The Great U-turn


This year I find my self being reminded of the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the mid-1980s and LA Rebellion in the early 1990s when I’ve been a reluctant witness to the ghastly things people choose to do to each other.

Back then, I remember only feeling fear and confusion. Tonight, I add ‘grief’ to the mix of feelings I have as I process what’s happening in the U.S.

My grief feels different from mourning, and weighs heavier than exasperated idealism. This grief feels threatening; it interrogates.

It problematizes my core belief in our collective ability to behave in a more enlightened way in a time of turmoil, such as this, when we face off with racial hatred rearing its ugly head at home.

It turns a disapproving eye toward those of us who treat hard-earned education like a medal we win, but only display in its case, instead of using it as the upgrade that improves our thinking, transforms our discourse, and guides our deeds.

This type of grief asks:

– where to find the critical thinking adults to guide a truthful, probing discussion in service of unlocking breakthrough?

– why we easily retreat into our tribes, instead of opening up more constructive ways to understand a world more gray than black-and-white?

Too many of the things we now think and say about each other have — in the past and in other places — allowed brutal dictators to grab state power and fueled neighborhoods to burn.

Surely we are better than this.

I hope the day is still early and that sooner than later the dialogue we should be having on domestic terrorism, police violence, and structural racism can still be had.

To my social work colleagues old and new, our profession has something good to offer as we find our way. Keep using your professional perspective to help enlighten your personal networks. Remember the matrix of domination from CRT, for example.

If enough of us model critical thinking — if a courageous number of us resist reacting and succumbing to the anger that comes easy — we can, at least, model among our friends how to think more deeply and in a more solution-focused way. Parroting dishonest ideas and old excuses leads to dead ends, not breakthroughs; only critical thought does that.

#TakeTheKnee is FeudArt


Sharing my own 9/23/17 tweet storm re: Trump NBA and NFL comments…

Self-expression is patriotism for thinking men & women of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution. #TakeTheKnee #MyKnowledgeCounts 

2/ Self-expression is the foundation for civic engagement, climate action, and tech-enabled problem solving in Info Age and era of climate

3/ change. Self-expression is the outcome of critical thinking, of analytical and creative thought, among fully individuated adults.

4/ As such, there would be no new ideas, no innovation without self-expression. CleanTech is self-expression, and self-expression is

5/ CleanTech. Self-expression is decarbonization. Self-expression is #GlobalGoals #MyKnowledgeCounts #GlobalPeopleSummit @ThePeopleSummit

Part I – ‘Black swan’ Philippines: From disaster relief to clean technology advocacy and commercialization


In Fall 2009, a series of seven super typhoons and tropical storms struck the Philippines between August and October–a 3-month period that reshaped the trajectory of my life and career. Fall 2009 is my ‘black swan’ event, to borrow a term from Nassim Taleb. This post is part of a series in which I will bring order to my journey since 2009, from anti-poverty crusader to running a CleanTech incubator for the grass-roots. The resulting series will show how I sought meaning from the chaos.

It Began with Chaos

That those seven extreme weather events wreaked havoc in three Northern Provinces where I have relatives was news too heavy to bear; yet, I could not help but be drawn to and consumed by the news. I binged on cable news, Youtube videos, and online news that brought coverage.

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

The impact on me was part shock, part paralysis; I also remember feeling a deep sense of empathy, nationalism, and love for a community that raised me from birth but had to leave as a young boy. And there was also anger and drive. That my people were dying first, in high numbers, and frequently was deeply maddening; it left a living mark on my soul that prodded me to reinvent my work and, in the process, my self.

I was in professional limbo for many years immediately after Fall 2009, having lost faith in social work as a helping profession capable of responding to climate change. I was full of questions.

What is the point in human service delivery if the field were impotent in addressing the macro-level root causes of extreme weather events?

What is the point in a profession that helps others “feel good” and “cope adaptively” after the fact, while at once mute and irrelevant in decarbonization?

What is social work good for if it cannot proactively protect those who are imperiled? If it is technically ill-suited and technologically unprepared as a solution-maker in the Information Age?

As a social worker, what am I good for if I’m impotent in dealing with the social welfare issues tied to the climate crisis?

It took several years to heal and regain my center, reclaim the sure-footedness I lost. I forced my self to extract fulfillment from the work I was doing, but as I contrived the meaning-making, I just felt further out of love with social work. I wanted a major change. I wanted to transition to a field more consequential.

Now, even as I still find myself reinventing the work with others, I am buoyed by the prospect of solid, muscular hope. I am building my tribe through CYPHER. And for the first time in a long time, our invented work can be magnified, made as sharp as a spearhead, with AASWSW GC8: Harnessing technology for social good.


Infinite hope in the age of Trumpism


“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Many of us will naturally measure the year about to end, and hopefully in a way that accounts for not only our deficiencies and strengths, but also our social value.

Idealism, compassion, activism–these may not reliably make money, but they enrich nonetheless for they awaken and assert what this moment needs now the most: the ‘radical-ness’ of our decency and humanity.

Moments end only to renew.

In the ‘in-between’, we are transformed by our experience of these moments. Constructive moments improve us. We feel more deeply. We generally understand more about the world and ourselves. We tend to be propelled forward, better equipped to do more.

Then there are destructive moments, like now, that contract all social progress — moments when the aim is to extend one hand out as if to say, “STOP!” and “GO BACK!,” then raise the other into a fist to coerce.

The extreme conservatism and naked nativism gripping our current politics define this ugly moment. We are torn part; we fear for the ones we love.

Many are reminded of past trauma. Some of us recall the hate and violence we left in our ancestral homeland. We worry of the retrograde now revived, retooled, and refreshed into vogue.

Let’s embrace how this moment in our history jolts us out of complacency from striving so long in our respective career.

Let’s embrace how it renews us both into contemplation and action, heeding the conscience of our upbringing or profession.

Our new context will certainly alter us — like a crucible that animates our nature, sharpens our work, and fuses our collective impact. As a person of color and conscience, the activist in me is certainly renewed.

Innovation as a river: Reflecting on Day 3 of #CRinFlorida


These next few days I’ll be sharing my personal reflection on a climate leadership conference I’m part of; this is the third and last installment. I do this to capture the raw emotion in my daily reflection in order to help me with my later writing. If these posts benefit you, too, in any small way, please let me know via a comment. Thank you.

This last day is perhaps the most uplifting of the three days because of the flood of emotion from leaving new friends, dreaming up new collaborations, and feeding on insight from others — like, Philippe Cousteau, Jr., John Kao, Chris Hayes, and Al Gore, to name a few climate leaders I’ve had the benefit to learn from this week.

The fatigue from the trip is real, but it is quickly overshadowed by the optimism I have about this work that moves me deeply. I’ve traveled far, literally and figuratively, in my anti-poverty work; that it led me here, at this conference, in the company of all these climate and sustainability leaders, is something I never imagined. — To Dr. Pauline Agbayani who found me a professional field, thank you. If you are reading this, please know that I am deeply thankful for knowing you.

This video I took of Miami River, which has been routinely overflowing recently, starts with a bend in the river that’s been cemented over, and beside it, a shot of the river moving calmly but steadily.

The imagery is a visual aid to a simple point: like bending a river’s flow with steel and concrete, we can change the direction of the body politic around climate action with innovation. We each define what ‘climate innovation’ means by leveraging the things we are most passionate about in our life.

We, at CYPHER, for example, are passionate about sustainable development, tech-enabled climate resilience, and hip-hop. So climate innovation is what we, at CYPHER, promote when we challenge inner-city and farmworker youth to use their direct experience with local human impacts of climate change (e.g., heat wave, drought, etc.) as inspiration for CleanTech and soft robotics. Climate innovation is what we, at CYPHER, promote when we work with local independent hip-hop artists (shout-out to @JessicaKimble88 from California and @NaledgeEvans from Chicago) to mobilize the youth to action via the sound of their music.

Climate innovation is not limited to the genius few. Or the smartest. Or even the most privileged. Climate innovation can be taught and acquired because complex problem-solving is built into each of us; it is ‘baked in.’

Climate innovation is both outcome and process, both idea and practice. Climate innovation is a continuum of capability, all the way from ‘good enough’ competence to high-level mastery. And along this capability continuum, as with a river, we can either jump into innovation whenever we would like to be refreshed by our experience of it, or stand in the sidelines cheering those who dare to swim in it, admiring the joy its brings us and others as we all watch.

Both are responses that are human, and normal, and agreeable. One is not better than the other; both have value. Both show us how we ought to cultivate innovation, in general, and sustain climate innovation, in particular, in our own communities.

Climate innovation is a human potential inherent in everyone because we live in a closed system, called Earth. None of us can escape the human impacts of climate change in this closed system; those impacts touch us all. And because we each have a direct personal experience with its human impacts, we also each have a kernel of an idea for how to address it.

Climate innovation is not limited to the genius few. Or the most gifted. Or the most educated. Climate innovation can be taught and acquired because complex problem-solving is built into each of us; it is ‘baked in.’

Join us on Twitter @cypheryouth to find out more about the climate innovation we are doing.

Does this work pass the smell test?: #CRinFlorida Day 1 Reflection


These next few days I’ll be sharing my personal reflection on a climate leadership conference I’m part of. I do this to capture the raw emotion in my daily reflection in order to help me with my later writing. If these posts benefit you, too, in any small way, please let me know via a comment. Thank you.

The strategic investment angle on climate action can hollow out the developmental. The danger of a strictly Western frame and American gaze on climate action is to reduce an opportunity for sociocultural transformation into dollars and cents. There is a dimension of climate action that could genuinely redefine what is “sustainable” in sustainable development — the chance to promote local control of community-defined sustainable development. What good is green/clean infrastructure if it doesn’t change the behavioral and sociological causes of environmental degradation from overconsumption and exploitive development?


Is it right to devise a campaign to reduce carbon emissions or adopt clean energy alternatives that would resonate equally in all regions if we know these regions’ priorities to be effective governance, survival from extreme weather, and ending extreme poverty, first and foremost?

The truth is:

(1) Powerful interests must be held accountable; aligning ourselves and our communities with their investment pet projects without asserting the primacy of local control and community-defined development doesn’t do that.

(2) Development could be made more inclusive and responsive to local priorities; prescribing a narrow set of climate actions without active consultation with vulnerable communities doesn’t do that.

(3) Transformational leadership is about widening meaningful community engagement; massaging our messaging to better market a narrow set of solutions doesn’t do that.

Is it right to devise a campaign to reduce carbon emissions or adopt clean energy alternatives that would resonate equally in all regions if we know these regions’ priorities to be effective governance, survival from extreme weather, and ending extreme poverty, first and foremost?

‘Pang-ngawat’/’pagtanggap’: The value of ‘receiving’ in Filipino Martial Arts


This post is about the Ilokano and Tagalog ideas of ‘receiving’, or ‘pang-ngawat’ and ‘pagtanggap’, respectively. I start with a context in FMA training and conclude with possible applications in life. My point is that learning ‘pang-ngawat’ or ‘pagtanggap’ is vital to one’s development as an FMA practitioner, in particular, for it teaches the value of resilience, in general. ‘Pang-ngawat’ keeps the Ilokano grounded in reality and ‘pagtanggap’ keeps the Tagalog grounded in their own self-belief.

FMA context. There are two central training techniques in FMA: (1) copying a teacher’s moves and (2) training with a partner ‘to feed’ and ‘to receive’. Copying is the more elementary of the two for it involves no physical contact with another player. When we copy our teacher’s movements, we are at the very beginning stage of learning: we are passive consumers–neither expressing ourselves through our own natural movement, nor responding to an actual strike. While there is some degree of conceptual understanding to be achieved from copying, this training technique’s limitation is that the lesson cannot be felt, only imagined. It’s like learning a song, but singing it without feeling its full meaning.

Training against another player is more advanced. Your partner reacts and completes your movement with a counter-attack that you not only feel, but also anticipate sometimes with a healthy measure of fear and always with a dose of anxiety. In both training techniques, most students focus on learning proper offense–how to strike at every angle in the right form, right foot work, and with the right body mechanics–leading them to master how ‘to feed’.


‘To feed’ in FMA is to offer a strike at a specific angle in proper form in order to achieve two goals: to execute a strike being learned, and, more importantly, to help the recipient learn how to react to the strike. ‘To receive’ is to respond to an offensive strike: to block, to deflect, and to grab. In the continuum of feeding and receiving, most learn primarily how to be on the offensive. Most learn ‘to feed’ routinely as structured lessons; most learn ‘to receive’ via thematic seminars as advanced specialties.

Most practitioners, then, primarily learn how to be hard, dismissing the lesson in being soft as conditional (learn only ‘to receive’ once I’m good enough or advanced enough). Intuitively, we know that most things that are hard full-time ultimately break under repeated stress, and that most things that flex, that absorb, bounce back. This tells us that learning how ‘to receive’ is equally important in our development as FMA practitioners. Indeed, knowing how to block well, to deflect well, and to grab well positions oneself for an effective counter-attack by developing one’s ability to sense an opponent’s true intention from feeling the direction of his/her strike.


In addition, knowing how ‘to receive’ in FMA helps us conquer our own fear and anxiety, while simultaneously magnifying these in our opponent. When you can receive a blow, you strengthen yourself and demoralize your opponent by showing him that you will not break despite his repeated attacks. Counterintuitively, when you can expertly receive a strike you form a shield, thus, the common term used for it in FMA, ‘sangga’.

Application in life. In Ilokano and Tagalog, the words used to mean ‘to receive’ are ‘pang-ngawat’ (pang-nga-wut) and ‘pagtanggap’ (pug-tang-gup), respectively. Understanding the depth of both terms extracts the culture-bound insight within them. Both have two primary meanings. ‘Pang-ngawat’ means both to receive and to understand; ‘pagtanggap’ means both to receive and to accept.

The combination of receiving and understanding in ‘pang-ngawat’ teaches us that ‘to understand’ has an additional dimension of ‘to receive openly’. The nuance in ‘pang-ngawat’ reminds us to be present when we perceive in order that we see, feel, and hear fully. If we are to be adaptive–if our goal is to interpret our environment accurately and respond to our environment in a way that meets our personal needs optimally–we must allow as much input in. Receiving openly is key in the process of understanding. Often, because we do see the value of having good understanding, we take in such a small subset of info that it is impossible to guard against that which is incomplete or biased. One consequence is we consume only information that fits our own worldview, and we lose our natural defense against our own biases. Needless to say, if our goal is to understand, we must, therefore, remember to first ensure our perceptions reflect reality, especially in an age when our online activity enables marketers to profile us and, through our gadgets, inundate us with targeted info they think we want to consume. We must go back to the basics and take more proactive control of the data we consume and operate with so that unexamined inaccurate data do not take hold. Because we adapt to what we perceive as real, we should not construct a warped reality defined by our biases.

