October 30, 2009

I talk to dead people

MY friend Reyna Emperatriz used to bewilder some of our pals. Whenever she would leave her condo unit, she would speak out and say, “Ser, alis muna ako ha.” Or when arriving home, she would go “Hello, Ser.” Even when we were out of town, she would say these greetings out loud upon entering or leaving her hotel room. (Click Something Like Life for the rest. Libingan ng mga Bayani photo from Makati City gov't web site.)

Trick or treat!

When I got back from Boston sometime in 1999, I decided to rent a condo unit for my daughter and me. It was a high-rise four-bedroom unit, spacious and unbelievably affordable considering that it was in the Greenhills area. Later on, I discovered the reason behind the bargain rent. It turned out that there were ghosts (yes, plural, not singular) in the condo, if not the entire building. (Click Toots Ople for the rest.)


This is it

IF you still haven't seen "This is It", the behind-the-scenes documentary of Michael Jackson's rehearsals for what would've been his last concert run to have been staged in London, then go see it quick. The film dispels the rumors that Michael was sick or worn-out before his tragic death on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.

Spliced with a few interviews with his backup singers, his dancers, his band and the other members of the production, the film is really about Michael's dedication to his craft. He was a perfectionist to the core, but wasn't imposing or and was never a diva about it. Every request made of his musicians or dancers was punctuated with a sincere thank you or a "God bless you."

It showed how much his fans meant to him that he wanted to give them a really good show. So he had to personally shepherd every aspect of the production. He was in complete control from the very beginning. He was there choosing his back up dancers, getting the tunes of his songs right w/ the band leader, overseeing the filming of his new videos w/c would have been shown in the concerts, etc.

Even as he tried to conserve his voice for the actual concerts, or didn't bring out the big dance moves yet, his brilliance as a performer shone through. No matter if they danced the same choreographed steps, for instance, Michael just had his own groove w/c put him above his crew. One tiny pop of his elbow, a shuffling of his feet here, and a kick-turn in place, and he was amazing.

But he was always generous as a performer. He wanted his backups to have their moments onstage. Like he would coax the female guitarist performing w/ him to give it her all and say, "This is your time to shine." You could tell that the concerts would have really been fantastic.

True to the producers' words, the film is really for the fans. The music alone will want you to get up, sing along and dance. It shows Michael at probably his happiest, just performing onstage, even if these were just rehearsals. That was what made the film so poignant and touched me so that at some point, I couldn't hold back my tears much longer. It was just so great to see him smile again.

We love you Michael...always and forever.

October 29, 2009

How now brown cow? (Updated)

(Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero announces decision to leave National People's Coalition in a press conference held at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City on October 28, 2009. Photo from Chiz web site)

FOR the entire day yesterday, my friends on Facebook were all a-twitter, analyzing, dissecting, and even dissing Sen. Chiz Escudero's announcement of his resignation from the Nationalist People's Coalition. It obviously caught most of his partymates off-guard. Even NPC vice-presidential candidate Loren Legarda seemed mightily pissed at the turn of events, considering how she has been lusting after the presidency. Too bad she had already declared herself as a VP candidate.

Even Rep. Mark Cojuangco, son of NPC founder and businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, sounded testy saying that the senator never told him that he was leaving the party, and that he was only hearing about this from the reporter who was asking for his reaction. He sounded incredulous as if the reporter was telling him something preposterous.

While Inquirer's headline on its website this morning is Escudero junks NPC, Cojuangco, it has been apparent for quite sometime that it was Cojuangco who actually junked the presidential wanna-be. Rumors have been going around in the last few months that the Boss, as Cojuangco is called, was not too enthusiastic about financing Escudero's presidential bid.

(Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, Jr.)

Cojuangco's rumored P200-M allocation to Escudero is what it appears to be - token support. Just so it won't be said that the Boss didn't fund his party's own presidential candidate. But if you look at the situation closely, Cojuangco really doesn't need to bet on Escudero or perhaps any other presidential candidate for that matter. He already has cornered the coco levy funds. He got back San Miguel Corp., which is now diversifying and expanding its reach beyond its normal food and beverage concerns. So what other favors does he need to curry from any presidential candidate? (The other rumor is that Cojuangco BFF and SMC president Ramon Ang had convinced the NPC chair to just fund their congressional candidates. Besides, its cheaper.)

For another, Escudero has shown poorly in survey after survey. As a presidential candidate, the highest rating he got compared to his possible rivals was 23%, as per the Social Weather Stations polls, and this was in Feb. 2009. His rating then slipped to 15% in May, rose to 20% in June, before dropping back to 15% in Sept. when Sen. Noynoy Aquino already entered the picture. So Escudero never got a rating that was convincing enough for potential financiers to back him.

Although we hear that beer and tobacco magnate Lucio Tan is ponying up for Escudero's presidency, we also know that the former is a segurista and will likely contribute to everyone who is running for president. It's called political hedging. But with Tan's businesses struggling with financial burdens (e.g. PAL for instance reported a $31-M loss in Aug. and is cutting jobs), the Chinoy tycoon won't be able to give Escudero enough funds to mount a decent and serious presidential campaign.

When the group of political campaign strategist par excellence Lito Banayo joined the Chizwiz campaign, everyone felt, including myself, that the group would energize the Chizwiz campaign. But by Oct. 23, Saturday, I heard that Malou Tiquia, Escudero's senior campaign strategist had "resigned". To those who don't know, prior to her joining Escudero's campaign, Tiquia was with Sen. Mar Roxas. She had been one of those behind the brilliant Mr. Palengke strategy. Now, there could only be one reason why Tiquia would disengage from Escudero, my source noted. That meant no campaign funds were forthcoming. (One of Escudero's handlers told me Tuesday, however, that Tiquia didn't resign; her contract just wasn't renewed. Accdg. to him, "maraming syang kaaway sa loob.")

Of course, prior to this, former senator Serge Osmeña had resigned as Escudero's campaign manager (w/c is why it was necessary to bring Banayo in), and announced he was rejoining the Liberal Party to support Sen. Aquino's presidential bid. Advertising guru Yolly Ong, who was said to have ties to the Aquinos as well, also left.

