Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I would like to greet my Christian friends a Marry Christmas and my non-Christian friends Happy Holidays.

I like Christmas carols actually, even if I am not a Christian. In the same way that I like religious classical music from Europe, Handel's Messiah, for example. In fact I listen to my copy of the Messiah during the Christmas season.

For me it's the traditional songs, Filipino and English, plus a few new good ones. "New" means to me something written in the 20th century. A choir please. I hate jazz, samba or stars-on-45 versions. The most contemporary I can get is Celtic Woman's Christmas album..released a few years ago. They're good, they sing mostly traditional English carols and I believe most of them are classically trained.

I have not blogged in ages. After my wild abandon of watching birds instead of working, I have had to learn more about not working because of a recent illness that has left me slightly disabled. I discovered during my first visit to the gym in months that my left triceps is now a "noceps" or maybe just a "slightceps". My rehab doctor and I will have a few moments of excitement when I see her in January.

In any case, like many others my illness has helped me realize that I must re-order my life around my essentials and that the world does not crumble when I do. So like December, I will chill...

Picture above shows me descended upon by my sons, several nieces and a nephew. Kids, you gotta love them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Amorsolo and the Birds

It is late at night and I am exhausted. I really should get some sleep as I am facing another hell of a week in a series of hell weeks. Today, for the first time in a really, really long time, I have decided to fail an NGO I am working with by not submitting an article I promised to contribute.

I am in dangerous territory here. My over-developed superego is screaming: "there will be dire consequences for you and the entire international feminist movement!!!!!"

But this triumph over guilt and compulsion comes from something I did this afternoon. Something I promised I would write about instead of the TRULY IMPORTANT AND EARTHSHAKING 25 year anniversary of a global network on reproductive rights.

I went to the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum and enjoyed the exhibit of Amorsolo paintings. (See it, it's lovely and historical and has much more even for those who for some reason cannot enjoy Amorsolo's stupendous evocations of light.)

Then I went birdwatching. The lovely people at the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines( gave us a free guided tour right on the UP Campus. According to their brochures, the Philippines has a 600 species and UP Campus has at least 100 of them.

It's funny that having grown up on the campus, and now ending up teaching there, I am only beginning to appreciate a whole other universe that has surrounded me for most of life.

I am afraid I cannot recall the names of the kites, the shrikes, the swallows, the woodpeckers and the doves that were pointed out. I can't recall which one was white-necked or yellow-bellied or long-tailed. I recall the white necked one was really beautifully colored and wondered why they would name it after the little swath of white on its neck. I recall seeing what is called in Tagalog a "batobato" which is the name of the street one corner down from where I live.

I made one of the guides laugh by calling a piece of birdwatching equipment, "that fancy thing".

But it was glorious. Having grown up on the campus I know how beautiful it is. Despite the encroachments of the city it remains a haven for nature and thereby, the birds.

UP campus at dusk is also my absolutely most wonderful place to be. As far back as I can remember I would take walks in the Campus at twilight.

All the birds I saw where sweet and seemingly non-aggressive creatures. Except that someone said that the bulbuls flew away because a kingfisher came. But it did not seem as if there was any harm done.

Anyway, I prefer to keep my fantasy of those sweet harmless birds. I have to deal with an an unethical woman in my work life these days, and I have much to do before I can stop working with her. So it was a treat to be away from the mud-slinging, innuendos and hypocrisy of pot-bellied, yellow-spined, chattering humans to watch those sweet, yellow-bellied, white-throated and long-tailed birds and hear their odes to nature.

I think I will buy me one of those fancy things and set it up in my UP office. My only real goal: to spot a yellow-bellied something or other for myself.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


My work involves a fair amount of travel abroad. I guess this makes me a business traveler. But I am not rewarded with multimillion dollar bonuses and perks like the heads of those investment banks who have managed to imperil the world's financial systems. I am not rewarded like those World Bank people who have caused so much misery by their failed economic policies. I am not even rewarded like those police generals of the Philippines who went to an Interpol conference in Russia recently and were caught carrying 100,000 EUROS which they said was the unspent portion of their contingency fund.

