March 30, 2007

Parenting your parents

Something Like Life
March 30, 2007

MY mom got lost in the Greenhills tiangge last week. Talk about freaky!

I don’t quite know how it happened as she was with my sister and my niece, trying to find some gift we could send to an aunt abroad. They were on the way to an appliance center, which was where I was supposed to meet up with them after finishing my grocery shopping at Unimart.

While I was pushing my grocery cart along the aisles, I got the frantic call from my sister telling me our mother was missing. She said our mom was just trailing behind them and as usual checking out the goods of each stall in the tiangge. Instead of taking responsibility as the first-born in the family is supposed to do, of course my sister proceeded to blame our mom for going missing. Duh.

I couldn’t think straight after that and subsequently ended up missing a few items on my grocery list because I wanted to get to where my sister was. She texted me that she had our mom paged through the Greenhills public-address system and was waiting at the appliance center for our mom to show up. As I was paying for my purchases at the check-out counter, who do I find mosying along the corridor but our mother of course! I yelled out to get her attention and couldn’t help but berate her for going missing. I immediately caught myself and realized I was treating her like my five-year-old grandniece, telling her how to behave. Anyway, I felt relieved that my mother had turned up. She said she was walking up and down Unimart’s corridors in the hope she would find me.

My mom turned 79 in February. Although she is fit as a fiddle and still alert, she has been experiencing some gaps in her memory. (She and my sister always meet at that same appliance center every time they go to Greenhills, so it is befuddling why our mom didn’t find it this time.) Of course, our mom denies she has such bouts of memory loss but it has been noticeable to me as I live with her 24/7. True, she is still strong for her age, can manage her way around despite being blind in one eye, and can still out-talk and bargain down a tindera at the tiangge anytime. Still, this latest episode was a bit disconcerting for me as this was the first time it happened to us. My sister and I are now considering giving our mom a cell phone just so that we can call her if ever we become separated again in a large confusing area like the Greenhills tiangge. While I have no doubts that our mother would have managed to get home if we never found her, maybe giving her a cell phone would help ease our stress levels the next time—heaven forbid!—we lose her again. I just find it a bit unnerving that when my siblings and I were toddlers, my mother never lost any of us in a crowded place.

When we are young, we look up to our parents with awe and depend on them for everything. We may not show it sometimes but we are grateful for the roof over our heads, the food we eat, and the clothes we wear. We are intelligent and educated because they saved up enough to send us to the best schools. They make a lot of sacrifices to give us a life better than they ever had. They are always the ones looking out for our welfare and praying that we make something of ourselves.

As our parents get older, the roles in the family become gradually reversed. We tend to be more protective over our folks and constantly try to look out for them. I know it can be troubling for the older generation as they slowly lose control over their lives and activities. Now that it is us children watching out for them, they feel uneasy and perhaps slightly embarrassed. To them, this is not the way the world is supposed to work.

My father, for example, is so used to managing his financial affairs; he chooses which bank to deposit his money in and which monetary instruments to invest in. Despairing over the recent lowering of interest rates, I explained to him in detail why this has been happening. (Yes, Omar Cruz, your name is now famous in our household.) But my father is skeptical. And not until his banker gave him the same explanation I did, did he acknowledge that I was right. Obviously, my having been a business journalist for over 14 years doesn’t amount to much in my father’s reckoning. In his eyes, I am probably still his five-year-old bunso whose main preoccupation is watching Sesame Street every afternoon. (Nowadays, it is Spongebob.) I know he still finds it difficult to ask me about financial matters and despite my having authored lots of pieces on personal finance, he will never get used to the idea of asking me for financial advice.

It’s not easy to parent your parents. There’s a lot of bickering and arguments because you insist on doing things your way, but they insist on their traditional way of handling matters. You feel your way is the more efficient method, but they feel more comfortable with their own system. I actually got into an argument with my father recently about budgeting for our household expenses, so I just let him go ahead and do his own thing his way.

Parents are very proud people who will try, as much as possible, not to ask for assistance from their children. They will want to maintain that air of superiority, control and independence no matter what. When it becomes clear to them that they cannot get along without our help, they feel defeated and useless. Nobody wants to feel old and decrepit, so it’s important to understand where they’re coming from and treat them still with the gentleness and respect they deserve. Obviously, I have failed a few times in that area given my short temper.

We children, of course, sometimes can’t deal with what we regard to be just plain stubbornness on our parents’ part. We ourselves are sometimes struck by how much time has gone by so fast and we’re now the ones always after our parents to drink their medicine, eat the right kinds of food, or wear the appropriate clothes to an affair they’re going to. It can be an exhausting and challenging responsibility to try to be there for them all the time. When we can’t, we have guilt trips and overcompensate by buying them stuff or taking them out, treating them as if they were our children.

There’s no easy way to deal with aging parents. Sometimes you just have to take each day as it comes. There will be days when we will feel trapped by such a huge responsibility, seeing it as a burden to care for them especially when they no longer recognize any of us. It can be tiring and mind-numbing. On some days, we are grateful we still have our parents around and we are now old enough to josh with them or trade experiences they can also relate to. We can only pray that there will be more good days than bad.

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

March 29, 2007

The most annoying people on TV

1. Rachel Ray

This cook (please don't make the mistake of calling her a chef!) is extremely annoying in her new show. Why do we have to listen to her give us advice on hair, makeup, fashion? I mean c'mon, she can hardly cook if it weren't for readily available mixes and ingredients from the supermarket! Now we have to take advice from her regarding the right shoes to wear or how to fix up our homes?!

And notice how loud she's become? She's like all over the place yelling EVOO, Yum-mo and all imaginable stupidities. She reminds me of Love Anover who was so fabulous when she was on Probe. Then she joined GMA's morning show and she just became deafening! Just because you're short you don't need to shout to get attention. I don't know what Oprah was thinking when she decided to produce Rachel's show. Just because she can't cook doesn't mean she has to go on and produce a cooking show and model Rachel after her, talking about life's problems and fashion issues. The woman is hardly qualified to talk about these topics. She should have stuck with her 30-minute meals show. Geez I'll pick Martha anytime over Rachel Ray's show.

2. Kris Aquino

Just because she gets a kick out of displaying and talking about her entire life in public doesn't mean she has to force her contestants to do the same. What's with those personal questions Kris? You're audience isn't even interested in what your contestants are saying, just what they do to win the grand prizes. And what's with the long gowns? Parang pupunta ka sa graduation ball palagi? Feeling mo si Vanna White ka? I'm so glad Edu Manzano has taken over Kris's show. We hope it becomes permanent. Now that's a good game show host for you. Hey why isn't any network giving Edu his own talk show? He deserves one.

