chuvaness
Something to think about
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This might hurt a little, but you must read it.
A few years ago my creative friends and I were gathered together at home asking why is it that mediocre talents or corrupt characters get to the top in this country, while really talented people get nowhere, even with their hard work and creativity.
We figured that in order to get to the top in this country, you have to play the popularity game. You have to be visible. You have to be social. You have to look rich (even if you’re not).
Last night Hayden was tweeting:

Screen shot 2011-09-13 at 5.31.41 PM

It’s all about numbers now. It’s amazing how some people I never thought relevant have all the numbers on Twitter and Facebook.
But somewhere along the way, I managed to have a voice out there. I may seem shallow in my online persona, but my close friends will tell you I’m not.
I don’t think I have sold out completely. I say no to certain projects I don’t believe in, photo shoots, magazine covers and TV appearances because I don’t feel I am up to the job. I know my limitations.
I say no to a lot of events, invitations and trips abroad simply because I value my family and time to relax before putting myself out there for more attention and the risk of being ubiquitous.
I have an aversion to overexposure, to people who don’t know when to stop, how to say no, choose worthwhile projects, or tone down.
I hate it when simpletons have nothing more to say to me than call me old. To me, they should die young to rid the world of shallow youth who don’t respect their elders.
I am a minimalist, I am for family, I am for God and values. Never mind if the majority think I am old-fashioned or uncool. I belong to an older generation and I respect elders like F. Sionil Jose.
That’s why I think we have to stop and listen when people like him talk.

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Frankie Sionil Jose (R), flanked by Ricky de Ungria. (Photo: Butch Dalisay)

Why we are shallow
HINDSIGHT By F Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star)
September 12, 2011

I was visited by an old Asian friend who lived here 10 years ago. I was floored by his observation that though we have lots of talented people, as a whole, we continue to be shallow.

Recently, I was seated beside former Senator Letty Shahani, PhD in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne, watching a medley of Asian dances. The stately and classical Japanese number with stylized movements which perhaps took years to master elicited what seemed to me grudging applause. Then, the Filipino tinikling which any one can learn in 10 minutes; after all that energetic jumping, an almost standing ovation. Letty turned to me and asked, “Why are we so shallow?”

Yes, indeed, and for how long?

This is a question which I have asked myself, which I hope all of us should ask ourselves every so often. Once we have answered it, then we will move on to a more elevated sensibility. And with this sensibility, we will then be able to deny the highest positions in government to those nincompoops who have nothing going for them except popularity, what an irresponsible and equally shallow media had created. As my foreign friend said, there is nothing to read in our major papers.

Again, why are we shallow?

There are so many reasons. One lies in our educational system which has diminished not just scholarship but excellence. There is less emphasis now on the humanities, in the study of the classics which enables us to have a broader grasp of our past and the philosophies of this past. I envy those Hindus and Buddhists who have in their religion philosophy and ancestor worship which build in the believer a continuity with the past, and that most important ingredient in the building of a nation — memory.

Sure, our Christian faith, too, has a philosophical tradition, particularly if we connect it to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Remember, the first Bible was in Greek. But Greek, Latin and the classics in these languages are no longer taught in our schools the way these are still studied in many universities in Europe.

We are shallow because we are mayabang, ego driven, and do not have the humility to understand that we are only human, much too human to mistake knowledge for wisdom. We can see this yabang in some of our public commentators, particularly on TV — the know-it-alls who think that because they have so much knowledge — available now on the Web at the click of a button — they can answer every question posed to them. What they do not realize is that knowledge is not wisdom. Until they recognize that important if sometimes awful difference, they will continue to bluster their way to the top at our expense because we, the people, will then have to suffer their arrogance and ignorance.

We are shallow because with this arrogance, we accept positions far beyond our competence. Because there is no critical tradition in this country — a tradition which will easily separate the chaff from the grain, we cannot recognize fakery from the real goods. That outstanding scholar, Wilfredo Villacorta, is a rare bird indeed; when offered a high position in government, he refused it because he knew he was not qualified for the job. Any other mayabang academic would have grabbed it although he knows he can’t handle it. And so it happens always — the nitwits who hold such high positions stubbornly hold on to their posts, bamboozling their subordinates who may be brighter than them for that is the only way those who are inferior feel they can have respect.

