My column for today is Happiness is a ham .

On a more serious note, Newsstand first brought it up: its been two decades since James Fallows wrote A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines?

I was supposed to speak at the Asian Institute of Management on the subject but the symposium took place at the time I got sick.

My Arab News column, How Fallows’ Essay Gutted Morale of the Filipinos, contains my initial thoughts, originally for the paper I was going to deliver. This is a work in progress, but I thought I’d put the ideas forward, now.

N.B. James Fallows blogs at The Atlantic.com.

And Conrado de Quiros on the endurance of feudalism.

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    • cvj on December 23, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    On GW Bush’ alleged US Supreme Court sanctioned cheating, it resulted in 1 million Iraqi dead (and counting).

    • mlq3 on December 23, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    anthony, apparently not. i’ve encountered many for whom noli is the reason they prefer to stick it out with gma.

    he’s her trump card, and one reason there are those who explore the extraconstitutional option.

    • mlq3 on December 23, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    merry xmas, anthony, thanks for being part of this blog.

    • Bencard on December 23, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    anthony, i don’t care what lichauco says but president macapagal freed the peso from the artificial linkage to the u.s. dollar and let the former seek its own level among all currencies in the rest of the world. he did not “devalue” the peso, rather he let it show its true value.

    at 2 pesos pegged permanently to a dollar, it was like a pauper dressed in emperor clothes, or a nobody trying to be somebody. i’m amused but not surprised at left-leaning cvj, criticizing decontrol but at the same time lamenting what had been lap-dog dependence to u.s. economy. one effect of decontrol was to make import of luxury and unessential goods prohibitive while making exports all the more lucrative to producers thereby encouraging more local production.

    if decontrol of the peso is the only thing that could be said against macapagal, i rest my case.

  1. Because he was cheated, Al Gore had all the right in the universe to do what the opposition here had been doing, but he did not!

    Al Gore realized that he can do more good to his country by no longer protesting the legitimacy of Bush, and moving on to do other productive things.

    Kaya nga i am pleading to those who cling to a ‘pekeng gloria’ to do an Al Gore. – AS

    In Al Gore’s case, one man sacrificed his self-interest, rightly or wrongly, for what reason, I don’t know.

    In Gloria’s case, you’re asking the whole country to sacrifice national interest for the interest of one person. – Shaman

    i’ve encountered many for whom noli is the reason they prefer to stick it out with gma. he’s her trump card, and one reason there are those who explore the extraconstitutional option. – mlq3

    Just like religion, talk of a ‘Damaged culture’ is the opium of the people. – cvj

    (The following is a shortened version of an old post of mine which I also reposted in John Nery’s Newsstand a couple of years ago. If I may, I’d like to share it again for this exchange, but perhaps to stretch its relevance, I should give it this ad hoc title: Whose culture is damaged?)

    In America today elites dominate the social, cultural, economic and political life of the nation. They are no different from the founding fathers who were themselves wellborn, wealthy and the intellectual, and therefore atypical of the Americans of the new nation. So are the Filipino elites today from the ilustrados. The marked difference that I could see is that, traditionally, American elites would do everything possible to avoid impugning the integrity of the system. Americans do this by refraining to inspire mass fears that could develop into extremist movements. Hence, rather than resorting to or encouraging protest actions, they prefer to seek redress through legal or procedural means. This was the same tradition the Filipino elites had attempted to emulate until Marcos changed the rules of the game by overturning the system and placing it under a dictatorial regime. The authority of Marcos’ reign had then become a fair game for challenge both by the traditional elites and the masses, indeed two very unlikely forces to unite together on political issues. At the very critical moments of the first EDSA uprising, a broader spectrum of the Philippine society had in fact decided to coalesce to avoid a bloody revolt.

    In the Philippines, people power was thus legitimized and institutionalized as an accepted mode of redress against a floundering system. Sections 15 of Article XIII of the Constitution promulgated after the EDSA uprising, expressly recognizes “the role of independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means.” (Italics mine.) Section 16 of the same Article also provides for the establishment of “adequate consultation mechanisms” to ensure the “right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision making . . ..” Mass actions in the Philippines in the form of rallies and demonstrations have since then become less and less of a deviant mode to preserve and protect democratic values and institutions. Serving as some sort of mechanism for public policy formulation, “the parliaments of the street” have somehow become both stable and predictable.

    In America, this guardian’s role of preserving its political system is still reserved to the elites who assume that the masses are for the most part passive and apathetic. Not until the excruciating political chaos the nation experienced during the Florida elections debacle, elections in America had become rather a symbolic exercise of political participation to give America’s elites the appearance of legitimacy. But then, with just about a couple of hundred votes that separated Vice President Gore and Governor Bush from the presidency, Americans painfully came to grips with the realization that every vote of the individual particle of sovereignty counted. And while the preferred modality to resolve the various election controversies has remained through the traditional route, meaning legal and procedural as what took place in Florida, there were then visible pockets of mass actions or individual citizen efforts emanating from the grassroots and exerting, as they did, appreciable strains upon the prevailing approach.

    What appears to be under the crucible in America following a presidential election that required the majority decision of five Supreme Court justices voting strictly along partisan lines to install a president is the ability of the dominant elites to maintain the legitimacy of its governance as the American people begin to awake from their stupor and reassess their participation in that governance.

    In the Philippines, the function, ironically, of people power as a predictable source of stability for a crumbling elite system is the one that is under real scrutiny. If people power could be marshaled effectively such that people power participants are truly represented not only in the “parliaments of the streets” but also in “the committee rooms and the boardrooms” where national policies and programs could be defined and promulgated through genuine consensus, then democracy as we understand it today is likelier to thrive in the Philippines than in America. What will continue to take hold, as the underlying system in America despite its nascent reawakening, would still be democratic elitism.

    “Nascent reawakening” is certainly apropos to describe the mini upheaval in Florida because the sunburnt folks of the prairies did marshal their “people power,” the real thing, during the populist movement in America in the 1880s, which culminated in the epidemic of national strikes in 1892 and the creation of the People’s Party, then maligned as the “Popocrats.” Interestingly, this peoples’ crusade in the United States coincided, more or less, with the formation of the revolutionary impulses in the Philippines during the time of Andres Bonifacio, the Father of the Philippine Revolution.

    Even more recently, there are discernible signs President George W. Bush’s rush to war in Iraq is stirring up this reawakened state in a rising number of concerned Americans of a dimension likely to parallel, if not surpass, the anti-war movement during America’s misadventure in Vietnam.


    And here’s my clincher in Newsstand:

    What we need from GMA is a modicum of self-abnegation and patriotism, well, possibly ala Al Gore who wanted the American nation, looking more and more like a banana republic, to move forward. Can you imagine Al Gore, a two-term vice-president, leading a mass action after five U.S. citizens in dark robes, using arcane language (shades of “constructive resignation”?) ultimately elected a U.S. president? [But we have seen the reality of Richard Nixon resigning for a scandal that certainly pales in comparison to a litany of polity-shattering ones that embroil GMA].

    Come to think of it now: it was the pivotal interpretation of “initiate” in the Davide impeachment, but in the coming days it could be [technicality]. And we revere it as constitutional process or “rule of law,” which is what the bishops are asking for. The whole shebang, come to think of it, is all about elite consensus, isn’t it?

    But then again, in our beloved motherland, who has the “final say”?

    MALIGAYANG PASKO saiyo Manolo at sa lahat – the Filipino “the salt of the earth” who converge here!

    • anthony scalia on December 24, 2007 at 8:52 am


    “In Gloria’s case, you’re asking the whole country to sacrifice national interest for the interest of one person.

    No way, buddy! Maybe, you want to be cheated, not me.”

    haay naku. you still couldn’t get my point.

    hanggang ngayon, you never hear from Al Gore refer to Bush as a ‘fake president’ from 2000-04. as a matter of fact, never did any democrat even whisper ‘fake president Bush’ for that matter, any american never echoed ‘fake president Bush’

    Al Gore himself, the democrats, the americans and the electoral college who voted for Gore were cheated also, big time!

    But they realized that their country had more pressing issues that need more attention than removing ‘fake president Bush’ (at lest during 2000-04). they sacrificed their right to do all the opposition here had been doing!

    thats specifically my message to you and the rest of the “kick-gloria-out-first-and-foremost” school of thought – the country has more pressing issues than kicking out gloria. haven’t you learned something from EDSA 1 and 2?

    anyway, merry christmas na lang sa ‘yo.

    • anthony scalia on December 24, 2007 at 8:53 am


    pardon the typos and omissions

    • Shaman of Malilipot on December 24, 2007 at 10:07 am


    Of course, you’ll never hear Gore call Bush a “fake president” because the whole thing went through an honest-to-goodness legal process all the way up to the Supreme Court. So, for all intents and purposes, Bush is legitimate.

    In Gloria’s case, all constitutional means to make her account for the cheating have been frustrated. The Hello Garci issue has never been put to trial.

    I’m not for another Edsa thing. I just want Gloria to submit the Hello Garci controversy to the test of proof and evidence and erase all doubts re her legitimacy.

    Making Gloria account for the charges against her should not make anybody less productive.

    Merry Christmas to you, too.

    • Ipe5520 on December 24, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Who says we have a damaged culture when we can find happiness in material poverty while rich countries find depression in prosperity? The most well culture is one that can find happiness in prosperity and there you have the scandinavian countries. The most damaged are the wealthy and depressed. The not-so-well and not-so-bad culturally are the reasonably happy yet not prosperous and we belong there.

    Now, why are we underdeveloped? My take is a damaged political system that assumes we are one nation when in fact we are not. Its that simple. Once we shift to a Federal system and regions compete with each other and express their identity in a fuller sense, then and only then we will be both happy and prosperous.

    Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to you all. Join the Federal Movement now!!

    • cvj on December 26, 2007 at 2:15 am

    Bencard, before you rest your case, here’s Temario Rivera’s account of Macapagal’s decontrol..

    By 1962, however, the new government under President Macapagal formally ended the policy of controls and devalued the peso. It is, of course, true that controls and the import-substitution industries they spawned operated mainly as packaging and assembly plants and thus continued to be highly dependent on importation of other goods. Nevertheless, these industries breathed new life into a manufacturing sector that had suffered for decades from the competition by duty-free imports from the United States.

    By abdicating controls in 1962, the state thus lost a potentially powerful instrument for redirecting the course of the economy. Why then was this policy abandoned? A convergence of two forces – one ingternal, the other external – again underscored the state’s weakness. First, the oligarchy, particularly its exporting faction, emerging intact from the throes of a peasant uprising, stepped up its opposition to controls which were proving disadvantageous to its interests…Second, during this period, the United States authorities had altered their policy on exchange controls and exchange rate stability – Temario C. Rivera, Landlords and Capitalists

    The policy of decontrol damaged our nascent manufacturing base just as our neighbors were building up theirs.

    • Bencard on December 26, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    i never heard of this temario rivera but that’s alright if his opinion made sense to me. it doesn’t. from his own words, the “manufacturing” industry that was affected by decontrol was the “assembly” plant operations and repacking businesses that proliferated while japan and korea were producing cars and heavy industrial machineries, among other things? what a laugh! and for that you would continue the artificial and unrealistic value of the peso against other currencies? and so what if the exporters were benefited more than the importers? should we have remained a dumping ground for unwanted u.s. surplus goods over locally (albeit perceived to be inferior) products?

    take my advice, cvj. if you want to clad you argument with other people’s thought, make sure they knew what they were talking about. a man’s opinion is just another man’s opinion. it lives and dies according to its merit.

    • Bencard on December 26, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    p.s., so rivera is “patently marxist”, your cup of tea, cvj. president macapagal was no tool of the so-called oligarchy. he was the real “man of the masses” having came from their ranks. among all the philippine presidents past and present, he was the authentic “poor boy”, not beholden to any interest, landed or otherwise. in pursuing decontrol of the philippine peso (not devalue it), i don’t think macapagal intended to serve the interest of the wealthy at all.

    • GMLet on December 26, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    after reading your columns and your replies to comments, e talagang magaling ka. i feel you’re a lot better than the former president mlq.
    many thanks also to manuel b of uniffors, yung column nya ang nagdala sa akin muli dito.
    i thank God for people like you, mb, ellen t, ambeth o, randy d, conrado de q, equalizer, kasi you’re educating me and a lot of people also.
    merry christmas everyday and happy new year, too! i believe the christmas spirit should be with us every day of our lives.

    P.S. i’ve heard of gg2010(galunggong?) being floated last week sa pdi, gordon-garcia daw. basta ako loyalist mm pa rin, manuel q – manuel b!!!

    • anthony scalia on December 27, 2007 at 9:09 am


    “…because the whole thing went through an honest-to-goodness legal process all the way up to the Supreme Court. So, for all intents and purposes, Bush is legitimate”

    (sigh) for one thing – Gore’s SC case is not to question Bush’s legitimacy, but for a Florida recount to take place! At that time, Bush hasn’t taken his oath yet.

    and how i wish you didnt say that, because using that same argument, gloria can say that for all intents and purposes, she’s legit! she was proclaimed by Congress. the only challenge to her win in the SC was dismissed by a technicality due to FPJ’s death

    “In Gloria’s case, all constitutional means to make her account for the cheating have been frustrated. The Hello Garci issue has never been put to trial”

    you have to thank the bright boys of the opposition for that.

    “I’m not for another Edsa thing. I just want Gloria to submit the Hello Garci controversy to the test of proof and evidence and erase all doubts re her legitimacy.”

    if the Paguia tapes are your only proof, then look some for some more.

    why? did you hear the unadulterated, err, unedited version of the tapes? the original version in the possession of Sen. Tatad? not the adulterated, este edited version of that eager beaver Paguia?

    no one wants the original version played because, aside from a clear violation of the anti-wire-tapping law, the tapes also show that opposition is also guilty of using Garci!

    there’s a principle in law that says ‘no one should come to court with unclean hands’

    thats why the bright boys of the opposition are relying on extraconstitutional means (e.g. people power) to remove gloria. they thought by hyping up this hello garci thing the people will go to the streets for another EDSA. but what happened? hello opposition?

    the adulterated este edited version of Paguia is inadmissible in court.

    nagpaka-bayani si Paguia. akala nya he’s the second coming of clarissa ocampo. he went pfffffft

    “Making Gloria account for the charges against her should not make anybody less productive”

    why don’t you tell that to the bright people of the opposition? Exhibit A against that statement – Al Gore, pro-democrat Americans, the electoral college from 2000-04

    “Merry Christmas to you, too.”


    • cvj on December 28, 2007 at 12:16 am

    i never heard of this temario rivera but that’s alright if his opinion made sense to me. it doesn’t. from his own words, the “manufacturing” industry that was affected by decontrol was the “assembly” plant operations and repacking businesses that proliferated while japan and korea were producing cars and heavy industrial machineries, among other things – Bencard

    In 1962, South Korea was not yet into heavy industry. Samsung was still into sugar refining and textiles. Korea launched its Heavy and Chemical Industrialization (HCI) program in 1973. Unlike us, Korea was able to take its industrialization to the next level via a combination of import substitution and export promotion. By comparison, Macapagal (and his successors) failed in both.

    • Bencard on December 28, 2007 at 1:05 am

    cvj, how the hell could you say macapagal fail in both
    ( import substitution and export promotion) when selective importation and export enhancement were the ultimate effect and objective of peso decontrol, as i pointed out? in any event, macapagal was only president up to 1965, and marcos took over to preside over a “crony capitalist”-driven economy. and what is exactly your understanding of “import substitution” as an aid to our “nascent manufacturing base” which i assume you mean the assembly plant and repacking operations?

    btw, in 1962, south korea was emerging from devastating fratricidal war. if it ever engaged in small-scale manufacturing (assembly and repacking) operations, it was but for a brief moment but they never had to resort to artificial controls on their currency to achieve where we failed.

    • hawaiianguy on December 28, 2007 at 4:28 am

    Wondering why a 20-year old article (by J. Fallows) still provokes debate among Filipinos to this day. MLQ3 is suggesting the more extreme, that Fallows should have said “decadent culture” and should have also queried, “who did the damage?” The first implies it’s time to bury the culture, while the second suggests putting the blame on someone (colonizers?).

    A more appropriate term to use, I believe, is “damaged state.” What we have is a political culture that is corrupted by machiavellians in our midst. The damage began much earlier, got worse during Marcos, and persisted to this very day under a regime shrouded with illegitimacy under Gloria Arroyo.

    • cvj on December 28, 2007 at 4:54 am

    …[Korea] never had to resort to artificial controls on their currency to achieve where we failed. – Bencard

    That statement is factually wrong. As per Korean-American economist Ha-Joon Chang:

    The Korean government also had absolute control over scarce foreign exchange (violations of foreign exchange controls could be punished with the death penalty) – Ha-Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans

    How difficult is it to use google to verify your facts?
    As for Diosdado Macapagal, he only looks good in comparison to Marcos who followed him. On his own merits, his Presidency is also a failed one. Moreover, since he was the one who brought Gloria Arroyo into this world, his standing before history is now subject to further review.

    • TALIBA on December 28, 2007 at 10:46 am

    James Fallows’ “A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines?” tells us of the bitter truth about the Philippines. Instead of crying foul and throwing brickbats, we should start gathering ourselves together and start building a better future of the next generations to come. A future solidly and firmly rooted on our indigenous roots as a people and built based on the aspirations of our ancestors and heroes, who shed their blood for freedom, and glory of this nation.

    • Bencard on December 28, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    cvj, if your fingers were not faster than your brain, you would probably have realized that the topic that was the subject of my comment was the decontrol of the peso to remove its being pegged permanently to the u.s. currency at the rate of 2 pesos for each greenbuck, giving the peso an artificial, unrealistic value. i don’t think you can “google” anything that suggests korea did the same to their won.

    let me propose a little challenge. show me at least one thing that president macapagal did that is worse than any former president before or after him ever did, and show me at least one accomplishment of any such other former president that surpassed macapagal’s achievement in terms of having long-lasting positive impact on the country’s well-being. since it appears that you hardly have any inkling of president macapagal’s presidency, you may seek the help of mlq3 and other historically well-grounded individuals. i must caution you though about relying too much on wikipedia.

    so, you have no problem making you accountable for the deeds of your children? good luck. i’m sure dm would have done very well in any kind of review for bringing gma into this world.

    • anthony scalia on December 29, 2007 at 2:03 pm


    hello old friend. happy new year and a belated merry christmas

    • hawaiianguy on December 30, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Anthony, happy new year to you!

    • cvj on December 31, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Bencard, on DM’s ‘decontrol’ this might interest you:


    • Bencard on December 31, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    exactly my point, cvj. thanks for that. diosdado macapagal was the only post-war president, if not the ONLY president who had the real political courage to do the unpopular but what was right for the country: comprehensive land reform (in in-your-face defiance of the caciques and feudal lords), international alliances to complement the sabah claim; the change to june 12 independence day (in at least a symbolic defiance of uncle sam); and decontrol of the peso (in defiance of the rent-seekers and luxury-loving aristocrats in philippine society), to name a few. on top of all these, he was never personally involved, or accused of, graft and corruption or misuse of his office for personal gain.

    no other president, in philippine history, could claim real peasant background than diosdado macapagal. a full-blooded filipino (not a mestizo of any other racial stripe) he lifted himself up by his own bootstraps and through sheer grit and determination, coupled with a brilliant mind and great vision for his motherland, he rose to the highest position his country could offer. too bad, the country did not see the gold that he was, and disingenuously replaced him with a reputed demagogue with insatiable greed.

    • Test only on February 4, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Please ignore.. :???

    • Test only on February 4, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Please ignore 😕 two 😉

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