Towards FILIPINO modernity

Analysis and Opinion

By Irineo B. R. Salazar

The Philippines today is a many-layered mess. Its complex history has thrust it into a crisis of modernity described by Randy David as follows:

A transition is a particularly confusing stage – marked by what Gramsci once called the dying of the old and the inability of the new to be born. The old habits of our culture are quickly vanishing, yet the ways of modern society have not fully taken root. In the interim, our people suffer from a surplus of dependence. They are subservient even when they no longer need to be. They slide into the easy habits of the powerless even when the tools of emancipation may already be at hand. They seek patronage even where it is not necessary.

Our leaders and rulers, on the other hand, suffer from a nobility deficit. A sense of honor, drawn from tradition, no longer deters or restrains them. The poverty and ignorance of the masses brings out the predator rather than the hero in them. They take advantage of the weaknesses of the legal system and the persistence of the old habits of an unequal society, even as the old values like delicadeza no longer compel them..

Observing the Philippines from afar with the help of some here and on social media who are there, I see strong contradictions between the following pairs of values – and everything in between and mixed:

  • Fluidity/informality/intuition versus structure/formality/logic
  • Personal/familistic/group-oriented versus Institutional/role-based/state
  • Local/provincial/parochial versus national/urban/cosmopolitan

Some in between syndromes can be a Solicitor General who uses the law for personal vendettas of a President, a Senator whose role is more as the right hand (or some say the Grey Eminence) of the President than as a Senator, and a President who defines loyalty as to himself rather than the nation.


My article The National Village describes some of these syndromes. The Philippines, From the Edge to the Middle of Things describes how the Philippines lost its sense of the sea by being colonized, turning an archipelago that built its own ships and sailed them into a provider of sailors for other countries and a builder of ships for others, from the Spanish galleons to Korean shipyards in the Philippines today. Widening Philippine Horizons showed how colonial education turned education into a status symbol, a way of making money, or a mix of both. But there is more to add.

Dalumat ng Bayan (the concept of bayan) by Mary Jane B. Rodriguez-Tatel and Bagong Kasaysayan (New History), an article forwarded to me by Prof. Xiao Chua, made a movie go off in my mind about the old Philippines, the sinaunang bayanor ancient country. With chiefs (datus), who not only lead the communities of old but also were spiritual healers and guarantors of kaginhawaan – well-being of the community. Priestesses (babaylan) who were a counterweight to datu power according to Mila Aguilar, and who according to shocked Spanish chroniclers could also be “men who acted and dressed like women”. The warriors (bayani) defended the communities but also served them. Craftsmen were called panday then, now only used for blacksmiths, but Dalumat says it was used for craftsmen, carpenters and (women) weavers. Farmers tilled commonly owned lands and the chiefs threw harvest feasts. There were slaves (alipin) who were either debt slaves (temporarily) or bihag, war captives. Not paradise, but in an equilibrium that was similar throughout the archipelago.

The orientation of then was by rivers, upstream was called ilaya and downstream was called ilawod. A woman from Quezon whom I once courted told me that she was tagailaya, an upstream lady, in the melodious accent of that province. I asked her what that meant and she explained it. Increasing trade meant wealth for downstream places. There are mythical indications that the area near Naga which is near the Bicol River delta was a wealthy and powerful place in the old epic Handyong, of which only a rendering by a Spanish priest remains. Manila had Raja Sulayman when the Spanish conquered it in 1571, and Cebu had Raja Humabon when Magellan came in 1521. Raja was a title borrowed due to remote Hindu influence described in my “From the Edge to the Middle of Things” article, but a raja was more of a chief respected by other chiefs than a real king – his power was fluid.

Books like “Raiding, Trading and Feasting” show that what Spanish chroniclers called “paramount chiefs” held to their subordinate datus by a mix of power and sharing wealth, something Filipino Presidents still do today via pork barrel and control of national police and army. The Dalumat emphasizes that sandugo or blood brotherhood as well as ritualized peace pacts, called bodong in the Northern Luzon highlands, helped bind chiefs together and make peace. Actual kinship by intermarriage played a role too. A Maranao OFW on Twitter told me that this was important among Moro Sultans of old. Sultans were already dynastic, but accounts of the Sulu Sultanate show that the order of succession was fluid. In “The National Village”, I have mentioned that the Spaniards made the succession of coopted chiefs hereditary in the principalia. In “Widening Philippine Horizons” I have mentioned how Spanish priests educated the children of the new local elite under colonialism.


The Dalumat mentions more factors. The Spaniards put people “under the bells” and practically divided the people into villagers and those who refused to live under the bells, or left the villages. After all, there was polo and bandala, both forms of forced labor. There was control of previously more free sexuality via Catholic confession. It was free for the unmarried, and still was among Northern Luzon highlanders before they learned to sing “Country Road” when the Americans came, though women from the highlands are still often feisty and make their own choices. Just like the one who gave me my first kiss, in the night after a wild drunken party in the house of an Ilocano sergeant at a US military base in Germany. Those who chose to leave the bells of the Spanish churches were called remontados. In Bicol they were often called by the Spanish term cimarrones (wild cattle) while those under the bells I read somewhere called them “Gentil” – non-Christians. Spanish-style towns were built where old, important centers were: Nueva Caceres (Naga), Manila (formerly Maynila) and Cebu (old Sugbu) for example. The influence of colonialism was strongest in big towns, of course.

Thus, Naga is more truly Catholic than my father’s village of Tiwi, which in the 1870s abaca boom was still at the edge of “civilization”, with Mayor Higino Templado allegedly pacifying the Aetas nearby:

The forest areas of what is now the Binisitahan of San Bernardo and the mountains of Barangay Mayong were earlier inhabited by roaming Agta (Aeta). These people were nomadic and warlike in nature and were constantly molesting the Christian natives. Higino decided to pacify these Aetas. He befriended their chiefs and summoned them to gather in San Bernardo and the lowlands of Mayong. When Higino arrived at the gathering of the Aetas in San Bernardo, he noted an unfriendly atmosphere among the Aetas. Their Chief, seated on a bench like a king, did not rise nor demonstrate any act of welcoming the gobernadorcillo.

As Higino stood unwelcome and embarrassed, the Chief Aeta, brandishing a bolo signaled to one of his men to throw a coconut to him, which he struck in two. Higino, however, was not impressed by the show. He surprised everybody by disarming him with his bolo. Everybody was tense! The slightest signal from their Chief would throw them into action. Tension, however was eased when the Aeta Chief, in an act of surrender smiled apologetically and explained that what he did was nothing but a mere gesture of welcome. He warned them not to molest the Christian natives and advised them to live peacefully. Later, he arranged for a lay mission, which he accompanied for the conversion of the Aetas to Christianity. For a while they settled peacefully but some of them wandered into the forests.

The account of Mayor Templado, written by his family, also mentions “Gentil” as “lawless people” and says this of Barangay Mayong:

Mayong was originally known as Cagintilan as Aetas and a haven then inhabited it for bad and troublesome people. After its pacification Gobernadorcillo Templado renamed Cagintilan to Mayong. The head of the Aetas was commissioned as Capitan de Mayong.

I have read elsewhere that remontados mixed with Aetas in Bikol as well. Though I am quite white due to my German mother’s legacy, I was able to sport a Michael Jackson-1970s-style Afro in my teens. Who knows where that comes from? Some of our distant cousins, the Bajillos of Tiwi whom I met in a teenage drinking marathon with my somewhat wild uncle who stopped studying law as he allegedly didn’t stand the pressure of my ambitious grandfather Irineo Salazar, allegedly the first lawyer ever in his town, are considered somewhat troublesome people, one of them told me he liked to beat up in the night people who looked like me (mestizo) and those who wore Sunday’s best. Aeta, remontado and ambitious villager legacy (my grandfather’s wife was somewhat mestiza, also something that spoke of aspiration in those days) – and it’s all in one family. The contrast between ambitious villager from a village at the edge of the badlands and more established big towns is clear in the story of my grandfather who fled the seminary in Naga to Manila, which my father confirmed.


