Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Being a True Bambinian

This is River's contribution to the editorial section of their school paper... he sent it to me thru email for checking...

On Being a True Bambinian

What does it take to be a true Bambinian?

We are studying at the Casa del Bambino Emmanuel Montessori. Our parents chose this school because they believe in its vision of complete development of their children. Some of us had been staying in this school for a long time already, while some of us have just started. Either way, our stay here gives us our own idea of what a student of CBEM should be like.

During our stay here, we learned how to read and how to write. We had been molded in various areas of learning, be it practical, sensorial, cultural and religious. We learned different things at different levels - mathematics, geography, science, and many others. One of the most important things we learned is to be bilingual, that is, we can speak English very well but at the same time, our teachers taught us not to forget how to speak Filipino properly. These are our traits which set us apart from the others. More importantly, we also learned things apart from our subjects in the classroom. We learned how to participate in competitions, some of us become good in sports, still others become very good in cultural activities like dancing, singing, and reciting poems. Others become budding journalists and writers. Indeed, as we stay here longer, we learn and discover more, and in result, we become more developed children.

As we progress in our learning at CBEM, we have to ask ourselves, are all these enough to become a good pupil, a true Bambinian?

I believe we have to think about it more deeply. While as we learn more in our subjects and become better singers, dancers, quizzers, or writers, we have to think also that more than that, we become not only more complete students, but more a part of a big family that is the school. And we should not forget that. For being a true Bambinian is to be a true member of this family. In this way, we should give back what we have learned to our little brothers and sisters in the school by helping them learn what we have learned and understood. We should give back to our teachers by being polite and respectful to them, and obeying them. Most importantly, we should give back to our parents by appreciating what they have done for us and giving them back the love they always give us. And we should be thankful for all the things they provided us. I believe that aside from learning, sharing and giving back what we have make us true Bambinians. We should always remember it and try doing it everyday.

Pwede na siguro yan...
River Arliss M. Lontok

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Alice forwarded this email to me, and i guess it really struck some emotional chords...

The happiest people in the world are not those who have no problems,

but those who learn to live with things that are less than perfect.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

John Gokongwei's Inspiring Speech

This is John Gokongwei's speech before the Ateneo graduates... it's an inspiring read for everyone...

I wish I were one of you today, instead of a 77-year-old man, giving a speech you will probably forget when you wake up from your hangover tomorrow.

You may be surprised I feel this way. Many of you are feeling fearful and apprehensive about your future. You are thinking that, perhaps, your Ateneo diploma will not mean a whole lot in the future in a country with too many problems. And you are probably right. You are thinking that our country is slipping - no, sliding. Again, you may be right.

Twenty years ago, we were at par with countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Today, we are left way behind. You know the facts. Twenty years ago, the per capita income of the Filipino was 1,000 US dollars. Today, it's 1,100 dollars. That's a growth of only ten percent in twenty years. Meanwhile, Thailand 's per capita income today is double ours; Malaysia, triple ours; and Singapore, almost twenty times ours.

With globalization coming, you know it is even more urgent to wake up. Trade barriers are falling, which means we will have to compete harder. In the new world, entrepreneurs will be forced to invest their money where it is most efficient. And that is not necessarily in the Philippines. Even for Filipino entrepreneurs, that can be the case.
For example, a Filipino brand like Maxx candy can be manufactured in Bangkok - where labor, taxes, power and financing are cheaper and more efficient - and then exported to other ASEAN countries. This will be a common scenario if things do not change.

Pretty soon, we will become a nation that buys everything and produces practically nothing. We will be like the prodigal son who took his father's money and spent it all. The difference is that we do not have a generous father to run back to. But despite this, I am still very excited about the future. I will tell you why later.

You have been taught at the Ateneo to be "a person for others." Of course, that is noble: To serve your countrymen. Question is: How?

And my answer is: Be an entrepreneur!

