April 29, 2008

Black Widow on the prowl

WE'VE been told the our favorite Black Widow is at it again, preying on hapless old gents with a couple of them doddily escorting her in several recent social events. After a generous "inheritance" from her old banker beau who had passed away just last year (and supposedly where she asked for yet more goodies while he lay at his deathbed in a posh hospital south of Manila), she certainly looks as if she has moved on. (Not a few friends of this gentleman banker have remarked that he must have sadly realized, so close to his death, that the woman he loved was indeed, just after his money. Tsk, tsk.)

The latest gents seen leading Black Widow by the arm is a former court judge and a publicist with a column in a major daily. Uh-oh. How's your health, Lolo?

* * *

IT's confirmed. A company which had wanted this wanna-be socialite/event manager/publicist to be its celebrity endorser has held off its plans after the said "celebrity" (and yes we have to put that in quotes) got caught up in a scandal involving his client as well as allegations of substance abuse and drug pushing.

We don't care much for what endorsements he will soon lose. We just want him arrested for his bad hair days and hideous fashion sense.

* * *

OOF! Not only is the wife of this still-in-the-closet gay banker a lush and a fan of blue magic, we hear their son has picked up the nasty snorting habit as well. Can anyone fix this family please? Hoy lola, magpakatotoo ka na kasi!

April 27, 2008

The Courtyard Bistro Boracay

(From left: The Rib-Eye Steak, Pomelo Salad, and Oysters Rockefeller)

TO conclude my story on a couple of new flavorful discoveries in the island paradise that is Boracay, Courtyard Bistro will no doubt also titillate discriminating diners with well-loved family recipes and steak/seafood delights. The bistro is owned by Mark Santiago, former operations manager of family-owned restaurants such as Salo, and his uncle Melo Santiago’s Steak House and Steak Factory.

Tucked in a cozy corner fanned by the refreshing sea breeze from Bulabog Beach, Courtyard Bistro is an intimate gathering place offering an exquisite dining experience for food lovers. (The spot used to be occupied by the short-lived Palo Maria restaurant which had been run by two architects, ex-lovers now, but which managed to attract a loyal number of patrons with its flavorful Italian pasta creations.)

According to Santiago, Courtyard “fulfills my life-long dream of opening my own bistro and serving the dishes close to my heart,” most of which are family recipes and old favorites from his travels and life in San Francisco surrounded by food enthusiasts.

“Having lived in Boracay for a year, I also got sick and tired of the Boracay waiting time of 30 minutes to an hour for your food. Being a customer myself who expects good service, I felt it was time to give back and offer a product that I know would appeal to a certain market of travelers—people who know refined cuisine, those who would appreciate every bite, every sip of wine and the little details that make The Courtyard Bistro a special place,” Santiago continued.

So, under a very old and ginormous balete tree, we exchanged ghost stories and began our late dinner with superb Oysters Rockefeller made from freshly harvested Aklan oysters in a shell, with hollandaise sauce and topped with bacon bits, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

We were also pleased with the pomelo salad, a very refreshing dish with the sweet juicy fruit tossed with shallots, celery, shrimps, coriander, coconut milk and a delightful Asian dressing.

As I’m not really a steak eater I passed on the juicy rib eye, but the gang gave it their thumbs-up, especially because of the creamy mashed potatoes that came with it. Santiago is marketing the restaurant as “the steak authority” on the island serving only USDA-certified Angus beef. “Your steak is cut to your desired size and weight [minimum of six ounces] and served with mashed or baked potatoes and vegetable sidings. Each cut is grilled to perfection on the cast-iron grill with lava rocks.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with the Twice-Cooked Chicken and Pork Adobo that everyone who had eaten there had been rhapsodizing about. The meat that night was a tad too tough for my taste, which was later confirmed by a regular patron. So, perhaps, this was just a fluke, and worth another tasting trip.

But I highly recommend the exquisite Dory Fish in Lemon Butter Sauce. It is tender and flaky, with a sublimely subtle sweetness and tangy flavor.

For dessert, we capped our meal with a scoop of pistachio ice cream that helped calm our sweet tooth. With his extensive restaurant-management experience, Santiago promises consistency in quality of the dishes. “I am there to personally attend to every dish before it reaches the table, checking its quality in the kitchen, supervising its plating and constantly developing new and exciting dishes. I personally attend to our guests to find out if they are satisfied, gathering feedback to improve where we can and offering a personalized service to each one.”

The restaurant can seat up to 30 to 40 persons and accepts group bookings. It can also customize a set menu according to one’s budget.

Whatever your budget and persuasion, Boracay is definitely every foodie’s playground.

***The Courtyard Bistro is at the Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast, Palomar, Bulabog Beach, Boracay Island. For inquires or reservations (for private or group functions), you may call (036) 288-4128 or 0915-487-4121, or e-mail thecourtyardbistro@gmail.com.

(This story was published in the BusinessMirror on April 25, 2008. Photos courtesy of Freida Dario of Courtyard Bistro)


I PICKED up the Philippine Star for the first time in weeks today (I usually read it online) and glanced through the news rather quickly, then the opinion pages, business, and lifestyle. The banner on the front page was especially gripping...it was about the $100-million health insurance scam allegedly participated in by some local hospitals and doctors. As is my usual habit, I saved the Sunday funnies for the last, with Calvin and Hobbes and Hagar the Horrible leaving me in stitches.