Then the Americans came and changed many things. They did offer a lot of Filipinos opportunities. According to historian Rey Ileto, there were Americanistas and Nacionalistas in Bicol of that time, and Americanistas were usually those who weren’t in power (yet) while Nacionalistas were the old elite. My grandfather was a bit Americanista as he often spoke English with his children, though they often spoke Bikol among themselves. Americans gave more Filipinos jobs in government than the Spanish did via the Insular Government that evolved into the Philippine government of today via President Quezon who crafted most institutions still in use today, by founding civil universities such as UP and PMA as the military academy. Filipinos could be more than village scribes or native priests, or soldiers and policemen subordinate to Spaniards like Rafael Crame, who founded the Philippine Constabulary as a peacekeeping force under the US colonial government after serving in the Spanish colonial bureaucracy and being in a Spanish-era military academy. Americans delegated more.

The ilustrados (educated rich Filipinos due who rose due to agricultural business and trade) and the principalia (the local elites) also got a major opportunity by three things. The USA confiscated most Spanish friar lands and those with money got first dibs. Rizal’s family still leased land from the Dominicans. Politics gave them a role they had dreamed of in Aguinaldo’s Republic. The USA also sent pensionados (scholars) to the USA, influencing the Philippines further in an American way. Non-elites also got opportunities by working in California or Hawaii. The husband of my former nanny, an Ilokano like her, said that “Hawaiianos” are often older or middle-aged men marrying young women, coming back with money earned in Hawaii. Well, my nanny’s father also worked in Hawaii and came back to marry a woman from upstream, not really an Ilocana but an Ibanag or Itawis tribeswoman. The late Edgar Lores who was prolific in this blog was born in Hawaii where his father worked and came back to his native Ilocos as a child. Filipino migration to the USA was stopped in the 1930s.

The Americans also instituted teaching in English. Spanish slowly faded away, though a family document I have from the 1920s, an official receipt for something, is bilingual Spanish/English and the Supreme Court decision acquitting Ferdinand E. Marcos of killing Julio Nalundasan, his father’s rival in local elections, is in English but refers to previous court documents in partly in Spanish. It has goons of Marcos’ father swearing in Spanish. It shows that impunity was rife even in Commonwealth times. I have read somewhere that the1920s homesteading program in Negros in practice also was rife with landgrabbing and violence, though its intention was to give opportunities through land. What I also read somewhere is that laissez-faire and imperious habits from the Spanish bureaucracy remained in the Philippine bureaucracy under the Americans and persisted to the present. Of course in the postwar Philippines there were warlords in the postwar Philippines who combined the warrior aspect of datus and the machismo of Spanish-era local elites. Some did combine the community spirit of datus (kaginhawaan) with the patronage aspect of the Spanish era. Some were a mix of both.


Prof. Xiao Chua told me the present Philippines is “schizophrenic”. There is the Great Cultural Divide of course, but many shades in between and a jumble of mixes and cross-overs. Cynthia Villar speaks Filipino but acts like a typical haciendera. Many Duterte supporters are English-speaking city folk but have attitudes that are the worst of the old days both Spanish and native – macho and warrior-like. Let us remember that the datus were not just warriors but healers, and that the female (or cross-dressing) babaylanes were a check and balance to their strength. Even today Filipinas can be a check and balance to their husbands, holding the purse strings of the family, an echo of the old role. Foreigners often are fooled by the meekness of Filipinas, a thing inculcated in Spanish times, and are surprise when some show their dominant aspect. A Filipina I once had a short fling with was with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I asked her hey what we are doing is against the Bible and she said it doesn’t matter, we are both unmarried, everybody knows you went for a married Filipina that is worse. The old values of the ancient Philippines showed themselves under a Christian coating.  Not only there.

She knew about my fling with a married woman because it had spread in the Filipino community. The sinaunang bayan, the ancient village of the old archipelago, relied a lot on word of mouth. This was the old way in many places in the world. The old bayan also was interlocking families through intermarriage and through ritual kinship. Filipino communities worldwide often have people who arrived in the same place intermarrying and linking by being kumpares and kumares, co-sponsors of weddings and baptisms. The kapatiran (brotherhood) of the old villages forged in new “villages”. Intermarriage between chiefly families is still there among Filipino political families today, and forges alliances like the sandugo of old, though institutions also play a role – as a coating among some and more real for others.  There is of course split-level Christianity. I joked to the Filipina I had that fling with hey you will burn in hell, I won’t I don’t care toomuch for the Bible. She said I will not I am reading the Bible and that will save me. Irineo’s adventures were accidental field anthropology.

This is the reason why I continue to write about and for the Philippines. I may not be fully part of the old bayan, which still manifested itself in UP Balara where I played with our gardener’s kids, where people mostly from the Visayas like them formed personal and familistic networks, including the friendship of our gardener with our labandera (laundrywoman) who was the aunt of my nanny. Manang as well all called her was the one who rushed down to the gardener’s place in UP Balara, a small concrete house with wooden add-ons for newcomers from his family, to ask him for help when our parent’s room burned while they were watching the movies. He organized his people from the valley which UP Balara was and is to put out the fire with pails. “Feudalism” (a mix of old Filipino up-down relations)  – Manang’s loyalty to our family as she even had rushed to the master bedroom to save my sleeping baby brother; community spirit with Pat the gardener and part-time electrician rushing his folks and friends to save our house from burning down; and finally the sorry state of Philippine institutions as the UP Fire Brigade came hours later when everything was taken care of.

I wasn’t fully part of the Filipino bayan when I went back abroad, the Filipino community in our town. But I did have a certain immersion into it, as my mind and heart were more Filipino back then. But this quote from Michael Ondaatjes “The English Patient” also applies to me until the final day:

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.”

The woman who is dying, the lover of the Hungarian noble who becomes the “English patient” in the end due to his British accent and his forgetting the name he was captured for as British soldiers mistake his Hungarian name for German, writes the above quote and also writes that our boundaries are what we have experienced and known. Common boundaries of this kind are what might join me with Joe America, who has had a somewhat longer life journey, involving Asia a lot and being in the Philippines longer than I was (in my childhood and youth which of course shaped me) as well as others here who are in the Philippines, were in the Philippines, are or were Filipino or are foreign. The Philippines is part of my boundaries and theirs, it is in me due to my youth but also in those Filipinas I have courted in the old, formal way with a modern touch, those I have “tasted” (tikim in ribald street Filipino) but nevertheless liked in a way. It is for them and also for those I have been with in different roles and for different causes and in different circumstances – including those whom I consider ka-blog, the form of brother/sisterhood formed by being here in a common cause.


We all want the Philippines to have a future. Joe wants it for his Filipino son, for sure. Karl and Giancarlo want it for their sons as well, that I believe. Juana will probably, like me, want to have the old country in a state which one can be proud of and feel good when visiting, not dismayed. Will Villanueva keeps fighting for the cause he helped defend on EDSA in 1986. Sonny once told me in this blog that though we may be scattered like the Jews once were, there must always be a Jerusalem. There is no sense if we weep by the rivers of Babylon and just remember Zion, like in the Bible. Our equivalent of an Odysseus, a traveler who was born in Hawaii, grew up in Ilocos, worked in Saudi and migrated to Australia where he died not too long ago, Edgar Lores, our Socrates, would have become an anito, an ancestral spirit in the ancient Philippines and all the Pacific, revered by those still living.

For our Zion, for our interests, our old causes, our attachments, for the memory of Edgar Lores who schooled our minds and hearts including mine (he taught me what epistemology is and told me we need a revolution not only of the mind but of the heart) and for his love of the country, we all do what we can and if it is only to help others find their way, or find the strength to continue with patience and perseverance, which Will Villanueva is already doing, guided and helped by religion, community and the stubborn Filipino fighting spirit to finish what he started in his younger days, with the Filipino flag in hand and prayers in his heart. Karl is doing it by looking for ways to fix the mess that is the Philippines today, starting with the barangay and continuing with agriculture and industry. My role has been big-picture analysis and in the beginning the occasional provocation to open minds. What we all have done and are doing is too much to mention, but it is for a seemingly hopeless place.

The Philippines isn’t that schizophrenic anymore, if one looks at some examples. Nancy Binay speaks Filipino and English and has made a lot of sense now during Covid, even if sometimes she does still side with the wrong people and votes for some wrong laws, but it seems she has gone beyond what her father was – a man who gave kaginhawaan to his constituency with allegedly dubious money. Mila Aguilar did say that some principalia in colonial times were seen as Robin Hoods by their folks because they skimmed off the colonial system and feasted their people like in ancient Filipino days. Nowadays there is a concept of “pera ng bayan” among some Filipinos, the sense that the people’s money isn’t the money of a hated postcolonial state anymore but most be used for kaginhawaan. There are local leaders like Vico Sotto who promote kaginhawaan with the tools of modernity.

Vice-President Leni Robredo is from the Bicol middle class.Thanks to its topography, most of Bicol never had much large agricultural estates and a lot of “troublesome people” in the hills – the remontados/cimarrones of the past to NPAs not too long ago – so even the aspiring or arrived people stayed grounded. VP Leni has the fortune of her background and her long social work experience that makes her able to connect to the people. Her economics and law degrees give her the rationality needed in modern times and the capability to communicate with elites and even get the rich and corporations to help in her Kaya Natin initiative, bypassing the low budget given her as Vice President and helping those who benefitted from the troubled history of the country heal and help the land – unlike those politicians who give crumbs to the sadly grateful poor and pocket the rest themselves.

We must forget simplistic bad/good, elite/masses, Inglesero/Filipino-speaker, rich/poor, Westernized/native dichotomies. There is a mix of many attitudes and these are shaped not only by language, social status or wealth. We must remember the past but not excessively glorify it. We must see the tools that made the West powerful and progressive – science, organization, structure, logic, institutions – as well at what it developed to rein in the power of organized states, modern institutions and functional elites (academe, military, police, bureaucracy, media) such as democracy, Constitutions, checks and balances, human rights and minority rights – the last to protect against the tyranny of majorities against minorities. We can’t go back to the old bayan, but the good in it still lives – the sense of community, the idea of leaders having an obligation to the people, the role of women in balancing male pride (though today the ugly head of machismo is often manifested), the role of warriors in protecting and serving the community (embodied by the likes of Antonio Trillanes), the role of craftsmen in making what is needed (which must be ramped up for industrialization like it was done in Japan and Germany). The slavery part is what I think should be dropped nowadays.

The Balangkas or summary of Philippine history my father wrote some time ago mentions how Filipino elites were coopted and (I think only partly, as they retained many original behaviors, even if they may speak English today or spoke Spanish before) acculturated by colonization, and became separate from the people. I also add that the power and money structures established by history are persistent even if people with Filipino culture and language take the place of old elites, as Cynthia Villar annoyingly shows. Thepagbabalik-loob (spiritual return) of the elites must take place not just culturally, but also in deeds like Vice President Leni Robredo shows, who could be all rich and powerful now but has decided to help the poor, not like Imelda Marcos by throwing crumbs at them but fully walking the talk, often in tsinelas or slippers. And I contend that English doesn’t need to be abandoned – in fact I think Filipino must be strengthened and English taught better that it often is. Government must be brought closer to the people and the regions and towns. Opportunities must be increased and fat cats slimmed down. Things must be solved, one step at a time, with much patience.


The Constitution of Bavaria was promulgated in war-torn 1946 Munich. It has this Preamble:

Mindful of the physical devastation which the survivors of the 2nd World War were led into by a godless state and social order lacking in all conscience or respect for human dignity, firmly intending moreover to secure permanently for future German generations the blessing of Peace, Humanity and Law, and looking back over a thousand years and more of history, the Bavarian people hereby bestows upon itself the following Democratic Constitution

Bavaria was in a state of clear shock, having been misled by an evil man misusing the symbols of the past and even the Germanic idea of Heil, a magic power bestowed upon Germanic Kings of old that helped them understand animals, win in battle and bring wealth to their people (somewhat parallel to the warrior, healer and bringer of well-being roles of an ancient Filipino datu), turning back on the values of over a thousand years of very devout Catholicism and devotion to the Virgin Mary, by a “godless state”. But they decided to continue their old history.

And they did. One of the first things the Mayor of Munich from 1948 onwards did was to say “Rama Dama” (Let’s Clean Up) in Bavarian dialect. One of the results of this is a hill north of Munich made up of postwar rubble cleared by the citizens of Munich. He also started the new tradition of “Ozapft is” (The Keg is now opened) at the start of the Oktoberfest, where the mayor is the first to open a ceremonial keg of beer and give the first stein to the Prime Minister, after which the beer flows, no longer from kegs but from a network of underground pipes. Tradition and modernity harmonize.

The Oktoberfest is in an old tradition of similar feasts in Bavaria held in autumn and connected to the harvest. It even has an agricultural expo on a part of its grounds in some years. It has excessive eating and drinking (and flirting and everything else) that goes with harvest feasts in many places in the world. It even has a form of ritual animal sacrifice in the Ochsenbraterei, where you know the name of the ox on the grill whose meat you are eating. It has the symbols of nation and state, Lady Bavaria with her lion, towering above it. Around Lady Bavaria is the Hall of Fame honoring great men. Traditional shooting clubs fire their pistols at the end of the Oktoberfest. Possibly this also honors the old role of village men in defending their harvest, sometimes even the nation like in the 1705 revolt. That was when highland peasants marched upon Munich with the motto “Liaba bairisch steam, als kaiserlich verderben” (better to die Bavarian than rot Imperial) against Austrian rule. The churchyard where the last men standing were killed by Hungarian cavalry is on a hill not far from where the Oktoberfest is, the church that was razed by Imperial troops rebuilt with a mural of the massacre.

But national symbols and tradition weren’t all. Modernity and science were also very important. Bavarian Kings started it when Bavaria was made a kingdom by Napoleon. King Max Joseph founded a city clinic in Munich in 1813, now part of the university clinics that played a major role in finding and treating the first Covid cases in Germany – and finding the first indications of asymptomatic transmission. Half-French Prime Minister Maximilian von Montgelas built the modern Bavarian state based on the principles of the Enlightenment. I read somewhere that doctors risked being tried for witchcraft just decades before King Max Joseph and PM Montgelas. And yes, the King gave his Kingdom a Constitution, and government officials were sworn to it, I have read somewhere also. Scientists came to Munich as well. Electrophysicist Ohm, after whom the unit of electrical resistance is named, is buried in Munich’s old Southern cemetery, among others. So is Max von Pettenkoffer, the hygiene pioneer who had Munich’s sewage system (still used today) built as one measure to get hold of cholera which hit Munich nearly every decade of the early to middle 19th century.

Postwar Bavaria continued where 19th-century Bavaria had left off. Polytechnic schools were built in many a town in the middle of agricultural areas, making a technocrat or innovator of many a peasant son. The aerospace and defense industry was attracted to Bavaria, which jumped from agricultural state (the biggest 19th and early 20th century industrial buildings in Munich are the abbatoir where animals are brought to from farms across Bavaria, killed and prepared for shipment across Germany, and the wholesale market for fruits, vegetables and flowers coming from all over Europe, so agribusiness was and is still a Munich and Bavarian specialty) to industrial and even high-tech state within just decades. Good foundations like the Technical University originally founded in the mid-19thcentury by its reformist kings certainly helped. Siemens and later Microsoft, now Google moving to do major research and business here helped as well. The IT boom of the late 1990s brought me to Munich when I had almost given up on the Philippines. The biotech boom of later even had a Filipino scientist couple with a startup in Martinsried, outside Munich. Though mainly ruled by one party for a long time since after the war, Bavaria has balanced that out with direct democracy, imported by a politician exiled to Switzerland in WW2. Popular initiatives leading to plebiscites often split parties and overrule politics. Folksy politicians like the present PM Markus Söder also are highly competent.


Now why the hell has Irineo bored us again with the Lederhosen people he is living with so long, some may ask if they have read this far. They aren’t Filipinos! We can’t do it their way. But they are Catholic, their land is agricultural, their culture is somewhat tribal and village-oriented, the people stubborn as hell, and very proud- but flexible when it comes to modernity. They may not be maritime like Filipinos (oh how I miss the sea, 500 meters above sea level, and the warmth now that it is autumn!) but they KNOW their elements and respect their nature – the rivers and mountains. They tap the Isar river of Munich for hydroelectric power and rein it in for flood control, but keep it CLEAN. They love their tradition and want it to be respected, but Bayern München has a lot of imports including David Alaba, an Austrian of Nigerian-Filipino origin. Benjamin Thompson of Massachusetts, made Count Rumford by Bavaria, was an import too who did a lot for the country and its capital. The father of the modernizer Montgelas was a Frenchman, a soldier, an import too. The Filipino biotech scientist start-up owner couple are imports too, if they are still here which I strongly assume, unless the biotech initiatives of Sen. Joker Arroyo’s daughter Maoi Arroyo have lured them back home.

There is a lot to learn from how others to things in different but also in major principles similar circumstances. Of course it is best to learn from those nearest to oneself in culture, like Karl’s industry article which suggests looking at how Dr. Habibie jump-started Indonesian industrialization – or the adoption of direct democracy from Switzerland which is in the Alps while Bavaria is at the foot of the Alps, the core of it a highland plateau which I am on now, just before the hills south of Munich start. The past can help understand who one was and how one got there, like the introspection of Lutherans when they have sinned (they have no confession like Catholics do) or psychoanalysis, but one never swims in the same river. Bavaria of today isn’t Bavaria of the original settlement after the Romans left and a Celtic-German mix of people moved in an mingled with the rests of the Latinized population, or Bavaria when the first kind of constitution was written down, allegedly a mix of old tribal laws and Roman military law, defining the clans of Bavaria including the ruling clan appointed by the Merovingians in Paris, or the Bavaria of King Max-Joseph and Prime Minister Montgelas.

The ancient Philippines with its growing trade and flourishing towns like Maynila and Sugbu may have consolidated small states, eventually bigger states may have formed, but maybe not even the whole archipelago but maybe the Tagalog area under a descendant of Raja Sulayman, the Visayas under a descendant of Raja Humabon and Mindanao under Sultan Kudarat himself. They might all have been Sultans as the Philippines might have fully Islamized. Though the Dutch may have come and we would be part of Greater Indonesia today. Or a wily descendant of Kudarat might have avoided colonialism like King Mongkut of Thailand, made famous by the King and I with Yul Brynner. My brother and I laughed when we watched it as Brynner reminded us of our father – bald and bossy but not only, strategic and intelligent as well. Maybe a descendant of Sulayman may have consolidated and closed the Philippines to the outside world like the Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa did for Japan, preventing the ravages of colonialism and laying the foundation for the later Meiji modernization.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. I still assume that my father’s Pantayong Pananaw (our own view for us) is about retrieving old roots and culture to find a foundation to build on, not nativism and nostalgia that some accuse it of, although it sometimes sounds that way. What is terrible is what some have termed the cultural Talibanism that often is part of Dutertismo today, and the caricature of the Filipino that the President himself is, sadly. Not even the most racist Spanish friar might have described the “Indios” of old that way, I believe. The naïve belief that the Philippines can be made like America is something even Joe doesn’t agree with. The late Edgar Lores has analyzed the Filipino and found out he/she is typically an Artisan. The pandays of old, the craftsmen, are still there. Our carpenter Marcelino made furniture that was as excellent as the expensive Balinese furniture sold here in Europe. Filipina weavers have kept their tradition. Certainly the culture must upgrade a little and find more respect for scientists and engineers, for doctors and nurses, and for thought and opinion leaders. Today ain’t the simple times of yesterday. Modernity is great but also complex.

Chiefs of old (in Germany, Philippines or wherever) used intuition, experience and instinct in a simple world where what you saw was what you got – and on loyal comrades. A President going like a pilot going by the seat of his pants flying a jumbo jet is stupid. Him relying on close associates is stupid too in a world that needs much competence.Communities relied on word of mouth, today you can’t rely on what Mocha says just because she makes you feel like she is a sexy friend, or what Tulfo says because he makes you feel he is a macho warrior friend who will help you if you have a problem. What is nice is to help communities, similar to the old ways like VP Leni and Vico Sotto do – but using modern tools and scientific thinking to plan it and get it done. It is nice to be a warrior that protects and serves like the bayani of old as Sonny Trillanes does. An oligarch child like the late Gina Lopez who wanted to protect nature from too much mining – also securing fishing waters and farming ground in the process – is way better than a Filipino-speaking Cynthia Villar who destroys farmland. With all this, what leads to a truly Filipino modernity and doesn’t should be clear. I rest my case.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, October 2 in the First Year of Covid

This is dedicated to Irineo Salazar y Saenz, abaca planter’s son who passed the bar on Nov. 18, 1935. May you and all my ancestors guide me always, and may I strive to live up to your memory in this life.

P.S. my father told me that old Irineo’s mother Josefa Saenz, daughter of a rich abaca planter from the time of Tiwi Mayor Templado, took good care of her (poorer) husband Hilario’s skull after he died, just like Rizal’s mother did with her son’s skull after his execution. The old ways aren’t too long ago. An old Filipino proverb says: Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa kinaroroonan – those who forget where they came from will not reach their destination.

68 Responses to “Towards FILIPINO modernity”
  1. NHerrera says:

    A President going like a pilot going by the seat of his pants flying a jumbo jet is stupid. Him relying on close associates is stupid too in a world that needs much competence. Communities relied on word of mouth, today you can’t rely on what Mocha says just because she makes you feel like she is a sexy friend, or what Tulfo says because he makes you feel he is a macho warrior friend who will help you if you have a problem. What is nice is to help communities, similar to the old ways like VP Leni and Vico Sotto do – but using modern tools and scientific thinking to plan it and get it done.

    You have demonstrated your case well, Irineo. Thanks for the blog article.

    • Welcome, and thanks as well for giving me the essence of the article, which just flowed out of me in one evening, after several aborted and shelved (Karl and me use the term “marinated” as writing is a bit like cooking) attempts, the picture was ready in my mind.

      That passage is exactly the heading for the socmed post I have not yet made, the “teaser” to make some more people read the “habi” (weaving) of our story out of multiple perspectives.

      “You have demonstrated your case well”. I hope my namesake grandfather, judge in Daraga who once ran from becoming a priest in Naga, will smile when he reads this among the anitos, or in Christian heaven – or maybe both places are just the same after all. Like a former Baguio policeman, a Kankanai, wondering about the beliefs of his grandfather and the for his family new Christian beliefs, noted that the animal sacrifices to Apo Kabunian and the sacrifice of an animal instead of Isaac by Abraham meant Kabunian and God were the same.

  2. Karl Garcia says:

    Thanks Irineo for mentioning me and my works which is actually our works. We will continue figuring what is best and or what is right for the Philippines.

  3. Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

    Whew, Irineo Junior. You split your skull and out poured man’s tempting of the fates from the foot of the Alps to the banks of the Pasig, somewhat funneling into the Philippines as we think we know. Never, never ever quit the country of your loins. You sewed on the quilt your hormonal pursuits and out came something of a Plato, Aristotle, Lothario, Erap’s narrative, imagining afro hairdoes and the aura of fair skin, which describes Filipino culture in a few words: How We Want to be Conquistador and Hollywood Fair But As Far Away from Aetas as Possible. Thereby hangs a tale. The Philippines is next-door neighbor to the Garden of Eden, what we may call Ayala Alabang Gilid, not Village, a cardboard and tape settlement that amazingly has a long shelf life, unable to live and unable to die. Meanwhile, back at reality, I, Will Villanueva, will soldier on. Thanks for the review, a decade a second, flickering into hope and sagacity, looking upwards always to escape the grime.

    • Will, many thanks! Some notes:

      1. “As Far Away from Aetas as Possible” – also as Christian as possible, as far away from what in Bikol are often called the “Gentil”, the “troublesome people”. Though we are often lured by them, like my errant drinking, gambling and womanizing uncle who regularly beat my father in chess and laughed like a crazy hyena each time, as my brother once told me – or President Duterte who is also a son of an elite family turned a bit of a “remontado” – a man who decided to live away from “under the bells”, renouncing even the Pope at times.

      2. “Conquistador and Hollywood Fair” or also as European as possible in education, like my father in his youth, following the footsteps of Jose Rizal, but later recanting him and now more for Bonifacio the revolutionary. Supporting and writing the biography of Erap, seeing him as still the legitimate President of the Filipino people, never recognizing GMA – but later deeply disliking Binay who was in the same UP dormitory (at different times though, so they have no common possible raunchy youth stories) and then Dutz, now supporting VP Leni.

      3. “Ayala Alabang Gilid, not Village” – think of the at first glance weird but very Filipino symbiosis between our part of UP Area I (“Dutch housing”, the largest professorial houses in the campus, originally built for Dutch guest professors in Indonesian colonial style) and just next-door UP Balara, closer to the ancient Philippines in way of life and dealings – people who once owned a natural paradise with enough land to farm and fish. Most of us are just a few generations removed from the old ways and living conditions, now sadly marginalized.

      4. Vice President Leni Robredo is chosen as THE symbol of FILIPINO modernity with a reason because she bridges a lot of divides – that between the “elite” and the “masses”, the economics+law education and the long walk through Filipino barangays which has been her life mission, Western-style planning and the “native” attitude of solving problems as they arise (but with systematic methods) – that she is “kulay kape” – in-between the white and the dark color-wise – is merely incidental but may play a role as well in the Filipino unconscious.

      5. I wrote the article in one sitting after a draft on three pages A4 and the back of a cafe receipt (it was one of the last warm nights as autumn is fully here now), when I came home I decided not to noodle anymore but “I write and write” as my Ilokana former nanny would say. Out came an interwoven story of the Filipino from personal, family, regional, national and exile (far from the sea, the warmth and with Filipinos few and far between) perspectives.

      6. “Thanks for the review, a decade a second”. Welcome! My next article (which Joe hasn’t seen yet, but Karl has seen a draft, has Karl and me kidnapping Lapu-Lapu from 1520 to 2020 by way of accidentally passing by the 1970s, as my time machine is a bit buggy and is based on a jeepney, not a DeLorean. Many Filipinos have made that kind of trip in real life, if I think of my former nanny, borned in a thatched hut in the windswept North of Cagayan, her father a man who earned some money in Hawaii, bought land and wooed an upland woman.

      7. “back at reality” it probably takes some craziness (and emotional distance as well) to span the crazy kaleidoscope of an archipelago and a people thrust into something it wasn’t really prepared for. The most perceptive modern Filipino socmed comics are “Crazy Jhenny” and “Tarantadong Kalbo” for a reason. Good that there are a few who are able to stay grounded like you, Will, and like VP Leni, and keep doing what has to be done for all – cityfolk, villagers, remontados and uplanders, very close to one another in Bicol. All the best.

    • “the Philippines as we think we know”. Prof. Chua has said in a webinar that the more we find out the more we find out how little we actually know.

      To me the Philippines is like a huge puzzle with many pieces missing or in certain hands.

    • “The Philippines is next-door neighbor to the Garden of Eden, what we may call Ayala Alabang Gilid, not Village, a cardboard and tape settlement that amazingly has a long shelf life, unable to live and unable to die.” Damn that hurts, I realize the full meaning only now.

      The sinaunang bayan which was on its own even if not rich by modern standards (though rich in nature’s endowment) developed over centuries into an international equivalent of Ayala Alabang Gilid, dependent on BPO money, mining money, OFW money, migrant money, POGO money etc. and yes, even at the highest levels nearly everything there is makeshift. The entire country is unable to live and unable to die. What a horrifying picture.

      • Anyhow such a big picture shows the full disease. The cure is another question altogether.

        • My father once said that “no part of the world should depend too much on others”, which at first sounds isolationist.

          But to depend so much on others in so many ways is a recipe to become like the Alabang Gilid slum. Metro Manila slums depend on the rich for nearly everything, like Iron City depends on the trash and what else comes down from the Sky City of Zalem in the cyberpunk sci-fi movie Alita: Battle Angel.

          Karl has mentioned agriculture and industry as vital aspects for becoming a more equal and less vulnerable player in the international scene. Institutionalizing people power, his coming article, is a possibility to find out of the helplessness of powerlessness and the short effectivity of people power.

          I could say more but I am not over there, I lack the skin in the game to truly give conclusive advice. Except maybe to look at what is already being done in certain areas FIRST and find ways to add to it. SECOND find what one can do and do it, like Will already is on his side. THIRD find out what recipes (like Karl’s collection of articles) or links to recipes one has and what is quickly do-able, locally.

          So it does make sense to have visions to give orientation, concepts to have an approach, recipes in the cupboard ready in case one has to cook, and finally what Clausewitz said in his book about war and strategy: “No plan survives the first contact with the enemy”.

  4. Micha says:

    VP Leni Robredo has an economics degree from UP School of Economics; what’s her economic plan/vision/ideology?

    • She’s working on virus programs right now. I’d have to google to see what her thinking is, but so can you. I’d be inclined to wait to see if she is a 2022 candidate, and, if so, what she proposes.

      • Irineo B. R. Salazar says:

        By her work so far, I think VP Leni can be classified roughly as a social-democratic liberal with a very Filipino approach (just as Mar Roxas is I think a centrist liberal with a modern Western approach – the latter hard for many Filipinos to get, while Drilon is a conservative liberal with a lot of the old school legacy of Philippine politics in him, a good man but still very adept in the skills of dealing with trapos, which made him a good Senate President, the alpha frog in the swamp, somewhat like the biggest frog leads the pack after the rains in the Philippines) so those would be her policies I guess – certainly good enough in a Philippines that still has the oligarchs, she would use her skills in convincing them to donate to worthy causes as she has so far in making the Philippines a better place.

        Though the residual 100 percenter in me might prefer Senator Risa Hontiveros as she like me is more of a liberal Social Democrat (a HATE word among the extreme LEFT – SocDem!) she doesn’t have the mass appeal to win the Presidency like VP Leni has. And the realist in me sees the distinct possibility of Nancy Binay winning over disappointed DDS, as she is positioning herself slightly away fbrom some DDS stuff and MIGHT be the kind of person who will be voted by Filipinos who don’t like VP Leni being in the Liberal Party. Pity as in that case the transition to modernity might be a bit bumpier, and we know that in the Philippines once you LOSE an election you are RARELY given a second chance so the chance that VP Leni IS might probably be wasted. But let’s see, 501 years after 1521.

      • Micha says:

        She’s the most visible and, perhaps, viable face of the opposition to the lawless idiotic Duterte government so I’d assume she’ll be the main 2022 contender.

        Thing is, apart from her much publicized outreach charity work in some corner of the country, there’s no macro perspective on how she will address the sorry state of our economic development.

