Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the Philippines the way it is done here in the United States. There was an attempt by President Marcos in the 1970s to make September 21st, the day Martial Law was declared, Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines but it never gained wide acceptance. Why, indeed, should the Filipinos celebrate and give thanks on the day they lost their freedom?

As a boy growing up I was celebrating it or giving thanks on several occasions: first, on Christmas because on this day Jesus, our Savior was born; second, on Easter Sunday because of Resurrection guaranteeing our Salvation; third, on the birthdays of my parents for without them I would not be around; and on my birthday for having been given the gift of life.

Of course, as I got committed to a lifetime consortium such as marriage and started a family, the birthdays of my wife, Tina with whom I share my life and love; my in-laws for giving birth to her; and my children, Tanya, Traci, and Raul who bring me great joy and blessings, were added as Thanksgiving Days for me.

But I now live in the United States sharing its customs, traditions, culture and history.  So now, Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday of every November as declared by law officially and as a permanent national holiday since 1941.  Before that, it was commemorated by Presidential Proclamations issued annually upon the persistent urging of Mrs. Sarah Joseph Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

The first Thanksgiving Day proclamation of President George Washington gave many noble reasons for a national Thanksgiving, including “for the civil and religious liberty,” for “useful knowledge,” and for God’s “kind care” and "His Providence."

Many history books say that Thanksgiving started when the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts where they befriended American Indians from the Wampanoag Tribe. Headed by War Chief Massasoit, the American Indians taught the settlers from the Plymouth Colony how to hunt and plant corn. The latter, after suffering from starvation and dreadful diseases earlier, enjoyed bountiful harvest one summer. They were so grateful and thankful that they decided to celebrate with their American Indian friends. The meal included turkey.

                                                       LUMMI CRABS

The Plymouth colonists are credited with instilling in the Wampanoag Tribe the concepts of self-government, the "hard-work" ethic, self-reliant communities, and devout religious faith.  The two parties did sign a treaty of friendship.

In the late 1980s, I was privileged to work with an American Indian friend, Fred Lane who was the Executive Director of the American Indian Trade and Development Council and concurrently the Vice-Chairman of the Lummi Tribe which is located near Bellingham, Washington. We earlier brought together all the leaders of the American Indian Tribes and National Organizations in Washington, D.C. to meet with the Asian Ambassadors and Commercial/Trade Attaches. Guests from Congress and the White House also joined us. The objective was to promote trade between the American Indians and the Asian countries. As a way of giving thanks we also arranged a reception held at the Philippine Ambassador’s official residence during the tenure of then Ambassador and Former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez. Together, the group of Indian tribes virtually controls 37% of the natural resources of the United States. We had never seen so much seafood brought by the American Indians especially salmon coming from the Quinault Tribe of Washington State. Another friend Joe de la Cruz, Chief of the Quinault Nation and Chairman of the powerful National Congress of American Indians was responsible for bringing the salmon. He is part Filipino.   
                                      FISH FROM THE QUINAULT NATION

When Fred Lane travelled to Asia, he passed by the Philippines. I happily hosted him and made sure that he met President Cory Aquino, DFA Secretary Raul Manglapus, Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, among others.

After learning the history of the Philippines, he said, “Unlike the Philippine natives in Cebu Island, we American Indians goofed. When Magellan was looking for the Spice Islands, got lost and was discovered by the natives, the latter made sure that the former was killed (by Lapu-lapu) and never returned. In our case, when Columbus was also looking for the Spice Islands, got lost and was discovered by us, we spared his life and allowed him to go back. He got to tell them about our land which encouraged many undesirably inept (definition for “turkey”) Europeans and Pilgrims to come. This mistake has caused the killing of millions of turkeys annually to celebrate “Thanksgiving Day”.

 A few years ago I came across a passage from an unknown author. Since then, I always quote it when appropriate and when opportunity calls for it.  Thanksgiving Day definitely fits such an occasion.  I re-write and re-post it to reiterate how grateful I am for what God the Almighty has bestowed upon me and how the passage actually reflected the kind of blessings I have humbly received.