You may think I am just a foolish man talking mundane stuff when the question before him is almost philosophical. But I am being very thoughtful here, and if I may presume this about myself, being patriotic as well. Entrepreneurship is the answer. We need young people who will find the idea, grab the opportunity, take risk, and set aside comfort to set up businesses that will provide jobs.

But why? What are jobs?

Jobs are what allow people to feel useful and build their self-esteem. Jobs make people productive members of the community. Jobs make people feel they are worthy citizens. And jobs make a country worthy players in the world market. In that order of things, it is the entrepreneurs who have the power to harness the creativity and talents of others to achieve a common good. This should leave the world a better place than it was.

Let me make it clear: Job creation is a priority for any nation to move forward. For example, it is the young entrepreneurs of Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore who created the dynamic businesses that have propelled their countries to the top. Young people like yourselves. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, progress is slow. Very little is new. Hardly anything is fresh. With a few exceptions, the biggest companies before the war - PLDT, Ayala, and San Miguel - are still the biggest companies today.

All right, being from the Ateneo, many of you probably have offers from these corporations already. You may even have offers from JG Summit. I say: Great! Take these offers, work as hard as you can, learn everything these companies can teach - and then leave! If you dream of creating something great, do not let a 9-to-5 job - even a high-paying one - lull you into a complacent, comfortable life. Let that high-paying job propel you toward entrepreneurship instead.

When I speak of the hardship ahead, I do not mean to be skeptical but realistic. Even you Ateneans, who are famous for your eloquence, you cannot talk your way out of this one. There is nothing to do but to deal with it. I learned this lesson when, as a 13-year-old, I lost my dad. Before that, I was like many of you: a privileged kid. I went to Cebu 's best school; lived in a big house; and got free entrance to the Vision, the largest movie house in Cebu , which my father owned. Then my dad died, and I lost all these. My family had become poor - poor enough to split my family. My mother and five siblings moved to China where the cost of living was lower. I was placed under the care of my Grand Uncle Manuel Gotianuy, who put me through school. But just two years later, the war broke out, and even my Uncle Manuel could no longer see me through. I was out in the streets - literally.

Looking back, this time was one of the best times of my life. We lost everything, true, but so did everybody! War was the great equalizer. In that setting, anyone who was willing to seize up the situation, use his wits, and work hard, could make it! It was every man for himself, and I had to find a way to support myself and my family. I decided to be a market vendor. Why? Because it was something that I, a 15-year-old boy in short pants, could do. I started by selling simple products in the palengke half an hour by bike from the city. I had a bicycle. I would wake up at five in the morning, load thread, soap and candles into my bike, and rush to the palengke. I would rent a stall for one peso a day, lay out my goods on a table as big as this podium, and begin selling. I did that the whole day. I sold about twenty pesos of goods every day. Today, twenty pesos will only allow you to send twenty text messages to y our crush, but 63 years ago, it was enough to support my family. And it left me enough to plow back into my small, but growing, business. I was the youngest vendor in the palengke, but that didn't faze me. In fact, I rather saw it as an opportunity. Remember, that was 63 years and 100 pounds ago, so I could move faster, stay under the sun more, and keep selling longer than everyone else.

Then, when I had enough money and more confidence, I decided to travel to Manila from Cebu to sell all kinds of goods like rubber tires. Instead of my bike, I now traveled on a batel - a boat so small that on windless days, we would just float there. On bad days, the trip could take two weeks! During one trip, our batel sank! We would have all perished in the sea were it not for my inventory of tires. The viajeros were happy because my tires saved their lives, and I was happy because the viajeros, by hanging on to them, saved my tires. On these long and lonely trips I had to entertain myself with books, like Gone With The Wind.

After the war, I had saved up 50,000 pesos. That was when you could buy a chicken for 20 centavos and a car for 2,000 pesos. I was 19 years old.

Now I had enough money to bring my family home from China . Once they were all here, they helped me expand our trading business to include imports. Remember that the war had left the Philippines with very few goods. So we imported whatever was needed and imported them from everywhere - including used clothes and textile remnants from the United States. We were probably the first ukay-ukay dealers here.