In short, I am sour graping because I always travel coach. Always. So I make grape juice out of sour grapes. Outward bound, I am often seated beside the seaman or nanny or cleaning woman working abroad. I have learned many things from them and sometimes have been of some help. I will never forget the young woman who was going to Singapore to become a maid and who was upset about a last minute payment demanded by the recruiter at the boarding gate. She had no money and was also unsure about why they checked in her bag. Though I was not getting off at Singapore, I had an unused phone card from a previous visit. I gave that to her, US$ 20 that I could spare and my mobile number. I also assured her that her bag would be at the airport and explained to her how airport procedures work. Crisis counseling all the way to Singapore.

But my real intellectual treat is going home. Naturally the economy section is full of Filipinos. Up there in the sky; under the flag of whatever nation the airline is registered in; made equal by the fact that we are all given the same service and privileges of economy class; divested for the moment of our degrees and ranks and most of our possessions---Filipinos still manage to impose on themselves a sophisticated form of social stratification. It took me years of travel to figure out but it is there. Of course the lowest rung is occupied by overseas Filipino workers in blue collar jobs. This rung is further stratified by the type of blue collar work of course, with the women entertainers looked down upon. The next rung is occupied by the viajeras who are based in the Philippines and go off to Singapore or Hongkong to buy things for their shops. The next rung is occupied by returning white collar workers and students. Next, people who have more or less permanent jobs in the US, Europe or Canada and are on the way to citizenship. Then, Filipinos who have become citizens of these nations. Also at the top are Filipinas who have gained their citizenship by marrying Canadian or American or European men. This is a special category because many of the mixed race couples are in first of business class if the man is wealthy. But people try to distinguish white collar Filipinas who married white collar foreigners from gold diggers who married a foreigner.

I am sorry to be so blunt. None of these categories are my own and I certainly decry the fact that female entertainers of any sort are put down. I do not think that everyone in the plane subscribes to this nonsense, though I doubt whether anyone is completely unconscious of it. Was not this sort of elitism in air travel by a former columnist the subject of protest sometime this year?

Anyway, the intellectual treat involves observing how this system is put into place. How culture and behavior are caught up in a system of signification that re-establishes class and gender differences.

I will never forget the Filipino woman who spent our entire trip from San Francisco warning her white male seatmate about the heat, the chaos and irrationality of "people in Manila". From her exaggerated American twang, I figured she was not a second generation Filipino American, but a newly naturalized one. Her loud comments eventually led me to confirm this.

I will never forget as well the time when the Narita-Manila section of my flight from the US got severely delayed. Classes fell immediately in with each other as we spent the long hours of waiting together. OFWs hang around with other OFWs. Seamen banded with other seamen who flirted and patronized with the Japayukis. The Fil-Americans and Fil-Europeans stayed together. I decided to hang around with the OFWs who assumed I worked as a nanny until someone decided to clarify the off-vibe they were getting by asking me what exactly I did. When they learned I was teaching at a university, the social relations changed a bit. Luckily where I teach has a reputation for serving the Filipino people. Filipinos being very gracious and friendly folk, I was "re-accepted" into the group. But they treated me not as a familiar but with mixed amounts of deference for my position and amusement at my obvious choice of hanging out with them. Seamen began offering me imported cigarettes and the women started offering me cologne at the 6th hour of our waiting. Unlike the columnist mentioned earlier, I prefer the honesty of simple folk to the pretentiousness of the spoiled Filipino elite. At least with this bunch, no privileges are assumed, none of us are spoiled by the benefits of unmerited entitlements. Indeed, we all had a sense that we there despite the absence of anyone's helping hand.

My point is that our poor, feudal and oppressive society survives on schooling people from an early age in the intricacies of a hierachical social system. The children of the poor are taught early to fall into subordinate positions and subservient attitudes. This is a scourge on the self esteem of the majority poor. It is also a scourge on the moral foundations of the children of the Filipino wealthy.

Most of all it is a scourge on our well being as a nation because democracy thrives only when each person believes deeply that they are of equal worth and have access to the same basic privileges.

