October 29, 2008

Barack o'lanterns

COOLNESS, noh? These Kanos can really be downright creative when expressing their political beliefs. See more Barack o'lanterns at Yes We Carve.

I am so looking forward to my red hot Halloween bitch/beach break. So where are you going this frightfully short weekend, guys?

Ang pagbabalik

PEOPLE who know him say Joc-joc Bolante looked tired and defeated. He left the Philippines haughty and arrogant, bragging about his endless Rotary meetings here and abroad, and his closeness to the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, a fellow Rotarian. Then he returned late last night at the NAIA, his hair now gray and weighing considerably less because of his prison diet. One of his ex-friends monitoring the unfolding events on TV called it karma.

But the old dog still had a few tricks up his sleeve. He was videotaped inside the plane, on his way out, looking very fit, and wearing a slightly incensed expression on his face (probably because of the cameraman). Next we see him at the corridor leading from the tube, seated in a wheelchair, his left hand casually placed on his left breast, as if expecting a chest pain. The media was in a frenzy...those who managed to get inside the landing outside the tube elbowed each other to get a better shot of the former agriculture undersecretary pinpointed as the architect of the P725-million fertilizer fund scam, which was thought to have helped raise funds for the election of the presidentita.

After being wheeled into a waiting ambulance which drove into the Villamor Airbase then out into EDSA, turning into Aurora Blvd., and finally stopping at the St. Luke's Hospital in Quezon City, he is next seen lying on a stretcher, sans oxygen mask and tank, his hand still clutching his chest, being rolled into the one of the elevators. Not once did I believe he was in pain, despite his apparent history of hypertension.

First I wondered, like many of my media colleagues, why Joc-joc was being brought to a Quezon hospital considering that he lived in the South, specifically at No. 20 Ma. Christina St. Ayala Alabang. I asked someone who was familiar w/ his history if she had any ideas, and she told me that the accused fertilizer scammer knew a lot of doctors at St. Luke's as his father had been confined there. I had my doubts and told her that Joc-joc would probably be seen by the family physicians of the presidentita's family. They would try to get to him, send a message to shut up, and at the same time, assure him of their "protection" by providing him with the best health care their money could buy. (I hear that Joc-joc has used up a lot of his funds for his legal defense in the U.S. that he has been trying to sell his other house in Alabang – he has two, thankyouverymuch – as well as his cars which included a bimmer and a late model Mercedes Benz.)

As it turns out, Joc-Joc was visited by FG Mike's cardiologist, as per the latest news from GMA TV. Since they couldn't get him at the airport, they had to try to reach him through the hospital. Hay, super obvious naman ang mga plano nyo presidentita! Well, so much for the Malacañang statement that Bolante's arrival is considered a "non-event."

Those who know Joc-joc feel for his family, most of all. They say his greed did them in and he never once thought about how his actions would affect his family. A few years ago, I met his wife after attending Mass at St. James Church in Ayala Alabang (this was when he had already fled for the U.S. supposedly accompanied by a good friend), and she struck me as a simple, kind and down-to-earth person. She had no airs like her husband has been known for. People close to the Bolante family say she is probably the last person who would know what her husband had been up to. And for her and the kids to be dragged down by this controversy, well, kawawa naman sila.

(Btw, one businessman I recently interviewed told me that the Joc-joc just loved name-dropping. Mayabang talaga. But to his credit, my source added, if Joc-joc knew you were an Ilonggo like him, he would always be friendly and go out of his way to make you feel welcome. Hmmm...misunderstood lang kaya sya? Ngek.)

Anyhoo, check out these photos from Manolo Quezon's blazing coverage of Joc-joc's arrival.

October 27, 2008

Major hiccup at the stock market

I NEVER thought Ayala Corp. would drop to P200 per share this fast. Parang it was only yesterday that it was selling at P250. But the market crashed today, dropping by 10% which triggered the circuit breakers to halt the trading session. Whew! Then after resuming, the market slipped even further closing at 1,713.83 points. This was the single biggest day drop since July 1987.

Banco de Oro was probably the hardest hit, falling by 23% to P22.75. It had just reported its third-quarter loss because of the covers it allocated to its credit exposure in Lehman Brothers. Belated reaction dontcha think? But actually ever since BDO merged with Equitable, the income of the unibank has been unsteady because of expenses owing to the merger and the expansion of some of its units. So if you think about it, the situation isn't really that bad. The situation was just aggravated by the losses from Lehman's. And tapos na 'yan. The losses are booked. Period.

But the first nine months of the year actually was still profitable for the bank. Check out the press statement here. It was just lower than the same period last year. But Christmas looks promising because I know the BDO consumer lending business has been very strong. Loans were up 35%, deposits too at 32%, and from what I know from my sources, the bank is still in a hiring mode. So in short, there is no reason to worry, especially if you are a BDO depositor. In fact, with the extensive holdings of the Sy family in a diverse array of businesses, we are assured of a steady stream of income from any of the Sy companes. I even once told a friend that the Bangko Sentral can very well fold up, but not BDO. These guys have money. Lots of it.

Okay. Now I'm waiting for Ayala Corp. to fall to P120, then I'm buying. If you've got extra cash kids, check out those stocks. Many of them are already trading at a bargain. I am predicting an upswing after the Nov. 4 elections in the U.S. and Barack Obama is proclaimed the winner. So start looking through the stock market page, but choose wisely.

Comings and goings

SO Anthony Bourdain was here. It was a short visit which took him to Sofitel Philippine Plaza where he was billeted (why there I don't know, but yeah, let's wow him w/ the sunset at Manila Bay why don't we?), Pampanga, and Cebu.

Whenever I'm out of town, I usually switch on the TV to Discovery Travel and Living and just veg out watching all the travel and cooking shows, especially Bourdain's No Reservations. (We don't have the channel in the basic package of Skycable, ay kaluoy!, so I've long been thinking of switching to Global Destiny.)

He is one cool dude I would love to hang around with because he eats so well and is into all the simple cooked meals of all these countries he visits. Hindi sya maarte kumain, not like some of those girls in Lonely Planet. If he were Pinoy, I think he would enjoy eating sinangag, tuyo or daing, itlog na maalat, with a steaming cup of coffee on the side. Or not.

I heard he had dinner with a handful of very young journalists last Saturday at a private room at Spiral. (Oh noes! 'wag naman sana yung walang kamatayang buffet! haha). His visit was a much-anticipated event among media especially by those of us who love to cook and eat. Unfortunately, we were not lucky enough to have graced his table. Boo-hoo-hoo!

They ate some goat cheese wrapped in salmon, according to Josemari Ugarte, editor-in-chief of Rogue who was one of those invited. (I should be hating you right now Josemari, except that I just love your Dad and Ana so much. So you are saved from my wrath, haha. I am looking forward to your Bourdain story. But Rene Nieva, phooey to you! harummph!)

Btw, someone just sent me a photo of Saturday's dinner. (It happened apparently bec. Chef Gene Gonzalez, whom Bourdain was supposed to meet, was in Vietnam.) Anyhoo, "the Chosen" were seated at a round table, taking notes or listening in rapt attention to Bourdain probably explain why he will also not eat balut anymore. But no one was seated right beside him. Everyone seemed to be in awe of Bourdain, whoa, parang Jesus Christ Superstar!

