February 26, 2007

Monday bitching...not remembering the Edsa revolt

IT was the Edsa People Power anniversary yesterday...did anyone actually notice? I didn't. The day just passed like a normal Sunday (except that I had a migraine), and except for today's blathering in the news about the little interest paid to the (non)event, I wouldn't even have remembered.

It's sad really. After putting ourselves on the line in those dark days, nothing much has changed in Philippine politics. The Marcoses are still in power (although limited to Ilocos Norte), those in the fiery Opposition are now blabbering apologists for the present corrupt dispensation, while poverty and corruption in the country have grown in dramatic proportions. What's worse all the old political fools have come out of the woodwork again to wreak havoc in the coming elections. Can't you just die already?

The issues haven't changed. I can tell, I've been a journalist for so long and we're still talking about the same problems as in 1986. The Department of Agrarian Reform hasn't finished distributing land to the landless. Over at the Department of Agriculture, they're still talking about supporting palay prices and fending off sugar imports, as well as the lack of farm-to-market roads and marketing suppport to the farmers. At the Bureau of Internal Revenue, there is massive talk of running after tax evaders/avoiders, and yet it has yet to fully computerize its taxpayer base. At the Department of Trade and Industry, how much incentives to be given to foreigners to get them to sink in their monies here or even stay in the country is still a hotly debated topic.

The only issue that has changed is the amount of money going to line the pockets of our greedy bureaucrats! From only millions during Marcos's time, the current estimates run into the billions of pesos. Bastards!

Mang Pandoy buhay ka pa ba?

February 23, 2007

Striving for perfection

Something Like Life
Feb. 23, 2007

ARE you a perfectionist?

Do you drive your staff nuts poking your nose in every little detail of the work they do, allowing them nary a chance to breathe and come up for air?

Do you find yourself taking over your staff’s work when you think the window of success is closing, then you blame yourself constantly for hiring “stupid idiots” to do challenging jobs?

And, by the way, don’t you think you’re giving yourself a heart attack?

How about you? Is your boss a perfectionist?

Do you, every once in a while, think of hiring an assassin to get rid of him just because of the way he snarls you into submission to do your job his way?

Do you feel no longer challenged at work because even if you think you’ve done a good job, your boss is still going to blast you for allegedly being too slow, inefficient or incompetent?

Perfectionist managers are present in any company or organization. Sometimes they can be good for the institution because top management can count on such obsession for perfection to ensure a project is ably completed and on time. On the other hand, perfectionist managers can end up as the stumbling blocks to the efficient operation of an organization. Instead of becoming leaders, they become obsessive-compulsive micromanagers.

Take Harvey, for instance. He was appointed head of his department in a rather distinguished company in Makati City just two years ago. It was a promotion long overdue; after all, he had invested most of his working life in that company. He was self-sacrificing to a fault, according to his friends, and would rather stick it out even when all his colleagues had left the company. He was just optimistic that things would eventually turn around.

Harvey was the type who would do overtime work even when it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t because he was sucking up to his bosses. It was because he was just a workaholic at heart. So when he was promoted, his friends gave him a grand party. He truly deserved it. Even his colleagues at work felt Harvey should have gotten the top post in the sales department years ago.

After a few months, Harvey’s staff started grumbling and complaining among themselves about the way he rode them hard. It was as if he was forcing them, people who were just his equals before, to adopt his own work habits, to the point that they were sometimes asked to sacrifice their weekends to make sure their sales quotas were met before cut-off dates. He would constantly nag them for updates on their new contacts. He was so uptight that some of his staff even began defying him and arguing with him at every turn. Everyone in the department was just tense every day, and absenteeism levels began rising—which the HRD manager finally brought to Harvey’s attention.

Leaders are defined as people who inspire their employees or staff to do the best work they can and achieve success on their own merits.

Executives like Harvey, however, have a difficult time letting go and delegating work because of their inordinately high fear of failure. They always feel that they have to be 100 percent on top of things, so much so that they sometimes would do the job themselves rather than risk being called an incompetent manager.

Perfectionist managers are often obsessive about minute details, highly critical of their staff, are controlling, demanding and basically insecure. They associate failures with feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing. They are generally on the defensive and unable to accept suggestions and especially criticisms that will make them even more acutely aware of their inadequacies, imagined or not.

Managers like Harvey fail to be make the transition to becoming leaders because they focus too much on their own anxieties instead of being sensitive to his staff’s needs. They don’t realize that being a leader is really like being a conductor who holds his baton and coaxes each musician to play his particular instrument to the right tune and tempo of the music sheet before them. With each passing wave of the baton, different harmonies are created by each section in the orchestra, finally coming together to produce one beautiful symphony. The conductor never gets down from the podium to join the orchestra and play an instrument himself.

Managers like Harvey feel that because they’ve invested so much of themselves in their jobs or in their companies, they have no right to relax. They will stress the importance of hard work over getting results. Such behavior often leads to underperformance, excessively high turnovers, and general lack of motivation among staff. For managers to believe that their departments will fall apart just because they will go on a business trip or take a leave of absence even for just a day, is a clear sign of a lack of trust in their staff’s ability to do well.

Part of the job of being a leader-manager is being able to spot the outstanding employees in his crew, and train them to undertake bigger challenges that an eventual higher position will involve. In a perfect world, a leader is supposed to share and impart his knowledge, so that one day, when he is long gone or may have been promoted to an even higher position, somebody from his staff can be trusted with his old job. And even if mistakes are made by the staff, as surely these will happen, these are always something to learn from. Managers should never shy away from the “teaching” challenges that staff mistakes and failures will offer. No one should be crucified for stumbling a little.

