Monday, September 30, 2013

Virtual Ethnography 101: The Mind Museum

I would always ask my college and graduate students in Anthropology, aside from learning anthropological concepts and theories inside the classroom, to explore places, experience cultural or social happenings, and write ethnographic accounts using the participation-observation method.
I am posting in my blog with the writer's consent selected ethnography penned creatively by my students to contribute to the emerging sub-discipline of anthropology called 'Virtual Ethnography'.

Basically, virtual ethnography is also referred to as Webnography. We cannot deny the fact that with increasing use of technology and the Internet, there is now a demand for online spaces on various ethnographic accounts.

By Michelle C Robles

Growing up, I’ve had my fair sampling of museums both local and abroad. As a kid, I’ve gone to several trips to our country’s local museums such as the National Museum and Museo Pambata, which I only vaguely recall. Abroad, I’ve roamed the halls of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Getty Museum in California and The Louvre in Paris. 

Of all these great places I went to, I noticed that there was a commonality in my experiences. I was merely an observer, looking at artifacts, paintings, sculptures in awe of their beauty but never really understanding what they meant. I never felt their significance to me. This thing that those experiences lacked was an experience made possible by the last museum I went to – the Mind Museum. 

The exhibit took me on a journey through the Atom, Life, the Earth and the Universe. This time, I wasn’t merely an observer but a participant. The things that were just pure head knowledge to me about this world came to life during those three hours I spent in this Museum last April 29. Each part of the exhibit was an interactive display that helped me understand the scientific laws and principles that governed the world we live in. I was amazed with the simplicity with which they were presented. It catered to the young crowd and at the same time, it appealed to the older generation as it presented complex science concepts through hands-on activities. 

At the beginning of the tour, we were welcomed by Aedi, which was a modern robot. And from there we were ushered into a theater that showed a 3D movie that showcased the evolution of man from a primitive hunter-gatherer to a sophisticated and intelligent animal. From the discovery of fire, the earliest humans then evolved from the use of basic tools to cave drawings, which also transitioned to rituals, and so on. 

This gave everyone a foundation of what humans were, where we came from and where we are now as a species. As we exited the theater, it was as if everything in the museum made sense because it was a segue from the movie that ended with how man evolved to its present state. When we saw the exhibits that were before us, we were looking at the byproducts of technological innovation and natural evolution. From the strange world of the very small (atom), to nature across the breadth of time (earth) to the exuberance of life to the majesty of the universe, I saw how everything was connected. 

As I shifted to the last part of the exhibit, it showcased seemingly ordinary things that, in reality, were extraordinary inventions such as the evolution of transportation, the printing press, the manipulation of light for human use, the birth of different languages and of literature. It also included technologies related to food, clothing, shelter and health – basically of how we live. These various technologies that showcased human ingenuity sets apart the human race from other species of intelligent life here on earth. It delved into who we are as human beings – expressions of our humanity.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Zamboanga Siege

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

After a struggling week in the Zamboanga standoff, there is no way that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), allegedly led by founder Nur Misuari faction, should be tolerated in any avaricious act to implant a rebel’s flag symbolizing constructive independence at the heart of a sprawling Christian city and succeed in their ideological innuendo and political immaturity.

I strongly deem that the radical use of force does not satisfactorily cure the root of complicated causes of this protracted Moro uprising in Mindanao. Whatever intention the mastermind has in subscribing to criminal actions of terrorism and hostage-taking to derail an ongoing peace process of rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with the Philippine government, this seems void and unacceptable.

From the creation of the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization (BMLO) as it morphed into a legitimate movement led by Datu Rashid Lucman aimed at drawing sympathy from Muslim Filipinos to establish an independent Moro state since the Marcos era. The ad hoc armed group strives to grow rapidly in the perception of government’s neglect to their plight until the MNLF was born.

Nuruladji Misuari, popularly known as Nur Misuari, was born from Sulu of ethnic Yakan-Tausug descent. He became an exceptional leader in his pursuit of establishing an independent and sovereign Islamic state in Mindanao. He represented the ideological leaning of the Bangsa Moro movement. His enlightenment of the Moro struggle began as a scholar and student activist under Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison in the University of the Philippines (UP). There he preached his provocative thoughts on secessionism and Moro liberation as a passionate youth.

He remained steadfast in his calling as a Moro social reformer and attracted young Muslim militants in his efforts to organize political and armed units in all the Muslim inhabited regions. Misuari ably concocted the Bangsamoro by proliferating it as an academic discourse at the height when the government heavily battled protracted guerilla warfare with communists. It can therefore be deemed that his founded organization was influenced by the social and political contexts of his time.     

He also taught in UP, thus, Professor Misuari’s persuasion to arm struggle tentatively ended by virtue of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, an international binding contract signed by President Marcos, as MNLF espoused to the recognition of territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Philippines in exchange for the establishment of an autonomous government in Southern Philippines.

Until when President Marcos unilaterally contravened the provisions of a unitary autonomous government and established two autonomous governments based in Zamboanga City and the other one based in Cotabato City.

That’s why many civilians are surprised in the ongoing Zamboanga siege on why MNLF’s Misuari faction chose the City of Zamboanga to plot and stage their independence from the Philippines. At present Cotabato City is dominantly inhabited by MILF members. 

During President Corazon Aquino’s stewardship of the country as president, she offered peace pact with the MNLF. She sincerely went to Sulu and met with Nur Misuari. But what went wrong? Instead of the implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement which was decided later on by the Supreme Court as void and unconstitutional, Cory established the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as stipulated in the 1986 Philippine Constitution, which triggered intermittent armed clashes with the renegade Muslim group and government forces.

Her successor, President Fidel Ramos succeeded a bit in taming Nur Misuari, after both of them won an international peace award by forging the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA). This is the first framework peace agreement between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government, with a promise that the agreement will provide for a transitory period for two years, during which the law should have been passed legislating all the pertinent provisions of the 1996 FPA which shall constitute as a new organic act for the new autonomous government in place of the ARMM.

However, some analysts are claiming that the MNLF are pushing for the establishment of the wider Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD). This supposed transition authority was concocted aimed at creating more independent regional government. In that case, while performing the duties of the governor of the ARMM, Misuari also headed the unknown SPCPD.

Unfortunately, the Utopian solution to end the Moro uprising of the MNLF vanished and was put into back burner that up to now the law was never passed. Despite that, in a concession to win the peace in southern Philippines, Misuari became ineffective governor of ARMM and failed to reform radical changes to turn around the economic woes and political patronage in the controversial ARMM region.

When President Joseph Estrada became the president and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), his raging policy is to pronounce an All-Out-War with Misuari’s rival, the MILF.

But dire poverty and corruption prevailed in Muslim areas in Mindanao. It became rampant during Misauri’s term as governor of ARMM. Not until when he was removed from his office when President Gloria Arroyo ascended into office in 2001. Six years after in 2007, Misuari was arrested in Sabah on charges of terrorism and denied a petition to bail and remained under house arrest in a camp where erstwhile President Estrada was also detained for a plunder case. The following year, he was allowed by the Court to post bail and enjoy momentary freedom.   

With Chairman Nur in Jakarta (July 2012)

I saw and met Misuari on my way back home to Manila from Jakarta inside Sukarno International Airport in 2012. He was wandering and walking alone and tired. Unrecognizable by some Filipino passengers, very few of us recognized him. Then we requested for photo souvenirs.   

But seriously, the current southern Zamboanga siege is a real human-induced disaster. Is this a kulang sa pansin (KSP) move of Misuari to sabotage or derail the current peace process of the MILF with President Benigno Aquino’s administration? There must be a valid reason to launch a defensive use of force.

If not, then what’s the point?

Many civilians, MNLF fighters, and Filipino soldiers are already killed in this heated secessionist saga. About 200 rebels initially took dozens of hostages and burned hundreds of homes according to reports. Many of the refugees – children, women, and elderly are most vulnerable to wary urban warfare between the AFP and Muslim rebels.

What does the 71-year-old Nur Misuari has in mind? Is there loathe and envy by the Misuari faction with the current peace deal between the GPH-MILF, in which case, the envisaged new peace pact once granted will establish a new autonomous region replacing the failed MNLF-brokered peace deal? Or, did the failed experiment of peace pact with the MNLF will become a precedent in the future in case the road to transitory period will become rough by 2016 between the government and the MILF?

Chairman Nur Misuari should end the Zamboanga siege by commanding his men to retreat and re-negotiate a new peace deal with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Transit via Dubai and Bangkok


   Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2013 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Stop Syrian Chemical Warfare

Photo from
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The sovereign Syrian Arab Republic is a war zone area today. It is so frustrating that this Levant West Asian country, together with its glorious capital Damascus, the oldest continuous and biblical living city, is falling down into crumble.

The armed and political conflict in Syria began since March 15, 2011 when a popular people power demonstration aimed at ousting the political dynasty of President Bashar al-Assad since the death of his ex-president father and his Ba’ath party rule. However, the Syrian army quashed the uprising months after the sieges worsened to armed rebellion.

The feared Hezbollah even supported the Syrian army and Bashar al-Assad’s atrocious government upheld military back up from Russia and Iran. On the other hand, intelligence reports say that Saudi Arabia and Qatar transferred weapons to the rebels.

Dissatisfied with the civil war, I could sympathize with Syrian children and civilians who become victims in these unending political shenanigans as it escalates further. I could see that both sides have committed atrocities and human rights violations. Nevertheless, in this unwinnable truce of hard power, the Assad regime is more accountable although the government he represents only claims offensive attacks.   

Chemical Warfare

The United States and its allies particularly the United Kingdom were alarmed by the fact that both sides (Syrian government and rebels) are using chemical warfare which killed hundreds of Syrian civilians. In the discourse of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE), the use of these improvised devices are defense for passive protection, contamination avoidance, and mitigation to any of such attacks.

Sarin is a chemical poisonous substance that has organophosphorus compound which is colorless and orderless liquid. The deadly chemical weapon has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction under United Nations Resolution 687.  In the sphere of international law the use of chemical warfare is forbidden. The US deems that al-Assad’s regime used sarin chemical attack, purportedly the worst chemical attack of the century, considered illicit under international treatises on warfare. The fury definitely triggered a direct military action against Syria by the world's military superpower.

US military attack

Surprisingly, the UK decided not to join the US in its planned strike against Syria after its parliament stringently debated upon it. The US is courting other allies including France and Turkey to support its unilateral military action and wallop in Damascus in case President Obama gets approval from the Congress.

International news agencies recently covered the blow-by-blow debates of British and American propositions to wage war in Syria until UK deferred due to lack of pieces of evidence of chemical attack. Insisting on its premise, the US condemned the chemical warfare causing moral obscenity, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Earlier in the week, the US indicated to launch strikes against Syria even without the approval of Congress. The on hold attack certainly changed the mind of President Obama to seek approval from Congress since lawmakers will return to Washington next week. As a prelude, his aborted use of force should be backed up by congressional leaders to avoid accusations of executive unilateral decision.


Effects of the attacks are at large and perhaps risky for the US as it will strike another predominantly Muslim country. Remember the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan in the past during the height of the War on Terror. This indecisive action will only overkill the situation. World oil prices will tremendously skyrocket; most economies will slow down because of insecurity in the Middle East; international terrorism will further escalate; and anti-Americanism will be everywhere.

The messianic role of the US is again questioned. Why not impose economic sanctions and embargo to Syria than wage war with two conflicting sides? Great powers surrounding the region are also waiting with the pre-empted military action of the US to Syria. Russia and China are adamant to impose their veto votes in the UN. UK known to be the twin brother of the US in its global military adventures today would not exercise its semi-messianic role – but instead of wasting money in waging war, let it resolve first economic crunches in its own internal state affairs.

The chemical attack is escalating polarity in Syria. Both the government of Bashar al-Assad and the rebels should stop using chemical warfare and become responsible parties in the international community and please respect human rights!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mosques, Churches & Synagogue in Istanbul

     Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2013 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

      Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2013 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.