Monday, September 28, 2009

Life after Ondoy

The flood waters have slowly died down. All that's left is cleaning up the mud and dirt Ondoy had left behind. All that's left is caring for the victims of Ondoy. All that's left is burying the dead.

Many of my friends and colleagues were devastated by the storm. The day after Ondoy had left, people were trying to pick up the pieces from the aftermath. Many lost properties and personal belongings. Many were lucky to have survived this onslaught that had taken a lot of people unprepared. I guess for many Filipinos, preparedness is never in their vocabulary.

Now the rescue and relief operations are on the way, but the devastation is overwhelming. One cannot fathom how many of us would put our lives back in order. Help has begun pouring in. And during these times of despair, crisis and loss, one cannot help but appreciate the spirit of camaraderie as a people. Today, there is no rich nor poor. No sick or well. Just plain helping out his fellow man.

After we have cleaned up all the garbage, mud and debris from this disaster, I hope that we take stock of what has happened and not just blog or write or talk about our experience from this tragedy. As responsible citizens, we need to rise from this a better people, a better nation. If we need to clean the garbage, we should. If we need to get rid of the squatters, we must. If we need to shut down greedy business, it is time.

We only have today to act on this tragedy. Nature and God will rarely give us a second chance. Next time, when all is lost and the losses hit home, it might be too late.

Life after Ondoy means learning the lessons that should be learned.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Last Friday, CNN had announced the arrival of Ondoy. In the local news that night, both TV Patrol (Ch 2) and Saksi (Ch 7) casually talked about the arrival of Ondoy. But the rains started pouring that night. I woke up early Saturday morning to listen to news reports on the location of Ondoy. Turning on my TV to listen to the news, Julius Babao and wife Tintin were just cheerie and yacking to death about the headlines discussing about the impending radio frequency stickers for cars. Babao called on all to wake up with his baritone voice screaming "GISING GISING GISING"!!! Umaga na". I was waiting for some news of Ondoy while I got dressed for classes.

I teach the graduate school on Saturdays and as I quickly got prepared for classes, I was worried about the rain. The clouds were there and the sky was getting darker. I asked my driver to turn on the radio, but there was no news of Ondoy.

In the middle of my class, around 930am, the secretary of the graduate school announced that due to the rains, classes were being suspended at 11am. My students and I looked out the window and knew that Ondoy had made his presence felt already.

After seeing a few patients right after my class I immediately left the university. By that time, we were already Waterworld. Every nook and cranny, every road and side street, every walkable pavement was simply eradicated in just 2 hours of non stop rain. And it poured and poured and poured for the next 4 hours more.

This was one of my most unforgettable day. When mother nature strikes at the core, you realize your humanity and a tragedy like this does not delineate the rich and the poor. You realize that the guys who are wading in the flood waters in skimpy underwear all soaked are not different from your dry clothes waiting for the flood waters to subside. I was hungry and tired. I picked up my wallet and noted that not even my Visa or Mastercard or the cash in the wallet was going to make a difference between me and the young children swimming in the flood. One guy was busy plying water, Ovaltine and junk food, clearly taking advantage of the calamity. My driver had jumped to the nearest Jollibee as we were stranded in stand still traffic. There was no more food. They were closed at 2pm.

As I looked out the windows of my car, I was humbled watching the people on the streets because they were free to wander around and wade through the water without any care in the world. They were making the most out of the worst scenario, while I was imprisoned in the confines of my car - miserable, hungry and tired.

After 4 hours, our car had moved 10 meters. Probably the flood waters had pushed the vehicles forward. Night time had arrived. A few meters away from our car were delivery vans for San Miguel Beer. Young men in states of undress were climbing up the back of the van and carting away cases and cases of beer. It was dark and the workers of the van had given a chase, but after several cases had been stolen. Up front you could see the despicable low lives of the people living around the San Andres area. Where was a cop when you needed one? Where were the MMDA traffic enforcers when you needed them?

Ondoy had come and gone. I had to experience getting stranded in 15 hours of traffic to come to grips with reality - that in the worst of tragedies, we are all the same.

Typhoon Ondoy left lessons imprinted in both the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor. The Philippine government officials and media had a heyday finger pointing at each others underestimating the supposedly "weak" storm. Let's face it. We were all unprepared. Complacency is man's greatest tragedy. We never learn until we come face to face with calamity. Perhaps we simply brush many things aside when it affects only the poor. But when it affects even those like us, we realize our vulnerability.

