A Guinarona Christmas

Whereas Christmas in the U.S. officially starts on Thanksgiving Day (last Thursday of November), in the Philippines, you could already smell Christmas on September 1, and it lasts until Three Kings (January 6).

In theory, Christmas Day is supposed to be the birthday of Jesus Christ, whereas it is just a celebration of when the Sun heads back to the northern hemisphere after the Winter Solstice.

As far as native Christmases go, Guinarona is the place to be. Here are tweaked postcards of Guinarona at Christmas. We hope you can pay us a visit this Christmas season and have your novenas to San Pascual Baylon said as well.

Here’s wishing one and all the best of the Season.

An Endorsement from Spain

November 25, 2014. Today, we have just gotten the endorsement of the Basilica San Pascual Baylon re the construction of the New San Pascual Baylon Apparitions Cathedral in Guinarona. Our objective is to have the new church as the national shrine for San Pascual in the whole Philippines. This is par for the course inasmuch as we already have San Pascual Baylon’s bone relic. We enjoin everybody to help out. 10808218_725819540834887_665066270_n_pe

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Here is our website for the project. http://www.sanpascualcentennialplus.org/the-san-pascual-cathedral/

Thank you so very much.

Meeting the Mareación and Paying Attention

Yes, as a living human, you can dig into the spirit world.

Conversations with Don Machinga and Other Beings

the world of  noyarao The World of Noiya Rao (artist unknown)

I am currently about half-way through a nine-week dieta with the legendary Amazonian tree Noiya Rao, also known in Spanish as Palo Volador (the flying tree).

The seventy-seven year old Shipibo Maestro B. is the undisputed main source of knowledge and training regarding this tree. He claims that being able to receive and work with the spirit of this tree is all that is needed to become a healer. He also says that the tree is “el camino a la verdad” – the path to the truth. He has been drinking ayahuasca since he was five after his family, which has a long shamanic lineage, recognized his special talent. For a haunting recording by Howard Charing from 2002, of Maestro B. singing a Noiya Rao icaro, click here.

Friends who have been dieting longer with this tree – the full

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The Damaged Culture Bit Revisited

On November 1, 1987, American author James Fallows published an article in the Atlantic Monthly titled, “A Damaged Culture:  A New Philippines?”, which created quite a stir, considering that at the time, Filipinos were occupied clearing the debris that Marcos had left behind.

From then on, nasty things happened, which seemed to buttress the damaged culture thesis, to wit:

–The Marcoses (Imelda Marcos and kids), who were banished in 1986, have been voted into power, short of capturing Malacanang Palace.

–The subsequent leaders after President Corazon Aquino, were themselves thieves, with the exception of the current palace occupant, President Noynoy Aquino.

–The Supreme Court of the Philippines, as currently constituted, has its share of corruption shenanigans and is more defined as a power tripping cabal..

–The current catch word of “bobotante”, referring to the mass of voters that sell their votes for a pittance, thus explaining the prevalence of ignoramuses in government.

While it is noteworthy that under President Noynoy Aquino, the Philippines has become an economic tiger of sorts, the danger lurks that when the President finishes his term in 2016, things will revert to ours being a damaged culture in the strictest sense. Pnoy_pe

Among Mr. Fallows observations are:

“The countries that surround the Philippines have become the world’s most famous showcases for the impact of culture on economic development. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore–all are short on natural resources, but all (as their officials never stop telling you) have clawed their way up through hard study and hard work. Unfortunately for its people, the Philippines illustrates the contrary: that culture can make a naturally rich country poor. There may be more miserable places to live in East Asia– Vietnam, Cambodia–but there are few others where the CULTURE (emphasis supplied) itself, rather than a communist political system, is the main barrier to development. The culture in question is Filipino, but it has been heavily shaped by nearly a hundred years of the “Fil-Am relationship.’ The result is apparently the only non-communist society in East Asia in which the average living standard is going down.

“I don’t pretend that my view of the Philippines is authoritative, but I’ve never before been in a country where my initial impressions were so totally at odds with the standard, comforting, let’s-all-pull-together view. It seems to me that the prospects for the Philippines are about as dismal as those for, say, South Korea are bright. In each case the basic explanation seems to be culture: in the one case a culture that brings out the productive best in the Koreans (or the Japanese, or now even the Thais), and in the other a culture that pulls many Filipinos toward their most self-destructive, self-defeating worst.

