August 30, 2006

Pinoys care!

I HAVE been a little remiss in my blogging in this corner these past few days since I put up a separate blog on the Guimaras oil spill. Oops! That should have been the "Solar I oil spill" by virtue of an order by Presidentita Gorilla Macapagal Arroyo. I-am-sorry. (look straight into the camera, try to look sincere, and exhale!)

This is really a national tragedy despite the Tourism Chief's pronouncement that it will hardly make a dent in the country's tourism receipts this year. But what warms my heart is that this catastrophe has brought out a lot of active participation by ordinary citizens in this country.

Many have volunteered to help clean up the oil spill. Those who are unable to go to Ground Zero, have been talking about the issue among families and friends, blogging about it, signing online petitions, getting hair cuts, collecting the hair, etc. Pinoys do care!

We only have one country. We cannot sit and idle the hours away waiting for the government, the legislators, nor Petron or Sunshine Maritime to do something about this disaster. We have to get involved and show how much we are willing to fight and bring those at fault to justice, or simply get our voices heard on the issue. It doesn't matter how small or large the effort is. At least we are doing something. And that's what counts.

August 27, 2006

When sex is just enough

I WAS amused to read a relationship-advice column published on the Web recently. In it, the writer claimed that women don’t have the ability to separate sex and love and will freely give themselves to a man, perhaps their boyfriend, because they love him. Unless, of course, they are “loose women” who sleep with one man after the other, or prostitutes who just do it for the money.

I can’t blame the columnist for thinking this way. First of all, he is a man and wouldn’t know how a woman actually feels about sex—or love—if it bit him in the ass. Also, he is cut from the old-world cloth and probably still thinks that women are not supposed to call men on the phone or ask them out on a date. And, after all, the only woman he has ever been with is his wife, whom he valiantly says will not go to bed with any man she doesn’t love. Now, that’s really sweet. But I wonder how she would feel if trapped in the same room as George Clooney.

Filipino women, however, have already come far from the traditional Maria Clara mold, if they ever fit that stereotype to begin with, and have long been emancipated from the traditional male-female roles in society. Which is not to say that this is right—or wrong, for that matter. But these days, sometimes the borderline between what behavior is considered masculine and feminine has become a bit blurry.

For sure, the Filipino woman’s views on sex have evolved. She is no longer meek and mild and just accepts whatever is “given” to her, so to speak. She just doesn’t “lay back and enjoy it” because she knows this really isn’t the way she will be gratified. She actively participates in the sex act with the man she’s with, initiates it even, and knows how to satisfy herself one way or the other.

So to say that a young woman would only give herself to a man or her boyfriend because she loves him is really naïve-thinking.

As I talk to more and more women these days, going about my little researches on relationships, I find that a lot of them have long cut the love-sex ties. Or dropped the illusion that the ties truly exist, that one is not possible without the other. Meaning that, yes, they can go to bed with a man, their boyfriend or not, without feeling anything for him except pure lust.

Women are not fools either for “giving themselves” to their boyfriends, as the columnist has pegged them out to be on account that, in his mind, women really don’t know whether their boyfriends really love them or are just after their body. They no longer fall for that old come-on “Honey if you love me, you’ll have sex with me” that men used to dangle to their girlfriends.

That’s because many women no longer think of sex as a “form of commitment” to their man but simply a pleasurable act between two people. Of course, women are human beings, too, and have a lot of biological needs, the same as any man. So it is really naïve to think that they would put their reputations and morality ahead of everything else before they, well, scratch that itch.

It may sound really jaded and cynical but this is really the world we live in.

As a woman matures and becomes more confident about herself and her place in the world, she becomes less timid and dares to take risks with her sexuality. Sometimes there is nothing as satisfying as going home with someone you just met, have mind-blowing sex—and not worry about whether or not you’re going to see that person again. It releases stress and tension, burns at least 100 calories (I’m not making this up, you can google it), relaxes you for a good night’s sleep, and refreshes your brain for the next tough day at work.

I even remember reading a piece in Metro magazine a few months ago, authored by Alya Honasan, about how she enjoyed using her vibrator. Here is a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. You go, girl! This alone shatters the myth that: 1) only a man can satisfy a woman, and 2) women can go on without sex forever, poor innocent, despondent, forever-waiting creatures that they are.

The women I’ve talked with who admit to having guiltless sex with men range from their mid-20s to their mid-40s. Of course, they’re not just going to go out and pick up some ordinary guy on the street. More often than not, it is someone they’ve met at a bar or a party. Or introduced by someone they know or trust. They have to like the guy first and find him interesting before they even consider a ride home. “If he’s intelligent, funny and doesn’t sound like a mass murderer, I’ll consider an invitation to his home,” says Martha. Of course, she can’t quite describe to me how a real mass murderer sounds like. “Basta you know!” she retorts, exasperated. But definitely, she has no illusions that there is a “love connection” with every single guy she finds interesting enough to sleep with.

Her friend Destiny admits to even having f__k buddies, those nice male friends you can call for a quick romp sans emotional attachments. “They understand very well where I’m coming from and that all I need for that night is ah…a booty call.” Such buddies are there when you need them at the right time and place. You don’t have to talk about what’s going on in your respective little lives, or what you want to be when you grow up. What ties Destiny and her buddy/ies is their complete lack of guilt about going to bed and not expecting coffee in the morning. If they even reach morning. Most often, she will have her buddy up and running before the clock chimes 2 am “so I can get a good night’s rest. Alone in my bed.” This is a no-nonsense woman who treasures her privacy and her right to get up and go to work the next morning, hassle-free.

These girls aren’t what some square-minded people or pseudo-moralists call “loose.” To me, they are just typical women of the millennium who are clear about what they want in life and where they are going. They are normal intelligent women who are rising fast on the corporate ladder. Also, they are good women. They believe in God, they go to Church, give to the poor and needy. Sure, they go out and have fun hanging out with their gang every so often, and admit to certain physical needs that, well, need to be satisfied. What is so wrong with that?

Is it moral? That’s something you should take up with your God or father confessor, of course. But is it fun? You betcha.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Business Mirror. This piece came out on Aug. 25, 2006. Unsigned painting from

August 26, 2006

Sign the petition!


Please sign this online petition to encourage Petron and the government to clean up the oil spill in Guimaras and pay for the rehabilitation of the affected areas. They also have to help the residents find alternative livelihood sources while the marine resources recover.

Click here to sign the petition.

Thank you.

