"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

Dr. Isagani Cruz: Corruption ingrained among politicians, officials

That's why some officials have mansions far exceeding their pay grades, former Philippine Undersecretary of Education Isagani Cruz (left photo) said. Also featured during the evening event was talented Fil-Am guitar virtuoso Theresa Calpotura.

LOS ANGELES -- In a freewheeling conversation with Los Angeles Filipinos at the Salakot Sizzle & Grill, a noted Filipino writer-educator recently talked about Philippine education, corruption in government, and what then was the approaching election, among others. The Philippines has the shortest basic education cycle in the world, Isagani R. Cruz said. The former Philippine education undersecretary also said that his country's education rating ranks very low in international math and science tests, as well as in comparison with other university ratings.

"We're learning in 10 years what others are learning in 12 years," Dr. Cruz said adding that it is possible other governments may not recognize our educational system because of that. Realistically, he said the government can't afford adding two more years because of the amount involved. Students are graduating too young and some important subjects such as physics and calculus are no longer taken up in high school. Literature was brought back only recently, he said.

Cruz heads the Technical Panel on the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication of the Philippine Commission for Higher Education (CHED), the Graduate Commission of the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU), the Philippine Center of International PEN, and the Philippine Fulbright Scholars Association (PFSA).

About corruption in government, Cruz said that the culture is so ingrained among most politicians and officials such that in the Dept. of Education, for example, he estimated that 60% of the budget go to private pockets. It's a sad reality but that's why some officials have mansions, he said. He expressed the hope that enough people would get outraged in order that change may be possible. Asked about his prognosis in the coming presidential race, Cruz predicted correctly that Noynoy Aquino was pretty certain of winning.

Also featured during the evening program was talented Fil-American Theresa Calpotura who did a few instrumental numbers for the audience. She also launched her debut CD album "Kanta Filipina" (VGO Recordings) consisting of 12 original, arranged and transcribed works for solo guitar, all created for her by Filipino American composer Bayani Mendoza de Leon. It is the culmination of three years of intense research and collaboration, it was said, exploring the musical side of her ancestry -- blending a variety of styles from the Philippines reflecting indigenous tribal rhythms, traditional folk dances, chants, lullabies, and love songs.

When asked, Ms. Calpotura would not say which of her parentage's culture influence the most her artistic side but in the choice of instrument, she recalled that her Filipina mother wanted something that is not loud. She has played the guitar even before she was in her teens, she said, following in the footsteps of a guitar-playing uncle.

Ms. Calpotura had performed in numerous venues throughout the US and the Philippines and won a number of awards from associations such as the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts and the American String Teachers Association. She has received scholarships from the Oberlin Conservatory and the Yale School of Music, studied with the renowned guitar pedagogue Scott Cmiel of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory where she studied with guitarist Stephen Aron. She then continued at the Yale School of Music with guitarist and composer Benjamin Verdery. She has given concerts and master classes in the US and in the Philippines and is currently a faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Preparatory Division.

WikiPilipinas has an entry on Isagani R. Cruz as "a multi-awarded and prolific poet, playwright, short-story writer, critic, educator, publisher, advocate, and Filipino... Aside from his awards for creative writing, Cruz is also well-known for his film and drama reviews." It also says that the former Philippine Undersecretary of Education is currently a Professor Emeritus, a University Fellow, and the Academic Publications Executive Publisher of De La Salle University, the Director of the Teachers Academy of Far Eastern University, and a Visiting Lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University and the University of Santo Tomas.

As a writer, Cruz has received a tremendous amount of recognition for his many contributions to Philippine literature having written and edited over thirty books. Among these achievements include winning the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature numerous times and being inducted into the prestigious Palanca Hall of Fame in 2004 for his noted plays, essays, and short stories written in either Filipino or English. He also won the SEAWRITE Award in 1991, the Centennial Literary Contest Award in 1998, and the Balagtas Award in 1999. He served as the editor of Loyola Studies, Palabas, Interlock, and Malay. He has also worked and contributed regularly to some Philippine periodicals.

"Words and Music" was hosted by Linda Nietes and Robert J. Little, Jr. of Philippine Expressions Bookshop. According to Ms. Nietes, it was part of an ongoing outreach program dedicated to Filipino Americans in search of their roots.
Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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