POSTSCRIPT / December 16, 2004 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Some politicos, hotheads doing disservice to FPJ

UNCOUTH: It is not true that the House of Representatives has approved, as compromise to the proposal to fly the flag at half-mast, to raise the colors instead to “three-fourths mast” as a sign of mourning for movie idol Fernando Poe Jr., who died Tuesday.

But seriously, his widow Susan Roces must have been so affected by his passing away that she seemed to have missed that incident wherein FPJ partisans tore apart the wreath sent by a condoling President Arroyo.

Ms Roces would have loomed bigger in the eyes of more civil elements of society had she apologized for the hotheads’ performance for TV cameras and counseled them not to be carried away.

I am assuming, of course, that destroying the presidential wreath was not a decision of the bereaved family. Ms Roces should assert herself, disapprove of uncouth behavior and not let politicians or a mindless mob to take over the wake and funeral.

As we said in our POSTSCRIPT last Sunday, as FPJ lay in coma in the hospital: Stoking partisan emotions serves no useful purpose. It detracts from the communal spirit of the moment.

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USED EVEN IN DEATH?: I have other comments on the political exploitation of the passing away of the “King” of Philippine movies, but we choose at this point to yield space to reader Eyriche Cortez who said in an email:

“I pity the late Fernando Poe Jr.

“When he ran for president, I had no doubt that he was sincere. However, other than his total lack of experience and education for the presidency, what really kept me from voting for him were the traditional politicians who surrounded him.

“It seems they just urged him to run because FPJ would just be putty in their hands. They egged him to run because they themselves were seemingly bankrupt morally and politically as leaders to run for president. In short, they tried to use him.

“Now, even in his death, they appear to be using him all over again. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth when the same trapos would issue presumptuous statements about how FPJ was so depressed because he felt cheated out of his presidential victory. This, they lamented with apparent crocodile tears, triggered his death.

“Please. Do not milk FPJ’s death for whatever political mileage or publicity you can still squeeze out him. FPJ died because it is already his time as determined by the Maker. Leave it at that. Let FPJ rest in peace.”

To which I say, “Amen.”

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TERMS: If I may digress a bit… the matter of “half-mast” and “three-fourths” mast reminds me of American usage.

Many Americans may not readily understand our term “three-fourths,” because they prefer to say “three-quarters.” You do not buy “one-fourth pound” of something. It is a “quarter pound.”

I once ordered fried chicken in a small Chinese restaurant in South San Francisco. I said “one-half” and the order taker went into the kitchen while I sat down and watched the goldfish in the aquarium by the cashier.

When the order came out, already bagged, I noticed that it was unusually bulky and that I was being overcharged. I asked why so.

It turned out the waiter thought I wanted one-and-a-half chicken! I said, rather irritated, that I ordered “one-half” chicken. Yes, he said, “one-and-a-half.” I repeated “one-half” and asked for a piece of paper so I could write down “½.”

There was no need to write the figure down, really. I should have simply said “half chicken” instead of the “one-half” that they teach us way bak in da Pilipins.

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NVM REMEMBERED: That is why it has always been a source of wonder for me to see Filipinos, the late novelist NVM Gonzales for instance, teaching English to Americans.

NVM, short for Nestor Vicente Madali, was recognized as a National Artist for Literature in 1990, rather belatedly I would say. During his stint at the Hayward campus of the California State University, he taught Americans how to write in their native language!

I was fortunate to have been one of his fishing cronies in the States. We would spend some weekends angling with a few friends. For me, those outings and endless discussion with NVM were a lifetime course in the humanities.

NVM won the First Commonwealth Literary Contest in 1940, received the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1960 and the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining in 1990. He became UP’s International-Writer-In-Residence and a member of the Board of Advisers of the UP Creative Writing Center. In 1987, UP conferred on him the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, its highest academic recognition.

Born Sept. 8, 1915, NVM died Nov. 28, 1999.

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PINAY AWARDEE: From Boston, we have received related news of another Filipino who teaches English to Americans.

Prof. M. Evelina Galang is English professor at the University of Miami. I am mentioning her because she has just won a prestigious national award in the US for her contribution to advancing human rights.

Author and editor of “Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images” (cited in earlier POSTSCRIPTs), she was one of 10 winners of the 2004 Myers Outstanding Book Award, a national competition of the Gustavus Myers Center, a tiny Boston-based center and coast-to-coast network.

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LITTLE MONKEY: Her book was selected by a diverse panel of reviewers from across the US who commended the bevy of authors offering incisive fiction, historical analysis, artwork, humor and resistance to the majority public’s lack of knowledge of the history and experiences of the diverse Asian American community.

The collaborative volume done with Eileen Tabios, Sumaina Maira, Jordan Isip, Anida Yoeu Esguerra and others came about as a response to a disparaging remark printed in “Milwaukee Magazine.” A writer of a restaurant review referred to the Filipino owner’s child as a “rambunctious little monkey.”

Announced last Dec. 11 on the occasion of worldwide commemorations of Human Rights Day, the 10 award winning books speak to erased history, and to the exponential repercussions of those erasures. Some speak to policy issues. Some are written by journalists and professors, some by individual authors, and some by “engaged collaborations of organizers,” said Dr. Loretta J. Williams, the Center’s director.

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GAG ORDER: It is amazing how some judges could make apparent misjudgments to the prejudice of persons called to appear before them.

Take the case of Valenzuela City Regional Trial Court Judge Dionisio Sison, who recently ordered lawyer-broadcaster Mel “Batas” Mauricio to refrain “from publishing, televising, broadcasting any matter with regard to the live worms found in a canned product of CDO Foodsphere Inc.”

This is a case of prior restraint — in plain words, press censorship. Even before he could write or utter the first word of whatever he wants to express, the journalist Mauricio is gagged.

How does the good judge know in advance that what Mauricio is about to write or say will be injurious to others or that his prospective report or comments are unworthy of publication or broadcast?

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WORMS IN CANS?: The Constitution, in Section 4, Article III, states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression or of the press.”

No wonder, Mauricio condemns in his motion for reconsideration “the improvident and erroneous issuance” of the gag order as a “gross violation” of his constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression, “amounting to gross ignorance of the law.”

Mauricio added that aside from being flawed, Sison’s decision was ”issued with undue haste and unwarranted bias in favor of CDO Foodsphere Inc.

The central case involving CDO arose from complaints of some consumers claiming to have found worms in CDO canned products.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 16, 2004)

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