Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mining some poverty statistics

Often local, issues on mining include its destructive nature to local assets such as land and water, divisive feature to local communities, and contribution to local development. But GIna Lopez has made these local issues national. People now talk about environment as essential part of national patrimony. Locals travel to Manila to protest or support mining projects. Citizens question the contributions of mining to development. Worse, they even claim that mining contributes to poverty.  
How could that be when mining has catalyzed economic activities through jobs, infrastructure works and businesses in economically stagnating localities? For these reasons, government officials and business people tend to favor and endorse mining projects in their localities.
Based on the data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in 2010, there were PhP13.41 billions of pesos in taxes, fees and royalties and 197,000 employed personnel in mining operations. Given these data, it is justified to think that mining areas would be economically better-off than non-mining areas. However, this is not supported by poverty statistics. In a 2011 paper by Balisacan, What has really happened to poverty in the Philippines: New measures, evidence, and policy implications, which presents various economic sectors and their contributions, the highest contributor to poverty incidence among economic sectors in 2009 was mining at 48.7 percent. In Balisacan paper, from 1988 to 2009, mining was the only sector of the economy that had an increasing contribution to poverty incidence from 27.8 to 48.7 percent. To illustrate this at a regional level using 2009 poverty data from the National Statistical Coordination Board and citing Christian Monsod’s Mining a social justice issue, regions with large mining areas had high poverty incidences, such as the Caraga region (47.5 percent), Bicol region (44.9 percent) and Zamboanga Peninsula region (42.7 percent), higher than the national average of 26 percent. In provincial levels, poverty incidences in mining areas, such as Masbate (54.2 percent) in Bicol region, Agusan del Sur (58.1 percent) in Caraga region, Zamboanga Sibugay (49.8 percent) on Zamboanga Peninsula, were higher than their regional averages.
Poverty statistics in these areas may not show a causal relationship between poverty and mining, but it does point to a correlation that challenges claims that mining reduces poverty and improves standards of living. An international report in 2001 by Oxfam-America found a strong correlation between extractive sectors (including mining) and poverty. In a local study in Rapu-Rapu Island by Emerlina Regis in 2004, mining was seen as the cause of poverty in Rapu-Rapu which remained to be one of the poorest municipality in Albay in spite of hosting a large polymetallic mining project.
While capital and technology in mining sector and their multipliers may have poverty-alleviating effects, issues of equity along with associated social and environmental costs may offset these effects. This creates two divides: the pro-mining side highlighting the advantages, such as revenue generation and development projects, whereas the anti-mining side pointing out environmental damages and a wide-range of issues related to governance, corruption, health and safety, thus contributing to poverty.  
A 1983 study, The impact of corporate mining on local Philippine communities, by John McAndrew in Toledo City in Cebu described the positive impacts of mining that brought “enclaves of development within predominantly backward and stagnant areas,” as if two separate economies had co-existed in the city. In my own fieldwork in Rapu-Rapu, Albay in 2004-2005, barangays covered by mining operations exhibited considerable improvements in infrastructures and quality of life compared to other barangays. However, within those “improved barangays, mining benefits were unevenly distributed to locals. This inequality sparked division within communities between those who earned their living directly or indirectly from mining and those who were displaced from their traditional livelihoods.
Lack of job opportunities and unstable income from traditional livelihoods characterize the prevailing conditions of local communities that host mining projects. Undermined by poverty, locals pin their hopes on mining which has its own rent-seeking intention. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Now is the time to know the man in Malacanang

