Who’s Failing Who

“A man once said this, decisions are made by those who show up. So are we failing you or are you failing us? It’s a little of both.” – Pres. Jed Bartlet/Martin Sheen

That quote was from one of the scenes of the last episode of season one of “The West Wing”, an American TV drama written by Aaron Sorkin. The quote resonated with me because lately there’s been a lot of blaming and finger pointing going around. The most recent of which was about the Manila Hostage Crisis.

The quote made me think seriously. Why are we (Philippines) in the dumpster? Why is it that the rest of Asia, the world for that matter is slowly moving up and we’re still stuck in a rut? We’re almost at the same place we are 20 or so years ago save for some improvements. I mean sure we have new buildings, more roads, we have broadband, etc.. but as a core, I feel we’re still kind off in the same place where we are. We still see same faces and/or names running the government and we as a people still complain a lot but do little about it.

Our population is nearing the 100 million mark. Yet during the last elections there was only 50 plus million registered voters and out of those 50 million only around 37 million or 73% of those registered voters went out to vote. Less than half of the country’s population decided how the country would be run in the next 6 years. What’s worse, I have reason to believe that a majority of the portion of those who voted did not think about the candidates they voted for nor listened to the issues. A lot simply voted for personalities or were just convinced by other people to vote for whomever.
We are where we are because a lot of us don’t participate in building our nation. Sure we make our voices heard on Twitter or Facebook. We send out text messages and emails cursing the government and who ever we feel needs to be blamed for the ills of our nation. Yet when the time comes to actually make a difference we take it lightly or not take action at all.

The government is what it is because we allowed it to be such. For years we allowed corrupt and inept politicians to craft our laws and enforce them. When things go bad we simply accept it as “the way it is”. We want other people to fix our problems instead of being part of the solution.

If we want things to be better we need to participate. We need to be a part of the change that we want to see in our nation. Government can’t do it alone. They should do their jobs but we must do ours.

All of us can do something. We can start small. We can start small. Following simple rules and regulations, being aware of what’s happening around your community, participating in programs for your community, etc. We can grow from there. We need to start participating in debating the issues that affect us. Make our voices heard.

One of John F. Kennedy’s most famous lines is “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. We need to start asking ourselves how can we be part of the solution? How can we start participating in helping build our nation?
If we’re don’t start participating more, then government isn’t the only that failed us, we failed ourselves.

The Blame Game

The hostage taking last Monday, which saw 9 Chinese nationals lose their lives and others injured was indeed a sad and tragic event. As a result a lot of blame has been going around. From the police to the media as well as the President of the Philippines has not been spared blame. There are a lot of fingers being pointed in all directions. So who is to blame really?

Is it the police? They did manage the situation very poorly. From what I’ve seen on live TV, read in the paper and from various social media accounts the police really failed to do their jobs properly. It seems that they could have ended the situation much earlier with less casualties but failed to do so. When they did move to subdue the hostage taker they looked like they were all rookies fresh out of the police academy instead of highly trained law enforcement officers.

I will admit that our police force is sorely lacking in all aspects. They lack training, equipment but most of all education. A lot of our police officers are under educated. This is attributed to our poor education system. Most police officers here come from poor families. They’re a product of the public education system and as sad as it seems our education system is bad, thus the level of competence of our policemen is really not at par as with developed nations.

All the right equipment in the world would be for nothing if the person using it can’t think well.

To the policemen’s credit, lacking equipment and education/training, they’re still brave enough to go out there and risk their lives to help people they don’t know. It takes a brave man to go and face off with a gunman even if he’s wearing a bulletproof vest; it’s even braver when you’re wearing none. Most of the policemen on the scene had only their uniforms to protect them.
To people who say that being a policeman you should be ready to die in the line of duty, let me see you say that once bullets are flying towards you. It’s not that easy. Your resolve will only be tested once you’re in that situation. It’s easier said than done. If you’re not dodging bullets for a living, I think it’s best you refrain from making comments like that.

Is it the media then? Well they did broadcast a lot of things that in most people’s opinion contributed to the agitation of the hostage taker. They also showed the assault on live TV which if I were to believe some articles I’ve read, the hostage taker was also watching it live on the bus. Therefore giving him knowledge as to the movements of the policemen as well as a cause for agitation.
The Philippines has one of the freest presses in Asia. The local media has been able to report on a lot of things without really being hampered.

However a free press does not mean that rules and guidelines should not apply. It doesn’t mean that the media should not think about their actions and the consequences that result because of their actions.

When people suggest that there should be a news blackout for certain situations, that does not mean that there should be no media or coverage present, it just means that the stories should not air live. Media can still cover and shoot video but it should be aired/published at the right time.

Journalists that cover wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan are embedded in with armed forces units. They are allowed to cover but they do not broadcast during times wherein there are operations. They do not air tactical positions of the armed forces. They exercise restraint when doing their jobs in order to ensure safety of the soldiers. It should be the same for situations like the hostage taking that just happened.

