January 31, 2009

Talking baby

TOO bad we're not crazy football fans here, because Superbowl XLIII starts tomorrow. One of the best things that come out of it are the ads, which are some of the craziest, funniest, and the most creative ever. The star last year was the E*Trade talking baby. Here he is:

And the buzz is, he'll be back tomorrow. Here's the latest from this cutie and some friends, outtakes kuno from the ad that will be premiered tomorrow:

"I want to punch the economy in the face!" - hilarious!

(Note: E*Trade's investment products are not insured by the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Commission. A warning, just in case you get seduced by all that cuteness.)

January 30, 2009

This is very strange

Four days after the fatwa went out, students continued to fill the classrooms of Jakarta's Jakartadoyoga Studio. On Jan. 28, the influential Indonesian Ulemas Council issued a religious edict forbidding all Indonesian Muslims to practice yoga that incorporates pre-Hindu religious rituals such as meditation and chanting. And while students at the yoga studio admitted they had heard about the proclamation, which allows yoga only for the purpose of exercise or sport, they say it won't deter them from attending classes in the popular Indian practice. "Issuing a fatwa is not the way to settle a controversy — if there really is one," says Sita Resmi, a yoga student and observant Muslim. "If something endangers the public, then I understand, but this doesn't, so it doesn't make much sense to me." (Read Indonesia's Fatwa Against Yoga in TIME magazine.)

A few years back, I attended a yoga retreat at Mandala Spa in Boracay. One of my classmates asked our instructor, Mo-ching Yip, if she could sit out the chanting class because she's a born-again Christian, and thus, recognized only one Supreme Being or God. Many of the chants used in yoga practice do mention several gods or goddesses. So what Mo-ching did was to teach us chants w/c were non-denominational, and spoke of one Earth, the divine light in us and in everyone, and peace.

Personally, I have never felt less Catholic when I was still chanting and meditating. I found chanting very comforting and uplifting. I think I'll take it up again.

OM Shanti.

Lagot kayo!

When your bank is failing and borrowing money from the federal government, shouldn't management at least have the decency to cut costs, streamline operations, and whip the company in better shape so the loan can be repaid? These people are so kapal!

Obama scolds Wall St. bankers on bonuses.

January 28, 2009

Story's not over

ACTUALLY, this is how it all began; take a look at the Jan. 24 edition of the Townsville Bulletin:
"I went to go to the toilet and I took a bottle of water when my foreman saw me and he said 'you can't bring the water in there'," Mr Bernabe said.

"I asked why and he said it wasn't good but I said it's our way and he followed me into the toilet.

"I said it's my personal hygiene. I didn't break any law, I didn't break any rules of the company, why can't I do this, and he said he would report me to the manager."

So, does it sound like Mr. Bernabe was just randomly picked on by management? According to the paper, he has been with the company since April 2008. Surely, if there were any problems between him and the other employees, he would have been kicked out in six months. So I really dunno what happened here. Baka napag-initan lang sya talaga, and I may have been quick to judge him. Sorry.

I think there is another story here that's not being disclosed. There really could be some bad blood between Mr. Bernabe and the foreman, even before this happened. Or maybe the foreman was new, and pinag-tripan lang sya? If Mr. Bernabe was having problems w/ the foreman, why didn't the union help him talk to higher management? If there were legitimate complaints from other staff about his toilet habits, were these in writing or sabi-sabi lang? Because it's easy to manufacture complaints when you're just targetting someone just 'cos you don't like his face. Was Mr. Bernabe really leaving a mess everytime he used the toilet cubicle? Because if he did, then he should've cleaned up, out of respect for the next one who'll use it.

After reading the Jan. 24 edition, my friend Mr. Poet says, he still can't understand why Mr. Bernabe just didn't use the TP? It appears the Australian way is to just use TP. Period. No washing. (Aussies, pls. confirm.) And I perfectly understand why Mr. Bernabe was revolted by the idea. But if I were in his place kasi, and there were legitimate written complaints about how my habit was offending co-workers, and that it was putting their health at risk, then I would've probably just brought baby wipes to work.

As someone who's worked abroad, I know it sometimes takes awhile to get used to a new culture and environment. You kinda have to feel everything and everyone out first. It's all pakikisama until you finally become confident enough to plant your feet firmly. Eventually, most Pinoys adjust accordingly, that's why foreigners love to employ us. I hope Mr. Bernabe's story will have a happy ending.

* * * *

MEANWHILE, I stumbled upon a few interesting web sites about the history of toilet paper, after reading about Mr. Bernabe's case.

Did you know that the Chinese were the first ones who invented toilet paper? Yup, back in AD 1391. Check out the Toilet Paper Encyclopedia. Also a witty take on the TP here.

January 27, 2009

This totally grossed me out

SOMEONE posted a link to this story on Jessica's blog and of course, nosy me, I read it. I wanted to throw up my lunch after. So read at your own risk!

TOWNSVILLE Engineering Industries (TEI) has denied their employee was sacked for his toilet habits.

Company manager Byron Carter said Amador Bernabe's toilet habits had posed a `serious health risk' to his other employees and he had been counselled a number of times about the issue.

The 43-year-old machine operator was working for TEI Bohle on a working visa from the Philippines and used water to clean himself instead of toilet paper. (Read the rest at the Townville Bulletin.)

OKAY, first off, I hope this story doesn't become another heated debate about racism like the inane Desperate Housewives issue, which I thought was stupid and a waste of time. This is a question of public health.