Yesterday a poll came out that the majority of Filipinos are supportive of reproductive health initiatives and the proposed reproductive health bill being deliberated in Congress, despite their understanding of the Roman Catholic Church's opposition. In response a Roman Catholic Bishop said that morality was not a popularity contest. He forgets that the Church also says that each person's conscience is fundamental to moral judgment and must be respected greatly.
This is one of the most profoundly democratic element of the Church's teachings. Indeed, the sense of the faithful is meant to guide the Church. The Bishops are guilty of a horrendous sense of elitism and have been that way since the time of Spanish colonialism. The Church's patriarchy survives because the Bishops believe we are all their caciques in the fields of moral righteousness.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Letter to the Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dear Editor,

I have been following the Inquirer's coverage on the reproductive health controversy over the past weeks. I wish to commend the commentary by John J. Caroll, S.J., entitled, "Facts and fallacies in the population debate"( I admire his willingness to correct "loose argumentation" on the part of those who he believes are arguing for the position of the Roman Catholic Church.

I agree with Fr. Carroll on most of his points. As early as 1994 at the UN International Conference of Population and Development, I had already agreed with former Philippine ambassador to the Holy See, Henrietta “Tita” T. De Villa, that women advocates should have a sincere dialogue with the Bishops on the matter. That dialogue never materialized. But if it does, Fr. Carroll should be one of the participants.

The Inquirer is also to be commended when it confirmed the complaint of Prof. Ernie Pernia ( that their reporter had misquoted the UP School of Economics (UPSE) position ( on the relation between poverty and family size. This is important because the letter of to the editor of Marita F. Wasan ( took exception to the UPSE paper on the basis of the inaccuracy. Fr. Carroll in his article corrects Kit Tatad's argumentation about the same thing.

If nothing else, the debate reminds everyone to check facts. I do not think this is a requirement merely for journalists and academics. I think it is a requirement of good citizenship. National debates guided by clear argumentation and factual accuracy can be the only basis for an enlightened social policy on these and other controversial matters.

Thus, my disappointment that in a letter to the editor that came out on the same day as Fr. Carroll’s commentary (, Imelda LL. Areolla makes the factually inaccurate claim that the use of condoms will not stop the spread of HIV and that, "The microscopic holes in condoms are large enough for the AIDS virus to pass through."

The World Health Organization has condemned this misinformation saying, ‘These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million.’ It said ‘consistent and correct’ condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%. There may be breakage or slippage of condoms – but not holes through which the virus can pass. (For a summary of the scientific information and the WHO position on the matter of condom use and HIV prevention go to:

Ms. Areolla's article also resorts to the loose argumentation Fr. Carroll decries. First, she misrepresents HIV-AIDS prevention programs as mainly condom distribution. The literature shows that several programmatic elements are recommended (in some programs this includes an emphasis on abstinence and chastity). The scientific literature on “abstinence only” programs also shows that these do not prevent pre-marital sex, let alone sexually transmitted infections.

Secondly, her idea that sex education simply tells adolescents that sex is safe when they use contraceptives is wrong. She further gives the false impression that the adolescent sex education advocated by the medical community is one that does not emphasize values. Sex education for adolescents should teach them about the biology and physiology of many aspects of sexuality and should be explicit about sexual intercourse, prevention of transmission of sexually transmitted infections and contraception. When I teach to various audiences, I also include a discussion about moral frameworks (both secular and religious) that people might want to consider when looking at these matters. Whether only Catholic values of reticence about sexual acts, abstinence before marriage and non-contraception in marriage should prevail in a secular education system is another matter altogether.

My last point is that the Inquirer itself (and the entire profession of journalism) needs to remain self-reflective about what the Inquirer terms as “balanced views”. Is it “balanced” to give equal treatment to views supported by weight of scientific data (e.g. condoms prevent HIV-AIDS) and views supported by the inevitably errant experiments in science (e.g condoms have holes that allow the virus to pass through)? I would argue that giving both views equal space, leads to dangerous results, and does not uphold the highest standards of journalism.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Governor Palin

Whoa. A woman candidate for Vice President on the Republican ticket! Hello, 21st century.

