Monthly Archives: December 2010

Column: Is Mindanao part of the Philippines?

Column No. 150, published on July 6, 2010.

The first news reports about Bong Naguiat’s return to Pagcor, this time as President Aquino’s appointee as chair, failed to capture the sense of relief that many employees of the gaming agency felt, now that the Genuino nightmare had come to an end. A Pagcor source wrote me: “His return is a vindication for him, and more importantly, for most Pagcorians. You should have seen the happy faces and the tears of joy that met him last Thursday.” Now there’s a story.

* * *

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. has come under fire, lately from Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, for lacking the necessary neutrality we should expect in the chair of a Truth Commission. I disagree. As Davide has demonstrated before, especially during the country’s first-ever impeachment trial, he has both the necessary detachment and the essential gravitas to conduct a public and committee-driven investigation. It is Jinggoy, I think, who is incapable of neutrality on the issue. Continue reading


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Column: Hyphenating Noy and other dilemmas

Published on June 29, 2010. Howie Severino, editor in chief of, gave my idea (calling the new President “P. Noy”) the benefit of a public workout (thanks, Howie!), but eventually decided on the more elegant, and more tech-friendly, “PNoy.”

I don’t know if my editors will agree with me, but I think the way to render President-elect Noynoy Aquino’s preferred short name is not ‘”P-Noy,” with a hyphen, but “P. Noy,” with a period. The hyphenated name is a made-up term, justified in part, if I’m not mistaken, by the Internet-era habit of “intercapping.” (Eg, CompuServe, MasterCard, YouTube.) Nothing wrong with that, but why choose something made up when you have something ready to hand?

“P. Noy” accurately captures what we think when we wish to say or write “President Noy.” In other words, the abbreviation of “President” into a solitary “P,” with its emphatic period, comes naturally to us. Read over almost any correspondence, even in today’s fleeting e-mails, and the abbreviations we use in daily life are reflected in it. I vote, thus, for “P. Noy.” Continue reading

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Constantino on Rizal: More links

“Veneration without Understanding,” Renato Constantino’s still-controversial Rizal Day lecture, can easily be found on the Net. Here is a link to the version in, the mother-of-all-Rizal-websites. (“The Life and Writings of Jose Rizal” is maintained by Dr. Robert Yoder.) The version used is the one found in Constantino’s Dissent and Counter-Consciousness. It  has the added advantage of greater perspective, since the Table of Contents allows us to “place” the lecture in Constantino’s nationalist project.

E. San Juan Jr’s more successful Marxist reading of Rizal, “Understanding Rizal without Veneration,” has since been updated (or integrated) into a longer version, here.

Among those who were kind enough to respond to my two-part critique of Constantino (1, 2) was Bob Couttie, the “Mad Dog” himself, who referred me to a series of posts he wrote in 2007 deconstructing Constantino’s influential lecture. Unfortunately, the link to the PDF file no longer works; here is the first part of the series (which should allow those interested to thread the rest together). Happy hunting.


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On Constantino: A letter to the editor

Of the many interesting reactions to the two-part column on Renato Constantino’s Americanized view of Rizal, Sonny Melencio’s was the most detailed, the most thought-out. A shorter version of his original letter (whittled down to under 3,000 characters, the limit for letters) was printed on July 6, 2010 in the Letters to the Editor page.

Constantino’s view of Rizal still valid

John Nery’s critique of Renato Constantino’s “Veneration Without Understanding” (Newsstand, Inquirer, 6/15/10 and 6/22/10) may be summarized by the following point: that Jose Rizal was depicted by Constantino as unworthy of being a nationalist hero, a reformist who repudiated the Philippine revolution and whose rise to preeminence was mainly due to American sponsorship.

There is nowhere in Constantino’s writing, however, where Rizal is depicted as “counter-revolutionary” nor an “insufficiently nationalistic” figure. Continue reading

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Column: Falling for the American trap

Second of two parts, published on June 22, 2010.

Of the many false choices that are splayed throughout “Veneration without Understanding” like so much faulty electrical wiring, the most charged, it seems to me, is Renato Constantino’s argument from Americanization. “Although Rizal was already a revered figure and became more so after his martyrdom, it cannot be denied that his pre-eminence among our heroes was partly the result of American sponsorship.” And again: “History cannot deny his patriotism … Still, we must accept the fact that his formal designation as our national hero, his elevation to his present eminence so far above all our other heroes was abetted and encouraged by the Americans.” And yet again: “His choice was a master stroke by the Americans.” Continue reading


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Column: Renato Constantino’s false choices

The first of a two-part column, published on June 15, 2010.

The classic critique of Rizal, whose 149th birthday we mark on Saturday, has itself become venerable. Renato Constantino’s “Veneration without Understanding” was the astounding Rizal Day Lecture of 1969, over 40 years ago. In my view, it does not fare as well as any of Rizal’s key writings. But it continues to be a popular read, and is sometimes used to punctuate, or even stop, a discussion. Everything that a genuine nationalist ought to know about Rizal, I can remember a friend saying, is in Constantino.

What, exactly, did Constantino say, in the courageous, cobweb-clearing lecture that perhaps best reflects his approach to history? He says Filipinos who hold Rizal up as the ideal hero do not understand that he was, in truth, a counter-revolutionary—and therefore insufficiently nationalistic. “Rizal repudiated the one act which really synthesized our nationalist aspiration, and yet we consider him a nationalist leader.” That “one act” is the revolution of 1896. Continue reading


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What the Dickens?

“To me it is a perversion of criticism to suggest that you can have the virtues of a writer without his vices, and the discovery of Dickens’s failures does not make his achievement less. I swallow Dickens whole and put up with the indigestion.” V. S. Pritchett, reviewing “Edwin Drood”

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