On the other hand, the intelligent person will be aware of his shortcomings. He does not hesitate to ask the opinion of those who know more than him on particular subjects. If he is a government hierarch, he will surround himself with advisers who he knows can supply him with guidance and background possessing as they do more knowledge, experience and wisdom than him. Such an official is bound to commit fewer mistakes because he knows himself.

We are shallow because we lack this most important knowledge — who we are and the limits to what we can do.

We also lack the perception, and the courage, for instance, to deny these religious quacks and the thousands who listen and believe in them. Sure, religion is the opium of the masses as Marx said. So then, how can we prevent the masa from taking this poison without recognizing their right to make fools of themselves? Again, shallowness because the good people are silent. Ubi boni tacent, malum prosperat. Where good men are silent, evil prospers.

This shallowness is the impediment to prosperity, to justice, and men of goodwill should emphasize this, take risks even in doing so. As the late Salvador P. Lopez said, “It is better to be silenced than to be silent.”

We are shallow because our media are so horribly shallow. Every morning, I peruse the papers and there is so little to read in them. It is the same with radio — all that noise, that artifice.

I turn on the TV on prime time and what do I get? Five juvenile commentators gushing over the amors of movie stars, who is shacking up with whom. One of the blabbering panelists I distinctly remember was caught cheating some years back at some movie award. How could she still be on TV after that moral destruct? And the telenovelas, how utterly asinine, bizarre, foolish, insipid moronic and mephitic they are! And there are so many talented writers in our vernaculars and in English as the Palanca Awards show every year — why aren’t they harnessed for TV? Those TV moguls have a stock answer — the ratings of these shows are very high. Popularity not quality is their final arbiter. They give our people garbage and they are now giving it back to all of us in kind! So I must not be blamed if, most of the time, I turn on BBC. Aljazeera, rather than the local TV channels. It is such a pleasure to read The New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the Washington Post, to listen to “Fresh Air” on US public radio and public TV where my ever-continuing thirst for knowledge (and good entertainment) is quenched.

We are shallow because we don’t read. I go to the hospital on occasion — the long corridor is filled with people staring into the cosmos. It is only I who have brought a book or a magazine. In Japanese cities, in Korea — in the buses and trains, young and old are reading, or if they are not holding books and magazines, they are glued to their iPhones where so much information is now available.

In these countries and in Western cities, the bookshops are still full, but not so much anymore because the new communications technologies are now available to their masa. How I wish my tiny bookshop or any Filipino bookshop for that matter would be filled with people. I’ll make an exception here: BookSale branches are always full because their books are very cheap. But I would still ask: what kind of books do Filipinos buy?

We are shallow because we have become enslaved by gross materialism, the glitter of gold and its equivalents, for which reason we think that only the material goods of this earth can satisfy us and we must therefore grab as much as can while we are able. Enjoy all these baubles that we have accumulated; sure, it is pleasurable to possess such artifacts that make living trouble free. And that old anodyne: “Man does not live by bread alone,” who are the thinking and stubborn few who believe in it?

I hope that those who read this piece still do.

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J-Z

I actually agreed with what the author said about the Filipinos, except for the part where he mentioned tinikling. I guess he was the one who was being  shallow in that part.  He was belittling our own culture. I would like to add that most Filipinos are shallow because they don’t know how to embrace and appreciate their own culture. Most of them go “gaga” over koreans and americans but what do they know about our culture?  

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Guest

Filipinos cannot handle the rigors of critical thinking because it is our cultural belief that people who think too much and in such concentrated fashion are “baliw”.  We avoid critical, systematic thought at all cost. Our own artists have to fake having an idee fixe in their art. Our writers focus on style and grammar not ideas. Our best minds are in the legal and political professions but they hide their intelligence and depth so they won’t appear weak or may kulang. Just look at how we treat Sen Santiago.