The combination of receiving and accepting in ‘pagtanggap’ teaches us the value of finality, a necessary condition for moving on. The nuance in ‘pagtanggap’ reminds us to be accepting of what is. If we are to be adaptive, we must learn to accept the truth about the world and, more importantly, about ourselves. Accepting is a key dimension of receiving, philosophically and behaviorally. When we accept, we acknowledge what is real, what is true emotionally and cognitively, enabling us to respond to our environment in an adaptive way. ‘Pagtanggap’ is not associated with any one emotion: we are neither happy, nor sad; we just accept that it is what it is. When we deny what is real, we behave in a maladaptive way, and we don’t get our needs met because we act without acknowledging what our true needs are. We should be accepting of our true self–our weaknesses, our fears, our limitations–so that we can self-improve. Accepting oneself is key to building our own self-belief, to strengthening that which is weak, and to bettering ourselves.

The Ilokano and Tagalog are resilient people. One manifestation of their resilience is their spin on martial art, escrima and arnis. Because language and the vocabulary we create in it says a lot about how and what we think about the world, examining ‘pang-ngawat’ and ‘pagtanggap’ helps us benefit from the insight of the Ilokano and Tagalog. We learn, for example, that understanding and accepting are important dimensions of perceiving reality, or receiving it. These nuanced dimensions help us be more adaptive. In FMA, they show us the legitimate value of training ‘to receive’ not just ‘to feed’.

Photo credit: Sam Buot, Sr.  



By Jon Melegrito

Dear Friends: Please write or call your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators and urge them to support campaign to pass the Congressional Gold Medal legislation for our Filipino World War II Veterans. It is known as H.R. 2737 in US House of Representatives and S.B. 1555 in the US Senate.

See sample message below. You may use your own words and personalize your letter. I also provide a link to their e-mail addresses. Just follow the steps to the “Contact” prompt and type your message.

Thank you for giving five minutes of your time. Our veterans waited 70 years for a recognition that’s long overdue and they highly deserve.


A. Legislator contact info

U.S. Senators Email Addresses. This is a list of email addresses for all current US Senators. Most senators provide an email form on their website rather than a direct email address. Just click on this link and an e-mail form will be provided for your message.

House of Representatives Email Addresses. This directory is arranged by state. Click the link to the U.S. Representative from your district, click “Contact” and an “Email Me” form will be provided for your message.

B. Sample Message:

Dear (name of your US Rep or US Senator):


Please support (H.R. 2737 if writing to US Reps) or (S.B. 1555 if writing to US Senators). The men and women of the Philippines and United States performed an invaluable service in defense of both countries from July 26, 1941 to December 31, 1946.

They served in the United States Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) with distinction, fighting alongside American soldiers to help defeat the Imperial Japanese Military Forces and liberate the Philippines, a sovereign territory held by the United States.

The loyal and valiant Filipino Veterans of World War II fought, suffered, and, in many instances, died in the same manner and under the same commander as other members of the United States Armed Forces during World War II.

For over 70 years, Filipino Veterans have sought recognition for their courage and selfless sacrifice. Of the 260,000 who fought, thousands died in combat and in the infamous Death March. Today, less than 18,000 remain. Despite having their benefits rescinded in 1946, they haven’t wavered in their loyalty to America. U.S. recognition of their service and sacrifice is long overdue. Our nation owes these individuals our deepest and sincere gratitude.

As a proud citizen of your district and state, I urge you to sign on as co-sponsor of this legislation and once and for all give these Filipino World War II veterans the honor they deserve. Thank you.

SIGNED (Your name, address, telephone number)

About the author

Jon Melegrito is a writer, community leader, and advocate based in Washington D.C. who has served as the Communications Director of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA).

Liberation, John Delloro, and Glenn Omatsu


Philippine Independence Day makes me think of two people — John Delloro and Glenn Omatsu. They make me think about the project of liberation, and how it is a project for everyone. I explain below.

A very good friend, by the name of John Delloro, once wrote, “Reformed laws can be ignored. Progressive electeds eventually compromise. Lessons learned from political education can be forgotten. Services can sometimes breed dependence. But organizing expands democracy and develops leaders.” It’s been some time since his passing on June 5, 2010, and as I remember his life and how he chose to spend it on community organizing, I am reminded, too, of our shared teacher-mentor-friend: Prof. Glenn Omatsu.

Many AANHPI student activists who were part of our cohort in the early to mid 1990s at UCLA knew Glenn well; many more coveted the opportunity to be mentored by him. We affectionately called him “Yoda” because of his deep insight and intellect; I had the privilege to catch up with Glenn last year, and he remains the thoughtful, widely read man I remember him from back then.

As undergrads and, ultimately, grad students in the Asian American Studies program, Glenn taught and treated so many of us (John Delloro, Sarah Eunkyung Chee, Alyssa Kang, Ryan Yokota, Levin Sy, Maria Ventura, Darlene Rodriguez, Joe Penano, Gina Inocencio, Jay Mendoza, Arnold Serrano, Teresa Ejanda, Kay Dumlao, Edgar Dormitory, Darryl Mar, Tony Osumi, Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, Nate Santa Maria, Jeff Ow, Ayako Hagihara, Dee Dee Nguyen, Jung Eun-Son, Emily Lawsin, Scott Kurashige, Jeff Chang, to name a few — thank you Facebook) like his family. Like kindling, his words often sparked critical thought and inspiration.

In his well-known “Four Prisons” article published in “Amerasia Journal” (15:1) in 1989, Glenn challenged us to participate more deeply in the dialogue going on around us. He sparked thoughtful and relevant dialogue then, and he makes me think deeply once again now as I read it, especially as we find ourselves in a new era with new economic realities (e.g., a rising Asia, Latin America, and emergent Africa), political struggles (e.g., the conservative Republican Party in deep internal turmoil, emergence of the Tea Party, shifting tide over gun control and immigration reform, renewed assertion of state rights, constitutional fight over ‘same-sex’ marriage), and social movements (e.g., ‘Occupy’ movement and calls for addressing inequality, shifting attitudes in favor of ‘same-sex’ marriage, momentum toward environmental justice work).

In that article, Glenn wrote, “It may be difficult for a new generation…to understand the urgency of Malcom X’s demand for freedom ‘by all means necessary’, Mao’s challenge to ‘serve the people’, the slogans of ‘power to the people’ and ‘self-determination’, the principles of ‘mass line’ organizing and ‘united front’ work, or the conviction that people — not elites — make history.  But these ideas galvanized thousands…and reshaped our communities…But are these concepts relevant today?…Are the ideas of the [Asian American] movement alive today, or have they atrophied into…curiosities of a bygone era of youthful…idealism?

“By asking these questions, we participate in a larger national debate…occurring all around us: in sharp exchanges over ‘family values’ and the status of women and gays in American society; in clashes in schools over curricular reform and multiculturalism; in differences among policymakers over the urban crisis and approaches to rebuilding inner cities; and continuing reexamination of…U.S. military intervention [in foreign lands].” (p. 57)

As we celebrate Philippine Independence Day and remember our friend John, and think about the vital role of Glenn Omatsu in our consciousness as questioning adults, I’m caught in a process of complicating the benefits of a life spent learning and doing, and learning some more, as opposed to a life of doing from old learning. I have invested many years of my life into my education; I learn for a living, in fact, because I enjoy learning from my future-colleagues. What has been the outcome of this passion for learning? Glenn’s “Four Prisons” is a big part of the answer but I also have my own insight to place on top of his.

I believe learning — and learning how to learn — to be the ultimate expression of freedom, a vital expression of how liberation looks like for the self and others. Learning done well is not just understanding the external world and how we construct it with meaning; learning is also gaining insight into our inner world — the person that we are. What is deeply psychological is also sociological, and vice versa. We perform our gender, race, class, faith, thoughts and feelings in our social relationships; we also become what we are told we are and how social forces define/limit us to be. Having the tools to think critically about what we are told by the world, what social trends sweep us away, and why we do the things we do is critical to being free. Not having these tools ensures we settle for building the dreams of others instead of our own.

To liberate those in need — and ourselves — equals sending ‘status quo thinking’ to its knees for sustaining a world of its own making where the old powers keep getting their flow.

Knowing that dualistic thinking gives way to integrative thinking — as our direct experiences and knowledge base broaden — means that certainty is less seductive of a tool in transforming communities. Having certainty rests on simplification, not nuanced deliberation, not critical thinking. What we need more is critical thinking tools: theory- and empirically-driven insight.

Social change relies on critical thinkers because they alone question why things are the way they are, and then act to changing those things. To liberate those in need — and ourselves — equals sending ‘status quo thinking’ to its knees for sustaining a world of its own making where the old powers keep getting their flow. Liberation from the made-up world of the old powers means being aware of the ‘status quo thinking’ that we allow to shape our actions despite them being counter to our self-interests.

High Temperatures Bring Risk of Heat-Related Illnesses in Orange County, CA


(Santa Ana, CA) – Temperatures in many inland Orange County communities are expected to reach high temperatures above 95 degrees this weekend, increasing the risk of heat related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke for those who are more sensitive to heat.

Prolonged exposure to excessive temperatures may cause serious conditions like heat exhaustion or heat stroke and can even be fatal. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting and dizziness. Warning signs of heat stroke may include an extremely high body temperature, unconsciousness, confusion, hot and dry skin (no sweating), a rapid, strong pulse, and a throbbing headache. If symptoms of heat stroke occur, immediately call for medical assistance. Move the person to a shady area and begin cooling their body with water.

Recommended precautions to prevent heat related illnesses include:

• Drink plenty of water; don’t wait until you are thirsty.

• Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.

• Stay out of the sun if possible, and when in the sun wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim, and use sunscreen.

• Avoid strenuous activities if you are outside or in non-air conditioned buildings. If you are working outdoors, take frequent rest and refreshment breaks in a shaded area.

• Never leave children, elderly people or pets unattended in closed cars or other vehicles.

• Check on those who are at high risk to make sure they are staying cool – including seniors who live alone, people with heart or lung disease, and young children.

• Stay cool indoors – if your home is not air conditioned, visit public facilities such as shopping malls and libraries to stay cool.

For more information on heat related illnesses, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

# # #

View the official warning here

Independence Day, June 12 & July 4, 2014


“Prevent others from suffering what you have suffered, that in the future there be no brothers murdered or mothers driven to madness. Resignation is not always a virtue; it is a crime when it encourages tyrants: there are no tyrants where there are no slaves!” – Dr. Jose P. Rizal (Simoun to Basilio in EL FILIBUSTERISMO)

Advance happy Philippine and U.S. Independence Day, all…I write again after a long break. Glad to once again have time to write.

In its modern form, tyranny no longer always towers over us but instead now burrows itself deep into our psyche that we, ourselves, stand in our own way, perhaps more profoundly, aiding and abetting those who strip us of our true power and value, after they mine from us the same for their own use.

Independence Day should remind us not only of history but also of the modern day internal struggle we all have, which we must also heroically win.

We all endure our own struggle in finding our true personal power. What I have learned through my own life is that while it is important to look outward for inspiration, we should not neglect to also fix our attention inward so that we may draw from what we abundantly already have within.

Over the past 18 months, my personal journey has been replete with blessings. I have had to teach my self to take in these blessings graciously, a mark I suppose of my own personal development, noteworthy enough in my mind to process and share a bit.

It wasn’t that long ago that I would have seen myself ‘undeserving of winning’; I still, to this day, look away from the glare of praise, even from my trusted students. I was raised to be humble, and I was trained by mentors to lead with humility. Community organizing, after all, has no celebrities; there is only room for solutions and everyone’s empowerment.


Somehow and somewhere along the way, my mentors’ valuable lessons morphed into some kind of negative limiting belief that made me not only put my original dreams on pause but also made me build the dreams of others, thinking that it was not my time still. I believed this for years.

At the end of 2011, I woke up, thanks, primarily, to my beautiful wife who made me see more clearly, and, secondarily, to my family and good friends who believed enough in my dreams to also make them their own.

Trust me when I tell you that there is self-belief in waking up, that there is power in self-belief. I wish all of you to find soon your self-belief for it is sweet and its gifts are abundant. At some point, all the preparing, learning, and observing must give way to doing.

If you have also been keeping your own dream hostage, set her free. It is time. Do not fear it. She will be a blessing to you and to many others, many of whom you are destined to meet.

Best of all, by doing so — by believing enough in your own dream to give birth to it — you will set your true self free.


PRESS RELEASE: Oxnard College and CYPHER work on a cutting-edge workforce development partnership that promotes the capacity of youth to develop pragmatic, community-defined solutions to climate change and health disparity


OXNARD, CA (May 28, 2014)- Community, business and education leaders gathered in Oxnard College to develop the capacity of the youth in addressing the local and global challenges of climate change and health disparity. The ‘outside-the-box’ program is called Hybrid STEAM, and it is a partnership between Oxnard College’s STEM program and CYPHER, a community-based organization focused on building a pipeline of ‘thinkers, doers, and advocates’ in climate resilience and health equity. The overarching goal of the Oxnard College-CYPHER partnership is to engage and motivate students, faculty, and key constituencies in Ventura County in innovative solution-making on local manifestations of the overlap between climate change and health disparity already being felt across the county and the broader Southern California region.

“As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” says Dr. Cynthia Herrera, STEM Director, Project ASCENSION, at Oxnard College. “Working with students throughout Ventura County, I have become critically aware of how important career exploration and self-efficacy integration are for a well-rounded education. This partnership between Oxnard College and CYPHER will creatively link traditional and non-traditional learning, environmental-social consciousness, career exploration, and innovative entrepreneurial methodologies to expand the student’s knowledge-base in a holistic continuum of experiences that they may not have had access or exposure to obtain. This project builds on the existing Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Art curricula, and enhances them by injecting the real-world challenge of solving climate change and health disparity—a truly cutting edge youth and workforce development framework.”

Ventura County’s economy has evolved from one that is dependent on agriculture and natural resources to one that draws technology, alternative energy, bioscience, healthcare, military operations, and manufacturing. With a population well over 800,000, Ventura County is the twelfth largest county in the state. Its diversity of resources, businesses and population provide the perfect conditions for innovation and excellence to support this Oxnard College-CYPHER pilot project.

