Monthly Archives: November 2011

Myth, Sinesyensya and the Bamboo Tree

Sinesyensa Science Film Fest Ilocos

Last week, I perused a number of books, read some articles on cosmogony and cosmology  to explore the significance of myth as an emerging worldview. This article was partly inspired by the Science Film Festival organized by the Ablan Foundation and the Goeth Institute in the province of Ilocos Norte dubbed as “Pangalagaan Tahanan ng Ating Lahi – Nurturing the Home of Our People” in celebration of the 2011 International Year of the Forest.  Spearheaded by the Office of Atty. Kris Ablan the event was organized to raise the ecological awareness of the youth in the province of Ilocos Norte.

Provoked by the CLA or Causal Layered Analysis, a method that uses macrohistory, postcolonial multicultural theory, and poststructuralism as foundation, I realized the need to widen my knowledge base on mythology (particularly Asian and Non-western myths) and its role to policy analysis and research. The CLA integrates myth and metaphor as part of its layered analysis to futures thinking, long-term planning and policy formulation.

Causal Layered Analysis

And of course, PROUT, the Progressive Utilization Theory, my preferred worldview, is an emerging theory and research method informed by Spirituality, Neohumanism, Cooperatives, Culture, Environment, Economy, and Community.

PROUT in a Picture

Now going back to my myth reading, a couple of stories (I took note of them) were really interesting. Local Philippine mythology, in particular,are, in my view, global and current in context, multi-cultural, positive and transcendental in nature. The Filipino myth or stories of world creation are engaging or shall I say “makatotohanan”. I actually deciphered some of them and tried to deconstruct it in some sense. What moved me was the myth of the first man and woman emerging from a bamboo tree.

The First Man and Woman in Philippine Mythology Emerged from a Bamboo Tree

The Hebrew Story of Creation. Adam was made by the Creator out of the dust of the earth.

Deciphering, I learned that most of the Filipino myths/stories of creation suggest that the First Filipino man and woman emerged from a bamboo tree. Visayan, Tagalog, Igorot, Subanon, etc. creation myth used the bamboo “tree” (bamboo, banana for some of the  Igorot myth, etc. ) to explain our story of creation, to represent the Creator and its creation. Western myths used ash trees (Olive Tree), elm trees in their stories of the Creator and creation.  In here, you would learn that Bamboo trees tells a lot about us as Asians or Non-westersn, if I may, our worldviews, our cultural preferences and values. The context of the Non-western man and woman story of creation can be decoded by deconstructing the meaning of the Bamboo tree.

An Elm Tree (European, North American Tree)

Ash Trees is Prominent in European Literature

These myths that used trees in their story of creation also represent, with its abundant fruit, its protection and regenerative power, different life views such as wisdom, strength, beauty and contemplation. The “tree” was used as an important pictogram by different cultures and faiths like the Tree of Knowledge in the Jewish creation story, the Tree of Life in modern Kabbalistic story of creation (Cane, 2010). The Bamboo tree  is used by the Chinese to explain the magnificence of the Four Gentlemen in Chinese folklores.  The Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal had, like the Philippines, the first Bengali man and woman emerging from the stem of a bamboo tree.  Likewise, the Malaysian folklore that explain the origin of man also had a man sleeping under a bamboo tree, dreaming of a beautiful woman only to wake up to find the woman in her dreams inside a bamboo tree.

Bamboo Tree is prominent in Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Philippine Myth/Stories of Creation

The Jarayas, Jiguesinas, Igneines and Indio story of world creation (Visayan) in the Povedano Manuscript of 1578 also used the bamboo tree to explain the origin of man. The story began with King Manaul, the ruler who supervised the movement of the cosmos summoned his general named Magauayan, who took the name of the kapayan plant, a spiny bamboo, to supervise the Island while Manaul was away resting. According to Ignacio (1951) Mag was used in the past to mean “One and Most High”. When Magauyan took over to supervise the Island, Magauayan one day threw a piece of a spiny bamboo that floated in the water. “The bamboo was carried by the wind and the water into the island where it grew.”  When King Manaul visited the Island he sat alone under the branch of a full grown bamboo tree when he heard some voices that came from bamboo. He used his beak to open the bamboo and from one of the nodules came forth a man and from another a woman.” King Manaul named the man Sikalak and the woman Sikabay from whom sprang mankind (Ignacio, 1951).

