A morning with Cheche

Waking up at 6:00 AM was very worth it! On my second day of work, we were informed that we will be having a meeting/consultation with Ms. Cheche Lazaro on Tuesday the following week. Honestly, it was a task to conceal my excitement upon hearing the news because I am a BIG fan of Ms. Lazaro. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of our NGO, and she is also the Public Relations Officer and Chairman of the Communications Committee — which was not a surprise at all.

Growing up in the Philippines, television plays a big part of our lives; but it was also quite difficult to find programs that bring quality content. And this is where Ms. Cheche came in, along with other esteemed journalists — to pioneer investigative journalism in the country through Probe and expose several issues in the society, which are often misrepresented or even overlooked by mainstream media. I was also an avid fan of the Probe-produced kids show 5 and Up. My Saturday afternoon was not complete, unless I watch those English-speaking kids on ABC 5 (now TV 5). I was just amazed of their eloquence because, it took me years as a kid to build confidence in my spoken English.

Anyway, my colleagues and I met up at exactly 8:00 AM in our headquarters in Pasay, then left past 8:30 AM to visit Ms. Lazaro’s house in Forbes Park. First, her house was amazing and I still could not believe I would be meeting her in person. We got in and somebody from one of the rooms came out barefooted in her house clothes. It was her. She gave a cheery welcome and ushered us straight away into the dining hall (room is an understatement). Before jumping the gun on the agenda of that meeting, Robyn and I were introduced to her, as we were obviously the newbies in the NGO. Again, I had to shake myself out of this surreal experience — I was seated right across Cheche Lazaro! LOL I seldom fawn over famous people, and I don’t even consider her a ‘celebrity’ celebrity. She is a mover and a shaker and hopefully shaking her hands might have rubbed off some of those magical dusts that she have, and hopefully landed on me. =D

She's one of my childhood heroesTEAM STRIPES! My colleagues with Ms. Cheche Lazaro

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The earliest graduation ceremony of my life

I was on half-day leave the day before because today’s recognition rites (a.k.a. college graduation) took place very early in the morning. The assembly time was at 7:00 AM, even if the ceremony itself would not take place until 8:00 AM. I had a hard time sleeping because at 12:00 AM, I am normally on my way home, so sleep was difficult to come by. Perhaps I was a bit excited as well? =)

The earliest graduation ceremony I have ever attended - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

I was very happy to graduate with these guys - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

 

Fresh-faced graduates - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

 

We arrived five minutes after 7:00 AM and there were already a lot of people outside the University Theater. The weather was good but I think the ladies were not particularly keen with the sun shining brightly over their freshly made up faces. However, there was a collective sense of anticipation in the air, and everyone was busy taking photos with their families and friends, and congratulating each other over finally making it. Around 8:00 AM, the first group (i.e. that was ‘us’) made our way inside the theater amidst the cheering crowd of graduates who were so delighted with the processional.

CSSP@30 displayed prominently on the stage

 

I needed to have a solo picture LOL - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

We were seated two rows behind former UP President Nemenzo and my Anthro prof two years ago, Dean Nestor Castro - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

We were given a copy of the program, and I was delighted to see the name of former UP President Nemenzo as the guest speaker. He was the UP President when I entered UP Diliman in 2003, when he was eventually replaced by the President Roman in 2005. I was quite shocked, however, how elderly President Nemenzo was. I remember him being extremely energetic in an event in the Faculty Center before, but then that was almost a decade ago. Of course a lot of things has changed by 2013. I particularly loved his more than twenty minute-speech, because it has a lot of facts on realities of life in the Philippines (and also being Filipino in the impending economic integration of ASEAN in 2013), which would, honestly, not make sense years ago if I did not take International Studies. =D

From what I recall from his speech, he gave three pieces of advice to the graduates. First, he pointed out the importance of remaining a student forever, and how graduation is not the end of one’s education and it is a new beginning. His second advice was over the importance of the liberal arts and how it was wrong to question its relevance, given that it humanizes the impacts of technology because the latter has social implications. Lastly, he gave a very candor caveat “hope for the best and prepare for the worst”, warning on both the benefits and consequences of the neoliberal order, and the possibility of exploitation, especially on the Philippines if it will be furthermore integrated into the capitalist model of development. Marx, Engels and Wallerstein suddenly began speaking to me again. What struck me the most in his speech was the importance of having a critical mind, which gives the burden and challenge for the knowing to do something for others:

“With a critical mind, you can distinguish good from evil, right from wrong, wisdom from non-sense. It allows us into fits of outrage at corruption and the abuse of power; but it also obliges us to support, what is just, reasonable and progressive.” – former UP President Francisco Nemenzo Jr.

