Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Iraq unveils a shoe monument

January 30, 2009

We can forget Imelda Marcos’ shoes for a while. Iraqis are still elated and angered by the shoe thrown at Pres. George W. Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last December 2008 by journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi. A brown shoe sculpture seems a funny retaliation by a culturally sequestered people who appreciate al-Zaidi and boil mad on the former US president even if they have been liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule.

Surely, the Iraqis have strong reasons to be mad. The cost of war is high in places of ethnic strife and tribal clashes. Many human lives have senselessly been lost in the name of freedom. 5.1 million people were displaced and about an equal number of children were left without parents.

To vent their anger and send praises for the jailed shoe-thrower who dreams of getting an asylum status in Switzerland, Iraqis and children from the Tikrit Orphanage helped sculptor Laith al-Amiri make a symbolic shoe monument. A brown footware with a raggedly brown surface was mounted on a white cloth so the people could see and ponder.

Whatever thrill one gets in looking at the oversized shoe, the use of children to make a political point is disturbing. There is negatism and darkness young minds can’t miss when they see the controversial shoe. The footware is less likely a symbol of disrespect and misplaced rage, but more a reminder of the derision the Muslims have for USA and Pres. George W. Bush.

Lacking gratitude after being saved from Saddam’s terroristic regime, some Iraqis have taken the low road of the warring militants who succeed in teaching generation(s) of children on selective memory and tough love. The faith-based beliefs against the “infidels” are still the driving force of hatred against the Western civilization. There are those who have become one-track thinkers— intolerant, violent, self-righteous, and unforgiving in their political views. This is one reason why the culture of violence kills the innocents. And peace is so elusive in that part of the world. (Photo Credit: CNN) 0=

UPDATE: Feb. 1, 2009. Iraqi officials ordered the dismantling of the shoe monument in the Tikrit Orphanage. They say government facilities must not be used as a venue to air political views.

Happy Chinese New Year!

January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

In accordance to the Chinese lunar calendar, on Monday, January 26, 2009, is celebrated as the start of the Year of the Ox. Chinese people all over the world mark the significant day with family gatherings, reunions, parades, fireworks, and food fests as expressions of hope and optimism for prosperity through hard work. The ox is a symbol of strength and prosperity through hard work. (Photo Credits: Ion Buck; Expatriate Games)

UP Ibalon expresses best wishes and good luck for all those who welcome and celebrate the new year!

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

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“To make a man and prepare him as a good citizen” in a Bicol town, circumcision is required

January 24, 2009

In Camarines Norte, there was laughter during the deliberations of the “Tunay na Ulirang Lalake Ordinance” aka TULI or Real Model of Manhood Ordinance.

The piece of legislation was on its second deliberation to make male circumcision in that place mandatory. It was uncertain whether those considering the ordinance were serious or just joking.

According to its author, Provincial Board Member Joeffrey B. Pandi, the circumcision law is important “to enhance the physical well being of a boy or pre-teen, preparing him for early manhood and as a good citizen of his community.”

Really?

There is practically no dissenting opinion against Pandi’s odd proposal. The ready acceptance is a reflection of how we regard circumcision today. Many of us still adhere to the old tribal idea that the surgical removal of the prepuce covering the glans penis is a passage to manhood. Without acrimony, we accept a parochial belief that the uncircumcised deserves to be a butt of jokes, short to being a subject of continual humiliation. In our town, to be uncircumcised is to be identified as “half a man.” As a result, many children grow up in trepidation, believing the myth which their families and friends hand down to them.

Our society to this day still exerts strong pressure against being “supot” (uncircumcised) even if it infringes on our freedom to decide on what to do with our bodies. The TULI ordinance perpetuates myths, indirectly encourages intolerance, and curtails our right of choice even if we fail to see it that way.

How will the law be enforced? What punishments will the lawbreakers get? Who will pay for the procedure? Are we ready for the physical and psychological complications which go with surgery?

There are many conflicting justifications for or against the penile operation. An ordinance to force boys to have the procedure disregards the contrary arguments against it. The minor cutaneous surgery comes not without risks; complications like bleeding, tetanus, infections among others do occur in circumcision. Fortunately, the risks are minor compared to the benefit of keeping genital cleanliness (hygiene,) the usual valid reason for the operation.

It has been argued that circumcision lessens the incidence of HIV, HPV (warts,) and penile cancers. The skin removal is part of the religious traditions of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Upon the introduction of the “germ theory” at the turn of the 20th century, the Western World adopted circumcision to keep infections away. Primitive tribes in the Africa and the Pacific, consider it an important cultural milestone towards manhood.

