October 31, 2007

Candies w/ formaldehyde

I was surprised by a recent news story citing an advisory from the Bureau of Food and Drug Administration regarding candies laced with formaldehyde. On top of the list is the pei pa koa candies, which I usually buy whenever I have a tickle in my throat. So beware.

Click BFAD advisory, to download the complete list of these dangerous candies.

Christmas Bazaars

GET ready for the Christmas bazaars kids! Here's a schedule courtesy of myPH Happenings. Ooof! I can just hear my ATM card getting dented from over-withdrawals!

• Nov. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24-25; Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-23 – Karl Edwards Bazaar, NBC Tent in Fort Bonifacio, contact +632 372 8453 or 374 3726.

• Nov. 6, Dec. 3 - American Women’s Club, World Trade Center Meteor Manila, contact phone +632 817 7587.

• Nov. 10 - Venture 7 Bazaar, Renaissance Makati City Hotel, contact phone +632 819 3961 or 843 9507.

• Nov. 11 – Rotary Club of Makati Bazaar, Hotel InterContinental Manila, contact phone +632 819 2866.

• Nov. 17-18, Dec. 8-9 and 15-16 – Ayala Alabang Village Bazaar, Cuenca Court in Ayala Alabang, contact phone +632 807 0511.

• Nov. 18 – Rotary Club of Makati West Bazaar, Hotel InterContinental Manila in Makati City, contact phone +632 753 3098.

• Nov. 18 – Zonta Club of Manila Bazaar, Renaissance Makati City Hotel, contact phone +632 928 0512 or 850 9147.

• Nov. 21-25 and Dec. 21-23 – Noel Bazaar, World Trade Center Metro Manila in Pasay City, contact phone +632 687 2955.

• Nov. 25 – Assumption Bazaar, InterContinental Manila Hotel in Makati City, contact phone +632 894 3561.

• Nov. 25 – International Bazaar, Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, contact phone +632 832 4000.

• Dec. 1-2 – St James Bazaar, Cuenca Court, Ayala Alabang, contact phone +632 842 5140 or 807 1623.

• Dec. 2 – Venture 7 Bazaar, InterContinental Manila Hotel in Makati City, contact phone +632 819 3961 or 843 9507.

• Dec. 14-16 – Ex-Link Exmas Expo, SM Megatrade Hall, SM Megamall, Ortigas Center, contact phone +632 643 3887 or 640 7439.

-----

By far, the winner for me is the St. James Bazaar at Ayala Alabang. Lots of inspired goodies and creative products. I hope the International Embassies bazaar is better this year. Of late, it's been a drag, what with the uninteresting items and terrible crowds. Let's hope more embassies join this year and give us more fabulous choices.

From Joanne Zapanta-Andrada

Phil. Star columnist Joanne Zapanta-Andrada reacts to my blog entry on her recent column which included an item on my late nephew, Jong Cariño. Her comments below:

hi stella! this is joanne zapanta-andrada and I am really curious what nasty things you wrote about my dressing the president. hahaha! more importantly, i want to say how much jong's death has touched my life. what i did not mention in my article is how many friends he had who responded immediately when they found out he had the accident. they flooded the hospital. he had soo many friends! how blessed he truly was! many great and famous people can never claim the same amount of true friends. i truly wish i knew him! i know he was a special person and i have become a better person to have been with him in his last moments on earth! (Oct. 31, 1:25 am)

tried to write you a couple of times but they never got through. this is joanne zapanta-andrada and i am glad that my last article held some meaning for you. maybe you can tell me what nasty things you said about my dressing the president. hahaha! but more important, i wish yo could tell me about jong. what i do know without a doubt is that he live a full life in his young age. within minutes of my calling his friends (using his cell) they all flooded the ER of asian hospital. many wealthy and influential people can only wish to have as many real friends as jong did. i think he was a very special person indeed! (Oct. 31, 1:44 am)

i saw the photo you posted re gma in a very "butch" outfit. that outfit is not part of her official wardrobe. no idea where it came from. probably it was a gift from a friend as it is not part of our collection. the operative word in my job as wardrobe adviser is "adviser". you can prepare the best outfit and advise her to wear it but if she has her mind set on her own idea of an attire that day , you do not argue with the commander in chief. (Oct. 31, 1:58 am)

---------

Now, this terno is gorgeous! (From the Philippine Embassy in China)

Hi Joanne! Apologies on behalf of Blogger which can be get a bit funky, thus, unable to register some of my readers' comments. If you wish to know more about Jong, I ask that you contact his mother Bingbing who also lives in your village, or my nieces who used to hang out with him. I can give you their phone numbers if you wish.

Anyway, thanks for writing in and yes, the entire Filipino nation forgives you for the fashion faux pas of the Presidentita which are not of your doing. Hehehe. However, knowing that you are her wardrobe adviser, fashion consultant, and stylist and seeing her photographed in several horrendous outfits, it is inevitable that you will get blamed. I would resign the job if I were in your shoes, since it certainly does not add to your market value at all being associated with a fashion victim. Hahaha! As my mother always likes to say, money can't buy you class (nor good taste, I may add).

Sorry, I know the Macapagal family is close to the Zapantas but truly, with all the problems this country is suffering from, the public should at least have an escape by being able to look forward to a fashionable head of state sana. I mean, look at how we Filipinos let the Marcoses stay on for such a horrific length of time? Ang gandah kasi ng Lola Imelda! Hahaha!

In fairness to you though, the Presidentita's ternos and Maria Clara outfits are really pretty and I'm glad that she has brought back these traditional Filipina dresses into the presidential wardrobe. I could never understand why Tita Cory banned the terno from her presidential closet just because Lola Imelda wore it so fabulously. (But how true is it that GMA got two for one by being Ninang to someone's wedding, thus incensing the bride's father because he had to pay for both? One of those allegedly ended up on the Sona stage. Oops!)

Btw, pls. tell your boss to get a new makeup artist if she already doesn't have one. I'm no fashion plate either but at least I know how to blend my foundation. (See GMA's photo a few entries down below.) Joskopooo!

This is not! These long coats make her look even smaller. (Photo from China Daily)

Seriously though, I am glad that Joanne is among the very few who defies the stereotype of the fashion model. She is no dumbina this woman, having graduated cum laude from UP Creative Writing (tadaaah!) and having been able to reinvent herself as a photographer, columnist, and philantrophist. I've always known her to be "just" a fashion model (as if that weren't a difficult job as it is), looking pretty and glamourous in all those beautiful outfits by our celebrated fashion designers. Most of all I remember her for her creamy white flawless complexion, and no wonder, alagang VMV pala sya!

She reminds me of another former model Gina Leviste who graduated summa cum laude from De La Salle (and also a Kulasa like Joanne) whom the late Bro. Andrew Gonzalez once rued to me was a "disappointment" because of her career choices. I snickered as Bro. Andrew said this. I loved Gina just the same because as an artista, she was funny on TV. She still was a success despite what Bro. Andrew thought. Hmmm...whatever has become of Gina Leviste pala?

Btw, for someone who was so photographed as a model, photos of Joanne are non-existent on the web. I wanted to post one but well, I couldn't find any after googling endlessly. There is a nice piece on her though in HerWord.com.

Hmmm...I wonder what Halloween outfit the Presidentita has on today...

October 30, 2007

US, Aussie experts rule out bomb in mall — PNP chief

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
Inquirer.net 10/30/2007


MANILA, Philippines — Affirming their initial findings, US and Australian experts have ruled out the theory that a bomb caused the explosion at a mall in Makati City where 11 people were killed and scores were injured, Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon Jr. said Tuesday.

Razon said the reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Australian Federal Police contained findings that would point to the incident at Glorietta 2 last October 19 as an "accidental gas explosion."

PNP Directorate for Intelligence chief Dante Ferrer said they were expecting the official reports from the US and Australian bomb experts later Tuesday.

Razon said the PNP was finalizing its report on the incident and would likely follow the accident angle.

He said the report would be completed "in a few days."

Razon added the President has been informed of the report by the foreign experts.

--------

So has anyone actually seen copies of these reports from the FBI and Australian experts? If I were the one covering this running story, I'd make sure to secure these reports first before I even write about this conclusion.

It's very easy for Razon and company to use the reports and twist them to their own end since they and they alone saw the reports. Unless someone can actually get those FBI and Aussie documents and reveal them to the public or post them online for everyone to read, I'd say these reports are just a figment of Razon's imagination. Of all people, Razon should know that the PNP and its allied agencies aren't exactly the most trusted institutions in this country.