With Mon during my recognition rites - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

Mama and me, with the token (medal) gievn to the graduates of master's degree - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

There was almost a mishap with Mama. When it was time for the graduates to go on stage and receive the diploma and medals (for some), we were just informed right there and then that our parents should be going on stage with us. I had to make a quick phone call to Mon, so that he can let Mama know and she can sprint all the way to the stage. She just made it in time when my name was called and in the process, she has almost slipped and has already lost her Php 100 corsage. It was a surreal moment for me, and I could not imagine how more surreal it was for her. She has never done this in any of my graduation and I could not believe it was finally happening. We walked hand in hand and she was almost teary-eyed while putting the medal on me. After more than two decades, I have a parent on stage with me. =D

We were the first bunch to have our pictures taken here - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

Mama, Mon and I -  CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

It was a long ceremony and good thing Mon went outside to buy some snack from vendors selling street food. The two pieces of toasted bread I have eaten for breakfast seemed ages ago. At around 12 noon, the whole event was already over and that our group were so delighted that we did not bother finishing the recessional and headed straight to the stage to have our pictures taken with the big “CSSP@30″ on stage! After taking my photos with my classmates, I went looking for Mon and Mama, but turned out, they were already outside the theater. LOL I had to call them back inside because I needed my photos with them on stage. Yep, I am really that traditional with this sort of photos.

UP Pep Squad drummers outside the University Theater - CSSP@30 Recognition Rites

 

And of course, the sound of the bass and snare drums followed. It is usually customary that UP Pep Squad drummers and/or dancers go to the recognition rites of whatever college/institute/school inside the campus, as long as it has a graduating member. In 2007, I even had a short stunt with some of my teammates when my name was called. LOL That was quite a scene. This time, though, I was just a mere expectator and I was delighted over the support of the drummers to their CSSP graduates. I heard familair beats and it sent shivers down my spine. I can still ‘mentally’ do the routine on some of the things they have played, but alas, the mind was willing but the body was not yielding! =P

Six years apart - one from CAL and the other from CSSP

Nothing special when we went home after, because I was saving the dinner outside with my family and friends after the University Graduation tomorrow. I then thought of digging out the token I got from my college graduation and even if I was decimal-murdered, the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters that time, National Artist Virgilio S. Almario, was gracious enough to provide everybody with a medal. No one went home empty-handed, fair enough. Looking at these two, it was really amazing to think over how far I have come along. Few minutes after taking the photo above, I posted in on Facebook and  made an official announcement about the leap from working in the corporate enviroment to an NGO/the humanitarian sector. Well, I will still be technically working in my old company but I am really excited to start working for the NGO. Meanwhile, I have to wash the barong tagalog and the camisa de chino, which I will be both using again tomorrow for the University Graduation!

Afghanistan isn’t always about the Taliban: The Kite Runner

Amir and Hassan - The Kite Runner

(Photo from telegraph.co.uk)

When was the last time you cried while watching a movie? I just did and I can’t even recall when I last teared up prior to this one. This is one hardcore movie and only the stone-hearted won’t well up. Based from Khaled Hosseini’s novel of the same name, The Kite Runner was shown in theaters way back in 2007. Unfortunately, it wasn’t commercially released here in the Philippines (afaik).

It was like Atonement but in a different geographic location and time period. What will you do to amend the things you have done when you had wronged another person? It is a story of friendship and loyalty as explained through the eyes of a then-child and a war refugee. Amir and Hassan’s friendship is slightly twisted and Baba’s paternal authority and conviction is something to admire. Ever since the Taliban brought new interest to Afghanistan in 2001 at the height of the “War on Terror” (through infamy on the West, definitely), all we know now is the war-torn, poverty-stricken side of that region. Little do we know that Kabul once flourished as one of the most progressive and burgeoning cities in the Middle East prior to the Soviet occupation (Kabul is one of the cities along the ‘silk road).

