Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu

Reminiscent of 2003 SARS or what?

The Swine Flu has all government agencies on their toes. At a time when the economy is reeling from a worldwide recession, the Swine Flu (H1N1) pandemic comes at a worst time.

With the epicenter of the pandemic identified by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control as emanating from Mexico, the latter has literally been crippled to its knees.

As of this blog, the WHO has declared that the Swine Flu pandemic is now on alert level 5 on a scale of 6.

When SARS hit HongKong and Asia in 2003, the economy was upbeat. And while mostly HK and China were financially devastated, a year after, the countries were back in business.

Today, the picture is different.

This pandemic must get contained soon, but I agree with the CDC with the fact that we are probably seeing only the tip of the iceberg. Mexico is underreporting the cases of Swine Flu for further fear of battering its already battered economy. The closest neighbors have literally minimized access to and from Mexico for fear of the virus spreading to disproportionate levels.

Air travel, tourism and other industries being widely affected with this health crisis, we can only heed the advisory of minimizing travel to the U.S. and Mexico.

But like most Filipinos who are "travel buffs", there is no escape from canceling their plans. Swine flu or SARS, it's summer time and it's definitely off to their preferred destination, especially the United States.

I had a batch of patients this week that wanted to get the flu vaccine because they were traveling to the U.S. I had advised them that the vaccine is not useful against Swine Flu, and their jaws dropped. They wanted to buy Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and take them with them as prophylaxis. Duh?!?! I had to explain why not and advised caution during the trip. Usual advices of the CDC and WHO on trying not to get sick while in transit. And how to minimize getting ill while in another country.

Good luck and be safe!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bali and Westin Nusa Dua - Part II

We arrived around 3pm (from a 6:50AM flight from Manila) at the Denpasar International Airport in Bali, Indonesia. Customs was a breeze and it was hot and humid as well. We stayed at the Westin Nusa Dua Resort, and if I compared it to even Shangri-la Mactan or Hyatt Mactan, it was a far third from our local resort hotels.

Bali offers nothing fantastic, but the people are friendly, courteous and nice. What puzzled me is that the Philippines has much more to offer than Bali. The Filipinos are friendly, warm, hospitable and can speak much more fluent English than any nationality from other Asian countries I have visited. What is it in the Philippines then that stymies its growth as a tourism capital in this part of the region?

I guess this is the puzzle that Tourism Secretary Ace Durano has got to break. Anyone in his position should be able to fix the puzzle on why tourism in the Philippines has not gotten as much recognition as it deservingly should. People can always say that there is the peace situation in Mindanao that deprives us of tourism. But these are isolated cases. You just know where to go to in the area and I tell you, you can isolate Mindanao as a tourism venue and you can still promote the Philippines! Look at Bali. They bombed that place a few years back and the terrorism sown there looked like it was forgotten. In spite that it left hundreds dead, a year after, they were back in business.

Our flight from HongKong to Denpasar was FULL even on Business and First Class. And they were mostly foreigners going there for a vacation.

So why are they preferred destinations when the Philippines can offer more?

The following day after our meeting, my team and I decided to do some local shopping. We walked from the hotel to the nearest local stores. I was amazed at the peace and security in the area. I mean, while there are locals that ask you about taxi service and bartering with prices of local goods, they are not like the Filipinos who literally harrass their way to close a deal. There, you ask how much this is, bargain with them and if they don't want, simply walk away. The local people will just look at you. They do not impose! And you can walk the streets without fear for your life or that a snatcher or a drug crazed addict will cross your way and start knifing you or steal your wallet.

And I see these in many of the Asian cities I go to. In Thailand alone, their laws impose a more severe punishment if a Thai commits a criminal act against a foreigner than if a Thai commits a criminal act against a Thai.

