Commentaries & Reviews

Thoughts on self presentation and performance

posted May 30, 2018, 8:55 PM by Nic Guinto

If there is one important lesson I'm learning so far from this PhD journey, it's the notion that everything we do, say, or think can be mapped within the intersecting fabric of life and the world we live in. Of course, it's nothing new. It's been well discussed by renowned scholars in the past such as Erving Goffman (the dramaturgical model/ performance theory), Pierre Bourdieu (notions of habitus & field), and Michel Foucault (discourse), among many others. (Note: I may still be wrong at this point as these are thoughts that keep me awake at 4 in the morning. I thought it better to put this into writing just so it gets out and hopefully for this excited thoughts to let me get some rest.)

After another meeting with one of my supervisors on a short paper that I wrote, he pointed out my tendency to take my participants' words as absolute truths, with a sprinkle of my politics (not his exact words, but somewhere around those lines and in a much nicer fashion). While writing, I honestly have not thought about that. I actually enjoyed writing it, and I was hoping that such enjoyment have reflected in my word choice and construction that the reader would appreciate it as much as I did. It could have passed as a good enough story for the drama anthology Maala ala Mo Kaya (MMK) or personality features in newspapers. But it was one of those moments where I appreciated a 'brutally' honest feedback. Sure, I have read many times in the past about the danger of taking the words of interviewees. But perhaps, he was right to say that I'm letting my politics, my voice, to get in the way. And it's not good if I'm trying to build a theory (as any PhD student in the social sciences and the humanities are expected to do :( ) from my work.

One double-sword commentary I got from him was that I write like how many journalists write. I took it as complement. After all, short of a journalism degree, my education and career has practically shaped my stance and writing following journalistic conventions. But in this context, and in the context of research work, I should take off my journalistic hat, and see beyond or beneath the 'newsworthiness' of the field site I was investigating as a researcher. I shouldn't just have a "nose for news", but a multi-sensory understanding of my field site  Of course, this is not to diminish or discount the very valuable work and contribution of journalists and journalism to society. In fact, he once told me that many other journalists have departed from exclusively focusing on 'trivial' matters in their stories, and this is I think what investigative journalists do. So the point is, I keep my gaze away from a single frame, my politics, and try to see, in more understandable terms, the whole performance, front stage, back, and offstage - to allude from Goffman's work.

The realization, after days of brooding over the comments? Needless to say, I must always take a step back when analyzing my informant's assertions on things. I should be skeptical. Why did s/he say what s/he said? Where (both physically and ideologically) did s/he say what s/he said? Little did I know, they may have said so only because they were trying to paint a certain image of themselves, if not their group, in their favor - which we all do when we talk to other people, even friends or family. Everything is a performance, to allude back to our dear friend Erving again. Social media has given way to hyperpersonalities. The late capitalist/modern world has created synthetic personalizations. I should have known better when I was writing that piece, and should have problematized on their sense of positioning, and the discourses they tend to orient to/ dissent with. Well, I know better now. And you should, too if you have read this till the end.

If anything that I said triggered you, let me know what you think via

Reviewing journal articles

posted Mar 3, 2018, 2:30 PM by Nic Guinto

Receiving review requests from academic journals is nothing new to me after I published my first journal article in an open access international journal. But getting review requests from far more established journals of international standing are rather rare.

After a couple of publications, publishers and/or editors had ready access to my email address(es) which are included as correspondence address there. So it was not surprising to receive so many review requests and invitations to publish with them. I certainly do not mind reviewing articles that are considered for publication in a journal; and mind you, the task is not something any academic could make a living from. It is uncommon for journals to compensate their reviewers on the principle that it is a noble and solemn duty of every academic to ensure that knowledge that is to be disseminated widely through the journal is a product of meticulous and empirically-driven effort. Of course there are those that offer some decent monetary compensation (not surprisingly, the not so established ones), while there are those that would give you access to their database beyond the paywall on limited terms.