“We are equally proud and excited to be working with such a forward-thinking program, like the STEM Program at Oxnard College,” says R. Bong Vergara, Director at CYPHER. “It affords us a real-world opportunity to apply the best ideas of multiple professional fields, like social work, law, public health, education, and business in helping aspiring youth to be change-makers. We, at CYPHER, believe in the inherent wisdom of the youth and the community in solving local manifestations of climate change and health disparity. Working with a college is an ideal way to demonstrate just how real-world training can spark innovation.”

“The idea of utilizing a collaborative structure across curriculum for teaching a geoscience class is an effort to make the sciences more engaging and increase the student success rate at Oxnard College,” adds Professor Christiane Mainzer, Geography Department at Oxnard College. “The collaboration of the Physical Geography and Art Appreciation, (both GE courses that transfer to the 4-year institution), allows the students from both classes to share service learning projects that deal with sustainability where students will have direct experience with issues they are studying in the course and opportunities to analyze and solve problems or issues in a college campus environment. Service learning is one of the “high-impact educational practices” that engage students intellectually. The relevance of college learning is interwoven into real-world settings as students experience and practice service to the community.”

“Students of art and students of science benefit from hands-on learning and from an exchange of ideas and processes,” says Professor Lucy Solomon, Art Department at Oxnard College.  Science-oriented students utilize creative tools in this new context, while art students solve real-world problems alongside the geoscience students: together, artists and scientists can make a bigger difference!”

This multi-dimensional youth development approach aims to prepare Ventura County students for diverse STEM careers, while simultaneously promoting 21st century learning opportunities, creating tomorrow’s ‘techno-savvy’ workforce, promoting environmental-social consciousness, and manifesting forward-thinking leaders of the future.


CYPHER centers its focus on the youth (13-24 years old) who are often the least consulted community member when it comes to their point of view on world issues, including climate change and human health. CYPHER programs enable the youth to create and inspire their peers and local community to trust in their own solutions to climate change and health disparities. CYPHER achieves this trough partnerships with local STEM programs, a fellowship program, and an annual “Sustainable Earth Decathlon” (SED). For more information, visit the CYPHER homepage at

PETITION TO PROTECT OFWs POST-HAIYAN: The other dimension of relief and reconstruction


Since Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda 1.9 million of Filipinos have become homeless and 600,000 displaced. At the same time, many Filipinos who live and work in the U.S. are a key source of aid for their families in the Philippines and are at risk of deportation. It would only burden an already strained infrastructure for the Philippines to reabsorb thousands of its nationals currently abroad during this national emergency. TPS would stop deportations and provide working authorization that will empower Filipinos here in the US to more effectively aid their own home country. DHS and USCIS acted quickly in a very similar circumstances to designate Haiti and El Salvador for TPS after massive earthquakes. That response can and should be repeated for the Philippines.

That’s why I signed a petition to Rand Beers, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, President Benigno Aquino, Philippines, and President Barack Obama, which says:

“Since Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda devastated the Philippines, the U.S. has been directing much-needed food and relief aid to the country, but more needs to be done to move the Philippines from “Relief 2 Recovery”!

We urge Philippine President Benigno Aquino, President Barack Obama, and Secretary Rand Beers to designate the Philippines for temporary protected status (TPS) under Section 244B of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:

“Asimbonanga: We have not seen him”


This song was written during Mandela’s incarceration as a call for his freedom. The video is a mock ‘impromptu’ performance doubling as a commercial and commemoration of Mandela’s passing.

Asimbonanga [we have not seen him]
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina [we have not seen Mandela]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’ehleli khona [in the place where he is kept]

Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina [we have not seen our brother]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’wafela khona [in the place where he died]
Sithi: Hey, wena [We say: hey, you]
Hey, wena nawe [Hey, you and you]
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona [when will we arrive at our destination]

Wealth in purpose



I first grew interested in understanding poverty at a young age when my parents would bring me to the big town and I would see so many beggars. They puzzled me. In the small farming and fishing town where I lived, I never knew of a beggar; everyone had something to do,  somewhere to live, something to eat, and each had neighbors and friends and family who cared, no matter how much each struggled, at least as I remember it.

Fast forward three decades and I am still obsessed by the idea of poverty. While, in my youth, poverty was an idea easily represented by  pointing out beggars, in my adulthood, I have come to understand it to be an idea that is much more complex and even more wide-reaching.

It is a reliable proxy for the many -isms that plague us, its multiple dimensions made quite clear to me in the graduate thesis I wrote. It is a painful reminder, a relic that reflects as it tethers us to the absolute injustice of the past. It is a pox not only on life as it is lived, but also on the human spirit as it finds its way and its voice.

No one dreams to be poor, but many among us accept it as a fact of our life. No one thinks it unsolvable, but many among us toss our hands high in the air in the throes of forced surrender.

I am driven to passionate action by it. I am driven to the ends of my stamina by the plausibility of mitigating it. I am driven to dream ceaselessly. I dream. I dream. I dream.

Poverty is an underlying force behind the disproportionate burden of climate change and health disparities faced by some groups. That these three are the results of how we treat each other is perverse and fundamentally inhumane. If we are anti-poverty, it isn’t just classism, gender inequality, and racism that we should fight against, but also the antipathy for at-risk and vulnerable populations. We cannot go on depriving millions of the health equity and climate resilience required in modern life. It is inhumane, immoral, to assign vulnerable communities the role of being the first to die, in greater numbers, and more often.

Music behind post-Haiyan Philippine reconstruction


This holiday season and well into the new year, especially if you’re in Southern California, please check out our benefit concert series. First in series is ‘Concert by the Sea’ at Seabridge Marina, Oxnard, CA on Dec 21, 11am-6pm.

View updates on our climate resilience advocacy on Facebook: Search Goodbranch Vergara


FeudArt is one way for Goodbranch Vergara to reach its audience. Goodbranch Vergara promotes climate change adaptation within the context of community resilience, its belief that health policy is climate policy, and vice versa. Support our work by getting involved.  Follow us

To promote community and human development as methods for climate change adaptation in vulnerable regions.
Company Overview
Goodbranch Vergara is an LLC based in California. Goodbranch Vergara is focused on linking climate change adaptation with rural and human development. Our projects currently promote community education on the link between health disparity elimination and climate change adaptation. One of our core programs, Conscious Youth Promoting Health & Environmental Readiness (CYPHER), is focused on youth engagement in the U.S., and strategic countries in Africa and Southeast Asia where communities most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and health disparity reside.Help support our work by volunteering or spreading the word.Visit for your formal Barong Tagalog and informal guayabera needs. They support our efforts.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:5,8
For more info, email or skype at r.bong.vergara

‘WASTE’ – A video on the environmental cost of food waste


WASTE – an informative short film on the relationship between food waste and resource waste. A film production of SCHNITTSTELLE THURN GbR commissioned by WWF Germany and UNEP in support of the Think Eat Save – Reduce your foodprint campaign.

Is Philippine culture flawed?


I recently read a blog post about former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his thoughts about Philippine political leadership and culture. Needless to say, it evoked a strong reaction in me, thus, this post. Read the blog post that is the subject of my ire here.

Philippine culture is not flawed. How could culture be flawed? According to whose standards is it flawed? Based on whose measures of ‘healthy cultural functioning’ is it flawed? — Whatever your race or ethnicity, would you accept a serious proposition that your culture is flawed? To argue and seriously believe that a people’s culture is flawed underlies flawed thinking, and a deeply limited understanding of the construct of culture.

Culture is like an iceberg: we often only see what’s above the water line, when it reality it is much more expansive and far-reaching.

Social norms can be flawed, and, therefore, the true subject of significant change. Smoking used to be cool; in 21st century California, it no longer is.

Between culture and norms, there is a difference; we don’t need experts to argue the distinction for us for we can think deeply about it ourselves. Culture, on one hand, is about creative, intellectual, spiritual, and material heritage, traditions, and values; norms, on the other hand, are patterned social behavior based on an interpretation of or rebellion from heritage, traditions, and values.

Kundiman and martial arts are parts of the Filipino culture; the teaching of these in the teacher’s backyard, instead of a commercial space, is a norm.

classrm_standard thinkingFrom my perspective, what holds back the Philippines lies in her education system:

1). The fundamental problem is an education system that deposits ideas into the people, instead of cultivating the people to have original ideas of their own.

2). The problem is an education system that breeds dependence at the grassroots and entitlement at the grasstops.

As a result, public dialogue is coopted by a chattering class that frequently serves the interests of the elite; patrons are entitled to political leadership as though it were any other family heirloom; ordinary people too willingly give up their responsibility in self-governance due to their perception of their own ineptitude.

In all three cases, for a majority of the time, no one bucks the conventional thinking; no one demonstrates depth of thought, or braves to critically think. It is thus that we are prisoners of our own collective mind and the social system we create and transmit to the next generation.

Those who flee the Philippines do so to be free from this flawed social system and the flawed social norms that normalize and sustain it. They leave not because they reject their culture; they leave because leaving is the most generous and loving act they can do for their families. Away from the flawed social system, free from the corrupting social norms, those who leave thrive, like most everyone else. Their source of strength, their anchor, the foundation of their identity, is their beautiful uniquely Filipino culture.

Is there innovation in martial arts?: Training with Guro Bill Aranda


Reposting. Originally posted on January 22, 2013.

Dynamic systems theory says novelty, or innovation, is built into systems; it’s always there because solutions — some of which may need to be novel ideas — are always available to a system internally when that system goes off balance.

My evolving view of martial arts nowadays is that FMA is not a system; gung fu is not a system; karate is not a system. None of the specific martial arts is a system. They are subsets of a larger system: using human limbs in offense and defense. From this perspective, innovation is always there for it comes from human creativity, which has neither beginning, nor end. We can imagine a beginning and an end to human creativity, but that imagination arises precisely from the power of creativity.

Over time, fighting within the limits of two arms and two legs came to be formalized into and represented by the different fighting styles. I think this view is older than Bruce Lee, by the way. Humans have been fighting and adapting to each others’ fighting styles for as long as we learned the limits of talking and decided to develop effective ways to punch and kick, and throw a rock or a stick at each other.

The value of the question

If we resolve to answer the question for ourselves — is there innovation in martial arts? — we could guide our skill development. We can either focus on the medium (i.e., techniques, drills, style), or we can search for principles.

On one hand, if we focus on the medium we develop a skill within the limits of the medium; true enough, if you focus on stick-fighting exclusively, you will be really good in stick-fighting, but not necessarily empty-hand, if you don’t expand your training outside the limits of using sticks.

On the other hand, if we focus on learning principles behind the medium, we find more opportunities in offense and defense; true enough, if you learn the principle of ‘palm-up/palm-down’, for example, you can figure out the logic behind effective offense and defense more easily.

My teacher, Guro Bill Aranda, tells me that he teaches me what he learned, not what he was taught. To me that means the same thing that I’m now looking for: not a style but how to optimize how I naturally fight, i.e., uncover and hone how my body naturally moves. Why would one want this? So that you fight with more fluid movement without thinking; so that you fight according to the way your body naturally moves.

In this sense, all fighting is both unique and common. A #3 strike is either going to come from the center line, or outside it. Whatever unique path or extra steps we take to get to the target from inside and outside the center line is and can be unique to how we naturally move, but ultimately, the strike can only come from inside or outside the centerline, i.e., the expression may be unique, but the principle is the same.

So, is there innovation in martial arts? My personal take is yes and no. It is both/and, not either/or. Innovation is possible and not possible. I say this not to be philosophical, but to express a nuanced view of martial art innovation.

It is possible  when you focus on the medium, or the martial art style, or physical expression. It is possible if you think in terms of ‘hardware’. For example, there are multiple great leaps of innovation from propelling an arrow to sending a bullet downrange. The hardware is  unique in each lethal expression. Soon, I am sure we will be shooting laser beams, not bullets, at each other; once that day comes, we will have made another major leap in innovation in terms of the medium.

It is not possible when you think of ‘software’ – the underlying principle or meaning behind the use of an arrow or a bullet, for example. It is clear that the principle behind both is that of sending a projectile at high speed to penetrate a target. When you see that there are key principles at work, and that these principles are fundamentally the same, it is not possible to innovate. There is one underlying principle behind any punch, or kick, or arrow, or bullet: thrust forward toward the center of the enemy. Principles are limited and immutable.

In many ways, this ‘both/and’ perspective is what FMA and ‘gung fu’ teaches us: there is innovation between the blade and empty-hand, between the stick and the blade. At the same time, the underlying principles behind strikes are the same throughout time.

Life application

In life, we have it within us to help ourselves, because novelty — new ideas, innovation, solutions — are baked into each of us. We use innovation to problem-solve, to adapt, to overcome. But it is also true that nothing is entirely new under the sun. There is no new principle of being within our shared human experience that is completely brand new. Because we live in closed system, planet Earth, with the pretty much the same environmental stimuli over time, there are no new principles of being human under the sun. What is only ever changing is our engagement with others for each of us are inherently, boundlessly creative.

Through our engagement with others, we see our strengths and our weaknesses, and our interrelatedness to everything. Alone with our thoughts, in our inner world, we can find ways to best adapt and survive. But we are flawed; as a result and necessarily, some of our ideas, no matter how clearly we think we understand, will invariably be flawed in some way, as well. It is only also through our engagement with others in our environment and in the quality of our relationships with those we engage that we find what is true, the right path, the meaning behind personhood, behind community. Engaging the world is key to being more fully effective and human in the world.

A student learning to fight has it in him to sort out how to use his limbs efficiently and effectively, and how to use tools as extensions of his limbs, if need be. But it is also true that he only learns to fight because his neighbors provoke him, or his teacher shows him principles and teaches him which techniques will work or not work in a fight.

Kundiman music #1


Meditative and evocative at the same time, this video makes me feel more Filipino. I have watched it many times.  My aim is to easily find it whenever I want to watch it by posting it here. If you are to be similarly touched by the music as a result of my selfish act, then that would be icing on the cake.

For little-known historical info on the lost practice of ‘kundiman’ and ‘harana’, go here and here. May this beautiful practice of nationalism, respect, chivalry and tenderness find the youth generation that will aim to restore it with sincerity.

