Category: PH in the World

A Filipina mother’s master at the Masters


The Manila Times, April 21, 2013


THAT’S Jason Day, who finished third at the Masters Tournament last Sunday in Augusta, Georgia, ahead of Tiger Woods and other golf greats like Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.

It was a bit surprising that our sports journalists paid little attention to Jason, the first golfer with Filipino blood to ascend the Olympic heights of what many think is the most difficult sport in the world.

Early in the final round last Sunday, Jason even seemed on the way to wearing Augusta’s trademark green jacket of the champion, and was the leader at nine under, ahead of the eventual winner, the Australian Adam Scott and the Argentinian Angel Cabrera, who placed second. But such is the game of inches; Jason missed three putts to fall behind the two in the last three holes.

No matter, I’d bet now— as many in fact did when he finished 2nd in the 2011 Masters—that he’d be the next Tiger Woods. After all, he’s just 25, while the winner Scott is 32 and second- placer Cabrera is 43. Tiger at 37 may have already peaked.

Jason at Augusta demonstrated much of what makes golf different from other sports: supreme tranquility that seems to be meditation in motion, yet with a focused mind. With his pre- shot routine of staring for unusually many seconds at his target, visualizing the flight of ball, he plays patiently golf’s inner game. Jason’s swing was so effortless and so smooth that Tiger’s seemed to be jerky, and too tense.

In news accounts, Jason was merely identified as the “other Australian”, who placed third at Augusta with 7 under.

Jason’s parents though are immigrants to Australia. His father Alvin is from Ireland, a country known for its love of golf and which has produced over the decades some of the greatest golfers, among them Fred Daly and Harry Bradshaw. His mother is a Filipina, Adenyl (“Dening”) Grapilon from the third- class municipality of Carigara in northern Leyte, the outskirts of where the New People’s Army still operates. News accounts of Jason’s life say that his parents got together by mailing each other, and that both were workers in a meatpacking factory.

Jason’s story no doubt is another indication of how Filipinos have spread throughout the planet, so much so that Filipino blood is finding its way in the arteries of the best of the human species.

But it’s more than that. Jason’s ascent to become one of the world’s top ten golfers is an inspiring story, a classic tale of how the father provides the son the vision, with the mother taking care of the nitty-gritty of how that vision will be fulfilled.

And then, there’s the critical ingredient—the individual defying fate, and deciding, as that Wiliam Henly poem put, to be master of his fate, captain of his soul.

Jason related an embarrassing episode in his life, which reminded me of a very common practice of struggling Filipino immigrants in the US ( which actually inspired the enterprising among them to start the ukay- ukay craze in our country):

Asked by a golf writer if it was true if he wore “Salvation Army” clothes in his youth, he answered:

“Yeah, five bucks a bag. We’d go there with 10 bucks, and my sisters and me would cram in as much stuff as we could. I turned up at school one day in this shirt I had from the Salvation Army—it was this tight, button-up, short-sleeve T-shirt that was two sizes too small for me—and everyone from school teased me because they said I looked like a refugee. They said, ‘Did you just get off the boat?’ I was the only Asian kid in my school so they thought I was just off the boat.’

But as was the theme of one of my favorite movies—Woody Allen’s “Matchpoint”— sheer chance is more often as important as our will.

Jason’s career started out with his father finding a discarded old three wood in the garbage bin at his workplace and gave it on a whim to his three-year old son as a toy. Jason kept swinging it a tennis ball for hours that his Dad thought he was a natural, and could make career out of it. His father nurtured his interest, and by six, with a halfset of used golf clubs a neighbor gave, he was playing regularly at the public course near their home in the small town (population: 15,000) of Beaudesert, Queensland.

But then chance took a different turn. When he was 11, his father died of stomach cancer, a month after it was diagnosed. He was devastated, as I think most pre- teens who idolize their father would. Jason narrated that period of his life: “I didn’t really care about anything. I was very wild. I got into trouble a lot [ and] did all the bad stuff.” He had even become an alcoholic, and regularly got into fist fights at school.

Filipina mother Dening (from her Facebook page) and his pro son Jason

I don’t think his mother Dening was a golfer nor would have known that it is a sport one could make a fortune on. Still though— and probably because it seemed to her as the only way to turn around his son’s life— Dening sold the house she and her husband got to own from their working- class wages in order to send Jason to the $ 20,000- ayear Kooralbyn International School in Brisbane, a renowned boarding school with a golf program. (Another alumni is Adam Scott who won the Masters’ last Sunday.)

