Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Regarding The Long Journey of a Tired People
Also published as Winds of Change Bypassing the Philippines.
[Photo: Rio having fun with a mask he made]

It's been a while since I've posted some feedback. It's easier to write by throwing ideas and words into the soil of the internet, which has now become one of my mental compost pits. It helps develop the rhythm needed to continuously have this urge to hack of the branches unnecessary text.

But it's much harder to maintain an updated log of activities. What to choose and how to choose still interferes with what to write or when to start work on this or that piece or this or that chapter of the new book. Unlike aquarelles, which used to disrupt the mind but which now acts as a necessary space between ideas, the act of posting web logs function like parallel streets -- down a particular road, instead of a house you're looking for a particular idea or context or image and the problem is the address of that idea is not perpendicular to what is fermenting in your mind and you keep missing it even though you run the length of the street and pass by many other dwellings. At least that's how it feels to my geographically dyslexic mind. I have no sense of direction -- I wander and like wandering -- but there is a rhythm to getting lost that I look for, a sort of mood which is not really a mood, but a mode of search that allows for the minute it takes to climb a tree, go up above the canopy, stop by a flower, walk across a panoply of vegetation, jump into a pit, or wade into dark waters.

But anyway, this is supposed to be about some letters and I've done my mental exercises already. Thanks for dropping by.

Here they are.


Hi Red,

This is so elegantly written that I had to forward it to my other egroups. Hope you don't mind. ;=)




Do you ever shed tears for our country, Prof. Constantino?

Cesar Torres



nakakaiyak nga ito. But we all need to be whacked on the head the
way these words do it. Thanks man.



Nakakabagabag at masakit sa dibdib.




very strong piece. From an old woman trying hard not to be tired,



that pierced my heart to its marrows.

Fr. Nonie



hello po. ngayon ko lang nabasa yung email mo. uhmmn medyo nagulat ako. speechless ba. dahil naisip mo ako para sa writings na yun. tapos sa isip ko lang ha kahanay pa ni Bobby Tanada. parang ows??!!! ganun. uhmmn bakit nga ba? wag ka alala kung nabasa mo yung entry ko tungkol sa "kultura ng kapaguran".

hindi ang sarili ko ang tinutukoy ko dun :) mas naniniwala ako na yung nagsabi sa akin ng "you know how stupid Filipinos are." ay mayroong kultura ng walang paki-alam.

Okey lang ba na ipost ko ulit sa blog ko to aside from forwarding it to frieds online.

honestly, nakakagising to ng diwa (ko). nakakapagdagdag pag-iisip ng kung ano ba ang magagawa ko para sa bayan. kahit na wala ako sa pinas.

nakakalungkot pero tulad mo at tulad ng iba hindi kami dapat manahimik.

Naforward ko na pala to :)

nice writing Red :)

Good Luck po :)


[RED'S NOTE: Nalen is Melai, for whom this article was written; para din ito kay Bobby Tanada. Melai is currently based in Singapore and was a buddy during college days at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines during the great administration of Nemesio Prudente. Melai was a member of the acclaimed theater group Dulaang Katig. Regarding The Long Journey of a Tired People. Titled in other publications as Winds of Change Bypassing the Philippines. Check out Nalen's blog here.]


RED'S NOTE: Melai forwarded to me a letter that one of her blog's readers wrote to her. Italicized text in this letter refers to parts of the Long Journey article cited by Nalen's friend. Valentine's na nga; nakakataba ng puso ang sulat.

Grabe! Ang galing talaga nyang sumulat! Ilang beses na akong nakabasa ng mga articles nyang si red Constantino eh. Saka Maka-Red ang tatay ko sobra!

Gusto ko 'tong mga linyang 'to...

Every year we are told that the country is on the verge of takeoff, and every year we wonder why we seem to have the longest runway in the world.

Saka eto pa...

Here, political science does not apply because the government is an absurd animal. It is a preening, snorting bull that tramples and gores the weak, and a sheep in sheep's clothing that fondles the feet of the mighty. It is a bull-sheep government capable of astounding feats: it can swagger and slaughter unarmed dissenters and, for a piece of American generosity, it can spring from its own jail and escort to the US embassy an American soldier sentenced to spend 40 years behind bars for rape.

So true!

Eto pa...

And the truth is, this tyranny of shamelessness - this rule of misrule that we find ourselves in today -- can only thrive in a climate of forgetting and spectatorship.

Galing! Sapul na sapul!

Once upon a time, there was a country that could benefit from the best that its people had to give. Today, its economic fundamentals are evident: children in schools pose as sardines in tiny tin cans, public health is on the auction block, and larceny is the only state-supported enterprise.

Proud pa ang bansa sa mga tin cans na yan!

Today, nine million Filipinos are toiling abroad because in their own country they cannot provide for their families or nurture their dreams.

Nagtataka pa sila na maraming Pinoy ang gustong mangibang-bansa! Sa totoo lang, te, ang sweldo ko is higher than average. Pero ang tax, susme! Pagkalaki! Di bale ng malaki kung alam ko naman na may napapala ako sa binabayad ko... kaso mo open-secret naman sa bansa natin na diretso sa bulsa ng mga tiwali ang taxes!

Hay... naantig ang puso ko nito! And to think dedicated ito sayo! Hahahah... Pang-Valentine's day nga for you, kasi nakakaantig ng puso kapag binasa... lol :)


Feedback from Malaysia Sun:

By Anonymous, 02-09-07, 10:57 AM
Winds of change bypassing Philippines

A most beautiful article; style, content and significance./ 

Quite a comment on Libertarian Economics. 



By hefenator, 02-09-07, 11:16 AM
The Spirit of the Philippino People

I’m an American and I love going to the Philippines. The people there have a great spirit and love of life. I’m hopeful that the country can elect leadership that will eventually bring the much sought after “First World Status”. I beleive that if any people in the world can perservere it is the Philippino people. Maybe I’m just an optimist, but hey that is better than the author fo this article. In America some people say “Love it, or leave it”, maybe it is time for the author to leave and see if the grass is greener on the othere side.


By beacon4u, 02-09-07, 11:50 AM
More power to you!

I am deeply touched! Your sentiments are my sentiments. My heart goes out to the poor in the Philippines, especally the children. I have those words scrambled in my head and you put them down in writing with astounding eloquence and with so much truth! More power to you, Sir!


By Anonymous, 02-09-07, 06:21 PM
Stop wanting to be the U.S.

As an American expatriate here in the Philippines I would like to say that you need to STOP listening to America and the West. Stop trying to copy their systems. Find your own solutions to problems, Filipino solutions.


By Terry Malone, 02-09-07, 09:49 PM
Marvellous article

Thank you so much for this. It is so exacting in its presentation, and a credit to your news site. I have not been to the Philippines for many years but remember well the downfall of Marcos and the great hope it heralded. It is such a shame that all these years later the country is going backwards while those in charge are still the only ones reaping benefits.


By Sandman, 02-10-07, 02:47 AM
Exodus of the heroes....as slaves

A friend once told me, the Philippines is being treated by a higher being (God, Allah, Yahweh or ID, take your pick), to prepare them for emigration and integration into societies all over the world. It is the destiny of Filipinos, to be in the background, silent yet deadly. We do not advertise our positions, till the enemy’s overconfidence has doomed themselves. 

Take heed. First and final warning... 

Taong Buhangin


By Gully, 02-10-07, 04:51 AM
Sad and more sad

I live here and love this place.I was totallly amazed at the Leaders forcast that the Philippines was now second world. 

Where does she live and spend her time. 

This place is not even fourth world. 

Any place where the politicians actually handle the money without account, where judges and reporters get killed ,where unemployment is 90%, where corruption goes ALL the way to the bottom,is a long way from 2 world. 


By bluetorch, 02-10-07, 05:48 AM

What the author is saying is really reality. That reality really forced me to be out of the country just to send my kids to school and to have their own self ready for this reality. 

Now we have to enhance the skill of our countrymen just to export them as maids in other countries and of course for a fee, another load to us just to support our families. What a shame!!! If the government is really honest to help its people why not trained them for free and assist them in getting works abroad if they are helpless to give substantial jobs in the country? 

How I wish to be back in the Philippines for good but as I see it, it’s going back for bad not only for me but for the whole family.


By The Angry American, 02-10-07, 07:04 AM
Blame, blame, blame

Maybe Filipinos should stop blaming America and take some responsibility for themselves. It’s very easy for anyone, espcially the lazy, to place blame on others. Those that truly thrive decide to do so and do so regardless of the actions of others. Blaming somone else is the lazy, Filipino, way.


By Anonymous, 02-09-07, 11:01 AM
winds of change bypassing philippines

Quite a comment on individual behavior.


By Anonymous, 02-09-07, 07:21 PM
Why Filipinos behave they way they are

As an American black boy borned in the Philippines almost 60 years ago, I could not get US citizenship because my US GI father abandoned my mother. After I got my education there and immigrated to Canada. I tried to get dual citizenship (Canadian and Filipino) last year so I can retire in the Philippines. And here I am, with Canadian pension and willingness to invest in the local economy and I was turned down by the Philippine Consulate in Canada. And they wanted me to apply for US citizenship instead, the country that treated my mother as a WHORE. I just could not believe it! This must be the effect of the Emericanization of the Philippines in early 1900 to 1920 where are Filipinos were EDUCATED in the American way of life. Anybody who resisted were sent to Guam, Hawaii or put in prison until they smarten up.(just search the Google in the history of the American-Filipino War of the 1900s). It’s no kidding Filipinos behave the way they are today. 

Maybe I am wrong but I will try to go the Philippines again maybe this year or next year and try to convince them that I really love this country because they were the ones who helped me get educated and nourished. I also thank the US for giving us kids (there must be hundreds of us kids in the 50’s) being given food rations for abandoned GI children although it was humilating because our mothers were looked down upon.


Sunday, September 24, 2006



Let's pause for some letters from readers. Some are about pieces I wrote commemorating the anniversary of martial rule in the Philippines; others are about blog posts. I've chosen a few of the more interesting, and they range from incensed, to glad, and suggestions of new themes. One letter even added new names to my already long name -- Genghis, arsonist, Evita. To the interesting ones I've included some of my replies, just so the exchanges have some sort of frame.