This is not the same issue as that Filipino kid in Canada being told to change his eating habits by using a fork and a knife – the supposedly Canadian way – from the Pinoy custom of eating w/ a spoon and fork. The school the child was enrolled in was clearly wrong on that account. The child's eating habit was not endangering anyone. I thought that issue was same as forcing left-handed kids to use their right hand for writing, back in the day when there were many misconceptions about lefties.

After reading this story in the Townsville paper, my first reaction was "YAAAK!" I mean who doesn't use toilet paper in this country?! I know Pinoys are the cleanest when it comes to their person it drives other foreigners insane (there was actually a news story about a Spanish or French couple complaining how their Pinoy boarder using up too much water by bathing 3x a day). So if this story about Mr. Bernabe's toilet habits are true, then I'd really like to put it out there that he is an anomaly.

I can understand if you're poor, you can't afford to buy toilet paper. But even then, Pinoys will find ways to wipe themselves off, and not just splash water on their bottom. It's as natural as wiping off your sipon when it comes dripping from your nose. Wiping your bottom after you've done No. 2 is not just an Australian custom. It's also a Filipino custom, and medically, the best way to clean yourself. Of course, after wiping, you splash your bottom w/ water. Then wash your hands. I know most people may forget to wash their hands after doing whatever business in the banyo, but how can you not wipe yourself?

Most friends know me to be OC when it comes to toilet paper. I used to go to the duty-free stores in Clark and Subic regularly just to buy U.S.-made toilet paper which are thick, absorbent, but soft (my favorites are Charmin' and Northern Quilted) and quite cheap compared to the local toilet paper. With the depreciated peso rendering these toilet paper luxuries moot, I am happy with Paseo or Scottissue's Triple Ply.

One of my pet peeves is checking into so-called Triple-A resorts or luxury hotels only to find one-ply rough toilet paper in their banyos! Horrors! So you can imagine how this story of Mr. Bernabe truly ticks me off.

(UPDATE 3:49 pm:) There is an ongoing discussion right now in my Facebook page about the use of toilet paper. Apparently, there ARE some Pinoys who don't use toilet paper first after doing the No. 2; they wash first, then use the TP. Some of them are even my friends! I may have been living in some other parallel world after all. Now if I managed to offend some people about this post, especially those whose toilet habits are different from mine, then I apologize. That was not my intention. I'll update you guys about this discussion. I'd appreciate comments from you readers as well.

This reminds me of the story of the New York couple who was recently sued by nuns because they smoked tinapa outside their apartment and of course, they stank up their apartment building. Click here

ANYHOO, I think Mr. Bernabe should have adjusted to his environment accordingly. It's not as if he had to pay for the toilet paper. If he uses toilet paper anyway after washing, why not just follow the management's suggestion and wipe? He should have also thrown the wet tissues in the waste basket instead of leaving them on the floor. If the toilet bowl was wet, he should have also wiped it dry out of concern for the next person who would be using the cubicle. If the guy was such a slob as reported, then he is a disgrace. When one's personal custom or habit offends other people, then one must change. He can be a slob in the privacy of his own home.

(UPDATE 11:55 pm): After much discussion, my friends and I agree, it the guy was just being a slob, then the company was just right to take him to task for it. He should clean up after himself. But if management was just targetting him bec. he uses water instead of TP to clean himself after doing the No. 2, then the company was wrong to fire him. Mr. Poet insists, "why didn't he just use the toilet paper?" Ewan.

January 26, 2009

Kung hei fat choi!

Happy New Year to all my blog readers, family, friends, and even my pretend-friends. Wishing you all a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009.

(from www.gift.org.sg)

On this first day of the Chinese New Year, I went to my doctor for a follow-up checkup and to have him change the dressing on my wound. Still an ordeal. Not as bad as Saturday's though, but painful just the same. I hope this thing heals soon enough. I still have another checkup on Thursday. Meanwhile, I still have some difficulty sleeping, cos I can't lie on my back, and I'm still subsisting on antiobiotics and painkillers. So I really am not up to any socializing this week yet. So forgive me if I'm still a bit sungit.

I know I shouldn't complain. There are other people more ill and in worse shape than me. I hope to be up and running when February begins. So much work to do. I want to reap the full benefits the Year of the Ox will bring.

(P.S. Thanks to the divine Ms. F for sending me some delicious roast turkey and a huge slice of her yummy carrot cake from her post-inaugural Obama party w/c I missed because I was ill, and to Tito Mon for bringing me the food. Love you guys! Seriously, I'd buy that carrot cake if it were sold in the bazaars!)

* * * *

If you haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire yet, I suggest you start downloading the movie from your favorite torrent sources. Except for the Bollywood ending (choeographed group singing and dancing, what elz?!), it's Oscar-worthy. I hope it wins.

Of course I haven't seen the other Oscar nominees for best film yet (got a broken torrent of Doubt, so I couldn't watch it, kainis!), but Slumdog is a definite strong contender.

But according to this piece, not all Indians are happy with the film. I understand their point. It's like everytime Manila gets mentioned in international news stories, there is the usual shot of Smoky Mountain. But this doesn't mean that the poverty, squalor, and corruption are not real. Amid that same setting in Slumdog, however, the character emerges a winner. I give it props for being the feel-good movie of the year,

The Pope on YouTube

POPE Benedict XVI thinks the Internet can promote truth. So the Vatican now has its own channel on YouTube. As of Jan. 26, 2009, it had over 261,000 views. I guess a lot of people are searching for the truth.

(Screenshot of the Vatican Channel)

Hey art lovers!

YOU may want to see this one-woman show of Sequi Cu unjieng at the Hiraya Gallery, from Feb. 5 to 24: (click to enlarge)

January 24, 2009

Pain sucks

(WARNING: Lurid details ahead. Read at your own risk)

I"M not trying to be cute. I just had an outpatient procedure done this afternoon for this condition that's been nagging me for two weeks already. And it hurt like hell!

I suppose I'm more sensitive this week because I'm a little hormonal (the ladies will understand what that means), so when my doctor told me I needed to have the procedure done like today, I had crying fits for two days. Even drinking my soymilk didn't help stabilize my emotions.

Doctors in general scare me. (Except for my dermatologist Doc Reena at Linden Suites.) But the thought of having any sharp object cut through my skin is just horrifying. So even if this was considered a minor procedure that would take, at the most, an hour, you cannot imagine how terrified I have been. On my way to my appointment, I couldn't help but break into tears again; I texted a few friends to pray for me. It was super freaky, and I was all alone. I prayed to my Pop, to my brothers and the One above to help me calm down and get me through this.

When the time came for the procedure, I was lying down flat on my front, my face staring down at the operating room floor. The music was roaring through the room as we waited for my surgeon to arrive. My doc has quirky tastes -- it ran from Nonoy Zuniga's "I'll never ever say goodbye", to some bossa nova, then Pearly Shells by some nutjob, then was that Barry Manilow I was hearing? (Of course the iPod was on shuffle, hence the playlist.)

It was awfully cold and I wanted to go to the rest room to pee again but my back was already "sterilized", swabbed w/ Betadine, Nurse Gemma said. So I held it. She took my blood pressure, it was 130/73, which is unusual for me. Obviously it was the nerves. (My usual BP is 120/80.) But I calmed down a bit as I joked w/ Gemma and another attending, Gino, talking about Doc Alex's 'morantic' playlist.

But when Doc Alex came, and started the procedure, it was the beginning of hell for me. I felt the needle prick into my back and I muffled an "Ow!" It was the anesthesia they said. Okay, I thought, that meant I wouldn't feel any pain anymore. WRONG! I felt the effing knife or scalpel cut right through my skin. I screamed! Then I started crying. Nurse Gemma held my hand and I pressed so hard I think I broke her fingers. I felt more cutting, slicing, and pressing, and I kept yelling "Owww!!!" I thought I was going to die.

(I had sobbed into the gauze pad laid on the pillow and didn't even notice how my entire face was erased. I mean what kind of idiot would even put make up on a day she was to be operated on? Of course it had to be me. My lipstick had wiped off, as well as my eyeshadow; at least I made the right decision to wear waterproof mascara, so there wouldn't be any ugly streaks on my face, or black shadows under my eyes making me look like a racoon.)

It felt like hours, but the procedure actually took about 45 minutes. The sharp cutting pain just wouldn't go away. (The back apparently has finer nerve endings w/c makes us feel more pain.) It was just sheer torture for me to be laying down there. I didn't hear the music anymore, and I barely heard what Nurse Gemma was saying. I couldn't focus enough to meditate and do any yogic breathing exercises to calm me down. Nor could I do any visualizations of a sunny day at the beach, or a hot fudge sundae, or any scenery that would relax me. My only one constant thought was the insufferable pain.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I felt it was a 9, with 10 probably being childbirth, which I've never felt but everyone says is the most painful of all. This was all new to me. I've had two major surgical operations before but both were under general anesthesia so I didn't feel anything until a few days after waking up and I was weaned off the painkillers. Even getting four molars pulled out by my dentist (to prepare me for braces) when I was 11 didn't hurt at all.

Doc Alex probably took pity on me as he listened to me alternate between screaming, then sobbing, and quietly weeping, so he kept on saying, "sorry, sorry." Then it was over. But before he left, Doc Alex patted my arm gently asking, "galit ka sa akin?" I could barely squeak out a "hindi." I knew he was just trying to make me laugh. But I was in no mood yet after what I just had been through.

Even with the procedure over, I still quietly wept. My face was all red and blotchy. My head started throbbing. I hadn't cried this much since my Pop passed away. And the wound really hurt. It took awhile before I was able to compose myself again.

I suddenly had a craving for Sebastian's chunky mocha almond fudge sugar-free ice cream. But drat! it didn't have a stall at the Shangri-La Mall, which was the nearest place I could get a bite to eat. I was desperate to eat something, anything! to make me feel better. Thank God for Dome Café's churros con Toblerone chocolate. It helped elevate my serotonins a bit. Sigh. There I took my antibiotics and two paracetamols, but I still felt like I had just been beaten up.

I wanted to go home and just sleep. I was in no mood to party tonight (and I had a post-Obama inaugural party I was supposed to attend). Nurse Gemma told me I couldn't bathe until Monday, which is when my dressing will be changed. So that shoots down the rest of my social calendar for the weekend which was supposed to include the Chinese New Year celebration at the Mandarin Oriental Manila. Rats! I also can't exert myself, do any heavy lifting, make iré (I dunno how to translate that to English), or stretch. So that also erases any possibility of attending any yoga classes in the next few days. Phooey!

As I write this, I've just switched to mefenamic acid, but I can still feel some stinging in my back, though it's not as bad as before. I'm still exhausted even after I had a nap. This day took a lot out of me, I'm so glad it's over.

(Photo from webstockpro.com)

At last

Saw this on Chuvaness' blog...takes your breath away doesn't it?

Except for the fact that it was Beyoncé singing"At Last," I thought the first dance was soooo lovely. (I prefer the Nat King Cole version, and since this was President Obama's moment, I thought they should've picked a male singer instead, no offense to Beyoncé fans.)