(Razon photo from www.cooperativeresearch.org)

October 29, 2007

Remembering our dead

Posting here Joanne Zapanta's column which came out on Sunday in the Phil. Star. The Jong she refers to is my late nephew, son of my first cousin Bingbing Arcenas Cariño. Didn't realize Joanne was the one who helped cradled Jong at the accident site until Bingbing texted me to read the column. I thank Joanne for her humanity, as well as others who have helped ease the passing of our dearly departed, such as my good friend Tito Mon, who also helped me bring my pop to the hospital last May just before the latter passed.

(Okay, so I take back every nasty thing I said about Joanne's dressing up of the Presidentita. But not what I said about the fashion-challenged - and more! - Presidentita herself ha. Scary 'sya talaga!)


Talking to my dead
UPTOWN DOWNTOWN By Joanne Zapanta-Andrada
Phil. Star, Oct. 28, 2007


Unlike millions of people who flock to the cemeteries to visit their dearly departed once a year, I choose to commune with my dead friends and relatives on a fairly regular basis. I find this Gabriel Garcia Marquez-like practice to be one of the most therapeutic activities one can conceivably do when alone, awake at night. Instead of analyzing one’s significance on Earth — a train of thought that inevitably leads to depressing images of one’s own death, I choose to go a step further and mentally reach out to those I love who have already crossed over. Rather than imagining what death could possibly be like, I choose to reconnect with those in the know and from there, selfishly cast on their shoulders the burden of my anxieties and curiosity.

My nocturnal visitors are many and it is such a pity that space constraints will not allow my readers the introduction of a colorful village of characters. There is my Aunt Emmy from Pampanga who I always found to have been a vivacious woman — interested in the latest fashions and always willing to try something new. She had a congenital heart problem that claimed her life much too early. I remember going down to the morgue soon after she passed away, looking at her so uncharacteristically lifeless on the metal slab and thinking that the best gift I could give her was a stylish send-off. So I took my makeup kit with me and proceeded to enhance her naturally pretty features (I was going for the elegant yet natural look!) in time for her formal viewing. When Aunt Emmy visits, I share stories of the latest gossip. It is to her that I run to when the nighttime proves terribly somber.

During the nights I feel reflective, I reach out to Jhong, a teenager whose motorbike accident bonded us forever. I witnessed Jhong’s crash as his vehicle hit a curb, the impact of which hurled the 17-year-old smack on to a tree. Within seconds, a group of villagers and I shot out of our vehicles and ran towards him. The hours after that saw us desperately trying to save the bleeding boy. Maybe it was because I was the first one to run to him or maybe it was the intense investment of self in trying to keep him alive that made me emotionally commit to Jhong. Regardless of the reason, his passing was one of the most profound experiences in my life and it is to him that I run to during those dreadful nights when, exhausted and depressed, I find myself needing to believe that my existence has any meaning. I remember asking his parents to take the transparent partition off the casket for a minute so that I could kiss him goodbye. How ironic that I bid farewell to someone who I never said hello to. It is Jhong that makes me believe that I have an angel watching over me.

The most revered of all my spiritual companions is my maternal grandmother Elena Adriano Gozo. Despite the many years that have gone by since her leaving, I still feel a quick of pain when I remember her. She was a very beautiful woman with exquisite skin and hair so long it touched the floor. She made dresses during the war. She sewed all my school uniforms when I was growing up. She also introduced me to the wonders of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the world of Hans Christian Andersen. Perhaps unconsciously, I have become a writer and researcher on fashion because of her. I was by her bedside half an hour after she died. It was then that I keeled — not cry, not howl, nor sob. I keeled — an almost animal like wail that desperately tried to purge the incredible pain that wracked my entire body. Despite her advanced age and frequent bouts of dementia, I was not ready to let her go; there was still so much that I wanted to tell her. I believe that it was at that time that I began my conversations with my beloved souls.

The world is made up of people from various faiths who speak to their deities as a means of connecting with a trusted, loving being. In prayer, we bring forth our worries, our hopes and requests for attention and reaffirmation of love. Reaching out to those who once we have spoken to, laughed with and embraced is not very different. In doing so we re-establish the fact that we are all connected in love, whether it is within this world or across another dimension. I shall be talking to my dead for a very long time. Perhaps up until the time I shall be happily amongst them, at the other side listening.

Tagaytay trip

HOLY MOLY! I haven't been to Tagaytay for a year and already, there are so many changes! More inns, restaurants, and kooky places to visit. Getting there was a drag though. With practically only three lanes on either side of South Luzon expressway open (the rest were being repaired) it took me and my travel buddy more than two hours to get there coming from Quezon City. Good luck to everyone going home to their provinces this Todos Los Santos. If I were you, I'd just stay put and light those candles for your dearly departed at home.

We dropped by Ilog Maria in Silang, Cavite for its heavenly soaps and healing honey-infused products such as the anti-sore throat spray and lip balm, as well as some insect repellant. Guests are bound to get carried away by all the interesting stuff owner, Joel Magsaysay, has on display. Unfortunately, our tummies were already growling, we couldn't stay and chat some more with the gregarious Joel, who has just started experimenting making sourdough breads. Next time we visit, we hope to get a taste of them.

Surprisingly, Verbena restaurant at Discovery Country Suites in Tagaytay had amazing dishes that were really sumptuous and delightful. My favorites are the Pan-seared Foie Gras (my heart just skipped a beat just writing it), Oyster Fricasse, and Herb-marinated Mushrooms and Organic Arugula. (A more incisive review in a future entry.) We were just stuffed I couldn't eat my dessert anymore.

I'm looking forward to having another go at Chef David Pardo de Ayala's other exciting new creations (like the lamb ravioli) in another trip soon.

Check out photos from the trip at Flicker.

October 27, 2007

Are you settling down or just settling?

THIS has been a really tumultuous few weeks.

Apart from the explosion in Glorietta 2, which happened a day after I had been roaming the area (I was using it as a shortcut to get from my hotel to a restaurant whose congee I desperately needed to eat only the night before), a friend of mine had a few explosive announcements herself.

Two weeks ago, V. had excitedly told me via Yahoo messenger that she was engaged. I caught her as she was waiting for her kids to come online. She couldn’t wait to announce it to them.



The only question I asked her then was, “Are you sure?” When she answered, “Yes,” I was happy for her. V. has made a lot of sacrifices, enduring a first husband she was only forced to marry, and bringing up two handsome kids while living apart from them. I thought it was about time she deserved some happiness of her own.

Besides, marrying the guy would give her some measure of security for her children as well. Without going into the details of V.’s situation, suffice it to say that marrying her beau would allow her and her kids to be together again. I asked her permission to announce the happy news to a few of our friends.

My boss, who was just in town recently, has met V.’s beau and said that she liked him. He was very amiable and easy to get along with. My boss said she usually sees V.’s beau taking photos at parties or events. I respect my boss’s opinion and was happy that V. was in good hands.

Then only a couple of days ago, as casually as she asked about the developments on the Glorietta 2 blast, V. dropped a bomb herself, saying that she probably would not be pushing through with a wedding anytime soon. She never got around to telling her kids about the engagement when she said she would –— and thank God for that, as this latest development would only confuse them. She said she was having second thoughts about taking the next step.

She listed some issues, foremost of which is their age gap –– he’s 29, while she just turned 40. V. said she sometimes had difficulty explaining matters to him because “he still hasn’t lived!” She feels that he still doesn’t know how the real world works. She thinks it’s the right time to settle down, but maybe he’s not the “right guy.”

And so as I tried to recover from this bit of news, I tried to console her by saying, “If you have doubts, then maybe you shouldn’t push through with it.” I told V. that she will know if the right guy comes along...that’s what everyone says anyway. I don’t know if there will be bells and whistles to herald that realization but I can only take my married friends’ word that “you will know.” So when you have doubts, then obviously things aren’t right, so why settle for a less-than-perfect situation?

I can understand V.’s confusion. Despite having come a long way from being mistresses of just our homes, we women still have to contend with a society that basically frowns on single women. Many still think a woman needs to be married to be considered a person. So we may sometimes use marriage as a security blanket to protect us from society’s blather, and also to escape a possible eternity of loneliness.

V. and I talk about this all the time. I admire her. She’s the type who is unafraid of putting herself out there, jumping from one relationship to the next, but she also has admitted of being quite tired of the whole dating routine. She just wants a solid relationship with a secure future. Don’t we all, ladies?

But be careful what you wish for. Now that V. has this gorgeous man in her life who has bonded with her kids and just wants to be with her forever, apparently she has realized that she isn’t a hundred percent sold on her guy. She thinks there will be some challenges because of the age gap. After all, not all marriages can be like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s.

I’ve never been married, and have not had a relationship with any man I’ve wanted to spend my entire life with. (Well, maybe just one, but that was when I was still young, stupid and in love with him. Now that I look back on that time in my life, I wonder, “What the f__?!”) So I will have to rely on my other married and separated friends’ experiences for guidance.

When do you know it’s the right time to get married?

It may sound corny but my happily married friends say that everything just “clicks into place.” You love each other and cannot imagine a lifetime without the other. You have such a great time together (and we’re not just talking about sex, sister), and you just want to extend that even further. For all eternity, if possible.

Knowing each other’s faults and failures, you still accept each other. You provide support to one another because, honey, you know it’s not going to be happy like this forever and ever. There will be times when both your patience will be tested, either because of situations you or he has created, or because of one’s inherent personality flaw. Despite all that, you can still hack it. (Abusive, co-dependent relationships aside, of course.) Above it all, there is mutual respect.

You feel it’s the logical step. It’s a natural progression that is somewhat like taking your next breath. You’re both committed to each other and want to take it one step further…and maybe start a family. By the way, in the course of the relationship, both of you ought to have discussed your expectations from a marriage. Like, you may want to have kids, but he may not. Or vice versa.

There are “life issues” that must be tackled beforehand. Apart from talking about whether or not to have kids, there are details on how and where you’re going to live (e.g., in your parent’s big house or in your own apartment), what kind of lifestyle you will maintain (partying every Friday or just staying at home?), handling each other’s friends and family (where are you going to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?), and, most important, financial matters (will you keep separate bank accounts or maintain a joint account?).

Some couples never gave a thought to dealing with these issues before they walked down the altar, and it’s not unlikely in the post-honeymoon days for one issue or another to just blow up in their faces. They’re unprepared to deal with the sometimes harsh everyday realities of marriage.

Why shouldn’t you marry?

You shouldn’t marry just because you got pregnant out of wedlock. Never compound a mistake with another mistake. Making the guy marry you may make him love your child, but that doesn’t guarantee that he will love you or love you more.

You shouldn’t marry because you’re afraid of being alone. Don’t equate being alone with loneliness. The latter means you don’t have friends, family and your God (or Goddess) to support you. Who was it that said it’s better to be left on the shelf than spend your entire life in the wrong cupboard?

You shouldn’t marry just because you want your relationship with your man to be secure. If it isn’t secure to begin with, how can it be more secure when you’re already married? If he wants to leave you, he will. It doesn’t matter whether you’re married to him or not.

I can only hope that V. will eventually find happiness with a man who truly deserves her. If and when she does decide to get married, whether it be with this man or another, it should be her way of settling down, and not just settling for the heck of it.

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

October 25, 2007

Shit!

THAT'S what government probers are saying caused the explosion at Glorietta 2. I think that's a load of crap. From the little I've read about how excrement (human or otherwise) can produce methane gas...it would take tons and tons of it to actually explode.

Consider our open dumps like Smokey Mountain or the landfills in Montalban and Cavite...no methane gas explosion has ever occurred in those areas despite the mounds of garbage sitting on them. Of course one could argue that the dumps are out in the open and have ventilation and G2's basement was not. Still, I would side with the UP chemists who rule out the gas explosion. Are there any chemists working in the PNP Crime Lab? (Yeah, yeah, I know this is no Gil Grissom/CSI setup.)

I'm interested in what the Australian and American investigation teams are going to conclude. I doubt though if they would release their own findings to the public and possibly risk humiliating the obviously inept investigation of our own police force, especially if their findings are contrary to what the latter has concluded.

Look, I have no love lost for Glorietta mall management and its incompetent security force. But I severely doubt that in terms of construction and structural maintenance, Ayala Land, the mall owner, would be remiss as well. For the company not to install a proper ventilation system in their basement where all the sewage tanks and pipes run through is a violation of building codes. It would never have been allowed to open any of its malls if this were the case, especially in a strict city like Makati. (Btw, give those Castilaloys some props...they acted very wisely in footing the hosital bills of those injured.)

So I can't blame Ayala Land management for disputing the PNP report, and still calling the explosion a "bombing." I supppose this also has to do with the company's insurance claim...if government probers believe neglect caused the explosion, the company won't be paid. But I think it goes beyond that. I think Ayala Land owners know something we don't. I know that even if the Zobels and the wanna-be Castilaloy Presidentita speak the same language that they are not friends. Yeah, there are two Castilaloys who are BFFs of the Presidentita, but they sure aren't Jaza nor Fernando.

UPDATE: Fabulous Jessica thinks I may temporarily blinded by my lust for Fernando Zobel (just him hon, not your mistress Jaza) that's why I'm still harping on my conspiracy theory. Hahaha. Seriously, I'll take the word of the UP chemists over our police force anytime. I hope I'm wrong but you really can't put anything past the Presidentita's administration these days. People will always believe the worst about GMA and her dogs simply because she is the most vile manipulator that has ever sat in Malacañang. And even if it were a bombing, this still doesn't absolve Ayala Land of any liability. It will have to pay for its shoddy security measures.

Btw, the Brits aren't discounting the terrorist angle still. And surprise! Makati Mayor Jojo Binay who is no good friend of the Zobels either, want an independent investigation into the blast considering the conflicting and confusing statements the PNP is making. What strange bedfellows in this time of a highly-charged anti-GMA atmosphere no?

October 24, 2007

Deborah Kerr, 86

(Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr in 'The King and I'.)

OH crap! I didn't even know Deborah Kerr passed away until I read NYPost's Cindy Adams last night. It was such a busy week what with the G2 bombing and all.

Deborah Kerr was such a fine actress who held her own against the brilliant and supersexy Yul Brynner in my all-time favorite movie "The King and I." As Anna Leonowens (did I spell that right?), Kerr was every inch the lady that charms, and at that same time, befuddles the King of Siam. She was such a delightful governess to the King's children, everyone I knew when I was growing up wanted to have a yaya like her. She sings! She dances! She bites the head off the King! Wow!

And who can forget that hot hot kissing scene she had with Burt Lancaster in the film "From Here to Eternity" with waves crashing all over them in some Hawaiian beach? That scene opened the doors for many Hollywood films thereafter featuring a lot of heavy panting and canoodling. (Kerr said she was became picky about the roles offered to her and turned down a few which called for nudity.)

Watch it here:



Some may not know that Kerr was actually trained as a ballet dancer and had Margot Fonteyn as a classmate. If you've seen Margot Fonteyn dance during her prime (she visited Manila decades ago, btw), it was only understandable that Kerr felt she couldn't hold up a candle to that. So she went on to become an actress instead. And what a good decision that was...Kerr went on to become a well-loved actress, starring in so many wonderful features like with the gorgeous Cary Grant in the unforgettable and weepy "An Affair to Remember" and even playing a proud Christian slave in "Quo Vadis." She never won any Oscar awards for all her best actress nominations but she was finally given an honorary Oscar in 1994.

(Grabeh! Ang gandah pa din ng lola koh!)

Although most of Kerr's movies were made a decade before I was born, they very much a part of my childhood. I remember eagerly waiting for "The King and I" or "An Affair to Remember" to be shown on TV in rerun after rerun. I'm such a sucker for romantic happy-sad stories.

Read the tributes to this marvelous actress in CNN and The Independent.

(Photos from various sources on the web.)

October 23, 2007

Gloria goes malling in Glorietta

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Tuesday inspected the devastation at Glorietta 2 and went shopping at the adjacent Glorietta malls in Makati City four days after a powerful blast hit the area and left 11 people dead and over 100 injured.

Separate reports on radio dzBB and GMA News Flash Report said Mrs Arroyo, together with Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral and senior executives of mall owner Ayala Land Inc., walked through the boutiques and shops in Glorietta 1, 3 and 4.

She then visited stores at the first and second floor of Glorietta 4 and bought shoes and a blouse. (Click here for the rest.)

GREAT news isn't it? While the rest of the country's workforce are sweating it out in their offices or factories, the great leader of the land plays hooky and goes malling! What an inspiring example of professionalism! As usual, this is another of the hare-brained amateurish ideas of La Presidentita's PR guys. Hindi na kayo nahiya sa mga kababayan nyong nagtratrabaho, hoy!

