Friday, December 11, 2009

Now Is The Time for All Good Persons to Dissolve into Hysterics

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has declared she would run for a seat in the House of Representatives.

I can see it all now. Nine years from now she will be barred for a third term and will run for maybe, mayor? Governor? How many elective positions can she run for before she runs out? Perhaps she will then enter the Guinness Book of Records when she finally becomes the first centenarian to run for barangay councilor.

On the day of her announcement, her election lawyer also described the motorcade to be undertaken to file her certificate of candidacy. Perhaps aware of the massacres that happen to people who oppose administration candidates, her erstwhile opponent Prof. Randy David, decided not to oppose her after all. Opposition motorcades are a bit dicey these days.

Being a women's advocate I noticed her say that she felt the need to, among other things, continue to contribute to the empowerment of women. I suppose she intends to consult her allies, the Ampatuans, on the matter. Or should she consult Chavit Singson?

On the same day, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde attempted to speak at a rally in Mendiola to protest the Maguindanao killings. He seemed to take it graciously when he was booed off stage. “Part of the job,” he said. I wonder what else he thinks is part of the job? Making us believe that now that they are prosecuting the Ampatuans ever-so-carefully, they were not trying to keep them in power barely two weeks ago? Having us believe that we are to sit back and be jolly after discovering that Gloria and much of her cabinet have been pals with mass murderers?

Oh, I can imagine it indeed. The hoopla that surrounds the President and her men wherever they go. The bowings and the scrapings of underlings and sycophants. The increasing arrogance that comes when one keeps power that you do not deserve. With such power you can buy either, by money or the promise of lucrative positions, any number of lackeys. In fact, with such power you have no choice but to surround yourself with corrupt, the corruptible, the mediocre or the deluded.

It is a common question people ask each other. A psychological one really: how do they sleep at night? Very soundly actually. They can no longer imagine a way of politics that is different from their shabby shenanigans. They can no longer afford to exercise their moral faculties if they had it in the first place. Ampatuan, Garcellano, Abalos. Bolante, Palparan, I could name many more. Arroyo's friends and allies. They are famous not just for their misdeeds but for the added venality of their downright refusal to be shamed off the national stage.

Megalomania, dissociation from the humbling dialectics of a normal social life, the inability to respect dissent, delusions that have them believe their own lies, isolation from the ordinary lives of the majority. It is a condition that beset the imperial palaces of the past when the powers of kings and
sultans were paramount. These days, we might think of describing it as a mass psychological syndrome affecting members of a depraved elite.

They are shaking their heads over the turn of events, wondering how such bad luck could happen to them. The death of Cory Aquino and the surge in Noynoy's poll numbers, the Maguindanao massacre, their low approval ratings, the mass desertions from their political fold. Note to them: it is called by some religions, karma. The impersonal law of moral balance that no amount of wealth or power can overcome.

To sleep at night, those who have enough brains to need rationalizations, call us communists, terrorists, agitators, naive, wooly academics, hysterical, or any number of things. Those who do not have enough moral or intellectual abilities, do not need to even think about the rest of the world. Indeed they may be untouchable in their safe places. But those spaces have only the size of their mansions and not the expanse of our communal acceptance.

We, blessed ordinary folk, shall laugh in the face of at their arrogance. We shall whisper our dissent against their imperiousness. We shall satirize their self importance. And, at their moments of greatest venality, we shall hysterically scream: NO.

No, you're not good people. No we don't buy your lies though you may get away with it all. No, we will not be dazzled by your illegally obtained wealth nor grant your children and grandchildren the status that wealth confers. No matter how many people you can buy, cajole or threaten into showing you acceptance and admiration, you stand condemned by us.

With laughter, in tears, with sarcasm, in full-throated dissent, with irony, in hysteria---we say NO. And we will not forget. I humbly ask the good people of Pampanga not to vote for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

(A slightly edited version of this post was published in the Yellow Pad Column of the Business Mirror last December 9, 2009. Yellow Pad features opinion pieces by fellows of Action for Economic Reform, a non-governmental organization.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dear Blog: I think I just became a trans person who is gay

Dear Blog,

I am a bit confused about my sexuality these days. Fundamental changes have come so fast that I am feeling that I have lost control of my identity. My sexual orientation shifted 3 weeks ago and now my gender identity has changed also. Strangely enough, I am sure of my politics.

