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Hell on a Holiday: Getting Soaked in San Juan

bucket-of-water-kellie-hogbenThis morning, I fell victim to San Juan Day. San Juan Day is the one day a year that the locals of San Juan City, Manila take to the streets and douse each other with water, in supposed commemoration of St. John the Baptist, the man said to have baptized Jesus Christ. What sounds like a day of lighthearted merrymaking, however, is always morphed into the locals’ excuse to prank on unsuspecting folks on their way to their jobs or schools. Dousing other celebrants is one thing, but going up to someone who is very obviously not participating in the festivities and is minding their own business is another thing entirely. Worse, the water usually comes from questionable sources. I wouldn’t touch that stuff, much less bathe in it.

On my way out of our apartment building, one of the security personnel actually warned me not to walk out on the streets. I was idiotic enough to assure him that I was going to be fine, as I was just going to grab a cab by the next building. I should have taken heed, though, more so when I noticed how my neighbors were just standing by the lobby entrance, looking out with utter wariness into the street, like children warned of kidnapping strangers and speeding ten-wheelers.

But no, I remained an idiot, and stepped out onto the asphalt. That’s when a bunch of street urchins wielding grotty buckets of water spotted me and headed in my direction. I could already sense the mix of horror and schadenfreude pulsing from the souls in the lobby. So, I ran. And the kids gave chase. I had managed to get to the lobby entrance, but not before some of the water splashed across my back. That’s when I screeched out one crisp WHAT THE FUCK amidst everyone, and it was all I could do not to head over to those kids and whack them with my umbrella.

But that didn’t compare with what happened to the next guy. He had also just come out of a nearby building, wielding a backpack and sporting earphones. He seemed absolutely oblivious to what was going on, and walked calmly in the middle of the street. This time, a horde of grown men with buckets eyed the poor guy, and they headed up to him and threw the water at him from a mere foot away. Earphones Dude was drenched. And he looked to be in utter shock, because he just froze there, his face blank for a few seconds. Then, he made as if to punch one of the Bucket Men, but missed, and one of them countered with their own jab, hitting Earphones Dude square on the chin. Earphones Dude looked like he was going to blow, and I couldn’t blame him. It was a Monday morning, he was minding his own business, and here comes a group of men who threw buckets of water at him, drenching his clothes, his backpack, his electronics, and punches him in the face. That is fucked up.

And the worst part? Sensing that Earphones Dude was about to blow his top, the Bucket Men crowded around him, putting heavy hands on his shoulders, and kept saying, “Fiesta, fiesta,” and “Holiday, holiday,” trying to slap on a bit of context at the last minute. As if that would somehow justify their shitty treatment of this person. As if Earphones Dude, upon hearing their rationale, would calm down and laugh it off.

“Oh it’s a fiesta! In honor of someone I may not necessarily have any respect for whatsoever! Of course! Carry on! Go on, drench me with another bucketful; my earphones haven’t completely conked out in the name of your demi-god just yet!”  

And even if Earphones Dude actually were a practicing Catholic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’d be okay with having his morning all but ruined. (Aside: It would be interesting if an actual Catholic nun were walking down the street at that time. Would they have doused her, too? I mean, if there’s anyone who fully believes in the potency of commemorating St. John the Baptist, wouldn’t it be her? Coincidentally, are all the people wielding buckets bona fide, practicing Catholics?)

And herein lies the biggest problem about religion: It gives you license, or at the very least gives a powerful illusion that you have license, to be a supreme asshole. It can be used to justify your getting to the office soaked in canal water. It can also be used to justify flying planes into buildings teeming with innocent people. The same reasons people give for annoying but tolerable inconveniences can be the same reasons people give for genocide and war.

If only getting soaked at inopportune times were the sole downside to religion. But it’s not. It gets much, much worse than that.

I don’t know how Earphones Dude’s ordeal panned out, but I’d hazard a guess that he just threw his hands up and walked away, leaving the other men to continue with their one-sided water war, far too exasperated to deal with a bunch of dicks playing the faith card. And while I’d fully understand why he’d do so, I think it’s high time we took a more active approach, such as being firm and unwavering in our insistence that one religion should not be favored over any other, and not turning a blind eye to those of a particular religion when they decide to be inconsiderate, self-righteous, and outright horrific people.

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Posted in Personal, Religion, Secularism, Society3 Comments

An Open Letter to MMDA Chair Tolentino Re: the Dan Brown Letter


Chairman, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority

MMDA Bldg., EDSA cor. Orense St.

Guadalupe, Makati City


Dear Mr. Tolentino,


I write to you with much concern regarding your recently circulated letter to Inferno author Dan Brown. Apart from the fact that you spent actual time on taxpayer’s money writing a butthurt missive to a man who can barely string a sentence together, and for a statement that, let’s face it, seems fairly accurate to any human being with their senses intact, there’s another serious problem I would like to address.

You said that “our faith in God binds us as a nation,” among other faith-centric statements meant to convince Mr. Brown that Manila is a celestial gateway despite being a cesspool of literal and figurative filth. As a person who does not believe in any god, and at the same time considers herself very much a part of this nation—I’ve lived here all my life; I pay my taxes; I willingly risk my life traversing EDSA on a daily basis—I find this statement of yours grossly ignorant and very much insulting.

mmdaTo explain this to you further in terms you would understand, imagine that your “faith nation” statement was a pedestrian on Commonwealth Avenue. Before him is a massive expanse of asphalt with a nonstop swarm of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buses zipping down it. It is obvious that crossing it is a downright dangerous, illogical act. In fact, there are even signs on the road islands explicitly telling pedestrians that crossing this avenue is the last thing you should be doing. Huwag tumawid—nakamamatay.

Your statement is that one, hard-headed pedestrian who decides to cross Commonwealth anyway despite all the evidence urging otherwise. You say that our faith in God binds us as a nation when the truth is that it does not. In fact, not even all of us have faith to begin with. What actually binds us as a nation is a mixture of necessity and common human decency; any other reason—faith included—now depends from one individual to another, and thus cannot be generalized. In fact, I daresay that what binds us as a nation is outright circumstance; we did not choose to be born in the Philippines, but we were, and now we have to do what we can to make the best of what is dealt us—and that includes participating in the workings of this metropolis, however faulty they may be.

I do not subscribe to any faith, but I have not gone on any manic crime spree as far as I know, and basically follow the rule of law in the spirit of common human decency. I know full well that I am not the only one like this, and that countless others who claim to have faith do not actually invoke their bond to their god whenever they do anything good and decent and humane.  The big, busy road that is Commonwealth is the reality of the matter, and at this point, your statement has been flattened like a pancake because of its own ignorance.

Is the metaphor a tad too harsh? I’m afraid I can’t help it, because I feel the need to stress how inherently dangerous such sweeping generalizations of Filipino citizens are. It is these inaccurate statements—that most Filipinos are Catholics or, at the very least, religious—that lead to things like the excruciatingly long (and ongoing!) suppression of proper reproductive health services in the nation; the fact that divorce remains such a contentious issue amidst overwhelming evidence that unhappy marriages birth abuse and misery; the election of idiots into public office; and, uh, the religious blessing of accident-prone parts of EDSA instead of working on proper urban infrastructure, among others. In case you didn’t notice, Mr. Tolentino, nakamamatay itong lahat. 

We hope you consider the content of this letter before you attempt to speak again on behalf of the populace.



Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon



Really?! You really had to write to Dan Brown? REALLY?


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Posted in Personal, Secularism, Society24 Comments

Getting Tested: The Results of My First HIV Exam

Few things make me nervous. Job interviews, cute boys, boa constrictors—I can face them just fine. But when I took my first HIV test at the last FF meetup, I definitely felt my tummy tumbling over. And this ended up being a very good thing.

I’ve been sexually active for a decade now, and have had an above average number of sexual partners. And yes, I hate to admit that some of those encounters were without protection, because I was a stupid, stupid, stupid kid who should have known better. And in all ten of these years, I had never gotten tested for HIV. So, despite the fact that my partners were relatively clean-living people (e.g. no back-alley blood transfusions for cash, at least I don’t think), and have not announced any life-threatening ailments on their Timelines, I was most definitely not in the clear. There was that chance, however small. It takes just one, as they say.

Fortunately, we were under the care of some awesome people from Take the Test Project, a group that administers HIV testing and counseling for free to whoever requests for them. Not only were they learned, patient, open, and unbiased during their pre- and post-test counseling, but they were also very efficient on the whole; I knew the results of my blood test in less than thirty minutes.

But that period of waiting, however short, spooked me. It made me think about how I should have been more careful, and how I should apply what I’ve learned and be far more cautious from that point on. I was also nervous because if I turned out to be HIV-positive, then it was highly likely that my boyfriend of nearly five years could be positive as well, since we stopped using condoms after I went on the Pill. I knew that a positive result, all in all, would change my life, and maybe my boyfriend’s, significantly.

Nonetheless, it’s important to understand that being HIV-positive is nothing to be ashamed about. I was nervous, yes, but none of that had to do with a prospective shame. Yes, being HIV-positive would be challenging. Yes, it would affect what kind of activities you could or couldn’t do. Yes, it would make meeting new partners* trickier, since it would entail being extra candid and cautious when it came to matters of sex. But being ashamed of myself was not one of the problems.

I was nervous because HIV was a virus. Having it does not make me a bad person; having it does not warrant anyone to look down on me, much less shun me for anything. But it is a dangerous thing, and if not treated immediately and properly, could lead to AIDS and a much earlier death. In certain respects, it’s kind of like having diabetes. Getting diagnosed with diabetes means drastic lifestyle changes—cutting out sugar, being generally more careful with what you consume, taking daily insulin shots, etc. I would be very nervous if I had to wait for news of whether I was diabetic or not, too. Either condition would change my life, and as a person aiming to live a fairly simple existence—with just enough thrills here and there to sate me—this would be a little hard to swallow.

My test turned out non-reactive, which meant that I did not have the markers for HIV. There was a very miniscule chance that I could still be positive, especially if I were recently infected, but on the whole, I was safe. It was the best news. But the last thing that announcement did was encourage me to move on like all of this never happened. It did the exact opposite. It made me even more adamant that everyone, regardless of who they are and how they live, should take the test as well. Not only will taking it lessen this ridiculous stigma around the virus, but it will do a whole world of good to those who do turn out positive, so they can plan out their lives accordingly, preventing them from getting sicker or spreading the virus to others. Feeling nervous prior to test results is nothing compared to finding out accidentally and far, far too late.

However wild or tame your lifestyle may be, taking the HIV test is simply the right thing to do. Negative or positive, the results will help you, your loved ones, and the population as a whole to look the virus in the eye and live a better life for it.

Want to take the test? Just get in touch with the Take the Test Project through their site, or through these numbers:

0917-58-HIV RT (448 78)

0999-88-HIV RT (448 78)

0932-88-HIV RT (448 78)

*Which I won’t do because I lab you very, very much, babby!!!

Posted in Advocacy, HIV/AIDS, Personal, Society6 Comments

The Billionaire Bishops Go Begging

Hi guys. Could I talk to you all for a minute?

So there’s this guy named Pedro. I don’t know him personally. I mean, I know him, I definitely know him, but I never met him in real life because he’s technically from Guam, plus he lived in the 1600s, so there’s that. But I know the guy, and everyone says he’s awesome, and I think he’s awesome, too.

He’s actually so awesome that he brought this woman from Leyte back to life, and he—Pedro—was already dead! No, I’m serious! What I mean to say is that this whole miracle thing happened in 2002—way, way, WAY after Pedro’s time. Seriously, 2002! And he was from the 1600s! So how did he do it? Well, this woman, she died, right? I mean, she was clinically dead, two hours after a heart attack. And then her doctor prayed to Pedro and then BAM! She’s ALIVE again! I mean, honestly, how else could she have gotten that chance, right? OF COURSE you get to live again when your doctor prays to someone who died centuries ago! Duh! What else could it have been? Go Pedro!

So the Vatican, they’re going to name Pedro a saint because they said he performed a miracle from the grave, miles and miles and centuries away, okay? Okay, so the thing is, this Pedro, who lived most of his life in Guam, was born in the Philippines, so OBVIOUSLY that means he’s a real Filipino and we should all be super proud of him and use him as an example of why we’re the BEST COUNTRY EVER. Sounds good, right? But here’s the thing: we kind of need 60 million pesos from you guys.

Seriously, we need 60 million. We’re going to be celebrating Pedro, and we’re going to need a little extra cash for the tarps, and maybe an AVP. Balloons, if we can find a decent supplier. I mean, this is going to be HUGE, guys. Like, it’s going to be the EVENT OF THE YEAR. TIME is going to STOP on Canonization Day. I mean, people from all over the country are just going to drop what they’re doing—their jobs, their families, their hopes, their dreams—and come over to Manila and par-tay, you know? I mean, I don’t even need to tell you to mark your calendars, because God has already marked them for you. And an event like that calls for a little glitz, don’t you think?