But this is why everyone seems to be attracted to the First Couple. Even as they dance, they look into each other's eyes, whisper, they look so in love w/ each other. It's kinda difficult to fake this, unless you're an artista. If you watch their interviews, you can see how close they are to one another. They hold hands, they joke around; their relationship is warm and very real, full of mutual respect and honesty. Sigh. Crush ko sila both.

* * * *

BTW, those who are wondering, "At Last" was first performed by Glenn Miller and his orchestra – my dad was a Glenn Miller fan so we have his records – for the film Orchestra Wives. Though it was Nat King Cole who made it popular in his day - yep, dad had his albums too - the version that apparently everyone else is aware of is that of Etta James' who changed some of the lyrics. This was the version Beyoncé sang at the first Inaugural Ball.

* * * *

HOWEVER, for a country supposedly in recession, that was a pretty huge price tag for the Presidential Inauguration. At $170 million, it was the most expensive in U.S. history. What's more, Wall St. helped pay for it. I thought that was kinda tacky.

Honeymoon's over kids. Wake up and smell the sewer.

January 21, 2009

Now comes the hard part...

ARE you guys sufficiently rested already? I dunno about you, but I was still at my Mac until way past 6 AM half-sleeping in my bed, and watching the Obama inaugural. So mejo antok pa ako and I can't be held responsible for what I write here. hehe

Anyhoo, I was so happy to see the part where President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama went down from their tank (that was just a huge monstrosity...did you see how thick the doors of that GMC were?!) and walked along Pennsylvania Ave. waving to the people. That was really awesome. How long since a U.S. President and his wife has done that? I'm too sleepy to research the answer to that one, sorry.

(President and First Lady Obama walking down Pennsylvania Ave. after the swearing-in ceremony. Loved the dress and pumps, but with the gloves, I wasn't feeling it. The President, on the other hand, looks handsome and dapper. Kilig! Photo from Reuters)

But the feeling of excitement, renewed hope, restored energy was just palpable as the crowds cheered for the couple while they walked. It sure was a great time to be in DC. Nakakainggit! But now after the inaugural festivities are over (the couple has finally turned in after attending all those balls according to the press reports), comes the hard part...critiquing the First Lady's outfits! Bitch ba? haha. It was just that my cellphone and mailbox were full of comments from my girlfriends and my sister about the First Lady's attire, both at the swearing-in ceremony, and the Inaugural ball.

As we've seen in the past, the First Lady really has her own fashion sense. She usually sticks to the basics (business suits) and the same silhouettes (shift dresses). On some days, she wears high-end brands like Narciso Rodriguez, on other days, she's in a J. Crew (the clothing store has been cutting its prices in a bid to increase its sales so malapit na syang maging low end brand hehe) .

(The olive green gloves up close. Yak color! But look at the detail in her dress ha. Wonderful! Photo by Getty Images)

I personally loved the yellow-gold embroidered dress and coat she wore to the swearing-in ceremony. It was bright and sunny, as was intended to be by the young Cuban-American designer Isabel Toledo. But I hated the hideous olive green gloves and green pumps. Why? Because I just hate the color green, yun lang! Kahit na Jimmy Choo pa yung shoes nya. With the shoes alone, the outfit was actually striking, but I thought the gloves just wrecked it.

(This was the Milly houndstooth dress Dr. Jill Biden, the Vice President's wife, was wearing underneath that hot red coat. Loved her boots as well. Biden photo by Reuters)

In a departure from her predecessors, the First Lady stuck to just one ball gown, an ivory white, one shoulder, ruched gown created by a relatively unknown designer Jason Wu. (Departure because usually, a First Lady changes her gown for every inauguration ball she and the President attends.) The Wu frou-frou looked like a "prom dress" griped my sister. I couldn't agree with her more. Perhaps the intention was to soften up the hard features of the First Lady. However, the gown didn't look flirty or feminine at all, it was yun nga prom dress-y. I thought it probably looked better up close, cos maybe those rhinestones and Swarovski crystals would give it the oomph it needed, but sorry, the entire thing reminded me of of a plucked chicken.

(The inaugural ball gown: Looks like a plucked chicken to me. Photo by Getty Images)

On the other hand, I super loved the Vice President's wife Jill Biden, for walking in those sleek black calf-length stilleto boots and red overcoat. She really rocked! She was apparently wearing a Milly houndstooth dress under her fab, fab coat. Apparently some people criticized her for the length of the dress, the hemline grazing above her knees, but hello, if you have it, flaunt it. These were not the knees of a fuddy duddy old woman approaching senior citizenship I tell ya.

At the ball, Dr. Biden was sooo splendid in a red strapless gown by Lebanese-American Reem Acra. (She dresses all these celebrities walking the red carpet.) It was so simple with just a tad amount of ruching, but Dr. Biden looked so vava-voom sexy. The Vice President just looked so positively cuter beside her. I truly am fascinated with this couple as much as I adore the President and his First Lady. Last thing about Dr. Biden's Inaugural Day outfits, if you compare them to what she's been wearing all throughout the campaign, it seemed a radical departure. Parang from conservative, biglang, wow, fabulosa!

(Jill Biden in a Reem Acra red gown. Doesn't she and the VP look awfully good together?)

Too bad the First Lady's hands were tied in the matter of picking a gown color. Tradition has it that First Ladies wear white during inaugural balls. Perhaps she should have chosen a different silhouette or did away with that one-strap look, or chose a different designer altogether. Methinks even that outrageous Christian Siriano who won season 4 of Project Runway would have done a better job of designing her ball dress.

Oh well, at least the First Lady is daring enough to try out different looks and continues to excite the girls into commenting about what she's wearing. Her predecessors were hardly fashion plates, and were largely boring in their attire. So winner pa din ang First Lady kahit pano.
* * * *

OF course ang pinaka-winner sa lahat ay:

(The hat was custom-made by Mr. Song Millinery in Detroit.)

Only a big woman with a big voice like Aretha Franklin can get away with a magnificent hat like that! Love it!

Obama inaugural via CNN/Facebook

FIRST off, this application was a way cooler gimmick than CNN's hologram interviews during election night in November. BUT, the amount of traffic to the CNN Live site caused some problems to some international viewers leading to some screen freezing. (I had to go to the TV finally to watch the proceedings there, but kept the Mac still tuned to CNN.)

(A shot of the crowd. The news reports said about 2 million visitors were expected to watch the inaugural. Check out the comments on the FB window. Just click to enlarge)

GENERALLY, it was a nice experience with most my friends still up and updating their statuses in reaction to what we were watching onscreen. I think I became too obsessed, that it seemed that I was updating my status every 15 minutes. (I counted more than 10 status updates since I started watching online at 7pm.) What was cool about the app was I could read the reactions of other people around the world as well, while they too watched the events unfolding onscreen.

(Joe Biden being sworn in as Vice President. I don't have Obama's actual swearing in as my Internet service decided to freeze that moment. Erg.)

It was a nice experiment for CNN and Facebook. Very innovative. Anyhoo, here are other screen shots of Barack Obama's inaugural via CNN/Facebook right up to the Bush couple's departure from the capitol. (I just had to make sure Dubya would leave.)

(Obama's speech: 'Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.')

(Special guests were the Tuskugee Airmen, the first African-Americans integrated into the U.S. military.)

(The Obamas and the Bidens walk the Bushes out to their waiting chopper.)

(43 waves goodbye to his fans...ngek may natira pa ba?)

(And we have lift-off folks! Bye-bye Bushie! Woop! glad that's over!)

* * * *

Meanwhile, I thought Obama's inaugural address was great. It was brief, straight to the point, and expectedly, called on all Americans to unite, and not to look at their differences as a hindrance to doing great things. He also outlined his main program of government: emphasis on scientific research, health insurance reform, addressing the economic crisis, and a push for diplomacy to settle international disputes.

I liked this part, because it kinda addresses our conditions here in the Philippines as well:

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them— that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

Read the full text of President Obama's inaugural address here.

(Online banner of New York Times tonight.)

Sure I didn't finish my work tonight, but I didn't dare miss this event. It was great to be part of history...even if it was just by watching TV or the computer feed. Congratulations U.S. of A! The world looks to you again for leadership and greatness.

January 20, 2009

Maya Angelou on Barack Obama

Something inspiring from poet Maya Angelou; her "ruminations" on the Barack Obama presidency on BCC's Notes to Obama. Click here for the video. (Suplado ang mga tiga-BBC, ayaw magpa-download ng video.)

Mercury in retrograde: Perspective is everything

"What’s more, we go out of our way to make sure we stay out of Mercury’s way while never once wondering why it spends 21 days “pretending” to go out of its way for us. We count the days until it goes direct, believing that when it does, having dodged the “retrograde bullet,” our lives (and Internet access) will return to normal, and we’ll be back at the top of our intellectual game once again. I couldn’t disagree more."

Interesting read here
* * * *

So far the only impact of retrograde Mercury on me right now is my slower Internet access. And there was one time that I wasn't even affected at all. Maybe because I didn't even know we were in that period.

Perhaps we're obsessing too much about it, that's why it affects us the way it does. Like, I'm supposed to have some minor surgery done, but want to put it off until after Feb. 1, when Mercury goes back to "normal." It's supposed to affect one's mental clarity so why trust your anatomy to a surgeon right? But my case is rather puny compared to his other surgeries! He can do this procedure while lying down siguro bec. this is just a small procedure (but then, I'm very scared of doctors, surgeons, dentists, etc.) So, naniniguro lang ako.

But, as the article mentions, this is also the best time to be looking for missing stuff, or getting people to dish secrets (in my profession as a journalist, that is very helpful), so perhaps, being under the influence of a retrograde Mercury doesn't have to be all that debilitating.

What do you think?

Just for the record...

Nikos Gitsis, co-owner of Seair, just wants everyone to know that it was Seair owner Iren Dornier and he who first splashed their plane into the Hudson River. Been there, done that. Belat to you Sully!

And Nick has the photos to prove it!

(Flying near the Statue of Liberty)

(Landing in the Hudson River)

Twitter that Janis Krums!

In all seriousness though, the conditions under which Dornier and Nick landed their plane in the Hudson, were very much different than that of United Airways Flight 1549 of course. It was a much happier occasion as it was part of the World Tour of the DO-24ATT, an old seaplane built by Dornier's grandfather Claude Dornier (yes, yes, the aviation engineer/designer for Germany's Luftwaffe) and restored by Iren in 2003. The tour was meant to raise funds for UNICEF's programs on child education and lasted from 2005-2007.

Btw, the seaplane (if you look closely, it is actually registered in the Philippines) did land in the Hudson River in Aug. 2005, according to old press reports. Hmmm...I wonder if Nick and Iren will get their own Facebook fanpage now.