If you have a boss who is a perfectionist, you can probably try to understand where he is coming from. Often, the root of a person’s bad behavior is some particular insecurity, so don’t go blaming yourself or your performance when he goes ballistic.

Instead of taking a confrontational approach, learn to deal with your boss’s obsessive intrusions in your work. If you like the company you work in, investing in your relationship with your boss will be worth the truckloads of shit he will dump on you.

Pay careful attention to details and to the instructions he gives so when you are able to do your job well, he may begin trusting you to do your work on your own. Just be patient. Miracles will not happen overnight. Making a voodoo doll in your boss’s image and sticking it with pins will not make him go away.

If you feel confident in taking up the problem of your boss’s perfectionism with him, try to discuss it respectfully by emphasizing that you are after the same thing as he is—the success of your project or company. You can try disarming him with your sense of humor and hopefully make him lighten his mood, not to mention his load on you. Perfectionist managers tend to take themselves too seriously, so it’s up to you to help him relax and see the humor in your jobs.

It certainly is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. When a manager is told that his perfectionism may be endangering the efficiency of the company, he must first learn to accept it in order to change. He will have to honestly assess himself and examine the underlying causes of his controlling nature. Hopefully, when he is ready to make that first step toward reform, his staff will be there to support him every step of the way.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photo from BusinessMirror)

February 22, 2007

Great things are happening at Clark! (3)

Clark airport to be No. 1 gateway by 2010
02/21/2007 | 10:29 PM

CLARK, PAMPANGA - Clark International Airport Corp (CIAC)will spend P18.5 billion to make the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) a world-class logistics hub and prepare it to become the Philippines’ premier international gateway by 2010.

CIAC president and chief executive officer Victor Jose I. Luciano said construction would take three years, beginning late 2007.

By 2010, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila will have reached full capacity and international flights will be transferred to DMIA.

Of the P18.5 billion, P13.56 billion will be used for civil and architectural works, P125.54 million for navigational systems, P55.96 million for a meteorological facility, P704.82 million for airport lighting, P3.99 billion for airport utilities and P75.62 million for airport maintenance equipment.

As part of civil and architectural works, CIAC will build a larger passenger terminal (Terminal 2) next to the existing terminal for P2 billion.

(More at GMA News TV.)

February 21, 2007

Great things are happening at Clark! (2)

Clark airport expansion to cost P160M
02/20/2007 | 08:37 PM

CLARK, PAMPANGA – With the increasing influx of tourists into this special economic zone, the government will begin expanding the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport this year. The initial phase of the expansion is projected to cost P160 million.

Victor Jose I. Luciano, president and chief executive officer of the Clark International Airport Corp. said of the total cost, P68 million will be for the rehabilitation and expansion of the DMIA passenger terminal I alone. The rest of the amount will be for the purchase of modern equipment such as X-ray machines, baggage conveyor belts, etc.

Announcement of the rebidding schedule for the passenger terminal I will be made “before the end of February," he told GMANews.TV.

In the first bidding held last January 27, the winning bidder was not able to meet certain important requirements of the CIAC causing the government agency to declare the bidding a failure. He declined to reveal further details of the failed bidding.

This time, Luciano expressed confidence that the rebidding “will not fail as there are many bidders…. So far we have 10 (interested bidders) and they have good track records."

(More at GMANews TV. Photo of Chicos Luciano by Tetep Marasigan)

February 20, 2007

Great things are happening at Clark!

Clark sees investments worth P20B in 2007

02/19/2007 | 07:54 PM

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga – The Clark Development Corp. expects P20 billion in investments this year following what the state-run corporation sees is the imminent restoration of the economic zone’s status as a free port.

CDC president and chief executive officer Levy Laus told reporters over the weekend that he was “extremely jubilant" over Congress’ endorsement of Clark’s special status because it restores incentives and makes it at par with the Subic Freeport.

Last February 1, a bicameral conference committee ratified the reconciled version of separate bills filed in the Senate and the House of Representatives converting the 4,400-hectare special economic zone into a free port.

The ratified version also restores investment incentives and duty-free privileges to its locators, as provided under Republic Act 7227 or the Bases Conversion Development Act of 1992. (More at GMA News TV. Photo of Levy Laus by Tetep Marasigan)

The big birthday bash

(YATS Chef Philip Golding gives me a cleaver to slice our delectable birthday cake. Photo by Dudubel)

I turned another year older last Saturday, and as expected, it didn't turn out to be a quiet walk towards impending senility.

The gang and I motored over to the Clark free port over the weekend and engaged in a few days of mayhem. It was actually a joint birthday celebration for a number of us, starting with Mago and Dudubel in January, and me in February, along with Buntis who celebrates her natal day on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, Buntis couldn't join us due to a previous appointment...achuus.

While the resort we stayed at was clearly a shadow of its former self, we still managed to enjoy ourselves mainly because of the really super nice people we met in several establishments, and the fun activities we had. Some played the slots at the casino, while the others stayed in the villa for some card games. It turned out to be a mighty profitable weekend for some of us hehe.

(The gang at play poses for a 'beauty shot'.)

We had a surprisingly inexpensive lunch at the YATS Wine Club co-owned by Chef Philip Golding who served as vintage beer for starters, some Chianti to go with our main course of salmon, steak and risotto, and port to close our meal. Advised earlier of the dietary restrictions of a few in the group, Golding served us some delectable sugar-free white chocolates, and thereafter gifted us with oh-so-heavenly sugar-free cheese cake. The cake was so good even the non-diabetics in the gang devoured it when there were three other sugar-rich cakes just waiting to be eaten. Ang kapal nyo ha!

Philip showed us his extensive collection of wines and two of his wine "cellars", which were actually not cellars but temperature-controlled rooms chockfull of absolutely gorgeous vinos from everywhere imaginable. I asked if I could live in his cellar where I would be very happy just drinking all the good stuff. The wines don't come cheap, of course, and he proudly showed off his P1-million wine, a bottle from Chateau Margaux. There was also another Chateau Margaux bottled in 1803 (P125,000), and I asked Philip what it would taste like considering it was really old and that it had probably been subjected to massive temperature fluctuations before it finally landed in his hands. He said he was dying to find out, and I of course had the temerity to rain on his parade by saying that he could have also ended up with a rather expensive bottle of vinegar! Hahaha!

(I'm not very partial to carbonara, but this version at C' is lusciously creamy with some earthy notes.)

Aside from the casinos and the indoor card games, some of us managed to do a bit of shopping and I for one, finally found Aquafresh Extreme Clean at Puregold, and rather inexpensive Carnation Hazelnut Coffee Creamer in larger containers unlike those sold here in Manila. Duty-free shopping of course is not what it used to be in Clark, and the goods are no longer as inexpensive and varied as before. Time was when I used to buy all my toilet paper at Clark (or Subic) because they were imported and more reasonably priced than our local brands, and what's more they were thick and absorbent. Okay, so I have a thing for plush toilet paper...shoot me.

But it wasn't just fun and games for us over the weekend as we were able to sit down and chat with Chicos Luciano, president of the Clark International Airport Corp. who gave us a rundown of the exciting new developments in the aviation field in Clark. For a government official, Luciano is one heck of a regular guy. He drove himself from Quezon City on a Sunday, without any bodyguards in tow, just to meet with us. He is so amiable and kind, constantly giving in to snickers at our antics, but he definitely knew his stuff. He rattled off facts and figures like they lived in his head and was generous with the information we needed for our slew of Clark stories. If all government officials were like Mr. Luciano, we would have one heck of a super efficient bureaucracy.

(Oooh, panizza! Yum!)

Luciano thereafter treated us to an ultra-sumptuous meal at the "C" Italian restaurant on Fields Ave., said to be a favorite of my favorite presidentita GMA, Imee Marcos, Luli Arroyo, Sharon Cuneta, and a few other celebrities, as well as CEO expats now living in Clark. Some of its fans actually drive to Clark (now a very fast one hour drive on the repaved NCLEX) from Manila just to have a meal there.

Its best seller is the panizza, the creation of its Swiss-born "Chef Patron" Chris Locher, which is really a super-thin crust pizza sliced diagonally, and which you can top with alfalfa sprouts and arugula. Chris tells us that a few times in a month, when the presidentita has her "cravings", PSG guards would turn up at "C" to take out panizza for the madam. Our meal last Sunday consisted of deliciously creamy risotto, very tender slices of angus beef, a different take on Pasta Amatriciana, and yummy yummy flavors of gelato. The strawberry and lemon-mandarin gelatos are really to die for.

Too bad that Chef Locher doesn't want to put up a branch in Manila. He tells me that while he has been with the Philippines for quite awhile, he absolutely abhors Manila. So grab your cars people and take a trip down to Clark soon if you want to have a taste of Chef Locher's brilliant dishes, designed to please every foodie bone in your body.

Props goes to publicist Mike Marasigan (my ex-boss at BusinessWorld, imagine that!) who was able to facilitate the great getaway, along with Clark Development Corp. tourism officer, the ever cheerful Noemi Garcia. Thanks guys! We really had a blast!

February 16, 2007

Valentine messages

Something Like Life
Feb. 16, 2007

I WOKE up on Valentine’s Day with my usual blurry, mote-filled view of my bedroom chockfull of still unread books (I’ll get to them… as soon as I wean myself from the computer and TV). After a few more lazy cat-stretches on my bed and trying to recall what schedules and deadlines I had on my calendar that day, I switched open my cell phones to check for messages.

In came the flurry of text message greetings of “Happy Valentine’s Day,” “Happy V,” messages of prayers and love plus other well-wishes from friends and family. The weirdest text by far went something like this: “Stella, my dear! Happy V Day! Magpapa-press release ako. Help!” Oh, brother! It came from a cell phone number that wasn’t on my directory so I was half-debating on whether or not I’d even acknowledge the text. Anyway, what the hell, it was Valentine’s Day and it wasn’t the day for my bitching. (I do it usually on Mondays.) I quizzed who the text sender was but even after identifying herself, I was still fuzzy on who she was. Well, I did just wake up after all! In the end, I told the X sender to just e-mail the press release to me.

Except for a few special times in my life, Valentine’s Day to me has always been about friendship. So I’ve never really been the type who’d get anxious about having no date or a special place to go to on this day of hearts. It’s a day usually spent with family or friends, eating, drinking or going to concerts. There were a few dates, of course (you know who you are!), but I just hated sitting in traffic on the way to hotels or restaurants. It just took something away from the special occasion. No matter how sweet the person beside you in the car (may holding hands pa!) was, as we inched our way through monstrous traffic, the road gridlock would just make me a tad bitchier than usual.

Sure, I enjoy the roses, the chocolates, the special dinner and the—ahem!—dessert which would come after. But if I had a choice, I would rather spend a quiet night at home or out of town with the “significant other.” Of course, I had little choice in the matter. Valentine’s Day was something I never planned with my boyfriend or lover of the moment. They would usually just have the whole evening mapped out. They knew better than asking me what I wanted to do. (Be a man. Surprise me!) Besides, I’ve always been a cheap date. Sumptuous food can get me in the mood.