3. Senjaya Malakar

What's with this American Idol wanna-be? The past two installments of the Idols' performances showed that he can let his hair down (or up as in last night's ponytail mohawk) but where's the vocal prowess? He was good in the auditions and vocally stronger than his sister, but ultimately, its experience that counts and he lacks enough to give depth and emotion to his performances. I think his sister would have been the better performer in the end. What's more, this idiot makes lame retorts to Simon's critiques and fails miserably. Now I hear there's a YouTube member, "J", who has vowed to go on a hunger strike until Senjaya gets voted off the show. I might just join her.

(UPDATE: Curly-haired and chubby Chris Sligh has just been voted off. Too bad, because he is actually a good singer but last night's performance was just his weakest. Read it on GMA News TV.)

4. Angel Jacob and the US girls hosts

I used to like Good Finds until Angel Jacob took over. Her voice is pitchy and irritating, and she talks like she's reading off a script all the time. I can't stand five minutes of her show which has just become a jumble of boring features and subjects. Bring back the witty Jenni Epperson.

I don't know the names of these US Girls hosts except for Angel Aquino. She's the only one who is smart and articulate among the three. The names of the other two hosts are not even worthwhile to remember. The show, which was meant to replace the well-polished and sophisticated "F", is now just another pa-cute show where the hosts try to get away by looking great instead of sounding intelligent. Angel, umalis ka na 'jan at baka mahawa ka pa sa dalawang 'yan!

Is it true Amanda Griffin is getting her own show on the Lifestyle Network?! Oh no, this is when "F" started sounding inane. Amanda's forgettable food reviews: "It's good, it's really good!" Girl, you better bring your thesaurus to those shoots! (What's a thesaurus daw? OMG!)

5. Willie Revillame and the Eat Bulaga hosts

Do these hosts really think they're funny? Eat Bulaga has long outlived its entertainment factor it should be shut down. Individually Joey de Leon and Vic Sotto may be wits, but together, along with their hapless supporting cast of thousands, they are just lame and depressing. Mag-isip naman kayo ng bagong show noh? Di na kayo nakakatawa! In hindsight I actually liked Joey de Leon a few times when he co-hosted a public affairs show. And what the heck is Tito Sotto thinking still hanging around that show? Wala bang natutuwa sa 'yo sa Senado? Maybe it's time to move on guys and reinvent yourselves. You're too old to be acting silly like you do on your show every day. Iskul Bukol days are so over!

And Willie Revillame? Gads, what a bore. He thinks he's so frikking handsome and witty I'd like to throw the dining table at the TV set everytime I see his face. I don't know why ABS-CBN is still keeping this guy despite his faux pas. His personal life is disgusting. But more importantly, he's not funny! Doesn't anybody over there get it?

All these hosts are so like Jay Leno who now has to resort to toilet humor and sex jokes just to get a rise from his audience.

March 23, 2007

I’m not hearing anything

Something Like Life
March 23, 2007

DESPITE the sobriquet mader that some young reporters attach to me, I am not a mother in the real sense of the term, having no real children of my own. And thank God for small mercies like that, because I doubt if I would have the patience to actually take care of little people, running around screaming wildly all day, or throwing tantrums in the middle of the supermarket. I’m the type of person who will walk away if put in an irritating and annoying situation.

Sure, I love cute babies just like the next person, and delight in animated talk about toddlers, but once they give me the lip or misbehave in any way, I will put them in their place. I find that I do this a lot of times at Sunday Mass these days. I don’t know why parents insist on bringing their rowdy children to church. So I would either give these little devils the evil eye to shut them up or actually shush them, especially when their own parents aren’t doing anything to control them. Sunday Mass is the only time I can think and pray and commune with some Supreme Power, and I find it offensive when the peace and serenity of the entire ritual is intruded on by loud blabbering, whining and crying.

“Eh, mga bata ‘yan eh!”
some of you guilty parents would probably say. True, they are kids, so if you can’t control them, leave them at home! Or stay with them. God isn’t about to smite you down if you don’t go to Mass because you have to stay home with your kids. My own mother didn’t allow any of us to accompany her and my father to church unless we were well-behaved. Now that I think about it, just one hour of sitting still, with a cute little white veil over my head, wasn’t so bad. Of course, I would always look forward to the rewards of being so good in church—usually a small bag of tasteless barquillos and a big red balloon my mother would tie on my wrist so it wouldn’t fly away.

I don’t relish the hell that parents sometimes have to go through just to keep their children in line. It is virtually a 24/7 job that parents try to convince themselves will have its rewards when the time comes. When their children end up as bums, drug addicts or, worse, homicidal maniacs instead, they feel like they’ve been hit by a bus and overanalyze what they did wrong. (Parents, sometimes it isn’t you. It’s just the company your child chooses to keep.)

But when both parents are working, it is virtually next to impossible to have some kind of monitoring system going on what with the kind of nannies we have today. In my day, yayas (as well as the maids) were just fantastic. They were smart despite having finished only high school, spoke English well, were clean and fastidious about a child’s health, manners and behavior much like a parent, and had that all-important factor of malasakit toward the family. They functioned basically like majordomas so parents could entrust their children to the yaya’s care, secure in the thought that they will get back their children safe and sound, and probably even smarter. Unfortunately these days, yayas are just glorified domestics who will spank a child into submission if they aren’t left alone to watch their afternoon telenovelas. (I should know, I live next door to such a household and am this close to calling Bantay Bata.)

Parenting is a special calling, in the same way that a life of the cloth is. Like priests and nuns, parents have to be unselfish, willing to give up their time and their own individuality for the sake of the family. There is no room for thoughts of independence or freedom for parents. If you must have children, you have to make a lot of sacrifices and make room for any sudden changes in routines and schedules. If your child is sick, you have to be absent from work. Informed of an important school project the day before a teacher’s deadline and you have to run around like a headless chicken buying up the required materials. When he has a taekwondo match, you will likely have to shuck that important business conference in Singapore. And by the way, you can’t raise your voice or get mad when you’re kids are being makulit and misbehaving. You have to learn to control your own temper to answer their incessant questions, or explain to them the consequences of misbehaving. Patience, patience and more patience.

There was a time when all parents had to worry about was sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The times today are different and these are the least of the parents’ concerns. There are just too many temptations out there for kids that parents have to deal with. The drugs are harsher and more addictive, their kids’ peers are nastier because of the lack of adult supervision, there are gory video games, violent TV shows and even more violent movies, sexed-up advertising is everywhere, road rage and drunks at the wheel are not uncommon, and preying pedophiles and dirty old men have become a very real danger.

