Monthly Archives: June 2011

The approval of gay marriages in New York is one of the legacies of the 1969 Stonewall Riots

Last June 24, the New York state legislature, voting 33-29, officially legalized same-sex marriages in the state of New York. While the United States national government does not recognize such unions (because the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriages as strictly between a man and a woman remains in place), each of its 50 states has the power (under the present federal system) to legalize or at least recognize same-sex marriages within its borders.



This legislative win makes New York only the 6th American state to authorize same-sex marriages. New York is nevertheless a big win for gay rights advocates because it is the biggest state to allow such marriages. Other states such as California allow domestic partnerships and civil unions, but not marriages. The victory in New York for gay rights advocates is also a symbolic one: first, New York is the state where the turning point in the history of gay rights activism, the Stonewall Riots of June 27-29 1969, happened.



This is also why the United States is marking its LGBT pride month every June, an annual tradition started by then US President Bill Clinton in 2000 and further expanded by current President Barack Obama under his term. The momentous event happened exactly 42 years ago yesterday. As a junior journalism student two years ago, I wrote a paper tracking the development of gay rights activism in the United States from 1950s-1980s. I titled it “The Stonewall’s Mark” in recognition of the event’s role in gay rights history. Here are some excerpts from that paper:

The June 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York served as a catalyst for a more aggressive campaign for gay rights

The June 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York served as a catalyst for a more aggressive campaign for gay rights (photo credits: Time Magazine online)

Agents of the NY Public Morals Squad entered the premises of the Stonewall at around 1:20 am and announced that they are taking over the place. However, the bar’s patrons botched the raid. The plan was to line up the people in the bar, check their identification, and have female police officers take customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men caught cross-dressing would be nabbed.


In an act of defiance, males refused to produce their identities while those dressed as females disobeyed the officers’ orders. Those who were not arrested were released by the police from the bar premises – but instead of going home, they congregated outside the Inn where a crown of about 200 gathered within an hour after the raid. Suddenly, the police began dragging arrested bar patrons into their patrol wagon – apparently in a humiliating way. The gathered crown jeered at the policemen and upon seeing the blatant brutality, they began throwing anything they can (bricks, beer bottles and even pennies) towards the policemen.


The police responded to the worsening mob by engaging in more physical violence – a step that backfired since it only had infuriated the bar patrons further. The humiliated policemen tried to disperse the crowd, which in turn ran to a nearby construction site and hurled assorted debris towards the law enforcers. This marked the first time where homosexuals violently resisted state authorities who had oppressed them for years.


The Stonewall riots created the image of gays and lesbians retaliating against the police after many years of being passive to their harassment. What is more interesting to note is the fact that the Stonewall Riots happened spontaneously. There was no organizing group which would have told the crowd what to do. It seems that all the police harassment that had happened for many years had come to a head on that particular time and place – and that homosexuals had had enough of it. As mentioned earlier, red light districts are vital for homosexuals because these public spaces provide them with opportunities for free expression of sexual identity.


Suspension of afternoon classes in UP Diliman today, June 28 2011

Because of the Diliman Students' Summit, afternoon classes in UP Diliman are suspended (screenshot from

Because of the Diliman Students' Summit, afternoon classes in UP Diliman are suspended (screenshot from

*Note: I don’t know if I will benefit from this event. I am supposed to have an MA History class today from 4pm-7pm, but there is still no announcement if it will push through or not. I have filed for under time in my work for today last Friday because of this class, and once I confirm that we won’t have a class, I’ll cancel that.

(Update – I was just informed that graduate classes are not covered by this. Uh oh. I’m off to UP in two hours)

USC Memo: Diliman Student Summit on June 28, 1-5 p.m., School of Economics Auditorium

23 June 2011

TO:      All College Student Councils, Organizations, Fraternities, Sororities, Publications and all iskolar ng bayan

RE:       Diliman Student Summit, June 28, 2011 ,  1 p.m. to 5 p.m, School of Economics Auditorium

Warm greetings of solidarity!

