Last Friday, we decided to go birding in a different place and drove out to Balanga Wetland and Nature Park in Balanga, Bataan. The park has been the site of the Philippine Bird Festival; the tenth one was held on December 9-11, 2015. The trip took us almost three hours because of the heavy traffic at the Mindanao Avenue toll plaza and random slowdowns throughout the journey, plus Waze made us go down another, more crowded and narrower road instead of Roman Expressway. Roman might have gotten us to the park more than a half hour earlier than we did, so we’ll be sure to take that road next time.
The path heading to the park cuts through various neighborhoods, and the street gets narrower as you get closer to the place. When we arrived, we saw a modest beach area with a few huts and some structures where you can hang out and view the birds.
There were quite a number of birds, mostly terns, egrets, and other shorebirds. You just have to know where and how to spot them, and of course, you need binoculars and spotting scopes to really see them better. The viewing decks were located rather a bit too far from the shore, ideal for observing the birds from a distance, but not the best if you want to take good pictures.
The entire place itself is fairly modest. Don’t expect any food and souvenir shops, or maybe we just got there a little late. Birders in particular will enjoy viewing all the shorebirds. Head over there with food, folding chairs, a book, music, and take a walk along the beach, and you could have yourself a good day.
Earlier this week, I briefly attended the book launch for Raissa Robles‘s book Marcos Martial Law: Never Again held at Balay Kalinaw in UP Diliman. Noel Cabangon performed “Bayan Ko” before the main discussion with the panel, which featured Robles, Roberto “Obet” Verzola, Senator Rene Saguisag, Pete Lacaba, Bonifacio Ilagan, and Dean Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government, began.
The attendees, to my dismay, were mostly older people, with a smattering of younger ones, which to me only highlights the idea that younger people are becoming less and less interested and aware of what happened during the Martial Law years and why it all remains relevant today. Alan Robles moderated the discussion, and one of his first questions was about why people seem to have forgotten all about the atrocities during Martial Law and how it’s possible that Bongbong Marcos has a very strong chance to become vice president. I think the panelists got it right when they said that no one was ever really held accountable for all the wrongdoings during Martial Law. Nobody was arrested, nobody was tried and jailed, and the Marcoses were allowed back in the country a mere handful of years after they were kicked out of power.
Aside from justice not being served, I believe another key factor is that Martial Law was never really discussed in depth in schools. I don’t remember any detailed information being taught about those years, only that Marcos was in power for a very long time. In fact, I only learned the truth about Martial Law when I was in college through a very excellent documentary entitled Batas Militar. I can’t say for sure whether history isn’t taught properly to children because people don’t think children will understand or that such details are too much (too disturbing) to handle. And then there’s the perpetual refrain that learning history isn’t necessary and the all-too-common attitude of brushing unpleasant things under the rug and pretending they never happened. As a result, you have people who never learn from their mistakes.
Yet another factor is what is now called “EDSA fatigue,” which is being used to describe how people feel about People Power nowadays. What was once a celebrated event is now either widely mocked or ignored. It may be related to the fact that People Power and EDSA are always associated with the Aquinos and not with the Filipino people anymore. Nobody is saying that Ninoy Aquino didn’t play his part or that Corazon Aquino was an inspiring figure at the time. But recognition of their roles has reached the point of reverence that it’s difficult for some people to view People Power and the Aquinos as separate entities. Therefore, anyone who’s unhappy with the Aquinos, be it Noynoy or Kris, tends to become annoyed with the family and, by extension, People Power. The discussion has become nothing more than red versus yellow, Marcos versus Aquino, Martial Law versus People Power.
And because many people don’t know what happened during Martial Law, even those who lived through it and saw nothing more than carefully planned order and progress that masked the grimy truth, you now have a nation that is fondly looking back on that time. Now you have people who are confusing truth for propaganda and who don’t realize that their criticisms against the government would have gotten them imprisoned and/or tortured during the Martial Law era they praise and long for today.