But let me recall events. We had a great forum last Tuesday, December 8. The University of the Philippines College of Law, the University of the Philippines Center for Women's Studies (UCWS), RainbowRights and Libertas held a forum entitled: "I am so gay for human rights: A forum on politics and identity". We had planned this forum in October to cap the meeting of all gender coordinators of the 9 UP campuses. The UCWS, of which I am Director, hosts this meeting yearly.

Last November 13, the second division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) decided to deny the application for accreditation of the LGBT political party Ladlad. The COMELEC stated that LGBTs were immoral (they cited the Bible and the Quran)as the basis for the decision. I was so upset, I declared that day, "I am gay until Ladlad gets accredited."

The UCWS, on the prompting of College of Law Dean Leonen, revised the format of the forum to include a discussion of the issues raised by the Comelec decision.

We had a great forum. I introduced the concept of identity politics, its usefulness as well as pitfalls. Dean Leonen recapped his lecture to the Supreme Court on identity, indigenous peoples and the law. Prof. Ibarra Guitierez talked about mraginalization, identity and the law on political parties. Germaine Leonin Trittle discussed Ladlad's accreditation process and it's petition for reconsideration.

Perhaps our session was blessed because December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Perhaps it is also because December 8 is Philippine Lesbian Day. Maybe both.

The only sour note was that I realized that I had been guilty of not treating transgender people with equal attention. One of the audience pointed out during the open forum that the Comelec decision had ignored all the reports of documented abuse submitted with their petition. She mentioned that in truth, many of these abuses were committed against transgender persons. She mentioned that even in Philippine history, transgender people had been part of the resistance against invaders, if not the leaders, and had suffered at the hands of the colonizers.

Another member of the audience mentioned that we had to be clearer about the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

All these comments hit me hard. I knew in my heart that I was as guilty as the COMELEC in my lack of understanding for transgender persons.

So I announced that I was withdrawing my identity as a gay person. From that moment on, I announced, "I am a transgender person until Ladlad gets accredited."

The kind members of the transgender community seemed to welcome me and forgive my previous insensitivity. I thought this resolved the matter.

Until I got home. I realized I still had not got it right. I did not need to dissociate myself from my gay identity completely. After all, I could be a gay trans person. This is precisely what my trans brothers and sisters were trying to tell me when they were insisting that we be clear about the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation.

But, dear blog, this is not why I am confused about my sexuality. The confusion stems from the fact that despite repeated promises to put Ladlad's petition for accreditation on the agenda of the COMELEC's en banc sessions, this has not happened.

Each time they delay deliberation and their decision, my sexuality hangs in the balance. I hope they decide soon. Then I can declare, "I am a gay transperson until the Supreme Court rules favorably on the Ladlad petition" or even, " I am a gay transperson until the United Nations censures the Philippine Government for it's violation of the human rights of LGBTI." As Prof. Guitierez mentioned, "we will take this issue up to the United Nations because some official body has to say it is wrong."

I teach my students that sexuality is very fluid and that identity is socially constructed.

I had not realized my life would be a case study.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Heroic Action at the Barricades (Or: Was I Keeping Watch on the Barricades or Were the Barricades Keeping Watch Over Me?)

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was supposed to be in my neck of the woods today—the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus. So I decided to uphold a sacred campus tradition---I joined a rally. The more dignified members of our group would call it a protest. Personally, I just wanted to razz the woman. Call it my version of a protracted struggle. Someday she will be brought to justice. In the meantime, let's just try to irritate her as much as she irritates us.

I was determined to enjoy myself, and so I did. Speaker after speaker cursed her. I did my creative best to add to the general grouchiness.

We warmed up at the lawn of the building nearest the one she was supposed to inaugurate then attempted to move closer. We made it only to the curb across the street from the site she would have inaugurated. Initially we were face-to-face with unarmed cops. It was not too pleasant looking at them, but it was ok. We had some more great speeches to listen to. The Student Regent was a revelation. Big explosive rhetoric from such a petite youth. When I grow up, I wanna be like her.

Unfortunately, the unarmed cops soon got replaced by men with batons and riot shields. Bummer! We had some serious pushing and shoving. Really bad stuff. For one thing, the riot police were not our local UP police. We have fought long and hard to keep our campus free from that kind of interference. For another thing they were pushing at my friend, the Faculty Regent; my other friend, our former Dean; and some other friends from the College of Science and College of Arts and Letters. Normally unconvinced about the need to push-and-shove, I felt I had to at least talk to one of the policemen doing the shoving. As a scholar, I felt I must rise to the defense of our multidisciplinary act of expressing sentiments of deep disgust.

