May 18, 2012

Who is Mr. Anonymous?

Dear Filipino,

Who is Mr. Anonymous? Why is there a proliferation of Mr. Anonymous in this archipelago, the Philippines?

Upset and scared,
Mir.I.Am of The Black-Eyed Ps (Pinoys)

Dear Mir.I.Am,

Mr. Anonymous is my/your friend, my/your enemy, my/your relative, my/your neighbor. Known to be a blogger himself blogging on all kinds of imaginable topics, he manages to find time as a regular commenter on my blog (both good and bad) and countless other blogs.  He is sometimes a she – even an “it”, believe it or not.

Mr. Anonymous is a composer, a lyricist, an artist, a prolific author.  He’s been around for ages – ever since the first man and woman learned how to scribble on cave walls.  He has authored ancient Mesopotamian works (e.g., the Sumerian city laments), ancient Egyptian works (e.g., Book of the Netherworld), early classics (e.g., Beowulf), pamphlets (e.g., Common Sense) and poems (the ones we learned in kindergarten).  Even the Federalist Papers -- those essays which promoted the ratification of the US Constitution -- were attributed to him at the time of publication (even though the authors used the pseudonym “Publius” who we now know is in fact Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay).

Indeed, Mr. Anonymous is mysterious, mystical, enigmatic, furtive -- and loathsome. I hate him sometimes, especially when he’s trolling on my blog and other blogs, writing despicable drivel. Sometimes, he has no morals and zero skills in spelling and grammar.  He's even found to write in jejemon.

But one thing I really like about him is he is fearless.  He’s not afraid to go against the rich and the powerful.  He doesn’t care about decorum or legal technicalities.  He doesn’t care who gets upset or apoplectic.  In fact, I think he even enjoys getting under the skin of the arrogant, the hypocrite and the bombastic.

And when he’s in his principled zone, he’s quite something: a true force to reckon with.  He’s capable of exposing the corrupt, the wicked, the unjust.  He makes even the most powerful quake in their boots.  Naturally, those people would love to muzzle him and get the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police after him.  They would do everything to shut him up.

But it's not gonna happen.

You know why he “proliferates” in the Philippine archipelago?  Because Mr. Anonymous thrives in societies that are unequal: where being honest gets you killed; where being principled means you and yours go hungry; where you can get cited with contempt by contemptible courts and land in jail; and where the biggest thieves may even be wearing robes.

There is nothing to be scared and upset about Mr. Anonymous, Mir.I.Am.  Unless you’re hiding something. ;-)

Got a question for The Filipino? Email him now at

Sep 4, 2011

What's the latest hit video of Justin and Jeremy?

Dear Dad,

What's the latest video on YouTube of Justin and Jeremy?  Can we please watch it?

Ang iyong mga nagmamahal na anak (Your loving kids),
TFS (TF Son) and TFD (TF Daughter)

Mga mahal kong anak (My beloved kids),

The latest hit video of Justin and Jeremy, the Filipino-American twins who have become quite a sensation on YouTube, is The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars, himself a Filipino-American (actually, he's Filipino-Puerto Rican-American).  I admit I love the song (especially the beat) but I do not like the lyrics of the song 100%.  Your mommy and I have taught you not to use bad words so I hope even if the song has some bad words in them, you will try your best not to use them, okay?  (And I hope you don't make me wait too long to get your college degrees, okay?!?)

Anyway, here it is.  Enjoy!

Got a question for The Filipino? Email him now at

Aug 12, 2011

What caused the riots in London?

Dear Filipino,

What is your take on the riots in London? You lived there and I am sure you have good insights on what is really going on over there. Just curious…

Your friend from Machu Picchu,


Dear JoFlo,

I have not written for months and been really remiss in answering the questions that are piling up because (1) I have been so busy with work and family and (2) I simply have not been in the mood to write lately. This blog, as you know, is a “moodly” – I write and answer questions when I’m in the mood. That’s why even my loyal readers have abandoned my blog because of the absence of new entries. I don’t blame them – I too would do the same (and in fact did over the last few months).

But I decided to answer your question and let it take priority over the other pending questions because (1) it came from you and (2) you bet – I have my take on these appalling riots which have shocked the world. Now, whether they are “good insights,” well, you’ll just have to decide about them for yourself.

I actually just visited London with my family over the summer holidays and had a fantastic time. I can’t believe that was just a few weeks ago. We met up with my dear friends from college who were visiting from Manila, as well as friends based in London. Let me reiterate: I had a blast – and I did because I was with my close friends, of course, but also because of the setting. In many respects, London is a cut above other cities because of its history, its nonpareil restaurants and sights, and what-not. Even for my kids, who were simply too young to remember the year they lived there, London is magical – “Look, Dad, it’s Big Ben! And did you know it’s the name of the bell, not the clock?”

But David Cameron can’t be more honest: London is the heart of a “sick” British society. (And frankly, the adjective made me wonder if London is actually now a metonym for the West.)

I have a first-hand experience of how “sick” it is. I saw and experienced it myself when I was living there.

One incident leaps to mind: One June night in 2006, I was on my way to my friends’ place. I had planned to attend the World Cup in Germany with my friends and we had booked an early flight for the following day, so we agreed that I should sleep at their place instead so we could all go to the airport together. I was carrying my backpack, dressed simply like I always am – just jeans and a shirt and rubber shoes. I was not wearing, and do not and never did wear, any “bling.” I was my casual self, but I had my passport and some cash, my allowance for a week of football fan fun in Germany.

My friends’ place was within walking distance from a Tube station in East London. If you’re not familiar with the place, it’s notorious for having lots of areas which many Londoners, especially the upper class, would dare not even step foot in. It’s also known for having mostly residents with the “wrong” kinds of English accents – definitely not the Oxbridge type. Actually, if you sport a Cockney accent there, you would be at least near the top of the pecking order because your accent would at least be considered still British.

