Thursday, December 23, 2010

The good, the bad, the ugly...The year that was 2010

I'm taking my cue from Gigi, a classmate of mine way back in college. She writes her blog - once a year! A good write though and one to look forward to. Unlike her though, I blog a little more regularly. This probably will be the final blogpost for 2010. And as we countdown the days to Christmas, then the days to the New Year, one can't help but look back at 2010. And perhaps I should always make a tail ender each year as well.

I have a run-of-the-mill job and my life centers on family, partner and career. With that said, there was not much drama nor action for 2010. It was not a daunting year that my resources would either have multiplied a million fold (no I did not win the lotto) or would have been zapped to zero (thank God for that). And while there were extra expenses that needed to get dealt with, some blessings came along the way to balance it out.

I was trying to make heads or tails with the practice of medicine in the current scenario. The number of patients physically seen and consulting at the clinics had dropped by about 10%. The number of patients that consulted through SMS or MMS or email had gone up by about 25-40%! Yes, you read it right. MMS. Which means that there were parents that were taking pictures of the rashes, vesicles, pustules, lesions, or whatever landmarks you can see on the skin of their kids and were sending it to my phone! It's like they were board examiners asking me to give a diagnosis pronto! And of course, text back the treatment. Golly gee wow!!! Talk about scrimping!

Anyway, I think it was a financially challenging year for everyone and I hope that things turn around for the Filipinos next year.

So here's my final take on the Philippines 2010, the year that was:


So finally, GMA finishes her presidency after 9 years in office. Mired in so much corruption including allegations of stealing the presidency, she final steps down...however, to being congresswoman in a district in Pampanga. One thing I have to hand to her though, GMA is a true Madam Butterfly and this woman has got balls! She was able to computerize the 2010 elections that in a day or two, we had known - beyond the shadow of a doubt - that PNoy would be the next president of the Philippines.

All eyes on the Philippines as Charice graces Glee Season 2 and David Foster graces Manila (I'm sure it was through Charice. Now only if Oprah can come to Manila c/o Charice?). Then there was Venus Raj, the stellar beauty who almost, almost, snagged the Miss Universe title in a major major way. And Manny Pacman winning his umpteenth title against Antonio Margarito. Three cheers for the Filipino!

In the final days of the year, PNoy announces that there will be no more economic holidays in 2011. Economic holidays are meant for developed countries. Third world nations do not benefit from economic holidays because essentially, there is minimum money to spend for a vacation. Patients end up weighing whether they will bring their kids for a check up when the child is sick or needs to get immunized. They end up weighing on one hand the doctor, and the other hand whether they will go to the mall or bring their children galivanting..."doctor, pasyal", "doctor, pasyal", "doctor, pasyal"...pasyal!!!! Perhaps by cutting down on the choices, they can better take care of their kids without having to take into consideration so many many many vacations they need to take. Don't get me wrong. I am not against vacations and long weekends. But I have more serious patients this year because the parents procrastinated the inevitable. Even if the kids are sick, because they have already a scheduled outing or some other form of bonding, they will literally drag the sick child...then begin to panic when the kid becomes seriously sick. And because resources are already spent or used up, one can't really blame them for the "unwise" decision of "pasyal"!


Of course there is the brouhaha of Philippine politics. Even with the chant of PNoy on fighting corruption, I guess you gotta hand it to the fact that corruption in this country is rooted so deep that it probably will take gazillion years or even never, to wipe out. But I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that somehow, somewhere, some dumb politician who can read and write will get to read my blog. It's my way of saying NO to corruption and how we can somehow remember that it takes a people's will (not just lip service of political will) to stamp out graft and corruption.

Ahem - attention Merci and Sandiganbayan! The Garcia case has dragged the Philippines into a bad spotlight. Really now? After stealing P303M and with the statement from Garcia's wife, Clarita, that the money they amassed was "shopping money" given to them by suppliers and that she was always given "pocket money" by suppliers since 1993 is smack right of graft and corruption in the military!

What ever happened to decency in politics? Have we been so used to being abused by politicians that we just roll over and play dead?

