Religion, Christian Faith, and Immorality

Religion, Christian Faith, and Immorality

By Apolinario Villalobos


I am wondering whether those who profess religiosity based on what they practice really “understand” what they are doing. They claim that the bible contributes a lot to their spiritual development. The problem with these people though, is that, while some stick to just the New Testament, others devote their time more to the Old Testament, when the two sections of the bible are supposed to complement each other. So what happens is that, while some of them learn about the teachings of Jesus which are in the New Testament, they do not have a slight idea that the religion that they follow can be traced back to Abraham who is in the Old Testament, and whom they hear only as a name when mentioned in sermons. The ignorance came to light when I asked one Catholic Lay Minister if he has an idea on who the eldest son of Abraham is. I found out that all he knew was that Abraham has a son and that, he was Isaac. When I told him that Ishmael was his eldest son bore to him by Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, he was surprised! He even asked, how can it be possible when the name Ishmael is a Muslim?


From the desert, the Abrahamaic faith, also called Mosaic faith that also hinges on the belief on the coming of a “redeemer” spread. When Jesus came, he followed a new path along which he spread his teachings that filled the pages of the New Testament. When he died on the cross, his followers insisted that he was the sacrificial lamb for the sins of mankind – the redeemer who have finally come and did the act of redemption. But many refused to accept this, as they even keep on questioning his identity if he, indeed, belongs to the House of David from where, the redeemer should come from, more so with the allegation of his being the son of God.


If Jesus was the result of a “virgin birth” that gives credence to the “annunciation” as one of the “mysteries”, then, he does not belong to the House of David, because Mary, herself, as his biological mother does not, but only Joseph, who is his “foster father”, therefore, not his “biological father”. In other words, he is not the prophesied “redeemer” as insisted by his followers. Such question is one of the so many asked since the medieval period when the pagan Romans were converted into Christianity, and overdid their religiosity by incorporating pagan practices into what was supposed to be a simplistic way of spirituality. Instead of giving enlightenment on the issue, the early church leaders added problems, one of which is the question on “Trinity” that even widened the “schism”. Is it not immoral to keep the truth from the people who thought they are following the right path?


The “extensions” of the Church of Rome distributed throughout Europe as the 15th century was ending, was purported to be the largest “landholders” during the time. That was also the time when Christianity was forced into the inhabitants of the islands that came to be known as Philippines, so named by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, in honor of the Spanish king, Philip II. But before the Spaniards came to the shores of the archipelagic islands, they had already sacked the long- thriving Inca and other highly developed cities that they converted into their colonies, and they called the natives “Indios”. For the Spaniards, the natives that they suppressed and made to kneel in front of the cross are called “Indios” who, for them are ignorant… this is how the natives of the Philippines and America were first called, and not by their real indigenous names.


The Spanish Christian missionaries who were also fond of shouting “punyeta”, “sin verguenza”, and “hijo de puta” to the natives, did the same hideous conduct of conversion they used in South America, when they came to the Philippines, as they went into the frenzy of burning cultural and intellectual treasures, because for them those were “demonic” and did not conform with “Christianity” which for them still, was the “righteous way”. They even went to the extent of executing “babaylans” or native priestesses.


During the closing of the 15th century, the Roman Church owned practically, almost half of France and Germany, and two-fifths of Sweden and England, not to mention Mexico and other South American colonies and the Philippines where, the early haciendas were located in Cavite, Batangas, Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal, as well as, the islands of Negros, Panay and Cebu. While the colonies in Europe were not so productive, in the Philippines, the vast tracts of land that were literally grabbed from the natives were planted to sugar cane, rice, and coconut. Today, a few Filipino families who are also into politics are “hold-over owners” of these haciendas. And, they are so much devoted Roman Catholics!…and so, exploitation goes on!