Anyway, after alighting from the train, I started walking towards an underground tunnel to get to the other side of the road where my friends’ building is located. The tunnel was poorly lit and I noticed there were four young men – probably in their teens and not more than 20, probably high school kids but bigger than me – just lolling around ahead of me. When I noticed they were somehow eyeing me, I became somewhat suspicious, but I grew up in rough neighborhoods myself so I didn’t let it bother me because I know strangers always attract attention. They also came across to me as real rookies in the intimidation game.

I was on my cell phone with my friend quietly asking for directions in Tagalog when I passed by the men. Then, I noticed that they started following me. I quickened my pace a bit and they did too. That’s when I started to become suspicious and a bit scared. But I knew I had to somehow disorient them so I stopped abruptly and politely asked them for help in finding a particular landmark near my friends’ place.

They were momentarily taken aback, as I expected, and didn’t know how to answer me. The “leader” of the group, however, suddenly grabbed my phone, and then launched into some language which to me sounded like Urdu, Hindi or something Arabic. As if on cue, his friends started surrounding me. The leader then asked for my bag and my wallet if I didn’t want to get hurt. I said, “No.”

Fight or flight? Kung fu or Kung tu? My survival instincts kicked in – I fled (hey, I learned my lessons in Kung tu well: “Kung tumakbo ay matulin” – which simply means: Run and run fast!). I wasn’t fast enough though and one of the guys sent me sprawling with a flying kick in the back. Another guy was grabbing my backpack but I held onto it while the others were trying to beat me. I managed to free myself from the rookie gangsters and ran again, this time shouting for “Help.” One of the guys kicked me again and I fell again, but they still couldn’t take my backpack despite the beating I was getting. Somehow, I managed to break free again and was able to get out of the tunnel.

When I was out of the tunnel, I was shouting for help but there was either nobody to help, nobody was able to help, or nobody was willing to help. Yes, despite my loud shouts and pleas for help, nobody came. That was surprising to me because London, especially East London, is a highly populated area and it was not really that late yet that night. Still, the rookies got scared and they fled because I was now out in the open, shouting. I managed to reach the bus driver of a parked bus, who then called the police.

Two policemen came in a 3-series Bimmer wearing shorts and civilian clothes, and asked me to hop into their car so we could look for my assailants. They asked me what they looked like and I replied they looked either Arab or Indian or Pakistani. They said I should not describe the men as such because that would be unfairly conclusory, but I honestly just didn’t know how to describe the men and was still too shaken to be making descriptions at the time. Since we were driving in a neighborhood with lots of young men just casually strolling around, one of the cops asked if they looked like them. I said, “Yes, from where I sit, almost all of them looked like my assailants.”

Then the cops concluded: “They must be Asians, then.”

I was puzzled. Asian? What a description, I thought! Heck, after all, I’m Asian and I look like one.

I realized later that for Brits, “Asian” refers to those descended from the countries in South Asia they colonized: the Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Arab and other Southern Asian ethnicities. Taken together, I learned residents who consider themselves “British Asians” comprise over 12% of the Greater London population and many of them live in East London. And apparently, I fell under the classification “Orientals” – those descended from the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Thais and others from Asia who do not come from the Indian sub-continent. These “British Orientals” comprise about 3% of London.

In the end, we didn’t find my assailants and the cops ended up just dropping me off at my friends’ place. (Fearing that my wife would just worry about me and not allow me to proceed to Germany, I told her about the incident only after a few days had passed.)

Now, why am I relating this incident?

Because it’s easy to see that what happened to me that night in 2006 had some of the elements of what’s happening right now in England.

To explain, let’s look at what made London ripe for the kind of riots we've seen on live TV. For a good round number’s sake, I’ll give you ten factors.

One, you have an overcrowded city. It’s true: Maybe it’s because it was tourist season but the first thing that I noticed during our holiday vacation was how more packed London now is. Let’s not forget that London is really not that big, geographically speaking, and England has limited room for growth because it’s an island. In a way, you can say that the Brits, during imperial times, could easily solve the capacity issue because they would just “export” their excess citizens to their colonies like Australia, Canada, the US, the Caribbean Islands, etc. – but that’s not the case anymore.  And because of continuing migration to the UK of citizens from their former territories, the UK is just bound to grow in number.

Two, you have a very expensive city (one of the world’s most) and it’s not exactly boom times for the local economy. I know middle-class Brits are heavily indebted and can’t really afford the high cost of living there. That’s why it’s not a coincidence that these riots are happening against the backdrop of an economically insecure Britain with talks of welfare cuts and budget cuts all around.

Three, you have a highly segmented, stratified society with many pockets of no-go areas where crime is rampant because the middle class have largely abandoned them, the tourists don’t visit them, and the police don’t really have much of an incentive to maintain a respectable presence.

Four, you have young, idle, poorly educated teenagers out late at night and obviously operating outside the supervision of their parents. Or if they are not out at night, they are in front of TV sets and video gaming machines, both of which spew a not-insubstantial amount of trash. That’s why the riots looked fun to the copycat thugs – for them, the riots probably presented a rare and exciting chance to act out a real-life, multi-player gaming “adventure”.

Five, you have parents incapable, unable or unwilling to discipline their kids for all sorts of reasons. Against a permissive, highly liberal parenting culture, parents end up surrendering their roles little by little to other forces. Many of them are also scared or tired to even try to be real parents anymore and many have altogether given up. Don't take it from me – take it from an article from the Guardian, the online home of UK liberals. 

Six, I noticed there is not only little-to-zero intermixing among races, classes or religions, there’s in fact noticeable antipathy among members of these racial, social and religious groups.  "Us versus them" is a recurring thread.  Even a supposedly non-violent British protest is shocking to the uninitiated, with banners proclaiming "Death to the Queen" fairly common.

Seven, there is a ton of apathy among a huge swath of the population, which is, of course, typical characteristic of packed, highly urbanized cities where crowds are often shoulder-to-shoulder and butt-to-butt and yet are strangers to each other. I think apathy should be made a crime in some circumstances, that’s why I was frankly relieved to hear of some form of vigilantism among the locals even though the chief of the Metropolitan Police didn’t approve of it. (But it’s funny to read that the British Sikhs massed together to protect their temples; the British Muslims to protect their mosques; the British Turks to protect their shops; and the white British locals to protect their pubs.)

Eight, you have a policing system that’s nowhere near as robust as others I've seen in other countries (e.g., the American one), resulting in police personnel incapable of inspiring respect, let alone fear. Regular cops in the UK don’t even carry guns, for crying out loud! Not to sound chauvinistic here, and political correctness aside, the truth is policing there has been too feminized because many of their cops patrolling the streets are women, many no bigger than me.

Nine, you have a political economy with a dual-personality disorder: A massive welfare state with a huge pool of unproductive or underemployed immigrant underclass feeling both victimized and entitled, overseen by an oligarchy whose members – both native (the white overlords of imperial Britannia) and adoptive (the newly ordained billionaire Russians and Arabs) – have not been too shy to flaunt their increasingly and exceedingly abundant wealth – whether inherited, stolen or earned – in this glamorous playground of the rich and famous. The inequality in resources between the top and bottom deciles is really quite staggering – and getting worse.

Ten, a unifying religion-based moral code among the populace is now largely absent. You read that right here: Beautiful churches in England are mostly empty now of congregants except for tourists wanting to snap a picture here and there. From anecdotal evidence, the only houses of worship which are regularly packed are the Muslim mosques (unless of course you count the sports pubs).

That’s why all you needed is an excuse, really – the proverbial match to light the tinderbox – and the whole thing would explode.

As it turned out, Mark Duggan’s death was it.

The ultraliberal and ultraconservative pontificators of Britain have already weighed in on the riots and have made known their own takes. As can be expected however, their opinions are filtered by their own ideological lenses. And I think any reasonably honest, independent-minded person would conclude these people may be partly right but are mostly wrong-headed because they are incapable of taking into account the other side’s legitimate arguments.

Whether in the UK or the US, the ultraliberals, to me, have gone overboard. Although they always preach about tolerance, I’m frankly disgusted about their seeming intolerance for any opinion on education, welfare, family values, child-rearing, and many other issues that’s contrary to their position. They make you feel like a bigot for having any form of religious bent on any of these issues. They make you believe you are criminal-minded for believing that egos of kids have to be punctured from time to time, that some form of corporal punishment in raising and educating children is sometimes necessary to really teach them what’s right and what’s wrong (even a USA Today survey of 20 CEOs revealed that every single one of them got "paddled, belted, switched or swatted" as children). They brand you as closed-minded or repressive for speaking against the perversity of movies and TV shows. They mock your religiosity and sense of charity because you do not support simply throwing money at the "poverty problem," which they romanticize  and don't really understand. They advocate guiltless pursuit of carnal pleasures: after all, hey, you can abort a fetus anytime you feel like doing so or divorce your partner if you don’t fancy him/her anymore. Is it any wonder that this kind of atmosphere would produce many teenagers who are products of single-parent homes: amoral, delinquent, feeling entitled, mal-educated, and unafraid to mock and lash out at parents, teachers, or anyone in authority – yes, even the police – face to face?

As a presidential candidate then, Bill Clinton had spoken about the 1992 Rodney King riots in LA and what he said is apropos here. He observed that the people who were looting “do not share our values, and their children are growing up in a culture alien from ours, without family, without neighborhood, without church, without support.”

I think this absence of any moral compass whatsoever is what prompted those rioting thugs in London to rob an injured, young Malaysian student after pretending to help him at first – in the process perverting the Biblical concept of the “Good Samaritan”. Really sick. Sick, sick, sick.

Whether in the UK or the US, the ultraconservatives, to me, have also gone way overboard. I am appalled by their unrestrained, unprincipled pursuit of money, money, money – in that particular order. I am horrified by their lack of empathy for the weak, the disabled, the poor, the unlucky. They seem like they couldn’t care less about the widening inequality, the blight of growing ghettoes and slums. They feel entitled to fat bonuses regardless of their work (or lack thereof) and oppose all forms of taxation that will directly affect them in the short-term without any regard for the long-term fiscal health of the economy from which they derive much of their wealth. They despise all governmental efforts to help the bottom-feeders of society and claim such efforts are a wasteful use of their taxes, not really realizing that they would be the ones actually to benefit the most from them. Is it any wonder then that there are many ordinary citizens, not necessarily poor, who couldn’t care less about these uncaring, greedy rich and would take whatever they can from them if presented the opportunity?

These two groups – the youths/delinquent teenagers (the “feral rats” as many have labeled them) and the supposedly “ordinary citizens” (they’ve been aptly called “opportunists”) – effortlessly banded together in London to cause these riots, mayhem, destruction and wholesale thievery and criminality. The thugs from other cities of England then copied them.

I am not sympathetic to these people and I hope they are punished to the full extent of the law. For the sake of the UK and the people all over the world who are watching the events on TV – a real-life lesson on crime and punishment for all to witness – they should get their due.

I have little sympathy for the delinquent teenagers because they had no cause and they’re not really poor. If you’re rioting to steal trainers and iPods and flat-screen TVs, you can’t be poor in my book. Poor is when you’re rioting for food, for your kids to be able to eat. That's why District Judge Alan Berg of Manchester Magistrates' Court is correct when he lectured the looters who’ve been caught and presented in his chamber: “People like you, who have all the benefits of this country, which others in other countries would pray for, you bring shame and disgrace upon the country as a whole, and upon yourselves and your families!

Nor do I have any sympathy whatsoever for the opportunists also because they are not really the downtrodden type or the poverty-stricken type or the too-young-to-appreciate-the-criminality-of-the-looting type. In fact, I have a bigger problem with them because many of them cannot even be considered part of Britain’s underclass. I think they should be punished more or asked to pay back society more.

But there are those people in the UK who have earlier “ransacked” the UK too, causing major havoc not just in the UK economy but in the world, and they were allowed to get away. Where’s the righteous indignation from David Cameron? Where’s the political will to punish them? How come these criminals are not being haled before the magistrates’ courts?

I know I’m painting in broad strokes and I’m going to offend many people, both from the left and the right of the political spectrum. But right now, bro, I just don’t care.

I've written quite a lot already for this post and I still have a lot in my mind.  But do you know what really scares me?  What really scares me is if this kind of rioting -- senseless and devoid of any objective except pure criminality --would cross the Atlantic and start happening in US cities.  We both know things can easily be magnified in the US. tenfold or a hundredfold.

Heck, it's very much possible.  Why not? Many of the elements I enumerated above are now present in the US too.

And of course, the US has a wild card: GUNS – available to almost everyone.

Got a question for The Filipino? Email him now at

Apr 12, 2011

Are Filipinos blunt?

Dear Filipino,

A friend of mine recently asked me a question that had me stumped: He wanted to know if Filipinos were blunt. Apparently, he had a run-in with a couple that he knew on a less-than-personal basis and was very surprised at their frankness. Nothing insulting was directed towards him. These Filipinos simply made some very transparent and candid comments about a family member of theirs.

I found it a little difficult to answer his question because I didn't know at what level to address it: Filipino interaction within the family, with other Filipinos, or with other cultures. I also felt a bit inadequate in addressing my friend's inquiry since I mostly grew up as a third culture kid with my own confusing hodgepodge of cultures. At any rate, I know Filipinos, and even Asians in general, are not as timid or non-confrontational as they may seem. Any insight on this one?


Dear TCK,

Any insight on this one?  Of course!  Are Filipinos blunt?  Hell, yes!

NEXT question, please!

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Just kidding, TCK.  I'm just trying to be cute as TF because I am not really one in real life.  And it's definitely not cool to make you and the others wait so long just to be brusquely set aside with an unqualified reply. (It's bad enough that I haven't been as religious in answering questions lately, right?)

But anyway, back to your question...

Although Filipinos can be really blunt and frank and direct and upfront, the answer is really not as cut-and-dried as that.  We can be evasive and less direct too so as to prevent hurting another.

However, it is quite common knowledge that Filipinos, with an admixture of hot-Latin and humid-tropical blood coursing through their veins and schooled by the chest-thumping Americans, are more expressive than their counterparts from North Asia. 

The popular Pugad Baboy (Pig Pen).
Sure, we have a culture of "face-saving" too, but nowhere near what the Japanese or the Koreans have.  Sure, we are polite, but not so polite as to bow repeatedly

Filipinos are also usually more polite around strangers, especially foreigners who obviously do not speak or understand the language. 

Among people we know, however, we do have a tendency to be less sensitive about race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and other "equal opportunity classifications" you can name -- often causing a lot of masked pain. 

Hence, name-calling and jokes about one's less-than-ideal attributes can be brutal, especially among the young.

For instance, growing up, I was repeatedly teased as "Egoy" or "Negro" because of my skin -- until of course, I grew up to become the quintessential tall, dark and handsome (I heard a 0.333 batting average is considered spectacular) bachelor coveted by the most desirable ladies in town. Hah!

But seriously, many Filipinos sometimes don't think twice about made-up adjectival names to refer to others.  Hence, you can hear people ask: "Nasaan si Pango/Pandak/Duling/Bumbay?" (Where's flat-nosed/short/cross-eyed/Indian guy?) 

Others would find these names uncouth and uncool.  So they employ syllabic inversions and other magical verbal treatments.  Hence, Pango becomes NgoPangs; Pandak becomes DakPans; Duling becomes LengDu; and Bumbay becomes Pana (the last derived from "Indian arrow" because arrow translates to pana in Tagalog).

Still others can get very creative.  A naturally bald-headed person who wears a toupee is someone who has a BMW ("Buhok Mo Wig!" or "Your hair's a wig!").

In high school, I had a classmate whom everybody called "Tinapa" (smoked fish) because he smelled like one.  Apparently, his family's business was the buying and selling of tinapa, but, no matter, it didn't exempt him from the ridicule.

Because I went to an all-boys' high school, the effeminate ones stood out, albeit, for some, not by choice.  Regardless, they were all referred to as "Bading" (gay).

In conversations, it's not generally seen as rude to remark, "Uy, tumataba yata tayo!" (This translates to "Hey, looks like you've gained weight!" even if "tayo" is really the Tagalog for "we.") 

The inverse, to say to a close female work colleague, "Wow, mama mia, sexxxyyy!" is also fine, or at least, it wouldn't be considered sexual harassment.  To the contrary, it would be deemed flattering.

Note though that frankness flies out the window if you're a guest at a house and it's eating time.  If you're a welcome guest, the host will offer to share his/her food, and it's considered bad manners to decline, no matter how politely conveyed, even if you're full and your stomach is ready to burst. 

But if you're an unwelcome guest though (you would or ought to know), the host will still offer to share his/her food, and it's considered bad manners to accept even if you're starving, emaciated and the table is overflowing with food.  Because if you do, be prepared to hear remarks like: "Buti naman at di ka mahiyain, iho." (It's a good thing you're not a shy person, son!)

Another area where frankness and bluntness don't apply: When you're courting Filipinas.  If you find yourself in this situation, understand that a Filipina may say "yes" but she actually means "no", or she may say "no" but she actually means "yes" in caps and bold with three exclamation points.  The fun part is figuring out which is which, but unfortunately, I am woefully inadequate to give a dissertation on this topic.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Mar 24, 2011

Does the Philippines have a future in a technology-driven world and will Filipinos survive in it?

Dear Filipino,

As someone who has worked in Silicon Valley and who researches on and lectures about IT issues, I sometimes wonder what the future holds for the Philippines. It seems like we are only supplying resources (e.g., IT skilled labor) but not really in the forefront and "making things happen," so to speak.

So my question is: Do you think Filipinos will survive in an increasingly high-tech and competitive world?

The Filipina

P.S. By the way, I like love your new logo, too. But how come MuQ is in the logo while I’m not? Sob-sob-sob. :-(

To My Funny Brown Pinay,

First, I’m glad you like the new logo/banner.

Secondly, I’m really sorry that you’re not in the picture, but don’t you think it would look kinda silly if I were riding you instead of MuQ?

Thirdly, I feel bad not answering a lot of pending questions from readers, but I’m really super glad that you asked your question because it's of the kind I really want to write about.  Because if there’s one thing I am absolutely sure, it’s that Filipinos WILL survive. In fact, not only will Filipinos survive, we are on track to conquer the world!  Hah!

Yup, you heard that right! But don’t take my word for it – take instead the word of the former Secretary of Finance, Roberto de Ocampo, who, thanks to a reader who alerted me about it, has recently written about how Filipinos are really “The Chosen People.”
Consider that, according to some researchers, “in order for a culture to maintain itself for more than 25 years, there must be a fertility rate of 2.11 children per family. With anything less, the culture will decline. Historically, no culture has ever reversed a 1.9 fertility rate.”

The 2011 fertility rate estimate for Spain is 1.47, Italy 1.39, UK 1.91, France 1.96 and Germany 1.41, to name a select few. The average fertility rate of all Western Europe is about 1.5. In short, these nations are either on are perilously close to what population experts call an irreversible demographic decline. To put it more starkly, for example, by 2020 (or just nine years from now) more than half of all births in a country like, say, the Netherlands (1.66 fertility rate) will be of non-European Dutch origin. Furthermore, with the birth rate dropping below replacement, the population of such countries ages and the problems facing an aging population are numerous and startling enough to deserve a separate treatise.

Western Europe is not the only one experiencing this phenomenon. The US fertility rate is, at 2.0, just below replacement and Japan is at a worrisome level of 1.2. For Japan, this means a population decline of about 60 million in the next 30 years and an aging population that will have one out of every five Japanese at least 70 years old by 2020.

However, with the exception of Japan, the overall populations of the above-mentioned countries are not declining. The overwhelming reason for that is immigration (to which Japan is by comparison with others, still somewhat resistant). Guess who comprise one of the larger immigrant populations. Yes, dear—Filipinos!
De Ocampo concludes:
Now we have begun to creep into the world’s bloodlines. The 2010 World Series winning pitcher Tim Lincecum, 2011 best supporting actress Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld, head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat, and R&B star Bruno Mars are all Fil-Ams. It may only be a matter of time before nearly every race on earth has some Filipino blood.
In other words, if you think all these advanced countries are going to go high-tech, Filipinos will at least be tagging along for the ride!

But actually, the truth is, if we play our cards right, we’re not just going to tag along – we can make things happen too, and to a certain extent, we have. In fact, we are really in the position to design our own “ride” – literally!

Now, what do I mean by that?

Well, what I mean is that we have the right ingredients already in place. We have, as you mentioned, the skilled laborers; we have creativity; and, believe it or not, we have years of experience in the transportation field too.

Let’s talk about these ingredients one by one.

First, the skilled laborers.

Many people think of the Philippines as this low-tech country exporting nothing but tropical fruits and basic natural commodities. But in fact, electronics exports accounted for a whopping 61% of the country’s merchandise exports in 2010 which totaled $31 billion. Of that figure, semiconductors comprised 71%!

And Filipinos are not just at the bottom of the high-tech totem pole either, for Silicon Valley has several Filipinos who have achieved substantial success in the field. Dado Banatao, of course, is just one of the more well-known figures, having co-founded Mostron, Chips & Technologies (acquired later by Intel), and S3 Graphics.

All these means, of course, that we have the knowledge capital.  And I strongly believe we also have the creative capital, which, as mentioned earlier, is the second ingredient. 

Kenneth Cobonpue's Phoenix
(Source: TopGear Blog)
In fact, just a few days ago, I read the Inquirer article about Kenneth Cobonpue, a well-known Filipino furniture designer. Apparently, he just outdid himself and designed “Phoenix” – a concept car made out of bamboo, rattan, steel and carbon fiber -- which has drawn raves in a Milan exhibit entitled “Imagination and Innovation.” I saw the picture and it looks awesome – indeed, “a bird posed to take flight.”

What I didn’t like about the Inquirer article is the lead sentence which says in part that “Cobonpue has designed what must be the first and only bamboo and rattan car in the world.”


Because it’s not true! And this brings me to the last ingredient I earlier mentioned: years of experience.

Actually, the honor of “first and only” bamboo ride rightly belongs to the – note the following adjective closely – out-of-school youth and the former mayor of the remote municipality of Tabontabon, Leyte who actually manufactured public taxis made out of bamboo!
Want a ride aboard the bamboo taxi of Tabontabon, Leyte?

And if you think it’s just superficially bamboo, you’re wrong: It’s 90% bamboo!

But wait, there’s more: According to John Voelker, Senior Editor of
The ECO taxis built by Tabontabon Organic Transport Industry [TOTI] come in two sizes: ECO1 seats 20, whereas ECO2 carries eight passengers. Each is said to run for eight hours on a gallon of biodiesel, which in this case is derived from coconut oil.
Did you read that? The thing actually runs on biodiesel! How about that, my dear Pinay?
Honestly, I was floored when I first read about it on Fast Company. I couldn’t believe it because Tabontabon, Leyte does not exactly exude high-tech. In fact, it’s a poor farming town and is considered a fifth-class municipality by Philippine standards!

I said though that the third ingredient is years of experience. Well, these ECO taxis were built in 2009, so a couple of years do not exactly years of experience make.

But by years of experience, I am referring also to our decades of churning out our very colorful jeepneys (a portmanteau of "jeep" and "jitney") which started when the American forces left us with hundreds of surplus jeeps used during the Second World War. We stripped them, elongated them, re-roofed them and made them culturally our own.  That should count for something, right?

FAAIE's enviable jeepney: The Ambassador
As you probably know also, the jeepney used to be notorious as a smoke-belcher, but it has since evolved over the years. Nowadays, there’s even a lot of interest in making them more environmentally friendly and high-tech by making them electric-powered. You better believe it -- e-jeepney is on the way!

In sum, I want to emphasize that we do have the ingredients to not just survive but to thrive in an increasingly high-tech world. All we need now is a cook, a really good chef.  And I hope purpose-driven businessmen will step forward to play that role. Additionally, I hope the government will also step up and at least play the role of sous-chef.  We really need them to up their game big time.

Because believe me, I strongly think that demand for Philippine-made rides will increase, especially from Pinoys abroad because, at least Stateside, I am really sensing a growing pride about their ethnic background among Filipino-Americans. For instance, the Filipino-American Association of the Inland Northwest, which is involved in various humanitarian and socio-cultural activities, has bought a club jeepney. So as a group, they now roll and roar aboard the machine they proudly call The Ambassador.

Good for them! And honestly, I envy them because I too want to roll with one -- and because MuQ has been wanting a break from carrying my heavy bum bum.  What do you think I should call it? (I meant the jeepney, not my bum bum.)

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Mar 16, 2011

For MuQ: Who are you really, how do you pronounce your name, why do you look lazy, etc.?

[Before "regular programming," I just want to say this: It's always a struggle to write something characterized by levity (even pettiness) in the wake of a disaster so horrific and so shocking like what happened in Japan last Friday when a massive earthquake, and the tsunami which it caused, destroyed entire cities and towns and claimed thousands of lives.  And to make things worse, the disaster appears to be far from over, what with the ongoing threat from the nuclear facilities which were badly damaged. I hope nobody will find this a cheap and crass shoutout, but I really have been very impressed so far by the way the Japanese people have reacted with unbelievable amount of collective calm, courage, dignity and discipline in the face of such great national suffering, destruction and death. And readers from Japan who chance upon this blog are probably thinking that, half a world away from the epicenter, I am really very fortunate that I can continue blogging about relatively silly matters, and I hope nobody takes it as my callous indifference to their plight.  My wife was an exchange student in Japan in the 1990s and she has "family" there -- even a loving "Japanese mother" she calls her "Okasan" for acting like one to her -- and  I too have extended family and friends there. That's why I do want to say in this blog, from the bottom of my heart, that our family's prayers and thoughts go out to the Japanese people affected by this continuing tragedy. -- The anonymous blogger behind AAF!, otherwise known as The Pinoy, The Filipino or TF.]

Dear MuQ,

For this time (and I hope, this time only), I want to be the questioner because since we changed the banner/logo of the blog, you've begun to upstage me, and I'm beginning to feel kinda jealous. I'm supposed to be the blogger here answering all sorts of Pinoy-related questions, but now, I'm getting asked questions about YOU!

The questions range from the metaphysical (who you are) to the practical (how your name is pronounced), et cetera. Maybe some chubby Midwestern buffaloes are probably just curious and want to flirt with you, but one prominent Filipino muralist is even openly challenging your Pinoy cred and claims you're actually Chinese!

While I respect his work, the same artist referred to your droopy eyes too!  He thinks you have the "Lazy Look" (knowing you, you probably love that alliteration!). And probably because of that look, he thought my reading pose while I was on top of you is, well, quite lazy-looking too (notwithstanding the fact that I was pictured busily reading a book). Thus, with the two of us appearing lazy to him, we supposedly perpetuate, according to him, the misguided stereotype that Filipinos are lazy!

So what say you, The Buffalo Gigolo?

Your BFF,

Dear TF,

Wow, I feel important – very important! Imagine: I get to actually write my very own post in this blog and not just submit planted questions?

Thanks for this opportunity, but where do I start?

TF: Well, why don’t you start from the very beginning. First, introduce yourself.

That’s a good idea. Thanks, TF!

Well, you could say I was first conceived in January of this year because my Creator -- you, of course! -- wanted to write about a beautiful Ford supermodel, but no reader had submitted a question which he could answer and somehow discuss her success story.  Then you thought a planted, perfectly worded question would do the trick so you made up a fictional questioner, the Made-up Questioner, or MuQ in short – i.e., moi.

At that time though, except probably for cojones the size of humongous lansones, even in the mind of my Creator (you), I had no real attributes, no identity, no face, no character, no personality, no nothing -- except a name which happens to be a nice, short and sweet initialism or acronym. And, of course, a job: to ask the perfect questions at the most perfect times.

But I didn’t know if I needed to sound like a lowly vassal, a disciple, or a rap star wannabe. I didn’t even know if I had to speak collegiala Taglish or have a British accent, although I knew I would have hated it, like, if I had to, you know, speak like, you know, a Hollywood star or something.  In short, neither I nor you knew what I was going to end up as.
The previous logo and banner of the blog.

Luckily, you as my creator met a creative guy. He’s an artist who has served as art director for several top advertising companies in the world. He’s also active in the Filipino OFW community in Europe, organizing sporting events for the hyphenated Filipino youth. As a musician, he volunteers his talent, treasure and time to make sure that worthy fundraising projects, all aimed at helping less fortunate Filipinos back in the Philippines, are successful. His name is Peter Molina.
Peter's different AAF! logo studies.

Peter liked the AAF! blog so much that when he was approached about it, he decided that, for a token fee, he’d help upgrade the logo and banner of the blog. It took quite some time because of his busy schedule but he subsequently came up with several “studies” for the new logo, all of which were nice. Most revolved around Jose Rizal because the Philippine national hero is the original figure which graced the top banner of the blog. But the last of the studies actually ended up taking the prize because Peter did not just create a logo – he, probably inadvertently, also conceptualized the personification (or in my case, the "animalification") of a fictive character created solely for this “Ask blog”. And the character looks like someone who fits the name "MuQ"!

People ask: “Why would that name fit?” Well, because it is pronounced like “muck” which rhymes with buck or luck.

And “muck” is also perfect because it means “a moist sticky mixture, especially of mud and filth” or “dark fertile soil containing decaying vegetable matter.” In short, “dirt” – i.e., my favorite stomping grounds when I want to, as the Brits would say, “muck about” or “spend time idly.”

But then, by saying that last phrase, I guess I just confirmed that muralist’s very charge, huh? That is, that I’m lazy, right?

I hope not.  But if that’s what he thinks, who am I to ask him to think otherwise?

After all, I’m just a [fictive] carabao, a lowly beast of burden. I’m not a truck, a tractor or a car, even if my kind has been serving like those mechanical beasts many centuries before they were even invented. I don’t perform tricks like the dogs do, nor purr and act cute like the cats to get what I want.

But what that artist probably doesn’t realize is that as a carabao, I have no sweat glands, so I have to cool myself after long hours of working under the sun by lying in a filthy waterhole or mud or muck. That muck, caked on to my sexy body, protects me from bothersome tropical insects who can’t seem to get enough of tasty me.

I’m probably wasting my time saying all these things though because again, who am I really to argue with that famous muralist? Us carabaos are not even supposed to complain. We’re supposed to be docile and just work hard. We're supposed to just carry heavy burdens. We’re just supposed to plow hardened soil, rain or shine, to soften them for another round of planting. We’re [sniff] just supposed to provide milk and when really necessary [sniff], offer our meat and our hides for you guys. We’re just [sniff]…

TF: Hey, calm down, dude. Don’t cry because you’re going to make me cry, too!

I’m sorry but I can’t help but feel bad, TF. Why does this guy think I look lazy? It’s bad enough that the scientific community gave us a long, ugly and tongue-twister of a scientific name -- Bubalus bubalis carabanesis – but now I’m supposed to just accept additional abuse too because of my droopy-looking eyes?

Besides, he’s unfair and quite misguided in his anthropomorphizing because what applies to humans does not necessarily apply to the animal kingdom. Besides, has he ever thought that those droopy eyes were the result of tiredness, not laziness?  Besides, I happen to think those eyes are my best assets because they make me look approachable and harmless among the female members of our specie. And here's another more important besides: I have massive horns, you see, and I don’t want female carabaos to think, well, that I’m “horny”!
TF & MuQ: Happy together!

But it’s true, TF: I like my dreamy look in Peter's work because it makes me an enigmatic character. And truth be told, like you, I’m really a dreamer.

TF: But what about your Pinoyness? He questioned that too. He thinks you’re of Chinese origin.

So what? Just like millions of Filipinos, right? Should we strip those folks of their Pinoy kinship and connection too?

Let me remind you: Carabaos have been around since pre-Hispanic times in the Philippines and I have just as much right to be considered Filipino as he has. Doesn’t he consider himself Filipino too despite his Spanish name or, presumably, mixed ancestry?

Tell me this: How many centuries does it require to be considered native to a place? We’ve been the primary source of material for the armor of pre-colonial Filipino warriors. Some of my Filipino cousins were even exported to Guam in the late 17th century, and Guamanians considered my cousins Filipino, not Chinese!

And actually, do you know what else Guamanians did? You’re right -- they made the carabao their national symbol!

That’s called respect, bro. As in R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  And sadly, we don’t get it that much among Filipinos, nowadays. We’re seen as too provincial, too rural. We’re of the lower class.  No, make that lowest class.

That's why if somebody is ugly, he/she "looks like a carabao."  If somebody is a slowpoke, he/she is “as slow as a carabao.”  If somebody speaks broken English, he/she is said to speak “carabao English.”

It hurts, bro. We deserve better treatment. Besides, we’re supposed to be the country’s national animal – Ang Pambansang Hayop – right?  Believe me: I can't help but feel envious of my distant relatives -- those spoiled cows -- living in India.

But you know what?  It’s a good thing The Big Guy above gave us thick hides and even thicker hearts. So we are able to endure all the slings and all the slights.

Then, pretending as if we’re not tired or not hurting or not affected, with our characteristic pluck and poise, we plod along, plow ahead or plot a plan.

TF: Thanks, MuQ!  For a supposedly lazy creature, you answered my question quite non-stereotypically: i.e., quite thorough and in -- I apologize for saying this -- non-"carabao English".

You're welcome!  And you're forgiven this time (but this time only). ;-)

Got a question for MuQ The Filipino?  Email him now at

Mar 9, 2011

Are Filipinos becoming the newest heartthrobs in the US of A?

Dear Filipino,
Big MuQ, TF's sidekick.

Did you see that HuffPo piece about Asians, including many Filipinos who were specifically named in the article, turning into America's newest heartthrobs? 

Sigh. I wonder when it's going to be my turn...


Dear MuQ,

Keep dreaming, brother!  Keep dreaming -- nothing wrong with that at all!

Yes, I read it several days ago and I found it really fascinating.  I actually wanted to write about it but you weren't around to ask the planted question as my sidekick! Where were you anyway? (Okay, okay -- in fairness, I'm just making you my scapecarabao; I've been really too busy lately to do much writing.)

As I said, it was a fascinating article and I don't really know what to make of it.  I'm sure social scientists, and moreso the casual observers, would have tons to say about the article, or even just this paragraph alone:

Just when we start to feel envious about the Whiz Kids' superior academic and virtuosic abilities, we quickly console ourselves that the price they pay is social awkwardness and having no fun. Asian Whiz Kids and their Tiger Moms surely abound. But frankly, this model is rather old. The newer, more interesting strand of Asian American is... the Heartthrob Asian.
"We"?  Who's "we" in the article -- the white dudes?  And then, the article continues:
You may have seen cool Asians on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew and Fox's So You Think You Can Dance in dance crews such as JabbaWockeeZ, Kaba Modern, and SoReal Cru. Justin Bieber's backup band is the Filipino American R & B group Legaci. Sam Tsui, a Chinese American singer/pianist/songwriter and student at Yale who's amassed over 85 million views on YouTube, appeared on Oprah and ABC World News. 21-year-old Filipino American singer/guitarist Joseph Vincent Encarmacion appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
Iyaz gave a shoutout on a Youtube video to 21-year-old Filipino American AJ Rafael and friends for covering his Billboard hit "Replay." And of course, there's Bruno Mars who's half Filipino. Harry Shum Jr. of League of Extraordinary Dancers is on Glee. In January, Billboard created a new chart for emerging artists in social media, which was topped by Traphik, a Thai American rapper, and was peppered with Asian Americans.

21-year-old Filipino American guitarist/pianist/singer and YouTube sensation AJ Rafael from Moreno Valley, Calif. received over 50 million views on YouTube; had become 29th most subscribed musician of all time; has over 11 million plays on MySpace; and when he came out with his EP on iTunes album charts, he debuted at 115. (This was on his own, without labels and millions to back him.) His iTunes sales pays his bills.
Talented and charismatic, Rafael performs regularly to packed concerts of screaming teens who know him from YouTube. Last summer, he toured Hawaii, Sydney, Melbourne, and Toronto.
The article's quite long and Filipino names are sprinkled all over it -- and they're new names too and not the more known ones like Arnel Pineda and the like. The article even opened with the story of 10-year old Filipino-Canadian Maria Aragon who just sang a duet with Lady Gaga in her Toronto concert.

The cool dudes of the Far East Movement.
And the other groups mentioned in the article, aside from Legaci, also have Filipino members -- including the most successful Asian American group, Far East Movement (also known as FM), which managed to break into the mainstream pop scene with the single, "Like a G6," which reached #1 in iTunes and Billboard Hot 100 charts. FM's DJ Virman is the only Filipino American but the rest of the group are "adopted Filipinos," at least food-wise.

Pretty amazing, no?  Considering a Jewish blogger, Ilana Angel, had also earlier gushed over Manny Pacquiao, her new "celebrity crush" (her words, not mine), maybe there really is a trend here. 

So who knows?  Maybe soon, you, MuQ, are going to be the next celebrity and buffalos from the American plains will soon be rampaging to get close to you!

MuQ:  Cool! Can't wait! But what took Americans so long to recognize our -- ahem! -- coolness and good looks?

"I love dogs too!  Wanna exchange recipes?"
I know -- makes you wonder, right?

But if you have forgotten your history, allow me to remind you.

After the Americans colonized the Philippines a little over a century ago, they had to showcase their newest subjects in a grand manner.  And what better way than to do so at the 1904 World's Fair held in St. Louis, Missouri?

According to Virgilio R. Pilapil of the Filipino American National Historical Society, "[t]he St. Louis World's Fair was the grandest of all Fairs and the Philippine Exhibit took the honor of being the largest and most popular one at this Fair."

And guess why? Because we were all supposedly head-hunting savages! And we ate dogs -- yum yum!

(Hmmm...I wonder what The Filipina is preparing for dinner tonight -- Adobong Bulldog, Great Dane stuffed with Kangkong, or the usual Chihuahua Curry?)

Oh, sorry, I was daydreaming about food again. Where was I? Yes, the history behind our coolness, of course!

Going back to the St. Louis Fair, the Igorot Village, in particular, was a huge hit because the Igorot appetite for dogs was supposedly insatiable, this despite the fact that Igorots ate dogs only occasionally and for ceremonial purposes. But there was no shock value there, so they were asked to butcher dogs and eat them daily.  And Pilapil adds:
The city of St. Louis provided them a supply of dogs at the agreed amount of 20 dogs a week, but this did not appear to be sufficient, as they had also encouraged local people to bring them dogs which they bought to supplement their daily needs.
So, as you can see, Filipinos used to be just "objects of curiosity" in 1904, to put it mildly, to be fed with dogs.  But fast forward to today, and if you believe HuffPo's article, hey, guess what?  We've now become "objects of desire" -- or at least, our Filipino music stars are.

Justice Tani, The Filipino's
newest celebrity crush.
Personally, I'm not going to be complaining, brother.  And neither should you.

But if you ask me, my newest "celebrity crush," to borrow Ilana's term, is the country's first Filipino chief of a State Supreme Court, Madame Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court. 

Believe me, bro: She's pretty and she's smart! (I don't want to be accused of objectifying women, but I read a lot of comments on articles when news of her nomination broke last year and I happen to agree with many commenters: She's hot!)

But while her success story is truly inspiring, her parents' story is even moreso, for they were the ones who toiled the sugar cane and pineapple farms of Hawaii as well as the fields of California's Central Valley so she could get her education.

So here, I'll join you in dreaming: I hope that someday I'll find myself fortunate enough to be arguing a case in the august chamber of the Court with Chief Justice Tani presiding.  I'm sure my knees will be quivering, especially if she flashes me her signature smile.  And I know I better be prepared because I sure won't like her smile turning into something scary. Ay yay yay!

And MuQ, I expect you to be there to give me moral support -- okay? -- even if you, my fictive water buffalo, are already being revered as The Buffalo Gigolo.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at
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