So, yeah. Could you spare some change, friends? I mean, we’re not asking for much. I know most of you can barely afford to feed yourselves, let alone your 10 children, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, you know? And ultimately, it’s all for God. For God, guys. Wouldn’t you want to do something nice for God, for once? I mean, He’ll like you a whole lot more if you help us out. Like, bless your life and save you from hell and stuff.

And about the 18 billion pesos we already have, well, we can’t really spend it for this. Well, we can, but do you seriously think we should, given this godawful recession? Come on, guys. It is tempting to dip into the funds just a little, but you know what they say about temptation. We’re just trying to be frugal here. Live a simple life. Earn a billion here, maybe a hundred million there, then stow it all away for a rainy day. It’s the thing to do. You know how it is. You all understand.

So, do we have a deal? Yes? Okay? We’d definitely prefer cash over checks, by the way. (The Pope’s not too hot on paper trails these days.) Just leave the envelopes with the guard at the CBCP gate

We really look forward to all your help, guys. This means more than you’ll ever know. You have no idea how happy this will make us. And seriously, rest assured that there will be a very, very good return on investment. You’ll definitely get what you deserve. This is a solid deal, guys. Real solid. Serious stuff. Totes legit. It’s going to be the smartest thing you’ve ever done. Seriously. I swear it. I swear to God.

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Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Religion, Society4 Comments

Why PNoy’s SONA is Not a Triumph for the RH Bill

Yesterday, SONA day, a few of us Freethinkers marched down Commonwealth as pregnant PNoys—enormous face masks, pillows for bellies, juggling plastic babies—to allude to the president’s negligence towards the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Our banner read, “PNoy, kung nabubuntis ka, ang RH batas na.” (PNoy, if you could get pregnant, RH would be a law by now.)

We wanted to point out that if our president could literally get pregnant, could experience first-hand the immense hardship so many Filipinas go through raising multiple children on a less-than-meager budget, he’d have stuck to his promise to speed up the long-delayed passage of the bill, and not be the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician he’s being now. Give the man a uterus and see if he’ll still pander to the bullying bishops of the CBCP.

Later that day, my Facebook newsfeed tittered with reports that PNoy had actually expressed his desire to pass the RH Bill during his SONA. Media accounts and FB friends alike sang praises for the following sound byte:

“Ngayong paubos na po ang backlog sa textbooks, sana po ay maiwasan na rin ang backlog sa estudyante. Sa tingin ko po, responsible parenthood ang sagot dito.” (Now that our textbook backlog is growing smaller, I hope that we soon get to avoid a backlog in students as well. In my view, responsible parenthood is the answer to this.)

It was reported that this blip in his speech garnered the loudest and longest spell of applause in the entire event. Some present even gave him a standing ovation. People were ecstatic. People were claiming PNoy had finally put his foot down regarding RH.

But I don’t buy it. And neither should anyone else, most especially fellow pro-RH advocates.

By sneaking the term “responsible parenthood” into a statement about education, PNoy remains the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician we’ve been frustrated with since RH became a LEDAC priority measure last year. Not only did he not elaborate as to why responsible parenthood—itself a watered-down, wishy-washy euphemism for reproductive health—would help with the student backlog, but he also worded the statement itself to be quite safe and retraction-friendly.

In his speech, responsible parenthood was a mere aside to a larger concern. Moreover, the phrase “sa tingin ko po” or “in my view,” wraps responsible parenthood in a sheath of self-confessed personal bias. (It’s just his own humble opinion; he’s definitely not setting anything in stone, so to all the anti-RH out there, don’t get all huffy just yet.)

I confess that this last part may be reading too much into things, but regardless of this, what PNoy said still appears very much to be lousy lip service to all the pro-RH begging him to grow a pair. What he said was just a bit of cat nip to tide everyone over for a while. He and his Communications staff likely hoped that the crowd would react the way they did, because this would earn him a respite from all our criticism, would make us temporarily forget that it is partly due to his negligence of the RH issue that the bill continues to be woefully delayed.

Realize that he didn’t promise us anything in that speech. In fact,  what he said could very well help to delay the bill’s passage even more, as we would spend so much time waiting for something that actually wasn’t assured to us.

PNoy should have just said, “I will work to get the RH Bill passed.” Straightforward, to the point, definitive, crystal clear.

At the pro-RH demonstration earlier that day, the crowd was introduced to a 19-year-old girl who had to take care of her 10 younger siblings herself. Their mother had died upon giving birth to the 11th child—one of the 12 women who die each day from maternal complications. And this 19-year-old girl was pregnant as well. Unless PNoy actually acts on his promise to make the RH law a reality, nothing else from him can assure us that this young girl’s plight will no longer be repeated with other women again and again and again.

That so many of us praised this blip in his speech to the highest heavens simply betrays how desperate we’ve become at this point. We’re starting to hear the things we want to hear, and not see the situation for what it really is. We still have quite a ways to go, and until the president actually says–and, more importantly, does–something directly, unmistakably in favor of reproductive health, we have no reason to celebrate anything just yet.


Photos c/o Frank III Manuel

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism, Society1 Comment

CBCP Guns for 3 Guinness World Records to Tie with INC

12 July 2012, Manila, Philippines – In light of the Iglesia ni Cristo’s (INC) recent breaking of three Guinness World Records, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has also approached the record achievement authority in the hopes of snagging three records to tie with their rival faith.

According to San Juan Bishop Rico Bagatsing, Senior Auditor for Dogmatic Accomplishments, the CBCP has submitted the following facts to Guinness as representatives of the Philippine Catholic Church: the death of an average of 12 mothers per day due to their delay of the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill; the amount of over 18 billion pesos amassed due to their holdings in several large corporations; and the two cases of death and 1,000 cases of injury during the 2006 Feast of the Black Nazarene, an extremely dangerous tradition that they have long condoned.

“We hope and pray that the good people of Guinness World Records recognizes us for Most Preventable Deaths from Maternal Complications; Most Wealth Unspent by a Charitable Institution; and Most Irrational Devotees to a Non-Living Object,” says Bishop Bagatsing. “The INC may have won records for most dental health checks, and most blood pressure and blood glucose level readings, but just about any organization can orchestrate that in mere days for publicity. What the Catholic Church has achieved, in contrast, took whole centuries of indoctrination and intimidation to accomplish. Furthermore, we do not long for such record placings just for publicity’s sake. Not at all. We simply want what we deserve.”

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Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Religion, Satire, Society1 Comment

5 Tips for Getting Your Piece Published on the FF Website

As editor-in-chief of the Filipino Freethinkers’ website, I go through a number of contributions from mainstays and newbies alike, and with my trusty team of pedants (better known as the FF editorial board) determine which pieces get published, and which do not.

So, if you aspire to get an essay of yours published on our site, or hope to have more of your pieces accepted on a regular basis, you should know that each article should be crisp, concise, and altogether COMMUNICATIVE — without compromising your voice as a writer, of course. You have to find the sweet spot between intelligent and accessible. You have to inform or opine with clarity and substance. You have to buy us lunch. But really, your piece has to speak, not mumble or, worse, ramble. But how exactly do you pull that off? Here are five tips that can get us editors smiling:

1) Essay writing 101: The first part of the article should be expository, the next part of the article should be explanatory, and the last part of the article should be concludatory — which is not a word, but you should catch my drift.

2) Use words because they are necessary, because they most clearly capture what you are trying to say, because they are comprehensible — not because they make you sound like Mr. Post-Grad Fancypants. For instance, instead of using the word “meretricious,” use “gaudy” or “phony” or “trashy” instead. “Meretricious” is just…meretricious.

3) Avoid making asides. Stick to your point. Anecdotes should be directly related to your topic. And, of course, have a clear-cut thesis statement. As much as stream-of-consciousness has become an accepted literary form, it is not the best thing for our site. Freethinking is the opposite of clouding up your mind. A reader, then, should finish your article clearly knowing your main point.

4) Use concrete examples. Don’t touch on abstract concepts without providing concrete imagery. We would like to think that people are learned enough to know immediately what we’re talking about, but alas, who the fuck are we kidding.

5) Creativity is da bomb! However, we are not looking for the next Finnegan’s Wake. Your creativity must serve a purpose beyond the masturbatory. Tell a short story, whip up some satire, put out a screenplay, but make sure you can reach a fairly broad audience. The site serves to help freethinking writers communicate to a greater number of people. If you’re writing just for the half-drunk Cubao X crowd, please stay in Mogwai.