Because of  her exploitation disguised by evangelization, Rome grew splendidly and gloriously. To maintain such splendor and glory, the papacy resorted to requiring all ecclesiastical appointees to remit their revenues to the “papal curia” in Vatican. A scandal that gave birth to the Reformation movement and also widened further the “schism” is about the pope’s selling of indulgences. Imagine the pope selling “tickets” to heaven! The large sum of money that flowed into the Vatican’s coffer led to more corruption, most prominent of which were committed by:


  • Sixtus IV (reign: 1471-84), who spent enormous sum of money in building the “chapel” that he named after himself, the “Sistine”, aside from causing the enrichment of his nephews and nieces;
  • Alexander VI, a.ka., Rodrigo Borgia (reign: 1492-1503) who allegedly, openly acknowledged and afforded financial opportunities to his illegitimate children;
  • Julius II (reign: 153-13), nephew of Sixtus IV, and who was said to be warlike, notorious politician, and who also spent lavishly on art, but failed in his duties as Head of the Roman Church.


During the time, the papacy did not monopolize immorality, as there was a popular adage then, that said, “if you want your son to be corrupted, make him decide to become a priest”.

It was alleged that confessors solicited sexual favors from female penitents, and thousands of priests were said to maintain concubines. Reformists were making a mockery of the church by saying that for Jesus’ ministers, it’s always money – from baptism, marriage, till death, with such greed and perversion spreading to Hispanic colonies.


Today, in the Philippines, so many Christian ministries have sprung up in almost every corner of big cities, sporting different names and congregate in inauspicious apartment units, former offices, multi-purpose halls of subdivisions, former movie theaters, and for the richy…Cultural Center of the Philippines and Folk Arts Theater which are the projects of Imelda Marcos within the Cultural Center of the Philippines.


There is a joke today about the unemployed, but with an oratorical gift to just put up a “ministry” in order to survive out of the tithes or “love offering” from members. These followers attend the gatherings and listen to the same never changing themes about love that they fail to put into practice, as they go back to their old “selfish” ways when they go home by keeping to themselves – within the security of their homes and company of select friends. Still, some enterprising bible-toting ministers even go to the extent of using the religious book in soliciting money from commuters by hopping on to buses and jeepneys to “share” the words from the bible in exchange for money to be put in envelops that they patiently distribute. As this kind of undertaking is some kind of a money-making enterprise, those who conduct such should be taxed!


The pope, himself, acknowledges the proliferation of immorality and corruption in the Roman Catholic Church that is why lately, an external auditing firm has been contracted to check on the Vatican records. He even apologized for the abuse committed by some members of the clergy. In other words, nobody among the members of the Vatican-based church is free from the stain of immorality. Still, in the Philippines, the Iglesia ni Cristo, biggest Christian church next to the Roman Catholic, is rocked with a scandal that is undergoing an investigation. There could still be other religious scandals going around, but just get to be contained due to their insignificance, compared to the cursing of Duterte who is running for presidency during the 2016 election.


The world today is full of “habitual” sinners – “immorals” in the eyes of the “moralists”, just because these people that they despise do not attend religious services or utter curses habitually, or just simply, polygamous. Can they be compared with those who attend these so-called religious services but got no slightest idea what compassion means? Can they be compared with husbands who fool their wives by playing around with their “queridas”, or wives who squander the wage hard- earned by their husband abroad, on their kept “lovers”?


Worst, these “moralists” are emboldened by the thought that it is alright for them to commit sin because they can go to confession, afterwards anyway! ….or worse, eat the host, bread or biscuit that symbolize the body of Christ, the better for them to get “cleansed” immediately! (I read stories about pagan tribes who eat the body of their brave opponents so that such character can be made part of them).


Some of these “good” people do not even know the name of their neighbors, so how can they say they love God that they cannot see, but cannot love their neighbors who are just a few steps away from them? Is it not sheer hypocrisy which is just another form of immorality?  Some of them still, who have become more financially stable than the rest, act like horses pulling indigenous “calesas”, that are allowed to look just straight ahead, which is a manifestation of selfishness.


By the way, I do not deny that I am a sinner through and through!…please pray for me!