Site administrator

August 25, 2006

Postings on Guimaras oil spill moved

DUE to the overwhelming resources, documents, news, and views about the Philippines' latest environmental catastrophe, I've created a new blog at SLUDGE.

Petron dilly-dallying on oil spill cleanup

Passion For Reason : Wrong lessons from Exxon Valdez

By Raul Pangalangan

GIVEN the scale of the environmental emergency, Petron seems too laid back in responding to the Guimaras oil spill. Either Petron has not learned any lesson from the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, or it has learned one wrong lesson only too well: that it can shift the blame elsewhere and eventually wash its hands of any responsibility. "ExxonMobil's tactics are well known . a classic case of deny, dupe and delay," said Greenpeace.

On March 24, 1989, minutes past midnight, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in pristine waters in Alaska, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil, the worst oil spill in US history.

First, for the lesson that we're not so sure the government or Petron Corp. bothered to learn. The first action of the US Coast Guard was to immediately close the area to traffic, and dispatch investigators to the scene to assess the damage. By noon the next day, a state and a federal response team was formed. Thereafter the local oil industry group assumed
responsibility for the cleanup, in accordance with existing contingency plans.

Three methods were tried in the effort to clean up the spill: "burning" (during the earliest stages of the spill), then "chemical dispersants" (within the first 24 hours), and then "mechanical cleanup" (after the first 24 hours of the spill).

Now, for the part of the lesson that Petron may like better. Today, 17 years after the incident, Exxon has continued to block the 1994 award of $287 million for actual damages and $4.5 billion for punitive damages, equivalent to a single year's profit by Exxon at that time. Still pending appeal right now, a verdict is expected next month. (Published on the INQ7 web site, Aug. 25, 2006. Click blog title for rest of the story.)

Click here for a map of the oil spill from the World Wildlife Fund web site. Other news at INQ7 and Sunstar web sites.

August 24, 2006

Nurse? Nurse! Hello?

• Fears rising over RP health care crisis


LYLE R. Santos, 28, is a registered nurse who lives in Davao City. Nursing is actually his second degree, he told Business Mirror in an email. In 1999, he graduated from San Pedro College with a degree in Psychology but decided to study nursing at the Brokenshire College a few years after. He got his registered nursing license in 2005 but has yet to actually practice in a hospital.

Like many new graduates who have had difficulty finding a job that pays decent wages, Santos has joined the ranks of many young Filipinos who have seen nursing as a way to improving their economic situation. They see a bright future especially in the United States, which has opened its doors to foreign nurses and other medical practitioners to address a current shortage. The US Senate recently passed an immigration bill, which lifts the cap on the entry of foreign nurses to the US. Independent estimates by recruiters of nurses in the Philippines show a shortage of some 120,000 in the US this year.

Already, Philippine government officials and medical professionals have sounded the alarm of the impact of the continued outflow of Filipino nurses to the US and other countries like the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Pacific nations. According to data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), at least 7,500 nursing personnel and professional nurses have been leaving the Philippines every year for greener pastures abroad. Thus, from 2000 to 2005, about 35,000 Filipino nurses have left the Philippines.

What is even more troubling is that even Filipino doctors have been retraining to become nurses abroad, according to an administrator of a well-known medical school in Manila who requested anonymity. She said over the years, a number of her school’s medicine graduates “have come back and are studying to be nurses instead.” And with enrollment in medical schools on the decline due to the excessive tuition fees and the number of years needed before a medical student graduates, there are also fears that there will not be enough doctors to sustain the Philippine health care system.

“[The future is] bleak if the trend continues,” admits Dr. Modesto Llamas, president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) in an interview. He estimated that “in the last five years, 3,000-4,000 doctors left as nurses [for work abroad].” He said most of them were doctors who were poorly paid in provincial hospitals.

Focus on this troubling phenomenon captured the attention of the public when Dr. Elmer Reyes, who had topped the Medical Board Exams in 2004, announced that he was going to work in the US as nurse. Reyes hails from Lamitan town in war-torn Basilan in Mindanao, and worked in the same hospital where his co-workers were later kidnapped by members of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. "While it pains me to do so, I'm looking forward to going abroad and not to let the opportunity pass," said Jacinto in an interview in Feb. 28 that year, the same day the results of the medical board exams were announced.

The Philippines is currently trying to promote itself to Filipino-Americans and Pacific countries as a center for health and wellness. Residents of Guam, the Northern Marianas, and Palau, for example, have been coming to Manila regularly to get treated in its first-class hospitals like St. Luke’s Medical Center, Asian Hospital, Medical City, and Makati Medical Center.

Santos said he wanted to become a nurse because of the higher pay he would get when he would work abroad. “It's all about the money–to put it bluntly. Before I went to nursing school, I worked as operations assistant for SM Cinema Davao. I was earning a little over the minimum wage and felt that with the pay I was getting, I wouldn’t be able to support myself or a future family [if I was going to have one].” He currently has a girlfriend. He added that he knows of at least two graduates in his batch who have also gone to nursing school.

Santos said he wants to prepare for his upcoming exams. “Since becoming a registered nurse last December 2005, I have solely devoted my time for review…. I chose to take the exams first prior to gaining clinical experience because I believe that once I begin to work, I would not be able to find time to prepare for exams,” he said in his email.

A Web designer on the side, Santos has also put up a blogspot entitled Pinoy R.N., where nurses here and abroad discuss issues concerning their profession and where he also posts announcements of nursing licensure exams. In his blogspot, Santos rages against critics who have called this new trend of Filipino nurses’ migration as a “brain hemorrhage”, akin to the “brain drain” in the country in the 1970’s when many of the Philippines’ brightest left the country which had been put under martial law.

“Nurses in government hospitals are underpaid yet overworked. In some cases, the nurse-to-patient ratio is as bad as 1:50. That's one underpaid and overworked nurse tasked to care for 50 patients with varying needs. As if this is not enough, they are constantly at great risk of losing their hard-earned license and means of livelihood should they commit grave oversights,” he wrote.

In the Philippines, nurses earn at least $2,000 a year compared to the $36,000-starting salary in US hospitals. Santos said: “Filipino nurses working abroad earn more than your average overseas Filipino worker [OFW]. Thus, by simple math, it can be safely assumed that they are able to make more dollar remittances to their families in the Philippines. This means a stronger peso for the economy, lesser cost for social services for the government, families left behind get access to quality education, health care, and a generally better life. It is a well-established fact that OFWs are the lifeblood of our country's economy. This is why OFWs are called ‘modern day heroes.’ Then why discriminate against the OFW nurse?”

To stem the migration of Filipino nurses abroad, two lawmakers, also medical doctors, have filed separate bills in the House of Representatives. House Bill 2700 filed by Rep. Tranquilino B. Carmona (First District, Negros Occidental) forces nurses to render two years of service in local hospitals before they are able to secure a clearance to work abroad by the Philippine Department of Labor. HB 2926 of Rep. Janette L. Garin (First District, Iloilo) also requires registered nurses to work in local hospitals for a minimum of three years as a requirement prior to working abroad.

Santos calls these bills “unfair” and only penalize nurses who want a better life for themselves and their families. “Nursing in the Philippines is generally a thankless job. Nurses are subjected to constant stresses and are exposed to all sorts of diseases on a daily basis. All these endanger both their health and their primary source of income. The remuneration is comparable or near the minimum wage. Working conditions are inhumane especially in government hospitals. Nurses are overworked yet underpaid. To deprive them of an opportunity to improve their lot is utterly unfair.”

But at the rate nurses are leaving, Llamas acknowledged, “there could be a deterioration in health care [in the country].”

While Asian Hospital in Alabang, Muntinlupa said it is still not affected by the nursing migration, Dr. Joel Beltran, hospital administrator, foresees this as a “cause for concern” in the near future. At present, he said, the hospital “continues to hire nurses. There are still a lot of applicants.”

What worries Llamas and Beltran is the declining number of enrollees in medical schools and the rising vacancies in residencies among hospitals.

Beltran said many “teaching hospitals” in Metro Manila have less doctors applying for residencies. Asian Hospital is not one of them. Llamas said fortunately, Indonesian and Singaporean doctors training here are now filling these vacancies. At the Asian Eye Institute at Rockwell, Makati City, for example, this writer was attended to by an Indonesian resident doctor training under her ophthalmologist. “It’s cheaper for them to train here,” said Llamas.

But the problem could get worse as there is now a shortage of students in medical schools. “There are two board exams [for doctors] every year. In the last exam, 1,400 or more passed. So about 2,000-3,000 pass the exams every year. But they are those who took up pre-medicine [courses] from five to nine years ago. Now there are not too many studying pre-med. There is definitely a shortage [of students]. In fact some medical schools had to close shop because there are no enrollees,” added Llamas.

He cited AMA College which had planned to put up a medical school affiliated with the Harvard Medical School. “It only had one or three enrollees,” he said. AMA already has a nursing school.

While he had no overall statistics on the shortage of resident doctors in Metro Manila hospitals, Llamas said at Chinese General Hospital in Manila, where he has a clinic, there is a 10-12 percent shortage in resident doctors.

To help staunch the outflow of Filipino nurses to other countries and keep more doctors in the government hospitals, the 50,000-strong PMA is pushing for the full implementation of the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers. This was signed into law in 1999 and seeks to improve the wages of government health workers and offer them incentives to stay in public hospitals.

“The local governments are not implementing it fully. That’s why government physicians are not getting the benefits due them. Also, the procurement of medicines has been devolved to the local governments and is no longer under the Department of Health. Some doctors are getting demoralized because they are getting substandard medicines. They have complained that the local government usually buys the medicine on the basis of price. If you buy something that is cheap but ineffective, then you’re wasting your money,” said Llamas.

As for Santos, he said he was determined to go abroad and have a better future. “Nurses are human beings too, like any other Tom, Dick, or Harry. They have dreams, aspirations, wants, and needs. If they choose to leave the country to find greener pastures elsewhere, it should not be taken against them, as it is just human nature to satisfy one's need. Each one of us has a right to pursue our goals and dreams. Engineers work in the Middle East so they can earn their keep and realize their dreams; seamen go on long and arduous voyages so they can give their families a glimpse of the good life. Why can't nurses do the same?”

(Originally published in the Business Mirror, Perspective, Aug. 22, 2006. Click here for more on the Empire of Care by Catherine Ceniza Chow, a socio-historical perspective on the Filipino nursing migration to the US.)

August 23, 2006

Petron: No obligation to shoulder cost of oil spill

By Erik de la Cruz
Xinhua Financial News Service

OIL REFINER Petron Corp said it has no obligation to shoulder the cost of cleaning up a massive oil slick from a sunken tanker it chartered, but is "doing everything possible" to contain the spill and help in relief operations.

"Petron is not under any legal or contractual obligation to set aside 10 billion pesos in economic aid or to post a 100-million-peso bond to pay for cleanup as under pertinent Philippine Coast Guard circulars, it is the spiller who is primarily responsible for conducting cleanup operations with the supervision of the Coast Guard," Petron said in a statement to the stock exchange.

Petron was responding to media reports saying a group of fishermen is demanding 10 billion pesos in economic assistance from the company for those affected by the oil spill.

The coast guard has also handed a 100-million-peso bill to Petron to cover the initial cost of the cleanup. (Originally published on INQ7 web site, Aug. 23, 2006. Click blog title for rest of the story.)

WHAT gall! Petron should be made to take responsbility for this oil spill instead of hiding behind the tanker it hired for the purpose of ferrying the company's product. If Petron officials were man enough, they would be doing something positive.

Tell NICK ALCANTARA, Petron chairman and CEO, exactly how you feel about his company's negligence and unwillingness to take responsibility for the years of damage the oil spill have wrought on Guimaras and other neighboring islands which have long been a marine resource. Alcantara's cellphone no. is 0917-898-1322.

You may also write Petron spokeswoman VIRGINIA RUIVIVAR ( about how you want the company to be pro-active in the cleanup instead of letting their officials just cool themselves in their airconditioned offices.


Jail those Petron officials!

Oil slick reaches Panay--Coast Guard
• Arroyo urged to declare W. Visayas under calamity

By Joel Guinto, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Maila Ager, and Veronica Uy

THE OIL slick formed by leaking fuel from a sunken tanker off Guimaras province has reached the coasts of at least two towns in Iloilo province on the nearby island of Panay as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo formed a task force to deal with the environmental disaster two weeks after the Solar I went down August 11.

Fears that the slick could spread further and reach as far as the island municipality of Bantayan in Cebu and an Iloilo congressman urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a state of calamity over the whole of Western Visayas even as the Philippine Coast Guard said the Petron-chartered tanker had sprung a new leak Tuesday.

