September 30, 2007

We're No. 1! Archers stump Eagles 65-60

And our Tees rock! Click Animoism

MY boys did it! All their hard work and training paid off (thank you Coach Pumaren). They did their homework, saw what went wrong in the earlier game with Ateneo (primarily weak rebounds and assists), and came back to pull the rug under the feet of the Blue Eagles.

Sunday's game started out very weak, almost boring at first. The Archers' star player TY Tang was a little off and kept on missing baskets. And Chris Tiu kept on scoring for the Blue Eagles. But my boys hung tough. We were always in the lead, except for a few chamba shots by the Ateneans. But the Archers had a solid play. Our aim was true and it brought the birds down.

No doubt about it, we will get the UE Red Warriors as well!

So ano'ng masasabi mo ngayon, Romy Neri, you no good Atenista you?

(Oooh, my favorite government official isn't so happy about today's game either. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Sayang gwapo ka pa naman, kaso Atenista ka. Hehehe! Turn your cars around, guys! Baha na naman sa Katipunan!)

Btw, we truly appreciate U.S. Ambassador Kirstie Kenney wearing green this time around, when it counts the most. See, even the Americans are on our side!

Bakit ganito kapatid?

THERE'S this really fascinating story in GMANews.TV about how former NEDA Director-General Romy Neri is supposedly sore at the media for trying to drive a wedge between him and his Presidentita. He supposedly lamented about this situation to Secretary Cerge Remonde, director-general of the Presidential Management Staff.

The story is so hilarious because it is so elaborately-constructed, with matching bakla dialogue ("Bakit ganito kapatid?" was how Remonde says Neri put it), and with angst dripping all over the place. It is so utterly unbelievable considering that Neri isn't really close to anyone in the Cabinet to confide his feelings to...well, except maybe for Finance chief Gary Teves, who became an unwitting accomplice in the Abalos-ZTE bribery fiasco.

And even if the conversation did take place, Bakit ganito kapatid? because kapatid you were stupid not to have told the truth! That's why. Gads since when did the PMS chief become an administration mouthpiece? Di ba tiga-ayos lang 'yan ng papeles ni Presidentita sus?

The lengths to which this administration goes to just to spin this scandal in their favor continues to amaze me. It is almost terrifying to have these many amateurs working on the Presidentita's team, you constantly wonder about the future of this country. It's so nakakatawa na nakakainis!.

September 29, 2007

Teves admits Neri told him about Abalos' bribe offer

MANILA, Philippines -- Romulo Neri informed not only President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but also Finance Secretary Margarito Teves about Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr.'s purported offer of P200 million.

Teves himself disclosed this to reporters in New York, saying that Neri, then the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, had told him about Abalos' alleged bribe attempt to push the approval of the National Broadband Network project in favor of China's ZTE Corp.

But at that time, "I did not put too much attachment to it," Teves said on Thursday. The finance secretary is part of the entourage of Ms Arroyo, who is in New York with other heads of state to attend the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly. (Read the rest at Inquirer.)

HAVE we Filipinos lost our sense of moral outrage over corruption in government? Apparently so, as even someone as respectable and honorable as Finance Secretary Gary Teves, apparently didn't even flinch when told of Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos bribe attempt on former NEDA Director-General Romy Neri!

Why did Teves think Neri was telling him this for? Btw, FYI lang? Obviously, Neri turned to him for guidance being a decent man of his stature. Neri's conscience was bothering him and he wanted to tell someone so he would know what to do about it. But how did Teves behave? Wala lang.

It irritates me to no end that even people whom I thought were decent have a cavalier attitude over stomach-turning incidents as this. If you don't say anything about it or put a stop to it, then you are guilty by complicity. Such a shame Gary Teves. I believed in you.

Chinese Authorities Execute 10 Million Recalled Toys

From The Onion... Hilarious!

(Click here to read the story.)

Honey, do I look fat?

A patient undergoes a laser liposuction procedure under board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Alexander de Leon, left. (Photo courtesy LNI)

Something Like Life
Sept. 28, 2007

HOW many men in this world have felt tortured, rendered catatonic by extreme anxiety, and sweated buckets as they try to answer this question from their girlfriends or their wives with extreme delicateness, knowing full well that even saying “No” would open a long discussion on whether or not they appreciate their sweetie pie?

I pity the men who’ve been put in such an impossible situation by these women who actually know that they are fat but are just looking for extra validation from their men about how they look. Or maybe they’re just trying to escape the inevitability, even the wisdom, of going back on a diet or exercising when their men—hopefully—say, “No sweetheart, you look just fine the way you are.”

Women have a crazy, almost hilarious relationship with their body. We are just never happy with what we have. Either we’re too thin, which would mean we don’t have the boobs, or we’re too obese that we can’t squeeze into the size 0 dresses that all the runway models and magazine covergirls are wearing. And thin or fat, we will always see ourselves differently from how others actually see us. There is never enough problem areas on our bodies. So we turn to quick fixes.

Like many women who’ve had a running battle with their bodies and dress sizes, I, too, have toyed around with the idea of undergoing liposuction primarily because I wanted to suck out the fat from my thighs and hips, and then reinject them into my flat chest.

Thankfully, the upside of my tipping the scales over the years is that my bra cup size has now increased (wohoo!) and I no longer feel self-conscious wearing a low-cut blouse. So I think I’m just gorgeous the way I am right now and a trip to the plastic surgeon will not be on the calendar anytime soon. Still, admittedly, shopping for just the perfect set of jeans can be a frustrating shopping experience. But then there’s sugar-free ice cream, so who cares?!

The lowdown on lipo

SERIOUSLY, while waiting for my turn with my dermatologist, Dr. Reena Corona Rosales, at La Nouvelle Image the other day, I managed to have a friendly chat with her partner, Dr. Alex de Leon, one of the only 60 board-certified plastic/cosmetic surgeons in the country. (For sure, your friendly neighborhood, billboard-advertising, celebrity-endorsed cosmetologist isn’t one of these professionals.) Since he started his practice in 1994, Doc Alex has become famous for the perfectly trimmed noses and gorgeous bodies of his very private clients, many of whom I cannot name, of course.

While no statistics are available from the Philippine Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgeons on the number of lipo procedures done in this country, Dr. de Leon says, in his experience alone, he has done about 1,025 liposuction procedures in his 13 years of practice—or roughly 76 procedures a year. (In the US cosmetic plastic surgery is a $12-billion industry, with about 11 million Americans having undergone procedures last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.)

We’re all too familiar with the image of the traditional liposuction, where the surgeon moves his canula back and forth, sucking out the fat from the body of the anesthetized patient. These days, Dr. de Leon also uses the laser-assisted liposuction method, wherein the problem area is exposed to a low-level diode external laser, after being injected with a solution composed of normal saline plus a local anesthetic and epinephrine. This so-called tumescent solution “makes the extraction of the fat less bloody and, of course, less painful because of the anesthetic,” he explains. After injection, the external laser is used to melt the fat without having to insert it into the problem area. After the fat melts, the surgeon then inserts a thin canula, about four centimeters in diameter, in the problem area and easily sucks out the wet soggy fat.

Under laser lipo, according to the doctor, the patient experiences less pain and his or her recovery is shorter, as compared with those who undergo the traditional procedure. “On a scale of 1-10, I think the pain is about a 2 or 3. Of course, pain is very varies from person to person, depending on his or her threshold. But with the laser lipo, I’ve observed that my patients take less of the postoperative analgesics. Under the traditional lipo, kulang pa sa kanila ang painkillers and we have to combine several analgesics just to relieve their pain. They’re also up and about faster [with laser lipo], in about two to three days, whereas under the traditional lipo a patient takes about five days to recover.” He adds that with the laser lipo, there is less bruising on the patient’s skin, primarily because there is less trauma to the body as the fat is melted.