The Double Talk of China on the Issue of West Philippine Sea…and America’s late entry into the scene

The Double Talk of China
on the Issue of West Philippine Sea
…and America’s late entry into the scene
by Apolinario Villalobos

Going straight to the point, the problem with China as regards the issue on the West Philippine Sea is the tendency of her leaders to “double talk”. Simply put, they talk with fingers crossed behind them. They say that the Philippines is the one doing massive reclamations in that disputed body of water, when all that such poor third-world country has done is try to keep a barnacle-covered ship afloat as a “station” on one of the reefs within her territory, for her haggard coast guards, as well as, keep alive, the spirit of a handful of her citizens on Kalayaan island. The whole world can see this, in contrast to what the giant Asian country is doing such as destroying the habitats of marine life, as they are topped with soil to become fake islands to accommodate airstrips and heavy bunkers for warfare armaments.

To the United States, they offered the use of the soon-to-be finished facilities which the Chinese say are intended for “rescue” operations and protection of the said area. But to the neighboring small Asian countries, their “territory” is “off limits”. The Chinese leaders say that they are respecting the area as a free international maritime highway, yet, they challenge the boats and planes that sail and fly by. They are also saying that they are not disturbing the peace that had been prevailing over the area, yet, they are naïve to the fact that since they started their unrestrained reclamation activities, such peace became a word of the past.

What made the matter worse is America’s getting into the picture…this late. Had this self-proclaimed “protector” of democracy listened to the clamor of the Philippines very long time ago, while reclamations have not been initiated yet, negotiations could have been possible. But with the project almost finished which the Chinese leaders declare to the world as akin to a simple road project, how can they swallow their pride and give in to the demands of a country which is thousands of miles away, and not even among their rival claimants?

Despite the word war and exchanges of threats between the two “giants”, the world still hope that a compromise can be made among claimant nations, but for sure, China will find ways so that the United States shall be kept out of the picture…a humiliating “request” for the so-called protector of world democracy and freedom, and home to the “sedate” United Nations Headquarters…that has done nothing about the issue.

Ang Pilipinas…tinitingala noon, inaalipusta ngayon….nirerespeto noon, inaabuso ngayon

Ang Pilipinas
…tinitingala noon, inaalipusta ngayon
…nirerespeto noon, inaabuso ngayon

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Noong panahon ni Diosdado Macapagal, kinilala ang Pilipinas bilang isa sa mga nangunguna sa pag-export ng mga produktong tulad ng tabako, asukal, mga hibla ng abaca at pati lubid na yari dito, at lalong kilala dahil sa mataas na uri ng bigas na ini-export din. Walang nakakamanghang pangyayari na pagdagsa ng mga Pilipino sa ibang bansa upang magtrabaho na tulad ng nangyayari ngayon. Busy ang karamihan ng mga tao sa pagtatanim, pangingisda, paghahabi ng mga telang tulad ng jablon na kilala din sa ibang bansa. Pinangunahan ni Macapagal ang pagtatag ng MAPHILINDO, samahan ng Malaysia, Pilipinas at Indonesia, at kauna-unahang samahan ng magkakalapit na bansa sa timog silangang Asya. Ang walong piso noon ay katumbas na ng isang dolyar ng Amerika. Nirerespeto ang lahing Pilipino ng buong mundo.

Nang maging presidente si Ferdinand Marcos, lalong nadagdagan ang pagkilala dahil sa kagalingan nitong magsalita. Nagkaroon ng mga bantayog at istruktura na nagdagdag sa mga pagkakakilanlan ng Pilipinas, tulad ng Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, Philippine International Convention Center, Folk Arts, Metropolitan Theater, mga ospital na ang espesyalisasyon ay tungkol sa puso, baga at bato. Napalakihan ang Philippine General Hospital. Nagkaroon ang Maynila ng mass transport system na LRT. Lalong napaigting ang pag-export ng bigas at iba pang produkto. Naging sentro ng mundo ang Pilipinas pagdating sa pananaliksik tungkol sa bigas dahil sa International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) sa Laguna. Unti-unti ring kinilala ang bansa sa larangan ng sining, lalo na sa musika at pelikula. Hindi rin nagpahuli ang mga Pilipina sa larangan ng pagandahan. Lalong tiningala ng mundo ang Pilipinas….naudlot lamang nang nagkaroon ng Martial Law. Inabuso ni Marcos ang tiwala ng mga Pilipino.

