The End of the Beginning

This is the last Society of Honor blog for 2012. I would like to thank some people.
This is the year when the Society of Honor by Joe Americaended its vanity period and began to have some influence in the Philippines. Articles penned here during 2012 were picked up by two mainstream newspaper columnists for wide readership. One article ended up with President Aquino as we had it reported here directly by Kris Aquino. We know articles have reached into Congress and the President’s staff.

The target audience has two parts: (1) educated Filipinos who can craft articulate views on topical issues, and (2) Filipino opinion makers and leaders who can undertake or influence constructive acts. The first interact with each other to speak to the second. The second are largely silent, as they must be to remain detached from hard opinions in order to represent all the people.
This is not the most popular blog in the Philippines, nor would I ever expect it to be. Satire and literature and a foreigner’s ideas are not mainstream in the Philippines. We grant the fine top-popularity distinction to Raissa Robles and her amazing, edgy, well-researched articles and her loquacious cadre of CPM commenters.
But, without question, the Society has its valuable niche as a source for cross-cultural commentary. As a place for rich ideas and a little literate entertainment.
Many new visitors to the site have a pattern. They come in on a link, get curious, then start to browse. They find another article they like and post it on their Facebook site or other venue.
From that, new readers come in for a peek.
When they arrive, what do they find? They find opinions and observations all over the board, generally dealing with the Philippines, often being reflections on cross-cultural conflicts of style or behavior. There is no single category of writing here. Readers find offbeat presentations that can be literary, analytical, humorous, irreverent, passionate, and sometimes obtuse. Once in a while, even wrong.
Our job is not to win arguments, but to have them. Being wrong is simply the risk of doing provocative business. Often we can provoke new thinking without arguments. That’s good, too.
Readership is uncompromisingly intelligent. It appears to tend toward a libertarian view, but not entirely. It is mostly Filipino, but not entirely. It tends toward older contributors, but not entirely. It is mostly male, but not entirely.
The quality of discussion this year was raised by guest articles from the following contributors:
  • Edgar Lores
  • Cha Nerissa Datu
  • Andrew Lim
  • Coco Villa
Different minds, different experiences, different interests, new ideas.
These guest writers have added greatly to the site, to its variety and conceptual reach. I’ve thanked them individually for the articles they have submitted, but I’d like to thank them here, publicly, because they bring energy to the discussion, a certain freshness. They bring points and counterpoints outside the reach of JoeAm’s knwledge or writing talent. I hope we get even more guest writings in 2013.
Put it on your to do list, eh?  Join the fray. Perhaps tweak a congressman’s ear, or the President’s. Or your fellow Filipinos’.
I’ve always said JoeAm’s articles are not what the blog is about. The blog is about the joining of good thinking through commentary. Call it the chemistry of the conversation.
As the year ends, and we move into new territory, I particularly want to thank Edgar Lores for his regular elaborations and clarifications, 1.1 to 10.9. He’s a genius. And he has been an anchor for the blog. I call him an anchor because he has provided the sound center-post of cogent thought that pulls JoeAm’s  spontaneous, wayward and off-beat remarks back into meaning. He is the interpreter, in a way. Masterful at digging specific lessons from the sometimes esoteric commentary.
Edgar, thank you for all that you have given to this blog this past year.
If it were practical, I’d list the names of all the people who offered up comments this year. The list is  long. If I list only some, I am unfair to the rest. So I shall refrain. Y’all know the regulars, and they make for a great Society, rich in personality, rich of mind and heart.
Every comment offered to this blog is like a brick in a building. And our building was strong and elaborate this past year.
Thank you literate masons all so very much. I hope more join in the conversations during 2013.
What else did we do this past year? Angry Maude made her debut in 2012. I hardly think an angry, frazzled battleaxe cousin really counts as a guest contributor. We also named the Top 5 Blogs of the Philippines, due for a refresher in a few weeks. We awarded several Golden Bluttos, awards of great indistinction.

We recognized that kids ought to be central to the values we prize.

JoeAm narrowed his 2016 favored presidential aspirants down to Jun Abaya, Tony Guingona, and Sonny Angara, with Mar Roxas awaiting review. By the end of 2013, Joe will decide which one candidate he believes is best for 2016. The early rendition is done intentionally to improve the likelihood the discussion will have  influence in how things shake out.
We identified four institutions that work against the best interest of the Philippines: (1) the anti bloggers, (2) the political Catholic Church (distinguished from the local service-oriented Church), (3) China, and (4) the chronically corrupt.
We parsed cross-cultural attributes of American and Filipino ways of life. We engaged in politics and examined this incident or that. We ridiculed those worthy of the distinction. We joked and played satire games.
We took ourselves seriously, but not too seriously.
So I say, fellow members of our fine Society, let’s get on with 2013, eh? January 2, we begin again. Happy fools among happy fools, circling the prickly pear and turning the Philippine upside right.
Be of sharp mind and good heart in 2013.
Thanks for a great 2012.
Write on.
37 Responses to “The End of the Beginning”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Wishing you the best in 2013 JoeAm.Your fan in Long Island NY

  2. Thanks, New York. Have a good year yourself. No more hurricanes, okay?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sandy knocked me down a little but my Filipina wife's excessive holiday expenditures almost knocked me out! LOLsame fan of JoeAm from Long Island

  4. Ha, I feel your pain on both counts. We've had two storms through here the past few weeks, one putting electricity out for two days. And then we visited Cebu where my wife toured Ayala Mall and singled handedly boosted the Cebu economy. Gov. Gwen Garcia thinks it's her doing, but I know differently.

  5. andrew lim says:

    It's you we should be thanking, Joe. For providing a vibrant, relevant and critical but constructive blog. There is a movie about Aguinaldo showing these days. I wonder how Jun Abaya finds it? Happy New Year to all!

  6. Edgar Lores says:

    1. This has been a journey. (Echoes of Ithaca.) Outwardly, into things Filipino. Inwardly, into things of the heart and the spirit.2. No need to thank. As the Spanish say, “De nada”. We discover things as we go along, shed light under the bed and into dusty corners. The resulting illumination benefits us all.3. I think we respond to the things that resonate with us. Either resonate in agreement or in disagreement. Consonance or dissonance, as you point out.4. Going back to illumination. There is a clarity achieved, a clarification of thought, when one writes down one’s thoughts.4.1 Passive reading strikes notes, and we go, “Ah-hah, that’s true” or “Wow! What an insight!”4.2 But recording one’s responses forces one to observe the minutiae of the movements of the mind and of the murmurings of the heart.4.3 In constantly doing so, may we not arrive at a mystic’s gestalt? And see into the very heart of things?5. No need to thank? I take that back. Thank you. And thank all.

  7. Yes, Aguinalso is Abaya's great grandfather if I recollect correctly. I'm guessing Abaya smiles and he flinches. Happy New Year to you. Keep us informed of your various projects, eh? Although I am a rationalist, I shudder at the thought of a year that ends in 13. But maybe it is just a big joke, a satirical tease,and we'll all have a jolly good time. Nothing to write about maybe . . .

  8. And on the road to Ithaca, I met a band of happy fools, dancing the light fandango upon their lofty keyboards . . .

  9. Anonymous says:

    Jun Abaya for President!DocB

  10. Anonymous says:

    Till Binay, the Lopezes, the Ayalas, the Sys, the Cojuangco yellow army and the other elites and royalty of this land kick some dust his way.DocB

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hehehe I'm only kidding, JoeAm. Happy New Year to all the gentle people of the Society and their better angels. DocB