“I asked God for strength,
that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.
I asked for health,
that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches,
that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power,
that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things,
that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
But everything I had hoped for,
And almost despite myself,
My unspoken prayers were answered.
He’s always with me
I am, among all men, most richly, blessed.“

Indeed, we should count our blessings on this day and thank those who have richly affected our lives positively and those who have challenged it in a more meaningful way.

Our immediate families, relatives, friends, neighbors, office or work mates, co-members of our church and local community, town mates and many more should make up that long list that embody the mass of people empowered to be the voice and agents of God.  Indeed, blessed are we for being surrounded with so much love and support.

Thanks I give for my life, for my liberty, and for all the God-given tools to pursue material and spiritual happiness.

Thank you for my being.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Former World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman once said, “Boxing is the sport to which all other sports aspire.”

“All sports have the potential of becoming about much more than athletics, transforming into symbols of a culture’s and country’s mood, insecurities, conflicts, and hopes. But perhaps no sport lends itself to this kind of transposition more than boxing. For the purity of boxing gives it the nature of a blank canvas; there is no playing field or special equipment; the rules are few and easy to understand. There is but two men, facing off with nowhere to go, with only their fists and their determination to decide their fate. Thus boxing easily becomes a metaphor for debates over our values: good vs. evil, immigrant vs. nativist, bravado vs. humility, intellect vs. brute strength,” wrote Brett & Kate McKay on May 30, 2009.
Pacquiao declared as winner

Indeed, Congressman Manny Pacquiao settled a lot of debates in his last fight. He reaffirmed what Ring Magazine had already pronounced: “Pound for pound, he is currently the greatest boxer in the world.” While his trainer Freddie Roach and his promoter, Bob Arum had already asserted it earlier, even Robert Garcia, trainer of Margarito now publicly admits, “He’s the best fighter in the world. He’s just too fast.”

How fast? He actually threw a total of 1069 punches and landed 474. How hard? He unleashed 713 power punches and landed 411. How accurate? It was 44% totally and 58% for the powerful ones. How consistent? In his fight with Clottey, he threw a total of 1231 punches also in 12 rounds.

My barber described Pacquiao’s speed and accuracy as well as Margarito’s fate this way in Tagalog; “Si Manny, pakyaw lahat ng 12 rounds. Walang tinge. Suntok – pasok rito, pasok doon. Mukha ni Tony, MAGA-RITO, maga doon. Battered bog-bog and bewildered. Triple B.”

A Filipino commentator during the fight said, “Ang suntok galing sa Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao. Wasak ang mukha at namamaga ang eye of the storm – the Tijuana Tornado (alias for Margarito).”

An American broadcaster said, “Pacquiao was turning Margarito’s face into a hamburger.”

It was a dollar to peso exchange. For every punch that Margarito gave, Pacquiao gave back 42.

According to HBO statisticians, Margarito was hit on the right and left of his face 117 and 136 times respectively. His chin received 148 blows and his right and left sides, 50 and 23.

It was a super, fantastic, pugilistic and “brutalistic” display of human skill, strength and intelligence. It was also a demonstration of endurance, courage and Mexican pride in the case of Margarito.

While critics of boxing would easily describe it as “animalistic behavior” Pacquiao certainly softens such attacks to the profession that got him out of poverty through his signs of the cross, kneeling and praying, as well as declaring to the world that he owed everything to God.  When asked by Mario Lopez of Dancing with the Stars why in the 10th and 11th rounds he kept looking at the referee virtually asking him to stop the fight hence, stopping the beating. He said, “Boxing is not about people killing each other.”
Pacquiao interviewed by Mario Lopez

Ringside observers were quite critical of Margarito’s corner and referee, Laurence Cole for not stopping the fight. In fact, a Filipino broadcaster called him at that moment a Cole-hearted person. “I was very close to stopping the fight but every time I attempted, Margarito would fire back punches.”