Nang mapatalsik si Marcos, pumalit si Cory Aquino, ordinaryong maybahay na may prinsipyo. Subalit itong prinsipyo ay hindi rin ito nagamit upang magkaroon ng pagbabago sa pamamahala ng gobyerno. Napalitan lang ang mukha at pangalan ng mga taong tiwaling umaaligid sa Malakanyang…at mas tiwali pa pala dahil sinamantala ang walang kaalaman ni Cory sa pagpatakbo ng gobyerno.

Nang pinalitan si Cory ng iba pang mga presidente tulad ni Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada at Gloria Arroyo, lalong nadiskaril ang ekonomiya ng bansa. Nagkabentahan ng mga pag-aari ng Pilipinas na ang napagbilhan ay hindi alam kung saan napunta. Ang mga naging popular na kasabihan ay: “what are we in power for”…”weather weather lang yan”…”if you cannot lick them, join them”…at “matira ang matibay”. Ang sabi pa ng iba, mas maganda pa noong panahon ni Marcos dahil iisa lang ang korap, pero, nang mapatalsik ito, dumami na at hindi na nakontrol ang lalong pagdami pa habang napapalitan ang liderato.

Ang mga dapat na taniman ng palay, mais at iba pang produktong agrikultura ay naging subdivision, kaya pati sibuyas at bawang ay inangkat na sa ibang bansa – iniismagel pa! Ang mga lupain ng gobyerno ay tinayuan ng nagtataasang gusali na pagmamay-ari ng mga dayuhang gumamit ng mga Pilipinong dummy. Pati ang Fort Bonifacio na may bahaging dapat ay nakalaan sa mga retiradong sundalo ay nabenta rin upang may magamit daw sa pagmodernisa ng hukbong sandatahan ng bansa. Subali’t nasaan ang napagbentahan? Nagkaroon nga ng mga modernong istruktura na nangailangan ng mga empleyado, pero kontraktwal naman. Ang mga kakarampot na trabaho ay pinag-aagawan ng mga mga lumolobong dami ng mga nagtatapos sa kolehiyo taon-taon. Dahil dito, lalong dumami ang nangibang-bansa. Tuluyan nang naging dependent ang Pilipinas sa mga remittances ng mga OFWs.

Ngayon, mas lalong tumindi ang sitwasyon dahil ang simpleng pangako ng pangulo na makikinig daw siya sa kanyang mga boss ay hindi niya natutupad. Maraming dapat ay pinaalis na niya sa kanyang gabinete dahil hindi maayos ang trabaho, subali’t pinagkikibit-balikat lamang niya. Hindi nga siya korap, subalit ang mga nakapaligid naman sa kanya ay sinasabing nag-eenjoy sa pangungurakot daw, kaya marami na ang naiimbistigahan. Dawit din siya dahil mistulang kinunsinte niya. Marami ring mga dapat aksyunan ay inuupuan lamang niya lalo na sa pagkumpleto ng plantilya ng mga sangay ng gobyerno na ang iba ay walang hepe.

Sa administrasyong kasalukuyan, halos masaid na ang kaban ng bayan dahil sa kaliwa’t kanang pangungurakot na sinalihan pa ng mga sibilyang NGO. At ang nakakalungkot pa, kahi’t isang hindi nakapagtapos ng kolehiyo ay nagawang maloko ang pamahalaang namumutiktik sa dami ng abogadong opisyal. Sinadya kaya?… o nagbulagbulagan upang maambunan? Kalat na rin sa buong mundo ang tungkol sa bilihan ng boto tuwing eleksiyon sa Pilipinas. Ito ay malayo sa magandang imahe ng election system noon kaya may isang Asyanong bansa na humiling na tulungan sila ng Philippine COMELEC upang magkaroon din ng magandang sistema.

