Rewriting history, repeating history


The life of former president Ferdinand Marcos was summarized in four words – ‘hidden wealth, hidden burial.’ The loathing for the Marcoses burst when the remains of the former president was surreptitiously buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery for Heroes). Everybody was caught unaware because the decision of the Supreme Court allowing the burial is not yet final and executory and an appeal is being prepared by the anti-Marcos camp.

But such haste and duplicity were typical of Marcos who stayed in power for more than 20 years, plundered the coffers of the country and stifle dissent by force. Thirty years after he was ousted, the government is not yet finished tracking down and getting back the loot, the victims of Martial Law remained not compensated and offer no closure for the desaparecidos.

The Marcoses  one by one returned to the country and were gradually rehabilitated as they ran and won elective local positions   in their traditional bailiwicks. Ferdinand ‘bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. even won as a senator. His support to Duterte during the last elections earned him a promise to have his father buried in the cemetery reserved for the country’s heroes.

And so it goes that the rule of law be damned. The infallible President Duterte has spoken and will keep his promise whatever it takes. The Supreme Court justices who voted, most of whom were appointed by former President Arroyo, stamped the decision as legal. A hero is hailed by the people he served. Marcos is different, he has to be buried in secret lest the people howl in protest.

The effort to rewrite history and depict a heroic Marcos points to President Duterte. The methods he is using now are reminiscent of the Marcos Martial Law years. He  is bent on doing what his idol has done in the 70s, and kept no secret about it. He crowed about suspending the writ of habeas corpus, the first step in declaring Martial Law. It was the communist insurgency in the 70s, today it is the drug menace.

‘Never again!’ was the battle cry  in 1986. Last night we  saw the millenials marched and the emotions of the people roused as the spirit of EDSA is steadily and systematically being erased.  Are we going to witness history repeating itself?


Supermoon in Yangon!


The last rays of the sun left an orange hue as it slowly faded behind the building under construction.  In the east, the moon has risen more than an inch from the horizon. Pale yellow, it was the only  thing visible in the wide expanse  of the cloudless Yangon sky.

My estimate was wrong. I read somewhere that the full moon will emerge at around 830PM, so I thought coming to the rooftop of Sakura Tower at around 6PM will allow me to witness  the slow rise of the moon.

The Supermoon was said to be an omen of  something significant. The last Supermoon was in 1948, the State of Israel was declared on that year. Now, it may be the dreaded Trump presidency or in the Philippines, the rewriting of history when the Supreme Court ruled that former President Marcos can be buried in the Libingan ng  mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes). Maybe there are more to come before the year ends?

The drinks and the great food added to the enjoyment of the night.

The next Supermoon is expected in 2034, hoping I can still view it.

San Mig Light and cockles in Suda


We all have our own favorite spots. Ambiance, accessibility, good food, cold beer and other reasons may draw us to our favorite places. We also go to places where and when we need to see and be seen. Whatever the reason, we go back to places that gave us unforgettable memories and experiences and satisfaction to our cravings.  Suda Restaurant in Bangkok is for me, one of the places that fit this category. It is not a fancy place, just one of those open-air restaurants common to Asian markets.

I go there for the cockles – small, tasty shells which I don’t even know if saltwater or freshwater. I started to enjoy these shells when I arrived in the Mekong region. It is available in Phnom Penh and in Hanoi, but I rarely find these in Yangon. So every time I’m in Bangkok I make sure I visit Suda to indulge on cockles.

Cockles are best cooked medium by dipping it in hot water until it slightly opened up. The meat is soft and the juice becomes rusty red. Dipped in tamarind sauce with spices one can eat it with a slurping sound. A cold beer is the best follow up. What’s good in Suda is that it has San Miguel Beer among its wide array of beers.

With two plates of cockles and an ice-cold San Mig Light, my night is complete!


Translating a president


Photo source:

The first 100 days of President Du30 were full of statements and statements to clarify the statement. He fired off declarations laced with curses and cuss words to President Obama, the US, UN, EU and the Pope, because of their comments about violations of human rights resulting from his flagship program – drug war. Many people cringed as they hear their president spew mouthfuls of hard-to-eat words, oblivious of the whole world listening to him. His apologists were fast to give the ‘real meaning’ of the presidential statements as if it were coming from the Martians.

It is not a problem of regional dialect because the president is a lawyer, a city mayor and a congressman, among other government positions, which means he can read and write English. I think the problem can be traced more with the law school. Most law schools are not in the business of promoting good English, and lawyers are good at obfuscation and not clarification. Therefore the president is only being true to himself as a lawyer.

So statements have to be translated. The president himself is translating and contradicting himself and the statements are sometimes hyperbole, jokes and analogy. Some of my favorites are:

When he said he will kill drug lords, he means they will be given immunity to testify in the Senate against his nemesis D5;

When he said he would jet ski to Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) to insist Philippine sovereignty, it means flying with an entourage of almost a thousand  to kowtow to Beijing;

And when he said independent foreign policy, he means separating from US and joining China and Russia ‘against the world.’

Erap had his Eraptions (book of Erap jokes). In the future we may see a dictionary or a thesaurus of Du30 terms. Another example of Filipino ingenuity and creativity!


An Insider night


The breeze was cool and the view was impressive. From the penthouse of the IMA building you can see the lights of cars as they crawl in the slow moving traffic along Bogyoke Aung San Street. The fading orange and golden rays of the setting sun provided the perfect backdrop for the imposing silhouette of a half-finished skyscraper.  Across it, the towering spire of the Anglican Church seemed to resent losing to the skyscraper. For good reason, because for several decades it dominated the skyline being the highest, but now it is dwarfed by the newcomer, the Junction building. The latest development in the heart of Yangon, a mixed-use of office and residential buildings a mall that hopes to replace the iconic Bogyoke Market.

