Originally posted here.

In the days after the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo’s untimely demise and the nation’s subsequent mourning, one word began cropping up, slowly but surely, on the minds and lips (or screens) of a few Filipino intellectuals: necropolitics. From the Greek prefix necro-, meaning death, Western theorists have used this term to describe the relationship between sovereignty and the power over life and death, or in African philosopher Achille Mbembe’s words, the assumption that the ultimate expression of sovereignty “resides, to large degree, in the power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die”. However, the emerging necropolitics observed here in the Philippines is of a different sort. Rather, it is the odd phenomenon wherein a person’s death, in the right circumstances, can confer political power to the deceased, and in many cases, to his or her next of kin.

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“Wag mo lang gawin ang hindi ikaw.”

Originally posted here

Had an interesting conversation with the young’uns during this morning’s cabinet meeting. While our principals were defending their budget lines, four of us spent the intervening five hours chatting about how we’d ended up in government. The most arresting narrative was from J, who handles the day-to-day ops of our Secretary for the Interior and Local Government. She comes from a local political clan, worked on him for her undergraduate thesis, interfaced during the 2010 campaign—but what struck me the most was what SILG gave as marching orders when they began. He said to her, “Wag mo lang gawin ang hindi ikaw”. Just don’t do anything that isn’t you—or to steal from a Janet Jackson song, just be yourself, and let that be your guide.

It makes me wonder: how can one carry out those orders when the Self is thrust inside an institution the negates the self?

Maybe the Self has to be so strong that no institution could ever break it.

Notes on Rizal and the Spiritual Revolution

Originally posted online here

This was written in September 2008 for the last class I had to take as an undergrad. (PI100, for all ye UP folk.) It’s not for everyone, and a lot of things have changed since then–Lozada’s disappeared, Padaca and Panlilio have been forcibly removed, and the elections are but 90 days away, with Nicanor Perlas running for president under the banner of “new politics”. Still, it might be of interest to those who believe in socially-engaged spirituality, and what it might mean in these critical times.

Revolution and spirituality are not traditional bedfellows. As part of a generation that equates revolution with a movement that deems religion ‘the opium of the people’, it is difficult to reconcile radical action with the stuffy Catholicism of our childhoods. This difficulty triples with the entrance of Rizal in the discourse of revolution and spirit. Despite his status as national hero and avowed inspiration for the Philippine revolution, Rizal’s reputation as an American-sponsored assimilationist presents an ambiguous relationship with radicalism as well as spirituality via the Church that helped sentence him to death. Nevertheless, (relatively) recent scholarship has begun to cast Rizal in a completely different light. This, of course, pertains to Floro Quibuyen’s A Nation Aborted and Reynaldo Ileto’s influential Pasyon and Revolution. Both works take a distinctly hermeneutic approach to historiography. By using enacted texts, they reconstruct a Rizal that is not subject to a supposed “veneration without understanding”. There is indeed understanding—but of a completely different kind.

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