As I am aware of the proliferation of predatory journals (i.e., journal publications whose pure intention is to make money out of the industry than produce quality work), I made sure that I only take part on those that I find legitimate no matter how 'unknown' the journal is. I check the editors (and whether they are real people), the publication itself (if they charge a publication fee, that's automatically out of my radar), and the 'quality' of the articles published, among many others. If the journal is affiliated with, or is an official one by an academic institution, I'd have no questions asked. We wouldn't want to be dragged into any spurious activities that could ruin the name we're trying to establish being the academics that we are. 

I have been quite surprised though about the fact that many established scholars do not have sympathy with open access publications. Although I am very thankful that many of the established scholars that I know are very kind and generous enough to share their work to anyone needing it (especially those who do not have the means to access them). All it takes is a polite and respectful email request. 

Coming from a 'third world' country whose immediate goal is to produce a workforce that could fuel the sluggish economy, our institutions do not always put subscription to premium academic journal publishers and databases on the priority list. So I find open access journals to be equalizers.  After all, knowledge should never be a monopoly of anyone, especially only by those who have money. I am well aware that many predatory journals are open access, but this shouldn't be a reason to totally discredit the open access journal publication framework. I'm glad that there's DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) which strictly maintains a list of open access journals we can rely on. 

So, today, I received a review request from a very established journal. And it was because of my connections with very influential people in the field and because of a paper I am about to present in a conference I dreamt of attending when I was still doing my Master's. It came in as a surprise, actually because I never thought they would be open to PhD students reviewing submitted manuscripts in such a prestigious international journal. And it's quite ironic also that another international journal that is not as prestigious as this one has cancelled their review request a few days before their deadline (without telling me why in such a short notice).

To be honest, I had reservations about accepting the review request because it could make or break my career (in the international arena). I am quite unsure about whether I am worthy enough to review an article on a topic I am currently working on and has not even published an article on myself. My idea of a journal article reviewer is someone who her/himself has published on the topic being reviewed. I've published articles, yes, but not on that topic (yet). But I must say that I have read widely on it, and perhaps could say something sensible and substantial about it.

So I accepted the challenge nonetheless because I considered it to be yet another learning experience for me. It's not every day that we could get opportunities like this. If they'll be satisfied with my work, then it could be the start of a fruitful collaboration with them. But if I disappoint them, then I guess I should hope for better luck next time. 

The Philippines I want to Inherit

posted Nov 15, 2016, 12:48 AM by Nicky Guinto   [ updated Nov 15, 2016, 1:03 AM ]

Oh, so you’re from the Philippines. What can you say about your President?”

I am tired of answering this question from practically every person I meet here in Hong Kong. I have even considered writing a script so that I can effortlessly answer the question. Any other Filipino here who is asked the same question would perhaps try to say good things instead of the bad ones that these inquisitive people seem to know much more about. After all, whatever I say about President Duterte almost automatically becomes what they would think of the 100 million or so Filipinos back home and spread all over the world.

Read more: 
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Please click on the photos to read more from the Inquirer's website.

Problematic Textbook*

posted Nov 23, 2014, 3:41 AM by Nicky Guinto   [ updated Nov 24, 2014, 7:31 AM ]

This is to call your attention on a potentially erroneous discussion of commas, and pauses and stops, found in a textbook provided by DepEd. Here are my arguments: (1) The example may have been inadvertently interchanged based on the context given in the book and conventions in academic and social registers of spoken and written English; and (2) The “rules” provided to explain the point of using commas to represent “pauses and stops” in “utterances” may eventually lead to pupils overgeneralizing pauses and stops in utterances printed in texts to be symbolically represented ONLY by commas. To explain these further:

(1) The example may have been inadvertently interchanged based on the context given in the book and conventions in academic and social registers of spoken and written English.


The conversation, as pictured below, does not expressly indicate the names of the speakers. So naturally, the pupils may infer that the girls in the picture know each other very well, that they do not need to address each other deliberately in the conversation. Nevertheless, the context, in consideration of conventions in written English (in which the sample thought balloons seem to inappropriately adopt because of the use of commas – a feature of the written language (Kirkman, 2006)) considered using what we term in higher English as “Direct Address”.

In structural grammar, a “direct address” is a noun by which a person is addressed that can either come before or immediately after an independent clause, set off by a comma (Celce-Murcia & Freeman, 2008). The utterance “Gracia, the girl standing across the street is my best friend.” contains a direct address (Gracia) and an independent clause (the girl standing across the street is my best friend). Therefore, Gracia and the girl standing across the street are two different persons contrary to the explanation of the textbook’s author which can be seen in the following:

The same idea applies in functional grammar, which renames “direct address” as “vocative adjunct”. Vocative adjuncts function to control the discourse by designating a likely “next speaker” (Eggins, 1994). Please see the following example taken from Eggins:


Simon, everyone knows that.


In the utterance, Simon is the vocative adjunct or the direct address, separated by a comma with the rest of the independent clause (everyone knows that). Simon and everyone are clearly two personas.


In the other utterance (Barbie, that girl in red walking behind the four girls, is my sister.), conventions of written English would dictate that it contains a noun phrase (that girl in red walking behind the four girls) embedded within an independent clause (Barbie is my sister.). The noun phrase appears immediately after the subject of the main clause and is separated by two commas from the main clause. Because it is “written” in that form in the thought balloons (the example), it functions as an appositive in the utterance. An appositive is a nominal (a word, phrase, or clause that functions as a noun) renames and clarifies the subject. In other words, the subject and the appositive are supposed to be the same person. Therefore, in the textbook’s example, Barbie and the girl in red walking behind the four girls is the same person contrary to the explanation of the textbook’s author which can be seen below:


            Moreover, an appositive, as it is separated by two commas in the beginning and end to separate it from the main clause is usually non-restrictive. As such, it can be removed from the sentence without necessarily changing the meaning of the main clause.


            Having said these, in the activity part in the next page, considering the accepted rules of usage in academic and social English either in written and spoken form, the following answers should have been correct:



1.       (Questionable!) Jenny/ the old man with a cane/ is my grandfather. (Another example given in the book)

(This example however, means that Jenny is the grandfather; that Jenny is the old man with a cane – which may be confusing because “Jenny” is regarded in society as a female name)


2.      Roy / the boy with a red cap / is my brother. (Roy and boy are the same person)

3.      Judy / the woman with long hair is my aunt. (addressing Judy)

4.      Tony / the boy with a blue T-shirt / is my friend. (Tony and the boy are the same person)

5.      Allan / the boy wearing barong-Tagalog is my classmate. (addressing Tony)



(2) The “rules” provided to explain the point of using commas to represent “pauses and stops” in “utterances” may eventually lead to pupils overgeneralizing pauses and stops in utterances printed in texts to be symbolically represented ONLY by commas.


            Another point I wish to raise may not immediately affect the pupils while learning the meaning-making potentials of pauses and stops in utterances. However, because these kids are in their formative years, they may generalize this “rule” pictured below as “law” when they start learning about the marked differences between the spoken and written forms of English, which may not be much of a problem had the earlier explanations in the textbook followed the more generic meanings that placement of commas in certain places in a “printed” utterance create.



            It must be pointed out as well that in functional grammar (the one which the lesson obviously attempts to adopt), the term “utterance” refers to strands of spoken discourse. Its counterpart, which is “sentence”, is commonly used to refer to strands of written discourse. As it has been indicated earlier, commas are features of written discourse. Forward slash ( / ) should have been mentioned by the author as another option to symbolically represent pauses and stops in an utterance, which ironically appears in the activity in the following page without any mention of it in the lesson proper. Thus, consistency of the lessons and activities was another questionable matter.



            This is, of course, not to discount the credibility of the author and DepEd to write and evaluate the content of the textbook respectively, but to point out that there may be some inconsistencies that may have not been seen in the process of development and production of the textbook perhaps due to the urgent need for such textbook in schools. As a concerned citizen, and a teacher of English myself, I am compelled to ensure that such inconsistencies are properly addressed in the grassroots level so as not leave our children learning potentially false concepts that they may bring along in the next level of their schooling. After all, I am sure we are one in the goal of providing the best possible instruction we can give to them.





 Celce-Murcia, M., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (2008). The grammar book: An EFL/ESL teacher’s course. Singapore: Heinle.

Eggins, S. (1994). An introduction to systemic functional linguistics. London, U.K.: St. Martins.

