Power Concentration

40 families control 76% of the wealth in the Philippines. These families dominate politics because of their resources and influence and the way that our electoral process favors candidates who can spend the most funds. So unless we change how we elect our politicians, elections are always going to be an exercise in futility—a choice between the silent, yellow oppression of agricultural oligarchs or the overt, red oppression of violent populists.

I don’t know the answer though. Is it a parliamentary form of government where only ministers are directly elected to avoid the popularity trap, or campaign fund caps to avoid the graft and corruption trap?

The Glitchy Glory of “Into the Spiderverse”

Just when I’d about given up hope of experiencing something truly amazing in a cinema, here comes Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse in all its glitchy glory.

It’s damn near perfect and feels exactly like what a comic book movie is supposed to be—in both form and spirit.

While epic visuals are a staple of big budget Marvel movies, they can often feel manufactured and boastful—visuals for visuals sake. Into the Spiderverse is anything but. The look exudes heart; all the decisions feel deliberate—from the animation style reminiscent of stop motion and collage of art styles representing the different spideys and their worlds, to the little touches of comic book elements that can make you feel as if you’re living inside the page.

That’s not to say it isn’t epic. At times, I can’t believe the spectacle taking form in front of my eyes and how such a thing could have been created. I can’t get over how the movie brings to life the spirit of comic books without literally copying its form.

As far as plots go, it doesn’t stray very far from the Marvel formula. But the storytelling is superb; it does a good job of making its characters fun and relatable and unraveling the truth of its themes of hope, courage, and responsibility without being preachy. I also love how well it can rope you in and make you feel the confusing emotions and struggles of Morales as he comes to terms with his newfound powers. I won’t go too much into the characters to avoid spoilers so I advise you to just see it for yourself.

Beyond the story, I found the movie inspiring in three ways. One is how the individuals that made up the production team came together and combined their talents to produce something worthwhile. Second is how the envelope can always be pushed farther. Third is how the core theme of taking a leap of faith is so crucial to making great things happen, especially when creating something new.

If anything’s wrong with it, it was that the two and a half hours went by too quickly. Comic book movies will never be the same as this masterpiece sets the bar very high indeed. And I’m not even a Spiderman fan!

Symbols of Oppression


Is the symbol more important than the actuality?

The Philippine flag is a symbol. The national anthem is a symbol. But are they more important than the actual country?

So how come we’ve decided that it’s a good idea to arrest 34 people for not standing up when the national anthem was played in the cinema?

It would be like burning a map of Luzon and getting arrested as if you actually burned Luzon. Shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime?

What is the wisdom of spending precious national resources to monitor, arrest, process, and even imprison (yes, imprison!) these people when they could be out there making a living as productive citizens of the country?

So they disrespected the anthem. Meanwhile, other people who are actually disrespecting the country by littering, stealing, and defecating on our economy are enjoying themselves to high heaven.

What is the wisdom of forcing people to go through the motions of nationalism out of fear that they would be robbed of their liberty? Does it improve the economic conditions and quality of life of the nation?

It’s good to be patriotic, but if you’re doing it because you fear fines or prison, that’s not patriotism.

Philippine Drug War Metrics

In business, the metrics you focus on and incentivize determine how the organization behaves. Are you looking at the end result or vanity metrics that may not actually make a difference?

In the Philippine drug war, what’s our measure of success? If it’s arrests and seizures, doesn’t that encourage our police to meet arrest quotas? Isn’t there something seriously wrong about the idea of needing to arrest X number of people per month to look successful?

Shouldn’t we be looking at real metrics like morbidity (illnesses), mortality (overdoses), and rates of abuse? The question is: are they going down using the current method?

Unity is Disastrous

On August 7, 1997, Korean Air Flight 801 crashed into a hill, killing 228 of the 254 people on board. According to the investigation, one of the causes was the “the first officer’s and flight engineer’s failure to effectively monitor and cross-check the captain’s execution of the approach.” In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell theorizes that they failed to do so out of respect for authority and fear of upsetting their leader.

While there are other factors at play in the story, there are lessons here for the Philippine nation. Our leaders are human and fallible, no matter how noble they may seem. There are those arguing that we must stop questioning, shut up and keep quiet in order for us to progress.

That thinking is misguided. As in the Air Flight story, blind obedience can lead to catastrophic outcomes. “Obey and never complain” is a recipe for disaster. Criticism hurts, but constructive feedback is a way to improve.

What do you call an organization that does not allow any dissent and expects absolute obedience to its tenets and the will of its leader? A cult. A whirlpool of destruction.

But criticism and debate doesn’t have to be hurtful. As a country of 100 million minds, it’s inevitable that we would have diverse perspectives. We all want a nation where every citizen enjoys a good quality of life. We just differ in how we think that can be achieved.

I believe we can learn how to engage better by learning how to argue better. Enough of false dichotomies where criticizing Duterte means liking Aquino and vice versa. Enough of black and white thinking where all the policies of our favorite party are good and all the policies of the opposing party are bad. Enough of ad hominems attacking the messenger. More evidence-based and data-driven thinking.

No, we don’t need less criticism. What we need is more critical thinking. Independence means having the responsibility to think for ourselves.

Maharlika Malarky

May kumakalat po ngayon na nagsasabing “Maharlika” daw ang tawag sa Pilipinas bago dumating ang Kastila.

Although appealing yung idea, hindi po ito totoo. Maharlika refers to an ancient class system, not our ancient name.

Wala pa pong idea ng Pilipinas as a nation bago dumating ang mga Kastila kaya wala pang pangalan.

Pero may bustling civilization na tayo in the form of independent kingdoms gaya ng Rajahnate of Cebu, Sultanate of Sulu, Sultanate of Manila.

Ayon sa Chinese text na “Sung Annals”, nakipag-trade sila sa isang civilization na tinawag nilang Ma-i/Ba-i. Dalawa po yung theory kung saan ito. Ang traditional view is that ito ang Mindoro, pero may competing theory from Bahay Tsinoy researchers na ito ay Ba-e ng Laguna dahil mas nagma-match yung cultural practices na tinukoy nila sa Sung Annals.

Pinauso po noong panahon ni Pangulong Marcos itong idea ng “Maharlika” as our pre-colonial name.

Huwag po sana ma-offend yung mga nag-share ng “Maharlika” thing. Gusto ko lang po maiwasto yung kaalaman ng mga tao.

Math education sucks

It’s so strange how despite doing software development for over a decade, I never quite developed an appreciation for periodic functions…until I did VFX work recently. Suddenly I needed sine and phase shifts and periodicity to make the visuals behave the way I wanted. Suddenly all those formulas I learned in school made sense. The main difference? I had a specific goal for which the math was a necessary tool.

Which brings me to the way we traditionally teach math and many other subjects: we silo each subject into meaningless slices that don’t tie in with one another.

Why isn’t education structured around interdisciplinary projects for which students need to use everything they learned in all their subjects (math, history, science, english) to complete the project objectives?

Why are subjects taught in a way that’s so divorced from the tasks in which they will actually be useful?

The Theory of Everything (2014)

Watching “The Theory of Everything” last night, what struck me the most was how empowering technology can be when designed to fit the needs of people with disabilities. Without his hand clicker (later a cheek muscle interface) and computerized voice, he would not have been able to share his insights with the world.

While not everyone has Stephen Hawking’s intellect, you can just imagine how much potential is left untapped in millions of people with sensory or motor disabilities.