More info from youtube:
“Guitar Duo of Michael Dadap and Florante Aguilar perform Joselinang Baliwag, the most popular song during the revolution against Spain in the 1800s. Arranged by Michael Dadap for 2 guitars, the song is part of the Folkloric Suite in Dadap and Aguilar’s upcoming duo album.

This footage is also an excerpt from the upcoming film Harana directed by Benito Bautista and produced by Fides Enriquez. Music video edited by Emma Francisco.”

Climate solutions on the cheap: Climate change work unbound by climate finance


Climate resilience work is:
1) anti-poverty work. It is community development that values broader community interests, that values the environmental context and the community’s welfare;

2) health disparity reduction that accounts for the vulnerability of the population to the negative health effects of severe weather;

3) community advocacy that promotes the empowerment of communities to overcome the challenge of a warming climate to survivability;

4) human development that promotes the self-determination of communities in defining the problems that ail them and the solutions best suited to address those problems.

Framed as fundamentally about these, promoting climate resilience should be familiar work to those who currently do community work.

So why do our communities not claim their vital role in addressing climate change? Why do so many of us accept that climate resilience work is only for policy-makers and scientists who require major climate finance? The answer has many aspects, many of which are predicated on our shared lack of belief in our own ideas and our paired values with positivism in terms of what counts as knowledge and professional perspective.

As I read climate change studies and as my team and I explore local manifestations of the problem in a rural community in Southern California, I am often overwhelmed by the magnitude of the climate problem and the conventional solutions to it. What helps me persevere is the very thing that led me to this work in the first place: anti-poverty work.

Poverty is a critical social problem, more now in the U.S. than in recent years, and definitely an intractable one in the Philippines. I began my undergraduate and capped my graduate studies with my own ideas on anti-poverty work, and one lesson I found is that poverty is too big when perceived as a whole. To address it, poverty needs to be broken down into its smaller bits. We need to do the same with climate change: break it down into smaller bits. The tool with which to define these smaller bits is you, the reader, and the commitment you have to doing something about it in your own way based on your own understanding of the inherent solutions in your personal experience of climate change.

Community workers and individual community members are vital actors in addressing climate change just as they are also key in addressing health disparities and poverty. The growing recognition of the importance of community engagement in climate resilience is deepened by the notion that, like health disparities and poverty, climate change has social determinants.

I increasingly fundamentally view climate resilience as anti-poverty work, and that climate finance does not have to be a barrier to it. Big solutions are not the only relevant solutions. Expensive solutions are not the only effective solutions. Affordable community-driven and community-defined solutions are relevant and could be effective solutions, too.

The Limits of Climate Finance

If we subject the health of the planet and the survivability of life on it to cost-benefit analysis and a ROI framework, instead of a more integrated analysis of how we are all networked, then you end up with the financialization of a genuinely collectivist enterprise designed to produce a social good. While the role of finance cannot be dismissed or avoided, its super-sized role in climate resilience could be scaled down. Climate finance as we know it does not have to be the context of our choices. We cannot let it for it has the potential of corroding them. Besides, climate finance has to set right its own backyard first.

The current climate finance system has many complex moving parts whose interaction leads to the following unresolved issues:

1). Competing rationales on the source and direction of climate finance funds: There remains a debate on whether funds should come from North and flow toward the South, since the developed world has primarily been responsible for the bulk of the anthropogenic causes to climate change, or if funds should come from the South, itself;

2). Prioritization of competing uses of funds: There are competing interests that pit mitigation and adaptation against each other — subjecting climate resilience work to an ‘either/or’, instead of a ‘both/and’ framework — which in turn turns our view of reducing emissions through deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) as an ancillary activity, as opposed to a complementary component of an integrated strategy; and

3). Limited coordination among stakeholder sectors: There are multiple funder stakeholder sectors like carbon finance, development banks, private capital, and public finance that do not necessarily coordinate well, especially in the use of their respective funding instruments, e.g., debt, equity, grants.

This complexity leads to a tremendously drawn-out and highly-technical (to be read “inaccessible to most people”) process of analysis, planning, and pre-development work that, by nature, overestimates the value of professional actors and underestimates that of community stakeholders. Affected communities are relegated to being beneficiaries when it is the engagement of these same communities that often is ultimately the most vital to the sustainability of climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.

The net effect is a commodification, privatization and financialization of climate resilience work that hollows out the collectivism inherent in it, and that limits the pool of possibilities because of an exclusively high finance framework. Ordinary individuals, families and communities whose engagement is vital are pushed aside for lack of technical know-how, when in fact they should be valued instead for their potential as networked sources of cost-effective, innovative, and alternative local interventions.

For climate finance to be more responsive, we, together with conventional actors, should focus on coordination and ‘meaningful stakeholder engagement’ across sectors to guard against the financialization of climate resilience work. We should aim to link the grass roots with the grass tops.

For climate solutions to be unbound by the parameters of high finance, we need to further engage local communities to play a role in the mitigation of and adaptation to the local effects of climate change. We all need to define the problem based on our experience with it and derive solutions directly from that experience.

Just as local communities have contributed to the practice of poverty alleviation and population health, communities also have a lot to offer in climate resilience by way of cost-effective and sustainable solutions. Unlocking these community-defined solutions is the mission of my team, and I hope it also becomes that of at least one reader who agrees with the broad argument I attempted to lay out here.

Sometimes the spirit understands what the mind cannot, so the two must work together


I view the human spirit and, therefore spirituality, as a thing that is not exclusively about one’s relationship with a god. I view it as that plus a sense of relatedness to everyone (all living things) and everything (cosmos), as the positive essence in each of us. Because of this, I am able to see the value of the individual within the context of the value of everyone and everything — “both/and,” not “either/or.”

My team and I have been building a program — Goodbranch Vergara (check us out on facebook) — for a while now to address a complex problem that no one individual could possibly thoroughly understand. The stakes are high; we have invested time and money into our work, so instead of surrendering to the magnitude of the problem, we persevere driven by a belief that our current understanding and our unique perspective on the solutions are good enough for us to keep going. The limits of our rational understanding is not a barrier. The intuitive understanding that we cannot put into words does not constitute a problem. Both, together, are good enough starting points for us to continue sorting out our contribution to a solution.

My epiphany comes from understanding that we need to awaken the mind AND the spirit, jointly. To just focus on rationality is flawed; post-modern thought looks at positivism as naive for not being more integrative in its thinking. There are alternative ways of knowing that are equally worthwhile, and more importantly, more effective in asserting our shared humanity for we are NOT computing machines who must exist and relate to the world only with logical reasoning.

It is possible to be analytical without being empirical. We can be imaginative, creative, and intuitive. We can persevere despite the odds. There is value in being these for to be internally-motivated to act even when the there is so much that is unknown, and perhaps unknowable, is what an ailing world requires. What makes us more fully human is expressing and realizing the authentic dreams we each have, especially when these dreams are about how to best serve others.

Thus, the back story of my epiphany –“Sometimes the spirit understands what the mind cannot, so the two must work together” — is the understanding that we need to awaken both the mind and the spirit; we need to awaken our competence for critical, original thought and our ability to express our positive self who I believe is fundamentally a caring, conscientious, unselfish being.

The Limits of Anger, Part 1


I consider being in serene places — where you can commune with nature and hear more clearly your own thoughts — a rare privilege. They transport me from the turmoil of the city, the dysfunction of the modern world, and the decay in our relations to a state of contentment that quiets the negative self-talk and quenches the anger away.

And as I look out into the wild and be dazzled by the red-colored earth that blankets the cloud-capped mountain range, and feel the cool breeze on my skin and in my lungs, I am grateful to be alive. I am compelled to see more broadly, to think more deeply, to feel more openly, and to share my very best with the world.

It is true that when we witness beauty we wax poetic; and nothing is more superlatively beautiful than the natural world unspoiled. It is so beautiful that it heals and nourishes deeply, beyond the marrow, all the way to the spirit. We all deserve this form of rejuvenation, and I hope you will choose to make it happen for yourself as frequently as possible.

This is what Maslow called plateau experience, a concept I try to explain in class, and now thoroughly understand not only intellectually but also viscerally. It feeds the soul such that the inspiration to write overflows. Anger is positively transformed by it: anger is channeled inwardly into self-reflection, outwardly into insight.

The product of my ‘plateau experience’-inspired self-reflection? — The insight that anger has limits; that anger is as constricting as it is liberating, that it is as corrupting as it is empowering. For these reasons, at least in my own life, I seek the ways for my anger to be contained.

In subsequent posts, I will share my own thoughts on the limits of anger. Your feedback is welcome.

Whatever happened to statesmen and stateswomen?


Both in the U.S. and Philippines what we have for a government is consumed by industrial-strength mediocrity.

In the U.S. we have electeds who are much better at running a circus and sideshows than attending to governance. In the Philippines we continue a shameful descent to ‘reality-TV’ politics: a politics full of intrigue, shallow drama, and mind-numbing idiocy. Empty calorie popcorn is fitting on many levels.

Whatever happened to statesmen and stateswomen? Where have they gone these bonafide public servants whom I read about, who inspired me to be politically active such a long time ago? What have we done with them?

What have we done to ourselves? Have we mistakenly exorcised idealism permanently in service of pragmatism? Is this the inevitable result of modern life that sends us further apart and toward the banal, instead of closer together and toward things of real value?

My mind is riddled with questions, and even the sound of asking them seems juvenile. But is it?

Is it amateurish and naive to ask such questions if the motivation for asking them is to probe the fundamental dysfunction in our modern version of society that threatens to doom us and likely also the generations after ours?

We can either view our current sad state of affairs as a signifier of what is more to come, and surrender to I’m-too-busy-for-that fatalism. Or we can demand more, even if that means starting with ourselves first and immunizing ourselves from cynicism.

This brings new perspective to what the Mayans predicted would be a new era. What we witness before us reminds us that we cannot view the present and future as pre-fabricated realities by other actors. We are the ‘actors’. We are makers of this new era.

Like a patio we neglect and assume will always look pristine only to find out in the Fall that it has been overrun by weeds, the 21st century needs active, deliberate tending. By us.

Not the abstract next guy and gal, but by us.

All that we are able to contribute to making it a new era have value. Nothing is trivial. Nothing is a pipe dream. Every contribution that comes from a good place has value.

Even a meditation like this blog post, I believe can serve a purpose, even if only to make another one think a little bit more deeply, too.

After all, to make this new era a new day, we must ask ourselves honest questions, including what we have done with statesmen and stateswomen.

What if remittances were tied to voter responsibility at home?


With the 2013 Philippine general election on May 13, I am compelled to post this. Since we are all sick and tired of our incompetent political leaders in the Philippines, let’s hit them where it hurts — at the polls and in the new media.

We — Filipinos in the diaspora — can influence national elections in the Philippines through our endorsement and financial support, like a virtual, global Political Action Committee. Below are some of ideas on how to do this between you and your relatives. Feel free to share this widely.

Strategy to impact voter behavior at the polls

1) We place a condition to our monthly remittance/random gifts that our relatives in the Philippines vote responsibly and regularly every election.

2) We place a condition to our monthly remittance/random gifts that even if our relatives refuse to value their right to vote, that they should respect our right to have our voices heard ‘in absentia’. Therefore, every election, they cast a vote on our behalf, if and only if they don’t want to cast a vote for themselves.

Strategy to impact voter education

1) Use email, phone calls, text mail, snail mail to relatives as opportunities to communicate our views about the state of Philippine leadership and governance.

2) Use youtube and for video blogs documenting the ways in which our elected leaders are not serving, not solving real problems, and not promoting the public’s welfare.

A call to all liberals: HAVE MORE COJONES!!!


Count them … grow three! On this day, May 1 — mayo uno — when we celebrate the labor movement and workers and their advocates around the globe, I re-post this because its content is fitting, and because its fundamental message resonates with me still as we are reminded of how Big Business has our institutions and democracy by the balls … 


Although I am a bit older and wiser, I still believe that the conflict inherent in social justice work requires courage, not just a mad grip of resources and community support. Courage, to me, represents a level of maturity, a certain level of being integrated, of being internally coherent.


For every person’s contributions to social justice to have an impact, these contributions must generally be coherent, have some degree of reason, some degree of logic so that the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. To me reason is more than a product of the mind; it is also a product of the heart and spirit, a person’s essence. We do what we do not only because of what makes sense to us but also what feels right. To me reason is necessarily courage, and courage, necessarily action with reason. When you know something to be wrong, your challenge is to act.


Both reason and courage demand that you ‘do you’, that you be authentic, even when being so makes you seem weird, or uncool, or ‘not mainstream’. Living out the values of humanism and making the choices required by those values is guided by reason and courage. This is what I mean when I say that liberals must have more cojones.


Originally written and posted in September 2008, when I started this blog and was still primarily an angry soul, the original post could use some serious rewriting. But I’m honoring my original sentiment and the words I chose then to communicate it.


Below is the post unvarnished … 

In troubled parts of the world, in whichever period you dare to look, one thing is consistent: the dictatorship of anti-intellectualism. Many leaders fetishize “resolve” and “quick action” at the expense of sound analysis and evidence-based decision-making.


And those who do this “fetishize-ing” do so to overcompensate for their insecurity, to hide their honest-to-goodness unpreparedness to face a difficult situation and manage the unknown that goes with governing. Cases in point: China over Tibet; Russia over Georgia; the U.S. over Iraq; the Philippines over Muslims in Mindanao; and finally, Republicans beating up on liberals.


How I wish that one day, the war in southern Philippines will finally end. But this will not happen as long as strength is equated with aggression and military might. As long as this is the case, true development and national renewal will elude millions of Filipinos now living, and millions more to come.  


How I wish that the seige of liberal thinking by conservatives will end! But this will not happen in the United States as long as conservatives are not confronted on how they disparage the value of reason, of precision, of high-level thinking.


I wish that McCain would honor his pledge to having a decent campaign and put a stop to his staff that impugn Obama policies with senseless spin and punchlines. This will not happen as long as we agree with conservatives that embracing reason and intellect is a form of weakness, indecisiveness, elitism, and that it is un-American.


Liberals need to grow cojones! We all need to have more cojones!!!! Liberal or not, we need to have a backbone and defend Reason in this country. Embracing Reason is a strength. Reason requires as much courage, as much self-belief to secure victory in the battleground of ideas, as it is to be victors in the theater of war. 