Kirkman, J. (2006). Punctuation matters, 4th Ed. New York, USA: Routlege.


 * This was in a letter form I forwarded to the Grade 4 teacher who asked her pupils to do the activity.

Hazing reports: The construction of hazing, SLSU, and the alleged suspects

posted Nov 3, 2014, 9:21 AM by Nicky Guinto   [ updated Nov 4, 2014, 5:52 AM ]

DZMM Report
The recent news about another hazing victim in Quezon province has disturbed me, big time - not only because of the death of the victim, but because of how these news organizations framed their news reports, which appeared in the top three search results in Google (see screenshots).   

Journalists, editors and contributors, according to Tinio (2003), “are free to use words and expressions, language style and linguistic structures” in their articles. Their linguistic choices reflect their ideological position on an issue (Faiclough, 1995). Because of the power of media to reach a wide audience, Van Dijk (2001) claims that media has the ability to sustain ideologies and reproduce public opinion. In reference to these notions, there are two points that I wish to raise about the news reports on the recent hazing incident in Quezon province.

Kicker Daily Report
First point: The headlines "Ex-student ng SLSU, patay sa hinihinalang hazing sa Quezon," "Ex-student dies after hazing in Quezon," and "Ex-student dies after alleged hazing in Quezon," place the attribute of the victim (i.e. - a former student) in the subject position of the headlines, as if exclusively associating hazing as a crime that may happen solely to individuals who are students of a school/ University, and creating the impression also that if the victim is not a student, an incident of hazing may not be considered as hazing. R.A. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing law states that hazing may also happen to any individual, not necessarily a student, who wishes to be part of a fraternity, sorority, or organization (Robles, 2006).

If I understood it correctly, the incident happened during the semestral break, which technically makes the victim not anymore part of Southern Luzon State University, until he enrolls again for the following semester (which, sadly, is impossible now). In my opinion, the information that the victim is a former student of a University is not the most important part of the story, and therefore, does not deserve to be emphasized in the reports. If an incident of hazing happened within the official school days, perhaps that's the time when associating the matter to schools/ Universities is justifiable. However, it is possible that because of headlines framed this way, hazing is ideologically sustained as a problem confined only within schools/ Universities, and not a similar problem and responsibility of other sectors of society.

What makes me infuriated (and is my second point here) is that one report had to highlight that the victim is an "ex-student of Southern Luzon State University," as if it is a vital element in the report. Halliday (1994) posits that "preposing" or "fronting" an information in a clause is a way to emphasize that information.

In what seems like an attempt to prepose SLSU to have a very significant connection with the victim, DZMM explicitly specifies the University's acronym in the subject position of the headline and even does the same in the lead: "Isang dating estudyante ng Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) ang nasawi..." 

Kicker Daily did otherwise because they fronted the incident instead of the attributes of the victim in: "Another incident of hazing was reported..." In the report's lead, SLSU is placed only in the rheme (predicate) and served only as supporting information, but still a part of the lead. The lead, according to a University of Florida (n.d.) online lecture, is the most important part of the news and oftentimes the only one readers read after the headline. 

Philstar Report
In contrast to the two reports, PhilStar framed their lead to emphasize what is being done by the police and held back the name of the University in: "Police are now investigating the death of a former state university student..," instead of what seems like partly blaming the University for what happened as it can be inferred from DZMM's and Kicker Daily's reports.

Ironically, the group who are allegedly responsible for the incident were never mentioned in the headlines nor the leads. 


Fairclough, N. (1995). Media discourse. London: Arnold.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1994). An introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd Ed.). UK: Arnold.

Robles, C. (2006). “Republic Act 8089: Anti-Hazing law.” Date retrieved: November 3, 2014 from

Tinio, N. (2003 June). An Analysis on Syntactic and Semantic Factors Found in Newspaper Headlines. Jurusan Sastra Ingris, 5(1), 49-61.

University of Florida. (n.d.). “Learning how to write a news story for broadcast.” Date retrived: November 3, 2014 from

Van Dijk, T. (2001). Critical discourse analysis. In D. Schriffin, D. Tannen, & H. Hamilton (Eds.), The handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 352-371). MA, USA: Blackwell Publishers.

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