November 30, 2007

Libre ang mangarap di ba?

Something Like Life
Nov. 30, 2007

BEGINNING tomorrow, December 1, we have exactly 23 days to get our Christmas lists in order, subtracting the friends we haven’t seen for ages or adding new ones to the list (including new bosses for the proverbial sipsip gifts), and getting all our shopping done before the clock strikes midnight to herald the Christ Lord’s birth.

I’m almost done, having eliminated most of my lovable and understanding friends from my list and pleading poverty again this year, but I still need to get in order the gifts for the godchildren (with a plus-one courtesy of Iris this year).

After having had a less-than-productive shopping expedition with Fil at the International Bazaar at the PICC, I’m looking forward to a three-day shopping extravaganza at the St. James Bazaar in Alabang beginning today. Hopefully by this Sunday, I would be all done with my gift-buying, allowing me to concentrate on my own needs next. After all, I’ve toiled, sweated and run around godknowswhere, just to earn honest decent wages from my writing, so it’s time I get some rewards in return.

And I do have a lot of dream gifts for this Christmas, not that I can afford them all. But perhaps I can take a cue from the wildly popular video/book The Secret and focus all my positive thoughts and energies on these gifts. I shall visualize receiving these wonderful goodies and, for sure, most of them will be handed to me effortlessly. And, nah, I’m not going to wish for any of that “peace and goodwill to all men” crap that everyone unabashedly says when the klieg lights and cameras are switched on in their direction. I’m all pure materialism this year.

My 10 dream gifts this Christmas are:

Ananda in the Himalayas

1. A 10-day free stay in all the best spas in the world, with complimentary massages, body treatments and yoga instruction. These should include Reethi Rah in the Maldives, Banyan Tree in Phuket, the Ananda in the Himalayas and, just for kicks, the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort in Santa Barbara, just because Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens stayed there and tried to get an extreme makeover.

2. A monthlong cooking, eating and drinking tour of Tuscany, Italy, preferably, of course, with some gorgeous hunka-hunka burning love I’ll probably meet over there. Who knows, I’ll probably move there permanently. Think Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, right Francine?

3. The freakin’ P3.2-million, 103-inch Panasonic plasma TV everyone’s been talking about. While I have no room in my mother’s townhouse to put it in, I can probably have it installed in the garage and watch all first-rate, still-to-be shown-in-local-theaters movies on DVD. Of course, I will have to charge my neighbors P200 each if they want watch the movies with me. That P3.2 million will be paid up for in no time. Uh-huh, I’m so smart, aren’t I? Don’t you wish we were friends?

4. Full-course lunch or dinner at French Laundry with chef-turned-TV host/book author Anthony Bourdain. I saw a long-ago episode of Bourdain’s TV show where he and his chef buddies dined at what has been called one of the best restaurants in the world, and everyone looked like they were having fun with the tasting menu alone and the wine just flowing. This time, I’ll do the eating and Bourdain will provide the laughs (along with the credit card to pay the bill). We will have fun roasting that perennially perky fake cook Rachel Ray! Ooof! What the hell was Oprah thinking?

French Laundry's Atlantic Halibut (Photo from

5. Majority ownership in at least one hugely profitable listed firm, like SM Investments, PLDT (yeah, even if Smart Communications is ever so slow to release my new phone under my retention policy) or Globe Telecommunications (just to get back at Smart), JG Summit Holdings and Metrobank. There are other companies that are attractive but I’m still too busy plotting the takeover of the other firms. Besides, I don’t want to appear too greedy…duh.

6. My own vineyard and winery in New Zealand, which produces some of the most exciting wines in the world these days. I had the good fortune of touring the Villa Maria Estate years before NZ wines were introduced in the local market and marveled at the modern processes used to produce its award-winning wines (large steel barrels in place of oak, and screwcaps instead of corks). I shall become the best world producer of award-winning Pinot Noirs, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blancs.

7. The Jodie Ankle Boot from Louis Vuitton, which, I swear, is the most fabulous ankle boot ever! Made of canvas and calf leather, the brown boot just looks oh-so-comfortable even with its four-inch heel. I like it also because the LV monogram detail is subtle, unlike the ones on those fake LV bags available at your friendly tindera in the Greenhills tiangges. I especially love the metal rivets and tiny buckle detail. I stumbled on the Jodie after dreaming about a pair of LV boots, which set me off googling photos of LV boots one entire day.

8. The untitled 1954 oil on canvas by HR Ocampo displayed in the function room of the Bank of the Philippine Islands named after the artist. Or perhaps Pablo Amorsolo’s portraits of the Women of Rizal hanging in the BPI chairman’s office? Yes, some art for Christmas may be good for the soul, and will undoubtedly also raise one’s market value in the eyes of envious friends. And you all thought I was shallow!

Lake Como, Italy (Photo from Student Brittanica)

9. A house in the Southhamptons or maybe in Lake Como in Italy where all my friends and I can play all day. There’s nothing like exchanging gossip over cocktails with Vera Wang, Renée Zellwegger, and George Soros at the Hamptons abode, or having dinner with gorgeous George Clooney and his Ocean 12 buddies at my lakeside retreat. Of course, my friends will have to pay for their own airfare and land transport to get there. Sorry, darlings, no such thing as a free lunch!

And last but not the least:

10. Tony Leung. Need I explain?


THAT'S how most people felt about the serial coup plotters' caper yesterday. Parang, ano na naman ba yan?! I don't really understand why Trillanes and company actually thought people were going to join them in their idiotic cause when they weren't successful the first time around. Remember 2003 boys? Then they said they were ready to die for their cause and all that crap, but what happened? they surrendered. Then Trillanes had to cry to his mommy to get him out of his predicament. The poor woman had to go Malacanang and beg the Presidentita not to harm him!

This time around, Trillanes and his group said they decided to give up because they didn't want the media covering them to be hurt. Lemme tell you guys a thing or two about journalists who were covering yesterday's stunt. I know most of them, have covered the field with them...they are all battle-hardy journalists who have been to war-torn areas in the country. They have risked life and limb in the name of covering a good story.

Yesterday was no different. They chose to cover the coup-lang sa pansin rebels, because it was their job. If anything had happened to them in the event that government troops had attacked Trillanes and company, no one would have blamed the government. They put their lives on the line in the name of a scoop, an enterprising story, and public service. The media's presence just provided a convenient excuse for Trillanes' group to stop their foolishness. I'm not surprised many of the Magdalo soldiers, those who stand co-accused with Trillanes for the 2003 coup attempt, didn't join him this time around. Once burned, twice shy.

We are all aware of the Presidentita's illegitimacy, her and her husband's corrupt bent, so too her henchmen, but a coup would not solve these problems. C'mon, didn't you think things would change when Marcos and Estrada were booted out of power? Corruption got worse. For a young democracy such as ours (compared to 'older' countries like the U.S., for example), the path towards real honest and competent governance is often, and will continue to be bumpy. We just have to keep trying. Perhaps things may change a bit with someone like MAR Roxas as President in 2010.

Anyway, let's hope this weekend turns out to be more quiet and peaceful.

November 29, 2007

What the eff?! Coup na naman?! (with update)

I woke up this morning ready to read today's news on the national income accounts to see how the economy did in the third quarter and what do we get? another frigging coup attempt! Geezus Trillanes get a grip! (Notice how the coup plotters have upgraded their taste from Oakwood to Manila Peninsula. Well Spices is a good restaurant, I hear.)

This is all really the Presidentita and her henchmen's fault you know. If they only had allowed Trillanes to take his place in the Senate and voice out his grievances there, he wouldn't have chosen this path. Coup-lang sa pansin kasi.

I am against the Presidentita too, but naman, so close to Christmas're disrupting our lives! I'm not sure if you really have the support of the people, despite Trillanes having been elected as Senator. The public voted for the opposition candidates and that's how they have spoken. But to actually go out there again and fight it out in the streets...when it's raining at that, it's a weekend, everyone wants to enjoy an extra day off tomorrow...I'm not so sure. All the conditions for a successful coup aren't in place.

UPDATE: I hear the foreigners billeted at The Pen are slowly trickling out of the hotel with their luggages in tow. Will they transfer to Oakwood (now called Ascot), I wonder. Trillanes is appealing to the guests to stay but I can just imagine the terror they must feel. They're on pleasure or on a business trip and they get caught in a rained-out coup. It isn't very comforting to see uniformed soldiers you know. (Word is most managers of The Pen were on a team-building seminar in Tagaytay when Trillanes and company took over the hotel, and are now scrambling back to return to Manila. What bad luck ey!)

