Siniksik na Pilipinas

A thought experiment: what if all of RP were concentrated in a single island?


Ready for some math?

First, let’s look at the population counts. As of the NSO census of 2007:

  • Population of RP = 88,566,723
  • Population of Metro Manila = 11,566,325

This means that 13 per cent of Filipinos live in Metro Manila, or around 1 in 8 people!

Now, how do the land areas compare?

  • Land area of RP: 299,764 sq. km
  • Land area of Metro Manila: 636 sq. km

This means that Metro Manila is only 1/500 of the country’s total land area or 5% of Luzon.

Dividing the population by the land area gives us the average number of people per square km, or population density:

  • Population density of RP: 295 people per sq. km
  • Population density of Metro Manila: 18,170 people per sq. km

Metro Manila is 60 times more dense than the country as a whole!

If you fit all 88 million Filipinos with the population density of Metro Manila, the land area they will occupy is (88 M/11 M) x 636 sq. km = 4,875 sq. km. This is just a bit larger than the land area of Bohol, which is 4,821 sq. km.

Finally, I leave you with a bit of global perspective: Metro Manila is the 11th most populous metropolitan area in the world and one of the densest. Tokyo is the most populous– with 32 million inhabitants (3 times more than Metro Manila)– but Metro Manila is 4 times more densely-populated!

(Inspired by maps of “The World’s Population, Concentrated” at Per Square Mile.)


One infographic at a time

After a hiatus, Pinay observer is back with a new mission: making sense of being Filipino in today’s world— one infographic at a time. Stay tuned!

A Kapre in the NBA

Inspired by the unabashed enthusiasm for (and tireless research into) Philippine basketball by Rafe Bartholomew in his recent book Pacific Rims, Filipino writer Asterio Gutierrez imagines a real-life kapre, 7’6” Bolado de Makiling, as the “first ever full-blooded Filipino to play in the NBA” in his fantastic* short story, “The Big Man”.

An excerpt:

A DVD of the entire season was released by Solar Sports in partnership with the NBA, which sold out within two months (and perplexingly, has not been reissued). Entitled A Season of Bolado, it features every one of his games—to which, amusingly, the film’s writers each gave nicknames. It begins, of course, with “First Blood at Phoenix”. Played November 3, 2004, it broke Bolado‟s own PBA debut record as the most-watched event in Philippine television history, and kicked off the trend of live sports broadcasts becoming promotional draws at cinemas, bars, and even fine dining restaurants.

Before Stoudemire [premier NBA center, formerly of the Phoenix Suns, currently with the NY Knicks] even had the chance to lower his forearm, Bolado whirled to the center of the lane and lofted a jumphook. It hit the bottom of the net clean. While hardly anyone cheered at Atlanta—it was just another basket in the second quarter, by a reserve no less—the entire Philippines erupted. Globe and Smart broke down for an entire fifteen minutes. Magandang Tanghali Bayan was interrupted by a newsflash and never resumed. Both AM and FM stations looped Bolado’s Magic Sing hit Tuktok ng Bundok well past midnight. It would become one of those cultural watershed moments, akin to the Eraserheads rising to the stage to the opening bars of Alapaap at their reunion concert, and Charice Pempengco entering frame on Glee. He would end up with four points and two rebounds; the game ended up contested up to the last minute, so he did not enter in the fourth quarter to pad his numbers. But as the rest of the DVD episode list showed, greater things were still to come.

Pure imagination, yet every word rings true.

Kudos and thanks to Aste for sending me a copy (and for writing it, of course!). “The Big Man” appears in the recently-published collection Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 6– look for it in your local bookstores!

(*in both senses of the word)

A Poem For Friday: “Filipino Cats Circa 1999”, by Patrick Rosal

This week’s poem is another one by Filipino-American and New Jersey-based poet Patrick Rosal:

Filipino Cats Circa 1999 by Patrick Rosal

They who stalked
dancefloors on hind legs
bucket cap tilt
to one side sipped
slow from a bowl
hopped from barstool
to barstool They three
gun-cocked brothers
nine lives each
Smooth quick keen
seers in the dark
always landing feet first
even the youngest one
who jumped
from seven stories up

From Rosal’s second collection of poems, My American Kundiman. The book begins with “A Note on the Kundiman”:

The kundiman is a traditional Filipino song of unrequited love. Its name comes from the Tagalog phrase “kung hindi man,” which, roughly translated, means “if you will not.” Practice of the form changed during the Spanish colonial era and into the American occupation, as the woman about whom many kundiman were sung was not a woman literally, but the Filipinos’ occupied homeland, a place with an increasingly ambiguous identity in the midst of violent erasure, fragmentation, and upheaval

(Italics mine.) Previously, I’ve featured a poem from Rosal’s first collection here.

A Poem for Friday: “After Reading Aquinas”, by Asterio Gutierrez

In celebration of this special week*, our poem for (Good) Friday combines theology and basketball like only a Filipino poet can:

“After Reading Aquinas”, by Asterio Gutierrez

They say we fear what we do not understand
but it isn’t his Summa Theologica that scares me
so much as his six-foot-eight, 350-pound frame
that some say was just 8% body fat. The same
was said of Shaquille O’Neal and we all saw what he did
to every center who stood in his way of proving
he could win a championship. If we were to meet
in heaven I’d swear I’d understood him perfectly
but then again would God really save me
after I’d just compared St. Thomas to Shaq!

It has been said, succinctly and accurately, that Filipinos have lived “three hundred years in a convent, followed by fifty years in Hollywood.” The question now: Whither next?

(First published in the Philippines Graphic. You can find more literary work by Aste on his online archive. His latest short story, “The Big Man”, will be published in Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 6, and will be featured on this blog, shortly after the book comes out in June— look for it in your local bookstore!)


(*This year, Holy week also happens to be the NBA playoffs opening week. Special, indeed!)

What (Missing) National Identity?

In celebration of this special time of the year,* we delve into a meditation on basketball and the Filipino national identity.

I’ve previously posted about Rafe Bartholomew’s excellent book on Philippine hoops, “Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin’ in Flip-Flops and the Philippines’ Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball.” Sometimes, we need to see ourselves through a foreigner’s fresh eyes** to recognize what is uniquely ours.

People have always struggled to define their essence, their soul, or whatever one wishes to call it. For Filipinos, basketball is part of that evanescent core.

(Emphasis mine.) I am tired of hearing that we do not have a national identity— of course, we do! Would the same people claim that there is no such thing as Filipino food, either? Bartholomew aptly quotes Filipino novelist and cultural critic Nick Joaquin:

If you tell the Pinoy-on-the-street that adobo and pan de sal are but a thin veneer of Westernization, the removal of which will reveal the “true” Filipino… the Pinoy may retort that, as far as he is concerned, adobo and pan de sal are as Filipino as his very own guts; and indeed one could travel the world and nowhere find… anything quite like Philippine adobo and pan de sal.

(Emphasis mine.) As Bartholomew perceptively points out, “Basketball, another colonial import, has also become as Filipino as the Pinoy’s guts.”

Our history is a colonial one, so it only follows that our identity will be too. Perhaps it is time to stop rejecting that (admittedly) hard truth; time to stop looking for a non-existent purely Filipino core. Heck, even “Filipino” itself is a colonial name.

Capturing our identity is extremely difficult and frustrating— I sometimes even lose sleep over it. But instead of denouncing the lack of it— or worse— disowning it (“No, I don’t have a Filipino accent— I’m educated!” or “That’s so masa!”), I humbly invoke— this Holy Week— the Serenity Prayer:

May we be granted
the serenity to accept who we are,
the wisdom to know who we can be,
and the courage to change who we will be.


(*the NBA playoffs, of course!)

(**Not of a parachutist-journalist, but a “connected critic”— one intimately involved in the lives of his subjects, but also able to observe from somewhat detached vantage point. [from Mary Pipher’s “Writing to Change the World”])

A Song For Friday: “Pinoy This Way”, by Mikey Bustos

Sung to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, and true to the original’s spirit: “Today we’re celebrating/Being a Pinoy this way!”

“Pinoy This Way”, by Mikey Bustos

It doesn’t matter if you’re Pinay or if you’re P-I-N-O-Y.
Just point with your lips, pare
’cause we’re Pinoy this way, baby.
Use your eyes… If it was snake it bit you already!

My Mama scolded me when I was young, when I said I hated school.
She said “You know the land where we come from,
every class is always full.”
Because in Philippines education is never taken for granted,
no it’s not, along with food, work, and medication,
we know they all come from God.

Back home, a land far away,
Where we work hard every day,
It makes us grateful, baby
We’re Pinoy this way
Where you will need pamaypay
As temperature rises high
You have not lived ’til you live like a Pinoy this way.

Nothing ever goes to waste,
Appreciate, don’t throw away
Baby, we’re Pinoy this way!

Say my prayers everyday,
Bless to all the elderly,
We always say “po” cuz
We’re Pinoy this way.


(Emphasis mine. Lyrics lifted from the full version here.)

Meet Mikey Bustos, a 30-year old Fil-Canadian with an angelic voice, which took him to the Top 10 of 2003’s Canadian Idol. He turns out to be quite a comedian too, and an amazing YouTube video-cranking machine. His Pinoy tutorials are a must-see!

I, for one, can’t get enough. Thank you, Mikey, for sharing the Filipino experience with the world, with humor, intelligence, honesty, and pride. Keep ’em coming!

(Update: Found Lady Gaga’s “country-style” version of the song, arguably more beautiful and powerful than the (electro-synthetic) original: “Born This Way” (The Country Road Version). “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen”— and sing along!).


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