The disaster is expected to cost 48 million pesos in lost marine resources and affect 2,500 fisherfolk, Senator Edgardo Angara said, breaking this down into: seaweed, 13.4 million pesos; milkfish, 20 million pesos, and municipal fisheries, 14.6 million pesos.

In Manila, the owner of a chain of hair salons has ordered all his 200 branches and franchises nationwide to collect customer’s hair after learning from international environmental group Greenpeace that human hair can prove valuable in containing the oil.

Japanese and American experts were scheduled to arrive in the country on Tuesday to help in cleanup efforts. Petron is expecting another team it is hiring to arrive within the week. (Originally published on the INQ7 web site, Aug. 23, 2006. Click blog title for rest of the story.)

TWELVE days after the oil tanker Solar I sank, leaking crude oil into the rich waters of Guimaras, Petron Corp. is still talking about bringing in another foreign team to help clean up the sludge. Or talking to this and that expert on what they should do. What were its officials doing for the last one-and-a-half weeks? Twiddling their goddamned thumbs?! These highly-paid scumbags should be out there leading the cleanup themselves with their employees! But no! They are just letting the residents in the area, environmentalists and kind-hearted citizens do the hard labor. Afraid your Hugo Boss suits would be dirtied eh?

(To those who still don't know, the Philippine National Oil Co., a Philippine government-owned and -controlled corporation is part owner of Petron, along with Saudi Aramco, while 20 percent of the company shares are owned by the public. I hope you're not one of them. Click here for the list of its officials. Start picketing their houses!)

And please! I can't stand any more of the company spokeswoman's half-assed explanations and contentions that the tanker is no longer leaking. The sludge is already spreading to Panay, another fertile ground for marine resources and possibly to Bantayan Island, north of Cebu. Time is being wasted with the Petron management just blah-blahing. Where's the real action? Even Petron Foundation has yet to speak up and offer its two cents on how to help the residents in the area cope with the loss of their livelihood.

Once the sludge is cleaned up, these Petron officials should be locked up in Bicutan with a host of hard-core criminals and the keys to their cells thrown away. They are worse than those Bicutan deadbeats because they are murdering an entire region's livelihood with their gross irresponsibility! P100 million is nothing compared to the environmental destruction and loss of livelihood the residents in those areas tainted by the sludge will have to suffer for years and years to come.

Remember Alaska and Exxon Valdez!

For more on the Oil Spill, click here and here. Read up on Petron and more of its lies.

August 20, 2006

Churchill for our times

"If you will not fight for the right, when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War,
Volume 1: The Gathering Storm (1948)
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1940-1945)

For more on Sir Winston Churchill, click here

August 19, 2006

In the bedroom

ONE of my all-time favorite books has to be Madam Secretary, by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. I love this woman because she is a role model for women everywhere. In her memoirs, Albright talks about her humble beginnings—her family fled to the United States to escape the Communists in Czechoslovakia—her formative years and education, as well as her subsequent work in foreign policy. (Current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that Albright’s father, Joseph Korbel, a diplomat and, later, an academician, was one of the major influences in her life. Why Condi eventually turned out the way she has should not be blamed on Mr. Korbel.)

Albright’s track record of accomplishments alone should’ve been enough to get her that appointment as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State. However, as she revealed in her autobiography, the person who had a real hand in Albright’s appointment was none other than the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. If I remember the quote right, when the couple talked about the appointment, Hillary told her husband that appointing Albright to that esteemed government post “would make a lot of women everywhere happy [or was it proud?].”

It helped that Hillary personally liked Albright. She identified with the elder stateswoman in that the latter was also intelligent, had worked hard to get to where she was, and was downright funny. (I believe it was Albright who thought of holding a song-and-dance show where the Apec state ministers performed onstage, as a way of ending their regular big meet.) So all things being considered, as Bill Clinton would intimate in his own memoirs, the views of his wife in government affairs certainly carry a lot of weight.

It is safe to assume that everywhere else, the relationship between husband and wife will be reflected in their individual attitudes, dealings, decisions and respective relationships with the people around them. One female CEO of a multinational company I recently interviewed confessed, for example, that in choosing the spokesperson of her company’s products, she had to consult her husband on his views of the several candidates who were lined up for the lucrative job.

If you notice in the company gatherings where spouses of officials are present, employees gather around the significant other, trying to suck up and impress their boss’s wife, or husband as the case may be. Corporate people are only too aware of the dynamics that goes on in the bedroom. As my friend Teddy says, at the end of the day, the boss goes home to his wife and she is the first person he sees in the morning. Between those very long hours, a lot of things may have been discussed and decisions over one employee’s career or a business deal can be made or unmade.

We should only wish that the politics that goes on within four walls has a positive benefit for all, as in the case of Madeleine Albright’s appointment. It won points with women all over the world who could now go beyond dreaming to be just some powerful CEO’s secretary (“Get me coffee and call my wife because I’ll be home late”) to actually being Secretary of State of the most powerful nation in the world. But I know of some cases where a pretty assistant is fired or reassigned elsewhere just because the boss’s missus suspects her husband is having an affair with her. The boss usually has no choice but to comply with his ranting jealous wife’s demand just to keep the peace in the bedroom. Never mind if he has to lose an exceptional employee.

Props go to the CEO who is able to resist his wife’s nervous ravings, or at the end of the day he is able to stick to what he feels is the best decision for his company despite the concerns his missus may have expressed. There are only a few good men I know who can do this, and almost none at all among married female executives. (I think this has to do with us women really being a consultative lot.)

Anyway, if you do find yourself in a position where sucking up to the boss’s wife is a necessity, make sure you do it with a lot of style. There is nothing more hateful or laughable than a suck-up who is so obvious in his or her motives. If you want to give the missus a gift, for example, make sure that you do so only during an important occasion like Christmas. Don’t give her gifts every holiday on the calendar, including Independence Day!

In parties, the male staff can offer the boss’s wife a drink. For the females, offer the missus some food. But ask her first instead of shoving the stuff in her face when she doesn’t even want it. That spells SUCK-UP all over the place. Say something like, “Ma’am, would you want me to get you something from the buffet?” It sends the message that you are a thoughtful person.

You don’t have to be at the missus’s side every minute of the gathering. That, too, is bad form. Besides, your boss expects you to mingle among clients or his other friends. Not unless he expressly appoints you to stick to his wife’s behind no matter what, especially if the missus is not too comfortable in talking to other people. That will still be a plus for you because she will always look for that one person who makes her feel comfortable in such affairs. Still, don’t forget your party manners and excuse yourself from the missus to say hello to important clients even for just five minutes. This will create a good impression of the company and its people, something your boss would surely appreciate.