        Is it safe to say she’s a centrist, pro-market, pro-globalization kind of economic thinker?

        • As I said, I’ve not studied her views and would not try to impose my ignorance on her.

          • Micha says:

            Well thank you very much Joe, that sounds like a safe stance. Maybe Irineo has some answer. This is afterall his blog post and Leni is his kababayan.

            • You – and Will – shall get the answer to your questions AND comments in an article I shall send to Joe, but after the next coming two articles by Karl, one submitted and one almost done.

              Short summary, the rest you shall read in full when it is there: between your dogmatism and Will’s pragmatism (which I respect far more as it has skin in the game unlike us who are abroad, armchair folks) there is what I consider the correct way of solving problems.

    • My brother told me about our relatives exhuming my lolo Irineo’s skull (died in 1978) and showing it around – during the time of my grandmother’s wake and burial – freaked out his German then-girlfriend and now his wife with whom he has two kids.

      She told us about a “witch-like” old woman who had a scapular put on my grandma who was lying in state, who led the prayers in what my brother described as a strange kind of chant. Now guess when my grandma was buried – in 1995, so old ways truly have tenacity.

      • Come to think of it, this could be the reason for much disorientation experienced today.

        Most Filipinos are probably just a few generations removed from the very old ways.

        Modernity of today is a culture shock for them, so they seek something LIKE the old.

        Bicolano Valentin delos Santos led the Lapiang Malaya with amulets and actually believed that they would render his group immune to the bullets of Marcos’ PC in the late 1960s.

        The more Christian version of that might be nuns facing tanks on EDSA.

        Indonesian gangsters and freedom fighters were also big when it came to amulets and belief in magical powers:

        Amulets were a big thing as well with the Katipunan, though its leadership was enlightened and literate. The Kuratong Baleleng gang allegedly all carried a picture of the Virgin Mary as a charm against bullets. Marcos also allegedly had an anting-anting, a magical talisman.

        • kasambahay says:

          lucky charms gives courage po and make one stay focused on the job, centered as well and to some extent, fearless.

          my columbian friend has a string of small worry dolls much like worry beads. my friend tells all her worries and problems to the dolls and she becomes less stressed and less worried.

          • Nothing wrong with that – I used to wear an anting-anting myself until it got troublesome to explain what it was in the time I often had to pass through airport security. It did help give me some confidence in the early years of my career in Munich.

            Same with prayers. My father – who gave me the anting-anting BTW – often told me don’t pray, that is for women, real men ACT! Now what about real men like Will – also Bikolano but from the definitely more deeply Christianized Naga – who PRAY and ACT as well?

            Belief in yourself, sense of confidence, by whichever way you achieve it, is a good thing. Just don’t believe that it will stop a virus or bullets. Will or my father, both Bikolanos like Valentin delos Santos, will certainly never believe anting-anting or prayers stop bullets.

            • kasambahay says:

              women have done a lot of praying for their men, made sacrifices too so that their beloved husband, son, etc, may live. so many tears shed, so many soaked tear soaked handkerchiefs, so many rosaries said. if men had it good, they owe much of it to women.

              • Very right. I definitely don’t agree with my father’s idea of masculilnity, though I have been guilty of aspects of it in my life, I can’t deny, one can’t totally escape one’s heritage. My brother wouldn’t be able to be so great at his job which is far more exhausting than mine if his wife didn’t take care of the two kids and the house full-time – inspite of her having a Ph.D. – or in the corporate setting what would many bosses be without their assistants, they don’t cook coffee for them anymore and aren’t sexytaries anymore but still great resbak.

              • kasambahay says:

                anyway, people prayed at edsa and the tanks stopped rolling.

              • Yes, sometimes sheer willpower can impress the enemy. If the story of Higino Templado and the Aeta chief (in the article, quoted from his family stories) is true, then his sheer daring in just taking the chief’s bolo showed the chief he was not afraid of him and his men.

              • kasambahay says:

                great mind, you are Irineo, cheers.

              • Thanks. Well you have great common sense, I can see.

              • Lots of knowledge from the battlefield of life.

  5. arlene says:

    Have you seen the latest survey? SO UNBELIEVABLE!!!

    • kasambahay says:

      the higher the approval rating, the more corruption flourish.

      • kasambahay says:

        my above post not deleted yet? yay! I’ll add new post.

        the higher the approval rating, the more the govt is in debt, the higher the govt budget, the more poor filipinos feel hungry.

        • kasambahay says:

          leni’s approval rating is 57% yata compared to digong’s 91%. leni kasi “does not enjoy kuno the communication mechanisms and machineries available to digong.” to me that means leni does not have the well paid troll farms so active in the net in spreading fake news and misinformation all to benefit digong.

          at saka, leni does not have the armed forces and kapolisan behind her that operate web sites that are mega big on fake news and misinformation again to benefit digong. their combined web presence, the trolls and the armed personnel, if they’re the ones quick to mobilize in responding to surveys, have the big budget intel to know when and where the survey is conducted, the result is not surprising.

          and still leni got 57%? the prof running the survey must be doling, hehe. where he got the number? it’s not leni’s age, right! and she’s not 5’7″ in height, right?

          matagal napong approved namin si leni, we dont need rating.

  6. If there are historical K-dramas, some of the story of Tiwi, Albay and my family on the father’s side could be P-drama just like there is now P-Pop as opposed to K-Pop. Parts of the story that I have dug up are in the article.

    There is the tobacco monopoly, when hill places like Tiwi grew tobacco “illegally”. There is the Claveria decree on surnames which gave towns like Oas mainly R-surnames and towns like Tiwi B and C surnames as the Franciscans of Albay went around Mayon volcano with the alphabet.

    There is the abaca boom, which brings in a gobernadorcillo from Pampanga, Higino Templado, to Tiwi. He clears the hillsides for abaca, notarizes my great-great-grandfather’s abaca land documents. He “pacifies” the Aeta across the river, barangay Mayong.

    There is the transition period to American rule, which has a newcomer from Batangas, Hilario Salazar, allegedly courting the daughter of my great-great-grandfather the old way, working hard for her parents as he is poorer. Their son Irineo is born in the early 20th century.

    Young Irineo Salazar y Saenz tries the seminary in Naga but flees to Manila to his uncle Anselmo. Eventually he takes up law, but his firstborn with his wife from Sorsogon is born in Tiwi on April 29, 1934 – Irineo passes the bar in late 1935.

    The second World War has the family moving back and forth between the province and Manila. The Bicol Express train line is shining and new then. 11-year-old Zeus Salazar experiences the hellish days of the Fall of Manila firsthand.

    The family is in Daraga after the war, where old Irineo is the judge who later allegedly proudly tells everyone at the bus station that his eldest who was salutatorian at Albay High School is now at UP, then that he graduated summa cum laude, then that he went to Europe.

    Most of the family is in a small house in Murphy, Cubao when the eldest comes back from Europe with his blonde German wife and almost blonde son, also named Irineo (my hair is darker now). Old Irineo’s very Catholic wife and his Protestant daughter-in-law don’t get along.

    Old Irineo and part of the family later live in Legazpi city. He dies in 1978 during a Mayon volcano eruption. He has sold most of his old abaca land to the Tiwi geothermal plant, allegedly at a bad price. He once was allegedly pro-Marcos, but later was very disappointed.

    There is enough material in nearly every Filipino family for a lot of P-dramas (just like K-dramas) – it just takes the right kind of scriptwriters, and of course the productions would have to be as well-researched and set as the Heneral Luna movie.

    One of the richest perspectives of history can be the family one. Just this one family and town history gives an idea of the speed rollercoaster ride the Philippines has been through only recently. No wonder generation gaps are so huge over there, especially as little is communicated forward.


