Wading through the Philippine information swampland

It’s spooky out there. [Photo by thomas/flickr]

By JoeAm

Have you ever hiked through a Philippine jungle swampland? It’s dangerous, plants that slice like razor blades or snag like fish hooks, nasty little bees that attack in swarms, always going for the eyes, large brown snakes dangling from the branches, crab holes just waiting to snap a leg, cobras slithering among the downed trees, giant monitor lizards eyeing you through the vines, a reminder that dinosaurs can evolve back when humans are gone.

You think I’m kidding? I’m not. I’ve been there.

Wading through news and information in the internet era is a lot like that. There are paths, yes, and dangers galore. It takes some careful walking to get to the other side without going bonkers.

Bonkers is when your mind operates in a reality separate from truth. It’s like hallucinations only you don’t need LSD.

Today, we are being separated from truth by:

  • aspiring dictators running billion peso propaganda networks,
  • trolls and lackeys who spout the national line even if it is brutal, destructive, and far from the kindness of honesty,
  • citizens who know nothing coming across as if they sat at the right hand of God Himself, and
  • foreign governments who want us at each others’ throats to promote martial law, and their own ability to control their favorite Philippine puppets.

What is truth, when you can’t yourself tell what it is? It’s like some seventh dimension, a gauzy film of possibility out there somewhere for the snagging if we can just give it some form.

Well, Carlos Castaneda wrote a journal about his adventures in Mexico under the tutelage of a Yaqui teacher Don Juan Matus. He learned of the secrets of peyote and how to walk with his hands cupped to draw energy up from the earth. I learned to see the auras of trees thanks to Carlos.

We are surrounded by energies we can barely comprehend, and one of them is truth.

That’s why I tread through the words of social media and even mainstream media eyes up, mind alert, fists cupped, searching out the aura of meanings and truth in a jungle deep with formless and threatening shapes.

I don’t follow the idiots of distortion, Mocha Uson or any troll. I seldom watch or listen to the President who seems intent upon messing with our minds. I laugh at his minions spewing their sycophantic garbage to justify that which ought not be justified, the senseless murder of innocents and immense grief spread across the nation teaching people to be resigned to their powerlessness. This is not resilience. Resilience is not found in giving up. Or cowing before the forces of mistruth and manipulation. Or cowering before China like step and fetchit slaves “Yessuh!”.

I read international news and only a smattering of Philippine news, the latter usually being so distorted by emotionalized headlines and superficial content as to only add to the darkness of the swamp. Every once in a while there is light, but most of it is trashy click bait. I use Twitter to scan for pertinent news and reports, and Google news, too. I don’t use Facebook for news. That would be like diving headlong into a crabhole. Facebook is for opinions and emotional engagement and gossip and ideas. Not facts.

Here’s an idea. Don’t drink the water.

You can fish there though.

I use deductions a lot, piecing together bits of information to form a whole idea that makes sense. For example, I have concluded that President Duterte is only serious about killing people because it is some kind of sensual joy, rather like sex for him, not because he wants to solve the Philippine drug problem. You don’t control water by scooping buckets out of the river. You dam the river. He has not yet arrested a big-time drug lord or shot a Customs official, so I know he is not serious about drugs and he is not speaking truths. That is the FACT to me. The drug war is a utility for tyranny, not an effort to help disenfranchised people with no place to go but drugs.

Sure, there is a risk I am wrong. Indeed, probabilities are a good way to look for forms of truth. If there is a 50 percent chance you are wrong, don’t draw a conclusion. If there is a 20 percent chance you are wrong, make it a hunch. If there is a 5 percent chance you are wrong, consider it a fact.

Self-confidence, awareness, lots of information from reliable sources, and good risk assessment . . .  these are important tools for staying sane. The most dangerous place is depression or discouragement. That’s like sitting down in the swamp at the base of a tree and letting the snakes, lizards, bees, and crabs have their way with you.

No, no, no.

God never promised us a gold-bricked path through the Garden of Eden. He gave us the tree of knowledge and we pick from it every day.

Take good care as you reach between the branches seeking fruit.


31 Responses to “Wading through the Philippine information swampland”
  1. Gaslighting is about slowly distorting your sense of reality.. one of the best antidotes is fresh air, sunlight and talking to real people. That is why con artists, cult leaders and other people who want to fool you try to isolate you from reality. Also try to isolate you from friends, family, real people.

    Digital detox for example is a very important word. Sometimes I just enjoy reading the Saturday edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung – on paper. People who want to brainwash or fool you try to reframe your way of seeing reality, i.e. in Bavarian dialect they say they talk to you until you believe that a blue glass is green. “It’s simple really”. First deny that the blue glass is blue, say it is blue-green. When the person has given up and accepted it is blue-green, shift awareness to green.

