What Would Dory Do?

 Photo Credit: martacecchinato via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: martacecchinato via Compfight cc

I watched Finding Dory with my wife and kids last Sunday. It was a fun sequel to Pixar’s 2003 hit, Finding Nemo. This time, the focus was on their quirky, dorky companion with short-term memory loss named Dory (who incidentally is not a Dory fish but a Pacific Regal Blue Tang).

Because of her condition, Dory would often get herself in trouble. When her short-term memory loss kicked in, she would totally forget what she was supposed to do that moment, be distracted by something else and then get sidetracked, lost, or in danger. She was the anti-thesis of Nemo’s father, Marlin, who was always pragmatic, organized and liked to plan things carefully. Marlin was obviously not a fan of Dory’s spontaneity and impulsiveness.

At one point in the story, Marlin and Nemo found themselves seemingly trapped in a certain situation. They needed to get out and they needed to do it fast. For all of Marlin’s practicality, he could not find a way out.

And then Nemo asked, “What would Dory do?”

That question let them see the problem in a new light, and they suddenly saw a solution. It was risky and dangerous, but it was exactly the thing Dory would have done. So they took the risk and were able to extract themselves out of their current predicament. Over the course of the movie, they would find themselves in other traps, but always, asking “What would Dory do?” would see them through.

My wife, the more level-headed of us two, worried about what kind of lesson this movie was imparting to the kids. Should we then throw planning and thinking ahead out of the window? Well, that’s taking it to the extreme and I wouldn’t go that far.

I think that careful planning as well as creative spontaneity each have their place in one’s life. Too much of either can make you too boring or too unpredictable or too crazy. There has to be some sort of balance between the two.

When I was a high school teacher, I would drive my supervisors up the wall because I didn’t want to do lesson plans. The lesson plan format that DepEd had recommended was too rigid and  too cookie-cutter-like for my tastes. For me, educating kids has never been about making “standard-issue” products like those that come out of a factory. It has always been about making them think, think and think. Think out of the box. Think creatively. Think stupidly. Think funnily. Think.

So I had like a general plan and goal in my head of what I would like to achieve, but I didn’t want to plan out the specifics because I wanted to dynamically adjust to the class, to see what they were ready for and what direction the learning would take. Sadly, that didn’t quite fit with what DepEd thought was a “proper” lesson plan.

I was fortunate to have a very forward-thinking boss early in my teaching career, Ms. Franelli Pableo, who now serves as Director of Davao Christian High School V. Mapa Campus. She was then the High School Principal. I would often hang out in her office, sometimes to vent out my frustrations, and sometimes just to share a funny story or two about the students. But she knew what I thought about lesson plans and she would just tell me, “Don’t worry too much about it. I’ve seen you in class and I know you know what you’re doing.” So I ended up enjoying some creative freedom without being completely tied down to the rigidity of lesson plans.

I had a “What would Dory do” moment when one summer she asked me, “Would you like to teach world history?”

Me? Teach history? I was a Computer Science major teaching English literature so I guess the idea didn’t sound so strange. But I had a natural love affair with literature that I didn’t have for history. I said, “But I don’t know anything about world history.”

And she said, “I have the textbook here. Just pick it up and start reading. Come on, help me out here. It’s almost school opening time, the previous teacher just resigned and I haven’t found a suitable replacement. If you accept, I know the kids will at least be in good hands.”

And that’s how I ended up with one year in my resume where I taught history. It was a wild and wacky experience for me and some of my kids thought so too, as it was probably the only history class they had where all tests and quizzes were open books and notes. I also managed to have them watch Schindler’s List, Stephen Spielberg’s award-winning movie about the holocaust. It was R-rated and I let a bunch of 14-year olds watch it. Processing it afterwards was fun as well.

Yeah, it was something Dory would have done.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Contradictory Christianity


Photo Credit: torbakhopper via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: torbakhopper via Compfight cc

At around 2AM last Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida, 29-year old Omar Mateen went inside the Pulse nightclub (a known gay bar) and shot and killed 49 people. He reportedly called 911 during the attack to pledge his allegiance to ISIS.

In an interview with his father, the elder Mateen recalls an earlier incident when his son became so enraged after seeing two men kiss in front of his wife and child, but he had no idea that it would come to this.

