Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Letters from the heart

I am sharing with you two letters I received last birthday. They should be shared because they came from two really special people in my life - my niece Carla and nephew Charles.

I'm posting both their letters. At my age, they are my pride and joy. And I know that one day, they will succeed in life as well. Kids, thank you. My sister should be proud on how well she raised you. I can only watch from the sidelines now as I see you grow, knowing you're on solid ground. Strength comes from within the heart that loves and sees the good in what you do.

From Carla

Dearest Uncle B,

You are one of the best storytellers I have ever met. I'm sure all of your friends have once or twice been captivated by your sense of humor, how sarcastic it may be. Sunday dinner is never complete without your "kuwento" (stories).

But among your stories, I find YOUR story the best. Your journey to the top was not always a smooth ride. I know that there were many times when you could have just given up. Your determination, hard work and desire to provide the best for your family enabled you to overcome all obstacles.

Now that I'm about to graduate, you are my inspiration. I would also want to provide the very best to my family, even if it is just taking a little weight off the shoulders of mommy. I know that through God's blessings and you as my supportive uncle, I can make it happen.

Uncle, thank you for everything. Mommy always says that it is not your responsibility to provide for us. Yet you always do without complaints. Many people think that you are arrogant and self-centered, but I know that the real you is the opposite. Your endless kindness and generosity is something no man on earth can compare. Life would not be as fun and crazy without you.

You deserve to be where you are right now. May you continue to inspire young people through your work. May God grant you with even more blessings. I hope that someday I can return the kindness and generosity that you have given me. I love you very much.

From Charles

Dear Ate Charo,

Itago mo na lang ako sa pangalang "Soon-to-be Mr. Accountant".

Si Uncle B ay isang napakmalasakit na tao. Siya ay handang tumulong sa lahat lalo na sa kanyang pamilya. Siay ang tumutulong sa amin tuwing kami ay may kailangan lalo na sa pinansyal na bagay. Si Uncle B ang nagbigay sa amin ng kotse, laptop, computer, iPod at marami pang iba. Siya rin ang nagbigay sa amin ng oportunidad na makapunta sa iba't ibang lugar dito sa Pilipinas at sa ibang bansa. Si Uncle B ay tumutulong rin sa pagaaral namin, kasi nung hayskul ay siya ang nagbabayad ng aming mga libro. Siya rin ang aking "official school bus" ngayong nasa kolehiyo na nako, kahit na madalas ay nahuhuli na siya sa kanyang klase dahil hinahatid pa niya ako sa eskuwelahan.

Madrama rin ang buhay ni Uncle B. Parang Bahay ni Kuya. Naalala ko ang mga kuwento niya noon siya ay nasa Boston at nagaaral ng medisina. Hindi biro ang pinagdaanan niya para lamang umabot siya sa kinalalagyan niya ngayon.

Kahit sa kanyang mga kapwa-doctor ay handa siyang tumulong. Siya ang kumukupkop sa mga pasyenteng nagaagaw buhay at malala na ang kundisyon. At sa awa ng Diyos, napapagaling niya halos lahat ng kanyang mga pasyente.

Noong mga 11 years old ako, siya na ang tumayo bilang aking tatay. Siya yung pinakamalapit na halimbawa ng isang tatay noong mga panahon na naghahanap ako ng "father's image" sa aking buhay.

Si Uncle B rin and aking inspirasyon upang magtagumpay sa buhay. Gusto ko siyang tularan at maging matagumpay rin sa buhay. Gusto ko rin makatulong sa aking nanay tulad ng pagtulong niya sa kanyang ina. Kahit na si Uncle B ay napaka matagumpay na sa buhay ay nasa lupa pa rin ang kanyang mga paa.

Happy birthday! Nagmamahal,

Thursday, June 12, 2008


This week alone, three of my close friends are migrating. One to the US, the other two to Canada.

These are not people who are from the D and E class of society. They are middle managers in their respective field of endeavor. They earn more than P1M a year. And they are part of the new batch of Filipino citizens that are queuing to the lane called "EXODUS".

