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What the Military Taught Me.

My brother recently posted his thoughts on ROTC. I was actually a cadet officer in my fourth year of high school (and a cadet officer candidate — as member of the Cadet Officer Candidate Corps, or COCC — in my third year).

I could write about this longer, but the fact of the matter is: I hated every minute of it (COCC, Citizens’ Army Training, and Citizens’ Military Training) and still think it was an absolute waste of my time. I joined probably because I was insecure and wanted some affirmation (or to exercise some authority), and I can now assert that my time would have been better spent reading books or playing computer games or listening to music. Or something.

Almost every day of my junior year I would have to greet every cadet officer with a “Sir, good morning, Sir!” or a “Sir, good afternoon, Sir!” I was made to do push-ups every day (either in public or on the urine-slick bathroom floor), I cleaned the commandant’s office, I drank chili pepper-infused water, I ate lunch underneath a table, I had to wear a dress, and I was regularly called “stupid,” “maggot,” “faggot” — all the happy, daily indignities that one had to suffer for the sake of “military discipline” (“the state of subordination under a military command,” involving “the ready subordination of the individual for the good of the group,” or something like that — we had to memorize paragraphs and paragraphs of military handbook stuff as well). Okay, so I was pretty darn fit as well, having to do the dreaded Army dozen regularly. And I had to wear a long-sleeved shirt and tie every Friday — and a buzz cut and black leather shoes the rest of the time — but that was about it. (Thank God physical contact was phased out before I joined, otherwise my ass would have been paddled, that’s for sure.) And to Cecille, the woman who was directly in command: we hated you, we loved you, but it was all Stockholm syndrome at that point.

I was miserable, as you can imagine, but I was determined to finish and not be called a quitter. I finally did finish the year-long program, at some point, learning all about rifle drills and how to assemble and disassemble rifles and whatnot, but there was no heavenly moment of catharsis — all I remember was one of my batchmates, Johnny, weeping, snot running out of his nose, vowing to make his subordinates-to-be suffer like he had done. That, I think, said it all. It was really nothing but a glorified Filipino college fraternity, with the initiates subject to the petty whims of the older “brods,” except that we didn’t drink or lose our virginities to hookers.

A couple more of my batchmates ended up joining the Philippine Military Academy and were shipped out straight to Mindanao. Christopher returned to Los Banos in a coffin. Randolph had an illustrious career at the Academy — and this is simply totally hearsay (although Randolph, if you’re reading this somewhere out there, alive or dead, I don’t give a fuck what you think) — electrocuting POW’s testicles (or it may have been pledges’ testicles, I can’t remember which) with such high voltage that he would blow fuses all throughout the barracks.

But I digress. Being a cadet officer in my fourth year gained me nothing; Randolph gleefully assigned every thug in my year to Military Police, and assigned me as the MP head. All I got for this was lotsa yuks behind my back (and to my face) and a dousing in a steel drum full of stagnant rainwater for my efforts.

By the time I got to college I was already pissed off at the military, and the prospect of compulsory military training (for men only) every single Saturday for two more years was disheartening — especially since I’d heard it all before. And so it went: the endless marching and rifle drills, the pointless lectures on military history and discipline, being yelled at by company leaders who called us “goddamn shitheads” so that we could learn to respect them — all for the service of the nation and eventual battle with the Muslims in the South and the Commies… well, everywhere (more about this some other time, as my involvement in the school paper got me deeper into the left). Some folks who tried to duck out — this poor Jehovah’s Witness, a couple of male models who couldn’t get a buzz cut — ended up not being able to graduate until they got their units.

At some point I wrote a rather critical opinion piece on the military college requirement in the UPLB Perspective, and was later pulled out of my platoon one Saturday for an audience with the commandant at the grandstand. (My friend Edwin was waiting and merely corrected my use of “khaki” — it was “fatigue” — but I understood what my being singled out meant.)

