A few days ago I was informed by my friend that a statue was built to honor the SAF 44. It would be interesting to see years from now how the collective memory of our society: the Philippine society will remember the SAF 44. Will their legend be remembered like the 47 ronin or perhaps it would be something altogether different.

The tale of the 47 ronins began when their Liege Lord was through a trick forced to commit suicide by his enemy. Naturally the author of this deed, the enemy lord, hid himself behind his men and fortifications. He was wary of what the men of the late Liege Lord would do. The 47 abandoned their status of samurai and embarked as ronin, or masterless samurai. A number took up different professions, while the others became beggars and drunkards. Years passed and the 47 ronin were firmly settled in their new life. The guard and caution of their late lord enemy was soon relaxed. He let his guard down. This was the moment the 47ronin had patiently waited for. And that night they entered the castle of their enemy and forced him to commit sepuku and bringing his severed head took it to the grave of their late liege lord. Completing their duty to seek justice for their master, all of them committed sepuku.  The tale of the 47 Ronin has endured and outlasted the Tokugawa shogunate. Stories and art have depicted, told and re-told their tale.

I wonder if something similar would happen in the near future to the SAF 44? What would the collective story that would be remembered? For Ninoy Aquino what towers above anything else is his rivalry with Ferdinand Marcos that led to his incarceration and down the line his assassination at the tarmac. All the rest are sidelights. His death or martyrdom, depending on which side of the political fence one is sitting one, has catalyzed the downfall of the Marcos Regime and has propelled two of his family to becoming Presidents. The execution of Gomez, Burgos and Zamora was one of the factors that led Rizal to his own execution at Bagumbayan. What of the SAF 44?

Members of an elite military force who had fallen as a result of a misplanned and mismanaged police operation. Men who died in pursuit of a terrorist. Men who died because of lack of coordination and delayed actions from both sides of the conflict. Men whose remains were brought to the capital was not met by a President who found it more important to open a car plant elsewhere. A President who slowly and grudgingly took responsibility but was quick in laying the blames on others. A President and his Government who tried to avoid the blame. The Aquino Government that saw its legislation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front slowly being questioned both in Congress and in public opinion. It would seem the SAF 44  will be remember for the dishonor done to them by their President and also the unmasking of the flaws of  the Bangsa Moro Basic Law.

The sacrifice of the SAF 44 achieved and will be remembered for three things:

The end of a terrorist life.

The unmasking of a President and his Government – warts and all: Killing myths and cult surrounding the Aquino Family : Even an Aquino can be a bad President

The unmasking of the Bangsa Moro Basic Law’s flaws in order to correct them. Peace cannot be built on earth sown with dragon’s teeth – and the flaws are dragon teeth that will lead to further conflict down the line.

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The Cleanest Water in Manila Bay is in Manila Ocean Park

During the Holy Week break the police took great pains to cordon off Manila Bay from bathers hoping to seek respite from the heat. This was because the bay is heavily polluted: if you took a dip you would get sick. I often wondered how Manila Ocean Park was able to use the water of the bay, or did they ferry in water from outside of the metro or did they mix seawater mix. Recently, I took on the job as consultant and blogger for the Manila Ocean Park Blog, I was able to look into this. And yes MOP is using the water from Manila Bay but before it is used in the oceanarium it undergoes several stages of filtration and recycling. MOP calls it the LSS or Life Support System. It is a multiple stage filtration, management and fish health system designed to make the oceanarium denizens thrive.

As a aquarium hobbyists or aquarists we simply call it a filtration system but the term filtration system does not really give justice to what it does. A friend in Australia called it the Aquarium Support System but lets refer to it instead as the Life Support System or LSS and it basically achieves four things:

Physical Filtration: Filters out physical waste
Chemical Filtration: Filters out chemical waste
Bacteriological Filtration: Filters out harmful bacteria and pathogen
Biological Filtration: Filters out or converts biological waste

Manila Bay Water before it is introduced into the oceanarium gets cleaned in the four different stages. And as it enters the oceanarium the same type but different filter systems now designed for maintaining water clean within the oceanarium. And parts of the recycled water are eventually returned to Manila Bay.

MOP actually has a tour that shows how the LSS works and is available upon request, And here is video further explaining the LSS.

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Leonardo Da Vinci, the Renaissance Man and the Renaissance Ideal

Leonardo Da Vinci has become one of the icons of the Renaissance Period. His two famous paintings the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper have crossed our culture both in terms of art and pop references. His works have become seeds of stories and other art work. Amazingly though this is but one aspect gf Da Vinci’s works, for many he has been one of the epitomes of what it is to be a Renaissance Man. Today we equate this to what is known as a polymath, a genius who excelled in different fields and indeed as we briefly go briefly into the life of Leonardo this is true; more importantly though Leonardo also embodies the principle of the Renaissance Ideal.