(Beer and tobacco magnate Lucio Tan, a personal friend of Escudero's father, Rep. Sonny Escudero.)

Now with all due respect to Escudero's current handlers whom I really respect and his own father who I am especially fond of, there's a simple reason why Escudero has been rating poorly in the surveys. It's not from lack of media exposure. In fact, I think he's all over the place. And I'd like to dispel Escudero's assumptions that his connection to Danding's iffy politics is an issue for voters. It is really not. But he does rub people off the wrong way. Especially the ones older than 50 years. Even my 81-year-old mother describes him as "hambog". Apparently, he is not someone who brings out the mother instinct in women.

Among those in his age group, the 40-somethings w/c I belong to, he comes off as a brash, arrogant, know-it-all, who is long on his answers, but actually short on substance. He speaks in a monotone, unblinking, as if he's got all his answers memorized, w/c he regurgitates as the need arises. His lines are cleverly-written and well-rehearsed. (e.g.“Whoever is planning to run for president of the country should have no allegiance to any party—NPC, LP, PMP, Lakas or whatever. The party that anyone is aspiring to run under should be none other than the Philippines, and his party mates should be all Filipinos.") They are ready-made soundbites for the public and media's consumption, but devoid of any sincerity. There is no heart, no soul, just lots of empty rhetoric.

Fortunately for Escudero, he has the youth (18-30 somethings) eating out of his hand. But are these youth supporters that numerous for him to be able to mount a presidential bid without funds? Remember, if one is to gun for a national elective post, he has to have poll watchers in almost every major precint in the entire Philippines! Even the announcement of support by the Magdalo group was met with skepticism. Just how many are the Magdalos and their supporters anyway?

And for all his posturing, Escudero is certainly no Barack Obama who was able to mount a new kind of politics that cut across all age groups, sexes, and ethnicities. (Yet, even Obama had major financial backers like Oprah Winfrey, a whole slew of celebrities, and major businessmen.) So I'm not quite sure where Escudero is headed. For all the youthful idealism that he projects, I don't think he is naive to believe that he will be able to run for president without some massive capital infusion. Unlike Obama's one-dollar campaign, Escudero can no longer mount a piso-piso campaign from the public bec. Aquino's handlers have already beaten him to the punch.

If at all, Escudero will probably run for VP, with who as president, I don't really know. There are three presidentiables still without a running mate, i.e. Gilbert Teodoro, Manny Villar, and Dick Gordon. And for all his self-righteous anti-corruption schtick, some people think Escudero may still run with Gibo or Villar as president. (Gordon's chances are iffy, at best, and lack of funds is also a problem.) I believe it will all boil down to campaign financing and who will be able to give it to him. Although VP Noli de Castro was said to have been persuaded by Villar to be his runningmate, we are hearing that certain ahem, promises made to Kabayan have yet to be fulfilled, w/c is why there is still no announcement from the latter. So the Villar window is still open for Escudero to swing through. As Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita says, "in politics, anything is possible."

Or maybe Escudero will give the Philippines a break and as Sen. Mar Roxas has already said and done, put "country above self." What is direly needed by this country is for the Opposition to unite against the PaLaKa/administration's immense political machinery. Escudero, if he is really sincere in wanting to serve the people's interests, should set aside his childhood ambition to run as president for the meantime, or even as VP. (He has lagged in the polls as VP candidate as well.) He's young, he still has a long road ahead of him. He can still be of service to the public as a senator. Besides, he cannot deny the growing force in popularity of the Aquino-Roxas tandem. Politics is a lot about incredible timing. And for Escudero, unfortunately, this isn't the right time for his run.

To close, I am, aghast that Escudero, in his interview last night with Che-Che Lazaro's Profiles on ABS-CBN had the gall to say that Cojuangco never lifted a finger to help him in his past candidacies ("walang naitulong" was his exact words). This not only smacks of ungratefulness, but is a bald-faced lie. As one reporter commented to me, "what about the frequent use of SMC's Learjet? That's gotta count for something." So there.

* * * *

FOR the whys and wherefores of Escudero, read Lito Banayo's column here. It is his last entry, he says, because of his having joined the Escudero campaign. So yes, Chizwiz is still going to run, for what position, we don't know. (Yadayadayada.) Too bad. Many readers, including myself, will certainly miss Mr. Banayo's astute political observations in his column. Good luck with the campaign po.

Scenes from a wedding

THE bride was radiant, and the groom, dashing. It was a sweet and touching ceremony. We wish the couple all the best as they embark on a new chapter in their lives.

Here are some photos from Tuesday's wedding of Sen. Mar Roxas and broadcaster Korina Sanchez at the Sto. Domingo Church, courtesy of the senator's office. Enjoy!

Mar helps his bride-to-be to the altar as the wedding ceremony begins.

Mar looks totally enamored with Korina.

Bound together as one by veil and cord. Mar vows: 'I offer myself to you as your husband in respect and in trust,' to which Korina replies: 'Ngayon at bukas, ako'y iyong-iyo.'

With the conclusion of the matrimonial rites, Mar and Korina kiss for the first time as husband and wife. Indeed, dreams can come true, as Korina said in her vows.

Mar: 'I give myself to you as your best friend, to applaud when you succeed and encourage when you stumble. I offer myself to you as your husband in respect and in trust. Korina: 'Dumaan man ang unos, mga pagsubok, ang sakit, ang kabiguan, ako ay mananatiling dikit sa iyong dibdib kahawak ng mahigpit ang iyong mga kamay.'.

(The newly-married couple poses in front of some of their 3,000 guests at the Sto. Domingo Church.)

Mar and Korina by their 'Bridal Traysikad' outside the church, after their wedding rites.

Sigh :)

October 27, 2009


AFTER all the news and blogs about the more recent inefficiencies in government service, here's some good news for a change. Let's celebrate our fine soldiers who have just taken over peacekeeping duties in the Golan Heights! Last Oct. 22, the Polish forces lowered their national flag and gave way to the Philippine flag which now flies over the still-disputed territory.

All photos here are courtesy of our ex-Today colleague, and now First Secretary Elmer Cato, Peacekeeping Officer of the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York (whew!).

(The Polish peacekeepers. Don't you just love those blue berets?)

(Our very brave Filipino soldiers.)

(Maj. Gen. Wolfgang Jilke, commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force, welcomes Lt. Col. Milfredo Melegrito, commanding officer of the Philippine contingent and his troops.)

(Lt. Col. Melegrito receives the key to Camp Ziouani, headquarters of the UN peacekeeping forces w/c also includes troops from Austria, Canada, Croatia, India, and Japan.)

(Keeping watch over the disputed territory.)

Mabuhay ang magigiting na kawal ng Pilipinas!

October 24, 2009

Move those relief goods Sec. Cabral!

GOOD grief! If you haven't seen the photos of those relief goods just sitting at DSWD warehouse, click here. Good thing Ella's blog is up and running again. Ok, so we all suspiciously thought it was taken down by some powerful entities. It was just due to too much web traffic pala. hehe (My thanks to Ella also for taking off from my previous blog about relief efforts at Tulong Bayan in Cubao and White Space. Although slight correction, only the first photo she used was Leah Navarro's; the rest were mine.)

(The warehouse of DSWD. No one repacking the goods. Where are the DSWD staff? How come Sec. Cabral has not asked for volunteers? Photo from Ella's site.)

Anyhoo, this is disturbing news indeed. Many privately-run relief efforts wrapped up a week after Ondoy primarily because there were no more goods coming in. Then we all find out, tons are just with the DSWD gathering dust! Maybe Sec. Peter Favila should train his guns on DSWD for hoarding all those relief goods! For what kaya? For next year's elections? Does the gov't intend to give out the rest of these goods when their candidates are campaigning? We can't help thinking this way!

Even DSWD Sec. Esperanza Cabral's subsequent explanation on the issue makes no sense. If the agency needed volunteers, all she had to do was shout out over the radio, TV, through the DSWD web site, and other bloggers! It's scary that there are just so many unthinking and inefficient people now in government service!

People are dying, or getting sick, and running out of food in the typhoon-stricken areas, or in the evacuation centers, and all that we were treated to were immensely huge photos of Dr. Cabral (and presidentiable Gibo Teodoro) handing out a pittance of relief goods. Teka Lolah, tatakbo ka bang Senador?

Even after Ella's exposé btw, things have little changed at the DSWD. Political columnist/blogger Manolo Quezon and some of his friends went to check on the warehouse, the account of which is in Update 3 of Bury me in this dress.

* * * *

Meanwhile, I told my mom about the issue of the DSWD warehouse and she got pissed about it. You see my mom was a social worker back when DSWD was still called Social Welfare Administration. She loved her work so much, going to the poor communities in Tondo, for instance, that she actually turned down a job offer to become the secretary of then SWA administrator Pacita Madrigal Warns. This was the time when Ramon Magsaysay was Philippine president.

Back then, she said, SWA staff were extremely efficient, honest, and dedicated to their work. But things may have turned under the time of the Marcoses. My mom told me for instance how one regional SWA official, a former colleague, approached her asking if she wanted some instant milk powder. (This was when my mom was already married to my Dad and had retired from SWA.) She asked how the SWA official came to have so much milk powder in her possession, the officer said, it was bec. of her work at the SWA. "E kasi Social Welfare ako di ba?" was how my mom quoted her ex-colleague. Instead of giving the milk powder, donated most probably by foreign governments, to poor and needy communities, this SWA official was handing them out to friends and family! Ang kapal!

Okay, I'm not saying that all the DSWD staff are like this ex-SWA regional officer, but I would suppose everyone will take their cue from their respective bosses. If they see their DSWD bosses just sitting in their airconditioned offices and nagpapa-ganda/nagpapa-picture lang, or filching from their stocks of donated goods, they too will follow. Monkey see, monkey do.

Ella didn't claim naman that the relief goods in DSWD are "rotting" there as alleged in some TV reports, or being pilfered by the agency staff, so all I'm saying is, the systems and procedures are definitely not efficient at that agency. There is no organization in the way the relief goods are being handled, repacked, and distributed. What are the DSWD employees doing about this? Now, if the agency is shorthanded, all it has to do is ask for volunteers because I'm sure many people would like to help...unless its officials really don't want the public to know what exactly is going on in those DSWD warehouses.

October 22, 2009

Have you seen this?

HERE'S the actual video of the robbery that happened in the Rolex store at Greenbelt 5 last Sunday, Oct. 18. Afraid!

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

In typical fashion, Ayala Land says it has beefed up its security. Pray tell, how?

The day after the heist, I went to TriNoma in QC, and the security guards hardly gave me a glance. The same was true tonight, as I went around Glorietta, then over to Greenbelt 2 and 3. All I did was raise my bag, and the security guards didn't even bother to have me open it. Okay, so I probably don't look like a burglar or terrorist anyway.

But I think shoppers would feel safer if there were some K-9 dogs going around (which the malls had after the Glorietta 2 explosion in 2007), or the security guards inspected everyone's bags. Unlike others, I've never resented having my bag and bundles inspected in any establishment. For me, if this is one way to reduce the opportunity for unscrupulous elements to sow mayhem in public places, then I am only to glad to participate in this effort.

Then again as most shoppers know, the security at Ayala malls has never been decent to begin with. Petty thievery goes on unabated. (Yours truly was a victim and she had to badger Ayala Land to even ask their security people to check the CCTV footage. Of course, they got back to me a month later. Duh.) That Glorietta explosion happened. (Does anyone really have a clear cut explanation what happened there?) And now they had this brazen burglary in the middle of the day. The news reports have it that Emirates Security Specialist Inc., the company hired by Ayala Land to secure its malls, is owned by former PNP chief Edgardo Aglipay who has since issued a statement defending his men.

But why were the robbers able to enter the mall? Didn't the security guards check with the security director/administrator if there was indeed a bomb inspection scheduled? Didn't the guards notice that the so-called bomb inspection team alighted from an unmarked vehicle? And where were they when the shooting started? Mayor Freddie Tinga's police security detail were saying that they could have easily "neutralized" the burglars if Ayala mall's security guards came to their aid.