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Audrey_carig

its nice to read this, just the boost I need. I’m 25 and I think I’m having what you call a quarter life crisis. I’m a fan of F. Sionil Jose since high school and I love his Rosales Saga especially “Mass”. Anyway, since graduating and really coming into terms with the real world, I was disappointed because most of my ex colleagues was what the article is talking about. The shallowness of some Filipinos was only revealed to me after I joined the work force since I was very sheltered. It is sad to see this side of us.… Read more »

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happelschopperweitenzen

“To discuss depth is to discuss class.” – The Marocharim Experiment http://www.marocharim.com/2011/09/14/the-deep-and-the-shallow/#more-7516

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[…] I hope that those who read this piece still do. – F. Sionil Jose […]

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skylites

shallowness is something that is vapid in our society. no one can be who they are or who they want to be without being stared at or labelled anymore. we judge people based on their appearances and how “different” they are. if in youth, we are instilled with this thought that if you are different — if you think for yourself regardless of what others will say — you will be ostracized, how then will we “shine” once we’ve grown up and be part of our society. if in youth we were “mediocre”, what other results can we beget in… Read more »

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Guest

Books will always be the coolest thing for me. 🙂 I just started using the Kindle app on my gadget because, well, hoarding books is not a good idea in HK. 😛 Walang space, unless I rent another flat just to store my books pero exag naman yun.

I still salivate over books and I still have to exercise GREAT self-control when I pass by a bookshop dahil minsan, gusto ko talaga bilhin lahat!

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gcjoy

“One lies in our educational system which has diminished not just scholarship but excellence.” …  I agree.  As a school counselor in a public high school, I am frustrated to see so many graduate who are not college-ready.  Even though they deserve to fail, teachers are instructed to pass them.  If you don’t, we are told, they will become our future kidnappers and criminals.  Scare tactics.  How do you argue with that?  (I’m from the Southern Philippines, where kidnapping has become a “cottage industry.”)

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Guest

TOUCHE ! Coming from someone that talks incessantly about materialism. I made the mistake of recommending your blog to 3 friends ( 2 westerners & a Filipino who grew up in the States ), they all came back to me and said — all she talks about is what she ACQUIRES  &  what she CONSUMES. I do have to admit that you do showcase new ideas, products & services with panache  BUT  it does not cover up the glaring fault of being all about conspicuous consumption.  It’s like having a friend who talks of nothing else but herself, after awhile… Read more »

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Andrea_me

1. news- compare our newscasters to that of BBC/CNN… even though the situation seems tense, the newscaster’s tone somehow is a bit diffused, they don’t scream and their voices are cool to the ears..unlike here that newscasters like to read their news with that “nagbabagang balita”, “kotse nahulog, 2 pasahero patay!”.. short of shouting with that tone that’s supposed to shock its audience… I hope you can imagine it… though ANC is better… 2. Teleserye/telenobela, etc. – always have that recycled plot about babies getting switched upon birth, a family drama wherein one sister/brother will be jealous with the other… Read more »

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Guest

I think it can be boiled down to one thing: education. If our children had a proper education, they would be equipped to make better choices in life, they would know better than to idolize the vapid and vain personalities the media keep shoving at our faces, it would be easier for them to appreciate other cultures and, most importantly, they would read.  They wouldn’t vote actors into office, they wouldn’t get all their news from TV Patrol and the Twilight Saga will not be the highlight of their literary discoveries. But as it is, the budget for education gets… Read more »

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Anonymous

Since they have mentioned the issue of Education here, I honestly speak we have a very weak education system. Kulang din tayu sa research!!!!!wala tayung citation or napaublicize na FILIPINO RESEARCH!!! 

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Sansu88A

Hi C,

I never thought of you as shallow. That’s why I make it a point to check out your blog daily, because I have something new to learn from it everyday.  I only follow two blogs everyday – chuvaness and another favorite writer. Cheers! 🙂

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CVS Reply:

thank you 🙂

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Cor611

Wow! Thanks for sharing Ms. C. Thought provoking. Great article, indeed. 

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A.I.

I was reading pulp magazine the other day after how many years, and i actually felt so sad that i gave up reading the mag when i got too busy with my call centre job. While i was reading, i forgot how i really enjoyed the magazine and how I wanted to write for Pulp when I was younger. I think we are shallow because that’s what’s media is slowly turning us into.

