Friday, July 30, 2010

THE PRESIDENT HAS SPOKEN. HE NEEDS OUR HELP. I'LL TEACH YOU TO FIND, WRITE, AND GET THE GRANTS FOR YOUR CAUSE



It’s pretty clear from the President’s recent State of the Nation address. Our country is broke and he’s looking to us for help.

We who work in private foundations, in NGOs, or in a private capacity with causes to support must renew our efforts to lift our country out of the crisis it’s in. There is funding from international agencies that can start, boost, and sustain our work. They range from environmental projects, education, child welfare, human rights, health, agriculture, international studies, technology hardware and more. Every year more foundations are created with even more grants to give. Yet we do not know how to find them and send a proposal.

I’ll help you to research and find the funders employing Google and to research a host of helpful websites. We’ll do an actual writing exercise focusing on a major foundation, (Gates Foundation) reviewing its guidelines, its possible fit to your work, its giving amounts and application schedules.

After demystifying the intricacies of a grant application, I’ll teach you to write good narrative about your organization and the work you do. Today’s foundations want to read unique solutions to age-old problems in succinct yet persuasive points. They want to hear anecdotes from your beneficiaries coupled with documented evidence making the proposal shine. And they want a structured, well-written and succinct proposal.

As a professional fundraiser for the past 30 years raising funds for Greenpeace, Oxfam and the American Cancer Society, I’ve written my fair share of proposals and I’ve gathered all that’s worked for me to share with you. Having worked in international foundations I know what they are looking for to fund. Most importantly, I’ve taught my participants to develop the confidence in writing a winning proposal.

The scope of the workshop covers areas such as: Origins of Philanthropy, Funding Trends, Finding Funders, Do’s and Don’ts of Grant Writing, Elements of a Grant Proposal, Persuasive Writing Points, Successful Proposal Samples, A Writing Exercise, and Adding Story-Telling to a Proposal.

Every attendee gets a cd of all my successful grant proposals with more tips, guidelines, and links to resources available. A no-cost bonus: When you finally write that proposal employing what you’ve learned, I’ll be happy to read and comment before you send it.

My workshops start at 9:30 am promptly and end by 5:00 pm. An hour lunch-break is on your own. Bring your laptops and a sweater since the Library can get coldish.

Dates and Fee: August 16, 23, or Sept 1, 2010. PhP 3,500

Address: Ortigas Library, 2nd flr., Ortigas Bldg, corner Meralco and Ortigas Ave. Pasig City

Reservations necessary: 0926 729 9029 or jsilva79@mac.com

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

GAMES OF CHANCE AND DEATH: THE WOWOWEE STORY


(article first appeared in Newsbreak Magazine, March 26, 2006. It is being reprinted to celebrate the announcement that the noontime game show is being ended July 30, 2010.)

In the past, angry parents, women’s organizations, consumer activists, and civil societies would call the networks and write into Letters to the Editors to complain about a lurid game show host or dancing by skimpily clad prepubescent girls. In a few rare instances, the host was censured and suspended for a week. For the most part, the complainers got sympathetic nods from the networks’ PR departments and from anguish ridden ad executives. Yet the toilet jokes, the anti-women, anti-gay remarks, the simulated sex acts, the dangling of free cell phones and other vulgarities continue airing every day to millions of children and adults.

But now there are 74 people dead, crushed by a stampede, mostly older women and children,and hundreds injured all because they wanted to join the Wowowee Game Show. The complaints in the past have been overshadowed; Now we’re talking homicide and criminal negligence. The government, in an unusual show of public interest, possibly fueled by revenge, is talking about canceling TV licenses. The knives are out and it’s being directed at ABS-CBN, the network that carries Wowowee.

Media pundits and talk show analysts skirt around the central issue, in fact, the crux of the matter. They’ll go so far as to utter the words crass commercialism so as not to offend prickly ad sponsors lying low these days hoping the matter blows over in a few weeks.

To get to the bottom of things, one should recall the old investigative journalism adage: “Follow the Money Trail.” The trail does not lead to nor end at ABS-CBN or its rival networks. It may seem that way because they’re handing out million peso cash prizes and keys to houses and jeepneys. But that money isn’t theirs.

The trail winds past the networks and goes straight to the boardrooms of the largest corporations in this country and abroad. Corporations spent 139.32 billlion pesos for advertising expenditures last year to introduce and sell their products. Of this, 75% or 105.18 billion pesos were spent on television advertising in shows like Wowowee. In the old days, a budding entrepreneur would travel the land, visit a town, set up a tent and chairs and hawk his snake-oil or new contraption by giving the public a close-up look and a sample taste.

These days, it’s television with the game show host as the new huckster. The game show format was invented and a bunch of dolled up sex objects thrown in to spice things up. In a poor country, dangling dreams, sexual or cellular, inane and humiliating contests, and instant cash with the sub message of buy-that-hair-conditioner-or-boyfriend-dumps-you seem pretty effective.

The game show format either gets pitched by the networks or TV production companies or even by corporate marketing departments who throw in things like making people text - at 15 pesos a pop - what the correct answer is to the game show host’s question of the day. In return, one could win up to 25,000 pesos in load. Just by being smart, and of course, tuning in to the show. What these marketing mavens ignore is that 999% of the texters will lose and there goes the daily sahud which should be spent feeding the kids.

The selection of a game show host is crucial. He’s got to be affable, knows how to massage the crowd, and if he’s ambisexual, or she’s done a Vicky Belo, even better. You then pack the TV studio with jobless people, most of them desperate women who need to feed six kids, (five more than she could possibly feed but no one told her about contraception) or school kids who should be on an educational field trip. You add blaring music, juice up the crowd, applause on command and you have the perfect selling conduit called The Game Show.

If you took a poll though of the leading CEO’s who underwrite these shows, and the network executives who air them and the advertising shysters who created the spots, you’d probably find out that they, their spouses, their children, their families, their friends, wouldn’t be caught dead watching them.

After all, these folks have sterling pedigree, been sent to the best schools abroad, are fairly cultured and prefer American public television. Some of them may even be Opus Dei devotees and wouldn’t tolerate the show’s sexual crudeness. And they’ll never allow their daughters or their gay sons to date the likes of a foul-mouthed show host like Wowowee’s Willie Revillame. Worst of all, the show’s in the native language, and that makes it a pain to understand.

That’s the crux of the matter. These corporations proclaim their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) credo of dignifying the poor and teaching them self-reliance. These same corporations may also be members to enlightened clubs like the Philippine Business For Social Progress whose vision bear similar credos. Yet, the sordid fact is these corporations sponsor sleazy, offensive, and parasitic game shows totally discordant with the credos they purportedly espouse. For them personally, these corporate executives sponsor game shows so far removed from their sanitized Tatler lives.

Deborah Doane, Chair of CORE (Corporate Responsibility) Coalition of over 130 NGOs, in the UK, wrote an article entitled The Myth of CSR in the fall 2005 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. She confirms this “disconnect” between a corporation’s CSR and their actual practice by describing CSR as a “placebo,” which simplifies and overlooks the complexity and challenges between corporate profit-taking and the social good. Except in a few cases, corporations worldwide with CSR seals have yet to prove that they “walk the talk.” Her recommendation? A set of Principles drafted for American and UK companies which include “Corporations shall accrue fair profits for shareholders but not at the expense of the legitimate interests of other stakeholders.” In the Philippine setting the stakeholders are the poor who have the right to jobs rather than the right to be lucky and demeaned in the process.

For now, with poor women and children having senselessly died for the illusion of a quick fix, there had better be serious pause in Makati corporate boardrooms, and in the television and advertising conference rooms of their co-dependent accomplices. Like it or not, guilty or not, said or unsaid, public perception has laid the deaths of these people and the injury of hundreds on their doorstep.

It isn’t too much to ask corporate executives to remember their own satisfaction at seeing good, educational, cultural, and inspiring TV shows and applying that to local programming. The notion that marketing follows mass interests is a canard, lazy thinking and downright insulting to the public. Every day, I see thousands of poor children stroll through the National Museum, and without benefit of an arts appreciation class, revel and delight at the artworks and artifacts in the galleries. The poor can distinguish what is beautiful and what it takes to better their lives. The noon-time TV fare that dominates the airwaves are against anything beautiful and dignified and uplifting. Instead, the suckered poor public get debasing and moronic shows with not an iota of formative values. So, when a stampede occurs, we shed some tears but blame the victims for their lack of “conduct and good manners.”

TV game shows may have their sycophants and detractors. But it cannot escape the new adjective of being deadly and injurious. The time for fundamentally reviewing and replacing these sordid games of chance and death is now upon their makers.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

SIGWA (STORM). A MOVIE REVIEW OF A CINEMALAYA 2010 ENTRY



It’s important to revisit the past every so often. Sigwa, a movie about the emergence of the Philippine student movement in 1970 called First Quarter Storm is a good place to return to for many of my generation.