I just hope the people who brought Bourdain around didn't make him eat at any sissy pretentious restaurants patronized only by their owners and their wanna-be sosyalero friends. Mercifully, one of his escorts was Claude Tayag who brought Bourdain to Pampanga, of course. (Crispy camaru anyone? Yum!) He also visited Cebu, so visions of Bourdain sweating it out in a sutukil resto by the road side, ice-cold San Miguel beer in the left hand, his smokes in the right hand, tickled me no end. This guy has no hang-ups really about eating even at carinderias of the world. Basta masarap, masaya sya. One thing for sure, he will not eat any lechon. He knows it, he's eaten it, he is up to here, according to his blog. (One visitor to Bourdain's blog actually suggested Lydia's Lechon! hahaha. I prefer Elar's though.)

If I had a chance to show him around, I would have brought him to Sosing's where all the sweaty cabbies and jeepney drivers have their fill of delicious home-cooked meals. Of course, ever since the drivers' amos and the Makati execs discovered Sosing's, it has ceased to be just your ordinary carinderia. Still, people go there for the best nilagang baka, the sweaty ambiance, and the large servings of rice. Ayuus.

(Photo from anthonybourdain.net)

OOPSIE! Anthony Bourdain did get to meet Chef Gene after all, w/ our very own Judy Ann Santos who takes cooking lessons at Cafe Ysabel. Read the account in Gianina Gonzalez's blog. (Ang di alam ni Bourdain, mas sikat sa kanya si Juday haha!)

* * * *

Speaking of comings and goings, arriving tomorrow is fertilizer scammer Joc-joc Bolante. I am curious who will eventually meet him at the airport...the NBI, Senate sergeant-of-arms, or Mike Arroyo's boys who will make the former DA undersecretary promptly disappear. (The idiots probably have learned their lesson from that failed Jun Lozada show off off off broadway!)

As of the last TV news I watched, the G-men were still arguing who would take custody of Joc-joc as he re-enters Philippine soil. Supposedly he will be escorted by US Immigration marshalls...ngek, how embarrassing naman! But I wonder though if he really is arriving at the NAIA. There are rumors that Joc-Joc will be arriving either at the DMIA at Clark, Pampanga, or at the Mactan International Airport in Cebu from Hong Kong. He will want to avoid publicity and those who want to ensure that he keeps his mouth shut, may try to secretly whisk him away.

Well, let's just wait for the big show tomorrow.

October 24, 2008

In the tradition of Chaka time...

SO about the Black Widow...after her lover passed away, this woman is once more on the prowl apparently, lately seen w/ another old older man in tow. Poor chap...he is clueless about the fate that will befall him. Many who have seen her lately comment about how she no longer looks fresh, but rather old and tired, despite her still lithe figure.

At the latest sighting of Black Widow, it was apparent that the alta de sociedad she used to rub elbows with, no longer consider her a member of their club. She was seen sadly moving about the crowd, with none of her old "friends" getting up to greet her nor to speak to her. They cannot say that they didn't see her because she had on a striking pink flirty frilly blouse on.

We're not surprised at their behavior towards her, however, because we're sure most of them probably heard of how she was still trying to put one over her lover at his death bed by making him turn over some of his other properties. (Or, put one over his lover's real family...the guy never having actually divorced his first wife.) We are happy to report, that she was unsucessful in this effort.

It was also amusing to see that even some of the journalists who once fawned over Black Widow and who had kept putting her and her lover in the society pages of their publication only years before, did not even recognize her existence. Not even when she approached their table to greet the gorgeous scion of this well-known business family did the journalists give her a second glance. Btw, it's been rumored that Black Widow's real father had actually belonged to said business family, so the gorgeous lady she had kissed was actually her "cousin."

Da who is the Black widow and the cousin she kissed?

* * * *

NOW it can be told...da who is this TV personality who was so kapal to actually approach the officials of this transportation firm so he could become its celebrity endorser? As in, when he met with the officials, may I project sha ng kanyang katalinuhan and mastery of the English language as he made a presentation of why he will be good for the image of that firm.

All he wanted in exchange for his appearance on all the firm's advertising (print and billboards) was free tickets to all the firm's destinations. Grabeh ha, this guy must've actually thought he looked better and sexier than the celebrity endorser of that transport firm's main rival. Hibang ka ba, boy?! Fez value palang, talo ka na noh?

But of course, since they weren't paying any cash to the guy, kumagat naman ang super-tipid executives of this transport firm and made Mr. TV Personality their celebrity endorser. But as fate would have it, those executives and that company are no more. And so even the celebrity endorser has no more contract. Obviously, the guy's status in the entertainment world didn't help one iota for the company to book more sales. Nalugi pa nga sila noh?

But many have observed how slick and smooth Mr. TV personality is underneath that nice guy demeanor. We're pretty sure he will land another victim in no time.

Yun lang pow!

We miss Chuvaness!

HERE'S a shoutout to Cecile Z. (aka Chuvaness)...get well soon sweetie. We miss your blogging. (My friend Ana P. wants me to tell you she is now on a blog diet because of your absence.)

Take care.

October 23, 2008

Feelin' the flavas at Pink Kitchen

(By 6 pm Sunday, most tables were full of patrons eagerly eating the various food offered by concessionaires.)

I AM still semi-consciousness from the panic-eating Miggy and I did last weekend at the Pink Kitchen. Damn, the Rockwell Tent really rocked with all the yummies prepared by popular chefs and fancy restaurants. (Too bad we missed Le Souffle which prepared goodies for Sunday lunch. Miggy tried to wake me up by messaging me every which way, but I was still snoring away 'til Sunday noon. I only woke up to attend a 1 pm yoga class so I could sweat away the previous day's calories.)

(A butterfly waits to be released from captivity. Part of the table setting.)

My favorites from the Pink Kitchen (and sorry, I hardly took photos bec. I was relishing every morsel I put into my mouth) were Chefs Rob and Sunshine Pengson's foie gras and apple tartin (wonderful weird combination of earthiness and sweetness, totally to die for I had to order 2 more to bring home...ouch my heart!), the chicken and almonds dish of Maj Lazatin (super moist and tender!), the huuuge! salmon sandwich of Chelsea (with ripe mangoes and capers...yum!), the lemon meringue pie of Chocolat (just the right sweetness of the meringue to balance out the tartness of the lemon filling), and the great standards like Swiss Inn's fresh corned beef (although it was served mejo cold, but really, there was really no place to heat the food), and the quezo de bola sprinkled ensaimadas of the Cunanans.

(Cured meats and deli cheeses from Galileo Enoteca)

I wanted to try the Burmese station whose food had disappeared by the time we arrived past noon on Saturday so we patiently waited for it for Sunday dinner. I had mistakenly thought there were other foods to be served other than the noodle soup. There were a lot of diners who lined up for bowls of the spicy thing on Sunday, but I wasn't in the mood for noodle soup so I let it go. (It was masarap daw according to the two ladies who were also seated at our table. Much like the Malaysian or Indonesian Laksa.) Anyhoo, I went to the Indian food station instead but was not too happy w/ my lamb curry (too much turmeric! so overpowering), so I was glad I had Miggy shared her corned beef. Iba talaga pag comfort food. Pero wait, where was Chef Buddy Trinidad's stall? I didn't see it all. Either we arrived too late to catch his desserts or left too early before he set up. Sayang.

(Dimpy's frozen brazos is a favorite of Sis and Pangs. Much too sweet for me though.)

The Rockwell Tent was absolutely packed on both days and I saw a lot of old friends from media and from De La Salle, politicians and businessmen (some former sources for my scoops), as well as the usual beautiful people from the alta de sociedad (and those fallen from their roster, like the woman we like to call Black Widow.)

