Sunday, March 29, 2009

A nation of servants

I am posting this news from the Philippine Star newspaper today.

MANILA, Philippines - A congresswoman yesterday called on a Hong Kong magazine to apologize to the Philippine government for offensive and defamatory comments on Filipinos in an article on the country’s claim over the Spratly islands which China also claims.

Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros voiced strong protest over the article of Chinese writer Chip Tsao published in the HK Magazine of the Asia City Publishing Group, where he called the Philippines a “nation of servants.”

In his article, Tsao protested the Philippine claim over the Spratlys, urging his compatriots not to bow to the Philippines because there are “more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as $3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong.”

“As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter,” Tsao said in his article.

He also mentioned that he employs a Filipina domestic helper named Louisa and warned her that should a war erupt, “I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day.”

“With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings,” Tsao added.

“I sternly warned her that if she wants her wages increased next year, she had better tell every one of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China,” Tsao wrote.

The Chinese writer likewise said the Philippines should stop threatening China.

“The Philippines may have a Barack Obama and the hawkish American military behind them, but we have a hostage in each of our homes in the Mid-Levels or higher. Some of my friends told me they have already declared a state of emergency at home. Their maids have been made to shout ‘China, Madam/Sir’ loudly whenever they hear the word ‘Spratly.’ They say the indoctrination is working as wonderfully as when we used to shout ‘Long Live Chairman Mao,’ at the sight of portrait (sic) of our Great leader during the Cultural Revolution,” Tsang said in his article.

Hontiveros took strong offense at this and said the magazine should apologize immediately.

“This disgusting, derogatory, and vile remark can only come from dim-witted and mediocre writing. The magazine should apologize straightaway. The article reflects the kind of attitude that promotes abuses against Filipina workers,” Hontiveros said.

She said Tsao’s story should not have been published, owing to its defamatory nature characterized by racial discrimination against Filipinos in general, and domestic helpers in particular.

“Chip Tsao should find another profession. He should leave the Spratlys issue to the diplomats and writing to real writers because clearly he has neither competence nor talent in foreign affairs and in writing,” Hontiveros added.

“When you make fun of a particular group, you expose them to abuses. Wittingly or unwittingly, you end up supporting acts of intolerance and abuses,” she added.

“Filipina domestic workers should hold a one-day strike to tell the likes of Chip Tsao who’s the real master of the HK economy. If all Filipino workers in HK would strike, the HK economy would grind to a halt without us having to invade the territory,” she said.

She said Filipinos are not asking for political correctness, just professional treatment.

“Domestic work is a decent job. It’s not just done by hired Filipina domestic workers, it has also been the function of mothers of all nationality, in Hong Kong and China and elsewhere. It should be treated with respect,” she said, adding that by insulting Filipina domestic workers Tsao has also insulted his own mother.

I was slighted by the article. Now I will bash Tsao. This f*ck*g chinese pig must be hanged by his balls at the bashing he has done to Filipinos. What gives the as*hol* the right to make defamatory remarks about Filipinas. Then he can go hire his own FCKN mother to clean his toilet for him. Dang! FCKN idiot. All the Filipinos should keep their dignity by not being employed by the FCKR Tsao. Let his wife and kids clean their sh*t. And Congresswoman Hontiveros is right, leave the foreign affairs to those with brains. Tsao the idiot should shut up and keep his slavery attitude to the dungeons of China. He should look at his own backyard before he bashes the Filipinas who sell their dignity in order to feed the Republic of the Philippines.

Then again, the almost 150,000 Filipina maids in Hong Kong do not speak well of the kind of human resources we send out to the tiny Special Administrative Region of China. But the Philippine government is left with no choice because the local economy depends highly on dollar remittances from OFWs. Without the latter, the Philippines would probably be the poorest country in Asia, next to Bangladesh and Pakistan. And that's the pathetic side, that while Tsao has no right to go bashing and defaming the Filipino "servants", our government has got to clean up the human resources we send out to foreign land, which is tarnishing our image as Filipinos. In our own backyard, our lawmakers steal the very money that we earn, only to send more Pinoys to foreign land to be used, and abused. And those who are lucky just watch from the sidelines.

You see, we mirror what we give. Perhaps it is time that we take back what is ours. Even if it means having the head of Chip Tsao on a silver platter!

Chip Tsao is a best-selling author and columnist. A former reporter for the BBC, his columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This thing between rich and the very rich

His name is _____.

After my plane landed, I headed off straight to the country club to work a sweat out before going to the clinic. At the corner of my eye, I saw a young lad, not more than 14 years old wiping one of the desks of the trainers at the gym.