Most of the mainstream Christian articles I read called for prayers, mourning, and respect for the LGBT. They highlighted their concern for the well-being of the people of Orlando. They called for help and counselling to the survivors as well as to the family members of the deceased. I saw the hashtag #PrayForOrlando on several of my friends’ walls.

There were a number of responses though that were on the opposite end of the spectrum, like these ones:

  1. Florida gay pulse club attacked. I’m so happy someone decided to shoot perverts instead of innocent people.
  2. The only good thing about the Orlando shooting is that it was a gay club. So less gays in the world today.
  3. I wake up to some dude shooting up a gay nightclub. Isn’t that weird. Homosexuality is condemned by God so that’s why he let that happen, people.
  4. God opened his armory to deal with proud fag America.
  5. That is the right target for such shootings. Gays should be shot for disrespecting the natural order.
  6. Ok…at least it was only gays. Not like they add anything to mankind: Except disease — a bit of non-story, really.
  7. The shooter is my hero. The cops should be sued for killing a hero who was doing social justice. I mean, since 80% of Americans no longer have brains to know that homosexuality is a great sin against God and every natural human law. Let those who know please buy guns and kill off any gay, lesbian, transgender and their likes, including Bruce Jenner or whatever he calls himself now…FYI I am a Christian, not a Muslim and my religion strongly condemns any act of homosexuality.
  8. Why should I pray for Orlando? In the first place, Orlando rejected God. They had it coming.
  9. This was God’s hand, and he will pluck them away one by one. I have no judgement in what others do but God does.
  10. It seems that so many Christians today are sympathizing with the sodomites who were destroyed in this nightclub shooting, in this terror attack. Why would we sympathize with, or feel bad for them? Well, frankly, I’m not sad about it at all.I don’t condone violence, I never have… but I’m not gonna sit here and cry about it and say it’s a tragedy, because it’s not.

From the outside looking in, it is easy to condemn these people for being judgmental and hypocritical to the Christian values of love and forgiveness they so espouse. However, my experience in the inside also allows me some insight into this kind of thinking. The Bible — the supposed inspired Word of God — after all condemns homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments.

These people are trying to be “right” in God’s eyes by showing they approve of what he wrote and said (or at least, what they believe he said) — never mind that it’s unpopular or that they would be seen as unkind — what is important is that they remain faithful to the Word. And yet, here is Jesus, telling them to love the unlovable — the least of the people.

Oh how difficult it was for me to be a Christian, to never know where the boundaries lie, to resolve the many contradictions that hound this or that doctrine.

And yet now that I have left Christianity, I think I have a better idea on how to be a good Christian. Distancing oneself tends to put a fresh perspective on how you see things.

Christians can be better Christians if they always err on the side of kindness and compassion. Gandhi could not have said it better when he proclaimed, “I like your Christ, but I do not like you Christians,” because he saw through the pompousness and self-righteous posturing that many do in the name of Christ.

After all, Jesus was often depicted as hanging out with common people, even drunks, taxpayers and whores. He ignored regulations and healed people on the Sabbath. He ignored social conventions and talked to the Samaritan woman, and even refused to condemn the woman others wanted to stone for her sin of adultery.

If you were to just look at these examples of how he lived his life and how he treated others, you would understand that being a true follower of Christ doesn’t mean that you follow every stroke of the law, or that you know your doctrine like the back of your hand, but that you are able to transcend these and see the greater value of compassion, love and acceptance.

Frank Schaeffer, son of a well-known protestant minister and author, Francis Schaeffer, wrote a book called Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes in God. In the fourth chapter, he shares a little bit about his parents: “Dad and Mom had a lesbian couple living in our chalet for several years in the early 1970s. One was Dad’s secretary, the other Mom’s helper. They shared a room. Fortunately, my parents were hypocritical and acted as if, no matter their official religious absolutes, the higher call was to ignore what the Bible said in favor of what they hoped it meant. Thus, without ever saying it, it seems to me my parents were affirming that the Bible should be read as if Jesus was the only lens through which to see God. The result was that Francis and Edith Schaeffer were nicer than their official theology.”

