July 31, 2009

And, the video

(Video from The White House)

Grabeh ang galing mambola ni Obama! Tuwang-tuwa ang Lola nyo. It's sad though how the US media wasn't interested at all in the meeting. They're more interested in the US economy, of course, and the "beer summit". Tsk, tsk.

Anyhoo, the report on the meeting from PDI and in Al Jazeera.

(UPDATE 12:52 pm) One more video from Reuters

Finally, the photo op she's been dying for

(President Barack Obama shares a light moment with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Thursday, July 30, 2009. AP Photo/Alex Brandon via the Washington Post.)

Proud ba kayo?

Meanwhile, in lala-land, Lito Lapid doesn't get his photo op w/ the U.S President. Poor thing.

But good grief! Lani Mercado is appointed a board director of San Miguel Corp.! WTF?!?!

(UPDATE Aug. 1, 2:29 am) Accdg. to Lani, a former actress and wife to Sen. Bong "pano mo trinansfer ang video" Revilla, she will contribute the consumer's point of view to the SMB board. Lola, maghunos-dili ka huy!

July 29, 2009

Sorry kids, it's not working for me

(Photo from the Inquirer)

The caption is as follows: MY GRANDMA, MY PRESIDENT, MY HERO Michaela Gloria, Marie Angelique and Eva Victoria (from left) mob their grandma, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, after she delivers her State of the Nation Address on Monday. It is obvious that the children of Ms Arroyo’s sons, Representatives Mikey and Dato Arroyo, idolize her, which should make up for all the “bad words” she’s been getting for her SONA. JOE ARAZAS/CONTRIBUTOR

Gamitin ba naman props pa ang mga apo? icck.

* * * *

BTW, I just sneaked a peak at a few of the presidentita's Facebook profiles put up by her office (www.op.gov.ph), and the most number of friends she could gather was 2,457 friends as of today. Even one of the many fan pages put up by her unabashed supporters such as this, only show 1,346 fans. Gee, even admin senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has more friends at 3,241. Ah yes, even the presidentita's love Sen. Mar "bad words" Roxas, has close to 5,000 friends on one profile alone.

It's sad really when you're the leader of the land and people avoid you like the plague even on Facebook. Tsk, tsk.

July 27, 2009

'Hit and miss' fashion

"According to a 2002 PilipinoSTAR report, Inno Sotto once recommended that the President wear flesh-toned heels (made in Manila) to make her legs look longer." (Read the rest at ABS-CBN. Check out the slideshow of the presidentita's SONA gowns.)

Feels nyo?

I WASN'T able to catch the entire State of the Nation Address of the presidentita today as I was much too busy attending to family errands. (Anyhoo, I'll read the transcript in a bit.)

Besides I had read an earlier draft of her speech and knew she would not make any categorical statements about stepping down as president when her term ends, unlike Tita Cory in her last SONA in 1991. To everyone - except her sipsip congressmen and supporters - announcing that she would not seek the highest post in the land via Charter Change or other dubious means would have made today's speech her best SONA ever. As usual, we the Filipino people, are not so lucky.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

But it's interesting to note the comments/status messages of many of my friends on Facebook about it. I'm publishing some of them here, but withhold their identities for obvious reasons.

From Dako Tin-og:
puro thank you congress to, a. state of the nation address ba ito or opening ceremony ng gma-congress mutual fan club?

Grace: a year is a VERY long time if she's president

Tangkad: [I] was so impressed with SONA. IDOL KO SI GMA!!!!!

Hanky: "Don't say bad words in public." OK, only in private. Tangnamu.

Fried rice: SONAmabitz!

And the best one so far:

Esprit de Corps: Ano ang kaibhan ng FAIRY TALE at ng SONA? Ang fairy tale ay kwentong 'di totoo na may duwende. Ang SONA ay may duwende na nagkukuwento ng 'di totoo. :)

(to be updated)

My own reaction: BITAYIN! ang gumawa ng SONA gown ni GMA. (Ano sya, feeling Nanay Dionisia?) :p

(UPDATE 7:12 pm) OH how sad! I was just told that it was Inno Sotto who designed the presidentita's 'french fries' gown. Ay caramba!

GMA SONA 07/27/2009

July 25, 2009

My kind of wedding

(via New York Mag's Daily Intel)

Congratulations and best wishes to Jill and Kevin Heinz! I don't know you guys but with this kind of beginning, there can only be greater things in store for you as a couple.


Remaking Bongbong Marcos

(REP. Bongbong Marcos, center, enjoys a walk on the beach near the Bangui windfarm with his family, from left: Joseph Simon, Mrs. Louise Araneta Marcos, Ferdinand Alexander and William Vincent. Photo courtesy PRISM)

When the Marcoses got booted out of power in 1986 after their 20-year hold on the Philippines, one of the very first videotaped images of the family we were treated to was of Bongbong, his siblings and friends dressed up in funny costumes, with champagne glasses in hand, singing “We are the World,” aboard the presidential yacht. In another, we watch the President and his wife boogeying aboard the same yacht.

It was with this frame of mind that I attended the lunch with Bongbong Marcos. But wait! Is it even the real Bongbong Marcos? After all, the Marcoses’ only son was said to have died in London and replaced by a nephew who looks exactly like him. Hmmm.... (Click Something Like Life for the rest.)

(Erratum: Liza Araneta-Marcos is not an only child. She has three other sisters and a brother. My apologies to the Araneta and Marcos families for this error.)

* * * *

Other points raised during our lunch:

• Yes, Rep. Bongbong Marcos is thinking of running for president someday. “I’m in this career, so of course, I would like to take it as far as I can. You always want to be better, more successful in your career. But I don’t wake up each morning, planning on what I should do today to become president.”

• He is considering to run as senator in 2010: “After 19 years as governor, vice-governor, and representative of Ilocos Norte, I believe I am now more than ready to serve on the national stage.”