I shared some cookies and candies and some water with my driver during this 15 hour ordeal. When we were able to get through the traffic, we had a hearty early morning dinner at 3am at a 24/7 ChowKing outlet near our home. Hungry and tired, we shared a meal together with my partner who had come to meet me to find out if we were alright.

When we got home, I told him to go home to check on his family and thanked him.

It takes a calamity to humble us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is there a road to happiness?

There are good days. And there are bad ones. For some, each day can mean a better day. Others don't have such luck.

This is a respite from my usual blogging about politics or entertainment or drama in any form.

This morning, I was surprised to find my 10 year old dog, Genie, wagging her tail on my bedside. She has osteoporosis and now finds it difficult to walk on all fours. She manages to run around limping on three paws. The past weeks, her daily stroll around the village and to the chapel where she accompanies my mom has been downgraded to just simple strolls around the garden. I've taken her back and forth to the vet and the vet just says that it's natural for her old age to take a toll on walking. Every day seemed difficult for me and my mom to watch her limp around. But Genie has learned to live with her limitations. And every time I come home and my driver would honk the horn of the car, Genie would be at the window, wagging her tail and barking with joy that I am finally home. She looks up to me when I arrive home and waits for that proverbial pat in the head and the hug on her bulky body. Then she limps around in circles. Happy.


This morning I looked at Genie and saw in her old droopy eyes happiness. And asked myself, what does it take to make one happy?

The material things we have are actually temporary provisions in keeping us stay in touch with the current world. A new iPhone, a MacAir, a new Accord, a brand new house, a trip to Europe, a million bucks, a diamond ring. You get one, you try to top it with the next. Our endorphins are wildly stimulated, temporarily, until it hits us that we're not happy with what we have and we need something new, something more, something else.

I am sure that all of us wake up to moments of emptiness. Another day. Breakfast. Driving to work. Working for the money. Going home. Another day. Some of us, nope, all of us, one time or another have wished we were in other people's shoes. What we forget is that many of those who eventually found happiness have taken the road less traveled. While there are a few who probably were born with a silver spoon, or had material things shoved to them by a stroke of luck or through graft and corruption, not all of us become contented with these temporary breaks of "happiness". And many of us have own stories to tell. Yet we fail to answer the big question - is there a road to happiness?

Contentment, many people believe is a parking stop for those who have no dream or ambition. I disagree. Contentment is an idling zone which all of us must make. It serves as a temporary pause that all of us must make to assess and reassess where we are with our stories in the journey called life.

In spite of Genie's temporary limitations, she had mustered enough joy today to jump up my bed and I gave her a great hug. Then my cat, K2, joined Genie in a group hug. Today, I woke up to a different view on my quest for the road to happiness. I know that like Genie, there will be ailments or bad luck that may come my way, but there is a road to happiness. We all need to find that road.

No matter what the cost, I am determined to find that road...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tim Who?

His name is Timothy Mark Depakakibo Garcia. He is the 25 year old son of former Maj. General Carlos Garcia, the erstwhile former military comptroller of the Philippines who has been accused of plunder charges to the tune of 300M pesos (together with his wife Clarita and sons Ian Carl, Juan Paolo and Timothy Mark).

Who is Timothy Mark Depakakibo Garcia? Last September 16, 2009, out of nowhere, Peter Davis wrote a feature article on Tim Garcia in the news website "The Daily Beast" on the young Tim who is now a publicist for fashion label Marc by Marc Jacobs. In the article, Tim is seen living out his house arrest fashionista style. He is supposedly kept company by a friend named Bryanboy (whatever that means). The family is wanted in the Philippines for a string of plunder cases, what with the father supposedly making headlines years ago from acquiring multimillion dollar cash from his measly pay as an army official. In January 2004 (or when Tim was only 19), he and his mother purchased a $765,000 condominium unit (Unit 6A) at the Trump Park Avenue Condominium right smack in the heart of Park Avenue, New York City.

Interestingly for those that failed to follow the trail after the expose on the illegal wealth of the general, this is the trail as reported:

On March 5, 2005, Timothy Garcia was "arrested by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents and presented in this District."

The court was also informed that Clarita Garcia was arrested and presented in the Eastern District Court of Michigan in Detroit and Ian Carl and Juan Paulo Garcia were arrested in the Northern District of California. All four are currently detained.

Clarita Garcia, 58, and her husband, retired Major General Carlos F. Garcia, and their three children – Timothy Mark, 25, Ian Karl, 30, and Juan Paulo, 27, are all facing plunder charges in the Philippines. Plunder carries a penalty of 30 years to life in prison.

General Garcia, a former comptroller of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and others were accused of “willfully, unlawfully, and criminally amass, accumulate, and acquire ill-gotten wealth in the form of funds, landholdings, and other real and personal properties in the aggregate amount of not less than 303-million pesos (US$6.2 million)."

The source of funds used by Timothy and his mother, Clarita, was believed to be the unexplained 303-million (US$6.2-M) acquired by General Garcia. The Garcias were able to transfer $2 million from the Philippines to the United States.

Except for General Garcia, the rest of the members of the family are all US citizens and are subjects to extradition.

In addition to extradition, Juan Paulo and Ian Karl are detained in the Northern District of California in San Francisco for bulk smuggling charges related to $100,000 being transported to the United States from the Philippines in 2003.

Timothy Mark and Clarita Garcia are only facing extradition charges and have no other criminal charges.

General Garcia is serving his two-year sentence for perjury in the Philippines. The Garcia couple, as well as their three children, will face plunder charges in the Philippines as soon as the Garcia family members are extradited to the Philippines.

Before purchasing the Trump condominium unit, Clarita Garcia deposited on Jan. 15, 2004 $308,327, approximately $200,000 in cash and in two certified checks from the Bank of the Philippine Islands totaling $108,327 into the Citibank account in New York she holds jointly with Timothy Garcia.

The Garcia also transferred over $1-M from Export and Industry Bank in the Philippines to the United States in a three-month period. On Jan. 21, 2004, $357,418 was wire transferred from General Garcia’s account in the Philippines to Clarita and Timothy Garcia’s Citibank account in New York.

On Feb. 3, 2004, $265,673 was again wire-transferred by Gen. Garcia to the same account of Clarita and Timothy.

On Feb. 20, 2004 and on March 11, 2004, $263,809 and $176,324 were transferred from Merceditas Garcia, sister of General Garcia, to the same bank account of Clarita and Timothy Garcia, respectively. - GMANews.TV

We probably would not know what was going on in the mind of Mr. Davis when he came out with the "fashionista" lifestyle of Tim but this definitely was not a venue to brag and brandish the lifestyle of the crooked and famous. One of the readers had commented that unless proven guilty, no one had the right to lambast the Garcias. Come on, give us a break. Not all are morons in this country, where money laundering and corruption in government is the RULE, rather than the exception.

A fashion statement? Duh, yeah right. But highlighting the "fashionista approach" with Garcia "perched on a sleek white Armani Casa chair in his apartment in the modern, gilded Trump Plaza at 502 Park Avenue, Garcia is decked in head-to-toe designer: a supple caramel leather Alessandro dell’Acqua jacket, Alexander McQueen jeans, a thin white LnA tee shirt and YSL boots. His wrists are adorned with a big Cartier gold and silver Tank watch, a Cartier Love bracelet, a white enamel Hermes bangle and a $1000 dollar large gold plated spiked Hermes cuff called the Collier de Chien." is a crime on the the Filipino people by displaying ostentatious living from apparently "stolen" wealth. This apparently obnoxious display of travesty of the Philippine justice system can hardly be downplayed and must affect the senses of even the most callous and the most snobbish among the faux elitist fashion circles.

As if the rise to the Imeldific or the Arroyo banquet were lifestyles that would catch the ire of the citizens of the world, Tim is not some important personality that is provided the God given right to go ahead and spend the money of the impoverished country where his father happens to have been the former comptroller and happens to have plundered from. And I have no idea who and what Marc by Marc Jacobs is. Marc may be some fashion icon in the hubris of New York whose eclectic crowd of wannabes may be going gaga over his world, but he definitely needs some constant reminder that the rest of the world does not revolve around him and that a little sensibility on social responsibility among these fashionistas should slap some sense into their ever snobbish attitude of never care.

I praise the Filipino for being able to rise above the proverbial poverty level and make it big in, yes, New York New York, there has got to be some reality check among the youth on how to grab the limelight with a conscience. The likes of Manny Pacquiao, Aling Dionisia, Boy Abunda, Lea Salonga or other Pinoys who have shown that their lifestyles have changed because of hard work are the epitome of the kind of people that those of us who struggle to make it big in this crazy world should emulate.

I loathe, however, those who have no right to spend other people's money for their own gains.

We do not need to publicize people like Tim Who, who seems oblivious of the limitations of what his family financially is capable of and utilize the Filipinos money to pamper his sordid taste in fashion with the approval of "fashionista" cohorts in New York City. It's people like these who justify the glamor and glitz of an empty lifestyle. No morals. No values. A designer's name attached to their wrist, their backpacks, or their ankles.

But Tim Who is no Paris Hilton and like the other thieves of the night, he has no right displaying unabashedly the gold that he has no right to wear. It is a shame that people like Davis even make a sense out of nonsense.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The difference between entitlements and entanglements

Before I joined the pharmaceutical industry three years ago, I had a different perspective of the physician. Now that I wear two hats and three years later, I share with you a different perspective that I had learned while in the industry.

I do not know how to write this blog without probably touching some nerves among the doctors in the community. But I will try to discuss briefly the debacle between entitlements and entanglements of the Filipino physician (or most physicians at that) in the era of cheaper medicines and generic equivalents.

Entitlement is defined as the state of condition of being entitled; it is a right to benefits specified specially by law or contract. Entanglement is getting entwined or involved in a perplexing or troublesome situation. These two words pose problems in their relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and must be delineated.

A decade ago, I had given the plenary talk to the Philippine College of Physicians regarding the relationship between the pharmaceutical company and the physician. I have to thank Tony Dans for "forcing" a pediatrician to talk about a topic that a lot of physicians would prefer to keep quiet over. While it was well received and that I had to give a repeat talk on the topic at Makati Medical Center a year or two later and at the Philippine Dermatological Society as well, I guess just like the seeds that fell on good ground, some fell on deaf ears.

Now more than ever, the issue of entitlements and entanglements in the industry has captured the eyes and ears of every patient and every government official. In short, we just need to answer the inquiry - SHOULD DOCTORS RECEIVE GIFTS FROM THE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES?

I initially took a poll at Facebook but only a handful of my doctor friends gave their honest to goodness opinion. The rest remained quiet (or dead to the world). This issue is an anathema and may spark changes in entitlements that the pharma companies provide to the doctors in terms of convention trips, lavish gifts, dinner and shows, and other "marketing gimmicks".

It is clear that the industry is partly to blame for the current thinking of some doctors who believe that they are "entitled" to gifts from the industry. While the industry tried to police itself through the Pharmaceutical Association of the Philippines following "ethical" guidelines on "gift-giving" to doctors, some of the drug companies, especially large local generic companies refused to join the association. A "me-too" company has no research and development expenditure. They merely wait for patents of multinational companies to expire and just "copy" a generic version of the drug. No drug development fees. All information that is being utilized by a generic company are actually studies from the originator or innovator company. After all, they are already public material because they have been published. Naturally, with every new study that the innovator company comes up with, the generic company simply quotes the results of that study. With RA 9502 on the Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act, one cannot help notice that the word Quality comes after Cheaper. Time and again, I remind everyone that the most expensive drug is the one that does not work. And Quality Assurance as a pillar in ensuring quality generic equivalent drugs in the market is still a distant dream for the local Food and Drug Authorities. In the meantime, many generic companies spend most of the "marketing strategies" NOT AT DEMONSTRATING their products are equal to the innovators, but rather at sending doctors on "junkets" and sponsoring drug stores and retail outlet owners to "extravagant" trips through "gifts" disguised as an assurance that their companies are in the "playing field" as the rest of the world.

Then there are the bad eggs in the profession. There is the doctor who thinks that the drug company "owes" him a trip to Jerusalem or should be "up there" with the other big prescribers. There are "stories" of doctors asking pharmaceutical companies to pay for their birthday parties, dine outs, lap tops, office equipments and other sorts of remuneration for a prescription. Then there is the evil thought of banning the pharma company that "forgot" to sponsor him to the annual convention or paid his annual dues. What the physician has forgotten is that these are ENTANGLEMENTS and not ENTITLEMENTS. None of us are entitled to what the industry MAY give. That is why these are called conflicts of interest.

Specialty societies also demand from pharmaceutical companies "sponsorships" for annual meetings so that they organization has money to run its projects. Some societies end up being very harsh and demanding. If the companies refuse to sponsor an activity, the officers consider "banning" the company from the "corporate friends" of the society.

The harsh reality is that there is a need to rethink about this scenario. A paradigm shift in this changing era of consumerism and cheaper and quality drugs should be the focus of all concerned. This shift is a wake up call to all that the ethical and moral obligation of the medical professional is upon the better good of his patient and not of his own frills and follies.

The recent news of Pfizer paying a record $2.3B settlement for illegally promoting 4 prescription drugs sent a shockwave not to the medical community, but to the public. The public became enraged when they found out that "to promote the drugs, authorities said Pfizer invited doctors to consultant meetings at resort locations, paying their expenses and providing perks. "They were entertained with golf, massages, and other activities," said Mike Loucks, the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts.