But what really caught my eye was this huge inkblot on the face of one of the paper's columnists, who's been getting a lot of ahem, unsavory press lately. I looked through all the pages and all the columnists' pieces again, and truly, it was only her column photo which had been besmirched by a black blob. As most advertisers know, the Philippine Star takes great care in printing its paper, especially its color pages. So the conspiracy theorist in me is thinking some people within the media organization itself are not liking this columnist very much either. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

* * *

BTW, you might want to check out a really moving profile story of Australian blogger Brian Gorrell in the BusinessMirror.

April 25, 2008

AI viewers gone nuts

SO...American Idol fans don't care much for Broadway tunes! Sorry Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, all they cared about was how cute David Archuleta, David Cook and JC Castro were the night of their performance.

Was anyone actually surprised? These viewers don't appreciate real talent! I mean, how could they have sent home Carly Smythson who sang Jesus Christ Superstar rather well, and for a woman, might I add? Also in the bottom two was Syesha Mercado, whose very theatrical and excellent performance of One Rock 'n Roll Too Many, was certifiably Broadway-believable?!

When the American viewers voted off Michael Johns, I thought that was just heartbreaking! He was just one of the most talented (and sexiest) contestants ever. And such an all-around nice guy even his fellow-contestants loved him. All the judges also believed he would have been one of the top three. Okay, so I thought it was a fluke. Because the viewers got it right last week when they voted off Kristy Lee Cook during Mariah Carey week. I never liked Mariah's OA style of singing (feeling Barbra Streisand ba, just like Celine Dion) and I didn't like Kristy Lee very much either because of her country style. So I thought the viewers came to their senses and made the right decision in voting off Kristy Lee.

Then the viewers went nuts again this week. How could they possibly think that Brooke White, who started, then stopped, then started her song (You Must Love Me) again, is AI-worthy? At this stage in the contest, these guys should already have some sense of professionalism to go on with the show (or song) without skipping a beat. Never mind the mistake at the beginning. And JC Castro? What the hell was that? It was a very forgettable performance of Memory (pun intended) with just dreamy eyes all over the place.

The same was true for David Cook, who unexplicably sang Music of the Night straight, and toned down. No extra effort in singing it except for another case of dreamy eyes. David Archuleta at least had the guts to sing a very different arrangement of Think of Me, which was rather interesting. Even Lloyd Webber also thought so. O sha, sha, cute kayong tatlo...so you have a big fan bases.

That still doesn't explain Brooke. Must be the awa factor.

(Sayang that cute tee – Simon loves me (this week) – Carly brandished after AI judge Simon Cowell gave her high marks for her performance. Kiss of death na pala ang comment ni Simon.)

April 24, 2008

Hooters in Manila

The ‘real’ Hooters opens at Mall of Asia
By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo
Special to BusinessMirror

“THE owl is landing at the Mall of Asia on April 28.”

Kaz Endo, managing director and partner of Paradise Wings LLP, a Guam-based company that owns the Hooters franchise for Guam and Asia, including the Philippines, was referring to the owl logo of the popular US restaurant chain. The Hooters logo is known worldwide as it is printed on the tight-fitting, white, spandex, sleeveless shirts of the restaurant’s buxomy wait staff.

“We are currently finishing up our plans for the grand opening, and let me just say it’ll be a blast! [There will be] live bands, free giveaways and, of course, everyone will finally be able to try our world-famous Hooters chicken wings and burgers,” said Endo in an e-mail to the BusinessMirror.

A “special VIP party” will also be held on April 26, with only select guests invited, according to the restaurant executive.

He said about $1 million will be invested to open the first outlet of Hooters right outside the Mall of Asia (MOA), reputed to be the largest mall in Asia which is owned and operated by the SM Group of Filipino-Chinese taipan Henry Sy. “Our restaurant is part of the restaurant row at San Miguel by the Bay. We are located at Building ‘D’ and have plenty of parking space in front of us, so our guests will find it very convenient to come for lunch and dinner.”

He said the originally-planned location for the restaurant at The Fort Entertainment Strip ran into some snags so the company decided to push forward with the MOA site. “We hit some delays with The Fort that was unfortunate, but we have since resolved them. When MOA became a green light, we proceeded with our plans to open it first. In hindsight, the delay at The Fort was fortunate as we have since changed our design ideas for the interiors.” The restaurant at The Fort was supposed to have opened in February. (See “Coming soon at The Fort: Hooters,” BusinessMirror, November 6, 2007.)

Hooters at the MOA is approximately 350 square meters, “but if you add the outdoor area, it becomes about 100 sqm larger,” Endo said. He said the entire area has a total seating capacity for 250 people.

Over 100 staff will be employed at the MOA site, including at least 50 female waitstaff. “We worked with MTV recently to do a ‘recruitment’ party and we will continue to work with local marketers to cast our Hooters girls,” he said.

Since news of Hooters opening in Manila was published in this paper, Filipino bloggers have been spreading the word about the restaurant’s opening. Some also wondered if the restaurant will also come out with a Hooters calendar like its US outlets.

Endo said the company is “considering” publishing a calendar and a magazine for its Filipino customers by 2009.

He added that Hooters Girls from the US will be flying into town during the first three weeks of operation at the MOA, “as they will be here as guests to help train and observe our local talent.”

Meanwhile, Endo said the company is aware of the fake Hooters restaurant along Diosdado Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City, which calls itself “Hooters Sports Bar and Restaurant”. He said: “Without going into detail at this time, I will just say that Hooters of America and the principles of that specific operation are currently in a legal dispute over trademark and concept infringment. Meanwhile, as the only authorized official franchisee of the Hooters brand, I encourage all customers who are curious about our restaurant concept to visit us soon! Hooters is a family-friendly environment with great food, casual atmosphere, and of course, Manila’s coldest beers!”