But just being with my gang, whose members have changed over the years, on Valentine’s Day was just fine as well. I actually knew someone who would break up with her boyfriend always before that day, and end up spending the evening with us, away from the traffic and noise, just eating and drinking and having a blast. There was actually one Valentine’s Day I remember spending with a best girlfriend, with a special dinner at PICC with possibly most of Manila’s 500 at the neighboring tables. (Okay, we had free tickets, duh!) It was the first concert of Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick in Manila and we were excited. And all that mattered was the fabulous music (the dinner sucked), never mind that we didn’t have boyfriends at that time.

There were times my friends and I would dress in black, and bitch about men while gorging on the spread of food before us. But mostly we would talk about nothing and everything—our lives, our dreams—and just endlessly gossip about people we suspected to be celebrating their Valentine’s Day the next day. Sorry, Gabe Mercado, we were the original anti-Valentine show.

Eventually, we all grew up, some with significant others today, some without. Nevertheless, I hope most of us are just happy being… instead of being with someone.

So on Tuesday, I began texting my own friends and family, the people I absolutely adore and have loved through the years, and who’ve stuck by me no matter what demeanor or disposition they find me in (crabby, mostly). There was no elaborate three-page message in a poem with hearts filling the screen. It was just a simple heartfelt “Happy Valentine! Mwah!”—with the small German ü for my smiling face.

My friends—and you are all oh-so-wonderful!—responded similarly, in their same simple fashion, which made me happy and feel blessed I have them in my life. From my favorite cousin living in Iloilo: “Musta na, Stel? May date ka tonite? (ang baduy ko, no?)” My answer? “Oo, baduy ka nga!” How could I resist? A few failed to respond, but I’m sure they had a very good reason why (bitches!), and there were a few ambivalent comments as well, which made me just sigh in acceptance. Sample: “Although I really don’t believe in celebrating Valentine’s Day (dapat everyday should be a celebration of love, ’di ba?!), nonetheless, today, as in everyday, I sincerely wish you God’s continuing love and care!” O, sweet pa din naman, ’di ba? Nakakapagod lang. But then, the reply comes from a friend whom I’ve known for over 15 years backwards and forwards, whom I’ve fought, laughed and cried with, and who — despite his sometimes annoying demeanor (makulit talaga eh!) — is one of my best food and travel buddies. So how could I expect anything as simple as “same to you” instead of his usual kilometric message, and how could I not accept it?

Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I don’t take people to task for celebrating Valentine’s Day. It’s a day to spend with loved ones no matter who they are. It can be with your family, your friends, your pet dog, your children, your lover, husband, or even your ex (now that can be exciting as well). And I don’t think it’s so ridiculous to celebrate it the way we do. Sure, bring on the roses, the chocolates, the restaurant food, the motels and hotels, whatever! It’s good for the economy. We can’t rely on the OFWs forever!

Yeah, sure, as Kulit texted, we should give love everyday to the people around us, but the reality is we sometimes do forget to tell people how much they mean to us. So maybe it is a good idea to mark special days on the calendar to remind us to tell people we love how much we appreciate and cherish them.

So belated Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! Hope it was as good as mine.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Cartoons by Jeff Swanson at freneticwanderings.com.)

February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day people!

TELL someone you love how much you appreciate him or her. You really don't have to give them anything fancy (oh okay...boys, I hope you didn't forget to give the girls the de rigeur roses and chocolates!), or say anything kilometric. All it takes is three little words... I LOVE YOU!

So Happy Valentine people! I just want to share with you the photos of people I absolutely adore. To those who aren't here, it just means I don't have any photos of you. But I'll get to you yet. You know who you are anyway, and how much you mean to me. So...MWAAAH!

(Who are the people in your neighborhood...The Arnaldo family with Fr. Placer of Boracay)

(Super fave couple of Bro's Mustache...Gigi and Boy. Sarap ng lamb adobo...plugging!)

(Kasabad! Pangs and Sis)

(Tabi kayo dyan mga bakla! The binuangs)

(Mamita and Papito)

(...and of course, my husband, George.)

February 12, 2007

(Monday bitching 2) I think I'm gonna puke!

Teary-eyed Goma bids goodbye to GMA 7 to launch Senate bid

By Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV
Feb. 11, 2007

Actor-sportsman Richard Gomez made an emotional farewell to his co-hosts in the weekly program S-Files over GMA Network Sunday.

Teary-eyed Gomez announced on the show that he is set to file his certificate of candidacy for senator with the Commission on Election (Comelec) on Monday.

Gomez said he will run as independent candidate to give the public an alternative choice.

(More of this utterly nauseating story at GMA News TV. Lucy please wake up your husband from his delusion! Can someone please give this guy a movie to act in? For the love of God, save this country from Goma! Magtayo nalang kayo ng sariling gobyerno ni Manny Paquiao kaya?)

Frankly, the only joker I would like to see at the Senate is Joker Arroyo. How disappointing though that he chose to run under GMA's much-balleyhooed Unity ticket. What the F! was he thinking of?! Of course he would rather not spend his own money for his electoral campaign, and instead leech off from the government coffers, paid for by our taxes no less, just like the laughable Tito "Eat Bulaga" Sotto, irritating Tessie "Dancing Queen" Aquino-Oreta, and disappointing as usual, Edong Angara. Opportunists all! Pwe!

Then again, even the United Opposition's ticket isn't exactly something to rave about. Sonny Osmeña? Politicos like him should just remain in retirement. No more dinosaurs please! And why, oh why, are you coming back Nikki Coseteng? Are you already bored with your love life? Hindi na ba exciting magtago? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

(My candidates: Chiz Escudero, Noynoy Aquino, Ping Lacson. Photos from the web.)