In her book, Joyce Carol Oates traced the roots of boxing. During the early Olympics and the Panhellenic festivals, boxing was still in its most primitive form: “no rounds, ring, weight classes, rest periods or point systems. A boxer was declared the winner when his opponent could no longer continue and cried uncle.”

According to her, in Ancient Rome, boxing was part of the Gladiator contests where the Gladiators would wrap their hands and forearms with leather straps, studded with metal shards (the cestus) and would battle it out, often until death.

The true birthplace of modern prize fighting is really England where wealthy patrons put huge wagers down on the fights of their chosen pugilists. Rules governing the sport were developed. John Broughton pushed boxing as a cure for “foreign effeminacy” and dubbed it as a “truly British art.” It became a substitute for  the deadly tradition of “dueling” as a way to defend one’s honor. It was also a great leveler for all economic classes.

When it arrived in the United States, its most important advocate was Theodore Roosevelt who himself boxed as a young man throughout college and into his presidency. According to him, “the most powerful, vigorous men of strong animal development must have some way in which their animal spirits can find vent.” The role of boxing in training at the Armed Forces and that of the YMCA was due to Roosevelt’s advocacy.

Boxing then is not necessarily the evil and animalistic sport that its critics would like to portray. It has its own rich history. Included in the Olympics and licensing it as a profession, it has gained worldwide acceptance. In America, a boxer became a politician and in fact, became President of the United States.

Pacquiao has excelled in his first chosen profession. His first title was in the 112-pound flyweight division. Then he won titles at 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147, and of course, the latest one which is the 154-pound junior middleweight division. That’s a total of 8 titles. No other boxer in history ever accomplished such a feat. He is definitely the best offensive fighter of all time and arguably the greatest fighter ever.

Congressman Pacquiao

Pacquiao is also concurrently a politician. Elected as a Congressman in the Sarangani province of the Philippines by a landslide, he now has to perform as fast, as hard, as effective and as efficient as he was as a boxer.

Politics, especially in a developing country like the Philippines, means poverty alleviation, prosperity and progress, peace, people empowerment, and the pursuit of happiness. To some, it also means pork barrel. He joined the government with great political capital: popular public support.

During the fight, the Philippines as a nation stood still. Crime rate was virtually zero. The criminals and the law enforcement officers watched the fight. The military declared a ceasefire and the rebels chose to watch. All the institutions suspended operations just to watch. Congressmen who did not go to Texas also opted to watch. Even P-Noy who was attending an APEC conference found time to watch.

How will Pacquiao channel this popularity and goodwill as a public servant? Will he use it to help alleviate poverty? To the poor he represents hope. He has become an inspiration and rags to riches model. Will he help negotiate peace? Will he reject the pork or will he use it for projects helping the poor? Will he fight corruption as aggressively? Will he lead an empowered people in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity?

As we listened to the post-fight interview of Pacquiao, my barber said, “I am very proud of my former governor. Behind every successful fight of Pacquiao, is my governor.”

“Why is that? Can you prove it?” I asked him.

“Look.” As he pointed to Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson and other Filipino politicians as they stood “behind” Pacquiao for the entire world to see.

Pacquiao and supporters behind him

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I was with my barber the other day and got to exchange some interesting funny stories and jokes we heard during the last few weeks..

He told me that a priest once went into his barber shop, sat down, got a good haircut, thanked him, and asked how much he owed him. 

My barber said, 'Father, you're a holy man, a man of the cloth, there is no charge for you.' 

The priest blessed my barber and said, 'Thank you very much' and went about his business.

The next day, 10 gold coins magically appeared on my barber's doorstep. 

A few days later, a Buddhist monk went in for a shave and a shine, and when the time came to pay, my barber said, 'No money, please, you're a spiritual leader, a man of the people, It's on the house.' 

The next day, magically appearing on the doorstep were 10 magnificent rubies. 

The following week a rabbi came in, got a haircut, went to pay and my barber said, 'No, Rabbi, you are a learned man, a wise man, I can't take any money from you, go in peace.' 