(Official photo courtesy PRISM)

• He's still undecided what national party to join, and why it probably won't be the Liberal Party, the original party of his father, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos: “In the LP, I keep telling Mar (Roxas), he’s my only friend there. The other members continue to oppose my family.”

• As senator, his advocacies will be: “To bring us back to the basics ¬– greater public investment in infrastructure, health services, education, peace and order, political stability and implementing an understandable system of government.”

• Why he supports wasn't vocal in his opposition versus Charter Change: "There's just a sense of futility. You know nothing will happen anyway....I support Charter Change in principle but it should be done after the [2010] election. The fear is the process will be used to extend their (GMA and his fellow congressmen) term. But it (Con-Ass) will not succeed, because there’s no time. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try.”

• On why GMA won't be able to declare Martial Law: "She doesn't have the support of the military like my father did. When my father declared martial law, he had just been re-elected, he was popular and he had control of the military."

• On a popular uprising vs Cha-Cha: "There's no such thing as a popular uprising. Even if you look at the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, these were led by an elite few, academics.... [The Edsa people power in 1986] was done by the Americans."

• He hasn't decided whom to support for president in 2010: "I consider all of them good friends and political allies."

July 23, 2009

Dontcha just love the low travel season?

THIS is the time of the year when travelers can take advantage of low airfares and hotel/resorts promotions all over the country. It's great if you have tons of cash to spend on vacations abroad, but if not, this is the best time of the year to go around the country.

(Cebu's Hilutungan Channel from the beach of Microtel Mactan.)

Because of my profession as a journalist, and when I was working for the government in the 1980s, I have been fortunate enough to travel around the Philippines. By God, if you haven't seen the Philippine countryside just yet, you are missing out on a lifetime experience! A beautiful sunset seen from the white beach of Boracay, the massive limestone cliffs in Palawan, the clear blue waters of Cebu, the comforting Christmasy smell of the pine trees in Baguio, looking eye-to-eye with ostriches in Davao, and driving through the lush rolling hills of Batanes --- these are just some of the awe-inspiring sites to behold and experience when traveling through the Philippines. None of these can compare to just another shopping trip abroad. Besides, you can bring the entire family to enjoy the experience.

So in the words of Susan Calo-Medina, "Wag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan! (Don't be a stranger in your own land.)"

* * * *

Here are just some of the great travel promos currently being offered:

From PAL: "Seat-All-You-Can" – now benefits even passengers of PAL Express, with fares as low as P688. The latest round of low-fare tickets on 26 domestic destinations is on sale from July 22 to 27, for travel between August 16 and December 15, 2009.

PAL's all-jet, full-service domestic flights are priced as low as P888 on one-way economy tickets from Manila to Bacolod, Cebu, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Kalibo, Laoag, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Roxas, Tacloban or Tagbilaran. One-way economy tickets to Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Davao, Dipolog, General Santos, Ozamiz and Zamboanga are only P1,888. (For more inquiries, go to PAL's web site or call tel. no. 855-8888, in Cebu (032) 340-0191, and in Davao (082) 222-0366.

Discovery Shores in Boracay is offering The Great Luxurious Getaway Package w/c allows guests to enjoy a glorious three-day, two-night accommodation, a calming Mandala Spa Qi Massage, a daily sumptuous breakfast, plus one Chef’s Dinner at Sands Restaurant as well!

Rates start at P16,888 net per person, based on triple occupancy in a Junior Suite. The package is inclusive of roundtrip airfare, boat and land transfers. The promo is valid until Oct. 31, 2009. For details, call (63 2) 720.8888 / 683.8227 / 683.8236 to 38.

SEAIR offers fares from Manila to Boracay for as low as P350 per way all-in and other low fares are available online for booking and travel up to October 15, 2009. It's the only airline that flies direct to Caticlan, the gateway to Boracay. It has just relaunched its Cebu-Caticlan service.

Seair passengers enjoy complimentary transfers from Caticlan airport to Boracay and vice versa, shortest queues and check-in procedures at the airport, fastest baggage claim, privileges for their boarding pass in partner establishments in Boracay and Manila, and ‘35 minutes’ fastest flights to Boracay. These low fares are available via the airline's web site.

Microtel Grand Resorts Mactan's "Leisure Within Reach" promo offers guest P2,900 net w/ breakfast or P2,500 net room only, until September 2009. Choose from fun activities like jet-skiing, banana boat ride and island-hopping capped off with a soothing massage in the privacy of your own room. What’s more, all rooms at the Microtel are equipped with a chiropractic-approved bed that would surely leave your backs happy.

For reservations and inquiries please contact 032-236-8888 or email mactan.rsvn@microtel.ph

(via press releases)

July 20, 2009

Scarred for life

I was 4 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. All I remember is my parents boasting to all their friends that I could say the names of the three astronauts. (Ahem, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins.) This 'torture' happened over and over again every time we had guests at home. Yes, Apollo 11 has scarred me for life. Gimme a f***ing therapist now!

The restored video of the first lunar landing/moonwalk:

(More video footage from NASA here and moon photos via CNET.)

And why many conspiracy theorists think it's a hoax:

Now, about that mission to Mars, guys...in this economy? You gotta be kidding.

July 19, 2009

Random thoughts

(Fr. Ed Panlilio's photo from Pinoy SME)

THE weather has really been making me a sleepy head so apologies for not writing anything for the past days. Anyhoo, I got a chance to catch up in my reading and hey, whaddya know, Fr. Ed Panlilio is running for President of this Glorias Nation of ours in 2010! Should we say "Woo-hoo!" to that? Well, pardon my lack of enthusiasm. You can call me a little bit old school, but I just think a priest belongs in Church not in politics, and especially not in Malacañang.

Sure, Fr. Ed may be honest, kind-hearted, and sincere in his desire to serve the people, but what about his calling from Christ to be w/ the people by saying Mass, hearing their confession, and forgiving their sins? We all know there aren't a lot of men out there who want to become priests, so losing one more, especially to politics doesn't bring the rest of us any closer to God.

