Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cellphone etiquette!

DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza wants texting to be free in the Philippines. Now that, is the most IDIOTIC idea that has come from anyone. It shows that the anointed head of the Department of Transportation & Communication of this country is as lame-brained as the appointer. I will not engage in an argumentative thesis here. He is not worth the debate.

If you allow texting to be free in this country, it's tantamount to anarchy!

On the lighter side, there must be some etiquette to using a mobile phone. So now you have a phone.

A few reminders before you dial those digits

1. If you're calling someone important or your boss, unless his or her house or the office is burning or the world is coming to an end, make sure you text first to see if you can call. After all, this guy is probably busier than you.

2. Always try calling the land line first! Most of the people you're calling have a contact number in their offices or homes. It not only saves you money but you save the other person money too, especially when he or she is out of the country. For everyone's information, when you dial a mobile number and the recipient is out of the country, it's the recipient that pays for the call when he or she is roaming! Your participation fee is either a miniscule or just part of your plan (which means it's probably free). For a P3.00/min call you make from your phone to mine when I am roaming, I pay around P40-70/min depending on the country I am roaming at. The Philippines has the most expensive roaming charges for your information. This is what the DOTC should be running after!

3. When you hear a busy tone or the phone rings for 4-5 times and no one is picking up, don't redial. Send a text message. The person you're calling may not be within reach of the phone, or may be busy or is in a meeting. If it's not an emergency, for goodness sake, back-off!

4. If a sales agent asks you to recommend "friends" of yours whom you can recommend for a sales deal, please DO NOT give them the phone numbers of your "friend". Unless you consider him your worst nightmare, then by all means, do so. You don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry harassing you with phone calls from conspicuous people. It's the best way a crime is perpetuated. Thank the Filipinos for ingenuity in a criminal act when it comes to using a mobile phone.

Then there's the texting or SMS sending part

1. Avoid using short-cuts unless it's universally understandable. You don't want people to be guessing what you're trying to say. And because other people have better things to do with their time and their lives and you don't, doesn't mean you have to waste theirs by texting "pcm (please call me)" when what you meant was "please come here".

2. Check your messages before sending it. You may have been texting without looking at your mobile phone in order to show the world that you're ambidextrous and that you have a knack at both talking and texting at the same time, only to find out - you texted "gjtyhsl dkjt kkk" - guess what stupid, wrong text, wrong send!

3. Keep messages short and INFREQUENT. Bombarding someone with texts makes you look obsessive or psychotic or neurotic or mentally ill or bored with life. Get a hobby. Download a game. Better yet, make a blogsite.

4. Don't text in the middle of the night. My patients love to do this. I always put my phone in mute when I go to bed. My partner taught me this. It gives me better sleep. When there's an emergency, rush the patient to the hospital! People who text you are looking for a freebie! For the record, it is always best to end all texting by 10pm. Text message sent after 10pm should be slapped a full call charge!

5. Never text want you don't want remembered forever.

6. Don't argue via text message. You won't win. If you disagree, end the text message with "we'll talk about it later". Let the issue simmer down and get both your acts together. And never, never, press the call button when you're mad. You'll regret it. Composure is dignity in action.

7. Don't send spam texts. I thought the era of chain letters ended eons ago on to resurrect with the advent of mobile phones. Like saying prayers to 15 saints or sending that particular text message of 15 friends and wishing on a star or praying to the moon and all that crap. That, is sacrilege! Though some say there is nothing to lose but a few pesos for God, you've just propagated the mundane thought of desperation. Think about it. If you needed to send the text message to 20 people at 50cents per message that's P10 a day. If you did that 5x a week that's P50 in a week or P200 in a month. Donate that to Unicef and you could send a poor kid to school and keep his hopes in building a better country. Instead, you just made Smart or Globe a little richer. I have a feeling that the phone companies started these religious spams, counting on the religious fanaticism of the Pinoy. People who do this should and ought to get a life!


Don't text and drive! You may think you're the best driver and that your dexterity in multitasking is a feat to contend with. Well, if you do, then you're a self-centered bastard. Think of the other people on the road. Remember, it takes two to tango. It's good if only you get into a mishap and die because of your irresponsibility. You don't need to bring the other party to hell with you. Hands on the wheels, not on the phone.