I know some working women, at the peak of their career, giving up their corporate life to stay with their growing children. They want to make sure their kids don’t turn out like the teenage whores out there shaking their booty in low-cut jeans with their T-backs peeping out of the waistband, or teenage punks willing to risk a jail time for just 15-minutes worth of petty thievery. Rearing children is a tiring and thankless job, and having children is a choice all parents must live with. So you can’t do the job with a half-assed attitude like you didn’t know what you and your spouse were in for when both of you decided to do the nasty every night.

As for me, after having played virtual nanny or baby sitter to my three nieces and nephew (now all adults, thank God!), I don’t relish the thought of changing any more soiled diapers in the near future. I think I’ve burped enough babies, eaten enough Gerber baby food just to get those kids to savor the subtle nuances of its different flavors (ick!), and taught the ABCs and 123s and sung “Little Sunny Water sleeping in a corner…” to last me a lifetime.

I also can’t imagine a life of no regular travels, dine-outs, get-togethers with friends, shopping and spa indulgences. Call me selfish, but all these are a part of who I am and what I enjoy doing. I’m not ready to trade these in for sleepless nights, constant worries about whether my child would come home alive today, or how I’m going to find the next project to pay for my kid’s college tuition. Heck! I can’t even water my plants everyday let alone take care of a child!

Like I said, parenting is a calling, and I’m not hearing anything.

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

March 20, 2007

Government policy that makes sense

BSP tells banks to ease up on ID requirement

FOR the nameless thousands oppressed by bank front liners at one time or another for not having enough proof of identification, despair no more. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is cutting down on the proofs of identification demanded by banks.

Bangko Sentral governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said on Monday the necessary IDs will be reduced to only two from the four to five IDs demanded by banks. When this will become effective, he did not say.

Banks requiring multiple proofs of identification from clients to do business with them have been known to deny service to anyone who fails to come up with four or even five identification documents.

Company or school IDs, driver’s licenses, passports, tax identification cards, voter’s ID, marriage licenses, GSIS or SSS IDs, and others are the banks’ acceptable proof of identification. “Under the new circular, any two combination of IDs should now be sufficient.”

(More at BusinessMirror, March 20, 2007)

FINALLY, a government policy that makes sense!

I could not contain my excitement as I read this story this morning and just had to fire off a congratulatory email to central bank governor Say Tetangco. More and more, it is only the Bangko Sentral, among all government institutions, that seems to be issuing policy statements and announcements that address the practical side of living in this country. It is now addressing the "human" side of the banking equation.

Majority of Filipinos don't have much money to save, and in the instance that they do have enough to put away, of course they would want to put it in the bank (never mind that they only get less than 1 percent per annum in interest rate). But sometimes their eagerness to save is confounded by the fact that some banks just exist to make one's life harder.

There was a time I was standing in line at an Equitable-PCI branch in Quezon City and I heard an ongoing exchange between a bank officer and a student of perhaps 15 years of age. Being that young, she of course, had only her school I.D. to present. She was still in her school uniform too. The bank officer proceeded to ask her for other ID like a passport (duh!), certification from her school and her barangay, and a few other requirements that she was told to submit to enable her to open an account. Pobrecita naman!

The girl, I observed, was so excited about opening an account, perhaps for the first time in her life to do so, only to be told that she couldn't because she was missing hundreds of requirements! From the looks of her, she wasn't going to deposit more than P1,0000, not enough to set off anti-money laundering alarm bells off, and yet the bank officer just gave her a hard time. Of course the girl was crestfallen. I doubt if she even returned to the bank to submit those requirements. (On second thought, maybe her deposit was too small for the bank that the officer purposely tried to dissuade her from opening an account?)

Perhaps the Bangko Sentral can follow up this policy on easing up of ID requirements with a campaign to save. I remember when I was still in prep or grade 1, there was a massive campaign by the central bank for people to save and put their money in the bank. There was even a catchy TV/radio ad then, the lyrics of which I forget now, that played endlessly. Our school was in a frenzy getting us kids to save. I even remember putting all my coins in a piggy bank which I later bought to my bank, Monte de Piedad I believe it was, so I could deposit my "riches."

These days, kids are all about spending, even if its beyond their means or their parents' means. There is no financial education at all about setting aside money for the future.

Anyhow, I hope the BSP does continue with issuing its practical policies, perhaps next trying to impress on the Bureau of Treasury why having low interest rates discourages savers. More on that next week.

(Photo from

March 16, 2007

The marriage conspiracy

Something Like Life
March 16-17, 2007

IS there one? Undoubtedly.

How many times do single women get accosted by married friends they haven’t seen for quite a while, or by relatives, with the bombshell question: “So, when are you going to get married?”

If you’re over 30 and still single, “The Others”—which I fondly call married couples (because like in the series Lost, they can be evil)—will never let up in harassing you with this question, sometimes even going so far as to investigate what you do with your life in an attempt to fathom the seeming mystery of your continuing singlehood. They will also forever try to fix you up with all the single men they know because they want you to be like them (i.e. fat and sedentary, with kids tearing at their hair every minute, and, when not at the office, usually stuck at home watching the latest telenovelas).

Maganda ka naman, matalino ka…bakit di ka pa kasal?” they would press you. There is no easy way to answer these idiots without offending them. I just have to stop myself from actually blurting out, “Oo nga, kawawa ako noh? Ikaw nga panget at bobo, nakapag-asawa,” before cackling hysterically. I just settle with a dismissive: “Because I haven’t found someone to marry, obvious ba?”

There are so many unflattering names and descriptions for single women...old maid, spinster, hag, napag-iwanan ng biyahe, wala na sa kalendaryo, etc. In contrast, single men are given such a respectable term as “bachelor,” or the nonjudgemental “matandang binata”. What gives?

Single women often receive dinner invitations that require a date, a party where they are told to bring their husband or “significant other,” receive hotel gift certificates that say “for two.” Why does it cost more for a single woman to travel when, actually, there are less resources and energies expended by tour operators, airlines or hotels in servicing just one person? Whoever invented frigging single surcharges should be gutted and hung by his bootstraps!

Still, when you confidently attend events on your own with married couples in your midst, you are almost looked upon with pity. The Others start cracking jokes about their marriages and the mothers boast about their children and you are left out of the loop. You try to interject your story about the fabulous solo trip you took to some exotic destination like Bhutan, but you are ignored.