So we know the myriad reasons why most of us agree to circumcision. We consider factors like hygiene, medical reasons, religious beliefs, cultural norms, and individual choice in our decisions. A personal matter which causes no harm on others, the minor tampering of our sexual organs is OK. It goes without saying that going against it is also OK.

But the lawmakers of Camarines Norte might be half-serious. The TULI ordinance unwittingly undercuts our basic liberty to choose. Although it appears, the ordinance gets easy support from the community, I don’t think the “funny” ordinance will benefit us in the long haul. Photo Credits: The Passing Strange; Snaphappy4)=0=

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Shoes versus Pres. George W. Bush, pelting eggs on a Romanian leader & a pepper spray for a Manila socialite

December 23, 2008

There is always something to laugh about or be concerned for when we read that a head of state like President George W. Bush got shoes thrown on his face by a hateful angry Iraqi. The outgoing US president has been blamed for almost anything that has gone wrong—-from the war Afghanistan, the economy, business, and social security. On his last visit to Iraq, he got insolent treatment.

The journalist who threw the shoes has been charged for endangering the life of a head-of-state. Since December 14, 2008, Muntadhar al-Zeidi complains of having been rough-handled and beaten by authorities. According to his brother, the apology he made for the crime was forced; he liked doing it again to the delight of his supporters.

Shoe-throwing-by Filipinos

The shoe-throwing incident in Baghdad had mixed reception in all cultures of the world. Many took it as a prank worthy of a loud laugh. The intelligence community thought of it as a security breach, an insult to visiting dignitaries. Overseas Filipinos (OFW’s) took the event as an occasion to display their own displeasure of Gloria M. Arroyo (GMA,) the president whose administration had been bugged by rising scandalous corruption. They too pulled angry shoe-throwing displays, making GMA’s photos as the apt target.

Egg-throwing in Romania

In the ceremony marking the people revolution of 1989, irate Romanians pushed, jeered, and pelted eggs on Ion Iliescu, the leader who replaced Nicolae Ceausescu. The latter was Romanian’s dreaded communist dictator who was violently ousted and executed in an uprising two decades ago.

A three-time elected leader of Bucharest, Iliescu was blamed for failing to go into the bottom of the deaths of more than 1,000 people during his predecessor’s bloody regime. A 79-year old aggrieved man who lost a son was arrested for throwing eggs.

Pepper-Spray Scandal in Manila

A brawl of two flashy socialites resulted to eye injuries which led Neny Montinola to visit the emergency room of a swanky hospital in the Philippines. According to reports, at a party in the “Embassy,” in November, Patricia Panilio-Cu-Unjieng, a Filipina of alleged upscale breed and wealth, angrily pumped pepper-sprays on her rival’s face to vent rage—at the acme of her “jealousy.’

Controversies which passed the ears of their patrons ensued until the two women decided to end their catty dispute. They chose to bury the scandal’s dagger in the spirit of Christmas. Supposedly bred in some exclusive schools in Manila, the two war-weary ladies reconciled. A public apology was reportedly issued, though no one seemed to have paid attention. The people of the country were too focused in their own mundane concerns.

THE AFTER-THOUGHT

This is the world we are in. People can just attack someone without thinking of the consequences. Anyone can make an apology whose sincerity is up for questions. Whether they are justified in their actions isn’t much of an importance. Violence in whatever form must not be condoned.

We better watch out. There are legitimate ways to protest and redress wrongs in civilized cultures. But it appears the avenues to get justice are threatened by the fraying of ethical traditions and the warping of our own moral beliefs. (Photo Credits: http://www.ChinaDaily.com; http://lakwatsera1.com; Luky-luke; Bo Madsen=0=

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Marfo Manibay’s photo share & some Christmas thoughts through the years…

December 22, 2008

“Let’s stop this nonsense of calling Christmas as a plain holiday. Don’t they look around? It’s the dazzling season of Jesus, the greatest guy who ever lived.”—AFM

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”—Norman Vincent Peale

“Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display-so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn’t the holly, it isn’t the snow. It isn’t the tree not the firelight’s glow. It’s the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again.”– Anonymous

“Christmas–that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance–a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”— Augusta E. Rundell

Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends.” —Margaret Thatcher

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
—Charles Dickens (1812-1870)from ‘A Christmas Carol’.

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MARFO & FE MANIBAY

One of the most enduring advisers of Our Lady of Penafrancia Devotees Association of the Tristate Area (OLPDA) is Marfo Manibay of Buhi, Camarines Sur and New Jersey. Shown with OLPDA officer Genevieve del Rosario in the photo, Marfo and supportive wife Fe, a UPian, take behind-the-scene responsibilities of honoring Ina which makes UP Ibalon truly grateful and proud.