  12. J says:

    From the Financial Times:A delayed take-offBy David PillingFor years, the Philippines has been the economic laggard of southeast Asia. Blessed with a large English-speaking population of 100m, abundant natural resources and the trappings of a functional democracy, it has nevertheless managed to fall further and further behind more successful neighbours. Today, in purchasing power parity terms, the Philippines has an income per capita roughly a quarter that of Malaysia and half of Thailand. Outside its glitzy business district, the traffic-clogged capital of Manila is full of slums. Rural poverty and corruption are rife.At long last, though, the tide is turning. Just as many of the world’s best-performing countries of recent years – including Brazil, India and even China – are sagging, the Philippines is stirring into life. Last quarter, its economy again surprised on the upside, growing 7.1 per cent and notching up its 55th straight quarter of growth. It now seems to be growing at a steady 5-6 per cent, despite an adverse external environment, against a lowly 3 per cent in the 1990s. The finance ministry believes the potential growth rate can be lifted to 6-7 per cent and eventually to 7-8 per cent.The fiscal position has altered beyond recognition. The Philippines has gone from being a country constantly on the verge of a balance of payments crisis to one with manageable external debt and a fiscal deficit of just 2 per cent of output. Such has been the improvement that rating agencies have nudged its sovereign debt to within a whisker of investment grade, a status it is likely to achieve in the next year or so.As a result, money is pouring in. The stock market, one of the world’s best-performing in 2011, is up 32.5 per cent in the year to date in peso terms. That makes it the world’s fifth-best performing index. The peso itself has strengthened 7 per cent against the dollar. There is even talk of new investor interest in manufacturing. Japanese companies, looking for an alternative to China, have been nosing around. Philippine exports, not as important to the economy as for many Asian countries, have held up well in spite of falling demand for electronics, suggesting a degree of diversification.Underlying the story, though, is strong consumption, which makes up early 70 per cent of gross domestic product. Remittances from overseas workers have nearly tripled to $20bn since 2004, defying expectations that they would wilt after the 2008 financial crisis. Notwithstanding the inflow of money, inflation has been kept below 3 per cent thanks to prudent fiscal and monetary policy. Adding to this year’s growth impetus, the government – confident that the fiscal situation is under control – has begun to loosen its purse strings, spending more on much-needed infrastructure and social welfare. Spending on education has risen by a third and on health by two-thirds, it says.“The Philippines, together with Indonesia, is one of two countries beating expectations in this region,” says Changyong Rhee, chief economist of the Asian Development Bank. “Now, all of a sudden, foreign investors have high expectations of this country.”

  13. J says:

    Much of the credit for the starkly improved performance goes to Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, a fourth-generation politician whose election to the presidency in May 2010 has proved a watershed. Mr Aquino has put his administration’s weight behind combating corruption, perhaps the country’s biggest failing. He has led a battle against tax evasion, pursuing several high-profile cases even among the elite – of which he is a part – normally able to evade the law. Tax collection has risen by 2 per cent of GDP without new taxes. The treasury believes it can still squeeze out another 2-3 per cent.In the political sphere, Mr Aquino’s war on the corrosive politics-as-usual has resulted in the ousting of the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the former president, whose administration is considered one of the most corrupt in years, has been brought to trial. Both moves have won Mr Aquino popular acclaim as has his strong stance on territorial disputes with China.

  14. J says:

    “The president wants to transform the entire country,” says Mr Purisima. “All his moves are to show that good governance is a must and that this is something he is going to demand of all sections of government.”Mr Ayala says he has rarely felt more confident about the country. His group’s Globe Telecom is investing $800m over two years in overhauling its mobile network, while the property arm is building swanky new shopping malls in second-tier cities such as Cagayan de Oro, Davao and Olongapo. His Bank of the Philippine Islands is also expanding to capture business from what he expects to be a swelling middle class. Overall, the Ayala Group, which has tripled capital expenditure since 2010, is investing more than $2bn at home this year, helping to counter criticism that big businesses send most of their money abroad. “We are a proxy for many other things that are happening. The country is refreshing itself,” he says. “It’s been a long time coming.”