The media industry has been so competitive as of late that out scooping the competition sometimes impairs the judgment of media practitioners. This needs to change.

Is the President of the Philippines and his cabinet members to blame? There’s the concept of command responsibility and for all intents and purposes the buck does stop with the President. Ultimately he should be accountable for everything that happens in this nation of ours. He is after all the chief executive. The cabinet members namely the Secretary for Local Government is also responsible because for this aspect he is the President’s alter ego. Ergo he is responsible as well as he is representing the President.
The President ultimately shares a big part of the responsibility for what happened last Monday. It happened during his watch. However, it is not entirely his fault. Even the best leaders make mistakes or are put into situations that are really unpredictable.
A certain congressman has suggested that the President’s lack of visibility meant that he wasn’t on top of things. Just because a President is not basking under limelight does not mean he’s not giving it attention.

Should the President be at the scene of a hostage taking? No. That’s not his job. He is not a hostage negotiator or a police commander. He has people specifically trained to do those things. Let those people do their jobs.
The stance of the current government to limit the involvement of politicians during the hostage crisis is in my book the right move. Politicians and personalities should not be involved in those matters.

So who’s really to blame for what happened last Monday? My answer is that all of us share a portion of the blame. Those people who keep pointing at others forget that that when they point, three fingers are pointing back at them.

We are all to blame because we have allowed our society to get to the state where it is right now. We allowed corrupt politicians to reign over our country hampering our development. Those corrupt politicians that are pointing fingers now failed to realize that by pocketing money that rightfully belongs to the people, they are depriving the country of resources that should be spent educating, training and buying equipment for public servants such as policemen.

We have grown accustomed to wanting to know so much that we’re finding it hard to draw the line where we should hold back. We want to know what’s happening all the time that we fail to realize that our wanting to know sometimes puts others in jeopardy.
I believe in our right to have a free press and the rights to know what’s happening around us but I also believe there is a right time for the information to be given to us.

We are all at fault because we as a society has become so selfish that there are a lot of people who are in despair that they need to resort to drastic measures just to make their desperation known. The hostage taker was not asking for anything other than just to have his job back. What does that tell you?

While there are people who are at fault during the actual event, we should ask ourselves why that event took place. Why was one man so desperate that he had to take hostages? He was by no means a terrorist. What he did was wrong but I think at the beginning his intentions were not really to create terror. He just wanted to be heard and he wanted people to notice. We need to look at the root of it all and see why things like this happen.

We’re all to blame for this. Until we as a people get our acts together, events like this will happen again.

Ramen Bar

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Ramen is one of the best comfort foods that I can think of. Nothing beats a good bowl of ramen. It not only fills the stomach but it soothes the soul.

Until recently I’ve mostly gotten my ramen fix from Kombini, a Japanese convenience store near where I live.

Ramen Bar, a new ramen place opened at the Eastwood Mall in Libis, Quezon City. While it’s not near the place where I live, the trip to the restaurant I assure you is worth it.

I got a chance to sample Ramen Bar’s offerings during a food-tasting event last August 14. The owner of Ramen Bar invited around 50 people from the Philippine Mac Users Group, which I happen to belong to. We were all treated to a night of good food and company.

Each person was given 500 pesos worth of play money to spend on the restaurant. Looking through the menu I decided to go with the Shoyu Ramen (Php 280). This is a soy infused Tonkotsu Ramen topped with soft boiled eggs (Tamago), fish sticks (Naruto), spring onions (Negi) and sliced pork (Chasyu).

When the server arrived with my order, I eagerly tried the ramen. I must say while I am by no means an expert in ramen, having only sampled the ramen locally, I must say that the Shoyu Ramen is one of the best ramen I’ve had so far. The flavor of the broth was good. The Chasyu was melt in your mouth tender. While the noodles were ok, I would have preferred slightly thinner noodles but this is a minor detail that I’m willing to overlook.

I didn’t even get to spend all of my play money as the Shoyu Ramen was enough to appease my hungry stomach. Although I must say that I am not a heavy eater. My stomach does not hold as much as most people but this is not to say that the portions of Ramen Bar are not enough. In fact I would consider the portions of Ramen Bar on the generous side. Not American restaurant type generous but definitely generous.

The restaurant is nicely lit and decorated. It’s simple, understated much like the essence of ramen.

Being a new restaurant and in fact the first endeavor into the restaurant business by the owner, there were things that can be improved on. The service is still not as quick and efficient as those of more established restaurants but this is expected. I predict that this will improve over time.

So, if you’re craving for a nice bowl of ramen, I suggest you head on over to the Eastwood Mall and try out Ramen Bar. The worst thing I have to say about the place is just that it’s too far from where I live. Otherwise I would be eating there more often.