Petty Squabble: On Saquina Karla Guiam’s Hypocrisy

(Context: I pulled out my zine, ‘Ang Dapat Mabatid ng Mga Colono,’ from the recent Sox Zine Fest after the GenSan-based anti-Duterte literary gatekeeper Saquina Karla Guiam and her brother Dissa accused me of racism when they saw the zine’s title. I reacted to their behaviour angrily on social media, because they haven’t even read the zine yet – it is typical of anti-Duterte writers like Guiam to react without reading. Another GenSan based writer, Yadu Karu, managed to read it and made a post about it on his Facebook page the other day. I upload here a screenshot of Guiam’s reaction, and attach here my subsequent response, which Facebook has taken down. My response contains strong language. )

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The Bilat Warrior from GenSan Saquina Guiam reacts to Yadu Karu’s post about my zine.

May pa-redacted redacted pa ang gaga, as if she knows what civility is.

Hindi na sana siya kasali e, pero gusto pa rin makisawsaw, so sige, isali natin siya.

1. I did not ask Yadu to read my zine, he asked for a copy of it. I did not ask him to post about it, he did it on his own. I am thankful to him for the attention it is generating. Yadu did not even know that Guiam made this post, the backstabbing bitch.

2. Remember, this zine did not come out, and I am not even sure yet if it will ever come out, but it’s still the talk of the region. Yung zine ni Guiam about her attempts kuno at love-love nilangaw, as if anyone would be interested in the love life of a literary bottom feeder like her.

3. Saquina Guiam blocked me on Facebook for no reason first, hindi ko pa to inaano tong gagang to, galit na to sa akin. So no, this David Oquendo’s comment that Guiam is ‘accepting’ is him speaking from a very limited position. I will not be getting lessons on accepting opposing views from some angry, intolerant anti-Duterte rash like her.

4. I thank her for putting my name beside National Artist F. Sionil Jose’s, ang taas naman ng tingin niya sa akin, I’m in my 20s pa lang po. Incidentally, I disagree with many things Sionil has said (mali yung Why We Are Shallow niya e), this abnormal woman might want to reflect on her putting our names together to learn what mature disagreement is.

5. This overgrown baby cried in the Iligan Writers Workshop when she was told her poetry was crap (‘I AM NEVER GONNA WRITE AGAIN HUHUHU’), then later went on record in interviews that we shouldn’t listen to comments in workshops. Now she has the nerve to imply that I’m the one who has a problem with criticism. Riiiiight.

6. But criticize me all you want, I love arguing, kaya ako maraming anti-Duterte friends. Just make sure you don’t mistake disagreement as flying into a rage, OA lang. And if you take it personally expect me to take it personally too, don’t you dare play the victim card when you lose. Also, make sure before you criticize, you know what you’re talking about.

7. Because let’s not forget, this stupid woman FORMED HER OPINION ON MY ZINE WHEN SHE HASN’T EVEN READ IT YET. Nagbula-bula na ang bunganga ng gaga, hindi pa gani alam anong ginareakan. That a reactionary bitch like this is portraying herself as a victim of being shamed for engaging in sober dialogue is paramount hypocrisy.

8. She takes issue with the word ‘gatekeeper,’ but what do you call some nobody na hindi lang man kilala ng mga kapwa niya anti-Duterte but who is now strutting around the region judging contests and editing publications? Gatekeepeeeeeer

9. Reflective ang work ko sa personality ko? How flattering, she’s saying I’M RELEVANT. I’ve saved the memories of long forgotten historical figures in my hometown and brought them to wider attention, I’ve documented previously unrecorded massacres of Moros during the Marcos era (kahit na you know, I’m a settler). I know my place in the discourse of the competing Mindanao narratives, she doesn’t. (Nakakahiya silang magkapatid sa nanay nila).

10. She was hurt that I called her a bitch. I am hurt, because I called her many other creative but accurate descriptions: Bilat Warrior, walking intestine, sea cucumber, patient of arrested development. Pinaghirapan ko yung lait ko sa kanya, bitch lang ang issue niya.

11. She also still takes offense with the word ‘puta’ (would you believe writer daw ito). So with all due respect to her, PUTA PUTA PUTA PUTA PUTA

Masarap ito awayin, pero mamaya na ito siya. We’re busy being relevant here. Tell her to go ask her writer-crushes to let her smell their panties or something, might cool her head a bit. Wag niyo na to ipakita sa kanya, baka sumuka ng nana.

Keep her and The Great Jover Laurio sa banda ninyo, magkamukha naman sila.