Jason’s mentor Colin Swatton described her determination: “Jason’s mum, Dening, did what she had to do to put him through the academy. For as long as I have known her, she has always worked one or two jobs in a bid to give Jason every opportunity to do well. She has done exceptionally well.” Jason even credits his mother for the kind of determination he had demonstrated in the golf tours, that she would methodically and ruthlessly pursue his king on the chessboard until it was cornered.

I can’t help quoting quotes to describe Jason’s life, this time the Roman “Fate favors the brave.” Swatton, a golf coach at Kooralbyn, thought he had a rare talent for golf that he became Jason’s golf guru to this day. He has been by Jason’s side in all tournaments, as his caddy.

There was another chance event for Jason, but only so since he was already into golf. In the school’s dorm, somebody left a book on Tiger Woods which related among other things that he was already a scratch player at 15 years old that Jason vowed to match that feat. Most probably it was also the fact than a half-Asian like him could be the world’s no. 1 golfer that inspired Jason.

Turning professional at 19 years old, Jason has become the world’s no. 7 golfer at 25, and I’d bet he’d be no. 1 soon, the very first Pinoy golf great.

“I want to become No. 1 in the world. I was taught in my life, by my parents, that you don’t get anywhere without working hard,” Jason said. Words not only of wisdom, but of respect.

Filed under: Culture, Manila Times Columns, PH in the World, Philosophy

Ask Joma to talk to Jong-un


Filipino communist leader Sison and Korean communist leader Kim

The Manila Times, April 15, 2013

For the sake of world peace, President Aquino should ask Communist Party’s senior leader Jose Ma. Sison,  (Joma) and ask him to talk to North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un  to convince  him to step back from the brink of nuclear war.

Sison should tell Kim that with his army’s less-than-perfect technological competence, the missiles he said he would launch against US facilities in Guam may just land in the Philippines, and even hit one of the Red Bases the New People’s Army claims have been growing my leaps and bounds.  Joma can tell Jong-un that he and his father Kim Jong-il come a long way back.

Sison would have an ulterior motive: If the US nukes North Korea to the stone age, there wouldn’t be any country or communist party in the world left supporting the Philippine communists morally and  — if intelligence reports several years back still hold  — financially.

* * *

Seriously, if there’s any good coming out of Kim’s threats for a nuclear war in our region, it would be to expose — especially to our youth,  some of whom are still being enamored by the 1960s-vintage idea of  socialist struggle – how totally  insane during this day and age is the cause of the  Communist Party of the Philippines is and how its adulation of North Korea reveals how completely out of touch with reality it is.

Kim is a megalomaniac, a lunatic whose admitted idol is Hitler.  It is amazing there is still in this era an impoverished, starving North Korea that pretends to be a socialistparadise trying to be a nuclear power. A British journalist who managed to go into North Korea disguised as a tourist titled his article:  “Inside North Korea: No ads, no planes, no internet, no mobiles, no 21st Century… A rare dispatch from deep within the lunatic rogue state enslaved by Zombie and Sons.” Kim has shocked the world in recent weeks by declaring he says will be fought with nuclear weapons against South Korea and the US.

And what does the Communist Party of the Philippines say? As posted in its website

“The Filipino people support the DPRK (North Korea’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) people’s call for a stop to the economic blockade against their country and for their right to self-determination to be respected.

The DPRK declared a state of war against the US and South Korea after the US flew two nuclear-capable fighter planes into DPRK air space.”

Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China  — North Korea’s sole ally on which it relies for food and fuel –- lambasted Kim’s saber rattling: “No country should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain.”  China’s foreign secretary Wang Yi to North Korea under Kim as a “trouble-maker at China’s doorstep.”

What does the CPP say of this troublemaker?

“Declaring a state of war, displaying its military prowess and issuing bellicose threats is the DPRK’s way of fighting more than half a century of imperialist aggression and unjust imposition of restrictions,” it said.

The CPP’s solution to the current crisis in the Korean peninsula?

“The CPP asserted that a peaceful resolution to the armed conflict in the Korean peninsula can only be achieved by the withdrawal of 30,000 American troops in US military bases in South Korea, the lifting of the economic blockade and respecting the right to self-determination of the DPRK and its right to technological development for economic and scientific advancement.”