With all due respect to Fr. Ed, I think he should go back to minister to his flock. He should speak to them of the heavenly Father's kindness, love, and generosity. After all, the real problem is our lack of morality and sinful ways...clearly, the provenance of a priest and not a politician. There are other honest, respectable and qualified people who can lead this country back to greatness. Fr. Ed should get out of politics before it ruins him.

* * * *

(Photo of Sen. Manny Villar via the Internet.)

So ex-Senate President Manny Villar has finally come out of hiding and his opening salvo for his presidential campaign is to meet w/ bloggers who rarely write about politics. Eh? Where was Manolo Quezon, Ricky Carandang, Ellen Tordesillas, or Manuel Buencamino? Tsk, tsk. Well I suppose, takot sya sa hard questions. This is obvious in the way he has been rejecting invites to open forums w/ other presidentiables. Of course, these bloggers, no offense, wouldn't know the first thing to ask about the "double insertion" case. (But then, that is the point in keeping Villar away from the political bloggers.)

Just to summarize, Villar stands accused of pushing for gov't funding for the C-5 extension road project, two times, at P200 million each time! And his real estate companies – Adelfa Properties and Golden Haven Memorial Parks – benefited from these double insertions. If that isn't a clear case of corruption, I don't know what is.

Look, I don't doubt that Villar worked hard when he was younger – having come from the lower rungs of society, and through ahem, sipag at tiyaga, became successful as a businessman. But let's call a spade a spade. Of course, marrying into the very wealthy Aguilar family of Las Piñas didn't hurt his chances to become an accomplished entrepreneur either.

Btw, preaching the gospel of entrepreneurship in a country where there is so much red tape in registering one's company, too many bribes to pay to get a business license, as well as corrupt BIR personnel who pocket the taxes these entrepreneurs pay, is just way too simplistic. It doesn't address the reality out there. First step in entrepreneurship is to have capital. And who has that except the folks who already have the money? You think anyone can walk into a bank and borrow funds to put up a business?

Anyhoo, going back to that double-insertion case pending in the Senate (and soon at the Ombusdman), that issue stands to be the largest obstacle in Villar's campaign, I think. He has yet to give credible answers about it. He wants to avoid the issue but really, he has no way but face up to it soon. Oh and btw, this isn't the first time Villar has been accused of corrupt practices and enriching himself. Just ask his newly-minted counsel for da defense Joker Arroyo.

* * * *

So why hasn't the presidentita approved the list of 22 medicines w/ recommended maximum retail prices. It's simple. She doesn't want to give Sen. MAR Roxas II an upper hand in his presidential campaign. She would rather withhold these vital medicines from our fellow kababayan, many of whom live in extreme poverty and illness, than give Roxas something to crow about in his campaign.

But see, no matter how she tries to play this, everyone knows that Roxas was the principal author of the Cheaper Medicines Act. And not signing that EO to put a cap on those vital drugs to treat the most common illnesses suffered by Filipinos, just continues to make her as the contravida in this issue. In the meantime, she keeps our kababayan sick while she'll be out gallivanting in DC, meeting w/ President Obama (finally pinansin sya! and yes, you and I are paying for that trip). So what else is new?

Here's the list of the 22 drugs in the MRP EO:


July 16, 2009

Caticlan monopoly may ease Seair’s revenue losses

So despite the drop in passenger traffic in the first five months of the year, Zapanta said its revenues only dipped by 18 percent. “At the onset of 2009, while the other airlines continued to bleed, Seair has stopped the bleeding. We are happy to even have just a slim margin for the whole, but with the new development in Caticlan, we will have to revisit the plans for the rest of the year.” (Click Caticlan monopoly for the rest.)

(Blogger's note: In the statement, "Lean, mean and small is our aim through the current business climate we are experiencing, and awaiting opportunities as they come to assess how we move," the quote was attributed by our editor to Seair president Avelino Zapanta, but actually it was said by Seair co-founder and director Nikos Gitsis. Apologies to both gentlemen.)

(Boracay-bound passengers board a Seair DO-328 for a flight to Caticlan.)

The Korean invasion

OKAY, okay, due to insistent public demand (in other words, pangungulit of readers), here are more juicy tidbits for your consumption:

1. Contrary to what the Asian Hospital wants the public to think, our sources say details of the presidentita's recent surgeries most probably didn't come from any of the hospital's doctors nor staff. In fact, as one source admitted to us, the presidentita has already undergone "several procedures" in the past at the very same hospital and none of the details have ever been found out by the media. Until now. The reason Asian Hospital called the NBI to investigate its medical staff is because management was shaken at the accuracy of the details that were recently published such as the mammoplasty repair, removal of cyst in the groin area, and the laser removal of unwanted hair in the presidentita's private parts. Given the hospital's past discretion, some in the hospital feel that the leak didn't come from them but from where else? Malacañang. But obviously someone has to be a fall guy so...

(Photo of Asian Hospital from Medtourlink)

2. Our sources also say that despite the controversy over the presidentita's surgeries, Asian Hospital is in fact, fully booked! I've toured the facility before for a story I was assigned to do, and have even consulted in its ER and some of its doctors and I can say that I've always liked its facilities and services. But I dunno lang ha, if I were among the 5 patients who were removed from the VIP floor just to accommodate the presidentita during her recent stay, I wouldn't be going back there. Aba! And just the thought about the hospital comping the surgery and stay of the presidentita, teka muna, isn't there a law against the head of state receiving "gifts" more than a certain amount?

3. So da who's office in Malacañang is now being suspected of leaking the boob job story of the presidentita to the media? No doubt the act was deliberate and well-orchestrated, as the story came out on the same day in one major daily and a well-known columnist of another respected broadsheet. Now, said office has 24/7 access to all the presidentita's moves and was obviously the one in charge of the country for those many hours that the Great Leader was out like a lightbulb while her boobs were being fixed. Most mammoplasties are done under general anesthesia and that means the Philippines basically had no functioning head of state for three hours.