Then the next day, the barber opened his shop to find 10 Rabbis waiting for a haircut.
My barber’s Pastor in charge of choir songs was going out of town so he couldn’t supervise the preparation for the next Sunday’s services. 

The choir conductor asked the Pastor what the first hymn would be. The latter said, “It depends. The general election will be this Tuesday, so the first hymn will depend on the result.  If the Republicans and the Tea Partiers win, it will be #823, “Now thank we all our God.” However, if the Democrats and the Labor Unions win put up # 758, “Go labor on, spend and be spent.”

“Okay. Oh, there’s just one thing,” said the conductor. “Suppose the Libertarians win, what number would you want me to put up?”

“In that circumstance,” said the Pastor, “Put up # 246, "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform."
By flying to Asia President Obama is very glad to be away from the Tea Partiers in the U.S.  What he did not realize is that in India a Darjeeling Tea party is hosted; in Indonesia, a Black Tea party; in Korea, a Ginseng Tea party; and in Japan, a Green Tea party.
My barber also told me about some of his favorite late night comments namely:

David Letterman: 1) “"The president is going to India. He’ll be traveling on Air Force One-Term."  2) "Republicans are in charge now. We all remember how well that worked last time."

Jimmy Fallon:  1) "Everyone is talking about the unemployment rate. This week it went up by about 65 Democrats."  2) "In his new book George Bush reveals that he considered dropping Dick Cheney in 2002 to show he was in charge, not Cheney. But then Cheney nixed the idea." 

Jimmy Kimmel: 1) "Our forefathers fought and died for our right to choose, and to honor them, today almost 12% of us went out and voted.” 2) "The Democrats lost the House. Big deal, a lot of Americans lost their houses. Why shouldn’t they?”

Jay Leno:  1) "Ohio Republican John Boehner will take over for Nancy Pelosi. Those are some big eyes to fill." 2) "The government will pump an additional $600 billion into the economy. I guess they have to make up for what Meg Whitman isn’t spending anymore."  3) "Not only did Meg Whitman lose, now she can’t find anybody to clean her house."
My barber is predicting that the U.S. would have a woman President sooner than we expect.  More women are successfully getting involved in national politics.  Besides, there’s one advantage of electing a woman president of the U.S. 

I asked him what the advantage was and he answered, “We wouldn’t have to pay her as much.”
Many Filipinos in San Francisco are very happy about the victory of the Giants winning the World Series after several decades of drought. As many if not more are those Filipinos who were happy about the results of the elections being part of the Browns for Brown campaign.

Baseball vs. Politics:  Similarity – Both are America’s pastime.  Difference – In baseball, you’re out when you’re caught stealing.
“It was a terrific election,” my barber says.  “About one hundred million took time off to vote. Seventy-five million of them actually did.”
My barber’s dream ran this way: “Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were caught spying in Iran. The penalty was 100 lashes.  The punisher wanted to show some kindness to the three women so he allowed them to put something at their back.

When Nancy Pelosi was asked what to put in her back she said, “Nothing.” She received her lashes without a sound.

“What about you, Clinton?”

“Lotion and oil, please,” Clinton answered. She received the whip with much pain.

“What do you want on your back, Palin?” asked the punisher for the third time.

“Nancy Pelosi,” answered Palin.
What is the difference between an American Democrat and an American Republican?
Alicia Moss described it this way:

An American Democrat: 
You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
You feel guilty for being successful.
You vote people into office that put a tax on your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax.
The people you voted for then take tax money, buy a cow and give it to your neighbor.
You feel righteous and Barbara Streisand sings for you. 

An American Republican: 
You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The voice of the people is the voice of God. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.

The people’s voice is heard through elections. Their sovereign powers are exercised directly through people’s initiative or propositions and indirectly through their elected representatives.

The recently held elections gave some very interesting results.  In general, the people handed power to the Republicans and Tea Partiers in the House and to the Democrats in the Senate. 

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House is granted the exclusive powers to initiate revenue bills, impeach officials, and elect the President in Electoral College deadlocks.