Then, when I had gained more experience and built my reputation, I borrowed money from the bank and got into manufacturing. I saw that coffee was abundant, and Nescafe of Nestle was too expensive for a country still rebuilding from the war, so my company created Blend 45. That was our first branded hit. And from there, we had enough profits to launch Jack and Jill. From one market stall, we are now in nine core businesses - including retail, real estate, publishing, petrochemicals, textiles, banking, food manufacturing, Cebu Pacific Air and Sun Cellular.

When we had shown success in the smaller businesses, we were able to raise money in the capital markets - through IPOs and bond offerings - and then get into more complex, capital-intensive enterprises. We did it slow, but sure.

Success doesn't happen overnight. It's the small successes achieved day by day that build a company. So, don't be impatient or focused on immediate financial rewards. I only started flying business class when I got too fat to fit in the economy seats. And I even wore a used overcoat while courting my wife - it came from my ukay-ukay business. Thank God Elizabeth didn't mind the mothball smell of my coat or maybe she wouldn't have married me.

Save what you earn and plow it back.

And never forget your families! Your parents denied themselves many things to send you here. They could have traveled around the world a couple of times with the money they set aside for your education, and your social life, and your comforts. Remember them - and thank them.

When you have families of your own, you must be home with them for at least one meal everyday. I did that while I was building my company. Now, with all my six children married, I ask that we spend every Sunday lunch together, when everything under the sun is discussed. As it is with business, so it is with family.

There are no short cuts for building either one. Remember, no short cuts.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, your patron saint, and founder of this 450-year old organization I admire, described an ideal Jesuit as one who "lives with one foot raised." I believe that means someone who is always ready to respond to opportunities. Saint Ignatius knew that, to build a successful organization, he needed to recruit and educate men who were not afraid of change but were in fact excited by it. In fact, the Jesuits were one of the earliest practitioners of globalization. As early as the 16th century, upon reaching a foreign country, they compiled dictionaries in local languages, like Tamil and Vietnamese, so that they could spread their message in the local language. In a few centuries, they have been able to spread their mission in many countries through education.

The Jesuits have another quote. "Make the whole world your house" which means that the ideal Jesuit must be at home everywhere. By adapting to change , but at the same time staying true to their beliefs, the Society of Jesus has become the long-lasting and successful organization it is today and has made the world their house. So, let's live with one foot raised in facing the next big opportunity: globalization.

Globalization can be your greatest enemy. It will be your downfall if you are too afraid and too weak to fight it out. But it can also be your biggest ally. With the Asian Free Trade agreement and tariffs near zero, your market has grown from 80 million Filipinos to half a billion Southeast Asians. Imagine what that means to you as an entrepreneur if you are able to find a need and fill it. And imagine, too, what that will do f or the economy of our country!

Yes, our government may not be perfect, and our economic environment not ideal, but true entrepreneurs will find opportunities anywhere. Look at the young Filipino entrepreneurs who made it. When I say young - and I'm 77, remember - I am talking about those in their 50s and below . Tony Tan of Jollibee, Ben Chan of Bench, Rolando Hortaleza of Splash, and Wilson Lim of Abensons.

They're the guys who weren't content with the 9-to-5 job, who were willing to delay their gratification and comfort, and who created something new, something fresh. Something Filipinos are now very proud of. They all started small but now sell their hamburgers, T-shirts and cosmetics in Asia, America , and the Middle East. In doing so, these young Filipino entrepreneurs created jobs while doing something they were passionate about.

Globalization is an opportunity of a lifetime - for you. And that is why I want to be out there with you instead of here behind this podium - perhaps too old and too slow to seize the opportunities you can.

Let me leave you with one last thought. Trade barriers have fallen. The only barriers left are the barriers you have in your mind.

So, Ateneans, heed the call of entrepreneurship. With a little bit of will and a little bit of imagination, you can turn this crisis into your patriotic moment - and truly become a person for others. "Live with one foot raised and make the world your house."

To this great University, my sincerest thanks for this singular honor conferred on me today.

To the graduates, congratulations and Godspeed.

"Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam".

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Educational Technology Strategic Plan

This is a proposed strategic plan which I presented to the heads of departments regarding my application as manager/supervisor of the center for educational technology...


The Educational Technology Center (ETC) requires a stable and secure system of unique identifiers if it is to serve efficiently and reliably its client base who are various stakeholders in the institution. On this light, a set of sound policies will ensure effectiveness of the Center’s various operations, and this will only be successful if equally sound guidelines are drafted to serve as framework from which various policies, processes, methods and systems could be developed.

In this regard, this five-year strategic plan is proposed by the author to help the management design the appropriate framework by which policies for the different plans of action could be based towards further improving the Center in the next five years and make it an indispensable component in the improvement of services provided in the institution, not only to the trainees/learners, but more importantly also to other stakeholders including the staff and the immediate community.

Situation Analysis


  1. Infrastructure already in place
  2. Facilities, equipment, holdings are adequate
  3. Support of management
  4. Staff are supportive and hard-working


1. Infrastructure and equipment not optimally utilized

2. No policies in place for proper management of facilities, equipment and holdings

3. Inadequate number of staff


1. Increasing number of users and connectivity

2. New technology may render infrastructure and systems obsolete

3. Staff turnover


  1. Continuously upgrade facilities, equipment/holdings and staff competencies
  2. Introduction, documentation & implementation of policies and guidelines for use and management of facilities, equipment and holdings

Core Values

This plan is anchored on the core values of Quality, Excellence, and Service. On this light, this plan is committed to nurture the culture of the Center through these three values serving as the foundation. That is, all its operations – its activities and its functions – will center on the values mentioned.

To realize this, the Center must specifically aspire to:

  1. Preserve and enhance the operational stability, reliability, security, and interoperability of its Sections;
  2. Seek and support broad and informed participation from its staff, reflecting the functional diversity of the Center at all levels of policy-development and decision-making;
  3. Make decisions by applying documented policies neutrally and objectively, with integrity and timeliness;
  4. Act with a speed that is responsive to the needs of the community while, as part of the decision-making process, obtaining informed input from those entities that it serves;
  5. Remain accountable to the management through mechanisms that enhance the Center’s effectiveness.

Key Challenges and Opportunities for the ETC

Any strategic plan is – by its nature – setting a course through an unknown future. In considering the issues that will face the Center over the next five years, the following list of major challenges and opportunities was developed. It is not in any way an exhaustive list and issues are not necessarily in priority order. The list is a summary of the author’s observations and short experience in the organization which he believes will shape the future concerning the ETC and they are therefore the issues that have shaped this plan.

  1. The continued rise of new forms of learning, particularly those of the constructivist and constructionist approaches that use new technologies in the delivery of materials and the general teaching-learning experience, and the need for the Center to truly meet the needs of self-access, more responsible, independent, and empowered learners.
  1. Maintaining speed, reliability and security in access to all technologies provided, particularly computer networks, given the increases in scale driven by the number of devices connected to the network and the number of users.
  1. Ensuring stability and security in an environment of increased threats brought about by the fast-paced interconnectivity of processes and systems, as well as the sharp increase of client-base.
  1. Multiple complicated changes to the Center’s operations or protocols that need to be managed in parallel, including possible paradigm changes not yet anticipated.
  1. Continuous evolution of educational business models and applications that can be used in the Center, particularly in the computer and other education/learning services.

Strategic Action Programs

Having considered the challenges and opportunities that are most likely to present themselves over the next five years, the following plans have been identified for the Center:

  1. Operations

a. Operational Performance Targets for the Computer Services Section

The Computer Services Section is responsible for all the hardware, software, and networks that are relevant for teaching and learning. As such, the following priorities in its operations are identified:

a. Year 1

§ There will be an exhaustive analysis and evaluation of the organization’s Internet connectivity to recommend possible upgrades in access speed. Ideally, the organization should have a T1 or an E1 data connectivity to provide satisfactory service to both staff and trainees given the current number of users and the current number of Internet terminals. If this situation cannot be provided in the existing environment, clusters of DSL-grade connections combined with wireless connectivity can be utilized to provide satisfactory service.

§ Responsibility and accountability with regards the hardware parts/components, tools, machines, and equipment will be developed for the CSS staff, hence the following will be implemented:

o There will be a “Memory Receipt” of all the tools, equipment, and components/parts issued to all staff and they will be responsible for these;

o A standard inventory of all hardware and software will be put in place through the “memory receipt” scheme and reports for the same will be submitted by the staff on a regular basis to properly monitor and manage all equipment of the Section.

§ Documentation of all the processes and methods will be initiated and started; this could culminate in manuals of operations of all servers, systems, and other processes normally provided by the Section.

§ A standard procedure for all computer services/assistance will be drafted, finalized and implemented to ensure quick response to all calls for technical assistance and service, as well as proper dissemination of information to all users. Scheduled maintenance not clashing with class hours will also be planned; this will require scheduling the technicians for different shifts/timings in their work.

§ The development of an improved website for the institution will be initiated.

b. Years 2 and 3

§ Evaluation of all currently implemented inventory, documentation, and standard service procedures will be done to further improve these processes. With regards the documentation process, initial drafts of server operation manuals/guidelines will be started so that staff can have an easy access to various routine processes whenever there is a need for such.

§ Initial interaction with the heads of departments will be undertaken to determine technical trainings and workshops that can be facilitated by the Center that will be relevant to the needs of their staff/lecturers. This will be done in cooperation with the Educational Services Section.

§ The development towards a more dynamic and interactive website for the institution will be started. This could include integrating basic services of the institution in the Website such as downloading of basic forms, virtual tour of facilities for guests and new trainees, etc.

c. Years 4 and 5

§ To maximize the utilization of the Center’s equipment, initial exploration towards specific training for selected staff will be done to make them certified trainers of various technologies. This could result in the application of the Center as an authorized testing center for various industry certifications, which will in turn be utilized by the trainees for them to be more competitive when they leave the institution.

§ Exploratory talks with the heads of other Centers will be initiated for possible development of a Data Network.

b. Operational Performance Targets for Educational Services Section

The Educational Services Section is responsible for all the educational materials and other aids for teaching and learning. As such, the following priorities in its operations are identified:

a. Year 1

§ Responsibility and accountability with regards the hardware equipment, and educational aids will be developed for the ESS staff, hence the following will be implemented:

o There will be a “Memory Receipt” of all the hardware educational aids issued to all staff and they will be responsible for these;

o A standard inventory of all hardware and software will be put in place through the “memory receipt” scheme and reports for the same will be submitted by the staff on a regular basis to properly monitor and manage all equipment of the Section.

o A catalogue of all educational aids that can be used by the learners and staff will be developed and distributed to all departments. A staff will be assigned for this purpose.

§ Correspondingly, a standard form will be designed for the borrowing of educational technology tools by staff and/or trainees, and these activities will be formally logged by a staff designated for the purpose.

§ Maintenance, management and improvement of the e-Learning Facility will be transferred to the Section and initial exploration will be done with the heads of departments and heads of sections for collaborative works in the development of more courses/modules on e-Learning.

§ Meetings with various learners' clubs will be done for possible development of newsletters for each department both in print and for publishing in the website to chronicle activities done by different departments.

b. Years 2 and 3

§ Improvement to the e-Learning Facility will be done through making it available to the learners via the Internet.

§ Exploratory talks with the heads of the departments and the heads of sections will be initiated with regards the collaborative development of handouts/manuals for different courses; this will be participated by learning development specialists from each department and the Head of the Library Services so that these handouts/manuals will be made available in the Library.

§ In cooperation of the Computer Services Section, improved trainings and workshops of technologies relevant to teaching and learning both for staff and students will be planned and conducted.

c. Years 4 and 5

§ Management and operation of a fully-functional newsletter, in cooperation with the different departments will be initiated.

