Tag Archives: “Pepeng”

Les bidonvilles de Manille

Last November, the Japan-based correspondent of Le Monde, Philippe Mesmer, spent several days in the Philippines researching Ondoy/Pepeng stories. Because of something he thought I wrote, his host set up a meeting with me; I also invited him to an Inquirer Briefing on the great flood. 

Last week, he sent me copies of the two stories Le Monde published. They are in French, and because my scanty knowledge of Romance languages can only take me so far (in other words, all nuance escapes me), I have had to “read” them in Google translations.

But in case a French reader happens to drop by (in the wooly world of the Internet, one never knows), I thought it might be an interesting exercise to re-publish (with Philippe’s permission) at least one of the stories here. (With links to the online translations.)

Dans les bidonvilles de Manille, où six millions de pauvres survivent 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: Reimagining Laguna and other suggestions

Published on October 20, 2009.

First, a suggestion that has nothing to do with the challenge of reconstruction. I caught the different news reports on the Catholic Mass Media Awards filed by the ABS-CBN and GMA networks last week, and was (again) disconcerted. As it had done in years past, each network focused only on the awards it received. With the exception of the special Serviam prize awarded posthumously to Cory Aquino, which each network dutifully reported on, the awards rite seemed to have taken place on parallel worlds.

Imagine my distress when I saw that my own newspaper treated the awards in the exact same way: writing only of those prizes we had received. Continue reading

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Column: An agenda waiting for a president

Published October 13, 2009.

Some thoughts on the vice presidency. Vice presidents do not elect their running mates; if the opposite were true, Joseph Estrada would have been helping Danding Cojuangco measure the drapes in Malacañang in 1992. Presidents do not elect their running mates either; Estrada’s coattails in 1998 did not extend to Ed Angara.

The reason is separate voting, which puts a premium on the popularity of each candidate, rather than on political tandems. Continue reading

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Column: Processing disaster news

Published October 6, 2009.

Distance magnifies everything, or so we have often heard. We may have used this principle ourselves. The disproportion, for instance, between life as it is lived on the “great island” of Mindanao and as it is perceived through the prism of TV news in “imperial Manila” or the mirror of newspaper pages in foreign capitals can be attributed to sheer distance.

Distance magnifies (to choose only one example) the kidnappings the Abu Sayyaf perpetrates, until the entire island (larger, according to Wikipedia, than the territory of 125 countries) is conflated in public opinion outside Mindanao with the bandit gang. The farther from Mindanao, the tighter the conflation.

In the case of “Ondoy,” however, distance failed to suggest the true scale of devastation. I was out of the country at the time; I feared the worst; and yet my fears did not, could not, imagine the apocalypse that actually came to pass.

Imagination proved unequal to reality.

* * * Continue reading

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