Archive | January, 2012

DepEd “Drops” Science? What Science?

A recent report by the Manila Bulletin said that the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) will be dropping science classes for public schools from the first and second grades. This was supposedly “in line with its efforts to decongest the Basic Education Curriculum and to make learning more enjoyable to young learners.” DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro says, however, that they will be integrating science topics “in other subjects to make the new curriculum more child-friendly.” This new curriculum will “mainly focus on oral fluency” for the first grade.

Time Allotment for Public Schools According to the Basic Education Curriculum

The Basic Education Curriculum was instituted under the late DepEd Secretary Raul Roco and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002, which was “the product of 16 years of study under the various DepEd secretaries.” This 2002 curriculum removed “Science and Health” from the first and second grades.

Since the belated Manila Bulletin report, there has been a lot of outrage regarding this decision, leading Senator Pia Cayetano to discuss the matter with her constituents online. She said that she would discuss the curriculum with other senators “so [they] can act on it.”

The claim that science is too difficult for children is not controversial and it is commonly believed, though seldom backed up by evidence. And, to be fair, it can be quite hard to convey the rigor and chain of evidence employed by science to children. In this way, I can somehow understand (but not agree with) the secretary with his implication that science is not “enjoyable” or “child-friendly.” Even scientists themselves often have a difficult time grasping the more counter-intuitive discoveries of science.

While it is a shame that science is regarded by some sectors of the government as “congestion,” I do not think that this delaying of science will have as terrible an impact as people have been suggesting it will have. Rather, I think that scientific instruction in the Philippines regardless of age has been misguided for far longer than just the ten years since the curriculum revision. Given this, the removal of two years of bad scientific instruction isn’t too big a loss.

The position taken by the government towards science reflects the general attitude of the public—that it is conducive to practical skills and not much else. That’s why the state can afford removing science and replace it with the more economically useful “oral fluency.” Though the loss of even just practical science would still be worthy of outrage, the more noble value of science has long been lost (if it was ever held). The principles of science—critical thinking, skepticism, and reliance on evidence—are rarely ever instilled by educational institutions in the country, even upon science undergrads. We may have some really bright minds in the Philippines capable of unique scientific insight, but we would be hard-pressed to universalize this trait for as long as we have a workaday perspective of science.

Our society treats science as a behavior apart from normal life, which leads to some very interesting, though disturbing, juxtapositions of brilliance and outright nonsense. We have very intelligent doctors who fall prey to alternative medicine. We have scholarly lawyers who believe in feng shui. We have trained psychiatrists who believe that atheism is the cause of depression. New curriculum or not, as long as science is treated by our society as a body of knowledge to memorize and a set of equations that barfs out dissertations, and not as a way of going about the world, it wouldn’t matter even if we started teaching science at kindergarten.

Neil Degrasse Tyson once said, “If you’re scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you.” Beyond its practical utility, science provides an outlook that imbues the world around us with unending wonder, which will always be unavailable to those lacking the curiosity to investigate things deeper than face value. Science empowers one against the cognitive failures our brain is predisposed to (we call these “biases”). Scientific illiteracy is a sure way to getting swindled by liars, frauds, and superstitions but, more than that, scientific illiteracy makes an entire universe inaccessible.

Posted in Politics, Science, Society13 Comments

January 29 (Sunday) Metro Manila South Meetup

Location: Don Henrico’s, Festival Mall – Alabang, Muntinlupa
Date: Sunday, January 29, 2012
Time: 4pm – 7pm

RSVP on Facebook

Proposed Topics:

-DepEd curriculum which introduces Science as a subject only by Grade 3
-Secular Camp: A proposed project to promote science, secularism, and reason
-French Secularism (Facilitator: Ryan Amparo)
-Should euthanasia be legalized? (Facilitator: Marx Cole)
-Is the demolition of informal settlements moral? (Vlad Pablo)

Posted in Meetup, Metro Manila South Chapter0 Comments

Why I Do Not Have School Spirit

There’s this blog entry that’s been making the rounds lately, entitled “What Ateneans Do Wrong after Graduating,” and the further I read the piece, the more dismayed I felt. And it’s not just because the author drops more cliches than Paolo Coelho writing Rick Warren a yearbook dedication. While it is grating to read someone dispensing advice like achieving success by working hard and being nice to your boss, as if this thought never occurred to anyone else in all of human history, it is unfortunately more grating that the author has the gall to address the entry to all Ateneans in general.