Why would any officers in that snake pit called Malacañang leak the story? As Pia Hontiveros says in her show, "Nothing personal. It's strictly politics." The 2010 elections are approaching and Malacañang staff are not immune from politicking and positioning themselves for whoever will be the next occupant of the palace by the smelly river. No doubt, a witch hunt is currently ongoing on who in that very office spewed the details of the presidentita's hospitalization to the press.

(One of the best wet markets in the Metro Manila, Farmers Market in Cubao, Quezon City. Photo from Panoramio)

4. From one smelly locale in Manila, to another in Cubao, this time. If you think the Koreans have not only invaded our TV screens, well look again, they are in your neigborhood markets as well. Our source who went on her usual palengke-run at the Farmers Market said she noticed a stall filled w/ all sorts of Korean veggies and other ingredients, and manned by a Korean palengkero. Nothing wrong with that really except that according to her suki, managers of Farmers have apparently been giving choice spots to these Korean traders eager to sell their produce to not only fellow Koreans who have decided to reside here, but to Pinoys as well. Unfortunately our source didn't ask the Korean guy running the stall how much he's selling his produce. We'll try to get a photo of these Korean stalls soon.

5. More on the Zest Airways' accidents involving its Chinese-made MA-60 planes: According to our sources, the pilot involved in the first accident in January where the plane undershot the Caticlan runway had been unceremoniously "sacked" faster than you can say...Zest-O! The pilot in the second accident, this time last June 25 where the plane overshot the runway is very pissed off at the carrier's management right now. "He feels na pinabayaan sya ng management," and allowed to take the rap for this accident by his lonesome. In truth, however, our sources say Zest Air's pilots have long been telling management that the brakes on the MA-60 planes are faulty, "mahina ang kapit" is how these have been described.

Also, according to the MA-60's own web site maintained by the Xi'an Aircraft Industry Group or XAC, this turbo-prop, whose airworthiness has not been given the seal of approval by the US Federal Aviation Authority, needs a landing distance of 3,477 feet, and a takeoff distance of 3,600 ft. How long is the Caticlan runway? The airport's runway 06 has a landing distance of 2,952 ft. and a takeoff distance of 3,117 ft. Its runway 24 has a landing distance of 2,900 ft. and takeoff distance of 3,117 ft. So don't blame Zest Air's pilots, but the plane's configuration itself. Or actually Zest Air management for refusing to listen to its pilots. Why the government aviation authorities have yet to ground Zest Air, or penalized its management? Follow the stink and it will likely take you the residence by the river.

July 14, 2009

Boracay guests rue longer travel time, shorter vacation

THE new runway configuration implemented at the Caticlan Airport in Aklan is already reaping some opposition from resort owners on Boracay Island.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has promised to look into concerns of tourists to the resort island famous the world over for its long white beach.

In an e-mail, Nenette Graf, owner of Boracay Beach Resort and former president of the Boracay Foundation Inc., the association of resort owners on the island, said: “Our guests are starting to complain because their vacation is now short of half a day because of the travel time to Kalibo.”

As president of the Boracay Windsport Association, Graf said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) rule particularly impacts on those guests coming from Hong Kong on the weekend to windsurf and kitesurf during the current habagat (southwest monsoon) season.

(Photo from Boracay-budgettravel-tips)

“Before, they can still enjoy three hours of kiting before sunset on their first day, or windsurfing if they leave Hong Kong in the morning. Now it is not possible with three to four hours travel time from Manila to Boracay, or more if domestic flights are delayed. Like [yesterday], the guests arrived in Manila at 11:30 a.m. and [were] supposed to fly at 1:30 p.m. to Caticlan with Cebu Pacific, only to be told that their flight is diverted to Kalibo, and the flight will be delayed by an hour-and-a-half. They arrived at 6:30 p.m. in the resort. They traveled for one day and they will go back on Monday via Kalibo again. They complained, and were given a free ticket valid for one year, but I doubt if they will come for the weekend again,” she explained.

Usually, if traveling to Manila via Caticlan, say on a 12 p.m. flight, passengers only have to check out of their resorts and leave Boracay by 10:45 a.m. to make the flight. If traveling via Kalibo, however, guests have to make sure they leave Boracay by 8 a.m.

Edd Fuentes, owner of the Sun Villa resorts also said his guests have been complaining of the inconvenience of traveling via Kalibo. “They’ve been so used to landing in Caticlan which is so near Boracay, just 15 minutes away by boat. They think Kalibo is too far, and now that’s it’s raining, the travel time is slower and longer.”

He added that the problem is even if his guests want to transfer to Seair, which is the only carrier flying to Caticlan, they’re unable to do so “because its flights are limited, considering it’s the low season. I, too have been trying to get a booking with Seair for my trip this Saturday and I’ve been told that all flights are already fully booked. So my guests may not have a choice but to still fly via Kalibo.”

Guests have also started complaining of the confusion in the major carriers’ check-in procedures owing to their pullout from Caticlan.

Gina Policarpio, a housewife on the PAL Express PR 324 return flight to Manila on Monday back to Manila told BusinessMirror that her family was told by the carrier to check into Caticlan “and we will just pick up our bags in Manila. They even told us not to worry about it.”

But when their group arrived in Kalibo, she said the PAL Express counter told them to get their bags and check these again at the counter. “Why were we told to check in Caticlan if we will check in again at Kalibo anyway? Ang gulo nila.”

Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano expressed concern over the new CAAP ruling on Caticlan’s runway configuration. He promised to look into ways for the Boracay guests to keep flying into Caticlan without compromising their safety.