Of course, do your research and find out what the boss’s missus or Mrs. CEO’s husband are interested in. This will facilitate the flow of conversation when you see her, or him. But don’t go so far as to, say, learn an extreme sport like skydiving just because The Hubby is into it. Heavens! Risk losing your life just to get that all-important promotion? (Oh, don’t be shy. I know a lot of you out there are only too willing to go that far. Kiss ass!) It helps to read about his interest so you can discuss it intelligently with him without actually experiencing parachuting from 6,000 feet up in the sky!

Because of its ramifications, what goes on in your boss’s bedroom should be of interest to you. Who knows, the next VP could just be you… if you play your cards right. And like I said, with style.

('Something Like Life' is my regular Friday column in the Business Mirror. 'In the bedroom' was originally published on Aug. 18, 2006.)

August 18, 2006


MY friend Des Ferriols seems to have kickstarted a round of weddings among my friends and family.

My first cousin Patrick Manuel got married to his fiancee, Gina Carlson, last July 29 at the St. Joseph of Cupertino Chapel at the Naval Air station on Whidbey Island.

The Catholic rites were officiated by Fr. David R. Young. Patrick's older brother, Tony, served as best man, while Gina's sister Tami, was her maid of honor.

Patrick and Tony are the sons of my Aunt Diana, and Uncle Bueno who moved to the States eons ago and has been residing in Oak Harbor, a lovely quiet area in Washington State which I remember for its many trees and wildlife. (I actually saw my first live squirrel in my aunt's backyard! Cool.) Meanwhile, Gina is the daughter of Jan Carlson of Bellingham. (In photo is Patrick and Gina dancing. Such a cute couple no?)

Last Aug. 7, it was the turn of my "anak" Jude Marfil, who got married to her partner, Bob Schwalbach in Saipan, in civil rites performed by Superior Court Judge David A. Wiseman.

According to Jude, who was one of my best reporters in the old Manila Standard, they will be in Manila this September visiting family and friends. Jude now works in a law office in Saipan.

The couple's best man was former Northern Marianas Gov. Juan N. Babauta who was Bob's former boss, while maid of honor of sorts was Agnes Donato, a reporter for the Saipan Tribune. (In photo is Jude and Bob exchanging their vows with Judge Wiseman in the background.)

Cheers to the newlyweds and may you lead happy and prosperous lives full of love!

Oh and congratulations to my mom and dad too! It's their wedding anniversary today. 51 years and still going strong!

(Patrick and Gina's photo courtesy of Jan Carlson. Jude and Bob sent their photo.) Starbucks

HAVING coffee with her amigas last Thursday afternoon at the Starbucks outlet in the Power Plant Mall was the Dancing Queen herself, Tessie Aquino-Oreta. She wasn't gyrating this time, merely hanging out with her friends with their faces pulled and stretched to their foreheads, just like the ex-senator. Or maybe the Balato Queen just looks young and refreshed these days because she had just recently visited Chivasom, that chi-chi spa in Thailand. How wonderful that the former senator has put the P1 million mahjong balato from Erap to good use. (Segue to...Abba's "See that girl, watch her swing, she is the dancing queeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen.")

August 17, 2006

Oh goody! More nurses to the US!

UST takes two top slots in medical board
• 55 percent of examinees pass

(UPDATE) MEDICAL graduates from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) gave the country’s oldest university a one-two finish in the Physician Licensure Examination given early this week, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Thursday evening.

Patrick Leonardo Go Co achieved a rating of 86.83 to place first, followed by Bernadine Co Chua, who got 85.00 percent.

Erwyn Carpela Novilla of the Cebu Institute of Medicine (CIM) placed third with a rating of 84.67 percent.

Rounding off the top five are Beodaldy Paterno Bombeo of the Cebu Doctors College of Medicine in fourth, with 84.58 percent; and tying for fifth, Pamela Isa Evangelista Basilio of De La Salle University(DLSU)-Dasmariñas, and Leonard Cheung Lim of the University of the Philippines (UP)-Manila, both with 84.50 percent. (For the rest of the exam nopnotchers, click blog title. Originally published on the INQ7 web site, Aug. 17, 2006.)

SERIOUSLY, congratulations to all the new doctors!

However, it is a reality that a lot of physicians, especially those working in government hospitals around the country, have been leaving us to work as nurses in the US, UK, and the Middle East. It's sad, but you should know how difficult it is to make a living as a government doctor or rural physician. Still, we do have an impending health care crisis on our hands. No good doctors in the barrios and no more competent nurses even in our premier hospitals. Who's gonna take care of the sick when all these professionals leave?

August 16, 2006

Arroyo survives 2nd impeachment fight

PRESIDENT Arroyo survived the second impeachment complaint filed against her after the House Committee on Justice dismissed it for lack of substance, ABS-CBN News reported Wednesday.

"Ang sakit na nilait pati abugado namin pero ang akusado hindi prinisinta (They insulted our lawyers but the accused was not even presented)," a disappointed Minority Leader Francis Escudero said after the votes were cast.

Committee members voted 56-24 against the complaint during the continuation of the panel deliberation.

Once again, the overwhelming number of administration allies rallied behind the President. (Originally published on ABS-CBN News web site, Aug. 16, 2006. Click on blog title for rest of story.)

ARE you people even surprised? Didn't we all expect this to happen, despite our fervent pleas to the good Lord above? Yeah, I know how you feel. It sucks. It really does.

August 11, 2006 Cirkulo

SEEN enjoying a delicious meal at Jay Gamboa's Cirkulo restaurant along Pasay Road this lunchtime were first cousins Choy Cojuangco and Rocky Lopa, elder brother of Aquino family spokesman Rapa Lopa, and a female companion. Choy, former head honcho of Piltel and now Boracay resort owner, was dressed down as usual, in a striking red T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, while he and Rocky's two other male lunchmates, possibly Chinese or Japanese businessmen, were all snazzy in their American-style suits. Well in this country, when you're surname is Cojuangco or any de buena famille surname for that matter, you can damn well dress up however you want. It helps that Choy can get away with it because of his tall, suntanned, boyish good looks. Yum!