For my own list, I can pick out only a few outstanding senatoriables from the Opposition ticket: Chiz Escudero, but of course (I had covered his father when he was agriculture Secretary under the Estrada regime...a good man as well.); Noynoy Aquino who has a distinguished record as a congressman; and well, Ping Lacson, okay?! There I said it, I want Ping back in the Senate! I think this country needs someone like him to whip everyone in line.

While I have nothing personally against Sonia Roco and Koko Pimentel, I just wince at the efforts of people with no legislative/political experience to ride on the coattails of their more famous relatives. In Ma'am Sonia's case, her late husband Raul who many still feel would have made a good President; and in Koko's case, his father, Nene...an outstanding politician but now too old to run. (Nene should have persuaded Sonny O. to do the same and sit this one out.)

I had hoped for more people in my generation to run for senator, because I think it's about time we get rid of the Old Guard trapos. But sigh, even the young names in the Opposition ticket are disheartening. For example, Alan Peter Cayetano truly bombed with L'Affaire Mike Arroyo and the so-called German bank deposits. We've been waiting for your evidence Alan Peter. Nasaan na? And Lt. Antonio Trillanes? That mutiny was a joke! Nasayang yung issues na pinaglaban mo. Mag-artista ka nalang. Unfortunately, Migs Zubiri isn't on the Opposition ticket. He's with the administration party. That's enough reason not to include him on my list.

I don't have high hopes for the voter turnout this May. I'm sure everyone else is disappointed as I am in the candidates and will probably opt not to go to their polling precints. Inspite of this, I still hope the Opposition wins. It's time we send a clear message to GMA and her minions. We are frikking mad so you guys better watch your step!

February 09, 2007

Vanity, thy name is woman?

Feb. 9, 2006

ACTUALLY, this is an inaccurate quote widely attributed to William Shakespeare. What he actually wrote was: “Frailty, thy name is woman” — which a dismayed Hamlet uttered following the marriage of his mother, Queen Gertrude, to her husband’s brother Claudius only a month after the King had passed away. Nevertheless, the quote has morphed over the years to its present “vanity” form. Maybe it was probably created by some editor trying to think of a good title, a pun really, for his piece on why women are obsessed with looking young.

While it is true that we women spend years scraping the bottoms of hundreds of jars in search of the perfect anti-wrinkle cream or moisturizer, and spend thousands of pesos in weekly visits to our dermatologists for facials, men are no longer far behind in the vanity department. And I’m not just talking about the so-called metrosexual revolution.

As I sit patiently waiting for my regular turn at the dermatologist’s clinic, I have come to notice how there seems to be more and more men sitting alongside me. During a recent visit, wrapped in my white hospital gown and resting on my back, I asked my therapist how many male patients she’s handled over the few years she’s been there. She told me that while she can’t remember the exact number, she believes that she has an equivalent number of male and female patients. In fact, she added, “Naku, ma’am, minsan mas maarte pa sila sa mga babae!” — which, of course, amused me no end.

I asked her if most of the men she had treated were of the, ahem, female persuasion, and she said that while a few of them definitely were, there were also quite a number of straight men who are regular visitors. Of course, there are the usual teenagers with severe acne problems brought in by their concerned mothers, but most of the males my therapist has treated are young and mid-career executive types as well as several artistas. All of them just go to her for facials alone. Some usually come with their girlfriends, while the others just walk in alone. She agreed with my observation that there is an increasing number of men now concerned about protecting and even pampering their skin.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean what woman would want to smooch with a man whose face could rival Texas in the number of oil deposits? After all, there was a time that the only concern of men were getting clean-shaven faces. Seeing an opportunity, manufacturers started peddling shaving lotions and after-shave colognes, promising that women would fall at their feet when they smelled the unguents on their men’s smooth faces.

Of course in the Old Spice days, there were already some men who got manicures while getting their hair cut at their friendly neighborhood barbershop. After their nails were clipped and the cuticles nipped and pushed back, clear polish would be swept on the nails of their pudgy fingers. When I was growing up and I’d see one of these men come out of their barbershops, I would let out a silent “Eeew!” in my head. I noticed that most of the men I saw with manicures were mostly old, with toupees and white shoes. Now that I’m older and supposedly more mature, seeing straight men with manicured nails still make me go “Ick!”

These days, men are buying complete sets of skincare and facial treatments. They have their own body lotions, bath soaps, colognes and perfumes, scrubs and body polishes; they even have their own spa, put moisturizers on their face, and—gads!—even makeup! (Now this reminds me of a former senator and ex-cabinet secretary whom my friend and I bumped into while eating at a restaurant. He got down from his van and upon seeing us, he said, “Hindi ako nagme-makeup ha! Galing lang ako sa TV show!” The comment left us briefly speechless because that was the last thing we ever expected to hear from this politician. All we could manage was a weak “Oh-kay!”, afterwhich my friend and I looked at each other, stunned. Whatever happened to “Hello… Kumusta kayo” or “Iboto nyo ako sa sunod na halalan”? Geez.)

So I have a fiftysomething male cousin, very much married and whom we always kid as being so popular among the females in the city he resides in, he could win the mayorship hands down. At the wake of my brother a couple of years back, my mother noticed that my cousin had such smooth skin for someone his age, considering that he spends a lot of time under the sun because of his job. My Dick Tracy of a mother asked him in front of other relatives if he followed any skin care regimen. My cousin was only happy to oblige us with his “beauty secret.” (Pay attention now.) He proudly said that before going to bed, every night he washes his face with placenta soap and leaves the lather on overnight. This is why his skin is taut and tight, he said. He boasted that even his wife has adopted that same nightly skin care regimen, with the same results apparently.