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Frank Mejia

I have come across this little saying, “small minds talk about people, medium minds talk about events, and big minds talk about ideas”. To reach a certain depth of wisdom takes more time and energy. And this will not sit well with people who do not have the time to be patient and more so with people in a hurry. In that sense, yes, I agree with Mr. Sionil’s insight about his thoughts on “why we are shallow”. Now that we know the “Why”, the real question is “Who is responsible for having made our society shallow?”, if indeed we… Read more »

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Guest

i’m happy that, among all your posts for the month, this one has the most comments. 

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Guest

i love this entry. i totally agree.i would rather be a rare dodo bird than be ubiquitous. [Reply]CVS Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 2:03 PMdodo bird. i love that. [Reply]Topaz Horizon Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 5:42 PMBut the dodo is extinct! =( [Reply]The_Sung_Empress Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 5:45 PMExtinct but memorable. 🙂 [Reply]Topaz Horizon Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 6:34 PMI hope we dodo birds don’t become extinct, though. We need to have more book lovers! The_Sung_Empress Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 9:08 PMDefinitely agree. Public libraries are neglected. School libraries are neglected. When I visited my former elementary school, the principal (who… Read more »

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Guest

But the dodo is extinct! =(

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Guest

Extinct but memorable. 🙂

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Guest

I hope we dodo birds don’t become extinct, though. We need to have more book lovers!

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Guest

Definitely agree. Public libraries are neglected. School libraries are neglected. When I visited my former elementary school, the principal (who used to be the 6th grade homeroom teacher for me and my 4 older siblings) said she was appalled at how students these days don’t even read books anymore. So  she added a compulsory library hour (1 hour) every single day for every class. At kailangan magbasa sila talaga ng libro. I’m glad she thought of that.

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Guest

Filipinos are not shallow. His definition of “shallow” is not the reason why we have Boy Abunda or Kris Aquino on television. Also, you cannot learn “tinikling” for 10 minutes.  Ang baba ng tingin nya sa sayaw na tinikling…nakakalungkot.  [Reply]CVS Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 2:05 PM>Ang baba ng tingin nya sa sayaw na tinikling…nakakalungkot. hindi mo naintindihan ang article. [Reply]Amsm07 Reply:September 15th, 2011 at 9:14 PMI don’t think Jake is stupid not to understand what that writer was saying about tinikling.   Why did he feel the need to say that “tinikling” can be learned in 10 minutes if he wasn’t… Read more »

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Anonymous

I love F. Sionil Jose and I always listen to what he has to say. I saw him in Powerbooks once and wala, na-starstruck talaga ako and I couldn’t explain to people why I’m acting the way I do.

This piece is very him and my admiration and reverence for him runs deeper still.

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Guest

I started reading your blog a long time ago. Well, literally I started doing that but recently I started reading from the very beginning of it all when the comments weren’t as many as now and your posts weren’t as detailed as now either. I noticed one thing though and it’s a good thing, eventhough your fame has tremendously increased, you haven’t changed at all in all aspects. Looks – the same. Attitude – the same. Blog – the same. Of course these always change for the better, but when it comes down to the gritty, I’m so glad you’ve… Read more »

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GabbyD

i dont get it. why does the tinikling make us shallow? whats the reason? [Reply]CVS Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 8:33 AMi think it means they couldn’t appreciate the other dance [Reply]GabbyD Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 10:50 AMok. to clarify. its not shallow if the audience applauded equally? its shallow if the audience expresses a preference for the tinikling? would it have been shallow if they applauded louder the japanese dance? [Reply]CVS Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 2:06 PMi have no idea. ask Miriam 🙂 CVS Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 2:11 PMi think what it meant was disappointment that we can’t appreciate… Read more »

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Guest

Enlightening entry.

I love him too.

Anyway, I didn’t know people call you old. I don’t think you seem old. Or maybe I’m just old too 🙂  Old is beautiful and I’m embracing it. 