Fire hit the UP Diliman Faculty Center on the morning of April 1, reaching Task Force Alpha or just one level above the fifth alarm. The fire was eventually put out and no one was physically injured, thankfully. But it left behind structural damage and the loss of countless resources, research, artifacts, mementoes, and other valuable items.
The Faculty Center was something of a refuge for me back in college, in that I spent a lot of time there just writing and reading between classes. I sat in the hallway on the second floor for an agonizing period of time waiting to find out if I was accepted into the History program. I enjoyed informative consultations with my professors. I’m not mourning the memories; they’re not going anywhere. I feel much worse about the loss of all the materials and resources. The good thing is that people are pitching in to gather as many materials as they could and rebuild what they can. I have no resources to contribute myself, given that any relevant materials I have were also torched by a fire in 2008, but I’ll nevertheless find a way to contribute (books for DECL, office equipment and cash donations to CSSP come to mind), and I hope everyone else will, too.
I’ve been trying to enroll to the eFPS of the BIR and I keep getting this message: “The TIN and/or Branch Code you entered does not exist in the eFPS Registration database.” So I e-mailed them asking for help, and this is part of their response:
Stated hereunder are the requisites for availment of the eFPS system:
• Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) should be registered in our BIR Integrated Tax System (ITS) (please be informed that the BIR- ITS is a system internal to the Bureau of Internal Revenue and access thereto is only allowed to BIR personnel)
• Certification authorizing any of the two (2) officers designated to file the return under Section 52 (A) of the Tax Code (President or other principal officer, and Treasurer or Assistant Treasurer of the Corporation) who shall enroll for the system usage;
• Enrollment to eFPS;
• Enrollment to eFPS Authorized Agent Bank (AAB);
Um. How can I avail the eFPS if I can’t enroll to the eFPS to begin with? This is just completely useless information. What’s more, I’m also not the only person who encounters this particular difficulty. I can’t figure out why the BIR claims to want to make filing taxes easy and yet it’s making registering to the system so hard.
Let me start by saying that I’m neither an AlDub nor an Eat Bulaga fan. I first heard of “Yaya Dub” when I was considering applying for a website management job, which entails updating a news site every day, and didn’t think much of what or who Yaya Dub was. During a work meeting, one of my coworkers said that she was a proud member of AlDub Nation. After a while, I heard that Alden Richards was a part of it, and I thought, “Cool.” I had admired Alden Richards for a couple of years and I’d been wondering when his popularity was going to explode on a much bigger scale.
Apparently, his time has come, and this year is his year, along with Maine Mendoza, who initially rose to fame via her Dubsmash videos and then as Yaya Dub on Eat Bulaga’s Juan for All, All for Juan segment. I’m not going to try to retell the story of how the AlDub phenomenon began and how it has progressed since then. Their Wikipedia page can give all details you’ll ever need.
There have been some harsh comments about people’s obsession with AlDub. In sum, some people say that this nation is careening towards disaster because people are shallow and obsessed with a fictional love story on a noontime show. Some bring up how our national heroes died for the country at a young age 1 and yet young people today are heavily into things that critics perceive as worthless and silly rather than think about serious issues. Some would call this a reflection of Filipino society and how we like to escape into fantasy and deny the bad things that are happening around us.
This kind of thinking is snooty and narrow, and it reduces AlDub fans to nothing but a squealing mass of giddiness. People are capable of liking and being interested in multiple things. AlDub fans come from all walks of life. Being AlDub fans does not mean that those people are stupid. More likely than not, they are also painfully aware of what is wrong with the Philippines and are doing their own part in helping society, but they are nevertheless still able to enjoy something fairly harmless 2. Nobody wants to be judged based only on the things they enjoy 3, and nobody should be judging people based on what they like. If you don’t approve of something that other people like, there’s no need to get in their faces, condemn them, and say that they’re causing this country’s downfall. There are bigger fish that are responsible for whatever mess this country is in, and the critics who think they’re smarter than AlDub fans should know that.