Guro Bill Aranda (January 22, 1947 – April 12, 2013): A True Warrior’s Path


Guro Bill was like a father to me; he was bad-ass but he was also a thinking man, and pushed me to critically think about the principles behind FMA. I re-post this in his honor and with permission by Guro Dino Florence who originally wrote it. His original post is @ 

Guro Billʼs involvement in the Filipino Martial Art (FMA) has spanned a period of over 6
decades.  He has been studing and researcing this complete, ethnically Filipino, fighting
art with masters and guros of Kali, Escrima, & Arnis from both the Philippines & the
USA since the summer of 1962.  His years of training has familiarized him in the use of
single & double, equal & unequal length, rigid & flexible, bladed & impact weapons, and
in the Filipino empty hand art of bunoan (grappling), suntukan (boxing), & sipaan
(kicking).  Today he continues to actively promote the art through individual & group
classes and public seminars & demonstrations.


His years of practice has led him to see this simple, direct, & intuitive art not just as the fighting art that it is, but also as a path for personal growth (physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual) that can be taught and practiced by all people regardless of sex, age, nationality, and martial arts background.
It is his hope that through the FMA, people will develop an appreciation for All Things
Filipino (ATF) – especially its culture and history.


Guro Bill has trained with many different teachers specializing not only in the
FMA, but also in other weapon and empty hand based martial arts through
training seminars & classes given on an individual & group basis, in a formal &
informal environment, using structured & unstructured teaching methodology.
Through the years his training progressed through different phases.  From the
early 60s thru the 80s, the conscious effort was on learning the lessons taught by
his instructors (the how & when phase).  On the 90s, learning continued with an
emphasis on understanding the lessons (the what & why phase).  From the
beginning of the millennium to the present, the learning & understanding was
augmented with extracting the essence of the lessons using the Lee methodology.

The many instructors who have served as a guide and influence in Guro Billʼs
personal growth as a martial artist and to whom he will be forever grateful,
include the following:


• Guro Mike Barairo, Private Individual Training
Makati, Philippines
Eskrima, Arnis, Judo, & Boxing

• Guro Dan Inosanto, Formal Group Classes
Kali Academy of America, Torrance, CA
Leo Giron System (Arnis), & Angel Cabales System (Eskrima), Villabrille/Largusa
System (Kali), John La Coste System (Kali), Pekiti Tirsia (Eskrima)
Inosanto Academy, Culver City, CA

Leo Giron System (Arnis), & Angel Cabales System (Eskrima), Villabrille/Largusa
System (Kali), John La Coste System (Kali), Sikaran, Western Boxing, Wing
Chun, Jun Fan Gung Fu, Tai Chi
Kali-Eskrima-Silat/JunFan Martial Arts Academy, Marina Del Rey, CA

Leo Giron System (Weapon All Ranges), Angel Cabales System (Weapon Corto
Range), Villabrille/Largusa System (Weapon & Empty Hands Training Methods &
all Ranges), John La Coste System (Weapon, Empty Hand, & Kicking Ranges),
Western Boxing (Empty Hands w/o Reference Points), JunFan Gung Fu (Energy
Drills, Chinese Boxing, Trapping, & Attacking Concepts), Silat (Leveraging
Concepts), Doce Pares System (Uneven Length Weapon), Siniwali (Equal
Length Weapon), Capoera (Brazilian Kick Boxing), Savate (French Kick Boxing),
Muay Thai (Thai Kick Boxing), Cinco Teros System (Long Range),
Suntukan/Sikaran (Filipino Kick Boxing), Carenza, Numerado, & Sumbrada
(Filipino Training Methods), with special emphasis on proper body mechanics,
fighting ranges, rhythm, & timing

• Guro Pete BatungBakal, Private Individual Training
Makati, Philippines

• Arnis, Tabak Toyok, Japanese Sai & Staff; through this teacher Guro Bill met GM
Porfiro Lanada of the Lanada System

• Guro Chris Kent, Formal Group Classes
Kali-Eskrima-Silat/JunFan Martial Arts Academy, Marina Del Rey, CA
Inosanto Blended System using impact & bladed weapons, empty hands, and kick boxing

• Guro Ted LucayLucay, Formal Group Classes
Kali-Eskrima-Silat/JunFan Martial Arts Academy, Marina Del Rey, CA
Inosanto Blended System plus the LucayLucay Kali/JKD System of
Panantukan/Sikaran, Knife Fighting, tabak maliit

• GM Topher Ricketts, Private Individual/Group Training
Glendale FMA Academy, Glendale, CA
Ilustrisimo (Eskrima, Kali), Sagasa (Filipino Karate), Ngo Cho Kun (Beng Kiam
Kung Fu), Boxing, Hand Sparring

• Guro Richard Bustillo, Inosanto Blended System
• Guro Jeff Imada, Inosanto Blended System
• Master Fernando Bernardo, Scientific Lightning Arnis
• Guro Louis Campos, Pentjak Silat Serak & Bukti Negara
• GM Bobby Taboada, Balintawak Arnis Cuentada
• Punong Guro Edgar Sulite, LAMECO Eskrima
• Pendekar Guru Besar Herman Suwanda, Pencak Silat Mande Muda
• GM Leo Giron/Master Tony Somera, Bahala Na Arnis/ Eskrima
• GM Dionisio Canete, Doce Pares Eskrima
• Guro Hans Tan, Kalis Ilustrisimo
• GM Ising Atillo, Atillo Balintawak Eskrima
• GM Irineo Olavides, Caballero JDC-IO
• Master Rey Galang, Bakbakan Kali, Tulisan Knife Fighting System
• Guro Dino Flores, Ilustrisimo (Kali, Eskrima) and LAMECO Eskrima

• Guro Victor Gendrano, Private Individual/Group Training
All over Los Angeles County, CA
Inosanto Blended System, H2O FMA System impact & bladed weapons, empty
hands, & kicking techniques; drills; & controlled sparring
• Master Instructor Tony Morel, Formal Group Classes
Yama-Kan Kajukenbo Self Defense School, Austin, TX
• Master Joe Tan, Private Individual Training
Glendale FMA Academy, Glendale, CA
Tapado Arnis long range fighting, striking concept
• Guro Bud Balani, Private Individual/Group Training
Gendale FMA Academy, Glendale, CA
Kali, Silat
• Master Ramon Rubia, Private Individual Training
Buena Park, CA
San Miguel Eskrima

From his long time FMA instructor and mentor Guro Dan Inosanto, Guro Bill also
learned the following valuable lessons in learning & teaching:

• to teach is to learn twice
• one ought to teach what one has learned not what one was taught
• the teacher is the pointer to the truth and not the giver of the truth
• all learning is ultimately self learning

Guro Bill believes that we are all seekers in this earthly journey of ours called life, that
there is a spiritual component to this life, and that ultimately we all seek the same
transcendental things.  He summarizes this belief in the following message to all his

To all seekers of “The Way, The Truth, & The Light”
Knowledge comes from The Master
Guidance comes from your instructors
Strength & Wisdom come from “within”

And it is in the spirit of these lessons and values that Guro Bill gained the courage to
share his art and hone his skill through teaching.  Guro Billʼs initial teaching experiences
were of the private, one on one type because they were easier to conduct.  Today he
continues to take private students because he enjoys the closer teacher/student
interaction.  His private, individual teaching experiences are listed below.

• 1981 an American co worker & black belt instructor in American Kenpo Karate at
the Northrop facility in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia
• 1982 a Filipino CISI manager w/o prior martial arts training at the Meralco gym in
Pasig, Philippines
• 1985 an American co worker & senior instructor in Southern Praying Mantis Kung
Fu at the Northrop facility in Hawthorne, CA
• 1986 my American manager w/o prior martial arts training at the Litton facility in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
• 1992 a Filipino co worker & black belt student in Hawaiian Kenpo Karate at the
GTE facility in Thousand Oaks, CA
• 1995 a Vietnamese co worker w/o prior martial arts training at the SCE facility in
San Dimas, CA
• 1996 an American co worker w/o prior martial arts training at the Kaiser
Permanente facility in Pasadena, CA
• 2004 to present a Filipino friend w/o prior training, motivated by his brother who
passed away to study the art at the Glendale FMA Academy in Glendale, CA
• 2006 an American friend & black belt student in Tae Kwon Do at Club Cascadas
de Baja in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
• 2007 my favorite Brazilian instructor in Kajukenbo from Ausin, TX at Club
Cascadas de Baja in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
• 2007 a Filipina acquaintance with no martial arts background, married to an FMA
student of GM Topher Ricketts, at their residence in Beverly Hills, CA
• 2011 an American acquaintance & black belt student in Kajukenbo at the
Glendale FMA Academy in Glendale, CA

Guro Billʼs group teaching past & present teaching experience in a classroom
environment and training seminar format are listed below.

• 1993 to the present at the Glendale FMA Academy in Glendale, CA
• 1995 to 1996 at GM Bill Ryusakiʼs Hawaiian Kenpo Ryu Dojo in Chatsworth, CA
• 1997 at the Inosanto (Westchester) Academy in Los Angeles, CA as guest
instructor of Guro Victor Gendrano
• 2003 to the present at Master Tony Morelʼs Yama-Kan Kajukenbo Self Defense
School whenever he comes to visit his daughter, granddaughters, & hermano in
the art in Austin, TX
• 2004 at Professor Moses Williamsʼ Fire Dragon Martial Arts Institute in Austin, TX
• 2008 at Master Eddie Urbistondoʼs Panther Martial Arts Center in Camarillo, CA

Guro Bill also got the opportunity to hone his FMA Estillo Entablado (Stage Style) skills
while performing as part of a demo team at the following events:

• 1985 Marina Yacht Club Dinner, Marina Del Rey, CA
• 1986 China Town New Year Celebration, Los Angeles, CA
• 1996 Ryu Dojo Beach Training Weekend, Ventura, CA
• 2005 Annual South American Hispanic Festival, Los Angeles, CA
• 2006 Annual Festival of Filipino Art & Culture, San Pedro, CA
• 2007 Historic Filipino Town Festival, Los Angeles, CA
• 2008 West Coast FMA Congregation, Duarte, CA

Personal Life
Guro Bill was born in the city Manila, the former capital of the Philippines, in the island
of Luzon in January, 1947.  He migrated to the US in July, 1967.  The same year he got
married to his wife, Tina Palanca Aranda. Together they have 2 daughters and 5
grandkids – Kristen & Kate from Claudine & Kevin Thorne of Austin, TX and Madison,
Nick, & Kit from Catherine & Scott Braybrooke of Hermosa Beach, CA.

Guro Bill received his Certificate of Citizenship in February, 1979 documenting his US
citizenship from birth by virtue of being the son of a US National, Filipino father (Antonio
Katigbak Aranda) and a US citizen, Filipina mother (Teresita Abad Santos Peralta), both
residents of the Philippines, a US territory, 1 year prior to giving birth to him.

Guro Bill currently resides in Glendale, CA in the apartment building he bought in 1986
with his 2 brothers and the present location of the Glendale FMA Academy, he
established in January 1993.  He is by profession an independent Information
Technology (IT) consultant and by avocation, a perpetual martial art teacher/student.

Formal Education

Ateneo University, Loyola Heights, Philippines
Major Economics, Minor Accounting, 1st  – 3rd Year

Loyola University of Los Angeles, Westchester, CA
BS Economics, 4th Year

ITT Computer Learning Center, Los Angeles, CA
Certificate in Computer Systems & Programming


Services for :

Guerillmo “Billy” Aranda
Guro Bill

Born – January 22, 1947
Died – April 12, 2013

Visitation will be on:

Wednesday April 17, 2013
@ 10-9pm

Thursday April 18, 2013
@ 10-4pm

Forest Lawn Memorial Park
1712 S. Glendale Blvd. Glendale, CA

Prayer service on:

Thursday April 18, 2013
@ 6:15 pm

Forestlawn Chapel
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
1712 S. Glendale Blvd. Glendale, CA

Funeral Mass

Saturday April 20, 2013
@ 10:00am

Incarnation Church
1001 N Brand blvd
Glendale, CA 91202

Please feel free to share this information with All his Martial Arts family
and friends.

Excerpts from my soon-to-be novel…


Sharing a couple of excerpts from my first historical fiction novel…It is abundantly about Filipino martial arts (FMA) on the surface, and the first contact with Spanish conquistadors, but it is also about the resilience of an ancient people that derived wisdom from a keen understanding of their environment and each other, and a healthy respect for the spirits of the natural world.

Nearly eight years in the making, I will keep you posted when the novel finally comes out. Aiming to get it out there by October 2014 for Filipino American History Month. I look forward to your feedback.

Copyright © 2011 by Russell B. Vergara WGA Intellectual Property Registry #1508807

Excerpt #1

Bagitong-a-wigwigan paused for a second to allow Aponidaydayawen to react. But what the messenger did not know is that Aponidaydayawen already knew what was to be asked of him, thanks to bimmake loyal to him who knew those close to the elders. From the hundreds of clans among the Ifugao there were probably over seven hundred bimmake already in service, and another one hundred in training. Aponidaydayawen expected to hear what he heard. He knew the elders well; he had served them for years, and understood the decision-making conventions they often used. When caught in a difficult situation, they reliably favored a course of action that saved face. Aponidaydayawen knew that the elders would avoid the possibility of a showdown with him and his bimmake by demoting him.  He played along to protect his sources.

“May I go on, my lord?”

“Please, messenger. Go on.”

“The elders see a need to punish you, and ensure balance: make sure everyone who is watching knows not to disobey the elders, and that there are consequences if one does. Your punishment is to be stripped of your title as mangipangpangulo of the clan’s bimmake.”

Bagitong-a-wigwigan paused once more to soften the other blow yet to come. He searched for a reaction in Aponidaydayawen’s face; there was none.

“May I go on, my lord?”


“The eight bimmake most loyal to you are stripped of their bimmake status, as well. You are all forbidden to leave the village and to engage in any village affair. If you must leave, even for personal errands, it needs to be done under specific permission from the elders…I know this is difficult to hear, my lord. I am simply the messenger.”

“I understand, Bagitong-a-wigwigan. Is that the end of the message?”

With his open right palm down, the messenger cut the air before his face to signify that he had reached the end of his prepared message.

Excerpt #2

“I am so tired, manong. And I’m glad you are here,” Bugan responded.” Our brothers have been my strength this whole time … but we still look to you since you are our eldest brother. We need you. – When will you finally settle home?”

Aponidaydayawen felt the sting of guilt. He could not respond immediately as a good answer eluded him.

“I do not know. Our clan continues to need me and my men, and I don’t know when our duty will be over.”