I. Leonardo as the Renaissance Man

In the original Star Trek series there is an episode called A Requiem for Methuselah. In this episode Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy, Mister Spock and the crew of the Enterprise goes to a distant planet to mine for an element much needed to treat a plague that has infected the crew. As they went down the planet they encounter what seems to be the lone human occupant of the planet, and it turns out that he was and is a near immortal who had lived in Babylon and continued to live on Earth as the composer Brahms and as Leonardo Da Vinci. An interesting story but not nearly as interesting as the life of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Da Vinci was not only a painter, sculptor, and a mathematician, among other things. He was ambidextrous, he could paint and write with both his hands. He co-wrote a book about the Golden Mean with the father accounting and priest Lucia Pacioli. Leonardo earned his wages by serving the rich and the powerful of his time – the Rennaissance Prine Il Moro and later in his life the King of France. His notes and notebooks became the repositories of his ideas. If this was not preserved bu his pupil Vasari we would not know of them today. In its pages we see (i) sketches of human anatomy dissected and undirected – the intricacies of a human skull (obtained by using a sceptre technique of creation moods with wax). It is said Da Vinci spent time in the house of dead to get these drawings. (ii) We also find plans for parachutes, flying devices and different weapons of war (including an armoured vehicle a tank with what seemed to be one critical and deliberate flaw). (iii) Then, we also see what seems to be mathematical computation of astral bodies. And (iV) visions of a great deluge that would flood the known world.

Leonardo was living in an interesting time of Western Civilisation. Due to economic prosperity and technological advances – the introduction of Gothenburg’s movable type of printing press and the mass product of paper – and the establishment of universities there was a blossoming of ideas and at the same time a conflagration of opinion among intellectuals, political and religious authorities (both inside and outside the religious institutions a great number of intellectuals were men of the cloth – Pacioli, Alberti and Giordani Bruno to name a few). There were times when such conflagrations ended with a sentencing ranging from what seemed to be house arrest for Galileo and execution for Giordani Bruno. But going back to Leonardo there was one battle he had that brought together an interesting cast of characters and shed some light on how arts were used as a political tool.

This was the time when Florence has kicked out the Medicis and formed republic. The Justice or
Gonfalioner of Florence Piero Soderini wanted two artworks that would embody the new republic. A plan was hatched to have a contest between the artistic giants of the time Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonaratti. Each was to respectively depict two battles in Florentine history – the Battle of Anghiarri and the Battle of Cascina. The lawyer Machiavelli was tasked with writing the contest contract between the two. Soderini and the new Florentine Republic had hoped that the conflict would spark the creative juices of both artist resulting in powerful works of art, fitting symbols for the new republic. Things did not turn out as planned. Leonardo started work on his fresco using an old painting technique from the Romans and he even built an elevator to help him paint. However, the painting technique that Leonardo began to react negatively to the atmosphere, stalling his work . Meanwhile Michelangelo started drawing sketches and plans, but his anger towards Leonardo started to flare inside him (something caused by the contest or something else it is not certain) leading to public rebuke of Leonardo and his work. At this point Michelangelo was summoned by Guilliano deal Rovere or Pope Julius II, also known as the Warrior Pope, to Rome. Michelangelo promptly left. Leonardo also eventually left. Shortly after the Florentine Republic fell and the Medicis were restored. The painting of Leonardo was painted over, Machiavelli began to write the Prince in order to gain favour for the newly installed and restored Medici family; and the volatile Michelangelo began his work for the equally volatile and strong-willed warrior pope. As for Leonardo Da Vinci he eventually ended his days as the favourite of the King of France. Only reproductions of the two paintings remain one reinterpreted by Rubens and a fresco done by a pupil of Michelangelo.


Da Vinci led an extraordinary life: an interesting life. We remember him now for his works and ideas and we call him a polymath. But was this all because he was a polymath? Like Archimedes, Su Song. Benjamin Franklin, and Jose Rizal this was true … partly true because aside from their inherent genius and talent they were cultivated to be more.

Take for example Leon Battista Alberti. A contemporary of Da Vinci he was an Architect, Poet, Priest, Linguist, Philosopher, and Cryptographer. His work and writing on architecture shows a love for design but a genuine interest and knowledge on designing with the psychology of city dwellers in mind. Due to the several interests of Alberti he was able to meld it together to create insightful ideas and designs. Leonardo Da Vinci used both art and the concept of the golden mean to create the Last Supper. This captures the Renaissance Ideal:

“A man can do all things if he will”

This means we should embrace all knowledge and develop our capacities as fully as possible. In our time of specialisation of tasks and knowledge I firmly believe that what is called the Renaissance Ideal should be embraced. It is only when one does this that one can truly be helpful in improving oneself and others. We may not be all polymaths but this does not mean we cannot strive for the Renaissance Ideal.

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