Friday, March 15, 2019


Poetry by Chester Cabalza
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
Composed in March 2001 from "Strings of Wonder and Other Poems" by Chester Cabalza

In the deep end of the ocean
when natural born divers
swim gracefully, among the
school of fish, the barracudas,
and other creatures in a
vast body of a deep blue sea;
only goggles as their apparatus
to explore the finest haven
or empire that few can only see

They hold their breath,
crawling like an eel, to catch
a glimpse of an underwater sanctuary
peculiar colors of fish flash
to the sight, jellies as lanterns,
corals as grotto of tiny school,
seahorses robe the majestic kingdom

Beneath the endless basin,
a fortune of ornaments and splendor
amaze divers,
and like fish, they are bestowed with
gills to breath underwater,
the mermen and guardians
of creatures of the abyss

So when divers exhale
no way the whale splash their breath,
is like an astonishing relieve
to glance once more
the dome of the earth,
heedless, the clear skies
ready to clasp them in
their resurrection,
and all the while they inhale

then the underwater
guzzle them again
to see more of the power
down, down, down…

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Can Social Media Save the 2019 Midterm Elections in the Philippines?

Photo from Dailymotion
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

As the Philippines draws near to its midterm general election on 13 May 2019, held on the second Monday of May prescribed by Republic Act No. 7166 for national and local elections since 1992, the woke generation or the millennial and Gen Z will again dominate the expected 61 million Filipino voters across generations this year, remaking the 2016 presidential election by virtually representing 24.73 million voters aged 17 to 34 years old, almost half of the 54.36 million registered voters, who helped install the six-year tenure of President Rodrigo Duterte.  

The voting landscape in the archipelagic insular Southeast Asian country remains evidently young as these digital natives adapt to social media and internet of things. The midterm election will see a game-changing political culture with 62 senatorial hopefuls vying for 12 seats, the highest number of candidates since the 2010 polls, as they and other politicians in provinces and cities capitalize their advocacies and idiosyncrasies through social networking sites during the election campaign period while the Philippines continuously brag the title of being the world’s social media capital. This election will also vote for new officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao activated by the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) after successful runs of the the two-part plebiscite on the ratification of the new organic law.

Political participation through social media in the Philippines creates political platforms that revolve around the ideal and currency of power. Power sets the ideal consumed by social actors encapsulated by either empowerment or illusion that translate to an expression of personal identity of candidates or mobilization of party groups. It draws asymmetrical relationship that propagates personalization of political sphere. In essence, political participation becomes vital when channeled through often dense social network over which people can share their own narratives and concerns.

The lines separating culturally and socially-held conventions are blurred in the virtual space and on the ground while more digital adaptives participate in a variety of ways in arenas and on issues not made accessible to certain social actors during elections. In gist, the power dynamic among social actors has become more inclusive and by at times more asymmetric. Hence, the revolutionary effects of social media among millennials in the Philippines’ national political life has been sobered and dismissed. 

Its effect on social media and how that translates to society’s formation of culture has produced a dual effect. One that culture funnels a trench of resistance and the other that sees culture homogenizing undercurrent, a vision of a cosmopolitan society that comes with a global platform of interaction. This emerging order is still undefined where individual cognitions and emotive features from various social actors all with relative access to online platforms render the order unstable. Apparently social media has clearly taken a personal dimension that hinges on the arena of politics expanding with a high value on personal expression and exchange. The upsurges of personalized politics thrive when an ethos of diversity and inclusiveness defined by tolerance for various viewpoints are linked across loosely bounded political networks. It continuously reinforces the entrenched patron-client relationship that has been carried over from traditional politics and conventional media.

While social media is free, it is highly susceptible to political partisanship. Traditional media and even media personalities often give the impression of embodying relative realities. While there is considerable media diversity, the ideological spectrum is much narrower. Even if Filipinos came later and in lesser degree to the internet connectivity aside from bagging the slowest average internet speed in Asia Pacific, explosion of internet use over the years cemented the country as a social network hotbed, consistent with Filipino culture being a strongly-knit network by spending most of the time interacting and socializing online. At present social media in the Philippines has already created a dent on how we view the country’s political culture whether it is regarded as an agent of change or merely an extension of traditional politics. 

Philippine political culture carves a young democracy 75 years after hundred under colonial rule. Filipinos are caught in the fast continuum among the traditional, modern and postmodern influences. Amusingly an examination of Filipino millennials in social media reveals a clashing divide among conservative and progressive beliefs across issue areas. And the nature of this clash ranges from the entertaining to the academic, still altogether begets very personal, a reflection of Philippine networking culture. It speculates a vicarious pleasure in schadenfreude or scorn that may become detrimental to people in authority. Opinionated accounts of political experts can be taken pugnaciously as a fact and naturally shape public opinion that devours their credibility.

In the end, cultural entrenchment and resistance in Philippine social media landscape before and during elections visibly presents a patron-client relationship and the rule of the elite that defines the political and cultural structures blending in an at least a nominally democratized society with limited state control. The fusion has created a media that in one sense is beholden to certain politicized social actors and on another, proclaims balanced presentation of facts and strong pro-people opinion when facing its audience. For its dubious character, mainstream media is tolerated and remains a power in shaping public opinion. The role of social media over issue-based mobilizations and campaigns employ quantitative measures that may suggest the potency of the new media platforms in altering public opinion and discourses. However, netizens unconsciously extends the arena of personalizing a political strategy. A fact that not all Filipino millennial voters are considered information-driven citizens apparent to partisan sentiments that can be extremely shared over an open platform that creates added value to the sense and sensibilities of the country’s collective values.  

Friday, March 8, 2019

Rudyard Kipling's Yangon in Myanmar

           Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2019 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

"Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon – a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple spire. As it stood overlooking everything it seemed to explain all about Burma. The meaning of the guardian tigers, the inwardness of the main pagoda, and the countless little ones, was hidden from me. I could not understand why the pretty girls with cheroots sold little sticks and coloured candles to be used before the image of Buddha. Everything was incomprehensible to me, and there was none to explain. The strange part of it all was that everyone laughed – laughed, so it seemed, at the sky above them because it was blue, at the sun because it was sinking, and at each other because they had nothing better to do."
 - Rudyard Kipling (Letters from the East 1898).

Just like Rudyard Kipling, I was also amazed at the inner beauty of Rangoon In Burma. So beautiful that I celebrated my fortieth birthday from Bagan to Yangon in Myanmar! It was indeed magical!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

To Review or Not To Review the Mutual Defense Treaty

Photo from The Kahimyang Project
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The debate on whether or not the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) merits a review between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States calls for neither its abrogation nor renegotiation. The MDT is considered the mother of all defense treatises between a former colonizer to its only Asian colony making the two sovereign nations as the oldest treaty ally in the region. The nearly seven-decade old accord was signed at Washington on 30 August 1951 and ratified on 27 August 1952 but recently it resurfaced word war between two gigantic Filipino bureaucrats.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. deems that “in vagueness [of the MDT] lies the best deterrence” that was immediately countered by National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as he elucidates that, “too much vagueness lends itself to doubt the firmness of the commitment,” [of the United States] in reference to the antiquated military pact, of which the latter minister originally opened the Pandora’s box for the review of the defense treaty since December last year. 

The iota on the ambiguity or vagueness of the treaty will serve as a deterrent could lead to confusion and chaos during a crisis which may construe the premise surrounding mutual benefits among alliances and building a robust and self-reliant defense posture.

Spontaneous constructive criticisms by two stalwarts of Philippine government might indicate a new direction for the Philippines’ foreign and defense policies, albeit still processing the extent of the design of the country's ‘independent foreign policy’ under Southeast Asia’s strongman President Rodrigo Duterte, as the firebrand leader diversifies warm bilateral relationships separately to Beijing and Moscow, Washington’s apparent biggest rivals for global hegemony.

The opposing remarks came after US Secretary of State’s Mike Pompeo utters that, “we have your back” to the Filipino people, the strongest reassurance the Philippines recently received from its western Big Brother, a promise that would extend a helping hand if the archipelagic country’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty are attacked in the South China Sea while the US warrants command from populist American President Donald Trump to cement its formidable presence in the current ambiguous security architecture heavily interwoven in the newly concocted Indo-Pacific region.

The newfangled promise during Pompeo’s overnight visit to Manila last 1 March 2019 was founded under the mutual defense obligations under Article 4 that clearly says, “each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes,” with archaic provisions constructed under the ambit of the Cold War era where Filipino soldiers fought war with the United States in Korean and Vietnam Wars, respectively.

The MDT was also instrumental for the Philippines’ participation for the US-led War on Terror, a military campaign under the presidency of US president George W. Bush aimed at eliminating international terrorism which began as early as 2001 as the Southeast Asian nation struggled with its own terrorism and violent extremism threats prior to the 9/11 incident. The same instrument helped the Philippines, coming from indirect support of American counterintelligence and counterterrorism efforts to halt the five-month old Marawi siege in 2017 between the Philippine government security forces and Islamic State (IS)-led Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadist groups.