Image of a Chinese Bamboo Folklore

In Chinese folklore, the bamboo tree represents the balance between Yin and Yang to symbolize the balance between beauty (Maganda in Tagalog) and strength (Malakas in Tagalog).  According to Sundra Cane (2010), “the tree is seen as a powerful symbol of growth, as the tree is the only living thing that continues to grow throughout its lifetime.”

2011 Science Film Fest Official Poster

These stories, just to make a note of it, were believed to be written or spoken (most myths are spoken, products of the oral tradition) by those who lived before us ( approximately three or five thousand years ago).

After reading these stories of man emerging in trees, I felt that they were truly positive and experiential. In fact, my life view was broadened by these myths. It made me realize the significance of my own mortality (I, too, will someday, somehow retire and vanish in the life world).  My view about life was transformed by this saying (now, the bamboo is used as a metaphor to explain the cyclical nature of time and life):

“Ang kawayan kung tumubo, langit na matayog ang itinuturo, ngunit kung masunod na ang anyo sa lupa rin ang yuko” (The bamboo when just beginning to grow, points straight up to heaven; but in maturity after it has gained its form, it bows down to earth).

The myth about the story of man emerging in trees deepened my life view. These stories inspired me and the good thing is the story always ends on a positive note.

Si Malakas at Si Maganda (Tagalog), Sikalak at Sikabay (Visayan)

Why Bamboo and not Dust? 

While I was hopeful and inspired by these stories, I was also critical in the context and questioned why these creation myths prefer to have the man and the woman emanate from trees? Why not mud?  stones? the seas? the air and the fire? The cosmos, big bang, etc.?

Of course, the writers/authors of these myths knew epistemology or the nature of knowledge and appear to be good at metaphysics. They were litterateurs’, I think, in the highest standard to borrow the words of PR Sarkar.  But why?

These stories are, as far as I am concerned, meta-stories. They had an artistic, poetic mandate to mystify or demystify the nature of man and its relationship with the cosmos and the divine. And by using the tree to explain the origin of the first man and woman, (the Western man was mud) the plot was customized (Asian, Non-western) for us to realize the Oneness of man/woman (creation) and nature (creator). The meaning was neither man nor woman or both and nature were superior or inferior to each other. The story was intended to evoke the value of balance, equality, interdependence, sustenance and regenerative approach to human life. The consciousness in the text (con-text) was life (abundance, protection and regeneration) and not death (we all came from dust and we all return to dust).  The tree story had a sense of what Gablik called “ecological atunement” (thanks to Roar Bjonnes, 2007). The archetype suggest an “ecology of reverence”, a worldview that “embraces all things – living (plants, animals) and non-living (water, the rocks) lovingly within its purview” (Inayatullah, 2007).

Thus, the story of man emerging in trees elucidates the inherent unity and equality of man and woman and their oneness with nature. As a life-furthering worldview, the bamboo creation myth  is similar to the Neo-humanistic view of life,  human evolution and transformation. Neo-humanism suggest that imperative to human existence are the existence of plants and animals. Respect to living and non-living things is essential to Neo-Humanism.

Children of the World by funky luke

The Science Film Festival 2011

Last week, the Ablan Foundation in cooperation with the Goeth Institute, ABS-CBN Foundation, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Inc., Department of Science and Technology, UNESCO, the Embassy of France in the Philippines, the European Union celebrated the 2011 Science Film Festival (SFF) dubbed as Sinesyensya: “Pangalagaan Tahanan ng Ating Lahi – Nurturing the Home of Our People” in the province of Ilocos Norte.

