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ManilaMail.com is a reference point for understanding the Philippines and Filipinos, why these resilient people and their nation caught in the crosscurrents of the East and the West are the way they are.

Federico D. Pascual Jr. wrote his “Postscript” column in the Philippine Star from 1997 to August 2023, when he went to the US for eye surgery and other medical reasons. Before writing for the Star, he was Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where he carried over “Postscript” from the now-defunct Daily Express where he was the Asst. Managing Editor closing the front page.

With more than four decades of professional journalism behind him, Pascual also advises and writes for some foreign publications/clients and handles media seminars.

He has received various awards for his outstanding work in mass media, including the prestigious Journalist of the Year (2013) Award of the Rotary Club of Manila, the oldest Rotary Club in Asia.

He was born March 3, 1940, in Mabalacat (now a city), Pampanga, just outside Clark Field, the former home base of the US 13th Air Force that has been transformed into a bustling Freeport Zone.

He graduated valedictorian from the Mabalacat Elementary School in 1952. After completing high school in 1956, as valedictorian, at the Holy Angel University in Angeles City, he enrolled for civil engineering at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. He ended up earning an AB English degree from the University of the East, Manila.

From UE where he was Editor-in-Chief of the campus paper DAWN, he moved on to professional newspapering in 1964 as diplomatic reporter of The Manila Times, then the English-language daily with the biggest circulation in Asia. He was covering the Senate and national politics when then-President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial rule and padlocked the Times in September 1972.

With the assassination of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino upon his return to Manila in 1983, Pascual went on self-exile in the United States. There he published and edited The Filipino Times, a progressive weekly Fil-Am newspaper based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

After the 1986 EDSA Revolt that sent the ailing Marcos fleeing to Hawaii with his family, Pascual returned to Manila to become Editor-in-Chief of the Inquirer.

On the side, he was a lecturer in the UP College of Mass Communication in Diliman. He was also a Senior Media Specialist at the Ministry of Information and a director of the National Press Club of the Philippines for seven consecutive elective terms.

Since December 2004, he has been the president of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI), a non-profit association of Pampangueño journalists and writers. He received in 1990 the Most Outstanding Capampangan in Media award from the provincial government of Pampanga. (Updated brief notes about the writer.)

The Philippines at a glance

Photo by Romado Javillonar/ Courtesy of Pagcor (A man blows smoke on his fighting rooster as he prepares it for sabong, an activity commonly enjoyed by rural folk.)
Photo by Olegario Rillon Jr./ Courtesy of Pagcor (Balut, fertilized duck egg - a popular exotic food in the Philippines - is commonly sold in the streets at night.)
Photo by Alfred Anthony Yap/ Courtesy of Pagcor (Guitars are famous products of Cebu. Guitar-making in the Queen City of the South showcases Cebuanos’ craftsmanship and love for music.)
Photo by Ariel Salupan/ Courtesy of Pagcor (Devotees converge at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City, singing “Bato Balani sa Gugma” on the Feast of the Child Jesus.)
Photo by Mariano Sayno/ Courtesy of Pagcor (The carefree spirit of Pinoys is evident in these playful boys who find simple joys in frolicking in the Navotas Centennial Park beside Manila Bay.)
Photo by Aldrin Cuadra/ Courtesy of Pagcor (Devout Filipino Catholics gather at San Rafael Parish in Montalban, Rizal, for Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week.)
Photo by Phoebelyn Gullunan/ Courtesy of Pagcor (Girls line up to kiss the hand of their grandmother. This tradition of showing respect for the elderly is observed among many Filipinos.)
Photo by Elvira Tankiamco/ Courtesy of Pagcor (After a hard day’s work, farm workers and their children head home to relax and get their much-needed rest.)
Photo by Dennis Gamarcha/ Courtesy of Pagcor (An array of fresh farm produce gives color to the side street of a busy public market in Iloilo City.)
Photo by Raniel Jose Castañeda/ Courtesy of Pagcor (Men wearing masks and Roman soldier costumes board a tricycle to join the “Moriones” Lenten festival on Marinduque island.)
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KNOWN as the Pearl of the Orient Seas, the Philippines is an archipelago consisting of more than 7,100 islands shimmering in the West Pacific. The tropical country is peopled by around 109 million Filipinos who are basically of Malay stock with a racial mix that can be expected of a population caught in the crosscurrents of commerce and conquest.

The Republic of the Philippines was one of the original 51 founding members of the United Nations when the world body was organized on Oct. 24, 1945, after the last world war. It is also one of the original member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) whose membership has grown to 10: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Having been a Spanish colony for more than three centuries from the 16th Century, the Philippines is dominantly (90-percent) Christian in religious orientation. The islands were ceded by Spain to the United states at the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898. This explains its American-patterned political setup – a progression from the first Republic proclaimed on June 12, 1898, in Kawit, Cavite, toward the conclusion of a revolt against Spanish colonial rule.

The capital city of Manila is noted for its bayside promenade with its fantastic sunset view, its centuries-old Chinatown, the inner walled city of Intramuros, the baroque San Agustin church and the nearby citadel and military prison of Fort Santiago. Over the decades, the financial hub of Manila has moved to trendy Makati south of it. Manila has a population of 1.66 million, compared to the 12.9 million of entire Metro Manila composed of 16 contiguous cities and one municipality.

The present Constitution ratified in 1987 has carried over verbatim the section in the 1935 and the 1973 charters saying “The Philippines is a republican state. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” Taking this to heart, Filipinos staged in 1986 the bloodless EDSA Revolt that drove the dictator Ferdinand Marcos fleeing to Hawaii, where he died in exile on Sept. 28, 1989.

The government structure consists of three co-equal branches: the Executive headed by the president, the Legislature (a Congress composed of a House of Representatives and a Senate), and the Judiciary composed of the Supreme Court and lower courts.

The Philippine President is Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and the Vice President Sara Zimmerman Duterte, both of whom assumed office on June 30, 2022, after winning a majority of the votes cast in the May 9 national elections.

The 19th Congress consists of a 24-member Senate and a House of Representatives with 316 congressmen. Meeting separately on July 25, 2022, the chambers elected their respective leader: Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri (born April 13, 1969), and House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez of the 1st District of Leyte (born Nov. 14, 1963).

At the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, who was appointed to the top judiciary post on April 5, 2021, is expected to stay until his retirement at age 70 on Nov. 6, 2026.

The president and the vice president are elected separately to serve simultaneously for a six-year term with no reelection. The 24 senators elected for a six-year term are allowed one reelection. The congressmen, or the representatives of the legislative districts, are elected for a three-year term like the provincial governors and the city and municipal mayors. They are allowed to run for a total of three consecutive three-year terms.

The territory acquired by the US from Spain became in 1935 a self-governing commonwealth under American tutelage. President Manuel L. Quezon was tasked to prepare the country for independence after a 10-year transition. But in 1942 the islands were overrun by Japanese imperial forces during World War II. After the invaders were defeated, the US promise of restoring independence became reality on July 4, 1946. That launched the Philippines as a republic, the first in Asia, marked by the aberrations of a young free-wheeling democracy.

With his country blessed with bountiful human and natural resources, the Filipino — hardy but graceful like the bamboo bending with the wind — is the eternal optimist ever trusting in the benevolence of his God.