Apparently all that the Ayala mall security is really good for is beating up truant kids caught swiping donation cans off shop counters. And that, my friends, is another true story.

October 21, 2009

Entrepreneurship 101 from Manny Villar

"Subdivisions in Las Piñas not owned by the Villars are celebrating. The reason, they are now freed from Villar's water company with the entry of Maynilad. Unfortunately for the people who live in Camella, they will have to continue paying for high water rates. Villar refused to allow Maynilad to service his subdivisions. Maynilad's rates are way below what Villar's water company charges its subscribers. He clearly does know how to put his interests above that of the public." (Read more here. Repost from Manolo)

Sipag, tiyaga, at manggulang ng kapwa. Yan si Manny Villar.

October 19, 2009

Rain rain go away!

IT'S 4:26 a.m., Oct. 19, Monday. The rain is starting to pour again. I can imagine people who survived Typhoon Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng are again nervously peering through their windows to check for any signs of rising floodwaters. I hate to be in their position.

I wish this rain would stop and Typhoon Lupit/Ramil just dissipate in the ocean.

Here's the latest on the new weather disturbance from the Japan Meteorological Agency. The satellite imagery is here.

Be safe, be informed.

No one to save us but ourselves*

(Slums of Manila. Photo by Laine and Lucas at Travelblog)

"Our thoughtless throwing of garbage into canals and the remaining estuaries in the metropolis has also been cited as one of the culprits of the recent flooding. With all that much waste clogging the waterways, there was no way for the floodwaters to exit rapidly out onto Manila Bay. To this day, residents in a few areas in Pasig and Marikina are still dealing with knee-high floodwaters." (Click Something Like Life for the rest.)

*Expanded from a previous blog entry.

October 16, 2009

Surrendering to bliss

THE province of Albay in Bicol doesn’t exactly conjure images of luxury and pampering. To most people, it just means the ever-rumbling Mayon Volcano, rows of abaca plants, and a great deal of pili nut products. Oh, yes, and who can forget—the devastating typhoons that always seem to batter the area?

Surprisingly, as my friends and I arrived in Legaspi City after leaving Manila’s rain-drenched streets only an hour before, the sun was shining at its mightiest. We were later told that in this part of the country, the weather is actually the reverse of what it is in Metro Manila. So if you feel that vacation itch during the rainy season, the Bicol region is actually the best destination to escape to.

We were on our way to Misibis Bay Raintree, one of only three Philippine establishments that have made it into the Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) of the World group. SLH counts only 500 of the most exclusive establishments in the world which cater to a very discriminating clientele in terms of luxury and hospitality.

Upon our arrival at the airport, we were met by the friendly resort staff and whisked off in a van to its dock at the newly built commercial and entertainment complex, the Embarcadero at the Legaspi port. A fancy welcome of bubbling champagne and suman awaited us, while cool pleasantly scented white face towels did the trick in refreshing and energizing us for the next part of our journey.

We then boarded a fastcraft for the 30-minute ride to the lush and verdant Cagraray Island, located northeast of Legaspi. Everywhere we looked, the calm azure waters provide a delightful contrast to the sunny cloudless sky. The only visible puffs of white were from Mayon Volcano, no longer with the perfect cone, but still unparalleled in its grandeur.

Local folk dancers dressed in colorful costumes welcomed us as we made our way to the Spice Market, the resort’s main restaurant. It being the early morning, and already battling low blood-sugar levels, we eagerly wolfed down our breakfast of fried garlic rice, sunny-side up eggs, and New Look, a very meaty dried fish that we discovered on our visit last year. (It’s called New Look because the specie was only discovered in the waters of Bicol sometime in the 1960s, and has yet to be identified with any scientific name, or so a local fisheries graduate told us.) Super-addicting!

After a hearty breakfast, we were led to our beachfront villas, where a soothing foot scrub and massage awaited us. The villa I was assigned to had a commanding view of the sparkling Albay Gulf and the clear blue sky visible through floor-to-ceiling picture windows. It also had a sundeck with two lounging beds where guests could soak up the rays of the sun.

The main feature of each of the villas is, of course, the king-sized bed and fluffy goose-down pillows all wrapped in 350-thread count linen. It was so heavenly to sink into, it took much effort to get up from after a nap or a night’s rest. Imagine a stunning view of peaking waves and drifting clouds each morning, and lying in a huge comfy bed...now that’s what I call a vacation! Even when it drizzled, it was just so peaceful and serene to lie in bed, under the snug covers, neck cradled by gentle pillows, and look out those windows.

(Some of the activities you can enjoy at Misibis Bay Raintree in Albay. Photo colllage courtesy of the resort.)

The villa also had a large heated bathroom where guests can bathe using either the generic bottled bathroom amenities or L’Occitane toiletries.

Each villa is assigned a female butler, who conscientiously tidies up the room whenever the guest is out, folds clothes strewn about, hangs wet bathing suits in the outdoor clothes line, and rearranges the hand towels into their original fan shapes. Okay, truthfully, by the second day, this was freaking me out because this was way too OC for me. Personally, I’m the type who needs a little disorder in my life, but I’m sure other guests will not mind the careful attention to detail the butler gives to their room. (The butler also had an annoying habit of waking me up while I was fast asleep, which I suppose can be ascribed to the resort being just in its soft-opening phase and the staff still needing to get used to the ways of guests.)

What I did appreciate was the warm sudsy bath the butler prepared on the dot, at 6 pm, each evening. Returning to the villa from a vigorous yoga workout and soaking in that bathtub even for just 30 minutes was so divinely comforting.

Adventurous guests have lot of activities to choose from, such as jetskiing, windsurfing, skipping on the water via the banana boat ride, snorkeling, lava trekking near Mount Mayon, and doing the zip line. My pal Marianne went scuba diving just off the Misibis dock and was pleasantly surprised to have seen a manta ray with a 6-foot wingspan swim near her and her dive master. She said it was so close, it could’ve been possible for her to just reach out and touch the creature’s belly. And this was just in 30 feet of water.

