December 31, 2009

Looking forward to 2010!

CHRISTMAS cards are meant to convey the warm wishes and joyful feelings of the holiday season.

They usually come in cheery, or funny, or spiritual types, like some of those posted on this page.

So you can just imagine how befuddled some people felt when they received a Christmas card from the government-run National Statistical Coordination Board. (For those who don't know, the NSCB is the repository of all official govt data such as the GDP, inflation, remittances, income, population, etc.)

Most of the data just show how mucht the economy sputtered in 2009 compared to 2008 (e.g. 3Q 2009 GDP growth rate was 0.5% compared to 4.6% in 3Q 2008, or the poverty rate in 2006 was 32.9% of the population compared to 30% in 2003.) Depressing di ba?

Of course we don't need NSCB's greeting card to know how poorly our country has fared over the years under the presidentita's administration. But hey, at least the academics at the NSCB managed to turn that glaring reality into a positive, and made an unforgettable Christmas card huh? With any luck, maybe under the next administration, NSCB's Christmas cards will feature much improved economic data.

With that last bitching for the year, let me wish everyone all the best for 2010!

* * * *

Whoopsie! Before I forget, check out Professional Heckler's fearless forecasts for 2010, and die laughing. Aba! Feeling Madam Auring! ;p

December 30, 2009

Fringe glass magnets

BECAUSE I always finish my Christmas shopping way ahead of December, I sometimes miss out on the latest cute stuff in the department stores. I was at Rustans ATC a couple of days before Christmas as my sister had to make an emergency purchase for a can opener (don't ask, it's a long story), and stumbled on these gorgeous Fringe refrigerator magnets.

There were also quite a few other designs like this:

(Photo from Apartment Therapy)

These babies don't come cheap, but I just couldn't resist them. So after a few days of tossing and turning in bed, I finally went to get myself a set (first photo). Okay, there goes my last frivolous purchase of the year. hehe.

Oh, and these are versatile as well. You don't have to use them only as ref magnets. As one contributor to Apartment Therapy shared, her household actually uses the magnets as small paperweights. Coolness.

December 29, 2009

More cakes from Carlo

EVERY Christmas, my sister and I obsess on what cake to serve for the family's Media Noche. Fortunately, for the past two years, we've been ordering from Carlo Estagle (aka The Cake Diva), who's luscious Torta Limone I discovered via good friend Georgia.

(Carlo's Torta divine!)

Prompted by Georgia's recent writeup of Carlo's new creations, my sister and I decided to go a different way this Christmas and ordered his Buttermint cake.

What can I say except brilliant! This was a splendid inspired treat from Carlo -- supermoist buttery goodness with a mild kick from the mint syrup, plus the bittersweet crunch from semi-sweet chocolate chips. A slice of this and your favorite cup of java makes for a perfectly calm and quiet ending to any meal. It's like eating Andes Peppermint crunches. Terrific mouthfeel, and so evocative of all things Christmas--the cool weather and the warm toasty feelings of family. Mmmm...

While Carlo's cakes may be considered a bit on the mid- to high-end price point, they are worth every centavo. He doesn't scrimp on ingredients and on the passion he puts into each of his creation. So if you're still on the lookout for a great dessert this New Year's eve, call Carlo at 0920-955-CAKE (or 2253) and ask for his sweet list. He makes sugar-free desserts as well, and will deliver if you live around his vicinity.


The forehead that dares not quiver

Dear Miss Choi 09:

I dunno who you are, but you're a blogger after my own heart. As I told a recent pro-Manny "Mr. Double Insertion" Villar" commenter in a previous post, the guy has got to find a new angle. This 'nanggaling sa mahirap" campaign is getting way too old. Nakakasawa na!

Villar may think that having someone like Wowowillie as a celebrity supporter (and who, btw, also endorses TechnoMarine watches w/c can't be afforded by the poor naman) will be a major boost to his campaign. If this were true, how come the forehead-that-dares-not-quiver is lagging a far second in surveys, after Noynoy Aquino? Tsk, tsk.

Anyhoo, let's hear it from Miss Choi:

Dear Manny Villar

First of all, I suppose congratulations are in order.

You are one hell of a salesman, good sir, and anyone who would dare claim otherwise is a liar. (Click here for the rest.)

* * * *

Speaking of TechnoMarine, it's a well-respected brand of watches created by Frank Dubarry, but w/c only a few years ago, found a new homebase in Geneva. Only 12 years old, the brand has found favor among yachtsmen, divers, and other sporty types because of its elegant masculine designs.

I especially loved one of its earlier quirky ad campaigns which went something like this:

Very slick no? Another ad had an octopus stuck to the female model's head. So I dunno what TechnoMarine was thinking when it decided to do this:

All hail the Willie Revillame watch by TechnoMarine! Well, I suppose this is what the company's local representation thinks will elevate the brand's recognition in the Philippines. Sure it may have increased awareness of the brand around these parts, but I think they just sank an international brand to an entirely new gutter level.

After this, somehow, you can't look at another TechnoMarine w/o also thinking of Willie's irritating asinine jokes, half-naked dancing girls, screaming hordes of masses, and Pokwang. Ickk! (Although to be fair, I have more respect for Pokwang esp. after reading about her personal struggles, and yet she manages to remain humble despite her success, unlike you-know-who.)

December 25, 2009

Christmas wishes for the Philippines

(My column in today's BusinessMirror.)

DESPITE the beginnings of the global economic recession late last year, we still managed to cope with the stress of the Christmas celebration. This year’s commemoration of Christ’s birth, however, appears to be more challenging, or the toughest in recent memory.

While the economic downturn has been difficult enough, we found ourselves reeling even more because of certain personal and national tragedies, like the passing of former President Corazon Aquino, and homelessness, hunger and psychological distress due to the natural calamities wrought by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. Now, our kababayan in Bicol face an impeding disaster due to an enraged Mayon Volcano. The massacre of women and journalists in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, by a political warlord in November also continues to weigh heavily on our minds.

How can we have a merry Christmas having gone through or while facing all these adversities?

Fortunately, our national psyche is also wired in such a way, that when dealing with such trials and tribulations, we are pushed to triumph at all cost. And with the national elections coming up in May 2010, most of us have a sense of the changes that we want in government and governance. We can no longer have the same kind of laid-back attitude to life in these islands, because our future, and those of many generations after, is at stake.

So it was no surprise, that when I asked several of our friends in business, government, politics and the arts what their wish was for the Philippines, many of them expressed the same hope for true change to come, such as an enlightened citizenry who would vote for the most responsible candidates in 2010, and a radical transformation of values and attitudes to help make our country work.

Here are their thoughts:

• Alfonso Yuchengco, chairman, Yuchengco Group of Companies, and presidential adviser for foreign affairs

I wish for the Philippines a complete and meaningful freedom. I wish the Philippines would be free from poverty caused by overpopulation and lack of resources; free from corruption in government, and even in the private sector; and free from violence and any threat to peace. I wish each Filipino would be rich in happiness and love this season and always. I wish the Philippines could adopt some form of birth control.

• Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo, president of the International Social Security Association

This Christmas and every day of the year, my wish is for the Philippines to be a haven of peace, prosperity and unity, for the common good. There is a great deal of work and resources needed to strengthen our institutions and improve our infrastructure facilities to meet the demands of our ever-growing population. If we move as one, our country could make progress and provide a more sustainable and prosperous future for our people.”

• Joseph “Ace” H. Durano, secretary, Department of Tourism

I wish Filipinos would appreciate how blessed our country is and to vote for people with the character and competence to use such blessings to benefit as many Filipinos as possible.

• Erramon “Montxu” I. Aboitiz, president, Aboitiz Equity Ventures

I wish that all Filipinos will think of country over self and that we have a peaceful and successful election. I also wish that we take environmental and sustainability issues seriously.

• Ma. Lourdes “Louie” Barcelon Locsin, co-founder, Power of Nine Movement, and candidate for representative, First District of Makati City

My Christmas wish for the Philippines is that the Filipinos learn to love their country and, better yet, one another. Maybe they already love their country. But it wouldn’t hurt to love our country more. And, more important, to show that love.

Will loving each other make our country great? I think so. A country is its people, not its landscape or its quaint customs. Good people make a good country.

If you have money to spare—a lot or a little—give it. When you go to church, drop P500 in the collection plate if you can afford it and not the small bills you keep in an envelope. Do something productive in your community. Start a livelihood project, volunteer in a day-care center or a parish weekly activity.

Teach your children that giving is better fun than getting, and that making people happy is the best kind of happiness for oneself. It can be taught. In fact, it can be taught early enough as to become a way of life for future generations.

Give generous bonuses to employees, giving most to the lowest ranking and less to the big executives in the firm. Bonuses are how you bring joy to those who support you in your work and how they, in turn, bring joy to those who help them help you, like their family.

Don’t complain about corruption, especially if you have no proof that will stand up in court or are unwilling to stand up and help prosecute. If you are just going to yak about it in your Facebook account, forget it. Stop preaching about honesty if you keep company with the dishonest.

It’s not hard to be a good Filipino. Let’s all try to be better Filipinos so we can show that we mean it when we say we love the Philippines.

(To be concluded next week....)

Happy holidays everyone!

December 20, 2009

Hyatt Regency sold; to reopen as hotel-casino

(The old Hyatt Regency in Pasay City, Manila photo by

BUSINESSMAN/singer-songwriter Jose Mari Chan has sold the once-famous Hyatt Regency Hotel in Manila to the Sunwest Group of young Bicolano businessman Elizaldy Co. Sunwest owns the luxury resort Misibis Bay Raintree in Cagraray Island, Albay.

The hotel is scheduled to reopen by April 2010, as Midas Hotel and Casino, to be managed by Genesis Hotels and Resorts, a hotel-management firm headed by Miguel Cerqueda, former general manager of The Manila Hotel. (Click here for the rest.)

Give a jar of face cream? Hell yeah! ;p

Maybe because I’m at that age where I value practicality more than sentimentality, I’m a big believer in useful gifts. Also, the unusual or unexpected. I mean some of these suggestions here may sound like everyday items but, believe me, these will be most appreciated because we always need them. Even better, most of them don’t even cost an arm and a leg. (Click Practical and unusual gifts at Something Like Life.)

December 17, 2009

'No return, no exchange'

I'M a big believer in consumer rights. I will always demand for good quality or service for the amount I paid for, and am not ashamed to return stuff or exchange items when I find them defective. Unfortunately, most Filipinos are still shy about this and will just roll over, even when their rights are being trampled on.

Read this column from the BusinessMirror, regarding the seven-day exchange policy of some stores. It turns out, you can actually return defective items even after that period, especially for products bought from well known brands. (Of course, if you buy a defective item that was just smuggled, you have no avenue for redress.) So if I were you, if you buy especially big-ticket items like appliances or even a pair of shoes or bag, make sure you keep the receipt.

It is important to note that in case of hidden defects, the law prescribes a maximum of two years from the date of purchase or upon discovery of hidden defect to file a complaint or act, taking into consideration the nature of product purchased. (Click The Business of Consumers for the rest.)

Unfortunately the column doesn't say what happens if you don't have the receipt for the product purchased anymore, and what if the store doesn't want to exchange the item you bought? I've already experienced complaining to DTI's consumer action group regarding some defective product purchased but received no support from the agency at all, other than a letter stating that they forwarded the matter to the agency overseeing the product/brand. So there.

December 13, 2009

If you feel like resigning from your job...

Whenever friends approach me with their problems at work, I often counsel talking to their bosses or whoever is in charge. I think it helps to keep communication lines open between managers and staff. Telling your boss that you are uncomfortable in your job gives him an opportunity to help you out, or guide you in dealing with the issue at hand. (Click Something Like Life for the rest.)

Jardines to invest $1M to spruce up Mandarin Oriental

THE Hong Kong-based Jardine Matheson Group is investing “approximately $1 million” in the Philippines, primarily to freshen up its Mandarin Oriental property in Makati City.