I will not venture to ask them why, but wish them good luck.

I understand why they did what they had to. At the turn of events in our country today, all the politics is hurting the economy of this country and the turn towards a financially unstable future in the light of the very high inflation rate of 9.8% is hurting every Juan de la Cruz.

Over two decades ago, the OFWs (overseas foreign workers) were mainly comprised of the poorer sectors of society. They were teachers who gave up teaching in public schools so that they can earn HongKong or Singaporean dollars. They were skilled laborers who traveled to the Middle East so that they can earn US Dollars for their families in the Philippines. Both parties made the ultimate sacrifice - parent(s) working abroad while the children are in the Philippines. Some have seen some of their dreams fulfilled. Others are still migrants of the world, finding their dreams in the midst of nightmares.

About 4 or 5 years ago, I had given a lecture during the annual convention of the Philippine College of Physicians and provided initial data of doctors shifting careers as nurses. While some in the audience agreed, the others scoffed at the numbers. Today, it has become the pride of the Philippines to ship out our graduate doctors who have shifted to a nursing course. And those taking nursing and pharmacy are a growing number, simply because of the enormous employment opportunities.

The inflation rate in the country has swollen to almost 10% from a 3.4% inflation rate same time last year. For the average worker who brings home a net income of P10,000 a month (with nothing saved), where does he get the extra P1,000 to circumvent the hardening economic times? The P20 increase of Gloria is a pittance because that would simply mean an added P440 a month in take home pay. He still lacks P560. And with the escalating cost of basic commodities, he will need to tighten his belt more. And health service will definitely be at the top of the list.

While the markets have locally grown compared to the same month last year, this is not because the market has become more bullish. There have been many players in the various markets. In the pharmaceutical sector for example, the deluge of generic bit players have grown in leaps and bounds, and with due cause. Consider the parameters of food, clothing, shelter, education and health care. Health care will definitely always be at the bottom of the list. And with the escalating cost of almost everything, belt tightening will begin with health.

These are difficult times. Even for those who have a little more, these are trying times. There are not much employment options in the country. And the queue to the international airport and out of the country is biting every working sector in the country. As the middle class takes the exodus now, the gap between the rich and the poor has become smaller and smaller. The middle class after all, serves as buffer to the extremes in social class. The middle class takes the brunt of the taxation scheme of this country. The rich have accountants that can shave off the billions of pesos they should be paying. The poor, well, the poor don't pay taxes anyway. So what's the use of including them in the discourse?

The government must be more palpable during these times. Mendicancy through doleouts by Gloria must be stopped. "Give a man fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats a lifetime." It is with this saying that the government is trapped in a status where they cannot provide more job opportunities, nor decent livelihood programs, or programs where the government cuts down spending so that more funds can be appropriated to its citizens. It then results in inculcating a culture of mendicancy among its people.

The only light we see at the end of the tunnel, is the fact that Gloria's term is about to end. But the way politics is in the Philippines, it has become a way of life, a business venture, and yes, the reason for the exodus.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The life and times of Dad

This month is Father's Day.

But he's not around anymore. Nine days after my birthday, dad passed away on June 26, 1994 at the age of 59. He was admitted to the hospital on June 24 and in his sleep in the early morning of the 26th, quietly left us. Even in his final day, it was done with no drama.

My dad was the eldest in a brood of 10 children. Alfonso (dad), Antonio, Albino, Armando, Arturo, Andres, Alejandro, Alberto, Aida, and their adopted sister, Carmen. My grandparents were migrants from mainland China. The story of my father starts off like many Chinese migrants who grew from rags to riches.

Their family started selling in the public markets and later grew to owning financing and insurance companies, movie houses, wineries and government officials! But like all rags to riches stories, there was the downfall of the empire. Drugs, gambling, women and greed became the downfall of my dad's family.

I grew up in Tacloban City where my dad had to manage the family's illegal winery. My mother would tell me that NBI agents would raid the winery in the middle of the night and beat up my father for them cough up money. It tore my mother's heart and my dad suffered from type I diabetes mellitus. After 6 years, we moved back to Manila only to find out that all the money dad had sent back home were "sequestered" by his family in order to keep the financing business, which was losing money because of mismanagement, alive.