“You’ve said that so many times, manong, but you always manage to find another mission. It’s not just us who need you – so do your wife and your young son. They are managing without you but is that the life you want for them – a life without you?” Bugan asked.

“I’m fulfilling my sworn responsibility …” Aponidaydayawen responded.

“No, manong, you are making a choice,” Bugan replied. “And you continually choose your duty over family.”

“I am a bimmake.

“You are a selfish dreamer!” Bugan shouted, her grief and anger in full bloom. “And like every other dreamer, you hurt the people who love you most! … We carry the weight of the world with you, and daily live up to your unrealistic and unfair sense of responsibility for others, whether we like it or not … What have others done for us? We have our own problems to solve. Why not let others do the same with their own problems? Worry about their own? Fight for their own? Advocate for their own?”

“Because they cannot!” replied Aponidaydayawen, upset. “Not every one has the same fighting spirit as you and our younger brothers. There are many of our people who need to borrow the strength of others, who depend on the might of others. These are the people whom I have sworn to serve … and I cannot turn my back to them. They are not as fortunate as you. You, our brothers, mother – you may not see me as much as you would like, but you do not need me to survive, to live a quality life. You have everything you need.”

“… Except you, manong. You have given yourself to others and you continue to choose them over your own family,” Bugan said. “I do not fault you, manong because I know you do not know how to live a different life; you get hopelessly lost when you try. I know living your life the way you do is how father raised you — a conscientious member of our clan. I just want you to appreciate the sacrifices we are making because you have chosen this path. I feel badly for your wife and son, the most. They need you more than you think…And this is what I believe…Many of us largely misunderstand the community. Some view it as a child who waits to be served, who needs to be coddled. Others view it as a parent who is inflexible and to be feared, who must be followed at all times. Not many view it as an adult, who competently blazes her place in the world, who has her own vision of how the world ought to be, and who strives to do her best in living a life that is honorable and right…The community does not need you, brother. It is stronger and more resilient than you think.”

First outdoor Filipino mural in the East Coast by muralist Eliseo Art Silva


Our dream of completing the first outdoor Filipino mural in the east coast is almost realized. What better place to start than the very place where the United States began as a nation? The city of Philadelphia is now celebrated as the City of Murals, with more cultural landscapes per block than any other city in the world.

Communities form from people collectively sharing their visions, resources, and effort in a shared hope for the future. An ideal ‘site of public memory’ is intended to designate a sense of place for building community: a place of reflection, a place of remembrance- fortifying all that is essential to develop and thrive in a contemporary urban environment – inviting the first step towards compassionate interaction.

Be part of history and join Mural Arts in celebrating Filipino Americans of Philadelphia by purchasing limited edition Art Prints of the mural; as well as, sponsoring 6″ x 10″ photo tiles that will be permanently integrated into this future Philadelphia landmark and destination.

Details about the prints and tiles, including the order form are attached in this message.

Mural Arts store to purchase prints (paypal available for local purchases and orders outside USA):

Philadelphia Inquirer article:

Please consider giving to our Filipino Philadelphia mural project. Your gift will create opportunity for Philadelphia residents, one life at a time. Please give your support to our campaign by March 31, 2012.

We thank you in advance for your valuable support.

Eliseo Art Silva
Mural Artist, Filipino Mural Project of Philadelphia

-Eliseo Art Silva

“Census dot-map” of North America



Above is a dot-map created by Brandon Martin-Anderson from the MIT Media Lab.The map represents the 454,064,098 people counted in the 2011 Canadian Census2010 Mexican Census, and 2010 U.S. Census.

Why? To display “an image of human settlement patterns unmediated by proxies like city boundaries, arterial roads, state lines,” etc.

This spoke to me, not only because of its inherent beauty, but also of its potential use in social work and public health. If it could somehow be paired with GIS maps of extreme weather (like heat waves, super typhoons, etc.) and disease outbreak, the resulting map would make a great visual tool to aid with planning and logistics.

It would be interesting to see a similar map for Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa, regions most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and the burden of disease associated with it.

So, Brandon Martin-Anderson, from the MIT Media Lab, if you ever stumble on my blog, I am extending the hand of collaboration. ~ R. Bong Vergara, MSW, MA

Transcript: Obama’s inaugural address 2013


The White House’s official transcript of President Obama’s inaugural address, Jan. 21, 2013, timed at 15 minutes:

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

President Barack Obama gives his inauguration address during the presidential public swearing-in on the west front of the Capitol Building during the 57th inauguration in Washington, Jan. 21, 2013. Obama renewed his oath of office just before midday Monday, ceremonially marking the beginning of another four years in the White House. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times) (CHANG W LEE)

Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. (Applause.) The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

And for more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people. (Applause.)

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. (Applause.) An economic recovery has begun. (Applause.) America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together. (Applause.)

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. (Applause.) We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. (Applause.)

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American.

That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. (Applause.) For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.

We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. (Applause.) They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. (Applause.)

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. (Applause.) Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. (Applause.) Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends — and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully —- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. (Applause.)

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice —- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths —- that all of us are created equal —- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. (Applause.)

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law —- (applause) — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity — (applause) — until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time. (Applause.)

For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. (Applause.) We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. (Applause.)

Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America. (Applause.)

The Conservative Learning Curve


ImageBy Vic Romero, December 6, 2012

“At a dinner in honor of the late Jack Kemp — a big tax-cutter who also had a big heart — Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio both worked hard to back the party away from the damage done by Mitt Romney’s comments on the supposedly dependent 47 percent and the broader hostility shown toward government by a conservatism inflected by tea party thinking.

Ryan spoke gracious words about Romney, the man who made him his vice presidential running mate. But the implicit criticism of Romney’s theory was unmistakable. Kemp, Ryan said, “hated the idea that any part of America could be written off.” Republicans, Ryan said, must “carry on and keep fighting for the American Idea — the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to rise, to escape from poverty.” He also said: “Government must act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do.”

Rubio dubbed his speech a discourse on “middle-class opportunity” and distanced himself from the GOP’s obsession with giving succor to the very wealthy. “Every country in the world has rich people,” Rubio said. “But only a few places have achieved a vibrant and stable middle class. And in the history of the world, none has been more vibrant and more stable than the great American middle class.”

McConnell filibusters his own bill


Image By Vic Romero, Dec 6, 2012

On Capitol Hill, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, moved Thursday to vote on Mr. Obama’s proposal, in his broader deficit package, to permanently diminish Congress’s control over the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit, assuming that Democrats would break ranks and embarrass the president. Instead, Democratic leaders did a count, found they had 51 solid votes, and took Mr. McConnell up on what Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, called “a positive development.”

Mr. McConnell then filibustered his own bill, objecting to a simple-majority vote and saying a change of such magnitude requires the assent of 60 senators.

“Change informatics’ series: Part 3


Modern agriculture is dominated by high-intensity production based on the green revolution, technological fixes, and large-scale corporate control. However, to achieve food security, there must be changes not just to production, but also to trade, distribution and consumption. This video underlines the potential for “greening” agriculture and ensuring long-term food security while emphasizing the need to focus on improving the well-being of the majority of the poor and marginalized people who live and work in rural areas.

This is the fifth video in the series “”Bringing the Social to Rio+20”.

FMA lessons on voting (Part 4 of 4)


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken the process of judging a full-contact FMA match as a tool for extracting lessons in voting; if what I’ve written has helped encourage you to think for yourself and to take seriously your own competence in judging a candidate, then the time I’ve spent has been worth it. If not, I hope at least, that you have been entertained.

A photo of either a bimmake from the Ifugao province, or a mingor from the Kalinga province taken circa early 20th century by U.S. soldiers during the occupation from 1898 to 1945. Photo grab from the web.

This is the final installment–the fourth out of four posts in this series. This one takes the FMA value or focus on ‘respect for the art’ as an analytical tool.

On ‘respect for the art’. FMA judges, when all is said and done, judge a full-contact match, and the competence of a fighter, on his/her demonstrated respect for the art. Aside from it being a sport, FMA–escrima, arnis, kali, panuntukan, dumog, to name a few–are fighting arts handed down across generations, with each generation simultaneously balancing fidelity and innovation. It is a mark of maturity in a fighter to have such high regard for his/her chosen fighting art that showing respect to it becomes second nature, becomes part of who he/she is; everyone who loves the FMA, realizes that it is a gift to the world, and a legacy for the kayumanggi race. Being an ambassador for it–in life and the ring–is a duty and a privilege.

When assessing respect for the art, judges look for how a fighter balances creativity and fidelity–or put simply, by the way a fighter exhibits innovative self-expression through the art without making the art lose its identity and originality. Respect is about precision: the angles of attack are the angles of attack, and one must show knowledge of them; the blocks are vital and specific in application, and one must show knowledge of them.

Photo grab from the web and

It is visible with the naked and judging eye whether a fighter strikes with respect for the art. It shows in his/her respect for self in the ring, for his/her school and the team he/she represents, and for his/her opponent. And it shows in one’s temperament–arrogant vs humble, cool-headed and precise vs short-tempered and reckless. A fighter who is judged favorably is one who fights an opponent only to prove his competence in his/her art, and not with any malicious intention to inflict serious harm.

On ‘respect for the art’ and voting. This last judging criterion reminds us the true value of voting. Voting is more than a right; it is and continues to be a hard-earned seat at the table. Indeed, it has been said by Filipino American activists I know that “when one is not at the table, one is on the menu.” To me this means that when we fail to vote, we fail our selves, and our community, and our family, and the many other people important in our life whose context will be impacted by the policies of whomever leads us.

A vote is a conscious, personal choice about the future for all. It is not an inconvenient obligation, or a commodity to be sold, or a token of your socio-political protest.

How we choose to vote symbolizes the commitment we each have to our families, children, grandchildren, and what kind of life we want them to live.

Our vote decides more than the head of a fleeting administration; it decides the policies that remake our social, economic, and political reality — the context, the conditions within which we must live out our personal lives. It defines our other choices, what we think of ourselves, how we live our lives, what we expect of our selves, and in which direction we should go together.

May we show respect for self and our loved ones as we make the final choice about whom to vote tomorrow.

FMA lessons on voting (Part 3 of 4)


In full contact Filipino martial arts (FMA), overcoming your opponent in the ring is only part of what needs to go in your favor to win a match; you also have to win over the judges, who do their best to score the fight objectively, but also look for other things.

FMA judges also look for four items: good offense, good defense, ring generalship, and respect for the art. When applied to the world of electoral politics, these criteria for judging full-contact FMA show us dimensions of political combat that could help us, as voters, more easily extract meaning from complex, confusing, and deceitful political campaigns.

Grand Master Conrad Manaois, founder of Manaois Systems Intl, Pilipino Combative Systems based in Los Angeles.

In this third installment of four, I unpack one potential use in electoral politics of the FMA value of ‘ring generalship’.

On ring generalship: FMA judges look for a fighter’s ability to cope with all kinds of situations which may arise in the ring/match and to foresee and neutralize an opponent’s attacks, thus, convincingly demonstrating full control of the ring/match. A fighter who is viewed favorably is one who knows and demonstrates clear control of the tempo, rhythm, and ultimately outcome of the match.

Applying ‘ring generalship’ on voting. As voters, this discussion helps remind us that our voting behavior is under our control. No matter how hard campaigns try to sway our vote, the voting decision ultimately rests on us. Sounds needless to say, but campaign ads have a way of sowing confusion and doubt in our own independent judgment; and for good reason, for to convince you to vote in a specific way is the design of campaign ads.

More importantly, we are susceptible to errors in reasoning, otherwise known as fallacies; in fact, there are hundreds of these common fallacies that we commit, some created unintentionally, others created intentionally in order to deceive. See here for a list of 207 fallacies and their explanations.

GM Manaois and Guro Moses training knife counter for counter.

Fallacies, again reasoning errors, are persuasive when they should not be. But if you view your mind as the ring in a full-contact FMA match, then it is clear that in the battle to sway your vote, to sway your voting reasoning, you must control the ring.

FMA lessons on voting (Part 2 of 4)


In full contact Filipino martial arts (FMA), overcoming your opponent in the ring is only part of what needs to go in your favor to win a match; you also have to win over the judges, who do their best to score the fight objectively, but also look for other things.

FMA judges also look for four items: good offense, good defense, ring generalship, and respect for the art. When applied to the world of electoral politics, these criteria for judging full-contact FMA show us dimensions of political combat that could help us, as voters, more easily extract meaning from complex, confusing, and deceitful political campaigns.

The founder of Cabales Serrada Escrima, GM Angel Cabales (1917-1991). Photo-grab from

In this second installment of four, I unpack one potential use in electoral politics of the FMA value of ‘good defense’.

On good defense: FMA judges look for defensive skill, i.e., blocking, evasive footwork, disarms, bobbing and weaving, which together compose a defensive outlook that is uncommon in an average fighter. More often than not, defense is not prioritized in training by most fighters. And even if it were, the adrenalin rush of a full-contact match eschews defensive fighting as both the biology and psychology of survival kick in. A fighter who is viewed favorably is one who knows and demonstrates smart, responsive defense.

Just as ‘good offense’ indicates discipline, so, too, does ‘good defense’; in addition, and perhaps more relevant to the discussion below, this FMA value of ‘good defense’ also indicates restraint and sound judgment.

Applying ‘good defense’ on voting. As voters, this discussion helps remind us that we have the wherewithal–the means–to filter campaign information. Sound judgment, a key aspect of ‘good defense’, is an inherent human capacity. From both the perspective of biological and cognitive development, sound judgment emerges in all of us; biologically, we gain the capacity for judgment as the prefrontal cortex fully develops in our twenties, and cognitively, we gradually but surely learn to think in more sophisticated ways as we age, from simple logic to abstract thinking. Sound judgment is innate in all of us.

To remind us of our capacity for sound judgment seems needless if it were not for our tendency to take shortcuts when making decisions. I teach foundation courses in human behavior and the social environment (HBSE) theory to first-year graduate students and every semester it never fails to amaze me how many ask me to explain how to critically think.

Critical-thinking is a vital ingredient to sound judgment because it is through it that we extract original thought, that we integrate information in our environment creatively and analytically, in order to make sense of our world and specific matters requiring our attention and decision.

Why so many of us fail at critical-thinking could be partially explained by our tendency to overestimate how much we know of some thing. Called the “illusion of explanatory depth” this tendency is what allows us to make knee-jerk responses to things that normally would require a deeper, more reflective process, like choosing a leader, or voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on a ballot initiative.