In this day and age, it still mystifies me how many people continue to think, albeit perhaps unconsciously, that a woman is worthless unless she is married and has children. I mean what about the four years she spent in college, and now her fabulous career? So the single woman now earns more money probably than most men her age, or is probably able to buy her own house and lot, car and furniture with money earned from her own profitable businesses...why isn’t she considered a success unless she has a family?

From youth, women are conditioned to think that the end-all and be-all of our existence is to get married and raise a family. (Men, on the other hand, are “programmed” to screw around as much as they want to with anyone they want to, no matter how many.) We are fed fairytales making us believe that our Prince Charming will come along and sweep us off our feet, wake us up from our long slumber, or rescue us from our dreary Cinderella lives. There will be a grand wedding in some castle that ends with a kiss. We are never told, nor do we ever ask, what happens next.

Because of this, sometimes a lot of women do get married for the wrong reasons. They expect so much from their husbands or the marriage itself that when the men fail to deliver, there are hurts, disappointments and, eventually, separations. Some women get hitched thinking they will find the satisfaction, peace and stability they’ve been craving for when they get married. They fall for the stupid fairytales, they romanticize marriage. Some women pin all their hopes on their husbands, then end up bruised by their own ignorance and delusion. Marriages today are complicated enough without you depending on your spouse for your fulfillment and happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing marriage. My own parents celebrated their 50th year of “twogetherness” just two years ago. And I know that despite their often dysfunctional dynamics, especially now that they’re approaching their 80s, they can’t live without each other.

But some women fail to realize that a lot of hard work goes into getting a marriage going. I admire my parents, for example, for sticking by each other through the many misunderstandings and tragedies that have happened in their lives. I am personal witness to how many sacrifices have been made in our name, the children. I don’t know if I could make the same difficult choices my mother made just to ensure a good future for herself and our family. If I were in her place, I probably would have thrown in the towel a long time ago.

And so, when expectations aren’t met, some try to claw their way out of their marriage sinkhole.

In analyzing why her four-year marriage to perennial Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong ended in divorce, Kristin Armstrong nee Richard, appearing on Oprah last year, said she just “lost herself” and became a “yes” woman. Kristin gave up her job in the US, sold her car and rented out her home to move to France to be with Lance. She said she tried to be the “perfect wife and perfect please [him] for the sake of our marriage.” She talked about being dazzled by the “rock on her left hand than to readying her heart for the journey ahead.” No one told her that marriage was going to be a series of challenges and that she may no longer recognize herself after she’d pledged her love and devotion to her husband.

Sure, sometimes I think maybe it would be nice to have someone to come home to and talk to at the end of a long day, or have someone to lay in bed with the entire Sunday just snuggling, or to have sex with regularly. We do need someone to share our burdens with or build a future with. But there comes a point in a single woman’s life that she will find other things, people, or activities that will fulfill those needs. Wanna snuggle? Get a dog. Want to have sex? Pick someone up at a bar. (Or get a vibrator.) Want a baby? Go to a sperm bank or convince your best male friend to donate his “mini-me’s.” Want to unburden? Call a friend.

I’m being facetious, of course. The point is, being single isn’t the end of the world. We are blessed with a lot of opportunities for personal growth and career advancement. It’s a whole lot better than ending up in the wrong marriage.

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

March 09, 2007

Managing office romances

March 9, 2007

IT’S been awhile since anyone’s paid real attention to you. He looks your way and he smiles. You blush but return a shy smile as well. He then starts coming around by your desk often, then asks if he could join you for lunch at the office canteen. He starts flirting, and giggly you are thrilled, you flirt back. You know it’s wrong, this feeling you are beginning to have for him, but you can’t help it. The ring on his finger glistens like a giant golden sun flashing its blinding rays into your eyes. But he’s persistent.

Next thing you know, you and he are sneaking off for private moments in the photocopying room, or locking yourselves in the restroom for a quick snatch of kisses, or running off to check into a motel right after work to feed your passions for each other.

You could be the happiest girl in the world—except that your officemates are starting to notice your extraordinary closeness to the married one. You realize they all stare whenever he drops by your cubicle, or when you two are having lunch and snickering like two teenagers. They start whispering as you pass by the water cooler or are on the way to the rest room. It’s getting to be extremely uncomfortable and you express your concerns to him. He shushes you with more kisses and reassures you that everything is all right and that you shouldn’t mind the people around you. You are happy and deliriously in love, and only are too willing to follow his lead.

The world comes crashing around you when you are summoned by the chief of the human resources department one day and told that your boss has received a complaint about you. It appears that the married one’s wife has found out about the real reason for her husband’s frequent tardiness at home, and sudden disappearances over the weekend despite his excuses of out-of-town assignments. You are issued a verbal warning to keep your hands off the married one, or suffer the consequences. Of course, the married one doesn’t receive a reprimand. In cases such as this, the burden almost always falls on the woman.

You love your job but you love him, too. Your mama told you you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You have to make a choice and pray you make the right one.

Office romances are too common to count that some companies no longer have written rules explicitly forbidding them. Whether it is an adulterous affair or just the plain vanilla singles’ office romance, most HR departments adopt a live-and-let-live policy, until such time complaints are actually filed, or there is a noticeable drop in productivity on the part of the lovers in question.

A survey of HR managers in the US by the Society for Human Resources Management showed that 24 percent claim that those involved in office romances eventually show lower work productivity. There may be no hard scientific or statistical basis for such a response except the perception of the HR managers. Unfortunately, in office romances, perception is really everything.

Filipinos being hopeless romantics will always seem to have a soft spot for couples in the office, and even encourage relationships especially if both are single. Of course, things can get quickly problematic if one of the two is in a position of authority, perhaps a boss falling in love with his assistant. There are some in the office who will start suspecting the assistant of getting favors from her lover/boss. The situation even becomes more of an issue when the couple decides to get married. Who knows if the promotion given the assistant was actually earned due to a job well done at the office and not at home?

If you are having an affair with a married coworker, you have to determine whether the job means more to you than your lover. Is the married one actually worth losing your job over? Keep your emotions on a leash and think it through...if you lose your job, is he going to help you find another job, support you while you are income-less? Also, can your ego take it that you, a college graduate, an intelligent hardworking woman, will have to accept a “lifeline” from him?

If you choose to keep your job—and I’m hoping you would—it will be mighty impossible to keep your head straight at work while nursing a broken heart, amid the presence of your ex who is just across your cubicle, and your ever-gossiping colleagues. If you must, ask your HR manager for a transfer to another division or another branch. I am hoping that HR managers and your boss will appreciate you more for choosing to give value to the company than to your lover.