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Guest

Sionil Jose is a Filipino literary genius and it’s an abomination to change the meaning of his article. Puttting his writing on your blog is like an Hermes bag in a Gap store or if you prefer it, a Gap jeans in an Hermes store. Your blog is the microcosm of  we, “Why we are shallow”. That’s one of the reasons why we love your blog, not because of your comments on literature or political discourse.  We are shallow because our media are so horribly shallow. It is only I who have brought a book or a magazine. We are shallow because we have become… Read more »

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jinsung lee

for some reason we are also a nation of people who keep up appearances, we hate not looking good to a specific demographic whether you live in SanLo or Baseco. We get the latest gadgets not for the progress that they give us access to, but so that someone somewhere might think, oh, how cool or how nice that looks on that person. Hence the acceptance of imitation products. I find it really, really disturbing how some people flash counterfeit designer bags that scream fake at high-end locations, and even have the guts to put it down in front of… Read more »

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Guest

not all…….most of us..but not all! 🙂

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bingbing

sorry….but this comment just made me think of one thing….shallow.

peace! 

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Guest

Four things —

1. I like F Sionil. I think he’s a very good writer.
2. I write for TV. Telenovelas . 
3. When I was 19, I won a grand prize at that contest he cited. Now, I’m heading a team of writers who won grand prizes at this year’s awards.   
4. Ratings matter. But I don’t think we put out garbage just because it rates well.

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shoevagirl

I’m proud to say that Dr Villacorta he mentions, is my father in law 

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RamosJenessa

I’m currently studying Fil Literature in English. I got so giddy when I saw Sionil Jose and Salvador Lopez’s names in one of your entries. I realized how our generation has penetrated so much of commercialism and even capitalism that in turn we forget how we should really awaken the eyes of our society. What happened to the Filipino’s skill in the command of language, really? I’m very proud to say that I got to learn the writings of these forerunners in Filipino Literature and how our writers evolved from being followers to making a name for themselves in terms… Read more »

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Guest

C, ever wonderd why I’m hiding under a rock?

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CVS Reply:

uhmm….i don’t notice cause you don’t hide from me :))

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Zarah Hernaez Reply:

hiding under a rock like Patrick Star!!! but everyone loves Patrick Star! 🙂

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Guest

hiding under a rock like Patrick Star!!! but everyone loves Patrick Star! 🙂

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Guest

People bring their cell phones while they wait. Books are always a great companion but I’m sad to say that while I read a lot, I don’t talk about books on my blog anymore (unless Twilight haha) because books are unpopular. Maybe I should start again. I guess by choosing to stop discussing books, I am contributing to the shallow epidemic! [Reply]Anette Aas Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 5:06 AMWhen did books become uncool? 😮 I have to confess though when I was back in the Philippines that people enjoy reading Twilight. Haha The good thing here in Norway is that… Read more »

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Guest

When did books become uncool? 😮 I have to confess though when I was back in the Philippines that people enjoy reading Twilight. Haha The good thing here in Norway is that there is a local library. It contains books in Norwegian, English and maybe other languages as well, but I haven’t really searched. The books are everything from the Koran to Twilight. Everything is here. Just like a big National Bookstore but with only books. I think Pinas should have something like this available to the public as well. It would be great to enrichen the mind with a… Read more »

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Guest

Books were never uncool with me and the hubby. We have a lovely library at home, too! But ask anyone here what book they’re reading, WALA!!! Or maybe they will say they read but it’ll be pulp fiction. Well, better that than nothing, I guess. When I was younger, there used to be a small neighborhood library in Paco, Manila. It was dilapidated and woefully lacking in new books. Their encyclopedia set was from the 60s. Soon after, the library was torn down. Wala raw kasi funding from the local government or even from the neighborhood. Wala raw kasing interesadong… Read more »

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Guest

You have a library as well. Good for you! 😀 My friends were into books. Maybe not the deeply intellectually ones pero pwede na yun. Haha Omg… That library must have been scary. I can almost smell the smell of old and unkept books. There is this library in fairness in Q.C. City Hall. I went there to research for my thesis but to my horror it was just the same as the neighbourhood library that you described. I find it sad that Filipinos in general aren’t interested in reading. What Filipinos do like is to read the juicy showbiz… Read more »

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Guest

books may be less popular, but it is cooler than an iphone, for me at least.

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Guest

What a compelling article! Thank you for posting this Ms. CVS…we all can learn and reflect from this.  
Will definitely share this.