The cops then brought in metal barricades. This for me was the highlight moment. The minute the police tried to put the barricades in place, some brilliant and strong kids pulled them away towards the lawn we had just left. This is was the opportunity for my most heroic moment. I decided to leave the frontlines and command the rear. I watched the discarded barricades.

Those barricades are dangerous things. When they give way during stampedes, the people on one side get pinned down and the people on the other side get hurt by the stampede too. So I was pleased as an anarchist in a free-for-all, when the kids managed to frustrate the attempt to place them.

So there I was, manning (womanning?) the barricades by lying along one of them. Expressing my heroism, by cooling it in the shade. The police tried to make me give up my post by pretending they were going to take the barricades back to their station. BUT I STOOD UPON THE BARRICADES by lying down on them all the more. NO PASARAN, fascists!

As I always say, when your position is righteous (and kinda comfy and shady), you will have many allies. Soon, most of my colleagues in the College of Social Work and Community Development joined me on the barricades.

Having frustrated the policeman who, because he was from the campus police force, did not want to argue about barricades with Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, Director of the University Center for Women's Studies (he did ask, so I did say), I wandered off every so often. Also of course, the barricades were well-guarded by then.

My wanderings were quite satisfactory. Some intrepid students attempted to get closer by taking a side route. I hear they had with them the tomatoes purchased earlier, so that we could talk about vegetables wit her alleged Excellency. The police caught them, beat some and handcuffed several. The Staff Regent and our UP lawyers led by their Dean, prevented their arrest and led them to safety.

I came upon the President of our workers union, a former Dean of the College of Social Science and Philosophy and a few others, razzing a policeman who had stepped out of his car with an armalite. The armalite was back in his car by the time I came. Having missed the main issue, I decided to become incensed to make up for my bad timing. I had barely started to lecture when the police car drove off to to a spot 2 meters away. It was a very good lecture on human rights actually, and they should have stayed to hear it all. Pearls after FASCIST swine.

And so it was. Them cats were trying to have their way, but us mice would not let them. The fascist pigs could not wallow in the mud of their authoritarian ways. (I know, I know, my metaphors are all over the place, but I think they sound nice.)

We broke up when it was announced that her alleged Excellency would not come after all.

I could give a lot of advice to our UP Diliman officials and our local police about how to best deal with the preservation of the sacred UP tradition of protest actions. For one thing, they could have negotiated the conduct of the affair with the 3 sectoral Regents. They could have deployed only our pussycat UP police to be in our faces. They should have kept the tigers of the Quezon City Police Force back, only to intervene if we broke the negotiated space. They should have also ensured that, having decided to invite the Quezon City police into the campus, that no weapons of deadly force like an armalite be part of their gear. (Good heavens what were they thinking?) Some of the better rallies I have attended in my long years of rallying have been like that.

But I digress. Far be it for me to give unsolicited advice. This morning I had great fun. On a cool December morning, at the dawn of UP's second century, in the Diliman campus where I grew up and now teach.

It said in the news that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo only managed to come to UP Diliman once in her 9 years as alleged President. Shucks. I hope she comes before her term ends. I had hoped that we could have stayed at that corner for a week and begin a new, improved, Diliman Commune for the 21st Century. I can see it all now...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Solidarity: a moral lesson for my sons and my niece

My gay hairdresser and I were in deep discussion about the LGBT rally, when the call from the television station came.

Dear Boys and Diana,

A long time ago, when I used to join the drivers of faculty members of the UP College of Medicine for lunch, I noticed that they behaved very differently towards faculty members who drove their own cars.

Dr. Marita Reyes, beloved of her students and beloved of her ex-students such as myself, never needed to find an empty parking space in the perpetually crowded parking lot. The minute she drove up, several of the drivers would volunteer to park her car for her. Instant and free valet service.

On the other hand, another doctor professor whom we shall not name, was left to fend for herself.

Your grandmother was the same way. She would enter the phone company, the bank or the electrical company to pay her bills, and would have at least one teller waving at her so that she could be attended to quickly.

I knew your grandmother's secret because I asked her about it. She said that if you really wanted your life to be easy, befriend the little people who actually did the work. For example, the bank teller who had a flower in her cubicle, received an orchid from your grandmother's garden on the next visit.

Yesterday, still in the advocacy t-shirt I wore for the rally to protest the non-accreditation of our LGBT political party, I requested our office driver to leave me at the beauty parlor. I needed a haircut and decided that walking home would be good exercise.

My gay hairdresser and I were in deep discussion about the LGBT rally, when the call from the television station came, requesting an interview. I agreed on condition that the TV crew pick me up from the parlor to take me home. My hairdresser would not have me go on TV to fight for his rights sans make up! He and his assistant gave up their tip (I had brought just enough to pay for the haircut and tip)so I could pay for the make up.

Those friends who saw me last night, and who are used to seeing me with an unmade face with its full complement of spots and wrinkles, have been teasing me about this. I do hope they liked the make-over.

In the interview I spoke of the psychological studies, decades old and never falsified by succeeding studies, that gay people are normal human beings. Except, that like many other groups, society discriminates against them. Many of them are part of that group your grandmother called "the little people" and what activists call "the marginalized". As your grandmother said, it is the little people who we must treat with respect. They are the ones whose rights we must guard as jealously as we guard are own. The ones to whom we must show compassion, or as the activist say, whose struggles we must join.

Forgive your corny mother (aunt), because I have seen this in you and know that you continue the family tradition without the drama. But I do want to play the role of the repetitive older one--you will appreciate the values drill someday

I add to your grandmother's wisdom--sometimes there is such a thing as John Lennon's Instant Karma--do a good deed and end up looking good (looking better?) on TV.

Or maybe, we might channel the philosopher Spinoza: altruism and compassion are a really good idea even for your own bottom line.

All my love,

Mother (and Tita Guy)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Only the religious are free

Yet another bone-headed. white, liberal,sexist report from the know-it-alls in the US State Department.

The 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom, released in Washington, DC, in late October, said the Philippine government generally respected religious freedom in practice and that there was no change in the status of this respect during the period of the study, from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009.

The report lauds the fact that there are no forced religious conversions and no religious prisoners.

In the Philippines, we are free to believe--NOT!

The Philippines remains one of only two countries which does not allow divorce. The Philippines is also a country where abortion is illegal under all conditions . A reproductive health bill that merely protects accepted international standards of health cannot be passed despite nine years of advocacy because politicians who are Catholic insist on obeying the prescriptions of the Church and other Church-mandated bodies.1 What is pertinent here is that those against the bill state their religious beliefs as the basis for their objection without any attempt to reconcile their actions with provisions in the Philippine Constitution on secularism, non-establishment of religions and non-discrimination.

Last January 21, 2008 a case was filed in the Philippine Court of Appeals to invalidate Executive Order No. 003, a policy banning "artificial contraceptives" in all of Manila's public health facilities. This order was promulgated in February 2000 by then-mayor Jose "Lito" Atienza, Jr. The case was filed by 20 women directly affected by the Executive Order. Atienza repeatedly justifies this action as a way of advancing “morals” and as a result of his being “pro-life” and a member of the organization Couple's for Christ.

Because of the contraception ban, public health centers in Manila City are prohibited from providing condoms, birth control pills, or other forms of "artificial" contraceptives and related information. The dire effects have been profound. Despite Atienza's having been voted out of office in 2007, the Executive Order remains.

The case has followed a difficult course in the Philippine courts and as finally dismissed by the Supreme Court on a technicality causing the Center for Reproductive Policy to comment, “the Philippine Supreme Court rules in favor of ideology”. At the moment there is a petition for urgent action on the matter to the CEDAW Committee.

About a week ago our Commission on Elections has refused to accredit a political party representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The petition for accreditation was denied on the grounds of religion. The decision of the Commissioners quotes the interpreters of the Koran and the Bible wit regards to homosexuality.

These violations of sexual and reproductive rights of Philippine women en masse is a result of an religious/ideological hegemony. This hegemony is established not so much by extremist politics but by the willing acquiescence of allegedly grown men and women for someone else, often the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, determine their morality for them.

The fault here is not in the inability to express faith. These definitions of religious freedom may be coming from populations unlike the Philippines, where religion and colonial subservience have had a long and incestuous relationship. The Spanish friars who governed and abused the Philippines during the centuries of colonial occupation kept their power over Filipinos because they did not allow the native population to engage in a direct appreciation of the Bible. Philippine Catholicism is burdened by this colonial legacy. Up to the present spirituality is mediated for the masses by powerful and power-hungry men who have valorized obedience to their teachings as part of Catholic morality.

Maybe they should do a study to see whether we are also free not to believe. In the meantime, we can test the waters by not believing in the BS indicators of yet another BS report from the US State Department.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Psychiatric Association of the Taliban

Dear Editor

Is there anyway to impeach the following Comelec Comisssioners: Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Lucinito N. Tagle and Elias R. Yusoph?

They must be impeached because they have openly decided to turn the country into a religious state instead of a secular one. I am referring of course to their decision to outlaw Ladlad on the basis of upholding religious beliefs. They quote the Bible and the Koran forgetting that they should consult the Philippine Constitution instead. Only in the Philippines would we have high government officials who state that obedience to religious beliefs trumps other more cogent legal provisions as a basis for policy.

If stupidity were a basis for impeachment, the proceedings would be quite short. Their display of ignorance of current scientific knowledge on sexuality is quite appalling. They should have taken the simple expedient of asking any psychiatrist or psychologist who upholds the standards of organizations like the World Health Organization or the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations. They would have been told that homosexuality was delisted as a psychological pathology more than 30 years ago. They either did not bother to read for themselves or consulted the psychiatric association of the Taliban when they decided that homosexuality is an abnormality.

As a Filipino citizen who is neither Christian nor Muslim; as a practitioner and teacher in psychology and sexuality; as someone who cares that we do not look like backward bigots to the world community; I urge the impeachment of these men who have violated morals, scientific truths and our laws against discrimination.

I am so upset. I'm gay starting today and until Ladlad gets accredited.

Sylvia  Estrada Claudio, M.D. PhD.
Director, University Center for Women’s Studies
Professor of Women and Development Studies
University of the Philippines

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I got a citation

Acceptance Speech for the Bayi Citation for the lifetime promotion and defense women’s and people’s rights, and vigilance for genuine democracy.

Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, MD, PhD

April 30, 2009

I am deeply grateful to the Barangay-Bayan Governance Consortium (BBGC) and the Institute of Politics and Governance (IPG) for this citation. I also wish to thank the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and One World Action for their support of the BBGC and the IPG in this and other endeavors.

It was difficult to think about and write my acceptance speech. I do not know how to say that I think my award is less about me and more about the people I work with, while at the same time say that I am honored to be a member of a select group of Bayi awardees whose individual achievements are impressive. I am feeling deeply validated and at the same time, feeling like a fraud for getting an award when I was simply doing my duty and having fun while I was at it.

Nonetheless, I believe that awards are given to call attention to persons and their work so that others may be inspired.

So let me try to raise the stakes by talking to you not just about the people I work with, but also about the happiness that comes with the work. In other words, working with the oppressed in poor communities is not just noble work, it is also as the young say, pretty cool.

Where I work, there are many people who do not ask for recognition for doing their duty to their community and country. They expect no praise for coming to work on time, treating the public with courtesy and accounting for every centavo that they spend. These things are not a big deal and we take them for granted.

In the organizations I work with, people earn enough to meet their family's basic needs because those of us who could earn more tend to share their salaries with those whose work is valued less. In other words, I have met so many people who understand that beyond a very minimal threshold, happiness does not increase in proportion to income.

In my work the poor among us have an equal voice. We think and laugh and sit together in long and short meetings hatching plans of affirmation and subversion. We are not unaware of the inequities between us, but we have forgiven each other for the moment while we are trying to end the problem.

In my world we refuse to be twisted and amputated to fit conceptions of what is good for women and girls. We allow our waistlines to expand as we please and raise or lower our hemlines with impunity. We also raise our eyes to look deeply into the eyes of our lovers, our children and our friends.

In my world women and girls are not ashamed to be smart. We study the world around us in order to change it and mold it closer to our visions. Medicine and math; cooking and contraceptives; disruption and democracy---all the things under the sun and beyond the sun are our areas of interest.

In my world we are rarely afraid when we are together. Together we have ended criminal control of water and electricity in poor communities, faced down abusive husbands and confronted our lack of self esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

In my world the pleasures of the body are welcomed with joy. We rejoice in our strength and revel in our sensuality. We eat and sleep without worry. We dance and sing with abandon. We make love or refuse to make love without guile or guilt. We also expect to bear just the number of children we choose. In other words, we are not afraid of our desires, our passions our loves and our choices.

In my world we demand that justice triumphs in our intimate relationships and that caring thrives in our working ones.

In my world the atheist lives happily with the believer because when we allow ourselves to think and feel deeply we realize that we cannot really tell who are the heretics and who are not. In my world, we refuse allegiance to religious authorities that give no value women's capacity to discern for themselves.

In my world, we stay in the Philippines because of the overwhelming poverty. We do so because in the face of iniquity, a simple act of decency is an act of heroism, a small act of compassion an act of renewal, and everyday we witness the tremendous productivity and creativity of the poor.

In my world we view call the for the universal enjoyment of human rights as a serious and achievable proposal.

And here is the really inspiring thing, this world really does exist. It has existed for a long, long time and will continue to do so. It exists as anything would—full of contradictions and human frailty. But it is there nonetheless. And it is neither small nor narrow nor exclusive. We must tell people about it lest the cynical, the overly-pragmatic and those who do not understand what they are missing succeed in hiding it from view.

Thank you, for this citation and the chance to tell you all about how lucky some of us are to be able to live our dreams now.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Coming Home Part 2

They put me on their blogroll these Filipino Free Thinkers---- deists, secular humanists, agnostics and atheists.

So now, I need to ensure that the blogpost you get when you click on the link at their website at, is about freethinking. My last one had nothing to do with my agnosticism.

So I might as well write up what I have been blabbing to all my friends about.

It all begins with a link my eldest son sent me. It leads to a site where I applied to join the egroup of the Filipino Freethinkers. I sign up after repeatedly having to edit my short description. I tried to put too many justifications because I thought they needed much convincing about: 1) my worthiness; 2) my not being a security threat.

I feel like a spy the first week or two after I am accepted into the egroup. I have been an agnostic all my life so I should feel right at home. But I am silent because for one thing, I noticed most of the group is young(er). It is also not a grassroots organization (yet). This is not a criticism as much as self-reflexivity about what my comfort zones are when it comes to issue-based groups.

But I am thrilled because: 1)FINALLY there is a group I can relate to; 2) I am learning a new method of organizing. I am as a happy as a vampire who as found her coven. I learn that there will be a first-ever forum. I wanna go, I wanna go. Should I? Shouldn't I?

Then, someone starts a thread about the reproductive health bill and I cannot help myself. I answer. For that, I get invited to do a 10 minute talk about practical freethinking in politics and particularly about the reproductive health bill. I cancel everything for that Saturday afternoon and commit to go.

I am like a kid in a candy shop with this group. When my turn to speak comes, I need to ask something I have been asking now for decades: "Are my sister and I the only two Filipinas who were born into a household where both parents were agnostic (or atheist)? Could we possibly be the only 2 who did not have a religious education with our baby bottle? Amazingly, a young man says he too is like us. More amazingly, instead of getting the awkward or curious responses---they clap! Here I do not have to explain myself or justify my upbringing or defend my parents.

I had learned not to bring my beliefs up because, growing up in the 60's and 70's, people reacted to me as if I was insulting their religion for not having one. I had learned to just be quiet when in government and other secular events I am not told there will be a mass before the actual forum or I am asked to "stand for an invocation". I have learned because no matter how hard I try to explain, seek a little sensitivity or have a civilized debate--I get nothing. At most I get, "its ok, its ecumenical." When I answer "but I don't pray. It is against my spirituality to pray," I get no further answers.

Those of us who have felt any form of marginalization on the basis of our sexual orientation, race, class, ethnicity, religion or disability, know what it is like to have to deal with repeated and unwitting slights. It wears you down. It does not help when those who are not discriminated against trivialize these things (e.g. "the invocation is only for 10 minutes"; "she did not mean to be insensitive"). Sometimes too, being misunderstood is not about day-to-day slights but major hurts. My mother-in-law, a truly wonderful Catholic woman of profound faith, died without learning about my agnosticism because I loved her too much to upset her.

So this group, just being there--I did not care if I was the older-one-flowing-over-at the-mouth. I was home again, in a group of 60 or so people I had just met.

What is more, I am happy with how these young people are using the internet to fight their struggles. I am elated to find people who are a natural constituency for the RH bill. I am thrilled at the thought that one does not have to come from my socialist background to care about the rights of people.I am over-the-moon at seeing their committment to reaching out to the marginalized. I am overjoyed that they are committed to a better country (and world).

I am also glad to meet such a bright set of people. No anti-intellectualism here--unleash your inner geek or nerd. And, despite my teasing at the forum, not all of us geeks or nerds are socially inept.

In my political circles and with my NGOs, I have long suggested that we start a "coalition against moral tyranny". No takers. Perhaps I was talking to the wrong set of people. Perhaps my words were too negative. Anyway, I think I will stop nagging now.

I have a new place to be when I want sanctuary from the mindless religiosity of the insensitive majority or the sanctimonious malice of the moral police.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Bad End to a Good Start

Friends of mine who also work in the University of the Philippines (UP) and live near it (in fact they live on campus)tipped me off the other day to a breakfast place in the newly opened Ayala-UP technohub.

They know that my husband and I go out for Sunday breakfast to get away from the household and the kids so that we can actually have a conversation---even if the conversation is about who gets to call the plumber.

Flapjacks, a 24-hour breakfast restaurant, is a pleasant place. It's got this airy, open feel. The huge glass windows allow the sunlight in and the orange chairs and yellow walls keep things happy. As newcomers, we did not realize that it was a self-service restaurant, but the waitress gladly brought us menus, took our orders and even brought us the bill. She also suggested that we share my "endless cup of coffee" as it was obvious that I did not understand that to mean that a big insulated jug of coffee would be brought to our table. I have not seen eggs benedict on a breakfast menu for a long time, and I so had that. It was..eggs benedict. I don't think breakfasts need to be complicated in order to be good. So when I say, "ok", I mean it as an endorsement. Indeed the menu covers generally what I look for in a breakfast menu when I am not having my usual oatmeal--rice, tocino, tapa, longganisa, ham, bacon, eggs, bread and hotcakes.

I am excited too about the possibilities of this part of the technohub. Only a third of the establishments are open, and I am looking forward to the opening of more food outlets and a drugstore. I did not get to go to the bookstore, but I will next time.

Today was the kind of Sunday that convinced me that I am almost over the intense mothering years. My eldest son woke up at 2 pm---his usual; my middle child was off to a debate tournament; and my youngest did not get in until about 4 pm as he had slept over at a cousin's house.

We almost had dinner at home, except that Sundays have been family day since forever. So we decided to have a quick dinner out just to keep the habit going. Both my middle child and my youngest wanted to get home early though, to do some final bits of homework before knocking off. They were both exhausted.

We haul off to the technohub again. At night, the center court features a lighted set of fountains--pretty. We have come to expect some prettiness from Ayala developments. I might add that there is sufficient green in this large commercial/business area. I haven't seen it all though. I wonder whether old trees were cut as the only trees I saw were young ones.

Then the nightmare began. We decided to eat at the Old Spaghetti House. It took some time before they could clean the table we took over from people who had just left; some time before someone came to give us menus; and some time before we could place our orders. We were still good-humored at this point because it did look like a busy night. (My entire family suffers from liberal, middle class guilt. We are very rarely mean to waiters.) But it got worse and worse. We practically had to beg the waiters for water. The food came in dribbles. After repeated follow ups, my husband finally went over to the counter only to come back with our youngest son's food platter in hand. (I jokingly asked if he had volunteered his services out of love for his family.)My husband's order never came, even if it was the same order as that of our middle child, who had finished his food way beforehand. In exasperation we asked that all the rest of our orders (desserts and my husband's oh-so-absent meal) be canceled and we be given the bill. Guess what? The bill comes, after follow ups, only they were still charging us for everything.

So my husband gets up to talk to the manager (poor man was getting a work-out instead of a meal) and she turns out to be the owner who turns out to be unable to do anything about anything. It's a pity I did not know this, as I had earlier vetoed a suggestion that we just walk out because I was afraid that the waiters would have to pay for our bill out of their salaries. (It's that liberal middle-class guilt thing again.)

We ended up at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf beside the nightmare of an Old Spaghetti House. The sympathetic people there brought my husband a tuna sandwich real quick and some soothing tea for me. It was there when we realized that this was the first time ever that we walked out of a restaurant with one of us being unfed. The second worst experience was at the soft opening of another restaurant, but the manager was so apologetic he did not charge us and had us take home some cake. That made us less miserable.

We are home now and the kids are upset about having to sleep much later than expected because dinner took so long. As for me, I had hoped to go to bed early too, but I just needed to write this down.

Anyway folks, do the serving staff, the cook and the owner a favor and lessen the load on the Old Spaghetti House at the UP-Ayala technohub---avoid the place.