And I know that tomorrow there are other businessmen flying in from the States and from around the region for the Hush Puppies Asian regional conference. Last I heard, the organizers are trying to book the conference and the different delegations in a venue far far away from Makati! What a nuisance for these businessmen to have to deal with this political problem. The U.S. Embassy has already issued an advisory to its citizens to stay away from Makati. Haay!

Thing is, Trillanes and company would be more credible if they held their coup somewhere else instead of a 5-star hotel! Ano sila, nagpapasarap? I got text jokes saying Trillanes and company are probably holding their Christmas party at Nielsens! If they went to someplace like Sosing's for instance, along Zobel Roxas, they would have probably gotten the immediate support of the masses (and who knows, probably even the colegialas in St. Scho.). Who wants to go rally on a group of soldiers holed up in the bastion of Spanish and Chinese mestizos? Nge.

Changina, the bazaar at St. James better not be cancelled this weekend. I'm not done with my Christmas shopping yet. And yes, there are more important things than joining a coup. I'd rather face down an angry mob of coup plotters for not supporting them, than my furious godchildren without their gifts!

Onli in da Pilipins!

November 27, 2007

GMA orders review of all foreign-funded projects

By Christine Avendaño, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Inquirer, 11/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines — With the World Bank still not moving to lift its suspension of deliberations on the $232-million soft loan intended for Philippine road projects, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has issued a string of instructions to ensure that foreign-assisted and funded projects would be free of irregularities.

The instructions, which include a review of the road projects covered by the suspended WB loan, were contained in Administrative Order No. 210.

Cabinet officials, meanwhile, snubbed Monday the Senate probe of the suspended $232-million WB loan, due to corruption, as they pressed for more time to prepare their defense.

(The rest at GMA orders review.)

* * * *
THIS is of course, another face-saving measure for the Presidentita's guilt-wracked administration after having been humiliated by the announced suspension of a World Bank-financed project due to corruption allegations.

I'm amazed, however, that as NEDA Board chairman, the Presidentita seems to have forgotten that those reviews are actually in place in several departments in the NEDA. If I recall correctly, every year, for instance, there is a regular meeting between the Asian Development Bank and key NEDA staff to review projects that have been financed, amounts that have been disbursed so far, in an attempt to pinpoint possible causes of delays or blockages in certain projects.

I have no doubt that the same evaluation meetings are also conducted regularly with the World Bank and other donors such as the governments of the U.S., Japan, Korea, Spain, and the like. After all, these multilateral agencies and donor countries are not the types to just overlook where their taxpayers' monies are being spent, so a close watch on the activities of their beneficiaries are in place.

Whether the same kind of monitoring system is being implemented for ahem, China-funded projects, is anybody's guess though. But of course, since the emasculation of NEDA by this sitting president, who knows if tight controls on foreign funded projects are still really in place.

November 26, 2007

MAR ROXAS in 2010 (with updates)

SO there, I'm supporting MAR Roxas for President of this crazy republic of ours in 2010. There isn't any other intelligent choice is there? (Sure there's also Manny Villar but he's still playing coy about his presidential ambitions. Don't be fooled, we hear his biography is currently in the works, despite his pronouncements that he isn't thinking of 2010 yet.) Besides my family, and the clan we belong to, have been Liberal Party supporters for the longest time.

(My mom and dad, for instance, were very active in the campaigns of MAR's father, the late Gerry Roxas, back in the day. Gerry Roxas was senator from 1963 until Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, always a topnotcher in the elections. In 1965, Roxas ran as Vice President to Diosdado Macapagal's Presidential bid, and lost by less than 30,000 (!) votes to Fernando Lopez, the slimmest margin in Philippine electoral history. Btw, I had the privilege of interviewing former VP Lopez at the old Benpres building in Pasig sometime in 1989, when I was just starting my career as a journalist. )

To be fair, MAR may have not been in fighting form much during his helm as Trade and Industry Secretary (and sometimes he has selective memory about the people he meets), but I've seen him change and become more outspoken and palaban in his positions and statements, now that he is Senator. He performed extremely well during the ZTE-NBN deal hearings, asking very insightful questions. Also, perhaps with his background as an investment banker, MAR can place his bets on better economic policies and investment schemes for the Philippines. From the Sick Man of Asia, the Philippines has no way to go but up right? And yet under the Presidentita we've seen the country sinking further, and no amount of GDP figures can change that fact. That 7% GDP hasn't been translated to more jobs and higher wages for us has it?

With his family's decent background, I have no doubt that corruption will not taint MAR's tenure. I'm sure he's still earning lots from financial investments he's made before he became a politician that he doesn't have to go into el cheapo corrupt activities like you-know-who, just to sustain the lifestyle he's long been accustomed to. He's a smart chap, let's hope he picks only honest, competent, intelligent technocrats to be part of his Cabinet. (Neric Acosta for DENR Secretary for example.) There are a lot of qualified people out there just waiting for the right person to head this country before agreeing to serve the public.

Only thing that I (and many of MAR's supporters) are having a problem with is his, ehem, love life. Not the nicest girl in the world, and definitely very ambisyosa. Hon, those pearl earrings are just way too large!

But then MAR really doesn't have to get married does he? Maybe we should have a bachelor heading up the country for once so he can focus more on the job of governing the country instead of keeping his family and relatives happy. Besides, all marital alliances are for the purpose of perpetuating one's genes into the next generation, and MAR already has got that job done. A First Lady can just be an annoying distraction. Look what happened to Marcos. Besides, it's not like MAR is creating a precedent. Tita Cory was "single", a widow, when she assumed power in Malacañang.

Anyway, here's a clip from GMA News TV re: MAR's election as president of the Liberal Party, following in the footsteps of his late father, and grandfather, Manuel A. Roxas, president of the Republic, and founder of the LP in 1945.

Btw, I think it would be infinitely simpler and less chaotic if the country returns to the two-party system, much like U.S. Let's just have the LP and the Nacionalista Party field candidates to narrow down the choices for our kababayan, and weed out the incompetents and the plain greedy ambitious types.

After all the Presidentita and her husband's spine-chilling antics, it's time all politicos put the needs of the Philippines first, before their own interests. So Loren, please run for VP nalang?

UPDATE: Btw, I think Ping Lacson would make a good VP to MAR. Natakot ba kayo bigla? I'm serious. First of all it would be foolish for Lacson to throw his hat in the presidential elections considering that he (and you too Loren) doesn't have that much funds compared to MAR and Manny Villar. And having more than two presidential candidates would just split the votes and the country might just end up having another minority president like FVR was. But just imagine, MAR will take care of the economy and Lacson will handle the security issues. Whip those corrupt cops in line and rid our country of terrorists! If only Lacson can tame his ambitions for the country's good. O di ba Dream Team?

Let the games begin!

International Bazaar day

This was the scene at the International Bazaar at PICC last Sunday.

SUNDAY was International Bazaar day at the PICC. Fil and I arrived late so we found the venue pretty much filled to the brim, with a long line of patient shoppers still waiting to get in. Bumped into the late Enrique Zobel's right hand Joan Orendain, who looked very slim since I last saw her. She joked that she was wearing a whole pile of girdles underneath her slacks. Hahaha...but owww!

Joan was handling the publicity for the International Bazaar Foundation chaired by Lovely Romulo, spouse to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, who, we heard, also arrived at the bazaar. She said media entrance was free but Fil and I had decided to each pay our P100 tickets considering the event was for charity. Btw, Joan is responsible for a number of books in my library as she loved to gift them to editors. We may have had our differences in the past but as you get older, you somehow learn to let go of a lot of old hurts and irritations.

Lovely Romulo (left) and Alice Favila

Inside, we met the Romulo children, Mons Tantoco, a columnist for Phil. Star, and Lupe Romulo, whom I knew because we both worked for Manila Standard under Jullie Yap Daza. Lupe said she had been away from the country for awhile and probably had about five years worth of columns to write. But she said she no longer has a taste for society writing, and I joked that maybe it's for the best, otherwise baka ma-Malu Fernandez pa sya! Of course, Lupe is not the insensitive sort like that ex-People Asia columnist.

Also filling her shopping basket to the brim was Tita Moonyeen Singson, the spritely wife of former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Gabriel (aka "Lolo Gabby") Singson. Tita Moonyeen surely has endured a lot of trials in her life, and so Fil and I were glad that she looked so happy and healthy. She has such a joyful spirit that is so infectious, I cannot help but admire this woman.