* * * *

In a related note, Miracle on the Hudson hero Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III and his crew of five, as well as their families, have been invited to participate in the Miracle in Washington DC, i.e. the inaugural ceremony for U.S. President-elect Barack Obama. (Matt Lauer of NBC's Today show is said to have snagged the first press interview of Capt. Sullenberger supposedly today. Hopefully, it will be shown on local cable TV (Ch. 19) this morning.)

Gads! This is soooo exciting! I'm so looking forward to watching the inaugural ceremony later. I believe the telecasts on CNN and the BBC begin at 6 pm. I can't wait 'til George Bush goes bye-bye! What was that old Dick Van Patten show on Ch. 7 back in the day? Ah yes, EIGHT IS ENOUGH!

Right now, I'm channel surfing as all the U.S. TV networks' morning shows are broadcasting from DC near the venue of the event. Our own Jessica Soho (GMA7) and Charrie Villa (ABS-CBN) are also supposedly covering the ceremony, although I dunno how close they can get in their coverage. But sana it will be live and not just a phone patch like one local TV network did during the November election in the U.S.

(Btw, did anyone watch the reruns of Soho's old interview w/ Cristeta Comerford, the executive chef at the White House? Chef Cris kinda looked masungit and impatient in answering Soho's questions. I wonder if she got bitten by the old fly-on-the-carabao bug. Tsk, tsk.)

January 19, 2009

January 17, 2009

Year of the Ox readings by Joseph Chau

AS promised, here are Joseph Chau's readings of the different zodiac signs for the Year of the Ox. I hope this Picasa thing works.

Feng Shui 01

Feng Shui 02

Remember though that these are just general readings, so they are not totally accurate for everyone. For individual more accurate readings, a geomancer must still know your exact date and time of birth. (Visit my manghuhula Aling Chona on the second floor of the Virra Mall for your own specific reading. She is a fortune teller and geomancer. Her store's called Palmistry.)

Btw, to those interested, Master Chau will as usual, preside over the Chinese New Year celebration at the Mandarin Oriental Manila on Jan. 25, 2009. The festivities will start at 10 pm. Those who which to partake of the celebration and have a go at the new year buffet prepared by Mandarin's brilliant chefs, may contact the hotel at 750-8888.

People are still talking about...

...the Miracle on the Hudson, or how Chesley B. Sullenburger III, the pilot of the US Airways flight which suffered two bird strikes that knocked out the plane's engines, expertly guided his plane to a safe water landing in the Hudson River yesterday afternoon (New York time).

(Photo by Janis Krums, a California businessman who was on one of the ferries which came to the rescue of the passengers of US Airways flight. Click here for the full shot.)

I read about it last night as the news started coming off the wire, and I could only marvel at how that huge piece of machinery was still relatively intact even after landing in the water. Apparently, Capt. Sullenberger, "Sully" to his friends, was a former fighter pilot, and runs his own safety consulting firm.

He also chairs the safety committee of the ALPAP, an international organization of airline pilots. On top of that, Capt. Sullenberger also owns a glider, which is probably why he was able to land that Airbus A320 so smoothly. Passengers of that flight said Capt. Sullenberger, walked the aisle of the plane twice to make sure no one was left behind, before leaving the aircraft for safety. He and his co-pilot also gave their shirts off their back to passengers who were shivering because of the cold water from the river. In all, 155 passengers were saved, with only one suffering a broken leg, and the rest mild hypothermia. What a guy!

What was even more amazing is that only a few minutes into the water, the plane was almost immediately surrounded by ferries – the ones which carry passengers back and forth from New Jersey to New York and vice versa – their crew and passengers even helping the US Airways flight passengers to safety and into the boats. One of the ferry captains interviewed on Good Morning America said the timing couldn't have been better...most ferry captains and crew were just beginning to assemble at their respective docks in preparation for rush hour, as office workers in New York would be going home to New Jersey. So the moment everyone saw the plane going down, all ferry operators went into action. Wow!

(Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberg III photo from the Safety Reliability Methods Inc.)

You can't help but marvel at how heroic Capt. Sullenberger and his co-pilot were, landing their plane like that, and how the ferry operators, U.S. Coast Guard, NY Fire Dept. and NY Police Dept. could work so fast together on an emergency such as that. There's something about Americans that always makes me in awe of them...how they are always ready to volunteer to help others, unmindful of the danger to their own selves. They immediately spring into action, no matter what the occasion. It is one of those character traits that we Filipinos could learn to emulate.

No media outfit has yet been able to interview Capt. Sullenberger. He looks like a man who doesn't want any fuss and would probably say, he was just doing his job. To him we raise a glass of wine and say "Cheers" for a great job.

January 16, 2009

Ricardo Montalban, 88

EVER since I was a child, I've always had a crush on Ricardo Montalban. His dark, earthy Latino looks made me weak in the knees (oo, bata pa lang ako, malandi na ako!). I don't recall the titles of his earlier films but I remember watching one with Shelley Winters in it. Sexy pa sya non.

Montalban became the stereotypical Latin lover who would sweep any woman off her feet, which I think to this day, all Latino actors try to emulate in their respective films (y tu Antonio Banderas).

The last time I saw Montalban, as perhaps many of you, was in Fantasy Island ("de plen! de plen!") where he played the resort manager, Mr. Roarke, who made everyone's wishes come true. Ay, di pala manager yun, concierge! (I think it is probably because of Mr. Montalban that I had grown to love hotel concierges, haha.)

Oh, another memorable Montalban film is the epic Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan. He played exiled villain Khan with so much intensity and aplomb, I was actually rooting for him instead of Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner). Muntik na mabuang si Capt. Kirk dito. It is also the film where Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) dies in the end. (Can you tell I'm a trekkie?)