In over eight months, so many things have happened in the Philippines. Good and bad, depending on the news you read, fake or real. I'd say, generally bad. This view is supported by reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, US Department of State and resolution by the European Union Parliament. The negative views on the Philippines are attributed to the policies and pronouncements of the man in Malacanang who assumed office on June 30, 2016.
Who is this man in Malacanang? What do we know about him?
He used to be a mayor of Davao City for decades. Since the Philippines has term limits for government elected officials, what the man in Malacanang did was typical of dynastic political clans in the Philippines - to alternate with family members. He put his daughter as his replacement as mayor, and then he returned to the City Hall to begin another three-term stint. In 2016, the mayor of the city is her daughter and the vice-mayor is his son. That's how dynastic his hold to power in the city is. In short, he owns the city.
In his long stay as mayor, there were COA reports that indicated irregularities and anomalies in the way the city had used its money. The latest anomaly was the hiring of approximately 11,000 ghost employees costing the city hall 720 million pesos in losses. If the city lost this much, then the money must be somewhere. In the days leading to the May election last year, a joint bank account was discovered containing billions of pesos in transactions. This led to the filing of plunder case against the man in Malacanang. A senator challenged the man in Malacanang to divulge the said bank account in Julia Vargas branch of the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) if he is indeed clean of corruption. Unexplained wealth is prima facie presumed to be proceeds from corrupt practices, specifically if the amount is beyond the proportion of his legitimate income. Up until now, the man in Malacanang who brandishes his courageous exploits suddenly has metaphorically put his tail between his legs. He used to exhort that his life is open and he has nothing to hide. All of this has backfired when he refuses to open his individual and joint bank accounts containing billions of pesos in transactions.
During his rule in Davao City, there were hundreds of unsolved incidents of killings. Police officers were suspended for their unexplained inutility and ineptitude towards stopping these killings in their jurisdiction. Political critics were also killed to tighten his grip on the city.
One police officer, now retired, Arturo Lascanas publicly confessed his involvement in over 200 killings in Davao City on orders of then the mayor, now the man in Malacanang. Another hitman, Edgar Matobato, earlier pointed to the man in Malacanang as the brain of the killings in Davao City. Both used to be a member of the dreaded Davao Death Squad (DDS). Both men needed more than two decades to break their loyalty to the man in Malacanang.
In fairness to the man, I considered him in the early campaign to be a good candidate. But when it became apparent that his lack of preparation for the job and his utterly simplistic solutions (e.g. riding a jetski to the shoal to establish sovereignty) to complex problems, I became unconvinced that he is the person fit to hold office in Malacanang for six years. When he won handily, I was one of the 90 percent of Filipinos who trusted him in the beginning of his term. Then, I only needed two months to see the egotistic tendencies for violence of the man in Malacanang. Often, the man would preach the necessity of killing to establish national order. He used words, such as kill and slaughter, to rouse his supporters. When thousands were killed without due process and without due diligence of the police to investigate, I saw a reign of terror of vigilante groups and some police. In horror, I see the DDS turning into a national death squad. The patterns of DDS are obviously adopted by the vigilante groups. With so many killings, funeral parlors even complained that they could not cope with the numbers of dead bodies being brought to them.
Here is the man who made his most vocal critic, a woman, the top drug lord of the country without reliable shreds of evidence. Before he assumed office, the woman did not figure in any drug list of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and police. Only to this man's eyes and his ardent supporters', the woman is the top drug lord of the country.
I know that eight months may be premature for others to know this man in Malacanang. It took two decades for Lascanas and Matobato. It took me two months. But the lies, deception, and violence being perpetuated by the man in Malacanang are grossly intolerable that his supporters will soon see what Matobato, Lascanas, and I saw in the man in Malacanang. May God bless the Philippines if these supporters refuse to see how the man in Malacanang is mainstreaming violence, cursing, corrupt practices, patronage politics, political persecution, and incompetence in public office! Five years and three months more under this man if we fail to get to know this man in Malacanang now.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Facts: Duterte facing plunder, murder, and kidnapping cases at the Ombudsman

Unlike the Leaks filled with innuendos, let me give you two facts that truly exist:
1) Plunder case against the sitting president due to hiring of ghost employees costing Davao PhP 708 million in losses. Where did the money go? There is a BPI account that has transactions of billions of pesos. Until now, the sitting president refuses to open the account.

2) Murder and kidnapping cases due to hundreds of killings and disappearances in Davao between 1988 and 2013. Sadly, what he did in Davao has now gone nationwide with over 8,000 killings in 8 months. He even stresses that there will be more killings as long as he is in power.

Both cases are tied because the latest witness, a former police in Davao, has revealed that the Mayor would then give 20k or 50k or 100k or even a million pesos to kill.
There will be more factual information on Monday, 6 March, when this witness will give his testimony in the Senate.

I don't want this country to be run by a plunderer and killer. That's why I demand the sitting president to sign a bank waiver. As for the killings, he even takes pride in doing the killings himself. Who am I to say he is not a killer if he himself is admitting it?

These are the two facts that the sitting president are currently facing at the Ombudsman.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Neither "Dutertards" nor "Yellowtards," but Filipinos

In the 2016 Philippine election, there were 15.9 million Filipino voters (36.7%) who were neither "Dutertards" (16.6 million who voted for Duterte) nor "Yellowtards" (9.9 million who voted for Roxas). The election was not only between these two camps. However, the post election discussions of national issues in social media were framed into binary, either pro- and anti-government. The anti-government discussions are labeled as coming from "Yellowtards." Those who staunchly protect and support the government are called "Dutertards."

