Column No. 215, published on September 25, 2012.
The news that leading businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan had severed his ties with his alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila, traveled swiftly last Friday; speculation traveled even faster, at the speed of opinion.
A good thing, then, that Pangilinan’s letter to the Jesuit provincial superior, Fr. Jose Magadia SJ, was made available to the media on the same day he sent it, and that the so-called Jesuit paper he referenced was also published online that same night by the Jesuits. Those of us interested in the causes and consequences of what Pangilinan himself called his “complete and total disengagement from the Ateneo” could thus read both letter and paper mere hours after the news broke. (This did not, of course, stop some from indulging in innuendo.)
The paper was in fact a set of guidelines designed to provoke discussion on the mining issue, prepared by the Society of Jesus Social Apostolate (a council made up of both Jesuit and lay members) under the optimistic heading “The Golden Mean in Mining: Talking Points.” I happen to agree with most of the points raised in the paper, but I must say that I think I understand why Pangilinan, the turnaround management expert and sports patron better known as MVP, decided, in the end, to “draw the line in the sand” and “call it a day.”
He was driven to do so by the terms of the paper itself.
Yesterday, at a public function, a Cabinet secretary’s first words to me were, “Not now, Bam”–a playful, slightly imprecise reference to the following column, which was published on September 4, 2012.
Bam Aquino was my student at the Ateneo de Manila all of 17 years ago; he was, in a word, outstanding, the sort of student a teacher remembers long after the last papers have been marked. I still vividly remember the distinction he once proposed, just right after one particular class ended, between “convince” and “persuade”—the first was an appeal to reason, the second an appeal to the will—which I found a little too categorical for my taste then, but whose explanatory power I understand with greater clarity today.
Now Bam wants to run for the Senate; I have no doubt that he would excel in it—but I urge him not to run. Not next year, and not in 2016. Like many others, I believe that the Aquino family has sometimes served as history’s instrument; there is a family legacy we can all reference (even those critics who cannot stand the Aquinos can hold them accountable according to that legacy’s own terms). Continue reading
Published on August 28, 2012.
The misreading of the memo that Ateneo de Manila University president Fr. Jett Villarin wrote to his university community on the vexing issue of the Reproductive Health bill was both unfortunate and immediate. The original story that appeared in the Inquirer completely misunderstood the import of the memo, or the effect it had on the professors who wrote an impassioned, rigorously argued statement in support of the bill; as a result, a good number of readers thought that the Jesuits had thrown the professors to the dogs. Continue reading
The last column I wrote in 2011, before I left for a year-long fellowship with the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. The feedback–to the subject of the column, not to my departure (or so I think!)–was overwhelming. Published on August 9, 2011.
The scene was surreal: the old cheat was visibly moved by the resignation of the young cheat, and praised the young man’s moral courage and sense of dignity. Apparently, there really is honor among election thieves.
For those of us with a long memory, Juan Ponce Enrile is the unlikely but altogether fitting benchmark for Juan Miguel Zubiri’s act of resignation. Even though Enrile did not lose the first dagdag-bawas case filed against him by Koko Pimentel’s father, involving allegations of cheating in the 1995 elections, Enrile did own up to massive election fraud—in 1986, during the heady four days of the Edsa revolution, when circumstance and strategic candor made him admit that he had cheated for Ferdinand Marcos in the snap election.
That made his reluctance to accept Zubiri’s resignation both an acute reflection of Philippine realpolitik, and an apt reminder of the many times our country has lost its way. Continue reading
Published on December 7, 2010.
Without quite realizing it, a week ago I walked into the longest roll call I’ve ever been a part of—but I’m getting ahead of myself. This is a reflection on influence, and it begins with a book.
On Nov. 30, the Ateneo de Manila published “To Give and Not to Count the Cost,” a collection of essays about “Ateneo heroes,” to mark (several months late) the end of the university’s 150th anniversary. In the case of some of the subjects, the quotation marks were superfluous. No one can seriously dispute that Jose Rizal, Gregorio del Pilar, Benigno Aquino Jr., Edgar Jopson, Evelio Javier and several more were heroic, however that term is defined. In the case of a great many others, however, their heroism had a decidedly personal meaning: an unforgettable act of charity, a decisive intervention, the gift of lasting friendship or personal example. Continue reading
Time to play column catch-up again. This one was published on October 5, 2010.
I wanted to do this last year, but my plans fell through. Several weeks ago,
however, I got an invitation from Metrobank Foundation, encouraging me (together with other columnists too) to say a word or two today, World Teacher Day, about the influence of teachers. I would like to oblige my friends at the foundation; at the same time, I need to call them to account, for an error in judgment that—in my teacher-influenced view, at least—undermines the dignity of the profession they have served and honored since 1985. Continue reading
The third profile, after those on Manny Villar and Gibo Teodoro. Published on April 27, 2010.
In Hong Kong, where I am writing these notes, the East West Center of Honolulu is conducting its second International Media Conference. (The first was held in January 2008 in pre-Red Shirt Bangkok.) I am certain I will be asked about Cory Aquino’s son, and his prospects of succeeding to the presidency. But (to keep things in perspective) the discussion on elections in Asia is only one session out of about four dozen, with another session on “Asia’s emerging democracies.” Many of the key plenary or breakout sessions, however, involve the United States, or China, or both. Continue reading
Published on June 16, 2009. A modest tribute to a school that turned 150 years old two days before the column came out. Contrary to the view of some of my more assertive readers, however, I did not criticize the erasure of “el Ateneo” from the Penguin edition merely because I was, I am, an Atenean. Give me a little more credit than that.
In the Penguin Classics edition of “Noli Me Tangere” (2006), translator Harold Augenbraum renders the title of the seventh chapter, “Idilio en una azotea,” as “Idyll on a terrace.” I think I can understand why; the meaning of “azotea” would still be transparent to a Filipino reader today, but to the international audience of Penguin-reading English readers, it would be opaque. “Terrace,” on the other hand, falls trippingly off the tongue.
But something else is lost too, when Juan Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara de los Santos meet for the first time since the young gentleman’s return from seven years of study in Europe. In the famous balcony scene (“balcony,” in fact, is how Leon Ma. Guerrero, translator of the popular 1961 edition of the “Noli,” renders “azotea”), the two lovers exchange gigabytes of information without saying a word, through what Augenbraum, a Latino expert in the United States and the executive director of the National Book Foundation, describes as “the language of their eyes.” But they also talk, both teasingly and in earnest.
At one point, Maria Clara responds to Ibarra’s effusive declaration (“Could I ever forget you?”) with a modest recollection (“Unlike you, I haven’t traveled.”) She then says: “We were still children; your mother would take us to swim in that creek in the shade of the sugarcane. So many flowers and plants grew on the banks, and you would recite their names to me in Latin and Castilian, since you had already begun your studies at the athenaeum.” Continue reading
Published on January 20, 200
A good friend died the other week; Joey Fermin, SJ was 46.
He had been ill the last year and a half of his life, but when the end came, it still came suddenly. A mere eight hours after being brought home, to the Jesuit Residence inside the Ateneo de Manila campus in Quezon City, he succumbed to a familiar disease of unknown origin.
Too young, much too young, many mourners at the wake murmured. Maybe. Being in the same age group, I would certainly like to think so. But I doubt if “F,” as we called our classmate since high school, would have agreed; a priest for only 10 short years, he knew death’s dearest demographic. Every day is a slaughter of the innocents; to these victims, 46 would have seemed a ripe old age. Continue reading