If you’re not the type who wants to push up your cardiac rates while on vacation, my pals and I, for instance, had a cooking class with the resort’s chief cook, Danny Gonzales, a Batangueño who has learned to whip up feisty Bicolano dishes. We also made pili nut panna cotta under the guiding hand of Pastry Chef Edgar Encinas. (Of course, we playfully berated Chef Edgar for not preparing sugar-free desserts for diabetics and health-conscious guests.)

In the evening, one can enjoy the nightly entertainment provided by the resident lounge singers, sing yourselves hoarse at the videoke room, or just chillax watching a movie in the den. And if you can’t really tear yourself away from your busy urban life, there is a business center where you can check your e-mails, or insanely update your Facebook status detailing all your activities at the resort.

What I love about Misibis Bay Raintree is that feeling of privacy and blissful isolation, where a real vacation of doing nothing is possible. For people like me who have had enough of the chaotic rush of vacationers, the garbage on the beach, as well as the nightly noise and parties of some island resorts, Misibis is really the perfect place to get away from it all. (Originally published in the Life section of the BusinessMirror, Sept. 2009)

(More resort photos in my August blog entry.)

My new guilty pleasure

IF you like exceptionally creative musical arrangements of your favorite songs, excellent dance choreography, and well, screwed up teen-agers w/ lots of attitude, you must watch Glee. A lot of critics compare it to High School Musical, but trust me, Glee is so much better.

It's about a teacher trying to revive his old high school's glee club while trying to inspire each member to shine to his/her fullest potential. Each glee club member brings his and her own musical flavor to the group, not to mention their attendant problems w/ their peers, family and teachers. While some of the plots aren't exactly original (e.g. married male teacher attracted to female colleague, or overachiever girl falls in love w/ football star who has a girlfriend, a cheerleader of course!), the musical performances every episode are so enjoyable to watch.

Like, I didn't even know I liked Journey until I heard Glee's arrangement of Don't Stop Believin'. The video isn't available on YouTube but you can watch it here. I loved this arrangement so much I made it my ringtone.

This episode features Kurt, the gay character, playing on the football team, and making a score as a place kicker. How he does it, well, you just watch:

Glee is on every Monday at 10 pm on the ETC channel (Skycable Ch. 16). Of course, you can download each week's episode via your favorite torrent host (wink). Oh, did I mention that it's funny as hell? ;p

October 13, 2009

I am furious beyond words!

Gibo delayed purchase of rubber boats
by Aries Rufo, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 10/12/2009 8:19 PM

MANILA - Disaster-preparedness officials warned Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro about the possibility of widespread flooding this year, but the presidential aspirant apparently miscalculated when he did not act quickly on purchasing life-saving equipment.

In particular, officials of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) had urged and advised Teodoro to immediately order the procurement of rescue boats for the expected flooding in different parts of the country.

But for some reason, the potential standard-bearer of the ruling party decided the procurement could wait. (Read the rest at ABS-CBN.)

October 12, 2009

If you still think the branded styro food package was a fake...

...here are a couple of more photos to show how one presidentiable has been taking advantage of the Ondoy tragedy. For security reasons, I cannot reveal the names of the people who took these:

(This photo was taken along Edsa at 2 pm, Saturday, Oct. 10.)

(This was taken during a relief operation in a community in San Mateo, a few days after Ondoy's visit on Sept. 26.)

When photos of the styro food package labeled w/ his name were published in a number of blogs, Sen. Manny Villar denied any knowledge about it, adding that if it had been done by his staff, he didn't authorize it. So you'd think he'd be smart enough to order his staff to refrain from politicking via his relief efforts. Well, apparently he has no control of his own staff. A good president he'd make that's for sure.

Shame on you Sen. Villar for taking advantage of a calamity like Ondoy just to get your mug and name out there!

From my friend's FB status today...how very apt for the times: "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." - Matthew 6:2

October 10, 2009

Oct. 31, 2009 (Updated 10/14/09)

(Photo from the WN Network)

PLEASE go out and register. Your country needs your vote. Please don't let this opportunity to change the country's future pass without your valuable input. You have until Oct. 31, 2009 to do so.

Click Comelec to find out the procedures and download the forms you need to fill up if you're not yet a registered voter, if you want to transfer to another precint, or reactivate your registration.

(Update 10/14/09: You may register with Comelec even on Sundays. Read it here.)

'Depression is coming'

(From the Washington Post via LB Now Ltd.)

THE global economy is still in for rougher times ahead as the underlying problems that caused the recession have been merely “papered over.” This was the assessment on Thursday of Louis Boulanger, CFA, founder and director of LB Now Ltd.

“The problems at the source of the crisis still exist. There’s been fiscal stimulus and there’s been a lot of monetary stimulus. The US Treasury added a lot of money in the system as well as the central bank [Federal Reserve]. (Click BusinessMirror for the rest.)

From victims to survivors

(Photo from Ajay's Writings on the Wall.)

“We facilitate and help them articulate their feelings and try to organize their thoughts. We don’t push any advice; we stay away from giving advice. At the onset, we let them express their thoughts and their situation, because it helps clarify things in their mind. When they are clarified, this helps them explore ways to rebuild their lives,” Wendell explained.

It is true, he said, in times of trauma and disaster, sometimes all that the survivors need is someone to listen to them. “Listening to them is important. Initially, they are confused and their thoughts are cluttered. When things are finally clear in their mind, some of them nanggaling na sa kanila what to do next. And it’s better when that happens, when they figure out for themselves how to move on.” (Click Something Like Life for the rest.)

October 08, 2009

Hot flashes! (3rd update)

1. Just received a text from highly-respected Malaya columnist and political commentator Lito Banayo that Chizwiz's coming out party will be on Monday, Oct. 12, 5:30 pm at the Club Filipino. Ay kawawa naman si Loren! Foiled again ang dreams of superstardom.

(Update 10/10/09: I just received an unconfirmed tip that the announcement of Chizwiz re: his run for the presidency has been moved to Oct. 17, Saturday. I'll give you an update soon as I can.)

Chizwiz's run for the presidency can only mean Tito Danding has come through with the financial support. Naku pano naman si Gibo? Chizwiz's candidacy is also said to be supported by taipan Lucio Tan, a good friend of Chizwiz's dad, Sonny Escudero, one of the better agriculture secretaries this country ever had. (Btw, accdg to Mr. Banayo, also onboard the Chizwiz team is former Star reporter and PTA administrator Nixon Kua, and ex-journalist Raymond Burgos. Well, all I can say is, Chizwiz is super lucky to have these 3 gentlemen on his team. Very formidable political/media operators. Kaya makinig ka sa kanila lagi, Chizwiz!)

(Update 10/11/09:The scheduled announcement of Chizwiz's presidential run at Club Filipino tom. Monday, is definitely postponed, accdg. to his people. There is no date when this will actually happen, as a source in his camp says they want to avoid anything "political" in the meantime that most of Luzon is still suffering from Ondoy and Pepeng's onslaught. So I'm not quite sure what Chizwiz has up his sleeve tom. at the Senate where he is supposed to hold a press conference at 1 pm.

Just my two cents though, it makes no sense to postpone the inevitable. Whether Chizwiz announces his presidential candidacy tom., or next week, or even in November really makes no difference bec. the impact from Pepeng and Ondoy will be lasting. There is no guarantee that the evacuees will be relocated by December or even by the May 2010 elections. Besides rehabilitation will last for years, long after a new president will probably have finished his term of office. Let's just get all these annoucements over and done with so the real work can actually continue.)

2. Two days after Chizwiz's coming out party will be Erap Estrada's and Jobama Binay's. My source has yet to tell me where the venue of the announcement will be. Hopefully it will not be in Club Filipino again, no offense to Club management. Kaso gasgas na kasi yan. And we all know that Club will always and forever be associated w/ Tita Cory.

But I feel a bit sad for Jobama for hitching his cart to Erap's star. Jobama could have done better. I mean, he could've run for senator instead of getting entangled w/ someone like Erap. He was such a huge success in whipping Makati into shape, so why destroy his reputation by teaming up w/ well, an ex-con? Pardon or no pardon, Erap was still found guilty of plunder. Sayang. Well, accdg. to my source, 'no choice' daw.

(Update 10/10/09: According to this story in the Inquirer, Mr. Estrada is announcing his lineup on Oct. 21 instead.)

3. P300 million! That is the amount that is said to have been agreed on between a Presidentiable and his Vice Presidential running mate. Plus all campaign expenses paid ob chors! So even if VP-to-be loses in terms of votes in 2010, does he care? Of all the VP candidates, he will still, in the end, be the real winner. Retirement hasn't looked this great ey? Congratulations in advance to VP-to-be. (Oy, pa-share naman jan!) Da who?!

4. Local/foreign investment managers and bankers got a taste of how life will be if this Presidentiable wins in 2010. He was a no-show at oh-such-an-important gathering of Asia-Pacific delegates this morning and instead, sent his not-too-brilliant relation to speak on his behalf.

Ob chors, Brainiac spoke of the 2010 elections instead of the topic assigned to Mr. Presidentiable, which is the state of the industry from which he hugely profited. Needless to say, most of the conference participants were aghast bec. they aren't Filipino voters anyway so why was Brainiac sounding as if he was campaigning for Mr. Presidentiable? Ngek! Da who?!?!

(UPDATE) According to my sources, Mr. Presidentiable really has this habit of confirming appointments and events, and then suddenly just not showing up. One pundit calls him 'iwas-pusoy', bec. he has a lot of things to hide. Well, maybe Filipino voters will be a no-show for him as well. Hah.

5. Btw, this same Mr. Presidentiable was seen in Shangri-La Edsa Plaza Hotel only a few weeks ago, going out of his way to shake the hands of everyone he came across, much to their surprise. In contrast, we just heard that the Noynoy-Mar tandem is currently in Bacolod City, and no, the two didn't have to go out of their way to press flesh like Mr. Presidentiable above. Instead, it was the crowds which eagerly shook their hands and kissed them. "Dinumog" is how it was described to me. Just like the old Cory days, I'm told. Well, yahoo!

* * * *

MEANWHILE, this is the third shout out to Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte and Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista. QC residents are upset that to this day, their trash hasn't been picked up by garbage collectors yet. Much of the basura are debris from Typhoon Ondoy w/c passed Metro Manila's way last Sept. 26.

What are these two chief executives of QC doing? Twiddling their thumbs while waiting for another typhoon that will no doubt, spread this uncollected debris around and probably cause even larger floods? Not only that, this is a huge health scare! Can you imagine how many diseases are spread bec. of wet, uncollected garbage? This is incompetence at its highest!

Ey Bistek! You're running for QC mayor next year right? Well if you wanna be sure and win our votes, you better solve this garbage problem like yesterday! (Gee, wasn't life so much easier during Kaluskos Musmos?)

(The Sonny and Bistek show. Photo from Inquirer.net)

(UPDATE 7:15 pm, Oct. 9) The trash in our village is finally being shoveled into dump trucks. But the activity is being done at a time when everyone is rushing home. One street was totally closed off, blocked by a truck, causing a kilometric traffic jam along Visayas Ave. I really don't understand why the trash pickup wasn't done this morning, after the rush hour? As usual, Quezon City Hall officials are the masters of competence and efficiency!

October 05, 2009

Aga ikaw ba yan?

THIS old video has been making the rounds of Facebook today. It shows actor Aga Muhlach expressing his frustration with government and corruption by govt officials. Panoorin natin:

I dunno who decided to post this video originally, but I doubt that it's was an innocent post by some fan. You know me, Ms. Conspiracy Theory. Perhaps, someone is trying to float Aga's name out there as a possible candidate for an elective post? And for the Opposition it seems. Hmmm...

Another inspiring story

BULLIED by teen gang members as a child, Efren Penaflorida and his team of youth volunteers help kids move away from a life of violence and bullying through education.

"For the past 12 years, Peñaflorida and his team of teen volunteers have taught basic reading and writing to children living on the streets. Their main tool: A pushcart classroom.

Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, his Dynamic Teen Company recreates a school setting in unconventional locations such as the cemetery and municipal trash dump." (This is his story.)