The election is over, yet the fever associated with election has stayed. It is even more intense and brutal. The country is getting more and more deeply divided. It is easy to be swayed by information that is agreeable to one's preconceived idea. To deepen the divide, many fake news sites (mainly pro-Duterte) emerge to inflame negative sentiments towards those on the other side (mainly Liberal Party members). Worse, many people believe and share in social media stories from these fake news sites.

How can we get out of this spiraling fever that is self-inflicted?

I have no answer to this question. But we can attempt to step back and refuse to dwell on the temptation of mudslinging that we do not anymore recognize the persons on the other side. The biggest challenge is to belong to certain parties or ideologies or camps, but without dehumanizing those not with us.

In all of us, we are neither Dutertards nor Yellowtards; but all Filipinos, inclusive and compassionate. Let us not allow the 2016 election fever turn into an epidemic. Let us get a national relief from this feverish divide. Let us start talking again as persons with differences. Let us just talk and listen to each other. Come on, let's do this.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Facts on Drug Use in the Philippines: Releasing some air of the inflated problem

President Rodrigo Duterte won the Philippine presidency in a campaign focused on suppressing illegal drugs and crimes in six months. Since he assumed office on July 1, there have been unabated cases of extra-judicial killings concurrent with the government's war on drugs. Based on the testimony of Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald de la Rosa, in almost two months in his office (as of August 15), there are 1,564 suspects who got killed . Of these, 665 suspects were killed in police operations, and 899 cases were possibly done by vigilante groups. These figures came out during the Senate's probe on extra-judicial killings.

Each day there have been 34 Filipinos suspected of drug use and dealing being killed since Duterte came to power. One of the victims is Jefferson Bunuan, a criminology student who wanted to become a policeman, was shot by the police while asleep. Another victim is Rowena Tiamson, a graduating honor student, was found dead with her hands tied and a cardboard sign near her lifeless body: Huwag tularan, pusher (Don't emulate, drug pusher).

President Duterte has claimed that drugs are destroying his country. His war on drugs is his way of showing his love and commitment to his country.

We can ask then, to what extent drugs are destroying Duterte's country (our country too)? Let's look at the statistics and the 2016 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).

In 2012, the Office of the President's Dangerous Drugs Board put the estimated numbers of drug users in the Philippines to 1.3 million. (In 2012, the Philippine population was 96.71 million; so the prevalence of drug use among the population was 1.3 percent). This figure is higher than the 600,000 drug users who "surrendered to authorities" since the launch of war on drugs.

Is this figure high enough to merit a war that is killing 34 people a day? Let's compare the Philippine data with other countries.

The Philippines is not ranked in the top 10 among the "most drug addicted countries in the world." Based on the 2012 UNDOC World Drug Report and Global Drug Survey, the top ten countries, from bottom to top, are Mexico with 3.9% prevalence, Brazil (4.3%), United States (6.2%), Canada (6.4%), Afghanistan (6.9%), Russia (7.1%), Slovakia (13.01%), France (13.02%), United Kingdom (13.65%), and the top, Iran (14.32%). With 1.3 % drug use prevalence among the population, the Philippines may not even be in top 30 countries with massive drug use.

In the latest World Drug Report (2016) by UNODC, the Philippines is mentioned seven (7 times). In those instances, the country is in no way worse than other countries. For example, in the map showing the trafficking flows of cocaine, the Philippines is not cited as the source or hub in the region. In the region, the report indicates that the often mentioned origin, departure, and transit of cocaine is Thailand, followed by Malaysia.

I recognize that drug use is a problem. But should this problem be solved by killing 34 Filipinos a day? Or are we creating a monstrous problem here?

As Filipinos, we can all be potential victims of these state-sanctioned killings in the name of war on drugs. Let the killings be stopped; let the rule of law be followed. Let humanity reign.

Friday, May 6, 2016

POE is my president (2)

When I wrote POE on the ballot, I held to these good things about her and her campaign.

1) She is running independent. This is unprecedented in the national campaign for a leading candidate to run without a political party. She said that her political party is the people. However, major (e.g. NPC) and minor (e.g. Aksyon Democratico) political parties have endorsed her, but she has remained an independent candidate. She is also not from a political dynasty.