Sure we get it. The government wants people to get out of their homes and shop, so La Presidentita buys some shoes and a blouse which she probably doesn't need. (Her fashion consultant Joanne Zapanta wasn't with her so God only knows what awful items the great leader must have chosen.) Shopping is good for the economy...that's this administration's mantra. Since we don't have enough foreign investments pushing the country's economy, might as well have personal consumption drive it right? What are all those dollar remittances for anyway?!

What am I feeling about this new publicity stunt from the great leader? Unimpressed.

Crappy investigation

(Debris from the blast at G2.)

I THINK what's scarier than Ayala Land/Glorietta mall's security lapse and the explosion itself is that our government probers still don't have a clue on what caused the blast. It's been four days since an explosion tore apart the Glorietta 2 mall and here they are still with a hundred and one theories on what caused it. The NCRPO says it was't a bomb. Another theory says it was caused by the reaction of methane and diesel but UP experts doubt that considering there was no pungent smell of rotting eggs in the blast's aftermath, a telltale sign of methane explosion. Since Saturday, all you hear from the mouths of government officials (one trying to hog the limelight after the other) is a bunch of "could haves". It could have been this, it could have been caused by that...anovayan?!

It's either our government probers really don't have the capability, either through a lack of adequate equipment or skills, to investigate cases of this nature, that they need the help of foreign experts, or they are deliberately fudging the investigation. I hate to cast aspersions on the credibility of our police investigators but really, who trusts the police these days? I'm sure there are a few honest cops out there. I just hope they're part of the investigating team.

Granting our police force has no capability to investigate cases like these, then maybe the government should do something about it. Sure, getting overseas funds for infrastructure projects is great (unless they're tainted by corruption like the ZTE-NBN deal), but the police force needs funds as well to beef up their skills/training and their crime labs' equipment. I always feel distraught whenever I watch CSI/CSI New York because it shows how our local police crime labs pale in comparison to those abroad. The cops in the U.S., for example, have access to a lot of equipment and their staff are not only trained as police but also as chemists, doctors, etc.

(The blast was powerful enough to tear a hole through G2's ceiling.)

There have been numerous local criminal cases that indicate how collected evidence have already been tainted either through neglect on the part of police probers, or contamination due to improper handling by the staff. DNA samples even have to be sent to UP labs or to the States just for proper processing. How embarrassing this must be for the Philippine National Police or for the National Bureau of Investigation! Something must be done about this soon.

*****

Planting evidence or planting a story? A story in the Inquirer says some men in Army Rescue uniforms were prevented from "planting evidece" in the blast area. Hmmm...why the government keeps getting on the case of the military (remember Saturday's story on a C-4 bomb causing the blast?) is something worthwhile to investigate. Pasok Trillanes!

(Photos courtesy of a concerned citizen who sent them to ABS-CBN. More blast photos here.)

October 21, 2007

Travel news: Bye, bye Palau

(I now wish I had pursued our gang's plan to visit Palau again this year. Sad to see the Asian Spirit flight go which was really a very convenient way, not to mention cheaper way, for tourists to to travel to Palau. My report on this development below:)

Asian Spirit drops Koror flights — again — for now
Marianas Business Journal, Oct. 15, 2007


Rainbows are commonplace in Palau. The rock island across my hotel room balcony during my visit to Palau in 2006.

MANILA, Philippines — After relaunching the route in May, Asian Spirit will be dropping its flights from Koror to Cebu, effective Monday, Nov. 5.

In a phone interview, Jack Po, executive vice president of Asian Spirit; told the Journal, “While it saddens me to confirm this, yes, we are suspending our flights because of the realignment in our business plans. There are increasing demands by passengers in the Philippines for flights to our key service areas such as Caticlan, Aklan, which we have to meet. However, we hope to return to Koror soon when conditions are more ideal.”

Asian Spirit, he said, is preparing to “engage in a major battle” with the larger-capitalized airlines in the Philippines, which are going to fly to Caticlan, the gateway to Boracay Island, Aklan. “We want to focus on our turf, which we had developed when no one was flying to the destination yet.” The Manila-Caticlan service is often called the “bread and butter” route of Asian Spirit, which helps subsidize its flights to 15 other destinations. The other destinations are considered vital in terms of public welfare but are typically low revenue earners for the airline because of unstable passenger loads.

The news of the suspension caught most tourism-related companies in Palau by surprise. It was only in September that Asian Spirit hosted a familiarization tour in Cebu for Palau government officials, businessmen and media.

Reacting to the development, Sam Scott, president of Palau Sea Ventures Inc. and Sam’s Tours; said, “This is very sad and unfortunate news that is very disappointing, to say the least. Sam’s Tours has been working very hard with [Asian Spirit] and hosted many [familiarization tours], including the most recent one from Cebu.” On June 16, Sam’s Tours co-hosted a familiarization tour with the airline and other Palau tourism and business groups for about 60 visitors from Cebu, which included dive center owners, travel agents, media, airline staff, business delegates and other dignitaries.

“The repercussions will be enormous and the tourism industry as a whole in Palau will suffer for some time. I can only hope that we will have a chance to see Asian Spirit back in the skies soon,” Scott said. He added that the airline “indicated [the flight’s suspension] was due to maintenance, but I have a hard time believing that when they indicated no start-back-up date.”

Interviewed in Manila, Surangel Samuel Whipps Jr., whose family co-owns Palau Micronesia Air — Asian Spirit’s partner in Koror — told the Journal, “You know, Asian Spirit has been very good to Palau. They’ve been able to provide competition [for other carriers] which is good for Palau because there have been a lot of visitors. Unfortunately, the number of people traveling [the Cebu-Koror route] was not enough. So we’re looking at how to market it. Maybe it was our fault — the marketing was not ready for Cebu. We expected more people, but the tourism connections were not there yet.” The Whipps family’s Surangel & Sons acted as the general service agent for the Philippine carrier.

Palauans welcomed the entry of Asian Spirit in Koror because it helped bring down the cost of airfare to the Philippines, where a number of them have business dealings, go shopping, and receive medical treatment. Roundtrip fare from Koror to Cebu cost $330 per person, the same rate now offered by Continental Air Micronesia, which flies Koror to Manila. When it was the only airline serving the Koror-Manila route, Continental’s airfare reached as high as $600 per person especially during holidays. “I just checked with Continental because we wanted to come here in December and their rate’s already $510,” Whipps said. “It’s interesting what Continental will do now that they have their monopoly back,” he added.

The Palau businessman said for now, there are no plans for PMAir to hook up with other international carriers serving the Pacific, such as Virgin Blue and Pacific Blue, of British tycoon Richard Branson, president of Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd. “We’re always open to other options, but Asian Spirit was willing to take a risk to fly to Palau. They said this was not the end. They just need to refocus and they will be back.”

Sam Scott of Palau Sea Ventures Inc. expresses disappointment over suspension of Asian Spirit's service in Koror. (Photo by Peter Marquez)

Sam’s Tours, together with other members of the Philippine-Micronesia Alliance, had expressed optimism about the three times weekly Koror-Cebu-Koror flights because it would boost the group’s chances of marketing the Philippines and Palau as scuba diving destinations to more Asian markets. The tour agency had barely recovered from the cancellation of the Davao-Koror service of the airline, but Scott said in September, “We are very excited about the Cebu-Palau route of Asian Spirit.... This will definitely be a big winner for us here in Palau.”

Whipps added the Koror-Cebu route had “a lot of potential. Palau was going to tie up with Cebu Doctors Hospital and two other hospitals in Cebu. It’s much closer and with the flight frequencies, it would’ve been better for our patients. Also there were a lot of business opportunities...people are so used to coming to Manila, they don’t think of Cebu. As one Cebu businessman told me, the minute you step out of the plane, you don’t need to go to Manila anymore because you can find everything in Cebu.” Cebu is the second major urban destination in the country after Manila, the capital.

For its part, Asian Spirit is expected to go head-to-head with larger and more profitable airlines to protect its Caticlan route. Air Philippines, the budget carrier of Filipino-Chinese tycoon Lucio Tan, who also owns Philippine Airlines, will be flying to Caticlan by Dec. 15 using three to six Bombardier Q300 50-seater turboprops; Cebu Pacific, owned by JG Summit Holdings Inc., of food and beverage magnate John Gokongwei, will be flying to Caticlan by February 2008 using two Avions de Transport Regional 72-500s turboprops initially, gradually increasing to 14 by 2013.

Asian Spirit plans to bring in two more British Aerospace 146-100s, which are 86-seaters, to increase their jet service to Caticlan to 16 flights a day from the current six. Along with its turboprop service, the flights are expected to rise to as many as 25 a day during the peak seasons of summer and Christmas. MBJ

October 20, 2007

Bad hair days



Something Like Life
Oct. 19, 2007


EVERYONE knows the most important person in the world for a woman, next to her significant other or her best friend, is her hairstylist.

For some strange reason, women treat hairstylists—especially those of the gay persuasion—almost like father/mother confessors. We spill our guts out, complaining about our friends, our husbands/lovers, our boyfriends/girlfriends, our mothers/siblings to these wizards of our crowning glories.

What makes such a relationship between hairdresser and fawning client work so?

I suppose it is because we are most relaxed when we are in the salon. It’s like a little cocoon that protects us from the harshness of the outside world. It is a sanctuary that helps us reconnect with ourselves and be who we are. No one is going to judge us for our real thoughts and actions. Besides, we venerate hairstylists almost the same way as we do the Virgin Mary, sans the fiesta. And because we treat them as so, we think they, above all others, are the most capable of understanding our quirks and angst about the world.

The hairdresser listens quietly, just pitching in at the right moment to mouth his agreement to whatever we say, and makes sure he knows the proper time to empathize with us, even when in reality, he doesn’t.

I should know, because the few hairstylists I’ve dealt with were also some of the most chismosos about their other clients. They tell me what they actually feel about their customers, mostly disdain if it’s someone who is particularly unlovable and arrogant to begin with, and they take pride when their clients choose to unload their problems on them. It’s weird because the roles become reversed when it comes to my relationship with my hairdressers. Maybe it’s because I am usually quiet in the salon that they need to fill in the silence with their chatter. I just read whatever entertainment magazine is laid out before me (that’s the only time I can catch up on the latest showbiz gossip) while my stylist prances around snipping here and there. My visit to the salon is my own quiet time, so I really try not to talk much—which is a mean feat in itself if you know me at all—and sometimes I just doze off.

Or maybe my hairdressers like to talk because they know I’m a journalist. It’s like a dare for me to actually print the stories I hear from them, and no doubt they privately revel for being the source of the gossip.

Like, I’ve heard the most unsavory stories regarding several society bitches from one hairdresser I shared with them in the past. Let’s not names but when one well-heeled matrona was supposedly giving into to daily binges with alcohol because she probably couldn’t deal with her banker husband being gay, I heard it first from our hairdresser even before the story made the rounds of the upper-crust grapevine.

Also, I found out about which popular boylet artista was visiting this very gay CEO of a large conglomerate from my other hairstylist because he always asks the latter to cut his hair at his chi-chi condo somewhere in Taguig. Moral of the story, h’wag ka magpa-home service, lolah!

Earlier this year, another stylist close to the media told me about the impending resignation of his friend—an editor of a major publication—and her reasons for doing so, two months before her colleagues even knew about it.

Fortunately for these people, I’ve never taken advantage of their confidences with their hairstylists by publishing their stories, primarily because I’m not a gossip columnist. The only thought I give to these tasty tidbits is to ask other people in their circles if they’re true. (Good journalist that I am, I adhere to the two-source rule…meaning, I only give the story some credibility if another person close to the subject confirms my hairstylist’s chica, hehe.)

Speaking of chica, those new photos of Gretchen Barreto and the unknown man she seems to be getting cutesy with, which are being spammed to entertainment/lifestyle columnists, are obviously part of an ad campaign for yet another product we don’t need. Why anyone would trust Greta’s word about anything to begin with is beyond me. Okay, okay, so I’m probably not the target market for this product, whatever it is. But in fairview, I would really like to know who her hairstylist is, not because I want to know more about her dull private life, but because her bob is really cute. Obvious bang pinagaya si Posh Spice?

Anyway, I muse over these revelations from hairdressers about their favorite clients as I try to find myself another stylist. For close to five years, my hair has been in a short do with part of my front locks tucked behind my ears. I’ve tried two different hairstylists apart from the regular one I usually go to when I’m in Makati City, in the hope that someone would be as adventurous as I am to whip my hair into an edgier style. (Once upon a time, my hair used to be dyed torquoise so you can imagine how bored I am with my current do right now.)

But I suppose short hair really does pose design challenges to most hairdressers. Those stylists who are in the twilight of their careers are the ones terribly at a loss on how to update my short do for the new millennium. Also, maybe they are a bit more careful as I’m now in my 40s, so they don’t want to change my hair radically and make me look like a trying hard teenager. (So, yeah, no more torquoise colors for me either, just lots of dark browns and deep burgundies.)

I’m the type who’s not maarte about my hair in the sense that I entrust myself completely in the hands of the hairdresser because he/she is the expert. I usually tell the hairstylist, “Bahala ka na what to do. You’re the one who knows what style is appropriate.” So I’m not the type who would get upset over a bad cut or dye job since it’s just hair. I can always grow it back. I just need someone daring enough to make the cut.

Last Monday I tried out the salon of another veteran hairstylist who I hear now charges about P2,000 a pop, and was dismayed by its mildly unsanitary and spartan surroundings. (No small shelf nor table to even park your bag.) I was a little put-off by the senior stylist assigned to me because she kept on forcing me to get other treatments even if I had already said twice and stressed on each occasion that I only wanted to get a haircut, damnit! Then, there was no head massage while being shampooed, neither was there any beverage offered like coffee, hot or iced tea, not even water, which is now de rigueur in most salons. And I still cringe at the thought of the short and stubby staff who wore knee-length black boots at the height of the searing weather that day. Ick! All that for P650—and not even one chismis of any famous client? Bah! While my hair turned out okay—not stunning, but all right—I still want my money back!

So my search for an edgier hairstylist continues. Well, life isn’t perfect. I have a great career, live quite comfortably eating three meals a day with snacks in between, have fabulous friends, with awesome travels here and abroad thrown in. I just have to “endure” all that with my bad-hair days.

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

Musings on the Glorietta blast

I'VE been covering a conference at the Mandarin Oriental for the past two days so it's only now that I've had the chance to write an entry in my blog. I was particularly looking forward to Friday's ending of the conference which would allow me to enjoy to relax and enjoy a spa treatment in the afternoon. Past one o' clock in the afternoon, however, Charisse, the hardworking director of communications of Mandarin walks by our table and asks if we've heard of the bomb blast in Makati. She said she just got a text message about it. So we all said no but just the same, I checked my two cellphones to see whether I had any SMS about it.

Then in comes the First Lady of Guam, Joann Camacho, on her cellphone talking to someone asking if she was ok and that to come home immediately. We found out later that her daughter had been at Glorietta 2 when the blast ocurred and was showered with splinters. Thank God the kid was alright. Mrs. Camacho was visibly shaken and was hugged tightly by my Guam editor Maureen, assuring her that everything would be okay.

I called this friend of mine who supposedly has contacts with some intelligence sources to find out what was happening but he couldn't give me any details. Of course, no one could say it out loud but the mindset of everyone yesterday was on a terrorist attack. Then I checked the Internet to see whether there were any stories out on the bomb blast already. The initial reports were an LPG tank had exploded. It was clear, later on in the evening, that it was no ordinary LPG tank explosion because of the amount of structural damage the explosion had caused.

I only realized later that I had been going to Glorietta the past two nights because I had to make an emergency purchase of some toiletries, and used part of the mall as a short cut to North Park where I ordered a congee dinner for those two nights. Man, what a difference a day or two makes.

*****

This may sound bitchy but I'm sorry, I really don't have any respect for Ayala Land management at all, especially after my stuff was stolen while walking in the Activity Center last year. To me, the company's security measures have been nothing but posturings and projections. They had sniffer dogs supposedly, but really, there were not a lot of security officers patrolling around. Most of them were just posted at the entrances of the mall watching out for what? Do these people actually know what a bomb looks like? Do they know what suspicious characters look like or act?

When I fell victim to petty thievery last year, there was no effort to even check the closed circuit cameras around the area until I asked, and even then, Ayala Land got back to me after a month. You think anything will turn up from their security tapes this time because of the blast? I highly doubt that. Even previous to my experience, there were already reports going around of thieves in the mall but it didn't look like management beefed up its security. They didn't even know how to deal with my case when I first reported it to the nearest security guard I found. So what drills is Jaime Ayala talking about? If you look at the videos posted on the Internet, there was no effort from mall security to actually cordon off the area as you could see people lazily even walking around. The first order of business should have been evacuate, and seal the area. Yet there were people just taking photos and videos from their camera phones, or just basically hanging about!