I asked my personal trainor if the new kid was new hire and that he was underage to get a job. My PT replied, "nope, he's the grandson of the owner of Palms Country Club. His grandmother makes him work during the summer months with the employees of the club. To get a feel of how hard money is earned day to day, he mingles with the help."

The Gotianuns own East West Bank (the local bank that bought AIG Philamlife Bank), Filinvest, to name a few.

I recalled how life was hard for me during my growing up years. Each summer, my father would make me work at my Uncle Andres' hardware store. I tended the cash register. Came in at 10am and went home at 7pm. I enjoyed the work because at the end of each summer I had extra cash on hand. And my growing up years were different - I learned that hard earned money had greater value when earned honestly and through hard work.

While I was working out, I could not help but admire at the hard work this boy was going through and how well the parents and grandparents were raising him, to make him realize the value of work. Then the families of the Sys, Gokongweis, Ayalas, and other magnates flashed before my eyes. Indeed, all their families had started from scratch and the value of hard work was a lesson learned during their growing years.

The admiration suddenly dissipated when from out the blue a couple of male teenagers came barging in and strutted their lanky bodies lifting weights, obviously showing off their mobile phones to the young giggly girls who were pedaling those bicycles, not really working out a sweat but ogling the boys who were flirting with them. Then they started making boisterous conversations on how a summer in Boracay would fill their summer moments and the raging hormones would flood the blue sea.

I realized then - that was the difference between the rich and the very rich. When push comes to shove, guess who'll end up swimming upfront at the end of an economic crisis?

There's a story about giving a man fish and he eats for the day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime. I'm glad my dad taught me well. I wish those bratty kids luck in this journey called life.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Everyone's talking about Nicole

Her name is "Nicole". She's the woman involved in the sensational Subic Rape Case three years ago. Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, the alleged rapist was sentenced to life imprisonment after a highly energized divided Filipino people literally asked for his head on a silver platter. Smith was detained eventually in the US Embassy under the custody of the United States. Last month, the Supreme Court of the Philippines affirmed that the Philippines had jurisdiction over the custody of Smith, not the United States of America.

Suzette Nicolas is the real name of "Nicole".

While the law provides privacy to minors and women who are victims to criminal cases such as rape and other forms of abuse, Suzette Nicolas in a twist of fate, had recanted her testimony in a written affidavit, that shocked the Filipino nation. Suzette's mother Susan Nicolas Franco stood by the affidavit executed by her daughter and added that all she and Nicole wanted was a quiet normal life. There was, in mommy Susan's words, a "need to move on". Nicole or Suzette has gone through hell and back.

Who then is Suzette Nicolas? Before she achieved "fame" from the Subic Rape Case 3 years ago, this Zamboanguena who was a nursing student, had just broken up with her American boyfriend. She had gone to Subic with her cousins and friends and ended up in the nightclub where Smith and his company were drinking. The rest is to whether Suzette was raped or that she had been so inebriated that she played up to Smith is a story that we probably will never really know.

Fast forward in time. After the trial, the sentencing and the issues surrounding who has jurisdiction over Smith and politics behind the Visiting Forces Agreement, Suzette Nicolas comes up with another first - her recanting her rape charges. Mommy Susan had reiterated in the interview that - NO one had faciliated her trip to the United States (yeah right and I'm a dummy. It's like Nicole did not have to go through the US Embassy for her visa and that Obama may just have stamped her passport with a working or tourist or greencard visa), and that YES they received P100,000 ($2,000) for damages (yeah right, what kind of damages, duh?).

Nicole had big dreams and like many Filipinos, the land of milk and honey (never mind the pride and prejudice) and a job in that land of plenty was the ultimate dream. Suzette Nicolas alwas wanted to work as a nurse in the United States. And Suzette had a new boyfriend. Another American service man. And her new boyfriend had "offered hope and help" in overcoming the trauma that keeps haunting her. Finally, a taste of heaven?

I will not offer a psychiatric nor psychologic analysis over the American Boyfriends she has had, but for the record, this is not a woman in need of help over the trauma of rape. What's with the cling-on to American Boyfriends?

She had made her choice. And to abandon the case, well, that was a decision Suzette or Nicole or whatever you want to call her, and her mother and her family has made. It is now time to live the American dream. To let go of this past and move on.

Perhaps, for Suzette, life does go on. But the insult that she has created to more Filipino women who get molested by foreigners on local soil is a stigma that will remain tainted and ingrained on every Filipina. While it may not be fair game, whatever Suzette has done has now become open game for every Tom, Dick and Harry who'd like to poke at every Suzette or Nicole.