And there you have it. If you are able to submit an article that subscribes to the above tips, then congratulations — there is a much bigger chance that it will get published. So, just keep ’em contributions coming! Email them to this address, and the editorial board will get to business right away. And just to be clear, we would like pizza for lunch.

Posted in Organization0 Comments

A Laborious and Exhaustive Deconstruction of GMA’s Sophomore (and Sophomoric) Foray into the Phenomenon of Malay Blaxploitation

What the fuck.

Posted in Humor, Society3 Comments

Manila School Sides with STC, Sues 94% of Student Population’s Parents

4 May 2012, Quezon City – In solidarity with St. Theresa’s College’s (STC) move to sue the parents of the notorious “Bikini Four,” St. Ursula College of Kalookan-Annex (SUCKA) has filed over 1,000 cases against parents of its student population for also violating Republic Act No. 7610 a.k.a. the Anti-Child Abuse Law.

“After learning of this disgusting bikini incident, our school decided to perform background checks on its student population,” says SUCKA Executive Directress Sr. Cielo Baluyot. “Unfortunately, we found that 94% of our students are, as any good Catholic would describe them, ‘delinquent little bastards.’ Some of the girls talk favorably of some communist named Aung San Suu Kyi; some of the boys share and swap pornographic magazines like Newsweek and National Geographic; both sexes use this godless contraption called the ‘Internet!’ The ‘Internet?’ Why has parenting lost its integrity? When I was a child, my parents caned me because they loved me! Where have all the paddles gone?”

The remaining 6% of SUCKA’s parent population, namely Soccoro and Perfecto Ramirez, have also taken matters into their own hands, prohibiting their daughter Purisima from education altogether.

The many parents sued by the school could not be reached for comment, as they were too busy being normal human beings.




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Posted in Humor, Religion, Satire, Society4 Comments

A Love Letter to Teddy Bacani


Teddy Dearest,


My heart has been a-flutter ever since I found your message to me this morning. How lovingly you have described me!

“These so-called atheists love with a great altruism, they really love their fellow man and even have a passion for justice and what is right and good. Those people really believe in God in their hearts, but they will not admit that.”

Rest assured that I have kept your sweet words in my bosom all day today, and truly, how they have kept me warm! In fact, the adept way you have traced out my true being has inspired me to do the same for you, my love. I apologize if the following does not accurately mirror your sentiments but, after all, I do not think anyone can truly match up to your eloquent reasoning. But enough of this meandering! Here I go:

If I were wont to describe you, my darling, I would have quite a few options at hand. You could be a so-called advocate of acceptance, or a so-called man of dignity, or a so-called fount of charity, or a so-called lover of truth and life.

Because in truth, my beloved, you hate with a remarkable impunity. You really love to suppress your fellow man’s rights and freedoms, and even have a passion for breeding ignorance, for cloaking prejudice and pride as what is right and good. You really, truly do believe in being a horrible human being, Teddy. But you will just not admit it.

There! I have said it, and I can only hope, my dearest, that you keep my sweet words in your own bosom as I do yours. Few have the courage to whisper such delights into your ears, but I have taken it upon myself to do so for, in your own kind words, I have the “passion for justice and what is right and good,” and oh, how this opportunity beckoned!



Your So-Called Atheist

Posted in Humor, Religion, Society2 Comments

Quit Being So Butthurt, Philippines


Dear Butthurt Filipinos,


It has come to my attention that the executive branch of our government has recently asked for an apology from a Hollywood actor, as said actor has made quite public his disappointment with our country’s Customs officials, not knowing that the actual venue of his mishaps was our neighbor, Indonesia.

Now, the fact that said actor was referring to Indonesia is actually not that important. Because something tells me that even if the actor really did have an unsavory experience here in the Philippines, Malacanang and like-minded citizens would still hold out the dark, shredded ribbons of their heart to the rest of the world and demand repentance. They did it with Claire Danes, who is actually an excellent actor, and now they have done so with Taylor Kitsch, who is actually not.

Oh, Butthurt Filipinos, when will you quit being so butthurt about everything? I understand that all of us have the right to be offended, as all of us have the right to take certain ideas and principles with utmost seriousness and passion, but there are far more compelling things for us to be concerned with.

