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.



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.

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.

“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”.

‘Change informatics’ series: Part 1

This video seminar series is an attempt to equip readers with information tools to apply social work’s ‘person-in-environment perspective’ to issues that stem from climate change, in order to inspire community-defined interventional, remedial and adaptive approaches. This series is a crash course in system-change efforts, including policy advocacy, social entrepreneurship, institution-building, and community mobilization. The series focuses on discovering and exploring climate problems that seem most likely to benefit from adding the social work mindset as solutions are considered.

I will share videos from reputable sources, mostly universities and non-governmental organizations. Feel free to share on twitter, Facebook, and with your activist networks. As always, I welcome your feedback.

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.