Among the red lights were:

“[Ateneans] NEVER would want to report to someone who came from a school which they think is too low for their standards.”

“ARteneans always expect job to be convenient.”

“He used to have the Atenean attitude of being so mayabang, complaining too much…”

“We Ateneans always want the SHORT-CUT.”

“We Ateneans, are SO opinionated that we believe so much our opinion would change the course of the world.”

“I hope I wouldn’t be bashed for this post. You know naman some Ateneans love correcting grammar and seeing faults on the opinion of others.”

She signed the end of the post with AMDG.

Spirited away

Now, if you think I’m going to continue this piece by defending the Atenean community with vigor, invoking my magises and halikinus over a blue and white flame, you are wrong.

I wasn’t irked by the fact that Ateneans were generalized so negatively. What irked me was that there was generalization going on in the first place, that some people continue to box others in according to what school they came from when, in truth, it is glaringly obvious that all people are different. No, I’m not naïve; I know full well that school spirit is a thing, and that for quite some time students from Ateneo, La Salle, UP, UST, and other relatively known schools have been bestowed with respective stereotypes. But it is the year 2012, and many undeserved stereotypes, from the impure homosexual to the hateful atheist, have become less potent.

 

Admittedly, the Philippines, in particular, does have a ways to go in terms of shedding these bigoted beliefs, no thanks to the likes of the CBCP and local mainstream media. But at least there are movements — composed of a goodly number of people, and gradually gaining public attention — that are dedicated to making such beliefs a thing of the past. Shouldn’t getting preferential treatment or being judged just because you came from a particular school — regardless of your accomplishments — be something worth eradicating as well?

Animo-sity

Some may say this is going a tad overboard, arguing that such a bias could not possibly compare with the biases against one’s gender, one’s race, one’s religion or lack thereof, etc. They may argue that school stereotypes exist to encourage students to mold themselves according to certain lofty, worthy ideals, such as Ateneo’s “man for others,” or UP’s thrust for social change. But the problem I see with this is that it is unfair to automatically brand people with characteristics they may not necessarily have. Yes, there will be a few who will truly epitomize what it means to be a Thomasian or a La Sallian or what-have-you, but what about everyone else? Last I checked, schools don’t inject an instant school spirit serum that forces them to think and behave a certain way. Do you seriously enjoy having people make false assumptions about you once you’ve mentioned where you graduated from?

 

In certain ways, school spirit is very much like one’s religious beliefs. If you’re Atenean, does it immediately mean that you get chauffeured around in your daddy’s SUV? If you’re Muslim, does it immediately mean that you’re going to bomb the next person who draws a Muhammad cartoon? If you’re from UP, does it immediately mean that you’re a Communist? If you’re Catholic, does it immediately mean that you think wearing condoms means killing babies? We need to stop thinking like this. School stereotypes may seem quite petty compared to other stereotypes, but it is still very much part of the problem. It is still very much a sign of our tendency to close our minds and insist that we shouldn’t bother getting along with certain people.

Alma don’t matter

The last thing anyone should want is the inability to think and act for themselves because they’ve been branded a certain way from the start. Schools are supposed to open you up to the world, to introduce you to all its diversities and intricacies, and not to limit you or box you in. In the end, what school you came from does not, and cannot, define you. How you dissect, analyze, and apply the knowledge you’ve gained — from your school, from your loved ones, from your life experiences — is what does.

Images from spankyenriquez.blogspot.com and rebelpixel.com

Posted in Personal, Society6 Comments

January 22 (Sunday) Taft Meetup

Location: Holly’s Coffee, One Archer’s Place, Taft Avenue (Google map)
Date: Sunday, January 22, 2012
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

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Hi folks! We’re heading to Taft this meetup! We’d like to invite people from around the area to come and join us, especially the students!

Discussion Topics:
SOPA/PIPA Blackout (Wikipedia, Reddit, and other sites go down on January 18 in protest)
-Patronizing slave labor
-Department of Tourism “More Fun in the Philippines” Campaign

After the meetup we go for dinner and beer drinking at Sherwood (roughly across the street). If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
* You don’t have to buy anything from Holly’s.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Freethinking: More Fun in the Philippines

Thanks to the Department of Tourism’s new campaign, people all over the world now know how much fun everything is in the Philippines. But beyond the wonderful marine life, historical sites, food and parades, our country has also become a shining beacon of freethinking and secularism. What better way of looking back at our struggle for reason, freedom and secularism than through a viral Internet meme? Continue Reading

Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Pictures3 Comments

A New Genetic Code?

An old Discovery News article has recently been making its rounds on Facebook, which was claiming that “new nucleotides” were identified in human DNA. Users were quick to rant and rave about how game-changing this piece of news is. I read claims about how they’d need to retake biology courses now and how this could have implications on artificial life.

DNA is composed of four canonical bases. Canonical, because they are the classic bases in Watson and Crick’s double helix. That is, four chemical letters that compose genes—adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C). These are the A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s you see in biology textbooks. What users took the news to be was that there were new letters to add to these. To be fair to those misled, the title was technically accurate (New Nucleotides Identified in Human DNA from Discovery News on July 27, 2011). There are two new nucleotides previously unknown. However, contrary to the subsequent speculations of those I read, the discovery doesn’t demolish or revolutionize anything that we’ve already known about what genes are. A’s will still always pair with T’s and G’s will always pair with C’s. There are no secret letters strewn throughout the genome (at least, for life here on Earth).

The finding, as the article later explains, is that there are two new modifications discovered of the canonical nucleotide cytosine and not that there are somehow new forms of genes that code for alien proteins. This is in addition to the two previously known modifications.

Cytosine has long been known to incorporate chemical groups that influence how genes are expressed. The study of this is called epigenetics. By altering the shape of DNA molecules, the modifications of cytosine can change how enzymes in the body access genes, preventing some genes from being read. As researcher Yi Zhang of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute opined, their work could lead to better control of how stem cells develop.

At the end of the day, your genetics classes don’t need to revamp their curricula and, no, you don’t have to forget what you learned in school. Surely, epigenetics is a fascinating field that is needed to augment our current understanding of how simple chemicals order each other around to make thinking human beings. And, while speculation is at the root of all scientific discovery, we must always be careful to temper it with skepticism and fact-checking.

Posted in Science1 Comment

Dear Princess Celestia…

They got Lot drunk and did WHAT!?!?!?!

One classic rhetoric the Catholic Church loves to throw around is that “secular media” is a leading cause of moral degradation in kids today. This includes just about everything on TV that isn’t treating their priests and bishops with outright adulation, or isn’t airing on EWTN.

You’ve seen the effects of this mindset on Dan Brown’s films, and the MTRCB’s conservative streak.

But you’ve got to ask yourself: Is secular, non-religious media really a poison that addles and corrodes the bonds of community? I’ve decided to take another look at my anti-depression medication, a potent cocktail that’s helped me through some rough spots over the last few months.

Fillies and gentlecolts, my drug of choice:

We’re looking at the Generation 4 incarnation of the show, which was created by Lauren Faust. Despite its exceedingly cute appearance and tone, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic garnered a large following far beyond its target audience thanks to its animation quality, pop culture references (The Big Lebowski, anyone?), song numbers, character depth, and witty humor.

Yes. I am a Brony.

One other aspect of the show that shines is its presentation of the various issues that little girls will face as they grow up, and providing them with creative ways of handling these problems while learning from the experience. It takes some pretty good script writing to teach kids how to deal with the resident Alpha bitch, without becoming one themselves.

We’ll take a closer look at the lessons FiM imparts, as narrated in the friendship report at the end of each episode, and compare them with the traditional “values” the Catholic Church proclaims.

______________________________________________________________________

Friendship is Magic: Love and accept people for who they are.

Dear Princess Celestia,

My friends and I have all learned an important lesson this week: Never judge a book by its cover. Someone may look unusual, or funny, or scary. But you have to look past that and learn who they are inside. Real friends don’t care what your “cover” is; It’s the “contents” of a pony that count. And a good friend, like a good book, is something that will last forever.