The fake Hooters sports bar uses a tarsier as its logo, but its large eyes are also positioned as the two “O”’s of its name, much like the real Hooters brand’s owl logo.

April 20, 2008

The Pope's red shoes

A few days ago, the crackly hosts of The View (Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and Barbara Walters) all wore red shoes in tribute to Pope Benedict XVI who was visiting New York. Apparently they thought the Pope was being fashion forward by daring to wear red shoes which just really stand out against his white cassock.

Far from being fashion savvy (although he wore red Prada loafers a few times before), the Pope is actually just carrying on the tradition from his predecessors who all wore red shoes (except for Pope John Paul II who started wearing a red pair then later switched to brown shoes to symbolize his coming from humble beginnings).

Pope Benedict XVI just wants to show continuity in religious symbols, most especially in the manner of dress and speech for his papacy. (As Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, he often defended traditional Christian doctrine and values. Under his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI has allowed the return of the Tridentine Mass where the priest's back faces worshippers and the entire ceremony is cconducted in Latin. And just two days ago, he spoke French at the beginning of his address at the United Nations assembly. French used to be the "official" language spoken at the UN.)

There are many opinions on how the tradition of wearing red shoes started, with some saying it may be traced to Roman emperors having worn red leather sandals. Or that Pope Benedict XVI wears the color because he was a Cardinal before, and the color stands for a Cardinal's red cassocks.

In a children's book entitled, "Why does the Pope wear red shoes?", the Pope's private secretary said red is the color of martyrdom and "the color of burning love, the color of the fire of the spirit." Of course, that still doesn't thoroughly explain when the tradition started and why it was adopted in the first place.

Whatever the source of this tradition, I think the Pope does look awfully cute in those red leather shoes. And if the girls from The View thought that was being edgy, just wait 'til he pulls out his uber-cool Serengeti shades again.

April 19, 2008

If it's you they're talking about

Something Like Life
April 18, 2008

HOW many of us have been the subject of nasty rumors or malicious gossip? And how many of us knew what to do about it?

I must admit, I’ve been the subject of a few distasteful stories in my lifetime, touching on my personal life or my work, though none of them in the epic DJ Montano proportions. But then I don’t have a high-flying fast life which can open me and my actions to public scrutiny. Also, I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. (Like, I’m not above riding the MRT to Makati, but I will not shirk at an offer of a chauffeured ride home in a properly air-conditioned, luxuriously outfitted, leather-seated car.)

So what happens when you become the flavor of the month—or months—of your office or the society circle you move around in? Some of you may have been accused of sleeping your way to the top position of your company (or, worse, filching office supplies...how cheap naman!), or maybe having an affair with a married co-employee, or getting a job because of your familial connections?

Among your circle of friends, you suddenly hear that you’re supposedly a drug addict, an alcoholic, a sex pervert, are gay, or—worse—deep in debt! People begin talking about how much of a freeloader you are and how you attend events just to get hold of the goodie bag! Then your own so-called BFFs start turning on you. What to do?! What to do?!

In my own experience, I’ve realized that a lot of the gossip at work is primarily due to jealousy. Some people have a puffed-up opinion of themselves and basically think that they are better than you. And when they don’t get the promotion they’ve been secretly desiring and which was given to you instead, these losers can or will start rumors about you, or stir up critical talk about you.

Everything about you will be called into question. Nothing is safe. These inggiteros will discuss every single little detail of your life and joke about petty stuff, like the way you wear your pantyhose or that hideous dress you supposedly wore to the company cocktails last night.

But, seriously, the only way to quelch rumors of this nature is to basically shut up and continue doing your work well. True, it’s uncomfortable to be amid such unpleasantness day in and day out, especially when you’re trying to focus on doing a good job. But I am a stern believer that actions will always speak louder than words. And in the end, you will be vindicated.

The best thing to do is to play office politics. Try to get these losers on your side by involving them in projects. When they manage a good job or your projects are a success, recognize their efforts and watch them change their opinion about you. They will soon realize why the boss chose you and not them for that promotion.

I always tell my friends who are in such a bind that they are “celebrities,” and their underachieving colleagues at work will always envy them. I joke that it is a bane of their so-called celebrity status to be the subject of gossip all the time. The best thing to do is ignore the talk and just do the work.

But whether the negative issues about you are at work or touches your personal life, the best defense is really the truth. If you haven’t been seen stuffing your face with drugs or regularly beating up helpless people, then people won’t talk about it.

I remember one celebrity who was rumored to have made a punching bag of relatively unknown and basically defenseless kids, and had his friends gang up on them. I had firsthand knowledge of one of his victims as this kid was close to my friend’s daughter. My friend’s daughter told me the victim had already been beaten up by this neanderthal and his gang at school once before. And to think the goon had actually wanted to run for mayor! Ang kapal! So in his case, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

(Funny, though, how rumors about the idiocies and odious habits of several celebrities and high-society flunkies center around just one club at The Fort. Hmmm...it must be the water.)

Now what if the gossip about you is actually true? What do you do?

Well, all you have to do is grin and bear it. Nothing will ever remain a secret in this society. People in these parts treat gossip as part and parcel of entertainment. Any rumor about someone popular and his secret life uncovered is much better than the whole of Marimar.

So whatever indecent acts you’ve been practicing, or whatever odious behavior you subscribe to, you will be found out. After all, we live in a small world where the next person ready to hear some juicy stories about you is just a text or e-mail away.

And if you don’t want to be talked about in a scandalous fashion, then behave. Keep a low profile. Stop acting so foolishly and calling attention to yourself. It’s really your fault for living so large and loudly.