The University Student Council (USC) stands as the highest representative institution of students of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. The USC represents the students within and outside the university and has the proud and historic tradition of active involvement in the struggle to defend the rights and interests of the students and Filipino people.

On June 28, 2011, from 1:00-5:00 p.m., the USC Students’ Rights and Welfare Committee (USC STRAW) in partnership with the League of College Councils(LCC) will be holding the annual Diliman Student Summit (DSS). The DSS is a convocation of students, student councils, organizations and different student formations in the vision of uniting the student body in forwarding their concerns and upholding their rights and interests.

In line with this objective, this year’s Diliman Student Summit will tackle on different issues in UP and in the education sector in general. The proposed agenda for the summit is as follows:

I. Opening Remarks

by Aya Escandor, Head-USC STRAW

II. Solidarity Message

by Prof. Ma. Corazon Jimenez-Tan, UP Diliman Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

III. The State of UP Education: A UP Styemwide Update

by Honorable Ma. Kristina Conti, UP Student Regent 2011-2012

IV. Presentation of the Review Committee: Student Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities as an alternative document to The 2010 Code of Student Conduct

by Jemimah Grace Garcia, Chairperson, University Student Council

V. College Updates: Sharing of college situationers and consolidation of local concerns and demands

by the College Student Councils, USC Vice Chair and LCC Convenor Dan Neil Ramos, and Aya Escandor, Head-USC STRAW

VI. SUMMING UP: The State of Philippine Education

by Vanessa Faye Bolibol, Secretary-General, National Union of Students of the Philippines

VII. Unity and Solidarity Building – drafting of the Youth Agenda for Education (to be forwarded in the congress)

by Jemimah Grace Garcia, Chairperson, USC

VIII. Solidarity March with UP students, officials, faculty and staff


Thus, the USC and LCC would like to invite all iskolar ng bayan to participate in the said activity. This event is only held once a year and the USC and LCC would like to maximize it as a venue for the students to forward their concerns both for the abovementioned institutions and to the administration as well.

We are looking forward to work hand in hand with the students in addressing our concerns and issues. Your cooperation and support will be of valuable position to the fight for the right to education.

We hope for your positive response. Should you have any concerns, you may contact the undersigned.

Thank you!

For the Students and of the Filipino people,

(sgd.)Aya Escandor

Head-USC Students’ Rights and Welfare Committee

University Student Council 2011-2012

(+63) 935-295-03-41

(sgd.)Dan Neil Ramos

Vice-Chairperson, University Student Council 2011-2012

Convenor, League of College Councils

(+63) 915-297-15-64

(sgd.)Jemimah Grace Garcia


University Student Council 2011-2012

(+63) 906-516-91-34

Approved and Recommended by:

Prof. Rommel Rodriguez

Coordinator, Office of Student Activities

University of the Philippines Diliman
Prof. Ma. Corazon J. Tan

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

University of the Philippines – Diliman


2011 Thai elections and the Filipinos’ lack of sense of history

Something interesting happening over there in Thailand Thailand will be having a general election this coming Sunday, July 3. This is Thailand’s first nationwide poll since Abhisit Vejjajiva became prime minister in December 2008. I have maintained a particular interest in Thai political affairs for over half a decade now. Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai leader from 2001 until his ouster by a military coup in 2006 is a familiar name to some Filipinos, and for mixed reasons (as I mentioned in my previous post).


In the clearest indication yet of Thaksin’s enduring political clout, this year, his younger sister, the 44-year-old Yingluck Shinawatra, is the main opponent of Abhisit for the premiership. Pre-election surveys indicate that Yingluck’s party has a good chance of winning enough seats to make her Thailand’s first female prime minister. Unlike the Philippines, Thailand has a parliamentary form of government. The Thai media seems not to regard the fact that a female can actually lead a predominantly Buddhist country as important, or at least not as important as the fact that she is Thaksin’s sister.