If you think you are strong enough to withstand the “noise” of the breakup, then go ahead, firmly tell the married one that your relationship has to end, and you would rather you and he just remain colleagues and nothing more. It will be a constant challenge to just wake up in the morning to haul your bleeding carcass to the office but once you’re over the pain of it all, you will emerge stronger and more able to face any obstacles hurled your way, whether at work or in your personal life. I am sure that isn’t a reassuring enough reason but eventually you will know what I mean.

For married office couples, or single couples in a superior-staff situation, try to maintain a professional attitude with each other so as to discourage speculations of unworthy promotions or favors. You don’t have to be together all the time so don’t be unless the work situation absolutely calls for it. Don’t give or accept rewards, favors and special treatments from your partner.

Lastly, it would actually help your personal relationship if one of you finds another job or place of employment. After awhile, it will grate on your nerves to see your husband or lover at home and again see him the next morning at work. Remember that old adage about absence making the heart grow fonder? It would help to keep the excitement in your marriage or relationship to have new things to tell each other at the end of the day, instead of boring each other with the details of the events that happened to the same people you work with.

Office romances can work—if they are managed well. Sometimes they don’t, and should be ended. What’s important is that those involved should always choose what will be the best for one’s professional growth and personal maturity.

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

March 06, 2007

Monday bitching... Gordon Gekko and the Ayala malls

YES, yes, I know it's Tuesday already. I was just too preoccupied to write yesterday so apologies to all. But 'Monday bitching' seems to be a good title for my weekly bursts of outrage so I shall keep it no matter what day I write.

Anyway, I was reading the news today and got my blood pressure elevated again. I mean the nerve of this government to keep on announcing that it would be opening NAIA-3 to the public at some date and whenever that date approaches, they have a million and one excuses why the grand event would not push through! Of course everything will fall apart. The frigging structure's been standing there unused for the longest time! Anobayan!

(Inside the NAIA-3...the terminal that never was. Photo from

I am probably one of the few journalists who was able to tour NAIA-3 a few months before its scheduled opening and from what I remember, it was really designed well (I'm talking here about the interiors not the structural integrity, of course). Everything was almost ready for its use and there was just some discussions with PAL and other airlines about moving in. But of course the grubby, greedy hands of the GMA administration just had to intervene so they could make some money off the project proponenents (Fraport AG and Piatco). I am pretty sure if GMA and her henchmen, you know who you are, didn't stick their noses into the project, we would all be comfortably travelling from one of the best and most spacious terminals in the country right now. Sure, the deal may have been fraught with corruption, show me one deal this government made that's above board, but the point is,despite Piatco's Chengs supposedly not having enough capital to undertake the project, the terminal was built and finished.

It's funny how GMA chose to stuck with the decisions of her henchmen which unfortunately, cost the Philippines' standing in the investment community. Who would bother to invest in the Philippines if their projects won't be safe with a change in administration. To this day, if you ask foreign businessmen, they will tell you that the biggest problem of the Philippines is its changing of rules midstream. So now you have a case in the international courts against the presidentita's government for taking over NAIA-3 without paying for it. (It wasn't a national security issue so what presidentita's henchmen did was actually un-Constitutional.) Investors don't want to touch the Philippines with a 200-foot pole. And what do you know, to this day, the presidentita has yet to be invited by the German government for a visit because for all intents and purposes, she is persona non grata for having scuttled a business investment by one of that country's largest companies.

I am not making any excuses for corruption. As many will attest, I even joined a campaign to prevent the presidentita from implementing an incinerator project being pushed by her henchmen. However, I don't think we can undo corrupt projects already sealed and delivered. What the presidentita's henchmen should preoccupy themselves with is stopping such acts from being committed, for projects yet to be awarded and implemented. Set the example themselves by only approving 'clean' projects, and keeping their greedy hands in their pockets instead of dipping into other people's.

Greed may have made America, as Gordon Gekko proclaimed in the film Wall Street, but it will be the undoing of the Philippines.

A columnist today wrote of how the Ayala mall management is again re-evaluating its security measures after a few overeager security personnel apparently pounced on a woman shopper who they thought was soliciting for, ahem, customers. Of course the woman declared she was innocent and refused to cooperate with them after she was brought to the security office. Well the next day, the Ayala mall management received a call from a "furious" CNN News anchor whose wife apparently the security personnel had mistakenly apprehended. Apologies were made and graciously received.

Well, you guys know how I feel about the Ayala malls. Their security personnel are either inefficient, or just overzealous. Why can't they just be competent? Ayala Land Inc., which operates the malls, is one of the most profitable property firms in the country (they proudly proclaimed a P3.9-billion net income in 2006), so my question is, why can't it hire really top-notch security firms whose security guards are well-trained to keep snatchers and thieves out of the malls, or at least be able to apprehend them, and are really able to accurately profile hookers?!? I have yet to hear of any complaints of this sort from similar upscale malls like Podium or the Powerplant. If these malls can keep their customers safe, why can't Ayala?

(Kainggit naman si Dr. Belo! Does anyone besides me think that Hank Azaria is a hottie? Photo from

The most ridiculous item of the past week: Dr. Vicki Belo vouching for the faithfulness of James Yap to Kris Aquino. I regularly have a facial at Belo Medical along Tomas Morato. In fact, I share the same facialist with Purefoods' Mr. Tender and Juicy. I have never seen Dr. Belo at that branch, so I don't know how she can vouch for James being a good boy there, or anywhere for that matter. Unless he's been spending 24 hours of his life with the good doctor. Or she has closed circuit cameras installed in those rooms! Oooh...shades of Big Brother!

And yes, the rooms are pretty conducive to doing more than just the nasty. Doors of treatment rooms are kept closed to prevent intrusions from the outside. I'm sure they lock it. I mean c'mon, if people can have sex in the rest rooms of airplanes, doing it in a clinic treatment room is no problem at all.

I think Dr. Belo has gone overdrive just to protect Mr. Tender and Juicy from the lashing he is getting from his critics she is willing to use herself as cover. (I wonder why she's doing that. It's not as if it's James who helped boost her clinic's revenues, but Kris.) Now she is telling everyone that a former employee is bent on destroying her and is the source of the chismis. Whether it's true or not that this former Belo employee is out to get the good Doktora, the point is, no one believes Mr. Tender and Juicy's denials of an affair, neither does Kris and Boy Abunda, so why should we believe Dr. Belo?

March 02, 2007

Love in the wrong places

Something Like Life
March 2, 2007

FOR weeks now, the issue has been a permanent fixture of most conversations, be it at the beauty salon, the MRT, even among the elite café society. I’ve tried to avoid saying anything about it but at some point in time, one cannot help but weigh in on the latest problem besetting Kris Aquino. It really is just impossible to escape the maddening shoptalk and gossip. After all, to paraphrase my editor who so succinctly put it, this is a Kris world we live in and the reality is that she is probably the biggest celebrity in the country (pregnant fat jokes aside)—and the highest paid, if the rumor mills are to be believed, what with all her product endorsements. True, she commands a high price for these endorsements, but she knows she can deliver. And government operations would have probably stalled a long time ago if it were not for the huge amount of taxes she has paid over the years.

At ABS-CBN Publishing, I am told that her magazine 'K' outsells many of the publications in its stable. It may puzzle a lot of folks why anyone would even want to read about — or listen to — someone like Kris. But the truth is, the public wants to know every inch of her colorful life, they are not tired of hearing about her, and the media are only too willing to squeeze every bit of blood out of the rumors swirling around this celebrity. This is how much Kris has permeated the consciousness of the Filipino people. In a way, she is this nation’s own Paris Hilton, only smarter, even though she would like to believe she is more Oprah. Anything she says is believed by the public, and any product she sells is bought in earnest. Now isn’t that scary?!

But seriously, wasn’t it only yesterday that Kris, a snippet of a girl, was mounting platforms and campaigning for her dad and the opposition against the ruling Marcos dictatorship? Wasn’t it only a few years ago, that she was constantly in the face of her mother, the Madam President, even as the latter tried to conduct the business of the nation?

Now Kris is all grown-up, with a string of scandalous affairs behind her, herself a mother to a precocious pre-teener, and married to a much younger and now even equally controversial man. Dare I say, boy? For didn’t James Yap look awfully scared seated beside Kris during the Korina Sanchez interview, while he stumbled all over his poor self explaining his supposed non-indiscretion? (So why the mysterious coldness between him and Kris on her birthday? why did he say sorry? and more importantly, why did she forgive him? For what? Not doing the nasty with a former Belo Medical Clinic receptionist? Oh, pshaw!) Imagine a provincial hick getting hitched to a big star like Kris, but getting caught with his, ahem, pants down literally. I would be scared too if I were him. He stands to lose a lot — and I’m not just talking about profitable product endorsements — if Kris walks away from this marriage.

I can understand why everyone just can’t stop talking about Kris. She’s the kind of person that never fails to bring out the celebrity junkie in us. I mean this is no stupid woman. She is a bookworm, highly intelligent, well-spoken, and managed to graduate from a prestigious university despite her busy artista schedule. She also has the pedigree to boot. She comes from a respectable family, her father a politician now gone whom many consider to be a hero (I don’t), and a mother, the former president. She belongs to one of the most contentious political and landed families in the country, and could—even if the elections were held right this minute—beat out everybody to become senator.

At the same time, however, she does grate on our nerves with her squeaky voice, quirky fashion statements (a gown on a noontime show?!?!), non-stop yakking, her reveling in the issues that make her infamous (good or bad, it’s still publicity), and why, despite her brain, chooses to be an artista. Not to mention, her constant poor choices in men. Somehow we just all want to bop her on the head and tell her, “Kris, honey, wake the F... up! This man just ain’t good enough for you!”

But I guess that is part of the reason we are all obsessed with Kris. (Remember a similar Korina Sanchez interview where she told all about her relationship foibles with erstwhile lover Joey Marquez? Yes, the interview that all made us go… eeew!) We can’t help but empathize with the rollercoaster of Kris’s love life. She reminds us too much of ourselves. That’s why we all secretly wish that she will finally be happy with someone. We need to know that the man that she chooses as her lifelong partner will really love and take care of her, instead of just abusing her or taking advantage of her.

We admire her for the courageous choices she makes even if we know it’s in defiance of all things conventional and against all the advice her friends and family have probably given her. (She is an Aquarian, after all, like myself, which is why I understand her completely.) For sure, she has thought out the possible consequences of her decisions, especially with regard to the men she chooses to have dalliances with, but in the end her heart will always win out. Poor Kris, like many of us, is just a fool for love. And like her, we will do anything stupid for it, even if it means our personal sacrifice, shame and humiliation. (In the same way, that girl Hope Centeno was as much a fool, dying to be loved, and thrilled at the prospect of being given some attention by Kris’s husband. Gaga girl, a blowjob doesn’t mean anything other than sexual release for a man, so quit deluding yourself.)

But Kris is still young, after all. At her age, she is very much enamored with the idea of being in love, not so much as thrilled at living in its actual state. This is an emotional woman who has so much to give to the man she loves and when she does, she loses herself completely. She will do anything for her man and will go to bat defending him at all cost (in Kris’s case, even using her own PR machinery to spin their own truths).

So she looks for love, yes, sometimes in the wrong places. Her mistakes are magnified because she is a celebrity. But we’ve all made poor choices and suffered for them. Who hasn’t been hurt by the people we love? The question is if we are willing to forgive, and go on doing so until we wake up to the fact that the man we thought we’d spend our lives with isn’t really worth spit. We will hold on to the relationship for dear life, even though our conscience already tells us to give it up. We will keep ignoring the warning bells that are going off in our head in the supreme belief that things will turn out for the better. And that he will change. But one day, we will wake up and realize that our mothers and our friends were right all along. Hopefully, it won’t be too late.

Nevertheless, one must admire Kris for her bravery. And you know that no matter what happens, she will still pick herself up, as she has shown in the past, and move on. She won’t stop trying. She is a believer in love. And I’m sure that someday, she will get it right, and she will find the man who will be her equal in all respects. Courage, Kris.

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

March 01, 2007

US importers look to less costly RP mangoes

02/28/2007 | 11:13 PM

Major importers of Philippine mangoes in the United States are looking forward to less costly mangoes from Manila with the decision by the US government in December to allow other provinces in the Philippines to export the produce.

This developed as the US Embassy in Manila confirmed the arrival of an inspector from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assess the mangoes to be shipped to the US mainland and the territories of Guam, Hawaii and the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas (CNMI).

The first mango exports from areas outside Guimaras Island are expected to commence in March 2007 “and could last all-year round," according to Roberto Amores, president of the Philippine Mango Exporters Foundation.

Aside from Guimaras other mango-producing areas in the Philippines are Zambales, Batangas, Bataan and Pampanga, all in the Luzon region.

There are other areas in the Visayas such as Cebu, and Davao in Mindanao, which also produce fresh mangoes. Only Palawan is still prohibited by the USDA from exporting its mangoes because “the mango pulp weevil, a pest not known to exist in the United States, is prevalent (there). There are currently no approved treatments for this agricultural pest," the US Embassy said in an emailed response to this reporter’s queries.