I recall a friend being asked by a victim of some malicious gossip, advice about what to do to handle the nasty talk about him. One of the distasteful rumors being circulated about the victim was apparently the size of his, uhm, appendage. His text to my friend went something like, “By the way, the rumors are not true. I’m a medium.” To which my friend texted back, “But (guy's name), I told everyone you’re large!” Stop being defensive!

Okay, so what if the rumor about you is totally untrue and already destroying your reputation? Then go to the source of the gossip—if you know who it is—and talk to him or her about it. Find out why he or she started this rumor about you and see how you can settle things. Don’t be confrontational or threaten to sue every bone in his/her body.

You cannot underestimate the power of communication. Sometimes all it takes is an open channel between two people and a sincere effort to settle differences. Be honest, fortright and reconciliatory.

The best way to handle gossip of course, is to avoid it. Keep your nose clean and your feet firmly planted on the ground.

April 18, 2008

Dare to unplug (after you read my blog!)

WAS trying to do my work when I stumbled onto this news story about people who have decided to switch off their electronic devices for a day.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sharon Sarmiento knew it was time to unplug when she realized she was blogging in her dreams and hearing imaginary instant messages.

For Ariel Meadow Stallings, it was the hours lost while surfing the Internet that left her feeling like she had been in a drunken blackout.

Both women are part of a new grass-roots movement in which tech geeks, Internet addicts, Blackberry thumbers and compulsive IMers are deciding to wrest back control of their lives by daring to switch off -- if only for a day.

One of the most peaceful vacations I've had was in Batanes about four years ago where there was no cellphone service. So all our phones were switched off, leaving us with a few days to enjoy the province, its vistas, and its people. (But then someone temporarily went nuts trying to look for our pregnant masahista...haha.)

Since that vacation, however, I've muted the ring tone to all my messages. I find that I'm not as attached to it as I was before that Batanes vacation when every time my phone buzzed, I would immediately look at it and answer incoming texts. It just frazzled my nerves especially then, when I was still editing the Business Section of a broadsheet everyday.

At night I also switch off all my phones for an uninterrupted night's sleep. One friend asked me what if there's an emergency? I said if it's really a life and death thing, I can always be contacted on my landline.

Thing is on vacations, I can't switch off my cellphone. There was one vacation last year in Cebu I ended up surfing the Internet on my cellphone just to check out the news in Manila. It was crazy.

Since I've started working at home though, I realize that I'm online as soon as I wake up, and way past 2 am the next morning. Though I take breaks (like for meals and wee-wee), I sometimes don't switch off as I wait for important emails to come in. Not only is that increasing my electricity bill, but it's also making me too dependent on my computer and the Internet. So what I do is basically switch off on Sundays. Of course, then I veg out on the couch and watch TV all day. So I dunno if that counts as "switching off."

Anyway, this Sunday, I shall unplug everything — the cellphones, the computer, server, wifi router and maybe the TV too — the entire day. Who knows, I might take up reading a book again.

April 13, 2008

Island flavors

Part One

(Hama, where Mongkok used to be.)

WITH the summer vacation officially on, no doubt Boracay Island will be one of the favorite destinations.

On a recent visit, the gang stumbled on two new restaurants that are sure to excite the palates of this season’s crop of bakasyonistas.

First off, Hama is the latest venture owned by business partners Juan Elizalde and Paolo Occhionero, both of Aria and Café de Sol fame. With wunderkind chef Robby Goco and partner Raymond Palmez as consultants, the restaurant also relies on a veteran, chef Jimmy Cuenca, who has trained under the most demanding chefs in various prefectures in Japan.

Fresh ingredients, sauces from scratch

Hama was a surprise. Before we even knew that Goco had an inspiring hand in the creation of its menu, the restaurant already wowed us with its distinctly savory dishes, reasonable prices and generous servings. Part of the secret must be the top quality and freshness of most of its main ingredients, such as the seafood and vegetables, and high-grade meats such as the steaks. No doubt it can rival the best Japanese restaurants in Manila.

So we had really fat shrimps coated in the thinnest of batter, which gave a perfect crisp and volume to the ebi tempura. The salmon sashimi was a bright orange and of the fleshiest cuts. The Wagyu Strip Steak was perfectly tender and juicy. (I only objected to the sweet heavy sauce—made from Italian vinegar and teriyaki sauce—which smothered the meat. I suggested to chef Jimmy that the sauce be served on the side next time. Another friend suggested to Goco that maybe the diner should be asked how he wanted his steak done, as he had received his steak too well-done.)

(Salmon 3-way Salad...succulent, refreshing, crispy.)

Another noteworthy aspect in the creation of each dish is that most of the sauces or dressings are made from scratch. Nothing comes from a bottle except the oil and basic condiments of soy sauce and vinegar. So expect that the mayonnaise it uses, for example, won’t be your garden variety kewpie in the clear plastic-squeeze bottle that most restaurants, even the high-end ones in Manila, uses, but actually homemade with egg yolks, salad oil, rice vinegar and salt.

“I would describe Hama’s food as a combination of authentic Japanese cuisine and some original dishes with a unique, modern twist,” said Elizalde in an interview with the BusinessMirror. “It should not be mistaken as a ‘fusion’ restaurant, however, as we still use the basic ingredients found in authentic Japanese cuisine even for our original dishes. The Hama menu is designed for everybody who loves Japanese cuisine and should appeal to a broad range of customers with its varied menu selection. To be honest, all the dishes on the menu are truly delicious, and I’m very pleased with their outcome.”

(Love those mochis!)

