June 2005


Judging from recent political events in Manila, another President is likely to be overthrown (another, being the operative word). Save for a competent alternative, all the elements for a power shift are underway (e.g. underpinning evidence, relentless opposition attacks, organized street demonstrations, heck, even ubiquitous mobile phone ring tones!). I will not belabor on these details as they are given prominence by local and even international media of late, anyway. What I am going to harp on is the quintessential question on when the country will ever move forward away from politics and towards real social and economic change?

Perhaps one disadvantage of living overseas is to become overwhelmed with the successes other countries constantly achieve on one hand, and become too critical of the country I consider home on the other. A recent short ride aboard the Shinkansen, for instance, made me ponder why a country, separated by islands by the thousands, like the Philippines can’t improve its railway system to enable efficiency in transporting people and produce? In the same vein, why can’t traffic conditions be improved in Metro Manila for people to use time productively than idly moving in long gridlocks.

It’s sad how bad the country has turned up. Although I take pride in the claim that the Philippines ranked next to Japan in the 1950s, I begrudgingly agree how it has become an economic basket case in Southeast Asia given the economic performances of neighboring Singapore and Malaysia (and now, even Vietnam!). Although the economic performance under the Arroyo administration is relatively on track to recovery (given the surprisingly above-average economic indicators), the possibility for it to translate into full development is threatened by the political turmoil the country is now embroiled in. I’m not saying Pinoys do nothing about the President’s electoral impropriety and, using her own words, ‘lapse in judgment’. By all means, strip her out of public office. But do it using legal means; seek it through legal avenues. Impeachment is most favorable; re-exercising ‘People Power’ is inauspicious.

I agree that the concept of a ‘People Power revolution’ is an overused, hackneyed process towards change. Especially now when the political climate is not as clearly polarized as in the Marcos dictatorship; it is not between good versus evil anymore. Rather, it is choosing among lesser evils (if not, worst by today’s standard of corrupt individuals). Who is to take over if Arroyo is booted out through unconstitutional means? De Castro? Estrada? Lacson? A professor in my university hypothetically proposed that illiberal governments or countries under political instability submit to re-colonization. A bit extreme, I know. But therein lies the dilemma: How do we enable change?

The best solution I can think of in this quite sick cycle of a situation is to strenghten legislative powers to revise the constitution in such a way that (1) Politicking is minimized to favor economic growth; (2) modernize and improve the election process! If elections are done in a fast and efficient manner, then results would be less prone to cheating and manipulation; (3) raise the standard of qualifications for those seeking the Presidency. In this day and age, a high school diploma is not enough for an individual (however best his intentions are) to steer a country and its people to a real and tangible development.

Until then, quo vadis, Philippines? ad nauseam, perhaps.

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My trip back to Japan was haphazardly moved to an earlier date due to a training I need to attend over the first June weekend. Plans for the Memorial Day weekend were scaled down to accommodate changes in the travel itinerary. And because it was a holiday weekend in the US, G and I had to content ourselves being listed as standby passengers given the heavy flow of holiday travelers.

If past trips were to consult by, we were sure to miss the ideal flight and get stranded for a day or two before finally securing plane seats. Luck seems to dodge us on occasions when we travel that (again, if past trips were to consult by) we lose track of our luggage, get short of moolah, run out of cheap hotel rooms, or find ourselves locked out from an airport (Fukuoka!). Moments like these are primarily the bases why this blog was aptly christened as The Adventures of D&G.

But wonder of wonders, we got on the first flight to Japan; luck empathized and had a change of heart.

It was a welcome relief, indeed. But after 18 hours on board a plane, we still had to go through the motions indentured to living in bucolic Beppu. We took another two hours by plane to Fukuoka, then a couple more on bus, and finally a seven-minute cab ride to our apartment. All in all, an entire day was spent on traveling. Whew!

Phsyically dead-beat and energy-deficient, here I am detailing the day's experience in the hope of exorcising whatever travel pains left. Praying too, the next travel wouldn't be as exacting as the last.

Today I lived a childhood fantasy. I became Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka's world for a day. Yes, I went to a chocolate factory.

Taking a Memorial Day weekend trip to Pennsylvania to spend the remaining days in the US, G and I (along with her sister and close friends) went to Hershey Park. Although relatively close to NY, driving to Penn was long and tiresome. I traded the driving chore to Christine, a family friend and slept the road trip away. But as soon as lampposts with bulbs that resemble huge chocolate Kisses emerged from the mid-afternoon view, I became a kid again with plenty of energy to spare and spend away. The environment made my endorphins go berserk as did my chocolate cravings.

The park was huge with a theme park, museum, zoo, golf course, hotel, spa, and of course, the chocolate factory to explore. The place was dreamlike, like a mirage in the middle of a dry desert — although this one is for real. Imagine having a spa treatment out of chocolate! Free chocolates were also given away throughout the tour that my early cravings were replaced by a considerable degree of addiction at the end of the day.

Of course one should learn something from an experience, especially those as momentous as this one. Today, I learned chocolate from Hershey's comes from cocoa beans shipped from Indonesia and Ghana. I am therefore indebted and bound to pay respects to my Indonesian and Ghanan friends back in the University. I also learned that Hershey's is not purely a business affair but a charitable company dedicated to special children and supporting and supplying essentials to soldiers in times of war.

By the time we reached NY, I was extremely exhausted. But I was also intoxicated by the chocolate overload I've lived through the day. And judging by the bagful supply of chocolates G & I bought, I probably will be for a few more days…