(Sis and her yummy salmon sandwich from Chelsea.)

From the media were Lali Alegria of BusinessWorld (w/ sister Teli), Dana Batnag of Jiji Press, Marianne Go of Phil. Star, Francine Medina Marquez of ABS-CBN Publishing, Ellen Tordesillas of Malaya, Tita Ethel Timbol (formerly of Mla Bulletin) and her daughter Bebeth; businessman Buboy Virata and his family, former Makati Business Club executive director Bill Luz, banker Mike de Jesus with the still lovely Ms. Universe Gloria Diaz; as well as politicians like Sen. Serge Osmeña with his wife Bettina, also a cancer survivor, and Sen. Chiz Escudero and his wife Christine and their 10-years-in-the-making twins. Also there was my fave Boracay cook Binggoy Remedios of Dos Mestizos with our pangs Teddy Montelibano hilong-talilong from all the food as usual.

(Comfort food...Cunanan ensaimadas)

I was only too glad to help out in this worthwhile fund-raising event for the ICanServe Foundation's breast health awareness projects...even if this meant busting my waistline. The food was generally good and the choices varied, but I just wish more chefs and restaurants had joined the effort. Miggy said the limited space and the unavailable spots for cooking and reheating food may have put off the more popular chefs and restaurants from joining the event. After all, most chefs are generally perfectionists and want their dishes served a certain way in a less chaotic setting. Sabagay.

(Our friend and breast cancer survivor Carla Paras Sison of Benpres, left, working hard at the ICanServe booth.)

I enjoyed myself last weekend and am surely looking forward to the next Pink Kitchen. Maybe the event can be held at a bigger and much cooler venue? Congratulations to the organizers, sponsors, chefs, cooks, restaurants, caterers, and dining patrons for supporting this event. See you next year.

October 22, 2008

The fuss over the euro generals and Joc-Joc's arrival

SO there's gonna be a Senate hearing today on this "euro generals" case. Asa pa kayo something will come out of it. This thing is gonna drag on as usual, and straight into next week, just as fertilizer scammer Joc-joc Bolante comes home from the U.S., after being deported by the U.S. immigration authorities. (Btw, props to Sen. MAR Roxas for persuading the U.S. gov't to deport Joc-joc to the Philippines and not to Hong Kong w/c was the latter's port of origin as he fled the country before the Senate's investigation on his scamming began.)

(Police Deputy Director General Avelino Razon, 3rd from lef, presents an award to outgoing Regional Director PCSupt Eliseo dela Paz during the turnover of Police Regional Office 8 at Camp Kangleon, Palo, Leyte, May 21, 2008. Photo from PIA. Tsk, tsk, sinayang ang pagka-award winning.)

Not to belittle naman this euro generals case, but I think a Senate investigation is uncalled for. Eliseo dela Paz, former financial comptroller of the Phil. National Police has admitted his mistake. He apologized for it. And he is supposed to return the funds. Is there a deeper reason why he did what he did? Maybe. But as far as I'm concerned, tapos na ang issue and all media has to do now is follow up on the liquidation of the funds used for this trip. Media has to make sure the Commission on Audit reviews the uses of these funds. If these were cash advances indeed from the PNP coffers, then they should be covered by the appropriate paperwork.

Why were the wives included in this trip? If they paid for the trip from their own pockets, wala tayong pakialam. Obvious bang they wanted to do some sightseeing? and shopping? But if they used government funds, and it's easy to check that by looking into the records of the travel agency which arranged the trip or the PNP records mismo, then a case can be filed against the PNP for misappropriation of funds. Or just have these wives fork over the cash covering their trip arrangements. To punish their Takosa (takot sa asawa) husbands naman, the PNP or the DILG leadership should withhold a portion of Dela Paz's pension benefits (e kasi stupid sha, nagpahuli e!), and suspend the other officials who brought their wives on that trip.

With Senadora Tililing at the forefront of this investigation, I suspect the administration is using this as a smokescreen so the public won't notice Joc-joc's arrival next week. Is this Senate investigation the "pressing matter" that Sen. Edgardo Angara has been referring to as his reason not to pursue the Joc-Joc Bolante case? (Palibhasa sipsip ka ke GMA.) Why is it only Sen. MAR Roxas the one concerned with this case? Why isn't the Senate pressing the arrest of Joc-Joc? Are you telling us that when the scammer arrives next week, he will just casually waltz into town like nothing happened? Avavava gardner!

October 21, 2008

AK Gov. Sarah Palin on SNL

IN case you haven't seen it yet, here are the sketches of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. Try to click pause when Sarah and Tina pass each other...the resemblance is uncanny. Too bad there was no Sarah/Tina sketch like that of Hillary Clinton/Amy Poehler's during the primaries.

Opening presscon

Amy Poehler steps in for Palin

INTERESTING that Palin flies thousands of miles to appear on SNL, but won't grant an honest-to-goodness press conference. Scary innit? You betcha!

In any case, if she does lose the election (and I'm betting my moosehair go-go boots that she will), SNL can hire her as one of its talents. She obviously knows groove to the music, act silly, and read cue cards. Whatta major achievement in the Republican electoral campaign.

35 insurance firms face closure

By VG Cabuag / Reporter
BusinessMirror, Oct. 21, 2008

By the end of this year all insurance companies must have a capitalization of at least P100 million, but about 35 firms of the roughly 70 insurance companies, mostly small players, have not complied with the Insurance Commission (IC) and face being shut down.

Who these companies are have not been disclosed by IC Deputy Commissioner Vida Chiong, who said on Monday, “We will issue a cease-and-desist order to them if they have not complied.” (Click here for the rest.)

Actually, you can tell which insurance firms these are. You can download the lists of insurance companies (life and non-life) and their paid-in capitalization via the Insurance Commission's web site. But in the interest of the public, I'm posting the lists here.

Life insurance firms

Non-life firms

As per the Corporation Code of the Philippines, corporations have to have at least 25% of their authorized capital paid up. So get your calculators cracking to find out w/c of these insurers you should avoid.

(Eduardo T. Malinis runs the show at the Insurance Commission. Photo from the IC web site.)

It is interesting to note that the Insurance Commission has been sitting on this problem for two years. Only when the mighty AIG fell that the agency's heads thought of actually doing anything about the poor capitalization of the country's insurance firms. Well, as they say, better late than later.

So if you're afraid of the sub-prime credit mess in the U.S. will have a great impact on Philippine banks, well, guess again. What we should be worried about are our insurance companies and their very low capitalization. A high capital is vital to protect the insured from a collapsing insurance company. It is the government's reponsibility to make sure that if anything untoward happens to an insurance firm, the latter will have enough capital/money to pay the benefits to its clients or refund them their premiums.

As usual, this government is only great on soundbytes but very poor in actual implementation.

October 20, 2008

Legislating a woman's womb (Updated)

Something Like Life
Oct. 17, 2008

OF all the women issues out there, the most important is reproductive rights. Legislation is currently pending in Congress to give back those rights to women, as well as couples, who want to start a family. House Bill 5403, or the Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008 (UPDATED House Bill 4244 and Senate Bill 2865), is facing tough opposition, especially from the Catholic Church. Its leaders believe that making artificial contraceptives widely available to basically anyone who wants one, especially through government-owned health centers and health-care facilities, will make our youth sex-crazy.

First of all, the youth are sex-crazy as it is. Wasn’t there a survey which revealed that teenage boys think of sex every 20 seconds?

Secondly, teenage girls are vulnerable when they are in love. So they will have sex with their boyfriends to show the latter how much they love them.

Our religious leaders and parents can keep preaching sexual abstinence until they are blue in the face, but we know the kids are having sex out there...about 5 million of them aged 15 to 27.

Let’s face it, we have no reason to trust our kids when it comes to sex. Once they have a taste of it, they will want it and often. So I would rather err on the side of caution. The least we adults can do is to teach them how to protect themselves against unwanted pregnacies and sexually-transmitted diseases.

According to a survey by the Population Commission in 2003: “Almost half of our youth were unaware that pregnancy was possible after only one sexual encounter. Even though around 70 percent of our youth knew that pregnancy was possible only after a girl started to have her monthly period, around 80 percent of young females did not know the fertile period of their menstrual cycle. Only two percent were truly knowledgeable about how the menstrual cycle is related to pregnancy and about the safe and unsafe times to have sex during the cycle. This indicates a general lack of information regarding the importance of the timing of sex during women’s menstrual cycle.”

At St. Theresa’s where I studied from prep to fourth year high school, sex education was taught as early as grade 5 or 6, starting with lessons on the female reproductive organs and the menstrual cycle. Sex education, normally a part of the curriculum of either the science or P.E. class, ends in fourth year high school with lectures on the sex act itself and what happens during and after intercourse. (No, there were no take-home assignments.)

But being a private Catholic girl’s school, the subject was aimed at educating us on the female and male anatomies and how babies are made. We were not told about artificial contraception because our teachers and the nuns operated on the assumption that we were nice decent ladies from upstanding families, and not sluts. And that we would all wait to get married first before we became intimate with the opposite sex. It should be no wonder then that there were quite a few students who didn’t make it to the high school graduation – a consequence of having done their own private research on the subject.

This is why I have long been an advocate of sex education and contraception whether it be taught in a public school or a Catholic school. The RH provides that to the consternation of conservative parents who think the subject should be taught at home. I agree. But how many parents actually know how to talk about it? I certainly didn’t learn about the birds and the bees from my mother. I learned about them from my Sex-Ed classes and from my friends.

Kids shouldn’t be ashamed to ask questions about sex. They should be taught how to appreciate their bodies, and not laugh at the mere mention of “vagina” or “penis.” And they should know how to put a condom on as if they’re very lives depended on it.

How many teen-agers have had to have their kids out of wedlock? Or have been forced to marry their young boyfriends when they barely knew how to make up their own beds at home? My own niece got pregnant at 18 and has had to suffer the pain of having to grow up too fast.

I thank God I have good friends who taught me about contraception. One of my best gal pals taught me how to use birth control pills and what brand to buy from the drugstore. I had an irregular menstrual cycle, and was on my way to becoming a serious journalist. I didn’t want any surprises, like a baby, to thwart me off my career path. I thought I was being a responsible adult.

Artificial contraceptives won’t only protect our teen-agers whose hormones are in overdrive, but couples as well.

Studies show that for a child to be able to receive the full benefits of a nurturing environment, births have to be spaced out every three or four years. It will give time for a woman to recover her bearing (not to mention her body), allow her to focus on the task of feeding and caring for her baby, then teach it to walk, speak and read. By the time the child is ready for formal school education, a woman’s physical and emotional state are expected to be on an even keel to allow a new pregnancy if she wants to.

So let’s talk turkey. We all know poor families are champions in the baby-making arena. Just walk by your nearest squatters area and you will see a number of women with their babies hanging on their nipples, but with their tummies sticking out, pregnant again. The poor make a lot of babies because they need their children to try to get the family out of poverty. They realize too late that the more children they have, the more they push themselves into a rut. And they scrounge for every bit of work, or centavo, just to be able to feed their kids at least half a cup of rice or some watery soup.

In a study on unintended pregnancies and abortions in the Philippines funded by the Guttmacher Institute, the authors wrote that close to 1.43 million pregnancies are accidental, about one-third of those pregnancies end in abortion, and 54 percent of those who ended their pregnancies by abortion did not practice any form of contraception.

About 72 percent of women interviewed on the reasons they ended their pregnancies did so due to financial problems, and 54 percent also said it was because they had already plenty of children. It is clear that those who resort to abortions are usually from the lower income families. And many die from the complications because these operations are done in seedy clinics with ill-equipped physicians or fake doctors out to make a fast buck. Teaching women contraception will drastically reduce these incidents of abortion.

With the RH Bill, women and married couples, especially from the lower strata of society, will learn about family planning, proper birth spacing, and how to ensure a quality life for each of their children. Unfortunately, critics of the RH especially the Catholic Church leaders only want natural family planning methods to be taught by the government. This is not surprising because most of our Catholic Church leaders are male and know very little about a woman’s body.

Now let’s get this straight: women don’t ovulate at the same time nor in the same way. Not all us keep to the regular 28-day menstrual cycle. Some will have 21 days, on some months it will be 24 days, then sometimes it becomes 32 days or longer especially when we are under stress. Some don’t even menstruate at all for three months especially if they’re overweight.

So to keep pushing the natural family planning methods speaks to one’s ignorance about the female anatomy. Natural family planning, is basically a game at the slots, where every month a woman tries to hit the jackpot, i.e. not be pregnant. If a woman or a couple want to know about natural or artificial family planning methods, it is their choice, no one else’s.

So yes, I support the RH Bill. And I just have to impress on everyone how important that this bill is passed when it is taken up again by Congress in November. No one can tell me what to do or not do with my womb. I make the choice how to live my own life. No one should be dictating on me whether or not I should have sex, when and with whom. And if I choose to have sex, I want to make sure I am adequately protected either from disease or an unwanted pregnancy.

(UPDATE: Both houses of Congress will be debating and taking up their respective bills this week of Aug. 6, 2012 -I trust that our legislators will make the right choice for the people. Pls read UN: RH law vital to development )

(My column 'Something Like Life,' is published every Friday, in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published in October, 2008. Photos from the web.)

October 18, 2008

Your P200 will go a long way

JUST wanted to remind everyone of Pink Kitchen 2008 this weekend at the Rockwell Tent, Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, Makati. Your P200 will go directly to ICanServe projects that raise breast care health awareness and subsidize medical treatment for breast cancer patients.

Here are the chefs, professional cooks, and restaurants who/that are whipping up their specialties so we can eat for a good cause:

COMPANY/BOOTH - cuisine / specialty

Bambina Herbosa - Tapa / Bibingka Galapong
Bettina Legarda - Mediterranean
Boyd's Coffee (Robert Francisco) - coffee & tea
Buddy Trinidad - desserts
Café Juanita (Boy Vasquez) - Asian, Filipino
Chariya Thaikupt - Thai
Chelsea - Deli sandwiches
Chocolat Bakeshop - Mini cream puffs
Cristina Santiago Rivera - desserts / Strawberry Charlotte
Dely Fernandez - Tuscan Provencale
Dimpy Camara - Frozen Brazo de Mercedes
Enderun - Salad & Smoothies Station
Estrel's - Caramel Cake
Everybody's Café (Poch Jorolan) - Kapangpangan
Galileo Enoteca (Vanessa Vitrano) - cold cuts and cheeses
Ipe Cruz & Mariko Jacinto - Italian & Japanese
Jaemark's - Tuna Panga, Belly & Buntot
Jasmin Magallanes - Healthy Cuisine
Judah Liu - Spanish
Kai (Chef Gilbert Pangilinan) - Neo Japanese
Kanin Club (Tony Cancio) - Crispy Dinuguan
Karen Young - Red Velvet Cake
La Tasca & Pazzo Gelato (Marilou Senn) - Spanish & Gelato
Maj Lazatin - Italian
Malu del Rosario - pastries
Mara de la Rama - desserts
Maricel Cunanan - Cunanan Ensaymada
Michele D'Orival - French
Minnie Puno - Wraps
Mona Valdes - Indonesian
Myrna Segismundo
Nana Meng (Margaux Salcedo) - Tsokolate
Offie Benavides - Filipino
Old Swiss Inn (Katrina Limcaoco) - Fresh Corned Beef
Pauline Gorriceta - Banusing Iloilo Specialties
Picole Healthy Pops (Candy Mejia) - Healthy Pops
Quito Jose - Thai
Rob & Sunshine Pengson - French
Roselyn Tiango - Desserts
Sigalit Djemal - Caviar Pie, Salmon Cream Pie
Suman Gogna - Indian
Susie Quiros - Lasagna
The Farm at San Benito - Macrobiotic Cuisine
Tippi Tambunting - Continental
Vargas Kitchen - Comfort Food
Wendy Ozamis - Singapore Hawker Style
WynnWynn Ong - Burmese
Happy Living Wines - wines
Premium Wine Exchange - wines

Clap for them, guys!

To help you navigate the maze of concessionaires, here's a map c/o the I Can Serve Foundation (click to enlarge). Btw there are shows every every evening starting at 8 pm so diners can hum along while having their dinner.

Here's a shout-out to my colleagues in media, shuck your free entrance and fork over the P200. It's for a good cause naman, noh?

* * * *

AT the same time, it's also Power Plant's pre-Christmas sale, so a visit to Rockwell this weekend is surely worth it.

Kain and shopping na!

October 16, 2008

Damn you Steve Jobs!

JUST when we thought we were all happy with our new Macbooks, here comes Apple again with a sexier, lighter, and greener Macbook! I hate you Steve Jobs!

The New Generation 2.0 ghz version is being sold by Apple at $1,299 (P61,053). I assume that local Apple resellers or authorized Philippine dealers will be retailing it for at least P67,000. Not bad I think considering the new goodies therein...like being made of one single thick sheet of aluminum which makes it lighter; they completely got rid of the rectangular mouse adjoining the trackpad; it now carries the 802.11n wi-fi draft standard, an LED backlit glossy display coupled w/ a new graphics processor which makes the colors just pop; while the new 2.4 ghz version has an illuminated keyboard (if you like typing in the dark then I guess this is the computer for you); etc. All that in a 4.5-lb package, w/c is a pound less than my recently-bough Macbook.

I want! A source and fellow Macnut tells me this new beauty will be available at the new A-shop at the Podium "in a week and a half." Hmmm...I wonder if the store accepts trade-ins.

Btw, I was just in that store this afternoon and I've already listed down a few yummies that I want to get for my Macbook. Pero, ipon-ipon muna!

* * * *

MEANWHILE, if you still haven't watched it, go see Tropic Thunder starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Nick Nolte, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, and our very own Reggie Lee (ok, lemme say it...mabuhay ang Pinoy!). You will surely howl in laughter at this new comedy which pokes fun at Vietnam war movies and the Hollywood film-making machine. It also lampoons actors who take themselves seriously and I must say, Robert Downey Jr. plays Russel Crowe ever so perfectly. In this movie, he plays an Australian actor who plays an African-American. Downey Jr brilliant as usual!

And while I have never been a Tom Cruise fan, his portrayal of a loud-mouth, cursing, money-grubbing Hollywood film producer who loves rap music was just superb! I have officially become a fan...although, you still can't make me watch The Last Samurai, War of the Worlds, MI3, or Valkyrie. I somehow feel that when 2001 rolled in, Tom Cruise just went severely mental w/c affected his acting and his ability to pick out winners for films.

Anyhoo, this film is super-funny I swear!

October 12, 2008

Marc Faber on the global economic meltdown

DR. Marc Faber of Marc Faber Ltd,. has been a favorite guest on many business shows on cable TV because of his often shoot-from-the-hip comments and contrarian investment advice. He was in Manila last Thursday as keynote speaker of the 8th annual Asia Pacific Regional Investment Conference which I attended. His often tongue-in-cheek humor about the global crisis sent many conference tittering. It was of course, pure entertainment. Faber also publishes a regular newsletter called the Gloom, Boom, Doom report available on the web.

Here are a few choice quotes from Dr. Faber regarding the global sub-prime credit meltdown:

WHO TO BLAME: "The Federal Reserve's highly expansionary monetary policy in 2001 to 2007 led to strong money supply growth and storng credit growth.... 70% went to housing and real estate investment. Home prices rose steadily and went way above the trend."

THE DOMINO EFFECT: "Regardless of policies followed by the U.S. government and its agencies, the consumer is in recession and the recession will deepen. Trade and current account deficits will shrink further and diminish international liquidity. The shrinkage of global liquidity is bad for asset prices, including commodities. Also, deleveraging is occurring among financial intermediaries. This is extremely negative for an economy addicted to credit growth. We had an unprecedented global economic boom. A global bust is likely to happen."

ON THE $700-B BAILOUT PACKAGE: "If (Federal Reserve chair Ben) Bernanke wants, he will print money. You just throw money in system. Buy up the bond market and real estate mortgages. You create inflation....The bailout package won't address the real problem, which is too much debt. The debt bubble has already burst."

ON THE U.S. RECESSION: "A U.S recession is not bad. Americans will eat 5% less, obesity goes down."

THE IMPACT ON ASIA: "Where it hurts, will be the people who produce for the U.S. economy (Asia).... Decoupling will not likely to occur. There is a correlation in asset markets. If the S&P drops, most markets will go down. If S&P is up, markets are up. If the U.S. goes into a recession, China and India's growth will probably slow down to 3%. But coming from a fast growth to a slowdown, it will feel like a recession [in these countries]."

WHY ASIAN BANKS ARE BETTER: "Asian banks are in much better shape than U.S. banks. I suspect this is because most Asian bankers are just too stupid to understand structured products. Compared to U.S. banks, Asian banks are rock solid. Even Philippine banks, because they've invested domestically."

IMPACT ON THE PHILIPPINES: “Only a Filipino will believe that the Philippines will be immune from a global slump. Of course it will affect the Philippine economy as already reflected in the decline in share prices already. The Philippine market has been down 60% from its peak in '97. It's not terribly expensive. But before a new bull market emerges, a lot of base building will happen."


• Real Estate: In resource rich emerging countries
Avoid real estate in financial centres

• Healthcare: Pharmaceutical, hospital management companies

• Local Brands: May displace some international brands

• Commodities: Volatile, but uptrend intact. Corrections of 50% are common.
Caution about industrial commodities is warranted

• Tourism: Hotels, casinos, airports, beach resorts. Potential problem is oversupply.

• Financial Services: Banks, insurance companies, brokers in emerging economies

• Infrastructure: Bottlenecks everywhere. Potential problem could be cancellations

• Plantations and Farmland: Indonesia, Malaysia, Latin America, Ukraine

• Japan: Very depressed, banks look interesting

• New Regions: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia

• Africa as a play on Asia

• Gold and Silver

(Click here for another story from the investment conference.)