Bridle Gossip

Dear Princess Celestia,

When you first sent me to Ponyville, I didn’t know anything about friendship. I met somepony tonight who was having the same problem – your sister, Princess Luna! She taught me that one of the best things you can do with friendship is to give it to others, and help them find it themselves! And I’m happy to report that all of Ponyville has learned that even though somepony seems a little intimidating, even scary, when you offer them your friendship, you’ll discover a whole new pony underneath. And even if my Star Swirl bearded costume didn’t go over, this still turned out to be the best Nightmare Night ever!

Luna Eclipsed

The Church: You should have been aborted!

______________________________________________________________________

Friendship is Magic: Compromise and tolerance.

Twilight Sparkle: Dear Princess Celestia,

Friendship is a wondrous and powerful thing. Even the worst of enemies can become friends. You need understanding and compromise. You’ve got to share. You’ve got to care —

Pinkie Pie: Hey! That’s what I said!

Over a Barrel

The Church: Selective intolerance

The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, but teaches that homosexual persons deserve respect, justice and pastoral care. The Vatican and Pope John Paul II are speaking out against the growing number of places that recognize same-sex marriages.

______________________________________________________________________

Friendship is Magic: Generosity and selflessness.

Dear Princess Celestia,

Today I learned a great lesson about friendship. Well, you might think that it would feel good to get lots and lots of stuff, but it doesn’t feel nearly as good as giving something special to somepony you really care about. But I learned that it truly is better to give than to receive, and that kindness and generosity are what lead to true friendship. And that’s more valuable than anything in the world.

Secret of my Excess

The Church: Yo Dawg…

______________________________________________________________________

Friendship is Magic: True friends never give up on you.

Dearest Princess Celestia,

Today I learned that it’s hard to accept when some pony you like wants to spend time with some pony who is not so nice. Though it’s impossible to control who your friends hang out with, it is possible to control your own behavior. Just continue to be a good friend. In the end, the difference between a false friend and one that is true will surely come to light.

Griffon the Brush-Off

Dear Princess Celestia,

I used to think the most important traits to look for in a pet, or any best friend, were all physical competitive abilities. But now I can see how short-sighted and shallow that was. Today I learned what the most important quality really is. A certain kind of spirit. A stick-to-it-ive-ness. A never give up, can-do attitude that’s the mark of a real winner. And this tortoise has it.

May the Best Pet Win!

The Church: It’s alright to be buddy-buddy with a serial divorcee (http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/primaries/candidates/newt-gingrich) or an accessory to the enactment of Martial Law, as long as they tow the party line against reproductive health.

______________________________________________________________________


Friendship is Magic:
Be honest with your friends and loved ones.

Dear Princess Celestia,

This is Spike, writing to you about my adventures. This week, I learned that being jealous, and telling lies gets you nowhere in friendship. I also learned that there’s plenty of love for every friend to share.

Owl’s Well that Ends Well

The Church:What child abuse?

The report found that Bishop John Magee – who stood down in March 2009 after serving as bishop of Cloyne since 1987 – falsely told the government and the health service that his diocese was reporting all abuse allegations to authorities.

It also found that the bishop deliberately misled another inquiry and his own advisers by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest suspected of abusing a child, one for the Vatican and the other for diocesan files.

______________________________________________________________________

It’s a sad state of affairs when a cartoon does a far better job at teaching our kids about the right set of values, than a 2000-year old institution that regularly claims the moral high ground.

…and failing spectacularly at almost every opportunity.

If there is one thing that Equestrians and the RCC can agree on, it’s that their leadership has its share of sexually deprived, power-tripping weirdos.

But at least Princess Celestia/Molestia actually does her job, ruling all ponyfolk with (relative) benevolence and wisdom. She just has some unusual tastes.

On a parting note, I recommend Friendship is Magic as good viewing for the non-theists ponyfolk out there looking for wholesome, educational programs for their kids.

Just stay the hell away from the “Cupcakes,” unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Posted in Humor, Personal4 Comments

Black Nazarene, Black Opium

As the dust settles from another year of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, we again hear numerous reports of stampedes and injuries. Just shy of 1000 people were injured during the feast.