We couldn’t help but laugh our asses off at the thought of our Cousin, a stud by reputation, being so vain about his face! And this is someone who lives in the province where the pace is oh-so-slow, people have dinner at 6 pm and are asleep by 9 pm! Apart from this, my cousin isn’t given to any other vanities and is quite comfortable with his pot belly (the girls still love him after all!) and wearing plain tees with jeans and sneakers, unlike the so-called metrosexuals of this generation who are passionate about dapper clothes and fabulous home interiors.

In the US alone, the men’s skin care industry has been estimated at $150-$200 million alone. A lot of research and development has gone into studying men’s personal hygiene habits. Thanks in part to the “himbo” syndrome and marketing geniuses, growing numbers of men are now conditioned to think that taking that extra step in protecting their complexion isn’t so gay after all. It’s just part of good grooming. Undoubtedly, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has been a real influence as well. (“Real men exfoliate!” screamed a Boston Globe headline a few years back.) We will probably delude ourselves thinking they’re doing all this upkeep for us. Not on your life. They’re doing this all for themselves. If Shakespeare was living today, I wonder what he’d say about that.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photos borrowed from the web.)

February 05, 2007

New music from old guitars

(The Bro's Mustache house CD at last! Restrung: Lumang Gitara, Bagong Kanta)

TUESDAY, January 30, was a milestone of sorts for My Bro’s Mustache, a popular folk music bar in Quezon City owned by lovable couple Gigi and Boy Vinzon.

The venue was packed with all its friends and supporters waiting for the grand tadaah of the night—the launch of its CD featuring its stable of musicians. Mind you, these musicians are not just the usual flash-in-the-pan, one-hit-wonders now filling our airwaves. The names will probably sound familiar to most of you, especially those who were already lovin’ and rockin’ in the ’60s and ’70s – Florante, Joey “Pepe” Smith, Wally Gonzalez, Heber Bartolome, Lolita Carbon, Susan Fernandez, Lester Demetillo – permanent fixtures in the folk music and rock and roll scene in those decades.

(From left: Noel Cabangon, Rannie Raymundo, Mon Espia)

Aptly called Restrung: Lumang Gitara, Bagong Kanta (The Artists of My Bro’s Mustache), the CD features all these great music legends singing new songs, but still doing what they do best, providing searching commentaries on present-day events and political situations. Their music is still edgy, almost militant, which harks back to the tumultuous years of the First Quarter Storm, but very much applicable to our lives today.

Among the crew, my favorite has to be Florante’s Araw, Gabi, which talks about the pitfalls of a drug addict’s lifestyle; and Susan Fernandez’s haunting Dalagita sa Dilim. Fernandez’s divine angelic voice provides an effective counterpoint to the otherwise heavy topic of prostitution.

(Wally Gonzalez)

But the CD isn’t all just political and social commentary. There are stirring love songs and simple sweet melodies by a number of today’s finest musicians like Noel Cabangon, Mon Espia, Rannie Raymundo, as well as a few surprises from relatively unknown singers but who are extremely talented, if their first songs are of any indication.

For instance, I am taken by the unpretentiousness of Hans and Reagan’s Patty (dedicated to one of the boys’ crush), moved by Joniver’s soulful Cursed By Your Love (he sounds like a rougher Binky Lampano, but a fine bluesman nonetheless), cheered up by Espia’s affectionate Caleb (his son who makes a debut as well on his proud papa’s cut), and enamored with Raymundo’s charming Stop Me.

Of course Cabangon’s passionate Tinitiis Kita has long endeared me (taken from his 2003 opus Medjas) and someone called Rey Almentario has written the most poignant music and lyrics to Walang Katulad. While not a love song, The Storm of Chickoy Pura will show you the softer, acoustic side of The Jerks’ frontman. Even Lolita Carbon (of the famed Asin) surprises with Hawak Kamay because she croons her blues instead of screaming her usual passions. Paul Galang wraps up the entire package with his tribute to the great singers and hymns of our time (like the Juan dela Cruz's Ang Himig Natin) with a song for Pepe Smith entitled Salamat Pepe. The ex-Juan dela Cruz lead singer does a cameo on the cut.

(Boy Vinzon)

Produced by Espia, acknowledged as the real genius behind the erstwhile Labuyo and Gary V.’s fave guitarist (he never travels anywhere without Mon), Restrung is not only just a bunch of artists getting together to make fine music but a family who has found a home in Boy and Gigi’s bar. Even during the night’s album launch, there were no egos as each artist was willing to take a back seat, and accompany the performer of the moment. (But of course, one couldn’t help but allow the spotlight to shine a bit longer on legends like Pepe and Wally. Expectedly, there were a lot of weed jokes from Pepe.) The entire evening felt like one grand music peace-out...I mean, how often can you get all these legendary performers on one stage and in one night alone? It was truly one of those rare events that only Bro's can accomplish.

(Joey 'Pepe' Smith)

It is in this bar where these stars shine even brighter, energized as their old fans relive their wild days even as they reach across to a younger generation of passionate lovers of honest and outstanding real music. At Bro’s, and its CD, there is only love and great music. And that’s good enough for me.

Restrung: Lumang Gitara, Bagong Kanta (P299) is available at My Bro’s Mustache, 68 Sct. Tuazon cor Sct. Madriñan, Quezon City. Proceeds from the sale of the CD go to the artists.

(This is an expanded version of my story which came out in the Life Section of the BusinessMirror, Feb. 2, 2007. All photos by the author.)