Spearheaded by the office of Atty. Kris Ablan, the SFF event was organize to raise ecological awareness that emphasized the role of forest, of trees for people all over the world.  Science and tree films were shown in different venues like the Ilocos Norte National High School and Governor Roque B. Ablan Sr. Shrine and Library. Originally initiated by the Goeth Institute of Bangkok, the festival is simultaneously held in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.  This year the SFF celebrates the significance of the forest in relation to science and technology, development and most importantly to humanity.

Kudos to Kris!

(Just a note:  If there is any sector in the province, this nation, this world, it is the youth or the “bunso” of our generation who can afford to have a mythological – futures – long term view. The “bunso” generation alone can embrace the activist mode and transformative context of myths and metaphors. The “bunso” are the one who can insure, preserve, and transform our current context of life (I assume that the youth does not want the present to repeat itself) and they would, of course, in the context of civilizational time, literally, would be the last generation to die. They can, with their current age (18 at 2011), and by divine grace, affect the year 2050, 2060, and 22nd centuries. They are the best instrument or shall I say the best conduit of provocative ideas, synthetic worldviews, and “forest” oriented solutions to ensure a “far and more” brighter future (their concept of a ‘bright future’ will be “brighter” than us, I am pretty sure of that).

As such, we should, together, equipped them with intuitional science (creativity and foresight), freedom of choice (with the future in mind), critical thinking (with the community in mind) and socio-economic-cultural opportunities (community, culture, and economic democracy) for them to be able to grow like the mythical bamboo tree – with strength and flexibility.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Arts and Mythology


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Arts, Culture and Politics Shifted in 2011

United Nations Alliance of Civilization

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain”

John Adams

The challenge of today’s global era requires more than rationale discourses in political economy, international relations and governance. The Occupy Wall Street Movement, the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism, Transnational Migration, Climate Change, Globalization, Post-modernism, Multi- culturalism and the tensions at the Spratly’s are manifestations of a rapidly deviating world. The digital space, the virtual world, post and transmodern cultures, the arts and the sciences, and the resurgence of civilizational discourses are  transforming our meaning of self-perception and experiences in the lifeworld. Our worldview continue to inform us in our search for alternative political paradigms. Asia, of course, is seen as the next most exciting continent of international politics and will, in a lot of way, affect, or perhaps by necessity, the way we interpret and conceive politics in the future. These among other  issues were central to the SHIFT 2011 International Conference on the Future of International Politics.

University of Asia and the Pacific organized the 1st Shift International Conference

Convened by the University of Asia and the Pacific in conjunction with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the 1st SHIFT (Shaping Insights and Forecasting Trends in Politics) Conference brought together “brilliant young minds, graduate students, young scholars, professors and industry practitioners around the world to discuss the most pressing issues of the 21st century.” (Shift, 2011)

Asia in the World of Tomorrow

Dr. Klaus Zeller, a retired German ambassador to the Philippines, spoke on Asia in the world of tomorrow. In his lecture, Zeller highlighted the increasing and expanding role of the continent and the diminishing influence of the United States in global politics. He asked the participant to explore and feel their way through these questions: Is the future messy? How do we deal with the issues of democracy, food, population, energy, resources? Is 10 billion people sustainable in the world? Do we see a less individualist, less unipolar, bipolar, multipolar future?   Will we see new types of political organizations, emerging types of leadership? Etc.

To Dr. Zeller, Asia today is in full transition. He asked the question what does Asia have to offer? And he responded, pragmatically, that Asia can offer the world with consumer goods, gadgets, new spirituality and leadership. Asia, too, can provide intelligent help to resolve conflicts, creativity, new technology, and new models of political organizations. In a nutshell, Zeller said that Asia will offer a new form of civilization. Dr. Zeller is expecting a cultural shift, a diversified world, a contact of civilization, a global governance and the disappearance of empires in the 21st century.

Reflections on the Future of OFWs

The lecture on the future of OFWs was given by Dr. Bernardo Villegas, Director, Center for Research and Communication at the University of Asia and the Pacific. Villegas asked the participants especially the Filipino participants to explore and to uncover matter-of-fact solutions to the most pressing issues on Filipino migration. He asked these questions: How can we mitigate the social problems experienced by OFW workers at home? How can we reduce the number of mothers going out in the country? Is poverty or wage differential the real cause of Filipino migration? What is the role of the OFWs in the political maturity of the community? Do we need social policies, social welfare policies to address the problems of OFWs? While there are no clear-cut, one size fits all solution to address these problems, Dr. Villegas challenged the participants to further examine, inquire more on Filipino migration.

Moreover, Dr. Villegas in his lecture accentuated the Filipino cultural advantage to overseas employment. Comparing the employability of Filipinos abroad over other overseas migrant workers, Villegas noted certain cultural traits that make Filipinos the most preferred by employers abroad. The habit of bathing three times a day, good personal hygiene, the hospitable and beaming Filipino smiles, English proficiency, the ability to adapt easily, patience and perseverance proved to be significant to OFW employability.  In here, Dr. Villegas tried to portray the importance of civilizational, cultural traits as essential to migration and OFW discourse.

Breakout Sessions  

During the morning breakout sessions I opted to attend the sessions on Religion and Post-Colonial Perspectives and sessions on Regional Powers and the Changing Dynamics of International Relations I.

“Islamic Fundamentalism in the World Ahead”

Ebrahim Anoosheh of the Islamic Azad University Iran presented his paper on Islamic Fundamentalism in the World Ahead. He said that Islamic fundamentalism is one of the active movements in the Middle East. Also referred as Political Islam, this form of fundamentalism was conceived to counter the impact of modernity and secularism in the 1920s. It evolved in the Arab-Israeli conflict and was used as a political tool to combat the spread of communism in the Middleast. Today, it grew to challenge capitalism and the transnational Islamic fundamentalism emerged. The essence of transnational Islamic fundamentalism will continue  to challenge the post-western capitalism system. Islamic fundamentalism, its role and influence in international relations and the global political economy will be felt in the years ahead.

Professor Ebrhaim Anoosheh of Islamic Azad University, Iran

This is a very interesting paper on Islamic fundamentalism and its impact to post-western capitalist era.

“Vilification of the Other in US Politics: The Case of Arabs and Muslims in the 2004 Presidential Election”

The implications of loaded imageries and denigration of the “Other” in US elections was the context of Wil McCarthy of Zayed Univeristy, United Arab Emirates paper. He argued that American political parties regularly exploit the fear of Americans have for Arab and Muslim for political advantage.  By associating American politicians to Arab sand Muslims,  about 527 group ads and documentary filmmakers was explored to study how the “Other”are used in US political advertising and in box office documentaries. It noted the case of Fahrenheit 911 that painted the former US President Bush as a cohort of the Saudi royal family.

If you want to know more about the politics and dynamics of videography and how they are used for political maneuvering this paper can provide you significant insights.

Professor Wil McCarthy, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates

Regional Powers and the Changing Dynamics of International Relations I

Domination of Oceans as the key to Understand International Relations: Why and How the Anglo-American Power Still Endures?

The third presenter was Chitha Unni of Chamanide University of Honululu Hawaii, USA. Mr. Unni’s paper outlined the influence of three political forces – United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union – in global politics and the struggle of these forces in commanding the major sea routes of global trade. Unni argued that the political forces that dominate maritime power also dictate world politics. This trend began when Britain in the 16th century controlled crucial sea routes and dominated the world through her command of the seas. The United States inherited this power and that the struggle in the global politics will be about challenging the United States domination of the Oceans.

Professor, Chitha Unni, Chamanide University, Honululu, Hawaii, USA

The implication of this are seen in the way how the US and other nation-states contain China’s expansion in the seas. The control of the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean is crucial and may give us as a hint as to who will dictate the tenor of world politics in the future. The paper suggest maritime trade and power as an essential variable to understanding the dynamics of  international relations.