Escorting Tita Moonyeen, was Alice Favila, also a member of the International Bazaar Foundation and wife to Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila. For those who were also at the bazaar on Sunday, Alice was the voice announcing raffle winners. Unfortunately for Fil and I, no amount of cajoling Alice could make her call out our names. Not far behind the Tita Moonyeen-Alice parade was a dressed-down Antonio Abacan, president of Metrobank whom I thought did a good job guarding the bank's onsite ATM and filling it up with lotsa cash hehehe! Geez, there sure were a lot of shoppers withdrawing that day!

My new kooky ring

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to buy a lot of goodies from the international embassies which had their booths that day. Aside from the throng of people which made it almost impossible to move through the corridors, the prices were outrageously expensive for some items. Like there was a nice embroidered blouse being sold at the Thai embassy booth which the sales clerks said was P1,200. Also there was a beautiful necklace of gems selling for P14,000. You and I have been to Bangkok. You know exactly how much these things cost especially if you go to their Divisoria-like areas. I quipped to a fellow shopper that it was probably cheaper to fly to Bangkok and buy the stuff there than at the booth, to which she answered "Korek!"

At the Spanish embassy booth, there were also the usual baby colognes...but selling at least P50 more than what they go for at the Watson in SM. And the can of fabada which my mom and I only bought at Landmark grocery at Trinoma the day before, cost P120. At Landmark it was only P111. Same deal with the olives, olive oil, and other food stuff, Too bad there were no espadrilles being sold – last year they were a real steal at P250 a pair.

The wines at the New Zealand booth were also ridiculously expensive...selling for the same prices at Santi's! I love NZ wines (Villa Maria Estate's pinot noirs are especially excellent, and its sauvignon blancs are constant awardees in international wine competitions) but I was there to shop for bargains not support the entire government of PM Helen Clark! The only inexpensive wine I found was at the Chilean embassy booth, about P420, although it wasn't the year and the variety I was looking for. What I wanted to buy at the NZ embassy was lamb chops but due to our late arrival, were already all gone. Darn.

Yummy empanada from Polland bakery.

And yes, the U.S. Embassy was absent again this year, although Fil quipped it was probably because there was really no more "made in the USA" goods to speak of. I guess it's also because every month, the American Women's Bazaar is held at the World Trade Center, although I've been there a few times and have not seen many US goods/brands either. Geez, and to think California 2006 wines are especially superb this year and although I'm not a steak person, their certified Angus beef is still tops in my book.

But duh, what were "made in the Philippines" goods doing in the Korean booth?! You would think they would sell their beautiful leather bags and or at least DVDs of their hugely popular telenovelas! Buti pa ang Cuban embassy had CDs of their music on sale (pirated lang nga), and cigars. Of course since I don't smoke I didn't look at the boxes of Havanas on display.

Joyce's portabello mushroom dip in extra virgin olive oil with melba toast on the side. Fab dish for cocktails.

As usual, it was mostly food I brought home, infused with the local flavor and sweat of our fellow Pinoys, like the really delicious empanada of Polland bakery, the homemade Portabello mushroom dip of Joyce Aragon, some hummus from good old reliable Kashmir restaurant with some pita bread and an order of plain roti. Yummm.

I was also able to buy my pantulog – a pair of cotton shorts and top, and a night dress, for P200 each. There was also a long kurta-like gown from Turkey for P750 which I plan to shorten and hem in time for next summer's bathing suit season. (The bleached blonde tindera, however, was really kinda sungit though and absolutely refused to give me a discount for the box of baklavas she was selling for P800.) I also love my new weird ring which I bought for P250 from one of the charity organizations selling their wares at the bazaar. Thanks to Lupe for clueing me in on it, after I saw the cute thing on her finger.

All in all, it was a mildly productive shopping expedition. I just long for the good old days though when the ambassadors themselves were on hand to hawk their country's wares which could be had for reasonable prices. It was a different time in the world when shopping was still safe and diplomats could still mingle among the common folk unharmed. These days, it's all about X-ray machines and security checks at shopping venues. Tsk, tsk, tsk...


My travel/food buddies Ted and Francine...notice all the empty plates. Looks like a tornado swept away all the food.

IN the past week, I've been stuffing myself at Cyma, Chef Robbie Goco's Greek restaurant, now open in Trinoma, thank God! (I used to eat at the always jampacked Edsa Shangrila Mall outlet.) Last Thursday, it was to meet with travel/food buddies Ted and Francine for a few drinks. We haven't been three-gether for a while due to our scheduling conflicts and our residential distance from each other (Ted in Makati, Francine in Marikina, and moi in Q.C.). So it was a treat to see each other again after a long time and basically make chismis while eating Cyma's yummy food.

Thanks to Chef Robbie for the comp bottle of Lindenman Shiraz Cabernet 2006, one of the red wine varieties I truly appreciate, and for the Skolatina, the MOST EVIL! dessert ever created on this good earth! It's THAT sinfully good! It is a chocolate cake that just oozes with warm chocolate syrup when you spoon into it, and which you have to eat with the caramel syrup and vanilla ice cream served on the side. It is like the best orgasm you've probably experienced in your entire life! Mmmm....

My other personal favorites at Cyma are the Roka Salata, the lettuce salad with sundried tomatoes and candied walnuts, and the really hefty Moussaka, made from Japanese eggplant. Truthfully, I don't like eggplants because of its mushy taste. But I make an exception when eating moussaka because I just think of it as lasagna (which I love!), with the ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese, cheese, cheese! (minus the noodles of course).

Skolatina...chocolate lava cake. Go Mama, go! Yumm...

Then last Saturday, my mom, fresh from a victorious bout at the mahjong table with her amigas, treated me to dinner at Cyma. I wanted her to taste the Skolatina as well because she is a cake nut. Here are pics of my mom digging into the Skolatina and savoring it. We could hardly move after pigging out on moussaka, the salad, and lamb gyros, yet we somehow found space in our full tummies for the Skolatina. I just wished Trinoma had wheelchairs to help ferry us out of the restaurant and on to a taxi cab. Gads, my mom and I felt so sluggish after our meal.

A piece of advice though, if you are going to order the Skolatina, do so as soon as you sit down and order your appetizers and main entrees as it takes about 30 minutes to bake. Also, for the good of your hips and blood sugar, do share it with someone.

A typical meal at Cyma would probably set you back at least P700 per person for three courses – appetizer/salad, entree, dessert. If you choose a really inexpensive main course, something less than P200, you can probably squeeze in a glass of red wine as well. Tip, bring a senior citizen with you to avail of his/her senior citizen discount! Hee-hee! But most of the dishes, even the solo size, are good enough for three people to share so it's money worth well spent.

(Cyma is at the 4th level, Garden area, of the Trinoma, North Ave. cor. Edsa, Q.C. Thanks to manager Toffee, and cheerful food servers Chriz, and Emar for taking good care of us.)

November 24, 2007

Advice to the lovelorn from Norman Mailer

"It struck me that everyone I knew, including myself, was always looking for love. 'Ah, if I could find love, it would solve my problems.' Some years ago, however, I found myself saying to my children, 'Don't go searching for love. Love is not a solution but a reward.' So long as you go searching for love directly, you will fail, because love is a grace and you don't pursue grace." (From On God: An Uncommon Conversation)

Click Page SIx for the full story.

November 23, 2007

A family affair

It’s a family thing. The Peñalozas having fun in their own corner of the island paradise: (clockwise, from left) Jonathan with wife Jenny; Jocelyn with husband Alfrancis Chua; and Jason (shirtless) with the rest of the revelers, including the author. (Photos by TEDDY MONTELIBANO)

Something Like Life
Nov. 23, 2007

RETURNING from a four-day vacation in Boracay, where I had a fabulous stay at the newly-built resort Two Seasons (more on that in a future travel story), I find that things haven’t changed much in Metro Manila.

There was still much discussion on who was behind the explosion at the Batasan despite the arrests of suspects, denials on corruption as the root of a World Bank loan cancellation, and the Senate investigating yet another case of political impropriety regarding the cash handouts in Malacañang (this, even if they had yet to wrap things up on the ZTE-NBN deal).

These same-old, same-old issues are the reasons why I enjoy traveling and covering lifestyle stories. Who can stand all that muck-raking and the endless news of government stealing day in and day out when there’s so much more going on in other parts of the country? Everyone needs a break, and I always thank the Big Guy upstairs for allowing me to cover functions that some may find a bit escapist and unreal—amid all the blood, sweat and gore of everyday hard news—but nevertheless are still about honest people just trying to make an honest living. I think happy occasions are still worth covering, right?

Thankfully, such events, like the blessing of Two Seasons last weekend, also allowed me to make new friends, get up close to families like the Peñalozas, the resort’s owners, who are warm sincere people trying to make a difference in their lives and their businesses.

My travel buddies and I were touched that such a family, with a long tradition of Filipino-Chinese values, could be so warm and open to “outsiders” like us. We always perceive Chinoy families to be closed and extremely protective of one another, unable to genuinely relate to people without such privileged DNA. (Well, I do have some Chinese blood, which accounts for my fair complexion and slightly chinita eyes, but this has long been diluted by the murky brown indio marriages of my forefathers hehehe.) Happily, the Peñalozas were all warm chocolatey goodness. And having been a journalist for so long, I guess I know when someone is sincere or just BS’ing me.

My travel buddies and I were especially there to interview Jonathan, the “numbah wan sun” who runs Two Seasons. Heir to the ball bearings business his grandparents started, he disarmed us by his quiet charm and willingness to share with us his internal “processes” in eventually taking over the company from his father, Victor, and wishing to strike out on his own in an entirely different direction, by going into the resort/hospitality service industry. It was evident, however, that his dad and the family matriarch, amah, were all thumbs-up for the splendid new resort after seeing how Jonathan parlayed his keen sense for aesthetics and design into another possibly profitable business. All the other uncles, aunts and cousins, including family friends, were out in full force in Boracay to lend their support to the happy occasion.

(It was also so cute to see the very chica-looking amah, all of 92 years, smiling at everyone, while sitting in a wheelchair especially designed for the beach. I was told that she still gets up every day to go to work...what a tremendous spirit, that woman.)

And thank goodness for Jonathan’s lovely wife Jenny, who has been “conscripted” into the family business. No screaming and being dragged by her hands and feet, though. Jenny told us that she is happy to help out in the family business, training the staff from all over the country. Having her join the business allowed Jonathan to remain focused on the construction and design of the resort. How she also found the time to take care of her equally wonderful kids is a feat in itself and worthy of any working mom award.

Then, there’s the pert and pretty Jocelyn, who jokingly proclaimed herself to be the “youngest” among the siblings. She immediately warmed up to us and started telling us about her business and the most important relationship she’s had. She owns a store called French Dolls at the TriNoma—and, no, it doesn’t sell dolls but clothes from Bangkok, my favorite shopping destination. Of course, the trendy clothes won’t fit large-sized me, but they’d be in my closet if I were a size 6. (Still, I couldn’t help but kid Jocelyn: “Galit ka sa matataba, ano?”)

She is also married to Alfrancis Chua, whom everybody calls “Coach,” having been the Sta. Lucia Realtors’ coach for the longest time. Now conducting basketball clinics for kids aside from other businesses, Coach—or “Chua-lai,” as sports journalists apparently call him—just made us sick to our stomachs from all the laughing we did over his hilarious stories. Yet it moved me for someone big and tough like the Coach to confess that Jocelyn was the only woman who could make him settle down after all the girls he’s had in his life (and you’d be surprised at all the celebrity babes who’ve been linked to him). The clincher of the story is that Al and Jocelyn were high school sweethearts and were oceans apart for quite a long time before finding each other again. It’s a love story that immediately elicits an “Awwww” from anyone who hears it.”

The youngest—for real—among the five siblings (sorry Jocelyn!) is crazy Jason. Having just returned from the US, where he had a swell career photographing for The Gap and Guess, Jason has come home to set up himself here in Manila and have a go at the local commercial photography business. In the short time that he’s been here, he’s snagged major covers for a lot of the country’s glossy magazines. And yet he’s such a regular guy, despite his youth. I have never been so entertained by such a sweet funny person. Still he admitted being torn between his artistic spirit and his familial obligations. It is a conflict I can only pray he would resolve to everyone’s satisfaction, especially his own.

We weren’t able to sit down and talk with the other Peñaloza siblings but from the ones we met, I have no doubt that they are equally pleasant and amiable.

Spending a short time with a close and gregarious family like the Peñalozas was a real treat for hard newshounds like me. It reminds me of what really matters in this complex and often dog-eat-dog world we live in.

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

November 21, 2007

Do you friendster or facebook? (and the phrase of the day)

OKAY, so I was sitting just sitting here transferring photos from my camera phone into my computer but I realized I couldn't upload them into another photo set on Flickr because I'm a free account user. So not wanting to spend $25 a year just to get a Pro unlimited account, I searched through the site to find out if I could delete a set of photos without erasing them completely from my photostream. Of course, there was nothing on the FAQs page nor anything in the forums advising users of solutions or alternatives to this dilemma. (Of course if you've been a long-time Mac user like me, you know that anything owned by Yahoo as well as Yahoo itself sucks.)

Fortunately, some of the guys in the forum mentioned Facebook, the social networking site, which they said allowed unlimited photo posts. Hmmm...I thought that sounded cool, although I was still wary of the social networking phenomenon which had begun with the establishment of Friendster. I've been invited a lot of times by Friendster users to join the site, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how you could call someone a "friend" without actually meeting them face to face! I've read in some newspaper stories that some users had thousands and thousands of "friends!" Then one annoying guy I don't even know just kept on emailing me to view his profile, which I found creepy. So I didn't want to join that.

(Partying at the Two Seasons resort blessing, Nov. 17, 2007. From left: Teddy, Raoul, moi, and Jenny Peñaloza. More photos at Stella in Facebook.)

Anyway, to make the long story short, I joined Facebook. It seemed a better alternative as it seemed the entire world had already joined Friendster. I felt Facebook was "cozier", if that term even applies in the cyberworld.

So this is part real, part social experiment. I want to see how many of my real friends, contacts, and regular acquaintances would join Facebook and be my "friend." I found out that among my email contacts (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail), there were a few who were already Facebook members. I restricted the invites to only people who were my actual friends, travel buddies, and fellow foodies, as well as a few people I was interested in knowing more after the initial contact in the real world. As of today, I have 10 Facebook friends from the Philippines, Bangkok, Northern Marianas, and the U.S.... not bad considering I just joined two days ago.

But as I plodded through the list of friends of my Facebook friends who had added me to their network, I've concluded that Filipinos are still a conservative lot. Most of the friends on their own lists were people they've worked with, people who they grew up with, or went to school with, or even current companions and colleagues at work. There were only few who appeared to have "friends" the Friendster-type. I don't know if it's because I belong to a more mature generation (my youngest Facebook friend is 25 I think) who are more protective of their privacy. Only one of them had about 125 Facebook friends on the list and I knew most of these people even vicariously. His friends were surely not from Timbuktu. (Of course the downside to this is I realized creepy Friendster guy is also a member of Facebook and is one of my Facebook friend's "friend." Kainis!)

Anyway, check out my photos from my vacation last weekend at Stella in Facebook. This is my first photo album and I'm still trying to get the hang of posting, poking, writing on walls and such. It's definitely a different experience worth exploring. Enjoy!

(P.S. A lot of my earlier photos are still posted on Flickr. You can check them out at Stella at Flickr.)

* * * *


I just couldn't help but howl in laughter over this continuing saga between Manny Paquiao and Ara Mina. Hay naku, read on and forget the problems of this country for a minute!

Pacquiao tells Ara Mina: Ignore rumors about us.

* * * *

PHRASE OF THE DAY: Panty-quivering. To describe how a really hot guy makes a woman deliciously shiver down there just by his looks alone. Ex. Tony Leung, and that real yummy guy I met in Boracay. Oof! I invented this term and am patenting it starting today. So there.

November 19, 2007

'A professional smolder'

Guess who's on the list of's Sexiest Men Living 2007? E di sino pa? My one and only Lust (Caution!) Tony Leung! (Pant! Pant!) Says this fab web site:

"Martin Scorcese's Oscar-winning 'The Departed,' a remake/rip-off of the nail-biting 2002 Hong Kong thriller 'Infernal Affairs,' turned off fans of the original for one unavoidable reason — and it wasn't Jack Nicholson's scenery-chewing. It was the absence of the smoldering Tony Leung in the role of the undercover cop lost in a convoluted game of spy vs. spy. As good as Leo DiCaprio's Boston honk and flinty rage are in the remake, he just can't hold a candle to Leung.

