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A student of Sun Tzu

Last week’s article “Black Swan President” drew a lot of mixed, even highly emotional, reactions from readers.

A friend in the tourism industry told this writer that his establishment suffered two huge cancellations from foreign business groups because of perceived unfriendly statements of the President.

Reader Miriam Susi wrote that President Rody Duterte’s public statements leave many citizens very confused. Because of this, Ms. Susi suggests that there is now a need to create a new executive department called D-I-C-E or Department of Interpretation, Clarification and Explanation.

But reader Margaux C. Ortiz-Fabreag sees it another way. Ms. Ortiz-Fabreag believes there is logic to what President Rody does.

“Sir, I saw his Al Jazeera interview. The clarity of his thoughts as conveyed to the reporters stunned me. So different from his usual (rambling) “street corner speeches”. It is highly possible that he is adjusting his communication strategy depending on the audience. Brings to mind Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

“Sun Tzu wrote: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable. When using our forces, we must seem inactive. When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away. When far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.”

For the uninitiated, Sun Tzu was a military general and philosopher who lived in Ancient China. He is credited with having written “The Art of War” which is now considered a masterpiece on strategy.

Ho Chi Minh distributed copies of the book to his soldiers. Even General Collin Powell once admitted:

“Sun Tzu has been studied for hundreds of years. He continues to give inspiration to soldiers and politicians. So every American soldier in the army knows of his works. We require our soldiers to read it.”

Sun Tzu’s strategy has even found application beyond the military and into business and politics.

That said, I would not be surprised if “The Art of War” is among President Duterte’s reading stuff.

All Saints Day recollection
Along with the town fiesta, Christmas, and Easter, All Saints Day – which we are celebrating tomorrow – is one occasion few Filipinos would want to miss. A fitting occasion for a family reunion of the living – among the dead.

In the following essay entitled “The Candles”, which I submitted ages ago for a high school assignment in English, I recalled one such family reunion.

Allow me to quote the article in part.

“”Mano po, Lolo,” I greeted him reverently as I gently pressed his wrinkled hand to my forehead. A faint smile of recognition showed in his face then he became sad and serene again. He had always been so since his wife, my maternal grandmother, died almost four years ago.

“Toting, come and help me fix the candles,” called my sister, Victoria.

“There were several pairs of candle holders beside my Lola’s tomb. I emptied the burnt out wax and lighted a new fresh candle.

“Just then I heard my elder brother Alfredo softly laughing. When I turned around I saw him place his arm on my Lolo’s shoulder and talk to him as if to draw him out of the reverie that my Lolo had shut himself in.

“Then all of a sudden it occurred to me – that those two human figures were just like the two candles behind me.

My brother, young, tall and strong, not yet sixteen was the newly lighted one, while my Lolo, past 84, aged, bent and spent, was slowly flickering out.

“The realization of what the scene meant saddened me. I knew it was inevitable but I don’t want my Lolo to flicker out and to die. I want him to live as long as he can. I want him to be there when I graduate.”

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(Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye)