Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bruce Lee, Philippine Version

As the whole world on Friday, November 27, 2015, honours the 75th birthday of the “original” Bruce Lee, let me remind you of his Philippine version: Ramon Zamora. During my days as a child, I was exposed to the so-called Bruceploitation films specifically from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan mostly shown at Golden Gate Theatre along Gen. Dunckel St. in my hometown San Jose, Mindoro. The term Bruceploitation refers to run-through of putting Bruce Lee look-alike actors or martial artists to play in many low-budgeted flicks to bank on Lee’s feat after his death in July 20, 1973. Asian film producers paraded with actors who looked like Bruce altering their screen names to sound similar or analogous to “Bruce Lee” such as Bruce Li (real name: Ho Chung Tao), and Bruce Le (A.K.A Wong Kin Lung) to mention just two. Bruce Lee bio-flicks free-flows like the Tubaon Creek of my childhood years.

Any avid follower of this genre knows that Jackie Chan twitched his career in the silver screen as an extra and stuntman in some of Lee’s movies, was projected as the successor of Bruce Lee through “New Fist of Fury” shown in 1976 and directed by Lo Wei, the same director who lensed Lee’s earlier film “Fist of Fury”. It was only when Chan made comically-themed movies for another film company he became a box-office material in Asia until he reached Hollywood via “Battle Creek Brawl”. Bruce Lee, in case you Gen-Xers do not know, is the most famous martial artist of all time and founder of Jet Kune Do and to whom the dawning of MMA is attributed to.

Ramon Zamora was once Bruce Lee of the Philippines and thanks to YouTube and Freemake Video Downloader, after 40 years or so, I was able to watch again the best Ramon Zamora flick belonging to this subgenre I want to share with you today. There are arrays of Ramon Zamora’s Bruceploitation films like “They Call Me ChopSuey” but my favourite is Celso Ad Castillo’s “Return of the Dragon (1977)”. For me, it’s the all-time best full-Pinoy martial art film.

The movie, like many of Bruce Lee’s early flicks under Golden Harvest, is about revenge. Failon (Ramon Zamora) execrates vengeance for the death of his wife Amihan (Lotis Key) who was gang-raped and her whole tribe massacred by a band of armed thugs and Failon wiped them out all in the end. Critic Noel Vera did aworth-reading review of the film which appeared at Business World in November 27, 2014, coincidentally fell on Bruce Lee’s 74th birthday.

Ramon Zamora and Bruce Lee were both dancers before they appeared in martial art movies. Ramon Zamora is not only action star but once a comedian though Bruce Lee also has terrific sense of humor as I have discovered from reading John Little’s “Bruce Lee: Letters of the Dragon: Correspondence, 1958-1973”. Ramon Zamora, who died in August 26, 2007, is best remembered in a satiric TV comedy show called “Super Laff-In” which ran from 1969 to 1972 when Bruce Lee is still unknown in the Philippines. While Bruce Lee died at the prime of his age and career at 32, Ramon Zamora died while his career already faded and he was 72 years of age thus making the latter lived exactly 40 years longer than the former.

By the way, a director named George Nolfi is now filming "The Birth of the Dragon" and it is expected to be released next year. Bruce Lee, the immortal pop icon, really transcends from one continent to another, from one generation to another... 

(Photo: 8list.ph)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Can Francisco do a Buster?

An upset, especially if it’s via KO, is one of the great splendour of the sweet science. There is nothing as theatrical, exiting and as dramatic as an upset in boxing or in any other sport. When the San Jose-born, Sablayan-raised boxer Drian “Gintong Kamao” Francisco (28-3-1) slug it out against Guillermo “El Chacal “ Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KO’s) this Sunday (Saturday in the US), November 22, 2015, in the undercard for the Miguel Cotto-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez mega fight in Las Vegas. Francisco, despite of short notice, is surely going toe-to-toe with the heavy favourite and very impressive Cuban defector-pugilist. He had been training hard for a fight against compatriot Danilo Pena here in the Philippines when he was officially invited to the Rigondeaux match-up, so he immediately packed his things and flew to the US. Francisco is unfazed and confident of winning. This is indeed, our man’s dream fight. In 2012, Francisco had a chance to face Rigondeaux but something went wrong along the way. The notice came shortly after Drian's birthday last November 10.