Like tens of thousands of Filipino students, I was there among the demonstrators, timid and not at the front. I protested but didn’t want to get my head blown off either. I wanted to be counted, opposed to the Vietnam War and the use of our country for American bombing operations there. There was also a feudal society and rapacious capitalists to overthrow. There was a Maoist egalitarian culture to sow and a sexual freedom to embrace. We felt we were actually going to change the world. It was a heady experience.

The movie begins with old newsreels of students battling in the streets then moving smoothly to reenactments of those moments. The defiant shouts and clenched fists and the battles with the police were chilling for they were like what it was before. Forty years later, I am seated in the theater entranced by the courage and conviction of our youth.

After a long absence Dolly (Dawn Zulueta) returns to the Philippines from the United States. She was here once before (young Dolly played by Megan Young) just around the First Quarter Storm covering events as a rookie reporter. With her camera she’s clicking inches away from running demonstrators or hanging out with some of the activists who initially can’t figure out if she’s with them or the CIA. Her visit to a dumpsite and her horror to how people could live this way clinches it. On the spot she joins the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) the most strident of leftist student organizations. A little too fast for consciousness raising but then again you only have two hours to tell this epic.

Dolly moves from student organizing to joining the underground falling in love with a comrade named Eddie (Allen Dizon) and having a baby. He would turn out to be a government spy and when caught asks forgiveness from Dolly and his comrades. But the crime was unforgiveable and he shoots himself.

Soon thereafter Dolly and another comrade Azon (Lovi Poe) are being raided in their hideout by the military. Dolly is wounded and hands her baby to Azon who, with a baby herself, scampers off with the two.

Revealing herself as an American citizen, the imprisoned Dolly is released and deported.

Now she is back looking up old activists and particularly Azon. Azon wrote years back that Dolly’s child died of sickness. But Dolly has a mother’s intuition that her child may still be alive. She wants to hear it, face to face, from Azon.

In the course of searching for Azon she looks up Oliver (Tirso Cruz playing the older and Marvin Agustin as the younger Oliver). After a movement stint where he succumbs in a torture house, he moves on to the other side and is now the spokesperson for the Philippine President. In an incredible coincidence, the previous President Gloria Arroyo, had for her spokesperson Gary Olivar, once drily remembered as a student activist.

Oliver gives Dolly an address not knowing that in the palace there are agents monitoring who visits him. Dolly is trailed and we are given a lesson that if we seethe at renegades like Oliver, the evil military agents are not too far behind.


Dolly has her long awaited reunion with Azon and we are all at the edge of our seats wondering if Azon has a secret to bare. No gritting of the teeth or tears at the ready. Instead, merienda is ready and rice cakes are offered. Lesson: You can’t get serious in this country until you’ve had merienda.

Another actress lurking about, literally, is Cita (Zsa Zsa Padilla the older, Pauleen Luna the younger). She hung out with Dolly during the student days. While the others in the group either sold out, squealed or just lay low, Cita would be the unrepentant communist fighter, grim and determined.

As a counter balance, another old activist, Rading (Jame Pebanco the older, Jay Aquitania the younger) appears in the Balikbayan’s visit. He did his time underground, got tortured, lost an eye and is now settled in a poor community, doing what he can do to help, declaring to Dolly that once an activist always an activist.

There is a showdown among them at the wake of an old leftist professor and ideological guru. This was the most uncomfortable of all the scenes yet, even though such debates did and still happen. Sparked by Oliver’s presence to pay his respects and the quiet entrance of NPA fighter Cita sans uniform and Armalite, the oldies regroup. Gone are the flirtations and youthful chatter. Ever correct Cita badgers Oliver about his turnabout. Oliver throws it right back sneering at how retro Cita is when China and the Soviet Union have turned a capitalist corner. Rhetorical proclamations fill the funeral parlor. “The east is no longer red,” crows Oliver. They stare down at each other like a tableau from a revolutionary Chinese opera. Cita slaps Oliver and he retreats amidst shouts of “tuta” from the now listening funeral audience. The subtitle below jars; tuta is poetically one who is servile to a master but literally it means a lapdog. So, as the audience/chorus chants Tuta! Tuta! Tuta! The subtitle has a string of Lapdog! Lapdog! Lapdog! written below. One can get lost in the translation.