Iranian-Saudi Relations: From Economic Security to Cooperation

Using the theory of neo-functionalism, Reza Ekhtiari Amiri of Universiti Putra Malaysia, examined the factors that shaped Iranian-Saudi economic and security relations from 1991 to 2001. He noted that both countries renewed their diplomatic relations in 1991 and cooperated regarding oil price in 1999 within the Oil Petroleum Exporting Countries that lead to the signing of a security agreement in 2001. The informants to the research were ten diplomats and senior officials of the Iranian embassy. The study found out that domestic economic factors and decline in world oil price were the main reasons for the economic cooperation of the two countries and the political elites played a significant role in improving political relations in the process. The common threat of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the region also played a crucial role in the signing of the Iranian-Saudi novel security agreement. The absence of war between Iran and its neighbors and the reduction of Iran’s revolutionary activities were also noted as factors that led to security and cooperation between the two countries.

In the afternoon, I attended the sessions on Reforming Governance through State-Citizen Collaboration. Three papers were presented here namely “Local Governance: On Disaster Risk Reduction and Management: Shift Towards Decentralized and Participatory Democracy”, “A Model of Private-Public Partnership in the Philippines”, “The State-Civil Society Relations in Malaysia”.

Razaile Beza, International Coalition Against Disappearances, Maria Carmina Cruz, Philippine National Oil Corporation, Marco Eugenio University of the East, Philippines and Mohd Azzizudin Mohd Sani, Universiti, Utara, Malaysia

Local Governance: On Disaster Risk Reduction and Management   

This paper emphasized the dynamics of political participation, accountability and accessible governance. It looked into the problems and prospects of participatory approach to governance and used the Province of Albay Initiative as a model for DRRM localization. The participation of the community was seen as essential to disaster risk reduction and management. An active provincial leadership, however, is crucial to the mobilization and actualization of DRRM initiatives. The presenters were Elaine Razaile Besa of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances, Maria Carmina Cruz, Philippine National Oil Company – Development and Management Corporation and Marco Angelo Eugenio of the University of the East, Philippines.

The State-Civil Society Relations in Malaysia

The paper by Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara, Malaysia explained the current status of civil society and state relations in Malaysia. Using the theory of deliberative democracy, in a micro and macro perspective, he described the current procedural and political conditions of civil society in Malaysia. He argued that civil society tend to contest the policies of the administration and resort to joining the opposition because of the hostile relationship between the civil society and the state.

“A Model of Private-Public Partnership in the Philippines”

Mervin Gascon of the University of Mindanao, Philippines discussed the severity of corruption and offered possible mechanism to minimize corruption incidence. The paper explored Public-Private Partnership mechanism and used the experience of PAAC as a case study to address corruption in the government specifically in the Bureau of Customs in Davao City. The experience of PAAC, public-private social partnership can produce significant effects in reducing corruption in national government agencies.

Dr. Nanette Dungo, University of the Philippines and Miriam College sharing her paper on Migration

Absence Made Present: The Paradox of Transnational Families

After the breakout sessions, a special session on Migration by Dr. Nanette Dungo, University of Asia and the Pacific and Miriam College, entitled Absence Made Present: The Paradox of Transnational Families, was convened at the PLDT Hall. A former Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of the Philippines, Dr. Dungo explored the social costs of migration in Filipino families and children. Using the interpretivism and poststructuralism as an approach, She asked how do children cope with this kind of environment (migration, absence made present)? What are the primary and secondary costs of migration (to children behavior, mental attitude towards life, character, meanings, worldviews, etc.). She said that meanings must be interpreted and not counted.

To reduce the trauma of migration, she recommended that schools should include the topic of migration in school curriculum, the establishment of migrant centers, bilateral agreements for social protection of migrants, support services for children; family reunification program, government insurance for migrant returnees, etc.

The India-Pakistan Dyad: A Challenge to the Rest or Themselves?

Another interesting paper that discussed security matters, threats and policies in international relations, Raviprasad Narayan of the Institute of International Relations of National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan argued that India-Pakistan dyad, having undergone three wars and a half-war, threatens to undermine security in South Asia and the existence of the two countries as modern states. The relations between the two countries are blanketed by suspicion, hostility, hatred and otherness.  Narayan coined the concept of no-war as an alternative policy that should govern the security policies between India and Pakistan.