In short, the CPP wants South Korea to be abandoned by the US, and to leave North Korea alone so it can develop its nukes.

In fact, the CPP has been the only organization in the world to have applauded North Korea’s first nuclear-bomb test in October 2006:

“The CPP congratulated the people and government of the Democratic People’s Republic for successfully and safely carrying out its first-ever nuclear test and hailed the successful test as a militant assertion of national sovereignty and the right of an independent country to develop its own powerful self-reliant defense capability.”

It’s amazing how the CPP slavishly strives to be North Korea’s spokesman. When North Korea’s rocket test failed in April last year, it stated:

“The main issue at hand is that the DPRK has exhibited determination to continue with its rocket launch in accordance with its sovereign right… Even the most advanced capitalist countries have encountered rocket-launch failures in the past, including the mid-flight explosion of the US Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986.”

In its statement the CPP sees North Korea under Kim’s dictatorship better than the Philippines with all its democratic excesses: “In contrast to the repeated success of the DPRK in building and launching a rocket, the Philippines cannot even independently build a decent car or a hand tractor, for that matter,” it said.

The CPP’s utter servility to North Korea is so shocking that one could only conclude that that it might have found some way to continue getting financial or material support from that rogue state.   The careful Chinese communists in the 1970s used North Korean facilities and one of its secret ports for loading its Chinese-made Norinco rifles that the New People’s Army tried to land into Isabela. In the 1980s, fake US and Iraqi dollars that Filipino communists were trying to use in the country were suspected to have been printed in North Korea.

I hope reporters ask suspected CPP front-men, senatorial candidate Teodoro Casino,  his comrades Bayan Muna representative  Neri Colmenares as well as Gabriela’s  Emmie de Jesus and Luzviminda Ilagan their views on North Korea’s bellicosity.

The CPP’s sycophancy to North Korea would be merely hilarious if not for the fact that our local communists have managed to continue killing Philippine troops and private citizens, with our armed forces practically instructed by their commander-in-chief to stand down for the sake of “peace talks’. Every once in a while , there’s a news article about a young man or woman who left the university to fight and die with the NPA.

Since the 1970s when I was a communist cadre myself, I have seen so many promising young lives lost or shattered, for an organization that would have been the Philippine equivalent of the Workers’ Party of Korea, led by our equivalent of Kim Jong-Il or Kim Jong-un.


Filed under: Manila Times Columns, PH in the World, Politics

Malaysia’s masterstroke that buried our Sabah claim


The “Jabidah massacre” commemoration at Corregidor March 18. Why did the MILF and the MNLF ignore it? This article answers that question.

The “Jabidah” question

Second of Three Parts

Malaysia’s leadership have been probably laughing their heads off reading about President Aquino delivering a speech in the event commemorating the alleged 1968 “Jabidah massacre” of Muslim youths initially recruited to form a commando unit codenamed to infiltrate Sabah.

It was the “Jabidah” allegations that hugged headlines for several days in 1968 that buried our claim to that territory in Borneo.  

This was due to three of its consequences:

  • The publicity over the alleged massacre enraged thousands of Muslim youth to swell the ranks of the fledgling Moro National Liberation Front.   Malaysia after “Jabidah” not only gave it substantial finances, but also even militarily trained its first officers and provided sanctuary to its leaders.  President Marcos’ Operation Merdeka (“Freedom”) was intended to create a Tausug rebellion in Sabah. Instead, because of allegations of a massacre of Muslims by Marcos’ army,  it was a Muslim rebellion that broke out in Mindanao,  aided by Malaysia.
  • The Malaysian involvement proved to be crucial to the MNLF’s strength that by 1976 Marcos declared that the only way to end the insurgency is to give up the Sabah claim  so that  Malaysia would stop its crucial support of the secessionists.
  • In the public consciousness, the allegation of such an atrocity as a “Jabidah massacre” was tightly linked to the Philippine claim to Sabah. Indeed writers who have been passionate in claiming a massacre occurred expectedly denigrated the claim as merely due to “Marcos expansionist tendencies.”  It therefore became an unpopular agenda to champion.   Since 1968, no politician would touch with a ten-foot pole our Sabah claim. That attitude ended only as a result of the  bold but bloody expedition to Sabah recently by the Sulu of Sultan’s fighters.Continue reading
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Where is ASEAN?

Front page of a Malaysian newspaper March 11

The Manila Times, March 13, 2013

With the death toll of Filipino Muslims killed in Sabah by Malaysian authorities rising to 62 and with reports of human rights abuses against our countrymen, where the heck is ASEAN?

Forgotten it seems is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, one of whose main purposes is to “promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region”.

Ban Ki Moon, the secretary-general of the United Nationswhich consists of 193 member states last week issued a statement calling for “dialogue among all parties to end the (Sabah) conflict peacefully. He also urged “all parties to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards.”

Why hasn’t there been a similar statement – even just an innocuous one like “ASEAN is concerned over the fighting” —  from ASEAN consisting of  just ten member countries, whose two founders, the Philippines and Malaysia,  are involved in this flashpoint in Southeast Asia?

Did our department of foreign affairs even ask ASEAN to persuade Malaysia not to throw its full, brutal force against the Sultan of Sulu’s men who had dug in in Lahad Datu and to give the government more time to talk to them?  Or did it just forget to ask ASEAN?Continue reading

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An impotent yet arrogant President


The front page of The Borneo Post: Note the description, "Sulu terrorists."


The Manila Times, March 11 2013

THE horrific reports have started to trickle in: Muslim Filipinos being rounded up in Sabah, locked up with some without food, “treated like animals” according to eyewitness accounts, sadistically ordered to run and then shot like wild game.

Photos in Kuala Lumpur newspapers depict Muslim Filipinos—clearly unarmed— pinned down brutally by uniformed armed men. Malaysia has brought its entire military force to bear down on the Sulu sultan’s men.

The Philippine ambassador to Malaysia and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jose Brilliantes— three weeks late in action though— were ignored in Sabah, their pleas to visit Filipinos detained there and for Malaysian authorities to allow our humanitarian ship dock at the port were not even given the courtesy of a reply.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario stages a dramatic trip to Malaysia to ask its government to exercise “maximum tolerance” toward the Filipino Muslims who had holed out in Lahad Datu. Even while he waited for his plane, the Malaysians were deploying instead maximum force against the Filipinos there.

His trip turned out only justify the Malaysian onslaught against the Sulu sultan’s men, as his counterpart reported that he agreed that the Filipino Muslims were terrorists. Del Rosario didn’t say the Malaysian foreign minister lied, only that he was quoted: “Outof-context”—the worn-out excuse for officials trying to wiggle away from something they regretted saying.

We have a President impotent in handling the Sabah crisis. Worse, he and his spokesmen have even been issuing statements denigrating Muslim Filipinos who had dug in in Sabah in what they believe is their homeland.

Continue reading

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Lacierda lying on Sabah issue, ignorant, or plain dimwitted

The Manila Times, March 8, 2013

Pardon the harsh words, but more than two  dozen Muslim Filipinos have been killed in Sabah – some, their bodies burned by incendiary bombs. More most probably will be killed in the next few days because of lies, ignorance, or dimwittedness.

President Aquino’s policy stance, which is to let the Malaysians do what they want to do with the Sultan of Sulu’s followers who have dug in in Sabah,  is  due to his view that the Philippine claim on Sabah, at best, to use his words, put it “hopeless cause,” and at worst,  “a weak claim.”

But Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda has demonstrated how grossly misinformed he and President Aquino are on the Philippine claim to Sabah.

Confused spokesman Lacierda

In his March 5 briefing (transcript below) Lacierda was asked by Patricia Chiu, a reporter for GMA News Online,  for his reaction  to Senator Richard Gordon’s statement that Mr. Aquino may be courting impeachment for violating Republic Act 5446 (enacted in 1968)  which affirms Sabah as Philippine territory.  Gordon was referring to the law’s section 2 which reads:

“The definition of the baselines of the territorial sea of the Philippine Archipelago as provided in this Act is without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty. (emphasis mine).”

With a mocking smirk on his face, Lacierda replied:  “My goodness Senator Gordon, that has been repealed by Republic Act 9522, the new baselines law.  It repealed section 2,  where the demarcations [sic] of Sabah were removed.”