And if you can't resist nor avoid having to text back immediately, take a public transportation or better yet, get a driver.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Life...or something like it...

They say life begins at 40...or 50...or 60...

I turn 50 in a few weeks. And how time flies.

Of course I feel the age creeping in on me. Even my fave dermatologist, Dr. Ida Villar, who has done wonders in making me look 30 instead of 50 can't reverse the physiologic changes in my body. But more than the physical attributes, what has life been like in the past half century?

Like all others, I have had my share of luck and misfortunes. I have loved, been disappointed in relationships, only to love again. I have dreamed for the longest time, and seen the fruition of some dreams and the failure of others. In the drama of my life, I had thought of what kind of foundation would it take to strengthen me in my journey. We cannot all see dreams in the same way. But the search for happiness is more important than the need for pain. And for every pain that struck me, I had to rise above the disappointments.

Contrary to what other people think, I did not have success on a silver platter. Life was a battlefield. All battles in life serve to teach us something, even the battles we lose. It is precisely the possibility of realizing a dream that makes life interesting.

I am a bright student. Always in the honor roll in grade school & high school and dean's lister in my undergrad and graduate school, a math wiz, I was the best in the lot. I believed I was what you call, the cream of the crop. Then I went to med school. It was a struggle because I had a different view of medical education. Then the big day came. I needed to pass my oral revalida in my graduating year. I failed. I failed? Anger, denial. I locked myself in my room for a week. Refused to acknowledge defeat. And I pitied my mother who was recovering from surgery and my dad who had to borrow money and was in deep debt for my medical schooling. They would not see the first doctor in the family go up the stage to get his diploma. I would remain in medical school for 3 more months and face the same panel all over again. My mom would beg me to eat something. I closed the drapes, cried day and night, was so depressed that I would consume 2 packs of cigarettes in a day. It was all I thought of. I swore not to go back to medical school. Dr. Roberto Anastacio was a big influence in my decision to return. He told me that the biggest loser was the one that gave up. My giving up was simply a sign of weakness and I did not deserve to be a doctor then. After a week, I returned to the hospital and went on duty. When I entered the ER, my colleagues started clapping and tears simply flowed. I will leave this saga behind and will move on. Like a book, there will always be a new chapter to start with. If you have a past with which you feel dissatisfied, then forget it, now. Imagine a new story for your life and believe in it. Focus only on the moments when you achieved what you desired, and the strength will help you to get what you want.

And so life went on. I picked up the broken pieces, put it in trash mode and got on with what life had to offer. This time, I wasn't a young man in a hurry to see what the world owed me. I was a young man on a mission to see the world. And what life had to offer. At 25, I was broke and my spirit was broken. I was dependent on my parents for my daily bread. They understood though that I was taking the road less traveled. One day, I would return the favor of their emotional and financial support. This I swore.

Life is not the way we expect it. My sister, Bennie, married and had kids. In her third year of marriage, when she was pregnant with my nephew, my brother-in-law died of a cerebral aneurysm that ruptured. He was 33 and my sister was suddenly a widow. My father had a stroke a few years later. We were in debt and I was just off a residency program. I was offered a scholarship at Boston University. But my family needed help more than I needed my career. And we were just financially recovering, only to have one disaster come after another. Dad, with tears flowing simply told me to go and chase my dreams. After all, they had managed all those years. Life would be kind to them. I sold the car he gave me for my graduation so that I had pocket money for my initial housing in a foreign land. The other half I left with my mom for dad's medical care. Finding something important in life does not mean that you must give up everything.

Success had it's price to pay. We are all growing and changing, we notice certain weaknesses that need to be corrected,and although we may not always choose the best solution, we carry on regardless. Over the years, there were still disappointments, but the dreams fulfilled outweighed the former. I made friends, lost some. I lost out on relationships and swore never to love again. Then loved again. I lost my faith, then found it again. I have helped my sister raise my nephew and niece and provide them with all the perks in life. I have been able to take care of Inang and see her through her senior years. I now understood what weakness and strength was and responsibilities. The inevitable always happens. We need discipline and patience to overcome it. And hope. It isn't a question of placing hope in the future. It is a question of re-creating our own past.

