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Internet community on strike against SOPA and PIPA!

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I live in the web. I feel compelled to write about this issue…

Several weeks ago, I got heroically delusional by attempting to battle local pornography access in the Philippines (yeah go ahead; call me St. Pepe, the patron saint of sinners). And I did just that by launching a blog which I pompously entitled as the Philippine Online Movement Against Pornography. Ironically, as a person who supports freedom of expression and of the press (i.e., “online press”), I was somehow inspired by certain countries’ lordship over the internet. In China, for instance, Facebook is inaccessible. North Korea practices the same kind of censorship towards particular websites that its government deems to be pro-South Korea.

And I remember a few years ago from my Dubai-based friend Weirdonextdoor that she could not access my Spanish blog from there! I wonder what legal or perhaps moral issues blogger.com (my Spanish website’s host) may have with the UAE’s top honchos. However, I’m not really sure now if blogger.com is still banned from that Middle Eastern country.

But my point back then is this: if governments can block websites from being visited by its citizens, then why couldn’t our own do the same with porn sites? I thought it was a splendid idea.

Now, I am not about to discuss my moral standpoint regarding pornography (that would be for another blogpost). The issue right now is internet censorship. During those days that I was toying around with this anti-porn blog inside my “saintly head”, I naively thought that I’d do my country (and my faith) a great service. Little did I know that I might conveniently harm this wonderful man-made universe called the internet. Let me expound.

When fellow Filipinistas Señor Guillermo Gómez and Arnaldo Arnáiz learned about my new blog, I was surprised that they didn’t support it. Worse, they were even vehemently against it. I was dazed and disappointed. I didn’t understand from the onset what they really meant. For Señor Gómez, it was a total waste of effort. He cautioned me that it will only take away what little time I already have for our online advocacy, which is to defend and ennoble the Filipino National Identity. Arnaldo shares the same view, but he added more syllogisms and deductions to Señor‘s preoccupations…

Internet censorship is something that simply shouldn’t be. Difficult to accept/understand, yet easy to be left behind. In the internet, one can do virtually anything his mind wishes. One can satiate the desires and pleasures of the mind by visiting a preferred website: a site about books, automobiles, social networking, blogs about local insects, heritage conservation websites, stuff about communism, money-making tips online, and yes, pornography. Truly, the internet has become a global vegetable bowl wherein everyone can participate in the feasting, and that no one is shunned from doing so. But if you do not want the ingredients, then you have the option not to partake of the feast. It is really all up to you.

And in the internet, one is able to showcase perhaps one of God’s most puzzling and oft misunderstood “gifts”: freewill. In real life, we always use it without realizing that we have already decided on something. But the internet actually makes you realize that you should decide, for many different reasons, whether or not you should visit a particular site. Pornography is the best example. One might laugh off those “before-entering-click-yes-if-you’re-over-18″ disclaimer because virtually any pimply teenager straight out of puberty can visit the site. There’s no physical internet police to guard each and every netizen regarding what site should be visited in accordance to one’s moral laws and ethics. And so that’s where freewill comes in. And not only that but the intellect as well.

The intellect. It was the main reason why the late great Nick Joaquín, sitting as a member of the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures during the 1960s, refused to cut nor ban controversial films because he believed in the intelligence and good sense of moviegoers. That is why former Senator Tito Sotto received a lot of flak during the mid 90s when, using his senatorial powers, he tried to censor several local and foreign rock bands (Eraserheads, Yano, Slayer, etc.) due to what he described as disturbing lyrics. Remember the memorable Eraserheads song Alapaap? Sotto tried to read between the lines of the song’s lyrics and decided that it was about a cracked-up junkie with notions of flight due to a meth high. But whether or not Sotto’s poetic intrusions are true (only the E-heads know for sure), the youth back then were not convinced by the song’s popularity, nay, lyrics to visit the nearest underground pharmacy. Actually, no song from hell ever convinced anyone to steal his dad’s gun and fire at his physics teacher. I should know; I belong to that generation when the E-heads gave us Ligaya (happiness).

In view of the foregoing, the key here is trust. Censors should refrain from being cynical about the public’s intellect. They always put the blame on the performer, on the medium. They should realize that the audience, the receptors, are not always stupid, are no longer stupid, especially in today’s age when ignorance is fast becoming obsolete. And we have the internet to thank for.