    Own “strong frame” is the best way not to be easily reframed in a most distorted kind of way.

    • Thanks for that concept of ‘digital detox”. I agree that we can individually design and build a strong information framework. Not perfect, perhaps, but not lunatic, either.

      • There’s hope!



        “These should be boom times for sex.

        The share of Americans who say sex between unmarried adults is “not wrong at all” is at an all-time high. New cases of HIV are at an all-time low. Most women can—at last—get birth control for free, and the morning-after pill without a prescription.

        If hookups are your thing, Grindr and Tinder offer the prospect of casual sex within the hour. The phrase If something exists, there is porn of it used to be a clever internet meme; now it’s a truism. BDSM plays at the local multiplex—but why bother going? Sex is portrayed, often graphically and sometimes gorgeously, on prime-time cable. Sexting is, statistically speaking, normal.

        Polyamory is a household word. Shame-laden terms like perversion have given way to cheerful-sounding ones like kink. Anal sex has gone from final taboo to “fifth base”—Teen Vogue (yes, Teen Vogue) even ran a guide to it. With the exception of perhaps incest and bestiality—and of course nonconsensual sex more generally—our culture has never been more tolerant of sex in just about every permutation.

        But despite all this, American teenagers and young adults are having less sex.”

  2. edgar lores says:

    1. I agree. Out there is a swampland.

    2. I surmise we have developed our own ways of cautiously wading through, drinking potable water, and reaching for edible fruit.

    3. For example, I have many inputs – several Oz news media, several international news media, and several local Philippines news media. Apart from all of these, I rely on social media – FB, Twitter, TSH, and other blogs — for additional input. Social media outlets highlight items that I may have missed from news media.

    4. Filtering is through refined intuition, critical thinking, deduction, tropes, and awareness of the flow of historical currents in both the international and local scenes. I employ categorization, scoping, and logic.

    5. Unfiltered, the water is unsafe to drink. But drink we must because there are no other sources. Use water purification tablets. This could range from your religion, your philosophy, TSH, and the lessons you have learned your whole life.

    6. The tablets form your perception grid. Be aware that your grid can be faulty. As a good example — here in TSH and elsewhere — the constant tension among apathy, idealism, and realism.

    7. Most of all, be aware that there are things beyond what you can see. Faith is a gateway to the unseen. It can be faith in religion, or science, or the belief in a moral order, or in the absurdity of life. It is this faith in the unseen that makes the swampland a trap or a wondrous everglade worthy of exploration.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    This is very important. Fight discouragement and depression. I have been struggling to deal with the triggers of being jaded, and just giving up and got to always remind myself that it is not an option.
    The article and comments are much appreciated.

  4. Gemino H. Abad says:

    Thanks, Joe / Society of Honor! I believe that the human person is the only being on earth that seeks truth in knowledge. Truth-seeking then is our essence or nature as human. Only the truth satisfies and fulfills our nature; every person has sole responsibility for, and answers to, his being. Only the truth underwrites humanity’s destiny. All our knowing in the sciences and humanities is a quest for truth in our experience of the world. The quest for meaning in one’s own experience is the personal aspect of the quest for the truth of things in nature and in human affairs. But what meaning dwells in our personal experience is only its truth as its interpretation. One’s meaning isn’t always truth: e.g., a court’s interpretation of a law or an empirical observation in a scientific inquiry. Even in science, a theory has a certain life-span. Thus, what we call the “universal plane” isn’t the realm of eternal verities, but rather, the site of everlasting quest. Where there are no questions, the quest ceases.

    • Wonderful statement of our root morality, for all mankind, the unending search for our personal truths. Thank you for this prose poem.

    • edgar lores says:


      Mr. Abad’s prose poem is a description of man’s place on earth.

      The first sentence proposes that man is here on earth to “seek truth in knowledge.”

      What is truth? And what is knowledge?

      It seems that the two are not identical. If truth can be found in knowledge, the implication is that knowledge circumscribes a greater circle than truth.

      And this is true, isn’t it? We know a lot, but what we know does not of itself constitute truth.

      Knowledge includes “facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education.” But it also includes opinions, gossip, half-truths, and lies.

      A lie is something we know – that is an idea we hold in our head — but we do not necessarily know whether it is true or fiction.

      Some, for example, believe that Duterte is a great president. And others know this to be a lie.

      Why is this so?

      Mr. Abad suggests that there is a gap between the “truth of things in nature and in human affairs” and our personal experience of the truth. The way we see the world is but an interpretation.