Anyhoo, I leave you with this gem.

Pinoys to make money easily in Year of the Ox

EASY come, easy go.

This is the overall reading for the Philippines in the Year of the Ox by renowned geomancer Joseph Chau of the Mandarin Oriental, Manila. “The location of the Philippines is in the wealth and prosperity direction [southeast],” he said in his press conference on Wednesday; thus, Filipinos in general will have an “easy life” in 2009.

But he cautions that even if they can earn money with no difficulty this year, “you know what they say, ‘easy come, easy go.’” Mandarin Oriental’s annual Chinese New Year festivities will be held at 10 p.m. on January 25. (The rest of my story in BusinessMirror.)

* * * *

I'll try to post the rest of the predictions for the individual zodiac signs. Must scan first. Stay tuned for that.
* * * *

(UPDATE: Citigroup Reports Big Loss and a Breakup Plan Hmmm...so much for Citi's finances turning around, as per Master Chau's prediction.)

January 13, 2009

January 12, 2009

'Are we not human?'

I READ this today on the Al Jazeera web site, and it really brought tears to my eyes. It is a cry from an anguished father who can't do anything to protect his children – young ones who have to sleep to the sound of gunfire and shelling every night. He feels helpless and at the same time incredulous that the international community cannot stop the atrocities.


Breaking our online habit

'Living in the digital age, all of us now have to deal with a different kind of stress—information overload. We are plugged into the world wide web almost every hour of the day, and because we use our computers and our electronic devices like cell phones, iPods and TVs, we are “online” all the time.'

Read the rest in Something Like Life, my column last Friday in the BusinessMirror. This is an expanded version of my blog entry last year, Dare to Unplug.

January 11, 2009

LP Senatorial bets in 2010

According to Liberal Party stalwart, and former senator Frank Drilon, these are the people being eyed for the party's senatorial lineup in the 2010 elections:

Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, former education secretary and Batanes Rep. Florencio “Butch” Abad Jr., Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon, Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, former congressman Nereus Acosta, beauty and fitness expert Cory Quirino, and Drilon.

To this, my friends raised on a steady diet of Sesame Street would sing: "One of these things is not like the other, which one is different, do you know?"

2009 na, pero JuicekoLord pa rin!

January 06, 2009

In case you missed it...

(Photo from the club's web site)

...Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director-General Dionisio Santiago testified in the House hearing on the "Alabang Boys" drug-bust/bribery case this afternoon that the gang also supplies drugs to that infamous Embassy Club at The Fort in Taguig. Read the story here

I suppose the club owners would be grateful for this new round of free publicity.

* * * *

Btw, Director General Santiago made quite an impression on me, as I watched him shoot off his mouth on what was wrong in the government's anti-drug program. He sounded like a long-suffering civil servant just trying to do right by his job and the public that he serves.

He spoke of how the Philippines' image in the international arena with regards to its fight against drug syndicates has been tarnished by the government's inability to make a drug conviction stick. He said there were many times that DOJ prosecutors dismissed drug charges against certain individuals. He also ranted about how the public has lost faith in the PDEA and other government agencies because of the belief that anyone in government could be bribed. (Read ABS-CBN News online's story on other dismissed high-profile drug cases here.)

(Santiago being sworn in as PDEA head)

This is the first time I've seen DG Santiago on TV so I don't really know much about him. I don't know if my perception of him is correct, because after googling him, I found out that graft charges had been filed against him in 2005, for depositing an P8-million check intended to renovate the AFP pool area. I don't know what happened to the said case. (If you go to the Ombudsman's web site, all you will read are paeans to its chief Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, as well as her speeches. In the interest of good governance and transparency, shouldn't the web site have a search feature where any citizen can log on and find out the status of cases filed at the agency? Then again, we may be asking too much considering the poor performance of Gutierrez and et al.)

According to the literature on the web, Santiago is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1970 and as a general, once held the post of AFP chief. I hope my reading of the guy is not wrong, kasi sayang naman, we have very few trustworthy government officials under this administration.

Btw this is the same DG Santiago who not too long ago, spoke about the emergence of narcopolitics in the runup to the 2010 elections.

* * * *

Anyhoo, I didn't watch the entire Congressional hearing. I found the congressmen – except for one or two – quite distatesful. Most of them didn't listen to the testimony of those being grilled, while the rest were content on just shoving spoonfuls of food into their mouths and munch away. (Manong, 'di ka pa ba nagsawa sa kainan nung Pasko?) How very undignified. Ick.

While I don't relish watching the Senate hearings on TV either, I noticed that the Upper Chamber's proceedings appear more respectable and organized. And the senators, well, except for one or two as well, appear more decent and sane. (But yes, the Senators too eat while their hearings are ongoing although they appear less conspicuous about it. I recall last year's hearings on the ZTE-NBN controversy and remember that the only one who was annoying was one Senate staff, a chubby girl usually seated at the back of the presiding Senator. She usually chomps away at her lunch in plain view of the TV cameras. Brrr.)

January 02, 2009

The audacity of hope*

THE second day of the New Year and I’m in a virtual coma. Too much food, too much to drink, and too many yappy relatives. You can understand why my brain is half-functioning today.

I could bore you with the details of my family’s Christmas Eve celebration (basically, it was eating, opening gifts, eating, drinking, more opening of presents, eating again, then sleep, only to be repeated the next day), or I could make up my New Year’s resolutions (stop eating pork, go to yoga class three times a week, walk more, read more books, less computer time, etc. etc. etc.). But what would that accomplish?