We assume we understand, when we really do not. We convince ourselves that we have deep understanding, when we really only have a grasp of a surface-level understanding.

Just like an FMA fighter should train defensive fighting, so should we also exercise critical-thinking as we vote. We cannot simply consume campaign information handed to us for it is manufactured to shape our thoughts. We must metabolize it, analyze it, and reach a level of understanding that is beyond the surface.

Sound judgment is something we may take for granted, something we may assume we regularly already do, but ask yourself if you can successfully explain with adequate depth of thought the reasons why you are voting for your candidate, and what you will surely find out is that you do not really understand the issues as well as you thought you do, and that you need to process things more fully.

FMA lessons on voting (Part 1 of 4)


In full contact Filipino martial arts (FMA), overcoming your opponent in the ring is only part of what needs to go in your favor to win a match; you also have to win over the judges, who do their best to score the fight objectively, but also look for other things.

FMA judges also look for four items: good offense, good defense, ring generalship, and respect for the art. When applied to the world of electoral politics, these criteria for judging full-contact FMA show us dimensions of political combat that could help us, as voters, more easily extract meaning from complex, confusing, and deceitful political campaigns.

In this first installment of four, I unpack one potential use in electoral politicsof the FMA value of ‘good offense’.


Photo-grab of GM Venancio “Anciong” Bacon from

On good offense: FMA judges look for ‘disciplined aggressiveness’, an uncommon quality that is about educated aggression, or aggression that is disciplined by training and educated for precision. A fighter who is viewed favorably is one who strikes not for the sake of striking, but for the sake of hitting the spot where he aims despite his opponent’s defense and doing so with a clean, discernible angle of attack.

Second demo video shows the fundamental angles starting with frame 11:21.

While different FMA styles differ in their angles of attack, the five fundamental angles cut across all styles. And it is these angles that a trained fighter knows how to execute well. It is these angles that judges look for as they closely watch a full-contact match.

Applying ‘good offense’ on voting. As voters, this discussion helps remind us to not be ‘wowed’ by effective attack lines – no matter how numerous or frequently repeated — if they are done capriciously and without regard for the truth. The truth does matter and it does exist, even in a cynical world that perceives it only a matter of perception. While often inconvenient for some political campaigns, there are established facts; there are records of one’s speeches, votes on issues, and policies; and there is a tradition of thought in any given political party.

Truthfulness makes an attack meaningful and substantial. While effective in the short-run, deceitfulness renders an attack counter-productive in the long-run, as it often makes its way back to the attacker as an assault on his credibility. In politics, one’s credibility is the most important commodity worth having. Without credibility, no one listens, no one follows, and no one leads.

Is the presidency simply swag in the bucket list of the elite?


A recent probing analysis by the NY Times (edsall-toe-to-toe) shows that despite being outspent 3 to 1 in an ad war, the Obama campaign retains an edge. The article presents an intelligent analysis, one that prompts me to think and now write. What I find is that this U.S. Presidential race has lessons for the people of the Philippines.

Why do we vote to begin with? Amid our busy lives, what drives us to the polls? — It is the sum effect of our best judgment and subjective assessment of a candidate over time.

Romney proved in Debate #1 and his most honest 47% comment what we have long assumed and suspected — that, like an insecure, self-important teen who covets being the Homecoming King, he will tell us anything we want to hear.

The Presidency is much more than a popularity contest. More to the point, it is no trinket, it is no swag to be had on a bucket list for the elite. It is a serious responsibility, a serious position deserving only a most serious, honorable person.

This is where the Philippines comes in. For all of its history these have been true:

(1) despite having 50% of the population, only once has there been a woman president,
(2) despite a strong civil sector, those elected to the presidency have been members of the power elite (i.e., members of the economic, military, political elite and political dynasties), and
(3) despite an educated public, the Catholic Church continues to have a stronghold in how the public thinks,  maintaining a culture of mendacity and shallowness in public discourse.

My point? — Filipinos have a dismal record in choosing a worthy president.

To my mind, prioritizing substance over style, gravitas over celebrity, public welfare over personal gain are lessons not enough Filipinos have yet learned. As our country stands before a real opportunity to join the community of great nations, it is time to do so.

It is time to behave more intelligently, to think more critically, to act more boldly and with bigger cajones!

A vote is a conscious, personal choice about the future for all. It is not an inconvenient obligation, or a commodity to be sold, or a token of your socio-political protest.

How we choose to vote symbolizes the commitment we each have to our families, children, grandchildren, and what kind of life we want them to live.

Our vote decides more than the head of a fleeting administration; it decides the policies that remake our social, economic, and political reality — the context, the conditions within which we must live out our personal lives. It defines our other choices, what we think of ourselves, how we live our lives, what we expect of our selves, and in which direction we should go together.

From this perspective, it is clear that who we elect as our leader, as our president is no trinket, no symbolic window-dressing for our country.

Most importantly, the presidency is no swag in the bucket list of the elite. We should not be fooled into thinking that any member of the elite is entitled to our vote so that he may have the presidency. We should not be fooled to vote against the people’s genuine interests, or to think that the elite are naturally more deserving of the presidency.

Any perception that the presidency must be the domain of the elite is socially constructed — is made up — and actively peddled by dominant forces that want to maintain their power and privilege. Instead, consider it as the domain of the most serious, most prepared, and most able among us to lead us.

Our vote is very personal, indeed. It shapes the context of our life; s we must value it as such. We must exercise our most intelligent version of self when we elect our leaders, from the barrio captain all the way to who gets to be the president.

Doing otherwise is insane and asinine.

A pattern fighter vs a non-pattern fighter: Which one is Romney?


Romney fights dirty, and using the metaphor of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) we can gain insight into the strategic-thinking behind his campaign and this high-stakes political combat that is the presidential race.

In FMA, your fighting style does not always depend on your authentic personal fighting style. How you fight in the ring is a creative, expressive process most of the time, but it is also a calculation about the school and background of your opponent. What you know–your technique–does not guarantee a win. To win, you need to not be rigid and fight only in your true way; you need to be wiser than your self. Winning a full-contact FMA fight, in other words, is about substance and style.

In FMA, there are fighters who naturally are more defensive, and there are others who are more aggressive; some are more strategic, generating fewer but more accurate hits that reliably score points, and there are others who are more naturally busy, generating far more strikes, even if many are flurries not intended to sting or even score big. Those who fight like this, who strike for the sake of being busy, do so in order to overwhelm, to control the pace and tempo of the fight, which is often viewed as ring generalship. Personally, I have my misgivings about this way of winning fights; the art is lost with it, the soul of FMA is degraded by it.

And then there those we call pattern fighters and non-pattern fighters.

Pattern fighters fight with a clear predetermined, pre-packaged series of strikes carefully and deliberately honed to be effective offensively or defensively. Pattern fighters are deadly. One should re-think fighting toe-to-toe against a pattern fighter because that is his game plan.

If you get drawn to fight strike for strike against a pattern fighter, you have already lost. You are doomed to be overwhelmed, taken off balance — and even if you recognize the pattern, the sheer speed with which you are struck with multiple hits renders any response too-little-too-late. This is why a pattern fighter is deadly. This is why some schools train fighters to fight this way; it maximizes speed and power.

But a non-pattern fighter, to me, is deadlier because of the complex mess s/he creates in the ring, and consequently, in the opponent’s counter-strategy. Philosophically and functionally, disorder gets an edge over order, in my opinion, because it is harder to figure out. A non-pattern fighter taxes one’s training and creative capacity to adapt and overcome. A non-pattern fighter is often more eclectic in his/her use of techniques, and/or exploits expert footwork to evade and assault.

Applied to electoral politics and the 2012 U.S. presidential race, in particular, this ‘pattern vs non-pattern fighter’ binary is intriguing because it might help us figure one candidate we can’t quite figure out, namely Romney. I ask myself, if he were a FMA fighter in the ring opposite me, how would I classify him? And my reflex answer is that he is a pattern fighter: he has a long record of being a panderer, a flip-flopper, someone with no core, someone who bends with the political wind.

But justifying this classification is exactly what makes me rethink my reflex answer because a non-pattern fighter is, by definition, someone who is flexible stylistically, someone who bends with the wind, so to speak.

He can’t be neither; so could he be both? And as a reflective voter, I ask myself why Romney might craft a political combat strategy where he is everything to everyone. And my most compelling rational conclusion is this: he needs a path to not losing.

His path was pretty narrow to begin with competing against a popular incumbent. As we have grown to know Romney these past several months, that path to victory has only grown even more narrow. Given this perspective, his campaign, in many ways, is by design a flirtation with self-destruction for his party, and because of this failure is simply not an option.

If Romney loses, Republicans lose big. So the gamble is serious, and losing is deadly for a party clearly out of step ideologically and demographically–perhaps for the long-term–with an electorate that appears to be trending toward center-left.

Romney, if he were an FMA fighter, is a desperate fighter fixated on winning at all costs, including fighting dirty. Obama and the Democrats are wise to know this, and to engage him in political combat accordingly.


‘Strike with intention’: An FMA lesson for Obama, liberals and progressives


Intention. This is a fascinating word because it conjures up a meaning that is both observable and unobservable, a process that is both external and internal.

When one is taught to fight in Filipino Martial Arts (FMA)–at least, when I was taught by my teacher–the lesson of ‘striking with intention’ is fundamental. “Strike through your target,” “strike with a clean arc,” “strike with economy of motion,” I remember being taught. These are different ways of saying the same thing, namely to value the importance of fighting with intention.

When the task is beating a bigger, stronger, and younger opponent, FMA teaches one to win in the theater of the mind. Even the most confident, formidable opponent can be taken down so long as one’s focus is to frustrate him to defeat by consistently landing clean strikes, despite his defenses. Fighting successfully requires that one is in-tune with oneself, noise and static pushed aside. What the opponent does almost does not matter, only that his efforts shall fail. Eyes, hands and mind are one, alert and able to react without thinking, relying instead on one’s personalized fighting skill, training, and to some extent, muscle-memory. Every strike flows from the one previous, and lands, if intended, where it is aimed. Naked aggression is harnessed and focused with discipline.

How does this relate to Obama? Plenty. In a hypothetical second Obama term, FMA’s lesson of ‘striking with intention’ is fundamental.

He could have won even more legislative victories for the people had he trusted and fought from and for his core beliefs. Instead, despite overwhelming evidence of intentional and malicious Republican obstructionism, he persevered on an ill-conceived, naive approach fixated on finding common ground with his detractors. He allowed Health Reform to be neutered by those who wanted no public option in it when, in fact, the safety net needs it so badly, for example. The genuine need for health reform is not simply a reform of health insurance, but more importantly, health access, i.e., the promotion of service integration and care coordination, elimination of structural barriers to care, widening access to those least able to afford it. As the economy remains weak and families remain financially insecure, one paycheck away from serious financial crisis, health access also remains vital and lacking.

In a hypothetical second term, let us hope for bold change in Obama, himself. The attacks on his leadership can be swatted away if he were to lead with intention.

Compromise where it is prudent and necessary, but not for the sake of compromising. It is simply insane–and asinine–to hope for genuine compromise from Republicans fixated on tearing you apart–and the country with it!–by any means necessary.

Lead the nation keeping in mind the welfare of everyone, even those who oppose your policies, but do so with boldness in a manner that empowers and inspires, not with the cold calculating sensibility of an academic. As a fellow community organizer in my youth, I know the fire is in you to fight boldly for the people.

It is premature to take the victory-lap with over a month left to go until election day; but if the pundits and their polls are right, the electorate has already shifted convincingly in favor of a second Obama term because of what it could represent: a working- and middle-class orientation to solution-seeking, a more genuine stance on problem-solving, and a less ideological approach to nation-building. Barring a sudden and dramatic sea-change in voter sentiment, it is very possible that these remaining five weeks til November 6 is the wind-up for a winning Obama strike.

If Obama is re-elected, he must be like a dragon; he must lead, and lead boldly. The nation needs not a crouching tiger that waits patiently for a clear opportunity to strike, but a bold, daring, audacious dragon that strikes with intention despite opposition.


‘Stand with Grace’ campaign: Confronting sexism and concubinage in the Philippines


As a response to the inquiries pouring in, the Stand With Grace Campaign’s most immediate needs are:

an EXTRADITION LAWYER: willing to work for Grace’s justice, stand against 2 corrupt governments, work pro bono.

SANCTUARY: a Church to house and protect Grace; must be pro-woman, pro-immigrant.

WOMEN/PEOPLE POWER: law students willing to do research, writers, artists, organizers, case managers, therapists, activists, organizations who can be sponsors. 


Today marks the official launch of Educators for Obama!


Today, June 18, 2012, marks the official launch of Educators for Obama! Click vid link below.

Educators for Obama

If you are Fil-Am or friends of Fil-Ams and you want to get involved, contact and tell them folks at sent you. 😉

Roots are compatible with wings: A poem for the late Dr. Marcelino V. Vergara


Roots Are Compatible with Wings

by R. Bong Vergara



With Father’s Day upon us, I wish that you were here
The children whom you raised and loved
feel, still, like you were near.

Mem’ries that deepen our affection
despite this wound that won’t heal
Like roots, they serve to ground us
to help others with your zeal.

Like roots, your smile and laughter
they feed our very soul
We’re proud to have had you as our father
For your humor brought joy to all.

Like roots, your drive and fire
burn still inside of us
To reach the highest we can achieve
despite tests that are numerous.

Like roots, your love defines us
The people we’ve become
we share your wings of kindness
we share your heart of calm.

Now an adult when once your child
I remember you, my father,
Know that this life you gave to us
we’ll share
we’ll use
for others.

Happy Philippine Independence Day 2012



Video of 2012 Philippine Independence Day celebration

“There are no tyrants if there are no slaves”
José Rizal

For a good resource of Philippine history, see

Pacquaio-Bradley Result A Highway Robbery: Conspiracy Theories


Chester’s Corner

By Chester B. Vergara


What happened tonight is pure travesty. Flubbed decisions such as this is why the sport of boxing is losing more fans than any other major sport world wide.

Coming into this fight, hardcore fans and casual fans alike all knew Bradley had no chance but a puncher’s chance. I personally didn’t think this would last more than 6 rounds, given that Bradley is only one fight removed from his first fight as a Welterweight fighter. All advantages, experience, power, speed and the other intangibles were all in Pacquiao’s favor. No one in their right mind would bet against Pac unless they wanted a bigger payout for the near impossible upset.