An American website referred to Filipinas as LBFM (little brown f*c*ng machines). I thought Nicole or Suzette or whatever her name was, in her testimony and the conviction of Smith, had the American asshole stuff his mouth with his own d*ck. Now it's the other way around. Those LBFMs are here to stay.

"Hey Joe. How much you want Joe?"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Over a cup of coffee and a cigarette

It's been awhile since I've had some time for myself.

The past years have been kind to my career, but I have missed a few roses along the way. I've been wanting to pause for awhile - collect myself and put on the brakes so literally to speak - on life. Each time I attempt to, I lose myself in the feeling of being alone with myself, and I become anxious at that thought and bury myself back in all that work.

The last few months have really been tiring. One day, I woke up to find myself retired from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and the next day I'm scrambling over five added projects and teaching in the graduate school. I've been stressing myself out lately and literally flogging my aching body and tired mind. I'm in a different city or province or country or am just waiting for my next ride in the airport.

There are days when all that energy is just channeled to watching a marathon of movies on HBO, Starworld or some pirated DVD. It's just not me. I am not a TV addict. I have always abhored watching television. But it has lately become my respite from all the work I commit myself to. And my bedroom has become an inner sanctuary during these trying times of finding myself once more.

This weekend, I will treat myself to a cup of coffee very early in the morning and watch the sunrise with a cigarette in one hand and slowly whisper a wish to the wind that the mixture of caffeine and nicotine would numb my aching spirit. I have not whiffed a good cigarette in the last decade and will try to resurrect my weary mind and body.

I am in search of myself today.

I am sure most of my friends are as well. We have these extra pauses in life that makes us wonder if we are happy where we are and where we are going or where do we want to be...

When I find myself this weekend, I will let you know. You see, until I find myself again, I might lose the me I loved.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pursuing happiness

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Sifting throught the cable channels, I chanced on the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith playing the role of Chris Gardner. The movie was based on a true-to-life story of a homeless salesman-turned stockbroker, in this heart tugging film where the the search for happiness lies in one man's struggle against all odds. The screenplay written by Steven Conrad is based on the memoir of Gardner.

The gist of the story runs around the life of Gardner, who is a salesman for a "bone density scanner". The financial dire his family is plunged into spins off in the beginning of the movie, paving the way for his estranged relationship with his wife who decides to leave him and their son, Christopher, to make a life for herself. After the wife abandons him and their son, Chris is left in a void of having to fend for himself and his son through various means. While he is provided a chance to train to become a stockbroker, he literally lives off the streets of San Franciso and each unfortunate situation is a bad streak of dominoes falling off each other. The moving scene of father and son having to sleep in the metro's bathroom or stay on the train without getting off so that they can sleep was most moving. The central theme revolved around one man's search for happiness (spelled "happyness" intentionally in the movie title) against all odds that he faced. The major driving factor for that search, centered around his 5 year old son, who lugged around with him for most of the day.

The movie, while considered by critics as a "cheezy film verging on an exaggerated version of life with a fairy tale ending", is indeed a heart-warming inspirational movie that treads on the grim realities of having to cope with challenges in life.

I can relate to this movie and the situation of Chris. For someone whose life has not been a bed of roses nor was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the pursuit of happiness is everyone's dream. It is the silver lining behind the clouds and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Both of these may be simply dreams that we all wish to attain, but they are all humanly achievable.

I once told a friend that we do not all have 'aha!' moments that would spell a difference in a day. In actuality, there are more times we go through periods where challenging moments in life test our integrity, loyalty and determination as individuals. They test our sanity and strength. But those who live to fight and survive another day are those whose lives are changed during that journey. And come a little closer in the pursuit to the goal of happiness.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lenten sacrifice

Ash Wednesday officially ushered the season of Lent in the Roman Catholic calender. Of course, it was a time to reflect on the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Ash Wednesday was a holy day of obligation. Catholics, which comprise around 80% of the total Philippine population's religion flocked to churches. Some to celebrate mass and begin the 40 days reflection on the lenten season. Others to have simply ashes crossed on their forehead.

It was a day of fasting and abstinence. For those who had received their first holy communion and those less than 60 years old, fasting was required, unless there are medical conditions that will impede this obligation. Abstinence from meat was mandatory for all.

Ironic was the fact that at the university, most of the medical and nursing students that had their foreheads crossed with ashes were having hotdogs, tapa, tocino, longganiza right after the morning mass. Dang!!!! The abstinence from meat on a Friday of each holy week is optional. This can be substituted for some other form of abstinence. But not on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. These are two days of the liturgical year that mandates obligatory abstention from meat. The church proposes that since people are into so much high tech stuff, we abstain from using the mobile form (in any form - text or call) every Friday for the holy week. The uproar came from the youth! No way Jose!