Mercifully, I read a news story about Filipinos feeling more hopeful for 2009. According to the latest survey from the Social Weather Stations, 92 percent of its respondents said they would be welcoming the New Year “with hope”, while only 8 percent said they would be entering 2009 “with fear.” Of course, we’re only talking about 1,500 respondents here, mostly living in Metro Manila, thus hardly a representative sampling of us 76 million Filipinos.

Still, I tend to believe the results. Sure the entire economy is pretty much in the dumps, no thanks to the presidentita, and her continued machinations to extend her term beyond 2010. But Filipinos are very much the contrapelo in any situation; even in tragedy, we smile our sadness away. Beaten down by economic and political burdens, we still crack jokes and laugh. When the stacks are all against us, we will try to find some way to be more optimistic.

I suppose we have no choice; we need to trust that our desperate lives or any negative situation will turn around, or we would all fling ourselves off the San Juanico bridge. The alternative is just too depressing to even think about.

Being mostly Roman Catholics and believing in some Higher Power who listens to our prayers and pleas for succor and comfort also help us banish whatever gloom threatens to engulf our being, especially during the critical days of Christmas. I know for a fact that many people who normally don’t go to Sunday Mass usually go to Church for midnight Christmas Eve Mass, ardently praying for more blessings in the New Year. (“Lord, I need a better job. Lord, I need more money to be able to buy food for the kids. Lord, I need you to inspire my son to study harder. Lord, I need you to make my husband stop fooling around. Etc. etc. etc.”)

And then my cynicism surfaces and I think, maybe it’s because we’re so used to being at the bottom of the barrel, that we think there is no way but to reach up and out. Consider rich countries like Germany, whose own “hope” survey results were also published by the SWS on its web site. Compared to most Filipinos, Germans seem to be extremely fearful of their future. Every year from 2001 to 2007, their survey showed 50 percent or less of German citizens entering a new year with hope. (There were no results yet for 2008 entering 2009.) In contrast, Filipinos were very much above 80 percent on the “hope” meter every same year.

If you’re used to being on top, being rich, and powerful, and then you lose all your money because of a mistaken investment, how hopeful would you feel about the New Year? Already, there have been reports of a couple of suicides from the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the U.S. and the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme.

Perhaps it is all a matter of trying to readjust one’s attitude as well, and finding out one’s priorities. If it’s money that moves you, having it will give you a perpetual high and makes you want more. Losing it, will push you off the edge. But you and I know (though we do sometimes forget especially when confronted by the latest Prada bag in the shop window) that there are more important things in life than money – like family, moral values, and spirituality.

So whatever ill or mean thing which may have happened to us in 2008, or no matter how disgusted we are with how our country has plummeted to the dark abyss of nothingness, we’re still here, alive. We have our good health, a roof over our heads, and are still able to eat three square meals a day.

Personally, I felt extremely blessed that during Christmas, my entire family was together despite earlier events in the year pointing to what could have been a tragic disunity amongst us. And I prayed hard every day that all the hurts and pain amongst the family members would be healed. With that prayer answered, how can I not feel anything but even more hopeful of what the New Year would bring? How audacious is that?

Most of you readers also realize that like me, our families are still better off financially than 70 percent of our kababayan, so how dare we be depressed or sad or fearful for 2009? We should in fact give thanks that He has not forgotten us, and that even though we sometimes think we don’t deserve it, we continue to get the good stuff from Him.

Of course, in the same breath, we should maybe pray some more for those less fortunate than us – like those who were not able to be with their families last Christmas, for our kababayan abroad who have lost their jobs because of this global economic crisis, and especially for those who are in poor health, that their situation will turn around in the New Year.

I don’t mean to sound preachy, but really, we have so many things to be thankful for. List ‘em down. 2008 may have been awful year for a number of us, but hey, we’re still standing! Who was it who said: “What does not kill us makes us stronger”?

And I firmly believe that 2009 will turn out just splendid. For one, it’s a year before the next presidential elections, and we have the power to change our country’s direction. So that is something to look forward to. (Register to vote people!)

So in the same joyous spirit and ebullient words of a good buddy of mine, I wish you all a Happy New Year. Let’s rock and roll, baby!

(*With apologies to the U.S. president-elect. Photo from www.5pie.net. Btw, this piece would have been my column for today in BusinessMirror, but someone decided to close shop earlier than usual. That's the New Year for you. Something Like Life is usually published every Friday in the BusinessMirror, unless someone throws a fit. As you can very tell, "stop being bitchy" isn't part of my New Year's resolutions.)

January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

(Scene from New Year 2008. This year's celeb was more sedate bec. of the rains. But I still woke up hacking from inhaling all the smog from everyone else's fireworks. Erg.)

No exclamation point in the greeting there because I think I'm in a food coma. I'm still super sleepy after staying up past 3 am to finish that Harry Potter movie on HBO.

I didn't want to go to bed muna because I was so full from the media noche...roast beef, spaghetti, a not-so-Chinese ham, fruit salad, chocolate eh, and ensaimada (the last two I'm supposed to be saving for merienda later). I'm so scared of dying from bangungot...just 'cos it's so unglamorous. And I imagine the snickers at the wake..."ayan, ang takaw kasi..." ick.

Just thinking about eating another feast this lunchtime doesn't make me wanna get up from bed. It will be paella valenciana, lengua sevillana, and prawns in lemon butter sauce today. Ugh. I think I'm going to sleep again. And I don't want to eat another bite until Monday.