The feast is characterized by literally millions of devotees (largely comprised of children dragged along by relatives, the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, and the poor) moving along with an over 400 year-old statue of Jesus throughout the streets of the city of Manila. As in the tradition that St. Veronica (derived from the Latin for “true image”) wiped Jesus’ face as he marched to his execution, true believers scrimmage to wipe white cloths on the statue. The devotees shuffle and push against each other just to get a touch of the Black Nazarene wooden idol, which is believed to have magical powers of wish-granting.

Millions, particularly the poor, skip out on work (which likely earns them barely enough for a living) in the hope that the statue will turn their fortunes around. Of course, they are only met by rains and crushing stampedes. We can, naturally, expect at least some of the devotees to have a lucky day. It is practically certain that at least one of the poor and sick people marching in the streets of Manila will enjoy a significant cash windfall or be healed of a serious affliction—just by random chance. In fact, if none of the 3 million reported attendees had at least a marginally interesting anecdote of supposed providence, then something would be quite peculiar about the Feast of the Black Nazarene worthy of deeper investigation.

The familiarity of the Jesus story has anesthetized us from what is at the heart of the ritual. Millions of men, women, and children are parading around with a wooden statue of a bloodied victim of torture, capital punishment, and God-sanctioned human sacrifice. The Black Nazarene is an ironic pornographic celebration of violence—the overt violence of the past and the more subtle violence of the present.

The media attention to this event is huge, as expected for any congregation drawing millions. However, it is quite disgusting how society has made a spectacle of the poverty, ignorance, and anguish. And though, like the Feast of the Black Nazarene, the supposed terror threat appears to have been based on zero intelligence, the broadsheets praised not the fact that the threat was not plausible and celebrations were able to commence safely, but that the devotees ignored the warnings regardless of credibility. (In fact, some devotees relished the prospect of mass murder as an opportunity to test their faith.)

It is taken as a badge of honor that the devotees suffered for 22 hours—from the mild discomfort of crowding and walking barefoot to the intolerable pain of being trampled—in a desperate appeal for things to change for the better, if only they could get to touch an old block of wood. Stories such as those of the man with a disability, unable to walk on his two legs, are elevated as exemplars of faith and worthy of emulation. Suffering is glamorized as a bargaining chip, in exchange for which, God will grant them respite from the day-to-day torment of poverty and illness. Life on earth is reduced to a theological economy that runs on agony.

There is an often misquoted observation by Karl Marx that “religion is the opiate of the masses” or some other paraphrasing. The quotation in context reads: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

Marx was not merely comparing the addictive and reason-diminishing qualities of the drug to religion. He was pointing out that religion is an illustration of despair from those whom state and society have failed. It is the imaginary relief for those who have been prevented access to real consolation.

Those who flock to briefly brush against the Black Nazarene are those whom our society has forced to take solace from fictitious sources. That we celebrate and glorify the misery and debasement of our fellow human beings—whether in the form of one Jesus Christ or three million of his devotees—is vile.

Image credit: GMA News Online

Posted in Religion, Society14 Comments

The Artistic Merits of 90’s Sexy Cinema (and/or Why “Warat” is Art and Why Art is “Warat”)

Disclaimer: Apologies to all the women in the world for the potentially misogynistic contexts that may emerge from my usage of the loaded term “warat” in this article.

Warat is a common Filipino expression often interchanged with “wasak.” It means “broken” or “destroyed” in English, but is also a slang word for “drunk and high on an assortment of drugs” or a devirginized girl.

“Warat” is also the title of a 90’s bold movie starring Joyce Jimenez.

"Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba? (1999)"

Introduction

My years of exposure to the devious underworld of 90’s bold movies — my exposure to videos of naked women — has supposedly corrupted my soul and turned me into a depressed adult who compulsively cries at night when recalling scenes from “Balahibong Pusa” and “Sutla.” These transient images carve themselves into memory, haunting men like naked sirens, beckoning them towards madness. 90’s soft-porn cinema: a truly great evil.

At least, that was what my values teacher told me about bold movies. Thankfully, although many hours of my youth were spent in isolation and many VHS and Betamax devices have malfunctioned after much fast-forwarding and rewinding, I still don’t have a corrupted soul.

