June 30, 2008

I can do everything, except...

Something Like Life
June 28, 2008

WOMEN have come a long way in defining the parameters of what being female, or being feminine, is all about. With our gorgeous physical attributes, we also use our brains to become accomplished in whatever field we choose to excel in. Many women go on to become outstanding managers, executives and in any office position traditionally held by men. They are highly paid and treat themselves to new furniture, new jewelry and new wardrobe, and reward themselves for hard work with vacations they pay for.

Some of us have even gone on to make a mark in extremely dangerous sports or adventure hobbies, which, only a few years ago, were started and dominated by men. (I don’t know about you, but hiking in the woods is rather extreme for me.)

And we even know how to change a light bulb.

I know my mom still worries sometimes that I may not find the right man to settle down with because I’m not “needy” enough. I can buy the correct light-bulb wattage to change the old one, make minor repairs in the toilet, use a hammer on nail to put up photo frames, unclog the drain, set up my Internet connection with my Wi-Fi router, sync my Mac with my PDA and cell phone, etc. I don’t need a guy to do those things for me.

I even remember asking my Pop for a drill as a birthday present. I was living away from my parents at the time and just could not put up any artwork on my apartment walls as they were all cemented. Pop thought I was out of my mind for wanting a drill before finally pronouncing my present of choice—at about P3,500 for a basic Black and Decker unit—an expensive proposition. Hmmph!

I can juggle work and household chores. I can live without a maid except that now, I have an 80-year-old mother who needs to have someone home with her when I’m out. And I love cooking.

But unlike most career women, I don’t drive. Most people who know how tough I can be sometimes are aghast that I don’t even own a car. I just tell them that I’ve never really seen the need for one, even if I did grow up being ferried to school and everywhere else in the family car driven by Pop or the family driver.

Well, sometimes the car and driver were not available as Pop often used them for work. So thanks to Mama, I did learn how to use public transport. As a child in the late ’70s, we would often take a bus (no air conditioning back then, folks!) to go shopping at Zurbaran, or to my Pop’s office on San Marcelino Street in Manila to play tennis, before checking out the new goodies at Rustan’s, which was just a couple of blocks down that road. Of course, this was a time when the Metro was still pretty clean, and traffic was not yet the nightmare that it has become.

In the ’80s I rode the jeepney from Del Monte Avenue in Quezon City—just a five-minute walk from where the family used to live—to De La Salle University on Taft Avenue in Manila for my college classes. And the ride took a mere 30 minutes!

So you can say I’m pretty much “self-sufficient” in terms of moving around the Metro—and having a boyfriend with a car is just one of those bonuses of being in a relationship...ut not a necessity. To this day, I generally travel around in cabs—I am a long-time suki at R&E—or via rail. (When traveling by way of the MRT, it helps to be in a New York state of mind.)

But since my Pop passed away last year, I’ve been saddled with his car. It is in dealing with this monstrosity that I find myself at a loss and sometimes missing having a man. I just don’t understand cars or how they work.

When I’m in traffic, I’m the one who’ll say, “That’s a cute red car,” when men would probably remark, “That’s a fierce Jag” before proceeding to discuss and dissect the thing for its speed, maneuverability, etc. I can discuss with men rather exhaustively why a Mac is better than the PC, but my brain will automatically switch off when talk turns to comparing a Honda with a Toyota. To me, a car is a car is a car.

My friends have been egging me to use Pop’s car, saying that because I’m malakas ang loob, I can do it. Some of them think I’m afraid to drive, which is not the case. I even have two A1 driving certificates and a current driver’s license to prove I can drive. I just don’t like manual transmission. It is tedious to shift gears, not to mention look for a parking slot. I would rather drive an automatic, and I’m toying with the idea of buying one just to drive Mama around. Personally, I don’t need it. Why would I want to stress myself sitting in a traffic jam, or worrying that when I come out of the mall my car would no longer be where I had parked it?

And now Pop’s car has died on us from lack of use. My sister’s driver, who first took a look at it, said it was the battery. But when he tested it, the battery worked fine on his car. Then I find out the car doesn’t have a carburetor like most cars, but a fuel-injection system (not that I know what a carburetor even looks like). I mean WTF?!?! What the hell does a fuel-injection system look like?

So our electrician-cum-mechanic discerned, with some divine intervention I suppose, that the fuel pump was not working daw. He dismantled it for us to bring to the car dealer where Pop had bought the car. I had enough sense to ask the sales guy there to have the thing checked first to see if it’s actually working or not, before dropping P8,500 in the car dealer’s cash register for a new one.

When the sales guy returned, he said it might not be the fuel pump after all, as it was working okay. He had the general look of pity of most men talking to women who don’t know cars. He said something else might be wrong with the car that activates the pump to bring fuel to the engine. I could hear him speaking but my eyes glazed over, and I couldn’t focus on what he was saying. Sigh. I could really use a boyfriend right now.

So now I’m waiting around for another friend’s mechanic to come around to really get a good look at that blasted car. I will probably end up agreeing with everything the mechanic says, and buy whatever he wants me to buy for the car, because I wouldn’t have a clue about anything coming from his mouth anyway. I can only hope that this mechanic would have more credibility than our electrician, as he is trusted by a guy-friend who is into the whole car thing.

Sure, I enjoy being a girl, but there are just days when I realize that I can’t do everything.

***(Boyfriend applications will be accepted at stella_arnaldo@hotmail.com. You must be at least 18 years old to apply. This is a short-term gig...until the damned car gets fixed.)

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

June 29, 2008


CONTINUING my tirade about Asian Spirit, I really had high hopes for this airline, which in the past, had merely suffered from the lack of proper marketing support and strategy. I had so believed in the leadership and abilities of its new owner, Zest-O king Alfredo Yao, who became my idol especially after interviewing him, and finding out how much he had struggled to become the success that he is today. I was amazed at how humble he still remained, despite his fame and fortune.

What was memorable in that interview was his response to my question on advice he could give to new entrepreneurs. This is what he said:
“If you’re just starting in business, get out of your comfort zone. Being an entrepreneur is really hard work in the beginning. Keep your focus. But more than anything, you must take care to earn the respect of your colleagues and suppliers. You can only do this by having word of honor in any transaction. Success doesn’t come overnight, but by being decent and honest in all your dealings, it will help you in the long run. By word of mouth, people will know you. ’Pag sinabi mong magbabayad ka ng utang, for example, magbayad ka. It is sad that nowadays, this trait, of being trustworthy or having word of honor, has slowly disappeared.(See Look to the Sky, BusinessMirror, May 7, 2008)

I find it really hysterical for him to say something like that and completely do the opposite...e.g. miss payment again on his carrier's insurance premium, after he himself committed to pay Prudential Guarantee by a certain deadline. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I dunno about you, but I am certainly disillusioned and puzzled by Mr. Yao's behavior.

June 28, 2008

More Bushwacking...and finally the video!

Read Ninotchka Rosca on U.S. President's George W. Bush's "compliment" to Filipino-Americans. I suggest you also click on the Huffpost link to read the comments...they made me laugh when I read them last week. Count your blessings nalang that the presidentita isn't this stupid...matapang lang ang botox kaya hindi mukang sincere ang "I am sorry" speech nya before.

It’s the most popular item on the HuffPost, with nearly 200,000 viewers and nearly 1,500 comments, most expressing astonishment at what George W. said to Gloria Mac-Arroyo, de facto president to de facto president. He said “First, I want to tell you how proud I am to be the President of a nation that -- in which there's a lot of Philippine-Americans. They love America and they love their heritage. And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House.” And then added: “And the chef is a great person and a really good cook, by the way, Madam President. “

I wish she’d replied, with a smile, “thanks and General Taguba was no pushover either” or “I hope she serves you dinuguan” or “have you checked on your dogs lately?” But she sat there like stone, muttering “thank you” as George W. Bush stereotyped her and her entire nation.

