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Asia is a community; Revisiting ‘El Presidente’

Bangkok — I was in Bangkok for Christmas but it was as if I never left home. When I wake up in the morning all I needed to do was plug, click my computer and I am at home in the Philippines. But it is not just about being internet connected.

My daughter’s house is in a cul-de-sac with a lot of trees even in her own garden.

It is one of the few remaining single detached houses in the street of condominiums and a hotel. It reminded me very much of a house in San Juan in the 1950s. But the moment one walks out into the main road, it is a new world altogether.

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I would have written the same things about Manila but Ploenpote Atthakor, Deputy Editorial Pages Editor, the Bangkok Post beat me to it. Here are excepts from his article “You may be in Thailand if…”

“You know you’re in Thailand when a cabinet minister is so confident in the security of his cabinet post that he’ll tell you to your face that he is ‘a liar’ and will lose no sleep over it…

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“You know you’re in Thailand if you are driving and encounter this warning sign: ‘Drive carefully. You have entered an area where traffic law is strictly enforced.’ What does that say then about other areas?...

“You know you’re in Thailand when you see pedestrians crossing the road beneath a flyover even though motorists feel no need to halt for you at zebra-crossings. A good, kind-hearted motorist who does stop suffers impatient honks from trailing motorists who can’t be bothered to wait a moment. And take note, this happens in the areas of ‘strict enforcement of traffic rules’…

“Only in Thailand are pedestrians forced to walk on the roads with the motorists because the pavements are jammed full of vendors with their goods…

“You know you’re in Thailand when you encounter a traffic-rule violator — say, one who parks in a non-parking zone — but when you notify a nearby police officer he plainly tells you, ‘Sorry. Not my jurisdiction.’

“Only in Thailand do bandits, when hunting for victims, disguise themselves as police officers.

“You know you’re in Thailand when road signs leading you to your destination suddenly disappear when you’re only halfway there.

“You know you’re in Thailand when road works suddenly appear in front of you without any prior warnings whatsoever. And by that time, you are frustratingly trapped in traffic amid hundreds of other motorists scrambling for limited road surface. The same problem exists for utility work sites like water and electricity. Would it hurt to put up a sign?

“You know you’re in Thailand when all the motorists around speed up to outrun an approaching train even though the warning lights at the cross-junction are blinking.

“You know you’re in Thailand if a movie star’s car is stolen but is found by police shortly thereafter. Good luck to anyone else who hopes to get a stolen car back.

“Only in Thailand do restaurant and food shop operators post notices claiming their food is “safe and hygienic” and will not harm you.

“Trust me, the signs don’t prove anything.

“I am sure few, if any, food shop owners, know what san (substances) they are protecting you from. But what choice do you have?

“You know you’re in Thailand if a taxi driver refuses to take you somewhere because it’s either ‘too near’ or ‘too far.’

“You know you’re in Thailand if your neighbors do not think it is necessary to respect your rights by keeping quiet at night, or see no problem in letting their pet dogs use your front gate as a toilet.

“You know you’re in Thailand when you are not allowed to buy a bottle of beer or wine for the sole reason that its either between 2-5 p.m. or after midnight. Yet, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy a dozen bottles or more during that restricted time. But since this is Thailand, and despite all these things, it’s still the best place to live in the world. (CNP: I’d say that too about Manila. A Western journalist who said Asians cannot become a single community was wrong. Despite different languages and religions, they are already one.)

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I have to see the film “El Presidente” to know if it does justice to Emilio Aguinaldo, a neglected hero. He offers many lessons to our present leaders. His role in the making of our nation has not been given its rightful place. Among the few who have kept hammering on the issue is Muslim scholar Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas.

Abbas agrees that revisiting the story of Emilio Aguinaldo is central to the history of the Philippines.

Correcting that mistake may be the key to understanding the complex relations we have with the United States of America today. The elections in 1935 in which Aguinaldo was defeated was probably the first foreign intervention on how we should be led.

“Rehabilitating Aguinaldo is a tall order. Quezon and the Americans had totally destroyed him in the minds of the masses,” Abbas said.

To French journalists on the scene the hero of the Philippine wars of independence against the Americans was General Emilio Aguinaldo. Abbas, who knows French, wrote on those reports.

“Yet Aguinaldo, who became a cause celebre in Europe during his time for daring to fight the American power, had such a bad press in his own country. He died in old age almost in disgrace . . . Rizal wrote only two novels and Bonifacio’s Manila revolt lasted for only about a week or so.

It was Aguinaldo’s army who subdued the Spaniards while the Americans looked on. It was Aguinaldo who proclaimed the Philippine Republic, whose centennial was celebrated with pomp and ceremony. And it was Aguinaldo who led the fight against two-thirds of one of the world’s strongest army at that time,” Abbas wrote. He puts the blame on the Filipino elite (the ilustrados) for reconstructing Philippine history.

The French journalist Gaston Rouvier described Aguinaldo as “even to his enemies, (he is) the greatest man of the Malay race.”

Rouvier wrote: “On May 19, hardly disembarked, Aguinaldo rekindled the embers of revolt across the Luzon provinces, thanks to his untiring work and a kind of magnetic influence which he exercised on his followers. He roused a rebel leader in every district. For the capture of all Spanish garrisons and outposts, he devised a campaign plan. He was Bonaparte, if his admirers were to be believed.”



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