Customers pay a lot for the prices on goods bought at this mall but get very little security in return. While Ayala Land management will expectedly say that it was an accident and nobody wanted the blast to happen, it cannot shirk away from its responsibility of securing its tenants (who pay very high rental fees) and its patrons. How funny that they say there was no security lapse. Obviously there was otherwise, how could the bomb or bombs be snuck in? Magic? Teleportation? Beam me up Scotty! No matter who the culprit is (and I don't believe for a minute it's the handiwork of terrorists), Ayala Land clearly has culpability in this matter. If I were a tenant at this mall, I'd demand a refund from mall management equivalent to the opportunity losses I suffered yesterday.

*****

Even before Sen. Trillanes pointed his fingers at the Presidentita GMA and her henchmen being behind the Glorietta blasts, the man on the street and your friendly neighborhood cab drivers were already thinking the same. I spoke to a few later in the evening. Pinoys aren't stupid although our politicians make us out to be. (If this was the handiwork of terrorists, by yesterday evening, they would have claimed responsibility for the blast already because they are a proud bunch.)

Of course you can say it's just another conspiracy theory but really, the public, especially the masa have come to distrust the Presidentita and her people. We can't put anything past her. Almost everyone believes she is capable of doing anything just to perpetuate herself in power and refocus the public's attention away from her government's latest foibles. As usual, the Presidentita's text brigade (Hello NTC: Check out 0905-346-8994) is actively trying to spin the bombings against her critics especially politicians in the opposition. While she tells them to stop politicking and taking advantage of the incident, her handlers are doing it for her. Amateurs talaga!

UPDATE: This statement is no surprise. I'm just amazed at how long it took Esperon and company to say it and blame everyone they could think of. Gads, Presidentita, san bang kangkungan napulot mo ang mga taong ito?

October 16, 2007

A green iPhone it isn't

(GOT this press release from Greenpeace. Seems our friend Steve Jobs hasn't kept up to his promises of making Apple products more environmentally-friendly, the iPhone included. Dang! And I'm using an iBook to write this.)

Scientific tests reveal iPhone contains hazardous chemicals and materials, says Greenpeace

Manila/Amsterdam, 16 October 2007 - Apple´s iPhone contains hazardous chemicals and materials, according to the results of scientific tests commissioned by Greenpeace and released today. This is the first testing of an Apple product following the commitment by Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, to a `Greener Apple´, in May 2007.

An independent scientific laboratory tested 18 internal and external components of the iPhone and confirmed the presence of brominated compounds in half the samples, including in the phone´s antenna, in which they (1) made up 10 percent of the total weight of the flexible circuit board. A mixture of toxic phthalate esters (2) was found to make up 1.5 percent of the plastic (PVC) coating of the headphone cables.

The insight into the components of the iPhone is presented in the Greenpeace report, `Missed call: the iPhone´s hazardous chemicals´(3). This is the third time that Greenpeace has tested an Apple product since 2006. Similar analyses of a MacBook Pro and an iPod Nano also revealed the presence of brominated flame retardants and PVC in some components.

Apple launched the iPhone into the US market in June 2007. The discovery of hazardous chemicals suggests that Apple is failing to make early progress, even in entirely new product lines, towards achieving its commitment to phase-out all uses of brominated compounds and PVC by the end of 2008.

"Apple could have demonstrated that it is a true industry leader with a green iPhone. Unfortunately, Apple missed that call and the public is left with an Apple that is no greener than what was promised by Steve Jobs in May,” said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia toxics campaigner. “We need to see that the talk of “a greener Apple” is matched with real products in the market,” Baconguis added.

Dr. David Santillo, Senior Scientist at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, coordinated the project and deconstructed the iPhone for analysis. He said, "Two of the phthalate plasticisers found at high levels in the headphone cable are classified as "toxic to reproduction, category 2" because of their long-recognised ability to interfere with sexual development in mammals. While they are not prohibited in mobile phones, these phthalates are banned from use in all toys or childcare articles sold in Europe. Apple should eliminate the use of these chemicals from its products range."

Steve Jobs is proud dada to the iPhone (Photo from BusinessWeek)

During its analysis, Greenpeace also found that the iPhone´s battery was, unusually, glued and soldered in to the handset. This hinders battery replacement and makes separation for recycling, or appropriate disposal, more difficult, and therefore adds to the burden of electronic waste.

"Apple is playing catch-up with its other competitors. If it wants to grab industry leadership, it must respond to calls of designing out all toxic substances from its products so that risks from production, recycling and disposal are avoided,” Baconguis concluded.

(1) Bromine: Whether in additive or reactive form, the presence of high proportions by weight of bromine in electronic components is of concern with respect to the disposal or recycling of end-of-life iPhone handsets, as even cross-linked organic-bound bromine can contribute to
the formation of toxic chemicals, including persistent and bioaccumulative brominated dioxins and related compounds during thermal destruction or processing.

(2) Phthalates: The European Directive 2005/84/EC prohibits the use of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate(DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and benzyl butyl phthalate(BBP) in all toys or childcare articles put on the market in Europe (with a limit of 0.1% by weight).

(3) Greenpeace report on the iPhone here.

For more information: Click on the Greenpeace Toxics campaign web site here.

(Btw, what's this I hear about Palm employees using the iPhone as their personal phone? The horrors! Apparently it's true, according to a family friend whose brother works with Palm. They took apart the iPhone and found the insides superior, so they've taken to the device (well, geeks will be geeks). No worries Treo junkies like me. I have faith that Palm will be putting its own spin on the iPhone to come up with an even more superior product with all the lovely basic features we have come to depend on.)

The intelligence aspects of the ZTE broadband deal

Not intelligent though to realize her foundation isn't pantay. Calling Joan Zapanta! Pls. get the Presidentita a new makeup artist.

(IN an email, net activist Gerry Kaimo asks pointed questions about the intelligence aspects of the ZTE broadband deal. While I doubt that the Chinese government is interested in us at all considering the bumbling stupidity of our government leaders and amateurish techniques of corruption in this country they surely will not learn be able to learn from, his musings are nonetheless valid.)

Gerry writes:

Can we get someone to explain to the forum the intelligence aspect of the deal? China can and will tap all those lines and it's like a spy's dream of Christmas come early. If they install it, they will obviously arrange it so that firewalls will have enough "holes" in them to manage to tap into the entire system. So instead of sending a slew of spies, they just have to switch on their PHILIPPINE CONNECTION Computer and have a couple of hundred geeks monitoring the Philippines. I can't get over how with all the military people in GMA's junta, so blinded are they by other aspects of this deal that basic rules of intelligence gathering are about to be initiated by China and used for whatever devious plans they have. Military intelligence, economic information, data from one barangay to another all the way to DILG (Department of Interior and Local Governments) to Malacañang will fall into China's hands. Considering their Big Picture plans on Asia, it still hasn't dawned on them [GMA and company] that no other country in ASEAN has gotten into a deal with China, be it ZTE or whatever other lead-based company is involved. It just doesn't make sense."


Yes folks, Gerry is an Atenean. Thankfully, he's one of the good guys...unlike you-know-who's husband.

October 15, 2007

Superman returns...not!

I wasn't able to watch Superman Returns when it was shown in Metro Manila's theaters last year for some forgettable reason. I finally got to watch it on HBO last night and although the film's plot was pencil-thin and still cheesy, I actually felt a wave of sentimental pleasure coursing through me.

Starring Brandon Routh who I've never heard of before this movie and who bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve (the real Superman to many for his valiant battle against his disability), the film's first action sequences with Superman saving the passengers of an airplane (which included Lois Lane played by Kate Bostworth) made the hairs of my arms stand on end.

I fondly remember the first Superman movie with Reeve and Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, with a really great cast of supporting actors like Marlon Brando (as Superman's father Jor-el), Gene Hackman (as Lex Luthor), and Glenn Ford (as Clark Kent's father). It was the late 70s and I was still hung up on popular drama anthologies, impossible love stories, and cornball acting (yeah, whatever happened to Kidder's career right?). When you're young and stupid, you think you need a Superman to save you from all the idiots around you. This was the milieu I grew up in so I suppose that was the reason Superman Returns stirred up a lot of childish silly notions in me again. (You don't wanna know!)

It was fun watching Superman Returns albeit the bleah acting and idiotic storyline. (I mean Superman can't have a child with an earthling! In my child's mind, that's just too alien and immoral. He should remain pure and unblemished by thoughts of a woman's flesh. A man who's out to save us from ourselves can't have any human attachments.) I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more as another mind-numbing exercise if I had watched it on the big screen. Still, it was nice to have Superman back on the screen, even if it was just on the idiot box, just because it made me remember a part of my young life when I still believed in 18th century notions on true love. Ah well...