If we just picked our battles and focused our energies on making our country something others can fawn over, rather than writing stern letters to two-bit actors; or squawking at someone who cupped his palms over his ears when they could have just brushed it off and went on with the business of justice; or throwing grade-A hissy fits when the secular government proposes laws that don’t jibe with their pet hypocrisies; we would be living far, far better lives.

Too much time and energy and money is spent on this masochistic whipping of our own behinds and pointing to others as the culprit. There’s a salve for that, dear Butthurt Filipinos, and it’s called dignity. You should try it sometime.




Posted in Personal, Politics, Society5 Comments

The Filipino Freethinkers Go to Church! And Meet a Carabao with Wings in Los Banos!

This is the group shot from the meetup last February 5:



There were over 80 attendees that afternoon, and our usual haunt at Starbucks Ansons Ortigas was barely able handle all of that sexiness. So, we felt it was high-time to try out a non-commercial venue the next time around, and what better place could there be to house a bunch of heathens for some sweet, sweet sacrilege than this —



For the following Sunday meetup, the Freethinkers went to church. But it was a very special one — the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Makati, which is the home church of FF’s Reproductive Health Advocacy Director Kenneth Keng and his family.  The Episcopalians — basically the Anglican Church when set outside of England — are a more liberal bunch compared to Catholics. They have female and homosexual members in their clergy, and generally have a more progressive stance on social issues.



It’s very refreshing to see a church with a sense of humor.



Kenneth and his sister Michelle were awesome enough to arrange for a meetup in their church’s parish hall, a large room where they usually tag-team as Sunday school teachers.



Lot of great discussions that day. Thanks to the hall’s acoustics, which was an honest relief from all that blender-whirring from coffee shop meetups past, we could easily converse on several rich topics, from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ controversial new advertisement, to the current Republican war on contraception in the US.



Bishop Arthur Jones, the Presiding Rector of Holy Trinity, even dropped by to say hi. We very much enjoyed his short speech about always being inquisitive and open-minded. I personally would like to hear one of his sermons — tales of fire and brimstone they’re likely not.



And it seems the Episcopal god took kindly to us, what with the rainbow that appeared when the meeting was adjourned!




And then Red got insecure and started levitating to put us in our place. We’re sorry we doubted you, Red!



The following day, a few of us from FF’s Coordinating Council made the trek to Los Banos, Laguna to attend the meetup of the group’s burgeoning UP- Los Banos Chapter. Chapter director Api, along with LB Freethinkers Ryan, Peter, JM, and Karl were very, very kind enough to take us on a tour that afternoon. We started at the International Rice Research Institute, where we saw a 6,000-year-old grain of rice at the museum; then visited the UP Carabao Center for a quick snack; then took a leisurely trek by the woodsy roads near the Forestry.



We also saw an Abueva sculpture called the “Pegaraw,” although we were smart-asses and pointed out that the winged beast was more of a Pegasus-carabao hybrid, hence it should be called a Pegabao instead, but Kenneth was obviously delighted by it regardless.



Later that evening, we met up with the rest of the chapter for a nice meetup, where we discussed conspiracy theories, Red’s Satanic Challenge, and the chapter’s exciting new projects, which include accreditation in the university. We had dinner and drinks after, and while we had to head back to Manila at the end of the night, we knew we’d definitely be visiting more and more often. Awesome job, FF UPLB!



And I’m so sorry you had to see that.

Photos courtesy of Frank III Manuel, Patrick Charles Rigonan, and Chris Villanueva Sienna

Posted in Meetup, Organization, Personal, Pictures8 Comments

PETA, Sex, and Shock: A Note on Misguided Marketing

Over the past few years, I’ve evolved from a staunch carnivore to someone a bit more understanding of why some people shun eating meat. In fact, I was able to stay more or less pescetarian for the good part of a year, up until I got sick of my very limited choices when eating out (bangus sisig, bangus sisig, calamares, bangus sisig, shrimp tempura, sizzling squid, bangus sisig, bangus sisig, bangus sisig, tuna sandwich, bangus sisig).

And while I am back to gorging on slaughterhouse stock for the time being, I can still grasp why those with far leafier diets choose to eat the way they eat, with a stance against animal cruelty and/or the desire for better health being the main reasons. For the sake of my own health, I do wish I were as disciplined (and rich) enough to go pure vegetarian for the long haul. (And damn it, longganisa, you sweet, garlicky temptress!)

This, then, is why I felt perturbed after watching the following commercial for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA):

Confused? Underwhelmed? A vague sense that you were somehow violated? Yeah, I felt those, too.

(If you can’t see the video here, check it out on Youtube.)


People for the Exposure of Tits and Asses

PETA has long been known for their provocative campaigns. Most everyone have seen the ads featuring naked celebrities with the caption, “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.” Also, the organization has long been caricatured as that angry little group of people throwing red paint at fur coats. These actions, among many others, have caused quite a backlash against PETA, for however good their intentions may be, accusations of being sexist, or sensationalist, or just plain asshole-y, are thrown in their direction quite often.

Some may justify their tactics by saying that shock and awe are necessary to catch people’s attention, especially considering today’s collective apathy-tinged attention deficit disorder. And sure, it will catch people’s attention, but that’s only a fraction of what it takes to truly promote a cause that you believe in. That’s what PETA—especially whoever’s running their marketing and PR arm—doesn’t seem to understand properly.

After you get people’s attention, you have to give a reason that’s legitimate and substantial, a reason that will make people really, truly think about the decisions they’ve been making. Should people opt for PETA’s advocacy, it should not be because a physically attractive celebrity is speaking up for it, or because throwing paint at rich, fur-encased people satisfies their monthly schadenfreude quota, but because these people were actually compelled to sit down and assess the information offered them through these campaigns.


A sore point

The recent commercial, for instance, only seems to proffer the following message: men who go vegan instantly become healthy and virile enough to be experts at incredibly rough, night-long sex, so much so that their partners’ bodies become bruised, battered, and very, very sore due to all that vigorous fucking, but the partners kind of like it anyway, so it’s all good then, join PETA, yipee-ki-yi-yay.

Now, I like a good dirty joke as much as the next pervert, but watching that video just left me cold. And vaguely angry. All those shots of the girl’s butt—especially the ones with the sunlight winking in between her legs as she stumbled sorely up a flight of stairs—that insinuated a very violent night of sex, was not that funny, nor that sexy. My natural reaction each time I saw those shots was to wince. And question whether the girl was a masochist, an unwitting victim, or an idiot.

These kinds of shock tactics come off as tacky, juvenile, ineffective, and sometimes, like in the case of this particularly crass, frat house joke of a commercial, even counter-effective or distractive. Did PETA seriously think that violent tantric sex was a universal selling point for a major lifestyle switch? Did PETA seriously think this was going to win them serious members? Did PETA seriously think that watching that commercial would make people think about going vegan, and NOT about masochism or female objectification or domestic abuse or all the countless other issues that the commercial actually brings up, albeit in a frustratingly coy way? Electrocuted pigs, environmental sustainability, and my Body Mass Index were the very least of my concerns after seeing that commercial.


The smarter sell

There are far more reasonable, dignified, and downright compelling ways to promote what I think is a solid advocacy, so why can’t PETA just go down that direction and avoid pissing people off? Imagine if PETA’s campaigns focused more on really detailing the actual health and/or ethical benefits of adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet. (Snazzy animated infographics campaign on Youtube, anyone?) If they scrapped all the gimmickry and promises of sore vaginas and focused on solid evidence, then they would deserve positive attention and respect.

Documentaries such as Food, Inc. and Earthlings, which focus on revealing what really goes on in the food industry, made me think twice about what my meals were made of. These films’ harrowing footage of live pigs hanging from hooks and getting their necks slit open, or cows riding what I can only describe as the Ferris Wheel of Blood and Pain, do rely on shock value to a point, but they also serve the purpose of informing and educating viewers. Yes, these films are biased—many documentaries are—but at least they try to treat their viewers as intelligent creatures with the capacity to form opinions, and not as a bunch of horny morons.

Again, I’m not a vegan, and I highly doubt that I ever will be. I’ve weighed my options and have sided with the caveman in me, but I respect and admire vegans/vegetarians/pescetarians all the same, because I was exposed to decent media that helped me to understand why there is veganism/vegetarianism/pescetarianism in the first place. A cause I am behind, however, is making PR, marketing, and advertising even just an iota more intelligent than it currently is. I would very much like to see more campaigns that rely on solid evidence; that have an earnest desire to inform rather than provoke; that challenges people to make their decisions based on fact, not fiction; and that have fewer close-ups of asses in post-coital distress.

Images from,, and

Posted in Personal, Society3 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?


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 and

Posted in Personal, Society6 Comments