Of course, liposuction itself isn’t that cheap to begin with. A traditional lipo on the upper and lower abdomen, for example, generally costs about P80,000. With the laser lipo, it will cost about P15,000 more. (At La Nouvelle Image, it comes with a complimentary overnight stay at Linden Suites with breakfast for two.) But for many patients, the procedure may spell the difference between having a more positive view of their bodies and, ergo, a happier outlook in life, or feeling depressed, alone and isolated.

No change after dieting, exercise

THE ideal candidates for laser lipo, Dr. de Leon says, are persons not more than 20 percent over the ideal body weight, healthy patients who exercise regularly, have good skin tone, firm and elastic (with no cellulite or stretchmarks), have realistic expectations, and are psychologically stable and motivated to get rid of problem areas.

“If the patient is really big, I tell them to go on a diet and exercise first. But I also realize that some patients who come here, honest to goodness, they tried all that already—they spend five hours at the gym to work out, they don’t eat anymore—and yet they’re still big or they still have problem areas that don’t go away.” For women, the most problematic areas are the abdomen or puson, the butt, thighs and arms. “It’s physiologic. It’s something related to the child-bearing function of the female. ’Yung puson pang-cushion sa baby,” he explains.

But lest we misunderstand, Dr. de Leon stresses that liposuction isn’t a weight-reduction procedure. It is the inches that are reduced in the body and not the weight, so it is really more for body sculpting, instead of weight management. And once a patient has undergone the procedure, it is advisable that she observes a properly balanced nutritional diet and exercises to maintain her figure. “If you’re not careful and you start eating again and you lead a sedentary life, then definitely you will gain weight.” Mercifully, the weight gain will not be in areas already lipoed—because the fat cells have already been reduced there—but in the other areas of the body with fatty deposits. I remember a tabloid story years ago which said country singer Kenny Rogers grew boobs after he had liposuction done on his abdomen and love handles. Dr. de Leon says this is very possible.

A patient consults Dr. de Leon on breast implants. (Photo by Rhoy Cobilla)

“But the beauty of liposuction is that you can grow fat but still maintain your shape. In other words, if your figure was straight before and through lipo we were able to create a shape, a thinner waistline, for example, when you grow fat, you will still have the curves. But you must understand that although the remaining fat cells will no longer multiply in number, they can increase in size.”

Have realistic expectations

IN terms of safety, Dr. de Leon says all patients going under general anesthestia are required to have a thorough medical checkup (e.g., chest X-ray, ECG, complete blood count, fasting blood sugar, etc.) first and to secure a cardio-pulmonary clearance from a cardiologist and internist. “Without this clearance, we don’t schedule the patients for general anesthesia.”

Okay, girls, before you start hocking the family jewels or force your husbands to allow you to get a liposuction as a Christmas gift, Dr. de Leon impresses on his patients to have realistic expectations and really understand why they want to undergo the procedure in the first place. If you’re getting a lipo just so that your husband will stop playing around with the sexy brainless slut in his office, then lipo may not be the answer to your problem. “Maling motivation ’yan. You don’t want to promise [your patient] na ’pag successful ’yung operation, guaranteed na babalik asawa mo. If the husband doesn’t come back to her, then the operation would be deemed a failure even if it was successful.”

Most of the time, it really isn’t the body weight that is the issue in problem marriages. I’ve known reed-thin or sexy fabulous women whose husbands still leave them. The issues in the marriage are deeper and complex than the sexy wife just being a jealous nagging bitch, the husband just a serial philanderer/sex addict, or either one being a fat slob.

If you’re serious about undergoing liposuction, do it for the right reasons. Because you want to be sexy for yourself, perhaps jump-start your diet and exercise routine, and generally just be healthy. Isn’t that a better Christmas gift for yourself?

Dr. Alex de Leon may be reached at La Nouvelle Image, 7th floor, Linden Suites, 37 San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Call 637-7841.

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

September 26, 2007

Romy Neri the wimp

(Romy Neri with his Presidentita...BFF! Photo from The Philippine Star)

ATENEo/UP technocrat Romulo "Romy" Neri will go down in Philippine history as the man who could have, but didn't. He could have stopped all this moro-moro, put an end to the shenanigans in this corrupt government of his Presidentita GMA, could have saved taxpayers a lot of money by ending the Senate hearings, etc., but alas, didn't.

He shirked away from his patriotic duty and lost his balls possibly while he had the runs last week. Oh sorry, did someone say his balls are well taken cared of? Oh excuse me...that's probably why he wouldn't talk...the Presidentita knows all about it.

Well, as I said earlier, Romy Neri should never have been given the post of NEDA director-general in the first place. He has no backbone to speak of unlike his predecessors Winnie Monsod, Ciel Habito, and Dante Canlas. Those guys were honest to the core (okay forget about Habito and the voice of God stint) and would not be swayed by any of Malacañang's exertions. They never lied about the true state of the economy, unlike this guy Neri who has led all the government agencies in charge of economic policy and statistics to massage the country's growth figures. We journalists have a term for a similar kind of reporting...SS (go ask your media friends what it means). With Neri's personal background, we're not at all surprised. (Gads, wasn't it super annoying how he kept on turning to his alalays for each and every question asked of him? Ano ba?! How the hell did you become a Cabinet Secretary?!)

Okay give the guy a medal anyway for confirming that Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos did offer him a bribe of P200 (pesos? thousand? million? billion? pesos or dollars?). But by claiming executive privilege on the other parts of the conversation he had with his Presidentita after he made sumbong about Abalos' bribe try, he was merely protecting her dastardly deeds (how could she not know what was going on with a big effing deal costing $340 million?).

By running away from the truth, Neri has singlehandedly destroyed the credibility of NEDA, a government agency tasked to assess all major government projects and monitor the implementation and use of overseas development assistance. He even allowed his Presidentita to take over its oversight functions. (A text message from a former DG: "Deliberate 'yan: Destroy NEDA's oversight function so the plunder agenda would meet no resistance.") I can imagine the frustration of all the hardworking good people over there.

Unlike Joey de Venecia who stood up to his father with the immortal words, "Pop, do you really want me to stand aside while the Filipino people are robbed of $200 million?” (as quoted by Boo Chanco), Neri stood by his Presidentita and allowed her and her minions to get away with murder. Maybe Neri just stayed too long at the Congressional Planning Budget Office, he probably got infected by the slimy ways of the congressmen. May you be cursed with the runs for the rest of your life, you wimp!

Meanwhile, it really frustrates me to listen to our supposedly esteemed senators rant about the proposed National Broadband Network and the ZTE deal when they can't even tell the difference between broadband, bandwith, IP, Voip! Pwede ba, mag-research naman kayo before attending the hearings? Can't you just google the goddamned terms? Or better yet, consult real IT experts. How dare you people go to your hearings unprepared against someone like DOTC Asec. Lorenzo Formoso. Grabeh, you guys sound like idiots! Grrr! (A basta, idol ko si Kap! K.)

And this is why La Salle will win the game today versus Ateneo. Animo La Salle! (pwede ba pagbigyan nyo na ko, blog ko 'to noh?)

La Salle-Ateneo rivalry in NYT

A Nation’s Passion Lives in a Rivalry of Green vs. Blue
New York Times, Sept. 23, 2007

QUEZON CITY, the Philippines, Sept. 21 — Senators, foreign diplomats, cabinet ministers, a smattering of Forbes’s 40 richest Filipinos, movie stars and enough professional basketball players to play five-on-five. They are the elite of Philippine society, and they all gather at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City to watch the men’s basketball rivalry between the universities Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle.

La Salle Coach Franz Pumaren said, “The janitors in Araneta always say, ‘If there’s an Ateneo-La Salle game, once everybody’s out of the coliseum, it still smells good because of the all the socialites watching.’ ”

In the basketball-crazed Philippines, where former players have become senators and nearly every public square has its own court, it is hard to imagine a crowd like this assembling for any other event. Kristie A. Kenney, the United States ambassador, attended the season’s first meeting between Ateneo and La Salle in late July.

Ateneo and La Salle are the most prestigious private universities in the country. The question of which institution provides a superior education is a toss-up; the tie breakers take place on the basketball court. (Read on Green vs Blue)


September 25, 2007

Sound Art Conference this October

From our colleague Jing Garcia:

New Media Arts Manila (NMAM) was formed to curate, stage, and promote New Media Art — art made with electronic, audiovisual, and information technologies. It includes sound art, video art, interactive electronics, algorithmic art, computer music, and whatever art forms new technologies may yet spawn. As NMAM's first project, ELECTROSTATIC SOUND CONFERENCE will showcase the full range of performative sound art pieces through the performances of the following artists:

Malek Lopez, Berklee-trained virtuoso who is the principal composer for the band Drip, and half of the abrasive electronica duo Rubber Inc.;

Mu Arae Transmission, (aka Moon Fear Moon aka John Sobrepena), who composes haunting and eerie instances of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music);

Blums Borres, 3D animator, performative video artist, and sound artist who dedicates himself to expanding the sonic territory of the electric guitar;

Jing Garcia, tech editor of The Manila Times who founded the seminal sound art group Children of Cathode Ray in 1989 and composes industrial/ambient pieces as autoceremony ;

Tengal, frenetic composer, a tireless sound artist, the founder of S.A.B.A.W. sound art collective, and a one-man record label;

Lirio Salvador
, sculptor and luthier whose ornate, chrome-plated instruments are featured on television, displayed in galleries, and played by his group Elemento;

Tad Ermitano, filmmaker and video artist who creates custom programs and hardware for his art installations. His work has appeared in Time magazine.

The ELECTROSTATIC SOUND CONFERENCE will be on October 10, 8:30 pm at Club Dredd, 2nd floor Gweilos Eastwood. Event partners: Globe, Sony Ericsson and Asus.

Admission is FREE!

Waitaminit! Did Jing just say Club Dredd?? Ayos!

Hail British comedy!

IF you loved Absolutely Fabulous, you'd know that Joanna Lumley's sidekick, Jennifer Saunders (the pill-popping, boozing designer Edina Monsoon) was, for the longest time, actually the partner of another British comedienne Dawn French in the hugely successful British TV sketch French and Saunders. These funny ladies revive their routines in A Bucket O' French & Saunders, whose first season just started this month.

I tripped over this clip at (don't ask me why I was there in the first place...ick), and it's really a hilarious spoof of Tyra Banks' America's Top Model. Oooh...Ms. Saunders looks like she's had some retouching done wot? Forget the ZTE scandal for the moment and let's enjoy the brilliance of British comedians. (I miss my Little Britain...sigh.)

Will he or won't he?

THE guessing game around town these days seems to be whether or not former NEDA director-general Romy Neri will be appearing at the Senate hearing tomorrow. We understand the intense pressure that Sec. Neri must be under, thus, his no-show twice. His first reason was that he needed to get permission from his presidentita GMA. The next was that he was suffering from intentional, este, intestinal flu.

Then yesterday there was this whole drama of whether or not he would be joining his presidentita on her trip to the U.S. What is the presidentita afraid of pa ba...e bukong-buko na sya at ang kanyang mga tuta sa ginawa nila sa NBN-ZTE deal? Ang dudupang nyo kasi e!

Well the resolution of this issue rests squarely on the shoulders of Romy Neri. He has already given our colleague Jarius Bondoc a lot of background on the deal, it's time for the good Secretary to come right out in the open and just tell the Senate what he knows. By keeping quiet, he is the one fanning the flames of the controversy.

Btw, those who want to turn the 'AB-ZTE-FG' video clip below into an MP3 ringtone for your cellphone can just click on this online converter. Fun!

September 22, 2007

NYT opinions now free!

IN case you guys still don't know it, you can now access the New York Times' opinion/editorial page and read the pieces for free. Management probably realized the paper wasn't making enough money anyway from subscribers to its TimesSelect, and besides, you could read some of their columnists in certain blogs or like here, in some newspapers. Well thank God that NYT management has awakened in the 21st century and realized it is actually living in the era of a continuing Internet revolution. So folks, read on!

This is a link to a very timely piece by one of my favorite NYT columnists, Maureen O'Dowd. It is timely because it talks about a Chinese goverment official who was executed for taking bribes. Before he died, he wrote a confession about his mistakes. O'Dowd, in her trademark wit, "ghost-writes" a confession for US President George Bush. Is anyone ready to do this for GMA and her cohorts?

NBN-ZTE deal suspended!

HERE'S the report from GMA News:

Suspended lang? Why not cancel it altogether? E 'di ba talagang na-suspend naman yan ng Supreme Court? Duh!

As in our previous experience with the GMA administration regarding tainted government projects, this gives them a chance to resurrect the NBN-ZTE deal in the future, possibly in a different form and under a different name but with the same corruption-riddled components. After all, how can they not push through with the project when so much bribes have been made already to the key government officials who have been pushing this project? You think these people will return the monies already paid to them? For all we know, the tainted monies are no longer here but in some Swiss government accounts! Oh! Is that why someone hastily left for Europe recently? Hmmm...

I'm glad the Senate will still continue its probe despite the project suspension. We wait with bated breath on what Sec. Romy Neri will say. Word has it that he has beefed up his security...obviously there are some powerful people up there who want to shut him up. We need to get to the bottom of this controversy and have some closure. Some heads do have to roll. We only ask the good Senators to please listen to your colleagues so you don't waste time repeating their questions?! Nakakairita e.

Click here for Sen. MAR Roxas' reaction.

As for the guy below, he's trying to claim credit for the suspension of the ZTE deal...ang kapal talaga! Like didn't Speaker de Venecia say it earlier this week? Another winner from GMA News:

September 21, 2007

The Neda report

FOR the benefit of the public, I am posting herein the evaluation report of the National Economic and Development Authority on the National Broadband Network project currently being investigated by the Philippine Senate. Also, attached is the minutes of the meeting of the Investment Coordinating Committee, composed of Cabinet secretaries or their representatives, which deliberated the NBN-ZTE proposal. (Courtesy GMANews.TV)

Click Neda on NBN and ICC Minutes for details.

Where's FG Mike Arroyo and what's he doing? Ellen Tordesillas knows.

The next Senate hearing on the NBN-ZTE deal is on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Hey, did anyone notice it's the anniversary of Marcos' Martial Law today? 36 years they tell me. Erg.

Of fathers and sons

Something Like Life
Sept. 21, 2007

“There must always be a struggle between a father and son, while one aims at power and the other at independence.” — Samuel Johnson, July 14, 1763

THIS statement of renowned English poet and essayist Samuel Johnson, as quoted by his biographer James Boswell in his book The Life of Samuel Johnson, is no truer now than when it was first uttered centuries ago.

Like many other Filipinos, I was glued to the TV screen last Tuesday as the Senate blue-ribbon committee opened its investigation into the controversial ZTE broadband deal, now estimated at $340 million.

I was riveted to the unfolding drama as Joey de Venecia, or JDV III as the media has dubbed him, answered the senators’ probing questions into the so-called national broadband network project, or NBN, the contract between ZTE — a leading telecommunications company in China — and the Philippine government, and the alleged anomalous, not to mention scandalous way, by which the contract was hatched and signed. Too, JDV III did not mince words in identifying the key players in deal, dragging the name of Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos and even that of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo into the sordid affair.

It was interesting to note that there in that esteemed hall of the Upper Chamber, JDV III, the son of veteran politician and House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., faced off against several notable “sons” of politicians as well: Mar Roxas (of the late Sen. Gerry Roxas), Alan Peter Cayetano (the late Sen. Renato Cayetano), Chiz Escudero (former congressman and agriculture secretary Salvador Escudero), Noynoy Aquino (the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino) and Jinggoy Estrada (former President Joseph Estrada).

Joey P. de Venecia III, right, re-enacts how First Gentleman Mike Arroyo told him to "back off" from the NBN deal at the Senate hearing on Sept. 18, 2007. 'Papa, can you hear me?' (Photo from GMANews.TV)

Only JDV III did not follow in his father’s footsteps and, until a couple of weeks ago, was largely unheard of, working quietly in the IT industry. Well, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about his background as the administration cranks up its rather amateurish crisis PR group. I’ve already received several text messages from a 0927-4868279 (Hello NTC!) alleging all sorts of improprieties in JDV III and his father’s past. True or false, they have no bearing, though, on the issue at hand.

Society takes fatherhood as the ultimate expression of a man’s masculinity. And to have a son is the proudest moment in any father’s/man’s life. Despite this era where women have emancipated themselves at home and in their careers, proving that, yes, they are as worthy or useful as men are, a father will always long for a son rather than a daughter.

In a son, a man can count on the survival of the family name and the continuation of the bloodline, so to speak. Naturally, a father sees himself in the son and tries to nurture him to grow up to be “just like Dad.” Many fathers take so much pride in having sons as their first-borns that they even name their babies after themselves. Thus, we have the Juniors or the Thirds around us. One can only hope that they live up to their father’s names.

Because for every son that has achieved or surpassed the accomplishments of his father, there are a few who have failed, bringing shame to their fathers and their families. When a father is successful, his own family and society in general put a lot of pressure on the child to reach the same heights as he did. Such pressure further complicates the bond between a father and his son.

And so as I watched the Senate hearing, there was JDV III politely answering the pointed questions of the senators. But it was obvious that the most difficult inquiries he tackled were those regarding his father, the House Speaker. He looked even slightly choked up as he confessed that his only regret in coming out and telling all about the ZTE deal, was that his relationship with his esteemed father was now suffering.

It is never easy for a son to try to stand up for himself and try to do different from what his father may have done if placed in a similar situation. The consummate politician that he is, I would think Joe de V, if in his son’s place, would feverishly try to work out a compromise with Abalos and ZTE. He is one who tries to smoothen any ruffled feathers, especially those of his colleagues.

What is clear is that the Speaker is none too happy with how things have blown up. Observing how Joe de V has worked through the five terms he has headed the Lower House, I would assume that he had impressed on his son to just keep quiet and roll with the punches. Perhaps he tried to assure his son there were other projects he could bid for in the future. Joe de V presumably tried his best to persuade his son to leave the First Gentleman’s name out of the affair, and to protect his alliance with the President as much as possible. Thus, we hear JDV III go on and on calling GMA “my President,” and his constant assertion that she did not know of the details of the ZTE deal. (In fact, she did, as JDV III himself let slip later.)

For JDV III to disregard his father’s advice and risk disappointing the latter can be a gut-wrenching decision any son can make. Did anyone notice how JDV III’s face lit up, and how his eyes sparkled like a little boy’s, as he spoke of how proud his father was that President Arroyo had cited his proposal in a favorable light, telling Abalos to tailor ZTE’s bid in a similar fashion? Young or old, a son will always keep courting the approval of his father.

Will the Speaker give up his post for his son? (Photo from Peace Federation)

In an interview after Tuesday’s Senate hearing with the news channel ANC, JDV III said that his father was going out of town intimating that he knew not where their relationship was headed.

For now, we are just observers in the side drama on the Speaker and his son, JDV III. It may not be as gripping as the spectacle between Ruffa Gutierrez and her mother, the feisty Annabel Rama, but it is interesting nonetheless in the context of realpolitik. The Speaker is still safe in his seat, but if push comes to shove for the President and her husband, and Joe de V’s position is threatened, it would be intriguing to find out how the latter plays his hand.

In an interview on Wednesday, however, Joe de V said he was cancelling his trip to Rome and is standing by his son. However, he has yet to corrobate his son’s testimony regarding three instances where the Speaker may have witnessed certain events and heard statements made by the key players regarding the ZTE deal. As any politican will tell you, sometimes it is difficult to choose between duty to family and duty to country. Or in this case, to his President. Will Joe de V choose his political survival over his son? Abangan.

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

Holiday ba?

IF you were one of the thousands watching the second day hearing of the Senate investigation into the national broadband network (NBN)-ZTE deal on TV yesterday, you would have probably been surprised with all the pala that Transportation Secretary Leonard Mendoza brought along. Imagine almost the entire Cabinet in attendance including the top gun Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita! Government holiday ba? OA nyo! Even Sen. MAR Roxas was surprised at his former colleagues' presence. What's so important about the deal that the entire government yesterday screeched to a halt?! Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Anyway, I texted my favorite government official yesterday to tell him that apparently he was the only one working among his colleagues yesterday. Sarcastically, he answered, "Bakit kaya?" Hmmm...

But TV or not, it was mighty obvious who among the government officials present were lying through their teeth. Almost everyone there committing perjury. Bilib na sana ako ke Asec. Lorenzo Formoso because he really knew his IT stuff. Then he blinked. And made pa-cute about going to Wack-Wack only for weddings and socials. He said it twice, thrice. Too rehearsed my friend. T'was too obvious. Take a cue from the Superstar Ate it down. Underact. Next time you might be believable.

Teves confirms Abalos involvement in ZTE deal. (Photo from PDIC)

The only credible Cabinet Secretary up there was Finance Secretary Gary Teves. I have only utmost respect for this man, and I hope this is not misplaced. But at least he did confirm that Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos did bring the ZTE officials to his home. E bakit? What's Abalos' business facilitating meetings like that? And then again at Wack-Wack, over dinner with Sec. Mendoza. This was a very important item that today's newspapers overlooked. Even if Abalos says, he just made introductions, it's still inappropriate behavior since the businessmen were proposing a project. It was confirmation that Abalos was involved in the deal from the start. E kung hindi nga ba talaga... Ang tawag d'yan walang finesse. Amateur! Hay naku!

Well, I hope former Neda Sec. Gen. Romy Neri takes the stand next week. He is the only other Cabinet official who was closest to the ZTE issue as his Neda staff was the one which evaluated the NBN project and the proposed ZTE deal. And I've covered Neda. Its staff are one of the best in government. Poorly paid but highly efficient. Guys whose hearts are in the right place. So very objective. I can't vouch though for Neri's credibility. Actually, after Dante Canlas, I think the subsequent Neda Sec. Gens pale in comparison to the previous people who've held that post. Well, poor Romy Neri had the runs...but hasn't he heard of Lomotil? Or apple juice! Ano ba?!

Anyway, as for Luli Arroyo's outburst re: JDV III, pagbigyan nyo na. It's but natural she's protecting her father. Daddy's girl 'yan, anu? Even JDV III is doing the same for his father, Speaker de Venecia. And between us girls, both their dads aren't exactly the paragons of virtue we would all like to emulate right? But family is family and you just have to stick together and overlook certain unpleasant behavior among your relatives. Besides...ang mana! hellow?!

September 19, 2007

Mr. Arroyo met, did not intimidate Joey de Venecia—lawyer

MANILA, Philippines – Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo confirmed through his lawyer on Wednesday that he met Jose "Joey" de Venecia III in a "purely chance encounter" at a golf clubhouse but denied ordering him to "back off" from the national broadband network (NBN) deal.

Jesus Santos, lawyer and spokesperson of the President's husband, said Mr. Arroyo did meet De Venecia III in mid-March but his version of the story differed greatly from that of Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr.'s son.

For one, Arroyo denied berating de Venecia and ordering him to pull out of the national broadband deal in favor of the eventual winner, China’s ZTE Corp., allegedly upon brokering by Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. (More at Inquirer. Photo from AP/BBC)

A tangled web of lies you weave, First Gentleman. And I suppose there were waiters around who could corroborate your statement? Ang tagal nyo na nga pinag-isipan, ang tanga pa din ng sagot nyo?! Gee, Homer is that you?

September 15, 2007

Monique Lhullier at Fashion Week

ANOTHER feather on the cap of our kababayan Monique Lhuillier. These clothes are soooo fab! I wish I could wear them (or afford them)...rats!

Kala nyo sa 'Pinas lang me pedicab ha?

Hmmm...maybe we should retool our pedicabs here too and make them tourist friendly? Just keep 'em off the main roads though 'cos they do cause bedlam. Anyway check out this report from Reuters.

Sept. 13 (Reuters) - Bicycle taxis are both a hit and a danger on the streets of London.

A Polish rickshaw company is experiencing massive success in the controversial market in the UK.

Bicycle taxis are loved by tourists, loathed by cab drivers and a regular defendant in court cases seeking greater regulation of the industry.

Karina Lavik reports.

September 14, 2007

It stinks!

Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. is accused of brokering the deal between the DOTC and ZTE for the government's national broadband network project. (Photo from Wikepedia)

THAT'S what I think of the ZTE deal. It's not that ZTE isn't a reputable company, because it is. It is one of the fastest growing firms in China and its leadership in the telecommunications arena in those parts are well known. Heck, my own Internet box is a ZTE so I know it is a real company that does business and not just some fly-by-night operation.

But the way by which the contract (is it really missing or is someone just trying to hide it?) or the deal has been made is all too suspicious. First of all, do we need a national broadband network? Issues have been raised for and against the establishment of one. I don't exactly understand the point of the government in building an NBN since the country is already wired by private companies. Why is government sticking its nose in what is basically, a private sector acctivity? Now if the government had proposed to Wi-fi the entire country (as what California is trying to do), then I can give this contract a second thought.

Second, why is Comelect Commissioner Benjamin Abalos even involved in this deal? As usual he, like many government oficials before him, lacks delicadeza, and no matter how he explains it away, his involvement is dubious. (Aba, baka ma-Erap din sya!) Btw, what about the talk that Abalos is one government official who can be found anywhere except his office because he holds court at the Wack-Wack Golf & Country Club all the time? Hmmm...

It this ZTE deal another fast one the Arroyo administration is trying to pull on the Filipino people and on investors? First it was the Jancom incinerator deal that President Arroyo tried to approve despite previous presidents not signing the contract. It was a $380 million project that underwent a questionable bidding process and escalated in cost as so many goons started getting into the act and trying to get their kickbacks as well. Which reminds me, wasn't Abalos, as chairman of the MMDA then, also trying to get this Jancom project approved?

Second it was the NAIA Terminal 3 project where Arroyo's henchmen again tried to bilk the project proponents, asking to be paid $300 million so Fraport AG, operator of one of the busiest international airports in the world, would be allowed to manage the new terminal. The government questioned Fraport's partner, Piatco (PairCargo), ability to build the project when it was already 98% complete and ready to open! (I was one of the very first journalists who went inside the terminal and toured it in the month it was supposed to open.) And to think no government money was spent on building the terminal! Btw, the Arroyo government's takeover of the NAIA 3 is the primary reason the Presidentita can never set foot in Germany.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza refuses to answer questions on controversial ZTE broadband deal. (Photo from OPS)

And now here comes the ZTE deal where a public bidding was supposedly held, according to DOTC Secretary Leonardo Mendoza, but the contract was awarded to a company where the government would incur a loan from the Chinese government, whereas another proponent, Amsterdam Holdings Inc., had offered to build the NBN at no cost to the government! Hey I'm no fan of Speaker de Venecia and his family either but his son raises very valid points. The bribery allegations are the most damaging to Abalos and with his debatable conduct as Comelec chairman especially during the Garci scandal makes us believe there is something not quite right about him.

For sure, the Arroyo government is just trying play nice to our powerful neighbor to the north. After all, the Philippines can't rely on the US government forever. Its assistance to the Philippines is dwindling and American investors are choosing other Asian countries to sink their monies in. So the Arroyo government is looking to China for more investments, more aid, and tourism business. I don't oppose this tack, but all business contracts with the government must be above-board and open to scrutiny, no matter which country is involved. Instead, all the Arroyo administration has been doing is to stone-wall and try to hide behind the "sub-judice" reason so as not to explain the deal to Congress. These are simple questions that just need simple, direct-to-the point answers. But our esteeemed government officials refuse to answer. How can GMA and her henchmen even expect us, the public, to trust them?

Finding the perfect fit

Something Like Life
BusinessMirror, Sept. 14, 2007

IN my 20 or so years of adult life, I’ve realized that there are some people who do well in relationships, and some people who don’t.

Like me, for instance, I did awfully when I was in relationships. I’m just too much of an individual to ease and subsume my own personal wants and needs to another person’s. I remember getting pissed at something as simple as sharing the TV remote with my significant other of the moment to let him watch his ESPN. (Sure, I was staying over at his place and it was his TV, but didn’t that mean that, as a guest, I was supposed to be given the run of the house because that’s what good hosts are supposed to do? When he was over at my place, he was allowed to do anything! Well, okay, except to put his feet up on the coffee table...and watch ESPN.) about trying to get more guys interested in me. After this, I’d be surprised if anyone would still call!

Then, there are some people who find it much easier to meet their beloved, and there are those who sweat it over a few forgettable years (or decades!) trying to find at least someone interesting to know.

My two nieces, for example, are as different as night and day when it comes to relationships. The elder one, now 26, has yet to find real romance with a representative of the male species—you know, a boyfriend? She likes certain men but they’re just interested in her friendship, while those who really like her don’t interest her. It’s crazy I know, but we’ve all been in that situation.

Her sister, on the other hand, just turned 21, has already had three serious relationships with boys that I know of, this while still in college. (I realize that “three” could even be a small number considering this day and age.) By “serious” I just mean there was a meeting of the minds to be mutually exclusive to each other, but not necessarily heading for the altar. It is just so easy for her to meet boys she is attracted to and who feel the same for her.

Then there are those who spend decades looking for the “right” person, our “soul mate,” or one’s “perfect match,” while others seem to have it so easy. They meet, they go on a few dates, they fall in love, and then decide to marry and have kids. And all that even before reaching 25!

Even the statistics bear this out. According to the 2003 data from the National Statistics Office, about 38 percent of married women were between the ages of 20 and 24, the largest among age groups surveyed. This was followed by married women between 25 and 29 who accounted for 25.7 percent of the married couples surveyed.

Then, there are those who just thrive and improve as a person when coupled with someone, while others miserably fail as an individual.

A friend’s cousin, for instance, always sounded boring (and bored) and was rarely an interesting person to talk to. I’d always bump into her during my friend’s birthday parties and aside from the usual hellos, she pretty much kept to herself. She always seemed to have the weight of the world on her shoulders as she was so superserious, it made the term “humorless” actually funny.

And yet after she found a husband (don’t even ask me how that happened!) and then had a baby, she just suddenly blossomed. Last time I saw her, she looked and sounded happier, with her world now revolving around her little family. She was more animated and constantly chattered about what new thing her baby did that day. (Which makes me suspect that she was probably quiet when she was single maybe because she really didn’t have anything to make kwento. There wasn’t much happening in her life to begin with, you know?)

In contrast, I’ve known quite a few people who are just miserable as a wife or a girlfriend and yet choose to stay in the relationship. They’re constantly held back by their men, given all these strict rules to follow (like, one friend said she had a boyfriend who always forbade her to wear skirts), and yet they still cling on in the feeble hope that their man would change and give them a break. I remember being told, for example, that this nice celebrity socialite became a cokehead basically because her partner was her supplier. (Well, at least she can’t complain that they don’t do things together.)

Like looking for the perfect pair of shoes, finding the right relationship will sometimes take more than just one afternoon at the mall. The pair not only has to look fabulous, but feel comfortable as well.

So it has to be with our search for the right partner and the right relationship. It may take a lot of fittings, er dates, to find out if he’s the right one, perhaps several romances more to find the one who is most suitable to us. It can be tiring, yes, and many of us either quit looking, or just settle for certain qualities in a relationship or in a man instead of trying to find the one with the complete package.

One woman actually told me that while she didn’t really love her husband, she knew he loved her immensely. Coupled with the financial security he offered, it made perfect sense to her to settle down with him. She was 26 then, and during her time she was no longer considered a spring chicken. There was immense pressure for women in her generation to settle down. With her four kids now grown, and a grandchild whom she loves dearly, she says she’s in a “good place.” But she admitted to a few affairs all throughout her marriage. One relationship just so consumed her, she said, but she didn’t want to break up her family.

But sucker that I am for the quintessential romance, true love and all that crap, I think that maybe we shouldn’t compromise our idea of what a great relationship is; otherwise, like so many women, we will end up with killer stilettos which look gorgeous, yes, but will cripple our feet. When we compromise the ideal, we will keep meeting those men who may look like a potential life partner but, for some reason, we just can’t feel totally sold. There’s always something just not right.

Like a great pair of shoes, a relationship has got to be the right perfect fit. No excuses.

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

September 12, 2007


IN case you missed it, here's a Reuters video on US President George Bush's gaffes at the APEC summit in Sydney last week. Ahh, to have a cartoon character as head of state...some countries are just too lucky!

Sep. 7 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush makes light of his slips of the tongue, during an APEC address.

U.S President George W. Bush, renowned for his mispronunciation of words during his speeches, once again made audiences laugh during his address to the business summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum in Australia.

Within the first seconds of his speech, Bush referred to the gathering as the OPEC summit, the acronym for the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and then quickly rectified it to APEC, causing the gathering to erupt into laughter.

He later referred to Australia as Austria, but failed to pick up on it or rephrase the comment.

Throughout the rest of his speech he mispronounced several words, including Australia's capital Canberra, Kuala Lumpur and Jemaah Islamiyah.

And as if things weren't bad enough, when he had concluded his addresses, he made his way to the wrong exit, prompting Australian Prime Minister John Howard to make finger gestures at him, to show him the right way off the stage.

The Estrada verdict

THE guilty verdict handed by the Sandiganbayan on plunder charges against former Philippine president Joseph "Erap" Estrada felt almost anti-climactic. Like many others, I too expected the verdict, especially with the overwhelming documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts like those of former EPCI banker Clarissa Ocampo, showing who was the true owner of the Jose Velarde account.

In the same manner that we expected the guilty verdict, we should also expect a presidential pardon. Not right now, because that would only raise the hackles of many civil society groups and interested parties, but perhaps in the near future. (I, for one, am not opposed to a pardon.)

There are two possible scenarios I could think of. Maybe the pardon can be handed down before the Presidentita GMA steps down. By then, we would probably be too wrapped anyway in electing a new set of monkeys into office, we would be busy to even notice it. And I still think that despite what she projects to be, the Presidentita wants to go down in history books as someone who was still compassionate and understanding. (Who knows, she could also be setting a precedent in case someone files a graft case against her and her family.)

Or she could probably endorse the presidential pardon to the next President, who will probably come from the Opposition camp anyway. (Hmmm...let's see...Manny Villar? Mar Roxas? or ick, Loren Legarda?) Anyway, memories of Filipinos are short, and we are generally a forgiving lot.

Whoever the next President will be can only look to the US as guidance. In 1974, then US President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his misconduct surrounding the Watergate scandal, except that Ford did so before Nixon's case even went to trial. It was a controversial decision but Ford made a compelling and sympathetic argument, which Americans eventually were able to live with. (Read Ford's explanation here.)

A presidential pardon in Erap's case could work too except that I doubt that he could reinvent himself the way Nixon did, who went on to become a prolific author, speaker, and well-respected elder stateman. Maybe Erap could resurrect his film career and make a movie based on his trial or have someone ghostwrite his memoirs. A few chapters devoted to his paramours would make the book an instant best-seller.

Seriously, this country needs closure in the political arena. There are just so many issues still hanging out there that are keeping us as a nation from moving forward, e.g. the Ninoy Aquino murder, the Marcos millions, the Hello Garci scandal. (It's a good thing that Marcos has finally been buried because that too, was one closure we needed.) The guilty verdict on Erap and a subsequent pardon could be the start of a turnaround for us.

September 07, 2007

More on Pavarotti

A reader sent this in. Thanks Anonymous. It was a great performance by two legends in the music world.

Isa pa! Not as fab as the jam with James Brown but I just luuuuv Barry White's coat! Panalo! And notice his black hanky (as opposed to Pavarotti's white hanky staple). Hmmm...parang namamaga ang face ni Barry anu?

Ok, so I couldn't resist writing about it either...

Something Like Life
Sept. 7, 2007

BY now, I’m pretty sure all of you have the Malu Fernandez topic coming out of your mouths and ears. Don’t worry, I’m not going to add any more fuel to the fire and endorse any sort of “harpooning” of Ms. Fernandez, even if she did unwittingly ruffle the feathers of close to half of the population of the Philippines and their hundreds of relatives abroad. (Yes, I still give Ms. Fernandez the benefit of the doubt because I think no one in his right mind would deliberately insult another human being in print unless he is begging for a libel case. Of course, if she was channeling shock jock Howard Stern, then what she did was unforgivable.)

What I do want to address, however, are the realities of an overseas Filipino worker’s life, because once upon a time I was one of them, although my colleague Marvic and I would jokingly dub ourselves “expats.” Although I hardly contributed in boosting the country’s gross international reserves because I rarely remitted any monies to my parents here (honey, I needed it more than them), I only had to look at my colleagues and hear their sob stories to realize the difficulties of leaving one’s home and family to try to carve out a bright future they don’t think would ever have in the Philippines.

The opportunity to work in Saipan (the capital of the Northern Marianas, a tiny group of islands south of Guam) came up because of Marvic, who recommended me to her publisher. I was to be business editor of a daily newspaper (actually a community paper by our standards, where a victim of a hit and run could be the day’s biggest headline), and while the job did pay a lot more than I was receiving in my former paper back then, the attraction to me was actually the opportunity to live in another country and mingle with other nationalities. I also thought that Saipan being a mere three hours away from Manila, it wouldn’t make me so homesick, unlike the situation with OFWs who live in the Middle East, Europe or the US. I could always easily come home to Manila even for a weekend. So, actually, I was not your typical, OFW desperate to earn a higher wage to feed my entire family back home.