(More at GMANews.TV)

French flair by the Bay

The Philippine Plaza unveils a $10-million renovation under the Sofitel brand name

Text and photos by Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo
Special to BusinessMirror

(OVERHEAD shot of the newly resurfaced swimming pool)

THE changes are subtle but unmistakable.

As you enter the doors of the hotel by the bay, a female bellhop greets you with a wide smile, splendid in her long-sleeved dark purple coat over black slacks. You glance over to the front office, and the female front office agents move around in white long-sleeved undershirts on a striped navy blue/white bias cut dress. On the right side of the dress is a large cabbage rose and a red, white and blue knotted scarf on the neck. Trés chic!

Then there is the stunning pool with its striking royal blue tiled floor standing out against the grey-blue waters of the Manila Bay. The pool with its kiddie slide, now looking more safe with additional railguards, is quite visible from the lobby as you make your way slowly down the grand spiral staircase to the grand buffet spreads of the Spiral restaurant.

Welcome to the new Sofitel Philippine Plaza, where everything is now cést magnifique!

Now managed by the French-owned Accor Asia Pacific, the renovations at this venerable 30-year-old institution are remarkable and in keeping with the graceful and easy style that the French are known for.

Still its interior design gives way to Filipino touches especially with the extensive use of rattan chairs from Cebu, mother of pearl or coconut shell inlays in most of the furnishings, and capiz shell lamps that hang from the ceiling of the guest rooms.

After a sumptuous lunch at Spiral, Bernd Schneider, the affable general manager of the hotel, gave BusinessMirror an exclusive preview of the refurbished sections of the establishment, which were unveiled last night, together with the formal relaunch of the hotel brand.

(Sofitel GM Bernd Schneider discusses the completed renovations at the hotel and other changes in store.)

“Sofitel Philippine Plaza has gotten a fresh start after a $10-million renovation which covered five guest floors, including two luxurious Club Sofitel floors, the swimming pool, banquet rooms, and the Harbor Garden and Sunset Pavilion tents,” he said.

The JCDC touch

As we pass by the front desk, Schneider points out the colorful uniforms of the agents, which he tells us were created by celebrated French designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac.

Although a bit subdued than his ordinary rockstar-like couture, the uniforms have the trademark JCDC touch. Castelbajac after all has distinguished himself by taking even everyday ordinary fabrics to new heights with the use of striking colors and fashioning them into clothes with lots of spunk. One of his last collections, for example, mostly in bold whites, reds and blacks, was edgy but with a touch of humor as blouses sported a picture of Snoopy in front.

The Sofitel collection is quite a departure from the usual boring blues or blacks of hotel uniforms, making the establishment an industry rebel much like JCDC is in the world of fashion.

Riding the elevators, the music is certainly not your usually dull muzak or heartrending medley of victim songs. Hip and trendy as only the French can be, the tunes are a mix of downtempo lounge music to uptempo chillout beats reminiscent of the ambient Buddha Bar and Hotel Costes selections. The mix has been specially created for Sofitel hotels and are played in key sections of the local establishment. Hmmm...maybe a Hotel Sofitel CD isn’t such a bad idea.

There is a lightness in the air as we walk the halls to check out a few rooms, possibly because of the softer lighting which gives off a muted, but not dark, ambiance. The elevator walls feature alabaster lighting fixtures that add to the warm aura throughout the floors.

Overall, the design of the guest rooms is contemporary but minimalist, with simple clean lines lending a functional elegance. It was created by the Hong Kong firm HOK International Asia Pacific Ltd. whose projects include the Lehman Brothers’ Hong Kong headquarters in the 88-story International Finance Center, the Motorola Campus currently being constructed in Beijing, to name a few.

Philippine craftsmanship is used extensively through coconut inlays on the headboard, doors and wardrobe with interiors painted in deep mahogany and white. The local artistry is also evident in the capiz shell details on lamps which give a warm and distinct look to the room. Timber planks installed at the lanai give it a cozy, homey feel. Business travelers will be delighted with the installation of high-speed Internet access in all the guest rooms.

“We adapt to the culture and environment where our hotels are located,” says Schneider, so the feel is still very resort-like as the establishment has been originally envisioned.

Restful sleep

(Schneider makes sure all newly-renovated guest rooms are ready for the grand launch of the Sofitel brand.)

The pièce de résistance of each guest room, of course, is Sofitel’s much-heralded MyBed™, which guarantees a “restful sleep” with its layers of softness. Schneider even uncovered one bed to show us a cushion of padding, a featherbed actually, over the main mattress. He says this bed construction gives the guest a feeling of “being cocooned” in a swathe of relaxation and comfortable support. Topping off each MyBed is a “lighter than a feather” down duvet and four down pillows.

Each guestroom done is in cream, white, with differing shades of brown (from a soft tan to a deep mahogany) and features abstract prints bursting with color, and in some guest rooms, daring red headboards in fabric. In the regular guest room, a 26-inch LCD flat TV rests on a long angular table, which stretches to serve as a desk near the balcony window. The suites have the 32-inch unit complemented by a DVD player.

Visible from the bed is the bathroom through a clear glass rectangular panel with mini-blinds that may be open or shut from inside. Regular rooms no longer have bathtubs as the trend among business travelers apparently is the preference for wider shower stalls, now done with clear glass doors.

A new Club Sofitel Lounge, an exclusive enclave for the discerning executive and upscale travelers boasts of bigger buffet counters and a 12-seat board room.

(THE new Club Sofitel Lounge, an exclusive enclave for the discerning executive and upscale travelers, boasts of bigger buffet counters and a 12-seat boardroom.)

Designed to be a hotel within a hotel, Club Sofitel provides private check-in and check-out, daily complimentary breakfast, unlimited coffee, tea, softdrinks and appetizers and cocktails from 5 pm to 7:30 pm at the stylish lounge. The lounge with an overall deep wooden brown shade theme as well, also has a library corner where guests may borrow international and local newspapers and a variety of books. It also serves also as an office away from home as it is equipped with working tables, ergonomic chairs, desk lamp complete with several sockets for laptops.

For large outdoor affairs, the hotel’s clients can choose between the Grand Sunset Pavilion which accommodate up to 600 persons, or the Harbor Garden for 2,000 persons. Both tented, these are located adjacent to the pool area, and overlooking Manila Bay.