  15. J says:

    . . .Several new sectors have been added to the economy. In recent years, the outsourcing industry has grown to such an extent that the Philippines now outpunches India in call-centre revenue. The back-office business already contributes nearly $11bn and 600,000 jobs. There are hopes it will be a $25bn industry by 2016, One manager of an outsourcing centre in Makati, Manila’s flashy business district, says his main problem is staff retention and escalating rents. There are also greater ambitions for tourism after an agreement allowing foreign airlines to fly direct to resorts. Mining could open up if laws are passed clarifying land rights and environmental codes.Mr Ayala also defends the country’s old mainstay, the overseas workers whose existence is often seen as proof of structural weakness. Some 8m Filipinos work abroad. “Why is it that when the finance industry or the manufacturing industry goes global it’s seen as a positive?” he asks. “But when it comes to people it is seen as a negative?” Philippine workers are no longer just maids or construction workers, he says. They have now taken skilled jobs in shipping, healthcare and telecoms.Yet the inability to create jobs at home does reflect a fundamental economic weakness, say many economists. Despite the improvement in governance and in growth rates, academics and charity workers say there is scant evidence that the benefits are reaching the vast majority of the poor. Some 40 per cent of Filipinos still live on less than $2 a day.“Today we talk of high economic growth, but if I go to the countryside, this growth is not felt by the people,” says Juan Ponce Enrile, a one-time protégé of Ferdinand Marcos who later turned against the dictator. “Wealth remains among a very thin layer of elite.”F. Sionil José, an author who has chronicled the Philippines’ struggle with both Spanish and US colonialism, says the ruling elite lacks the sense of national mission that galvanised the economic take-off in South Korea and Japan. “You can see where the interests of the elites lie – in their malls, condominiums, golf courses and beach resorts – not in factories, not in agribusiness,” he says.Mr Enrile blames skewed power relations for the failure to create jobs at home. He wants constitutional amendments making it easier for foreign investors to take on the country’s vested interests and increase competition. Currently foreigners cannot own land and are restricted, in most industries, to 40 per cent ownership. “These limitations have hampered the growth and advancement of this country to the detriment of the common people,” he says.The Aquino administration has shown more interest in making the current system more honest and efficient than in radical reform.Once Mr Aquino leaves office in 2016, the fear is that everything may slide back. Without structural and institutional changes, the danger is that the usual clique of politicians will again manipulate the system. “Even if he had a vision and all the dedication in the world, he only has six years,” says Mr Sionil José of Mr Aquino. “And you cannot make a nation in six years.”Mr Aquino’s supporters argue that the president can change the Philippines’ fortune by example. “Maybe the next guy will think, ‘Hey, if you do the right thing, good things will happen,’” says one close associate. Mr Purisima concedes that “building a nation is more difficult than building a house”. But he argues that Mr Aquino can nevertheless institute irreversible change. Having seen what one leader can achieve, voters will demand nothing less of the next president, he says. “His six years are crucial to building the foundations and the institutions that will give his successor no choice but to continue.”-END-

  16. Happy New Year, Doc. Good to have you prescribing for the Society.

  17. J, what an uplifting way to end the year!! Thanks for the clipping!We shall keep nudging Mr. Aquino along toward his "hero" legacy, even if he goes kicking and screaming. (In other words there WILL be an FOI/POGI bill, no matter what the elites want.)Have a great New Year.

  18. Note to readers. I deleted three comments for: (1) content unrelated to this article and (2) unnecessary personal attacks.JoeAm

  19. Cha says:

    Note to readers also:I didn't post any of those 3 comments. Ahaha!Happy New Year everyone!

  20. They were gender specific. I dumped them so you and other refined readers wouldn't be inclined to do an Angry Maude on a happy day such as this.Cha, thank you for your contributions to the Society in 2012, including the times when you've had to nudge an errant JoeAm in new directions. Have a great New Year. I presume the clocks down under roll over like regular clocks and aren't upside down.

  21. J says:

    2012 was a sad year because Dolphy and Jesse Robredo died, typhoons ravaged parts of the country, and China stole the Scarborough Shoal; but it was also a good year because Renato Corona was impeached, landmark laws were passed, and the Philippine economy is the fastest-growing in Southeast Asia (and second only to China in all of Asia). Happy New Year, everyone! Looking forward to the next year!

  22. Yes, me, too. I've got four blogs in the can already, all set for publication. Heh, stirring up trouble from the getgo.I think President Aquino has unfurled some huge sails, and the wind is at our backs. The travails, tragic and sad, provide perspective and allow us to cherish where we are headed. The trick is to not let them go to waste, for what we can learn.Happy New Year, J. Good to have you with the Society.

  23. Anonymous says:

    HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALLPrevious postings disappeared since ChristmasTrythis againJohnny Lin

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thank you JoAm for a wonderful 2012 of sharing your thoughts with us. May God bless you more! Migs