To this day I can’t think of a more profound waste of time in every possible way.

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Pinoy

Pinoy Slang

Courtesy of my brother’s blog, Bulletproof Vest, comes Pinoy Slang. Nowhere else on the web will you get goodies like this:

himutong (verb):

himas utong || to caress someone’s nipples

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Pinoy

More forwarded Christian e-mail.

I’m a constant recipient of e-mail like the one below, but this I found rather interesting because it happily ignores history. It was forwarded unattributed — it looks like something from a newspaper column — and it’s also unattributed on this page.

(Oh, wait — found it at the Heal Our Land Movement webpage, and the relevant page is here. The version I’m quoting from here is slightly different. The movement was started by one Vicente “Enteng” Romano III, also “founder and moderator of eLagda.”)

I’ll reiterate their argument first.

By the year 2030, our children will experience far worse conditions than what we have today:

1. A population of 160 Million
2. Of those, 70 to 90 million (equivalent to our current population) will live below the poverty line
3. Our national debt is estimated to be at US$200B (compared to US$ 28B when Marcos fled, and US$ 53B today)
4. We will be competing, not against Thailand or even Vietnam, but against Bangladesh
5. We will be the most corrupt nation in Asia, if not in the world (we are already ranked 11th most corrupt nation by Transparency International)

The signs are clear. Our nation is headed towards an irreversible path of economic decline and moral decadence.

Okay, so far, so good. The next step (as alluded to in II Chronicles 7:14) is for a synchronized prayer network of 8 million Filipinos during the week, with the prayer meetings replicated on the net. As the writer explains:

We need a force far greater than our collective efforts, as a people, can ever hope to muster.

It is time to move the battle to the spiritual realm. It is time to claim God’s promise of healing of the land for His people. It is time to gather God’s people on its knees to pray for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation.

Is prayer really the answer?

While I may have a different answer to that question, there’s no discounting (or belittling) the significance of mobilizing 8 million (middle-class) people to pray.

But let’s continue.

Before you dismiss this as just another rambling of a religious fanatic, I’d like you to consider some lessons we can glean from history.

England’s ascendancy to world power was preceded by the Reformation — a spiritual revival fueled by intense prayers.

The early American settlers built the foundation that would make it the most powerful nation today — a strong faith in God and a disciplined prayer life. Throughout its history, and especially at its major turning points, waves of revival and prayer movement swept across the land.

The British Empire became what it was through slavery and colonization of most of what we would now call the Third World — any history book can tell you that. This colonization was facilitated by the use of superior military weaponry (usually by the simple murder of the native populace) and the exploitation of “natives” through extraction of labor and natural resources.

It gets even worse when we start talking about “the foundation that would make [the United States] the most powerful nation today,” especially since this is coming from a Filipino. What “swept across the land” was the genocidal massacre of Native Americans, not to mention the slavery of Africans and the colonization of Mexicans in the Southwest. Is there little doubt that much of America’s capital in the 19th century was built on the backs of African slaves and by dispossessing “Indians” of their land?

But the U.S. would only really become a genuine Empire, and a world power, after the Spanish American War and its subsequent colonization of Cuba (which they gave independence to), Puerto Rico and Guam, the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, and, of course, the brutal Filipino American War and the colonization of the Philippines.

Prayer is one thing — but please, please do not distort history (especially in such a woefully misguided manner) to “prove” the power of prayer. What made the United States “the most powerful nation today” was not prayer, but its military might which it first exercised in the Philippines over a century ago.

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Pinoy

Rejoinder to Philippine Collegian letter.

Just got this e-mail from Larry Cruz, President of Cafe Havana Greenbelt about the posting below (via the comments section); here’s the letter they sent to the Philippine Collegian explaining their side (and I figure I’m obligated to report it):

In case you’ve read in the email or anywhere else a letter complaint about Cafe Havana Greenbelt, please refer to the attached response of which is self explanatory. Please use our rejoinder addressed to the Philippine Collegian to counter any adverse effect it may have. Thank you.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Philippine Collegian

Dear Madam:

I was wondering where and when the expected savaging of Cafe Havana Greenbelt would take place, having received a few days ago a letter complaint from an irate guest about alleged racism practiced in this particular restaurant-bar. Then a friend e-mailed me a copy of a letter to the editor of the Philippine Collegian published on 21 February. It was signed by Jose Duke Bagulaya, Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of the Philippines.

When I first received a letter complaint from a certain Mr. Philip Ting on stationary marked Office of the President of the Philippines, National Anti-Poverty Commission, citing our establishment’s arrogant and blatant discrimination”, I knew it was not going to be your usual complaint from a dissatisfied customer. The incident involving Mr. Bagulaya, he wrote, reminded him of his grandfather’s stories of Old China where certain places were marked off limits to Chinese and dogs. My first reaction was one of astonishment — how could such a thing happen in our establishment? Anyone who knows the history of our restaurants or of the background of its owners would react in similar disbelief.

Forthwith I sent text and fax messages to Mr. Ting through the contact numbers he listed, expressing utmost concern and extending my apologies even as I promised to look deeper into the incident. I asked for a little time. I did not get any response. Instead we got a barrage of e-mail from concerned friends who had read the Letter in the mail.

It took a few days for us to verify what happened, from the point of view of the security guard on duty and the manager of the restaurant. Herewith is a gist of the report of our chief of operations:

“Mr. Romy Canda (Cafe Havana manager) was on duty that day (Saturday, February 8). He said the guard on duty does not remember having received any complaint from any guest but recalls refusing several guests, locals and foreigners, due to improper attire, one of whom was in shoddy shorts. That guest may or may not have been the complainant. The guard simply does not remember, it was a very busy night and no one had made a big fuss about being turned away. On February 10 Mr. Canda received a letter from Mr. Philip Ting who complained regarding the incident in which he claimed to have been told by the guard that the restaurant “had a preference for foreigners.” (In his letter to Collegian, Mr. Bagulaya has the guard saying in Taglish: “Havana ‘to…priority namin foreigners.” Mr. Canda says had there been the slightest incident due to that remark, the guard would have immediately reported it to him, this being SOP in our restaurants. He said the guard does not speak very well, is shy and inarticulate and therefore could not have used those offensive words, at least not intentionally. Many guests are refused entry on a daily basis because of non-conformity with the dress code posted on the establishment’s wall.”

Clearly there is denial that discrimination was intended. Could it be a misinterpretation of the guard’s crude way of expressing himself? Did he say those words at all? On the other hand, I cannot make light of the complaint, coming as it does from a respectable source who would not be so incensed had something close to what was narrated not actually taken place. I would take the guard’s denial with a grain of salt and lean on the side of the complainant, especially regarding the uneven application of the dress code. The complainant’s comment that other guests more under-dressed than he had found their way inside the restaurant is possible. The guard explains that sometimes on crowded nights improperly attired guests get past him and once inside they are no longer asked to leave. They are told to observe the dress code on the next visit. The dress code, conspicuously posted at the entrance door, is applied to foreigners and locals alike.

It is true, we do not admit just anybody in our restaurants and bars, but this policy has nothing to do with race, creed, or social standing. The following are not acceptable in all our establishments: people who are drunk or suspected to be on drugs, hookers of any gender, and improperly attired but otherwise respectable individuals such as those wearing basketball shorts, street slippers and tank tops. Due to the number of people that descend on Cafe Havana on late nights, it is not always possible to enforce the rules to the letter.

To accuse management of enforcing a “racist” policy and encouraging its staff to discriminate against Filipinos in their own country is to blatantly distort the truth to get back hard at management for the seeming lapse of an one employee. The letter writer, an educated man from the State
University, shows the same arrogance and prejudice he accuses the guard and his employers of, especially when he likens the guard to a dog and ridicules him for not being able to write “a decent Spanish sentence.”