In an exclusive interview, newly installed Mandarin Oriental Manila general manager Mark Bradford also hinted that more capital aside from the initial investment is being considered. “We’ll be investing approximately a million US dollars [P46.82 million] in the next two quarters in enhancing some areas of the hotel. But after 33 years of operation, a larger amount of money is being looked at. We’re considering it very seriously.” (Click here for the rest.)

December 12, 2009

A candidate called Code Jack

IF you haven't seen it yet, here's the complete list of those who filed their certificates of candidacy for President (99), Vice President (20), and Senator (158). With only 12 seats available, methinks the senatorial posts will even be more hotly contested than the presidential post where only two or three out of the 99 are actually the most viable candidates. But there area many senatorial candidates who I must admit, have a credible track record and are serious contenders unlike the loonies populating the presidential candidates' list.

Don't be daunted by the length of the list. You must read through it. I promise a good laugh on the nicknames alone. Aside from Code Jack, there's even one presidentiable who calls himself Lady M-Ricky. Hahahahaa!

COCs 2010 (from Comelec web site)

December 11, 2009

On his own time daw


1. Da who is this Cabinet Secretary running for an elective post in May 2010, who is rarely in his government agency these days? He claims that he is doing his campaigning on "my own time", and says the agency is not spending its funds for his visits to his home province. Hay naku, sino naman ang niloloko mo ateh? In fact, it's Friday today, still a working day, and he is already there in the province, accompanied by another govt official handling a major agency.

(Libre ba yang barong mo hijo? Of course the Cabinet Secretary in question is not this gwapo.)

Oh, and we are no longer surprised why he looks well-dressed all the time. Apparently his barongs are supplied free of charge by another govt agency. Employees of that agency mutter that they hardly have a decent budget to run their projects, and here they go having to finance the Cabinet Secretary's clothing needs. Yes, fellow taxpayers...we're paying for this guys' threads. As if he can't afford to buy his own clothes. Kakahiya! Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Clue: the Cabinet Secretary's home province is synonymous to kisses.

2. DA who is the head of this newly-formed regulatory agency who is said to have hired as many as 100 consultants, some of whom are even husbands and wives? Businessmen who have to deal w/ this agency complain that there's even more corruption there than in the previous agency it had superseded.

Its inspectors, for instance, who are tasked to oversee the safety of the equipment falling under the agency's purview don't even have the skills to check said equipment's standards. So those new businessmen who want to have their equipment checked and are not aware of this, can just pay off the inpspectors to give them a passing mark. And bec. licenses and safety permits are given annually, can you just imagine the humongous amounts of money coursing through that agency under the table?!?!

Clue: The head of the agency is said to be the alaga of an ageing senator, and also of a military persuasion.

3. As early as 2005, the presidentita and the head of her transportation agency was already told of the need for Caticlan's runway to be extended by at least 200 meters more. The presidentita said, however, Boracay was already "overcrowded" and overrun by resorts. What she failed to realize however, is that Boracay is the only island saving the tourism industry of the country as even during times of economic downturns, Pinoys who can no longer afford to go on vacations abroad just go to Boracay.

Because of the shortness of the runway, however, two planes of Zest Airways were involved in crashes in January and in June this year, leading to temporary closure of the airport. (Of course, it's also due to the fact that Zest Air's Chinese-made MA60 planes aren't exactly made for short takeoffs and landings.) This led to the govt deciding to only allow Seair and lately, PAL Express to use the Caticlan runway. All other airlines have to land and takeoff in Kalibo. Consequently, most resorts and restaurants on the island have complained of a 20% drop in business, as tourists don't want to pay a premium for the convenience of landing in Caticlan, just 15 mins away from the island resort, compared to Kalibo, which is an hour and a half away.

Although the airport has been privatized and supposed to be developed by a group led by George Yang of McDonalds Phils. (Golden Arches), on our recent visit to Boracay, we didn't see any construction activity ongoing at the terminal nor the runway at all. With the recession still ongoing, and tourists not wanting to shell out more money to pay to land in Caticlan, we doubt that it would be a Merry Christmas for Boracaynons this year.

More chakahans next week!

December 10, 2009

The Martial Law debate (updated)

I DON'T necessarily agree with my former boss, Rep. Teddyboy Locsin, but here's the speech he made on the matter during the joint session of the Senate and Lower House this afternoon:

Teddyboy Locsin on Martial Law

Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago's speech urging the revocation of Martial Law in Maguindanao can be found here. (Thanks to baycas2 for the link.)

December 09, 2009

Not just pizzas at Pizza Hut

I MUST confess that I really never liked thick-crust pizzas which I think shortchanges customers. You get more of the baked dough instead of the wonderful ingredients that top the pizza; it’s like biting into a huge pandesal with the palaman on top. So this is the primary reason Pizza Hut has never really been my go-to pizza joint.

So imagine my surprise when I ended up in one of its press launches. All along I thought the event was about the Divella Pasta brand, which I’ve bought a few times before for my own “genius” pasta creations (read: taking the leftovers in the ref and making some sauce out of them). It turns out, after much guessing from the media guests on “who’s the new pasta player in town”, the answer was eventually revealed to be Pizza Hut.

“We have taken the bold step to proclaim that we are now as passionate [with pastas] the way we do our pizzas”, says Elaine Guzman, vice president for marketing. And yes, the restaurant does use the Divella pasta brand.

(The Aglio Olio. Photos courtesy of Pizza Hut)

All the while we were being asked the identity of the new pasta player in town, we were asked to taste eight different kinds of pasta dishes. It isn’t as exciting as it sounds, mind you, because by the fourth dish, I was ready to keel over from a seriously overextended tummy. But I managed to pick out few winners from the eight that were served under the restaurant’s Pasta Perfetto line.

The Aglio Olio, for instance, had the pasta perfectly coated in olive oil instead of swimming in it, like other restaurants serve it, with the garlic and pepper flakes giving it a crisp punch. The Puttanesca was also quite flavorful with the olives and capers lending it some delectable sweetness, although the dish could stand more anchovies to give it a salty counterpoint. (Of course, Pizza Hut isn't a fine-dining restaurant so ingredients aren't exactly generous as we want them to be.)

The other pastas under the creamy sauce category were adequate but seemed seriously dehydrated, with the cream forming a kind of lumpy dead crust on top. It’s not as bad as it reads; you just have to remove that top to get to the richness underneath.