But then, of course he can't. Leung is a professional smolderer; the guy's a virtual human Duraflame. Throughout the past two decades, in 'Hard-Boiled' (1992), 'Chungking Express' (1994), 'Happy Together' (1997), 'In the Mood for Love' (2000), 'Hero' (2002) and '2046' (2004), he's left only glowing embers in his wake. In this year's 'Lust, Caution,' he added a sadistic streak we'd never seen from him before that caused us to recoil — and still come back for more." (Read on at Salon.)

How sad that NYT didn't get the point of Lust, Caution.

Guys like travel buddy Pangs, also didn't like the film and can't understand why we ladies are going gaga over Tony. He says he doesn't know what we see in this guy. Simple. The girls call it the "paso" factor.

* * * *

Here's a good read though, still from NYT, about how PepsiCo is trying to green their production of Frito-Lays. While some companies are harping about minor environmental changes in their operations as a marketing strategy, PepsiCo appears bent on implementing wide-ranging changes. For the sake of Mother Earth, let's hope this move by one of the world's largest food and beverage firms, jumpstarts a radical industry-wide, global revolution.

Read on at Low-Guilt Potato Chips.

* * * *

Back in Manila, there's news of World Bank's cancellation of a $232-million road improvement project due to ehrmmm, "anomalies."

Why so surprised? Monkey see, monkey do.

Playing politics

Something Like Life
Nov. 16, 2007

POLITICS is personal.

Whoever said the quote—and mind you, I’ve exhausted all search engines in a vain effort to find its source—was correct.

We live and breathe politics in every context—be it family, career, office, or religion—no matter what situation. No one can run away from it.

We learn politicking—and the art of sucking up to the powers that be—as early as childhood. We try to upstage our siblings and push ourselves to accomplish more than them. Gullible idiots that we are, we do this in the hope that we would be rewarded with a pat on the head from Mom and a few extra pesos in this week’s baon. Or, instead of bullying our gay classmate or stealing lunch from the fat kid in the cafeteria, we stay good for a month so Dad would ever be so inclined to buy us the new PlayStation. Who says being Mommy’s or Daddy’s little pet isn’t a good thing? It’s all about trying to get ahead and get the things we want.

Some of us may even go so far as to create intrigue for our siblings to make them look less worthy in the eyes of our parents. (C’mon guys, don’t look so guilty. Each family has its own tattletale, believe me.)

The same kind of politicking and survival mechanisms are at play in the office as well.

There is the token sucking up to the boss, petty gossiping to make a colleague look bad, and lots of preening to project oneself as better than others and, thus, more deserving of a higher salary, a fatter bonus, or a cushier management position.

But office politics exists for a reason. I think it exists because sometimes just doing a good job doesn’t get you the notice you deserve. And I believe you can manipulate the politicking in your favor, or to help the company achieve its goals.

When people talk about “office politics,” they often mean something underhanded or deceitful. The term has acquired a negative connotation, as in workers who are without merit playing it to get promotions. So some people think it’s better to stay above the fray and keep away from the evil scheming that goes around the office.

But sometimes it helps to wade knee-deep in the muck because you need to be ready for that occasional stab in the back by people, some of whom you even trusted. It would be most naïve for you to think that everything is all cheery in the office and everyone is your friend. Having worked for 20 years in several aspects of the communication business, I know whereof I speak. No matter how you keep your nose clean, there will be envious people who will come after you when you least expect it.

By keeping your head above the politicking that goes on, you are bound to miss out on the office chatter and maneuvering that may affect your job, and eventually harm your career in the process.

You need to know the real power behind the throne, or the power brokers in the company. The president of the company may be the one who signs your paycheck, but you need to be friends with the chief accountant to make sure your name isn’t delisted from the payroll just because you misplaced the receipts from last month’s assignments, for example. So, go ahead, suck up to the chief accountant. Make her feel beautiful by paying her the attention she deserves.

You cannot just sit idly by your desk and wait for promotions to be laid down at your cubicle’s door. So you need to find out the needs of your bosses, and supply them, or exploit the weaknesses of your colleagues, to be able to sprint on ahead. If the boss needs an occasional drinking buddy to relieve him of his stress, then gladly volunteer for the job.

It doesn’t sound as bad as it reads on print. By exploiting your colleagues’ weaknesses, for example, I don’t mean for you to be shoving them in the mud as you destroy their reputations with your bosses. I have known a number of people who tried to get ahead in their careers by doing just that. But because they were ultimately unmasked for the nontalents that they were and are, and their petty scheming was uncovered, they have since disappeared into the void where all dishonest, incompetent and unwanted fools reside. (I believe in karma, too, so there.)

Exploiting your colleagues’ weaknesses means performing your tasks better than them, or always going the extra mile to impress your bosses. When one idea or concept is asked of you, present three. When you are asked to list down 10 names of possible customers, give your boss 20, and make sure you’ve done the research on all of them. (For some reason, it is easy for us Filipinos to fall into a "pwede na" attitude, and offer up a mediocre service, instead of an outstanding one. The jury’s still out on the origins of this disgraceful Filipino attitude.)

Of course, office politics has its downside as well. When you outperform your colleagues, you will most likely be the favorite subject of every coffee break and be the hottest topic in the restroom. In the offchance you are promoted, people may gossip behind your back about how you exactly earned it, no matter how deserving you are of the step up the corporate ladder.

Like, I’ve been called "anak ng Diyos" a few times in my career, but only because I know how to be friendly with the bosses. I’ve never been one to take advantage of such relationships, except to get extra vacation time off, or free dinners. Of course, some colleagues may have thought otherwise, but there you go, there will always be arrogant co-workers whose inept play at office politics fails. And they become jealous of you. They fail to see that in criticizing your accomplishments, they project their own mediocrity and incompetence. (See, it doesn’t always pay to be a’s a burden I must carry my whole life. Wahahaha!)

It doesn’t hurt to be “ma-PR” with the bosses, like one former officemate who once bravely introduced herself to the owner of the company. But to this day, she lingers nearly at the bottom of the barrel—because she failed to do her PR work with the middle managers whom she constantly resents. Poor dear. She is so puffed about her supposed genius that she just doesn’t get it. She sucked up to the wrong people.

If by being an excellent worker you are pronounced a bootlicker, you can try to change your colleagues’ impression by showing them how your attitude can help the entire team or the department get ahead. Present ideas that will help your colleagues see how they, too, will benefit. And if they have a better idea, help them implement it, so you can be assured that you will be included when the rewards are handed out for a job well done.

One of the most precious investments you can make in your company is personal relationships. Treat your colleagues with a great deal of respect, show them how much you appreciate them (a simple “thank you” goes a long way), because people like feeling good about themselves. You can harness these personal relationships when calling in favors such as volunteering for a task without extra pay. Of course, there will be those who are just plain hardheaded and uncooperative no matter what. Leave them behind. You know where you’ll find them when you’re already miles high in your career: still at the bottom where you saw them last.

Office politics doesn’t have to be a nasty thing. You can use it to your advantage to get ahead in your career, or help others improve their contribution to the company. In the end, it is not only your organization that emerges the winner but you as well.

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

November 16, 2007

And I'm off!

For a vacation, that is. So no postings in the meantime, if I can help it. When on vacation, I try to stay away from the computer and cellphone, especially if there are calls or texts from Manila. I was unsuccessful in doing the above in my last 10-day holiday and ended getting hooked again on Manila issues. Anyway, I hope to return with some kwento about my trip. And maybe post some nice photos, too.

So allow me to leave you with this story on Marianeth Amper, the child who hanged herself recently. Turns out she was raped. So much for the Presidentita's "too much politics" theory. But then again, it's no surprise. This is one woman who's out of touch with reality because she lives in a fantasy world right in her head where she is beautiful, bright, and loved by all. I think doctors have a term for that...psychosis?

Btw, doesn't Mayor Duterte sound like he is no longer a fan of the Presidentita as well? Hmmm...I wonder.

Marianeth was raped – NBI
By Edith Regalado
Phil. Star Nov. 16, 2007

DAVAO CITY — Results of the autopsy conducted yesterday on the exhumed remains of 12-year-old Marianeth Amper, who was earlier reported to have committed suicide allegedly because of extreme poverty, showed she was raped.

“In my theory, in my book, the girl took her life because she was raped and not because of poverty,” Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said during a press conference here early last night wherein the results of the autopsy were presented to the media.