      There are, in other words, the objective and the subjective. The objective is the world as phenomena. And the subjective is our perception of that phenomena. And the two may not coincide.

      But apart from the objective and the subjective, there is more. There is the intersubjective. This is neither objective nor subjective truth but the truth as an agreement – a temporary consensus — such as laws and some scientific truth.

      An example of intersubjective truth in law is divorce. Most nations agree that divorce is a good law. And the Philippines believes it is not.

      An example in science is that of Newtonian physics which has been partially upturned by quantum mechanics.

      Mr. Abad intimates that the world, or the universal plane, is not “the realm of eternal verities, but rather, the site of everlasting quest.”

      Thus, perhaps, the important thing — more than Truth — is the Quest. Truth may not be absolute, it may be variable especially in the subjective and intersubjective domains.

      Truth is Sisyphus’ rock. And like Sisyphus in his unending task, we must push our quest until the three facets of the truth – the objective, the subjective, and the intersubjective – are shaped ever closer to our hearts’ desires.

      As Mr. Abad concludes, “Where there are not questions, the quest ceases.”

      It makes me wonder whether, at the individual level, one can ever complete the quest.

      History suggests one can.

      • Most interesting parsing. If the quest is personal fulfillment, which can be reached even if there is more that COULD be done, I agree that it is often achieved.

      • popoy says:

        Truth is knowledge and knowledge is for sale
        is truth like knowledge, also for sale?
        by the judges and the authorities?
        Is truth bought by the hungry, by the greedy?
        by imbeciles from the morons?

        Lies are the opposite of truth
        When the truth is good, the lies are bad
        When the truth is bad, the lies multiply
        as crimes.

        “Where there are no questions. the quest ceases.”
        in the noodle land of zombies.

      • edgar lores says:

        If the Quest is more important than the Truth, the proper attitude to adopt then would be one of confidence tempered with humility.

        We should be confident in our subjective truth that is the product of our intuitions, thoughts, experience, and reasoning power. At the same time, we should be humble enough to acknowledge the subjective truth of others that may vary with ours.

        Where there is intersubjective agreement, we must celebrate… albeit continue to be open to further refinements or even complete confounding.

        • Nice. Works for me as I ply the areas of gray looking for shapes that are black or white.

          • That’s all fine and dandy if one has the luxury of time and living in a perfect kinda world.

            But right now there’s a battle of wits. It’s never about sharing truths, it’s about imposing truths on others, by force or fear, or a more sophisticated approach by making people think it was their idea all along (that way it sticks).

            Elizabeth Warren just fell for the biggest trap the teflon Don set ( I’m sure inadvertently ) , he called her Pocahontas and she in turn felt compelled to acknowledge it (why I don’t know) , with a DNA test which only confirmed a minuscule amount (by the way any amount under 100% would’ve been minuscule).

            The Cherokee nation chimed in, I’m sure at the behest of Team Donald, lobbies that support him, PR firms, and overnight Elizabeth Warren gets ridiculed and deemed a liar. 2020 is over for her.

            Folks who know how to fight this battle of wits game are Anti-FA used to be Anarchists, they don’t vote, but they also have no power thus only serve as monkey wretch unwittingly (sometimes wittingly) by bigger state powers,

            like Russia (they were the cause of much of #BlackLivesMatter ) and China.

            Now China doesn’t have the same nuanced understanding of America as do Russia , but what they have is people and resource. It’s still a battle of wits per se, like stealing corporate and state secrets, but easier stuff, just logistics, like flooding synthetic drugs in the market.

            What else does China have a lot of? Chinese! They can weaponize immigration (legal or illegal) around the world.

            That’s why there’s an industry of Chinese coming here to pop out babies (to get birthright citizenship). Come here on tourist or student visas, have babies and make Americans.

            In the Philippines they can flood the population with their “best & brightest”. It’s a win-win for them , either Sinofication of the Philippines happens , if not then like Crimea where gives them an excuse to invade and annex, “hey, we were protecting our Chinese!”.

            How do you fight stuff like that, by waiting for intersubjective agreement? Equating umbrellas, and rain, to integrity? I’m sure Elizabeth Warren was going for intersubjective agreement, that maybe just maybe .000000000000000000000000000001 % Native American DNA results, the Donald will accept and stop calling her Pocahontas.

            in a beautiful perfect world that might happen, where waiting for intersubjective agreements is possible. Not here, zero sum vs. non-zero sum.

  5. NHerrera says:

    Yes indeed. Thanks. Each to his own device of filtering the swampland of information from local and international sources and possibly draw something meaningful — or just to remain sane. A good pause, a walk in the woods or park, leaving behind that gadget, is useful too.