We were, too. One of my favorites was the Salmon Three-Ways Salad, which was an interesting combination of succulence (from the salmon meat), crunch (from the crispy skin) and saltiness (from the salmon roe). It was obviously another creation from the mischievous mind of Goco, who strives to impart umami (the elusive fifth taste) in the dishes he creates, be they Japanese, Greek, or Mexican. (Goco is also the brains behind Cyma and, in another lifetime, Tequila Joe’s.)

Of the versatile Goco and his team, Elizalde said, “Jimmy is a very knowledgeable chef in authentic Japanese cuisine due to his extensive work experience abroad and locally for Japanese expats. When Robby and Raymond were developing the Hama menu, they tapped Jimmy’s experience in creating many of the authentic Japanese dishes, but also combined their talents together to create new dishes with a slightly modern approach. This is why our Hama menu has an interesting mix of both authentic Japanese dishes and those with a unique and modern twist.”

(Chef Robby Goco is pleased with his Hama meal.)

Unfortunately, Elizalde doesn’t have any plans of putting up a branch in the metropolis. “At this point, the restaurant is still too new to make plans to expand Hama outside of Boracay, but the intention is there.” Now, that is certainly something to hope for.

***Hama is located at Phase 2, D’Mall, Station 2, barangay Balabag, Boracay Island. Call (036) 288-5978. The restaurant also accepts take-out orders.

(This story appeared in BusinessMirror, April 11, 2008. Next week, my take on Courtyard Bistro.)

April 12, 2008

When your child is out of control

Something Like Life
April 11, 2008

SOME friends and I were walking along Bonifacio High Street one evening, trying to exercise away the humongous shabu-shabu meal we had just ingested, when a group of young shrilly girls came toward us. They were probably in their early 20s, with boobies a-popping out of their thin sleeveless blouses and wearing the shortest skirts that came up to where their butt cheeks began to show. If they only weren’t speaking in English in that colegiala twang, we would’ve thought they were refugees from the hooker districts of Manila on their way to meet their pimp. Or trannies on the prowl.

As usual, Miggy made the most astute observation, about how young girls now have to try really hard, competing with one another just to get noticed by boys. And, of course, the easiest way to do that is to dress rather skimpily, and talk ever so loudly in flirtatious tones. Maybe they think Britney Spears in her slutty clothes is the height of fashion. Then I thought: Where were their parents when they put on those clothes for a night on the town?

Parenting, and how difficult the task is these days, is what I think most of whenever someone mentions Brian Gorrell, the Australian blogger whose Pinoy ex-lover allegedly stiffed him of a large amount of money. In his blog, we have been inundated with gossip and allegations of how some scions of supposedly de buena familias in Manila have been living it up with their noses buried in cocaine, giving new meaning to the term “high society.” With the allegations of freeloading, bad oufits, incest and even murder, I can understand the venom, scorn and contempt that have flooded the comments section of Gorrell’s blog.

(Frankly, I have stopped reading it because of too much negativity there. Now, if the allegations are true about the main subject of the blog, I do hope Gorrell gets paid back every cent owed him. I don’t belittle the misfortune that befell him, but as sis would always say, “We are fools for love.” We make our own stupid choices for love and we suffer for it.)

Why the infamous subjects of the blog behave the way they do—and in truth, this is not the first time we in media have heard about it and what goes on in that party place that has been mentioned several times in the blog—we probably may never thoroughly understand. Most of them have had the benefit of having studied in reputable universities like many of those who read this equally respectable paper, so many people automatically blame it on their upbringing.

But I think it would be simplistic and convenient to blame the parents for the mess these socialites—or social climbers—are in. (One trivia that has come up via the old media is that the mother of one of the antagonists in this Internet telenovela, was involved in a corrupt government deal that was the talk of the town just a decade ago. A few observers cite this factoid as a way to explain her child’s alleged dishonesty—monkey see, monkey do.) Besides, there are many examples of people who have been in far more luckless circumstances while growing up, or have had the worst parents imaginable, but who managed to come out of their sordid experiences as strong, upstanding citizens.

Needless to say, I cannot imagine how parents do it these days. If both parents are working, there is just not enough time in the day to be with one’s kids, minister to their needs and make them adhere to the common rules of proper, decent behavior. What more if one parent is away, working in some foreign country, as in the case of many OFW families these days. The parenting task can only be more daunting in such situations.

Then there are just too many temptations out there—sex, drugs, Internet porn, cigarettes, alcohol, Internet gaming—that parents can hardly keep up with their duty to be the moral guardians of the family. When even the tightest controls and parental monitoring systems fail, what avenue for instilling appropriate conduct is still available? What can parents do when their child has gone out of control?

Many parents will tell you that there is no guidebook in the world that will prepare a parent for the responsibilities. When rearing a child, sometimes it is a case of hit-and-miss. You can be the best father or mother in the world, but your child still ends up dead in someone else’s flat from drug overdose.

Of course, all this doesn’t absolve parents of the responsibility of trying to bring up decent, well-behaved and sensible children. So when they see their children now adults behaving like irresponsible shitless fucks who think having fun is the only sole purpose of their existence, parents just cannot be defensive about it. They cannot deny that there is a problem and just send the children abroad to escape the consequences of the latter’s tomfoolery. Condoning their children’s stupidity makes them equally guilty. Parents whose kids have gone wrong just have to accept that despite their maybe impeccable parenting skills, their children have fallen off-track and have become nuisances to society. Leaving them to their own devices where they can hurt other people or themselves is not an option.