Boy were we wrong!!

As I watched the fight unfold, it was clear that Pacquaio is the far superior fighter outclassing the smaller Bradley in all aspects of the game. Beating him to the punch, creating angles and withstanding the “power” of Bradley. I personally scored the fight as a landslide at 120-118. Not because I am a biased Filipino Pacquaio fan but because of what I was seeing on my TV set.

I have two theories as to why this happened tonight, please try to keep up with me.

Theory#1: The Mayweather Effect

Mayweather just profited a sum of 40mil + an undetermined sum from his last fight against Cotto. With the seemingly easy fight for Pac over a young-in their prime undefeated African American fighter, I wouldn’t put it past the ever elusive Floyd to have had a hand in tonight’s fight result. After all, the fight took place in Vegas, Floyd’s backyard, and would gain so much from paying off these “inexperienced” judges.

I think Floyd paid off these judges to swing the fight for Bradley….isn’t obvious? I’m sure Floyd thought that this fight would be closer than the complete domination all paying fans saw on PPV tonight. I wouldn’t put it past Floyd to have masterminded this robbery by saying to the judges “if this fight is close, give it to Bradley”. Why else would each judge score the fight 115-113? What fight were they watching? It’s blatantly obvious that the fix was in. I dare anyone to make an argument why Bradley deserves this win, or earned this “win”.

Theory #2: The Ruse
I hope this fight ended the way it did to coax the yellow bellied Floyd to finally fight Pacquaio. It makes sense in a madman’s world. I am really trying to find some sense in all this mess.

Anyone, please help me make sense of all this mess.

FeudArt promotes flood-preparedness campaign


Can you help reach out to schools around flood-prone areas? I would like help getting the word out re: flood preparedness info campaign. Our goal each year is to reach out to as many schools as possible. Typhoon or monsoon season in Asia typically occurs between June and September each year.

Flood preparedness campaign info is on the Facebook wall of Goodbranch Vergara, The campaign is focused on giving flood preparedness info to local schools; the info can be translated into any language.

Click for a map of flood-prone regions in Asia –>


HELP GOODBRANCH VERGARA REACH 100 SCHOOLS (high schools, colleges, universities) in Latin America and Southeast Asia that are usually hit by typhoons and, thus, flooding. We can prevent unnecessary loss of life with our flood preparedness info campaign. You can help in 3 easy steps below.

STEP 1: Send the info below to your school contacts in these continents. Help prevent unnecessary loss of life from flooding and extreme storms during the 2012-2013 storm season (June-February).

STEP 2: Please share your efforts on

STEP 3: Have fun informing friends and family to be safe. Salamat po!

***Public Service Info You Can Send to Your School Contacts in Latin America and Asia***


If a flood is likely in your area, you should:

• Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.

• Be aware that flash flooding can occur. Move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

• Listen to the radio or television for information.

If you must evacuate, you should:

• Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.

• Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

If you have to evacuate, remember these tips:

• Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

• Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

Driving Flood Facts: Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups. Emergency supplies that may assist in a flood, include: Disaster kit (first aid kit; backpack with food, water and prescription medications for 72 hours, extra clothing, blankets, and flashlights, 12-ft rope); Radio with extra batteries; Car kits (emergency flares, shovels, and fluorescent distress flags).

After a Flood: Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink. Avoid floodwaters. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines. Water may also be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car. Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company. Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe. Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations. Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals. Repair damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.



To get involved with our climate change adaptation work, please visit our joint effort with Goodbranch Vergara here. Please share your efforts on to let us know how you helped.


HELP GOODBRANCH VERGARA REACH 100 SCHOOLS (high schools, colleges, universities) in Latin America and Southeast Asia that are usually hit by typhoons and, thus, flooding. We can prevent unnecessary loss of life with our flood preparedness info campaign. You can help in 3 easy steps below.

STEP 1: Send the info below to your school contacts in these continents. Help prevent unnecessary loss of life from flooding and extreme storms during the 2012-2013 storm season (June-February).

STEP 2: Please share your efforts on

STEP 3: Have fun informing friends and family to be safe. Salamat po!

***Public Service Info You Can Send to Your School Contacts in Latin America and Asia***


If a flood is likely in your area, you should:

• Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.

• Be aware that flash flooding can occur. Move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

• Listen to the radio or television for information.

If you must evacuate, you should:

• Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.

• Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

If you have to evacuate, remember these tips:

• Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

• Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

Driving Flood Facts: Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups. Emergency supplies that may assist in a flood, include: Disaster kit (first aid kit; backpack with food, water and prescription medications for 72 hours, extra clothing, blankets, and flashlights, 12-ft rope); Radio with extra batteries; Car kits (emergency flares, shovels, and fluorescent distress flags).

After a Flood: Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink. Avoid floodwaters. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines. Water may also be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car. Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company. Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe. Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations. Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals. Repair damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.

The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice: Obama’s same-sex marriage pronouncement


I re-post this as I watch the CNN news coverage on the passage of Amendment 1 in North Carolina and President Obama’s favorable open support for same-sex marriage. I am moved by the value of this moment in the overall arc of social justice. With equal intensity, I find myself troubled by the retrograde character of Right-wing thought, shaking my head in wonder how and why there remain people who willfully hold on to bigoted, uncaring views.

As I read euphoria on Facebook, twitter, and, funny enough, even google+, I agree that this day is historic, as historic as the day when the first Black President of the US was sworn into office, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, and when Filipino WWII veterans could finally collect some of their service-connected benefits previously denied by Public Law 70-301, known as the Rescission Act of 1946 (see

As the late Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice” — and this idea rings true today. When life teaches me basic truths about being human, I cannot help but hear and see better. When there are observable examples of how to be a champion for what is righteous, for what is just, I cannot help but be inspired..

In an election year when ‘big, sudden movements’ are discouraged for the political risks they may bring to a candidate, Pres. Obama courageously embraced a position that is righteous and that is just. These words–righteous, just–are often taken for granted, even misused; but today, the courage of the first Black President in the most powerful country in the world exemplifies their true meaning.

What drives me to extoll moments as wild as this is my core belief that equality is not a unicorn of social science, but a plausible fixture of humanity.

The arc of the universe bends toward justice, indeed. As an immigrant and a social worker, I am fundamentally moved by progress in widening civil rights. And it is not the ‘victim mentality’ that shapes my lens to the world for I truly do not see my self a victim. What drives me to extoll moments as wild as this is my core belief that equality is not a unicorn of social science, but a plausible fixture of humanity.

It is equality that demonstrates, illustrates, nurtures, and sustains our humanity. Oppression corrodes what makes us human, spoiling it across generations, and for reasons as artificial as socially-constructed ideas of race, class, and gender.

I don’t buy arguments that equality is existential because to accept this idea would mean that reality must and can only be oppressive. To me equality is an inherent aspect of human life and the vitality that sets our kind apart. To me, equality is akin to the idea of ‘heat’, and oppression–its opposite–like ‘cold’. Heat is what exists because the universe is made up of energy, and it is energy that we measure when we think of ‘heat’. Cold does not exist on its own; it exists only in the absence of heat, without energy, with degraded vitality.

Similarly, I believe that our humanity is the foremost character of our nature. It is what enables us to think, to empathize, and to dream. In my view, our humanity is more consistent with the idea of equality than is oppression. It is equality that demonstrates, illustrates, nurtures, and sustains our humanity. Oppression corrodes what makes both oppressor and oppressed human, spoiling it over generations, and for reasons as artificial as socially-constructed ideas of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.   .

I dedicate this post to Gem Daus, Noel Alumit, and Jury Candelario, and other brave friends actively engaged in advocating equality for the LGBTQI community. To the LGBTQI community, this day is your unveiling.

—–Originally posted on Nov 4, 2008 as “What Nov 4 means for one Filipino American”——-

Fired up???!! Ready to go???!!!

I write this on the eve of election day, and I can’t help but think of tomorrow. As each of us casts perhaps the most important vote we will ever cast tomorrow, I am buoyed by great hope that cannot be contained and an imagination that wants to run wild.

“What will tomorrow bring?” — This rhetorical expression has never been more appropriate; for if the promise of Obama materializes into a dramatic cultural, political and social change that has been long-deferred, that has been truncated by the selfishness of the 1980s and 1990s, then tomorrow brings a bright and glorious morning.

Tomorrow is the rebirth of ethnic minorities in America. Tomorrow is our unveiling.

We will finally matter. We will finally be vital.

And even us, Filipino Americans, will no longer be invisible.

I am neither a politician, nor do I aspire to be. But I am a proud Filipino American. I am fired up, and am ready to go. 37 more hours until the reveal!!!

Many Filipinos outside the US are probably wondering why this election matters so much to Filipino Americans like me. The obvious generic answers are easy: a compassionate, unifying government that advocates for the marginalized; policies that favor the people not the privileged few; political leadership that inspires hope and that is deserving of respect.

The particular answer that resonates among minorities and the youth is more below the radar. For me, this new community of idealists, progressives, open-minded cosmopolitans that was built by sheer inspiration over the course of the 2-year Obama campaign has given me new life. It has given me a sense of home.

As a Filipino American, I am neither Filipino, nor American. I am in an unknowable middle ground where there is no place called home. The otherness I feel is isolating and it can be disempowering, especially when surrounded by a mainstream culture that is prejudiced and uncaring that I feel unwelcome.

One easily becomes a fighter, an activist out of anger and the need for self-preservation. Thus, I am kin to idealists who want to see the world as it should be. And Obama is my prophet.

So, for this Filipino American, tomorrow, Nov 4, means a self reborn. And I find myself fortunate.

Cats and other birds, not wind farms, kill birds

I had a silly conversation with some one several days ago; this person cautioned me, likely in jest (at least I hope), that I should make sure I consider the number of birds killed by wind farms if I were to continue working in clean technology.

Do wind farms kill birds? Yes. So do cats and other birds; but no one dares to make an issue of the intra- and interspecies killing because it would be silly.

Here’s science to bring things into perspective:

A message to all leaders and community members alike: We wait and hesitate to act at our peril

I’m very glad to be part of this global movement for the good it aims to bring in the world and everyone. My focus remains at the grassroots where the sustainable and imaginative practical solutions must arise.

So while this video is targeted to world leaders, I urge all our youth leaders at CYPHER to view this message made for them, as well. They are the youth leaders of now and the world leaders of tomorrow.

Flow with us on Twitter at @cypheryouth

The journey of an audience: #CRinFlorida Day 2 Reflection

These next few days I’ll be sharing my personal reflection on a climate leadership conference I’m part of; this is the second installment. I do this to capture the raw emotion in my daily reflection in order to help me with my later writing. If these posts benefit you, too, in any small way, please let me know via a comment. Thank you.

A scenic route is the journey of an audience–this was the biggest take away for me from the gathering today. The audience can be made to feel happy, disgusted, empathetic, and emboldened–all these in order to get them to say “Yes” and/or “I will join you.”

There is a way to engineer a presentation so that the audience goes through a variety of emotions that prime it for empowerment, and then mobilization. We can use emotion to leverage the audience’s attention in systematically walking the audience toward action.


There is no rigid or standard formula in building this emotional and cognitive journey by the audience. There is only the practical insight that being an ‘audience expert’ is as important as being a ‘subject matter expert’ in moving an audience toward action. The method is neither exact, nor clearly defined so it is challenging to describe the steps via a blog post. There is a hierarchy of priorities when communicating: the key point, the evidence for the key point (3 take-aways, max), and additional but optional detail that helps drive the message home.

I also share an image I found online to show how an audience journey could be deliberately engineered; see below.


For additional resources, google Anthony Wilson from Executive Influence Pty Ltd; he gave the workshop on communication strategies.

That giving a presentation is both an affective and cognitive experience was/is not a new idea but the engineering of it as a deliberate journey is an interesting idea worth practicing.

Sorry class, you will be my guinea-pigs. It’s for science! And sustainable development! And hopefully also for your empowerment.

Perfecting our union this July 4th

Thurgood Marshall, who argued Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and, in 1967, and became the first African American on the Supreme Court, is known to have said the quote below about the Constitution on its bicentennial in 1987:

“The focus of this celebration invites a complacent belief that the vision of those who debated and compromised in Philadelphia yielded the “more perfect Union” it is said we now enjoy. I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

May we live with an open enough mind to recognize and stand against what is retrograde. May we today remember to be respectful not just of the original words of our Constitution but also, and perhaps more profoundly, the ideals it aspires to fulfill.

An Earth that does not kill: A reflection on Newt Gingrich’s silly, unserious question


I had a strong negative reaction to Newt Gingrich’s recent claim that it is pure hubris for climate advocates to work to mitigate climate change.

Why my strong reaction?
1) He appeared to take by surprise the other panelists for a split second, and (2) as result of that effect, I suspect that we’ll be hearing this silly question thrown around by the Right and other climate deniers for a while, distracting us from the real, more urgent dialogue around how to work together to prevent unnecessary further loss of life from climate change-related events.

He asked, “What’s the right temperature…for the planet?”

My short answer: bad question. Asking and answering his question does not inspire the right dialogue; it evades it.

Governance requires a line of thinking more grounded in the imperatives of public welfare. Clearly, arriving at a consensus on the right temperature, while I guess important, is beside the point when the immediate need is a pragmatic policy framework and public dialogue that work to prevent climate-related loss of life and property, something that continues to happen needlessly.

On CNNs GPS recently in June 2014, the President Anote Tong of Kiribati lamented that it is too late for many of his people whose islands have been swallowed up by rising seawater. From that interview, what I remember the most is him saying, “[It] is already too late for us…we are working together collectively with the countries in the (sic) like situation, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, the Maldives, where the impact of climate change is about total annihilation of … our nations.” You can watch the interview and read the transcript here.

How have we allowed our world to get so sick that it is now its own destroyer???

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said that if the wealthy start losing money from climate change, things will change for the better at the policy level. I disagree. Regardless of what the elite chooses to do, those of us who have solutions with even the most remote chance of success should act. Ordinary people need to change, mostly in how they see themselves as non-actors in this global issue. Climate change solutions need to be as personal as its negative impacts which are many and varied depending on where one lives.

I see climate change as an all-encompassing mega issue that wraps together so many others that have haunted us for generations: Poverty, North-South power imbalance, Group marginalization, Community empowerment, to name a few.

The vulnerability to its impacts that we share is shaped by these underlying issues, which are all too familiar. To be actors in climate work, therefore, in part means being solution-oriented toward all the familiar barriers to social justice and human development.