Which brings us to another disquieting problem, the shifting of English to Tagalog and back due to Dolly’s long time absence. I’ve seen movies where they begin with the language of the country they are set in and then move on to English. Or in the case of this movie, Dolly could have been speaking English first shifting to Filipino later. She could even speak Filipino with a slight American accent.

Instead, the shifting between the two languages throughout the movie is problematical. And English spoken in this kind of movie doesn’t communicate well. Dolly, upon meeting Cita the communist, exclaims, “It’s been so long and you’re still at it!” or “How do you keep on going?” The question is valid, the delivery though is trite.

The English language, especially that spoken by Americans is full of “Have-a-nice-day”

“How’s-it-going” affectations. A conversation with Americans is punctuated with exclamations like Wow, or Fantastic, or That’s great! So when Dolly asks Cita “How do you keep on going?” the language and delivery betrays the content and feels more like “How do you keep your figure looking good?” Had the script been all in Filipino, the dialogue and its level of intensity would remain even.

Sigwa is a learning lesson for our “millenials” the generation specifically born in the 80’s and 90’s with the Martial Law period a vague and even unknown history. You can tell it was a different world then when the young audience in the theater giggled at the “revolutionary” marriage scene. Instead of exchanging wedding bands, the marrying comrades pick up a bullet to declare their love for each other and the class struggle.

It is the harrowing torture scenes that are graphic and realistic in depiction bringing to mind friends who went through that and left not unscathed. In these scenes one can understand the breaking down of principles and the desire to get out of the horror. One can also reflect on the courage and conviction of those who didn’t give in. The score of student activists many turning into revolutionary fighters who were caught have stories that should not be forgotten. This film does that and brings the issue of torture and summary executions into the present. Today, every time a person of whatever stripe or profession or just a plain citizen is arrested arbitrarily, detained without cause, or in the extreme, tortured, killed or made to disappear, this movie reminds us forty years later that the horror of Martial Law continues.

When Oliver leaves the funeral parlor and the crowd chants tuta, he turns around, raises both hands and gives the audience, including us the finger. You’re taken aback. Minutes earlier, when the oldies were having their polemics, Oliver was actually making some valid points while Cita was going on like a tired record.

But when Oliver gives the finger which has all the intensity of one big Fuck You, then his arguments dissolve very quickly. The movie is partisan to the oppressed. Oliver, the exponent of a free market system has shown his/their true colors.

Having known some of the student activists of those days one can’t avoid making comparisons by how we remembered their comportment and how these actors and actresses today approximate if not become them on the screen. The women activists I knew had little sense for vanity. They were either erudite or obsessed but not a thought about themselves. Some were quite striking, their beauty coming from within. So when young Cita and Azon are dragged into a torture house knowing this was no longer fun and games, the two are annoyingly fidgeting and flicking their long hair. If I had been the make-up artist I’d demand they cut their hair so they won’t get into a shampoo commercial mode.

Maybe it’s an age thing because all the older actors were quite good in their roles. Dolly’s pensive return to the Philippines was real. Rading’s stick-to-it-ness, and the broodings of an aging activist felt real. Cita the Red fighter was certainly real exacerbated by the fact that this country hasn’t gone anywhere and we all at times want to use the Armalite she’s brandishing. The baddest best actor was Tirso Cruz. You hated all of him, his cynical, tired, seen-it-all slouch. Maybe we’ve felt that at times and we’re drawn to his venality. We appreciate Tirso’s continued metamorphosis in roles befitting his years. Consider the fact that during the First Quarter Storm, or thereabouts, who could forget Tirso in the tight white pants and the sideburns as a rock star.

Did Dolly find out what she returned for? Did she return renewed or despondent? And what did the old barkada think of the Balikbayan? Ah, you must see the movie.

Joel Lamangan – Director

Bonifacio Ilagan - Scriptwriter

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brother Armin and the Sex Education Conundrum


The new Department of Education Secretary, Brother Armin Luistro barely warmed his office chair when the question of sex education being taught in public school was brought up by the press. As a Christian Brother, would he toe the Catholic Church line and get rid of it or would he be mindful of church/state separation and continue, if not expand its curriculum?

I thought of my school days (this was in the sixties) in La Salle Green Hills, a Christian Brother school. I asked old classmates if they recalled having gotten any sex education classes.

There was none. We got everything else, a demanding academic program, a host of dedicated teachers, Christian values, a social conscience and grooming for leadership. But in the area that baffled young men trying to understand their bodies, their sexuality, and that of the female sex, we were on our own.