The first shock of any OFW upon landing in his new host country is always cultural. There are just too many new ways of behaving and thinking that our kababayans have to get used to. First of all, in a US-style country like the Northern Marianas, you had to follow the traffic rules. No tail-gating, no overtaking, no weaving in and out of traffic.

And while I could get away with wearing Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt to Sunday Mass once in a while, the Chamorros (the locals who live on Saipan) actually encourage churchgoers to don proper church attire, i.e., a modest clothes which do not show off one’s legs, bare arms, or cleavage. I also realized that Filipinos were more Western in thinking than the locals, as I would get flak for being outspoken and frank in discussing issues (although the mainland Americans living on Saipan appreciated the banter). Still, the Chamorros are a generous lot and will always invite anyone to their parties and fiestas, and basically share the good times, which is a trait they share with us Filipinos.

But more than the culture and traditions, I think the biggest shock for most OFWs is the realization that being away from their families means a lot of heartaches. I remember a young colleague, J, who I would always notice to be crying after every phone call with her mother. She told me her mother would always berate her for sending “so little” money for the family’s needs. (She was sending half of her monthly $700 salary, and her mother still thought this was still not enough?! That was close to P18,000 back then!) J was not even the eldest in the family but her mother was now relying on her daughter’s earnings for the family’s needs. J said she had, in fact, other siblings, none of whom were apparently working, and her parents were out of work as well.

As I began speaking to other colleagues and other kababayans over the year I was in Saipan, I realized that quite a number of them had relatives who became virtual mendicants, stopping work and just waiting for the usual monthly remittance. Like J, my heart bled for them because there they were working their asses off under a foreign boss who treated them sometimes rather poorly, and yet their difficulties were not even close to being appreciated by their families back home. Parents didn’t call their OFW children to ask how they were, but rather to ask when their next remittance would arrive. Children didn’t bother to write to their hardworking parents, or send them a card to say how much they were missed, but rather to make sure they were sent the newest PlayStation for their birthdays. I could only nod in understanding when an Ate started narrating her life’s travails.

And for all the “huge” salaries these fellow kababayans are supposed to be earning, their families don’t realize that they are also spending quite a tidy sum living in the host country. Sure, these OFWs are earning in dollars, but they are spending in dollars as well. An example: in Saipan, a Jollibee yumburger with cheese costs about $2 (almost P100 then), when it’s about P40 only here. The horror! A decent restaurant meal for one person, for example, would cost about $12 (P600) when here, the same could be had for probably P300 or less.

Aside from the food, there is also rent to pay (I used to pay about $400, or P20,000, a month for a one-bedroom apartment) and utilities ($150, or P7,500, a month) and clothes. By the end of the month, and after deducting all these “costs of living,” as well as half their salaries for the usual remittance to their families back home, my Ates and Kuyas were left with zilch. It is no wonder a number of them return home almost centavo-less and with very little savings to speak of. We Filipinos are so family-oriented, we rarely deny any requests from our relatives, even though we are already hard-up ourselves.

Some of them also told me that all the while they had been sending money to their spouses back home to put up a little sari-sari store, set up a carinderia, or make some home improvements, they find out that the money had all been spent by their spouses who have become prime candidates for Gamblers Anonymous.

Other than the financial issues, there are social issues that our kababayans have to contend with. A lot of my colleagues, pining away for their spouses or fiancées back home, have affairs with their co-workers. A number of them actually shack up with new lovers even if they have wives or husbands here and 10 children. Kuya D, for example, was already hard-pressed as it is to send money to his wife and children back home, but then he still managed to create a new family in Saipan (a lovely wife and two rambunctious boys). I don’t blame him. It can really get lonely overseas—none of the 120 channels on cable TV nor a thousand bars can ever ease that feeling. (On Saipan the six bars or so close at 10 pm…no wonder I was hardly inebriated while I was there.) On the other hand, if it wasn’t my Ate or Kuya playing around, it would be their spouses here at home doing the nasty.

So every time I would hear these stories from our kababayans, I would get depressed about their ordeal (which, by the way, actually starts at the hellish and very long queues at the POEA), only slowly to be enraged at our government which does very little in boosting economic opportunities here at home. Instead, it chooses to look for more ways to export our precious human capital to other countries, thus helping the latter to prosper. And while the government trumpets the 7.5-percent growth in the economy, I can only wonder if it is worth all the punishing choices our kababayan abroad have to make.

These are just some of the real issues plaguing our OFWs. So even if our kababayans choose to submerge themselves in a vat of Charlie, the incredible sacrifices they have to endure in the name of family and a better future are nothing to be sniffed at.

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

September 06, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti dead at 71

IF our parents had their Enrico Caruso, we had our Luciano Pavarotti.

This gifted Italian, with a voice that could make anyone weep from its pure beauty has passed away, but his contributions to the world of opera will be fondly remembered. No other tenor nor any classical singer other than Pavarotti was able to make opera accessible to the masses, paving the way for a lot of younger artists like Andrea Bocelli, Russell Watson, Josh Groban, Alessandro Safina, even Il Divo to be successful in their efforts to cross opera with popular music, and creating a whole new music genre. (Imagine a classical artist such as Pavarotti collaborating with U2's Bono and Sting on songs and music projects. What horror it must have been for classical music purists everywhere! Hahaha!)

I, for one, immensely enjoyed the Three Tenors in Concert series where Pavarotti had teamed up with the great voices of Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. They sang not only opera but Broadway songs and pop music as well. This showed the audience that these three, were not buttonholed, constricted artists. Their first concert, at the Caracalla Ruins in Rome, with music conducted by the equally celebrated Zubin Mehta, is one of my favorite performances ever, both on CD and on DVD.

When Pavarotti came to Manila in 11994, I remember my friends and I camping out on the grounds of the PICC where he was supposed to perform, within view of the huge jumbotronic projector TV that had been set up for those who couldn't afford to pay for the P5,000 a pop tickets. Alas, Pavarotti canceled that night – I later learned his throat hurt from all the mangoes he reportedly had eaten – and we failed to experience what could have been a most historic musical moment in our young lives. Too bad we could no longer return the next night for the Master's concert. (According to a PR practitioner who was working then at the Philippine Plaza, they had to feed lots of people that night, the hotel comping the meals, just to assuage the ticket holders' irritation at the postponed concert.)

Pavarotti, with his "High C's" and love of life will be missed. In his honor, I am temporarily switching my blog's theme music to opera. Below is a performance by the Master of Nessun Dorma, one of the songs he has come to be identified with.


Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che fremono d'amore
e di speranza.

Ma il mio mistero e chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun sapra!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo diro
quando la luce splendera!

Ed il mio bacio sciogliera il silenzio
che ti fa mia!

(Il nome suo nessun sapra!...
e noi dovrem, ahime, morir!)

Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vincero!
vincero, vincero!

None must sleep! None must sleep!
And you, too, Princess,
in your cold room,
gaze at the stars
which tremble with love
and hope!

But my mystery is locked within me,
no-one shall know my name!
No, no, I shall say it as my mouth
meets yours when the dawn is breaking!

And my kiss will break the silence
which makes you mine!

(No-one shall know his name,
and we, alas, shall die!)

Vanish, o night!
Fade, stars!
At dawn I shall win!

September 02, 2007

An end to wakes, finally

IT seems in the past two years, I have not been doing anything except going to wakes and attending funerals of friends and relatives. My own father passed away recently. I felt so horrible about it that I refused to go to any more services...I just felt like death was hounding me at every turn. It was depressing.