(The 70-km road from Kalibo, right, to Caticlan. Photo from Travelsmart.net)

The CAAP’s ruling effectively shortened the takeoff and landing distance for planes in Caticlan, forcing major carriers like Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific to cancel their routes there. They now fly Boracay guests via Kalibo and are currently footing the costs of transferring passengers to Caticlan. Only Southeast Asian Airlines continues to fly to Caticlan.

In a text message over the weekend, Durano told the BusinessMirror: “We are studying alternative policies now that we can propose to CAAP, policies that ensure safety of flights to and from Caticlan without unnecessarily hampering passenger traffic.”

He declined to disclose what these alternatives are pending their finalization.

Department of Tourism Western Visayas Director Edwin Trompeta earlier expressed confidence that Boracay would still see continued strong tourist arrivals despite the pullout of major carriers from Caticlan.

“There is no major impact because the number of flights of these airlines to Kalibo are the same number of flights before the CAAP measures were imposed.”

In the first half of the year, tourist arrivals in Boracay grew by 6 percent to 383,313 from the 362,228 registered in the same period in 2008.

Since Zest Air’s second accident on June 25 involving its China-made MA60 plane—the first accident being in January 2009—the CAAP had decided to reassess the runway configuration and landing/takeoff procedures at the Caticlan Airport.

Most analysts noted that due to the larger size of their planes, PAL, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air are unable to fly into Caticlan with the shorter runway, especially during the southwest monsoon, when an aircraft is buffeted by strong winds.

Most airlines agree that the permanent solution to the Caticlan Airport is to extend the runway.

In 2007 officials of CEB, then Asian Spirit, and PAL had already discussed funding the runway extension, but nothing came out of it.

On June 22 the Department of Transportation and Communications signed a build-operate-and-transfer (BOT) agreement with a consortium led by McDonald’s Philippines franchise holder George Yang which would upgrade the Caticlan Airport to international standards.

The improvement of the airport, projected to cost some P2.5 billion, will be shouldered entirely by the Caticlan International Airport Development Corp.

Under the terms of the BOT, the company has up to seven years to build and expand the airport, and 25 years to operate the facilities, before it is eventually turned over to the government.

The upgrade includes the extension of the runways, which would allow larger planes to use the airport.

Attached to the project is a commercial component allowing Akean Resorts Corp., owned by investors led by Francisco Alba, former ambassador to the Vatican, to develop the 16-hectare area beside the Caticlan terminal into a hub for hotels, resorts and shops. “Akean” is the old name of Aklan.

The government allows investors in pioneering tourism projects to avail themselves of duty-free importation of capital equipment and income-tax holidays up to five years.

The upgrade of the Caticlan airport has been dubbed as the first-ever privatization of an airport in the country.

(Blogger's Note: This is the unabridged version of my story on how Boracay guests are reacting to the new runway configuration in Caticlan. The original was published in BusinessMirror's Perspective, July 14, 2009.)

July 12, 2009

An affair with hair

(Toni&Guy Essensuals at the Megamall Atrium. Look for Cherry Reyes.)

"They say a woman’s relationship with one’s hairstylist is probably the most important—after her immediate family, of course. For in the hairstylist’s hands a woman either blooms or ends up looking like a shriveled prune. No matter how gorgeous a woman’s face is, a bad haircut will take away all that pert and prettiness. Bad hair day? You bet." (Click Something Like Life for the rest.)

July 10, 2009

Cebu Pac cancels Caticlan route*

(Kiteboarding in Boracay during the habagat season)

THE Department of Tourism sees tourist arrivals in Boracay to remain strong despite the pullout of major carriers from the Caticlan airport.

This developed as Cebu Pacific (CEB), the aviation concern of the Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings Inc., has confirmed that it too had withdrawn from its Caticlan route as of Thursday morning.

This is a result of a new order by the recently-formed Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, implementing a long-ignored rule on “one runway-take off, one runway-landing” procedure in the main runway of said provincial airport, effectively shortening the runway maneuverability of most carriers.

In a press statement released at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, CEB president Lance Gokongwei said: “CAAP has designated Caticlan, for the time being, as a one-way airport for all carriers: takeoff should be towards the sea and landing in the opposite direction. A technical re-definition also in effect shortens the runway, despite its actual length.

“We have therefore decided to divert all Caticlan flights to Kalibo instead and from there bus all our Boracay-bound passengers [to Caticlan] at no extra cost,” he added.

While CEB spokesman RG Orense told this reporter Wednesday night that the carrier’s first two flights on Thursday would land in Caticlan as scheduled, apparently these two were also diverted to Kalibo. “[Both flights] landed in Kalibo. The instructions [to the pilots] were given early [yesterday morning],” Orense said.

The carrier said more than 60,000 booked passengers will be affected by the cancellation of its Caticlan route.

(Cebu Pacific President and CEO Lance Gokongwei)

Caticlan is the gateway to the resort island of Boracay, considered a “bread-and-butter” route in terms of domestic destinations by most major carriers.

Yesterday, Philippine Airlines also pulled its Caticlan flights and transferred them to Kalibo. In the meantime, PAL said it will shoulder the land-transfer expense of passengers who had booked Caticlan flights. But Francisco Yngente, vice president for airport services said the cost of the transfer, however, will already be tucked into the cost of the PAL ticket in future bookings.

Passengers interviewed by this reporter who originally booked their flights to Caticlan and flew Thursday morning said PAL customer service called them Wednesday afternoon, informing them of the switch in the landing destination.

Nikka A. Policarpio, a marketing consultant, who rode PR 037 which left Manila at 6:10 a.m. Thursday, said “our transfer was organized. We were provided a Starex van to ferry us to Caticlan from Kalibo. And the trip was alright, short, about an hour-and-a-half only.”

As a result of the CAAP order, only Southeast Asian Airlines, because of the smaller size of its planes, will be able to fly into Caticlan.

The Caticlan airport’s new runway configuration was announced Wednesday in a meeting between CAAP and the three major carriers – PAL, CEB, and Seair.