However, the United States’ flawed foreign policy on ‘Pivot to Asia’ missed to address certain interventions at the height of Chinese continuous militarization and successful island-building in the contested South China Sea and concealed an unfazed guarantee of military back up against foreign aggressors at that time amidst lawfare with China. In that vulnerable and complex episode, the US is seen as a major power in the region struggling from its rebalancing act to accentuate an Asia-centered security strategy to contain China, making strides to champion freedom of navigation and overflight in the world’s biggest defense flashpoint and economic bottleneck in the South China Sea. This mishap decision became one of the conceivable reasons why the Philippines fled from high hopes down to pragmatism to openly rely from the United States but instead it hopped to a crucial hedging strategy by apparently diversifying defense and security relations to other major powers, setting aside a legal triumph by turning its attention from the lucrative offer of China’s Belt Road Initiative.

The current non-traditional security situations on the ground certainly vary from the traditional security threats during the Cold War era. It has evolved tremendously as the Philippines has to visibly respond to the changing times and new systems of structure. A structure follows a strategy that it necessitates a review of the overall accord which does not necessarily mean a revocation or renegotiation of the mutual defense treaty, but to revisit what has been done before to address new security threats in a much more complex bipolar security construct of the era. More so, a clear cut policy from this debate dwells on the harmonization of all the defense and security pacts of the Philippines with the United States as the archipelagic country has to beef up its own arsenal to correspond to the uncertain security environment of the region.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Love at First Swipe

Photo from The Independent
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

It all starts with a simple “Hi”. He strikes the usual queries, and the chitchat arises. Soon, she finds herself enamored enough to spill secrets, share personal stories. He fires the worst of his jokes; she talks about past relationships and heartbreaks.

Then here comes the late night talks and daytime chatting. A few more hours, days, weeks, and they find something they might not know how to label yet. Perhaps, as more time passes, she finds herself dating him. Or just a friend? Or maybe a friend with benefits? Significant other?

The path of this casual flirtation can lead to are endless.

Courting? Dating? Sex? Who cares now!?

But I find traditional Filipino courtship interesting. It begins long before any official declaration of wooing actually happens. Pinoys, as is true with most Asian societies, are people who avoid losing face. With certain degree, most rituals start with “feeling out” on how receptive she is to attempt at wooing her; and even with tuksuhan (teasing), a common thing among millennials nowadays.

He would tease her most often, expressing the object of his affections about her in a joking manner. Or sometimes, his barkada (group of friends) creates matchmaking that may end up in a romance.

It depends on her mood: he sheepishly tries to court her, but her beast mode turns off his diskarte (ways). There are some other days she desires to be wooed, though; she polishes her nails, dresses girlishly, and stuns him with her stylish outfits.

I recall in my heydays, courtship was done within the confines of my ex-girlfriend’s home. Dates are forbidden unless with permission from parents. The old form of courtship was subdued and indirect; worst, my grandparents restricted petting in all forms of public display of affection.

Well, young ladies then had to exude the essence of ‘dalagang Filipina’ who must be pakipot (secretive and shy); who must hide her true feelings or verbally denies her affection for a suitor. Then, I must show to my lady love my spirited physical tasks to win her love; that is her way of measuring my sincerity. In my mind, it still reflects the repressive social etiquette for young women being courted, certainly skirted through various ways.

Even before codes and symbols turned out to be a popular scheme of discreet communication – the Maria Clara’s syndrome calls for silence and passiveness, tacked with a set of nonverbal cues through fans and handkerchiefs to subvert societal expectations. In a short distance, her half covered face radiating with a flirtatious eyes, suggest a “follow me” gestures, while counting the ribs of her fans, covering her lip-synched words “I want to follow you” or simply said, “I want you.” And for a typical bagets (generation X) like me, I had to be unassuming before introducing my outer self to my ex-girlfriend’s family; perhaps, to be understood neither as rude nor blurt social faux pas. In most visits to her, I carry with me pasalubong (gift) to inflame our suyuan (courting) to win her heart for us to become magkasintahan (official couple).

Nowadays, the strict set of rules had fallen; the influx of technology replaced writing and sending love letters by mail. Modern means of communication have allowed millennials to assume peculiar and multiple identities. It provided a crutch for a specific set of archetype in Filipino romance – the torpe (clumsy) type. Making oneself anonymous paves a way for everyone to try hooking up and meeting up with strangers.

I would not know if online dating really offers searchers of true love the opportunities to form a new romantic relationship in finding romantic partner. This thing started at the start of algorithm-based matching sites and smartphone-based dating applications processed by behavioral scientists in determining matches based on mathematical algorithm. But these millennials are enjoying some degree of perks for dating online sites that concoct a self-selection mobile application.


This popular location-based mobile dating app caters to both straight and gay communities. It’s an offshoot of the primitive forms of dating and mate selection platforms used by different generations of people. Gone are the days when newspaper advertising was utilized for the search of dating or marital partners; ignoring arranged marriage, as well. It evolved to SMS texting, chatting through email, messenger and messenger groups, eyeball or meeting strangers through Facebook, Omegle, and other websites.

Chatting and getting matches were a whole new ball game.

I would surmise that Tinder emerged from the need for a platform that considers not only ‘matches’ based on interests but also based on proximity. Can ‘matches’ be construed to allure or desire or lust? It can be done online but users who live a hundred miles away may affect the chances of getting to know the person outside of the cyberspace.

This dating app works first by asking for my location, gender, and sexual orientation. Upon entering this virtual reality dating app, I have to set up a ‘Bio’, about me write up, before linking to my Facebook information or to my contact number. Empowering me, I can now select possible ‘dates’ who also use the app within the vicinity. I can ‘swipe right’ or ‘swipe left’ a user photos depending if her ‘personality’ appeals to me based from my own set of standards. If the virtual Tindermate ‘swipes right’ on my picture, the app will allow us to talk each other…who knows she can become my friend? friend with benefits? significant other? forever? or future wife? I must admit, there is certain validation in my senses when I got matches!

As I used the app, discomfort appears to me since there is  not much to see about people out on Tinder – only name, age, physical appearance, and occasionally a bit of description. Albeit, the app allows for many facets of someone’s personality to be shown, since she can upload a variety of pictures and include her detailed description; sometimes only with limited words to retain mysticism about her personality. But a lot of them don’t make full use of these features; they only upload an average of three pictures, sometimes selfie photos that are even blurred.

The smart randomizer – sorting through people’s profiles creates the matching. Does she look approachable, hot and sexy, friendly, but not likely to be pervert? Does she seem to be witty?

Most conversations start simply enough, with a “hi” or “hello” as I keep on saying. Some of my chat threads stopped abruptly once we couldn’t find no more topics to talk about; although, there has been few conversations of note. Both of us are straightforward in our chitchat.

Millennials are more aggressive? pervert? horny? Wants the link of Facebook account, or starts a video call, meeting right away, or simply said – they’re interested on hook up.   

My parents wrote love letters to sway their romance before.  This time, Tinder has altered the way most millennials view romance. The influx of dating apps, whether for heterosexual and homosexual, suddenly increased the accessibility, ease and practicality of finding potential mates. Friends can influence you to know about this app, or maybe, through the internet of things itself. I am quite sure that very few might have heard it from the radio, eavesdropped to dialogues over movies and television, or read about it in magazines.

There may be different ways in engaging to Tinder - a basic step in searching either love or lust.

He simply said it’s a way to meet people; she frankly said it’s a venue for talking to people; they agree that it’s for dating, or perhaps to feast short-term sexual relationship; I would dedicatedly say I use the app for finding serious romantic relationship, or maybe, for finding non-serious romantic relationship.

No wonder everyone is curious about Tinder…wanting to know “what the fuss is about?” or just because they were just intrigued?!

Or maybe wanted to find out how millennials and from other generations who use the app were like.

To my knowing, she may be bored when she tried it. But let me give you the context of boredom here – expressing a certain disinterest in Tinder as a whole for which she has “nothing better to do”? or she just wants distraction from her humdrum routine.

Looking beyond, ‘romance’ may be motivated by sex, relationship, flirting, or recovering from a break-up. Certainly, most of Tinder users are into romance-related motivations. Socialization may also be considered for the extreme participation in the ‘Tinderworld’; they just want to mingle but have not desired to reach the romantic level of this fanciful realm. Or who knows your girlfriend or boyfriend or partner is just spying on you!

He met up with her one time after Tinder allowed them to talk each other. At first it was ‘okay’. Nothing particularly bad or particularly good happened. Later on, the hook up seems to happen with equal frequency. She said it was a fun encounter while he agreed with it as a cool thing. But they would feel awkwardness during the affair, even some of those who thought of the whole experience as a great one.  

For sure, the act of meeting a virtual stranger, whom one has little knowledge about the person, seems intriguing. Counterintuitive to what they might think, some encounters really just lead to a platonic relationship; or perhaps using the dating app can expand your social circles, and meet up people in search of friendship rather than just for dating. There are few times that it happens with enough frequency to warrant attention, including feelings of disappointment or friendliness to the Tindermates they meet.

But I would not meet up with them. I would be happy with just having conversations online and won’t expect to progress any further relationship beyond my wildest imagination.

He said chatting with them made any no progress nor actual meet up occurred, mainly because they have not met their “match” yet. Albeit, she may have high standards for a date. But I see the dating app and courting here as superficial. They felt they’re not interesting enough in the eyes of the cyber crowd, dismissing trust issues, and simply just saying no.

Was there forever in the online relationship? How would I say it? Was it a short-term relationship or long-term relationship? Most of us like to think it would be forever; nevertheless, it all ends up to not so lasting relationship and many of us just end up being friends or friends with benefits.

“All guys swipe right, so it’s okay to be picky.” Most males assume that way, but for him it’s not a verifiable fact, but it’s accustomed to be a norm.

For her, she wished she’d known the open secret the first time she used the app because she ended up leaving the cyberspace due to invasive and sexual innuendos at the opening lines when she got matches. Men would ask for her nude photos, and over and over again if he was a “DTF” or down to fuck. She wasn’t receptive at all. Is she still a virgin? Can she share her Facebook or Instagram photos? What’s her original soundtrack? But she felt being an object of lustful desire.

This time she searches for romantic relationship.

But does it exist in Tinder?

Unconsciously, she was looking for her Myers-Briggs type. The first realization she has had is to be less obsessive with Tindermates who may have met her own interests.

Knowing the self-entitlement of the millennials, they would be sheepishly happy to broadcast to friends and family that they met their significant others online. Others would remain cagey and quiet about their encounters. Most of the times, he would say about his relationship with her as “nothing serious” - a tagline we hear often from them. They acknowledge that online dating apps paves way for social connections and for meeting strangers. Reality bites most of them have turned to promiscuity and fornication.

Blame it to social media! Or less mass media should caution them to use dating apps responsibly. This impersonal interaction and relative anonymity that online communication permits could possibly permutate fake accounts. The prospect was exciting; using Tinder was bound to be unique from using Facebook or Twitter, or from chatting with strangers in other apps.

He says that through the online matching site, he has had more successful short-term relationships; the success he claims are factored in the equation when the online relationship migrates to the offline world, and the mathematical algorithms work not in romantic outcomes but warrants only personal satisfaction and stability.

But in her mind, she deems that online dating can be a medium for the “desperate” ones especially those searching for sexual encounters and experimentation.

Still, I would consider this as a doorway to the current hook up culture popular with younger generations. Although I knew that some of the millennials aren’t ashamed about telling people that they met their partners online; perhaps, it’s an affirmation that dating apps are slowly removing the stigma and making this technology a norm. 

For her Tinder is extremely advantageous in that it makes finding a match quick, if not always reliable, and that while using the dating app we tend to be more straightforward of our wants and preferences.

But I also feel that there is a lot of lacking, I feel strangely off-balance trying to look for mate there, without the mediating influence of friends and family.

But one thing he has noticed recently in his dating app is how unmatching is a lot quicker of a thing. Well, unmatching is an option that allows users to change their minds about whether they still ‘like’ someone after they are matched up with them. This various choices and random volatility created in this kind of social media can further lead up to on-and-off relationships.

Tinder has also made her realize that it’s a small world after all. A few of her matches would tell her about songs and bands to eavesdrop, since both of them are music lovers. What started as the first all night conversation on musical genre, hooked her up with him for weeks or barely a month. She feels though that there’s ‘common connections’ between them. She ended up spooking him a little bit.

 The chill and low pressure conversations they have had on Tinder certainly were sort of a relief for them - that there isn’t an expectation to be consistently interesting to someone else.    

The distinctness of the culture present in Tinder offers direct interaction once he matches with her, or she matches with him, or he matches with him, and she matches with her. In a scrupulous reality, the LGBT and middle-aged heterosexuals all face thin dating markets, and they are mostly to rely on the internet to find their partners.

To me online dating has not only allowed a faster iteration of the courtship process, but it has also given rise to a greater set of objectives, or other reasons, for someone to engage in behaviors associated with courtship. I must assume that courtship is no longer limited to those looking for a long-term relationship with an end goal of marriage. People engaging each other in online dating apps may do so with the intention of only finding a short term relationship with no term goals in mind, or have casual sex with a person they have no desire to maintain contact with after the initial contact. Gone are the days when courtship was always done with the sole intention of marrying the person you are pursuing down the line.

Definitely, we may have adapted to the current advancements of dating, but being rooted in our rich culture, it is worth noting that traditional courtship wasn’t replaced, but rather it has evolved, perhaps altered and built upon, creating a modern courtship. The practices and norms may have been changed but the values should remain intact. I must surmise that online dating apps, in general, aren’t new to us; and this is where the world is going. It is an inevitable change for humanity and a game change for dating but the outcome of this platform depends on our own will.