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Mocha Uson and the Other Side of the Lumad Struggle

As if a grenade had been hurled from the Southern mountains to Metro Manila, the war between the Philippine government and the New People’s Army in Mindanao left an explosion last week in the halls of Congress.

The explosion was the resignation of Mocha Uson.

(Read the rest of the article on Tingug!)

 


Policy Recommendations on Culture and the Arts for North Cotabato

My home province of North Cotabato, the second most linguistically diverse province in the country and perhaps the most ethnically diverse, is starting to mature in terms of culture and arts. The shiny new Museyo Kutawato, one of the best museums in the country, is a striking testament to this.

The province has a rich reservoir of human experience and creativity to tap, a resource which surface it has barely even scratched.

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Museyo Kutawato, the province’s shiny new museum

As North Cotabato celebrates its 104th anniversary, I found myself reflecting on what can be done to help it address its shortcomings and move forward in actuating its cultural and artistic potential.

Here are some of my thoughts. Some of them are very idealistic, but it is always better to hope for the difficult best rather than settle for the easy but mediocre:

 

On Cultural Communities

  • Create an official list of recognized tribes, both Lumad and Moro, in the province (in the manner of Davao). It is surprisingly difficult to find a comprehensive list of NorthCot’s indigenous ethnic groups. Perhaps the Provincial government can start the process of celebrating the cultures of different tribes by listing them down.

 

  • Have a round-table dialogue with representatives of the municipal LGUs, the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, the National Commission for Muslim Affairs, and the DILG to discuss full institutional representation of the cultural communities. The province ought to adapt a long term plan to achieve any or all of the following:
    • All of the province’s’ towns should have Mandatory representation in the baranggay and municipal councils (the province must enforce this, there is a DILG directive and it is in the Local Government Code)
    • Inclusivity in the selection of IPMRs (if possible there should be one IPMR for EACH of the indigenous ethnicities in the town)
    • Presence of Moro and Muslim representation in the local government, whether be it Mandatory Representation in the legislative bodies, or the presence of such offices as Deputy Mayors or Ulama Offices. As a province with a large Muslim population, it is unacceptable that the Moros are underrepresented.

 

  • Recreate on a province-wide level the policy in schools in Kidapawan of encouraging children of tribal ethnicity to go to school wearing their traditional attire

 

  • Promote  Interfaith Understanding and Appreciation by requiring all elementary schools in the province to give tours to their students to all their towns’ religious centers. Students of whatever faith must be required to enter a Catholic church, a Mosque, a Jehovah’s Witness Assembly Hall, an Iglesia ni Cristo church, etc. and be introduced to these communities (not as indoctrination, merely as  introduction to foster understanding). It is outrageous that the average North Cotabateno has never entered a Mosque. Tribal communities with Precolonial and pre-Islamic faiths must also be allowed to assert their religious freedom and share in the dialogue, with government funding and assistance if necessary. This is the practice in Singapore, and it’s part of why today the city-state has a generally harmonious multi-faith society.

 

  • Initiate long-term projects to document the culture of the cultural communities in partnership with private entities like universities and research institutes, an undertaking which should include:
    • transcription of the province’s oral narratives (North Cotabato may be the area with the highest concentration of epics in Asia, but very few of them have been transcribed)
    • Reconnecting tribes with their extant academic literature. A tribal resource center, where all extant studies conducted about the tribes in the province (published or unpublished), should be set up for all the tribal peoples to access. Such a center should of course be actively brought to the tribal communities.

 

  • More halal-food legislation is needed, and halal benchmarks should be set throughout the province. This is not only for the local Muslim population, this has serious Tourism implications.

 

  • Commission a comprehensive study of the historical atrocities perpetrated on the Moro peoples in the province, essentially adding to the list of massacres in Salah Jubair’s 1999 book Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny. I discovered five previously undocumented slaughters of Moro civilians in Kidapawan alone. It is outrageous that we still have not done anything to at least remember these crimes against humanity.

 

  • This documentation isn’t simply for the sake of the relatives of those killed (although that should be enough reason to do this). Documentation and memorialization could be a basis for a province-wide effort to initiate what I imagine would be ‘Tourism to Rectify Historical Injustice.’ It is frankly an embarrassment for the province that the five  massacres on Jubair’s list which happened in North Cot are not even memorialized (even Manili, which caused international outrage). Develop the locations of these massacres as shrines, and make them tourist attractions for the growing number of culturally and historically sensitive tourists who come from around the world to understand our misunderstood land. This can be developed alongside other forms of cultural tourism (like exhibiting the cuisine and crafts of the Maguindanaon, etc.).