(Spaghetti Puttanesca)

The winning factor is of course the pasta line’s price points as these range between P99 and P189. Other pasta creations include: Baked Mac and Cheese, Fettucine ala King, Spaghetti Bolognese with Meatballs, Baked Fettucine Alfredo, Lasagna Classico, Spaghetti Shrimp Garlic and Mushrooms, Pesto Chicken Penne, Three-Cheese Ravioli, and Seafood Supremo.

A couple of weeks after the launch of the Pasta Perfetto line, I finally took the chance and ate at a Pizza Hut restaurant, after years of shunning it. I was quite delighted to find it had pizzas under its Viva Italian line which are neither thin nor thick crust and slathered with sumptuous fresh ingredients. I especially loved Florence which featured fresh tomatoes, mushroom, black olives, anchovies and garlic topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and drizzled with olive oil.

The problem is, when I tried to order the same for delivery just a week ago, the operator at the Pizza Hut’s call center said this was no longer available, as well as the other varieties in the Viva Italian line.

Also, the operator said, not all the dishes under the Pasta Perfetto line were available for delivery either. I had wanted to try the three-cheese ravioli, and after being told this couldn’t be delivered, the operator and I went through the list of items that could be delivered. We basically ended with only four of 12 varieties under this new pasta line. Needless to say, this took back the winning points the restaurant scored with me as a customer. Not so Perfetto, ey?

Perhaps this is Pizza Hut’s marketing strategy to get more people into its restaurants, but it seems to me that it is neglecting a growing number of customers who want the convenience of a food delivery service. My hapless experience, however, shouldn’t dissuade you from actually hauling yourselves to the nearest Pizza Hut branch to check out its new pastas which, in these financially-distressing times, admittedly still give some value for your money.

December 08, 2009

An evening for thanksgiving

IT was my first time to see Margie after she was felled by a cerebral aneurysm in Nov. 2008. I spoke with her at the launching of her husband Chet's book, 88 Days in India – A Pilgrimage of Faith, Hope & Love, at the Powerbooks last night and it was just so inspiring to see how far she's come in her recovery.

Although still in her wheelchair, she surprised us by walking up the steps to the second floor of Powerbooks, where the launch was to be held, albeit with the help of Chet. She asks for more prayers from all of us so she can really get back to walking unaided again.

If you are still thinking of what to give your friends and family, I think Chet's book will make a great gift. Through his daily updates via email, all of us were kept abreast of Margie's condition, of the suffering she went through, of Chet's devotion to her, and her triumph over the direst medical conditions. Readers will be moved by Chet's descriptions of Margie's battles, and of the ways he coped throughout the ordeal. But as they say, love conquers all, and his unwavering support for his wife while she lay ill, became Margie's passport to her recovery.

Here are a few photos from last night's book launch:

(Chet talks about the contents of his book, mostly email updates of Margie's condition.)

(Margie thanking everyone for their prayers and words of support.)

(With Margie, superwoman!)

December 04, 2009

GMA sings!

“First, I am not afraid
I’m not petrified
Kept thinking I could always live
with immunity by my side
Though I spent so many nights
thinking I did nothing wrong
I am strong
I learned how to carry on
(Sung to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive)

Sing along to the presidentita's new top hit! Click The Professional Heckler for the rest of the lyrics. Me minus one pa kasama! O ha!

December 03, 2009

Celebrate life

IF you remember, my friend and press colleague Margie Quimpo-Espino of the Phil. Daily Inquirer, suffered a brain aneurysm on Nov. 29, 2008. It's been a year since that happened and Margie is now talking, texting, and baking even! The last time we chatted via Facebook (yes, she's back on it!), she said she was still having difficulty walking. But other than that, she really sounded extremely fine and grateful for everyone's prayers and continuing messages of concern.

On Monday, Dec. 7, a book on about her ordeal and triumph in the face of much suffering, will be launched at the Powerbooks Greenbelt. Entitled "88 Days in India: A pilgrimage of faith, hope and love", the book is authored by Margie's husband, former Inquirer reporter Chet Espino, and is now available at all Powerbooks branches.

Pls. get a copy of this book and be inspired with Margie and Chet's story.

November 30, 2009

Thought for the day... (2nd update)

IF you look like a slut, and behave like a slut, you'll be treated like a slut.

Bato, bato sa langit...

* * * *

Of course I wrote the above in reference to someone else, but whaddya know? Here's one who's sold her soul to the devil: GMA to run for Congress.

(What she really is. Photo from the Manila Baywatch.)

I really hope someone files his/her own candidacy in the same district to fight this evil incarnate, and defeats her. She needs to be told she isn't wanted anywhere. I don't think Capampangans are suckers for pain to intentionally want this gloria madness inflicted on themselves. (A word from the Warrior Lawyer why UP professor Randy David backed out from his earlier planned candidacy vs. GMA.)

Wow, I actually thought she couldn't top herself, but this really takes the cake! She is sooooo in love with herself and so greedy she intends to perpetuate herself in power. Di na nahiya sa kapal ng balat at mukha. Nakakadiri!

Well it's up to the Capampangans now. I hope they wake up to the reality that GMA is no good for this country nor for their province.

Merry Christmas!

* * * *

(UPDATE 12/01/09, 3:16 pm) And in case you haven't heard, here's another one with the gall to run for public office after stealing taxpayers' money! Like master, like tuta.

When it's time to walk away

If all there is in the relationship are unfulfilled promises, unmet expectations and acrimony, perhaps it’s time to call it quits. The presumption is that both of you are all talked-out, and the solutions undertaken to save the relationship have not achieved anything significant. When staying in the relationship makes you feel like you’re paddling furiously so as not be drowned in an abyss of emptiness, it’s probably time to swim back to dry land. (Click here for the rest. Photo from Beauteous.)

November 28, 2009

Noynoy and MAR file COCs at Comelec

“There are four that we would like to focus on: job generation is first. This is best explained by a father that I talked with before who said, ‘Bigyan niyo kami ng trabaho at kami na ang bahala sa kalusugan [Give us jobs and we will take care of health]’; education is second which is an essential tool for job creation, to start the reform of the justice system and even to advocate concern for the environment; third is health and fourth is judicial reform,” said Aquino. (Click here for the rest.)

Liberal Party standard-bearers Senators Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III and MAR Roxas flash the Laban sign as they hold their certificates of candidacy filed before the Commisssion on Elections this morning. Aquino and Roxas pledged to continue to heed the collective thirst and hunger of people for change, and to fight the crooked and corrupt. "Sa harap po ninyong lahat, sa harap po ng sambayanang Pilipino, hinding-hindi po namin bibiguin ang tiwala na ipinagkaloob po ninyo sa amin. Sama-sama tayo, lalaban po tayo. Una kayo, bago ako. Una ang bayan, bago ang sarili," Roxas said. (Photos by Gil Nartea, courtesy of the office of Sen, MAR Roxas.)

Aquino and Roxas, together with senatorial candidates under the "People's Reform" coalition, bow their heads in a minute of silence to remember the victims of the Maguindanao massacre before filing their COCs before the Comelec. Aquino, Roxas and the LP slate condemn the murders in the strongest possible terms, and pledges to work for the redemption of democracy and lasting peace in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao. From left: Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto, Ryan Christian Recto, former Sen. Ralph Recto, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon and former Senate President Frank Drilon; Aquino and Roxas; Manila Mayor Fred Lim; senatorial candidates Akbayan! Rep. Riza Hontiveros and Bukidnon Rep. TG Guingona; Aika Lim (daughter of senatorial candidate Brig. Gen. Danny Lim) and Pia Lacson (wife of senatorial candidate Alex Lacson).

Aquino and Roxas, together with LP senatorial candidates pledge to supporters to continue the the communal fight of all for what is right ("laban na tapat, laban ng lahat").

November 27, 2009

Because I hate ending the week on a down note...

I just wanted to post this video of a former drug user whose life was touched by Efren Peñaflorida, CNN Hero of 2009.

I believe in my heart that for every Andal Ampatuan Jr., there are 10 of more Efren Penãfloridas amongst us, just selflessly trying to serve others. Be the change.

More on the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao (updated)

(The presidentita, ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and his father Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., Sen. Miguel Zubiri, and Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar, in prayer at an RDCC meeting in July 2008. Photo from RMN Mindanao.)

In its 2007 Elections Forensics Report, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) noted: “The Ampatuan dynasty based in Maguindanao province is Arroyo’s present conduit in helping ensure her influence over the whole of Mindanao, which hosts many of the country’s grizzled but otherwise powerful political clans.” (Read the 2008 report of PCIJ.)

* * * *

(Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., center, with Secretary Jesus Dureza, right, upon landing at the General Santos City airport. Notice, the suspect isn't handcuffed. Just part of the administration's kid-gloves treatment. Photo and story in the Inquirer.)

November 25, 2009

Reality bites (Updated 11:47 pm, 11/26/09)

LIKE many of my colleagues in media, I too condemn in the strongest possible terms the hostage-taking and senseless killings that took place in Maguindanao earlier this week. There is no reason to involve women and innocent civilians such as journalists in violent schemes to settle political differences. As of the latest count, there were 47 dead, and yet no arrests have been made! All the government has done is declare a state of emergency. WTF?!?!

Let me tell you that back in the late 1980’s when I had the opportunity to work in the government, there was no fear of traveling to the far reaches of Mindanao. The places we usually read about now that lay host to these political killings or terrorist activities by Muslim extremists were places I used to travel with my bosses and fellow journalists. We would criss-cross Mindanao by land, with hardly a trail of military escorts because it was peaceful then.

Mindanao is a beautiful resource-rich region where most residents are men and women who once peacefully co-existed with others despite their dissimilar political, religious and cultural backgrounds. May the next president of this country be able to solve the peace and order issues in Mindanao so its people can return to their normal lives and prosper in peace.

The statements of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines here (courtesy of Nonoy Espina), and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) here.

* * * *

From an eyewitness: "Datu Andal himself said, he said to us: 'anyone from the Mangudadatu clan - women or children - should be killed...' We don't ask why, we just followed orders." (Read the rest in Al Jazeera.)

Ampatuan's denial here.

RSF to the presidentita: 'Choose better political allies'

* * * *

LIST of journalists who were killed in Ampatuan, Maguinadano, as per GMA News. Pls. say a prayer for the eternal repose of their souls.

1. Ian Subang, Socsargen Today, General Santos City
2. Lea Dalmacio, Socsargen News, General Santos City
3. Gina De la Cruz, Saksi News, General Santos City
4. Maritess Cablitas, News Focus, General Santos City
5. Rosell Morales, News Focus, General Santos City
6. Henry Araneta, Radio DZRH, General Santos City
7. Neneng Montaño, Saksi News, General Santos City
8. Alejandro “Bong" Reblando, Manila Bulletin, General Santos City
9. Victor Nuñez, UNTV (senior correspondent), General Santos City
10. Mark Gilbert “Mac-Mac" Arriola, UNTV (cameraman), General Santos City
11. Bal Cachuela, Punto News, Koronadal City
12. Ernesto “Bart" Maravilla, Bombo Radyo, Koronadal City
13. Ronie Perante, Gold Star Daily correspondent, Koronadal City
14. Joel Parcon, Prontiera News, Koronadal City
15. Jun Legarte, Prontiera News, Koronadal City
16. Rey Merisco, Periodico Ini, Koronadal City
17. John Caniban, Periodico Ini, Koronadal City
18. Arturo Betia, Periodico Ini, Koronadal City
19. Noel Decena, Periodico Ini, Koronadal City
20. Rani Razon, Periodico Ini, Koronadal City
21. Jhoy Duhay, Gold Star Daily, Tacurong City
22. Andy Teodoro, Central Mindanao Inquirer, Tacurong City
23. Jimmy Cabilo, Midland Review, Tacurong City
24. (missing) Reynaldo “Bebot" Momay, Midland Review, Tacurong City
25. Napoleon Salaysay, Mindanao Gazette, Cotabato City
26. Jun Gatchalian, Davao City
27. Lindo Lupogan, News Media Gazette, Davao City
28. Jolito Evardo, UNTV (driver), General Santos City
29. Daniel Tiamzon, UNTV (asst. cameraman and editor), General Santos City

November 23, 2009

Oh my goodness! Cookies!

(Don't these look scrumptious? Honey choco P's from My Goodness.)

MY vegetarian friend Shai Tamayo is offering healthy options for your Christmas gift-giving. She and her family make cookies made of nutritious, and virtually fat-free, ingredients like whole wheat flour, oats, low-fat yogurt, organic muscovado sugar, nuts and fruits, etc.

While I have yet to taste her treats, I just think these make great gifts to our friends and loved ones who are on strict diets to control their caloric intake, their blood pressure, and other diet-related illnesses. I, for one, usually have difficulty thinking of what to give my diet-restricted close friends afflicted with hypertension and diabetes. So next time I visit the Salcedo Market, I will surely drop by Shai's stall, My Goodness.

Below is Shai's latest announcement on Christmas gift boxes.

To know more of Shai's healthy treats, please visit My Goodness. She also sells organic rice, and organic coco sugar, etc., w/c you can buy in those beautifully crafted boxes from Laguna.

Bravo Efren Peñaflorida!

(Photo from AC360 on CNN. Read a recap of Efren's story here)
"Our planet is filled with heroes, young and old, rich and poor, man, woman of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry," - Efren Peñaflorida, CNN Hero of the year

As Efren has shown, truly, one man CAN make a difference. What great news to start a new week, huh! :)

November 20, 2009

Pacman is home!

Looks like Manny and Jinkee have kissed and made up huh? Pero say nyo sa outfit ni Nanay Dionisia?! hahaha. She's so aliw!

November 18, 2009

Meanwhile, back in Lala-land...

MANILA, Philippines - Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando yesterday declared he would resign to pursue his bid for the presidency in the 2010 elections.

“There is no turning back. Definitely I’m resigning soon,” he said. (Click BF to pursue presidential bid.)

* * * *

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino boxing great Manny Pacquiao is bracing for two big battles in 2010 — a congressional bid and a possible fight against former pound-for-pound champ American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Pacquiao told ABS-CBN’s “Umagang Kay Ganda” yesterday that he is bent on running for a seat in Congress in 2010. “Tuloy iyong pagtakbo ko next year (My plan to run in the elections next year is on),” Pacquiao said. (Click What's next for the Pacman?)

* * * *

(Photos from the Phil. Star)

MANILA, Philippines — Gina Alajar on Tuesday spoke about the controversy stirred up by a comment on her Facebook account on the alleged romance between Manny Pacquiao and Krista Ranillo.

The actress-filmmaker rued the implication that she confirmed the affair. What she wrote: “If I am Jinkee Pacquiao, I will not give up Manny... Krista... is not at all worth it!” (Click I stand by my post.)

Wake up, wake up! Wash your face! And make a bumble shake!

November 17, 2009

Loren: I am casting my lot with Manny Villar...


A. I like the color orange;
B. No one wanted me to be their VP;
C. He was the only one who could afford my P500-million acceptance fee;
D. All of the above.

* * * *

Loren: "Mas magandang kumbinasyon ang green at orange." The good senator probably flunked art class in Assumption, otherwise she would have known that combining both colors results in a muddy brown. As in, putik! Eew!

And no offense to my Assumptionista friends, but everyone knows that those who can afford to send their kids to this private Catholic school for girls certainly didn't come from humble beginnings. Meaning, you are not poor. So Loren should just stop saying that she and Villar come from similar backgrounds. Sige ka, I will make tusok-tusok you!

(Photos from the Filipino News Network.)

* * * *

The best Loren Legarda (aka Angelina Jolie) story I heard was told to me years ago by a member of her production staff when she was about to quit her job as TV presenter. She was ending her TV show on this major network to run for the Senate for the first time. At the production meeting to discuss what they would do for the last episode, Loren told her staff: "Maybe you should give me a goodbye party."

The staff, already used to her quirks, still couldn't believe their ears. They all managed to keep a straight face and eventually complied w/ Loren's instruction. So for the last show, they whipped up balloons and a cake for her. She, of course, acted all surprised. I actually saw this episode.

Many of those who've worked w/ Loren during her TV stint try not have anything to do w/ her these days, and I can understand why.

* * * *

On Feb. 28, 2009, Manny Villar said:

"I believe that while a lot of us will be announcing our candidacies, in the end there will just be a few who will remain.... If you can't even raise one billion pesos, why even run?

"With me, what you see is what you get. With some candidates, you'll have to ask, who's behind you? They say there is one golden rule, he who has the gold rules." (Click Reuters for the rest.)

To which, Loren replied on March 4, 2009:

"Ibig ba n'yang sabihin, kung wala kang pera ay huwag ka ng mangarap na makapaglingkod bilang pangulo sa ating bansa? Nakalulungkot pong isipin na paliliitin natin ang usapin ng paglilingkod sa bayan sa isyu ng pera. Pera-pera na lang ba ang eleksyon? Talaga bang ang tingin nya sa taong bayan ay mukhang pera? Pwera na ba ang pagmamahal sa bayan? Pwera na ba yung uri ng leadership na ibibigay mo? Pwera na ba yung vision para sa kinabukasan ng ating bansa? Basta may pera pwera na ba ang lahat?" (Click Loren statement for the rest.)

Sino daw ang mukhang pera?

* * * *

One year ago to this day, Loren voted to oust Villar as Senate president.

Then yesterday, this is what she said: "Ang mga nangyayari sa Senado at sa demokrasya ay parte ng mga proseso na walang pinagsisisihan, at ginagawa at nangyayari na walang personalan."

Her entire proclamation speech here.

* * * *

In Sept. 2008, Loren Legarda said this: Probe Villar on road project.

And today, this is what she said: "We share the same commitment to good governance marked by transparency and accountability." Of course, this comes a day after she signed a Senate resolution acquitting him of the ethics complaint in the C-5 double insertion case.

Pasok Jamboy: I will not subscribe to political prostitution when the country's interest is at stake.

Potah! Who is she calling a prostitute?

November 14, 2009

Things I learned from Sesame Street: (UPDATED)

• "C" is for cookie, that's good enough for me.
• Tweedlebugs live among plants and will take their car to the zoo.
• Brrrring! is the sound that aliens make when they come to visit your home.
• Two males can live together and that's okay.
• The world is composed of white Americans, black Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, monsters who live in garbage cans or eat cookies all day, green frogs who sing, birds as big as a house who may have imaginary (or not) elephantine friends.
• It was always sunny on Sesame Street, except when the Count finishes counting and then there would be thunder and lightning.
• It was normal for celebrities to hang out with monsters and muppets.
• We will all die eventually, as Mr. Hooper did.
• It's okay to sing at the top of my voice, when I'm happy, or rant and rave when I'm mad or grouchy.
• That it's great to run with the sun and wind in my face. Preferably with balloons.

Happy 40th anniversary Sesame Street!

(One of my favorite episodes on Monsterpiece Theater.)

* * * *

I've never seen this episode before but apparently, Mr. Snuffalapagus was finally met by the adults on Sesame Street in 1985. Accdg. to the YouTube poster, the writers of the show felt that it was not a good message to tell children that adults would never believe them.

Well, I always thought Snuffy existed in Big Bird's imagination and it was okay that the adults didn't see him. That's what made Snuffy special. Now he's just an ordinary muppet like the rest, only bigger.

November 13, 2009

If Edu has the Papaya Dance...

...GMA has the Poker Face dance!

How to cure (political) constipation (UPDATED)

I LOVE Edu Manzano. There I said it. "Love" not in a thumpity-thump heart-beat kind of way, but "love" as in I really admire his talents.

He was an excellent actor, even better than most Pinoys' favorite, Boyet de Leon, who I think tends to be OA. Edu's terrific sense of humor, intelligence, and articulacy in both the English and Filipino languages (not to mention the Ilonggo dialect) make him a natural host whether it be for a game show, a talk show, or a variety show. And apparently, he's even a good dancer! with his Papaya Dance capturing even the imagination of Good Morning America anchors in the U.S. You name it, he has the chops. Edu is one of best entertainers in the country and gives some amount of class to an industry peppered with the likes of Wowowillie.

But will he make a good vice president for the Philippines?

Edu was vice mayor of Makati in 1998 and almost didn't get to assume the position because his opponents claimed he was not a Filipino citizen. For those who don't know, Edu was born in San Francisco in Sept. 1955. But the Comelec ruled on Sept. 1998, that he was indeed Filipino by virtue of having registered as a Filipino voter. The case was elevated to the Supreme Court but the justices likewise ruled in Edu's favor.

His term of office was largely unremarkable I don't remember any earthshaking accomplishments. But I suppose he was largely sidelined from doing much more than he could bec. it was really Jojo Binay who was running the show, being the mayor.

Edu took a shot at the mayoralty position in 2001, fighting the massive machinery and experience of Binay and lost. He ran on an anti-corruption platform backed by the Forbes Park crowd, but it's been alleged that he knew he was not going to emerge victorious in that race. But as everyone joked then, at least he ended up fiscally fit. Hmmph! Bad talaga kayo.

After losing that election, Edu went back to showbusiness until he was appointed as the very first chairman of the Optical Media Board in 2004, after the Optical Media Act was signed into law in 2003. The OMB, whose forerunner was the Videogram Regulatory Board, is supposed to spearhead the fight against film piracy.

I don't know about you guys, but it seems to me there are more pirated discs flooding the market even before this particular law was enacted. Sure there have been few high-profile raids vs small retailers of pirated discs w/c we see reported intermittently on TV and the newspapers, but the problem continues. And it's been what? five years since the OMB has been operating? Tsk, tsk. Again there are many rumors floating around why film piracy continues and why Edu has largely been unsuccessful in eliminating it, some of w/c are not fit to publish here. Interestingly enough, Edu blames the rampant film piracy on Muslim extremists in the South.

Then between hosting jobs and his OMB stint, he founded the Ako Mismo organization w/c was eyed w/ much suspicion, for not immediately identifying the proponents behind it and what the movement was all about. The movement was foisted on the public via TV ad w/c featured a number of celebrities and thought to be the vehicle to push the presidential candidacy of businessman Manny Pangilinan. Edu finally went on ANC explaining that the organization was advocating for change by encouraging Filipinos to stand up for themselves and not depend on anyone else but themselves to institute reforms.

While he has said that the movement is non-political, w/ his run for VP, I doubt if it will remain as such. In fact, as I wrote then, I thought the Ako Mismo campaign seemed suspiciously like a pro-administration movement bec. after all, Edu is a GMA appointee. Well, well, well...I told you so.

The many loves of Edu: (clockwise from top left) Vilma Santos, Maricel Soriano, Rina Samson and Pinky Webb. Photos from PEP, Photobucket, and Facebook.

On the personal side, Edu's lovelife has always been super interesting! He was once married to Gov. Ate Vi (who has sensibly decided to continue taking care of Batangas) and they have a son Luis (aka Lucky), also an actor. He then moved on to Maricel Soriano who I hear has just broken up w/ her most recent significant other. Then made the bed w/ Rina Samson - a former ground stewardess w/ Cathay Pacific - and w/ whom he has two children, Amanda Danielle and Lorenzo. Now he is said to be engaged to ANC news anchor Pinky Webb. Ang colorful di ba?!?! (Hmm...I wonder if ABS-CBN will ask Pinky to go on leave as well, the way management did w/ Ate Koring. And naku! are we in for another 'wedding of the year' ala MAR-Koring?)

(UPDATE 11/19/09: Accdg to the news today, Edu has confirmed that he and Pinky have split up. Not surprising. He was kinda uneasy when he answered Tina Monzon-Palma's question two days ago on whether Pinky knew about his VP plan. He said, she was surprised, and added, "We haven't spoken for a while." Ay grabeh. So no wedding of the year in 2010. Oh well.)