Oich! To discern ethnic stereotyping can be difficult, especially if one has had little experience with racism. In my early months in New York, a guest at a dinner given in my honor started telling me about her maid in Italy. This guest was Rome bureau head of a mega news magazine and she had a “Filipino maid” who was, as she put it, a “good person” but who had started pilfering small items. Embarrassed, I vacillated between allegiance to my compatriot (how much was this news great paying her?) and being polite, per Catholic nuns' instruction. Fortunately, my host returned from the kitchen, asked what we were talking about, gave me a swift glance, and started shouting at her guest: “Why are you telling her this? She’s a journalist and a writer. What’s she got to do with maids? With your maid?”

The Rome bureau head stuttered, turned red and said, “I just thought…” My host snapped: “Well, you just stop that thought right now!” (The rest at Ninotchka Rosca's blog.)

* * * *

Thanks to Youtube, we now have that video of Bush's bufoonery, with our dear presidentita tickled pink, giggling offcam. Barf!

And a gem of a response...LOL

June 27, 2008

Feng shui and Sulpicio Lines

CHINESE families in the Philippines continue, to this day, believe in geomancy or feng shui, to help them ensure luck and prosperity in their lives and their businesses.

I remember Joseph Chau of Mandarin Oriental, whom I met sometime in 2001 or 2002 while making pahula in the lobby of the Pan Pacific Hotel in Malate (he was a devotee of Aling Puring Alvior then), telling me that Sulpicio Lines was one of those transport businesses which had their logo redesigned to ward off the bad luck that seemed to be hounding them.

By then, Sulpicio Lines had already figured in three major maritime disasters — the sinking of M/V Doña Paz in 1987 (death toll: 4,000); M/V Doña Marilyn in 1988 (death toll: 77); and M/V Princess of the Orient in 1998 (death toll: 70, and 88 still missing).

I am no longer sure if it was Joseph who redesigned Sulpicio Lines' logo or it was someone else (his Mandarin O. predecessor perhaps the late Paul Lau?) but by the time I met Joseph, the shipping line was already sporting the new logo using the more modern yellow-green "S" enclosed in a circle with a yellow background looking like the sun. (Sorry I can no longer find the old logo online.)

The new logo seems to have worked for Sulpicio Lines as it didn't figure out in any more disasters since its M/V Princess of the Orient sank near Fortune Island in Batangas in 1998. Then last week, or 10 years after its last mishap, it's M/V Princess of the Star sank off Romblon amid stormy weather. (As of June 27, newspapers reported 124 confirmed dead and 56 surivors. The ship was carrying 862 passengers.)

Which goes to show, that no matter how much you believe in geomancy, human error and frailty will negate every positive vibe the feng shui was supposed to have engedered. (Then again I find it queer that Sulpicio Lines' luck seems to run out every 10 years or so...hmmm.)

* * * *

WELL, well, what's this I hear? Another transport company just had their offices blessed and feng shui'ed last Wednesday, June 25, 2008.

According to my sources, Asian Spirit had a feng shui ceremony that day, which coincidentally, was the day the airline committed to pay the premium it owed its insurer, Prudential Guarantee. One of the quirky things that happened was during the blessing ceremony, all women who gave birth this year were told to leave the offices, as they are considered unlucky I suppose.

You would expect that all things would have gone well for Asian Spirit from then on. (If you recall, the airline had seriously jeopardized its passengers who flew on its planes from June 19-23, 2008, because the carrier had no insurance. See my earlier blog entries.)

Sorry to disappoint you feng shui believers out there. Because by the end of the day, AIG London, Prudential Guarantee's reinsurer, sent the airline a Notice of Cancellation of its insurance policy after...gasp! missing the deadline to pay Prudential! Ay anovayan Ambassador Yao!

Of course, by next morning, June 26, Prudential Guarantee was paid. Pero sa true lang, ano pa ang silbi ng feng shui kung inefficient naman ang management ng airline na ito? To think nag-PR pa sila saying they were mounting "mercy flights" to Kalibo, Aklan, and San Jose, Antique, ferrying relief goods for the victims of Typhoon Frank. Tsk, tsk. Bilib na sana ako pero...wa din.

Attention Director Carmelo Arcilla of the Civil Aeronautics Board...hoy gising!

Call for donations

Received the following text message from my friend Jonathan Peñaloza, owner of Two Seasons Resort in Boracay:

Hi Friends,

We have a truck scheduled to leave for Caticlan this Tuesday carrying relief goods for the typhoon victims in Kalibo, Aklan. If you wish to help, pls. send used clothes, food, bottled water, etc. to the Two Seasons office – 132-A. Bayani St. cor. Araneta Ave., Quezon City. (We'll be open this Sunday for this purpose.)

Pls. pass. Thanks.

How to forward mail properly

MY old friend Gerry Kaimo sent this to our email group, it's about forwarding email properly. Pls. read (and forward hehe).

This post is especially dedicated to those who are so pig-headed about following proper email etiquette. Kahit ilang beses mo sabihin how to forward email, paulit-ulit pa rin gagawin ang mali! Hay.

Now read!
* * * *

Do you really know how to forward e-mails? 50% of us do; 50% DO NOT.

Do you wonder why you get viruses or junk mail? Do you hate it?

Every time you forward an e-mail there is information left over from the people who got the message before you, namely their e-mail addresses and names. As the messages get forwarded along, the list of addresses builds, and builds, and builds, and all it takes is for some poor sap to get a virus, and his or her computer can send that virus to every E-mail address that has come across his computer. Or, someone can take all of those addresses and sell them or send junk mail to them in the hopes that you will go to the site and he will make five cents for each hit. That's right, all of that inconvenience over a nickel! How do you stop it? Well, there are several easy steps.

Try the following if you haven't done it before:

(1) When you forward an e-mail, DELETE all of the other addresses that appear in the body of the message (at the top). That's right, DELETE them. Highlight them and delete them, backspace them, cut them, whatever it is you know how to do. It only takes a second. You MUST click the "Forward" button first and then you will have full editing capabilities against the body and headers of the message. If you don't click on "Forward" first, you won't be able to edit the message at all.

(2) Whenever you send an e-mail to more than one person, DO NOT use the To: or Cc: fields for adding e-mail addresses. Always use the BCC:(blind carbon copy) field for listing the e-mail addresses. This is the way the people you send to will only see their own e-mail address. If you don't see your BCC: option click on where it says To: and your address list will appear. Highlight the address and choose BCC: and that's it, it's that easy. When you send to BCC: your message will automatically say "Undisclosed Recipients in the "TO:" field of the people who receive it.

(3) Remove any "FW :" in the subject line. You can re-name the subject if you wish or even fix spelling.

(4) ALWAYS hit your Forward button from the actual e-mail you are reading Ever get those e-mails that you have to open 10 pages to read the one page with the information on it? By Forwarding from the actual page you wish someone to view, you stop them from having to open many e-mails just to see what you sent.

(5) Have you ever gotten an email that is a petition? It states a position and asks you to add your name and address and to forward it to 10 or 15 people or your entire address book. The email can be forwarded on and on and can collect thousands of names and email addresses. A FACT: The completed petition is actually worth a couple of bucks to a professional spammer because of the wealth of valid names and email addressescontained therein. DO NOT put your email address of any petition. If you want to support the petition, send it as your own personal letter to the intended recipient. Your position may carry more weight as a personal letter than a laundry
list of names and email address on a petition. (And don't believe the ones that say that the email is being traced, it just ain't so!)

Some of the other emails to delete and not forward are:

1. The one that says something like, "Send this email to 10 people and you'll see something great run across your screen." Or sometimes they'll just tease you by saying 'something really cute will happen.' IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!!!! (We are still seeing some of the same emails that we waited on 10 years ago!)

2. I don't let the bad luck ones scare me either, they get trashed.

3. Before you forward an 'Amber Alert' , or a 'Virus Alert', or some of the other emails floating around nowadays, check them out before you forward them. Most of them are junk mail that's been circling the net for YEARS! Just about everything you receive in an email that is in question can be checked out a Snopes. Just go to www.snopes.com. It's really easy to find out if it's real or not. If it's not, please don't pass it on.

So please, in the future, let's stop the junk mail and the viruses.

Finally, here's an idea!!! Let's send this to everyone we know (but strip my address off first, please). This is something that SHOULD BE forwarded, so do it.

Thanks for reading and helping the spammers starve!

June 26, 2008

Inefficiencies in civil aviation regulations

Whew! Airline insurer back

FLAG carrier Asian Spirit is once more insured by Prudential Guarantee and Assurance Inc., this after the airline revoked its appointment of an insurance broker and committed to settle the carrier’s premiums Wednesday, June 25.

In a letter addressed to Lucio Fernandez, vice president for aviation and marine of Prudential Guarantee, dated June 23, 2008, and received by Prudential at 7:23 p.m., Asian Spirit chief finance officer Albert Toribio said: “After a careful evaluation of the situation, I have decided to revoke the appointment I made in favor of Empire Insurance Co., as exclusive broker of record.

“I hope this letter will set the record straight that we have never rescinded the existing insurance covering our aircraft with your company. It is our desire to continue to preserve our harmonious relationship.”

In his letter, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, Toribio added: “As regards to our premium payment for the 2nd Quarter, we will make remittances by Wednesday.” (Read the rest here.)

Click this to read the letter: File0303.PDF

* * * *

I used to love riding Asian Spirit.

Despite the minor irritants like sales agents eating instant mami while serving passengers buying tickets at the Express ticketing office or slight confusions in our bookings, its flights were hardly delayed, except for one or two incidents I know of. A friend of mine waited hours in the Caticlan airport on her way back to Manila, but airline personnel never even bothered to announce the flight delay. But I loved the jet service to Caticlan which was the fastest among other carriers serving the same route from Manila.

In all my years riding the airline and writing about the aviation industry, not once did Asian Spirit, to my knowledge, miss out on paying its insurer, nor flown its planes without being covered by an insurance policy. The old management also made sure that, so there would be no problems in case of accidents, their planes were all insured to about $500,000 per quarter.

So it comes to my surprise that the carrier, now under new management, was brazen enough to fly without insurance coverage from June 19-23, 2008, and the situation would have continued, if only we didn't find them out. Imagine if anything happened last week? Who would pay for the damages or claims of the victims? Ang scary naman ha!

(Amb. Fred Yao, fruit juice king, banker, and now Asian Spirit owner.)

What's even more irritating is talking to airline officials who are obviously lying and make it appear that all is well. To ascribe everything to just a case of "misunderstanding" is too simplistic. Airline officials had to wait for five days before rectifying the said "misunderstanding". And thanks to its owner, Ambassador Alfredo Yao, the problem was settled. Imagine having your company owner come to your rescue because of your stupidity? Duh.

Then you have the clueless and lax monitoring system of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

When I asked CAB, why despite the expired insurance contract filed with them for Asian Spirit (Feb. 07-08), the agency didn't have a new one on file, the person-in-charge I spoke to said the airline had until June 30 to submit reportorial requirements including new contracts. So for all we know, the carrier had been flying without any insurance since March 1, 2008! I mean how would the CAB know that our airlines are all covered by insurance policies if it doesn't ask for those contracts? Sheer faith?

Oh c'mon! When we have lives and properties at stake, you make sure you have proof that the airlines are in fact, insured! How dare the CAB toy with the lives of the flying public?!

Amid the tragedy of Sulpicio Lines and what appears to be some negligence on the part of the Coast Guard, now arises questions on just how strict are our regulatory bodies in the air transport sector.

If you remember, our country has already been deemed a flight risk by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority, which downgraded our airports to Category 2, because of insufficient air transport personnel, inefficient monitoring systems, and lack of proper regulations and implementation. No wonder. These agencies can't even be trusted to make sure our airlines fly with insurance!

So is CAB going to fine Asian Spirit for flying without insurance for five days? You know the answer kids. And I'm not liking it all!

June 25, 2008

And amid Typhoon Frank's devastation...

...here's another trite exchange between U.S. President George Bush and our very own presidentita. (Paging hubby Jon Stewart! Let's see this one on The Daily Show.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Madam President, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to the Oval Office. We have just had a very constructive dialogue. First, I want to tell you how proud I am to be the President of a nation that -- in which there's a lot of Philippine-Americans. They love America and they love their heritage. And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House. (Laughter.)

President George W. Bush welcomes President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Republic of the Philippines to the Oval Office Tuesday, June 24, 2008, at the White House. The President expressed deep condolences for those affected by Typhoon Fengshen saying, "We, the American people, care about the human suffering that's taking place, and we send our prayers."


PRESIDENT BUSH: And the chef is a great person and a really good cook, by the way, Madam President.

PRESIDENT ARROYO: Thank you. (More here)

Watch the video. Katakot tumawa ang lola nyo. Kiliting-kiliti sa sinabi ni lameduck president.

And what totally inappropriate wardrobe! A lot of people died in the wake of Typhoon Frank, and yet she is dressed in red! Anovayan! Of course, it just so happens that that's the only color that suits her. Being short, she needs to stand out. But really...how lacking in sensitivity to what has happened back here.

Sa true lang, what's the purpose of this visit to George Bush? Mega-junket ng katakot-takot!

For sure nagsipsip ang lola nyo ke Obama and McCain. Just trying to make sure we have U.S. support whoever wins in November.

At baka me side trip to visit Joc-joc Bolante. Hingi ng cut pa nya at kulang. After all, we hear Joc-joc has sold (or is selling) his house in Alabang and all his cars. Tsk, tsk. He isn't planning to come back here that's for sure.

Kainez these people!

(Will post the video as soon as I figure out how. Stay tuned.)

June 24, 2008

Asian Spirit flying without insurance

(Photo from Boracay Budget Travel Tips)

Asian Spirit, the carrier of businessman/banker Alfredo Yao, is flying amid questions about its insurance cover.

A source at Prudential Guarantee and Assurance Inc. confirmed that it is no longer the airline’s insurer as of June 18.

A check with the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) shows, however, that Asian Spirit has not submitted any new filing to show any change in its insurance company.

An official of Prudential Guarantee said Asian Spirit has “no insurance at the moment…. Asian Spirit has rescinded the policy of Prudential by declaring that it is no longer their authorized insurance company.” The official who requested anonymity said an airline insurance policy usually is contracted annually, “so they [Asian Spirit], pre-terminated their insurance [with Prudential].”

The official made this statement in reference to a letter written by Asian Spirit chief finance officer Albert S. Toribio entitled “Appointment-Sole & Exclusive Broker on Record” on June 18, a copy of which was obtained by BusinessMirror, designating “Empire Insurance Co. Inc., as the exclusive insurance company of Asian Spirit for its Aviation, Hull & Liability, Deductible, War, Personal Accident and other aviation-related insurance requirements.”

Toribio added: “We also confirm our understanding that Empire Insurance Company Inc. has appointed Asian Reinsurance Brokers Pte. Ltd. as Empire Insurance Company Inc.’s exclusive Reinsurance Broker in London for Asian Spirit aviation insurance requirements.

“This appointment of Empire Insurance Company Inc. and Asia Reinsurance Brokers Pte. Ltd. rescinds all previous appointments until cancelled in writing.”

Following the letter of appointment of Toribio, Prudential Guarantee wrote Toribio on June 19, a copy of which was obtained by BusinessMirror, saying: “By your unilateral action of appointing another insurance company from the 18th of June 2008, you have in fact rescinded your insurance contract with Prudential Guarantee and Assurance Inc. and therefore there is no insurance policy in effect from the date of issuance of your letter.” (Read the rest here)

* * * *

Here are the pertinent documents I used as basis for this report, aside from my extensive interviews with officials of Prudential Guarantee, the CAB, Asian Spirit, Empire Insurance, and the Insurance Commission.

Rescision of Prudential Guarantee contract asian spirit rescision.pdf

Acknowledgement of Prudential Guarantee that it is no longer AS insurer File0291.PDF

June 23, 2008

A love story

I FIRST saw Carlos out of the corner of my eye, meekly following his boss who had come to bring some goodies for me and my staff at the office. I don’t remember now if his boss brought any press releases with her for my consideration, but nevertheless she took the opportunity to introduce her new assistant. Carlos turned out to be a quiet sort, very reserved and respectful. But right off the bat, we knew he was gay, even if he himself didn’t know it, or didn’t want to acknowledge it. As most people nowadays say it crudely, “Naamoy namin ang matris n’ya,” which really has no direct translation to English other than “we sniffed him out.”

More than a decade after that first meeting, Carlos tells me that during those days he really wasn’t yet that forthcoming to other people about his homosexuality. In fact, I distinctly remember that it was I who behaved “gay-ly” around him. Known as a fag hag and a babaeng bakla, I sometimes spoke to Carlos in the colorful language gays often use, and kidded around with him about so and so guy being yummy and all… until he would laugh and agree with me.

Perhaps that is what made our working relationship turn into a friendship. There didn’t have to be any long explanations. I just knew it, and he accepted that I knew it. So gradually, Carlos started confiding in me and talking to me about his relationships with other men.

Then, in the course of one rather lengthy conversation a few years ago, Carlos floored me by saying that he had just had dinner with his ex-girlfriend. I was like, WTF! A girlfriend?!?! He couldn’t help but giggle at my outrage but admitted that, yes, for about eight years he was in a relationship with a woman. RX was his first girlfriend, whom he had met in college, and he, in turn, was her first boyfriend.

Until Carlos, all my gay friends had already come out of the closet earlier on in their lives. But here was little Miss Reserved, in a long-term relationship with a woman lasting more than probably most marriages these days. I was totally stunned. “If I just had the money then, I would have probably married her,” he said.

The relationship began, he recalled, quite by accident. RX invited him to a dance that the association at her parents’ condo was holding. After that, they became a couple. There were no “I love yous” or any lengthy courtship. Carlos and RX just became an item right after that dance.

And they had sex. My stomach turned as Carlos opened up. When I try to joke around with my other gay friends about being with a woman, they all scrunch up their faces and say: Ewww! or Kadiri! But for Carlos: “Truly, sis, I actually got excited when I was with her. I really enjoyed kissing her, too.” He added that they would secretly do the nasty whenever they got the chance, especially when her parents weren’t at home. Which made me hysterical enough to retort that, probably, he was still a man and could still do “it” with another woman. Or that he probably swings both ways? The idea now revolts Carlos, though. “Tama na ’yan, sis. Tapos na ’yan.”

Despite being in that relationship with RX, Carlos confided that he did see other men on the side. Sometimes he would be approached while waiting for a ride, or in some theater watching a play. “But I never gave out my real name or my contact number to any of them. To me, it was just lust. I had to release my passion, and then I would feel guilty after being with a man. Kasi nga, I had a girlfriend,” he said.

Unlike my other gay friends who knew they were “different” than other boys as early as six to 10 years old, Carlos was pretty much a late bloomer. He started feeling attracted toward other boys when he was already in high school. “Even then, I still had crushes on girls.” He was confused, and I couldn’t blame him. There was Carlos, a Boy Scout, in a tent with another boy giving the latter head or getting one. But in school, he would be in a “love team” with a female classmate. This behavior went on even as he and RX dated.

But then one day, RX and Carlos went out to dinner. By then they were already working and well into their careers. At dinner, “she just told me that it was over,” Carlos recalled. He didn’t quite remember her exact words, except that they were eating vegetarian spaghetti and they were both crying. (Funny how we remember the food we ate at crucial moments in our lives, but never the exact details of the event itself.)

Just like that, they broke up. RX told him there was someone else—though they were not yet an item, the guy was pursuing her. Carlos mused that perhaps she also had gotten tired of waiting for him as he kept putting off their wedding plans. On hindsight, he said that while his financial situation was what kept him from marrying RX, it also could have been on account of his not being “ready to commit to such a relationship” given his attraction to other men.

In a way, that breakup turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both Carlos and RX. She eventually married the same guy who was courting her. And Carlos, after a year mourning his loss of RX, finally turned that corner into official gay-dom. “Talagang sunud-sunod na ang lalaki ko after that,” he joked.

Three years after their breakup, RX and Carlos finally had that dinner that had so taken me by surprise. By then RX was already married, and Carlos was already in a real relationship with his first boyfriend. Carlos said he finally came clean that night and told RX what had happened to him.

“She was surprised,” Carlos confided. She had no idea that he was playing for her team, although some of her friends would tease her mercilessly about her beau being probably gay, this largely on account of his apparent lack of interest to get married and start a family. “Of course, they had no proof because no one ever saw me with another man,” Carlos told me.

Last Christmas, he invited RX and her husband to the house for a get-together with old college friends. The couple now have a son who was born, coincidentally, on his birthday. “That’s why she will never forget me, sis!” he now says with apparent glee.

Carlos only has warm feelings for RX. “We’re both happy, sis,” he says. She with her family, and he with his latest love. “I am home,” referring to his relationship with his current love. “I am settled. And so is she.”

June 20, 2008

Road trips

BACK in the ’70s as I was growing up, I remember taking a lot of road trips with my family. Despite the energy crunch then, we would still go up to enjoy the chilly weather in Baguio City, travel to Dau, Pampanga, to buy PX goods, motor down to Tagaytay to enjoy the cool breeze and the fabulous view of Taal Volcano, or to Cavite and Batangas to swim in their once-clean beaches.

When I started working the agricultural beat in the late ’80s, there were also frequent land trips to as far as Ilocos Norte or down south to Quezon, as I tagged along with whoever was the Cabinet secretary then on his visits for chats with farmers and local officials, or check out whatever was the agency’s pet projects.

Land trips can be exhausting, especially if you ride the bus, and during my time it took almost 11 hours just to travel from the Quezon City bus terminal to Laoag. In between, there were only two bathroom breaks. (Of course, these days, most major provincial bus lines have restrooms onboard, and DVD players to keep passengers entertained.)

In the last couple of weeks, my friends and I have been going on road trips to the north and south of Manila, just near enough not to bust the gas budget or get enervated because of the slow-moving traffic. The trips have been a way for us to bond and, at the same time, marvel at what’s left of the remaining beauty of the Luzon countryside. (Click here for the rest.)

June 19, 2008

Cyd Charisse, 86

SHE'S dressed in a tight green Charleston strapless outfit her hair in a Chinadoll cut, a cigarette in a black thin holder dangling from forefinger and middle finger, and she's seated on a stool.

Her long shapely dancer legs so fabulous, as she kicks one straight up over head, Gene Kelly's hat on top of her foot shod in a green high heeled-pump. She teases Gene Kelly with those gorgeous gams and glides around him ever so sexily.

That is my all-time favorite scene, dubbed Broadway Melodies, in my all-time favorite movie musicale, Singin' in the Rain. Cyd Charisse was not an actress, she was a classical ballet-trained dancer, and yet she became as popular as many of her acting contemporaries.

She was my idol when I was very young. When I was still taking my ballet lessons, I would imagine growing up to be just like her...famous for her flirty and almost effortless dancing. And she could dance anything...classical ballet, swing, jazz, tap...she lived in the time when grand movie musicales were most in demand. It is my favorite Hollywood period as film studios churned out one hit after the other...Brigadoon (also starring Cyd btw), Silk Stockings (Cyd and Fred Astaire), West Side Story, Carousel, Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, etc.

Thank you Cyd Charisse, for giving us so much joy through your dancing. We have truly been blessed by your beauty and grace.

Click here for TIME's feature on Cyd Charisse's succesful Hollywood career.

Here's my other favorite scene in Singin' in the Rain.

June 18, 2008



Ms. Hoity Toity takes out her credit card and hands over to the waiter to pay for dinner with her ghelfrens in hotel restaurant. Waiter comes back and tells her the card has been declined. Ms. Hoity Toity tells waiter to repeat swiping again, but he comes back with the same report that the card has been declined.

Ms. Hoity Toity tells waiter: "That cannot be, we own the bank. Tawagan mo ang bangko." (Read the rest here)

"WE" own the bank? Josh ghel! You're so ilusyonada naman. Maybe it's your significant other who owns it, but not you?

And how sad you're paying with a credit card only despite owning said bank. Buti pa your ghelfren Ms. Locked in a Cabinet can afford to pay the bill in cold cash. O ha? Say mo?

Onga naman...kasi P4,300 lang ang
bill, nag-credit card pa...ay how poor!

Speaking of idiots...

"Ang aral po dito laging sinasabi hindi natin puwedeng i-exercise press freedom na malalagay ang [The lesson here is we can't exercise press freedom by putting] reporters or journalists in harm's way, na hawak ng terrorista or criminal elements." (Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon in PDI, June 18, 2008)

(AP Photo by Bullit Marquez, from www.daylife.com)

SO Razon is actually saying that it was Ces and her companions' fault that they got kidnapped?

The same can be said of all those other journalists who have been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, and their counterparts abroad, many of whom have been killed or maimed through the years by covering World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Middle East wars, the current war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and African civil wars. They too asked for it, because they were in "harm's way"?

This is another ignorant, short-sighted comment by a person supposedly in authority who ought to know better. Should we now fault all policemen and women for getting themselves killed on the job?

In the same manner, journalists go where the news is. It is OUR job. Ces and company went to Sulu to pursue a lead. Yes it was dangerous, and they knew this. But if all journalists just stay in the office, what news will the public get? So our front pages and headlines will be like that of Singapore's newspapers...recipes on how to make Chili Crab?! That is stupid!

Some people complain that maybe the Philippines has too much press freedom. Everything is put in the papers, even the brand of panties used by Binay's daughter (this was about a corruption allegation). But think about the time the country had no press freedom. I remember reading the Daily Express when I was young and all it had was press releases disguised as news on what Marcos did for the country. Later on we found out that his regime had been responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances. And he stole billions from the country's coffers. If we had press freedom then, I don't think Marcos would have lasted for 20 years. The citizens would have been protesting his assault on our liberties even much earlier than 1986.

Now that I am in the same profession, and have been in it for the past 15 years, I can say that I am proud to be part of it. It is a profession that tries to inform the public on matters that are important and vital to their lives. And we will keep doing so no matter the cost to us. I too have been in harm's way once, being threatened by powerful people but this didn't deter me from doing my job. If a journalist is afraid to go to the source of the news, talk to dangerous or powerful people, or being in "harm's way" just to get all the details of a brewing story, then he or she should just leave the profession.

(Or become a lifestyle and entertainment writer. No offense to my fellow lifestyle writers but we all know we have it easy, compared to Ces and her kind. We don't have to dodge bullets, only bad food. And yes, admittedly, the public will also get tired reading about terrorism all the time. They need to know where to get the best steak in town.)

One thing's for sure, despite Ces' kidnapping, other journalists will not stop going to Sulu to pursue their own leads and try to interview the Abu Sayyaf. They will keep doing so in the name of our profession and the public they serve. Bless them for going where we cannot.

Ces and companions freed

MANILA, Philippines--Kidnapped television reporter Ces Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo were freed Tuesday night, nine days after they were abducted in Sulu province.

Drilon and her companions are on their way to the Sulu provincial hospital for a medical check-up, dzMM radio reported.

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), confirmed the release of Drilon and her two companions but would not provide additional details.

"Ces, Jimmy, and Angelo are finally all free," ABS-CBN said in a statement. "We are thankful our prayers have been answered and our efforts rewarded." (Read the rest at Ces freed.)


I WAS waiting all day for news about Ces and her companions. It was scary that her Abu Sayyaf captors had given a noon deadline for ransom to be paid in exchange for their release. At the back of my mind, I thought these bandits would not be so stupid to execute their hostages because they need the publicity for their losing fight. But then again, killing innocent civilians is something they are used to.

The 12 noon deadline came and went, and by the late afternoon, the industry was abuzz with rumors that Ces and her companions would be freed. No one exactly knew when and how, but as we all know now, Sen. Loren Legarda had something to do with it. (Josh, and she makes sure everyone knows it!)

Still, I am glad Loren did what she could to get Ces and her companions released (although we will not hear the end of it 'til 2010). After all, she is some kind of honorary Muslim princess isn't she? Anyhoo, I know Ces is going to have one hell of a story to tell on TV. And I can't wait to watch it.

Welcome back, mader!

(And to all those idiots who were too early in texting the ransom-Meralco joke – your callousness truly astounds me – ngayon pwede 'nyo na pakalat ulit. Nakakatawa na sya.)

June 14, 2008

Change I believe in

Obama's Statement on Philippine Independence Day

Chicago, IL -- Senator Obama released the following statement today on Philippine Independence Day. "After hundreds of years of struggle for independence, the Filipino people declared their independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, and the first Philippine republic was born.

The Philippines has been a staunch partner of the United States through the Cold War and the war against terrorism. In part because of our shared history, we cannot ignore the fact that the Philippines continues to confront many difficult challenges, including persistent poverty, natural disasters, and political division. But as a nation rich in natural and human resources, with a proud legacy as the first democracy in Asia, the Philippines also holds great opportunities and hope for the future. An ongoing challenge of the 21st century will be to ensure that these opportunities to make a better life are open to all. I look forward to working with the Filipino people and their government, as part of the global community, to combat poverty and generate wealth, build healthy and educated communities, and change the odds for generations to come.”

"Particularly important to note on this day is the continuing struggle of Filipino World War II veterans to receive the veterans benefits they rightfully deserve. During World War II, Filipino and American troops fought bravely together under some of the most trying conditions suffered by any forces during that conflict, forging a historic bond between our two nations and their people. Filipinos displayed great courage alongside American soldiers at Bataan and Corregidor, only to be denied their just benefits by our government. The Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 would honor the service of all U.S. veterans, including these Filipino World War II heroes. The Senate passed this bill last April. I urge my colleagues in Congress to take note of this day to honor the heroic service of Filipino World War II veterans by finally turning this important legislation into law. (The rest here.)

O davah! Galeng-galeng naman ni Obama...making sipsip already to all the Pinoys in the U.S. in preparation for the November elections! E si Sen. McCain? Deadma sa RP Independence Day...and to think he is a WWII veteran who has visited the Philippines! Tsk, tsk, tsk...

Another proudly Pinoy moment

NEW Journey frontman Arnel Pineda interview with the band on CBS News Sunday Morning. Ang galing talaga ng Pinoy!

Joshkopow! Mala-last song syndrome na naman ako!

Why nuns have clear complexions

Something Like Life
June 13, 2008

(Sr. Mary Veritas – aka Rose Maipid – receives visitors, former journalism and PR colleagues on her birthday, at the Pink Sisters convent in Tagaytay.)

LAST Sunday, I tagged along with a couple of friends to Tagaytay to visit an old journalist colleague, Rose Maipid, who had entered the religious life by joining the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, commonly known as the Pink Sisters. Now called Sister Mary Veritas, Rose (I couldn’t help but still call her that) was flustered and excited to see a lot of her peers, friends and family who had come to celebrate her 39th birthday. This is only one of the few times in a year that a Pink Sister can chat and be with “outsiders,” although, technically, they cannot freely mingle with us. There was a steel slotted gate, which had a heavy padlock, that acted as a barrier between us and Rose. She, like the other nuns, can only receive visitors three times a year.

Before our visit, there was some discussion about what to bring her. Someone said she brought potato chips, nachos and some junk food for Rose once before. Another said she would bring coffee and tea. I didn’t know what to bring for Rose except my request for prayers. I wasn’t so sure that giving her chips and dips would make her happy because, I thought, since she had given up this materialistic world of ours, she would have no use for them.

Well, I was wrong. During her birthday feast, I saw Rose’s sister shove half a lechon through a small door in a wall, which Rose promptly took and brought to her fellow nuns. Hmmm… so the Pink Sisters are allowed to enjoy some nice treats, and I made a mental note to bring her various goodies next time. I guess, like many of us, the nuns, too, need a break from their life’s vocation, and are allowed to enjoy some pleasures of the outside world, however limited. I suppose praying for all of us lost souls and those in dire need of help from the Lord can also be mentally and physically exhausting.

So there we were with Rose, chatting with her, dishing the latest news and goings-on among her peers, as well as officials that she often interviewed when she was a reporter. But we were actually amazed that she knew much of the gossip that was going around our industry, and, like a good reporter, was asking us for confirmation. This made us wonder who was keeping her up-to-date with news of the outside world. Either that or she had a divine connection to the outside world through the Lord Jesus or Mama Mary. She knew exactly what kalokohan we were all up to.

(Sr. Mary Veritas fields birthday greetings/calls through a borrowed cellphone.)

Rose didn’t sound or look any different from how I remembered her. One of our friends who spoke to her via cell phone even wondered why she didn’t sound “motherly” (or should that be “sisterly”?). We all laughed at that because we all quickly realized that becoming a nun doesn’t mean changing one’s personality. Everything remains the same except for the inner self, which becomes more spiritual and Christ-like.

I knew Rose as a very competent business journalist, who then became an effective public-relations officer of a bank and an accomplished scuba diver. I remember the last time I saw her, she was shepherding our gaggly media group to yet another eating binge at Dampa that was just newly opened then. She was always the cheerful sort and very grounded, no airs at all, which was why I took to her. That and because she had also come from the same newspaper where I had started my journalism career.

But I never had any inkling that she was contemplating a life of solitude and prayer. According to our common friends, Rose always knew she was destined for some other life outside of the communications/journalism business. She had heard her calling even when she was a reporter. Perhaps she decided to remain in the outside world to gain the necessary experiences for her to serve the Holy Spirit better.

Rose’s becoming a scuba diver actually cemented the way for her eventual decision to enter the religious life some eight years ago. She told us she would often pray the Rosary as she reached the underwater grotto of the Virgin Mary during her dives in Anilao, Batangas. I imagine that seeing God’s creatures and that glorious palette of colors He had painted underwater must’ve left her in awe of His power, majesty and artistry. (I've felt the same way too whenever I went snorkeling, the last being in Palau where the coral reefs are just magnificent, bursting with marine life and the wildest colors.)

She went to many far-off places just to dive and was trying to earn her spurs as a dive master. But during one dive in Anilao, she and her group got lost. Rose took it as a sign from Him that becoming a dive master was not the life He wanted for her.

As a Pink Sister, Rose has given up her worldly possessions and ties to the outside world for a life “in perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Thus we offer intercessory prayer for the needs of all,” according to the congregation’s web site. The nuns who have already made their Perpetual Vows all wear a silver ring with a rose insignia to signify their dedication to the Holy Spirit.

“The rose color of our habits, which we wear in honor of the Holy Spirit, symbolizes our dedication to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. Evangelization and the sanctification of priests are particularly remembered in our life of prayer, which includes the singing of the Liturgy of the Hours [Divine Office] in choir,” the web site adds. Thus, at about 11:30 am in their Tagaytay chapel, one will see the sisters file out and kneel in their own pews, segregated from the public, and sing their prayers. It can be a very moving experience just listening to their heavenly voices.

(The Pink Sisters singing their noontime prayers at their Tagaytay chapel.)

Despite their cloistered life, the Pink Sisters are quite aware of what is going on in the real world. I was surprised to find out from the Mother Superior, for example, that the convent does have Internet access, although its use is normally reserved only for her and one other nun. She said they have to make regular contact with the other branches in other provinces (there are six in all in the Philippines) and other parts of the world, thus the need for the Internet access and e-mail facilities. I wanted to ask the Mother Superior if she watched videos on YouTube or chatted with the other Mother Superiors via instant messaging as well, but I was afraid she would whup me in the ass or use a stick to rap me on my knuckles, guilty Catholic schoolgirl that I am. But like I said, the congregation does have a web site where they also receive prayer requests, so these sisters are Internet-savvy.

And there was something about the Mother Superior that instantly endeared her to me. Aside from her very clear complexion, she just positively glowed. I couldn’t explain it, but apparently it was visible to all as my friends noticed it, too. There was a certain peace and serenity in her, although I could see some flashes of wit in her very kind and wise old face. Perhaps this is what a life of service to the Holy Spirit has made her. She is able to channel the Spirit to touch people just by her presence and her smile.

Next year, Rose is scheduled to say her Perpetual Vows. Although she has been a Pink Sister for eight years already, she says she can still leave the congregation if she wants to. In fact, she told us that when she received one of our friend’s rather longish letter, she was at a retreat. Then she woke up at midnight and realized how much she missed diving. I imagine that seeing all of her family and friends last Sunday was a poignant moment for Rose, as it reminded her of the people and the things she would miss should she decide to make that final commitment to the Holy Spirit.

So, as we said our good-byes, she asked for our prayers that she would be able to make it to her Perpetual Vows. Once she takes that final step, there would be no turning back for Rose. I made a silent prayer and wished her well before walking out the door.

***To know more about the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, or make prayer requests, you can visit the Adoration Sisters web site.

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

June 12, 2008

Ladies, this is what happens inside your body

PICKED this up from Chuvaness...actual photos of a woman ovulating:

"Shortly before the egg is released, enzymes break down the tissue in the mature follicle, a fluid-filled sac on the surface of the ovary that contains the egg. This prompts the formation of a reddish protrusion, and after a while a hole appears, from which the egg emerges, surrounded by support cells. It then enters a Fallopian tube, which carries it to the uterus." (More at newscientist.com and at BBC News)

Amazing isn't it?

The news embargo

WTF?!?! What is all this fuss about whether or not newspapers or news organizations should have respected the request of ABS-CBN News management for an embargo on the kidnapping of its broadcaster Ces Drilon and her crew?

Look, the issue was pretty simple and straightforward. ABS-CBN's Maria Ressa requested her colleagues not to print or broadcast the kidnapping story until 6 AM Tuesday because the network was trying to ensure the safety of its missing staff and to hopefully, secure their release.

I don't think ABS-CBN was stage-handling or "managing" the news, as some pseudo-journalists and talking heads are claiming, because there was really a clear and present danger that harm could have fallen on Ces and her crew. These talking heads claim the "public interest" was not served by withholding the news of the crew's abduction. What public interest? If I were an ordinary citizen, what could I have gained by knowing a day earlier, that the ABS-CBN news team was kidnapped? That Sulu isn't a safe place to travel to? Duh.

If I were still back in mainstream journalism and still an editor, I would've also acceded to Ressa's request, not just because Ces is a friend, but because it was the right thing to do. No doubt, the story was a big scoop for anyone who published it first. But at what cost? A scoop shouldn't mean endangering the safety of the news subject/s.

So I applaud those news organizations who respected the embargo, because of your decency and humanity.

* * * *

BTW, I would like to point out that in the business media, we routinely receive embargo requests from international donor agencies or multilateral banks regarding their reports which are released a day earlier than their press briefings. Granted that these reports aren't as big a story as a kidnapping of broadcaster, to us publishing them just the same could mean a front page or banner story (which does wonders to our ego, but very little on our salary might I add).

I don't remember a time that my colleagues and I have not granted such embargo requests. Although there have been cases in the past when wire reporters broke the embargo much to the disappointment of the requesting agency and our other colleagues. (The misbehavior of a handful of these wire reporters have been dealt with severely as stories are withheld from them, or they are treated virtually as pariahs by their colleagues.)

My point being, if we in the business media can respect embargo requests on stories like these, why can't our other colleagues do the same when lives are at stake? The choice is very clear, friends. And I'm glad that many in our industry made the right one.

June 10, 2008

Pls. pray for Ces Drilon's safety

COLLEAGUE and friend Ces Oreña Drilon is currently missing in Sulu along with her TV crew. May I ask for your prayers so they will come home safely.

Ces has always been one brave gal who is willing to face the risks to get a good scoop. This case is no exception. She knows being threatened or kidnapped are just som of the hazards of the profession. But I know her boys are missing her right now. While I know Ces to be a very dedicated journalist, she is also very devoted to her children.

To her captors, pls. release Ces and her crew now.

June 09, 2008

The cougar relationship

(This is the unabridged version of my column, Something Like Life, published on June 6, 2008, in the BusinessMirror.)

I WAS channel-surfing the other day and chanced upon another showbiz true stories-type of program, featuring the Top 25 Cougars in Hollywood. Guess who made to the top of the list? Of course, it was none other than Demi Moore.

Okay, wait a minute…to those who are still in the dark, a “cougar” is a term to describe older women dating or are married to younger men. How young? Well in Demi Moore’s case, her Ashton Kutcher is 15 years younger than her. (Hmmm…did Demi ever think that when she was starting to screw around, Ashton was just in his nappies sucking his thumb? Eww. Banish that thought! Just think how the thumbsucker turned out into the gorgeous hunk and drool.)

To most women over 40 who have a difficult time finding and maintaining relationships with men their age or older, Demi has come to symbolize the ideal woman. She looks fabulous for her age, has a great career, has grown-up and, as far as we can tell, well-behaved kids, a supportive ex-husband in the person of Bruce Willis, and obviously lots of great sex with Ashton. To top it off, Bruce gets along well with Ashton! What a fabulously satisfying life Demi must have and I personally envy her. I wish I had the guts to date someone younger than me.

Of course, a cougar relationship isn’t exactly smooth-sailing as Demi and Ashton would like us to believe. Especially in our culture, cougar relationships, a.k.a. May-December affairs, are still viewed somewhat negatively. They are viewed as either predatory (on the part of the women) or parasitical (on the part of the young men). This is especially true if the man and woman are not on equal footing financially or intellectually.

I remember my mom dissing an amiga of hers who was going out with a man half her age. I, of course, applauded my tita and jested that my mom was just envious about my tita’s good fortune. Inggit ka lang, noh?! (It is a scientific fact that as women reach their 30s and 40s, their testosterone levels get a boost, thus accounting for their increased libido. On the other hand, men at this age would rather head off to Dreamland. As one writer asks, if you had a choice between a thick juicy steak and beef jerky, what would you choose? Then again, sex may not necessarily be the only reason these supposed sugar mommas get into relationships with younger men.)

While a cougar coupling may not necessarily be bothered by what society thinks of them, the age factor may still become an issue simply because each belongs to a different generation that is reflected in one’s attitude, upbringing and behavior. (Imagine ladies talking about traveling with Capt. Kirk in the USS Enterprise or getting lost in the Twilight Zone, to a man who grew up watching Barney, that disgusting purple dinosaur on TV!) What is important is whether or not the couple can weather their differences that come with the age gap.

Take the case of Vanessa. She is 42 and a strong independent woman who has never had a problem attracting men. But among the men she has dated, there wasn’t anybody serious enough to ask her for marriage, although she already had made a trip down the aisle once before, and has two kids with her ex. Whenever we talk about men and relationships, she always tells me that she is tired of the dating game and wants to settle down.

Now enters Toby, a 30-year-old American whom she met in May 2006. “It was the oddest moment because we met at the time when I was venting on my friends, telling them about my failed date two nights before and swearing that I would never date anymore. They told me not give up and that I would find the right man. Then they recommended Toby, who at that time was sitting at the bar next to us. And I said, ‘Him? How old is he? Twelve?’”

Vanessa says that she found Toby cute but she was more into men her age or someone older. “So at first I wasn’t interested. But I ran into him a couple of times. And as I got to know him, I realized how mature he is.”

As she got to know Toby more, she found out how many things they had in common. “He’s so cool. Bohemian like me. He’s a Renaissance man. We share the same interests: literature, non-mainstream music and films.” Calling Toby a “musicologist,” Vanessa says she has learned a lot about artists from him. She adds that she had never dated anyone who appreciates foreign films like her.

“Plus,” she rattles off, “he’s very open-minded, very interested in learning new things, very interested in my culture. He’s a modern man; he doesn’t expect his Asian woman to be subservient. He believes in equal opportunity in the kitchen. He’s from New Orleans and knows how to cook great dishes!!!”

After going steady for about two years, earlier this year Toby finally popped the big question. Vanessa excitedly announced it via e-mail and said she had gotten engaged. A few weeks after, the engagement was off. “What happened?!” I asked. She gave a cryptic answer about the age gap and the many issues that came with it.

Vanessa admits it was she who was more concerned about the age gap than Toby. “I was very cautious because of it. I wasn’t investing in the relationship too much because I thought he was still in the process of exploring life and that one day he would decide to go out with a 20-year-old bimbo. But as the months went by, I realized that I was underestimating him and that I was making a big deal out of the age gap for no reason.”

She realized how very serious he was about their relationship when she came home to Manila for a visit to spend time with her teenage children. “He said he wanted to come and meet them. That blew me away. I always told myself that the guy who wanted to meet my children would be ‘The One.’ And that’s Toby.”

Her kids fell in love with Toby immediately, especially her older son. “They talk about technology, which leaves me out of the conversation,” Vanessa jokingly gripes.

Two months ago, Toby again visited when Vanessa came for a visit. She is excited and says the engagement is back on and they are “making big plans this year.” I am, of course, keeping my fingers crossed that these plans push through.

“I realize that the age gap is all in the mind,” Vanessa says. “They’re just numbers with no relevance in the relationship. As long as you get along well and you have a mental and intellectual alignment, ‘cougar’ relationships can actually work.”

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

June 08, 2008

The beginning was great...

...then it was downhill all the way.

I am referring particularly to the valedictory speech of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton this morning in Washington. She started off with a joke, saying, "Well, this isn't exactly the party I'd planned, but I sure like the company." Then proceeded to thank every Tom, Dick, and Harriet she could think of ("And to all of those women in their 80s and their 90s..." josh ko 'day!), which made me switch back to Tim Gunn's Guide to Style.

Then she goes on to pat herself on the back, for fighting a good fight, put in a few plugs about her pet program – universal health care – then finally gets to the meat of the matter...her endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama as Democratic Party presidential candidate. I just noticed, however, how she punctuated her sentences and stressed each word in the portions where she talked about herself adoringly, but in the portions where she endorses Obama and underscores his accomplishments, she just rushes through them, flat without emotion. Walang kagana-gana.

Of course, she's hurting because she lost the nomination. And yes, I cannot take away the fact that she fought the good fight and almost made it as the first female presidential candidate of the U.S. (I doubt though if she would have beaten Sen. John McCain.) But in her speech, she couldn't be more obvious about her disappointment at not reaching her goal...so she kept on lifting herself up. Nagbubuhat ng sariling bangko, as we say in these parts.

It seemed as if she was sending a mixed message to her supporters, underscoring how difficult it will be to campaign to get Obama into the White House. I dunno, maybe I was just reading too much into her lack of enthusiasm in her endorsement. I sure hope to God Obama doesn't choose her as his running mate. Di sila bagay talaga. She will emasculate him. Moreso, that her husband Bill CIinton, the former U.S. President, is going to be around...it's going to be a very crowded White House if that happens.

Speaking of Bill, the last Democrat who occupied the White House, he looked visibly disappointed by the result of the caucuses. He couldn't hide his dismay, unlike daughter Chelsea, who looked genuinely relieved and happy over the outcome. While watching Hillary's speech on CNN and observing her husband's body language, I couldn't help but think that he was in the dumps because having Hillary at home meant less booty-call time for him...haha. Or perhaps Hillary already gave him a lickin'. After all, he did make a few enemies along the campaign trail, him being a loose cannon and all, which is one of the reasons she lost the nomination.

Anyhoo, all eyes will be on the November elections. It's going to be an exciting time in the U.S.

June 06, 2008

Pwede ba'ng mag-react?

Foreign businessmen told 'behave or get out' of Philippines
Agence France-Presse/PDI
First Posted 17:45:00 06/06/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Foreign businessmen were warned Friday to "get out" of the Philippines if they don't like how business is done here after overseas commerce groups questioned proposed changes to electricity law.

Representatives from six foreign chambers of commerce were called to the Senate to explain why they wrote a joint letter to President Gloria Arroyo last month over reforms to the power sector.

"To them I say the hell with you, get out of this country. Enough is enough," a visibly angry Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said, after addressing the heads of the business groups. (Click here for the rest.)

ANG kapal!

Truly, madly, deeply...the nerve of this has-been senator to tell foreign businesses to get out of the Philippines. If they leave, will your JAKA save the economy? E ang dami nyo na ngang utang di mabayaran e! Nauubos na ang mga puno sa kagagawa nyo ng posporo noh? Di pa matapos-tapos ang Splendido golf and country club project n'yo? Why kaya? You couldn't get any foreign businessmen to invest in that project? I don't blame them.

When have the foreign business groups not been vocal about government policies? Under each President we have had, they've given their two cents worth. Suggestion lang pow! E kung ayaw nyo, h'wag nyo! Every President has always also consulted foreign business groups for certain policy concerns, or for advice on economic matters. So what's eating JPE? Now, these groups feel strongly about the proposed EPIRA changes, and are speaking up. Last time I looked, we're still a democracy and we listen to all points of view. No one is forcing the government/the presidentita to follow what they ask. All they want is to be heard.

So that scolding by JPE is totally uncalled for. Very undiplomatic behavior from a supposed distinguished member of the Senate. Pwede ba, mag-retire na ang mga senile at mga buang (you know who you are) jan sa Senado! Wala naman kayong ginawa kundi mag-ingay ng wala sa lugar e. It's politicians like you who keep this country backward!

Yay for Obama! MAR and CHIZ in 2010

WHEW! It took the Democratic Party a long time to decide this, but you must admire the political process in the U.S., despite the lengthy number of caucauses, the process left very little room to doubt who was the best person for the position as presidential candidate of the party. (Compare that to here in the Philippines where anyone who wants to run for President, can run despite the lack of the right credentials, education, even intelligence. Basta marunong sumayaw, kumanta, at mag-joke, uubra na. Hay!

* * *

Anyhoo, I like Barack Obama. I think he is a refreshing change (that word again) from the string of presidential hopefuls who've arisen in the last few decades in the U.S. He has both street cred and Beltway cred. He represents everything that is possible in the U.S., that anyone can make it, no matter what race you belong to, as long as one works hard and gives it his/her best.

Sure Hillary Clinton is an accomplished woman too, but it was pretty obvious that she would do anything to get herself elected...even wish Obama dead. (Remember the faux pas on the RFK comparison?) She reminded me so much of the presidentita...so determined to become president just because.

W/c is what eventually turned off a lot of the superdelegates in the Democratic Party...they saw Hillary was willing to sacrifice party unity for the sake of herself. And now, she wants to be VP to Obama. Ang kapal talaga grabeh! It was her own ego that ruined it for her. Lolah, if it ain't your time, don't force the issue. Go back to the Senate where you belong!

While Obama isn't exactly the most perfect candidate ever, it is pretty obvious that he has the heart. He has the sincerity. He wants to run for President because he really thinks he can make a difference. Can Hillary say the same for herself?

* * *

The November presidential elections in the U.S. is only five months away, and already signs are pointing to a stronger dollar. Even local economists are saying that if Democrats win, there is a chance that the U.S. economy will make a turnaround, and this can only impact on the sputtering world economy. Even here in the Philippines, we will see the effects of a Democrat win, in terms of more exports, and a depreciated peso which will help the families of OFWs.

But more than the economy, I think the U.S. elections will be another vote on the Iraq War. Americans want to get out of it. And they will trust someone who voted against going to war in the first place. So I predict an overwhelming Obama win agains GOP candidate Sen. John McCain. The U.S. needs to get its self-respect back.

The November elections will be the most widely anticipated new event of the year. And I'm keeping my eyes glued to CNN.

* * *

(MAR and CHIZ, the team to beat in 2010)

Back in our neck of the woods, my favorite manghuhula is saying that so far, no one can hold up a candle to MAR Roxas in 2010. While he is a tough sell because of his de buena familia roots w/c the masa will have a difficult time to relate to, he will still win the presidency against say, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, even Ping Lacson.

And while there are many people already jockeying for the position as MAR's VP – two of them being former Senator Joey Lina and also Sen. Loren Legarda –Aling Chona says the best VP for MAR is Chiz Escudero. According to her, Chiz will be able to make MAR accessible to the masses, because of his friendly personality, his fluency in Filipino, and his intelligence which does not turn off people, like some intellectuals do (including MAR).

Although it seems this team-up is an impossibility (MAR is from the Liberal Party, while Chiz is from the Nationalista Party/UNO), I trust the political old hands in both parties will see the wisdom in joining forces. It is time for the youth to take over the reins of political power in this country and show the disenfranchised among the voters that there is hope after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and traditional politics.

To Joey Lina, Aling Chona says, matulog ka nalang. To Loren, stay in the Senate. Ping, while he would make a good VP to MAR as well, will not want to consider this lower position at all...sayang!

As for the question on whether MAR and his ghelfren will get married...secret! I won't tell.

Btw, Aling Chona advises MAR to smile more often. It will make you look more friendly. Masyado kang serious noh? C'mon MAR show off those pearly whites!

* * *

Oh yeah, there is going to be a 2010 election, according to Aling Chona. That's the good news. The bad news is...the presidentita will stay in power 'til then. (Do I hear booing amongst you?)

It is just the presidentita's fate. She was meant to be the Chief Executive of this great land of ours (it doesn't matter whether she did it legitimately or not), and has the steely determination to remain in power. But she is tired as well. So the likelihood of the presidentita doing a Marcos or changing the Constitution to keep her in power after 2010, is dim. Pagod na ang lolah nyo, people.

Ang masasabi ko lang...AMEN!

(To the politicos who want to know their fate in 2010, Aling Chona is available for readings at Palmistry, 2nd Floor of the V-Mall (formerly Virra Mall), Greenhills Shopping Center.)

Eco 101

AS predicted earlier, interest rates are on their way up.

With too much pressure on consumer prices to rise (it hit 9.6% in May), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (central bank) had to hike its key overnight rates by 25 basis points in its Monetary Board meeting yesterday.
According to the BSP Gov. Say Tetangco:

“The Monetary Board believes that there are already indications that supply-driven pressures are beginning to feed into demand.

“Core inflation as of May 2008 has reached its highest level since April 2006.

“Recent business- and consumer- confidence surveys also indicate an upward shift in inflation expectations, coinciding with increased term spreads on government securities and higher secondary-market rates.”

Wading through all that gobbledygook, what the Gov is particularly referring to is the rice supply-demand situation. Because rice seems to be in short supply, it has not been keeping up with the increased demand of the population. Rice, makes up about 50% of the so-called food basket that is measured for inflation rate. And since the food basket constitutes the bulk of the inflation rate, any price movement there will make inflation rise or fall as well.

Also, the massive budget deficit of the government means it doesn't have enough money to fund its operations. Thus, it has to borrow more from the banks via Treasury Bills, notes, bonds which are government securities. In one T-bill auction last month, the one-year T-bill was up at 6.915% from 5.993%, which means banks see a grim inflation outlook.

What this all means is that, yes, believe your wife when she tells you that the prices in the grocery and supermarket are rising. Give her a bigger budget. But tell her to cut down on the non-essentials like the kids' junk food, the sodas, and dining out. (To my restaurateur friends, I apologize for this bit of advice, but the economy is really in for the long haul, and unless you provide value-for-money dishes, you will go through this rough patch as well.)

Postpone purchases made on your credit card or personal loan. Because if interest rates are up, bank lending rates will rise as well.

But all is not lost! You can use this period of instability to your advantage.

Because interest rates are rising, it will be worthwhile to invest again in government securities. Set aside those monies meant for the junk food, colas, beer, and tobacco into an investment fund. Talk to your banker and see what high-yielding government securities and deposit accounts he can offer you. It's time to get back to those time deposits, 5-year tax-free deposit accounts, and commercial debt papers (just check on the company's credentials first).

As a matter of personal choice, I stay away from the mutual funds and UITFs, because I don't want to check on these investments everyday. And mind you, if you have such funds, you have to monitor them closely.

SAVE! I'm sure this will not sit well with businesses because what they need right now is for people to spend to keep the economy going. Well, I'm not against spending, and I'm actually one of those people who can't help but eat out and try a new restaurant. But I think this is a good time to learn the value of saving or prudent spending. It's okay to spend, but as they say, do it wisely.