Francisco, former WBA interim junior bantamweight champion, in an interview with Ring TV said, “All boxers, their greatest goal is to have a fight for a world championship. So I'm not going to let this pass me by. I'm going to do everything I can to win. I have been thinking about it for a long time on how I'm going to beat him.”  Despite Drian’s usual pre-fight calmness and oozing confidence atop the ring, it would take a miracle, if not divine intervention, to win against the two-time Olympian Rigondeaux who defeated Nonito Donaire, Jr. in 2013. By mere mentioning how Rigondeaux skilfully, though boringly, overpowered and out-boxed Donaire, Francisco needs a miracle of sort to blemish the Cuban’s flawless record. To add, Rigondeaux, former super bantamweight champion, is considered by many boxing gurus as one of the best boxers in the world. Records has it that only last May, Francisco suffered humiliating a 1st round KO against Jason Canoy, a Cebu-based puncher, in General Santos City. But before that, in his US tour in July 2013, Drian encountered a sorry loss against American Chris Avalos via 10-round unanimous decision in a game held at Dallas Events Center at Texas Station in Las Vegas. In his fight against Canoy, Joe Francisco, Drian's father and a former boxer himself, told this lowly blogger that our champ was suffering from severe flu during the fight. 

But in the world of sports, each time a giant killer is born. Just last week in MMA, the heavy favourite Ronda Rousey was beaten by lesser known Holly Holm at UFC 193 with the perfect and powerful second round knockout kick to the face. This is a stark example that big upsets really do happen. Since the time of David and Goliath, human history is supplied with occurrences symbolizing David’s triumph and they are too many to mention.

Mike Tyson (37-0, 33 Kos) was also the man of the hour, the apparently invincible iron man, when he faced James “Buster” Douglas (29-4-1) at Tokyo Dome in Japan on February 11, 1990. Tyson was unbeaten that time and he was at his prime 23 years of age. Tyson was the overwhelming 42-1 favorite over Douglas. Douglas, who rose from the canvas in the 8th round after enduring one of Tyson’s powerful signature uppercuts, completely seized control late and pounded Tyson’s left eye shut. Douglas landed a beastly five-punch combo that floored the beaten Tyson in the 10th frame at 1:23 of that decisive round. Douglas was later awarded the IBF, WBA and WBC heavyweight championships. Douglas, 29-years old then, destroyed Tyson leaving him shocked and stunned and gave face to the greatest upset in sports’ history.

Indeed, in boxing, even the unthinkable is understood. But either way, there are two things certain: First, there is no turning back for Drian against Rigo and our man will surely exchange punches with his opponent and let us support Drian in our own little ways. Second, Drian is the present generation’s boxing pride of Occidental Mindoro whom the Municipality of Sablayan vested an achievement award in sports some years back.

Can Francisco do a Buster Douglas? Who knows….


(Photo: Yibada)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bethune in the Context of Occidental Mindoro

Today, November 12, 2015, is the 76th death anniversary of Dr. Norman Bethune who made an immortal contribution as a doctor in the Chinese revolutionary war against the Japanese and made innovations on forms of medical practice and surgery. All Chinese know of Norman Bethune and they love to tell everyone about the how the Canadian doctor cured the wounded Chinese in their war against Japan until the day he died of blood poisoning from an infection contracted after cutting himself during surgery. Mao Zedong, in his Little Red Book, though he and Bethune only talked once, wrote a tribute about him that every child had to memorize during the Cultural Revolution and Chinese schoolchildren today continue to learn about him. My mother used to work as helper in a store of a Chinaman before she got married and gave birth to his first born (who happened to be me).

I will not very much dwell here about Bethune’s (or Mao’s) ideological or political ideas or anything that concerns Communism, but about the field of medicine in the Philippine social context especially with the glaring medical quackery and anti- scholastic tendencies among our people. In a third world country such as ours, many private hospitals as well as private doctors charge excessive fees only the elite wealthy classes could afford.

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos work abroad as health workers, the province of Occidental Mindoro agonises from lack of such professionals compared with the total population of each municipality. In the study titled “Health Status of the Residents in Occidental Mindoro, Philippines: A Way to Make a Healthy Community”, (2014; Rosa Mistica C. Ignacio, et. al) concluded, “Health programs do not guarantee a healthy individual and a healthy society, but a combination of health programs and socioeconomic support can help in creating a healthy community.” But to zero in to emergency care, sans the benefit of reliable statistics, many of the poorest of the poor including the Mangyans die each year due to emergency care they cannot pay. There goes the lack of socioeconomic support from the government.

What Occidental Mindoro needs most, aside from sufficient complete surgical facilities and professionals, is adequate number of ambulatory surgical clinics (ACS) that could provide day surgeries and ambulatory procedures. Though emergency care is emphasized in RA 8344 in 1997 and it penalizes hospitals and medical clinics for refusing to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency or serious case. It mandates that all emergency patients be stabilized by giving needed treatment and support without deposit or advance payment. But it is not stipulated in the law how it will be financed. Some greedy private hospital owners, with such legal flaw, designed and effect internal policies and other schemes, denying the patients or making it very hard for them to access emergency health care.

Still, we hardly find specialists and surgeons in Occidental Mindoro serving even in our first class municipalities. Medicines are scarcely provided to the sick and market forces tightening their grip over medical institutions. The people suffer when they cannot have complete reasonable access specifically with regards to emergency care. All we could do is agonize each day when someone we know dies in our hospitals due to unaffordable emergency health care services. We are like living in the battlefront depicted in the 1990 movie “Bethune: The Making of a Hero”, a Donald Sutherland starrer directed by Phillip Borsos.   

Bethune, at against the backdrop of medical disciplines and work ethics states: “Medicine, as we are practicing it, is a luxury trade. We are selling bread at the price of jewels. ... Let us take the profit, the private economic profit, out of medicine, and purify our profession of rapacious individualism ... Let us say to the people not ‘How much have you got?’ but ‘How best can we serve you?’” These words still ring true to this every day after more than 76 years ago when our man, my namesake, uttered these….


(Photo: The Province . Com)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Occidental Mindoro 65th Founding Anniversary Should Be Inclusive Celebration

The week long celebration of the 65th Founding Anniversary of Occidental Mindoro that will start next week cannot be an exclusive affair for certain political group. This ought to be an inclusive celebration that advances equitable share of all participants, regardless of political color and coming from every sector of society. The contribution of all, regardless of political affiliation should be acclaimed especially the candidates or recipients of the Occidental Mindoro Achiever Awards, a first-ever event in the celebration recognizing their contributions in society. The people who truly put Occidental Mindoro to the map need recognition more than being entertained by showbiz personalities and celebrities from Manila and other palliative ego-boosting, carnival-like happenings.

Through Republic Act No. 505, the province of Mindoro was divided into two provinces, to be known as Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro on November 15, 1950 through a bill sponsored by Mindoro province’s Cong. Raul Leuterio approved June 13, of the same year. Damaso Abeleda was appointed governor from November 15, 1950 to December 31, 1951. But our first elected governor was Federico Castillo (1952-1955), also an ally of the Abeledas, while Jesus T. Abeleda (1951-1953) became the first congressman of Occidental Mindoro.

Cong. Raul Leuterio (1951-1953), a Liberal Party (LP) bigwig in Mindoro in late 40's whom close to President Manuel Roxas, grandfather of now LP presidential candidate Mar Roxas, started it all but not without political agenda. Aside from administrative and technical justifications, there are partisan political underpinnings in such legislation. During that time, with the scarcity of road and bridges and transportation facilities, it was hell-like to go campaign around the 7th largest island of the Philippines with its islands and islets. On the other hand, administering the whole island proved to be difficult, expensive and time-consuming. Due to scarcity of mechanized transportation way back then, just imagine how our dear forebears dared woods and waves going to municipalities and barrios. The division took firm grasp of this reality.

Regarding Leuterio’s bill aimed at dividing the island into two provinces, Volker Schult in p. 116 of his book “Mindoro (A Social History of a Philippine Island in the 20th Century)” published by the Divine Word Publications 1991, “He (Leuterio) paid back the political loyalty the Abeledas had been giving him since the pre-war period. Leuterio supported the Abeledas to gain political domination in the province of Occidental Mindoro.” Truth to tell, debt of gratitude in politics is part of our province infantile period in history not unlike today. Those days of political exclusivity, where the elite political partisans take the center stage and the non-aligned masses or voters are left behind. God gave us more than 6 1/2 decades to correct those but they are haunting us still to this very day.

I heard that Mar Roxas, the LP standard bearer, will be coming over to grace the occasion and I have to qualms about that unless they make this historic event, in whole or in part, a partisan political one. The 65th Founding Anniversary should not be used as venue for political endorsements or any activity related to May 2016, though election time is already in the air. Please apportion another time and venue for that. No hand shall be raised as if it were a political rally, campaign or sortie. Hope they will not repeat the way President BS Aquino III served as witness to their party oath taking and consequently endorsed them during this very celebration last 2012, coincided with our province’s 62nd Founding Anniversary. Let us hope against hope that THIS would not happen again.

If that will be repeated, then, again, the event in a way becomes an exclusive celebration. If we cannot be inclusive in celebration, how could we aim for a development paradigm called inclusive growth? ….

(Photo: pcco.gov.ph)