2) She has gone back home and offered herself to the people. Most OFWs and those who have been away for quite some time from their homeland could only wish they could do the same. She has the courage and patriotism to leap into the den of "dirty" politics in her desire to help change and improve the system by elevating the political discourse to real issues and alternatives, and not personalities and negative campaigning.

3) She is young and energetic. She exudes good and creative vibes. I would always go for new and innovative ideas from young people, rather stick to old and traditional ways of doing things in government. The country needs a fresh air to clear its dirty lungs and bureaucratic nerves of governance. This is not simply change, but meaningful change for the country.

4) She is inexperienced in the style of governance that does not deliver and is not accountable to the people. That's why her campaign is centered on having a government with heart (Gobyernong may puso).

5) She is a woman and a mother. She represents women who have yet to enjoy full and equal rights with men. This is also my vision for our country to have equal rights for everyone. Working hard is a natural trait of any mother. I've seen my mother in her.

6) She knows well and is articulate about national issues. In the presidential debates, she used statistics and data to show her grasp of realities facing our country. Any sound executive decisions must be based on evidences to avoid egoistic, whimsical and capricious decisions.

7) She is a unifying leader. She gets support from every sector of the population. Coming from one of those sectors, OFWs, I support POE for president.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

POE is my president (1)

When I voted yesterday at the embassy, the last position that I filled in was president. Eventually, I wrote POE.

What made me pause to write POE on the ballot for President was the presence of pressing issues hounding her candidacy. I would tell you how I was able to settle those issues.

1) Her loyalty and her being a Filipino are being questioned for renouncing her Filipino citizenship to become a US citizen. Their question is valid. However, the main reason why she became US citizen was due to her family. How could anyone be more Filipino than doing anything for one's family? Loyalty to one's country is not measured by simply staying in the country and being Filipino on paper. As an example, OFWs who have been separated from the Philippines, I observe, are the most passionate about the country. Their identification with their country becomes more pronounced because of the disconnect of their foreign surrounding with their identity. I personally experienced this in the past 8 years where I lived abroad for studies and now for work. I would say, the patriotic fervor of OFWs and people who experienced being away from their homeland is further amplified. Because of their exposure to foreign cultures, they even become more optimistic and hopeful of their country's future. Having lived abroad, POE has returned to her homeland with greater patriotic zeal offering her service to Filipinos. Besides, the Supreme Court decided in her favor regarding her being a natural-born Filipino because of R.A. 9225 or Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003.

2) Her inexperience in public service is underscored. For me, this means that she is an outsider of a broken and malfunctioning political system that we have. New and innovative ideas are what she brings to her leadership, rather than old and traditional ways and means of seasoned politicians.

3) Her alleged connection with Danding Cojuangco because of NPC's endorsement and use of SMC's helicopter for a discounted price (not free) is a mole in the face of her campaign. For me, this is an overblown, overhyped, over-extended and hypocritical issue. I recall that all presidential candidates wooed NPC's support. When POE got it, then some people made an issue out of it. On the use of SMC's helicopter, SMC itself issued a statement saying that there are also candidates who use its helicopters. Her husband working in SMC is a non-issue for me. There are news reports saying that she defended Danding about coco levy fund. She did not defend Danding on coco levy fund. What she said what that Danding has no more control of the fund because it is now with the government. If it sounds in defense of Danding, I do not see it that way.

These are some major issues that I considered and settled in voting for POE as president.

The next post will be an enumeration of strong points why POE is my president.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My vote

I write this not to influence your vote, but to encourage you to consider enumerating what you value and what you want to see in our incoming government. I value transparency and good governance; a government that leads an example of transparency, fights corruption and delivers efficient public service. I value compassion; a government that understands and acts on our problems and issues. I value non-violence; a government that does not use violence to achieve peace and order and that upholds human rights. I want to see reconciliation in and healing of our fragmented country after this polarizing election.

Kaya, an voto ko PoeRo!

Early today, I voted at the embassy in Den Haag. It was a good and sunny day, a rarity in the Netherlands.

I voted for two mothers. Imagine two mothers taking care and looking after the welfare and interests of their children.Imagine how they do their best to protect and stand for their children. Imagine how they prudently spend our money. Imagine how they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of their children. Imagine how they attach their future with their children's. Imagine how they own and share the dreams, joys and struggles of their children. Imagine. These are natural to them. For six years, we will have twice the power, genuine love and service of a mother in our government.