I turn 50 in a few weeks. I have a lifetime to share my thoughts and life...or something like it...among my friends. And I don't know how my book of life will end. But this I am certain of. Each moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and another in the abyss. We all have choices which we make. Not all choices are right, but we will never know what is the right one until we take the road less traveled. Choosing that path means abandoning others - if you try to follow every path you will end up following none.

I believe that life began when I was born. Never mind the idioms of the oldies who claim that life begins at the senior citizen age. It's mind over matter. I have many people who I need to thank who have helped me across my journey. To those who have hurt me, thank you too for making me stronger in my Personal Legend.

The glory of the world is transitory. And we should not measure our lives by it, but by the choices we make, to follow our Personal Legend, to believe in our utopias and to fight for our dreams. We are all protagonists of our own lives, and it is often the anonymous heroes who leave the deepest mark.

With that said, I am ready for the next fifty years of my life. There will always be a child in me that will hold on to my dreams, no matter what age, no matter what tragedy, no matter what disappointments. And should I leave this world earlier than my dreams, I know I have lived life well. No regrets. No hatred. No sorrow. No angst. Just happiness. Because life...or something like lived one day at a time.

- all itals are from Life by Paulo Coelho

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Three letters in a word.

I will be myself today - bitchy. I think the rainy season has started. Much earlier than predicted. Nevertheless, so has my ascerbic mood.

For the last month, the local newspapers have splattered the dire economic condition of the Philippines. It's as if the Philippine economy was on the verge on collapse and the escalating gas and food prices are making the Filipinos go hungry.

So why?

- why is it that those who don't pay taxes complain the most? (read, those in the squatters aream, those medicants, those that don't work, the daily wage earners who don't even pay a single peso out of their earnings for taxes)
- squatters have more rights than the landowners who pay taxes for the land that isn't developed yet are squatted on?
- are overseas foreign workers (OFWs) and employees financing the government? Thanks to us hard working employees, the Filipinos, particularly the politicians, are still alive. That's the reason why Gloria borrows money so that we can pay for the loan.
- in spite of the increasing prices of goods and commodities (even the most basic ones)and public utilities, was value added tax (VAT) passed into law? That's because the IMF (International Monetary Fund) demanded it. And thanks to ex-Senator Ralph Recto, who was responsible for the VAT, we are all paying more. And he's not senator anymore. But since his wife is governor of Batangas, well, what more can I say? Jologs talaga ng pinoy!
- are the doctors, teachers, engineers, nurses flocking the exit lane of this country to work abroad?
- is it than when Gloria is embroiled in a scandal - a bombing, crisis or massacre hogs the limelight?
- the Filipino will perennially complain of the rising cost of basic commodities and utilities, and will even march the streets to ask for a rollback on these, but will meekly buy even the most expensive mobile phone or purchase an ipod or MP3? They don't seem to have a problem purchasing 'gadgets'.
- did the Catholic Church have a second collection last weekend to help the victims of Myanmar? I am not against helping our fellow brothers. But since the Burmese government will not help its own people and the generals are aloof enough not to accept help from other countries, why provide monetary donations to them and get a second collection? I guess the prelates need to look around the country and they will find that more help is needed within the country rather than outside. Besides, some of the bishops are complaining that the collections each Sunday are dwindling. Hey, home first, other later. The Pinoys are so show off!
- is Gloria sending a disaster team to China? There was a disaster in northern luzon with Typhoon Cosme ravaging the region late last week. Send the medical team there. There are many barangays and towns that don't have doctors even on a regular day and sick people have no access to minimum healthcare in many places in the Philippines. Gloria should send her health teams there and not to some expedition in China. My dear president, the people in China are more far advanced already than we are.

My poor country.

Pathetic people run this nation.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


The 13 square mile enclave a few miles off Hong Kong was once a Portuguese colony. Macau is now part of China (Special Administrative Region) after the handover on December 20, 1999. A few weeks before this trip I "Googled" about the tiny colony. We took the newly launched Philippine Airlines destination which began its maiden voyage to this tiny island in May 2008.