It saddens me that I live in a country that is more beautiful than many of the places that I have seen in the Asian region, but is underappreciated by fellow Filipinos and foreigners as well. If the government is bent on using the natural resources and beauty of the country as its jumpboard for tourism, then it needs to throw its financial towel over this industry. It needs to implement a program that addresses discipline among the Filipino people. Clearly, the pathetic state of discipline in this country is its very waterloo. Sadly though, this is not the primary concern of the present government. Imagine, feeding a country through tourism will practically empower the people in the various provinces all over the archipelago! Then there would be no need to rely on funds from OFWs and no more migrants into the urbanized zones in the country.

When I left Bali after 2 days of a fruitful business meeting, I was saddened by the reality that at the rate our government officials are running this nation, it will not be far that we will have hit rock bottom as a nation. And that this once proud nation that has contributed to wealth and knowledge worldwide will simply be known for exporting OFWs to help its fledging economy.

Talk about how politics sucks! But that's another story...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bali and Cathay Pacific - Part 1

I had a business meeting in Bali, Indonesia from April 14-16. My first time to visit this noted tourist spot in Indonesia.

Although Indonesia is probably about 3 hours from Manila by plane (direct flight), there were no direct flights from Manila to Denpasar. My colleagues from the other Asian regions (Taiwan, Hongkong, Japan and Korea) had surprisingly had direct flights from their home countries.

Understandably, there would be limited or no flights to Denpasar from Manila. In the first place, the Philippines is a haven for beaches as well, so there would be no need for the Filipinos to fly there for some sun and fun or for conferences for that matter. Secondly, Manila is NOT a major hub in the Asian region. The flights to and from Manila are predominantly for the OFWs who comprise a majority of the frequent flyers to this side of the continent. You can palpably feel this at the airport where majority of those on the flight are off to their final destination of work. It's a pity because on the flight from HongKong to Denpasar, the plane was full! Full of foreigners who made Denpasar their final destination for fun, relaxation or business!

There were three flight options from Manila.

1. Philippine Airlines - Manila-Singapore-Jakarta- then switch planes to Air Garuda from Jakarta to Denpasar.
2. Cathay Pacific Airlines - Manila-Hong Kong-Denpasar (7 hours flying time)
3. Singapore Airlines - Manila-Singapore-Denpasar (7 hours flying time)

My team and I took Cathay Pacific. It had the shortest waiting time, but it meant that we would have to fly North then fly down South again, passing the Philippines once more.

On board Cathay Pacific's newly configured plane, the business class section is reviewed in this blog.

The plus factors: individual seats (with no one beside you), a larger TV monitor, a larger work area, a lie flat (180 degrees) bed, a foot rest (cum ottoman), several individual lighting areas in one seat, and of course an electric outlet for recharging your gadgets.

And now the negative factors: the individual seats were slanted about 30-45 degrees, which was troublesome because I was disoriented during take-off and landing. Of course, when it was time to touch down, I wanted to look out the window but it was difficult to contort my body. The windows were at my back and the seat was blocking the view to all the windows.

All in all said, the flight was a smooth one, to and from Manila.

I'll blog about Bali in Part 2 of this review.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I am not a fan of Pinoy films.

Once in a while though, it's worth a review.

T2 (Tenement 2) a movie by Chito S. Rono opened Black Saturday. It stars Maricel Soriano and Mika de la Cruz (younger sister of Angelika de la Cruz).

The horror movie is about one of the Filipino mythologies called "encantos" (enchanted) and the intertwined lives of the Claire (Maricel Soriano) and Jeremy (played by Derek Ramsay) and Angeli (Mika de la Cruz). Angeli happens to be the offspring of a human (John Lloyd Cruz) and an enchanted (Carmen Soo, who play cameo roles).

When Claire brings Angeli to Manila to live with Angeli's "aunt" after the death of her father, strange things happen along the way to the Tenement Building. The suspense builds up when they reach the tenement and await the "coming" of those who would take Angeli.

