PHNO EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE PAST WEEK
FROM THE INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: LETHAL FIRECRACKER 

DEC 31 ---A piccolo used to be a musical instrument, a variant of the flute. Nowadays, especially at this time of year, mention the word and it connotes something else. The name has been appropriated by a firecracker, and not just an ordinary firecracker, but a particularly deadly one. According to the Department of Health, so far this year 67 percent, or some 94 out of 140 cases of firecracker injuries recorded as of Dec. 29, were caused by the illegal firecracker piccolo. How deadly is it? “Piccolo is very poisonous because it contains the substance yellow phosphorus,” warned the DOH. “The estimated human lethal dose (of yellow phosphorus) is 50-100 milligrams.”  Burns and vomiting are the immediate symptoms in a person affected by piccolo contamination. The effect is life-threatening enough that immediate medical attention is recommended for anyone coming into contact with it. Simple first-aid steps would not do. If piccolo were swallowed, said the DOH advisory, children should not be made to vomit but should instead be given six to eight raw egg whites, while adults may be given eight to 12 raw egg whites, before being brought immediately to the hospital. READ FULL REPORT...

COMMENTARY: ‘Bonifacio’ for the present 

DEC 30 ---Despite, or perhaps because of, its mixed reviews, “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo” is worth seeing. It is necessary to take the film on its own terms. As a biopic, it unfolds within the given limits of this genre: the tendency toward melodrama, for example, and the hero worship that uncritically accepts the role of the individual leader over that of the collective in the Revolution. Hence, one has to take the good  with the bad—in this case, Robin Padilla’s one-dimensional acting, the Hollywood-style fighting scenes, the evil frailes and the malevolent figures of Emilio Aguinaldo’s Magdalo followers, including the cold and detached El Presidente himself. One can quibble with historical details, or with the flattening of historical context (for example, the different conditions of Cavite into which the Bonifacios entered, the rumors swirling around Andres Bonifacio’s motives, the coup he planned after his ouster from Tejeros, etc.). But all these aside, this film is significant especially when one considers that it is less about the history of the Katipunan and Bonifacio as it is about a reflection of the present moment’s relationship to its alienated past. READ FULL COMMENTARY...


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EDITORIAL Lethal firecrackers

MANILA, JANUARY 5, 2015 (INQUIRER)  A piccolo used to be a musical instrument, a variant of the flute. Nowadays, especially at this time of year, mention the word and it connotes something else.

The name has been appropriated by a firecracker, and not just an ordinary firecracker, but a particularly deadly one. According to the Department of Health, so far this year 67 percent, or some 94 out of 140 cases of firecracker injuries recorded as of Dec. 29, were caused by the illegal firecracker piccolo.

How deadly is it? “Piccolo is very poisonous because it contains the substance yellow phosphorus,” warned the DOH. “The estimated human lethal dose (of yellow phosphorus) is 50-100 milligrams.”

Burns and vomiting are the immediate symptoms in a person affected by piccolo contamination. The effect is life-threatening enough that immediate medical attention is recommended for anyone coming into contact with it. Simple first-aid steps would not do. If piccolo were swallowed, said the DOH advisory, children should not be made to vomit but should instead be given six to eight raw egg whites, while adults may be given eight to 12 raw egg whites, before being brought immediately to the hospital.

Piccolo can also damage eyes and skin, not to mention any extremities reached by its blast. It is likewise dangerous when inhaled.

Why, then, does this lethal firecracker continue to be available in the market despite its illegal status and the ample warnings from health officials? Worse, why is it allowed to be packaged in a manner that targets children? “It comes in attractive packaging with a cartoon character,” noted the DOH, “and due to its size and packaging, children could easily mistake it for candy.”

The answer is simple: Because there remains a demand for it. Because a sizable portion of the populace remains stubborn enough—let’s not mince words here, dumbheaded enough—to continue to light up firecrackers of the deadly, injurious variety despite the gruesome images of severed fingers and bloody stumps of burned, shattered flesh that swamp the newscasts at this time of year.

At least 140 people have already sustained firecracker injuries as of Monday; expect that number to rise as the New Year revelry gets underway and more people—aided in many cases by intoxication—throw caution to the wind by lighting up another one that promises to be bigger and badder than the laughable piffle the snooty next-door neighbor had detonated.

And so it goes. The tragedy, of course, is that many more children are injured than adults, since playing with fire, in ordinary times, is the kind of behavior responsible adults have already learned to shun and be careful about. Of the total number of injuries recorded by the health department, 51 cases were children below 10 years old. One kid had died from ingesting a firecracker. The youngest injured was three years old.

What is to stop this insane need to make the most noise in the New Year? There are ways to make merry other than lighting up firecrackers—or for drunken cops, indiscriminately firing their guns, the other bane of the Jan. 1 celebration. Honk your car. Bang pots and pans. Play your death-metal records at full volume. Shout yourself hoarse. Have the kids toot their cardboard horns until they drop from exhaustion. If you need sparklers, there are harmless variants out there that can brighten up the night merriment as much.

Just don’t be an irresponsible example by reaching for a piccolo, or for other illegal firecrackers such as the Pop Pop, Yolanda, Pla-pla, Giant Kuwitis, the highly poisonous Watusi or the outrageously named Crying Bading. Just. Don’t.


COMMENTARY: ‘Bonifacio’ for the present Vicente L. Rafael @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:35 AM | Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Despite, or perhaps because of, its mixed reviews, “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo” is worth seeing. It is necessary to take the film on its own terms.

As a biopic, it unfolds within the given limits of this genre: the tendency toward melodrama, for example, and the hero worship that uncritically accepts the role of the individual leader over that of the collective in the Revolution. Hence, one has to take the good with the bad—in this case, Robin Padilla’s one-dimensional acting, the Hollywood-style fighting scenes, the evil frailes and the malevolent figures of Emilio Aguinaldo’s Magdalo followers, including the cold and detached El Presidente himself.

One can quibble with historical details, or with the flattening of historical context (for example, the different conditions of Cavite into which the Bonifacios entered, the rumors swirling around Andres Bonifacio’s motives, the coup he planned after his ouster from Tejeros, etc.). But all these aside, this film is significant especially when one considers that it is less about the history of the Katipunan and Bonifacio as it is about a reflection of the present moment’s relationship to its alienated past.

First of all, it is a film about the Revolution produced in these mostly unrevolutionary of times. Twenty-eight years after Edsa, how is it possible to depict the first revolution and market it to this generation of upper, middle and aspirationally bourgeois classes? How does being a revolutionary make sense in the globalized age of SM consumerism, BPOs and OFWs?

How does one go about organizing and fighting a revolution when nearly all social movements are avowedly nonrevolutionary, and the only revolutionary party has been largely relegated to the margins? Who would be the enemies and what kind of leaders would emerge? What would be the aims of a revolution, and who would define it, and how would it be realized?


Robin Padilla retells the life of the Philippine hero Bonifacio. PR Photo

The film responds to these difficult questions by displacing them onto the play of personalities. In the end, it’s not so much about the revolution as it is about the tragedy of Bonifacio (and only tangentially about the life of Gregoria de Jesus who had an equally interesting existence after him).

Focusing on individual figures, the collective gets shorted. The “Filipino people” as a revolutionary force and historical agent are relegated as the backdrop for the rivalry between good guy Bonifacio versus bad guy Aguinaldo.

While the film starts out with a clear sense of the enemy—“mga Kastila” and especially “mga frayle,” always depicted eating sumptuous meals in between overseeing the torture of hapless natives—it gives way to the travails of Bonifacio at the hands of the cruel Aguinaldo.

Indeed, the film begs the question: Who exactly is the enemy?

 What was the revolution all about? And if Bonifacio is indeed “unang pangulo,” what does this make of Aguinaldo?

Does he then become a usurper, a pretender, and worse, a parricide since he orders the death of the “father of the revolution”?

And what about those who follow him—Gregorio del Pilar, Artemio Ricarte, and later on, Apolinario Mabini?

Would they all be complicitous in this originary murder? If so, then the foundation of the nation would be built on good intentions gone very wrong, on deception and duplicity (from Tejeros to Malolos to Manila), on vanity and fratricide, and on the calculation and collaboration, first with the Spaniards (post-Biak na Bato) and later with the US forces. Is this the logical conclusion that we are to derive from this narrative?

By focusing on Bonifacio’s martyrdom and insisting on the belated recognition of his primacy, the film raises, then quickly sidesteps, these questions (signaled by the head-shaking resignation of the museum historian played by Eddie Garcia).

As the credits rolled, the audience in the packed movie house at Rockwell where I saw it broke into applause. I wondered what they were clapping at, this comfortably middle-class audience. Were they, perhaps, saluting the revelation of the corrupt foundations of the Philippine Republic seen in the travesty of the Tejeros elections and the tragic ending of Bonifacio?

Or were they relieved that these matters were closed off and not pursued by the film? Were they thinking that, thanks to Bonifacio’s murder, the revolution now could begin its course toward a counterrevolutionary direction, and that it is this counterrevolutionary legacy that now makes it possible for them to sit in a mall and watch kitsch depictions of late 19th-century life?

Or were they simply glad that they had, on a Sunday afternoon, an alternative to Vice Ganda’s “The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin”?

The poster for the movie says, “Hindi pa tapos ang rebolusyon,” a reiteration of the historiographical theme from the 1960s of the “unfinished revolution” deployed by Teodoro Agoncillo, Mila Guerrero and Rey Ileto (whose influence is felt in the neat animation sequence on the story of Bernardo Carpio, which makes me think that the next historical film should be totally animated).

Back in the 1960s when revolution really did seem like a possibility, reclaiming the Katipunan project seemed to make sense. But today?

The value of the film then lies in spurring discussion not only of its historical content but also of what it says about our present moment, about our ambivalent relationship to the very notion of “revolution,” and about the vexed realities of our counterrevolutionary life.

Vicente L. Rafael is professor of history at the University of Washington in Seattle.


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