We learned about sex furtively, through sources not necessarily reliable nor authoritative nor respectful of the body beautiful.

The family drivers with macho raunchy tales. The porn mags with naked pained women being sexually manhandled. James Bond having sex with busty women between shootouts as seduction lessons. The library was no help. If there was one dusty medical book on the subject, the terms spermatozoa and ovaries with their clinical illustrations made it all so boring. Even older brothers and relatives were useless. Having had no education on the matter or on the instructing, old-wives tales like masturbation causing blindness would be the admonition. By the time we reached high school, with testosterones on overdrive, our understanding of sex was warped and fraught with hurt.

There were a few brave parents who didn’t want to see their son bring home a pregnant girl or get the clap and bravely initiated a serious talk. To share with their sons the enchantment of physical intimacy would have asked too much from them. In school, if you didn’t point-blank grill the guidance counselor or a hapless teacher, the subject of sex was left to be perplexed. We were the sixties Ken and GI Joe dolls with no penises.

The first mixed dances we attended were awkward scenes, many of us abysmally clueless and infantile on what to say or how to assess and act on the sexual tingling inside us.

If we actually managed to have sex furtively or commercially, it was largely followed by feelings of guilt, fears of catching a disease, or the false bravado of scoring. In our ignorance, sex was, by default, cast as “dirty” and “sinful” leaving no room for the wonders, the pleasure and the affirmation of life that it held.

When we graduated in 1969, it was the beginning of flower power and the Age of Aquarius and everything about sex hitherto taboo was out there, front and center and in a way, that saved us. We were quick learners to this sexual revolution and it came not too soon. In the interim to college, we had a summer to become savvy to sex, to reframe its debased status and become instant adults with healthy libidos. That was a tall order.

For most of us privileged schoolboys, we went through that period of sexual naivete relatively unscathed, protected perhaps by sober advice from several of our more active and wiser classmates. But it would be a lie to state we all got off fine. Many look back now recalling incidents that brought unnecessary pain and heartache to first loves, destroyed friendships and caused self-destructive behavior. In the absence of truth our comportment on sex was crude, a far cry from the Christian Gentlemen we were branded to be. Years later, some of us endured unsatisfying relationships, failed marriages, and bewildered children also in the dark. Could these be traced too to our sexually illiterate youth?

If we got off a bit better, what about our poor male counterparts in public schools totally bereft of information, guided instead by feudal and chauvinistic impulses? Add male privilege to the brew and we have had a national norm that rationalizes the abuse of women and a society pockmarked with unwanted pregnancies, sexual trafficking and shattered families.

Brother Armin, who went through a La Salle education, graduating from high school almost a decade later from our batch may have also gone through a similar sex education drought.

The founder of the Christian brothers, John Baptist de la Salle, (1651 – 1719) would be dismayed if he were alive today and surveyed his progeny. Granted he did not live in these more open and liberating times, yet his principles and objectives still apply.

Brother John Baptist was regarded as an education reformer and the father of modern pedagogy. His life-long dedication to teaching particularly the poor, later earned him sainthood and enshrined as the patron saint of teachers.

He dispensed with Latin as the teaching language because he sensed his students learned better in their native tongue. He set up schools catered to both the rich and the poor. He urged the teaching of science as key to a solid education, a far cry from the faith-based teachings of that period.

Mathias Graham, a biographer, noted that Saint John Baptist was the first to eschew priests as teachers for his new schools because they would have spent much of the day to priestly obligations. Instead, he sought out men who wanted to live simply and humbly devoting their lives solely to teaching. They would be the first batch of Christian Brothers.

In addition, Graham would write presciently about Saint John Baptist’s pedagogic principle “…that nothing human should be foreign to the students, “ and that the teaching of science …(took) nothing from the teacher in his ministry as an apostle.”

To advocate for the continued teaching of sex education in public schools, Brother Armin may perhaps reflect on the absence of such education in his institution resulting in some sad experiences by his fellow alums. It needs to be said that such experiences prevailed in all other schools in the country.

Saint John Baptist’s preference for religious lay teachers rather than priests is instructive as well. On the issue in front of him, we would expect Brother Armin weighing in with the secular needs of the nation rather than canonical laws.

Lastly, the good Saint’s dictum that all human phenomena must be understood in the context of learning and bettering one’s life means the inclusion, two hundred years later, of the profundity of sex.

John L. Silva graduated from La Salle Green Hills in 1969