Ang inaanay na sistema ng gobyerno ngayon ay nakakahiya! Dahil dito, halos hindi na nirerespeto ang mga karapatan nito lalo na sa isyu ng West Philippine Sea. Pinagtatawanan ng Tsina ang Balikatan exercises na ginagawa kasama ang mga Amerikano dahil sa tingin nila ay “cute” lang ito…walang binatbat! Hanggang ngayon ay pinaniniwalaan ng Pilipinas ang mga ampaw na pangakong pagtulong daw ng Amerika sakaling may mangyaring masama….sinasabi ito ng mga puti habang nakikipagmabutihan naman sa Tsina!

Ang Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) ay nakikisawsaw na sa isyu ng BBL para sa planong pagtatag ng Bangsamoro sa Mindanao. Animo ay nananakot pa ang OIC na kung hindi masusunod ang gusto ng MILF ay magkakaroon ng kaguluhan sa Mindanao. Sinundan pa ito ng banta naman ng MNLF na gusto rin nila ng autonomous region, at wala pa diyan ang isyu naman ng separate Islamic State ng BIFF!

Ang nangyayari ngayon sa Pilipinas ay kamalasan daw dahil sa pagkaroon ng isang malamyang lider, ayon sa mga kritiko ng administrasyon. Dahil sa kahinaang ito, nalubog sa putik ng kahihiyan ang isang lahi na noon ay nirerespeto at tinitingala ng buong mundo!…at ang malungkot ay tila imposibleng makabawi pa ang mga Pilipino dahil sa nagsasalikop na mga banta, mula sa timog at hilaga!

Quest for a Nobel Peace Prize Nomination for Pnoy…ultimate idiocy of his ass lickers

Quest for a Nobel Peace Prize Nomination for Pnoy
…ultimate idiocy of his ass lickers
By Apolinario Villalobos

The quest for a Nobel Prize nomination for Pnoy could be the ultimate idiocy of his ass lickers. They have not learned from blunders that keep on heaping in their effort to salvage the image of their idol. For delicadeza’s sake, Pnoy himself, should tell his people to stop it, that is, if there’s even just a bit of it left in his person. He should know that he is not worth such a magnanimous recognition, much less even an obscure one.

As far as the Filipinos are concerned, Pnoy has zero in accomplishment…and more zero in the improvement of the country’s state as a whole since his day one at the Malacaῆan Palace. His being an Aquino has somehow mellowed the anger of the Filipinos as some have “thought” that his father, Ninoy, was a “hero”, but at the rate things are going, this may not last long. The Filipinos are beginning to recover from their nightmarish mistake of voting for him as president of this ailing nation. His so called “misadministration” has just amplified the woes of the already suffering Filipinos.

His administration has so neglected the country that it is now left drowning in so many inadequacies, wants, and most especially, corruption. Many agencies, are until now without Chiefs, especially, the COMELEC, despite the fast approach of the 2016 election. The Commission on Audit and the Department of Health are in the same predicament, just to name some. Other agencies are with Chiefs, but operate as if they have none, as they are pitifully wanting of sound decision. He founded his administration on “friendly trust” and gratitude which later proved to be very disastrous due to the incompetence and dishonesty of the people whom he thought were trustworthy enough or to put it bluntly, without a taint of corruption, or know how to operate an agency sanely. So what’s happening now is a case of a blind leading other blinds.

The Mamasapano massacre should be treated as a “blessing in disguise” despite the heartache it brought to the loved ones of the unfortunate 44 SAF commandos. The massacre exposed the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s questionable provisions- a clear betrayal of the people’s trust given to the administration of Pnoy. The name “Bangsamoro” alone, clearly indicates a seemingly exclusivity in favor of those who hug the Islamic faith. How about the Lumads and the Christians within the appointed territories, and who constitute a significant chunk of the population? Why did they not choose a regional name that could neutrally represent the diversified cultures and religions? Not only is the name an eyebrow-raising issue, but many of its provisions, too, that even the lawmakers expressed great apprehension if the BBL would be passed posthaste. Instead of resulting to peace, the “raw” BBL is perceived to sow more indifferences and frictions among the parties with vested interest. And, this BBL matter has become the biggest blackeye of the president, ever. Does he deserve a Nobel Prize nomination for this?

