Category Archives: Europe
Photo credits to mytripolog.com
Okay, I’m not an expert in Russia, or the Slavic culture in general, but there are things I have discovered as I re-learn the Russian culture and of course, some of its politics (well, I have to admit, aside from Japan, I also like Russia, all thanks to the late singer Origa, I do give credit to her; if not because of her, I would never ever appreciate Russian culture—tell me guys where her grave is).
If you are already familiar with Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova, and t.A.T.u., or Vitas, well—they might not be a good help if you’re going to learn and understand what RUSSIAN culture IS all about, in an Asian point of view.
Photo Courtesy: Win Gatchalian via Official Website
I do agree with ROTC, yet with reservations
Prof. Antonio Contreras’s thoughts on bringing back Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) as a mandatory course:
Indeed. Mandatory ROTC is a waste of time and resources.
Make it optional and with benefits. Meanwhile, strengthen civics and citizenship awareness among students. Require all students to take a course similar to what we have in DLSU on Citizenship and Governance. Also require a course on understanding the culture and language of other Filipinos. In fact, even as we encourage students to study foreign languages, it should be made a requirement that students know another Filipino language aside from Tagalog and their mother tongue.
Also, require all students to take martial arts courses, sex education, anti- addiction of all kinds and driving courses (so that they know traffic rules).
Ergo, his thoughts are pretty much practical.
The prudes (the Loyalists, as usual) would completely AGREE with mandatory ROTC, since for them, it instills discipline and patriotism blah blah… but I don’t actually agree. In fact, ROTC, like Martial Law, could be kind or unkind to you. Well, in order for you to be oriented in ROTC, you should undergo CAT (Citizen Advancement Training), to have a grasp on how ROTC works.
ROTC is not bad–however, consider the following factors: Be considerate to people who have experienced its dark side–hazing, powertripping, being treated by crap by power-tripping officers, etc., those things have to be placed in debate before implementation. And please, don’t get me started with countries such as Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, or even Switzerland–the reason why they have mandatory conscription is because, they can AFFORD to invest for funds and resources to implement this form of learning to express love your country unconditionally, aside from the fact that it has political and foreign policy-related situations such as political conflicts regarding ideology (South vs. North Korea), or even religious involvement (Israel vs. most Gulf countries supporting Palestine), sovereignty issues (Taiwan being still the Republic of China), national policy (Singapore), and lastly, neutrality in both local and foreign policy (Switzerland).
Well, could the Philippines afford it? Let’s see.
Before approving ROTC, let us be considerate to some grey areas
The reason why it was abolished in 2001 is simply because of the hazing controversies and sort of “dark sides” it had (#NeverForget Mark Chua, a Thomasian who was killed because he exposed the alleged corruptions inside his unit). However, because we’re in a strategic location, I think this is the time it could be conducive for its comeback. Remember, the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal are both Philippine territory (I repeat, they both are Philippine territories, lest we not forget).
If the prudes want ROTC back (well, because they really despise the leftists–read your history regarding the Cold War, and how communism played a BIG yet controversial role in that period of history), then they must condemn the corruptions inside ROTC. Also, never forget Jeff Cudia who only sacrificed himself, exposing the corruption inside the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)–that “offense for being late” causing his demerits were PURE damage control. This resulted to fewer and fewer graduates of the most prestigious military academy in the Philippines.
#NeverForget the fallen Mark Welson Chua
He was pretty much like the slain Marcos critic from Mapua, Archimedes Trajano, and of course, the late journalist Louie Beltran. Truth is–
One aspect of the story however seems to have been forgotten – that Mark would not have wanted mandatory ROTC abolished.
In 2006, the older Chua told the Varsitarian that if Mark were alive, he would not have supported the policy shift.
“Mark did not want to abolish the ROTC,” said Welson, two years before his death following a heart attack. “It’s not the institution, it’s the way it’s being run.”
Instead of eradicating the anomalies, Welson said, the move might have encouraged more corruption in the two new programs launched by the government under NSTP.
“Instead of one ROTC, now the government and the universities would have two other departments to look after,” Welson said. “These departments can be corrupt too.”