By the way, is it true that Choy and society chef Binggoy Remedios have already parted ways? This is truly bad news considering that Manila's 500 have been going all the way to Boracay to feast on Binggoy's inspired culinary creations at La Traviesa, his restaurant at Choy's resort. Bad news for whom? Well definitely not for our favorite Boracay chef since we hear a lot of investors are willing to sink in the money to open a new restaurant for him. And you can be sure that they won't be insisting that Binggoy include something as pedestrian as spaghetti or other ordinary dishes in his elegant Spanish mestizo menu.

Was the Airline Plot a Rerun?

A decade ago authorities in Asia foiled an al-Qaeda plot eerily similar to the one just stopped in Great Britain


THOUGH details are still sketchy, the broad outlines of the foiled plot to bomb airliners plying the Atlantic are eerily reminiscent of a decade-old attempt by an al-Qaeda linked group to massacre hundreds of airline passengers — in that case aimed at U.S. airlines flying over the Pacific. That plot too targeted a dozen or so airliners and aimed to use a liquid explosive, a nitroglycerine-based concoction that was to have been smuggled on to the aircraft in hand-baggage. The plot, codenamed Bojinka — a play on the Serbo-Croatian word for explosion — by its Pakistani planners, came frighteningly close to fruition.

In December of 1994, according to U.S. court documents, Ramzi Yousef and Wali Khan Amin Shah, were instrumental in the bombing of a Philippine airlines flight en route to Japan that was a dry run for their much more ambitious attempt to blow up a dozen jets simultaneously. They managed to smuggle a container of liquid explosive concealed in contact lens solution aboard the airplane on an earlier flight, leaving it under a seat in row 26. The explosion killed a Japanese man and forced the plane to make an emergency landing. (Originally published in the TIME online edition, Aug. 10, 2006. Click blog title for rest of the story.)

THE immediate impact of the airline terrorist plot is the drop in airfares to the US or the UK. While we don't want to take advantage of other nations' problems, it must be said that this is a good opportunity for the Philippine government to ramp up its tourism marketing program. You know very well that if the same thing happened to us here, the other countries would be doing the same thing and taking advantage of the situation. The difference is, the Philippines is more desperate for those tourist dollars. We have been so left behind in the global tourism growth.

August 10, 2006

RP worker must toil longer for a 'Big Mac', says UBS survey

By A. F. Cusi III

A WORKER in Manila would have to work the second longest compared with other Asian counterparts just to buy one Big Mac at P85, according to the latest survey results released by the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS).

The 2006 UBS Prices and Earnings study showed that it would take 81 minutes for an average worker in Manila just to purchase a large McDonald’s hamburger sandwich. This is also way above the global average of 35 minutes.

“Wages only become meaningful in relation to prices, i.e., what can be bought with the money earned,” the study said. “A globally available product like a Big Mac can make the relationship between wages and prices much clearer.”

In other cities across Asia, however, it would take lesser time to buy one Big Mac.
In Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore, it would take employees 10, 20, 17 and 22 minutes, respectively.

Although taking much longer minutes than the first four cities mentioned, it is still less difficult for workers in Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Delhi, and Bangkok than those in Manila to avail themselves of the popular product of McDonald’s. Working for a Big Mac in these urban areas would take the corresponding 33, 44, 59, and 67 minutes.

The longer minutes required in Manila may be further understood upon the review of its other rankings in the same UBS survey. Although prices of goods in Manila are relatively cheap as indicated by its 67th rank out of the 70 cities surveyed, it placed 69th in both wages and domestic purchasing power.

At the regional level, the study indicated that the Great Divide may be the largest in Asia.

“In no other region is the price spread between the most expensive and the cheapest city greater than in Asia,” it said.

Tokyo pays the highest wages in Asia despite the decline of Japanese capital since the last UBS survey in 2003. Together with Taipei and Seoul, it also exhibits the highest level of purchasing power.

While Asia hosts Tokyo, which is fifth among the world’s most expensive cities, the region is also the location of others at the opposite end of the scale. These include Delhi, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur.

Occupying the middle ground in terms of prices and wages are Singapore, Taipei, and two Pacific Rim cities such as Sydney and Auckland. The last two also made it to the world’s top ten in terms of strong purchasing power. (Originally published in the Business Mirror, Aug. 10, 2006)

August 09, 2006

3 in 10 Filipinos would migrate

SINCE 2002
Survey records ‘lowest level of hopefulness’

By Joel Guinto

AN independent survey has recorded “the lowest level of public hopefulness in the Philippines since July 2002,” with 21 percent of Filipinos seeing the country as hopeless and 32 percent undecided.

Still, 49 percent continue to see hope.

The results of the July 2006 Ulat ng Bayan survey by Pulse Asia Incorporated also showed three in 10 Filipinos, or 30 percent, would migrate given the opportunity with a slightly larger percentage, 37 percent, shunning this option, and 32 percent undecided.

“Pulse Asia undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort,” the research firm said in a statement releasing its latest findings.

The survey was conducted from June 24 to July 8, when the serial filing of impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and continued military restiveness were among the major news events. (Originally published on the web site, Aug. 9, 2006. Click blog title for the rest of the story.)

DO you feel hopeless?

I can sense the hesitation in you.

Do you feel hopeless, because everywhere you turn, there is rampant graft and corruption? From the lowly kotong traffic aide, to the taxman, and the legislators being dangled more pork barrel funds if they vote against the impeachment of GMA, and GMA herself who is getting sick because she can't stand herself and her lies?

Do you feel hopeless because what you earn can no longer support even the smallest of your expenses? Basic clothes, food, and rent. You've even drastically reduced your entertainment longer going out as much, drinking with your friends and such.

Do you feel hopeless because our nurses, teachers, accountants and other professionals are fleeing in droves, moving to other countries to earn higher pay to support their remaining families here? Does this mean the imminent collapse of our health care system and the steady erosion of the educational competencies of our youth?

Do you feel hopeless because no one seems to be doing anything about our wretched lives, and we are content whimpering and whining about our desperate country, not knowing what to do anymore except tighten our belts some more, or like the rest, just throw in the towel and leave?

What is troubling about this Pulse Asia survey is not how many actually think the situation here is hopeless or otherwise, but how many are seemingly undecided about what they actually feel! What is this? We don't even have an opinion about the whole matter? Are we too poor and hungry we can't even think straight anymore?

I know how you feel. It's really no longer just a question of money. Like in 1996, when the economy went bust, the peso plunged and we had problems paying off our debts. It is not just financial desperation that we are facing but an unsure future...where is the country headed? Where are going? Are things going to change? Are we going to change?