Colbert for President!

(...of the U.S. that is. Read the column of Bill O'Reilly's alter ego in the New York Times' Sunday op-ed page. Maureen Dowd sorta got lazy today? Hee-hee)

A Mock Columnist, Amok
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: October 14, 2007


I was in my office, writing a column on the injustice of relative marginal tax rates for hedge fund managers, when I saw Stephen Colbert on TV.

He was sneering that Times columns make good “kindling.” He was ranting that after you throw away the paper, “it takes over a hundred years for the lies to biodegrade.” He was observing, approvingly, that “Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann’s skull.”

I called Colbert with a dare: if he thought it was so easy to be a Times Op-Ed pundit, he should try it. He came right over. In a moment of weakness, I had staged a coup d’moi. I just hope he leaves at some point. He’s typing and drinking and threatening to “shave Paul Krugman with a broken bottle.”

(Continued at NYT)

October 13, 2007

Wassup por yu?



Something Like Life
Oct. 12, 2007


I’VE been sick again and, after finally consulting a doctor on Sunday, I was basically told to shut up for 24 hours to rest my inflamed throat, which I probably got from cheering excessively during the La Salle-Ateneo game two Sundays before, then downing half a bag of microwave popcorn that night. (During the championship game against UE, all I could do was clap my hands silly. But yay, Green Archers! Animo La Salle!)

So I was pretty much sidelined in the last two weeks, unable to meet my deadlines because I was also feeling fluish. I was downing all sorts of drugs and incessantly gargling with Bactidol to help ease my discomfort. Because my greatest fear in my life is to die from sheer hunger, I still ate meat and all sorts of yummy chewy treats, which my doc eventually told me were no-no’s. (“Soft foods only!”) Great. That meant lots of lugaw and chicken noodle soup with crackers, but I was too afraid to follow the doc to the letter, lest I become runny like Romy Neri. Ick.

So during the past weeks I was away from the real world, I was occupied with the cyber/video world. I watched the first episode of Private Practice (the “bleah!” Grey’s Anatomy spinoff), the first episodes of the new seasons of Grey’s and Ugly Betty, and now I’m deep into the sex, blood and gore of Rome, the first season. Needless to say, I got involved in the online debate regarding the real or imagined slurs against Philippine medical schools and former President Cory Aquino.

Frankly, I don’t watch Desperate Housewives. I find it a ditzy, boring and brainless show. I watched it only for two seasons, because of James Denton, the actor who plays the sexy hotbod hunk of a plumber who falls for the ridiculous Susan Meyer, played by has-been actress Teri Hatcher. (I hear that Denton’s character is now in a coma and is under the covers most of the time, so why anyone still bothers to watch this show mystifies me.) Out of curiosity, I downloaded that premiere episode of Housewives which contained the allegedly inflammatory remark against local medical schools. Truth to tell, I didn’t find it that offensive.

It’s only a TV show after all, and it was a joke. Susan Meyer is supposed to be an idiot who probably wouldn't even know how to find the Philippines on a map even if it was as large as North America. Besides, I can tell the difference between reality and fantasy because I’m well-educated and because of my own experience with Filipino doctors and nurses. All races and nationalities are always stereotyped or insulted on TV...the arrogant waspish American, the poor hip-hopping Black Americans, the noisy cliquish Chinese, the British and their bad teeth, the Vietnamese and their extended families, the Italians and their mob connections, etc. But these nationalities don’t gnash their teeth or pull their hair over these supposed insults because they know, in TV land, everyone is fair game.

Even our own local TV shows are riddled with all sorts of regional insults — the Visayans who always confuse their “e’s” with “i’s”, the Capampangans who reverse their “f’s” and “p’s”, the kuripot Ilocanos and the angry Batangueños with their balisong, among others. Where are all the online petitions against these TV stereotypes?

Now, if you read the comments left by our kababayan on YouTube and on the Desperate Housewives web site, it showed how some of them are even more racist than the clueless writers of the show. Invectives and slurs were all over the place, not the least of them the anti-American everything! I cannot help but feel ashamed there are Pinoys like that.

The management of ABC has already said sorry along with the promise to delete the offending scene from their reruns, international editions and DVD version. Malacañang has already accepted the apology. Still, some of our kababayan continue to scream for blood! Instead of being gracious enough to accept the apology, we continue to curse Americans, the writers, Teri Hatcher, ABC. There was this old lady who was even crying hysterically about how uneducated Americans are compared with Filipinos during an LA Fil-Am TV show’s phone-in portion. It was so sickeningly OA! If you think so lowly of Americans, why the hell are you killing yourselves trying to get a US visa or even buying their products?

(It's a fake news show, people! Notice the Comedy Central logo at the bottom right corner of your TV screen? Sos.)

Riding on the Housewives controversy, some people also tried to pick on a month-old episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who is my husband by the way, so lay off! If the aggrieved – led by Sen. Noynoy Aquino, who seems so desperate to have his 15 seconds of TV airtime that he has to use his poor mother to generate news – actually watch The Daily Show, they would know it is a political satire. The piece by Samantha Bee in a Sex and the City format on whether Americans are ready for a woman president was actually poking fun at Americans themselves. Here are these countries — the UK, Israel, the Philippines — which are many light-years ahead of the US in having elected their own female heads of state. It played to female stereotypes—idiots, tramps and sluts — and because most intelligent people know that in real life Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Cory Aquino are not, they get the joke. Sadly, the rest don’t. Hello? Have you eaten your galunggong today? If you didn’t get that one either, here’s a gun and go shoot yourselves.

C’mon, do you ever hear the White House complaining every time David Letterman puts out his piece, “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches,” which basically portrays President Bush as a bumbling idiot? In the first season of Ugly Betty, Mark, the gay assistant of Wilhelmina, persuades Betty to be his fake girlfriend. In trying to memorize facts about each other, he asks the eternally unfashionable Mexican Betty, “You’re from the Philippines, right?” Naku, how dare these Americans mistake us for Mexicans! Or what about Will & Grace? Karen to her maid Rosario: “If it weren’t for me, you’d be flying back to Cucaracha on Air Guacamole with live chickens running up and down the aisles!” Any diplomatic protests from El Salvador or Mexico? As Fil-Am comedian Rex Navarette jokes, “Wassup por you?”

What does this say of us and our relationships to other cultures?

We often ridicule others and make stupid jokes just about every political issue (“AB-ZTE-FG!”), but we cannot take a joke about ourselves. We can dish it out, but we aren’t so accepting when we’re on the receiving end. We are pikon, because I’d hate to think that we are bobo instead and just don’t get the joke.

We have such fragile egos that if anyone makes fun of us, we automatically lash out. It’s as if we love reveling in acting api-apihan to foreigners, so we strike at them by pushing online petitions, rallying, sending diplomatic protests, and demanding for the moon and stars to assuage our hurt amor propio, instead of proving them wrong by being on our best behavior. Was this attitude formed because we were colonized by foreigners, so we have some sort of superiority complex that masks our actual feelings of inferiority toward other cultures? Other nationalities, especially Americans, know Filipino doctors and nurses are among the best health-care professionals in the world, never mind that Liz Taylor has banned the latter around her hospital room. (Anyone picketing her by the way?) So how can 10 seconds in a 45-minute episode of an idiotic TV show change that opinion and fact?

Sadly, I can only blame Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano for these unfunny events. If he had only continued the ZTE broadband hearings, we would be happily texting more ridiculous jokes or poking fun at Ateneans, Ben Abalos’s Viagra prescription, JDV3’s high forehead, Romy Neri’s intentional flu, Mike Arroyo’s dirty finger, and Presidentita’s Victoria Court ad (“shhh”). Get it?

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

October 12, 2007

Lead in my lipstick? Eeek!

(READ this girls, and start checking your lipstick brands. You don't wanna go stupid on us right?)

Lipsticks contain lead, consumer group says

Reuters, Oct. 12, 2007

ATLANTA - Lipsticks tested by a US consumer rights group found that more than half contained lead and some popular brands including Cover Girl, L'Oreal and Christian Dior had more lead than others, the group said on Thursday.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said tests on 33 brand-name red lipsticks by the Bodycote Testing Group in Santa Fe Spring, California, found that 61 percent had detectable lead levels of 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm).

