Donation Taxation / The Philippine Jaeger Program

What angered
the Filipinos
and the rest of the world
was that despite
the Philippines being
hit by history's
strongest storm,
and despite the
prompt response of the
entire international community,
local officials
of the Philippine government
had the nerve to slap on
donor's taxes,
import duties,
and other tariffs
on relief goods
and foreign aid
arriving in the aftermath
of the supertyphoon.

But although on the surface
it looked like highway robbery,
this was actually
way more than the
State skimming
a few pesos off the top
using the cleverly executed
sleight of hand techniques
of a certified public accountant.

For every dollar
in foreign aid sent
by our international neighbors,
two percent is taken
by the government.
But the amount collected
does not go to the
local government coffers,
nor does it end up
in the pockets of politicians;
instead, these taxes
are being used
to fund

The Philippine Jaeger Program
The Philippines is known for a lot of things. It is famous for its beaches, its islands, its festivals, and its people. It is also infamous for its dirty politics and rampant corruption.

The pork barrell scandal which rocked Philippine politics just months earlier saw the disappearance of millions of pesos into bogus beneficiaries and non-existent NGOs. It seems public trust has disappeared with the public money, and after a tragedy like Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines last November 8, you can't blame the public for their vigilance.

What most people don't know is that the people's taxes are being used for a noble purpose: the funding of the Philippine Jaeger Program, or the PJP.

The PJP was inspired by decades of exposure to Japanese mechas, and most recently, the release of the film Pacific Rim. Jaegers or battle mechs are huge, gigantic robots controlled by pilots, and are humanity's last line of defense against giant monsters.

"The PJP is doing practically the same thing as the anime battle mechs," says the Honourable Jorge "Bolet" Banal, Congressman of Quezon City's 3rd Legislative District and Chairperson of the Philippine Jaeger Program. "Our goal is to create even bigger, more gigantic robots capable of battling the weather."

That's right–it's Man v. Nature on the road to extinction. If you've seen the satellite photographs of Typhoon Haiyan, then you know why it's called a "supertyphoon". To combat gigantic storms, you need gigantic robots, which is why Philippine Jaegers are generally two to three times bigger than the Jaegers in Pacific Rim.

Because of the sheer size of the robots, two pilots won't be enough. "We need four to five pilots to control a single Jaeger," says Banal. "So in a sense, our pilots are closer to a proper Voltron or Voltes V team."

Chairman Bolet Banal also took the time to explain how a Jaeger is deployed into action. "What we do is we have an early warning device," he explains, "which tells us if we have a typhoon forming in the middle of the Pacific. Then we deploy the Jaeger to meet it halfway across the ocean, and here it unleashes an array of weapons designed to weaken the storm. That way, should the typhoon still make landfall, it would be reduced to gale-force winds."

Following the movie Pacific Rim's tradition of Jaeger names, the Philippines's first Jaeger prototype has been christened "Snyper Bolet", in honour of PJP Chairman Bolet Banal, and is expected to be deployed with the next supertyphoon.

16 Nov 2013

Sting Lacson

A writer. By degree and by profession. Also strongly advocates ten-finger typing to all writers because that's what you do for a living, so be efficient at it.

Day 4: A New Hope

As the setting sun
coloured the sky
from blue to orange,
the boy touched
his little sister
on the arm,
letting her know
it would be dark soon.

And as the sky
changed colours
from orange to purple,
the children headed back
to their assigned shelter,
shielding their noses
from the stench of death,
looking away from
the corpses, recognising
their dead neighbors
who were alive just days ago.

And as the sky darkened
from purple to black,
the boy and his sister
reached their home
─their temporary
roof of thatch and
waterlogged lumber─
shared with a thousand
other refugees, grumbling
stomachs silenced by
very meager dinner rations
enjoyed under the yellow glow
of candlelight and gas lamps.

And as the night sky exploded
into a thousand celestial lights,
the boy and his sister
found a small patch of grass,
where they lay down,
hugged each other,
and cried,
as every star in the heavens
twinkled with the reassurance
that tomorrow would bring
a new day, and
a new hope.

15 Nov 2013

Sting Lacson

A writer. By degree and by profession. Also strongly advocates ten-finger typing to all writers because that's what you do for a living, so be efficient at it.

Of Death, Destruction, and Beauty

She came in soaking wet,
for it was raining outside.
"The strongest typhoon
in history,"
they called it,
and thank heavens
it made landfall
on another part
of the archipelago,
way down south.

The woman approached
the receptionist,
who informed her
that the doctor
would see her next,
as soon as he was done
with his current patient.

So she sat herself down
on a couch in the lobby,
while a news broadcast
showed scenes of destruction,
as the strongest typhoon
in history
decimated the southern cities
live on national television.

She was slightly anxious,
as this was the first time
she would be going under
a surgical blade.
She began fiddling
with her nose,
touching the bridge,
feeling it in
its natural state
for the last time.
Then she put
her hand in her bag,
fiddling the thick wad of cash
she withdrew from an ATM machine.

As she was counting the money,
making sure she had enough
for her noselift,
her eyes had become glued
to the television screen,
where she saw entire city streets
reduced to rubble,
despair and desolation
on people's faces, and
not a single smile on anyone,
corpses strewn everywhere
like debris,
waiting to be collected
by street cleaners
who would never come.

When the receptionist announced that
the doctor would be seeing her now,
the lobby was already empty.
The woman had left,
braving the pouring rains
to the nearest drop-off centre,
where she gave her entire
cosmetic surgery budget
as a donation
to the victims of
the strongest typhoon
in history.

Dedicated to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan a.k.a. Yolanda, 8 Nov 2013, Philippines

Sting Lacson

A writer. By degree and by profession. Also strongly advocates ten-finger typing to all writers because that's what you do for a living, so be efficient at it.

My Literary Side

"The Words come from the Divine; from the Muse the Idea. The Poet merely transcribes." ┼Old Sumerian proverb

(Kidding, I made that up. LOL)