While the horror flick does send some goosebumps to the viewer, some of the scenes were interspersed with comedic folly which should have been left to the chopping board during the editing sequence. The first 30 minutes of the movie could have been edited to a 5 minute relevant footage as well. Finally, one cannot help but acknowledge the other star in the movie - the inevitable Nokia Cellphone and their ringing tones!!!! Nakamput...It was annoying and pesky and had me wishing I had put my mobile phone in loud mode as well. The constant ringing and tone reminders of the mobile phones in the movie stole the thunder from under the other stars - Eric Fructuoso and Tetchie Agbayani.

Enough said. Showing now in local cinemas, between Friday the 13th and T2, the latter is a much better movie with a predictably Pinoy ending!


Friday, April 10, 2009

My Good Friday

It was all planned out. Holy Thursday would be a day with Inang. The day before, we talked about going to seven churches in the area, out of tradition, for the stations of the cross. Early Thursday morning, she was feeling dizzy. It worsened throughout the day. Her blood pressure was fluctuating too. The dizzy feeling did not want to stop except when she lay down still. I sedated her, but when the Valium wore off, she would feel the whole room spinning and spinning and spinning...

Towards the afternoon, she wasn't getting any better and started asking God, why her? What has she done wrong? Why was it her sacrifice to bear? Towards the evening, I had shifted her to new medications and she did not seem to improve. As a matter of fact, she thought of dying and was asking God if this was her exit plan in this world?

When it is someone you love so dearly, you cannot help but feel helpless during times like these. It was painful to see her cry and beg for the spinning to stop. But there was not much I could do. Or anyone else for that matter. I could not help but stare at a frail woman who had so much faith and devotion to God, crumble before my very eyes. And I could not help shed some tears as she literally begged to die.

During those agonizing moments, I remember that she had sent me a text message the day before, that read "Every time I begin to feel that there isn't enough strength left in me, I end up knowing that there's more in Him. God sustains us...".

I slept beside her the whole evening. Praying that she would be better when I wake up. Assuring her that I am here by her side and with her in her trials during this time of illness. It was strange because I have not slept beside her in years. She woke up in the middle of the night and I was staring at her and she murmured, "why are you here? I thought you'd be sleeping in your room."

"Not tonight", I replied. "Close your eyes and get some rest. I'm just here." And she had drifted off to sleep once more.

Every one has his share of Good Fridays. We bear our crosses and we are lucky if we have a Simon of Cyrene to help us carry the burden. I pray that she recovers soon. Prayers are all that is left in my vocabulary at this point.

When push comes to shove, we realize that we humble ourselves and prostrate before God, begging Him for divine intervention.

Today, all I can do is wait for my mom's Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Finding Contentment

Young Blood
is a regular column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It's a contributors column from those "twentysomething and below". Naturally, I don't fit in this category, but I do enjoy reading the contemplative thoughts on life from the younger generation.

The column by Aldo T. Lim titled "Comparisons" published last Saturday April 4, 2009 caught my eyes. His rantings talked about two people - Anthony and Aldo - and the admiration of Aldo over what Anthony was, and had. Aldo writes at how much he compares himself with and envies Anthony. Two friends growing up together yet with different paths in life. And no matter how much Aldo compares himself to Anthony, they will never be on the same plane.

Like many of us, we compare ourselves with other people, other lives, others dreams. Strangely, like Aldo, it's only the beautiful and wonderful things in life we desire. The comparisons between having the opportunity to dream of going to Millenium Park in Chicago (for Aldo) and live in the Windy City for awhile (for Anthony) or to as senseless as graduating and spending guiltless time-off after graduation at home for Aldo and in Texas for Anthony or even to as simple as Anthony having a more "privileged" life with Aldo comparing himself to Anthony in terms of having a better MP3, better camera, better job and yup, a better life...

We have our crossroads and inextricably, most of us suffer the fate of Aldo.

There are several parallels in this world though. While Aldo compares himself with Anthony, I am sure Anthony compares himself with someone else. You see, our lives run parallel with someone else's life and it's not a sin to compare. The irony is that we only compare ourselves with what others have and dream of what others have...sad to say out of unconscious envy. Even in the short column, Aldo only desires what Anthony has but never mentions what Anthony does NOT have. We only look for the roses in the field and don't want to have anything to do with the thorns.