Sources said Zest Airways, whose plane overshot the Caticlan runway on June 25 and caused the CAAP to review the airport procedures, did not attend the meeting which adjourned at 4 p.m. Since its June 25 accident, the second since January when its plane undershot the runway, Zest Air already closed its Caticlan route.

Meanwhile, Edwin Trompeta, regional director of the DOT region 6 (Western Visayas) expressed confidence that the pullout of the carriers from Caticlan will not affect tourist arrivals in Boracay. “There is no major impact because the number of flights to Kalibo of these airlines are the same number of flights before the CAAP measures were imposed.”

But he admitted that some passengers may be “inconvenienced” because the land trip from Kalibo to Caticlan take an hour and half, before the 15-minute pump boat ride from the Caticlan jetty port to Boracay. “Plus it could add up to the cost of the airfare and their tour package because of the transfers,” he said.

Trompeta said ultimately, the diversion of the flights to Kalibo by these major carriers, “will be good for our visitors because we’re concerned for their safety. These carriers are now using bigger aircraft and considering the length of the runway and it now being habagat (southwest monsoon) season where winds from the southwest are coming in, we’re a little bit concerned with the safety of the passengers.”

The tourism official intimated that the CAAP measure “could be temporary” until the amihan season (northeast winds) starts in October. The amihan season usually last until May or June, allowing the carriers to use runway 06, which is the approach from the sea. “I think this is a temporary arrangement. But the final decision is with the CAAP.” At present, all carriers have been using runway 24.

Still, he explained that even before the CAAP ruling, “those planes were not filled to capacity [because of the difficulty in the landing and takeoff considering the short runway]. Most of them incurred penalties for not loading their planes.”

According to data from the DOT, tourist arrivals in Boracay in the first half of 2009, grew by 6 percent to 383,313 from the 362,228 registered in the same period in 2008.

Trompeta said the bulk of the tourists continue to be Filipinos, accounting for 71 percent or 271,498 of total arrivals, while foreigners numbered 96,102. Balikbayans or returning Filipinos totaled 16,213.

(The pristine white sands of Boracay make it one of the best beaches in the world according to international travel magazines.)

Of the foreigners, arrivals from Korea were the largest at 34,818 in the six-month period; followed by China at 11,584; Taiwan at 8,074; and Americans at 7,130.

Total tourism receipts for the period reached P7.06 billion.

The DOT official said Boracay tourism arrivals continue to be “strong” despite the global economic crisis and the (A)H1N1 global flu outbreak. Before the H1N1 outbreak, DOT projected tourist arrivals in the island to increase by 10 percent to 697,799 from the 2008 arrivals of 634,363. Last year, the island brought in total tourism receipts amounting to P11.66 billion.

In a press statement, CEB president Gokongwei said: “We continue to work closely with our industry partner, the CAAP, to find a speedy resolution, to these airport issues, to allow Cebu Pacific to re-instate flights to Caticlan.

He added that Boracay continues to be one of the country’s most important tourism destinations. “CEB’s low fare service has been integral to the growth and development of the island’s tourism industry and has increased its accessibility to both local and foreign tourists.”

CEB said it has been operating direct flights to Caticlan since February 29, 2008 and has since carried “over 340,000 passengers.” Its schedule, especially during the peak summer season, reached as high as 15 round-trip flights daily to Caticlan.

(*This was my original piece for BusinessMirror but due to space constraints, was folded in a general story on the issue along with other reporters' stories.)

July 09, 2009

Carriers pull out of Caticlan

"STARTING Thursday (July 9, 2009), major carriers are expected to discontinue flights to Caticlan, the gateway to the resort island of Boracay, in anticipation of a government order aimed at implementing a long-ignored rule on a one-takeoff and one-landing procedure.

Sources who attended a hearing between airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Wednesday said the new order will virtually leave only one carrier, Southeast Asian Airlines, plying the route." (Click here for the rest of the story. Apologies for the alarmist headline in the paper. Thanks!)

(Only Seair will be left flying to Caticlan, giving it a virtual monopoly over schedules and airfares. Let's pray it doesn't take advantage of the situation and unnecessarily jack up its airfares.)

Where the hell is Nico Sepe?

FOR those wondering where in the world is uber-hip photographer Nico Sepe, well, the answer is Sri Lanka! He wants all his friends and fans here in the Philippines to know he's still alive and wants to share some of his favorite photos with you guys.

(Galle Face promenade in Colombo. Famous among locals and tourist for enjoying the sea breeze of Indian Ocean.2007.)

Let me give way to his publicist's write-up:
THE canvas on which photographer Nico Sepe paints with light is the whole world.

His recent works are vignettes of daily life in Sri Lanka where he has been based since 2007.

Sepe knows no boundaries when it comes to fulfilling his fulltime commitment to photography. He documents realities with piercing rawness as he has done since the late 70s in the Philippines.

Last month, he continued this commitment in yet another photo exhibition: “Sri Lanka: Past Times in Times Present.”

"This is really a continuation of my commitment to photography. It never stops...I’m still around, still shooting and continuing my dedication to inform thru pictures," he said.

(Anaradhapura is one of the oldest cities in Sri Lanka. It is the site of the largest dagobas and water tanks dating back centuries ago. Its also a destination for Buddhist pilgrimage.2008.)

While most of the world see Sri Lanka as nothing but a place caught in the conflict between the Tamil tigers and the government, Sepe offers what he has witnessed – that of Sri Lankans' ordinary, day-to-day struggle to survive.

Sepe’s black and white images captured the lives of people in different corners of this South Asian country including the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, the ancient city of Anaradhapura in the northwest and the southwestern city of Moratuwa.

"I’ve never seen these angles before. It's different when it comes from a person who is not a Sri Lankan," he said.

This is not the end of it. Sepe is planning to hold another exhibit soon.

He doesn’t know for certain where his next stop would be but for now his home is Sri Lanka where he lives with his wife and two children.