“AM I SHOOTING FISH IN A BARREL? SURE–YOU COULD work up an even starker contrast between Park Avenue and the South Bronx. But that would mean only that the United States and the Philippines share a problem, not that extremes of wealth and poverty are no problem at all. In New York and a few other places the extremes are so visible as to make many Americans uneasy about the every-man-for-himself principle on which our society is based. But while the South Bronix is an American problem, few people would think of it as typical of America. In the Philippines the contrasting extremes are, and have been, the norm.

“What has created a society in which people feel fortunate to live in a garbage dump because the money is so good? Where some people shoo flies away from others for 300 pesos, or $ 15, a month? It can’t be any inherent defect in the people: outside this culture they thrive. Filipino immigrants to the United States are more successful than immigrants from many other countries. Filipino contract laborers, working for Japanese and Korean construction companies, built many of the hotels, ports, and pipelines in the Middle East. “These are the same people who shined under the Japanese managers,’ Blas Ople, a veteran politician, told me. “But when they work for Filipino contractors, the schedule lags.’ It seems unlikely that the problem is capitalism itself, even though Philippine Marxists argue endlessly that it grinds up the poor to feed the rich. If capitalism were the cause of Philippine underdevelopment, why would its record be so different everywhere else in the region? In Japan, Korea, Singapore, and elsewhere Asian-style capitalism has not only led to trade surpluses but also created Asia’s first real middle class. Chinese economists can’t call what they’re doing capitalism, but they can go on for hours about how “market reforms’ will lead to a better life for most people.

“If the problem in the Philippines does not lie in the people themselves or, it would seem, in their choice between capitalism and socialism, what is the problem? I think it is cultural, and that it should be thought of as a failure of NATIONALISM.

“Individual Filipinos are at least as brave, kind, and noble-spirited as individual Japanese, but their culture draws the boundaries of decent treatment much more narrowly. Filipinos pride themselves on their lifelong loyalty to family, schoolmates, compadres, members of the same tribe, residents of the same barangay. The mutual tenderness among the people of Smoky Mountain is enough to break your heart. But when observing Filipino friendships I thought often of the Mafia families portrayed in The Godfather: total devotion to those within the circle, total war on those outside. Because the boundaries of decedent treatment are limited to the family or tribe, they exclude at least 90 percent of the people in the country. And because of this fragmentation–this lack of nationalism–people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen.

“In the first-class dining room aboard the steamer to Cebu, a Filipino at the table next to mine picked through his plate of fish. Whenever he found a piece he didn’t like, he pushed it off the edge of his plate, onto the floor. One case of bad manners? Maybe, but I’ve never seen its like in any other country. Outsiders feel they have understood something small but significant about Japan’s success when they watch a bar man carefully wipe the condensation off a bottle of beer and twirl it on the table until the label faces the customer exactly. I felt I had a glimpse into the failures of the Philippines when I saw prosperous-looking matrons buying cakes and donuts in a bakery, eating them in a department store, and dropping the box and wrappers around them as they shopped.

“IT’S EASY TO OBSERVE THAT JAPAN’S HABITS ARE MORE useful economically than those of the Philippines, but it’s harder to figure out exactly where the destructive habits come from. The four hundred years that the Philippines spent under Spain’s thumb obviously left a lasting imprint: at first glance the country seems to have much more in common with Mexico than with any other place in Asia. The Spanish hammered home the idea of Filipino racial inferiority, discourging the native indios from learning the Spanish language and refusing to consecrate them as priests. (The Spanish are also said to have forbidden the natives to wear tucked-in shirts, which is why the national shirt, the barong tagalog, is now worn untucked, in a rare flash of national pride.) As in Latin America, the Spanish friars taught that religion was a matter of submission to doctrine and authority, rather than of independent thought or gentleness to strangers in daily life. And the Spanish rulers set the stage for the country’s economic problems in the twentieth century, by giving out huge haciendas to royal favorites and consigning others to work as serfs. As in Latin America, the Spanish thereby implanted the idea that “success’ meant landed, idle (that is, non-entrepreneurial or commercial) wealth. The mainly Malay culture with which the Spanish interacted was different from the Aztec and other Indian cultures in Latin America; for instance, societies throughout the Malay regions (including what are now Indonesia and Malaysia) are usually described as being deferential to their leaders, passive rather than rebellious. Perhaps for this reason the Philippines has not overthrown its clergy or its landed elite in the twentieth century, the way most Latin American countries have tried to do.

“In its brief fling with running a colony, America undeniably brought some material benefits to the Philippines: schools, hospitals, laws, and courts. Many older Filipinos still speak with fondness about the orderly old colonial days. But American rule seemed only to intensify the Filipino sense of dependence. The United States quickly earned or bought the loyalty of the ilustrados, the educated upper class, making them into what we would call collaborationists if the Germans or Japanese had received their favors. It rammed through a number of laws insisting on free “competition’ between American and Philippine industries, at a time when Philippine industries were in no position to compete with anyone. The countries that have most successfully rebuilt their economies, including Japan and Korea, went through extremely protectionist infant-industry phases, with America’s blessing; the United States never permitted the Philippines such a period. The Japanese and Koreans now believe they can take on anybody; the confidence of Filipino industrialists seems to have been permanently destroyed.

“In deeper and more pernicious ways Filipinos seem to have absorbed the idea that America is the center and they are the periphery. Much local advertising plays to the idea that if it’s American, it’s better. “It’s got that stateside caste!’ one grinning blonde model says in a whiskey ad. An ad for Ban deodorant warns, “Hold It! Is your deodorant making your skin dark?’ The most glamorous figures on TV shows are generally light-skinned and sound as if they grew up in Los Angeles. I spoke with a black American who said that the yearning toward “white’ culture resembled what he remembered about the black bourgeoisie of the 1950s. College or graduate education in America is a mark of social distinction for Filipinos, as it is for many other Asians. But while U.S.-trained Taiwanese and Korean technocrats return to improve factories and run government ministries, many Filipinos seem to consider the experience a purely social achievement, a trip to finishing school.

“This is a country where the national ambition is to change your nationality,’ an American who volunteers at Smoky Mountain told me. The U.S. Navy accepts 400 Filipino recruits each year; last year 100,000 people applied. In 1982, in a survey, 207 grade-school students were asked what nationality they would prefer to be. Exactly ten replied “Filipino.’ “There is not necessarily a commitment by the upper class to making the Philippines successful as a nation,’ a foreign banker told me. “If things get dicey, they’re off, with their money.’ “You are dealing here with a damaged culture,’ four people told me, in more or less the same words, in different interviews.”

So what is the genesis of this damaged culture that we have?  According to Fallows. Filipinos, by and large, have no nationalism or love of country. The subtexts are that our feeling of inferiority stems from the Spanish and American colonial overlords, and that our pronounced tribalism is the root of corruption, the selling of votes, the thievery in government.

Despite the aforementioned blocks, the Philippines has grown by leaps and bounds under President Noynoy Aquino.  It seems that the President’s influence is the glue that holds the damaged culture fabric together. However, with the President’s end of term in 2016, the deluge will surely come, if his replacement has feet of clay.

Would that there is a term extension for President Aquino.


President Noynoy Aquino: A Kaleidoscope of a President

By Joe America

Philippine President Noynoy Aquino

Philippine President Noynoy Aquino

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, I can’t help myself. I’ve gone patriotic on the Philippines. I can’t figure out how the nation can get stronger when so many Filipinos insist on diminishing their country and its leadership.
Just as the nation is rising.
“Born to lose“
So I push back. If you are inspired by failure, just skip this blog, eh? I’m writing to those who are proud of the Philippines.
The name of the kaleidoscope was attached to the tube containing colored glass and pebbles by Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster, in 1817. The name kaleidoscope is. . .
. . . derived from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”, εἶδος (eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape” and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine”, hence “observation of beautiful forms.” [Wiki]
It is the most magical device. If you look at it from the outside, it is an ordinary tube of no particular distinction. But when you hold it up to the light, peer into the tube and turn it, dazzling colors and shapes appear, combinations that are totally unexpected and absolutely magnificent for their intricacy and color. Brilliant rainbow snowflakes, each symmetrical and unpredictable, each there for a moment, then . . . twist . . . on to the next one.
It occurred to me that President Aquino is a lot like that.
Most people, busy in their work, read the paper or flip on the telly and see the President speaking, or under attack, and they are only looking at the tube. They see a one-dimensional President. Or sometimes his spokespeople are trying to do the impossible, explain to very unimaginative and woefully simplistic press what a kaleidoscope thinks.
But this is no simple man, and political efforts to define him as such are bare-faced deceits.
Let’s turn the tube, eh, and see the multi-faceted shape our President takes.
The passive, good natured man
This is the guy we elected. We saw him as passive and quiet, a good man, a senator, well behaved, a little hitch in his walk and always smiling. Or grimacing. That is sometimes hard to distinguish, and certainly the people of Hong Kong couldn’t figure it out. All we knew back in 2010 was that he was not a thief and his mother was a wonderful person of sterling principle and proper bearing. We wanted her back, and so we elected her son.
Now the critics looked at this guy and saw that he did not look exactly like Piolo with a drop-dead stare that would drive a woman to babbling, and he did not exactly strut like Pacquiao with a fighting cock under one arm and a bag of gambling chips dangling from the other. So they attacked, very unkindly, when you consider that this is the President of THEIR nation, and they only diminish their nation when they diminish their President. These critics are shallow and tiresome. They read the covers of books and do not have the character or intellect to get to the real story.
But it is true, one of the President’s better disguises is the appearance of non-descript passivity. It allows him access anywhere.
The peacemaker
After his election, and before taking office, I’d guess the President studied up on what a president is supposed to do, starting with a very important document, the Constitution. He observed that it renounced war as a solution to conflict, and he took it to heart. Besides, it fit his style.
So he set out to solve the problem of the Bangsamoro, to do what presidents before had tried but failed to do. He brought together the primary leadership of the Mindanao Muslim community, representatives of his government, and a couple of distinguished international mediators. They spent months . . . nay, years . . . hammering out an agreement that danced the delicate line between national and regional power-sharing, and wealth-sharing, and toed the very edge of constitutionality with considerable autonomy granted to the Muslim community.
Now the Philippine Supreme Court could spend a few hours and demolish this entire work, because good faith and good results mean nothing to this strange legal panel. They care nothing about results because they are not accountable for them. They read words narrowly and appear to have no passion for the profound or sublime. Yet it is important to recognize that Mindanao has been substantially peaceful for two years already, and investments there are starting to build. Jobs are starting to appear.
Because the President is a peacemaker.
He provided the steady encouragement, patience, and determined effort needed to build mutual trust.
The President’s stance on China also reflects his peaceful bias. Law based. Consistent. Persistent. Not emotionally charged. His stance angers China’s leaders because it makes them look the fool. They are revealed as thugs and liars.
That’s their problem.
The dangerous president
Some call the President “hard headed”, others “vindictive”. These descriptions generally arise when the President gets outside the passive character others presume is his only demeanor. Without doubt, the President has an aggressive side, a bit of fight and even spite in his determination.
If the Supreme Court does strike down the Bangsamoro Agreement, I’m betting the President will fix it. If it takes a constitutional amendment to get the Court out of the government’s good works, he will fix it.
China also proceeds with its adventurism in Philippine waters at risk that Mr. Aquino will reach the point at which the Chinese threaten Philippine sovereignty in an enduring way, and he will push back. And if China tries to punish the Philippines, China will feel the wrath of a world fed up with her tricks and self-dealing. Mr. Aquino has been peaceful, not inert, and has built a wall of alliance partners that China cannot afford to cross.
For sure, China ought to be very clear about Mr. Aquino’s aggressive side, of his determination provoked.
He has not been traveling the world just to eat escargot and pizza.
Behind the public persona of passive good nature is a determined and passionate man. Dangerous to those who cross him.
The loyal boss
Mr. Aquino will fire someone when he wants to. Not when outraged netizens or a purchased-money press or leftist cranks demand it. This is a feature of the President we can see if we look at his aggressive determination in the kaleidoscope and twist the tube so that the determination is affixed to his staff. He is a loyal boss to his immediate subordinates. What is important to him is the work they are doing, not what those who are not accountable think about it.
What is important is what HE sees. And that is as it should be. Tossing his key managers out left and right for any uninformed complaint is not a way to build commitment and loyalty TO THE WORK. There is a reason the entire cabinet, other than VP Binay, applauded when the President rejected Secretary Abad’s resignation.
The loyal President backed them all.
The well-regarded motivational professional Abraham Maslow, packing his “Hierarchy of Needs”, would have applauded, too. Workers dedicate superior effort to a boss who backs them.
The diplomat
What is diplomacy? It is a refined reading of other people, the holding of a fundamental respect for the point of view of others, and courteous, dignified presentation of self.
The President is a diplomat when he makes his speeches in Filipino. He is sharing his respect for the national language that separates the Philippines from any other land, and binds all Filipinos as one. He is sharing his respect for people who speak their regional dialects, saying, essentially, “Speak your language. It is good.”
Mr. Aquino is graciously welcomed just about anywhere in the world because the world sees what many Filipinos do not, for the historical dust in their eyes or bias of personal agenda, that President Aquino has taken great strides to bring the Philippines into the respectable modern world. Political stability, financial order, peaceful ambitions, good works, major strides to end the culture of corruption. This is not Gloria Arroyo’s Philippines by a long shot.
The President has worked hard to cultivate partnerships throughout Asia, and with the United States, Australia and Europe. He grew up in a family of dignified people and he carries the Philippine mantle graciously himself. If people look through the kaleidoscope, they will be pleased with the proud, forthright and honorable presentment of the Philippines that is done by Mr. Aquino when he meets with overseas leaders.
The billiards player
Top-blogger Raissa Robles knows the inside-outs of Philippine politics better than just about any body in the land. She’s prowled there for the better part of her working life. She once did a blog that characterized one facet of President Aquino’s management style: he is a calculator, a billiards player, a thinker. [“Billiards could explain President Aquino’s style of problem-solving”]
When he makes a comment that he would consider a second term, he tosses the entire Philippine class of opinion-makers on its ear. The press goes bananas, political opponents have apoplexy, friends wonder what in the world has happened and start to guess. With a single toss-away comment, he accomplishes what Pacquiao does with a powerful left hook. Knocks everyone off balance so they actually have to THINK about matters. Not just listen to Binay and his horde of spokespeople.
I’m sure he must laugh at the lines and lines of press coverage and hours of breathless television coverage dedicated to what he said. Most of the reporting is simply speculation. One step shy of fiction.
Make no mistake. The Philippine President is a smart, calculating man.
The family man
How can an unmarried man be a family man, eh?
Put the kaleidoscope to the light and you will see that he has done nothing to undermine or politicize his extended family of powerful people, or his church family of priests and bishops, or the star power of his sisters, or the legacy of his parents. Indeed, he keeps these personal relationships in the background, totally private, respectfully, as he goes about the challenging business of taking care of the rest of us.
That is a pretty special talent. One of great sensitivity, personal determination and kindness.
The corporate man
Leftist lunatics like the Stand-UP thugs who accosted Secretary Abad the other day operate on a shallow plane of slogans and manipulative ideological babble. They refuse to see – or they deny – that the DISCIPLINES that President Aquino has put in place, such as measurement of performance by the numbers, are wholesome and transformational, not dictatorial. Authoritative, competent, confident. They prefer weak? That suits their purpose better?
DAP was also transformational, for the economy. It got money directed from waste to productivity.
These are corporate disciplines that, if continued, will remake the nation’s priorities and achievements.
Well, these sloganeers don’t have to chair Cabinet meetings or do any of the hard work, the hard decision-making of government. Being President not easy like writing a blog, or having a bitch session with friends, or throwing paper in the face of a distinguished guest. It is an enormous job.
Most of the critics have no idea of what they are talking about. Period. They swim in a vast pool of ignorance, forever pushing their private agendas by nit-picking on vulnerable sores. They are fundamentally not kind people, nor patriotic, it seems to me. They for sure are not corporate in vision and style. I question the emotional stability of many, frankly.
Yes, criticism is important. If it is informed, issues bound rather than personality bound, forthright, and comes armed with alternatives.
But the Philippines, a land known for coups and instability, could use a whole lot less of it.
The bitterness and angers exuded by the left and by political opponents, including the manipulations of the press, are divisive and destructive. The worst part about the Philippines is the number of people who insist upon acting the crab, going against the grain of a proud, unified, patriotic Philippines. All you get from them are rationalizations. Excuses. Blames. A small nation. A complaining nation.
The President sticks with running the government, a government that is dedicated, purposeful and stable. A unified nation. A big nation. A forthright nation.
The artistic advocate
President Aquino has become a deeper, richer man while in office. The office made the man, as he made the office.
I enjoy watching and reading his speeches and press briefings. It is clear to me that this is a man with passion and insight. He reads, he consults, he pulls in information from many sources, reflects on it, and puts it into order. His own order. No one else’s.
He is not a narrow man or a shallow man.
By advocate, I mean he works earnestly and tirelessly for the Philippines, for a certain kind of Philippines.
For the Philippines that his mother could not quite get to because the political fires were too intense, the ways of the self-dealers too powerful. The Philippines his father could not make it down the ramp to embrace once again.
Bottom line, Mr. Aquino has been true to the mandate given him by the people when he was elected. He has been loyal to Filipinos.
He has done what they asked.
When those who are shallow and self-serving deny the rich colors and shapes of of the ENTIRE President Aquino, they define themselves, cheap, one-dimensional pieces of cardboard. They do not define him.