Two kids, a wife and jobless, my grandparents threw us out and we literally were on the streets living off what my mom's parents had sent them. My dad had managed to juggle various jobs - from the illegal jueteng "kubrador" in Laguna to the salesman who sold shoes in Marikina - there was no greater man who made ends meet to give us food on the table, a roof on our head, and schooling for us, than this man I am proud to have shared 35 years of my life and called Dad.

It was not until he was almost 40 years old that my parents decided to buy a lot in Alabang, Muntinlupa. It took us out of our comfort zone of living in various apartments and in 1975, we were finally going home. Mind you, Alabang at that time was a municipality and our neighbors were cogon grasses. The house that my Dad built out of blood, sweat and tears is the house I still live in today.

It is in this house that our family found love in the most unexpected time, learned to sacrifice in order to survive, and yes, it was in this house that we found home.

I knew that Dad did not have much luxuries as he saved them to provide us with our needs and wants by putting his family first.

Through him we have learned integrity, loyalty, love, sacrifice and respect.

Half the story of my dad has been told, entwined in my life, my sister's and my mom's...

Mom would always tell me, after dad had passed away, that my father would have been proud of me, were he still alive today. In fairness to my sister, my dad would have been equally proud of her.

Me and my sister are the other half of the story.

Sex and the City - The Movie... I was guest to this reunion

I was told that Sex and the City, the Movie had mixed reviews. "If you're a fan of the series, then watching this 2 1/2 hr film is like going to a reunion. But if you've got no idea who and why these characters exist, it would have been better that you stayed at home and watch the grass in your lawn grow."

Alright, enough with the American critics.

I am not a fan of the series for the very reason that I had no time to start off with the series and like all series go, when you fail to catch it at the onset, you tend to let it go. A few snipets of the series were all my leisure time afforded to me.

I wasn't expecting much with the movie, considering the fact that I was really under the weather (not a good time to go to a movie and review it).

The movie revolves around the lives of four women who have been friends for over two decades set in the heart of Manhattan, New York. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Catrall) whose lives return to the big screen after the HBO series bowed out of television four years ago.

Mr. Big (Christ Noth) returns as Carrie's story begins with still being in love with the same man since the series ended. The lives of the other women are also entwined with the life of Carrie as they struggle to find life and love, struggle with relationships and family. Louise (Jennifer Hudson) plays a short but inspiring role as the personal assistant of Carrie. In her, Carrie finds that "love" comes in the most unexpected. The discrepancy in social status proves that love and relationships traverse these boundaries and have implications in despair and happiness.

Aside from the placid plot, however, is the extravagant costume design. Ms. Parker definitely had put Manolo Blahnik, Louis Vuitton, and Vivienne Westwood on the map with the designer shoes, bag and wedding gown that sent the audience including me, into the oohhh and aaahh mode. And it wasn't only the designer clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry that wowed the audience but the much commercialized high-tech gadgets of the Mac - MacBook Pro of Carrie Bradshaw to the iPhone of Samantha or the humdinger Mercedes Benz S800 limousine series of Mr. Big, to the elegant penthouse in the heart of Manhattan to the fantastic villa in Mexico City, which even the sorrow Carrie was experiencing could not hide the beauteous escapade. (I appreciated the fact that no one was on an iPod - that would have been an overkill.)

The fantastic costume design by Patricia Fields (same costume designer as "The Devil Wears Prada") made the movie a feat for the eyes to drool for. It was like watching a 2 1/2 hour of fashion show on front row!

I felt that I was a most welcome guest in this wonderful reunion where friends shared their stories. For some, it may be finding a superficial part of you where you may get to appreciate and envy the luxuries in life. To me, however, it was finding something beyond the luxuries (of course, those designer items really twinkled beyond reasonable doubt). I wasn't expecting much when I went to this party, but I got more than I bargained for.

And I came out with a smile and promised to get the DVD when it comes out. Watch the movie. You may find your story in the movie.