 

On Language

  • Adapt a Provincial Resolution recognizing the province’s languages and dialects. The resolution, preferably passed by the province in consultation with the LGUs (through their offices responsible for conducting socioeconomic profiling), should be detailed in what languages have a population of speakers where. It must also emphasize the need to assert the integrity of North Cotabato’s dialects, specially of settler languages like Cebuano and Hiligaynon (there is such a thing as Kidapawan Tagalog).   Most importantly, it must urge DepEd and CHED to use these languages (multilingually) as media of instruction for MTB-MLE. NorthCot is a global linguistic diversity hotspot, the provincial government must work to make the most out of that.

 

  • In conjunction with the  commitment to documentation of cultures, the province ought to play an active role (including funding) in the documentation of local languages, specially endemic ones. Many local languages don’t even have a dictionary yet. Like the documentation of cultures, this effort needs to be done with a private partner, such as a research institute or a university.

 

On Heritage and Historiography

  • The provincial government should seek to facilitate training facilitators per LGU of Cultural Mapping by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Cultural Mapping allows each town to inventory all its cultural properties, so that the local governments can plan how to utilize and manage these properties (part of why the Museyo Kutawato found it challenging to find artefacts to exhibit is because none of the towns have inventories their cultural properties yet).  NCCA has an extant mechanism for allowing this training, the local governments are just not taking advantage of it.

 

  • Enact a Provincial Heritage Code for the protection and sustainable utilization of heritage buildings and other tangible and intangible cultural properties, enacted to complement the National Heritage Law. I have previously discussed here the shortcomings of the NHL, the province can work to address them.

 

  • Initiate a province-wide drive to write the history of the towns to produce a comprehensive body of reference material. Kidapawan is already starting it with me, the province should encourage other LGUs to do the same, so that a province-wide history can be written.

 

  • Adopt a Provincial Archival Code, which would require all LGUs to create centralized town archives, all forming a network with the province for easier retrieval of documents. This is not only for researchers and historians, this will be helpful for government offices too. In the 1950s the Kidapawan Municipal Council had to adopt a resolution to be furnished copies of its creating law, EO 82 of 1947, from the National Government because the town did not have its own copy of the document. LGUs have not done anything to remedy that at all (I still have to go to Manila to find archival documents important to Kidapawan).

 

  • Agree to a long term plan for sustainable Heritage Tourism Development. North Cot is rich in potential for this because not only are there heritage settler buildings in the province, it is also full of  legendary and semi-legendary locations. Like the Tourism for Rectifying Historical Injustice, this could be developed along with cultural tourism in general (a cultural village where traditional food and products are sold can be built near a space of historical relevance to a tribe).

 

On the Arts

  • The province should work to help the DILG enforce its directive for all LGUs to set up Culture and Arts Councils. All towns in NorthCot should have CACs.  Kidapawan’s is the only one I know in the province, and its model can be replicated: a multi-sectoral council which sets policy and long term strategies for culture and the arts and includes representatives from the local Executive, the local council, the Education sector, the tourism sector, the business sector, and the tribal communities.

 

  • Encourage LGUs to develop their community libraries. Appropriate if necessary, but better adopt legislation which would incentivize private enterprises and individuals who would fund libraries. Encourage schools in particular to work with LGUs to develop the municipal library as a relevant repository of information.

 

  • Set up long term planning, including appropriation, for the fostering of viable local creative industries. Art should be developed because it is taxable!  The following fields are particularly rich in potential:
      • Graphic Design: from web content developers to designers of publicity materials and print, the province has a budding population of young, tech-savy graphic designers who are increasingly tempted to move to Davao. They need support in training, capital, equipment, and marketing if we want them to continue paying their taxes in NorthCot.
      • Visual arts: a walk into the Museyo Kutawato’s Rema Rema Gallery is enough to show everyone that NorthCot has great local painters and sculptors. The province ought to work to foster a healthy market for visual artwork. In the long run, this will contribute to catalyzing the cultural dynamism of  indigenous traditional cultures, as local art can become an economically viable industry.
      • Music: NorthCot is abundant with musicians! The province should engage in a dialogue with local artists to see what they need (I’m guessing a studio and distribution are some of the most basic needs). Like the above, this too will ultimately give incentive for indigenous musicians to strengthen the integrity of their musical traditions. Not to mention the premium it would give for tourism.
      • Dance: NorthCot has even more dancers than it has musicians! From traditional Moro performers to hiphop and street dance groups, the province can capitalize on what has to date only been treated as hobby and entertainment. Funding for training and trips, as well as promotions, can serve to help foster our local dancers into good sources of income tax.
      • Cuisine: If you had just one restaurant for each of the culinary traditions in the province (Lumad, Moro, and Settler alike), North Cotabato would be more exciting than Penang as a food destination. From Bul-anon recipes brought by settlers to Makilala in the 1920s to dishes like the Maguindanaon Tinapayan and the Monuvu Natok, North Cot is a culinary paradise of global proportions that is only hampered by lack of local appreciation and government support. The province should adopt a province-wide culinary tourism plan, encourage each town to have community restaurants where the different ethnic groups can take turns  showcasing their cuisine, as well as fund and help promote private enterprises which capitalize on authentic local food.

(Read this article with pictures on Tingug.com!)


The Davao Genocide: The American Atrocity Duterte Should Be Talking About

President Rodrigo Duterte made international headlines in 2016 when, before departing to Laos for the ASEAN summit that year, he mentioned the Massacre of Bud Dajo in 1906.

The Massacre, which saw over a thousand Muslim civilians (including women and children) slaughtered by American soldiers, was part of the battle of Bud Dajo in Sulu, the final battle of the Philippine-American War. The United States has yet to issue an apology for the atrocity more than a century later.

In his State of the Nation Address of that year, he mentioned another American atrocity – the Balangiga Massacre in Samar – and revived the decades-long diplomatic row over the Balangiga bells, which the American soldiers stole as war booty after perpetrating the massacre and which the US still refuses to return (in an act of paramount hypocrisy, two US Congressmen, Randy Hultgren and Jim McGovern, sought to deny return of the bells over Duterte’s war on drugs).

Whatever the motivations behind these moves, Duterte’s raising awareness about two incidents that have been forgotten by the majority of Filipinos delighted history aficionados like me. It is refreshing to hear a historical incident being talked about in the streets, much more so if it is about Mindanao, which has long been neglected by the national attention.

But as a Davaoeno (my mother happened to be in Davao when I was born), I cannot help but express frustration, if not disappointment, that our former mayor has not talked about Davao history yet.

(Read the rest of the article on Tingug!)


Heritage is Local and Dynamic: Problematizing the National Cultural Heritage Law

I am privileged to have been invited to sit in the meetings of Kidapawan’s Culture and Arts Promotion Council.

Set up in 2017 by mayor Joseph Evangelista, the CAPC predates the recent DILG directive to all LGUs to set up culture and arts councils, and in spite of that directive today seems to be the only municipal-level culture and arts council in North Cotabato (like the mandatory representation of Indigenous Peoples, the DILG memorandum needs to be enforced more rigidly). The CAPC is trailblazing in a province that has largely neglected its culture and arts, and other towns in NorthCot can learn from it.

The CAPC’s membership is sectoral, with representatives from the private sector, the education sector, the tourism sector, the tribal communities, and the city council, among others. The City Tourism Office, ably headed by Joey Recimilla, is currently functioning as secretariat.

Among the CAPC’s many efforts right now is the cultural mapping of the city. The cultural mapping, a project done under the guidance of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, is a comprehensive inventory of the city’s cultural properties, from buildings and artifacts of historical significance to intangible properties like skills and oral traditions. It will let the city and its local government know what cultural assets it has, so that it can begin planning how to use these.

Kidapawan’s cultural mapping will be led by Ms Shiela Madrinan, who is one of two proactive private individuals helping the LGU with its culture and arts projects (the other is me). If I am excited about the endeavour, she is doubly so, and she and the CAPC already have a battle plan to make it successful:  tapping the youth of each baranggay, not only to make the job easier, but to make sure the youth are taught to care about their baranggay’s heritage. It’s hitting two birds with one stone.

But before the cultural mapping can be conducted, extant criteria for recognizing cultural properties needs to be reviewed, and as I did so several problems in the law already came to my attention.

(Read the rest of the article on Tingug!)


The Real Threat to Press Freedom

Let us talk about Press Freedom with some sobriety.

The Securities and Exchange Commission in the Philippines recently revoked the license of Rappler Holdings to operate as a mass media corporate entity, citing the presence of Omidyar Network and North Base Media among its shareholders as being in violation of Constitutional provisions against foreign ownership of media. In response, Rappler organized a very vocal movement to decry the ‘attack on press freedom.’ A war of words has since ensued between those whose concern is press freedom and those who think the real issue is foreign ownership.

