Tuesday, August 31, 2010


August 28, 1963 was the day I first set foot on U.S. soil. I arrived in San Francisco, California together with a plane full of teenagers coming from Asia. We were designated as “Ambassadors of Goodwill”. I was one of the American Field Service (AFS) International Scholars selected from several countries. We first assembled at the beautiful campus of Stanford University and then we were dispersed all over the United States to live with American families and to study our senior year of high school. We were commissioned to learn the American culture, customs and traditions and to impart our own native culture to the local American community we lived in.

August 28, 1963 was also the day that marked the realization of a boyhood dream. As a boy coming from the rural town of Rosales, Pangasinan, Philippines who used to walk past the “Hanging Bridge” over the Totonogen Creek daily, I felt triumphant reaching the “Golden Gate Bridge” over the San Francisco Bay, to finally land in the place which Daniel J. Boorstin described “….. a land of dreams. A land where the aspirations of people from countries cluttered with rich, cumbersome, aristocratic, ideological pasts can reach for what once seemed unattainable. Here they have tried to make dreams come true.”

As the Philippine contribution to the evening talent show in Stanford University, I became part of a trio who rendered the song entitled “Maalaala Mo Kaya?” (Do You Remember?). Yes, indeed. I still remember that day and that night. Paraphrasing the words of Filipino poet, Rolando Carbonel, “it was beyond forgetting – part of my dreams, my early hopes, my youth and my ambitions – that in all my tasks I can’t help remembering…” August 28, 1963 was also the day when about 2800 miles away, at the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous, meaningful and historical speech, “I Have a Dream.” He said, “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I arrived in Seal Beach, California the next day to start a year of learning and teaching new ways. I attended Huntington Beach-Marina High School which I understood to be the most modern high school in the United States at that time. A school of no black enrollment, I was one of only two foreign students – the other coming from India. On inquiries regarding the Philippines and India, we both became “call centers”. With John F. Kennedy (JFK) as President, and Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) as Attorney General, it was a year of great inspiration, high achievement motivation, and definitely, of big dreams. JFK spoke of landing on the moon within a few years and exhorting the American people to, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” RFK made famous the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Some people see things as they are and say, why? I dream of things that never were and say, why not?”

It was also a year of turbulence, challenges and excitement. I still remember vividly where I was and what I was doing when JFK was assassinated. It was in a speech class – the class which gave me opportunities and challenges to represent our high school in speech tournaments involving original oratory, impromptu and debate. The opportunities won me several 1st place trophies and gold medals, a Philippine Free Press Magazine feature and an interview with the Washington Post. Living in the beautiful beach cities of Southern California in the year of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones in the middle of a sexual revolution, it was an era full of excitement and “Happy Days”. Meeting with Robert F. Kennedy in Washington, D.C. at the end of a year-long journey was obviously the most exciting and unexpected consequence of a realized boyhood dream.      

“I shall leave you now with a heavy heart. But believe me I shall be coming back. When I do, you shall be proud of me,” said my valedictory address. Back in the Philippines and proud as a hometown boy making good in America, I entered college with even bigger dreams. We had to dream big, for as Johann von Goethe said, “dreaming small dreams has no power to move the hearts of men.” Becoming president of the Student Council, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors and recipient of San Beda’s Abbot’s Award, the highest award on Academic Excellence and Student Leadership, I was luckily recruited to join the Christian Social Movement and became the leader of its youth arm. We called it the Young Christian Socialists of the Philippines (YCSP).

Together with some noble, idealistic, visionary and patriotic men and women, we had a dream: “the creation of a Philippine society based on human dignity, built on justice and dedicated to progress – where every man may develop and fulfill himself according to his ability and in the service of his fellowmen.” We also dreamt of political equality, economic parity and social equity for all.

As Dom Helder Camara said, “When we are dreaming alone, it is only a dream. When we are dreaming with others, it is the beginning of reality.”

Leadership of the said youth group brought me to places like the Vatican successfully advocating for Post-Vatican II church reforms, and to several countries in Europe and Latin America joining other members of the International Union of Young Christian Democrats (IUYCD) in espousing the democratization of Christianity and the Christianization of democracy.