Yes, I think the world would be a better place if more people were nicer than their official theology.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Pussywillows Catcalls

Photo Credit: bhermans via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: bhermans via Compfight cc

I am trying to understand this brouhaha over Duterte’s whistling at reporter Mariz Umali.

On the one hand, we have those who decry it as foul, as encouraging catcalling and rape culture, and seeing it as demeaning to women. On the other hand, we have those who say there’s nothing wrong with it, with some women even saying they are not bothered, or even enjoy being catcalled.

Those who know me know that I have friends on both sides of the fence (heck, I have all sorts of friends across all sorts of fences), so you can imagine what my facebook wall looks like when debates of this sort occur. I sometimes have to step in their arguments (when they do it on my wall) and remind them to be civil because they are both my friends, after all.

Once again, I am caught in between trying to find some sort of balance between the two (and my astrology-believing friend would point out to me once more it’s because I’m a Libra). This is not because I’m a Duterte-supporter and am trying to find some way to justify his actions, but because I have long been in the middle regarding the issue of catcalling.

I have read stories of women recounting their own horrible experiences of being catcalled (or worse) hence I understand their hatred of it in any form. And yet, I also understand Gabriela representative Luz Ilagan (also a friend and fellow Toastmaster), when she said that Duterte’s whistling was not sexual harassment (though I disagree that it’s “Bisaya culture”).

I watched the video again to understand the circumstances when the incident took place. The press conference had been going on for about 30 minutes, with reporters jostling with one another to ask their questions. Duterte hears a question and is trying to find the speaker who says, “Sir, I’m over here.” Duterte sees her and has an expression on his face of mild, pleasant surprise, and then smiles says “Talagang nagpapapansin ka sa akin ha.” Then he whistles and sings, “Malayo ang tingin…” Mariz is caught by the camera to be also smiling but gently and firmly insisting that her question be answered, which Duterte does, and the presscon then proceeds normally.

The way I see it, it is simply comic-relief, a short break from 30 minutes of seriousness. That is simply how Duterte is. Talking to the press is like talking to his barkada. He does not hide behind a cloak of formality or politeness (which is both good and bad for him, so it seems). I don’t know if it’s just me but that sort of informality does not bother me. Using romantic overtures for humor is something Filipinos commonly do. I remember presentations in high school — when a fellow student was singing onstage, some guy or girl would go up the stage and pretend to wipe the performer’s sweat — whistles and shrill giggles would abound. When a student teacher sat in our classes to observe, and we teased her romantically with our teacher, he would sometimes oblige by making some remark addressed to the observer. Even when I was a teacher, I would sometimes ride with my students teasings, either for a humorous interlude, to establish better rapport, or simply to lighten the mood.

From where I sit, that was all Duterte was doing. There was no intent of disrespecting or demeaning women, or even of making sexual innuendos or advances.

An interesting observation though of those most vocal on my facebook feed: Those who are vehemently against Duterte’s whistling seem to be on the younger side — those in their thirties or below. While those who are saying it’s ok tend to be in their forties, fifties or above. So perhaps it may not be a Bisaya thing, as Luz Ilagan says, but more of a cultural-age thing. Perhaps those of us who are more advanced in years (dang, I’m in this category already!) are simply more used to this kind of humor. After all, we grew up where teasing one another as “bayot” was not the social faux pas that it is today.

I found it slightly strange, though, that many of those who found Duterte’s whistling offensive were the same ones laughing at and sharing the #rp69fanfic stories that became popular during the election season. For those who are not aware of what it is, there was this person who started some short dialogues between Baste Duterte and Sandro Marcos that had homosexual overtones mixed with election references. For example:

Sandro: I thought we were going to do Du30 rounds.
Baste: Why? How many have we done?
Sandro: I don’t know. We need to do a recount.

This may seem like harmless fun but I know people who were offended by this as well.

I also wonder, what if it was a woman politician being interviewed by a handsome male reporter, and that woman whistled in the same way that Duterte did, would she get the same flak? What if it was a gay or female transgender politician doing the same to a reporter of the opposite sex? Just some things to think about. Who decides what is offensive and what is not?