Set in the beautiful snow-covered mountain ranges of Afghanistan (but in fact, they were not allowed to shoot there but improvise on a Chinese territory), the movie depicted culture and politics in a viscerally humane way. It puts things into perspective about how do we conceive culture, though. Ethnic wars, Hazaras versus Pashtuns, who is more superior, the question of nationality and who takes precedence in a given land. Things like that. For instance, one part of the movie showed a young boy (Hassan’s son and Amir’s nephew… they were brothers!) made to dance in front of the men, wearing bells and other adornments to the spectators delight is considered to be part of Afghan culture —- bacha bazi (English = “boy play”). It has long been outlawed but the practice still goes on and these young boys are continually exploited (emotionally and EVEN sexually!) by the grown up men. But how can you ensure that such measures will be upheld in the war-torn area? Implementation of such rules are not always strictly followed. It is very sad and disheartening and I was also able to watch this documentary available on YouTube, chronicling the practice of bacha bazi in present day Afghanistan and other Middle East countries.

Similar to other adaptations, I see the movie first and pass judgment before reading the book. I got hold of a copy of The Kite Runner and has already finished reading it. The wealth of description in the book is amazing, but I won’t take it against the movie because movies can only translate so much. The Kite Runner is nevertheless amazing.

Feminism in International Relations

*The following was the answer I gave in one of the questions for the IR theory part of my comprehensive examinations for graduate school last August 2012. I have edited some parts because we were to encode them verbatim and it was really funny to look at some of my typographical errors. =D Good thing the general context was considered. I still have yet to see the murdered with red ink returned paper with the comments from the examiners tomorrow, though.

Rosie the Riveter by J. Howard Miller --- a feminist icon from the U.S.

(Photo from www2.warwick.ac.uk)

Feminism in International Relations can’t be grouped using a single philosophical underpinning, in the same manner that mainstream theories are. However, they share a common argument in criticizing mainstream theories for being gender-biased, and their neglect of the issue of gender. Given the seemingly loose characteristic of this theoretical approach, it is actually divided into three strands. Paul D’Anieri discussed three strands of Feminist IR theories: Feminist Empiricism, Feminist Standpoint Theory and Feminist Postmodernism. Looking at these prominent views, we can see that Feminism in International Relations can’t be boxed immediately as postmodern because of the competing approaches within the paradigm.  The following essay will first discuss Feminist Empiricism, then Feminist Standpoint Theory and lastly Feminist Postmodernism. Then the essay will evaluate whether the strands can be amenable to mainstream theories of International Relations.

First, Feminist Empiricism focuses on how issues concerning women are not taken into account in mainstream theories. Cynthia Enloe in her study of the effects of military bases in the Philippines and Kosovo argues that the presence of such bases has changed the traditional roles of women in these areas because prostitution became an indelible part of their lives. Due to the decommissioning of these bases, the women are then left without their source of income and could not sustainably find an alternative . Jill Steans, on the other hand, studied the effects of globalization on women, particularly on sweatshops were women are most likely affected by policy changes.

Next, Feminist Standpoint Theory argues that concepts of International Relations theory are defined in ‘masculine’ terms (such as war and conflict). Rebecca Grant in “The Gender Bias of International Relations Theory” argued that incorporation of “feminine” traits attributed to altruism and cooperation can give a different perspective on how we study International Relations. Christine Sylvester argued that the separation of the women “private” sphere and the men’s public sphere is the reason why statistics of war casualties do not include children and women, but just soldiers killed in warfare. J. Ann Tickner in “Hans Morgenthau’s Principles of Political Realism: A Feminist Reformulation” argued that gender bias as power defined in masculine terms depict power as amoral. On the other hand, she suggested that power has no definite definition and posits that power has moral implications.

Lastly, Feminist Postmodernism, as argued by Jean Bethke Elshtain, takes a postmodern stand in criticizing not only mainstream theories, but Feminist Empiricists and Feminist Standpoint Theory most especially. According to her, the Feminist Standpoint Theory is very much concerned with the notion of the word “feminine”. For example, their argument of oppression of women by wearing a veil is seen through the Western construction of what freedom is, without taking into consideration the cultural reasons by which the veil is worn.

In discussing these three strands, we can see the Feminist Empiricist is amenable to mainstream theories, by employing empirical and quantitative methods of analysis in proving their cases on military bases and effects of globalization. As for the Feminist Standpoint Theory, it is constructivist in nature because emphasis in idea (of differentiating masculine and feminine concepts) that certain truths are knowable, subscribes to a post-positivist way of thinking. The Feminist Postmodernism strand, as the name suggests, could be classified as postmodern because it questions the presence of a universal truth, that even the Feminist Standpoint Theory’s notion of gender, specifically what is feminine might be biased as well. As Jean Bethke Elshtain emphasized, this is dangerous because making such associations for dichotomy is a form of oppression as well.