BEFORE ME was an Islamic religion studies graduate, an aleema who divorced her aleem (Islamic learned man) husband (for beating her up. She was lecturing on significant Muslim women in Islamic history. So far she had taken up the Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadija and daughter Aisha. Today’s topic: Madina’s Umu Sulaim Rumaisa. All were women of virtue whose lives could give us insights on what a Muslim woman should aspire to.
I DON’T generally think of myself as vain, but then there’s this incident I remember from high school: some friends and I were assembled at my house so that we could all ride together to a party. As we were getting dressed in our Spandau Ballet-inspired finery (then the height of fashion), one of the barkada produced, from out of the depths of his bag, a can of mousse, which none of us hapless males had ever seen or even heard of before. Naturally, we all had to squirt some into our hands and smear it on our hair. Not knowing that we were then supposed to blow-dry or otherwise style it, we left the house feeling snazzy, while looking pretty much the same as we had prior to applying the mousse — at most, our hair was a little damper, vaguely crispy in texture, and certainly stickier than before. But we felt utterly transformed. We felt guapo.
THE QUEUES in mall bathrooms attest to our national vanity. With all the women putting on lipstick, powdering their noses, and whipping their dangerously long, buhaghag-free hair between vigorous brushstrokes, it is nearly impossible to get to the sink to wash hands. Whether the vanity is cause or effect, I’m not sure. Probably a little of both.
UP A FLIGHT of stairs, in a room with red, yellow, purple, and green walls, the talk is all about sex, all of the time. This is, after all, the hotline center of the Teen Foundation for Adolescent Development (FAD), an organization dedicated to adolescent health. In this room, among a few potted plants, counselors are always ready to answer calls from youths and discuss with them the consequences of premarital or unprotected sex.
TOO OFTEN the Filipino youth is viewed with the conventional eyes of our elders: we are the future of the nation, we are the agents of change. The government counts on us to help save the country, civil society exhorts us to be vigilant, the media remind us often enough that we are the hope of the nation. For the most part, however, they are disappointed. Especially when it’s convenient, we remain incomprehensible to our elders, and it’s easy to see why.
LIKE IT or not, Filipinos will have to accept the fact that Noli de Castro might just be president one of these days. It could be sooner, if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo suddenly gets stricken with delicadeza and resigns, or later, if Congress eventually decides to put an end to the crisis and impeach her. Either way, Filipinos will have to get used to the idea of a de Castro presidency, especially if they don’t want Susan Roces heading a caretaker government or Jose de Venecia becoming prime minister for life.
WHEN TV and newspapers carried images of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and some members of her family taking a Sunday morning stroll along Baywalk on Roxas Boulevard last July, those who had witnessed the dying days of the Marcos regime were reminded of a presidential family photo in 1985, showing the Marcoses relaxing on Malacañang grounds.
IN THE May 2004 elections, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo maintained a campaign organization so elaborate it even included a group dubbed “Special Ops,” an infamous abbreviation for “special operations” that many equate with “dirty tricks,” or cruder still, poll cheating.
JUETENG has deep roots in Philippine village life. Its network of collectors come from the community, so do the cabos or chiefs who supervise them. It has existed for more than 100 years, and before the recent police crackdown, millions were betting on the illicit numbers game everyday.
At the village level, jueteng is not seen as a syndicated crime, but as popular entertainment and distraction. Bettors make their wagers based on dreams, omens, and premonitions. In jueteng, numbers take on a mystical quality: the heavens send signs and favor those who read them well.
FROM overpriced highways to secret bank accounts, to gambling lords and thoroughbred horses, controversies have hounded the Arroyo administration long before wiretapped conversations implying election fraud hogged the headlines. And it is not only the president who has more than once been asked to account for charges of improper behavior; so too have husband Mike, eldest child Mikey, and brother-in-law Ignacio Arroyo.
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