About 7 years (1970) after rendering that song “Do You Remember?” in Stanford campus, I came back to the U.S. as one of the youth delegates to the World Youth Assembly in New York City sponsored by the United Nations. As in 1963, it was also a year of turbulence. The Vietnam War was raging, liberation movements were being born and rapidly growing and the youth worldwide were restless. Outside the assembly was another conference which brought together the revolutionary movements in the United States. Invited as one of the speakers, I met representatives of the Black Panthers Party, the Puerto Rican Young Lords, Women’s Liberation Movement, Gay Liberation, Gray Liberation, Black Community for Self-Defense and many more reform-minded organizations. I made sure to visit the headquarters of the Puerto Rican Young Lords at the Bronx, New York City and that of the Black Panthers Party in Oakland, California before going back to the Philippines.

For many Americans, Martin Luther King’s dream remained as one, and the means to achieve it progressed or retrogressed from peaceful to a more radical aggressive manner.

Another 7 years later (1977), I came back to the United States with my family, as a United Nations-registered political refugee, having fled a country run by a dictator. Disguised as Muslim barter traders, we traveled via kumpit or pump boat, chased by pirates in the high seas and escorted by Muslims armed with sub-machine guns and a Badjao (seaman) navigating a compass-less boat.

Living in the United States was always temporary for me. I never adjusted to permanent residence and citizenship status until many years later despite being qualified much earlier. As we got absorbed by the American way of life, and as we raised our natural born Filipino and American children, our dreams were also “deeply rooted in the American dream.”

Never losing our Filipino cultural identity, and having benefited from the struggles, sacrifices, advocacies and challenges faced by both our Filipino and American forefathers, my family joined the ranks of dual citizens who are very appreciative of what they have achieved and dedicated.

Life is all about dreams. “Dream, dream, dream,” sang the Everly Brothers.

“Dreams are the touchstones of our character”, said Henry David Thoreau. “Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions,” Edgar Cayce also said.

Eleanor Roosevelt told us, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” while Robert Conklin asserted that “Dreams get you into the future and add excitement to the present.”

August 28, 2010 is the 47th year anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. The latter spoke of his dream, his hope and his faith. Mormon Glenn Beck also spoke of MLK’s dream but focused on restoring honor and faith. Christian preacher Al Sharpton also commemorated MLK’s speech but spoke more of still unfulfilled dreams.

To many others, they echo Edward Kennedy’s words, “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.”

To Joe Darion, “Dream the impossible dream. Fight the unbeatable foe. Strive with your last ounce of courage, to reach the unreachable star.”

To me, by all means let us all dream. For it is in dreaming that we hope; it is in hoping that we live; it is in living that we fight; and it is in fighting that we succeed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

E-Center, SK and the Net Generation

The marriage of Tiger Woods and Swedish beauty Elin Nordegren is finally over. With their divorce, Elin is expected to get at least US$100M. My barber says, “Gone are the days when there was free love in Sweden.”


My barber has been regularly accessing the new interactive website of P-Noy Aquino. Since it was in Pilipino or Tagalog, he decided to use the automatic translation provided by both Google and Babylon.

The English translation for Taong Bayan is Year Town. P-Noy is P-character.


As of this week, the Philippines hosts the 7th largest number of Facebook users in the world. It also has the 6th largest number of Twitter users. Add to that the title of Text Capital of the World, which it has retained for several years, and you would think that the Philippines is cyber-connected nationally, right?

Wrong. About 60% of the internet users in the Philippines are in the National Capital Region (NCR) and in Regions IV-A (CALABARZON) and IV-B (MIMAROPA). In fact, in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), only about 1.5% of their population are Internet users. In the CARAGA Region, and in the Cagayan Valley, about 3.9% and 6.9% of its people, respectively, access the Internet. The other regions have percentages slightly higher than the two mentioned.


My barber likes P-Noy’s plan to set-up an e-Center in every Barangay. This means that the Internet would have to be accessible to residents in every Barangay. In fact, a broadband network would automatically convert the e-Center into an e-Gov, e-Communications (e-mail, VOIP, Video-over IP), e-Library (e-books, audio books, etc.) e-Learning, e-Entertainment (multimedia, movies, games, etc.), e-Commerce, e-Shopping, e-Banking, etc.

He also suggests that the e-Centers be converted into computer labs. We should start a campaign to solicit donations of old desktop and laptop computers from Filipinos abroad and from companies who are replacing the old with new. We should also encourage the donation of old cell phones.

We should also study the viability of mobile computer labs utilizing Philippine-made mini buses carrying a number of mobile computers connected to the Internet. They would also be mobile e-Centers, as described above, roaming from school to school and from Barangay to Barangay based on a certain weekly or daily schedule as needed.