She is a member of "feminists for life" or something like that. Conservatives are funny that way. They have managed to make feminism a bad word, yet are not afraid to use it if it will make them pretty. Anyway this pro-life woman is also pro-gun. Tricky ground. I understand pro-gun advocates uphold people's rights to bear guns as a form of self-defense and legitimate hunting. So the nuance here is that she defends the life that is in fetuses but not the life in legitimately hunted Alaskan wolves?

I have no idea what she has against wolves. Except maybe that wild women and wolves have been put together in the popular imagination by feminist writers. Kidding aside, I do wonder what she intends to do with the fact that gun ownership leads to the killings of human beings. Does she know for example that fetuses die when husbands shoot their pregnant wives with those guns they are supposed to use to defend themselves and hunt? What shall we do? Allow fetuses to bear guns? Fetuses are persons remember? That is why they are supposed to be protected from their mother's bad intentions even when in the mother's wombs. (And give those mothers some family values while we are at it!)

I assume that she is for the family values that those Republicans keep talking about. Here is the family values story: mother, father, children. Children not told too much about sex. Innocent children abstain from sex which they know nothing about. Innocent children fall in love in romantic asexual way to persons of the opposite sex. They fall in love at some appropriate age. The appropriate age being older for the man (he has to sow a few wild oats you know, boys being boys) than the woman (that biological clock ticks and urges women to complete their womanhood by becoming mothers). The love deepens, becomes committed. They seek God's blessing of this God-created love by marriage. They discover sex during marriage. They realize heterosexual sex is precisely the God-given way of sex because heterosexual sex is the only way to create God-given children. They have fun sex within marriage only. Fun sex (with no contraceptives if they are Catholic) may lead to children (inevitable if they have no contraceptives) whom they will accept with boundless joy each and every time.

But then there is this news report that her teenage daughter is pregnant out of wedlock. She intends to keep the child according to reports and marry the father. Oh, okay?!? Here is the nuance then: if the child gets some of the story line wrong (the part about discovering sex only after marriage) she may redeem herself by catching up with the storyline--marry the guy so we can all have the happy ending we want.

Pro-family values. Palin's children have to understand that mother and father know best. I hope her daughter has learned this lesson now.

I hope all those other kids have learned their lesson now. You get to be parents first, then you can ignore the lessons that your children's lives are actually trying to teach you. Child learns lessons from parents--- period. It isn't a two-way street.

I see this all the time. The gay, lesbian and bisexual kids I have to help so that they can survive in families who insist that they tow the conservative family values storyline. The post-botched-illegal-abortion care I have to provide children of the pro-life families. All of this done in secret, so that their mothers can smile at me confidently when they label me immoral for upholding reproductive and sexual rights.

But is Palin conservative enough? After all, what is she doing in the Governor's office? This is so unlike the ideal of conservative family values: the stay-at-home mother. Perhaps the nuance is: she is Governor because she had to leave the home in order to go drill for oil in the Arctic.

I wonder why conservatives love virginity and prisitine cleanliness more in women than in business and politics.

But then, no one should listen to brown-faced, third world me. After all I should mind my own business. Except that the last time I looked the Republicans launched a "war on terror" that has changed the politics of Islam even in Mindanao, and sought to curtail women's reproductive rights in the United Nations. I also can't help myself from caring about idiocies that put American security at greater risk while they proclaim that they are doing these things to protect Americans. Hey, I have quite a number of friends living in the U.S. Hey, I honestly feel strong solidarity for all the peoples of the world, including American citizens. Hey, it is to my detriment when powerful nations do stupid things in the world.

Am I supposed to be happy with Governor Palin's claim that her candidacy has to do with women breaking the glass ceiling? Does she really think that this invocation of hers will rally those 16 million who voted for Hillary, to vote for the Republican ticket instead?

It's not so 21st century after all. Memo to John McCain: we don't need women in the White House. We need feminists there. The one's that don't misuse the term by labeling themselves feminist, and go on to uphold patriarchy at every turn.