“From now on, the death of Marianeth, would be the subject of criminal investigation and not suicide as somebody else could have also killed her,” Duterte said.

According to Southern Mindanao Crime Laboratory Office head Dr. Tomas Dimaandal Jr., who conducted the autopsy, Amper’s genitals bore lacerations that could indicate rape.

Dimaandal likewise said that Amper died of a single neck injury based on the trauma that emerged wherein a single ligature mark was seen on her neck.

The medico-legal officer also stressed that Amper was not pregnant contrary to earlier speculations.

Duterte pointed out that any sexual penetration on a girl as young as Amper would be considered rape even if she could have consented to it because of her young age.

“That is rape,” the mayor quipped.

Duterte said he already ordered Talomo police station chief Superintendent Matthew Baccay to invite Amper’s father, Isabelo, for questioning.

“I would really like to ask the father why he reported the incident to the police only last November 6 when the incident happened on November 2. Any father in his right mind would really go to the police and report the case immediately since it is your daughter who has died in that way,” Duterte said. (The rest at Phil. Star.)

November 15, 2007

More on Tony Leung

THANK you Francine for clueing me in on Tony Leung interviews on YouTube. I spent a good part of this rainy morning half in bed and cradling my iBook just surfing YouTube for videos of this delish actor.

It amazed me to find out that he started his career like many of our own artistas here, in some That's Entertainment-like variety show in Hong Kong (or was it Taiwan?). No wonder he sings and dances too. Pang-Dats talaga hahaha! Anyway, I'm also posting one of his MTVs here. (Yeah, yeah, that's how hooked I am on this guy. Couldn't understand a frigging word of Cantonese or Mandarin but hey, it's still those eyes that mesmerize that makes me pay attention.)

But aside from being a great actor, Tony is really intelligent. He thinks and knows his characters inside out. This is not a bobito like some of the present crop of the artistas here and abroad. No wonder a lot of famous film directors want to work with him. Magaling sya talaga! Sana ma-discover na sya ni Martin Scorsese and uses him in a really fabulous movie. (Frankly, I don't know what Marty sees in Leonardo. He's just a pretty face...not much of an actor though.)

Shet...I wanna go to Hong Kong and stalk Tony Leung! Sigh...

An interview for Lust, Caution (

Photos of Tony Leung by a fan

An interview in 2001 on working with John Woo and Kong War Kai...grabeh, he's so smart!

Bonus MTV...sappy but Tony really looks yummy! Haay!

November 14, 2007

Pulse Asia: More Pinoys don't want Arroyo

Amid fresh allegations of corruption and bribery, President Arroyo suffered the highest disapproval performance ratings among the country’s top five public officials, the result of the latest Pulse Asia survey said Wednesday.

Pulse Asia said Mrs. Arroyo’s disapproval rating was 39 percent while only 30 percent of the 1,200 respondents approved her performance. Thirty-one percent, meanwhile, were undecided.

“The President scores the same overall approval rating in July and October 2007 while there are only marginal movements in overall indecision and disapproval ratings during this period (-5 and +5 percentage points, respectively),” Pulse Asia said.

Respondents from Metro Manila were the most critical of the President, with 51 percent giving her failing marks. The lowest disapproval rating was recorded in the Visayas.

(Click ABS-CBN News for the rest.)

* * * *
House committee junks impeach complaint in 43-1 vote

The House Committee on Justice on Wednesday dismissed the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Roberto Pulido against President Arroyo in a hearing snubbed by members of the opposition.

Voting 43-1, the committee declared the complaint insufficient in substance. House justice committee chairman Quezon City 3rd District Rep. Matias Defensor declared, "... the complaint is hereby dismissed."

The lone vote for the complaint's sufficiency in substance was cast by Laguna 4th District Rep. Edgar San Luis, the endorser of the Pulido complaint.

(More at Impeach rap.)

* * * *
NBI's antiterror unit disputes theory Akbar was bomb target

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday disputed the theory that Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar was the target of the bomb attack on the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Quezon City last Tuesday night as it took note that the device used in the blast appeared to be of the antivehicle type.

“It was apparent that [the blast] was directional but it was premature to say that Representative Akbar was the target or it could be that it happened that he was just there," Romulo Asis, chief of the NBI Anti-Terrorism Division, said.

"As of now we are still determining if it was just co-incidence or not that [the lawmaker] was there," Asis added.

Asis said the NBI bomb experts and chemists have gathered fragments from the blast site.

(Click GMA News for the rest.)

* * * *

ALL these news items look seemingly unrelated, but in truth, they only point to one thing.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I find it strange that right after the bomb blast at the Batasan, the Presidentita's text brigade was actively spewing out political statements attacking congressmen, especially Speaker Joe "Mickey Mouse" de Venecia. So can you blame me for my paranoia about this government? Methinks, someone is trying to scare congressmen and senators, especially of the opposition variety into submission.

Then check out this text from cell. no. 0906-6224-3584: "Initial findings show dat bomb target was Cong. Wahab Akbar. Congressmen shud leave deir political feud n their district n not n halls f Congres. Pity d innocents"

The text echoes the same spin of National Security adviser Norberto Gonzales to the unfortunate event. I suppose by "innocents" the text brigade of Presidentita is referring to her and her Palace cohorts, and not the bomb blast victims.

The perils of vanity (with update)

Coroner awaits toxicology test results in death of Donda West

"Adams told that he performed a tummy tuck and breast reduction on West last week and that her death was unforeseen. But another Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon said he had recently refused to perform a procedure on West until she had a medical clearance for a condition he feared could lead to a heart attack.

"The preliminary information we had indicated that she had several minor medical issues," Winter said, "but I can't comment on those." He also said she was taking medications, but could not comment on which ones and in what dosages pending the toxicology reports."

(Read the rest at CNN)

This is what happens to hard-headed patients and those who go to pseudo-cosmetic/plastic surgeons who aren't board certified to do surgery on patients and deal with medical complications. Here in the Philippines, among their kind belong those who use celebrities to endorse their clinics. They also charge the highest rates, btw.

In any surgery, patients are required to seek a cardio-pulmonary (CP) clearance to make sure they can safely go under anesthesia and handle the rigors of the medical procedure. People shouldn't take this lightly. Only a fake doctor or someone who's after profits more than properly servicing their client's needs will ignore such requirements.

UPDATE: The doctor of Kanye's West's mom finally speaks: Click here and be warned of Philippine doctors who practise in the same unethical manner. Yeah, you know who I'm talking about.

Here's one more for Golden Acres

Why can't these old fogies just roll over and die? Sure they were deserving of some amount of respect for being senior politicians, which we grudgingly accorded them for some time. But now Enrile and his ilk are just bratty geezers. period. And they have become a nuisance.

Btw, why is he starting to talk like a colegiala, too? Graduate ba 'to ng Assumption?

From my favorite columnist, Manuel Buencamino of BusinessMirror.

Dispatches from the Enchanted Kingdom

Letter to Senator Enrile

“I am furious at hypocrites, those who pretend to be someone they are not.” —Juan Ponce Enrile

Dear Senator Enrile,

I saw you on ANC’s Morning Show telling Ricky Carandang, “I don’t make bola, I don’t tell lies.”

But if only I had forgotten that you staged a fake ambush on yourself in 1972 and lied about it for 14 years. . . .

I also read your reply to Speaker de Venecia’s charge that you’re engaged in destructive politics.

Ako engaged in destructive politics? You talk about morality, you’re not entitled to talk about morality,” you said.

But if only I had forgotten you vanished right after you agitated the crowd in Edsa 3. . . .

(The rest at Dispatches.)

November 13, 2007

Too much politics or too much of GMA?

THE Presidentita oversimplifies it...that too much politics led to the deaths of the child Mariannet Amper and Comelec official Alioden Dalaig. Actually it's too much of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is what probably did them in.

While I don't want to impinge on the grief of Dalaig family, has anyone bothered to find out just what business did the Comelec official have in playing at the Casino Filipino in Hyatt Hotel? Last I heard, government officials were prohibited from gambling in government-owned casinos. Remember how much gulo there was over photos taken of then Vice President presidential candidate Sherap Estrada playing at one Pagcor casino, which were then released to the media? Tsk, tsk, tsk. I wonder whatever happened to that employee Edgardo Bentain mysteriously disappeared (and is presumed dead) because of that controversy.

Moral of the story: something tragic always happens when government officials gamble in Pagcor casinos.