The absence of the “artistic factor” was a common criticism tossed around by regulatory boards and “purists” alike to condemn the bold cinema trend of the 90’s. However, I’m not entirely sure what these people meant by “artistic.”

One of the most debated topics in aesthetics and censorship legislation is the nature of art. What is art? While a fair number of people are aware of the principles of art (balance, contrast, proportion), not many are aware of the standard “approaches” used to define what is artistic. Is a 90’s bold movie artistic? Is porn artistic?

"Ligaya ang Itawag Mo Sa Akin (1997)" is another artistic movie from the 90’s which had realistic intercourse-ing.

Why “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?” is Art Reason #1: The Plot is Absurd but the Sex Looks Real (and/or Art as Imitation: Plato and Mimesis)

“All artistic creation is a form of imitation.” – Plato

One of the earliest approaches to art was by Plato. Plato believed that the primary element in determining artistic quality is mimesis or an artist’s ability to mimic or re-produce reality. In other words, an artwork’s realism is what defines its artistic quality.

By this standard then, the bold movies of the 90’s are definitely inferior to “Jersey Shore,” Hayden Kho, and contemporary amateur porn. But via the same standard, in terms of realism, “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?” is actually more artistic than any movie that implies that Carla Abellana could actually be attracted to Jorge Estregan Jr.

“Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba? (1999)” had several scenes that allowed the audience to feel an approximation of the emotions felt by an individual who was intercourse-ing.

Why “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?” is Art Reason #2: The Audience Gets Aroused (and/or Art as Expression: Tolstoy and Authenticity)

“Works of art so often arise from some deep personal feeling or crisis in the lives of their creators that emotion itself is commonly taken as the defining characteristic of art.” – Leo Tolstoy

Art is not art unless it is able to transfer raw emotions. According to Leo Tolstoy, an artist’s ability to make the audience feel what he feels should be the standard of art. This premise, however, postulates that artistic intention and audience reaction is the highest standard of artistic quality.

If a poem about something sad was written in a way that makes a reader sad too, then by this standard, it is art. If a scene exhibiting sexually aroused individuals makes the audience aroused too, it is artistic. With regard to “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?,” when Joyce Jimenez was moaning and writhing to express her sexual arousal while she was having make-believe intercourse with an actor, many viewers were also sexually aroused. Needless to say, the scene was successful because it seemed authentic enough to generate an authentic response.

"Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba? (1999)" had a few faults, like this scene, which seemed to have no artistic function other than to make the audience feel slightly confused.

Why “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?” is Art Reason #3: It Serves a Specific Function That Was Intended by Its Creator (and/or Art as Instrument: Shelley Esaak and Intention)

“Art is something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.” – Shelley Esaak

As the quote clearly explains, another measure of artistic value is how efficiently an artwork functions as a tool. If a creator’s intention in making an artwork like “Poleteismo” is to bring attention to certain religious issues, then it was successful because it got people talking about religious issues.

Let’s be honest and say that “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?” had no intention to create a paradigm shift in cinematic art. In fact, the plot was mostly an excuse to get naked and start intercourse-ing. But that was precisely what the intended function was – to cause sexual arousal and, in some situations, sexual satisfaction. “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?” can be considered as something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

"Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?" (1999) and "Spoliarium" (1884) have little in common, but both are considered artworks.

Why Art is Warat

If one can make an argument that can somehow imply that the movie “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?” is art, then there is something seriously odd about the nature of art.

But that, for me, is what makes art both interesting and relevant. Art evolves and changes. This state of transience that exists in all forms of art is what encourages experimentation, discourse, criticism and creation. Even in conservative and restrictive societies, art continues to exist as a venue and as a channel for human freedom.

That is why I believe that art should be free from rigid definitions – and definitely from morality-based regulation. Unfortunately, a common standard many regulatory boards measure art by is via a distorted, outdated, dogmatic and biased moral standard.

Ironically, the  most common reference material for morality – the Bible – is itself full of incest, infanticide, torture, and genocide; things that are definitely far worse than even the most indulgent fucking scene in 90’s bold cinema.

But I digress.