But the problem that the internet community all over the world —and not just in the US— is facing right now is not about internet censorship due to morality issues. Reportedly, the main target of the internet censors in the US Congress and the Senate is the alleged mercantilist threat towards the music industry as well as property rights. I’m talking about…

SOPA and PIPA

Today (Manila time), several big-name websites are blacked out in protest of these two controversial US bills that are pending legislation; its legislation will have a profound effect on the future of cyberspace. FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES is no big-name website (I’m ready to moon at the first one who readily agrees), but I blacked it out nonetheless to join the protest. Because this is not just a problem among the netizens of the United States of America. It will soon be a global threat once the US House of Congress’ “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and its US Senate companion bill, the Protect IP Act” (PIPA), are passed into law.

The purpose of these bills is to make it difficult, if not impossible, for websites —especially those located outside the USA— to sell or distribute pirated copyrighted material such as movies and music as well as physical goods like counterfeit purses, shirts, watches, etc. At first glance, you might think that the objectives of these bills are good. Perhaps they really are. The problem is they were not well thought of. And it should be noted that most of SOPA and PIPA’s strongest critics applaud the intentions of the legislation WHILE AT THE SAME TIME deploring what it might actually accomplish.

And what might that be?

Censorship, of course. It’s because the SOPA and the PIPA will definitely set a precedent in future internet censorship legislation. As wisely stated in Wikipedia (a vehement opponent of the said bills), the “SOPA and PIPA (will) build a framework for future restrictions and suppression”.

If SOPA and PIPA succeeds, there is a big chance that my blogs (and virtually anybody else’s blog) will be silenced in the near future on the grounds that, for instance, these websites are extremely anti-US and (‘gasp’) anti-”ABAKADA PINOY”, and that they might endanger the teaching of Philippine History, etc. Yes, it could get that worse (and I thought only Filipino legislators are stupid). And sooner or later, morality issues will come into play. And we’re not even talking about politics and religion yet.

Censorship is not always good. I’m wondering now if censorship could be another reason why Filipinos during the final years of Spanish rule were very rebellious. Think of Rizal and del Pilar and Jaena. All were good Catholics but they readily rebelled against the status quo. Is it a result of “centuries of living inside a convent”? The Catholic Church during those times was twice or thrice as strict as they are nowadays. One couldn’t simply read a book from another country for it might be listed under the Index of Forbidden books. Even the teaching of Spanish was stifled because the friars feared that when the natives learned the language, they will easily take hold of Masonic ideas that the Church abhorred for centuries. Spanish was fast becoming a vehicle of Freemasons in Europe, that is why the friars never preferred the natives to speak the language. Therefore, when the more liberal white guys from North America invaded us, our top leaders who were against Spain easily joined them. Could it be something psychological in our genes which we inherited from our ancestors during the turn of the last century that has made us allergic whenever we hear the word “censorship” nowadays?

Admittedly, the polemic discussion of censorship is still something that I do not fully understand. It has its good points as it has its bad ones because there are so many arguments to hear from both anti- and pro- groups, both of which can be passed as valid. And I still have my reservations for and against censorship. But what I know is this: if your right to be heard (and to be creative) has been stifled and jeopardized, then that is fundamentally wrong and unjust. Freewill is “divine”. Therefore, it should be accepted, if not respected. God will never stop you from liking my blogs’ Facebook fan pages. So why allow mere men to do so?

And what about the fate of the Philippine Online Movement Against Pornography? Forget it. If you suddenly feel like you want to see María Ozawa in action, then it’s all up to your intellect and sound judgment to decide whether or not it’s a good idea. Other than that, I already forgot my login credentials. So it’s no use even if I change my mind about what I think now of censorship. :D

Say no to SOPA and PIPA!

Whatever Happened to the “Magkaisa” Singer?

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EDSA 1986: when faith won over violence.

EDSA 1986: when faith won over violence.

Virna Lisa was the high-pitched singer of Magkaisa, the emotional theme song of EDSA 1986. Magkaisa has recently made a comeback in the Filipino psyche because of President Cory Aquino’s passing (it was also one of her favorite songs).

This legendary song even became more popular than Virna herself. One major reason is that she didn’t pursue a musical career.

So where is she now?