While the e-Center concept represents a move forward, my barber thinks that the plan to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) and/or the Katipunan ng mga Kabataan is a step backward. This is an organization with a mechanism that is the only one of its kind in the world. Established by law, the SK put the Philippines in the forefront of “an emerging movement worldwide to give the youth a direct role in shaping policies and programs.” It provides the youth the opportunity to learn leadership skills and self-governance.

Under Section 13, Article II of the Philippine Constitution, “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being . . .”

Instead of abolishing the organization that guarantees grassroots representation up to the Barangay level, it should be strengthened to prepare its members to be an informed, enlightened and educated citizenry.

The members all belong to what researcher/author Don Tapscott call the “Net Generation.” They are “digital natives” born to absorb technologies as easily as breathing air. They are automatic members of the first real global generation. They are the leaders of the future. According to Tapscott, to understand the Net Generation is to understand the future.

That’s why MIT media technology professor Nicholas Negroponte launched the One Laptop Per Child campaign. He believes, as my barber and I believe, that every young person has the right to grow up digital.

The SK members should instead be given access to computers and to the Internet as soon as possible. Expose them to new technologies. Connect them to P-Noy directly, to fellow Net Geners, to social networks, to global knowledge. Let them run the e-Centers in the Barangay halls. Let them be the watchdog against corruption. Let them localize global knowledge and globalize local knowledge. They are worth the investment.

Delaying connection of these digital natives to the Net Generation is denying their essential development and positive contribution to a brighter future.

Delaying it could also be preventing the needed miracle or magic wand to turn things around in the shortest time possible.

P-Noy’s best hope for an effective and efficient e-Governance is the country’s Net Generation.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


In the late 1990s, I was fortunate to have attended a series of annual technology conferences sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The theme and focus of the conferences was the eBook technology.

Among the attendees were executives of Microsoft, Palm, Sony, Gemstar which owned the Rocketbook, Franklin Electronic Publishers, the Mobipocket Company, and many others in the publishing and electronic business, and of course, selected U.S. Government officials.

I had the opportunity to listen, discuss and meet the pioneers of what is now called the “eBook” industry. Among them were the Presidents of Franklin Electronic Publishers (FEB) and the Mobipocket Company. The former produced and distributed the eBookMan which was a combination of eBook Reader, Audio Player, MP3 Player, Organizer, Voice Recorder and other features. The latter developed the Mobipocket reader which eventually became the standard for most if not all handheld devices. Franklin partly owned Mobipocket. Predicting that the technology would play a significant role in the future, I negotiated with both executives and got my company to become a licensed manufacturer of the eBookMan and the exclusive distributor of the device in the Philippines. We also got to create and develop contents for the Franklin devices. Among our noted contents were the electronic medical libraries and law libraries. We promoted them as “libraries in your pocket, knowledge at your finger tips.” In the case of the electronic law libraries, we put into the handheld devices which also included Palm, and Pocket PCs, all the Philippine laws, and Supreme Court decisions since 1901. We promoted it as, “Take the Law into your hands”. We also bundled the libraries with an encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, a Holy Bible or Koran and some selected novels.

The attached video link http://www.motionbox.com/videos/a09ed8b31b28 was a TV commercial featuring Tanya Maynigo Loucks as model and was produced in a garage with the assistance of Homer Maynigo Rabara and Traci Manglapus Maynigo.

A few years later, Amazon.com which earlier started selling printed books online, bought the Mobipocket company together with its eBook technology. This allowed them to produce and distribute what is now called Kindle. This also meant that all the eBooks that we created are now readable and downloadable into the Kindle as well as all the handheld devices including the iPhone, iPod, Nokia, and others.

As these new devices are being manufactured with eBook readers built in to them, hundreds of thousands of eBooks are being made available for download. A few months ago, Apple launched the IPAD tablet which features its own eBook reader with the goal of competing against Amazon’s Kindle. There are now plans by Google to have its own equivalent tablet to go with the eBook reading capacity of its Android. The Sony eReader and the Barnes and Noble eReader are not far behind.

Meanwhile, publishers and authors now rely on their eBook formats as a major revenue center for purposes of their sales and marketing strategies. As proof of success, the experience of Best-Selling author Stephen King is always mentioned. The first eBook that King put online sold over 400,000 copies worldwide in 48 hours.