Back here in the Philippines, he has documented the lives in the underground movement during the latter years of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines in the 1980s.

(The fisherfolk of Galle, doing the traditional net pulling from the shore. Catch will be later distributed to everyone.2007.)

Since then Sepe has contributed significantly to documenting the social and political changes. Most assignments were commissioned by non-government organizations but his desire to photograph realities led him to fund some of the documentaries himself. Co-founder of the Center for Documentary Photography now known as the Philippine Center for Photojournalists and former senior staff of different newspapers and magazines in the Philippines, he has worked on various worthy book projects.

These include Philippines: A Journey through the Archipelago, the Philippine Navy's Tides of Change, the University of the Philippines' Sipat, the Ateneo de Manila University's Chinese-Filipino book and the coffeetable book “Portraits of a Tangled Relationship."

His works have been widely recognized by fellow photographers and various global institutions.

Nico Sepe may be reached at nicosepe@yahoo.com. His online galleries are at www.katumbukan.blogspot.com and www.nicosepe.com.

(Mahout and his elephant, a lifetime relationship.2007.)

MJ Memorial

I thought the memorial service for Michael Jackson started off great with Mariah Carey singing "I'll be there" then Queen Latifah reading a poem by Maya Angelou about the pop icon. But after Stevie Wonder's performance, it went downhill to cheesy, with major chunk provided by Usher.

Sorry sa fans nya, but I found his performance mejo OA and KSP. Imagine he had his shades on the whole time he was singing, then took them off after the song, to show the audience he was crying, then looks to the coffin to the left. A major Kodak moment dontcha think? And gads, Brooke Shields was just hysterical as she painfully tried to crack jokes about the time she spent with MJ. And John Mayer...geez, another OA performance there. I thought he was having a stroke with the way his face contorted.

Btw, they should've asked Smokey Robinson to sing, and the Jackson Brothers should not have worn their white gloves. It made them look pathetic, trying to honor (or ape) their only brother who had the real talent among them. I wonder if MJ's body was actually in that gleaming silver casket. Oh well.

But didn't you guys think the Rev. Lucious was luscious?!?! Way hotttt?! this man of God. Praise the Lord.

Rest in peace, MJ. The circus is over.

* * * *

We had him by Maya Angelou

Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing, now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind.

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace. Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon.

In the instant that Michael is gone, we know nothing. No clocks can tell time. No oceans can rush our tides with the abrupt absence of our treasure.

Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone.

Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him.

He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.

Despite the anguish, his life was sheathed in mother love, family love, and survived and did more than that.

He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style. We had him whether we know who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his.

We had him, beautiful, delighting our eyes.

His hat, aslant over his brow, and took a pose on his toes for all of us.

And we laughed and stomped our feet for him.

We were enchanted with his passion because he held nothing. He gave us all he had been given.

Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana's Black Star Square.

In Johannesburg and Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England

We are missing Michael.

But we do know we had him, and we are the world.

July 08, 2009

Pinoys keen on investing in Guam

(Photo from Guam Online)

MORE Filipino businessmen are now looking at Guam as a possible investment area, expecting to benefit from the transfer of some 40,000 US military personnel, dependents and civilian workers to the island over a five-year period. This developed at the close of the recent Guam Trade Mission conference at Renaissance Hotel, which attracted about 172 Filipino executives and businessmen.

Consequently, a Guam-Philippine Business Council has been formed to push forward and strengthen trade and investment ties between businessmen from both countries. (Click here for the rest.)

Citadel to ring up Hawaii; pushes Pacific expansion

PACIFIC Telecoms Inc. (PTI), the Micronesian subsidiary of Citadel Holdings Inc., is looking to expand its telecommunications services to Hawaii before the end of 2009.

In an interview with the BusinessMirror, Jose Ricardo P.R. "Ricky" Delgado Jr., president and chief executive officer of Citadel and PTI, said: “We’re looking to sell our [long-distance] phone cards to Hawaii first, and exploring other options where we can do business.” The planned expansion will be carried out through PTI’s Guam-based telecoms unit, IT&E Overseas Inc. (Click here for the rest.)

(From left: Ricky Delgado, Jr.; Guam Gov. Felix P. Camacho, and Ricky Delgado, Sr. at the cocktails for the recent Guam Trade Mission. Photo by Rhoy Cobilla)

July 05, 2009

Manners in the cellphone age (the conclusion)

(Ang iingay nyo! Photo from New World Odor.)

"And have you noticed how people speak louder than usual when using a cell phone, even when there’s no problem in the connection? What’s up with that? It’s annoying, especially when you’re in a public place like a restaurant, or riding the rail, or even the theater, and the cell-phone user starts yapping away and you are forced to listen to the one-sided conversation."(Click Something Like Life for the rest.)

Huling hirit

SINCE this issue has already been beaten to death, no thanks to Lorelei Fajardo and Sen. Loren Legarda in today's Philippine Stary, this will be my last say on it:

1. There's nothing wrong with getting a boob job. If the presidentita had a boob job, I don't care. It doesn't make a difference in my life but hopefully, it made a difference in hers. (wink!) Besides if she had this done in 1985-'86, it was before she joined the government, so no taxpayers funds spent there.

2. The public has every right to know about the medical condition of the President. So if the implants were leaking, it put her life at risk. So no, Lorelei and Loren (isa ka pang ja-fake!), this is not a private matter just because the presidentita is a woman and cannot be cloaked under the term "sensitive details."

3. If there was nothing to hide about the presidentita's condition, why did Malacañang's spokespersons trip all over themselves, even denying that she had a breast augmentation done in the past?

4. As long as the recent breast implant replacement and other gynecological procedures were not done on taxpayers' expense, then we're square with it, right? But as journalists, we have a right to ask these things on behalf of the public, who again, have the right to know about the health condition of the presidentita.