February 03, 2007

Back in the day

Today I was reading the blog of Malou Mangahas, one of the more respectable journalists in the country, and in it she talked about how cellphones have become part and parcel of our daily lives. Especially for us journalists, the cellphone is our link to the world and we will hardly be able to function without it. (Click here).
This brought me back to the days when journalism was just a lot of plain hard work.

When I began my journalism career in 1987 (tagal na noh?), I had a notebook to take down my notes with, a bulky tape recorder for interviews, a rectangular plastic container to alphabetize calling cards, and an addressbook to keep the phone numbers and addresses of my sources handy. For interviews, I would leave my home in Quezon City and travel by jeepney and bus when going to Makati or Manila. (Airconditioned na din ang bus non pero kahit naka-jeepney ka, mahihinga mo pa naman ang hangin. Wala pang air pollution masyado so pag-uwi mo sa bahay, hindi mo kelangan ng isang toneladang eskinol para matanggal ang dumi sa mukha mo.)

Sometimes I would have to wait for hours just to get an interview with an official. But that's really our job as journalists...wait to death 'til we got some answers. If there were no interviews, or scheduled press conferences, I would be at some statistics office or library researching the topic I intended to write about. It would take half a day or even days to just do that.

My beat was the Department of Agriculture then, and when I had a story already, I would have to queue for the typewriter. The older reporters, of course, had priority to use it. Do you still remember the typewriter? That huge contraption which you would insert a paper in, start typing on a raised keyboard, shift a lever to make the carriage go left and move up to the next line, and your hands would get all ink-stained because you had to replace the ribbon?

After typing out my story, I would call up my editor, who would then pass me on to an editorial assistant to take down my dictation. Yes! We had to dictate our stories then because there was no fax machine nor email in those days. Computers were very new, and were not permanent fixtures yet in the offices I hung out in. I was lucky because at BusinessWorld, the first paper I worked in, we already had the first Macs so the EA would just type up our stories easily. Pero kung medyo nabisaya ang pagdi-dictate mo, mali na ang masusulat ng EA, of course, mali na ang storya lalabas sa dyaryo. Nge. Anyway, I got to use the computer at the office a few times a week when I had the time to return to the office from my interviews. But more often than not, I was out in the field and just dictated my stories over the phone. Oo, rotary pa ang dial non at me party line pa.

After a few years, the beat I was assigned to finally got a fax machine so we had an easier time sending our stories to our offices. I had also replaced my notebook with a filofax which I used to take down notes with, organize my schedules, and write down the addresses and phone numbers of my sources. It had a few plastic slips at the back for calling cards I always referred to. I also had a pager which my editors used to beep me so I would call the office, or to issue instructions. In those days, the TV and the radio were our constant sources of news.

Nowadays, I use my Ibook to download data I need for my stories, type then email the stories to my editors here and abroad. It is also my primary news source, not newspapers. In fact I can read the news online, or watch the TV feed on my Ibook, or listen to the streamed radio reports. Yup, I sometimes listen to streamed DZBB reports, while reading or writing on my computer.

If I'm at home, I use my cordless phone to call up my sources and interview them. If not, I use my cellphone...a Sony Ericsson K800i, or my old beatup Siemens S45 as spare. I use the SE K800i to take down some notes (although I still carry a small notebook in my bag), put down my appointments, input addresses and phone numbers of contacts, shoot photos using its 3.2 MP camera, and listen to songs on its MP3 player. When I'm out of the house, I use it to send and receive email or read the latest news (it has an RSS feeder). I think it has a built-in recorder too but I still have to try it out, so in the meantime, I still use a small Sony micro-cassette recorder for interviews. I intend to change this, however, and upgrade to a digital voice recorder which I can connect to my Ibook and download my interviews already transcribed! And believe me, transcribing an interview really eats up a lot of one's time and gets your hands all cramped and unsteady.

Of course, none of these conveniences have made news stories any better nor more improved from the olden days. In fact, if you read one news item in one paper, these days, it will probably be the same as in the eight other newspapers, almost word for word. This, of course, is an issue of reportorial quality and not technology. No matter how hi-tech the world becomes, if reporters are sloppy, lazy, have bad grammar, and are on the take, we will get lousy carteled news stories.

Only one thing has remained constant throughout the years. That despite the conveniences now available to us to make our coverage easier, we're still always late for our deadlines! :-)

February 02, 2007

McDreamy or McSteamy?

Something Like Life
Feb. 2, 2007

A FEW weeks before Christmas, my sister posed an intriguing question to me via text message: “Are you for McDreamy or McSteamy?”

Without hesitation, I texted back, then asked her what was up. She told me that she was in one of those ubiquitous Yuletide bazaars and there was a stall selling T-shirts with the front printed with either “Team McDreamy” or “Team McSteamy.”

Now unless you’ve been living in Pluto — which, alas, has already been stripped off of its planetary privileges (mental note: must move to Uranus) — you probably know what I’m talking about. Yes, I confess, I am a Grey’s Anatomy fanatic. So much so that every week, I download the latest episode of Season 3 off the Internet.

Like so many of the TV show’s avid viewers, I can’t wait to find out what will eventually happen to the love affair of intern Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Dr. Derek Shepherd (a.k.a. McDreamy, played by the cutie Patrick Dempsey), and how long Dr. Mark Sloane (a.k.a. McSteamy, the sizzling hot! Eric Dane) will keep upsetting the staff around Seattle Grace Hospital. (I must say the show’s cast really deserve their Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. And yehey! Chandra Wilson, who brilliantly plays my fave tough-talking but lovable Dr. Miranda Bailey, also won the SAG for Best Actress in a Drama Series.)