§ Assessment of evaluation of policy-development will be re-started, which will focus on improved and stronger loyalty on the part of the ESS staff.

c. Operational Performance Targets for Library Services

a. Years 1 and 2

§ Exhaustive identification and listing of library holdings (inventory)

§ Drafting of, and strict implementation of Library procedures for borrowing and returning of books for both the staff and the students; in this regard, classification of books as to Textbook, Reference Book, and Reserved Book will be done, and corresponding days will be allocated for each every time they will be borrowed/returned. Penalties such as suspension of borrowing privileges will be drafted and implemented for negligent borrowers.

§ Initial interaction with heads of departments will be done to draft possible list of needed text/references for recommendation to the Administration.

b. Years 3 to 5

§ Recommendation on possible list of online subscription to technical journals and magazines will be forwarded to the management for evaluation.

§ Design and development of an improved version of the automated system, the Online Public Access Cataloguing system for the Library, will be initiated in cooperation with the Computer Services Section and some staff from the IT Department.

§ Talks with other libraries will be initiated for possible sharing of resources and networking. Same will be done to provide linkages with nearby institutions.

d. Develop and implement a workforce planning methodology for the Educational Technology Center staff to attract and retain high quality staff.

a. Years 1 and 2

§ Peer and internal training for ETC staff to improve their skills and make them more relevant to their environment.

b. Years 3 to 5

§ Recommendations for certifications and external trainings to ETC staff to make them more competitive and improve quality of work in the Center.

  1. Key Issues to be Addressed in this Plan

§ Development of a highly efficient and effective service unit.

§ Development of a high-moral, empowered, and competent group of technical staff that are able to work in a very dynamic and fast-paced environment.

§ Continuous and easy transfer of new technologies to various department staff and learners.

§ Adaptability of the various departments to the evolution of educational technologies in learning through proper implementation of these technologies by the Center.

§ Linkage of various stakeholders through the initiative of the Center.

  1. Sustainability / Research

In order for the aforementioned operational performance targets to be analyzed and sustained, the following research are proposed, the results of which in turn, will serve as data for the improvement of existing operational policies of the Center:

§ Acceptability of the LMS Moodle as a Learning Supplement through e-Learning (currently on-going, being conducted by this author)

§ Perceived Utility Value of Educational Technology Tools to the Extent of Learning of Students

§ Evaluation of Impact of Using an LMS in the Learning Experience of Learners

Final Statement

The development of an efficient and effective unit cannot be done overnight. Aside from the commitment, political will, and vision of the manager, more importantly, it needs the full cooperation and sometimes blind obedience of subordinates. Nevertheless, if transparency and team spirit prevails in the unit, sooner than we expected, the goals can be achieved. For the proposals outlined in this plan to materialize, more than anything else, it requires the combination of a realistic vision of a committed manager. But more than that, as already intimated, it requires the team spirit and wholehearted support of the Center’s personnel.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Desperate Issue

This article entitled Desperate House Members from Conrado de Quiros is published in his column 'There's the Rub' from the Philippine Daily Inquirer which I downloaded today. I think this is by far the most realistic analysis of the "Desperate Housewives" issue that has been brewing over in the Philippines and in the US for the past several days... sometimes really, we have to look intently at ourselves first before we rush to some 'trivial' things. This is most specially true for our politicians.


It’s not the first time it’s happened. Many years ago, the Encyclopedia Britannica was alleged to have entered the word “Filipina” to mean a domestic or maid. That brought us bristling at the “contumely,” as one public official referred to it with proper British disdain. Everyone vied to express his outrage with such erudition as could be found only in, well, an encyclopedia, calling for the Encyclopedia Britannica to apologize posthaste. There was only one problem: The Britannica never did it.

The other “contumely” that had Filipinos, officials and citizens alike, up in arms was Claire Danes saying some nasty things about Manila. This time at least the reports were true. Danes appeared in Vogue after doing “Brokedown Palace” saying Manila was a “ghastly and weird city, (it) smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over, there is no sewage system, and the people do not have anything—no arms, no legs, no eyes.” An outcry ensued, Danes’ movies were banned in the Philippines, and Danes herself was declared persona non grata by newly elected President Erap. Danes later apologized.