Last June 13, Wassana Naunam of the Bangkok Post wrote an interesting news story with the subhead: “Army’s reassurances do little to comfort as Yingluck’s rise suggests Thaksin’s ouster pointless.” Here are some excerpts:

Thaksin's sister Yingluck to face off with Abhisit Vejjajiva for the Thai premiership (credits:

Thaksin's sister Yingluck to face off with Abhisit Vejjajiva for the Thai premiership (credits:


The military staged a coup on Sept 19, 2006 to overthrow Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck’s elder brother. If Pheu Thai wins the election and former Prime Minister Thaksin returns to Thailand through an amnesty, the power seizure – in the view of those who engineered it – would be tantamount to a total waste… While several opinion polls show the popularity of Pheu Thai and Ms Yingluck is rising, political observers are keen to see how the military will react. (emphasis mine)


Thais are evidently anxious about the election results. If Abhisit manages to turn the tide to his favor and remain in power, most will probably see this as a repudiation of Thaksin and his allies. A Yingluck premiership promises to be more complicated. As mentioned in the news piece, her win would decisively show that most Thais are still on Thaksin’s side. This would put all of those who helped oust Thaksin in 2006 in an awkward position. All of their efforts to oust, prosecute, and banish Thaksin from the Thai political scene would go down the drain.


Filipinos’ lack of sense of history


I can’t help but compare it to what is happening in the Philippines. Filipinos have ousted two presidents through popular revolts, Ferdinand Marcos (in 1986) and Joseph Estrada (in 2001). But, lo and behold, Filipinos seems to have lost their sense of history. Estrada unsuccessfully sought to regain the presidency in last year’s polls – or less than three years after he was convicted of plunder. Over nine million Filipinos voted for him, ranking 2nd in a field of nine candidates. Nine million people wanted to have a convicted plunderer to be their president? Wow.


Marcos may have died in 1989, but in the years following the 1986 EDSA People Power, Marcos’ relatives had maintained their political power in northern Philippines. Last year, his wife Imelda won as district representative, while his daughter Imee became a provincial governor. Marcos’ son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., for his part won a seat in the Philippine senate. Many are hyping the possibility of him running for president in 2016. Does this mean that the popular revolts of 1986 and 2001 have become “tantamount to a total waste,” too?

Thaksin, President Arroyo, and other Filipino politicians

To me, Thaksin is a composite of three Filipino politicians: former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph Estrada (a former movie actor), and Senator (and 2010 presidential candidate) Manuel Villar, Jr. Arroyo shares Thaksin’s economic savvy.  Both also faced allegations of corruption, public disenchantment, and military unrest. Thaksin was not able to serve out his term unlike Arroyo, but in comparison to her, he remains a popular among the Thai masses years after being deposed. That’s something he shares with the charismatic Estrada. In his bid to regain the presidency last year, Estrada ranked 2nd in a field of nine candidates. Both Villar and Thaksin are self made billionaires, with Villar making it big in the real estate field. Both had been accused of using their political office to serve their business interests.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arro in a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

President Gloria Macapagal-Arro in a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

He’s known to have a close relationship with Arroyo, who also assumed power in early 2001, just a few weeks ahead of him. Arroyo liked Thaksin’s economic policies (termed as “Thaksinomics”) so much that she proclaimed herself in 2003 as one of its “disciples” (as reported by Newsweek and Time magazine).   Thaksin believed that “access to capital, employment opportunities, and basic social services can transform disadvantaged regions into growth engines,” and this philosophy has been emulated by a number of Asian leaders, not just Arroyo.


When she sought her own term as president in 2004, one of her challengers, Senator Panfilo Lacson, vowed to be like Thaksin, who he described in a campaign ad as “buo ang loob (courageous), walang takot (fearless).” Both he and Thaksin are former cops known to crack down hard (to the point of excess) on criminals. Thaksin, however, received much criticism from Filipinos when he was quoted to have criticized the way 2005 SEA Games competitions (which the Philippines hosted that year) are being officiated. Arroyo gave Thaksin’s insinuations a semblance of credence when she ordered an official investigation into the matter instead of defending the Filipino athlete’s excellent performance.