Pls. vote for Efren to help him win CNN Hero of the Year award.

October 04, 2009

God didn't have anything to do w/ the Ondoy tragedy

THE flooding from Typhoon Ondoy happened, because of poor urban planning and our polluted esteros. There were many victims from the flood, because the gov't was inept, and didn't mount any rescue efforts until it was too late. The typhoon happened, because typhoons are a natural occurence in this part of the world. It's intensity is blamed on Climate Change, again, not God's doing but ours. Our burning of fossil fuels contributes to global pollution and greenhouse gases.

No. The Ondoy tragedy happened not bec. God got mad as there are so many sinners in the Philippines. Our God is no longer of the Old Testament - an angry God - who sends great floods to cleanse the earth of bad people. Or turns sinners into pillars of salt.The God of the New Testament is a loving God. It is His continuing devotion to us - despite our trespasses - that has inspired many of us to help our brothers and sisters who've lost their family, friends, and homes bec. of Ondoy.

It is God who encourages us to be better Christians by loving our fellow men. This tragedy is an opportunity for us all to show Him why we are so deserving of his continuing affection.

* * * *

Here's an insightful piece about urban planning from PDI's Lifestyle section:

"If there is anything or anyone to be blamed for the flooding in Metro Manila, these are the inhabitants. Domestic garbage has obviously taken over the drainage system. We must learn to dispose of our garbage properly." (Click Don't blame God for the rest.)

October 03, 2009

It takes a village... (updated again, 6:36 pm, Oct. 5)

At the offices of many civic groups and private organizations, hundreds of people showed up to volunteer in packing relief goods or going to evacuation centers to help distribute care packages. At the Tulong Bayan center at the Expo Centro in Cubao, it was heartwarming to note that most of the volunteers were adolescents as young as 10 years old, along with their kuya or ate in high school and college. Many of these kids, as you know, would normally spend their time away from school hanging out at the mall.

They came in huge numbers, many of them barkadas, classmates or siblings, dressed just in their tees and shorts, wearing their Havaianas. All were just enthusiastic to do their share! (Click Something Like Life, BusinessMirror, Oct. 2, 2009 for the rest.)

(Even grade school kids pitched in to help! According to singer/activist Leah Navarro, there were so many volunteers at Tulong Bayan's centers in Cubao and White Space, Pasong Tamo Ext., others were asked to return at later schedules. PHOTOS BY LEAH NAVARRO)

(Volunteers of Tulong Bayan unpack cartons of biscuits.)

(Pass it on, guys. Youth volunteers at the Expo Centro in Cubao move the relief goods for loading into a flatbed truck.)

UPDATED ANNOUNCEMENT (10/05/09): Tulong Bayan has closed its Cubao operations but its operations at White Space, Pasong Tamo Ext., Makati City, continues. Volunteers are most welcome. Donations too of course! Aside from food, we need slippers, underwear for men women and children, basic medicines (paracetamol, anti-diarrhea, disinfectants, etc.), toothpaste and toothbrush, etc. Thank you!

ANNOUNCEMENT 2: For other relief centers needing volunteers, click BayanihanOnline. Thanks!

Here are some photos I took at Tulong Bayan center in Cubao last Thursday, Oct. 2:

(Bags of relief goods for distribution this weekend.)

(Cardboard cartons as beds for the flood victims.)

(Here's how the bed looks up close. It includes a blanket to keep warm.)

(Youth volunteers repack detergents for distribution to evacuation centers.)

ALSO, on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 4:

(More relief goods for distribution, Oct. 4)

(Unpacking biscuits for donations.)

(Making the beds from carton boxes.)

(Sacks of rice to be transported to White Space, where Tulong Bayan's relief efforts continue until Thursday, Oct. 8)

(Boxes of canned tuna on their way to White Space too.)

October 02, 2009

For foreign donors

PLS. coordinate with the Philippine Embassy/Consulates in your respective areas and the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development for your donations. Click here for the procedures you have to follow to make sure your donations get to the right recipients.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Gary Teves yesterday released a public advisory via text saying: "the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is now coordinating with the DSWD for the immediate release of used clothes donation from international institutions for the typhoon Ondoy victims. International organizations are advised to donate used clothes directly to DSWD as existing laws (RA 4653) prohibit the importation of used clothes for the Philippines.

* * * *

FYI: Sec. Teves, through his publicist, also informed me that "we will discuss with DSWD [Esperanza] Cabral if she can work with NGOs to faciliate the release of these goods."

'Wag na kayong umasa sa rescue'-Gibo

DISASTER czar Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro made this statement during a press conference this morning. That's bec. the government is ill-equipped anyway to undertake one, as was quite evident when Typhoon Ondoy lashed the metropolis and flooded many key areas.

So please people, if you are living in low-lying areas, get out and evacuate to a higher elevation. Typhoon Pepeng (Parma) is upon us, and you can't risk your life and that of your family's just bec. you want to protect your house and possessions. Family comes first, above all. Don't be embarassed to ask help from friends and relatives. We've been witnessing the resurgence of the bayanihan spirit and I'm pretty sure, many people will take you in while Pepeng dumps its rains on Northern Luzon.

Pls. make sure you have an emergency kit w/ flashlights, batteries, transistor or hand-cranked radio, canned goods, blankets, and a change of clothing and underwear, plus your important documents (Land titles, bank books, etc.) and papers w/ you. By now, you should've already charged your cellphones and just keep communications to simple texts so as not to load the cellphone infrastructure.