At the recently concluded Bicolano Christmas party on December 20, 2008 in Jersey City, Marfo took over the music. It’s no wonder why OLPDA’s Christmas and other celebrations seem easy—happy and meaningful—occasions truly worth remembering.=0=

RELATED BLOG: “OLPDA brings joy to Bicolanos & friends in a New Jersey X’mas party” posted by mesiamd at 12/22/2008

“Win or lose, after the election we go shopping.”

October 29, 2008

Except for the people of Georgia and the Philippines, CNN reveals, seventy-five percent (75%) of the world wants Sen. Barack Obama to be the next US president.

The Fil-Am Democrat (FLD,) who spoke of ethnic “ignorance” and cautioned her kababayans that “a nation of bigoted fools is hopeless” raged over the support for Sen. John McCain. As a continuation of my blog: “On Filipino’s support for McCain: This goes deeper than ignorance,” on October 24, 2008, I proceed to think more on the Filipino. See what we have and you decide.

The Georgians

The small East European country with 6 million people allied with the United States was recently invaded by Russia. Georgians probably wanted a candidate like Sen. McCain with experience to help them deal with their problem with Russia.

What do Filipinos want?

Pres. Bill Clinton’s popular catch words “It’s the economy, stupid!” helped him win over the republican Pres. George H. W.Bush Sr.

It’s the economy again, but this time, Filipinos seriously weigh in on homeland security, the war on terror, religious freedom, illegal aliens, foreign policy, social security, taxation, healthcare, education, abortion, same-sex marriage, global warming, and stem cell research. That’s hell of a lot to think about.

Everybody knows the future of American is at stake. Tied with their moral values, they face conflicting issues in their way of life which are difficult to reconcile. At the risk of losing hold of their American dream, they have to decide with their moral stand, relying on what they hear from family and friends, church, media and workplace. Like any voter, they are vulnerable to misread the election issues and decide against their own respective interests.

Religion & Tradition

There are those who think religion isn’t needed in America anymore. The liberal extremists assert tradition is blasé and counterproductive. They want to ban prayers in school. They protest the mention of God in government. They trash the Christmas tree, efface the “In God We Trust” in the US currency, and prohibit the Christ’s birthday scene display in public. To advance abortion and same-sex marriage, they push on redefining life and the meaning marriage, hoping to change the constitution.

Many Filipinos don’t agree. Families decry the assault of liberalism on morals and ethics. They worry on the effects of secularist relativism for themselves and their growing children. They recognize the contribution of religious believers in the building of America. Rejecting corruption and injustice, many quietly abide with Pope Benedict XVI, the Orthodox Christians, denominational Christian sects, and other faiths including the Muslims and Jews.

US & Philippine Politics

The US election reflects the politics in the Philippines. The ACORN voter registration fraud in USA is just as deplorable as the “Hello Garci” scandal of Gloria M. Arroyo and the Joc Joc Bolante election money diversion.

There is hypocrisy, corruption, and distortions hurled on both sides. The manipulation of public opinion through massive campaign spending and eloquent talk has made it hard to ascertain truth.

Filipinos find it hard to buy on promises of change without action. But surely there are those who put their trust on promises. In the crisis that damaged the credibility of the financial system, they have a schizophrenic view of the motives of leaders. They are disappointed and angered for even the retired economics guru Alan Greenspan admitted his mistake in handling the economy.

The financial bailout of $700 billion seems not enough to solve the economic meltdown which some say comes every hundred years. The economy continues to be volatile. Federal Reserves chairman Ben Shalom Bernanke and Treasury secretary Henry Paulson struggle to bring the economy on track. Yet, even with resiliency and optimism, Americans ask if the new president can deliver.

But Filipinos aren’t that politically engaged. They rather stay on the side to focus on their personal lives, work hard to recoup the lost time to advance their dream and that of their families. They are ambivalent to vote for a candidate with grandiose promises, questionable past, and unproven track record of service. Yet, they also worry about a president coming from the ranks of old politics.

“Redistribution of Wealth”

Counted among the successful migrants in America, Filipinos play by the rules. They work hard in the tradition of free enterprise. Many avoid the greed and corruption they see in their native land and they hurt when they see it happen in Washington and Wall Street.

They believe honest job gets rewarded better than being idle and lazy. They know competition is a force which drives people to advance in the social ladder; they frown on dole-outs which encourage indolence. Their friends and relatives who have not seen the gruelling work in America may not agree with them.

Unlike the 12 million aliens who gate-crashed USA, majority of Filipinos waited for years working legally to become integrated and become citizens. Taking the capitalist mindset to pursue the American dream, they look at government’s sudden interest in private property with suspicion.

The candidate who wants to intrude into private money by “spreading wealth” isn’t what successful Filipino migrants desire in spite of the fact that sharing wealth abides with their Christian beliefs. In some ways, they want other people to share America’s pie, but they want them to respect the law and work by the rules.