So scroll down if you have nothing better to do. My replies (explanations to maintain the flow) are in italics.

Here's one from an irate Joe Reyes of New York who was evidently worked up by the article The Vein of Thirty-Four Years, which includes a couple of exchanges:

Hi Red Constantino and Caesar,

Red and Caesar should not be blue wallowing in the sicknesses of the past or present. Let us have bright red thoughts in our pulsing cranial arteries (if there are such things--I don't know, I am only a silly puitic poet.)

We all know that life is no longer a Newtonian universe with three dimensions or an Einsteinian one with four. Rather it appears that there are millions or trillions of parallel universes existing in 11 dimensions, according to the latest String Theory on the Physics of the world.

As in physics, so too in a nation's life: there are many realities--some productive and others futile and defeated, like the Blue Constantino reality.

The Philippine reality is that when Marcos instituted martial law and American businessmen cheered, the economy prospered for eight years only to collapse during 1983/85, hit by high oil prices, and by Typhoon Imelda, and by the impact of a Tsunami known as the inefficient Philippine industrialization plan. Since 1953, the so-called Filipino "nationalist" industrialists had not been export-oriented, had not been earning dollars and had been bleeding the country dry of dollars to spend on imported components that were assembled into globally-unsalable, inferior products serving only the local markets.

The industrialists survived only with the high tariffs that the left applauded as a barrier against imperialism. Since the industrialists were highly protected, these "nationalists" exploited local consumers with high prices. Since they served only the tiny Philippine market, these nationalists had small sales and could not create all that many jobs to enrich workers. Since these nationalists earned no dollars and no big profits, they could not import lots of machines and technologies to help the country.

By contrast, the "non-nationalist(!?)" planners in Hong Kong and Singapore had free markets that left local entrepreneurs unprotected. That forced the entrepreneurs to be globally competitive and to ally with technologically advanced, globally-efficent multinationals.

The alliances built big factories to conquer world markets and soon employed every worker, resulting in labor shortages and high earnings for workers.

The big factories earned big sales and profits to build even larger factories, raise worker productivity, raise their wages, and enrich them and the capitalists--local and multinational--all together.

How wonderful for all classes was non-nationalism, which killed the class struggle and got imperialized synthesized with imperialists in a wonderful dialectic!

Typhoon Imelda was like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. She had no productive ideas in her head but was spending money like crazy amidst the poverty.

But, who were the arsonists?

The biggest arsonists were the "nationalist" Filipino businessmen whose exports were tiny, growing 8% annually (doubling every 9 years) while those of Singapore, Hong Kong, S Korea, and Taiwan were soaring 18% to 30% annually (doubling every 2.4 years to 4 years). Thus, Filipinos missed out on big dollar earnings. The problem got just worse and worse. Now Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and S. Korea have $1.1 trillion of exports of goods and services, or nearly 25 times as high as the $46 billion of the Philippines. Yet, their combined population of only 82 million is lower than the 88 million in the Philippines. No wonder they got ruby-red rich--they had all the dollars needed to import the machines they needed to build factories and laboratories and great universities, and create high-income jobs, and advance at science and technology, and prosper.

Meanwhile a blue Philippines lacked water systems, power plants, telecom networks, modern ports and roads, railways, and factories and jobs, and wallowed in the oxygen-deprived blue bloods of Filipino veins.

The second group of arsonists were ordinary citizens and the best and brightest Filipino intellectuals such as ceasar1185@aol.com (who has forwarded Constantino's email) and Diokno and Manglapus and Salonga and Ninoy Aquino. They did not raise an alarm flag on the chronic trade deficits and the hemorraghing of dollars that was forcing the country to be more and more heavily indebted and on the way to collapse.

They did not ask either why foreign export-oriented investment inflows were so strong to other Asian countries--Singapore, Hong Kong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia at that time (not yet China or South Korea)--and so weak to the Philippines in the ratio 20 to 1.

They simply kept denouncing corruption, not aware that corruption has never barred progress in any country in which at least a few citizens were succeeding to bring in great riches from the world to build the country--for example corrupt but prosperous ancient Rome, or crony-infested but successfully buccaneering England under Elizabeth 1, or corrupt America of robber barons and carpet baggers and stock market thieves during and after President Grant, or corrupt Japan in the 1950s as its export boom began.

Third as arsonists making Manila burn were leftists like Renato Constantino, Jo Ma Sison, Lichauco, Mizhuaria, and today Red Constantino or Crispin Beltran or Walden Bello-- writing with passion and intensity but as ignorant of productive global processes as the centrist nationalists like Diokno, Nick Joaquin, Manglapus, or Henares.

The leftists kept denouncing imperialism (and WTO today) and beating on the horse of class struggle while proposing/doing nothing to conquer imperialism. They did not see that Asian Tigers such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and S Korea--and even Malaysia--were laughing all the way to the bank conquering imperialism with imperialist allies!

The Asian Tiger conquerors invited imperial IBM, Citigroup, Apple, National Semiconductor, and other imperial giants to locate in their countries and work with their workers to produce export products that conquered the markets of New York, California, London, Paris and other imperial backyards. Of course employment boomed in these countries as export sales to world markets more than 150 times as large as domestic markets skyrocketted. Workers got rich as the strong global profits of local exporters and their imperial allies were re-invested for sustained progress, contradicting the leftist hypotheses that multinationals were only get-rich quick artists that would repatriate profits and bleed the host country dry of resources, capital, and wealth.

