Poisons

What happens when your daily bread becomes poison? You’d probably go to a different bakery, or buy a different name-brand loaf, or rant about it on a Facebook post, but that’s something that the lot of us Internet-folk have the privilege of doing. A lot of people who face these daily poisons don’t have that privilege. Maybe it’s the only bakery in town. Maybe it’s the only thing that they can afford. Maybe they can rant about it while writhing in the public wards of government hospitals. Maybe get a mention of it in media, alongside a Mayor with a giant bedroom in his office or the next celebrity engagement.

ABS-CBNNews.com reported six cases of food poisoning in the Philippines this week. Combined, the poisoning cases affected 2,028 people, mostly children. The food was not anything exotic or fancy, but typical things we would snack on: cakes, buns, candies.

All this following the national scandal on synthetic rice; needless to say, “fake food” has once again stepped into the limelight. The news shows us that poisoning from adulterated food almost always happens to the vulnerable segments of our population: the poor, the young, and those from far-flung areas who don’t have easy access to healthcare.

Adulteration itself is a very long and odious tale of greed, chemistry, political difficulties, and the old truth from countless cautionary tales: the way to move the heart of the people is through their stomachs.

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Pizza, Chicken, Chizza

Before anything else: this is not going to be a food review, or a PR piece.

*****

In an 1843 diary, Alexandre Dumas – novelist, traveler, foodista – wrote quite fondly about the pizzas he encountered in the streets of Naples. Back then, pizza was simple fare sold from big copper tins, and would probably wouldn’t cost more than a few coins. Toppings were also simple: Dumas spoke of pizzas topped with oil, lard, cheese, tomatoes, and anchovies. These are things that many of us continue to see in modern pizza.

But there’s that last bit: “modern pizza.”

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Squandered Politics

Great political leaders emerge from the choices that they make in times of great political opportunity. And in democracies like ours, those opportunities emerge from the challenges that frame an election.

For this, we turn to examples in American history. Abraham Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, for example, had the backdrop of the American Civil War, with the preservation of the Union and the end of slavery on the line. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson won the elections, but the stakes were so high – America was booming in wealth and people, so much so that social causes became central issues of the campaign – that two ex-Presidents (William Howard Taft as incumbent, and Theodore Roosevelt) threw their names into the game. In 1932, the Great Depression left such a big impact on the American consciousness, that the people rejected incumbent President Herbert Hoover, and voted Franklin Roosevelt in; the seeds of a great generation of Americans were planted.

It’s kind of difficult to look for Filipino examples. Partly because we have a much younger democracy that still needs time to grow. But that doesn’t mean that we never had the defining backdrops that make great leaders, or the great landscapes that define political epochs. We’ve always had them. It’s just that these seeds of political greatness found themselves planted on land left fallow by the kind of politics that we have.

I think that nothing sets this tone more than where we are now: the road to 2016.

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Slippers and Cinders

We all know the Cinderella story: at the final stroke of midnight, Cinderella ran off from the village ball. The majestic carriage became a pumpkin again, and her magnificent horses turned back into mice. All that was left of Cinderella in that ball was the glass slipper left on the stairs of the Prince’s castle.

We all know what happened to that slipper, and how the Prince and Cinderella lived happily ever after.

I don’t think they did make glass slippers in Kentex: they made “Havanas,” and all other sorts of flip-flops and sandals. People weren’t running away because Fairy Godmothers will reverse their blessings on the stroke of midnight, but because they can’t leave a burning factory with barred windows and locked exits.

There was no “happily ever after:” just the pittances and indignation that came with a fire fuelled less by an errant spark from a welder’s arc, but moral hazards poured over 72 people who perished in that fire.

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