Of course I have publicly associated myself with the latter camp.

But okay, let us talk about Press Freedom.

One of the myths perpetuated by the Philippine press is that of ‘media impartiality,’ the romanticized image of the investigative journalist pursuing the truth for its own sake. ‘Panig sa katotohanan, panig sa bayan,’ as ABS-CBN’s news motto goes.

But this is both an exercise in vanity and a betrayal of naivety, if not duplicity. Truth-telling is a matter of power and interest rather than objective disclosure, Foucault established that for decades now, there is no such thing as an impartial public conveyor of truth. What we choose to tell and to not tell betrays our biases.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact it takes us (rather paradoxically) much closer to the truth – in healthy Fourth Estates like the British Press, media bias is accepted as fact, and there is an even distribution across the political spectrum among the papers in Fleet Street. None of them are pretending to be only wedded to the impartial truth, what is revealing is what a particular paper is saying.

Because journalism ideally is not a science, it is free speech, it is the telling of facts to prove a point – it is discourse, if you want the technical jargon. It is the pursuit not of truth as it is, but of the ideal as it is envisioned, a matter of principles rather than of documentation, an existentialist pursuit of the Platonic ideal if you will.

And that being said, yes, I agree, the Philippines Press is under threat. Or rather, it has long been under threat.

Because the real enemy of a healthy mass media is when the principles that should motivate its speakers play second fiddle – are perhaps even weaponized – by interests.

Interests? There are a multitude of them.

But the most serious is the commercial. Our press is much less about public service and more about ratings. It doesn’t matter if the truth is useless or damaging, if it sells let’s air it. That’s why we get zero coverage on the national press of police kidnappings in Mindanao by the NPA (who cares about Mindanao?), but we get national reports on Kris Aquino’s son slipping in a swimming pool. That is why local press outlets can report a murder or a suicide as just some scandal for the masses to relish on. That is why reporters will ask the bereaved families of fire victims how they are feeling, a howling mother makes good television. Philippine journalism is just another form of entertainment.

There are of course more sinister interests. I suspect Rappler is betraying one, that of political powers using the myth of ‘media impartiality’ to reinforce the image of tyranny on the government they are criticizing (I do not believe Rappler is guilty. Not yet. I believe in the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. But I strongly suspect they are, and I only want the courts to decide on the matter.) But whether those interests are there or not is subject for much debate, and there is plenty of that already.

The real threat to press freedom is when the press loses sight of how it should use its freedom, that is, the pursuit of principles.

The creatures of the old press must look at themselves in the mirror, be honest with themselves (for we can only really be honest with ourselves), and ask if they are still worth defending.

Our Fourth Estate is metamorphosing, moulting its old pretenses to become a more mature mass media. The monolithic media is showing its cracks, and the resulting fragmentation of the media narrative (right now broadly grouped into the pro-Duterte, the Liberal, and the Left) will be the seeds to a more transparent journalism.

The next necessary step is tolerance, when we learn to recognize our own and one another’s biases and live with them, when we stop accusing those who disagree with us of being paid trolls or blind followers of evil, when we start talking to each other rather than preaching to our own choirs. That is still nowhere in sight, but I believe we will eventually get there.

Because that is what it means to believe in this country.

 

 

 


An open letter to the Philippine Communists on Federalism

You are a bunch of bumbling idiots.

How can you expect the people – anyone – to support you when you can’t even be consistent on a goddamn idea.

That sounds counter-intuitive considering your decades of paroting the ‘US fascist regime’ in rallies and communiques. But the issue of Federalism foregrounds your inconstancy, your opportunism, and your stupidly.

In the early half of Duterte’s presidency, you expressed support for Federalism, even going so far as to promise to co-fund its implementation.

But as soon as your relationship with Duterte turned sour, you began rejecting Federalism too.

It is understandable – expected even – for you to change your mind on the government. But to do the same for an advocacy you only very recently embraced?

You are a cadre of idiots, the lot of you. Federalism was the only chance you had at actually managing to get power. Your pathetic attempt at recreating our own version of the Bolshevik revolution is failing, so we all know your last chance of being relevant is by soft power and recreating what the Left Democratic Front in Kerala, India did. But with your criticism of that, you have lost your right to participate in any Federal democratic exercise.

Duterte was right, you’re terrorists. And you have the hallmarks of terrorists: an ideology muddled beyond coherence by emotions, reducing you to idiots with a proclivity towards violence.