    The main lesson I see applicable from Bavaria’s rise like a phoenix from the ashes after the total destruction in WW2 is that you have to start somewhere. Mayor Thomas Wimmer said in 1948: “Rama Dama” which means “Let’s Clean Up”. A hill of what used to be trash and rubble still stands in the North of Munich, a result of that clean-up drive. Pragmatic “peasant” thinking in what was still mainly an agricultural state back then worked. The Munich central train station, one of the biggest in the world, was reduced to nothing by bombs. Old people saw the orange light at night 60 km. away.

    The AFP had issues with defusing bombs it had thrown on Marawi. Just recently, bomb experts were involved in the excavations for the new suburban train tunnel under the Munich central train station. One of the last provisional postwar structures built to fill in bomb gaps was demolished 2 years ago. The Munich central station only got a new roof, a huge steel structure built by Krupp, back in 1960 – fifteen years after the war ended. Obviously the city – or German railways – had to prioritize funds.

    The first Oktoberfests after the war in 1946 and 1947 were sad, reduced events, the first full Oktoberfest in 1948 was when Mayor Wimmer created the new tradition of “O’zapft is!” where the Mayor opens the first keg and gives the first stein to the Bavarian Prime Minister – a new ritual to show people “we are still here and always will be”. Meanwhile in this time, the Philippines drags its feet in the reconstruction of Marawi and puts white sand instead of cleaning up Manila Bay waters.


    • One can see from Bavarian reconstruction that the old strength of local was used to an advantage. Wimmer did not have to ask Prime Minister Hans Ehard what to do, he just did what he had to do. Excessive centralism can be a bane. Why should a national department decide about Manila Bay? Subsidiarity is the principle of letting local do as much it can handle, giving guidelines only to the units below to assure consistency. Local governments in Bavaria decide what to do about Covid based on statistics and knowledge of local conditions such as places where young people party.

      Thus, the drinking ban in Munich due to Covid is in certain frequented places, the Maskenpflicht or mask requirement is in certain parts of the town center where people cluster and much more. Bavaria does not tell Munich you are now on ECQ, MCQ or BBQ. What was set federally are the limits for new infections per 100 thousand people averaged over the last seven days, called the seven day incidence – with an incidence of 35 a kind of yellow alert and an incidence of 50 a kind of red alert. This is like modern corporations set metrics and goals for divisions, departments down to employees.

      • So there are just a few major things to watch out for in my book, in any major catastrophe:

        1) Clean Up First. Commodore Plaridel Garcia, Karl’s dad, in his interview where he said maritime awareness is important, said the first priority should be to clean up Manila Bay. Military after all always make sure their beds are made, their shoes tied, their uniform neat and on FIRST. Navy men are allowed to have a beard as shaving is impractical in many a sea situation. Some on the BRP Sierra Madre remind of Manny Pacquiao, does that matter? Karl’s recent article on pollution is also about cleaning up the environment of the Philippines.

        2) Get Morale Up. If one vomits due to being drunk, one cleans up first (Step 1) then sleeps it out and makes good coffee in the morning and takes a shower. Vice President Leni Robredo in one of her recent speeches during the pandemic said the Filipino is NOT undisciplined. Will Villanueva marches with the Philippine flag, boldly, even if he is the only one with the flag. Courage is infectious, so is cowardice.

        3) Don’t Micromanage. Mobilize common sense and local knowledge as well as own strengths.

        4) First Things First. Grand master plans work only in situations where stuff is well-established.

        Somewhat depressive phases in my life had me first washing dishes long left in the sink which is Step 1, going for a walk and getting fresh air and sunlight which is Step 2, not forcing myself by a list but catching up with the stuff I felt most important which is Step 3 and then..

        ..making a list of to-dos or several loose notes and checking of the list, or crumpling notes, one step at a time. Karl’s articles are good and useful lists for Step 4 in the Philippines.

        5) Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. Today I could at most compare myself to Maradona or Erap after their muscular youth. I know I am not the strapping youth that I once was.
        This is where I get that comparisons to places that fixed themselves can be very painful. Also comparisons to where the Philippines was once compared to Korea, Singapore and others. Even comparisons of how Africa is now getting out of its bad times in many a place, today.

        Munich rebuilt its main railway station into one of the ugliest in Europe after the war – didn’t matter as it was important to get it back running. Rich Munich of today is now building a new ultramodern main building in line with the second suburban train tunnel. Priorities do matter.

  8. My answer to Will’s comment and Micha’s question:

    Micha asked about VP Leni’s economic vision for the Philippines. German former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, famous for acting decisively and effectively during a storm flood in Hamburg in the 1960s and thereby paving his way to become Chancellor, said that “those who have visions should go see a doctor”. Will in his comment I quoted above also said “Meanwhile, back at reality, I, Will Villanueva, will soldier on.” – much respect, Will. As Paolo Coelho said, “dreams mean work” – now to Micha.

    My impression of VP Leni is that she does analyze and proceed methodically, but that she also – very Filipino – crosses the bridge when she is there. She only analyzed the drug problem fully when she was given the mandate, and did it effectively. Covid she dealt with step by step, as was needed.

    • Micha says:


      I’m taking issue with your skin-in-the-game characterization in your earlier post above as inappropriate and untrue because, one, I have most of my immediate family members still in the country, two, I have modest properties (land and buildings) there which I intend to keep for the foreseeable future, three, like most overseas Filipinos, I remit significant portion of my income back, and four, whenever possible, I find time to spend in the country since, as the old cliché goes, there’s still no place like home. So please, don’t ever use that skin-in-the-game canard on me ever again or I’ll smoke you out from your Bavarian hideout and turn you over to Duterte’s goons for a de-briefing.

      Seriously though, back to VP Leni…undoubtedly, she has her heart in the right place but, given the monumental task of building the country from its current state of disrepair, mediocre incrementalism will get us back to the same old-same old socio economic infrastructure.

      Second, before even considering the policy proposals we’d like to see implemented, we still have to, quite obviously, get her elected for the top job. That phase is still problematic because, as I see it, there’s not much excitement about her from the voters.

      Her centrist position is a political minority. The country is hungry for a revolutionary leader and it appears from the voters’ perception that she’s not the one.

      • Karl Garcia says:

        What struck a nerve, was it the skin or the arm(chair)?

        • Para iyang iyong mga “ouch” kuno pero kapag tinusok mo “aray” ang lumalabas hehe.

          O kaya kapag naagapan “arouch” pa rin ang nailalabas.

          • Micha says:

            Kala ko ba gusto nyong itaas ang kalibre ng diskusyon dito sa tambayan ni Mang Jose?

            Kung gusto nyo ng insultuhan, aba, madali akong kausapin pagdating dyan, bugok.

      • In my next article I explain why I consider incrementalism better than any revolution from the bottom or “from the center” (which was Marcos’ book and motto) – you would still have the same ruins and the same attitudes around even if you relabel the system “revolutionary”.

        Probably Communists would also have people who become as greedy as Binay at l did, and we now have an effectively “National Socialist” group who also seem corrupt.

        If you talk as real and comprehensible as you do now and avoid the usual economist gobbledygook which you can use on the Beltway where you seem to know all the big shots, please feel free to comment on Thursday. BTW I am quite easy to find in Munich especially as my full name is what I am posting with. I live pretty close to Goetheplatz which I like as he was a great writer. Doesn’t have the same violent connotation as living close to the Schlachthof (abbatoir) which I did before. Ask Jack Ryan for details when you see him. *g

        • Micha says:

          Incrementalism is what we have in the country for the last 30 years and look what has that gotten us.

          That’s right, after 30 years of incrementalism we got Rodrigo Fucking Duterte. Beautiful, eh?

          In the case of People vs. Incrementalism, I rest my case.

          How’s that Ma’am Leni?

          • What do you think should be done to bring the Philippines to first world, and what probabilities do you put on your recommendation’s likely success? We all see the problems. If Leni Robredo is not the solution, who is? And can it be done?

            • Micha says:

              As a general summary of where I’m coming from, I want a strong central role of the national government in economic development.