No matter how old a wayward child is, parents cannot abdicate their roles as the moral and ethical compass in the family. They need to be consistent and unfaltering in their implementation of rules for decent behavior and, of course, be unimpeachable role models themselves. One thing they cannot do is lose hope that their child can still change or be rehabilitated with the right kind of help, be it the psychological kind.

I think another thing Brian Gorrell’s blog has taught many of us is that parents these days have to work even doubly harder than before to keep their kids in line, protect them from falling into the wrong crowd and becoming slaves to their basest desires. That kind of 24/7 protection and monitoring may be exhausting and, perhaps, nearly impossible to do in this day and age, but it must be done. Not doing so can only lead to damaging and maybe irreparable consequences.

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

UPDATE: The subject of Brian Gorrell's blog – DJ Montano (now we can finally publish his name as he already appeared in public) – was on Korina Sanchez's show last night basically denying everything that his ex- said. I wasn't able to watch the show as I'm in Tagaytay (and the frigging DREAM TV, of course, has no ANC feed!). Too bad that Brian declined to do a face-off with DJ via phone patch.

Anyway, here's a Youtube post of ABS-CBN's TV Patrol World featuring bits of the Montano interview, including sound bytes from his mother, stepfather, and sister. Will post a better video once we get a hold of one.

April 07, 2008

Basta wala ako d'on!

HOW amusing that some politicians are expending a lot of effort just to make sure the public knows they were not in the Presidentita's bday party last week. Are they just not busy enough that they have enough time to call the media and make their denials or they just really want to distance themselves from her? Obvious ba ang sagot? After the poor showing of administration candidates in the last local elections, they know very well that being associated with GMA is the kiss of death.

Read Zubiri denies presence at Arroyo bday party.

Remember the time?

GADS! Penthouse 7 was THE television show I absofuckinglutely wanted to be on! I was such a fan...a dance nut, with illusions I would be dancing the swing with Mike Monserrat or popping my elbows with RayAn Fuentes someday.

Oof! the fashion, the hairstyle, the dance moves...I love it! I hear there's gonna be a reunion of these guys on April 30 at the NBC Tent. I really hope someone can bless me with tickets. I'd die to watch this show.

(RayAn Fuentes was the only guy who could make white slacks and white shoes looks so cool!)

(Grabeh...ang titigas ng katawan ng girls! Talo sila ng boys!)

April 06, 2008

Yes to love (and life!)

LOVE IN THE TIME OF WELLNESS. Tom and Karen Neff found love while learning to love their individual selves.(Photos courtesy Karen Neff)

"NEVER again.”

That’s what Karen Neff (neé Villarica) thought of marriage after separating from her husband Antonio Reina in 1999. She and Antonio ran a successful costume-jewelry business out of Cebu, the biggest exporter of its kind in the country. Back then, her normal life consisted of meeting with suppliers, running after letters of credit and bankers, and dealing with the deadlines of their buyers. “During the 17 years of marriage, my life was work, husband and children—in that order,” Karen begins her narration.

It got to a point that she no longer felt satisfied with what she was doing, either in work or in her marriage. And despite her three wonderful kids with Antonio — Mozart, now 24; Andrea, 22; and Mara, 20 — Karen felt it was time for her to leave that life. She could no longer deal with the stress of the work, adding that she just felt sapped after “giving” her time and attention to everybody...except herself. “There was something missing in my life that I could not put my finger on. My heart was no longer in the marriage. I did not find any fulfillment in staying together. The marriage was no longer relevant—and I opted to live separately.”

It may sound trite, but Karen did a bit of soul-searching, and went to Harbin Hot Springs, a popular wellness center in Lake County in Northern California. She enrolled in all of the spa’s classes in a bid to free herself from the issues that had been plaguing her. “It was a difficult period,” she says of the time after her separation from her husband. “Emotions were fragile, and doubts whether I did the right thing would come up ever so often.”

The product of those intensive classes, and more wellness training around Asia, was the establishment of Mandala Spa in Boracay. It was there where I first met Karen in November 2001, just when she first opened the spa, the very first of its kind in the country. “I have lived a privileged life...it was time to give back and make a difference, so I built a spa.”

Despite the rather exciting opportunities of meeting new people as she ran her spa, Karen still kept very much to herself, which one might regard as not exactly the path to pursue if one wanted to find love again. After all, while she banged shut her doors on marriage, Karen wasn’t exactly locking those doors and throwing away the key to meeting a significant other. “I am not a social person and going out to bars and restos was not my thing. While I did want to have someone to share my life with, I guess it was not high on the priority list as I did nothing about it. I continued to stay home and contemplate about life.” She says many people would probably find her life rather “boring.”

So it was with great joy when sometime in 2006, while visiting the spa for my usual Shodhana Karma treatment, I found out that Karen had gotten married. She wasn’t in the country at the time, but I looked forward to getting together with her again so I could ask her to spill all the lurid (!) details of her romance with Tom Neff. She later tells me that Tom had been an insurance broker for years before getting on a wellness kick, which he has been in for about 15 years now.

She met Tom in the US in September 2004 — he was a student, while she was an assistant instructor in a Watsu class. (To the unitiated, Watsu is a treatment based on Zen shiatsu, so it’s basically a massage, only done in water. I recommend it as a way to relax or purge oneself of negative vibes.) Karen says Tom just asked her if he could join her for breakfast one day, and so they chatted a lot “and found we had things in common—been there, done that, etc.” He also was married for 22 years and has four children from that marriage—three girls and one boy with ages ranging from 16 to 24.