Filipinos are unwilling to be dictated by politicians on what to do with their health insurance, retirement money, savings, investments, and 401Ks. They desire to do charity in their own terms. Socialist liberals, riding on many cash-strapped Americans needing financial help are tempted to tap and give away money to “level the playing field.” Filipinos know the devil lies in the details of a drastic plan and they ask if an elected official(s) can have a blank check using tax-payers’ money to reprogram society.

Broken Promises & Taking Responsibility

Pres. Bill Clinton didn’t fulfill his promise on universal healthcare. Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda grew in strength and the stock market ballooned into a bubble which ruptured almost at the end of his term.

Clinton didn’t correct the warped and corrupt business practices of Wall Street in his time, paving the way for its collapse, damaging the finances of ordinary people in the Main Street.

The immorality in the Monica Lewinsky affair almost kicked Clinton by impeachment. In spite of approving reviews from democrats, he didn’t take enough responsibility as the people expected. The same frustration apply to Pres. George W. Bush and the “do nothing” warring officials of the senate and congress.

The credit card and mortgage debts are out of hand. Americans live beyond their means. The government has not exercised enough oversight and the moral guardians are losing sway over the people’s sense of right and wrong.

Greedy investors and financial managers have signed in borrowers worse than the loan scammers in the Philippines. Those who can’t pay for their homes dodge their complicity by leaving blame to mortgage lenders and the government. Responsible citizens don’t think this way.

With this mess, who then will the public vote? Those who are buried in debt and joblessness root for a promised savior-president, but Filipinos are more pragmatic. Maybe they heard of financier Bernard Baruch’s advice: “Vote for the man who promises least. He’ll be the least disappointing.”

Partisan Media

The media spread truth and lies. The public has become the captive of its bias and agenda. The media failed to vet on Obama’s background which citizens need to know. Instead, they drum up inanities which distract the focus of the electorate. By pounding on anti-American themes throughout the Bush administration, the media have succeeded in demonizing USA around the world. With huge latitude to control information, it’s easy for them to influence the thinking of the people here and abroad.

Against the majority, many take a detached and independent stand against the media’s excesses. There is lopsidedness in the information stream from the liberal New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and CNN against the underdog conservative defenders in Fox News and the rightist talk radio announcers. Filipinos ask, “How sure are you that the media give you the right information?” Is it any wonder the US newspapers have suffered dropping readership and many Americans don’t turn on their TV anymore?

Movie Stars & Celebrity Politics

Hollywood has joined the political fray too. Filipinos have seen it happen in the Philippines. Talk show hosts like Jay Leno, movie star Barbra Streisand, TV darling Oprah Winfrey, singer Madonna, lesbian comediennes Ellen de Generes and Rosie O’ Donnell, atheist and anti-religion Richard Dawkins, and secularist anti-conservative movie director Michael Moore rein over liberalism while conservatism and traditional family values aren’t given a fair shake to express itself.

The culture these celebrities promote is not what Filipinos can easily take—bait, hook, and sinker. Many believe they can better rely on themselves about how they’ll conduct their lives than trust the movie stars.

The prospect of a USA rising under a liberal president seems dampened by a silent fear of an economically and culturally waning America whose moral moorings is fast fading. Conservative Americans and Filipinos are worried by the change in society (for the better or worse.) Even the academics from universities are viewed with distrust; in their erudition they have their own self interest to pursue.

Foreign Vote in the US Election

With Obama’s African ancestry, people abroad hope he will somehow think like his Kenyan forebears and have sympathies for the cause of the outside world. Those who harbor anti-American sentiments find Obama likeable against McCain for being an “extension” of Pres. Bush. Foreigners have generously donated money in Obama’s campaign chest counting that their interest will be served if he gets elected.

Race Issue

In the privacy of their homes and in the tone of their humor, there are as much racial undertones that Filipinos are willing to admit. It also goes true with the Americans, but perhaps lesser. Lacking multiracial exposure compared to those who have been in USA longer, Filipinos are still more likely to favor a white man to be president, but this can change. A combination of simple preference, ignorance, colonial mentality, and bigotry are to blame if they vote solely on the basis of race.

You Decide

Think seriously where you stand on the issues. Decide wisely. The economy is important as the questions on where the culture of America is going— the milieu in which our children will live in the future. Resilient and adaptable, I expect all of us will accept whoever wins. We must be prepared to enjoy or suffer the consequences which go with the decision. As Imelda Marcos said in her uncanny wry humor, “win or lose, after the election, we go shopping.”

Photo Credits: wwww.hamburg.mi.us; amobb; wishymom; mariozucca; Amm; leeKlement; j-walkblog; ahurey; chuckumentary) =0=

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