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Jeroen

I never watch local news, tv shows or movies. The reason; they shout reading the news, shouting game hosts, shouting in movies. Shout shout shout. Do you come across smarter as a newscaster when you shout the news? Since you shout, i listen to you? – yeah you got my attention…”switch channel…” When Rico Hizon will retire from the BBC and comes here to work for ABS-CBN will he start shouting the news?   [Reply]Topaz Horizon Reply:September 14th, 2011 at 5:39 PMThta’s why I like watching BBC. Even when they’re talking about tragedy or something really scary and awful, they… Read more »

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Guest

Thta’s why I like watching BBC. Even when they’re talking about tragedy or something really scary and awful, they talk in such soothing tones. I like BBC. =)

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kitty

I could never comprehend the choices being made with our local news format and how producers forgo objective journalism when delivering our sensationalized “shout outs”.   I suppose they deem it necessary to raise the volume to scare and fool the masses into thinking the information they’re actually providing is relevant and ultimately news-worthy…

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Guest

I haven’t listened to Philippine radio for about 8 years now. Conscious decision since on FM, all you could hear were remakes, and very mababaw jokes and commentaries. On AM, all you hear are complaints and biased opinions. Same with news broadcasts – always sensationalism. I understand about ‘human interest’ stories but, seriously, we need information and need to know what’s going on around the world. I am always annoyed whenever I read Philippine news online and there is always that article about “the longest bangus grill” or “the biggest suman ever”. Hanggang doon na lang ba tayo? Are we… Read more »

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Guest

I miss The World Tonight (we don’t have ANC). I think TV news back then were less sensationalized and had more substance. I feel like I was the only kid back then who watched late night news, and I really like Angelo Reyes Jr. and Loren Legarda. I felt they were very professional in delivering the news and were very credible. Unlike today where TV show hosts can become news anchors.

You’re right about needing to know what goes on around the world; we very seldom have news in local news about what goes on in other parts of the earth.

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Anonymous

I believe that’s Angelo Castro Jr., the Reyes Jr  is the son of the AFP Chief who committed suicide. But yes, I miss Angelo Castro’s voice. I really wished Loren Legarda stuck to news…

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Guest

Oh, right! I was thinking Angelo Castro but wrote Angelo Reyes. LOL! Thanks! 😀

And yes, I also wish Loren Legarda stuck to news.

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Carla

Education is definitely a big factor here. How can you get kids to take their education seriously when even the chalk allowance of teachers can’t be properly met. And reading! SO true! I couldn’t agree more. The reasons behind this shallowness are far-reaching and so deeply imbedded that it will take years to completely reverse this, if it’s even possible. That’s why it’s not surprising that people love shows like Willing-Willie and parents like Jan-jan’s make their kids macho dance on tv. Gross and excessive materialism is also something that we are all victims of. We don’t always have to… Read more »

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Guest

I don’t even understand why “educational field trips” now include a trip to the mall and to noontime shows!

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Anonymous

F. Sionil Jose had been my constant read ever since I stepped in college. This man can pack a punch with a stroke of pen.
OffT: Si sir de Ungria!!!! I miss the guy, used to be our Chancellor in UP Mindanao and a cool professor to be an audience of. 🙂

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The_Sung_Empress Reply:

I suddenly remembered Mr. De Ungria’s son Nikos. We were batchmates at UST together. 🙁

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Anonymous Reply:

Yeah… we were told by the upperclassmen of the story, but never dared asked Sir Ricky of it. Though I’ve read Walking Ice…

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Guest

I suddenly remembered Mr. De Ungria’s son Nikos. We were batchmates at UST together. 🙁

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Anonymous

Yeah… we were told by the upperclassmen of the story, but never dared asked Sir Ricky of it. Though I’ve read Walking Ice…

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Guest

F. Sionil Jose Books should be read by all Filipinos.

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Guest

I just read through your younger sister’s blog the whole afternoon, and I must say, you are a great sister and the small snippets on Ana’s blog show just how much you adore her. It’s shows a different side to who you are, C – more than what readers can infer from reading Chuvaness. 🙂

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CVS Reply:

thank you 🙂

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Guest

Scary but true….tumatanda tayong paurong.

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Guest

This is a good read. Just had an encounter with several shallow people too. Makes me feel blessed I have wider understanding. If they only would be able to read this and comprehend, I guess they would see things in a different light. But only those who aren’t shallow would be able to digest this piece. I guess …

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Anette Aas Reply:

Well said. 🙂

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Guest

Well said. 🙂

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