I wish you more power and strength for whatever trials that may come your way. I shall support you, in what little ways I can, in your future plans.”

“By the way, I’m a senior from that school on Taft. You should come over and teach us, too!”

Thank you. I have many friends over there, in that school on Taft, especially in its Literature Department: Marj Evasco, Ronald Baytan, Jerry Torres, Shirley Lua, Vince Groyon. Professor Cirilo Bautista has retired from teaching at De La Salle, but there are many other young literary lions in your school.

I would like to teach there, and at the University of the Philippines, too, but there is simply no time. M-W-F I teach 12 units, or four classes, at the Ateneo. I am also writing my dissertation for the PhD in English, major in Creative Writing, at UP Diliman, which I should finish this second semester.

Advice to students

Which brings me to the topic of today’s column: second sem.

The second sem begins on Monday, if it has not already begun in some schools. The freshmen are still hilong-talilong (higgledy-piggledy?) over the results of their first-sem work. Many must have thought college was easy and cool because you have classes only three hours a week per subject, not the usual daily grind in high school.

But this makes college more difficult. Why? Because the so-called lots of free time on your hands should be spent reading your required texts and even the recommended ones, and reviewing the notes that you took in class. Yes, you must take copious notes in class, since the teacher’s lecture consists of summaries of the textbook and the examples from his or her own store of knowledge. You can then review your notes, or rewrite them afterward. Rewriting them is better, since you can review your notes while rewriting them in a more organized fashion.

The poet Li Po said that “the palest ink is better than the most retentive memory.” This is true not only for writing, but also for studying.

Tips on reading

Teachers give you required texts because you should read them. But I find today’s students crestfallen at the sight of book chapters to read. How to read these chapters?

Before reading, put your cell phone on silent mode, turn off that TV or Ipod, lock that door and put your landline phone on mute. Place a blank sheet of paper beside the book you are reading. If you are distracted by a thought, write a fragment on the piece of paper to remind you of that thought later. When reading, use your eye the way a bird skims the landscape.

To get the flavor of the chapter, read its title, its subtitle, the chapter headings, and the summary usually found at the end of every chapter. This will fix a tentative thread of thought in your mind.

Do not use a highlighter. Engage with the book by writing on it. I like a book when its margins are full of check marks, asterisks, stars, lines, parallel lines, exclamation points, question marks, or even f— yous! That means that the reader has wrestled with the thoughts inscribed in the book.

Avoid being a passive reader by locking your mind with that of the author. You can do this better if you are sitting upright, have a good lamp with the light coming from your right side and for me, a hot cup of chocolate.


When a teacher assigns a group work, don’t use the occasion to be a slacker. Group mates hate nothing less than a sponger, somebody who does no work but claims the grade nevertheless as part of the group. That is why I ask the group members to report to me those who did not help in making the group presentation (oral) and the group paper (written).

Slacker receives a zero for the group work, and the teacher’s dagger looks for the whole week. Oral presentations should not be occasions for boredom. Do a PowerPoint presentation. Pepper your report with well-chosen visuals and keywords. Do not read from a prepared text. Learn the art of writing a gist, or a précis, of the work. A concise report can also be substantial. A long report is often just full of pads, and pads, if you ask your girl friends, don’t work all the time.

How about recommended texts? If you have taken good notes and read all the required texts at least twice, you need not read the recommended texts. But if the subject is your major and you want to learn more about it, then go! Reading recommended texts will give you a deeper background into the subject matter. These texts can also offer another angle of vision, a different framework or context, for the same subject matter.


And how to write that darned report?

The best thing is still to read The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. It is the only book you need to read – and read three times – in order to write well. You must also remember the dictum: write in white heat, revise in cold blood. Write key words, fragments, images on a piece of paper. This is called free writing, tapping into your memory bank, brainstorming with yourself. Then later, organize these stray thoughts into a sentence, a paragraph, an essay.

My rule in my college classes is this: one sentence must have one thought. A group of related sentences constitute a paragraph. And a group of related paragraphs constitute an essay. When you can already string together a three-page-long introduction composed of one sentence, as Nick Joaquin did in “May Day Eve,” then you can junk my rule.

After writing the essay, take a break. Do something that does not involve the mind. I think that means watching MTV or MYX. Then return to the essay and begin the work of a butcher, chopping away the debris from your work. Then you can revise by pressing the computer’s automatic checker for spelling and grammar.

“You’re lucky you now have computers!” I told my class once. “You only have to press F4 and your essays are immediately corrected.”

My students laughed and, sufficiently provoked, I asked, “Why, do you think I am lying to you? It is so easy to press F4!”

Until this girl in front of me, who writes the best essays in class, said that F4 is the Taiwanese group of long-haired boys, and perhaps I meant pressing F7?

Adel Answers Equalizers Questions


I’d like to answer some questions sent by the “Equalizer” – great handle, reminds me of one of my favorite 80’s tv series –

1)Can you possibly be the bridge between Muslim and Christian Filipinos?

– Having deep Muslim and moro roots and at the same time being married to a Christian and living in a predominantly Catholic community, I can appreciate both perspectives, which is a prerequisite to resolving a lot of tensions and conflicts between Muslim and Christian Filipinos. Also, unlike some in the moro community, I’m not stuck in a 70’s time-warp, holding on to the belief that armed struggle is an appropriate method for resolving muslim-christian differences and I don’t approach problems of discrimination from a mentality of anger and hatred towards the majority. I hate the discrimination but I choose not to hate the persons and groups causing the discrimination and marginalization. I don’t vilify christian settlers in mindanao as “land-grabbers”. Lastly, I believe lasting solutions to the Mindanao conflict can only come from a perspective that sees all sides to the issues affecting Muslim-Christian relations in the Philippines.

2)Aren’t you concerned about antagonizing the hotheads in the MNLF with your more moderate views?

Honestly, I don’t care about the hotheads in the MNLF and MILF or the civil society groups that have called me, among other things, a “former Moro”. Unfortunately for them, and I really pity them, they are stuck in two things – (1) the past; and (2) an orientation towards hate with an openness to violence. History has left them behind.

3)Why do you associate with the the tradpols in Genuine Opposition?

You have to look beyond the personalities and remember that a sizable segment of the population – the masa – supports them. The masa deserve a place at the table and deserve to have their views understood and articulated so that is why I associate with what some may call ‘tradpols”. Just remember that what may be a tradpol to you is a hero to the masa.