Now Singapore has the highest rate of home ownership in the world. Now Hong Kong's income per capita in dollars of equal purchasing power across borders is 15th highest in the world and surpasses the levels in Germany, Italy, Sweden and many other Western European economies. Now China and South Korea and Taiwan and Singapore and Hong Kong brim with technology picked up from the factories of the imperial foreign investors.

How hot the Roman fires in Manila still burn, barbecuing the economy. Universal in the conflagaration is the Philippine poverty, Arroyo global incompetence (exports are stagnant) and corruption, and global anemia among Filipino bankers, industrialists, legislators, and the people at large are catholic in that firmament. Therefore, what must be done?

Should we cry for Manila like Evita Constantino? Or, is there a parallel universe that an Attila Constantino can and should define, a universe of Filipino Huns sacking imperial America, a universe still unborn but could be germinated in the Maynilad Eden of sexy gardens? Indeed, there is--a sexciting two-step process.

The second step is to erase Article 12 of the Constitution. That is, do not amend it. Simply erase its restrictions on the building of Philippine utilities by foreigners.

Then foreign imperial investors can build the utilities to conquer world markets with. Anemic Filipino nationalists have made the Philippines lag badly at energy, with electricity availability only 6% as high per person as in Singapore, and only 17% as high as in Malaysia, and only 33% as high as in China! If Luciofer Tan, our richest billionaire, and the Aywalas, er Ayalas, our poorerst billionaires, have no yen to build utilities, while not let Japanese or U.S. or Italian imperialists do it?

They would do it enthusiastically anticipating that low Filipino wages and the new utilities would attract huge global manufacturers to locate in the country and use the utilities. enriching their builders.

Indeed, the manufacturers would come. Philippine export sales and employment would soar! The Philippines would boom overnight!

The first step is to agitate to erase Article 12 of the Constitution. Evita Constantino should no longer cry tears of despair! Instead, Genghis Constantino must cry words of assault: "Attack World Export Markets with Foreign Allies or Die!"

Japanese zaibatsus and German nazis understood the futility of their militaristic universes after their defeats in World War II. They shifted to the other parallel universe of export conquests and became Phoenixes rising from the ashes. Ha, the Phoenix flew! Now Germany is the most mighty exporter in the world--ahead of America! Japan trails--even China has surpassed it. But, it is up there at #4.

Deng Xiao Ping in the 1970s saw what was happening and abandoned the Mao universe of inflamed incantations, jumping onto the parallel universe of the Capitalist Eagles so as to become the new export Shark of Asia. Now China is home to 30,000 multinationals marauding in the world with Chinese workers and Noah arcs brimming with megatons of exported Chinese shoes, computers, air conditioners, fireworks, TVs, radios, hammers, sickles, aviation parts, telecommunication rocket services. Not to mention lychees, grapes and apples from the Beijing Garden of Eden.

If silly poetic bombast is a desired exercise by Red Constantino and Jo Ma Sison and other leftists and patriots and nationalists with their incantations about the broad masses and their impending victories in the dialectics of class struggle, there are parallel universes for that too, as in the metaphors of the preceding paragraphs.

Going back to the sanity of the real world, let us not fight one another, let us not stick to our already unproductive, non-globally competitive universe. There is much that we can do to conquer world markets. Let us act productively.

I ask Walden Bello, Red Constantino, Jo Ma Sison, Caesar, Dr. Abuevan, and other Filipinos to unite to speed up the elimination of Article 12. Let other revisions come later--unitary into federal, and a bicameral Congress into a unicameral parliament.

Politics is about having forums in which to work out policies that get consensus support. As long as the economic foundation for political discussions is strong, political life will be rich. But, if the economic foundation, the economic attitudes, are political life will be sterile, even with consensus, for from nothing comes nothing but herbolario voodoo medicine.

A Philippines with an article 12 has a witch doctor foundation. Remove that Article, which cuts off the Philippines from the world, and let the Philippines stand on the, and the Philippines will proser, whether or not we have a federal or unitary government, or a bicameral Congress versus a unicameral parliament. Our democracy will be rich.

Cheers although we bleed still... with bad poetry and false nationalism and leftism... Let us be globally productive....please.... please....let us not bleed in the heart and worse in the head with oxygen-deprived nationalist analysis.


Joe Reyes in New York

Another person responds to Reyes with kudos:

Dear Mr. Reyes:

Your commentary has great merit and solid economic foundation.

We commend you for that.

Long live the Motherland.

San Francisco

This is followed by a response from a reader to my original reply, who was disappointed over my dismissal of Reyes' letter.

Professor Constantino,

Actually, I was glad that someone in Mr. Victor Barrios' Global Filipinos egroup reacted to your article. In the Talsik egroup, there were 3 or 4 comments. But the comments are not as extensive as Mr. Reyes.