Indeed, eBooks have arrived!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Being a Filipino and American

Let me start with a couple of memorable quotes:

I AM A FILIPINO—inheritor of a glorious past, hostage to an uncertain future. As such I must prove equal to a two-fold task: the task of fulfilling my obligations of the past; and the task of meeting my responsibilities of the future.”—Carlos P. Romulo, Former Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary

I AM AN AMERICAN. That’s the way most of us put it, just matter-of-factly,
They are plain words, those four. You could write them on your thumbnail,
Or you sweep them clear across this bright autumn sky.
But remember too that they are more than words. They are a way of life. So whenever you speak them, speak them firmly;
Speak them proudly, speak them gratefully. I AM AN AMERICAN.”—Purdue Marching Band, “I Am an American”

Analyzing the above quotations and replacing the word American with Filipino and vice versa, for many of us, these words would be as appropriate, as significant, and as meaningful.

As I opened the envelope that contained the absentee ballot allowing me to vote for the next national leaders in the Philippines, I remembered an argument I had with someone who insisted that by becoming a naturalized American, I had lost my Filipino citizenship. It was my contention that as a natural-born Filipino, I could never lose my citizenship. No foreign government by its own acts or law could strip me of my citizenship of birth. Neither can the Philippine government deprive me of what was granted to me by Divine Providence. I was born in the Philippines and of Filipino parents. My children who were born in the U.S. are natural-born Americans under the Principle of Jus Soli (“by Place”), which is the doctrine followed in the United States. But they are also natural-born Filipinos under the Principle of Jus Sanguini.

The Philippine Dual Citizenship Act validated my contention by allowing the exercise of the rights of citizenship by Filipinos who got naturalized by other countries to exercise the rights of both their Filipino citizenship and those of their naturalized citizenship.

As a naturalized American, I have been actively exercising my rights for several years now. While I grew up, spent most of my academic life, and initially practiced my profession in the Philippines, I have already lived in the United States longer. Correspondingly, my wife and I have embraced the American culture and way of life as we both raised our three children: two of them natural-born dual citizens, or Filipino-Americans, by virtue of having Filipino parents and being born in the United States; and one a natural-born Filipino and naturalized American, also dual. But never have we all lost our Filipino identity and culture.

In my Facebook note entitled “The Campaign Begins,” I shared the e-mail of President Barack Obama, which re-stated his favorite slogan, “Yes, We Can.” Facebook friend Professor Villegas commented, first, by thanking me for sharing, and then by cleverly and creatively re-writing Americans into Amer-I-CANS, explaining that the U.S.A. is a country of I-CANS, hence—We Can. This inspired me to do a little research and I found out that aside from the fact that America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer, the meaning of Amer is “everlasting and incurable.” Amer-I-CAN, therefore, means “everlasting and incurable desire to achieve” or “limitless/infinitesimal achievement motivation.” I thought of informing the professor about it.

Professor Villegas, in his response, said it was wonderful. Then I thought, it is wonderful indeed to be known as one who has an “everlasting and incurable desire to achieve.” It is no wonder that Americans always have the strongest will to win, be it in sports, such as winning the most medals in the Olympics, NBA World Championships, and the like; or going to the Moon, Mars, and other planets; or dominating any field of endeavor, including winning wars.

It would be even more wonderful if this everlasting and incurable desire to win is channeled into making good health everlasting, making all diseases curable, beating poverty, and ending wars while promoting peace.

The Philippines, in turn, is named after King Philip, or Felipe, of Spain, which financed the exploration of Magellan. The latter was the explorer who was discovered by our forefathers when he got lost looking for the Spice Islands. The name Philip got its roots from Philippoussis, meaning “lover of horses.” Filipinos, therefore, are rooted to love their horses and root for them to win a race, to ride, catch, and overtake somebody ahead; and even to horse around. In politics, Filipinos love to pick their horses and campaign as hard. They love to tell and listen to jokes as well as relating “Kuwentong Kutsero” (Coachman stories). For them, “a winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.”

Filipino and American: quite a combination. Proven during World War II, they fought side by side, and bet their lives in defense of freedom, with the common everlasting and incurable love to win the race for peace, independence, and prosperity. And WIN they did!

Paraphrasing that song written by Lee Green Wood,

“I’d thank my lucky stars, to be living here today.
Cause the flag still stands for freedom, And they can’t take that away.
I am proud to be a Filipino-American, where at least I know I’m free.
I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”