Thursday, September 29, 2005

`The Philippine’s undiscriminating embrace’

`Everyone has the right to a nationality.’’ Article 15, UN Declaration of Human Rights

``They hope to tell the world about the boundless love that returned to the remaining boat people their inalienable human dignity. That boundless love is none other than the Philippines’ undiscriminating embrace.’’ That moving statement is in a document written on behalf of the Vietnamese boat people who had opted for permanent settlement in the Philippines.

I shed Filipino tears when that was read at the inauguration of Vietville in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan in 1998.

For so long, they were without a country. There was no room for them in the inn. It was the Philippines that made their long wait bearable. It was, in fact, the Philippines that gave many Vietnamese boat people a permanent home when no country out there wanted them.

``16-year stopover finally over,’’ the Inquirer said two days ago of the Vietnamese boat people who had made the Philippines their temporary home. Finally, they were winging their way to the US that had for so long denied them entry. They were just the first batch of 229 from a group of 1,600 stateless individuals who were swept away here. The rest will be flying too in the weeks to come.

But many will be staying behind—either by choice or by force of circumstances. Many have settled in Vietville in Palawan.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Why isn’t it tipping? (2)

I received varied and interesting feedback via email on my Sept. 15 column piece ``Why isn’t it tipping?’’ The piece was on Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller and page-turner ``The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference’’ and why the much-awaited or much-dreaded (depending on which side you are) tipping point that would make the Arroyo administration fall was not happening. Gladwell’s book presents events in history, real-life examples and studies that show how the tipping point phenomenon works.

I thought I’d share portions from some letters which show the writers’ take on the tipping point.

From ``Xcathedra’’:

``Social cybernetics is one specialized field of discipline that might give other interesting leads on why there was (and still is) a prevailing `social feedback stasis’ before and following the `oust Arroyo’ initiatives.

``In mathematics (fractals and Chaos Theory) and physics, that `tipping’ point is known as the advent of entropy/chaos. I think you might want to read James Gleick's book (it's old in today's standards, but still grippingly enlightening) titled `Chaos’. There you can have a whiff of an analytical framework for dissecting social change. Personally, I suspect that the stasis has something to do (partly) with the current state of equilibrium of the `system’ (public reaction and feedback). To explain: For every introduction of a (change) variable that would induce disequilibrium (or `chaos’) leading to an adjustment or total change of a system, the adjusted or changed system will always emerge stronger than before (whether in the negative or positive sense).

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Why isn’t it tipping?

``The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire… The tipping point is the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point…It is the name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all that once.’’

Those definitions are from the bestseller and page-turner ``The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Different’’ by Malcolm Gladwell. (His latest is ``Blink’’.)

I think of the tipping point this way: Imagine holding a tray with a handful of marbles on one side. You tip the tray at an angle but the marbles seem unwilling to roll over to the other side. You tip some more. Then at a certain angle of the tray the marbles suddenly all roll in unison to the other side.

At that tipping point, movement takes place. This example, similar to the seesaw, illustrates in a physical way the so-called tipping point phenomenon which political watchers—in barbershops and beauty salons, political circles, cockpits, churches, academe--are anticipating.

When would it happen? How would it happen? Why isn’t it happening? ``It’’ is some kind of People Power 3, reminiscent of the previous two that saw a long-staying dictator and a president, just two years in office, removed dramatically.

Just an aside. ``The tipping point’’ has found its way to the lips of politicians who love the phrases ``at the end of the day’’ and--this one will make Einstein and editors cringe--``at this point in time’’.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

'Prothom alo', first light

One night last week when some members of the so-called ``Hyatt 10’’ (five to be exact) who wanted the President removed from office were at the Inquirer to talk to editors and to also complain about an editorial that did not put them in a good light, a guest in another room was sharing with some reporters and columnists his experiences as an editor of the biggest daily in Bangladesh.

Our esteemed guest was Matiur Rahman, 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts. Rahman is not just a newspaperman, he is also an advocate of women’s rights who actively uses the power of the media, the written word in particular, to help end violence against women.

Rahman and four others from different fields received their awards (cash included) at solemn ceremonies on Aug. 31.

Rahman was awarded for ``wielding media for constructive social change’’. Sorry, no Filipino awardee this year.

In the media, this year’s RM awards and related activities were clearly eclipsed by all the ado about the impeachment process against the President.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Oil of life

Several times I tried to fall in line to buy a cone of coconut milk ice cream sold from a Mamang Sorbetero push cart but the line was, oh, so long, I gave up. But there were other coconut products that were just as inviting and interesting—lip balm, moisturizers, bath soap, non-dairy creamer, diesel additives, vinegar, all kinds of food. And of course, virgin coconut oil (VCO) which was the centerpiece of the 2005 National coconut Week 4th National Coconut Festival held at SM Megamall last weekend.

A booth selling coconut milk extractors using the centrifugal method was giving a Powerpoint presentation with Harry Belafonte’s popular coconut song as background score. “Coconut!”

Produced in different parts of the country, VCO came in various labels and packaging--ethnic, sophisticated, dignified, classy. But the integrity of the product should be the same.

There is a lot of work to be done in order to put (or put back) Philippine coconut products on the world’s dining tables, medicine shelves, beauty bars and gas stations.

Well, as the Philippine Coconut Authority had announced, VCO exports are up 268 percent from the same period last year; up 569 percent in export earnings from the first five months of last year. That is from the good news article by Christine Gaylican of the Inquirer’s Business Section.