The tennis court has also been relocated near the tents and an area to play pétanque, a popular summer game using metal and wooden balls, which originated from Provence, has also been constructed nearby. Schneider says the game will be immensely enjoyed by families who have become regulars of the hotel’s iconic swimming pool. An island deck in the middle of the pool sports a tropical wooden flooring with fashionable all-weather furniture to make lounging and dining al fresco even more relaxing. Plants line the edge of the deck for a refreshing look. A backgammon table gives guests the added pleasure of playing a few rounds while dining.

Jazz, chocolates, and the sunset

Last night, Sofitel also opened a new outlet called Le Bar, which we predict will become the “to go” place among discerning music fans and chocoholics. Located to the right of the lobby and above the sprawling Spiral, Le Bar incorporates a “three-in-one concept,” explains Schneider: a French bistro offering delectable cuisine, a lounge area for live jazz music, and a new daily outlet to be called Galette (French for wafer) offering a luxurious selection of chocolates and pastries even Jacques de Torres may envy. Knowing full-well that “galette” sounds like our Filipino word for anger, Schneider joked “if you’re angry, you should visit Galette and eat our good French pastries!”

(Sofitel uniforms designed by celebrated French designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac. Photo courtesy Sofitel)

Le Bar features a sunken lounging area where guests can listen to their favorite jazz artists, promising to be the haven of jazz afficionados in Manila. (The hotel has already taken the first brave steps toward being a jazz haven by having featured the first lady of jazz herself Diane Schuur, and 20-year-old pianist Eldar Djangirov, current toast of the jazz world, last Saturday at the Harbor Garden. It will also be hosting a jazz festival in June as part of the annual French Spring celebration of the French Embassy, says Schneider. Now how ultra cool is that?)

To the right facing the stage is a long bar overlooking Manila Bay, where we surmise, watching the sunset with a glass of ripe Shiraz would feel absolutely fantastic. Opposite it is the patisserie station painted in a rich brown with exquisite mother of pearl inlay. To the back will be an extensive wall of wines from all over the world. Designed by Spin Design Studio of Japan, the same firm responsible for Spiral, the fashionable outlet is expected to the raise the bar for cocktail lounges.

Still, there are still a few more things to be done, according to Schneider. The Siete Pecados, once the breeding ground of many up and coming singers and bands who eventually made their mark in the Philippine music industry, has taken a bow and will reopen in due time, new and even more improved. Schneider is tight-lipped on renovations that will take place for this outlet, but promising a classier outlet that only the fabulously French Accor touch will be able to provide.

Because of Sofitel Philippine Plaza’s makeover, the profile of its guests has expectedly shifted. Schneider says there is a marked increase in business travelers at the hotel in comparison to its previously dominant leisure group market.

“The rates are reflective of the renovations of the rooms and other areas. So far, it is accepted in the market as it promises good value for money,” he explains. As of February, the hotel occupancy rate was at 70 percent, but reached 98 percent during the Chinese New Year weekend.

“Our No. 1 guests are still Filipinos, followed by Koreans, Japanese, Americans, Chinese,” he says. With the Accor Sofitel branding, however, “we should see strong growth among the European guests, which have more than doubled [since last year].”

Schneider expressed confidence that with the major renovations at the hotel now completed, Sofitel will be seeing a “30-percent increase in activities this year.”

So you see, you don’t even have to go to France to see, hear, eat, and feel good things French. Sofitel Philippine Plaza will make you believe that even in Manila, joie de vivre is possible.

A great night of jazz music

(Mon David, Gary V., Diane Schuur)

LAST Saturday, Feb. 24, my friends and I spent a great night at the Harbor Garden tent of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, listening to super classy jazz acts. Topbilling the night's performances was the first lady of jazz herself, Diane Schuur, my supreme idol! I mean this woman can really sing and croon and how she can scat! The first time I heard Diane Schuur sing 'Louisiana Sunday Afternoon'...this was probably in the late '80's...I thought that she was another sexy Black female artist in the mold of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, or Sarah Vaughan. I was surprised to learn then that she was actually white, and blind, but man, she is as good as jazz gets. What a fabulous performer! Ms. Diane, who obliged us by having our photos taken with her, told me that this was actually her third visit to Manila. Man, I don't know how I could've missed the first two. Where the hell was I those times? Hmmm...

But we had to wait the entire night before she actually mounted the stage. Before her was a number of the country's best jazz performers like Tots Tolentino, Mon David, Lynn Shermann, Stella Ignacio, Myra Ruaro – the last three sang with other female artists who called themselves 'Dreamgirls' (10 points for originality) – and Gary V. Look Gary V. is really a great singer and performer...I just wish he would stop doing his Michael Jackson moves. That's so old already Gary! and we're all grown up! C'mon!

(Cutie Eldar Djangirov and newest groupie, yours truly)

The surprise for the night was 20-year-old jazz pianist Eldar Djangirov, who is currently the most celebrated jazz pianist in the US. This kid, ooooh such a hottie may I add, was just fantastic. His fingers just lightly tripped over the piano keys, exerting supreme control over the volume and speed over the way the tunes were played. Technique at its finest. He completely wowed the audience with his masterful command of the keys.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening was the jamming between Ms. Diane and Prince Eldar, both enjoying each other's turn, unselfishly giving of each other's talent to make for a better show. Another treat was Mon David, Gary V and Ms. Diane jamming on 'Spain'! I have never been so proud to be a Pinoy that night as I watched Mon and Gary put on a good show with someone as famous as Ms. Diane. It must have been a very humbling experience to be in the presence of such immense talent, no pun intended, and the crowds just couldn't stop applauding them after the performance. Ang galing!

(Super fans Pangs, and me with Diane

I completely lost my bearing as a journalist and just gave in to the fan that I am, getting my photos taken with Lady Diane and Prince Eldar. I didn't attempt at all to interview them...I was just too thrilled to meet these great great performers. I couldn't care less that I probably let a good story get away. I was just a fan and that was all that mattered.

Seen enjoying the performances were Sofitel general manager Bernd Schneider, French Ambassador to Manila Gérard Chesnel, Monk's Dream owner and STI president Gus Lagman, Inquirer business columnist Conrad Banal with cousin, the former Bb. Pilipinas International Gem Padilla, Inquirer food reviewer Mickey Fenix with restaurateur Myrna Segismundo in tow, BPI Foundation associate director Chell Jacob, among others.

Congratulations to the organizers of the Philippine Jazz Festival for bringing such wonderful talents together in one show. And props to Sofitel as well for hosting the event. I'm pretty sure jazz afficionados will finally find a home in the hotel with the launch tonight of its newest outlet, Le Bar. Ahh, culture at last.

(You can check out my other photos of the jazzfest on Flickr.)