October 11, 2008

Emerging from financial illiteracy

Something Like Life
Oct. 10, 2008

A COUPLE of years ago, writing for a women’s magazine, I was able to interview young stage actress Cathy Azanza. While the interview was basically about her life as an actress and what beauty products she bought, we also spoke about personal-finance matters. (By the way, Cathy has just gotten married to film director/cinematographer Paolo Dy—with our good friend Mr. Caps as ninong—and we would like to offer our best wishes to the couple.)

Most people think that a career in theater doesn’t offer financial stability. There is just not a lot of jobs around to steadily earn from, considering we are a nation of—dare I say it?—cultural illiterates! You can only count on the fingers of one hand the number of theater companies which actually have a regular season’s worth of stage plays.

Between our work, domestic duties, cable TV switched on for most part of the day and the amount of surfing, chatting and playing we do on the Internet, how many of us still go to the theater? And even if we wanted to, tickets don’t exactly come cheap. (I used to buy Rep season tickets until I learned to, ahem, prioritize my spending. I guess that makes me a cultural illiterate as well, hehe.) So most of us would rather go to the cinema to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or—worse—go to our suki DVD retailer to get our pirate fix.

According to Cathy, stage actors are paid rehearsal fees, usually at the end of each week. The release of “show fees,” on the other hand, depends on the actor’s contract with the theater company he is working with. “Some pay after every weekend run, some at the halfway mark of a run and then again at the end, and still others at the end of a run.” (Click here for the rest. Photo of Cathy Azanza from The Rep.)

October 08, 2008

Cindy McCain supladita

WAS glued to the TV set this morning to watch Debate No. 2 between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. No doubt about it, Obama was the stronger debater. He answered most of the questions pointedly..."This is what I'm gonna do about the economy...pak! No. 1, pak! No. 2, pak! No. 3... He had the answers and McCain didn't. Obama knew what issues to prioritize (economy, healthcare), what areas should he cut spending (the war in Iraq), and where investments should be poured into (e.g. renewable/alternative energy to lessen the dependence on foreign oil).

Sure Obama waffled a bit in the area of foreign policy compared to McCain's "I looked at Putin straight in the eye and it was KGB spelled all over his face..." But then that's why Obama's choice of Sen. Joe Biden was excellent as the latter has the foreign policy experience. As for McCain, he doesn't have a good grasp of the economy and how the common working Americans are hurting from the economy. It's simply because he has lived off his wife Cindy's bank accounts most of his life, w/ more than four houses to their name, so how can he be expected to understand the plight of the rest of the US of A, where Americans are losing their homes? He needed a VP who would've beefed up his economic knowledge, or the little that he knows about it. Instead, he picks someone who doesn't know diddly squat about the rest of the world except that "when Putin rears his head, it will be in Alaska." You betcha!

(Cindy McCain ang tigas ng fez mo!)

And sorry to say, McCain really not only sounded awful but looked awful as well. Politics is a matter of perception. When you watch McCain hobbling around on his bad leg, his hair all white, and hyuk-hyuking like an idiot, it just spells OLD. Look here, I have nothing about old people. I enjoy listening to them prattle on about their lives and their experiences. And I'm sure if I had a chance to meet Sen. McCain, it would be nice to chat w/ him and listen to his war stories, parang like a Lolo making kwento to his grandchild.

But his age and physical disability isn't an advantage in the visual department when the electoral campaign is covered by TV and Internet. Seeing him walk around the deabte venue today looked like his time was up. McCain's moment to become president has already passed him. He needs to let go and give the job to someone younger, tougher, and brimming with creative ideas. And I'm not talking about Sarah Palin ha? Ick!

I am also not liking that Cindy McCain ha. Right after the debate she went into the hall, moved around with her husband, nodded her head in greeting the debate participants. (It was a town-hall style meeting which called for a lot of questions from participants.) But she was just stiff and cold. Her face was frozen w/ a fixed smile. Parang nanigas yung fez nya sa kaka-botox! And she did not shake hands with anybody except Obama's after the latter offered his hand in greeting. As for the studio audience, Cindy kept her distance and did not offer even her pinky. Sa true lang, She not only is suplada but actually looks like a tranny pa!

(Michelle Obama super fabulosa!)

In contrast, Michelle Obama turned on the charm. She moved among the debate participants, held out her hand to greet them, kissed a few. Picture-picture. So fabulosa pa! I super like her. She's like Obama who has a lot of charisma. He strides and walks tall among the people, very fashyon in his business suit, so guapo!

There is another debate on Thursday (Friday 9 am Manila time) and I doubt if any of these two will say something new. It is very obvious that things are conspiring to make Obama the next president of the United States. The economy is in recession which in any electoral season, will never favor the incumbent leader. And most Americans want to end the war in Iraq so Washington can concentrate on their needs on their home turf. They need a very dynamic and spirited leader who has a vision where America will be in 10 years.

So I'm pretty sure Obama will win in November. And I promise to eat steak everyday if that doesn't happen.

October 07, 2008

I dunno 'bout you, but I'm voting for Tina Fey

Thank you again presidentita!

DoJ chief: Claudio Teehankee free
Arroyo commutes Hultman killer’s sentence

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net 10/06/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez confirmed Monday that convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr. was released from prison last week after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commuted his sentence.

Teehankee, son of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr. and brother of former Justice undersecretary Manuel Teehankee, was convicted in 1995 by the Supreme Court for the July 1991 murder of Swedish-Filipino youth Maureen Hultman and her friend, Roland John Chapman, and the wounding of a friend, Jussi Leino in Dasmariñas, Makati.

"Everything went by the rules here. His [Teehankee’s] records have been reviewed by the Board of Pardons and Parole before a recommendation was given to the President," Gonzalez said.

WTF?!?! Life is just cheap under this woman.

(Supreme Court ruling on Claudio Teehankee Jr. case: Click here. Case digest found here)

October 06, 2008

The Joey Cuisia extravaganza

(Joey Cuisia, left, and Michel Khalaf at the Philamlife presscon, Oct. 6, 2008)

I HAULED my carcass out of the house today and into a cab to attend the press conference of Philamlife CEO Jose "Joey" L. Cuisia. The venue of the presscon was on the fifth floor of the company's still stunning headquarters along UN Ave. in Manila, a landmark in Philippine architectural history. I was a tad late and the room was fully packed by media from print, radio and TV.

The news of AIG selling Philamlife, one of its crown jewels, was already announced last Friday evening, right after the conference call of AIG CEO Edward Liddy w/c we listened to via the company's web site. The American insurer had to raise funds quick to be able to replenish its $85-billion credit line w/ the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. So it wasn't surprising that almost everyone who was everyone in media was there. Imagine seeing even publishers and the editors attending, I suspect because they were Philamlife insurance policy holders or mutual fund investors. I know of a couple of reporters whose mutual fund investments were dragged down because of the high bond prices and the global uncertainties owing to the sub-prime credit mess in the U.S.

For the most part, Cuisia tried his best to explain how the sale would push through but was honest enough to say that he wasn't exactly sure how the company would be sold. (The Philam Group has about 10 separate units under its wings among them Philamlife, Philam Plans, PhilamCare, AIG PhilAm Savings Bank, etc.). He didn't know if it was to be sold as a group or in separate units as some possible buyers have already been mentioned in some newspapers as being keen only on the insurance concerns, or in the banking units. AIG had appointed The Blackstone Group and JP Morgan to handle its divestiture program.

(Cuisia mobbed by the reporters after his presscon.)

“I think there is some value to selling [Philamlife] as a group, but you know, it will again depend on the kind of interest that we have. If there is a strong interest in say, Philamlife, but not as strong in the affiliates and [the buyers] will pay a very good premium for Philamlife, these investment bankers may recommend to AIG to sell the units separately. It’s not up to us, it will be up to AIG to make that decision. We will, of course, give our own input, but I think at this point, we cannot disclose that,” Cuisia said.

A former central bank governor under President Cory Aquino's term, Cuisia tried to reassure policyholders again that Philamlife had enough financial muscle (about P80 billion in reserves) to answer any demands for a payout, in case policyholders wanted to surrender their insurance contracts. Michele Khalaf, Philamlife's deputy president and chief operating officer, said some did surrender their insurance policies but these were "immaterial" and didn't make a dent in the insurance firm's bottomline considering that it had about P143 billion worth of insurance contracts owned by individuals or corporates.

For the most part, the presscon was somber even as Cuisia tried to be upbeat about the prospects of Philamlife's future. But there was a few light-hearted moments such as when Mam Yeng Galang, business editor of Malaya, asked him what he thought about "another former [central bank] governor heading the new Philamlife." To w/c Cuisia shot back: "What former governor? You be more specific. Are you referring to a former governor that sits in a competing firm?" w/c cracked us up. After snickering, Cuisia decided to give us a "no comment."

(Gabby Singson, left, who until recently was financial adviser of taipan John Gokongwei, right. Photo from Ateneo web site.)

Mam Yeng of course was referring to no other than former Bangko Sentral governor Gabriel C. Singson who now chairs Grepalife, a unit of the Yuchengco Group of Companies. The ribbing by the media was so because Lolo Gabby had already announced last week that the Yuchengcos (yes the very same ones who owned the now shuttered Pacific Plans Inc.) were interested in buying Philamlife. And everyone knew that while Cuisia and Lolo Gabby are not enemies, they keep a cool distance from each other. Uhuh, yeah, the term "frenemies" is apt in the description of these two's relationship. Methinks this is just another play of an De La Salle (Cuisia)-Ateneo (Singson) rivalry.

It was interesting that even while Cuisia didn't want to say anything pointed about his successor at the central bank, his Philamlife colleague apparently wanted to make it known that they weren't exactly hot about the idea of the Yuchengcos buying the insurance firm. Khalaf said AIG had outlined "clear criteria" for prospective bidders for its units. “One, it has to be a strong reputable brand name; two, it has to be an institution that is strong financially; and three, that it has to be a strategic fit as far as providing the employees and the stakeholders of the compant with growth potential and to continue the legacy of Philamlife.

(Despite the prospect of being jobless soon, Michele Khalaf still manages a smile for our camera.)

“I think if you apply the criteria to some of those rumored to be interested, I think automatically you can draw your own conclusions as to wheter that interest will be seriously considered or not.”

Oof! was that a subtle jab at the Yuchengcos' flameout in Pacific Plans? I can just hear the PEP Coalition members gnashing their teeth.
* * * *

ON a personal note, it will be sad to see Philamlife go to another owner. It is one of the few efficient insurance firms around these parts. When my Pop passed away last year, we had no problems at all claiming the benefits (my Pop's policy dated back to the 1960's can you imagine?!).

In contrast, Insular Life was sooooo super slow in acting on our claim even if our requirements were complete. It was a model of inefficiency as papers kept on being shuffled bet. us and the Insular office as their claims people kept on asking yet another proof of my Pop's death from us. I would not recommend Insular Life to anyone.

Pinoy cuisine featured on Wall St. Journal

Filipino Flavors
Manila's Magical, Misunderstood Cuisine


"But there's no good food there!" friends told me as I prepared for a food-focused trip to Manila more than two years ago.

In fact, as I was to discover, what the Philippines has is Southeast Asia's most misunderstood cuisine. While Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia are foodie destinations, the Philippines is often stereotyped as the home of balut (unhatched duck embryos, a popular snack) and fast-food chain Jollibee. On my trip, though, guided by recommendations from a Filipino expat friend and his local contacts, I ate spectacularly well.

And those Manila contacts quickly became friends, because Filipinos love nothing more than to introduce outsiders to their overlooked cuisine. I've returned to the city many times, just for the food. (Click Filipino Flavors for the rest.)

MAJOR props to Chef J Gamboa and sister Malu for the special mention of Cirkulo and Milky Way! I am a fan of Chef J especially now that they opened Azuthai, the most exciting Thai restaurant in the metropolis. I have eaten there thrice in a span of two months and still can't have my fill of the Shrimp Cake, Masamma Lamb Curry (ooh so tender, falling off the bone), Steamed Apahap, and the mango w/ sticky rice. Some of my friends also prefer the Milky Way halo-halo after our Thai meal, instead of Azuthai's own version. Ang sawaaap, grabeh!

(Sightings: Chef Fernando Aracama, Chef Sau del Rosario, and a few other culinary experts enjoying Chef J's dishes whipped up by his Thai chef. And on another occasion, Sen. Ping Lacson w/ adviser and Daily Tribune columnist Lito Banayo having dinner w/ some colleagues at the height of his double entry exposé on colleague Manny Villar. The two looked happy after their meal, as much as the waitstaff who had their photo taken w/ the controversial senator.)

How fabulous that WSJ also featured Dampa, my all-time fave seafood market/restaurant area! Yes, Pinoy food really is exciting and delicious. I know of many foreigners who have learned to appreciate the various nuances of our adobo. W/c reminds me, I need to eat my dinner right now.

October 05, 2008

Be careful of what you eat

BOY this has really been a few weeks of bad news, ey? When the hell can we breathe again?!

As if the global financial crisis isn't enough, now the Chinese tainted milk is threatening to err, restrict our dietary habits. According to several news sources, Hong Kong authorities found a few Cadbury chocolate variants tainted with melamine. (Yup, that's exactly the same thing as those 70's era brown dishes were made of.) I know some chocoholic friends who will just hurl bec. of this bit of news.

I used to love Cadbury chocolates when I was little. Then as I grew up, I discovered the more divine chocolates like Godiva, Leonidas, Neuhaus, Valhrona, Lindt, etc. When I visited San Francisco ages ago, Ghirardelli Square was one of the first shops I went to...got dizzy from all the chocolate choices! As I got older, my palate turned to the less sweet varieties so now I just love, love dark chocolates. The bitter, the better.

Hong Kong finds melamine in two Cadbury products

ABC News Oct. 5, 2008

Hong Kong's food safety watchdog says that two China-made chocolate products sold there by British sweetmaker Cadbury contained dangerous levels of melamine.

The city's Centre for Food Safety said in a statement that the two products - Dairy Milk Cookies Chocolate and Dairy Milk Hazelnut Chocolate, both sold in five-kilogram bulk packs - contained unacceptable levels of the toxic chemical.

Both products were among 11 recalled by Cadbury in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Australia last week, after the company said its own tests had "cast doubt on the integrity" of some items made at its Beijing plant.

The Centre said six other Cadbury products were tested and found to be safe for consumers. The remaining three products could not be tested due to lack of a sufficient sample. (Click here for the rest.)

SO be careful of what you eat gheys and ghels! Read the ingredients of the food items you are supposed to buy before putting 'em in your grocery cart. For now, stay away from the Chinese milk products and chocolates, no matter what the brand is. Munch on, or feed your kids some veggie sticks in the meantime. It'll be healthier pa.

October 04, 2008

The VP debate (...snore)

THIS is a belated reaction to the U.S. Vice Presidential debate aired last Friday (Oct. 3).

Neither of the two VP candidates (Democrats' Joe Biden and Republicans' Sarah Palin) said anything persuasive enough to get their rival's voters to switch sides. There were no fireworks set off. Biden was just too restrained and gently handled his opponent, maybe too gently, he had no fire in the belly at all. He was almost boring.

Palin, on the other hand, didn't directly answer assertions made by Biden against her presidential ally Sen. John McCain perhaps because she didn't know his record well enough to defend him. All she had were prepared soundbytes to attack Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. C'mon we've heard all of that before.

Biden sometimes came off as professorial as he tried to explain their tax plan and Obama's voting record (...zzzzzzz). Palin may have held her own, thanks to her debate coach(es), but still appeared wet in the ears like Eliza Doolittle trying to learn how to speak proper English. Dontcha think both of them would make a great team if they starred in My Fair Lady?

(This cutie is gonna break a lot of hearts I tell 'ya! Piper photo from qudecide.wordpress.com)

Btw, the only thing I like about Palin is her daughter Piper. That kid is just sooo cute and she knows it! She looks like she's enjoying herself in the political arena...shaking hands with the old hands, and waving to the crowds. I bet this kid is gonna be the next politician in the family. And who knows, she might actually become VP! that is, if she doesn't follow in her Ate Bristol's footsteps. And let's hope she's not half as stupid as her hockey mom, golly gee, aw shucks. (Btw, have you heard the latest interview of Sarah Palin? She says she reads The Economist...you betcha! Sana sinama na din nya ang Wall Street Journal at Financial Times of London. Dagnamit!)

* * * *

WELL, I'm glad that debate's over. The next one between Obama and McCain (Oct. 8 9AM, RP time) should be exciting as it's going to be conducted in a town hall setting. I wish Obama loosens up a bit, and smiles more. Look at McCain, he looks like a cute grandpa when he giggles and smiles...not that it's gonna win him more votes.

With the U.S. economy slip sliding away, everyone pretty much expects Obama winning in November. It''s like a replay of the 1992 Presidential elections pitting Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush (without the Ross Perot factor). Then Clinton's campaign strategist James Carville came up with the most famous line which everyone is using again in the U.S. (and even here at home): "It's the economy stupid!"

The U.S. budget deficit is now $1.2 billion, unemployment at 6.1% with more Americans losing their jobs (159,000 in September alone, the ninth consecutive month of job cuts), and sub-prime credit mess exploding that a $700 billion bailout package had to be forged by the feds, even the war in Iraq has taken a back seat. All these factors are conspiring to make Obama look like the better presidential candidate than McCain. I'm crossing my fingers it would be so.

MAR goes after Joc-joc's loot

‘Probe Bolante’s US bank accounts’

INQUIRER.net 10/04/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II on Saturday said he sought the assistance of various United States government agencies in recovering the P728-million fertilizer fund or parts of it believed to have been deposited in bank accounts and assets of former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante in the US.

In separate letters to three US agencies involved in finding illicit funds, the Liberal Party president asked “for an exhaustive and comprehensive financial investigation” on Bolante’s bank accounts and assets in the US in line with the principles of truth and accountability in public offices.

He addressed this appeal for assistance to, among others, Stuart Levey, Undersecretary, Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Department of Treasury; Mark Sullivan, Director, Financial Crimes Division, Secret Service; and Matthew Friedrich, Acting Assistant Attorney-General, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, Criminal Division, Department of Justice. (Click MAR sics Joc-joc)

IT'S about time someone stood up and went after all the money that Joc-Joc Bolante stole from us taxpayers. And I'm glad it's Sen. MAR Roxas who's doing it. Even though Bolante is his kasinmanwa (both of them are from Capiz), Sen. MAR shows that he means business when it comes to battling corruption.

I think that makes him a good candidate for President in 2010, dontcha think? I don't think this is just for show. Why would he waste his breath writing all those U.S. federal agencies if he were not serious in this mission? He already made an appeal even to US Ambassador to Manila Kirstie Kenney. I hope the feds respond promptly to this request considering they have already denied asylum to Bolante. They know the guy is guilty and hiding all his money in the States. I mean how can this guy afford to buy a house in the States, in Australia and another house in Ayala, Alabang (aside from the first one he earlier acquired while in the private sector) on a salary of a mere undersecretary?

I'm surprised the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which is attached to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (central bank) didn't take the initiative in trying to track down Bolante's loot. After all, the Senate already proclaimed him the architect of the fertilizer fund scam in 2006. Imagine the AMLC took two years before it froze Bolante's bank accounts, which, as everyone has probably guessed, all empty.

Sige, sic 'em MAR! Bring that kawatan back to Manila and prosecute his pants off!

(MAR photo from the Senator's web site.)

October 03, 2008

October 01, 2008

The new TV season is on!

SUMMER is over in the States so all the great TV shows are back with their new seasons. Yay! Some of my favorites include Entourage, Dirty Sexy Money, House, Grey's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters, Heroes, and Burn Notice. So my Mac has been working overtime again, as I download the new season's torrents this time via Limewire. (I used to use Transmission or Bittorrent but there have been some Internet issues w/ downloads from eztv and piratebay...I went back to Limewire which seems to be faster these days.)

My other favorites like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI New York and MadMen I just watch on the local cable networks so I don't tax my Mac and router too much. We're a little behind here, but it's still kinda cool to have something to wait for on TV. (I am surprised though that Studio 23 actually had very up-to-date Brothers and Sisters in its last seasons...it was only a week behind the U.S. airings.)

Without giving away anything, I am extremely excited over Grey's Anatomy's premier episode this season. Dr. Christina Yang (played by the always brilliant Sandra Oh) may be finding love (or at least lust) at last. There's a new doctor in town and I'm not saying who it is...of course you can just google it. Hint: he last played a lead role in ROME, the TV series. (Now that's a series I miss.)

Anyway the new doc (McMeaty? McNaughty? McSexy?) is hotttttt! and intense! Woof! Besides, it's about time Christina gets over Dr. Preston Burke. This is one tough cookie who needs some TLC. Who cares what happens to the on and off again relationship of Dr. McSteamy (Patrick Dempsey) and Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), ey? And yes, the Izzie character can be killed off. She's still living in her head w/ Denney the dead guy. Ick. she is annoying (both the character and the actor...what an arrogant bitch to turn down an Emmy nomination...feeling diva pwede ba!).

As for the other shows which have just premiered, Entourage is cooking as well...Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) is trying to get his career back on track after that miserable movie on Pablo Escobar. You'll still see a lot of cameos by actors, scriptwriters, and film producers/execs playing themselves as Vinnie tries to secure his next movie. But the character I really love is Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). This loudmouth has a great big heart. He may mess around w/ other women, and act like an asswipe in his dealings, but he loves his wife and kids. And you'll see him show this side of his in the new season. Of course, I can never get enough of Ari's office dynamics w/ his gay assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee...now a regular yay!).

Over at House M.D., Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) may finally see an end to the only one great relationship he's had with another human being. Almost everyone in this new season has come back hurting. Doctors in pain treating those in pain. Let's see how it'll play out.

I'm downloading Heroes right now, and eagerly waiting the season premier of Dirty Sexy Money. I hear Lucy Liu is gonna join the latter's cast.