IMA building is one of the redeveloped buildings in the area. It has its ‘historic’ record of being the location of the first KFC store in Myanmar.  It was amusing to recall the time when the KFC opened in 2015, some walking tours included it among the sights to be seen. After viewing the remaining colonial-era buildings along Pansodan and Strand Streets, the tour usually ends at the Bogyoke Aung San Street. And before the tourists go to the Bogyoke Market for the souvenirs, the guide would always show the KFC, the symbol of Myanmar’s march to progress and democracy.

IMA building also host the Myanmar Insider, a monthly business magazine. I responded to the magazine’s ad for writers and my first article was published in June 2014. Since then, I submitted articles on business and the economy and became a regular contributor.

An evening with writers, staff and business partners was thought of for the April 3 Family Night at the big open balcony of the IMA building penthouse. I thought this will be my opportunity to meet other writers of the magazine.



With Dr. Tin Maung Tu, Myanmar Insider publisher


The publisher Dr. Tin Maung Tu, Sonny to his friends, was an exuberant and gracious host. Most of the guests who arrived were from the companies advertising with the magazine, but most of the other contributing writers were absent.  I was a little bit frustrated for not meeting other writers, but I enjoyed the small talk with the staff and the guests.



Pork sticks in Three Acts

Fast food Myanmar-style is not burgers but pork sticks. Perfect when just grabbing a quick bite before going home, or just having something to go with a bottle of beer.

Pork sticks are no ordinary meat. These are cutlets from innards, brittle pig ears, and fattest pork legs, pre-cooked and displayed in all its glory in a big aluminium platter placed over a vat of boiling soup.

The pork-man or pork-lady as the case may be, presides over the ritual by sitting behind the pile of pork whatchamacallits making cutlets while the drooling customers sit in small and low plastic chairs around the vat. A bunch of sticks will be given to you to be used for picking the choice pork cuts. Beware! It should be one sick per piece no double picking. Use one stick and you retire it after eating the cutlet. By the time you adjourn, the Pork-man will count the number of sticks, that’s what you pay.

Act 1: Sule Pagoda Road

sule pork stick.jpg

The Sule Pagoda Road is the center of street foods in Yangon. As the day come close to an end, ambulant food vendors start setting up their stalls in the parking lots parallel to the road. Most of the buses from downtown Yangon starts around Sule Pagoda and passengers from various offices in the downtown wait for buses, making them captured customers of the food vendors.

I once tried but when I saw the pork-lady cut the meat with unwashed knife, and dipping used cups in pails with brown water and afterwards drying it with dirty rag, I had second thoughts.

This is what I call dark side of street foods in Myanmar.

 Act 2: Hpa-an market

The market in Hpa-an is not so big. People go to the market in the morning and after lunch it is almost deserted.  I was once invited to have snacks and surprised to see a pork-lady with clean stall. The vat is clean, the soup really looks like freshly cooked and the pork cutlets are ok.  It has a homemade appearance that drawn me closer. I gave in to my craving…


Act 3: Junction Maw Tin

Back in Yangon, I missed the pork sticks in Hpa-an, but I still cannot force myself to try the Sule pork sticks. One time, as I was accompanying my wife to buy some things in Junction Square Maw Tin, a hole in the wall food stall in the fourth floor sells pork sticks! Yup, they made a mall version of the lowly pork sticks. You sit in a bar and they give you a basin full of pork cutlets, and with the same sauces.

pork stick.jpg

Change is indeed happening in Myanmar, and I like it.


Ego Trip: Rediscovering grace in the culture of self-esteem


I was brought up by a disciplinarian father who did not hesitated to use his leather belt to punish me when I refused to obey or do mischiefs. I hate every time I was hit, but it reminded me of things I should not do. As I grew up, I developed the attitude of keeping away from things and events that would led me to ‘punishment.’ My father was not a disciplinarian just for the sake of discipline. He was proud of my achievements and supported me in all of my undertakings even if those were far from his ‘dreams’ for me. I appreciated what he did to develop my character.

The book by Glynn Harrison explains the foundation of how parenting is done today. Children are pampered and praised and rarely censured. Instead of discipline as the guide for growing up, enhancing self-esteem is considered as the more appropriate approach. The concept suggests success can be attained when children are showered with praise as they grow up. Reprimand will demotivate them and corporal punishment will traumatize them.

Harrison captured it with the statement, “Modern parents preside over an atmosphere of too much praise, too little failure, and insufficient boundary-setting, leaving many young people ill-equipped for the harsh realities of life.” Not only that, the ‘me’ became the center of the universe. “Boosting young people’s self-esteem for so long, we have unthinkably built a generation of narcissists,” he added.

And so there is now a mindset where people think highly of themselves. The ego has been bloated and further reinforced by social media, and it also gave rise to entitlements and privileges, expecting other people to give favor, but never dispensing favors to others.

The phenomenon is not limited to families, as the church also reflects the move to promote self-esteem among Christians. The culture of self-esteem and the ‘me’ attitude seeped into the church as leaders tried their best to attract members and retain those who are already inside. How do they do that? Harrison shared, “Most growing churches today positively play to our culture’s preference for informality and individuality.” Worse, instead of Jesus as the center of worship, Harrison observed that, “Today’s successful churches have adapted cleverly to our self-oriented culture by front-ending their appeal with what people want.”

The individual became the focus and worship service is now designed to fit his needs. The music, the message and the amenities should suit his expectations and intellectual level or else he will find another church that can satisfy his idea of religious exercise.

Gradually, the self became the idol.