Many of you may disagree about the artistic qualities of “Warat” mentioned here. Feel free to state your opinion on the following issues:

Is “Warat” art? By what artistic standard should we measure “Warat?” Should movies and music be regulated? Is “Warat” even a good movie? If “Warat” is not a good movie, can it still be art? Does art have to be good to be art? Should “Warat” have a sequel, how a bout a re-make? Which would you rather see, “Warat: Bibigay Ka Ba?” or “Spoliarium?”

Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Philosophy, Society5 Comments

January 7 (Saturday) Starbucks Anson’s Ortigas Meetup

EDIT: The day of the meetup has been moved from January 8 to January 7, Saturday

Location: Starbucks, Anson’s (across The Podium), ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig (Google map)
Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Happy new year folks! The Earth has just completed another revolution around the sun, let’s all get together and start the new year right with great discussions and a good time with our little freethinking family.

Discussion Topics
– New Year’s Resolutions
Should we erase our painful memories?
The right to kill home invaders
– The importance of religious debate in the Philippines

After the meetup we go for dinner and beer drinking at Gilligan’s in Megamall. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
* You don’t have to buy anything from Starbucks.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

What Would a True Catholic Philippines Look Like?

It is quite clear that in an allegedly secular nation, politicians here in the Philippines are largely guided by their religion, which is more often than not Roman Catholicism. This is evident from the chapels in public institutions such as Philippine Science High School to the President’s “advisers” that invariably include at least one man of the cloth. And, there is truly no cause for complaint, if Roman Catholicism is, in fact, the one true religion.

If you allow that no politician is simply abusing the gullibility of their constituents and that they actually believe in the truth of Roman Catholicism, then the people who govern us are simply running on what they think are accurate observations of the universe. Every prayer before Congress and every “year of our Lord” in Presidential Proclamations are not mere statements of opinion or rhetorical flourishes, these are reiterations of accepted facts. Or, rather, “facts.”

The claims of the religious, whether moral or theological, are factual claims. For the former, moral claims are facts about conscious experience. For the latter, theological claims are facts about how the universe in general operates. Both are claims about how material stuff (particles and such) interact with the world.

Avoiding the unimpressive arguments for the existence of the specific Catholic flavor of Yahweh, let us, like millions of Filipinos, simply take this on faith. How would the much-desired fully-realized Catholic Nation of the Philippines look?

For a start, all faith-based holidays not in the Roman Catholic calendar will be erased. This is because the truth of Catholicism necessarily negates the contradictory truth claims of all other religions, from similar Paganism to largely foreign Hinduism. This shouldn’t worry kids who pray for school cancellations since there’s still pretty much a saint for anything and any day. Secular holidays such as Labor Day may continue to exist, but in the form of feasts for one of the myriad saints “venerated” by Catholics. It may perhaps be replaced by a day for Saint Joseph the Carpenter, a model laborer and cuckold, or for Saint Matthew the Tax Collector, to remind us of the price of civilization.

A Catholic Nation of the Philippines would be different from the Vatican in that it would be a real state—with a permanent population, a defined territory, a functioning government, and a real capacity for diplomatic relations with other states. These are the criteria for statehood set out by international law, which the Vatican arguably does not meet.

Assuming that the Catholic Nation of the Philippines will continue with its sham democracy label (as it does now), there will be an entirely new branch of government to buttress the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—the ecclesiastical. This branch will oversee all actions of the government to make sure that they are in line with the will of God. The head of this branch will be the person who is most keen to discern that will, most likely a Cardinal (someone who God “communicates” with, on matters such as who deserves to be pope). This branch will also supplement (maybe event supplant) departments such as Education, Science and Technology, Health, Treasury, and Public Works and Highways, through prayer. It will hire battalions of “prayer warriors” in lieu of civil servants, since prayer would be enough anyway.

Perhaps surprisingly, religious freedom will have a place in a Catholic nation. Albeit, this will be limited to the private sphere. The Church no longer has any teachings advocating hate against other religions. They have already apologized for their indefensible establishment of the Crusades and the Inquisition. The humanism of the Enlightenment has seen to it that even our historically cruel religious institutions will find the torture and sadism of their past unthinkable. However, religious tests will be required of all members of government to ensure that the nation maintains its course following the will of God. While citizens may be free to believe anything in private, to hold beliefs contrary to Catholicism, when Catholicism is true, is like believing that circles have corners. It’s just absurd. Given the fact of Catholicism, religious freedom would exist as the freedom to be ignorant or insane.