And just in case you think I am being a bit naughty with the title of my piece, it is actually a reference to a 1974 song by Kenny Rankin called Pussywillows Cattails, both of which are kinds of flowers. I grew up at a time when ‘pussy’ referred only to cats, when ‘cocks’ only meant roosters, when ‘gay’ only meant happy and when ‘queer’ only meant strange.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Legitimate Endorsement

This week’s hot topic is Digong’s seeming “endorsement” of journalist killings on the basis that “most of them are corrupt.” I had one angry friend messaging me links from various news outlets and saying “this is the man you voted for.” In my mind, I was like, “So what do you want me to do? Take it back?”

Instead of replying that way, I just tried to understand him and I told him to calm down a bit. He was a journalism graduate so of course he felt agitated. I read the news reports and it did indeed seem bad. One headline said, “Duterte endorses killing corrupt journalists.” Another read, “Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte said that corrupt journalists were legitimate targets of assassination.” And still another said “The new president of the Philippines says many slain journalists deserved it.” On top of that the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) came out with a statement entitled “Nothing justifies the murder of journalists” decrying Duterte’s broad assertion that “most journalists are corrupt.”

After reading these, I decided that I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I had heard the actual press conference, straight from the horse’s mouth. When I found a video clip, I listened to the back-and-forth between Digong and the reporter, and typed my own transcript as I listened. I played back different portions several times to make sure I had heard things correctly, and then played the whole thing over again while reading through what I had typed. I’m pretty sure my transcript is accurate except for some gutteral sounds and unintelligible utterances. (Click here to see the transcript and video of Duterte’s May 31 Press Conference)

So what is my analysis of what Digong said in relation to the screaming headlines?

Well, it’s quite clear to me that what we have here is a failure of communication. The question went in one direction while the answer went the other way. The question asked was, what is your POLICY on the journalist killings, but Digong’s answer was not about policy. He was explaining why a certain group of journalists got killed which found a specific focus on Jun Pala.

After the initial tirade, the reporter then asked if that was an excuse to kill a journalist, just because he is corrupt?

Now, look at Digong’s answer “Well, that is the reason. You are asking why? That is the reason. Now sinabi mo hindi dapat, you have to debate with the killer, not me.”

In other words, the reporter and Duterte seemed to be at two different wavelengths. The reporter was obviously still trying to frame some sort of policy while Duterte was focused on explaining why these killings happened.

It was not an endorsement, nor was it legitimization or justification of the killings.

When he said, “It’s not because you’re a journalist na ikaw, na you’re exempted from assassination,” he was not implying that it’s legitimate or justified to kill journalists because they are corrupt. What he is saying is that those who want to assassinate journalists will kill them anyway and will not respect the fact that they are journalists. That is far from endorsing the murder of journalists.

Now, if I had been the reporter, instead of letting Duterte dictate the flow of the conversation, I would have insisted on getting an answer regarding POLICY because his initial answer was clearly off the mark. I would say something like, “Excuse me, sir, I understand that some journalists get killed because they are corrupt but what about the many innocent ones who expose powerful people and get killed in the process, what is your POLICY for giving justice to them?”

On the other hand, I do somewhat agree with an open letter written by Marites Vitug imploring the incoming president  to be more clear when he communicates, as he is now no longer addressing a small community but an entire nation, and even the world. You will notice in the transcript that there are a lot of half-finished sentences, and the tendency to go on tangents. It is a legitimate request that the president be more concise and clear in giving his statements.

And that is something I can legitimately endorse.


Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

President Duterte’s Press Conference May 31, 2016

Transcript of Conversation from 00:55:40 to 1:01:36 (Journalist Killings):

Reporter: Sir, what is your…what is your policy on the journalist killings…that the Aquino government failed to act…the journalist killings?

[couldn’t understand this part] ba ako? Alam mo iha, ganon yan e. Kung papatayin ka talaga papatayin ka. There is no way to know that the next victim would be a journalist. Sa karamihan, prangka-prangka, may nagawa yan. Kasi hindi ka naman talaga papatayin diyan kung wala kang ginawa e. Yung mga expose or bad words against us, wala yan. Ako I’ve been mayor… Pero karamihan niyan may, alam mo na, nabigyan na, tapos, especially if you want to take sides. Nabayaran mo na tapos you play. Yan ang karamihan na namamatay. Or tumatanggap na sa mga sugarol, tapos binabaril. You really want the truth, yun ang truth.

