Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Index of the Week

Since January, I've had the privilege of being an intern at Harper's Magazine. For the past two issues, I've been researching the magazine's signature front-of-the-book piece, Harper's Index. The the uninitiated, the Index is a page in the front of the magazine that tells a story about what's going on in the world with 40 statistics, some of which are hilarious. 

The Harper's Web site just unveiled a new feature -- a searchable Index database -- that will hopefully introduce the magazine to a younger, less print-centric audience. That's a tall order, but the online Index might be cool enough to do it. I'm going to try to include an interesting search term once a week on this blog, and you know what my inaugural search has to be: Philippines.

Here are the Index stats that come up when you search "Philippines." By the way, Index stats are often so bizarre or counterintuitive that readers might think there's no way they could be true. On the Web site, sources for the stats appear when you mouse over the lines. But beyond that, after researching two Indexes myself and seeing the magazine's process for reporting and fact-checking the stats, I can personally vouch for the truth of Harper's Index stats. The magazine's four interns spend two straight weeks reporting, checking and re-checking that one page, and two editors work with the interns throughout the cycle. 


4/85Percentage decrease in the gross national product of the Philippines in 1984: 5.5

11/86Amount The Triumph of Beauty, a portrait of Imelda Marcos, brought at auction in August: $27,500

2/86Percentage of the Philippines’ 300 government-owned corporations that are headed by Imelda Marcos: 10

9/87Proposed fine for selling or eating dog meat in Manila: $100

3/88Percentage of 1988 U.S. foreign economic aid that will go to IsraelEgypt, and the Philippines: 68

3/88Number of candidates in the Philippines’ January regional elections who were murdered during the campaign: 39

6/88Number of the 26 journalists murdered last year who were killed in the Philippines: 11

11/89Number of pages of his newspaper a Filipino editor says military personnel forced him to eat at gunpoint in May: 2

11/89Number of people arrested for smoking in public places in Quezon City, the Philippines, since March: 1,514

2/92Estimated change in average U.S. temperatures this winter due to a volcanic eruption in the Philippines last year: -0.9° F

    Estimated number of days the Washington, D.C., cherry-blossom season will be delayed this year due to the eruption: 7

3/96Number of corruption charges still pending against Imelda Marcos in the Philippines: 306

5/01Number of pairs of Imelda Marcos’s shoes on display in the Philippines ‘ new shoe museum: 200

5/05Percentage of Filipino couples who “do not know how pregnancy happens,” according to the country’s health minister: 30



Here are my observations: The Philippines seems underrepresented. Harper's has been publishing the Index for 25 years. 12 x 40 x 25 = 12,000 Index stats, approximately. And just 15 have been related to the Philippines? Sayang. None of these stats will probably blow the mind of anyone who's lived in the Philippines for any length of time and knows an outline of martial law history. The most perplexing one to me has got to be the line about smoking arrests in Quezon City. Can someone fill me in on why people weren't allowed to smoke in public in 1989? The most vivid line has got to be the one about the Masbateño journalist being forced to eat pages of his newspaper. But anyone will tell you that Masbate politics are no joke. Print the wrong thing or challenge the wrong boss in Masbate and being forced to "eat your words" at gunpoint should probably be considered getting off easy. 

Enjoy the Index, everyone. It's awesome. 

2 Comments:

Blogger coachj12 said...

Hey Rafe!

I think all those arrests were made in the early days of the implementation of the smoking ban on specific places. If I remember it correctly, it was due to over zealous officers. It probably happened because of violators lack of information, over zealous arresting officers or the usual opportunity for corrupt cops to shake someone down.

4:39 PM  
Blogger borg_queen said...

Tito Sotto, the comedian, who was vice mayor at the time initiated the smoking ban.

9:28 PM  

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