Source: The Varsitarian (retrieved 09 February 2017)
Well, to be honest, Mark Chua only wanted to improve and strengthen ROTC–and how its managed. No wonder, I would like to reveal the irregularities and of course, the loopholes when you are in a CAT/ROTC program–but first, lemme tell you that I did not take up ROTC for personal reasons–as much as I wanted to (well, masaya kasi–and no kidding, it really teaches you self-confidence), I only considered my experience in CAT.
Here were the irregularities and loopholes I encountered in my high school’s version of CAT:
1.) Frankly speaking, the CAT Officers were only used as mere “tools” to protect the school’s vested interests (no offense meant to the officers, but you get my point. I ain’t sourgraping).
2.) Usual scenario: Power-tripping.
3.) Speaking of recruiting and hiring officers, there’s cronyism and nepotism all the way.
4.) Even best cadets are chosen based on cronyism and nepotism–don’t EVER get me wrong here.
5.) The officers were only used as mere tools to continue elitism, corruption, and huge amounts of hypocrisy inside the school.
Maybe these were the things that Mark Chua exposed. Alright, I know this is a sensitive and a critical topic to discuss, however, these were my true observations. I have to admit and open this up, I voluntarily trained to become a CAT Officer, but I stopped–because lately, I realized that I was right in quitting, because simply put, it would be against my principles that I’m upholding today. Only a handful of officers upheld their principles as student leaders up to this very day.
To be honest, this is the harsh reality of the ROTC in the Philippines–starting from CAT:
“In the ph, unfortunately, it is a hotbed for bullying and hazing. It goes with the crab culture. a lot of students choose to become officers not because they want to serve the country, but think of it as a method of attaining some sort of power over others.” — on ROTC, via GRP
Thank goodness, the popular kids and the elitists MUST be grateful that I quit my CAT Officer training, and the mere fact that I chose CWTS instead of ROTC–if I become a CAT or ROTC officer, then they must prepare for me as their boss. I might be power-tripping them.
But nah, I believe that power-tripping is a sign of being unprofessional.
Well, these are my only thoughts about the comeback of mandatory ROTC. One simple hotseat controversy only caused the Philippines to abolish mandatory ROTC–which might be against the victim who exposed the loopholes of ROTC. Lest we not forget, improvements and strengthening of ROTC must push through–if we’re only to follow Mark Chua’s legacy.
It is not surprising that Germany, Japan and of course the United States would be on the top list.
Sadly, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, Brunei and Malaysia didn’t make it to the top 20 best passports list, but that’s alright, for as long as they could access at least Canada, NZ, UK and the Schengen Area without visa restrictions.
No passport is perfect, since countries like Japan and the United States have burdens to get a visa to Brazil or even Russia, which is actually something that South Korean passports are blessed with: Visa-free travel to Russia and Brazil.
But then again, why is South Korea not even on the Top 20 list?
Hmmm… I don’t think pre-arrival visa to China should be a hindrance, but I think Koreans from the ROK are very lucky to have a passport that could send them to a lot of countries without a visa. Also, they’re part of the visa waiver to Australia and the United States, therefore it shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Also, South Korea finally allowed multiple citizenship… but quota-based. However, they should adopt the “Ritenshon Shonin” in order for everyone to still have Korean citizenship in all aspects (so to speak, native South Koreans could still have Korean citizenship and American citizenship if they’re born in the US, and Koreans who were born in South Korea but naturalized in another country could still retain their Korean citizenship, and half-Koreans who are dual citizens since birth could still retain their citizenship no matter the cost will be–for as long as they’ll apply for permission to retain their Korean citizenship).
Also, if you’re a South Korean citizen, you could go to South America visa-free/visa-on-arrival, which American and Japanese passport holders don’t have (they both need visa to enter Brazil in advance).
Well, the only downside is that, South Korean passport holders cannot enter North Korea at all, since both countries are still enemies. South Koreans don’t really like going to North Korea at all, and they’re fine with it–as a matter of fact, many North Koreans who escape their own country fly to South Korea for good. Obviously, South Korea offers greener pastures and better quality of life, as opposed to North Korea.
By essence, South Korea officially recognizes North Koreans as South Korean citizens. If North Koreans escape from their home country successfully via the indirect route, this means that they become South Koreans for good. It’s a good thing that the ROK government resurrected its peace talk plans towards North Korea.
South Korea not making it to the top list… why?
South Korea is actually a latecomer when it comes to being one of the richest and the most developed countries in the world. It is one of the Asian Tigers, alongside Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Well, these Asian Tigers of course, has this freedom to travel without a visa. I really dunno why Brunei isn’t included in the Asian Tigers to make it five… hmmm…
Well, I just hope that South Korea will still develop its bilateral relations with other states so that South Koreans would travel up to 170+ countries without a visa. Speaking of which, it is possible that South Korea might as well continue its peace talks with North Korea so that South Korean citizens won’t feel tension with its rival state.
Other countries with travel freedom (but did not make it on the top list)
Australia, Greece and Iceland are the Western countries (though Australia is geographically a South-east country with a Westernized culture) that didn’t make it to the top list. It is surprising for Australia since its neighbor New Zealand surpassed it by making it to the Top 20. Other countries like what I have mentioned before (Malaysia, South Korea, Brunei, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) also have this travel freedom reward.
To make the list… (check this list out if you want)
[Just remember, they’re not actually in order… hehehe]
1.) Liechtenstein – It didn’t make to the top list, but it still had the 100+ visa-free access.
2.) Israel – Though the Arab League is technically an avid “hater” of this country, this country rather is more rewarded than the Arab League states, in terms of travel freedom–it can access Japan, South Korea and the Schengen Area
3.) Mauritius – Surprisingly, this little island country in the southern part of Africa within the Indian Ocean allows its citizens to travel to the Schengen Area and Japan without a visa.
4.) Barbados – Same with Mauritius.
5.) Mexico – Same with Mauritius and Barbados, but what these three have in common is that their passports aren’t biometric (AWWWWWW…).
6.) Brazil – Though Brazilians need to enter Japan with a visa in advance, it could enter the Schengen area without a visa.
7.) Argentina – Same with Brazil, but its citizens could enter Japan without a visa.
8.) Chile – Same with Argentina, I think.
9.) Czech Republic – Of course, it’s part of the Schengen Area.
10.) Cyprus – Cyprus is fairly European, so to speak. And YES, it’s part of the EU.
So far, I base these things on how they could access the following territories (not necessarily ALL of them):
1.) European Union and the Schengen Area – Of course, to be fair this will include the United Kingdom and Ireland, and also non-EU member states such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland (EFTA members, if not EU, lol). Eastern Europe is included if you’re talking about EU member states haha.
2.) South America – Visa-free access to South America is actually not-so bad after all, but once a country is rewarded visa-free access to ALL South American countries without a visa, this would mean that they have the same level as the Pope (well, almost).
3.) OECD member states (namely Japan and Israel) – If you’re one of the countries that could enter Japan and Israel without a visa (all of them), then you must be lucky.
4.) Countries with the most lenient visa policies (Philippines, Ecuador, Malaysia, Haiti, South Korea) – Well, Haiti seems to have the most lenient visa policy in the world, which will put Ecuador second to the list, and I’ll make a separate article about this one). Meanwhile, South Korea has eased their visa policies towards other countries (the Philippines is NOT lucky to be one of the countries that could access South Korea without a tourist visa, prolly due to the “Tago ng Tago/TNT” controversy–but when it comes to Israel, Filipino citizens could enter Israel without a visa at all), but there are some countries that need a visa to enter the Land of the Morning Calm.
5.) South Africa (and the rest of its neighbors) and the United Arab Emirates – Same thing with #3. No need to explain further.
Well, access to Vietnam, China, North America and Russia aren’t counted at all since it would be unfair to some countries included in the list. Remember, it’s actually very difficult to get a visa going to Vietnam (sources say), China (it’s easier getting a Chinese visa if you’re a Filipino citizen and China only allows 6 countries to enter its territory without a visa), North America (some countries need to access Canada with a visa, except if you’re coming from the EU/Schengen Area or a developed country in general; and the United States’s visa policies are much stricter compared to China) and Russia (ahhh… sources say it’s very difficult to obtain a Russian visa, but it still depends upon the country you’re coming from).
Worst Passports: Why Worst!?
It’s actually FAIR and JUST that China did not make it to the Top 20 WORST Passports list, even though it’s quite infuriating to possess a Chinese passport (just ask those Filipino-Chinese friends of yours who are not yet officially Filipino citizens, or their parents who are not yet Filipino citizens)–well, the reason why I’m saying this is because China, even though its citizens need to apply for visa to Ecuador and the Philippines, did not make it to the top 20 worst passports list is because at least it still has the “worth” in it. However, what makes it something not to be proud of is the controversial inclusion of its “disputed” territories which is of course possessions of Vietnam, Philippines and India. Also, China isn’t having a formal war with the United States compared to most Arab and Muslim states such as Afghanistan, Iraq… and you know the rest.
These countries actually restrict foreigners from entering their territories without a visa mainly because of the war that’s happening in their territory. I bet, countries that are actually having internal conflict cannot actually concentrate on bilateral agreements due to the fact that unending wars are still on-going. No wonder, South Korea actually didn’t allow its own citizens to enter these countries. The Philippines actually did this as well, to Filipinos who actually want to enter Iraq despite its status.
Well, these countries are actually having wars and conflicts, therefore the result: They can only access no more than 41 countries without a visa, which is actually more infuriating compared to possessing a Chinese passport.
Why is China not included in the list!?
I hate to say this, but even though China did not make it to the top list, other countries impose visa towards China is because there are a lot of illegal immigrants from China, despite its growing economy. Ecuador and the Philippines are imposing visas towards Chinese citizens due to the fact that everywhere, you see a Chinese person. Prolly at the end of the day, Filipinos might be the second largest ethnic diaspora next to China, or even surpassing them (unless the 1987 Constitution is burned to the pits of hell, haha).
Also, China imposes visa to other countries, which is actually more frustrating. Only six countries could enter China without a visa (Brunei, Japan, Singapore and Mauritius), but Wikipedia stated seven countries (Gawd, when will I stop relying too much on Wikipedia!?). Only diplomatic and official passport holders have the privilege to enter China without a visa, which is again, frustrating for ordinary passport holders.
Indicators of having a “good ordinary passport”:
1.) If a certain country has good diplomatic relations with other countries.
2.) Lesser numbers of an ethnic diaspora.
3.) Less people who overstay.
4.) Less people who stay illegally in a foreign country.
5.) Countries that have no internal conflict.
I actually do not buy the fact that the smaller and the richer the country, the more you could travel without a visa. Well, Barbados and Mauritius might not be as rich as the OECD founding members, but speaking of internal events in a country, it should be something that adheres with international standards.
What makes a good passport?
I have noticed that if you come from a developed country, you usually get lots of benefits if you are a citizen of the countries I have mentioned above. However, being a rich/not-so-rich but not-too-poor country doesn’t really mean you could already travel without any visa. I’ll show you more examples:
Side Note: Even though South Korea has a lenient visa policy, the Philippines, however, isn’t included in its list in the countries that do not need visa to enter its territory without the visa, probably due to Filipinos “overstaying.” After all, I still consider a trip to South Korea a privilege.
And here’s the worst part…
This map shows that owning a Vietnamese or Iranian passport is even more valuable than owning a Chinese passport (most countries offer visa-on-arrival travel for Chinese citizens, only a few are willing to offer totally visa-free travel for Chinese citizens). Ah, the horrors of having 1 billion people residing in one big country… and overseas. But don’t worry, the mainland Chinese government is doing efforts to sign mutual visa-free agreement with other countries. Well, Filipino government officials should warn China that it should stop bullying the Philippines so that Chinese citizens could travel to the Philippines without any visa… like let’s say, for 14 days only.
Here, even though China is wealthier than the Philippines, Filipino citizens (like me) could travel without any visa in 58 countries. In the Philippines, you need to get a visa before travelling to other countries such as Japan, the US, China, Australia and of course, South Korea. As a matter of fact, only the privileged ones could afford getting visas.
Diplomatic Relations Matter
If you happen to be an Israeli citizen… I have to warn you guys that there are some countries that despise your country. Hmmm… well, not saying that it is oppressive to be an Israeli citizen, but other countries view it as “occupied Palestine” since these countries that have an obsessive form of hate towards Israel are mostly pro-Palestine. It’s not the fault of Israeli citizens that some countries despise them, but the Israeli government is actually being oppressive towards Palestinians. I hate to say this, but if the Jews should have their own country, they should have been friendlier towards Palestine and Palestinians rather than oppressing them. Until now, there are some non-Arab people that has a negative view on Israel.
Though holding an Israeli passport has an oppressive side, lemme tell you that you have the opportunity of visiting most of South America, Japan and the EU/EFTA/Schengen Area at the same time–which means that holding an Israeli passport is similar to holding a Hong Kong and Macanese passport. Some Israelis might accept this fact, but some think that there should something be done in order to allow Israeli citizens to travel these states.
It’s a good thing that there are countries that simply impose visa rules towards other countries, rather than rejecting their passports. It means that they maintain good relations with one another, even though they bully other countries. For instance, China and the Philippines. Even though the Chinese government despises PNoy, they still welcome ordinary Filipino citizens to enter their country (provided that visas are already in Philippine passports). There is no such thing as “obsessive hatred” against each other, despite the territorial dispute controversy between China vs. its neighbors.
No wonder, I still look up to China despite being a bully country. Well, the reasons why the Philippines has good ties with other states and nations is because the Marcoses and former President Gloria M. Arroyo made efforts to make friends with different world leaders. Look at PGMA, even though she broke her promise with former US President George W. Bush, the USA and the Philippines are still allies. The yellow oligarchs cannot actually do that–you have to say something GOOD about the country and not bully the Philippines just to get close to them.
Best Passports have good diplomatic ties with other countries as great powers
Most countries in Europe and North America have the best passports mainly because they have the most stable form of government and has the power to exercise their policies to influence everyone. No wonder, many Filipino citizens opt to be dual citizens to travel without any restrictions. They may use their Philippine passport to travel towards the rest of Southeast Asia, but they’ll need their other passport to travel to Europe.
Worst Passports actually do not offer security and safety for tourists
Well, not all countries aren’t too dangerous for the traveller, but you see, political turmoil actually is a distraction to allow their citizens to enjoy visa-free travel. However, there are countries that really impose visas to almost every country in the world, that’s why in return, countries who suffer on their visa policies have their revenge (lol).
I have a question for you, guys. If you happen to be a dual citizen and your other country requires you to choose just one citizenship at the legal age, will you accept this fact or not? Why or why not?
1.) One citizenship of yours allows you to travel in 170+ countries yet requires you to choose one citizenship while the other allows dual citizenship but only lets you travel to just 60+ and below countries. (Or the other way around)
2.) If you actually need to apply for permission to retain your other citizenship to remain dual?
Naaahhh… that is “Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died.”
Pardon mein Deutsch, however, even though I used German for the title itself, Frau Thatcher is actually a Briton.
She died of a stroke at the age of 87.
She pioneered on what it is called as “Thatcherism,” which is a form of neoliberalism that supports the workforce. She is also known as the “Iron Lady” of British politics due to her conservative-authoritarian political beliefs.
After all, I’d say that she was the older version of Frau. Dr. Angela Merkel. Die Kanzlerin, on the other hand, is the “Iron Lady” of German politics, known for her strong-willed personality and charisma.
She pushed for privatization, lower taxes, and deregulation. And she sought to keep Britain from surrendering any of its sovereignty to the European Union.
Exactly, as it is. Her style of governing the British economy at her time is often viewed as “Reaganomics” in the United States of America. No other Iron Lady would do that like her. After all, she nailed it!
CGMA should have been like (the former) PM Thatcher, yet the former is actually more self-important and an exploiter compared to the latter, who is authoritarian, yet managed to bring Britain’s glory and had a great relationship with former US President Ronald Reagan and former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev (dudes, it’s GOR-ba-CHAWFF). She was also known to be anti-communist like former Polish president Lech “Weinachtsmann” Walesa.
If the UK had her as a strong-willed leader, Germany also has their very own Frau Dr. Merkel who is even more strong-willed but remains low-key.
PS: She’s the “Daw Suu” of Europe.
news.yahoo.com|Welcome, Senor Jorge Bergoglio aka Pope Francis I!
I’d say he really looks friendly, though.
Sorry I have not watched the white smoke news, but I think this dude might nail it! Hurrah for a new pope!
To quote Yahoo! News:
Bergoglio is the first Jesuit to become pope.
“Bergoglio has character. He’s very humble and he’s someone who really goes out to the people.”
Thinking he’s a Jesuit, I think this would be a great opportunity to be open-minded towards things that are not yet fully accepted by the Church. I feel optimistic towards his guy — he’s younger than his predecessor of course, but at the age of 76, and was born in 1936, I think he’s not that young anymore since this is the 21st century.
Would he be as popular as Pope John Paul II or be as intellectual as Pope Benedict XVI?
Benedict’s style was often seen as too academic and he was never as popular as his predecessor Pope John Paul II. Many of the cardinals have called for the new pope to be a better communicator, able to reach out particularly to young people.
I’d say that this is quite true, since Pope Benedict XVI has always been going to colleges or something like that, and I think he could be a good theology professor, though.
Oh, well. That’s my post for the new Pope, though!
icepics.de|The Icelandic Flag
Even though I never set on foot on Iceland, I’d like to discuss to you the homeland of Bjork!
Iceland is a European Nordic country situated near the Arctic Circle, and its capital, Reykjavik, is the northernmost capital city of a sovereign state in the world. Ever since, it is the most peaceful country in the world, considering its climate and geography. As of now, its population does not reach a million at all. It never achieved 1M people in the territory itself, so basically, almost everyone are familiar with one another.
Iceland is also known for its natural wonders, and two of the most famous are Vatnajokull and Strokkur. Detifoss also included.
You could never deny that these are very beautiful, so no wonder, Bjork was inspired by nature when she thought of writing her music — you’d never know, she flaunts it the right way, a’ryt.
For me, I would call it “exotic” despite being a European country (exotic does not only apply to Latin and African countries alone) — its language, derived from Old Norse, is “purified” to strengthen Icelandic national identity. It is close to the Faroese language, and its “Norse-ness” is really, distinctive. Not even the other Scandinavian languages could actually be related to Icelandic besides Faroese, despite being classified as “Germanic.”
It is a right-hand traffic country.
People do not only learn Icelandic; English (as in UK English) and Danish are also taught.
It is the most peaceful country in the world.
It is a train-free country (awww…).So far, Reykjavik is the only metropolitan area (as in CITY), but I do not know if this has changed.
There is no such thing as McDonald’s in Iceland.
Check out other things that are NOT in Iceland… (which is sad huhuhu).
Fermented shark is a delicacy in Iceland.
Magnus Scheving, the gymnast who portrayed Sportacus in Lazytown, hails from Iceland.
The Icelandic surname system is very unusual — most likely it’s a patronymic. For instance, Bjork’s surname is Gudmundsdottir (Gudmond’s Daughter), which is one example of a patronymic. So it’s most likely to happen that in a telephone directory, Icelanders are listed according to their first name (how awesome is that, right?). So, if you’re going to address an Icelandic person, you might as well address him/her through their first names. If in other countries, this is rude. However, for them, it’s not rude after all. I don’t really know if they observe honorific language.
You may find other err… many-to-mention trivia HERE and HERE.
Iceland is almost like Australia — usually, the cities, towns — if it’s a town, it really looks like you’re in the countryside. No joke, look at the photographs, it tells you everything. However, the difference is that, Iceland is much healthier to live in because it has greens and snow on it, unlike Australia, which is mostly desert.
One strange thing about Iceland is that, it’s the only country in Europe that would err… provide electricity due to its natural wonders that could generate power, energy and electricity for the whole Europe.
Its waters are pure, and need not to be chlorinated in any manner — potable enough if you’re in an Icelandic home.
Iceland and its wonders
123rf.com|If this was brought to the Philippines, people will treat it as a waterfall from Villa Escudero.
cultureledger.com|Indeed, Iceland is very green and its climate is mild, so it should be “Waterland” or Greenland rather.
For more Icelandic beauty photographs, HERE is the source.