Initially, it was a relationship carried over Skype, no less. Karen and Tom would spend hours (“at one point, eight hours nonstop”) talking about anything and everything. It was obvious there was a connection, but at the time they were not yet lovers. Moreover, Tom appeared to have been having second thoughts about pursuing her. After agreeing to visit Karen for Christmas 2004, he backed out and told her he wasn’t ready for a long-distance relationship.

But in April 2005, Tom e-mailed Karen telling her that he couldn’t get her off his mind. So Karen told him she was going to the US that June and if he wanted, they could meet. “We did, and fell in love. In October he came to visit for two weeks. I went over for Christmas and stayed for three weeks.” In between visits, they were always connected via the Internet (thank you, Al Gore, woohoo!).

In February 2006 Karen says she surprised Tom by flying out to the US to celebrate Valentine’s Day with him. Then in May, he went to Boracay for another visit. “During a stormy night,” Karen recalls, “he asked me, ‘What is your heart’s deepest desire?’ It didn’t take me long to think and said, ‘For us to be married.’ Was that a proposal???” “I then heard him say, ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes what?’ I asked. ‘Yes, let’s get married.’ Hahaha! I had to think about that!”

So with that, the couple flew to Cebu a week later to tell Karen’s kids the news. “Mara was delighted. The two boys were worried that I would forget that I had kids. But they all love Tom and, seeing how happy we are together, have come to love him, too.”

D-Day came on July 20, 2006. Karen in a teal blue dress with spaghetti straps and intricate embroidery, Tom in a gray tuxedo with an ivory vest and tie over a white shirt, and with about 40 close friends and family around them, they were married in Lake Tahoe by a minister-friend in ceremonies that they themselves scripted. “There were no vows of ‘forever and forever, ’til death do us part,’” she stresses.

In describing their relationship, Karen says it is one based on personal responsibility. “I am responsible for my feelings and emotions, and there is nothing that Tom has to do about them. Likewise, he is responsible for his. We find that because we have no expectations of each other, there is nothing to argue about. I do not need him and neither does he need me. We enjoy being together as our lives are enriched by the union. And neither do we have any expectations about how long our relationship will last—we live each day fully. From the first day that we met, we have not had a moment of discord. It’s been very blissful!”

Karen believes that you cannot find love; it finds you. It is something I, too, believe in, because I’ve been lucky enough to find it a few times, and lost it along the way, but never, ever with regret in my heart. And I know, God willing, if the time is right and it’s meant to be, I will find it again.

“Experience tells me that there is nothing to do [when trying to find love again]. Instead, be—be who you are, live your truth, speak your truth. Do not pretend to be someone who you’re not. Love yourself with all your strengths and weaknesses. Be genuine.”

She says love is out there, waiting for everyone. “One only has to say, ‘Yes!’” It is saying yes to life and for what is in store for you. Be adventurous! Love life! Don’t hang on to what is not working—be available for change!”

Speaking of change, Tom has sold his business and all his assets in the US and has moved to Boracay permanently to be with Karen. “Our plan is to spend the summers in the US to be with the kids,” she adds. From May 1 to 4, Karen and Tom will not only be sharing their love but their wellness work with others. They are conducting a “Living Yoga” retreat in Mandala Spa, Boracay, where participants will be encouraged to break through self-limiting and self-immobilizing thoughts and behaviors through yoga practice.

***For particulars, contact (036) 288 5858 or visit Mandala Spa

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

April 02, 2008

Edu Manzano: From Makati to the world

I have always believed in the talent of Vice! "Vice" is what I always called Edu Manzano, who was my Vice Mayor when I lived in Makati for the longest time. (Whenever I would bump into him I would always josh about the flooding along Buendia Ave. right in front of my condo — Cityland 8 — and demand that he have it fixed. I dunno if it still floods there, but then who cares, I don't live there anymore, haha!)

Anyway, Vice has always been my idol...he's really hilarious and I loved watching his Late Night with Edu back in the 80s. He was an excellent talk show host who would gamely spar with his guests with witty comebacks. People often compared him to David Letterman, but to me, Vice was an original. I don't get to watch him that much anymore because I hardly watch local programming, except for the news. So I was quite clueless about this Papaya dance that Vice had apparently invented until I watched Good Morning America and there was the respectable Dianne Sawyer (!) and her co-hosts all doing the Papaya! Good God!

Per waw, grabeh Vice! Bilib talaga ako sa 'yo! Not even the champ Manny Pacquiao could get featured on GMA! (That is a bit disturbing though, if you think about it.) While Vice wasn't actually interviewed by the GMA hosts, they did mention that the dance originated from a TV show in the Philippines. Let's give it to Edu and his Papaya dance shall we? (Clap! Clap!)

Another proudly Pinoy moment! (Now can anyone tell me why exactly it's called "Papaya?")

(Pardon the blurry video. The embed feature in the clearer videos have all been disabled by request, possibly by GMA itself. You can watch the original post on the GMA web site.)

Mercury was in retrograde?

Hmmm...I didn't even notice. According to an astro piece I had stumbled on the Internet, the little planet had gone retrograde from Jan. 28 to Feb. 19. Those who believe in the power that the planet holds over us when it moves backward (actually it doesn't, but I'll save that story later) say that everything just goes funky during such a period. Meetings don't push through, commitments fall apart, even your electrical connections and electronics somehow just become messy.

I somehow came to believe in the Mercury retrograde effect about two years ago when I just couldn't connect to the Internet. My Ibook just went crazy and for no apparent reason, even my Wi-fi router just went stupid. A call to my DSL provider yielded no results because as far as they were concerned, my connections were working properly. A friend I told this to explained it away nonchalantly by saying that the little planet was misbehaving again. Then suddenly, everything was fine.

So whenever I knew that a similar period was coming up, I would hunker down, save and double save my stories on my computer, backed up all my work, and used the Internet rather sparingly. I also would double-confirm any appointments I had.

So I was quite surprised to learn just now that Mercury had gone into retrograde just a couple of months ago and nothing out of the ordinary happened to me. Well except for some idiot who cancelled on our appointment when only the day before, I had reconfirmed it with him. Other than that, everything was rather peachy all throughout that period...my friends and I celebrated our birthdays one after the other, and aside from the rather balmy weather in Boracay where I spent relishing my natal day, it was an enjoyable period. Hmmm...maybe I'm immune to Mercury's effects already?

(On hindsight, one effect of the retrograde Mercury I had observed on some people was at the airport on Feb. 15, and some editor-friends of mine on a Seair flight to Boracay, said they had been at the airport since 6 am that day for their 8 am flight. Because of some malfunctioning plane, they were scheduled to fly at 3 pm instead. Egads! Sis and I, booked on Asian Spirit, only experienced a 30-minute delay in our departure.)

As promised, the story: Mercury actually doesn't move in reverse, it just appears to be so when observed from Earth, because of how the Earth and Mercury move around the sun. But astrologers swear this is a significant astrological event. Anyway, for believers out there, the next period for retrograde Mercury is May 27 to June 19, 2008; and then from Sept. 24 to Oct. 15, 2008.

We just love babies!

THIS photo from our friend Romel in Saipan...palibhasa tamad gumawa ng Flickr account, kaya gagamitin nalang blog ko...hay! Buti nalang cute ang baby mo...obvious bang di nagmana sa 'yo? Hee-hee...congratulations kids!

(What a sweetie! Baby Oscar Bien with mommy Filmah...awww.)

April 01, 2008

OMG! Gabby's back!

Remember this? Sharon and Gabby in Dear Heart

JOSH! Can you believe it? The 80's are back!

With all the popular musical acts flying into town (e.g. Toto and Duran Duran this week and next) to remind us ever so fondly of those big-hair days, who should swoop into Manila but Gabby Concepcion himself, THE matinee idol of those years, ex-husband of Megastar Sharon Cuneta (ahhhh!), and KC Concepcion's Dad no less?!

It was in the 1980s that Sharon-Gabby was the most popular loveteam in the country, and their films (starting with Dear Heart, followed up by P.S. I Love You, etc.) kicked off the Taglish/Colegiala trend in local cinema (you know, "How baboy the pig!" or "I wanna tusok-tusok you with a barbecue stick!").

Shawie was the golden child of then Pasay City Mayor Pablo Cuneta and his second lady Elaine Cuneta, sister (or cousin?) to Helen Gamboa. So the Megastar was actually of political and showbiz royalty. Gabby, on the other hand, was introduced to the public eye via Close-up commercial. Truly, Gabo was such a cutie then, although a bit on the stocky side, then as now. (Btw, if anyone has a clip of that Close-up commercial, we'd love to post it here.)

Those films of Sharon and Gabby were coming-of-age films for many of us in my generation. So no matter if we were students from exclusive Catholic girls' schools, these baduy films "spoke" to us in a way no other Tagalog movies did. We celebrated our generation of teen-agers falling in love, defying our parents in the name of our sweethearts, running away or eventually breaking up and finding new love. No matter how repetitive the plots were in those films, and no matter how ridiculous the dialogue was, we still watched those Sharon-Gabby starrers. Kalokah! Ang baduy namin! (Truth to tell, the Sharon-Gabby films were the very first Tagalog movies I actually paid for and watched in the cinema. So major achievement 'yan for me. Before them, I only watched Ate Guy's films and those B/W oldies shown sporadically on TV. And even then, their themes didn't resonate in me as much as Shawie and Gabby's films did.) Shawie was always sugary sweet in all her films, who knew that she was actually a chain smoker?!? Aha!

P.S. I Love You short

Flashforward to 2008, Gabby was on The Buzz last Sunday being interviewed by bleah Boy Abunda, and he hasn't changed a bit. Okay, maybe he's a a little on the heavy side now (who isn't?!) and with a thinning hairline (thus, the bangs). But I imagine Gabo still has, ahem, a good package as before. (Boy you were lucky Shawie!) Josh! I want to go Boracay next week just to get a glimpse of Gabby and KC vacationing. Hahaha!

I watched a snippet of the interview on Youtube, and wow, super kilig! I mean, I'm not really a fan of Gabby but, I'm such a fan of the ka-cornihan of the '80s so I really want to see a Sharon-Gabby team-up in the cinemas soon. And of course with their lovely daughter KC starring with them. No matter how stupid the plot would be in that dream film, you can be sure it will still be a hit. We're all suckers for romance and the possibilities of second chances. Gee, I wonder how Kiko Pangilinan is feeling right now...

Anyway, I found a treasure trove of kabaduyan on Youtube starring Sharon and Gabby, and also little KC. Enjoy!

Sharon's b-day celeb w/ Gabby and little KC

Ang cute nila di ba? And KC was such a sweetheart even then, ayun nadapa pa! Someone commented in the Youtube posting though that shortly after the above b-day celeb of Shawie, she and Gabby separated because of the latter's philandering. How could you Gabby?! (Btw, according to several Gabby fan sites, he is now on his third wife, an Assumptionista named Genevieve Gonzales, after divorcing Jenny Syquia, who came after Grace Ibuna, the woman Gabby was dating daw while he was still married to Shawie. Iba na talaga ang gwapo, di makuntento, right Pangs?)

And lastly, here's the interview of Gabo on The Buzz: