Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Carlos Polístico García

Carlos P. Garcia was born on November 4, 1896 and became president of the Philippines on March 23, 1957 after President Ramon Magsaysay died in a plane crash. He was elected December 30th that same year to a full term as the 8th president of the Philippines. Before he took office as president he was a teacher, lawyer and public official. Garcia become well known for his “Filipino First” policy in which he placed the well-being and interests of the Filipino people above any foreigners and those belonging to the majority ruling party.

Garcia was born in Talibon, Bohol. He went to Cebu Provincial High School and Silliman University then got his law degree at the Philippine Law School. Instead of practicing law immediately, Garcia worked as a teacher at Bohol Provincial High School. Garcia was also notable for his poetry in Bohol that people referred to him as the “Prince of Visayan Poets” and the “Bard from Bohol.”

Carlos P. Garcia began his political career as elected as a representative to the Philippine congress in 1925. Thereafter, he was elected governor of Bohol in 1931 and was re-elected in 1940. He became senator in 1941. Garcia was elected for senate for three consecutive terms between 1941-1953.

Garcia was appointed vice-president as his running mate; Ramon Magsaysay won the election for presidency in 1953. The President then appointed him Secretary of Foreign Affairs for four years while serving his term as vice president at the same time. Garcia assumed presidency following President Magsaysay’s death. After he completed Magsaysay’s term he was elected as the 8th president of the Philippines.

President Carlos P. Garcia is most notably remembered for his “Filipino First Policy” which is a policy that favored Filipino businessmen and citizens over foreign investors and competition. This meant that foreign investors could invest up to 40% in an industry or business while the remaining 60% would be owned by Filipino citizens. Garcia’s policies aimed at stimulating economic growth and prosperity, ultimately obtaining and sustaining economic independence. This included managing retail trade, which affected relations with Chinese business. Among other things, Garcia also tried revitalizing Filipino cultural traditions. He also tried instilling the Austerity Program, which although not as successful as his other policies, attempted to fix the corruption in the government. This helped restore trust between the Filipino people and the government.

Towards the end of his second term, Garcia ran for re-election but was defeated by Macapagal. He retired to life as a private citizen in Bohol and was elected to be a delegate of the Constitutional convention. Shortly thereafter though, Garcia suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away on June 14, 1971.

-V. Armas

The Manila Pact aka SEATO

The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was an international organization and alliance for collective defense against growing communist influences mainly in Southeast Asia, the Philippines included. The treaty was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan in Manila, Philippines on September 8, 1954. The treaty became effective in February 1955 and bound the countries to mutual aid to resist any armed attacks. It was assumed that one attack on any one of these countries meant that it was an attack on all the countries so therefore the countries did their best to aid their fellow treaty signature countries.

Historically, SEATO was supposed to mimic NATO and be the Southeast Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Its purpose was to ideally have military forces back up each member if the call for defense was needed.

Members of SEATO reflected strong forces within each of their region. The U.S. and the United Kingdom obviously were the western powerhouses. Other countries such as Australia, Thailand, New Zealand and the Philippines signified “westernized” nations in the Southeast Asian region.

Originally, Pakistan was not included but treaty forces felt that they needed East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to be a part of their organization because the country itself is so geographically near to Southeast Asia. They believed that this would tie together Mid-East and Southeast Asian countries.

In comparison to the NATO alliance, SEATO did not hold joint commands with other forces. Also, the attack on one treaty member did not automatically mean there was an attack on all members even if that was the ideal purpose. This was a weakness for the alliance, which caused discrepancy in support for each other. Following the disinterest of France following communist conflict in Cambodia, the United Kingdom also began to lose faith in SEATO causing SEATO to be unreliable as a secure organization. This caused the Philippines to not rely on SEATO as a form of protection against communist insurgencies within their own country.

Due to the lack of reliability and security among the members, and ultimate membership withdrawals, SEATO was disbanded on June 30, 1977.

-V. Armas

Lualhati Torres Bautista

Lualhati Torres Bautista was born on December 2, 1945 in Tondo, Manila, Philippines. She is considered to be one of the foremost Filipino female novelists, screenwriters, and film and television creator. She is best known for her works in contemporary Filipino literature.

Bautista graduated from Emilio Jacinto Elementary School in 1958 and from Torres High School in 1962. She studied journalism at the Lyceum of the Philippines but dropped out before the completion of her freshman year. Bautista has also served as the vice-president of the Screenwriters Guild of the Philippines and chair of the Kapisanan ng mga Manunlat ng Nobelang Popular. Thereafter, she became a national fellow for fiction at the University of the Philippines Creative Writing Center in 1986. That same year she was also invited to take part of the US International Visitor Leadership Program, which is, a regional project encompassing different regions in American film.

Some of her most notable work include her first screenplay, Sakada which translates into Seasonal Sugarcane Workers is a story written in 1975 that exposes the experiences of Filipino peasants. When it was released it was during the time of Martial Law and therefore the military banned the film from the public for its message even though it won awards from the Catholic Mass Media. Her next film entitled Kung Mahawl Man ang Ulap translated means If the Clouds Parted was also renowned and nominated for awards in the Film Academy. One of her most famous screenplays, Bulaklak sa City Jail, meaning A Flower in City Jail focused around the imprisonment of women. This, alongside her novels Dekada ’70 and Bata Bata…Pa’no Ka Ginawa? exposed to the public the injustices that were being faced by the Filipino people. It also touched base upon women activism during Martial Law and the Marcos administration.

Bautista has won numerous awards and honors and has recently been honored by the Ateneo Library of Women’s writings on Match 10, 2004 during the 8th Annual Lecture on Vernacular Literature by Women. In 2006, she was also the recipient of the Diwata Award for best writer by the 16th International Women’s Film Festival at the University of the Philippines Film Center.

With the works of Lualhati Bautista, she cultivated and exposed issues in periods where media wasn’t readily available. She also brought light to these fictionalized factual-based works to show people certain events going on around them that they wouldn’t have known initially. Because of her contribution to literature and cinema she is one of the most influential Filipino females today.

-V. Armas

Alfonso A. Ossorio

Alfonso Ossorio was an international man. He was born in Manila in 1916, went to school in England for a few years and moved to the United States, all by the age of 14. He became a citizen, and studied art at Harvard and served in the U.S. Army as a medical illustrator. The guy basically did it all. His art would then be as diverse as his complex experiences, evolving as an artist throughout the 40s, 50s, and 60s. He’s described by writer Saul Ostrow as an artist that bridged “the great divide between European art brut and American Abstract Expressionism”. And as sullivangoss.com puts it, “His works challenge the viewer to find meaning in a vastly changing time period when scientific theories overshadowed his austere religious background”. Ossorio was a devout Catholic, who struggled to reconcile his beliefs with his homosexuality. His work reflects such conflicts.

He began his career as a painter in the 1940s, where he worked with Surrealism, and would later befriend two famous avant-garde artists, Jackson Pollock and Jean Dubuffet, who would help influence his evolving styles. As such, in the 50s Ossorio began to experiment with “art brut , where the minds of the insane helped him in his construction of art that broke free from social constraints. This would all lead up to his more well-known “congregations” of the 60s, where he went away from paint and used actual objects to create abstract images and forms.

The trend I found most prevalent in the articles written about Ossorio is that he is referred to as an important figure in the evolution of “American” and “Western” art, thus succeeding in transcending the term Filipino-American and establishing himself as an important historical, American figure in terms of art.

As an immigrant though, he never forgot his roots. The most impressive thing about him, for me, is that in 1950, Ossorio went back to a war-torn Philippines, specifically to the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker on the Island of Negros, where he stayed for several months to paint a cosmic last judgment scene.

He never forgot his roots and used his unique immigration experience to fuel his passion for art.

-Robert Noble

The Golden Age Of Philippine Cinema (1950s and beyond)

It is no secret that America, both politically and culturally, has immense influence on the Philippines. But after World War II, during a time when the Philippines was establishing its identity as an independent nation (with the help of the US of course), there emerged a great sense of nationalism and patriotism that manifested itself in movies.

The Filipino War movie genre, for example, worked to glorify their own soldiers and guerillas for their courage and bravery in war – 1946, for example, bred powerful war films that presented unmoving heroism (Garrison 13, Dugo ng Bayan, to name a couple) . The name of the film, “Dugo ng Bayan”, or “The Country’s Blood”, in itself captures the tragic impact the war had had on its people, and further evidences the need for patriotism in the war-tarnished country.

A handful of film companies, referred to by some as the big four, would thus exploit and use the country’s interest in film to fuel a golden age of art and innovation in Filipino film. Backed by monetary abundance (from where they got the money in the impoverished Philippines, I haven’t a clue), LVN Pictures, Sampaguita Pictures, Premiere Productions, and Lebran Pictures were able to put out 350 movies a year! Yes, a year. As a result, the Philippines would be second only to Japan in film production per year. And they were not horrible films at that. The 1956 film, “Anak Dalita” was awarded the Golden Harvest Award, or Best Picture, during the Asia-Pacific Film Festival. The fact that this success transcends Philippine borders suggests the country’s progression towards successful integration and interaction with countries on a global scale, at least in terms of popular culture.

On the note of international success, perhaps the most important achievement in Filipino cinema during this time (and maybe ever) was the production of the movie, “Genghis Khan”. This 1952 film received acclaim in the Western World and became the FIRST Asian film to be shown not only at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, but also at Cannes (those familiar with Entourage have to know this is pretty big deal). Furthermore and ironically enough, Hollywood became inspired by the film and made its own version, starring none other than our great American hero, John Wayne. This Philippine influence on Western media can be seen as a step towards establishing the country’s own distinct identity, through the medium of film. It allowed again for a Filipino voice to be heard on a global scale.

The only downside to such success…how many people actually knew Genghis Khan was originally a Filipino film? I did not. The 60s would see a decline in quality films, as the Philippine people yearned for more Western inspired movies, with film companies spitting out “westerns” and “bomba” (“Dogeaters” anyone?) pictures. And as we all know, “bomba” means naked, so I’ll just go ahead and stop here..

-Robert Noble

BACK TO BATAAN - John Wayne Saves The Philippines !!!

Just like Mel Gibson had bravely saved the Scottish in the critically acclaimed movie, “Braveheart”, John Wayne became a beacon of hope for the Philippines in time of war and strife. Well, not really. In the 1945 film, “Back To Bataan”, Director Edward Dmytryk presents his audience with a somewhat fictionalized war movie that follows both John Wayne and the events in the Philippines during and after World War II.

After America is forced to leave the Japanese occupied Philippines, Colonel Joseph Madden (played by John Wayne – who funnily enough has an airport named after him right down the street), chooses to stay behind to help organize a guerrilla resistance against Japanese forces. The film opens with a depiction of the successful execution of the Raid at Cabanatuan, a 1945 mission that sought to liberate POW’s from a Japanese camp (a side note: the men seen being freed were the actual POWs that were freed during the war). The film accurately depicts the involvement of both Filipino and American forces in the raid, and continues by going back in time to follow the organization of guerilla forces after America’s departure.
Although at times the movie seems just a cheesy, 1940’s war film, it still provides us with valuable knowledge about American-Philippine relations during and after World War II. The film can be seen as the first time Filipinos were allowed a spot in Hollywood, presenting a story that depicts them as brave fighters for their country and for the US. Actual Filipino actors were used, a great feat for a somewhat colorless Hollywood of the time.

The pro-American sentiment does get a bit out of hand, though, as we see John Wayne’s character continually portrayed as a sort of father figure that takes care of his Filipino companions. As Emmanuel Levy puts it on rottentomatoes.com, this “paternal attitude” has been seen as a “testament to his--and by extension the U.S.--imperialistic and patronizing approach to smaller, weaker nations”. The placement of camera angles throughout the movie testify to this end, as Wayne’s vantage point is always higher than that of the Filipino, giving him a majestic and powerful edge over his so-called counterparts. America, similarly, seems to have enjoyed such a point of authority over its Filipino allies throughout their long-standing relationship.
All the same, it is still nice to see Filipino history and its people in an American film (although I was ecstatic to see Rufio in “The Debut”), especially during the 1945 era. The movie, although at times a means for extreme propaganda, allows for a historical Filipino voice in American pop culture.

-Robert Noble

Ramon Magsaysay

On November 10, 1953, Ramon Magsaysay was elected as the third President of the Third Republic of the Philippines. The Candidate from the Nacionalista Party had beat out the incumbent Elpidio Quirino from the Liberal Party with a decisive victory of winning almost 69 percent of the vote of the Filipino people. He prove to be the “man of the people” as during his term he made assure that Communism will not take over and that the common man had a voice in Philippine politics. Unfortunately on March 17, 1957 he died in a plane crash after speaking in the provinces of Cebu.

On April 23, 1946, he was elected as Congressman of Zamables because of concerns that his predecessor is forming ties with the Hukbalahap, a militia group form under the Communist Party of the Philippines. The first President of the Third Republic, Manuel Roxas, chose Magsaysay to Washington D.C. to pass the Rogers Bill which would give benefits to Philippine Veterans. This led to a successful mission and he even formed friendships within the United States making him more popular. Appointed by the second President, Quirino named Magsaysay as the new Secretary of National Defense on August 31, 1950. As Secretary, his main concern was to reform his guerilla army to suppress the rebellion of Huks. His main plan was to convince the rebel Huks and common people that reform was coming. As many changed sides, the Huk leaders surrendered. This also maid Magsaysay popular as the common people hoped for him to run in the next election. As a result of his popularity, Ramon Magsaysay became the President from the elections of 1953.

During his presidency, Magsaysay focused on the common people and the suppression of Communist Party. Soon after, he started reconstructing rural areas as roads were rebuilt. With the support of the United States, loans were made to rural banks to help tenants reduce their debt under moneylenders who charged with ridiculous interest. In 1955, his administration passed the Agricultural Tenancy Act, which established a democratic agricultural economy to regulate the size of estates so that it can be sold in the form of smallholdings to tenants. This helped by restricting illegal evictions. Magagsay’s reign of two years dealt with reform to bring a major change of the living standards in the Philippines so that both the rich and the common people will soon have equal power.

In his honor, a Ramon Magsaysay Award is given to individuals of Asia who have portrayed their works of humanity by performing courageous service in the in their society by promoting the ideals behind democracy. The Award is given in six categories: government service, public service, community leadership, journalism, literature and creative communication arts, peace and international understanding, and emergent leadership.

-R. Andal