A former professor, now based in Canada, recently told me that he didn't leave the Philippines, but was running away from the government. Here was one Filipino who had a good job, was paid well and was accomplished in his field. But I empathize with his reasons for leaving. He has a family and has to think of his kids' future. He was brave enough to start all over again in some strange foreign country just for the sake of his children. How many more brilliant minds like him will leave? This worries me.

I too had left the Philippines. This was in 2004. I sold most of my stuff, thinking I was no longer coming back. But the expat's life was not for me. I returned to an even bleaker situation than when I had left. But like it or not, I have to stake my future in this beautiful country of ours. This country has a lot of potential, if only the powers that be can nurture it instead of blindly robbing taxpayers. This country has a lot of resources that only need to be properly harnessed and cultivated. And only if we have the discipline to follow the laws so we can demand the same from our leaders.

Personally, I am one of the 49% who are hopeful. I can only believe things will turn around. I know this government won't last. And this hopeless situation will not be forever. We waited a long time before succeeding against Marcos. This is nothing. We shall overcome. Soon.

August 08, 2006

Madonna 'crucified'

The Queen of Pop does it again!

Vatican accuses her of blasphemy and provocation

ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- Madonna has staged a mock-crucifixion in the Italian capital, ignoring a storm of protest and accusations of blasphemy from the Roman Catholic Church.

In a sold-out stadium just a mile from Vatican City, the lapsed-Catholic diva wore a fake crown of thorns as she was raised on a glittery cross during the Rome stop of her worldwide "Confessions Tour."

The Vatican had accused her of blasphemy and provocation for even considering staging the sham crucifixion on its doorstep, anger Madonna further enflamed prior to the show by inviting Pope Benedict to come and watch. (Originally published on the CNN web site, Aug. 7, 2006. Click on blog title for rest of the story.)

WHEN will the Vatican/Catholic Church ever learn? First, their leaders raised a howl of protest against the badly-written book 'Da Vinci Code' and its subsequent film, which critics panned the world over, and now they're targetting their sights on Madonna?

Everyone knows Madonna always does these controversial stunts to attract people's attention and get them to watch her concerts. And of course, the Vatican just played into her manipulative hands and stirred up more interest in her concerts by commenting about it. One Cardinal even called for her excommunication! Hello! Madonna is no longer a practising Catholic! Do you think she'd care that she'd be excommunicated?

Gads, this woman is a genius! I love her music and the way she has reinvented herself year after year. Now if you take her too seriously, it's really your problem not hers.


(For more on the Madonna's 'crucifixion', click here. Photo from MSNBC web site.)

Iraq Incident Was Fueled by Whiskey, G.I. Says


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 7 — One of the soldiers accused in the rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of the girl and her family said the incident took place after a morning of cards and whisky, when a member of his unit began pestering the group to kill some Iraqis, according to testimony today from an army investigator.

The investigator, Special Agent Benjamin Bierce, testified in an American military hearing today about statements made by one of the accused, Specialist James P. Barker, that gave a graphic and chilling account of the deaths.

Specialist Barker described a former soldier, Steven D. Green, a private who was discharged in May after a psychiatric evaluation, as having taken the lead both in planning the incident and in firing the first shot.

Mr. Bierce testified that Specialist Barker said that while he and another soldier took turns holding down the girl and sexually assaulting her, they heard gunshots from the bedroom, where Private Green had taken three of her relatives.

Private Green then came into the living room looking agitated and said something to the effect of “They’re all dead — I just killed them,’’ Mr. Bierce testified.

(Originally published in the New York Times, Aug. 7, 2006. Click on blog title for the rest of the story. Photo from

BRING those kids home, George Bush! Too many of your young soldiers are already suffering from "combat stress." Are all these violent incidents worth it?

UPDATE: 60 percent of Americans oppose Iraq war–poll. Click here for the whole story.

August 07, 2006

Help! My parents are killing me!

Passive Smoke 'Bone Risk Boost'

SECOND-HAND smoke increases the risk of the bone disease osteoporosis, researchers have found.

The US/Chinese study showed exposure to passive smoking boosted pre-menopausal women's osteoporosis risk threefold.

An International Osteoporosis Foundation meeting in Toronto, also heard men, as well as women, increase osteoporosis risk by smoking.

Experts said the studies added to understanding of the link between smoking and the bone disease. Click here for the rest of the story.

(Originally published on the BBC News web site, Aug. 6, 2006. Read also my earlier post, 'Waiting to Inhale,' June 28, 2006.)

August 05, 2006

Irwin Ver to Gringo: Keep Hiding!

Does Irwin Ver know where Gringo Honasan is? In the second installment of Pinoy Pod's interview of the son of the late Gen. Fabian Ver, Marcos' most loyal henchman, Irwin talks about the last time he saw Marcos, his loyalty to the late strongman, and his message to Honasan, who was one batch below him at the Philippine Military Academy. Irwin says he still wants to come home to the Philippines. (Please click on the blog title to download the audio. Photo from the San Francisco Chronicle web site.)

August 04, 2006

'Sigaw ng bangaw'

Dispatches from the Enchanted Kingdom
By Manuel Buencamino*

I was at St.Luke's Hospital when The Patient arrived. Security was tight so I morphed myself into a fly. I wanted to observe without being observed.

"What's wrong with her?" someone asked.

A doctor answered, "fever, running nose (sic), sore throat, dry cough, and body aches."

"Sounds like the flu," someone said.

Mike Defensor said it was the flu. Ignacio Bunye said he recently recovered from it. And Arthur Yap said "she was lucid".

Lucid?!? Why was Art reassuring the public about the patient's mental health? Was she suffering from dementia? Hmmm… so I buzzed over to the patient's wheelchair. To observe. Up close.

On the way to the elevator, an aide was indiscreetly telling the patient's doctor, the renowned hepatologist Juliet Cervantes, "she hardly slept last week… she was obssessed with her Sona…no one could get any sleep either."

The patient overheard her aide's remark so she said, "Please, just tell them I'm sick. My throat hurts and my lungs are congested."

The aide apologized for his indiscretion.

She replied, "Thank you…. Taos pusong pasasalamat sa inyo. Thank you, governors."

Meanwhile, the nurse asked the patient if she was comfortable in the wheelchair. The patient grinned and said, "Yes. Thank you…. Taos pusong pasasalamat sa inyo. Thank you, mayors."

In the elevator, the operator asked, " What floor?"

The patient replied, "Super region, of course. Thank you, generals."

Something seemed odd so I zoomed over to the doctor who was in a huddle with one of the patient's aides.

"She's been doing that since the Sona," whispered the worried aide.

"Doing what?" asked the doctor.

"The Sona… she can't snap out of it…she keeps repeating bits and pieces of it…like the movie 'Groundhog Day'," he replied.

The elevator stopped. The doors slid open. The patient asked, "Are we in the super region yet? " Uneasy glances were exchanged but everyone remained silent.

In the corridor on the way to the patient's suite, the patient proudly pointed out to her entourage, "my father built this road we are on… it's the Halsema highway from Bondoc all the way to the Jollibee in Basilan…Thank you, congressmen."

And then she asked for her laptop.

"No laptop. You have to rest," the doctor said.

Defiant, she replied, " I just want my laptop but if you want to pick up old fights, I'm game." And she paused for the applause. And that's when the doctor decided to test her lucidity.

"Do you know where you are?" asked the doctor.

The patient looked around the hospital hallway, noted all the high-tech medical gadgets lined up against the wall and said, " Yes. I'm in the cyber-corridor."

Inside the patient's suite now. The doctor probed some more. She asked, "Do you know who you are? What is your name?"

The patient turned her head slowly and, with a voice even lower and raspier than Linda Blair's voice in the movie, The Exorcist, grinned and replied, "My name is legion; for we are many."

The doctor crossed herself, injected the smirking patient with a powerful sedative, and ran screaming out of the room. All in two seconds flat.

The patient called out after the doctor, "I was only kidding…it's a joke between Sigaw ng Bayan and me." Too late. The doctor was already in the hospital chapel praying to Sta. Teresa de Avila.

Back at the hospital entrance lobby, Art was yapping to the press, "The President is very much in control, she's not sedated… she was even giving official instructions and was asking what's happening to the projects and to the mega regions." And he added, "Oh, and she was making us laugh when we were in the elevator." The reporters laughed too.

Friday morning, at the nurses' station, the intercom buzzed. I heard a hungry voice I heard before - on an audio-tape - asking for something to eat. The head nurse also recognized the voice as the
voice on the tape so she told her staff, "The Patient wants her breakfast. Take it to her. Quick. Quickly."

Ten minutes later the intercom buzzed again. The same familiar voice - still hungry - came on and said, " Hello…hello nurse…hello nurse…yun dagdag…yun dagdag…"

*Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms (

(Originally published in Business Mirror, Opinion, Aug. 2, 2006. Photos from and

The Power and the Glory

“Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat.”
John F. Lehman

WHENEVER my friends and I talk about corruption in government or feuds among cliques in Malacañang, the country’s seat of government, I always wonder aloud if any of us would still remain the same were we occupying the same high positions that come with so much power and privilege.

At a private affair I attended recently, I had a chance to talk with an old friend, now a Cabinet secretary, after so many years of not seeing each other. I joked to a photographer nearby to snap a shot of me with the government official lest he forget that he ever knew me now that he is among the high and mighty.

But I doubted that this will happen, as evidenced by this guy’s entire behavior at the event. He arrived at the venue 30 minutes before the appointed hour, sans bodyguards and fanfare. Seeing there were still not a lot of guests yet, he quietly parked himself at a bench and started texting. When I walked over to greet him, we started chatting and joking like the old friends that we are. And when the other guests arrived, also former colleagues like myself, this Cabinet secretary acted like it was only yesterday when we all last saw one another. How very refreshing to see someone unchanged by the trappings of his powerful position.

In contrast to this Cabinet secretary, one other guest at the event, a popular legislator, sent his staff in advance to ask whether the ceremony would start on time. Not only that, when the legislator arrived, he brought his own photographer. What the… ? This was not a public event where taxpayers’ money would be spent. It was more like a gathering of friends. Someone later compared him to a failed vice-presidential candidate who also would go around with an aging photographer in tow to private functions. Tacky.

This reminds me of another ranking government official, who, when he was still in the private sector, already had a large retinue of bodyguards and a long lineup of backup vehicles. “Daig pa ang presidente ng Pilipinas!” many bitched. Okay, in his defense, this guy was not well off when he was growing up. He was a working student but because of his hard work, he quickly climbed up the corporate ladder. In fairview, he has been a big help to his and his wife’s families, financially. So maybe we should excuse him for assigning a bodyguard to accompany his wife whenever she goes shopping. Or constantly bragging that he has the ear of the President. Hmmm….

But, let’s face it, power is intoxicating. Even the media isn’t immune to its charms. We like it when we feel we are needed by publicists desperate to meet their client’s quota of writeups for the month. We feel ever so important when we can dispense a favor to them, even if it’s using just one tiny press release. In return, publicists are willing to give us the moon. Well, almost. I remember one publicist telling me about how an editor would call him up to borrow his car and a driver so she could go to her hair salon—which was just in the same neighborhood she lived in. Now that’s just batty.

And, admit it, those of us without power somehow envy people who have it. Especially if we think they don’t deserve it. At the back of our mind, we wish we had that much influence over people, policies and events. That, at a snap of a finger, we can order a restaurant closed down for serving bad and expensive food, or fire a stupid saleslady at your favorite shoe store for not knowing what loafers are, or be allowed to cut ahead of the long snaking lines at the international airport’s x-ray machine. Silly things like that. Of course, we all just want world peace, right?

Make no mistake, though—power flows not only at high levels of society. It permeates even in poor classes—the burly istambay sa kanto who can demand free beers from a sari-sari store owner, the local Shylock relentlessly imposing usurious loan rates whenever his kapitbahay tries to borrow money, or the neighborhood shabu supplier getting kids to distribute his stuff. Anywhere you go, there will be people who have influence, in positions of authority, and who will abuse their power. And there will be those who will cower in fear or awe of them.

I think those who fatally succumb to power’s power are probably insecure about themselves or what they are doing. They haven’t reconciled themselves to who they really are and what they ought to do in life. Perhaps, within there is a constant struggle of pleasing other people, or doing what is expected of them, and they end up only becoming miserable because they can’t do what they really want to do. Like a politician who just really enjoys being a banker but has to please his political family so he keeps legislating away. Or maybe a chief executive of a company who still has to show his former classmates and colleagues how far he has come from his days of destitution. It’s sad and pitiful. You want to kill them, but you don’t.

Now that’s real power.

(Originally published in Business Mirror, Something Like Life, Aug. 4, 2006)