Palin's nomination is a cynical attempt to rally the women's vote while pandering to the conservatives. For shame!

Coming home

“All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Yesterday I had a nostalgic dream while sleeping off jet lag. I dreamt that my brother, who in his later years was estranged from the family in our own unhappy way, was alive and well. He was also his good self, the part I no longer saw for the last decade of his life.

He had come to pick me up from an apartment where I was staying. Why I was staying apart, is not in the dream. And where I was staying was unclear. But we walked through the neighborhood as we had done so many times during my childhood---me following him so we could get home. He showed me a new shortcut too.

The house was empty when we got there but I had the sense that soon, my mother and father and my sister would be in. An ordinary day in the life of one of those usually happy families which are the same world over.

And that was the end if the dream. But the waking up was difficult. My brother, father and mother are no longer alive, and waking up made me realize how much I have lost just because life has taken its course.

We have been plodding on, my sister and I, the last two standing. The way we see it, we have a bit more to go. Ordinarily we are brave girls. Ordinarily there can be no bellyaching between us because life remains worth living and joyful. We are also under very strict instructions from my mother (the kind of instructions drilled into you from your first breastfeeding) that sentimentality about one's particular life situation is nothing more than self-conceit. Being human and alive is wonderful, joyous and marvelous. However there are, as Omar Khayam has said, "millions of bubbles like us". Nothing is very interesting or uplifting about anyone's particular bubble.

The dream reminds me of yet another of mother's admirable traits: she was an agnostic who was not afraid to die. She joked about it on the day of her death to her cardiologist, "this is a serious condition I have, right? It could kill me?" And it did.

She would look at the fear of death in our Catholic dominated society and say, "if I knew there was an afterlife why would I be afraid to die? I don't know for sure, and yet I am ready."

When asked about dying, my father took a different tack. He told me that all life comes from a limited set of carbon atoms. He says it would be selfish to keep our carbon atoms to ourselves forever and not give other life forms a chance.

So why do I break my mother's rules and write about this dream, so peculiar to me and therefore so uninteresting to others? Because it reminded about a principle of living well: do not be afraid to die.

This is not an appeal for dangerous behavior. It is an appeal for liberating the self from conceit and supersition. Many religious traditions and my non-religious agnostic one, remind us that many fears (and a whole lot of irritating behavior and bad manners) are born out of thinking that you are more important than the minor blip that you really are in the cosmic story.

My dream reminds me that immortality would become unbearable because life, for all it's joys, is also wearying.

So I will, as a poet once said, warm my hands before the fire of life, but depart without fuss when the fire wanes.

Tonight though, I hope I will have that dream I have about flying. I fly, really fly.

What would we do without our dreams?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Simple Pleasures

There is a well-known ad campaign that goes something like: tickets to the Beijing Olympics--several thousand dollars. Smile on the face of your loved one to whom you give the tickets---priceless.

Credit card companies fit a description formulated by Oscar Wilde: "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." The ad campaign however, makes it appear that one particular credit card company understands the difference between values and prices.

Except that it doesn't. The ad is yet another example of how capitalism manages to coopt our needs for human connection. The ad campaign is trying to convince us that priceless experiences nevertheless come with a price, a price with an interest rate.

Perhaps we had better look to other wisdom. It is very common nowadays to read in blogs, self-help books and those inspirational things we get in the email about pleasures that require little or no expenditure. You know the lists: listening to the cry of a newborn baby, the smell of newly cut grass, watching the ocean. As the song says, "the best things in life are free."

Except that they are not. Women risk their lives, especially poor women, to give birth. And hearing the cry of a newborn is only a simple pleasure if you are not the one who will need to feed clean and cuddle the babe. As for newly cut grass--someone has to mow the lawn first, usually for minimum wage. I also find that men have more time to enjoy simple pleasures like watching the ocean, because they work less hours at home.