“So I don’t know where Senator Gordon is getting his legal knowledge but the law he is invoking has already been repealed by the new baselines law.”Continue reading

Filed under: Manila Times Columns, PH in the World, Politics

Almendras: Sabah crisis doesn’t need Cabinet meeting

The Manila Times, March 6, 2013

Here, in the US and elsewhere, the President (or the Prime Minister’s) Cabinet is not just collection of department heads or underlings,  but the “official family”, the collective, as it were, whose combined wisdom and experience the nation’s leader taps for him to arrive at the most appropriate decision on problems and crises confronting the nation.

Convening regular Cabinet meetings is a recognition by the Chief Executive that he does not have the monopoly of leadership wisdom that he needs to consult with those he appointed not only for their expertise in a particular field but because of their appreciation of national issues.  Since Cabinet members have,  or should have , their constituencies, captive audiences, or at least social networks, Cabinet meetings are also make up a mechanism for developing national consensus on  an important issue.

Except for Corazon Aquino and his son Benigno, it has been a practice for Philippine presidents – including the strongman Ferdinand Marcos – to regularly convene their Cabinets, especially to formulate a strategy to deal with a national crisis.

While the Sabah crisis has become a national crisis, one that has taken and will take the lives of many Muslim Filipinos who believe they are fighting for what is theirs and that of the country, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said February 20:

“I don’t think you need to call a full Cabinet meeting. I can assure you that the President is on top of the situation. It is just that there are some things that are best handled in smaller groups so it’s not a full Cabinet issue.”Continue reading

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Malaysian spokesman Dato Aquino?

The Manila Times, March 4, 2013

 “Is (Interior Secretary) Mar Roxas now the spokesperson for Malaysia (by claiming) that Malaysia will not talk to us? ”  angrily asked Sultan Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd,  whose men led by the crown prince Raja Muda defied Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd’s ultimatum for them to leave Sabah, or else.

Kiram though should be also asking that question rather to Roxas’ boss: Mr. Aquino, and I’m afraid the answer would be in the affirmative, so much so that Malaysia should confer on him one of its honorific titles that can be given to foreigners, like Dato.

“There will be no compromise; either they surrender or face the consequences,” the Malaysian prime minister was quoted in The Borneo Post the other day.  “Surrender now, without conditions,  Aquino for his part announced.

Check out everything Aquino said since the crisis broke out in February 13 — and you can easily do this in this day and age through the Internet– and you will realize that  he never made even the vaguest reference that the Philippines claims Sabah as its territory, and that is the root of the crisis.Continue reading

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Bring Sabah issue to the International Court of Justice now

The Manila Times, March 3, 2013

AS this column last Friday expressed apprehension over it, President Aquino and his officials were throwing to the Malaysian wolves Filipino Muslims digging in what they claimed was their legitimate homeland in Sabah.

Government’s do-what-you-want-to-do-with-them message to Malaysian authorities was made through such irresponsible statements from Mr. Aquino and his officials that the Sultan of Sulu’s claim was dormant, and that they would be even charged for violating our Constitution for the crime of inciting to rebellion.

And indeed, after the Malaysians’ assault that resulted in 12 of the Sulu Sultan’s men and two Malaysian soldiers killed, that country’s Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in effect said that our government implicitly cleared their move. “The Philippine Government had already said that it wanted those involved to return to the Philippines,” the Malaysian new website quoted the home minister as saying.

Especially with blood now on his hands, Mr. Aquino must comply with his oath of office—that he will defend the Constitution and implement the laws of the land—by pursuing our territorial claim over Sabah. The Philippine claim on Sabah is only dormant— as a presidential spokesperson claims it is—if one believes that certain laws, Republic Acts, can be treated as “dormant.”Continue reading

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Aquino throwing Sulu sultan’s people to the wolves

As published in The Manila Times, March 1, 2013

Malaysian Home Minister inspecting his troops surrounding Filipino Muslims in Sabah

IF violence erupts in Lahad Datu town in Sabah, and the Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd’s men are massacred, the blood will be on President Aquino’s hands. His statements and those of his spokespersons have thrown the Muslim Filipinos standing their ground in Sabah to the wolves.Mr. Aquino should have emphasized publicly that they have a legitimate aim although their means to achieve these are inappropriate, at the very least, and would only weaken their cause.

Instead, the president and his spokespersons have been questioning their motives (that they are being used by saboteurs of the peace talks), that they are being financed by hidden powers, that their claim to Sabah is moribund, and they are violating the Constitution— not of Malaysia— but of the Philippines.Continue reading

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