* * * *

Btw, don't you think it strange that with questions still lingering over the exact cause of the blast at the Glorietta mall, here now comes another explosion at the House of Representatives in Batasan Hills? At a similar time when more issues against GMA's credibility are heating up. And of course, the same smarty pants "initial assessments" from the same cast of amateurs. Pasok Geary Barias!

And you might not believe in feng shui, but if I remember correctly, at the beginning of the Year of the Pig, geomancers such as Merlina Merton did predict that fiery elements would still be present this year in the form of bombs and explosions.

“…the elements of the Pig year are Fire over Water. Fire and water clash so the indications are another year of fighting and fiery events such as wildfire, bombs, explosions and political strife. But since this year the fire element is yin, which is not as strong as last year’s yang fire, the people and the forests will suffer less…” ( citing Phil. Star, Jan. 25, 2007)

Gasp! those wildfires in California!

Merton also predicts that the Presidentita will likely stay on until 2010. Shudder! Will Merton prove to be correct or be another Joseph Chau? (Funny that during the Chinese New Year feng shui writeups earlier this year,Chau evaded questions regarding GMA's term, still probably smarting from the ridicule he received from his incorrect prediction that Sherap would remain in office. I remember Chau's prediction very well...we published in on the front page of the old Manila Standard. Ach!)

* * * *

This piece I nominate as the weirdest story of the day: Indian man marries dog.

Now what do you think can we Filipinos do to ward off the curse that is GMA?

November 10, 2007

Don't torment me, Tony!

Why Lord, why? (sigh)

I DIDN'T realize that all this time, I've seen Tony Leung in a few other movies before Lust, Caution, until I read Gerard's piece. This Chinese actor, often dubbed the Clark Gable of Asia, certainly did not look as ruggedly handsome as he was in Lust in the other films I've seen him in. Errr...must have been the business suit and the pomaded hair this time, hehe. Lust, Caution is a film by Ang Lee, the genius behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain. (Damn! lots of tortured souls in these films!)

Leung was brilliant in the role of Mr. Yee, portraying a man so consumed by passion, and unleashing his frustrations and suffering as an intelligence agent, killing enemies of the Japanese, in his trysts with Mrs. Mak (played by newcomer Tang Wei). For Mrs. Mak, she is torn between her loyalty to China/her role as a spy in setting up Mr. Yee for the kill, and her realization of how deeply he has affected her emotionally and physically. Their lovemaking was so total, a complete in sagad sa kaluluwa. Their situation is something I can relate to, yet do not relish reliving. (Oo mga kapatid, super-affected ako sa movie na 'to! Grabeh!)

But there, I'm a jill-come-lately fan, and very eager to see Tony Leung sizzle once more on the big screen. As Jessica says, "Mmmm..." (Instead of Clark Gable of Asia, I think I will call him the male Ate Guy. Them there eyes! )

P.S. Was it just the makeup or does Joan Chen look really old na?

* * * *

BTW, I checked out the Landmark Department Store at Trinoma after watching the film and picked up a few goodies. Whenever I'm in Makati, I try to pass by Landmark because I'm a real cheapo when it comes to clothes. I'll hunt for the perfect jeans, slacks, top, even pantulog, but make sure I purchase them at really bargain basement prices.

Landmark QC has a section called Great Bazaar where I bought a real sturdy yet fashionable pair of jeans for less than P300. I saw it on the rack, liked its deep midnight blue color, simple design (don't you just hate it when all the jeans are either stone-washed, acid-wash, etc. which simply will not do when you have fat thighs?!) and best of all, it's low price. I slipped it on, and the pair seemed tailor-made for my roundish figure. Fabulous!

There lots of other items for sale in that section, you just have to be really choosy and patient when going through the racks one by one. There are nice tops less than P200, mostly made in China (see, a hangover still from Tony Leung!), but some were really made of thin fabric they ought to be priced at P80 instead!

Only thing though, Landmark's owners still seem to be stuck in the 1950's when intercoms in department stores were still unheard of. If you want to make your goods move faster, make sure it's easy for customers to check if their item in some other color or size is immediately available. But noooo, the customer has to wait at least 15 minutes for the sales lady to return from the faraway stock room. (C'mon these girls aren't even paid enough to walk that far!) If I were in a rush, I would have left my items pronto! In fact, even the guard on duty told me that customers have been complaining of the length of time they have to wait just for the sales ladies to check on the items they need in the stock room. So if you're in a hurry, Landmark is not exactly the greatest place to shop in.

November 09, 2007

Give it to me, baby!

WHAT a shame that there's no Rome Season 3 no? I just finished watching Season 2, although to be fair, the ending was really perfect. It could stand on its own and not have another season. But damn, HBO allowed The Sopranos to go on for seven seasons why couldn't it give the same lifespan to Rome? The latter is basically The Sopranos BC!

Still, I can't get enough of hottie James Purefoy who played Marc Antony so brilliantly in this drama series. (Actually even Ciaran Hinds who played Julius Caesar in the first season had some old guy appeal as well.) To this day, there's still an ongoing petition for HBO to revive the $8-million-an-episode series. With that kind of budget needed, la talagang pag-asa for us to see a revived series.Sayang talaga. Why Lord why?

Too bad James fucked up his audition as James Bond and now we're stuck with that ugly blondie Daniel Craig. Sexy James would've given Sean Connery, THE ultimate James Bond, a run for his money.

Anyway, check out this sizzling video of my darling on YouTube. It won best video last year in some obscure amateur awards in the UK or something.

Heroic acts

Something Like Life
Nov. 9, 2007

I STUMBLED upon this old story written by my friend Rosalie Lopez in the now-defunct newspaper Today, published on July 27, 1999, and I believe it remains relevant to the lives of many long-time married women. In our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, married couples, no matter the troubles they had to face living with each other, basically had no choice but grin and bear it.

* * * *

Only Wives’ Club
(Or how three women managed to live with their husbands for 50 years)

IT was New Year’s Day when they first saw each other again after so many years.

It was a fitting day because what transpired, in the two hours of endless, soft, conspirational chatting might as well have meant a new beginning for each one of them.

It changed the way they viewed their lives over the past half-century—and, more important, the way they viewed the men they shared that time with.

All in their 70s, they shared, along with that generation of wives and mothers, a submissiveness to husbands that had only now begun to unravel, as they were suddenly, as if by osmosis, infected with the sense of independence of the women of the ’90s.

Or maybe, on second thought, they didn’t need to be influenced by any external stimuli—they were just plain “fed up.”

What started out as a casual visit by two of the women on the third one became a long sharing session on long-held, deep-seated frustrations; of a resentment welling in their hearts for years, when they let their lives revolve solely around the man of the house.

But now, one of them whispered as she poked an index finger at the shoulder of her friend, “I don’t follow him blindly anymore. My children say, each time I get fed up with his antics, I can just call them and they will send me a ticket to the US.”

Then she harrumphed: “The last time I left, I was gone five months, and that scared him.”

The two others cheered her on, but their eyes could not hide the envy. They also wished they could resort to such sophisticated forms of escape as a trip to California. But they tended to feel guilty every time they thought of their husband’s old age and poor health.

One said she had a similar form of “escape”—to the ground floor, every time the husband had a tantrum on the second floor.

“I let him throw things, shout his lungs out, or turn on the TV full-blast. When he gets tired, he just goes to sleep.”

The third one had a more “lateral,” rather than “vertical,” form of escape—she runs to her children’s house near her apartment.

Time was, when their children were still young, when none of the three could think of doing any of that. They didn’t want to risk anything happening to the little ones while they were away. So they quietly bore their pains, big or small, swallowing their pride when it looked like the husband had no wish to argue, or when they feared that arguing in front of the children might traumatize them.

But now, they said, things are different. They must find a way to show that they disagree with some things; that they have their own hobbies and activities, and don’t always have to tailor their schedule to their husbands’; that they also have mood swings, especially since they often take mood-altering medication. Friends and doctors have similarly advised them that, for their own sake and to prolong their lives—or at least make their last few years a little happier—they should learn to say no to unnecessary impositions and say yes to what they feel like doing.

Yet, as this spur-of-the-moment New Year’s Day independence resolution wore on, the three newly liberated women started to hem and haw. One of them fretted that if she argued with her husband now—after allowing him to monopolize conversations for 49 years—he might be so stressed out that it would harm his heart.

The second felt similarly. Her “emperor’s” (how she calls him behind his back) blood pressure shoots up, she says, every time she asks him to switch the TV to another channel. She had tried to remedy this by buying her own TV.

The third one’s dilemma was a little different. Her husband, she said, was so possessive, he wouldn’t ever let her out of his sight, or let her go out without him. “The problem is, he never likes to go to the places I want to go to.”

So how did you manage all these five decades? the two friends asked her. “I just went along with him. But now I’m so sick of doing that.” Her resentment, she said, had so boiled over just before the holidays that she had a stroke.

‘Husband hazardous to your health’

THE cases of these three heroic women—who have lived with, kept house and coraised children for from four to five decades with the same man—show one problem bugging many traditional Filipino families. The problem, though, is usually glossed over because the families get so fixated with praising the values of loyalty and fidelity that the “negatives” of long-term relationships that have not adapted to change are largely ignored.

“In the old days, our mothers were very submissive. That was the culture. But for their own health and peace of mind, they should be allowed some measure of freedom in old age,” counsels one of the country’s top neurologists, who has taken care of thousands of stroke victims.

The problem, she concedes, is that the men are usually subjected to similar stress when they are asked to give their wives more freedom, “because they have been used to having their own way all these years.”

So whose health becomes paramount then? That of the woman who has suffered quietly all these years, or the man who could suffer some shock—and corresponding health problems—if he is forced to mend his ways after so long, or to live with the reality that his once-submissive wife will not always agree with him now?

“Well, that is a sensitive balancing game, and most children get caught in that,” the doctor concedes. She says one way of easing the stress on both father and mother, without sending them the wrong signal that you want them to separate, is to “make sure each one has his or her own network of friends and relatives, a support system of sorts.”

For instance, the father would be encouraged to go out with a long-lost cousin or classmate, or go to reunions with former coemployees, or even travel with friends or relatives.

The mother may want to be active in religious or hobby groups, do some civic work, or go visit her children in another part of town.

But the problem of adjustment comes back every time they see each other again. Yes, the doctor concedes, but at least “you give them some time to miss each other. In the end, they realize they are still devoted to each other that they would want to be together still despite everything.”

“Despite everything”—such a loaded phrase, the meaning of which can really drown anyone trying to fathom what that can mean to a man and a woman who have been a couple for half a century. Beneath the glossy pictures of golden wedding anniversaries, one can only guess, besides the “shared joys and sorrows” of old couples, what sort of “unshared” sorrows each one had to carry alone all these years. And perhaps only then, says a spiritual counselor who has heard many an old man’s or woman’s confessions, “can we ever really appreciate what parents go through to stay together for their children.”

* * * *

I ASKED Rosalie recently whatever happened to these three women.

According to her, within two years after the piece was published, all three septuagenarian husbands had passed away due to varying illnesses brought on by their old age.

Interesting thing is, since the men had died, all three widows now can’t stop talking about their husbands, constantly expressing to each other how they missed the men terribly.

The women’s own remaining days are kept alive with memories of their husbands’ love for them—and how their children’s own affection and thoughtfulness can’t ever replace the love their men had given them.

It’s funny that my own mom, through the 52 years she was married to my pops, had similar gripes as well—and to be fair, he with her. Now that he is gone, I can see in her eyes flashes of the heavy grief she feels over his passing. No matter how terrible a marriage may have been, women will always remember how their lives intertwined with their husbands in the happiest of occasions. I suppose it’s their own way of either assuaging their guilt for complaining so much about their husbands, or trying to alleviate the loneliness they feel with their men now gone.

But then love is really a complicated thing. It sometimes sucks when you’re in it...but miss it when it is gone.

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

Interesting reads today

JUST wanted to share with you guys the interesting (and eerie) news/blogs I've read today.

Did anyone know that Quezon City is traffic accident capital of the country? Just check out this latest research from GMA News TV.

Metro’s killer roads claim 172 lives, injure 5,412 in first half of 2007

The accident that killed former Social Welfare secretary Dulce Saguisag took place early Thursday morning at the corner of President Sergio Osmeña Highway (South Superhighway) and Antonio Arnaiz Avenue (formerly Pasay Road) in Makati City.

Records from the MMDA’s Metropolitan Road Safety Unit show that 68 accidents happened at that particular intersection from January to September this year. So far, the road accidents in that intersection took at least two lives this year, including that of Saguisag.

Still, the Osmeña-Arnaiz junction is not in the MMDA’s list of “blackspots" or accident-prone areas. (Click GMA News TV for the rest.)

Here's one from the New York Times about how an artist had proposed to light up the Twin Towers way back in 1986. Chills up my spine!

An Eerie Portent in Light, 15 Years Before 9/11

Two bright, white parallel columns soar from the dark canyons of Lower Manhattan to pierce the night sky.

You think at first that you’re looking at a study for “Tribute in Light,” the ephemeral memorial to 9/11 that has become a civic tradition since its 88 spotlights were first illuminated on March 11, 2002.

But the date of the photomontage is all wrong: 1986. And the artist was Douglas L. Leigh, the lighting designer responsible for much of Times Square’s neon pizazz and for many of the luminous landmarks on the city skyline. That makes these images all the more stunning. (Read it at NYT Blog.)

Another one from NYT re: US slowdown next year. Tighten your belts kids. Don't believe a word from our government officials. If the US economy falters, so do we. Oof!

Fed Chairman Says Economy Likely to Slow

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 — Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, told Congress today that the economy is going to get worse before it gets better, a message that got a chilly reception from both Wall Street and politicians.

On a day when stock prices swung wildly, the dollar hit another new low against the euro and further signs emerged that consumers are growing more cautious about spending, Mr. Bernanke warned that the economy is about to “slow noticeably” as the housing market continues to spiral downward and financial institutions tighten up on lending.

But in a disappointment to investors, Mr. Bernanke offered no signal that the central bank might soften the blow by lowering interest rates for a third time this year at its next policy meeting on Dec. 11. (Read the rest at Bernanke.)

Here's good news from the Pacific Daily News for those who want to work in the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas.

House bill nixes H-2 visa cap: Guam could benefit from CNMI immigration measure

Legislation that cleared a committee in U.S. House of Representatives yesterday would exempt Guam and the Northern Marianas from the nationwide cap on H-2 temporary worker visas.

The bill started as a move to tighten border security and stop alleged abuses of the foreign worker program in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

In addition, a new amendment would exempt the islands from the cap on H-2 visas. (Click here.)

And who says the Philippines is a poor country? 50,000 just paid to watch Beyoncé concert the other night, according to the Phil. Star. (And this just after the Josh Groban concert ha.) Why I wasn't there? Cos I'm poor!

50,000 paid to see Beyonce

In a country where money has to be doled out for crowds to hear politicians speak or for protests to be mounted, over 50,000 people paid – from P600 to P20,000 – to watch pop sensation Beyonce in her first-ever Philippine concert Wednesday night, setting a record in local musical history.

Under a clear star-lit sky, Beyonce drew in as many people as there were stars in the sky to the Fort Bonifacio open field in Taguig City for her one-night only concert.

Southeast Asian royalty and showbiz blue-bloods mingled with over 50,000 Beyonce fans for what has become the most-well attended concert of a foreign artist produced by MTV Philippines, the country’s biggest concert promoter. (Click Phil. Star)

November 08, 2007

Mac users beware!

IF you're a Mac user like me, DO NOT UPGRADE to Quicktime 7.3 and iTunes 7.5 unless absolutely necessary (like if you're using an iPhone or have Apple TV, etc.). Idiot that I am, I got suckered in by the software update and after uploading the new versions of these software, am now unable to stream my favorite Virgin Radio Groove station on iTunes, nor have I been able to watch newscasts.

So far the problem seems to be limited to the Firefox browser and I followed all the suggestions on various threads in the Apple forums regarding these new software versions but have not been able to get them to work properly. Like if I try to access a video on YouTube or Reuters, all that appears is a white screen with the blue Q and question mark in the middle. No video plays, even after I've repaired the disk permissions, and restarted as had been suggested.

So I've gone back to Safari 2 for my browsing. All you need to do is download the latest Adobe Flash Player, Real Player, Perian, and Flip4Mac, repair your disk permissions, then restart everything. After that, your softwares will work fine and you'll be able to stream video seamlessly. (I just don't like using Safari because some web pages, like the new Yahoo, still isn't accessible on this browser. So you're stuck with the Yahoo classic version. Other than that, it's a great browser especially for RSS feeds.)

Oh, I've read that even Windows users are having problems with the new iTunes and QT versions as well so be advised to stall your upgrades until Apple releases its security updates or bug fixes.