For me, the next best thing to enjoying myself, is seeing other people enjoy themselves. Unlike the moralists I have no real objection to shopping or lazing about. I am not guilty of doing these things, because I just do them without guilt. Indeed my innocent enjoyments range from the simple, to the complicated, to the unclassifiable. After all, how does one classify the joys of long-standing friendships or the ecstasy that comes with realizing you are sexually attracted to someone? How does one classify the jubilation my friends feel at making life difficult for the the World Bank, The IMF the G8 or the WTO? Simple, complicated? Both? I wish for myself and others a plethora of polymorphous passions.

I problematize pleasures not because I am a moralist who is afraid of the effects of unbridled sexuality. I problematize pleasure because I would rather drink the wine without the hangover. It is also better to have sex without getting the sexually transmitted infection or the unwanted pregnancy. Also, the pleasure of the occasional shopping spree lasts longer if one is confident of being able to pay the credit card company later. I say occasional by the way, not because I am middle class and can only afford occasional shopping sprees. I say occasional because consumerism is an addiction, just as much as alcoholism, just as much as those egotistical power plays that many mistake for sex. I also find that lazing around is best enjoyed when one isn't resentful about unfair workloads or guilty about unshared work. I find that life is best enjoyed when it is well-examined and dedicated.

The moralists, the fascists and the capitalists are afraid that we might think our pleasures through and pleasure our thinking too much. If we did, we might realize that the latte they are serving at ridiculous prices at the multinational chain doesn't really taste that good; the designer bag that we must have, looks like a gaudy collage of leather scraps. If we did we would realize the Osama Bin Laden and George Bush are believers in the same sexual and political economy upheld by the Vatican. If we did, we might realize that free pleasures (guilt free and priceless) are more likely to be found in human cooperation and sharing rather than individualism and competition. If we did we would realize that under systems of injustice and alienation, creativity demands transgression and subversion demands pleasure.

Does that sound like I am howling at the moon? So be it. Excuse me please while I go a-howling. Howling at the moon with my girlfriends: priceless.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Let me be wanton

According to Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is merely doing its duty as moral guardians by making lawmakers aware of their opposition to contraceptives. It's up to the lawmakers to decide whether to heed their moral injunctions.

I might add that it really is up to the lawmakers to decide to heed the Bishops' call. It's up to the lawmakers to decide to accept the condemnatory messages on their cellular phones and the phones of their parents, sibling and children, should they decide not to heed the Church. It's up to the lawmakers to live with the lies and bad propaganda against them when they run for office on a reproductive health platform. It's up to the pro-women lawmakers to put up with pastoral letters read against them especially during elections.

It is also up to the Filipino people to obey the Church when Gloria decides to stop contraceptive policies and programs as quid pro quo for the Bishop's refusal to condemn her lying, cheating and stealing. Indeed our ever-so-democratic CBCP leaves it up to all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic, believers and unbelievers, to decide not to access the reproductive health services they have made non-existent by their bullying and not to use contraceptives we can't find because of their interference.

This reminds me that the medieval Church's inquisitor Torquemada, was beset by the same zeal for guarding Christian virtue as he oversaw the torture of heretics.

Like the victims of Torquemada I am wondering several things:

1) When was it that I decided that the Catholic Church would be my moral guardian? I wish I had known this during times when a tremendous infusion of CASH in my bankbook would have solved certain moral dilemmas. And don't tell me this is not the CBCP way, numerous commentators from Jose Rizal to Fr. Robert Reyes have noted that the Church has tended to resolve its moral dilemnas by looking at who gives them indulgencia. I certainly hope they can give (me) as good as they get (from Gloria.)

2) To what court do I apply to be free of the Church's moral guardianship? Last I looked even my sainted but agnostic parents had lost all guardianship rights when I turned 21.

You know what irritates me the most? It is to have these intellectual and spiritual dwarves squat all over my heavenly sharehold. Let us not forget that all intelligences tend to be correlated. The dumb in science, mathematics and logic also tend to be the dumb in moral reasoning.

Shall we take a sample of Catholic sermons current, past or future to gauge the IQ levels of the Catholic clergy? Every time I get unwittingly dragged into a mass, I end up being the only one that listens to the priest. This is because the smart brethren, who know more about these things, prefer to smoke outside, attend to their text messages or gape at the hot body or hot designer clothes of the penitents across the aisle.

I shall leave for another post the many moral-logical abysses that I have descended into on the happenstance of celebrating priests. But here's a favorite one: "dear brothers and sisters in Christ let us praise the Lord because our sister Consuelo's daughter, Concepcion, has finally become President of.." As Consuelo is wealthy, by the way, the Thanksgiving Mass for President Concepcion is officiated by an Archbishop, no less.

I see it everywhere in this country:

Praise the Lord my daughter topped the bar.
Praise the Lord without him I would not be so very, very, successful.
Pray for me brethren, I have long wanted to give my wife and children a good home because the Lord says I should be a good father, so please make me the CEO of my firm.

I always wonder why they always praise the Lord for things they want to brag about and never about something truly praiseworthy like "praise the Lord I have a brain and a heart that stops me from using piety as an excuse for conceit."

I always wonder why we are more often asked to pray for someone's self interest (the job, the exam, the bigger house) rather than their self-development: "Lord give me the strength to know that like any mother, you expect me to take care of my survival needs. Thank you that you have given me the brains and the heart to do so. There is such joy in practicing human autonomy. Thank you for this joy."

Let me be clear: my nearest and dearest ask this agnostic to pray for their daughters exams or husband's hospital stays, or whatever. This agnostic prays hard to the Goddess she thinks might be there, (right beside Bertrand Russel's teapot, the one that circles the earth) for their sakes. However this agnostic does not think that such intimate aspects of family support and family bragging should be raised to the level of communal spiritual practice.

The Philippine Catholic Church encourages an infantilized and unthinking spirituality. The same horrible spirituality that was so passionately resisted by Jose Rizal and the heroes of the anti-clerical revolution of 1896. If the Bishops really are moral and life-affirming guardians, then our people would not be in the moral swamp we are in.

Bishop Lagdameo honey, if you're going to guard my morality, I'd rather be wanton.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cannot host the holy host

Because of my previous blog entry, I have received suggestions from friends about people who should not take in the communion wafer:

1) Catholic priests who:

a) have had sexual liaisons with adults. (Note: some of us think we should allow Catholic priests to marry the man or woman of their choice, so it isn't the sex part per se but the hippocrisy.)

b) who are pedophiles (Note: while being permissive of many sexual/erotic expressions I draw the line at practices where consent is clearly absent or cannot be truly given: rape and sexual harassment, pedophilia, intercourse with animals.)

c) are sexual harassers, rapists, abusive.

d) suddenly remember their vow of celibacy when they decide to abandon their pregnant lovers

e) take their girlfriends for an abortion. (Trust me on this. The medical community knows. Our vow of confidentiality keeps us from telling.)

2) anyone using a modern contraceptive.

3) anyone who is divorced.

I hope this contributes to the efforts of the Catholic Church on this matter. I argue that all of these suggestions are consistent with Humanae Vitae and its views on the sacredness of life, except the notes on 1) a) and b). For the heathen out there, you should know that the threat of non-communion for politicians pushing for reproductive health bills, are in line with the previously mentioned papal pronouncement. The Church celebrates the 4o year anniversary of said document this June. Friends, let's all help the Church here. Please send in your suggestions as to whom we should add to the list. Read Humanae Vitae first, ok?

On the other hand, my irredeemable gay friends have informed me that some of their gay friends have reacted to the threat of denying communion to legislators advocating reproductive rights by saying, "I won't let that Bishop enter my beauty parlor either." Given the state of things, I expect priests will start wearing bad haircuts soon. As I am in helpful mode, this is a bit upsetting to me. But as this is looking like a man-on-man sort of thing (gays and Catholic bishops are men), I leave this to them. I am hoping that they can solve it within the parameters of brotherly love. (None of you get back to me to say, "Eiew". "Eiew" is uncalled for within the parameters of brotherly love.)

Finally, my friend Tom, whom I shall rely on to attend the above-mentioned dialogue, suggests that those who have gained the right to take in a few more calories by abstaining from the wafer, take this popular multivitamin that is marketed as an aphrodisiac instead.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

No wafers for the lawmakers?

