Online outrage over Manila hijack

28 08 2010

(Originally posted in the Asian Correspondent website on August 16, 2010.)

By Romeo Moran,

The unfortunate hostage-taking incident last Monday was definitely an eye-opener, I’ll give you that. It definitely proved more than just a bit about the Philippines and its people. There were many collective Philippine sighs, shrugs, head-scratching, head-pounding, and all around outbursts of emotion as we witnessed live the police failing to successfully rescue the hostages, the media making fools of themselves by indirectly causing ex-officer Rolando Mendoza to start shooting indiscriminately, Mendoza’s brother allegedly directly causing it, and bystanders eschewing police authority to get a good look at the incident.

However, what we didn’t see on TV (at least, that night) was the outright cacophony that was people’s reactions on the Internet. Live and direct and as up-to-date as what we were seeing on television.

Needless to say, as the night wore on, as Mendoza committed his atrocities and the police bumbled their way through the operation and the bystanders swarmed the crime scene, emotions over the Internet got more and more heated. People got angrier and angrier, which is understandable. This was a traumatic incident, with both lives and the country’s reputation on the line. People lost it when we lost both.

However, observing and reading everyone’s reactions led me to a conclusion, which had also been drawn by a few other wise men and women online. The anger, the snarkiness, the cynicism everyone expressed over the failed rescue was hardly cathartical or helpful in any good way at all. People were just being self-righteous, and all the negativity was simply annoying, and stupid.

As a journalism student I believe in free speech for everyone, for sure, but honestly, there are times when I wish that not everybody can have that right. This was one of those times. Although I understand that yes, it’s normal to feel angry (people hate us now, but only a few are to blame) or to act all-knowing (of course we know how to do it better, because we’re the ones watching this at home), when you get right down to it, there’s simply no excuse. We were all immature, and we were all stupid. Yes, I say “we” because I’ve partaken in it myself. It feels rotten now, though, the more I think about it.

For example, many, many people between here and Hong Kong keep on wondering out loud why the police didn’t shoot Mendoza when he made himself a very easy target. These people were so swept up in the tempting lack of difficulty in the situation that they either didn’t know or had forgotten that first of all, the police were following the proper procedure of negotiating before shooting, two, they were negotiating because he was still cooperative, and three, these were because even if he was a criminal, Mendoza still had rights. The police had ultimately failed, but that was one of the two places where they did it right. Speaking of the police’s failure…

People honestly need to stop with the SWAT jokes. Again, yes, they failed. But these jokes had served no purpose at all when people first started saying them, and they continue to serve no purpose now. It is but a manifestation of the public trait of beating a dead horse just to reinforce everyone who isn’t part of the Manila Police’s intellectual superiority. While I am by no means innocent of producing similar comedy, it’s a matter of yes, we get it. The acronyms are merely shallow now.

And there are those who blame President Aquino more than he should be blamed. Yes, he was hardly anywhere to be found, but the point many level-headed people raise is that it is not his position to coordinate the rescue; it was the Philippine National Police general’s. Most of them are either his haters who conveniently forget how the chain of command truly works in a situation like this, or those who honestly really don’t know how it works. I’ve read about a Hong Kong national in the newspaper today that downright called for the President’s resignation on Facebook. Now that’s definitely uncalled for. But speaking of Hong Kong…

No offense to anyone from Hong Kong who might happen to read this, but any Hong Kong national who madly lashes out at the Philippines, our government, or any Filipino is overreacting. While granted, it’s an overreaction they are allowed to have for a certain amount of time before they are expected to stand tall, move on, and maybe forgive, Hong Kong must remember that, like many level-headed people have also brought up, something like this could’ve happened anywhere. Just because an angry ex-cop chose tourists as his targets certainly does not mean every Filipino hates people from Hong Kong. That would be a very illogical assumption to make. I’m not saying that people from Hong Kong aren’t smart enough to comprehend such a notion, but stranger things have happened.

The temptation to damn and condemn and criticize is strong, I know. I’ve fallen to it so many times myself. But after we speak our minds, a right which we are definitely entitled to, I just wish people would stop and think and realize that everyone who was involved was just as human as they are. And when we get collectively angry, our collective intelligence level goes down. It’s not a good image for us, and our reputation is already fragile, if not shattered.

That night, the wisest of the wise online were the only ones to bring up the fact that we must rise above the finger-pointing and work together to repair what we had lost. It may seem cheesy, but it’s honestly one of the smartest things I’ve read all week.

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Thousands of Philippine students take state U entrance exam

17 08 2010

(originally posted here)

by Romeo Moran

Thousands of high school seniors all over the Philippines poured into nearby campuses last weekend just to try and get into one of the country’s most prestigious universities.

At least 70,000 students took the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT), held last Aug. 7 and 8 in the various UP campuses and public high schools across the country. The UP Office of the University Registrar is still tallying the total number of examinees at this time.

Out of those applicants, only around 10,000 to 12,000 will be admitted, mostly based on their performance in the exam. The relatively low entrance rate compared to other colleges and universities in the Philippines gives the UPCAT its reputation of being the hardest college entrance examination in the country.

That reputation spawns many legends and stories about the UPCAT and its difficulty, and fuels the review center business that helps students study for important exams.

“[I expected the test to be] harsh, because of a review center I attended during the summer,” said Pam, an UPCAT taker from Davao. “[But] I just felt relaxed [during the test].”

Motivation

So why do most students still try for UP, despite the seemingly monumental odds of getting in?

One reason would be the sheer diversity of UP culture, often described as a “microcosm of Philippine society.” “You really get to meet loads of people from all walks of life,” said Lari, a Biology student in UP Manila. “It’s no fun being confined to an all exclusive university filled with the Richie Rich’s of the Philippines.”

Although for people like Pam and Ernest, a student already in UP Diliman, it’s mostly because being in UP is kind of a family tradition. “[I’m going to enroll in UP if I pass the UPCAT] to have a better future, and because I’ve been influenced by my siblings,” Pam says. According to Ernest, the goal of going to UP was “ingrained” by his parents at an early age.

The university’s prestige is also a huge factor, having a reputation of being a breeding ground of the country’s greatest minds and a bastion of academic excellence. “[I aimed to get into UP because] Maganda ang Journalism program nila (their Journalism program is good),” said Enzo, a freshman also in UP Diliman.

Lastly, another huge factor is the cost of education in UP. The state university offers premium education for much less than in private colleges due to government subsidy, even though that subsidy has been decreasing in recent years, resulting in major fee increases. “The tuition [in UP] is way cheaper than in [other universities],” said Lari. “But then again, there is the [Tuition and Other Fees Increase (TOFI)] going on. Too bad, but it’s still affordable for middle-class families.”

Even with the TOFI, which resulted in most students paying Php1000-1500 per unit from the old cost of Php300 per unit, the overall cost of education in UP is still cheaper compared to that in De La Salle University or Ateneo de Manila University, also two of the most prestigious universities in Metro Manila. The difference in the fees per semester between UP and La Salle is at least 51%, and a staggering 98.6% between UP and Ateneo, still making UP a reasonable option for the middle-class.

The results of the UPCAT are usually released in late January.





My favorite sports blog, under a microscope

17 08 2010

I love sports, I love comedy on the side of the satirical and the subtle, and I definitely love to read blogs. So naturally, my favorite sports news/opinion blog is Deadspin.com.

What is Deadspin? It’s certainly not for the easily offended, that’s for sure. It’s uncouth in its wit, making it look like there is a lack of professionalism, but I doubt they would admit to being professional themselves. Deadspin’s writers take real sports news and adds a layer of wit and sarcasm to it that may come across as disrespectful to those who are first-time readers, especially for serious topics, like player injuries and deaths. The “usuals” in the comments section, though, are not only numbed to this treatment of the news, but are also part of the Deadspin machine as well. For example, take this recent post about a pro wrestler who died very young:

You can click the image to enlarge it so you can read what they’re saying, but for those who didn’t, to sum it up, they’re not exactly mourning or expressing remorse or regret over the person who passed away. No; in fact, they are debating on the philosophies of wrestling entrance videos and making rather harmless jokes about other deceased wrestlers.

But all of this doesn’t mean to say that they always get away with it. Their freewheeling writers have earned them scandals such as this:

For those who didn’t click, it’s all about a promotional interaction session with comedian Sarah Silverman that imploded due to various factors. However, they do seem to already expect controversy due to their style, and thus are already used to it.

So while it may not be the epitome of professionalism and high-quality sports journalism, I for one like Deadspin, because of all the wit, and because sometimes, there are some legitimate, substantial views and opinions underneath that wit. And not to mention, their news isn’t fabricated, anyway, so I could count them as a legitimate news source. Professional, probably not, but legitimate, definitely. I can see where some people would be turned off, though, and I understand.

No matter what people say, sports is still largely a man’s world. If Deadspin personified anything the most, it would be that one notion alone… and I suppose it doesn’t bother me, being a man.





Hello world – so it says

2 08 2010

Hello, world, my name is Pepi. Teachers call me Romeo, until they ask me how I want to be called. This site, by the way, is my blog for my J117 class.

I’ve been blogging since I learned how to put together my first site on Geocities at 12 years old. Some of my older stuff are still present around the Internet (I won’t tell you where they are) and when you read them, they are definitely cringe-worthy, for they were all products of a young, growing, pubescent mind. (Today I can say I’ve matured, even if just a little bit.)

So what is this blog going to be about? To be honest with you, I’m not quite sure myself; I think we’ve been given the license to go carte blanche, so whatever this blog is, right now it’s a concept that is fluid. If you stick around, you may witness it being molded and hammered into shape right before your eyes. If not, it might be magically different when you come back after a while.

I’m a journalism student, so my published articles (if I actually do manage to get published) might end up appearing here. I’m a huge pro wrestling buff (yes, I admit it), so maybe I might go out on a limb and write about it here (even though I already write about it here). Or if that’s too extreme for you, I can talk about sports too – you can get NFL, NBA, and UAAP from me. Most of the time, though, I usually rant about Philippine politics and society, and one common theme shall be comedy (if you haven’t noticed yet). Life shouldn’t be too serious.

A melting pot of ideas! Aren’t you excited? …Not really? Well, I am! For real!

So… what’s there left to say? I think I covered all the bases, and we’re all set to go here. Thank you for coming and reading – and a shout-out to my J117 classmates reading this in class right now. I CAN SEE YOU.

Here’s a fun little video to send you off on your merry way.