To answer my own question, while I respect Edu and his talents, he has yet to prove himself in the area of public service. It's pretty obvious why he was chosen by the ruling PaLaKa party to be Sec. Gilbert Teodoro's running mate in the 2010 elections. They are running scared and are desperate to shore up Gibo's popularity w/c has been lingering in the single-digit percentages. And after turning on their asses for weeks who could do the job, they finally "force out Edu, the Papaya King, to cure the party's political constipation!" as a Facebook friend puts it. Haha.

Does the PaLaKa stand a better chance now that it has Edu as its VP? No. I think Pinoy voters will decidedly remain anti-Gloria and will always associate the Gibo-Edu tandem w/ her. Both will still represent the corrupt practices that this administration continues to engage in and the blatant dishonesty that has marked her presidency. The party will not be able detach their team from what she represents, yes, even if she steps down from its chairmanship. That's how much damage the presidentita has done to the country, to the bureaucracy, and to her party.

I conclude w/ a quote from Edu himself from this noon's press briefing: (To Gibo, after the latter introduces Edu's background and advocacies in rather glowing terms): "Not even my mother has spoken highly of me!" Ayus.

November 10, 2009

Noynoy gets Internet savvy w/ a little help from his Campaigns friends (w/ update)

LIBERAL Party presidential candidate Sen. Noynoy Aquino is quite a stranger to the ways of the Internet. Prior to his run for president, I don't think he even had his own web site aside from his page attached on the Senate's own web site. He has only started tweeting, and my guess is it's his new media group tweeting for him and not himself. I have yet to check which of the Noynoy Aquino/Benigno Aquino III Facebook profiles is his real one, although there is an official fan page whose membership just recently cracked the 100,000-mark.

(Sen. Aquino's official Facebook fan page, although I counted two other fan pages, plus three profiles w/c includes the one w/c lists him as a female and w/ his mother's bday.)

With Campaigns and Grey's Yoly Ong now on his side, the Senator's presence on the Net has further expanded with the airing of his 60-second video blogs (VLogs) w/c started today. In a press briefing w/c I attended this morning along w/ other select members of the media, Ong and Melissa Limcaoco, Sen. Aquino's deputy director for new media, said the purpose of these VLogs is to let the public get a taste of the issues the presidentiable is fighting for (or against). A videographer has been going around covering each campaign sortie of Sen. Aquino, capturing his speeches and his interaction w/ the public. In his first VLog, for instance, he is shown speaking w/ a retired public school teacher who complained of not being able to receive her monthly pension from the GSIS because the agency had no money.

The VLogs (dubbed "60 secs. w/ Noy") are definitely a step in the right direction for the Aquino campaign after reaping a whirlwind of criticism mainly from the intelligentsia, who detested the MTV featuring Sen. Aquino and his band of artistas. (Of course, they probably don't like Pinoy celebrities to begin with, and the empty-headedness they are thought to represent.) Lighten up people! He needs to attract the masa vote, obvious ba? Although I do agree w/ the critics that we need to see/read/hear more of Sen. Aquino and his platform of govt. instead of just seeing w/c artista endorsed him. So I suppose these VLogs will help the campaign achieve the purpose.

The VLogs are unscripted and meant to show the real Noynoy Aquino "in the raw." At the end of each day, the videographer's footages will be tightly edited and strung together to form a theme for each VLog, before being aired. (OK, so technically, the VLogs won't really be quote-unquote, raw.) The footages will be punched up w/ his official campaign jingle, Sya na Nga, w/c I must admit is a really catchy tune, I still hear it playing in my head. LSS much?

The VLogs will run daily until Nov. 27, or the day before Sen. Aquino files his official certificate of candidacy at the Comelec. Under the Omnibus Election Code, the campaign period starts on Feb. 9, 2010 for national candidates (or 90 days before May 8 elections), and March 26, 2010 for local candidates (or 45 days before May 8), so the candidates are not supposed to air any TV or radio ads about themselves from the time they file their COCs until the beginning of their respective campaign periods. It isn't clear though if this covers the new Internet platforms, after all, this medium was hardly tapped in previous elections. Like last year's U.S. presidential elections, this will be the first time in Philippine electoral history that new media will be used by the presidential candidates (via their web sites, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, cellphones, etc.). Ong says the Aquino campaign is erring on the side of caution and until further ruling by the Comelec, will cease airing the VLogs once Sen. Aquino files his COC.

(Sen. Aquino's official web site.)

Of course the inevitable question is, will campaigning through the Internet/new media make a difference for any of the candidates? By and large, Internet penetration in the Philippines is still low; accdg to Internet World Stats, it is 24 million as of the 2nd qtr of 2009, or roughly 25% of the country's estimated population of 97.98 million. About 18.2 million of Internet users are potential voters (meaning 18 y.o. and up). So while the Aquino campaign will be tapping this new media for its campaign, Ong says, it is really an experiment for them to see how much power the Internet has in moving next year's elections. And TV is still the medium w/ the largest impact w/ 90% usage for voters' info as compared to only 22% for the Internet. Ong does point out though that Sen. Loren Legarda won in the last senatorial election w/ an 18-million vote, so that just means they are hoping the Internet will boost Sen. Aquino's chances to win in 2010. (Btw, did you know that 60% of Internet users in the Phils. are in Internet cafés?)

As of press time, however, Ong has yet to answer my question if there are any plans for Sen. Aquino's team mate and VP candidate Sen. MAR Roxas to be included in the Internet campaigns. (After previewing the first three VLogs, it looks like Sen. Aquino's running mate is actually former Bukidnon Rep. Neric Acosta, and not Roxas. Acosta is just all over the place!) For casual political observers like me, Sen. Aquino seems to be conducting his own separate campaign, pretty much disengaged from what should really be a team effort. Are Sen. Aquino's handlers trying to get him elected at all cost, w/o a care who wins the VP slot? Hmmm...again,nagtatanong lang po.

(A slide from today's presentation by Campaigns and Grey. Looks like Sen. Aquino has trumped some of his rivals in terms of Internet presence/followers. What will this mean for the 2010 elections?)

(UPDATE 1:05 a.m.) Accdg. to Campaigns PR Inc. Managing Director Richard Arboleda, Sen. MAR Roxas will definitely figure in the Sen. Aquino's future VLogs. Thanks!