I was wracking my brain how to respond to Mr. Reyes. Initially, I was going to post the Inquirer Editorial in 2004 about my fellow UP alumnus (I refer to him as No. 1 UP alumnus, and No. 2 in Transparency International) and remembering the beginning of building a New Society. Then I was going to refer to Mr. Reyes to Dr. Belinda Aquino's book on Malakas and Maganda and HotManila's article also which came out I think in 2004. Of course, there are many other books and many articles about that period in Philippine history.

Your response reminds me of terror professors in the UP. But Mr. Reyes is not your student. And this egroup is not a graduate class.

Cesar Torres

My response to Mr. Torres is below.

Hi Cesar.

The subject at hand was martial law and the apparent return of its worst facets. Joe was too eager to talk about things that were on his chest for a long time and unfortunately not related to the subject matter discussed, and he did so by whining via name calling. Exactly for the point that you raise that this list is not a graduate class nor a juvenile debating arena that I chose not to delve into a corny tirade. Like all or most on the lists copied to, I too have tons of work in addition to my duties as a writer and I have limited time to respond to calls of Evita, Genghis and arsonist; if the response had been more coherent and more serious perhaps I would not have dismissed it.

Ninety-nine percent of Reyes' response did not touch was not based on the issue tackled by the essay you forwarded -- an issue I was interested enough to write about recently. But maybe you are right and maybe I should have taken Mr. Reyes more seriously. So let's just put it this way, without having to go to B. Aquino or the editorials you mentioned, again noting that I am going off topic and may not able to sustain this but I am doing so out of respect for the concern you have expressed.

Of the countries cited -- Malaysia, South Korea, or Taiwan, for instance -- each one has two things in common with the others that Reyes seems to have missed: the first is nationalism, and the second is the history-specific period that each of the economies existed in.

Regarding nationalism, only casual observers of the economies of the countries cited would not see that each one nourished -- cosseted -- their domestic industries and nourished their domestic markets. Exports formed a substantial part of their economies yes but they were only able to do so because of the manner with which local capital was mobilized, preferential attention given to domestic markets, domestic industries and the allied sectors of particular industry within the economy and the strategic manner with which foreign capital was leveraged. Foreign investment followed where domestic investment went.

History-specific, because during the period of the Cold War, most of the globally dominant economies set aside the economically threatening competition posed by the rising East and Southeast Asian economies in order to sustain the mobilization of the same against the perceived Soviet and China threat. And some took advantage -- this was also the same period when Japanese capital moved in and rapidly spread across Southeast Asia, owing to the favorable conditions created by the US decision to revalue the Japanese yen (in order to reduce the competition to American industries posed by Japan -- and yet this also allowed Japan to go on a buying spree in the US owing to its strengthened currency). In addition, the rise of these economies came at a great price -- ecologically, the accompanying ecological degradation and rapid depletion of the natural resources of the cited countries alongside other acute consequences, such as the rise and semi-permanence of the insurgent labor force of South Korea.

I am not the usual busy blogger who can post a limitless amount of info on her/his blog and while responding to each and every comment. So I hope my response, though short, helps further the discussion you desire. If there is a follow-through, I cannot promise to respond again in detail to it, especially if it wasn't about the original piece written and particularly if it calls the writer an arsonist. But I will of course read it, as I do every response to my writings. I have written articles because of responses to previous essays, but it is not always the case, and when it is so, it is usually not immediate.

Thanks again for dropping by.

Warm regards.


p.s. I wasn't part of the other groups so I just hit "reply all" assuming it will just reach you and Mr. Reyes. Thanks for forwarding it, despite your disagreement with the tenor I took.

Cesar replies to my response.

Prof. Constantino, Mr. Reyes,

I have been batting for a Government of National Reconciliation. It is just too tedious hating without let up. Otherwise, we will all perish because of our white hot hatred for what happened before. But we should vow on our lives, "Never again! Never again!"

You honor me Prof. Constantino for this response, a very serious and sincere rejoinder to Mr. Reyes.

Cesar Torres

Here's a note Kala forwarded to me from Rep. Acosta of Bukidnon (LP) regarding The Vein of Thirty-Four Years.

Elegantly, incisvisely, evocatively written piece.

Please thank Red for me.


From the writer Melody Kemp, on The Vein:


as usual a wonderfully impassioned but delicate piece. You manage to
walk that line between palpable rage and delicato.

The US leave their gifts all over the world like fossilised dog turds. They litter and degrade, but do contribute anything good to human kind. We were in the hills last week (I have written a rather boring descriptive piece about it so that may aging brain hangs on to the detail ) and all around where those lovely round fish ponds that the came as a gift out of the sky from the US. Villagers told us of leaving their villages of 200 years and living in caves for 3 years. The US of course by their actions actively contributed to the formation of 3 Stalinist states. Like they are contributing to Islamic outrage and solidarity. Are they thick, opportunistic, deliberately instrumental, self righteously naive or a muddle of all.



Anna Maria Gonzales dropped by to leave something provocative regarding The Tides of September:

Perhaps it is not only forgetting that is to blame.

Denial is the disease, forgetting is the symptom.