For those that intend to travel to Macau, these are my personal observations:

1. It is useless to travel on business class from Manila to Macau (and vice-versa). It's such a short trip and the plane is not a full one. You can swing to the back seat and enjoy the luxury of the economy class if you lift the seat handles. Besides, the fare is a lot cheaper. USD$830 on business class to USD$220 for economy flights.

2. The airport is tiny. But nice. The queue at the immigration is shorter than the queue you would expect at the NAIA 2 (or Centennial Airport).

3. We stayed at the Venetian Macau. Tauted to be a grand hotel (with rooms that are actually all suites), a resort (with a golfing range, spa, swimming pool, gym) on the fifth floor, a shopping mecca (with 3 Gondola rivers spanning over 350 stores and food shops) on the third floor, and of course a Casino to boot - all I can say is that the hotel is a grand one and the shopping an experience. The Venetian Macau can be described in one word - palatial.

I am not a gambler so I spent HKD$100 (about P545 or USD$12.50) in the slot machine. Of course, I lost it all. I would give the hotel a rating of 9 out of 10 when it comes to accommodation. With respect to service, I'd give the front desk a 3 out of 10. Alright, so Macau is a tourist destination for the Chinese from Mainland China who are on an expedition to a gambling city (casinos are illegal in China). I believe that the hotel should not have people in the front desk who cannot speak English or who have a hard time communicating. Even the security guards at the hotel could not speak English. You had to do sign language and they were stoic. If you got killed in the hotel, your body would probably be transported to China. In short, NO HOTEL that opens its doors to tourism should have front desk personnel who DO NOT speak nor understand English.

I hate saying it, but the Chinese tourists from mainland China looked like they got out of the zoo. Their manners were uncouth - they spat on the sidewalks, smoked anywhere they wanted to in the hotel, they coughed on their hands and then held the escalators (which we held on to as well), did not know how to fall in line and there was no use arguing with them. They spoke no English. Sure they had money, but they had no manners at all! They were Chinese! (I could foresee what the foreigners would think of China when it opens its doors to the Beijing Olympics this August 2008). It was good that the hotel hired Filipinos. A lot of the Filipinos worked as bellboys, doormen, waiters, waitresses and it was pleasant to see the smiling faces of our OFWs who, in spite of their work, had the enchanting Filipino sunny smile to make our day. It was so unlike the Macanese people whom I thought had the same attitude as the HongKong Chinese - rude.

4. We had dinner at Lei Garden the first night at the Venetian Macau. Pricey, but excellent Cantonese feed. On the second night we had dinner at the Wynn Macau Hotel's Okada Restaurant. Excellent and pricey. The sea bass was excellent as well as the other Japanese dishes, where we deviated from the usual Tempura or Maki or Sashimi, which you could find in the Philippines. The dancing fountain at the Wynn Macau was a fantastic display of water and music and looked like the Las Vegas Bellagio's fountain display. It danced to two different musical numbers every 30 minutes. I also found the Wynn Macau to be more pleasant than the Venetian Macau. While the Venetian carried regular branded shops, the Wynn Macau had high end shops on the ground floor. It was home for Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bulgari, Ferrari, Vertu, Christian Dior, to name a few. And what I loved with the Wynn Macau was the over-all interior of the hotel. It looked like a hotel! Unlike the Venetian which looked like a casino from the get go, the Wynn sparkled of ambience from the hotel lobby alone. The casino was conspicuously hidden at the back of the hotel, unlike the Venetian where you had to traverse the whole nine yards of the casino to get into the elevator floors, on the way to your room.

5. Going around Macau could be accomplished within a half day. There really isn't much to see and I beg to disagree with critics that this is the new Las Vegas. It will never ever compare to Las Vegas. It is a far cry from Las Vegas in Nevada, USA. There is no other tourist spot in Macau. Some of my friends told me that there are places to visit - the ruins, the churches, the Shun Tak tower, Senado Square, museums, alleys, whatever! They weren't worth the tour and it was a waste of time. I could take you around Intramuros in Manila and you'd get a better deal going around here than in Macau. Enough said.