I’ll be renewing my passport later this month, so I was reading an old post I wrote about the passport renewal process here. It’s amusing to see that there were “technical difficulties that cause a delay in the processing of passport applications” back then, which I heard remains true today, five years later. Why technical problems still exist today, I’ll never know.
And by again, I mean this is another post about birding in La Mesa Ecopark, not that it’s our second time there. I don’t know how many times we’ve gone there to bird, but it’s definitely way way way more than two times. We’ve met quite a few birders already, like a group that came from Singapore, another one from Bulacan, and another one from Manila. It only just occurred to me that La Mesa Ecopark is quite a long trip if you’re coming from Manila.
I’m going to try to start writing in this blog again, and I figured posting bird photos is a good way to get the ball rolling. These are just some of the birds we’ve seen in the park, and hopefully one of these days, we can see a guaiabero.
I’ve had some time to chew on the issue, and I think I’ve finally sorted out what I think about the whole thing. Basically, people here are raising hell about the recently concluded fashion show by Bench, a Philippine clothing company. The show mainly features underwear and denim, but naturally, the underwear bit gets many people excited. How many chances do they get to see their favorite celebrities in nothing but underwear, after all?
Prior to the show, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines has already expressed outrage over the taglines on the billboards announcing the event, like “Come play” or “Bare your soul,” prompting the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to make the rounds of all such billboards to cover the “offensive” lines in red.
There were some comments about the show expressing dismay that the celebs and models were baring their bodies, which I find laughable. The show is mostly an underwear fashion show, after all, and I don’t know how effective it would be if the celebs and models who were modeling underwear were fully clothed.
The part of the show that really had people shaking with rage was the one where actor Coco Martin was leading a woman onstage on a leash. Women’s groups, among others, condemned this as demeaning, dehumanizing, and objectifying. In the face of such outrage, Bench issued an apology and promise to do better and be sensitive next time.
Personally, the only thing I think they should apologize for are the more or less homogeneous body types during the show, poorly designed clothing, and for thinking it was a good idea to have Coco Martin pretend to be a dom.
Years ago, I would have joined in the condemnation of Bench for their show and that specific portion with Coco. Today, I just find it mildly amusing, as I’m aware that all it has are mere inexpertly applied tones of BDSM, as the real thing would most likely shock people. (And if someone tells me that that sort of thing should not have been done because we’re a good, conservative, Catholic country, please do me a favor and shut up. For a good, conservative, Catholic country, people are strangely unafraid of committing abuse and being unfaithful, and our politicians are perfectly happy to rob us and kill their opponents).
And if people really want to get angry about the objectification of women, get mad at car shows where women are needlessly put on display alongside cars. Get mad at the annual FHM 100 Sexiest event, where a lot of the models look stunned and slightly afraid in the spotlight, and where they engage in many acts specifically geared to satisfy the male audience. Get mad at beauty pageants for still forcing women to compete on the basis of their looks, and stop calling the candidates role models and stunning examples of what Filipinas should be like.
But let’s not stop there. Get mad at commercials too for telling women that their underarms are too dark, that their hair isn’t long, black, and straight enough, that their skin is too dark and they should have a rosy white glow. A brief moment of onstage dom/sub play-acting–or indeed an underwear show that lasted less than three hours–is less dangerous than the messages being forced down our throats every day.
I gave the book to my friend as a gift a few years ago, and I’ve had a digital copy since forever, but I only started reading it a couple of days ago and just finished it tonight. It’s not a bad book. Not extremely well-written; its strength lies in its subject and the characters, although I felt that there were such a lot of lines that you don’t really think would ever come out of people’s mouths, and a lot seem quite like wishful thinking. But then again, this is a book after all. I’m not familiar with John Green’s work, so perhaps that’s just his thing.
This line is particularly stellar, though:
…the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.