Obviously something really worth thinking about. Here's a note from Ben Razon, regarding The Vein:


ang hirap maging hindi manhid talaga. it's like the weather these days, waking up to crystal clear and cool mornings, then the sun somehow turns into a torrid heat at noontime, and no later than mid-afternoon you see nothing but the biggest, blackest cloud of the day's promised deluge.

tapos baha na naman ang araneta avenue. which ironically is funeral home row.

maybe write something about the contrast between, say, the blank cynicism of erap's 'weather-weather' terminology and the way real political calamity has this indiscriminate nature of striking pretty much those who least deserve it.


That's a tough suggestion, but it's actually interesting enough to work on it

Here's one from a first time visitor.

Kudos! You have one fine blog here, Mr. Constantino. I presume you're the son of the great Renato Constantino. Say Happy Birthday to Rio for me. Keep it up. The stained glass windows are brilliant. How did you get to Jolo?


And here's a voice from the fine city and a period that seems so recent and yet so distant, too.

Hi Red! How are you today? I found your essays and some news report regarding your father, the well respected Ka RC. I want to buy your book "The Poverty of Memory:"Essays on Hystory and Empire. I know you are really a great writer. I read some of your articles from the flyers you gave me when i was in the height of the Temic struggle. We met sometimes in the picket line and you introduced me your companion no other than Miss Tetchie Agbayani. I don't know if you can still remember that.

Regards to your father and the whole family. Thank a lot for helping us in our ordeal. I am now living here in New York City for a greener pasture. More power to you!

Monna Lunot

Cesar Torres wrote back later regarding the article The Tides of September and some thoughts that the essay elicited from him.

Prof Constantino,

I love this American song, "Try to Remember that Time in September"... To me the song evokes pathos, sadness, wistfulness, and hope. Personally also, so much has happened to my life in September.

A new way of looking at things, perhaps a Government of National Reconciliation, I think this is what we need. And the rule of law. I think that the 90 million Filipinos are looking towards the Supreme Court for leadership. For their sake and for the sake of the future generations. And not just through the Trapos, the Exploitative Oligarchy, the YOUng, the CBCP, the NDF, Akbayan, Laban ng Masa, Jemaah Islamiyah or America.

We cannot continue to be hating and hating and hating. We are white hot with hate. And we are burning, literally and figuratively. And the pain, the misery, the anguish, the cost in blood and lives...

Let us redirect our passions to honoring our martyrs and heroes, those who have fallen in the darkness of the night, who are still unremembered, unmoured. Then let us swear on our lives: "Never again. Never again!"

For a start, perhaps your "Kamuning Republic" should start talks of unity that should ultimately result in its combination with the "Republic of the Bakya Makers" and other Republics. You can then provide an alternative to our people. A highly organized, serious, credible alternative to the Regime of the Trapos and the Ninnies. Through the ballot and not through the bullets.

A suggested guide: "First La Patria! Second, Partido! Then Nuestra Familya!" In that order.

Cesar Torres

I think Cesar's suggested guide is really, really good.


Monday, July 17, 2006


A storm is brewing. The affection of friends and family as well as the exigencies of work can shelter us from lashing winds or cold nights. As a writer, I am thankful that the pathways of work and comrades and kin converge every now and then, though, of course, being mortal, I often want more and constantly hope that the congregation of ideas and affections can take place more frequently.

So. Here are a few of such convergences, via letters from readers and friends.

Cesar Torres, a reader on this blog's mail list, wrote again last July 5 in reply to my lengthy response to his earlier letter: "Thank you sir. Of course, I shared your piece with some e-groups hoping that the members would read, pause, think, and act accordingly about the profound issues you raised.... You are not the snotty intellectual that I originally perceived you to be."

You are welcome, Cesar. Thanks for writing.

The other week, Judith Lacandalo, who belongs to a fine group called Peace Advocates Zamboanga, emailed a letter with a thank you note for the essays sent her way. "A friend of mine lost his son on a car accident last month," wrote Judith, who added that she "got some excerpts" from the Perpetuity and Impermanence article I dedicated to a good friend who passed away some months ago, Arlie Nava. The work that Judith and her organization is doing is difficult but thoroughly inspiring and I was only too glad to tell her that I was happy I was able to give back something to her by way of words.

Across the seas, writer Melody Kemp, whose writing ship has been berthed for some time in magical Laos, tapped me on the shoulder the other day to say that she had just re-read this one" [Perpetuity and Impermanence]. "It glows and I am totally delighted by your talent. It's the ineffable Filipino muse fine honed to 'delicato'. Now let me know what your travel plans are so I can lay in supplies." I intend to see her soon but I am hoping that a brewing storm does not acquire mega-gale force winds.

Logistics for Melody, my correspondent friend, being a choice between merlot grapes, cabernet sauvigon, shiraz, cab shiraz or syrah, I confessed early in our exchanges that I possessed the wine expertise of a barbarian, which is perhaps why I am looking forward to seeing her since, apart from expecting a sumptuous exchange of foibles and nearly noble adventure stories, I am looking forward to taking the first step in reaching -- through a real connoisseur such as her -- the status of Wine-Barbarian-Tolerable-Enough-Not-To-Be-Thrown-Out-Of-The-Room-In-Two-Minutes.