6. Buy everything you need in the city before going to the airport. You'll regret what you missed to buy, if you wanted to get something in Macau. There is nothing at the duty free stores in the airport. I told you, the airport is small. So is the departure area. Don't expect anything at the airport. Change your Macau Patacas back to your local currency when you get to the airport BEFORE you check-in. Don't wait until you get through immigration. Their money change shop clerk is usually out and the Patacas is worthless in your final destination.

Macau is overrated. The stay, however, is much cheaper than HongKong. You can always book a stay in Macau and take the Cotaijet to HongKong when you plan to go to HongKong. The food is excellent in Macau, and what you buy are tax free. Water by the bottle (on demand) is also abundant in Macau (which you will need to buy by the horde to survive thirst in HongKong).

The Venetian Macau will be bringing in Le Cirque du Soleil come August 2008 (with a soft opening in July). Le Cirque is probably worth the watch if you plan to go to Macau these coming months. But that's it folks! At present, Macau isn't worth the buck for all the hype it has. Perhaps in the next 2-3 years when Macau is more developed as the gambling capital of Asia. In the meantime, the Power Plant Mall or the Mall of Asia offers more bang for your bucks. Enough said. It was an experience. End of story.

Friday, May 9, 2008


The other day, I had gone to a pharmacy (Mercury Drug) to buy my medicines.

Beside me was this mother who was buying medicines for hypertension. She asked for 5 tablets and asked how much the total was. The clerk said P375 (USD$8.82) and she commented at "how expensive." "It had gone up by P2.50 (USD$0.06) only", retorted the clerk. Then her 10-year old daughter went up to her with a handful of JUNK FOOD! Exactly one mini bag of Pringles, 3 small bars of Oreo cookies and 4 mini boxes of Mentos. She put the junk on the counter and returned 2 tablets of the anti-hypertensive drug.

I was thinking - OMG (Oh My God)!

The Filipino has a penchant for not being thrifty when it comes to junk - in whatever form. Junk food flood the airwaves and are the items on the shopping cart. A chocolate bar, instant noodles, powdered iced tea or those that purport to be "healthy iced tea in bottles", the junk and you've got it. It's not surprising that it's the staple food they have as well. Look at the queue at McDonalds and Jollibee and KFC. You'd wonder why they complain so much at the rising prices of medicines and gas, when they have the money to spare for JUNK!

No where in the food pyramid is it taught that these JUNK food are part of the healthy diet. But media and advertising shows its power by barraging the public with false information. Ironically, media is at arms when it comes to the rising cost of medicines, rice, electricity, gasoline, water and other essential and necessary items.

What has happened to Filipino people? They complain so much about the unnecessary things in life which they spend to no end but will scrimp when it comes to health and public utility goods.

When my patients ask me to prescribe a medicine to stimulate the appetite of their kid, I tell them to just go and buy FOOD! But no. They will howl at how bad the appetite of their kids are. The kids will cry, the parents will make a big issue with me when I tell them that their 2 year old child should not be bottle feeding anymore, there was even a young child who cursed me when I said that he should avoid eating so much junk because he was already obese and then turned to his mother and cursed her too. Where is the sense in that?

That, ladies and gentlemen are the future leaders of tomorrow. These are the kids we raise, we teach, we educate and ironically we will depend on for the next generation of Filipinos.

I look around and see so many children hungry without having to eat three square meals a day and yet the small sari-sari store beside their shanty sells soda in unsanitary plastic bags, korniks full of MSG, iced candy packed in filthy plastic sheets, and yet the parents can afford to buy these JUNK.

There has got to be some sense in all these, but I cannot seem to find one.

Survival of the fittest. That seems to be the goal of each country during these trying times. Food shortage, diseases that are uncontrolled, rising cost of gasoline and electricity. They do not fit the vocabulary of the Filipino who refuses to part with his mobile phone and would rather have a P20 "load" rather than buy 5 pieces of bread.

No wonder our children have empty brains and are becoming less competitive in this dog eat dog world.

They say, you are what you eat. Junk. That's what they eat. Is that what we are?