The Senate in turn is granted the exclusive powers to give consent to treaties as a precondition to their ratification, to give consent or confirmation of appointments of Cabinet secretaries, federal judges, other federal executive officials, military officers, regulatory officials, ambassadors, and other federal uniformed officers. It is also empowered to conduct the trial of federal officials impeached by the House.

Of course, aside from their exclusive powers, the two Congressional bodies are together empowered to legislate on other matters benefiting the people provided that the President signs the passed bills into law.  If the President vetoes them, it takes 2/3 votes of the House and the Senate voting separately to override the veto. This means that the President’s legislative power is really equivalent to 2/3 votes minus 1.

Recognizing the above-mentioned Constitutional mandate, and considering that the Republicans were given control of the House and the Democrats the Senate, what then were the voices shouted by the people?

It might be advisable to look at the surveys prior to the elections as well as the exit polls on issues that are of concern to the people. These issues should be read and analyzed together with the election results.

The issues brought out during the campaign were taxes, deficit, social security, healthcare, financial regulations, Afghanistan, energy and global warming, Start Treaty, and education. According to exit polls conducted by the Edison Institute and published by CNN and the Associated Press, 62% of the voters name the economy as their most important issue this year. Ranked as a distant second is health care being named by 19%, illegal immigration follows at 8% and Afghanistan at 7%.

Worth mentioning and resulting from the exit polls is that the respondents were unhappy with everyone in government, from President Obama to Congress and that they have a similar view of the Democrats and the Republicans – NEGATIVE.

The Democrats got a positive opinion of 43% from the voters but a negative one of 53%. The Republicans were given thumbs up by 41% but thumbs down also by 53% from the voters.

How do we read the election results and the exit polls as expression of the will of the American people?

The Republican-controlled House is expected to initiate revenue bills that would reduce taxes, spending and correspondingly, deficits. It is also expected to initiate bills that would try to help the economy and encourage job creation. The Bush tax cuts are expiring. Both parties are in favor of extending the tax cuts for couples earning not more  than $250K or for singles earning not more than $200K. The Republicans would fight for extending tax cuts for everybody including earners of more than $250K.  There would be disagreements between the parties.

The American people’s mandate is for the parties to compromise.  The people expect both to find ways to work together.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to give full attention and review of the revenue and economic bills initiated by the House. It is likewise expected that it would have its own proposals. The voters want the Senate to accelerate confirmation of President Obama’s federal appointments be they judges, ambassadors, military officers or other federal officials.  Treaties like the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) which was entered into between U.S. and Russia should be given greater attention. Again, there would be disagreements between parties.

The American people’s mandate is also for the parties to learn how to work together and seek to compromise.

The art of RECONCILIATION of bills by the House and Senate shall be tested and displayed for the benefit of the sovereign American people.

In more specific terms, the mid-term elections also brought some special results that affected Filipino-Americans. My barber particularly mentioned two elected Filipino-Americans who won overwhelmingly. Republican Ohio Congressman Steve Austria got reelected as a member of the new House catapulted by the historic Republican tsunami. Democrat Maryland State Delegate Kris Valderrama also got reelected with tremendous support from Filipinos in coalition with other minorities. She won despite opposition from her own State Senator and the party machine in both the primaries and the general election. She was however endorsed and supported by the AFSME (American Federal, State, and Municipal Employees) Union, the winning Maryland Governor, Senate President and Speaker.

In California and in Nevada where Filipinos are dominant among Asians, the former is partially credited for the victories of Governor-elect Jerry Brown and Re-elected U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California and Nevada’s Senate Majority Floor Leader Harry Reid.

By giving the Republicans some major powers including some exclusive ones, the people correspondingly also gave them major responsibilities. They have two years to show how they would exercise the given powers to meet their responsibilities.

The Democrats in the Senate are given another chance within a longer period to show how they would work with President Obama and the Republicans both in the Senate and in the House.

Will all the parties concerned listen to Vox Populi Vox Dei?  We will know in the next two years.