    • NHerrera says:

      Poor little Imelda, including even smaller Bongbong — going through life, for Imelda what is left of it, without a filtering device; or better, just one tool, a metaphorical hammer which sees everything like the metaphorical nail.

      Good morning to all, what is left of the morning, that is.

  6. popoy says:

    Nothing is free in this world except TRUTH because only truth can set you free. Even oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen in the atmosphere are not FREE; deadly pollution is the price paid for their misuse.

    Everything may or may not have a price; but for sure there’s HELL to pay (lahat may bayad kahit kamalasan o kaswertihan) for everything that God’s creatures do or fail to do. Future generations pay for the mistakes of previous generations. Crimes do not pay but MUST BE PAID IN FULL. The crimes of fathers are inevitably PAID FOR by the children and grandchildren. Dead plunderers already in ether will see that happen.

    In the Philippines people may see it in media, how the saying rings very true: The Good Die Young and evil have longer life expectancy. Just think of persons and events as examples.

    • popoy says:

      And to put a spin about dying, as history chronicles: the very bad–who are few and far between– dies of or from a horrible death.

    • NHerrera says:

      Permit me this, Popoy. At about 80 both of us are not spring chickens anymore. I hope we are exceptions. Either that or life expectancy is now 110, and we are still very young. 🙂

      • popoy says:

        NH if I may, all of us who’d trekked beyond 80 have blanket permission to carry on since we already have breached the point of no return to our youth as we entered the period of from child to child. We are excused, we are exempted from the many eche bucheche of youth. Like a pilot of a homeward jet plane with a dead engine we can no longer return to airport of origin and must go on to land to our destination hoping ambulances and fire trucks will be on hand to do their jobs.

        The above musings is experience-base after a lecture in Echague, Isabela as one of our engines conked out as we reached over Bulacan as fellow passengers started praying loudly because the plane was swaying like leaf and rattling like a dying machine receiving upper cuts and left hooks from air pockets, after the pilot announced on the intercom: Please be calm. We are flying with only one engine. We have just passed the boundary over Nueva Ecija and can no longer go back to Caoayan. We have reached the POINT OF NO RETURN. WE will land at the Manila International instead the Manila Domestic. KEEP CALM, ambulances and fire trucks are already on stand by for emergences.

        The POINT being unknown to the young? HELLO! Being eighty (80) even without the air pcckets is man’s POINT OF NO RETURN. Only a minority in the population reaches that point. We are among the lucky few NH.

    • popoy says:

      If the President has a matrix of drug perfs, and drug lords have their own, two matrices can blacken body and soul of the entire system of governance from the President, the entire legislature, the entire judiciary, the Executive Branch, the police, etc. ONLY yes ONLY the HEALTH and EDUCATION personnel might not be included in the list. Only the TRUTH shall set the innocent free and mete punishment to the guilty. If twin peaks of the iceberg are actually heads of hydra and octopus, then truth will be like the proverbial needle in a haystack. Those besmirched with false accusations must persevere to find that truth needle to deflate the balls of lies.

      • popoy says:

        In merry old medieval Europe, the people tar, feather and quarter the humanimals among them. In modern times and days of artificial intelligence WORD remains the scalpel of metaphor to stab the innards of the lord way wards: viz. Those besmirched with false accusations must persevere to find that truth needle to castrate the balls of lies.

  7. karlgarcia says:

    Talk about giant monitor lizards in the swamp lands.


    “Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 17) — Facebook released a report on Thursday revealing that the Philippine government requested the data from 42 users of the social media website in the first six months of the year.

    There were 31 total data requests from the Philippine government to access Facebook data this year, with 22 of them considered emergency requests and nine requests are for legal processes. A request may cover more than one user.

    The bi-annual Facebook Transparency Report showed that 48 percent of these requests have some, if not all, data produced. However, the report did not specify the users involved.”

  8. popoy says:

    AI as OOT

    If other people (not those who populate TSoH) are thinking AI (artificial intelligence) will solve the problem of corruption in government agencies, this is not the way of a solution, REAL BEAUTY solutions.

    The point really is to elaborate (not senilelitize) an artificial intelligence metaphor.

    • popoy says:

      Hey, HEY! This link’s a long movie and should not be viewed in one sitting, it’s vintage wine in AI times and must be enjoyed in many sips and toast. It’s like being screen written, produced and directed by SPA (who’s them SPA?) in about 399 B.C. whose minds could be precursors of artificial intelligence.

  9. madlanglupa says:

    OT: Peter O’Neill’s equivalent of “wake up and smell the coffee”: “Did you have a good sleep?”


    Those words from the leader of PNG spoke volumes, it should be also a clear message that the President is now an ass in the world stage.

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