I voted for good governance and against political dynasty. I believe PoeRo is a tandem that will serve the country without a view and tendency of clinging to power. No family members of PoeRo are simultaneously running for elective positions.

I voted for the future. This election has evoked so much indignation, frustration, deception and fear. I believe PoeRo will ease these negative feelings and sentiments that are prevailing in the hearts of many of us. I believe PoeRo will replace these negativities with hope, compassion, sincerity and genuine openness to listen to the people. They have been exemplary in positive campaigning. After this election, I believe their government can be unifying.

I voted Poe for President and Robredo for Vice-President!

I pray that your vote is grounded on your values and vision for the country, at least for the coming six years.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Some views on the Philippine Election 2016

If I claim to be incorruptible and if someone says that I have huge amount of money in a specific bank, I will stand by my claim. I will not simply dismiss the accusation and say that the account is non-existent, but I will show that it is indeed non-existent. I will not approximate its amount, because it is my money, so I know how much it is and where it comes from. I will not call a lawyer because I know my rights. It will not take me few days just to show how incorruptible I am. It will take only few minutes to clear my name on this issue. If I am unable to do this, believe me, I am not what I claim to be. I am not who I say I am.

As a Bicolano, I take offense at this generalizing remark from a man who barely has an idea who we are as a people (not a race). Yes, we are honorable. That's why we are known to pursue vigorously what we believe in against all odds and popular sentiments. We stand by our words, and not take them back whimsically. Now, Mayor you will see what honorable truly means with or against a Bicolano. Yan an oragon! (Actually, you sought the legal help of another Bicolano to face against a fellow Bicolano on Monday, May 2 because probably you seem to be not honorable enough to man up your words when you yourself is a lawyer.) 

Just asking. How do you envision his presidency? Based on his words: He will kill those involved in drugs and crimes in a bloody war. That means a lot of violence. He will return to manual system of governmental transactions. That means backlogs, inefficiencies and susceptibility to corruption. He will abolish Congress if threatened impeachment. That means he will concentrate executive and legislative powers into his hands. He will establish a revolutionary government. That means he has more powers and less accountability, if any. He will sever ties to countries that say something against him. That means Philippines is likely to be isolated in international arena. Indeed, this is change. Do you envision it differently? 

Mayor, I understand if you want to make it difficult for Sen. Trillanes. But the issue is not only between you and Sen. Trillanes. You aspire to be my president. I want my president to be transparent, decisive and inspiring. I still believe you are. So please, do not disappoint me on Monday, May 2. I want to know and I deserve to know what you had, and currently have in your BPI bank accounts. Please. I believe that history is on our side. But I don't want to be on the wrong side. On May 2, Monday, I want to see you speak the truth, not your lawyer, because my president is transparent, decisive and inspiring. Thank you, Mayor. Do not let me down! I am waiting for my president to come out clean on this issue!

What kind of change are we expecting from a man who uses old tactics to keep his unexplained wealth away from the public that he vows to serve? Still more days to reflect on a candidate who vows to stop corruption, but refuses to be transparent. How can we who hate corruption help him stop corruption if he himself is not leading a clean and good example. Let us remember that one of the things that makes us love him is when he declares: "hindi ko pakikialaman ang pera nyo." We cheered! Few more days... few more day... let us see whether he is the man we used to know, whether he is the man we want to lead our country.

A specific amount in a particular bank branch with certain dates!!! It must be a joke! And I laughed when I read Sen. Cayetano's statement which is very similar to the statements of the spokesperson and lawyers of Binay during the Senate's investigation of Binay's alleged ill-gotten wealth. 

"It is possible for a Filipino to be separated from the Philippines, but not the Philippines from a Filipino." As an OFW, I hear you Poe!

Finally, after two emails and a phone call to the embassy, I can now exercise suffrage (right to vote). I am still undecided; that's why I truly need this 3rd Presidential Debate to help me discern who deserves my sacred vote. So far, I am down to two candidates who, in the past debates, showed their grasp of what's going on by citing statistics and data on sectoral issues. To me, if a candidate does not know what's going on, s/he can't make a sound decision for the national interest. If s/he does not know what's going on, her/his decisions may be to satisfy one's ego or driven by impulsive whims or capricious humor. So far, it's between Poe and Roxas for my sacred vote. After this debate, I will break down my decision why I will vote for either Poe or Roxas.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Introductory Note on some LGBT Issues: An Informal Discussion

Last Friday, when I received a letter informing me to make this introductory input, I asked myself: 
why me? For some of you here, this issue is personal. Let me not take away anything from you by 
writing this.

My unassuming question - why me?” stems from my unarticulated view on the issue. Well, allow 
me to articulate for the first time my view by sharing some of my stories. My apology if I limit my 
writing about “bakla.” 

When I was in elementary, I had a classmate who was different from us. The class called him 
“bakla.” While he was not accepted to join some of the boy’s games, because he was a bit slow and 
soft, he was not totally welcome to join girl’s games because he was a bit fast and and hard. He 
would end up on the sideline watching all of us playing and having fun. Speaking of fun, the class 
had a lot of it at his expense. When he reacted to taunting and teasing, the more he would receive 
those until he could not take them anymore and he would cry. For some reasons, his cry was a sound of triumph for the class. 

So why me when I don’t have this kind of experience?

More often, LGBTs are portrayed as victims of many things, such as discrimination and hate crimes. The circumstances surrounding victimization are understood as overwhelming social force of 
morality and normalcy. They are not understood as inhibition of agency of the victim. I would like to deviate from the perspective of having them as victims. I would not ask you to put your feet in their 
shoes, rather I would like you to focus on many of “us,” and on “that elementary class” not different 
from us. May I ask then, do we see LGBTs through a privileged lens and position? Do we feel that 
we are entitled to see them this way? Where do we derive this entitlement?

When I was in all-boys high school, there was an unwritten rule of assignment of sports. Smart boys played chess; tall 
boys played basketball; agile boys played football; and not-so boys played volleyball. You could probably guess what sports I played........ basketball for some 
reasons. There was this overpowering pre-existing categories with which we simply needed to conform. In high school, that was the reality we 
confronted. And now, we know better. Reality is much more than those simple categories. It’s 
complex that we can hardly simplify its complexities. It’s diverse that we can barely mask its 
diversities. Everyday, differences abound, uncertainties arise, and contradictions and antagonisms 
emerge all around us. It is not only an issue of language, of religion, of gender, of representation. 
More than these, it is an issue of privilege, of entitlement. C. Wright Mills (1959) writes, “An issue is a public matter: some value cherished by publics is felt threatened.” 

Let’s take, for example, marriage. For believers, marriage is highly valued and cherished. They have 
internalized and immortalized its spirit in their practice of marriage between a man and woman. Any other arrangement is an issue for them. But will they become less of a believer if this “sacred” 
arrangement is bestowed outside of the valued arrangement, that is to same-sex couple? If believers agree that marriage is good to build a family, why not open it to all? This can be a good subject for this discussion. Twelve years ago, Ateneo high school accepted its first female students. It was difficult for many alumni to accept that their cherished all-boys institution would be no more. The question then was, did Ateneo high school become less of an Ateneo when it opened its doors to girls? Because Ateneo believed that it offers a good education, 
why not open it to all? The issue here may be described to have one side trying to cling to the
 glorified past, while the other on the painful present onto a glorious future. Now, after 12 years, we 
hardly look back at that debate.

For fun, one of my organizations had an all-male beauty pageant when I was in college. We acted as beautiful contestants, mimicking popular 
actresses and singers. As we know, Ms. Gay contests have been perennial feature of fiestas. In her 
description of Ms. Gay Naga City contest as provider of high taste and entertainment, Fenella Cannell (1999, 223) describes, in part, a “reputation of bakla as ‘artistic’ and ‘artificial.’” I would delve on 
the latter reputation of bakla. There is a recognition that what we see in bakla, either on or out of 
stage, is “fake” and therefore not real. The imitation and mimicry in exaggerated forms are 
ephemeral expressions of their “identity.” For many of us, the “presentation of self,” as Goffman 
would point out, by bakla is intended for an audience. Thus the presentation is thought to end 
somehow and eventually return to the real self. But who is the real self of a bakla? During Cannell’s 
fieldwork, many contestants then copied Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Madonna, to name a few. All of these names were women. Now, there is a shift in the object of copying. I’ve observed that 
many bakla would imitate Vice Ganda, a bakla too. There is now a emergent sense of authenticity of “identity, ” not anymore a copycat of real women, but bakla “identity.”

In hierarchical society such as ours, where do we situate this bakla identity in the structures of power relations with pre-existing identities?

In the end, why me? Well like most of you, I also seek greater understanding of this issue. Let us then start the discussion.