Back in the face of our church leaders. If they can't abstain from meat on the Fridays of lent, what more parting with text and call from mobile phones. Or better yet, no internet or laptop or computer usage on all Fridays of lent?

Let's face it. Many have lost the meaning of the words LENT and SACRIFICE. Sad, but true. And farcically, the church goers just trek to church not to really participate in mass but to grudgingly show-off like the Pharisees that they are "holier than though". My partner was right. If you're not really into the spirit, you don't need to show off what you don't take seriously.

Pharisees in modern times - they are aplenty and they're found around every corner of this predominantly Catholic country. Crucify them!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

This thing about taxes

It's March and it's my first blog for the month.

Great! It just tells you that I'm not only all over the place, but am so busy because I have to put all my tax payments in order. It so happened that my accountant has been egging me to finish all these 2316 and 2307 requirements. That's not including the 1601E and 1601C and 2550M that I pay. Mind you, I'm not a billionaire. I'm just an ordinary working person who has to contend with the difficult taxation laws in the Philippines.

Like hello, get real. The taxation scheme here is so complex that I don't think the accountants in this country, nor the Bureau of Internal Revenue know what they're actually doing. Dang!

The 1601E and 1601C are monthly taxes from my clinical practice and since I have two clinics, I have to have separate books because I pay to separate local governments. Now that would have been a no brainer had I been practicing in Metro Manila and in a provincial area separately. But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! The bright boys in government and taxation in this country figured that since Metro Manila is divided into different cities, then I pay separately in different cities my tax dues.

While I really don't mind paying my taxes, I think it's a lot of hassle to be flying in and out of the office just to queue (foreverrrrrrrrr!!!) in an accredited bank to pay your taxes. If you have clinical practice in say, four cities - Makati, Muntinlupa, Manila and Mandaluyong - well, good luck! And not all the banks in the country accept payments for taxes. Most of them are government affiliated banks and some smaller private banks that don't have enough branches for you to access easily.

It's just so frustrating having to go through this monthly.

Well, April 15 is the official deadline for filing of taxes for 2009. And the fact that there is not work from April 6 and 9-12, 2009 (the Philippines has the loooooooooooooooooooooonngest Holy Week because people here love to flagellate themselves, in any means), leaves me with just 3 weeks left for accomplishing everything. But some of the companies are taking forever to accomplish these forms so that I can file my taxes already.

Then I read in the newspaper about Asia Brewery (the liquor manufacturing arm of Lucio Tan) sending its Chief Financial Officer to congress to debate against the implementation of additional taxes for liquor. Dang! You should have heard his arguments. I mean, honestly, it was moronic and self-serving. The guy has got to get shot in the mouth. He reasoned that the addition of "sin taxes" to beer and other liquor products of Asia Brewery would be a disservice and burden to the poorer Filipino people who will not be able to enjoy this if the taxes for liquor and tobacco were increased. Dang! Moron has a new meaning in the likes of the CFO of Lucio Tan for Asia Brewery.

What did you expect? The guy is evil. And these are the very people that make oodles and kaboodles of money. At the end of the day, they can very well afford a liver transplant or perhaps a new lung or chemotherapy or go to the US for medical treatment. Never mind poor Juan de la Cruz who will die of lung cancer or liver disease.

If our lawmakers get convinced on the reasoning of the asshole from Asia Brewery, then this country is in the deepest sh*t possible. Dang! He feels sorry for the poor who will not be able to taste alcohol nor inhale nicotine. That was an OMG (Oh My God) response. What's with the sh*thead's reasoning? He claims that if the price of alcohol and tobacco increase then there would be a shortfall in revenue and the lowly employees will be out of work. Consider how many Filipinos unduly suffer from alcoholic liver problems and tobacco-related diseases annually. Put the statistics of healthcare costs with costs for alcohol and tobacco side by side and even the World Health Organization will shove the data on healthcare costs for alcohol and tobacco-related illnesses, up the CFOs ass.

I have never in my life seen any foreign company argue in this line of thinking regarding increasing taxes for alcohol and tobacco-related products. This is a first and it takes a brain dead Filipino CFO from a chinese controlled company to think this way. Of course, if the dead brained lawmakers accede to this, good luck to the country.

I've babbled my piece and up to my 3rd cup of coffee in blogging this article. Suffice it to say, let the taxes fall where they should. Healthcare should not be a burden to every individual and providing doctors a tax break so that they can provide cheaper health care costs in this country should be the RULE rather than the exception. And for "sin taxes", ehem, they should be immensely taxed so that people can start avoiding this VICE, which is a burden to health and therefore detrimental to the productivity of and individual in particular and a society in general.

I rest my case. Someone please shoot the messenger from Asia Brewery!