After all is said and done, I should like to say that we at LJC truly regret this incident and apologize on behalf of the guard who has been chastised and lectured on for not exercising prudence and good judgment but who may keep his job for humanitarian reasons, and on behalf of the owners and managers of Cafe Havana. In a way, I should be thankful to the kind professor for making us more aware of our shortcomings. Needless to say we have learned a few valuable lessons from the incident.

We hope the complainant and his friends find this letter a good reason to revisit Cafe Havana Greenbelt. I would personally welcome them to disprove notions of prejudice and arrogance in our establishment, for no such things exist there and or in any other LJC restaurant. We certainly wouldn’t last a quarter of a century in the business if we were not sensitive to people’s feelings.

Thank you for publishing our side of the incident.

Sincerely,

Larry J. Cruz
President

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Pinoy

"Priority namin ang foreigner."

This is forwarded from the Philmusic mailing list — ostensibly a letter published in the Philippine Collegian just a few days ago.

True or not, I’ve always been fascinated with cases like these happening in the Philippines. (This includes that story Enchanted Kingdom in Santa Rosa, Laguna, where a Filipino singing duo was prevented from singing Tagalog songs because — as management supposedly put it — EK was like Disneyland, and Disneyland wasn’t in the Philippines, and EK was in some mythic country of its own, and so only English songs could be sung. Apparently, the duo started performing and noticed that the crowd was bored. They then switched to Tagalog songs and were warmly received by the audience — but not by the management, who allegedly refused to pay them for disobeying orders.)

Dear Madam,

I thought it only happens in the novels of Ralph Ellison. But I was wrong. I met racism face to face at the entrance of Café Havana in Green Belt Makati last Saturday, February 8, 2003.

As I and my companions approach the café’s door, at around 12 midnight, the six-foot tall Filipino guard apprehended me. He consequently told me that I’m not allowed to enter due to my attire. I would have accepted his alibi if I had not seen white men in tee shirts freely entering and leaving the premises. So I countered and ask the guard, ‘why won’t you let me in when I am wearing a long-sleeved shirt, while those white men are just in their plain tees?’ Seemingly irritated by my question, the guard told me: ‘Café Havana ‘to. Priority namin ang foreigner.’ I was stunned that I remained standing in front of the entrance. I could not believe the reality of my experience. But it was not yet enough for the guard, he ultimately told me: ‘Kung hindi kita papasukin, may magagawa ka ba?’ Surprised beyond words, I left, bewildered.

Looking back at what happened, I could not blame the security guard alone. Sometimes some guards are like dogs; they only follow what their masters wished. Moreover, I’m not insulted that someone, who cannot even write a decent Spanish sentence, would verbally push me away from a pseudo-Hispanic commercial establishment. I’m rather shocked by the fact that I suffered the most savage form of racism not in a foreign land but in my own country and in the hands of people of my color.

Café Havana’s management policy is no doubt disturbing and prejudiced. What happened to me and my companions is not a purely isolated case, but a determined result of the management’s view that the indio is inferior to the white man. What happened is nothing but a practice of the company’s unstated racist policy. What happened is but a ramification of a policy that is unconsciously propagated by a semi-colonial state, a state that kowtows to foreign capital. Racism, in short, is never incidental.

Any policy that springs from racism is indeed not appropriate for any establishment that gets permit to operate from the government, a government supposedly by Filipinos. I wish that Café Havana’s management would amend and reassess its barbaric policy before more people suffer the same fate. For if it remains firm on its racist practices, I would suggest that Café Havana put up a signboard which says: ‘Dogs and brown-skinned natives are not allowed here.’ That at least would be more humane.

Jose Duke Bagulaya
Department of Engish and Comparative Literature
University of the Philippines, Diliman