Now, here's something from Newsbreak about the boob job: Click here

July 03, 2009

GMA's boob job, part 2

(Here are samples of silicone breast implants from Fitbuff)

SINCE you asked, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, here are some possible reasons why a silicone breast implant would rupture:
"* Damage during implantation or during other surgical procedures
* Folding or wrinkling of the implant shell
* Trauma or other excessive force to the chest
* Compression of the breast during mammography. (Click here to know more about breast implants.)

But as my good friend Analog says, "kape" causes breast implants to rupture. Kape-pindot! Hahaha!!!

* * * *

Just to show we're not joking, here's the actual front page of today's Manila Bulletin, July 3, 2009:

...and the boob job story:

Of course, with the jokers running around in Malacañang, the denial was even more laughable than the story itself. The presidentita really shouldn't be hiring amateurs to be her spokespersons.

Anyhoo, this was such a wonderfully amusing way to end a week. Thank you Manila Bulletin! (Let's just clean up the copy next time though.)

July 02, 2009

GMA gets boob job, says Bulletin

Omigawd! This is precious! (Actual screen capture from MB's site.)

GMA medical checkup OK

Manila Bulletin, July 2, 2009, 6:03pm

President Arroyo underwent removal and replacement of breast silicone implants at a hospital in Muntinlupa City, a source told the Manila Bulletin.

Meanwhile, a Palace official announced that President Arroyo has ended her two-day self imposed quarantine “with a clean bill of health,” and is expected to resume public engagements “in a few days.”

The informant, who requested anonymity since the source was not authorized to speak about the matter, said the President was scheduled to undergo augmentation mammoplasty at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Alabang, Muntinlupa. (Click here for the rest.)

OK, this is so uncharacteristic of MB to publish something unflattering of the presidentita. So this could be a hoax, someone may have hacked into the paper's news site, or the online editor is just fooling around. The paper doesn't usually upload its news 'til after midnight.

Go save the page on PDF or go buy the paper right now, in case it's for real. Takot ako ke Lolo Emilio!

(UPDATE 12:10 pm) Yes folks, apparently the story is for real. According to Phil. Star columnist Jarius Bondoc, the boob job was done in the 80s but the twins have been leaking lately, thus the need for the replacements. Click Gotcha for the full account.

Meantime, kudos to the new leadership at Bulletin for their courage (and humor!) in publishing the story. Although apparently, someone from the Palace must've blasted them already. Accdg. to Georgia whose friend manages/hosts the web site of the paper, a call from the Bulletin was received with instructions to replace the original story w/ the new lede. The page now looks like this:

Da who?!?!

1. DA who is this senatoriable who eagerly accepted P2 million just to switch parties? Oh, that, plus all expenses to be paid by his new presidentiable bet said to be teeming w/ cash, courtesy of his ah, relative. Detractors of the senatoriable of course chide him for being "cheap" for accepting the P2M check, which is seen as a rather minimal amount. E kung kelangan ng tao noh?!

2. Da word is this sleepy vice presidentiable is now eagerly negotiating with the dark horse presidentiable bec. the former's backer in his party has now supposedly chosen to support a relative in the presidential race. Earlier the backer was said to be against his relative bec. of the rather offensive behavior of the relative's spouse. Well, blood is thicker than water, ika nga.

3. The real story behind the reported pullout by T.I.M. from its consortium w/ Smartmatic, the shady company awarded the contract to automate the 2010 polls, is that despite Smartmatic's 40-percent stake in the project, its executives wanted total control of management and the finances, including the signing of checks. Of course, considering that the background of Smartmatic isn't really credible, T.I.M. officials thought they could be liable for any issues and problems that arise from the project, especially if the gang from Barbados just disappears.

Of course, my own conspiracy theory is that this is all is in an elaborate setup to allow Smartmatic to implement its project in joint venture with the Comelec. There's a lot of moolah to be had in that project and someone is going to get mightily rich from allowing it to continue under that kind of partnership agreement. And no, I'm not talking about the gentleman from Malacañang. The person who will benefit from the Comelec-Smartmatic partnership has had questionable and profitable dealings in the past as well. Da who? Guess mo.

4. More on the poll automation project: one of the bidders disqualified from the bidding by Comelec, was said to have not complied w/ the terms of reference of the bid. But da word is, the company took a look at the list of equipment the Comelec wanted and ticked off a few off the list the company felt was not needed in the first place. Entonces, the company was going to save Comelec/we taxpayers a lot more money if the poll body just entertained the company's bid.

5. Da who is this well-known PR guy who has been hired by the embattled Doktora to handle the crisis PR needs of her erstwhile boytoy, who last we heard, now wants to study to be a lawyer? Truly love knows no bounds for the Doktora considering that the PR guy, famous for publishing a book on his former client, has an acceptance fee of not less than P1 million. Acceptance fee palang yan ha?

With the tri-media effort the PR guy is implementing to help portray Doktora's boytoy as a poor confused fella who was abused as a child, the tag price for the campaign has been estimated at no less than P5 million by other PR men in the industry. Ang saya naman!

Susan Fernandez, RIP

IT'S incredibly sad that so many celebrities and musical artists have been passing away in the last few weeks.

I never knew Susan Fernandez personally, but have been one of her silent admirers. She has been dubbed the "voice of protest" back in the day, but I was never part of that circle given my youth. I discovered her rather belatedly when I started hanging out in folk bars. And I have been a fan ever since. The last time I watched her perform was at Bro's Mustache along Sct. Madriñan about 2 yrs. ago.

She passed away this afternoon after a mightly battle with ovarian cancer. Her fans will miss her, but her voice, so angelic and glorious, will surely be a welcome addition to God's heavenly choir above. The video below is rather dizzying, so I suggest you just close your eyes and listen to her sing, Awit ni Canuplin, which is one of my favorite tunes of Susan.

This one moved me to tears, Sangandaan (repost from Chickoy Pura)
Click here.