Turkey in a State of Transformation: The New Face of Turkish Politics and Foreign Affairs

Javad Heydarian of the University of the Philippines, Diliman highlighted Turkey as a model for secular politics and modernity in the Middle East. He argued that Turkish local politics, influenced by EU, is an emerging model for liberal democracy and Islamization. Its influence and economic dynamism is extending to create new patterns in regional politics. He noted, however, the limits of Turkish policies of revisionism. In a nutshell, Turkey along with Iran is an emerging political powerhouse in the Mediterranean. Turkey’s recent transformation, however, may serve as a fit model for Islamic democratic politics.

In the afternoon, I presented my paper on the futures of Liberal Arts. Manuel Kristoffer Giron of UP Diliman discussed his paper on “The Higantes Festival and the Creative Industries in Angono, Rizal and last but not the least, Nam Jin Woo of South Korea presented his paper on “The Future of Kopinos in the Future of South Korea”

Michael Giron, University of the Philippines, Diliman

“The Higantes Festival and the Creative Industries in Angono, Rizal”

Giron’s paper argued that artistic goods and cultural development takes the back seat of state-policy planning and funding. With the introduction of the creative industries paradigm, however, creative products and services may expand the context of political economy and socio-economic development. The economic benefit of tourism for wealth generation and cultural practices such as the Higantes Festival of Rizal can be a viable source for local livelihood. There are dangers, however, that is, festivals can be exploited, used as a medium to politically manipulate the locals, to sustain political patronage.

Hey, That's me! Shermon Cruz, Northwestern University, Philippines

“Peering into the Futures of Liberal Arts”

My paper explored the futures of liberal arts in a world of changing global trends and technology. Taken in the context of future studies, the paper looked into the various contexts of liberal arts – Greek, Indian, Chinese and Islamic. It weaved a number of perspectives and issues on how the West and the Non-West differ in liberal arts perspectives and approaches. The recognition of cultural diversity and worldviews are essential to the discourse and the creation of transformative and more inclusive liberal arts is becoming more imperative. My paper assumed that liberal arts will move way forward into the future and will be more significant than any other time of human history. The word “liberal” is now a culture bound term. The futures of liberal arts will be less political but more civilizational, cultural and virtual oriented.

“The Future of Kopinos in the Future of South Korea”

Nam Jin Woo’s paper described how Kopinos are discriminated in the homogenous society of South Korea. The paper predicted the political-economic and social roles of Kopinos in the future of Korea particularly in the areas of falling Korean birth rate, distribution of human resources and the nature of Korean society itself. The Korean government may likely revise its definition of Korean nationality and may give equal opportunities to Kopinos in Korea in the future. A multi-cultural society is seen in view of the increasing trend of the international marriage in Korea.

An Indian Professor dancing Tinikling


The Shift Conference succeeded in highlighting culture and civilization as the  “X factor” of twenty first century international politics. I intuit that if there is one thing (or many things, if I may) that Asia can  contribute to the world that would be spirituality, identity, collectivism and global citizenship. The list would be exhaustive if I would include all the endless possibilities that Asia can give to the world.

Dinner and cultural night or shall I say "civilizational night"

Some notes:

I had a brief talk with the Executive Director of the Institute of Political Economy Ms. Abigail De Leon and we initially agreed to hold a Round Table Discussion (RTD) on Futures Studies at the University of Asia and the Pacific.  We also discussed the prospect of requesting the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) to include Futures Studies as a panel in the next PPSA Annual Conference.

Ipagpapatuloy ko ang natutunan ko sa Shift Conference 🙂

My sincerest thanks to the organizers of Shift 2011!  It deepened and broadened my view of international politics.

Link to Shift 2011 Conference official site:

Link to United Nations Alliance of Civilizations:

1 Comment

Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Art and Politics


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,