Lipstick, like candy, is ingested. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of public health, environmental and women's groups, said the FDA has not set a limit for lead in lipstick.

Read the rest at ABS-CBN.

Has Neda gone nada?

(Alecks Pabico of PCIJ writes about the Neda of the past and of today and it isn't a pretty picture...thanks to Romy Neri. I don't think the agency will fare any better under Tito Santos who may be a Neda veteran but as we have read in the news lately, apparently lacks the same backbone as his predecessor.)

HE IS known by many Filipinos as the author of that economics textbook with the blue cover, but once upon a time Gerardo P. Sicat was the head of a powerful government agency that took care of preparing and coordinating the country’s socioeconomic and development plans. In fact, back then, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) was very powerful, particularly given its oversight function with respect to the plans of government agencies. Though by protocol, the NEDA director general was not a member of the Cabinet, the position was of Cabinet rank and the NEDA chief was even regarded as a primus inter pares (first among equals).

NEDA was created by then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 by merging the Presidential Economic Staff (PES) and the National Economic Council (NEC). Sicat, who was appointed by Marcos as NEC chairperson in 1970, served as the newly organized NEDA's first director general. Recalled Benjamin Turiano, who joined NEDA at about the same time as Sicat and is now a director there: “That was the time when NEDA really had so much clout, when it was looked up to by the Cabinet.”

Read the rest at PCIJ

LV dreams

This isn't the one I dreamed about but it's sexy. I'd love to wear this! I found it on the Designer Exposure web site kaso it's sold na e. Ewan ko lang, it could be fake kasi $300 something lang cos it's on sale. Haaay.

Dang! I must be reading too much of Chuvaness again. Even her Louis Vuitton obsession is invading my dreams!

Anyway, going back...this afternoon I was dreaming I was shopping in Rustan's and there was an ongoing sale. From a hundred feet away, my eyes automatically zoomed on a pair of LV ankle boots! They were like magnets that pulled me in (I dunno how I got to the display shelf so fast without bumping into other shoppers) and I picked them up marveling at them like works of art.

Each boot was like in almost clear plastic with the LV logo in white stamped all over and the top of the ankle part was trimmed in beige in the same fabric, while towards the sole, the area was also in beige until the medium stack heel. Hello?! I dunno why it was in plastic or looked like it was plastic, it's a dream nga noh?, but the pair looked really good to me. I thought it was so perfect to wear during this rainy season.

(Just as a back story: I've been a boot girl since the late '80s and currently own about six pairs all in leather, mostly right above the ankle and one covering my calf. The last is my favorite because of its classic short sloping stacked heel, burgundy color and oh-so-soft leather. I bought the pair on sale in London and altough made in Italy, it cost me the equivalent of only P5,000. Of course this was like three years ago but the pair is really matibay and still fashionable because of its classic look. Talk about value for money!)

So I asked the saleslady how much the LV pair costs and she told me P22,000. I gasped! and she quickly added that it was already 90% off! Man, that's one expensive pair of boots! I told the saleslady that I wouldn't be able to sleep well that night thinking of the lovelies. I looked up to the ceiling, at the other customers, and circled the shelf where the boots were on display about a hundred times, as I tried to compute how much I would pay each month if I charged the purchase to my credit card. I was almost sure I was gonna whip out the plastic, but then I awoke with a start. My mom was knocking on my door because the reupholsterer was already downstairs to meet with us. Saved!

But this one takes the cake! Found it on eluxury.com, supposedly the only site where you can buy real LV goods 'cos the company owns it. Shet ang gandah! Pati ang price...$1,180.00 lang naman. Lord, make me win the lotto pls!)

Now I'm mildly obsessing whether the pair of LV boots I dreamed about actually exists that I've been googling "Louis Vuitton plastic boots" like mad for about 30 minutes already. So if anyone knows if such a pair has ever been manufactured, please tell me and end my suffering! Kalowka!

October 09, 2007

The view from the other side

IN the light of the brouhaha over the apparent slight by that stupid show Desperate Housewives against Filipino doctors, here's an opinion piece from Newsday about the 27 Filipino healthcare professionals who supposedly abandoned their jobs of caring for the terminally ill and elderly at Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Smithtown, New York. The Sentosa 27 – as media has dubbed the group because they had been employed by the SentosaCare Recruitment Agency at its facilities – had complained of violations in their work agreement and so resigned en masse after their grievances were not addressed.

Here's the view of one who was affected by the walkout.

Nurses should not leave patients in midshift
By Sharon Bannon
Newsday


Walk the floor where my daughter Jodie lies in her nursing-home bed, and you can hear the sounds of machines keeping people alive.

Many patients are elderly. Some are children. Some have grown old on these machines. In each case, somewhere there is a family member who loves them and prays that one day they will get up, walk to the door and, because they no longer need them, will shut off the machines required for survival.

It’s a faint dream because the vast majority couldn’t, and for the elderly at the end of their days, it’s a question of dying with dignity.

These are the people who are at the center of the controversy over nurses from the Philippines who left their jobs caring for Jodie and the other patients during a labor dispute with the nursing-home management.

The coverage has been a steady drumbeat, with almost daily questions posed in Newsday as to whether influence and access to elected officials brought indictments against the nurses who walked away from my daughter and others on ventilators at the Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation Center in Smithtown.

The questions are relentless, pitting the owners of a nursing home against immigrant nurses who say their work agreement has been violated. (Continued at BusinessMirror)

October 08, 2007

Jessica to the defense!

MY lovely Jessica Zafra has just written a piece on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart's "Cory's a slut" episode. Thank you for explaining it to the idiots who didn't get the joke. I was so incensed about them I didn't want to bother anymore. I mean clueless is clueless, what can you do?

But it's a puzzlement to me, you know? For a people who have the reputation of being able to laugh at ourselves in times of political crisis, I don't understand why there were those who couldn't get the joke on Cory. Are you brain dead from the lack of proper nutrition? Ayan...di kasi kayo kumakain ng galunggong eh!

Anyway, here's the link to Jessica's blog. Just don't believe her about Jon being her mistress. He would never do that to me. If you people still didn't get that, you're really hopeless.

October 07, 2007

Animo La Salle! We're No. 1!

DIDN'T I say so?!

It was a great game today, despite the false starts and almost snoozy first quarter but our Green Archers really revved up their animo to trounce the UE Red Warriors 73-64. It was an historic season for La Salle...after seeking the crown for the longest time and after sitting out last year's season, we finally made it (despite the nasty play by some of the Red Warriors...you know who you are). My hands are still stinging from all the clapping (couldn't cheer as I'm officially down with pharyngitis...rats!) but it was worth it.

Kudos to Coach Franz Pumaren for training our boys really well. Of course, the players this season made all the difference – brilliant shooting and offensive plays by TY Tang, Rico Meirhoffer, Cholo Villanueva, JV Casio, and the rest. Sorry Red Warriors, you fought bravely but in the end, it's experience that counts. And our boys have it. Congratulations Green Archers, well done!

See you for more spectacular superb playing next year, people! (Read the story of our win in BusinessMirror.)

HAIL, HAIL ALMA MATTER
Hail to De La Salle!
We'll hold your banner high and bright,
A shield of green and white.
We'll fight to keep your glory bright,
And never shall we fail,
Hail to thee our Alma Mater!
HAIL! HAIL! HAIL!


Btw, can anyone tell me where I can get those Championship T-shirts and caps the players were wearing today? I want!

***

And for your reading pleasure fellow La Sallians, here's a piece from a weeping Eagle:

Blue Eagle woes
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
Phil. Star, Oct. 7, 2007


It is not the best of times for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Indeed, my fellow Blue Eagles have a lot of reasons to be dispirited if only for unfortunate events that had transpired in the last two weeks.

Controversial Atenean and First Gentleman (FG), Mike Arroyo, had figured anew in another scandal, this time, the contract for the ZTE National Broadband Network. “Back off!” — FG Mike Arroyo’s alleged order to ZTE scandal whistleblower Joey de Venecia — now rings so uncannily like French Queen Marie Antoinette’s arrogant “Let them eat cake” rebuff to the hungry cries of her subjects. Text messages circulated revolving around that “Back off!” incident.

Each time FG Mike Arroyo is implicated in scandals, Blue Eagles find themselves at the receiving end of text jokes from La Sallians who are smacking their lips in delight at having new reinforcements for their arsenal of friendly ribbing against their traditional archrivals from Loyola.

One even sent a text message suggesting that the spelling of our alma mater’s name has just been changed to ZTEneo.

(For the rest, click Eagle woes)