Today's headlines in the Manila newspaper I subscribe to says, "anti-life pols must be refused communion". The article continues: "Ozamiz Archbishop Jesus Dosado has issued a pastoral letter saying that politicians who consistently campaign for and endorse permissive abortion should be taught about the Church position."

I am so excited. I am thinking, finally the Philippine Catholic Church will refuse communion to:

1) Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her bad economic policies that are causing joblessness, malnutrition and hunger. They also might refuse to give her communion for her steady erosion of he people's trust in our social institutions and our democratic processes. It does not take a high IQ to know that because of her actions, we are indeed on the road to disharmony, contention, chaos, disease and death.

2) Refuse communion to the NBN-ZTE, Northrail scalawags and other corrupt officials. As a doctor, working on women's health rights and as an academic involved in the outreach programs of my university, I have interacted through the years with the personnel of the Departments of Health and Education. These are huge government bureaucracies with people on the frontlines. These are good civil servants who must deal with the needs of ordinary folk. Through the years the main problem remains the same: the health and education budgets are meager. Criminally meager. The budgets are so small compared to the needs of our people that to describe the amounts as "anti-life" would be no exaggeration. Gloria's economic professors will tell her that the real road to "asensong mararamdaman" (progress you can feel) is to massively invest in social services including women's reproductive health.

3) Refuse communion to the representatives and senators who participate in 1) and 2). As an aside I would personally refuse them communion for murdering the English language and the reputation of the Filipino people. I still recall their impassioned, pompous, grammatically- disastrous speeches during the ouster of Speaker de Venecia. Again, I am not exaggerating. A good number of the speeches were downright unintelligible. But I digress.

So I await the massive savings that the Catholic Church will have on refusing these people the wafer. After all, refusing communion to all the corrupt would be refusing communion to the majority of our politicians.

But no, I misunderstood. It turns out that it is the legislators sponsoring reproductive health bills who are being threatened. Methinks the Archbishop has lost his way.

I must say that I respect the right of the Catholic Church (or any religion) to decide about matters of faith. I really have no comment to make about that debate regarding how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Should they declare it to be o or a billion, it is of no great moment to me.

But should they tell me to stop buying pins because angels dance on pinheads; should they refuse to give wafers to pin manufacturers; should they refuse communion to lawmakers attempting to put standards on pin manufacture---well excuse me Archbishops. Now you enter into secular space and I am allowed to ask you less respectful questions like---are you daft?

Here, in secular space, my good Archbishops, you deserve no more and no less than the rest of us. You deserve to be confronted with scientific fact and evidence and called to account when you misrepresent and mislead.

So tell me Archbishop Dozado, who told you that giving women full reproductive health services is anti-life? Do you know how many women's lives are lost because they are denied these services? Do you not read the literature? What right have you to attempt to dictate social policy on the basis of such ignorance?

Here from secular space I can remind you that to attempt to intimidate representatives of the people from doing their duty (the right of couples to determine the number of their children is in our constitution) is probably a criminal undertaking.

Please also be reminded to behave with a bit more humility. Some of the people you are threatening aren't even Catholic and have no idea what it is you are threatening them with.

Hey Bishop---leave the few legislators I can respect alone.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why that blog title?

Because I think of myself as subversive. I have grown old in subversion. Began at 15 when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines. Overnight the legal student organization I was a member of became an illegal, one. What the heck, if he wanted it that way, he could have it that way. I joined the anti-dictatorship underground. He called us, for his entire dictatorship, subversives.

Fast forward: like many an activist who has joined the academe, I have an interest in development theory and practice.

So why pleasure? Because I have noticed a lack of regard for pleasures and happiness in the theory and practice of subversion and development. Aha, there's another nexus, methinks subversion is development is subversion is..

Just a thought: Am I revealing my age by that term, "subversive?" What is the term, post-cold war? Terrorist?Maybe. But then I am a pacifist: terrorist pacifist? Pacifist terrorist?

See? Better to remain the subversive who is interested in increasing human pleasure and happiness.