              This is critical especially in the heels of a devastating pandemic where the illusion of free market laissez faire capitalism has been destroyed and is now just on life support.

              But first, as I was saying in my response to Ireneo, in order to achieve the objective, we must first seize political power, that is to say, field a winning candidate.

              Absent that, we could churn out blog after blog of policy recommendations until we are blue in the face and that will not mean anything.

              So, who do I have in mind will be able to fill that role of a winner?

              Honestly, at this point, nobody is on the horizon for the opposition. VP Leni is being groomed but I have little confidence she’s up to the task, unless…

              Unless she starts agitating (and agitate she must, with gusto) for populist reforms that the middle and lower class can be persuaded to get behind her.

              Like it or not, Rodrigo’s populism was highly effective in getting himself installed in Malacanang. It was a scam, of course, but he pulled it off nonetheless.

              Leni’s populism, if she chose to embrace it, should be a contrast to Rodrigo’s. That is to say, it will be real, genuine, authentic.

              She should not be saying things like she will also jetski to Scarborough or dismantle the rice cartel in 10 days.

              • A reasonable answer. The VP is challenging a lot of the nonsense these days. If she had power, would she use it powerfully or popularly, as have all other Presidents but Duterte. That is, will she command change vs negotiate for it? I don’t know.

              • Thanks, Micha.

                You have described in SHORT words what I was trying to get at when describing what postwar Bavaria DID after being fooled by a faux populist from Austria.

                Luring aerospace to come to a mainly agricultural land, establishing polytechnic schools to support the drive, getting in the RIGHT “imports” both in terms of companies (“Prussian” Siemens, Microsoft, Google, biotech startups including the Pinoy couple I met once) and people (some medical tech companies are a mix of Bavarian core employees and experts from around Europe and globally), complementing it by ramping up the Technical University, establishing innovation centers like GATE Garching (IT and other stuff with the Ludwig-Maximilian-University and all of that), complementing the old apprenticeship system etc. – all of that to bring general well-being to all, leave no Bavarian behind etc.

                Closely reading what I have written will show that I am NOT a neoliberal at all. And neither is Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union, which is centrist with a strong social aspect.

                Thanks again for giving an economist but down-to-earth perspective for all of us.

              • I shall post that aspect in the first comment to my article tomorrow – real populism.

                This is what I meant when I wrote of kaginhawaan, well-being, which is not just MONEY.

                Or “LEAVE NO FILIPINO BEHIND” which is what GMA’s regime I think did to very many.

          • The last 30 years were not incrementalism, they were:

            1) pure crisis management in Cory’s time

            2) trying to get structure back in Ramos’ time

            3) failed populism in Erap’s time

            4) an excellent economist applying her theories in GMA’s time (now what?)

            5) I suspend my judgement on PNoy’s time, it was a mixed bag I think

            This “30 years” narrative is so typical of the MAD (Marcos-Duterte-Arroyo) crowd.

            Hope you don’t say that the “yellows” ruled for 30 years and didn’t get anything done.

            • Micha says:

              in·cre·ment (ĭn′krə-mənt, ĭng′-)
              1. A slight, often barely perceptible augmentation.
              2. A small positive or negative change in the value of a variable.

              Which of these definitions does not apply to any or all of those 5 regimes?

              • Incrementalism, if ever, has to have a direction, not the different directions that the different Presidencies took, often hampered by an HOR that seems to be more interested in pork. There has to be a build-up across several terms, a continuity of sorts, a builder’s attitude.

  9. Karl Garcia says:

    Until she decides to run, her wikipedia page will say more about her economic platform, all it says for now is about taxes.

    • Micha sees her as “mediocre” and a lot of people see her as “bobo”, yes and I share Micha’s doubts about her winning. My gut feeling tells me she is excellent but also knows how to explain in a way people understand, and that she knows what to do at one given moment.

      The Philippines chose a seat of the pants type because a lot of experts have come and gone including those very expert Marcos technocrats including Virata whose daughter I know.

      Between the experts and the practitioners there is a huge gap in the Philippines, there is a need of someone to bridge that gap – Mar tried very hard but failed, I think and feel that VP Leni is one step further than him. But that it just me. In the end we will all see. GMA was a great economic expert, in fact Cory was the one who gave her her first national position, she brought great wealth to many and greater poverty to a lot of people is my impression, indirectly causing a lot of the issues PNoy had to fix and didn’t finish fixing – and the desperation that led to some people taking drugs and others to want tokhang.

      I tend to look more at what people really do and with VP Leni there is a social democratic touch to what she does, with the liberal aspect of “Kaya Natin” which is like “Yes We Can” in connotation.

      But more on that in my coming article.

      • Mar failed on the PR front. And of course Filipinos can be quite quick at finding scapegoats. Better hover above places hit by typhoons, looking out of the window, than be on the ground and risk falling from a motorbike and getting the derision of the people.

        Lessons of history – the 1919 Bavarian Soviet Republic was run by cafeteria socialists for one week who had no idea of how to run anything in real life, much less a government, until some people loyal to Lenin took over. A young Austrian corporal was on their side but later joined the right-wing troops that the exiled, only a year old liberal-democratic government had enlisted to help push the Communists out of Munich. His name was Adolf Hitler.

        Disgust with the Communist experiment turned relatively left-wing Munich – which after all had even had Lenin living here in exile for a while – into a the “Capital City of the Movement” – aka the National Socialists. I could even show you where Rizal once had a beer here.

  10. kreativguy says:

    I’m learning German because of this…

  11. Karl Garcia says:

    Also from Randy David this he talks about modernity for people of faith.

    Be that as it may, I think one can fruitfully read “Lumen Fidei” for the issues it urgently raises—the importance of faith in a compartmentalized modern world—instead of finding fault with it for failing to discuss what one thinks are issues close to Francis. It is worth keeping in mind that this is a document promulgated by the head of the Catholic Church, and not one written by a social scientist or secular philosopher. Hence, when it speaks of faith in the context of the challenges of modernity, its reference is to Christianity. It does not speak of the other religions, and so it does seem as if it forgets “that people of faith come in many shapes and forms.”
    But, whether one lives in Europe or in the underdeveloped world, the issues that modern society poses for people of faith are the same. Where it survives in modern settings, faith does tend to take the form of privatized spirituality, or “what one does with one’s solitude.” Thus sequestered, faith is barred from shining light upon the other dimensions of life. The encyclical reminds the faithful: “Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed.”

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  12. Karl Garcia says:

    More from Randy David about modernity and the primacy of functional differentiation.


    “In sociology, the term used is “functional differentiation.” As societies evolve and become more complex, functional differentiation increasingly takes precedence over traditional forms of differentiation like segmentation and stratification. What we call modernity is none other than the primacy of functional differentiation.

    Today, we are in the midst of an era when some of the most fundamental social functions—science, education, mass media, the economy, art, and, to some extent, law and religion—are increasingly differentiated at the global level. But not so in the field of politics, where a world government is a distant dream.

    Nations are probably the last expressions of segmented differentiation, the way families, clans, and ethnic loyalties were in more traditional societies. The world remains hopelessly divided into nation-states. We see this in the way governments in the world’s most powerful countries instrumentalize their scientific communities and economic organizations by subjecting them to the necessities of state power. It is a dangerous game they are playing. We must all beware.”

  13. Karl Garcia says:

    From MLQ3: The Barrio vs Modernity


    We have been trying to be a modern nation since 1935 (after the stillborn efforts of 1896 and 1898), but our collective attitudes still hark back to the barrio (not the barangay — at least if you adopt, as I do, Damon Woods’ argument that the barangay is a myth due to an American scholar’s intervention in translating a friar’s report). And so, however increasingly complex governance for an ever-growing population gets, our expectations are simple. And the more things get complex, the more we hardheadedly insist on simple approaches to complicated problems.

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  14. Karl Garcia says:

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