Last month, however, it seemed that things were turning up for me. For a change, I was invited to two baptismal ceremonies/receptions. What a relief! It was like a rush of fresh clean air that had blown my way...and I'm glad. What a joy to see bouncing babies and their cherubic smiles. Such angels! Yes, there is an end to grief and sadness. New life heralds new hope and a future filled with all the possibilities one can imagine.

So happy christening Baby Matthew, and my new inaanak Baby Araw! The world awaits the amazing things you will be doing.

September na!

AND you know what that means...Christmas is upon us! But is there anything really to be excited about the Yuletide season? But of course there is. Call me a nut job but I enjoy the Christmas holidays for the family reunions, the endless joyful eating, the giving of gifts, and sharing of hearts. Hopefully, there will be more love and peace to go around this year.

So bring out your pen and paper and start making your shopping list. I'm starting the Christmas countdown today – see the counter on the left. (Tip: Do your Christmas shopping early while most department stores are on sale. It will save you a bundle!)

And why not do something different this year? Instead of just emailing your Christmas greetings to your friends and relatives in the provinces or abroad, why not send them an honest to goodness Christmas card for a change? It will mean more to them that you took the time out to write down your thoughts and wishes for them instead of sending a pre-written email greeting via Internet. So avoid the rush at the post office...mail those Yuletide cards early!

September 01, 2007

Getting away from it all

(Staying at Discovery Shores in Boracay was a different kind of experience altogether. More on that in a future blog entry.)

Something Like Life
Aug. 31, 2007

GOING on an extended vacation, where you just want to be by yourself, away from all the pressures of city living and demands on your time, isn’t as simple as it used to be anymore.

After going through some unfortunate family events in the past few months, I thought it was time for me to take a break, at least two weeks, to get my head together and revive my spirit. This would only be the second time in my entire adult life that I would take off all by myself and try to relax solo.

At the onset, it was difficult to explain to my usual travel buddies why I wasn’t inviting them along on my holiday. Of course, there was also the mother creature whom I had to persuade to live with my sister and her family during the time I would be away so she wouldn’t have to be all alone at home. I was just in dire need of some alone time.

Then, there was the packing. I realize that as one gets older and becomes a creature of habit, there are just certain items that one can’t live without. First of all there was the matter of what toiletries to bring.

When I was in my 20s, I was quite content with just a small bag of toiletries containing my toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, cologne, baby powder, foundation, eyeliner and lipstick. On this last trip, I had to bring two kikay kits along—one for my toiletries, which now included age-defying creams (for daytime and nighttime), and another for all my makeup (eyeshadow, mascara, lash curler, blush, brushes, lipliner, lipsticks and lipgloss).

(The main pool at Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu. Heaven!)

Even what resort wear to bring has become a tad complicated. I never ever packed jeans while on vacation, as I was quite content living in my shorts and T-shirts every day, whether at the beach or in any resort. But now I found myself packing a pair of jeans, black capri pants and a few light long-sleeved tops for cocktails I needed to attend at a resort. And, no, the sarong over the bathing suit just doesn’t work anymore...I had to have my lounging tunics as well.

Whereas before I used only one purse which took me from day to night, nowadays I would bring three different bags of varying sizes. One is a casual bag small enough to put in my wallet, two cell phones and a lipstick for that quick trip to D’Mall or some café; a medium-sized bag made of banig to bring to the beach or the pool, carrying—besides those items mentioned previously—sunblock for my face, sunblock for my body, a book and a magazine, and a bottle of water; and, last, a large foldable all-purpose bag to accommodate all other items that I expect would no longer fit in my luggage on my way back from vacation. (We girls always end up with more stuff than what we had originally brought for our holiday, don’t we?)

Truth to tell, I was even going to bring my iBook because I had never taken a leave from work that long. (The last time I did, laptops had yet to be in vogue.) I thought I might get some writing done while I was away. But then I had already locked myself in my home office for three days straight before my vacation, just finishing my assignments and advancing stories for my editor abroad. All that work would have been all for nought. I had to draw the line and do a mental check, convincing myself that I could live without my iBook for the duration of my holiday. I was only supposed to read a book or two, lounge by the pool or beach, and eat without guilt. So I unpacked the iBook and banished it to my cabinet.

Still, as I was about to begin my vacation to Cebu and Boracay, I found myself at the airport trying to stand upright as I struggled with my mid-sized luggage on wheels, a backpack and a purse! Ack!

In Cebu the sun was out and the heat was on, tricking my brain into thinking it was still summer. My hotel room overlooked the ocean and the inviting pool below, which I thought I would be enjoying for next few days. After a quick merienda, I took a leisurely walk around the hotel’s splendidly manicured grounds and made a quick tour of the hotel spa, and was calmed by the wonderful scents permeating throughout. Off I was dreaming of my own day of wellness.

(Tourists watch a local para-wakeboarding – not quite sure if that's the right term for the sport – in Boracay.)

With the constant breeze from the ocean cooling me, and the relative quiet of the surroundings, I was lulled into thinking that I was in for two weeks of relaxation...until someone mentioned that I had narrowly missed a typhoon which by then had been battering Metro Manila, plunging it into a flooded mess. The comment threw me off-track and quickly put me on my “city” mode. For the next two hours, I was glued to the TV set in my room watching ANC for more news of the typhoon.

I then made the mistake of checking my cell phone, which I had put on silent mode supposedly in keeping with my vacation. But there was a text from a friend back in Manila asking me how the weather was in Cebu. He added that it was flooding everywhere in the metropolis and the rains were just pouring unabated. That did it! I had to once more check myself and mentally struggled to shift back to “relaxation” gear once more. So I hurriedly changed into my bathing suit and went for a few laps in the pool that had beckoned to me only the day before.

I managed to catch a few winks as well in between my magazine reading, then it was time for lunch. But then, I foolishly passed the business center on the way back to my room. The next few minutes caught me plunked down on my sofa reading the Asian Wall Street Journal’s analysis of the subprime credit mess in the US. Oh, good grief!

Over the next few days, I was lounging at the pool—and hanging out at the business center, watching the TV news (this time, CNN as well), reading the AWSJ and, ultimately, succumbing to checking my e-mail on my cell phone, even as I continued to myself that I had switched on the vacation response option on all my e-mail servers.

I thought things would be different when I landed in Boracay. But as soon as I had lunch and had leisurely eaten my favorite dessert of lemon tart and coffee, I was off looking for an Internet café. After two hours, I had already read all my e-mails, chatted via YM with some friends back in Manila, and updated my news blog ( Arrgh!

That being said, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for this spot of “me” time. And, of course, there were a few days when the endorphins and dopamines kept me happy and calm, especially after a few visits to the spa and some delicious meals with my favorite reds. I was also able to sleep soundly throughout the night, waking up feeling quite refreshed. I also have a slight tan and my slowly fading dyed hair to prove I had been using the pool and the beach and not simply parading my bathing suits. But I was foolish to think that in this day and age, I could still get away from everything that would remind me of my frenetic life back in Manila.

Vacations are no longer as easy as leaving your watch in your hotel room or switching off your cell phone. As we get older, the packing becomes a bitch. Gone are the days when my vacation consisted of a few clothes and my toothbrush and toothpaste in a small backpack. (On my way back to Manila, it became the luggage on wheels, backpack, the large now-unfolded all-purpose bag, as well as a box of sweet treats from Boracay. Oh, brother!) And as technology pervades every corner of our lives, we will never again be so isolated and alone no matter how far away from Manila we go. All hotel rooms now have TV, our cell phones are always within range of cell sites, and even if we don’t bring our laptops, there are Internet cafés everywhere to pander to our Web surfing habit.

Now, did someone mention Bhutan?

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