The following year, the sale of Thaksin’s telecommunication conglomerate to a Singaporean firm (where he supposedly earned billions) triggered a political firestorm. After months of protests and much dillydallying on Thaksin’s side (on whether he will resign or not), the military launched a September 2006 coup that ultimately ousted him. Though Thaksin has been out of Thailand since then (except for a brief period in 2008), he remains a force to reckon with there. Within two years after the coup, two of his political allies served as prime minister, though they were both eventually forced out of office.

I discovered Michael Jackson’s music when he died

As someone born in 1990, I grew up unfamiliar with MJ’s music. I and my contemporaries came of age through boy bands (Westlife vs. N*Sync, remember?) and female pop stars like Mariah Carey and Britney Spears. We watched them on MTV and listened to (and memorized) their songs.  But the King of Pop? Not really. For years prior to his death, I know by heart only two of his songs; those revived by artists I listen to.


Poster of Michael Jackson's 1996 concert in Manila, Philippines (credits to

They were “I’ll Be There” (covered by Carey) and “Human Nature” (revived by Filipina singer Kyla). Meanwhile, I came to know “We Are The World” because there was an item about it in a United Nations quiz bee I joined in back in high school. I have to admit that during those years, I only know “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” by their titles. I became interested in “Thriller” two years before his death thanks to the dancing inmates of Cebu.

When a friend texted me about Jackson’s death early morning of June 26, 2009 (evening of June 25 in California), the first thing I did after confirming the news via CNN was to look for “Thriller” in YouTube. Just like how a historian gets so excited with the possibility of recreating what has happened in the past, I researched and downloaded with much gusto a number of MJ hits. I felt like finding so many musical gems from decades ago.

Other than the songs I listed earlier, I now have “Man in the Mirror,” “You are not Alone,” “Black or White,” “Childhood,” and “Gone Too Soon” in my computer playlist. I even repeatedly watched his live performance of “Billie Jean” in New York (for his 30th anniversary concert) and Manila (in 1996, his one and only solo concert here). I can’t help but be amazed at how he do his robotic dance moves and the moonwalk. To say that he is a major loss to the global music scene is still an understatement.

No words can adequately describe the void he left in the entertainment industry. As he said in “Black or White,” he is “second to none.” However, his death gave me and this generation of music lovers the opportunity to appreciate him better (thanks in no small part to online music-sharing websites). All musicians, no matter how many chart toppers they produced or albums sold, will die someday, but the songs they live behind will live on forever.

Kabayan Noli’s daughter reacted to what I posted in Facebook yesterday

The daughter of the Philippine’s immediate former vice president (and currently national news anchor) reacted to what I wrote in Facebook! Quite a surprise, I must say. Here’s the story behind it: Last Monday, there was a report in TV Patrol about the renewal of wedding vows (after 40 years of being married) between Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and her husband Narciso Santiago, a former Interior Undersecretary.

"Magagalit ang DENR dyan. Puro plastic!" - Kabayang Noli (reacting to those who attended Miriam Santiago's 40th wedding anniversary)

"Magagalit ang DENR dyan. Puro plastic!" - Kabayang Noli (reacting to those who attended Miriam Santiago's 40th wedding anniversary)

Of particular interest to many is the fact that this particular event was able to bring together a wide array of personalities in the fields of politics, media, and even media. Guests include former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as well as Benigno Aquino III. As pointed out by many news reports, these personalities are not exactly in good terms with one another. Just after the news report (by Jorge Carino), Noli de Castro was caught on camera quipping: “Galit ang DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) dyan! Maraming plastic.” I watched it live, and I am not sure if Kabayan is aware that the camera is already focused to him when he said that. This was done not at the end of the program, but just before he introduced another story.