The letter Melody sent regarding the Perpetuity essay is very much welcome since it reminds me of a letter that she had sent around February last year in reply to a chronicle I had written about Kyoto. "I sip at your words like a fine cabernet. Well, after seeing Sideways I can hardly drink merlot..." Reading her letter again gives me a smile bigger than Ernie, the eternal buddy of Sesame Street's Burt. Melody maintains a column for the Cobra Post, an online South Asia-based news site.

You can read about some of the Laotian wind blowing on the sails of Melody's writing ship by clicking on this link.

Well, fluid's flowing; I end this now so I can work on other pieces of material with hopefully little hesitation.

The nice photo at the top of the page was emailed by Butch Turk, who is based in the US and who has still not been sent a copy of my book (sorry... coming soon) and who, among his more proper, notable attributes, is a man abundant with good friends. In the picture beside this text, Butch is the guy wearing shades, behind the beautiful, frail Crizel, one of the many victims of the huge cancer-causing toxic waste left behind by the imperial US armed forces in many parts of the Philippines. Butch and Crizel, along with the Tunisian mechanic, Mehdi, ship captain Pete Wilcox and Danny and other activists, are seen here riding one of the inflatable boats of the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, which was on a campaign tour of Asia about six years ago. It was one of Crizel's last wishes.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

A new letters site


I suppose it's silly to maintain a blog site and yet end up mostly posting what I have written and sent to others for publication. And 'mostly' is an understatement. The nearest blogging I've done is posting the poem that crept out of my pen last June, and posting some family pics a few months ago.

Well. So. Let's try and correct that bit by bit. One device may be to use reaction letters. Below is one letter, which was emailed to me and also copied to many yahoogroups none of which I belonged to, responding to the Collevecchio piece, and after that is my reply to the letter writer. Despite its obvious brevity, I chose to post it because it dips into the pallette of cynicism and daubs the color quite thickly. I hope it's enough of a nudge to make me set aside more time for blogging. I will try to post letters every now and then in case these help to get me to blog more. But don't hold yer breath.

And if you haven't read The road from Collevecchio yet, all you need to do is to click on this.


Cesar T., responding to the essay The road from Collevecchio:

A very sad story Mr. Constantino, of a Dream World.

So how do you propose to do attain this Dream World Mr. Constantino: "It is possible because we will work for a world where dignity is the main currency, justice fuels our economies and interactions, and solidarity is the only debt that people shall owe one another."

Cesar Torres

My reply:

Hello Cesar. I reply only to you since I do not belong to any of the ten or so yahoogroups you copied your email to. But you have my permission to forward my email, if that is your intention.

Well, I do not propose to attain what you call a dream world. The essay says so. Perhaps in fundamental disagreement with some who demand that another world is possible, I insist that that such a world already exists, though always on the interstices, and somehow, often, never more than a passing moment in a day or week or month or year. Or not more than a few years. But it is there; it is here, however ephemeral. I think too many keep looking for the distant thing, or a different planet, or a time gone by or a world that supposedly will be built all over again from scratch, and so they miss building on what they already have. They miss working on the clay that is in front of them, what they wake up with almost every day and go to sleep with almost every night, the things that make them feel they are more than just automatons, that make them celebrate and rage and weep and exalt and feel joy.

The thing is to make these things grow and occupy vastly more than the margins that they inhabit every now and then.

Indifference is a tragic thing, perhaps equal to the tragedy of eager resignation when there is so much to rage against, to build with and to celebrate. Insane, blind optimism? Maybe, or maybe not. Yet how can you even begin to start from where you are and to build with what you have when you speak of dreams as something sad, which is even more sad than all the killings put together?

A group of elderly Filipinas asked themselves a few years ago what they wanted most for their next birthday. One said good health, another said a great resort where she can retire and live out the rest of her days in peace and quiet, and another said she wanted to live one more year so she can wish for another year after that. But one said that what she wanted most was to keep her capacity to always feel joy, and also anger at injustices, because these are the things that keep her from growing old. I think, for all my enthusiasms and frustrations, that I am so much older than her and so from the time I first heard her story I have reordered my goals, and on top of many is the aim to age enough so that one day I can be as young as her.

My thanks for your feedback.



Photo: A beginning: A new fishing boat being built in Aceh some months after the tidal wave. Pic by Red, taken from his Nokia.

Reaction to The road from Collevecchio

July 4, 2006

Dear Red,

Another beautifully-written article and it filled me with envy. Red, you know I love you like the brother I never had. My envy was not your writing style, but rather that you are such a fucking dreamer, while at my age, I believe I am a realist. You believe firmly in the possibility of Utopia, while I advocate Animal Farm. You rant against oil use, yet the thousands of gallons attributed to your air travel this year does not count. In my own country that has legislated for 10 percent of all electricity generation to be sourced from renewable means, there is now outrage at the once-beautiful skylines being ruined by wind generators and their whop-whop-whop noise.

You dream of everybody being brothers, but in my short life time never a day has passed without their being a war fought somewhere. You blame World Bank and similar institutions for the woes of the people, yet these institutions were set up with good intentions, but were corrupted by the receiving governments, including those of the Philippines. You will probably know the Spanish author who wrote: “A country need not have foreign rulers to be a colony; it can be a colony run by its own people.”