While it is simplistic to narrow men down to just these two types, the show is fairly accurate in depicting the maddening confusion women experience when faced with such a difficult choice. Should we choose McDreamy, the seeming all-American hero, albeit troubled and suffering his own inner demons? Or should we just have a go with the fairly predictable McSteamy, knowing fully well the relationship may not last? (I don’t know if the show on cable TV, still in Season 2, has already introduced the sweet and very much available Finn Dandridge [Chris O’Donnell], whom the interns quickly dub "McVet".)

McDreamy in Season 2 has yet to get a divorce from his fabulous and super-brainy talented wife, Dr. Addison Montgomery Shepherd. He’s still hurting over the affair she had with McSteamy, his one-time best friend. The ordeal left him so torn up that he bailed out of a successful career in New York and moved to Seattle, where he meets Meredith in a bar. After a few tussles in bed, he falls in love with her — we believe so — and she even madly so.

We witness how the entry of McDreamy’s wife impacts on his relationship with Meredith. But he does the honorable thing, trying to repair the damage in his marriage to Addison, much to Meredith’s dismay, especially after having swallowed her pride and begged McSteamy to “Choose me!”...Ouch! Sad.

Then along comes McSteamy, who just wants to get Addison back and all hell breaks lose. Addison knows fully well that McDreamy is still taken with Meredith, but she loves her husband and will fight for him. But McSteamy has come to win her back, and wants her to return to New York with him. Does she love him enough and can she see a fruitful long-term relationship with this man whom everyone seems to have slept with (yes, even McDreamy’s own sister! Oops!)? Poor Addison...we don’t envy the tough choice she must eventually make.

Many of us have met our own McDreamies and McSteamies. If we are into the whole romance package, we will choose McDreamy and hope our presence can help ease his suffering. We think by just “being there for him,” our love will be enough to save him from himself and he will become the perfect man we all want to marry and grow old with. To what extent we choose to delude ourselves with this notion and wait around until he comes to his senses, only time can tell. If our egos can take the suffering, and we can do away with our pride, then probably we will hang around till hell freezes over.

On the other hand, there is McSteamy, ready and willing to be with us right now, and will surely give you a grand time while you’re both at it. Of course, it’s just about sex, but at least it will not be the complicated relationship with a McDreamy. McSteamy knows what he will get out of being with us, and we know what we will get out of a relationship with him. Wouldn’t it be nice to just sit back, relax and enjoy the smooth but fun ride?

But then I think most of us women are suckers for complicated men. We love men who have lots of drama and mystery in their lives. So we give and give and give until we realize we’re all dried up inside and all the goodness and love have been sucked out from us. What’s worse, he makes us believe that there will be a nice house with a white picket fence and babies for us if we do stay. So no matter how tense the relationship becomes, we want to hold on until the very end. Not content with the drama anthology’s ending, we even want a sequel or another season of bad scriptwriting and reused plots (like 24! ugh!). We’re like masochists...we’ll do anything, even prolong our agony, because we’re still holding out to the fantasy that McDreamy will change and things will turn for the better.

Exactly like Addison’s case. It’s quite obvious that McDreamy no longer wants to be with her. (Although, in fact, he is so screwed up that he really doesn’t know what he wants! Typical.) Yet she will stand her ground, endure getting spit in her face, and pray that he will realize that he still loves her. (Hmmm...this reminds me of a woman I knew awhile back. Her husband had made it very clear that he no longer wants to be with her—and, in fact, had already left her for his own life abroad. Yet she’s still lighting the candle in the window for him. Hoy gising!)

Perhaps by now you know whose team I’m rooting for and have it printed on my T-shirt. At some point in a woman’s life, we just want our relationships to be simple and, yes, perhaps predictable, but, no, not boring. A relationship with a McSteamy may not last long — don’t delude yourself, honey — but at least there won’t be any grandiose, elaborate, long-winded dramas that may only hurt your pride or ego.

Now, don’t go trying to convert McSteamy into a McDreamy because that will just be painful. We shouldn’t expect the moon and stars from McSteamy, and he won’t expect anything from us. With McSteamy, there may not be a house with a white picket fence and sweet babies crawling around, but at least when our relationship ends, we will walk away whole and still breathing.

P.S. Season 3 will show what Addison has finally decided to do. Personally, I think she made the right choice.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane's photos from BusinessMirror.)

February 01, 2007

Imelda Marcos in Vanity Fair...hilarious!

(Who would've thought former First Lady Imelda Marcos's kookiness would eventually land her in the pages of the much respected Vanity Fair, in an interview with celebrity journalist George Wayne no less! Aba, talo pa nya si GMA!)

* * *

The First Lady Treatment

Imelda Marcos talks about her new fashion line, remembers her New York trial, and learns that she's a drag-queen icon.

Q&A by George Wayne February 2007

Former Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos, 77, is known as much for her shoe collection and family controversies—the Marcoses were accused of looting as much as $10 billion in assets from the Philippines before her husband's regime was toppled, in 1986—as she is for her philanthropic heart. As Marcos releases her new fashion line, the Imelda Collection, our correspondent learns that there's a little bit of Imelda in all of us.

George Wayne: Imelda, darling, I hope you are ready to get your freak on.
Imelda Marcos: Oh, well, it is a pleasure, because the Imelda Collection was my grandson Borgy's idea. He is a huge Philippine idol here, on television, in magazines and movies.

Is he the ruling playboy of Manila now?
He is the crush of the nation.

So here you are at 77 years old, Queen Imelda deciding that it is time to take up fashion.
I know, the nerve of this woman, Mrs. Marcos. When I was First Lady, for 20 years I was always trying to get the best—in paintings, clothes, jewelry, whatever.

(Read on at Vanity Fair. Hysterical stuff! Illustration by Risko from VF.)