Last night, I noted in Facebook that though a lot of news anchors here in the Philippines are known for making side comments like Korina Sanchez, Mike Enriquez, and Erwin Tulfo, I still believe that they should at least project a semblance of neutrality on what they report on. I know that is a long shot. How can that be when some of our newscasters are doing double-duties as opinion writers (for tabloids, mostly) or radio commentary program hosts? I know all of us have a take on just about anything, but these people are journalists. I added that though I agree with what Kabayan blurted out (yes, I find it really funny!), it is still not right.

Here’s what Miss Katherine De Castro wrote as a comment to my post:

Miss Kat De Castro's comment to my Facebook post about her father's gaffe

Miss Kat De Castro's comment to my Facebook post about her father's gaffe


I am neither a journalism purist nor a media traditionalist. I’ve seen what she is talking about. I remember seeing Katie Couric (former anchor of CBS Evening News in America) one time blurting out “yuck!” after a report on the recommended diet for school children. But, are we watching the news to hear what the anchors have to quip about the stuff they report on? No. But, to be sure, it gives us something to be amused about. 🙂

P.S.: I’m a fan of Kabayan Noli de Castro. I always imitated his PAG-IBIG catchphrase “Bakit ka mangungupahan pa, kung kaya mo naming magkabahay na!” I even had it recorded in my cellphone. I would have voted for him last year had he ran for president!

Three years after, still no justice for MV Princess of the Stars victims

Three years after, still no closure for the relatives of MV Princess of the Stars victims

Three years after, still no closure for the relatives of MV Princess of the Stars victims


It has become a custom for Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration and other meteorological organizations nationwide to “retire” the names of typhoons (or hurricanes) that had caused tremendous loss of lives and damages to properties. PAG-ASA retires a typhoon name if it has killed at least 300 deaths and/or caused damages exceeding P1 billion.

Among the names already retired are “Milenyo,” “Ondoy,” “Reming,” and “Frank” – the typhoon raging through much of Central Philippines when the ship MV Princess of the Stars owned by Sulpicio lines capsized off the coast of Sibuyan, Romblon exactly three years ago (June 21, 2008). We retire typhoon names because they evoke bad memories.   Last year, Sulpicio Lines discreetly changed its company name to Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation (PSACC).

If there is a company that would want to have its name “retired,” it is Sulpicio Lines, and for obvious reasons. It has a dubious record vis-à-vis maritime safety. Its other vessels involved in sea disasters include the MV Doña Paz (1987), the MV Doña Marilyn (1988), and the MV Princess of the Orient (1998). The 1987 tragedy was described by Time magazine “the worst peacetime maritime disaster of the 20th century” – exceeding the death toll of RMS Titanic.

It’s “brand” has been irreparably tarnished through the years. No company renaming or introduction of new ships will erase the fact that thousands of Filipinos have lost their lives while on board vessels operated by Sulpicio Lines. Typhoon Frank being a force majeure (or an “act of God”) does not exempt the owners of Sulpicio Lines from liability. As the Yale University online dictionary states, force majeure are “intended to excuse a party only if the failure to perform could not be avoided by the exercise of due care by that party.”

The Princess of the Stars tragedy should not have happened if the owners of Sulpicio Lines (and Florencio Marimon Sr., the ship captain who remains at large) observed caution, prudence, and foresight before proceeding with the Manila-Cebu trip on that fateful night three years ago. Given a choice, Filipinos would probably choose other shipping lines over the ones owned by the PSACC. Unfortunately, they seem not to have much choice. Sea travel remains popular among Filipinos even if there are many air fare promos around.

And there are quite a few major players in the shipping industry. In fact, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the resumption of Sulpicio Lines operations less than two weeks after the Princess of the Stars tragedy because the company handles about 40 percent of the transporting and deliveries of cargos and other commodities around the country. And everything became business as usual for that shipping firm since then. Never mind if more than 500 bodies (of the 800 plus who perished) remain not retrieved. Never mind if the cargoes carrying the toxic chemical endosulfan are still trapped inside the ship. And, never mind if justice for those who lost their loved ones remains a long shot.

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