My partner in his blogsite ( cited a few lines from Elizabeth Gilbert on "Eat, Pray, Love" and Ms. Gilbert having to deal with Depression and Loneliness as if both were human. Depression confiscating your identity and Loneliness relentlessly interrogating you.

Both Depression and Loneliness are fiends who harass you into losing your best friend Happiness.

Happiness is often the loneliest friend we have in the end because, while Happiness hangs around us joyfully, we miss out on the journey of life because we let Depression and Loneliness take the lead. We forget that it is Happiness who is our best friend in both good and bad times.

Life is never fair. Believe it or not, everyone has their share of Depression and Loneliness. But Happiness will always be around...and we can get rid of the other comparative parallels in our lives if only we learn to find Contentment. Finding Contentment is the real challenge because we get side-tracked by Depression and Loneliness into accepting them as the true companions in Life. While Contentment is visibly in front of us, we prefer not to see him because many of us have difficulty in accepting the companionship of Happiness. Many of us would rather wallow with Depression and Loneliness. It is both Depression and Loneliness that zaps the very core of life we have left in this world. At the end of the day, we feel tired, sad and alone. But Depression and Loneliness will always declare we need them in order to be competitive in this world. Which makes seeking Contentment's help and Happiness' friendship more difficult each day.

I have found Contentment in my journey called Life. Once in awhile, Depression and Loneliness tug at my very soul, but I will not let them take away my best friend Happiness because Contentment is now with me. How about you?

(Photos from

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A nation of servants, part II

So the HK Magazine column of Chip Tsao has received more hate mails than appreciative comments that both the publishers and Mr. Tsao has actually apologized to the Filipinos it has incensed over the racial slur on the article "War at Home".

Tsao and the publishers had said that in reality, the article was meant to be a satire as there are many interpretations to the English language. For the information of Mr. Tsao and the HK publishers who probably do not know how to use appropriately the English language because they are Chinese trying to utilize the English vernacular in their dreams, a magazine or on-line publication is NO PLACE to print a satire. It does get misinterpreted and is a sad and pathetic excuse for publishing racial and politically incorrect opinions, which leave room for retractions, as an after the fact excuse.

Moving on, have you then noticed that in the Bulletin Today, a newspaper published in the Philippines that the headline emblazooned the "250,000 JOBS IN DUBAI, QATAR".
And of course the article written showed how much the government, particularly Ate Glue had worked so hard at looking for jobs for the Filipinos in other countries like the Middle East.

I could not help but recall that the original traveling salesman president, FVR, used to hop on a plane almost every month to go to other countries in order to invite and encourage foreign investors to come to the Philippines to create jobs and invest in the country.

His successor, Erap, was forgettable. He was busy staying in the Philippines counting the moolah he was getting from jueteng. He didn't last long in office and Ate Glue eventually replaced him. Her first years were not traveling stints, but eventually, Ate Glue got the traveling bug and started hopping on an off an airplane in order to take her cabinet and the privileged few congressmen to junket trips.

Yup, she did try to pitch a sale, but instead of encouraging people to see the Philippines as an investment, she was more of what we can call a "recruiter". The mother of all recruiters!!! Ate Glue is proud that she has found jobs (isn't that odd) for Pinoys in the Middle East or elsewhere around the globe so that Pinoys can all work overseas and send dollars home. You see, it is better to send them out of the country because in working as construction workers in the Philippines at minimum wage, means that they don't pay taxes to the government. BUT, if you work as OFW, then that means that the government gets to use your remittance and the remittance fee. "Ang saya saya noh!"

You gotta hand it to her...she is very intelligent...send out every Filipino, including their kids...and you have less of these "servants" escaping the fact that they don't pay taxes because they are minimum wage earners.

So can you fault the people like Tsao who look upon the Pinoys as a "nation of servants"? Our very own president markets human resources in the country as such.