"Pfizer's corrupt practices went so far as sending physicians on exotic junkets as well as wining and dining health care professionals to persuade them to prescribe the company's drugs for patients in taxpayer-funded programs." In the Philippines (and in the world might I add), it is not only one company that has engaged in unethical detailing of drugs, but this marketing tool of wining, dining, and gift-giving to the physician has bloated not only the budgets of the companies and sent the prices of drugs soaring, but has bloated the egos of doctors who think that they are "special" in the eyes of the pharma industry.

We need to remember that in the corporate world, "gift giving" requires an exchange in the end. No one is asking us to be a saint. The next time the gift giver provides us an extra happy meal, let's try to remember why the meal comes in a special wrapper.

The devil once asked, "So, how much is your soul worth today?"

Friday, September 4, 2009

The beauty and the bitch

As the Pinoys would have it, September has begun. And of course, as campy as it may sound, the Pinoys always relate the -ber months to Christmas. It's the only joy they have. What more can you ask for? In the Philippines, the longest holiday is in December. Nothing gets accomplished well in this country because of the countless holidays we have. And we have the dwarf in the palace to blame for the "economic holidays".

But the month didn't start off on the wrong foot. As a matter of fact, Sen. Mar Roxas, alias Boy Padyak, began the month by announcing his withdrawal from the 2010 presidential elections to give way to Sen. Noynoy Aquino. It took Malacanan by surprise. The following day, the other dwarves in the palace started twitting the move of the Liberal Party. They began undermining the capabilities and even mocked Noynoy who went into retreat to contemplate on the issue at hand. Spokesperson Anthony Golez was eager in the attack on the topic. Can Malacanan please shut the F++K UP?!?!!? Nobody wanted their opinion. Golez should just suck his balls dry if he has nothing better to say.

That, Mr. Golez, is drawing attention away from the children of the dwarf in the palace who are being accused of malversation of public funds by not declaring the actually wealth in the statements of assets and liabilities. The twin thieves have declared that if anyone has proof to just go ahead and sue them. Okay, so much for decency in this government. Let's stick to the facts. With the salary of a government official, where can the dwarf's kids get the money to buy million dollar houses in San Francisco? And in the Bay Area ha? Sige nga Golez, ipaliwanag mo ito ng di kumukurap! Mga ganid!

Then the following week the dwarf in the palace decides that we declare the day of Ka Erdy's burial a non-working holiday?!?!!?!? Dang her economic holidays. Did not see any relevance at all. And this month alone, the last day of the Ramadan on September 21 has been declared a national holiday - AGAIN! Ang saya saya noh!!!!!!!!!! So many holidays in this country. Why don't we just create a day where the dwarf farts and there's no work automatically? I don't just get it. If there is a declaration of holidays to show "equality" among the minority sectors then we should declare a day of "Gay and Lesbian Day" as well, di vahhhhhhhhhhhhhh?

Then the story of Rachel Tiongson pops up in the news. ABS-CBN snatched up the video where she proclaims that she has been beaten up by Chavit Singson, her husband (or live-in partner for 17 years). Dang again! The GABRIELA group is up in arms that this is no way to treat women. Yeah right! If a woman get's beaten up, it's called abuse. If a woman treats the man like a dog, it's called "Under the Saya". Ano ba yan?!?!!?

So here's the take, Che was married to Chavit at 18 years old. They have 5 kids. The eldest is 16. I hate to be judgmental but let's face it. It's got to be about the money. They have 4 children. Chavit has caught her with the other guy several in the past and has sent her away. She has always come back begging for forgiveness. And for the kids sake (daw!). She says that Chavit womanizes that is why she cannot take it anymore. So does it justify her looking for another man? I don't think so. If she thinks that the children are caught in this crossfire she needs to be more mature to consider the fact that she should not get F++K+D just to make things equal. Ang tawag diyan - LIBOG! Her lover happens to be just a few years older than their eldest child. Talaga naman!!! She has come out open in the media because she is afraid of what will happen to her after she saw that the bodyguards of Chavit had stripped the guy, and beat him up in front of her. News is that he was castrated in front of her and she just ran and ran and screamed after seeing the jewels of her lover removed. Anyway, that's the unpublished news because the lover is a TV matinee idol. But going back to the point, her media blitz was actually to save her life. She is afraid that Chavit will end up killing her.

How's that for a week in the news in the Philippines? Ang saya saya talaga dito!!! Andito ang impiyerno at ang langit! In the words of Imeldific, what you just saw in a glimpse was the True, the Good and the Beautiful. Leche talaga ang mundo!