Keep paying attention to the news so you will get accurate information about the typhoon and flooding situation. ABS-CBN/ANC, DZMM, and GMA TV/DZBB The recent text messages on Pepeng, have been, more or less, disinforming the public. (NO, MERALCO WILL NOT SHUT DOWN ITS POWER at 9 PM TONIGHT UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.) Also, here are useful links about the typhoon: PAG-ASA, Typhoon 2000, and the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Here's a sample of an emergency kit checklist from Ready America, w/c I think is useful for all of us to have. (This being the Philippines, I personally would add a couple of wet suits, flippers, and a rubber dinghy.)
Emergency Kit

Here's also a list of important contacts during emergencies and disasters as compiled by the Onday Google web page creators:
  • Rescue Operations
    • National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) (+632-9125668, +632-9111406, +632-9115061, +632-9122665) Help hotlines: (+65 734-2118, 734-2120)
    • Philippine Coast Guard (+632-5276136)
    • Air Force (+63908-1126976, +632-8535023)
    • Metro Manila Development Authority (136)
    • Marikina City Rescue (+632-6462436, +632-6462423, +632920-9072902)
    • Pasig Rescue Emergency Number (+632-6310099)
    • Quezon City Rescue (161)
    • San Juan City Hall Command Post (+632-4681697)
    • Bureau of Fire Protection Region III (Central Luzon) Hotline: (+63245-9634376)
    • Senator Dick Gordon (+639178997898, +63938-444BOYS, +632-9342118, +632-4338528)
    • Senator Manny Villar (+639174226800. +639172414864, +639276751981)
  • Civil Society/ Media
    • Philippine National Red Cross (143, +632-5270000)
    • Philippine National Red Cross Rizal Chapter operations center hotline: (+632-6350922, +632-6347824)
    • Go to GMA Facebook page & post complete addresses and names of people in need of immediate help.
    • ABS-CBN Typhoon Ondoy Hotline: (+632-4163641)
    • Jam 88.3: (+632- 6318803) or SMS at JAM (space) 883 (space) your message to 2968
Be prepared people, and keep informed!

October 01, 2009

Go eat your fro-yo!

RECEIVED this notice in my inbox. I think it's a worthy cause. Eat as much as you can, it's healthy for you.

Ey, Red Mango management! What say you? Do your share and make it the Trinoma branch pls.

I'm sorry, I have no sympathy for you (Updated)

I JUST got off the phone w/ a Cabinet official who called me about my concern regarding donations by foreign groups of used clothing. Apparently, there is a law preventing such imports because of the growing ukay-ukay business in the country.

To go around this law, Malacañang has instructed that donations of used clothing be consigned to DSWD instead. (Upate 11:34: If the DSWD receives the donations, the payment of import taxes are deferred.) I told this Cabinet official that DSWD is overburdened already feeding people in the evacuation centers that's why it's the private sector which is taking up the slack. Why can't Customs or the Dept of Finance just accredit a few charitable foundations of relief organizations to receive these donations from abroad?

"There is a law," he stressed over and over, and they couldn't just violate it. With all the bright legal minds in Malacañang, consigning the goods to the DSWD was the only solution they could think of? This is an effing emergency situation! But when it comes to flouting the laws, our officials are number one! Especially you know who!

The Cabinet official said there were already concerns that some importers are taking advantage of the situation and "nagpupuslit ng contraband". So prosecute them for heaven's sake! Why penalize the rest who have only a sincere desire to help Ondoy's victims?

Then the Cabinet official sighed that he has not been sleeping for six days since Typhoon Ondoy. I don't know what he expected me to say. Should I have said, "kawawa ka naman" and sympathized w/ his lack of sleep? I was stumped. People have lost their homes, family members, friends, lack food and water, and are getting sick in the evac centers...and I was supposed to pity one Cabinet official who was suffering from sleep deprivation? I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted to scream at him and cry at the same time. How dare he!

In the first place, we wouldn't have this many flood victims if only you, the gov't, did your job! I have tried to contain myself from blowing up since Saturday, seeing how NDCC and its head, Defense Sec. Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro blundered their way through the rescue efforts of the flood victims. But privately, I have been fuming on Facebook about how many lives the government could have saved, if only they were prepared for disasters.

(Gibo talks about disaster preparedness. Ptooey!)

Like FEMA director Michael Brown during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in Sept. 2005, Gibo sent out rescue teams only when Ondoy was on its way out of the country. As early as 1 pm on Sat. Sept 26, residents of Marikina were already hunched on their roofs, waiting to be rescued! Gibo eventually sent in the much-ridiculed 13 rubber boats (mostly from the Phil. Navy) to the flooded areas at 10 pm!

By midnight, Marikina residents were texting DZMM that President Arroyo had arrived "para magpapakitang tao." The victims who were cold, hungry, and missing their families were not fooled by her fake concern. What makes our blood boil is knowing that the presidentita used up P800 million of the contingency/disaster fund for her foreign travels! How many rescue boats could have been bought w/ that money?

Now we realize even more how stupid this government really is! They can't even get their acts together to decide whether or not Malacañang should be an evacuation/relief center. They can't even come up w/ a simple plan or legal document to temporarily lift relief the ban on donated used clothing? Right now, I've received reports of Customs agents seizing ALL shipments of donations at our ports! People abroad are willing to help our flood victims here. And yet all the govt can come up w/ is even more red tape! Anoba?!

Now, in preparation for Typhoon Parma (local codename Pepeng), disaster czar Teodoro wants to forcibly evacuate minors only from low-lying areas. Why minors only? If the situation is that dangerous, then evacuate everyone! Use your powers as NDCC chief and Defense Sec. to order a systematic evacuation of these areas by using your armed forces. Call in the reserved forces as well to help conduct an orderly evacuation, and don't take crap from stubborn residents. Man up Gibo! This is what you should have done last Saturday at the height of Ondoy.

Isn't anyone thinking straight anymore in Malacañang?!?! Oh right, they haven't slept for six days. erg

This made me laugh!

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should NOT Volunteer or Donate:

8. Yuck, make tapak in the putik? Kadiri, noh.


3. You can’t live without your daily Starbucks.
(Php100 x 30 = Php3000 / Php23.00 (per 1.5L bottle of mineral water) = 500 bottles of water, enough to properly hydrate a four-member family for one month) (Click GannsDeen for the rest. Repost from MLQ3)

Ganns, this is brilliant. I didn't think Christian bloggers could be funny, haha. I hope you find work on Dave Letterman's show. (wink)

As for #3, I can add a few more variations, like, "you can't live without a new Chanel bag" or "you can't live without your Loro Piana chinchilla-trimmed long coat" or "you can't live without your Christian Louboutins." (Da who?!) Cringe-worthy!