Tag Archives: Benedict Anderson

Column: The OFW as a nationalist

Published on July 1, 2014.

In the eighth chapter of “Noli Me Tangere,” we see balikbayan Crisostomo Ibarra ride through “Manila’s busiest suburb” in a carriage. The drive turns into a trip down memory lane: “All the noise, movement, even the sun itself, a particular odor, the motley colors, awakened in his memory a world of sleeping remembrances.” (This and other passages from the novel are from the Soledad Locsin translation.)

The memories are those of his life before he left to study in Europe—until he passes a familiar landmark. “The sight of the botanical garden drove away his gay reminiscences: the devil of comparisons placed him before the botanical gardens of Europe, in the countries where much effort and much gold are needed to make a leaf bloom or a bud open; and even more, to those of the colonies, rich and well-tended, and all open to the public. Ibarra removed his gaze, looked right, and there saw old Manila, still surrounded by its walls and moats, like an anemic young woman in a dress from her grandmother’s best times.”

The sight of the landmark prompts more remembering, then, but of an outsider’s life in the cities of Europe and (“even more”) of a traveler’s passage through colonies like Singapore. The expatriate had returned, and found his country wanting. Continue reading


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Column: 5 million books

Published on December 21, 2010.

Google Books is controversial for several reasons; in this ambitious corporate attempt to digitize as many books as possible, copyright and monopoly issues may only be the most vexing. These and other issues are contentious even though, or especially because, casual reader and scholarly researcher alike already enjoy the benefits of digitized books directly.

Many of the books are available only in Preview format, but even the limits of this format can be liberating: some books offer a few pages (so we can read Fr. Miguel Bernad on “The Nature of Rizal’s Farewell Poem”); others several dozens, perhaps even a couple of hundreds (such is the case, for instance, of the massive and minutely detailed Indonesian-English dictionary by Alan M. Stevens and A. Ed.
Schmidgall-Tellings). Continue reading

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Column: Pastor Boy vs Noynoy

Published on June 1, 2010. When this came out, a colleague of mine in the newsroom said to me: “Marunong ka palang magalit.”

The pompous Pastor “Boy” Saycon presumes to teach me a lesson about unbiased sourcing, but all he really wants to say is, when it comes to the Noy-Bi operation and his participation in it, every source is biased—except for him and those who share his view. Thankfully, he has written a demonstrably erroneous letter; we can profit from his errors by parsing it. Continue reading

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Column: Risa and Loren

Published on May 4, 2010.

When the history of the 2010 campaign is written, a chapter will be reserved for the pivotal role played by two of my fellow columnists: Conrad de Quiros for articulating the case for a Noynoy Aquino presidency back in August, and Solita Monsod for launching the first legitimate critique of (that is to say, the first non-partisan attack on) the Manny Villar life story. By and large, I think they have called it right.

Conrad’s analysis of Jojo Binay’s ratings surge Monday, however, I found to be a stretch. Continue reading

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Grand Old Men

In researching Rizal’s influence in Southeast Asia, I have relied on the generosity of scholars and the good will of fellow journalists, but above all I have come to depend on the work and wisdom of “grand old men.”

Father Jack Schumacher (here autographing a book for me, at a conference room in “JR” — the Jesuit Residence inside the sprawling Loyola Heights campus) is in my view the most learned, most lucid historian of 19th-century Filipino nationalism. I take my bearings on Rizal — a revolutionary spirit with an essentially Catholic sensibility who strove to create a secular, national community —  first from Rizal’s own writings (marked, I have since learned, by crucial “turns”)  and second from Father Jack’s deeply documented work. Continue reading

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Column: The Paranaque spillway and its discontents

Published on November 10, 2009.

In Singapore, where I am spending a couple of days, almost all roads lead to the Apec Leaders’ Summit. I am on a mere byway, a well-worn path, but away from all the pageantry. I am consulting experts on Southeast Asian nationalism. Continue reading

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Column: Cory, damaged culture and cacique democracy

The second of four reflections on the role of the Aquinos in the life of the nation, at least since 1972. Published August 11, 2009.

Cory Aquino’s personal qualities helped her assume the mantle of leadership after her husband’s assassination. But what was her legacy, not as leader of the opposition but as first president of the post-Marcos era?

To my mind, the most devastating critiques of the Aquino presidency were written very early in her unexpected term (it is easy to forget how, before it became inevitable, Marcos’ fall from power seemed improbable). James Fallows wrote “A Damaged Culture” in 1987, after spending six weeks in the country; the still-controversial article, a finalist for the National Magazine Award in the United States, appeared in the November 1987 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Benedict Anderson’s “Cacique Democracy in the Philippines,” a sweeping context-setting study, was published in the May-June 1988 issue (No. 169) of the London-based New Left Review. Continue reading

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Column: The uses of error

Published on December 18, 2007

A couple of days after the poll group Pulse Asia released additional results of its October 2007 “Ulat ng Bayan” survey, I rang up Ana Maria Tabunda, its executive director. She confirmed my initial guess that the three questions on “corruption-related issues” (as she described them in the cover letter to the second release) were “riders” — that is, additional questions proposed by survey subscribers. (The use of the term, if I am not mistaken, is borrowed from legislative practice.)

The use of riders is standard, of course, as even those in Malacañang who now deny the very possibility of science (a denial Randy David warned us about last Saturday), would have to agree. Riders help make opinion polling a little more cost-effective; at the same time, because the main survey is completely its responsibility, Pulse Asia can claim, as it does, that it “undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort.”

But even riders are subjected to the same strict standards of survey design and analysis. Dr. Tabunda was emphatic on this point. The questions from ex-senator and regular survey subscriber Serge Osmeña could not be included in their original form, she said. It was only after Osmeña signed off on Pulse Asia’s revised version that the questions (available online, as footnotes in the tables of findings) were included in the October poll. As I hope all reporters learn in their first few months on the job, there is a science even in the phrasing of questions.

Continue reading


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