Yes. I agree with you. Capitalism is the biggest enemy we have. Democracy doesn’t exist – and it may shock you to know – it never did. General Motors has a bigger budget than the Philippines. Our lives are governed by board rooms in Europe and the United States. Who voted for these people? A few with money at their disposal. That is life. The one chance the human race had – the 1918 Russian revolution was blown – because as Orwell correctly predicted – when it comes to power, nothing changes. The Philippines had a great opportunity in 1986 – but what was it really? Just a family quarrel over who should hold the reins of power and money – and the Philippine people lost again. But at least we have monuments to mark this folly – both the EDSA monument and Our Lady of the Cockroaches – for that is surely what is depicted climbing up her back. The Philippines can still build monuments. There is a massive monument to corruption – called NAIA 3, I pass it every day.

The only solution is not sat in a courtyard in Italy – but education, education and education. The distorted power of the priest is only dissipated with personal wealth. The Church thrives upon keeping people illiterate and poor, and always has. Educate the people and they become discerning and probably make money. If they make money, the power of the priests and their dreadful superstition is gone – witness Eire. This is not to say that I am not a Christian – far from it. Jesus spoke eminent sense, but any relationship between Christianity and Catholicism is purely coincidental. The salvation of the people in this country, whether you like it or not, is mining and its down-line industries, (plus pills, UIDs and condoms, of course). The Philippines has so much wealth under the soil. The only problem is equitable distribution of the wealth – this is the basic problem. Our knowledge allows mining sites to be restored. Witness Ipoh in Malaysia.

I am now writing in a small fortnightly journal, Philippine News Explorer, and would be happy to debate you in this forum.

Genuine best regards,



July 4, 2006

Hello Alan. My thanks again for your candor. From your letter, I fear your longing for the brother you never had has more to do with being deprived of someone to whom you can give a regular Indian burn...

I don't believe in the possibility of another world. In fundamental disagreement with many in my 'ranks', I know that such a world already exists, though always on the interstices, and never more than a passing moment. But it is there. It is here, however ephemeral. Everyone keeps looking for the distant thing, or a different planet, or a time gone by or a world that can be built all over again. And so they miss what is in front of them, what they wake up with, the things that make them feel they are more than just automatons. The thing is to make these things grow. And yes, of course, education fuels that search, creates the necessary disonnance, shows that this is not as good as it gets. But then where does education begin and where does schooling end?

Whop whop noise -- debatable -- vs. ugly stationary behemoths that are like scars on the ground which produce radioactive waste that will remain dangerous to everything living for millions of years at the cost of billions of pounds of taxpayers money without which none of the nuclear stations would be built, and similar costs and scale of consequences for oil as well as coal. This is the choice you are asking me to consider? I am of course surprised as well that an individual Filipino's travels -- and attempts to broaden his mind -- is being put at par with the industrialized world's consumption of the global commons.

You advocate Animal Farm? Ah, my friend, I cannot support you - I would rather stick a spit and grill the beef and poultry and pork; why waste good meat just to ponder over cattle oratory?

But it's hard enough confronting indifference and brutal regimes without big banks continuously giving loans that sustain the brutalities. I refer to Nigeria today, and the Philippines during the time of Marcos. If the support from the hypocritical global institutions and governments of big nations was not extended so generously and fawningly, likely the dictator would not have lasted as long as he did. As for present day Philippines in relation to the Spanish author you quote - I would buy the Spaniard a beer because he is right...

Regarding 1918 and other variations, in the context that you have provided, these are reminders that it is folly to keep waiting for the thunderclap of revolution, to forget that everyday is subversion. That is why education itself is so subversive. Education makes people easy to lead but difficult to drive; easy to govern but impossible to enslave. But are you referring to education or schooling? What do you mean by education? And why hold it against the simple folks who, because of their education, found it meaningful to share their experiences and learn from each other? You speak of Rizal frequently. Are you saying he came out of his mum uttering already the language - and values - of Cervantes? That he did not break bread and try to learn from others as well? To listen? At least he wrote down - in his own way - the things he believed in so that others may learn and be educated as well. But then, I seem to remember that I have acquired this terrible itch to write and write and that I thankfully am able to scratch the itch often. Others in the courtyard had the same itch too...

Your proposal for a debate regarding these things and mining as the rocket ship that would take the Philippines out of Planet Misery I welcome but cannot take up seriously. I do not have the time right now to reciprocate the seriousness of this exchange. If we exchange places, and you still say yes despite knowing the uncertainty of being able to respond adequately and in a timely fashion, I would take it against you.

But send me a copy of what you write, for Chrissakes, or at least tell me when an issue comes out which carries something you've written, and where I can get a copy of the PNE.

You bring up the Catholic Church in vain. Whatever bile you have, or rage, I will top it. [editor's note: Red here is referring particularly to the Church's position and clandestine and aboveground operations regarding the issue of women and reproductive health]

I have to rush. I am going by bicycle tomorrow to Batangas, while you will use some fossil fueled vehicle to reach your destination, but I won't take it against you because you said you'll buy me plenty of beers. And I hope you noticed I made the bubbly offer plural.

Warm regards, as usual.



Photos by Red, taken from his Nokia. Corridors of time from a temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2005.