In his attempt to reconstruct his damaged relationship with the Philippine National Police after the Mamasapano massacre, he attended a simple turnover ceremony which was very unusual for a president to do, especially, of his type. His attendance was considered a precedent – a first time. He even tried to extend a reconciliatory gesture by holding an almost three hours meeting with the members of the PNP, but he was given a cold shoulder. The unspoken message of the police contingent is clear, especially, with his dropping of his best friend, Purisima, the former Chief of the PNP but later suspended due to graft cases, and who eventually resigned. Dropping him like a hot potato, Pnoy pointed to Purisima as the one who should be held responsible for the Mamasapano tragedy of 44 SAF commandos because of his meddling despite his suspension. Pnoy made this change in stance, despite his earlier admission of responsibility. Again, how can he expect a Nobel Prize nomination when he cannot even forge a peaceful relationship with the country’s police force that now perceives him as a leader with a fickle mind?

The Filipinos are now looking at Pnoy, not as a “man of promise” but a “habitually promising man” – with so many promises, but nothing done….yet, his cohorts want a Nobel Prize nomination for him! Out of embarrassment, perhaps, his people at the palace are denying about such quest…but, isn’t it that if there’s smoke, there’s fire?

Nasaan si Purisima?

Nasaan si Purisima?
Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Kung hindi siya guilty, dapat lumabas si Purisima upang magpaliwanag o pabulaanan ang mga ibinabato sa kanya na siyang pasimuno sa pumalpak na operasyon ng SAF sa Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Mismong si Pnoy ang nagsabing matagal nang hawak ni Purisima ang mga detalya ng operasyon. At isang heneral din ang nagsabi na si Purisima nga ang nasa likod ng operation at nagri-report siya kay Ochoa o direkta kay Pnoy.

Hanggang kaylan bibigyan ng problema ni Purisima at Pnoy ang bansa? Bakit ayaw siyang bitawan ni Pnoy? Bakit hindi na lang siya magkusa sa pag-resign na hinihingi ng mga Pilipino? Nagbabasa naman siguro si Purisima ng mga diyaryo at nanonood ng TV kaya dapat ay alam niya ang sentimyento ng mga Pilipino.

Ilan pang kahalintulad na massacre sa Mamasapano ang hihintayin ni Pnoy bago siya makinig sa mga hinaing ng mga Pilipino?

The ASEAN in the Eyes of a Filipino…and its tourism integration program

The ASEAN in the Eyes Of a Filipino
…and its tourism integration program
By Apolinario Villalobos

The Asians who belong to countries that comprise the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) have many things in common that led to their merging into a formidable conglomerate in the southeastern part of the globe. Except for the religions imposed by their Christian and Islamic aggressors, the rest of the unifying factors are steadfast in amalgamating the whole region into one strong organization.

Historically, the Filipinos came from the stock of migrants from Malaysia. And, even before the Spaniards, the Chinese and the Arabs came to the shores of the Philippines, the early Filipinos already had their own kind of government and thrive on a healthy business relation with neighboring Asian countries. In fact, the basic government unit of the Philippines, “barangay” is named after the long boat that Malaysian datus or chieftains used when they came to seek new lives on Philippine shores, when they escaped from the tyranny of their Chief Datu. The origin of the so-called indigenous pygmy inhabitants that the new settlers found are also traced to the Asian mainland when land bridges connected practically all islands in the region.

The desire among the neighboring Asians to unite was manifested when the late Philippine president, Diosdado Macapagal, initiated the organization of MAPHILINDO, composed of Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, now considered as the forerunner of the ASEAN. Had there been no political restraints, the ASEAN could have been formed much earlier. Nevertheless, with the ASEAN firmly established, the next move is the integration of its ideals and principles by the member-countries into their own.

Economically, the ASEAN is supposed to move alongside the World Trade Organization (WTO). There is a need then, to look keenly into the economic provisions that govern members of the WTO, so that they will not conflict with whatever the ASEAN provides as its own guidelines, particularly on matters that concern tariff requirements. The globalization of trade which is the main purpose of the WTO has pushed the third world countries to the corner. Not only did the WTO pummeled the small scale industries of the third world countries into uselessness, but their agriculture, as well, which should be the foundation of their economy. The questions now are: can the ASEAN provide the needed balancing factor that its members have long been in dire need of for their economic recovery? Can the ASEAN put a check on the exploitive provisions of the WTO, that have put Southeast Asian countries in a disadvantaged position? Can the ASEAN propel the economy of the region towards progress, if not at least, help recover what have been lost by the concerned Southeast Asian countries?

The grassroots of the third world countries used to depend on their small scale industries and agriculture for subsistence. Unfortunately, these basic sources of livelihood have been practically mowed down by the WTO. There is a need, then, for ASEAN to flex its muscle to trigger a self-reliant co-operation of the member- countries. If the European Union as a region can do it, why can’t the ASEAN?

On the issue of the disputed, historically so-called South China Sea, the brass aggressiveness of the China has overshadowed its purported aim to play “big brother” to the ASEAN countries, some of which lay claim to shoals and reefs. It is this “big brother” attitude that has made the Chinese openly defiant to the move of any involved country to seek mediation of a third party, but which the Philippines did. The only way for the ASEAN countries to effectively come to terms with China is to be united first, so that a synchronized move can be made. If the dispute is over the natural resources in the area, there should be a compromised agreement on how they can be fairly utilized by the involved parties. But first, the whole area should be cleared of any tangible manifestation of claim. It should be patrolled by some kind of “multinational maritime security force” composed of representatives from ASEAN countries and China which shall also initiate the guidelines as basis for negotiations. A failure on any compromising effort to unify the ASEAN members shall definitely cause a hairline crack in the organization’s foundation to the advantage of China.

The ASEAN shall tackle two issues to make it truly a daunting organization that stands for the well-being of its members – the WTO and South China Sea. Only then, can its people proudly stand with self-respect as Southeast Asians.

But for the hardy Asians, one last hope that can be tackled for economic recovery is the area of tourism. And, as mentioned in the ASEAN tourism integration program, the effort shall start with the members. Restrictions will be relaxed so that citizens of member countries of ASEAN can move around the region without much to worry about, as if they are moving around their own country.

Along this line, my own view is that there is a need for all concerned to exert greater effort in preserving the natural settings of areas to be opened to tourists. The Pattaya of Thailand and Boracay of the Philippines, as well as, other islands dotting the India Ocean, have been abused to the extreme in the name of money. They are all examples of exploitive and abusive tourism. The pristine beauty of the islands are now beyond recovery or repair in view of destroyed coral reefs, white beaches littered with different kinds of debris, septic tanks that seep, prostitution, and drugs.

Member countries of ASEAN, this time, should use “hospitality” as the centerpiece of the tourism integration program, and not “luxury”. By “hospitality”, simple pension houses, hospitality homes, dormitories, and 2-star hotels and resorts with convenient facilities can more than satisfy the requirements of fellow Asians. On the other hand, by “luxury”, there will be a need for the construction of luxurious 5-star resorts and hotels which will definitely destroy the skyline and setting of the touristic areas and give rise to prostitution and proliferation of drugs – all leading to the deterioration of the people’s values and culture.

The some kind of “backyard tourism” should be controlled by ordinances that limit the aspect of management to locals, and most importantly, not allow investment on infrastructure by foreigners. This may sound harsh, but it is the only way to show that Southeast Asians can be on their own. The foreign investors have already did their exploitation by establishing factories that employed cheap labor…and nothing happened out of such “generosity”. Instead, the foreign investors use their investments in blackmailing employees by threats of shut down and transfer to other countries, if demand for higher pay is made.

The ASEAN tourism integration program, in my view, is a brighter hope as it has initiated the removal of the barrier among the member citizens. It is the sign that many have been waiting for, that would unite the region against the exploitation of the rich and “generous” nations.