Comes now Teri Hatcher’s apparent slight in the form of her character telling a doctor in “Desperate Housewives”: “OK, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? Because I would just like to make sure they are not from some med school in the Philippines.”

That has raised the hackles of Filipino officials once again who have vied among themselves to show the most furious indignation. Bienvenido Abante, chair of the House committee on public information, wants the series banned from cable and free TV. Miriam Santiago wants Filipinos to stop watching it to bring it to its knees. I even heard one congressman on TV scoffing at the thought of an American TV show saying something like that when most Americans do not get to college while most Filipinos do.

The last we can safely dismiss, or beg the gentleman from wherever to do us a favor and not dredge up again. Hatcher might retort: “I rest my case.” Because if most Americans finish only high school and get to be where they are and most of us finish college and get to be only where we are, there must truly be something wrong with our colleges, never mind med schools.

My own reaction to all this is, well, my first one was to laugh out loud. Hatcher’s remark is funny, though the kind that hurts only when you laugh. It’s so because like the truly most laughable things on earth, it has much truth in it. Some of our text jokes are worse. But of course there’s an unwritten rule that says only Negroes may call each other “niggers.” When they do, it’s trash talk; when others do, it’s just trash. Or when they do, it’s banter; when others do, it’s suicide.

I do think Hatcher’s remark is not without its injurious aspects, and the Filipinos in the US in particular are right to protest it. It doesn’t just cast aspersion on—or worse doubts, which affect employment opportunities of—Filipino doctors, it does so on Filipino professionals generally. What applies to the diplomas of Filipino doctors applies as well to the diplomas of Filipino engineers, accountants and lawyers. Left unprotested, a single line like that in a hugely popular TV series can do more harm by the incalculable power of suggestion than whole reams or airtime of diatribe in a newspaper or talk show.

Having said that, I must also say that I find the violent reaction by our public officials in particular even more hilarious—and embarrassing—than the original offense.

At the very least, I don’t know that the fact isn’t more insulting than the fiction, the reality isn’t more insulting than the illusion. At least Hatcher’s quip proposes that Filipinos who graduate from Philippine medical schools get to work in the US as doctors. As we know very well, that isn’t true at all, not today, not anymore. As poignantly dramatized by the case of Elmer Jacinto who topped the medical board exams, Filipino doctors get to work only as nurses in the US. Indeed, as tragically dramatized still by Jacinto, they get to end up with legal hassles for contesting their contracts there.

Just as well, I don’t know that we can’t do with some serious self-examination and look at the quality not just of our education but our lives today. I myself found Danes’ description of Manila tremendously inspired. It’s brilliantly surreal: “The people have nothing—no arms, no legs, no eyes.” It’s almost like Dante talking about one of the circles of hell, to which, if we still have at least the eyes to see it, we now find ourselves in.

There are two ways to treat a messenger’s bad news. One is to shoot the messenger and hope the message goes away. Two is to change things so that there won’t be any bad news. Japan didn’t just do the second, it turned the bad news into good news. Shortly after the War, Americans also had a field day making fun of the label, “Made in Japan.” Today, well, Sony owns a great deal of Hollywood. We can either spend our time lodging diplomatic protests in defense of our diplomas or produce brilliant doctors. The choice is ours.

Finally, where in God’s name does Abante and Miriam get off bristling about an insult “Desperate Housewives” has inflicted on us when daily they inflict infinitely crueler insults on us in Congress? Between switching off “Desperate Housewives” and switching off Miriam (and “Here Comes Johnny Ponce Enrile”), Filipino viewers won’t agonize over their decision. Indeed, between banning “Desperate Housewives” and banning the Sona on grounds of cruel and unusual punishment, why don’t we make a plebiscite of that and find out?

Our national honor has been tarnished by people laughing at our diplomas? That’s a little, well, desperate.