There is still corruption in…sa inyong side. Marami yan. Hindi lang ang binibigyan niyan, hindi lang ang pulis. Yung si Pala, binibigyan yan, kokolekta harap-harapan sasabihin kumolekta kami tapos sa kabila, babanatan mo. Yun, that is the best example of bakit namamatay itong mga journalists. Kaya ang prangka-prangka, yan sa iyo. Karamihan ganun. Kasi kung journalist ka lang na tama, walang gagalaw sa iyo especially if it is the truth but you cannot hide the truth. Pero yung ganun. Ang example natin dito, taga rito ka man, iyong si Pala. I do not diminish his memory, but he was a rotten son of a bitch. He deserves it. E ganon e.

Reporter: Is that an excuse to kill him, may…um…president, I mean, just because a journalist is corrupt or whatever is that an excuse…

Well, that is the reason. You are asking why? That is the reason. Now sinabi mo hindi dapat, you have to debate with the killer, not me because I’m a bit…of course, I know who killed him, kasi binastos niya yung tao e. Alam nila, ni…itong Hans Aliño nasaan? Nandito yan kanina. O, alam ni Aliño yan kung sino. Aliño, si Tina Junsay, because they were there when, nung umiyak yung tao…si…yung…basta yung…yung isa, tapos yung isa pa…Dengdeng…all ABS-CBN. Nandoon yun sila nung umiyak yung tao kasi binastos.

Reporter: Sino ang binastos?

O, huwag ka na. Huwag mo nang salihin yan.

Reporter: Mayor, your reason was…

Kasi nagtatanong kayo kung bakit pinapatay…you seem to offer…huwag mong…do not make it appear na itong…they are clean. Well, most of you are clean. But do not ever expect, that etong mga journalists are all clean. Kaya namamatay yan, karamihan niyan, sinasabi ko, nabayaran na. They take sides, o sobrahan nila ang atake. Getting into a personal…hindi lahat ng tao nakakapag…kaming mga politiko okay yan. Praktisado kami. Pero may mga tao, you go private, tapos hiyain mo, labi na (lalo na) yung anak babuyin mo, papatayin ka talaga. Ganon, e hiningi mo e. Ganon yan. It’s not because you’re a journalist na ikaw, na you’re exempted from assassination.

Ang premise mo kasi, journalist siya, bakit patayin siya? It’s all wrong.

Reporter: But sir, it has a bearing to the freedom of expression…

That’s not something…you violate…yung freedom of expression will…cannot help you if you have done something wrong to the guy. Wag mo…yung freedom of…do not…do not believe so much…you swallow it hook, line and sinker. Alam mo marami dyan na binabayaran pati writers. Alam mo yan. Alam mo kung sino mga writers dito nagproprotekta sa Davao, diyan sa Diwalwal. You know who they are. Ikaw, alam mo man, bakit hindi mo i-expose?

Just because you are a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch. Sakitan mo yung tao…Ako…paano ako…ako praktisado. Hanap ka ng sundalo, sabihin mo ang asawa mo, kaliwete na ganon…diba patay ka…subukan mo. Hindi na madala ng free speech yan, iha. The constitution can no longer help you pag binaboy mo ang isang tao.

Kaya sabi ko…the classic was…si Pala…nandoon yan sila, marami…tago-tago ra ba.

Another reporter: Besides, Mr. President, the freedom of the press is not absolute. Jun Pala was a good friend of mine. It was during the time he was with DXOW, I was with SBN, DXSS channel 7. I already told him that he has exceeded his being a journ…I’m not trying to defend you, Mr. President, because we are very happy that no less than the son of Davao is the president of the Philippines…so let us not consider the incident of Jun Pala to be a matter that should disturb the thinking of the president.

Wala yun…because I know…sabi ko I could point to you the people who were there that night when the guy cried, because, you know, he took the name of the father in vain. E binaboy niya…sabi niya…[couldn’t understand this part], kalimutan mo na yan. Ganon talaga yang taong yan. E ako nga sabi ko, araw-araw.

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