Here’s what I found in the net (published by Positive News Media on September 5, 2007):

The song not the singer
By Ben Cal
VIRGINIA, U.S.A., Sept. 5 (PNA)

This fits the description of Ms Virna Lisa, the Filipino-American singer who popularized the song “Magkaisa” in the post EDSA people-power revolt in 1986, but who faded away into obscurity.

Many do not know that Virna Lisa Loberiza is an American citizen although her parents are both Filipinos. Virna acquired her U.S. citizenship because she was born in New York.

Her song “Magkaisa” has captivated millions of freedom- loving Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad which could have catapulted her to stardom, but she prefers to remain in the background and chose to become a social worker where her heart belongs.

By all probability, not too many Filipinos -– young and old — could make an instant recall the name of the then 20-year old Virna Lisa 21 years after she sang “Magkaisa” that became a gold record despite being an obscure singer.

Many would ask where is that singer Virna Lisa? Well, she works as consultant for social security for the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States, caring for the disabled.

She said she loves her work being a social worker the past 12 years.

“I’ve always been a social worker ever since,” she added.

She is married to Snowden Mananzan, a Filipino banker who is the vice president of United Commercial Bank in New York. They got married in California in 1990 and have three children, Jaco, 15, Toby, 13, and only girl whom they named Frankie, 8.

She finished her studies in the Philippines at St. Paul’s College, Adamson University and later at the University of Sto. Tomás where she took up architecture but never graduated because she was a “Green Card” holder.

Lisa’s father, Joey Loberiza, was formerly connected with Toyota Tamaraw, and her mother is the former movie actress Aura Aurea.

The Philippines News Agency had an exclusive interview with Virna at the elegant residence of Ms Emily Dearing, a Filipino nurse, living in the State of Virginia.

The interview was arranged by Jun Pedery, a former US Navy serviceman and retired employee of Boeing Corporation, the world’s largest aircraft maker based in Washington, DC.

Now, 41, but still possesses that stunning Filipino beauty, Lisa recalled how her singing talent was discovered by actor-comedian-composer Tito Sotto after the historic people-power uprising that toppled the 20-year Marcos regime.

“Everything happened so fast,” Liza recalled.

She said she was singing the song “Bridges” during an event in Adamson University in Manila when she was spotted by Sotto who was fascinated by her sweet voice.

“My discovery by Sotto was by chance,” she said.

Without much ado, Sotto asked her to sing a newly composed song entitled “Magkaisa,” composed by Sotto, Ernie dela Peña, and Homer Flores.

Liza said Sotto invited her to sing in the daily noon show “Eat Bulaga” where she sang on television for the first time.

When she was asked to sing “Magkaisa” she was only given a few hours to practice the song. A few hours later “I found myself inside the studio for the formal recording.”

“I did not sign any contract. I just sang,” Lisa said.

Lisa said she did not get paid for singing “Magkaisa” though it earned lots of money.

“That’s one of the reasons why I did not stay in the business because I didn’t understand it well. I don’t think I will do well in it, and you know may be my heart is in the social work that is why I stay in the social work,” Lisa added.

Had she pursued a singing career, would she attain fame in the likes of Lea Salonga and other top Filipino singers? Lisa humbly said: “I don’t know but maybe God has other plans for me.”

In 1994, Lisa was invited by then President Fidel V. Ramos to sing during the 8th anniversary celebration of EDSA People-Power where she sang again “Magkaisa.” (PNA)

Right after President Cory Aquino’s funeral mass at the historic Spanish-era Manila Cathedral, several people and dignitaries still remained at the church to finish the program. Many singers sang patriotic and other songs connected to the late president. One of the songs stood out from the rest. It was Magkaisa (Unite), the theme song of the People Power Revolution of 1986. Over the years, this song has emotionally moved many a patriotic Filipino.

Magkaisa was sung by ABS-CBN talent Sarah Gerónimo after the funeral mass. It was an excellent rendition to say the least. She even almost sounded like Virna.

But who is the better singer for Magkaisa: Virna or Sarah? You be the judge… click here (ALAS FILIPINAS) to watch Sarah Gerónimo’s fabulous rendition. You can also listen to the original version by clicking on my Spanish website’s Magkaisa widget found at left column (at the bottommost part, just below Seguidores).

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