  25. I do not want to say goodbye to 2012. So many goot things came our way in that year. approval of RHBill … ousting of Corona … Coalescing of bloggers against Sotto … ghost economy is on up and up … making Philippine stocks most expensive in Asia … Filipinos courage against China … 2012 came to a close with a silent big bang right upper cut straight in the face WHAMOO ! Two minutes of unconsciousness. Silence. Panic. Men cried unabashedly from Las Vegas to Philippines and all over the world mourned lighting up blagosites. Tugonon's running first was not enough to salve the loosy feelings.It could have been a merry Christmas. It was silent night. 2013 will be different. It will be better not implying last year was not. Philippines is running on all cylinders.I AM BEGINNING TO BE A PROUD PINOY one notch prouder.HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL !!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. 2012 has had its share of bad after taste, too. Jessica Sanchez betrayed the Filipinos by declaring she was a "Proud Latina". She was raised by a Mexican boyfriend of her mother but not a drop of Mexican blood in her veins. TRAITOR !!!! The Reality Television Show Series. Held in the Philippines. Who do they think they are? Philippines is not a place that requires survival instincts. Crash-death of Robredo and its accompanying conspiracy theories that never were quelled as usual in the Philippines: 1) what was contained in that Backpack saved by the lone survivor, why was it so important than saving Robredo? 2) what were the documents retrieved from Robredo's condo? 3) whatever happened to the lone survivor and the backpack, they never were heard of again after they were whisked away in the middle of the night with heavily armed military-typesThe Chinese hostage, its comical rescue by SWAT espesyal and its eventual massacre. Not only that, The Philippine Government allowed their enemy, The Chinese, to trample the intellect and sovereignty of the Filipinos by bringing in their forensic experts because they did not trust Filipino experts.The death of U.S.-Mongolian Major in the hands of spoiled brats. Again, The U.S. sent in their FBI under the guise of an "observer".Pablo was a disaster waiting to happen. The government did not allow working Filipinos a day off along the path of the typhoon to prepare themselves to evacuate or lash their huts to the ground. The government only allowed them days off to bury their dead, of course, without pay.2012 ends but the quality of news and news gathering remains the same. The only constant that will be carried over to 2013.The coming May election results will be the reflection of how biased the Philippine Media is. The Filipinos vote are only as goot as the Philippine Media.

  27. RHBill is the end of Catholicism as we know it. Catholicism is one of the last few vestiges of Spanish colonial mentality. The Filipinos can now have guilt-free sex. Sex in the Philippines is the cheapest form of entertainment the church wanted to stamp out. There is nothing wrong with sex. Sex is healthy. It promotes longer lasting happier life. This is not about killing children. This is about spacing and breeding affordable number of children. Where in the world CBCP got this idea that RHBill is pro-kill ?Next year I am looking forward that the Church should loose its tax-free status. Sin tax should be slapped on them.

  28. Nothing in spam. Hmmm. Here's to a great 2013. It's all open field from here.

  29. Ah, thanks, Migs. Thanks for riding along, and have a wonderful new year. I rather think there will be lots to write about and figure out.

  30. Well, Mariano, Happy New Year to you. It was good of you to stop by whilst you are busy laying waste to the folks at the Top Blog of the Philippines.I did make a New Year's resolution, going against the grain of my principles because it is so astonishingly meaningful. I hereby resolve to eat more peanuts in 2013.

  31. Ha! I think the lawyers missed that section in drafting the Act. Imposing taxes on religious organizations that choose to undermine the secular standing of a free and healthy Philippines.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Happy new year to all!Looking forward to the elections to see if the Mayan calendar'sending in 12/21/12 will usher a new era of politically savvy Filipinos who have learned to catch fish and not be satisfiedwith boxes of sardines left at their doorstep the night beforethe election.amor

  33. Happy New Year, amor. I think we have entered another dimension, seamless, that the Mayans did not tell us about. Everything looks the same, but it is really very different. It is characterized in old politicians like Binay and Estrada and Enrile still doing things the old way, whilst having absolutely no idea that the internet is here watching them. Therefore they do lawbreaking things like they used to, supporting a lawbreaking governor in Cebu. But now they get caught and revealed for the conniving, self-serving crustaceans they always were. And get elected out of office. Its called the "Mayan Revenge".

  34. Anonymous says:

    Happy new year, Joe. And thank you for your insightful articles.

  35. Thanks. I wish you well for the new year. I've been spending the holidays penning a few new articles. Four all set to go! Get started right. Glad to have you along as a reader.

  36. JosephIvo says:

    Is the itching I feel a sign that the wound is really healing or is it an indication that the infection is preparing to flare up? Will scratching – with the support of your blog – help? It certainly helped to released some frustration. I hope it will increases the blood circulation too and accelerate the resistance against the (Filipino) colonizers. Thanks for the blog, and a Happy New Year (… with a lot of the satiric Mariano to lift the thinking to new levels.)

  37. Mariano has achieved new heights on Raissa's blog. Must be the holiday spirits at work.Happy New Year yourself. Scratch on . . .

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