 

 

 

Judas' Cradle, one of the brutal eroticized torture methods used during the Spanish Inquisition

 

Needless to say, most changes in our legal system will revolve around sex, the favorite whipping boy of Catholicism. Of course, all kinds of pharmaceutical birth control will be outlawed. And, given their definition of human personhood as beginning at some vague point called “when the sperm meets the egg”, all miscarriages will need to be investigated whether foul play was involved. All terminated pregnancies, whether intentional or not, will require death certificates for the unborn. Reflecting the Church’s “pro-life” stance, in vitro fertilization (IVF) will be illegal, and those who participate in it will be accessories to murder (since IVF involves fertilizing multiple eggs and discarding some embryos). Sex outside marriage will be expressly forbidden and periodical hymen checks for the unmarried will help enforce this law. Unwed women who no longer have hymens as a result of strenuous activity (such as horseback riding) or due to congenital or medical reasons will require permits to walk around with their ungodly genitals.

Homosexuality, as a “disordered sexual inclination”, will obviously be regulated. LGBT persons will be sent to ineffective psychiatric care. While they may remain homosexual in orientation, they cannot engage in “homosexual activity,” which will be illegal. Anti-sodomy laws will be passed and those suspected of homosexual activity will be prosecuted.

Like here in our universe, child rapists who happen to be priests will continue to enjoy impunity from the Catholic Church. The worst punishment, if any, they will ever receive would be removal from Holy Orders.

Jails and prisons will continue to exist, and the Philippines might even serve as the Vatican’s prison system (like Italy). Convicts will be forced to undergo religious counseling in order to save their souls (which will include the Sacrament of Penance for baptized Catholics).

But what exactly would a Catholic legal system protect us from? While earthly laws might be used to protect citizens from physical or material harm, Catholic laws will be constructed to protect citizens from hellfire. Dying or temporal suffering is trifling when compared to eternal torture. It would only be rational to true believers of hell to frame all laws in this context. If an act will lead to the eternal damnation of a citizen, it will be forbidden. Since Catholicism is true and all religions are false, the Catholic government’s control over you will not end in death. It will merely be continued by the true celestial dictator in the afterlife.

To accept the rule of Catholicism means that we must surrender our so-called liberties in this life for salvation in the next. The only true freedom is the freedom to choose God’s will over that of our own. This is what gets the monastics through their ascetic lifestyles. This justifies the personal sacrifices of those in religious orders, not to mention the torture and execution of heretics in the past. What is a hundred years in agony and discomfort if it means eternity in bliss? What is the point of establishing peace on Earth if it lasts only in a world that is destined to boil in five billion years from a dying expanding star? The true point of life here is to prove ourselves for the next.

What I’ve painted here is fictional, though I assert that it is not very far from how our world would look if we take Catholicism to its logical conclusions. Because of the cherry-picking of cafeteria Catholics who largely comprise the country, we can be thankful that this vision is rather unlikely. The Roman Catholic Church is far from the monolithic bloc of devotees the CBCP likes to present. We do not live in this disgusting world because most people who identify as Catholics are unconvinced of the orthodox conservative Catholic lifestyle choice of the minority, which is so vastly disconnected from the reality of temporal suffering and tangible well-being.

However, it is only fair to point out that if indeed Catholicism is the right religion, this vision would not be so bad, since it would deter people from acts that would lead to eternal damnation. But it is irredeemably repulsive if heaven does not. This would mean that the sacrifices conservative Catholics force upon pregnant victims of rape and victims of child indoctrination are wasted on nothing. This would mean that we would have to actually build a lasting society here on Earth and stop worrying about what God thinks about our private thoughts.

We have but one life to live. If the conservative Catholics are right, the best way to spend this life is in strict conformity with the will of God. If they are wrong, as tens of thousands of incompatible religions necessarily assert, then the best way to waste your life would be to listen to them and avoid enjoying this life.

Image Credit: Weird Worm

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