Then there's the traffic which had gone from bad to worse. You have all these pedicabs, kuligligs, tricycles, jeepneys, busses, and motorcycles screaming at the top of their lungs their rights to the streets. Jeez. I never knew that anarchy was part of democracy. What about our rights? I never understood why there was a need to create a traffic summit - when inevitably all the rules and regulations are in black and white. Implementing them as simple as ABC. But I guess we don't have the political will. And using poverty as an excuse for committing traffic violations is pathetic.


All I can say is that the August 23 hostage taking that ended up in lost lives by innocent tourists will never be forgotten. No matter what apologies, no matter what investigations, no matter what we say - we will indelibly leave a landmark on our tourism business.

2010 was capped with the a fire that killed 16 people in a Pension House in Tuguegarao. All because the fire officials were late at the scene. They were having a Christmas party. Lives would not have been lost had the pension house been closed for not having fire escapes. It did not even have a license to operate, but operate it did. And the families will spend the holidays burying their next of kin - zapping all dreams and hopes - only because some government official turned a blind eye at safety.

2011 is a few days around the corner. As a people, we cannot just be bystanders in a nation where we live and where our children grow. We need to show more concern and resolve to do better, to think wiser, and to become more concerned - not for ourselves but for our country. After all, it is the country that we call home.

Bayan natin ito. Maawa naman kayo. Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa tayo magbabago? Habang buhay ba kawawa tayo?

[Images: "Leanna & Bianca"
Photographer/Artist: Antonette Amora
Date Taken: 2004
Place Taken: Isla Parilla, Sarangani Province]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

(In)justice we swear

Former military comptroller Major General Carlos Garcia's P303Million plunder case has been dismissed after he pleaded guilty to bribery and violation of the anti-money laundering act - two lesser offenses he faces before the SandiganBayan. Of course, after he pleads guilty to these, he was granted P60,000 bail. On December 18, 2010, at 11 am, Garcia walked out of the PNP custodial center after serving almost 6 years in jail. Then there is talk of a compromise deal on the supposed return of the ill-gotten wealth. And that since he has served the maximum time for jail for an offense called bribery, he probably will go scot free.

The case of Garcia stemmed from the confiscation and eventual prosecution by United States authorities on trying to sneak in $100,000 in cold cash by his sons to the US. His wife Clarita, and all his sons - Ian Carl, Timothy Mark, and Juan Carlo - are US Citizens. They are co-accused in two cases against them.

A general in the Philippines does not and will never in his lifetime make that much money even if he dies in the line of duty. If you set the pay check of the President of the Philippines as the highest pay grade for government officials, well you can figure the math. He earns P37,000 a month. He is reported to have transferred P44M to the US in 11 years. Their family own several properties in the US.

The sequence of events leaves much room for cry for justice in the Philippines where those that are in power and those that have money have preferential treatment, are able to get better lawyers who go around the bush to find a way out of the corrupt practices of our government officials who steal from the coffers of the nation.

If the current administration is serious in its mission against graft and corruption, it must begin with this case. The wife and children of Garcia should be extradited and all ill-gotten wealth must be recovered, even if it means that the Garcias will be poorer than the poorest of the poor. It is, after all, the money of the people of the Philippines.

It should be done soon and swiftly so that it will serve as a lesson to others in government who will dare touch money intended for the development of its citizens and not the few who choose to steal and get away with it.

But justice in this country is wanting. The case of the Marcoses is a perfect example. And as long as we turn a blind eye at the the way money changes hands in exchange for justice, we will remain third world.

How many more lives and more Filipinos should live in poverty because those that are supposed to serve us steal from under our nose?

[For those interested in the whole story trail of Garcia's travail, copy and click on to this site]

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yayas and the Baby Carriages

In short, they're the local version of nannies.

At Rustan's yesterday, during the Christmas rush, a yaya had provided me the impetus to blog about them. I had tried to put off writing a nasty comment about them and the baby carriages that they lug around like training wheels for the disabled. After the tiff yesterday, that was the last straw.

You may not like my comments, but who cares?

While my mom and I were queuing at the cashier (in the very narrow aisle of the toy department), a yaya who was pushing a large (and I mean large - the ones with a canopy and extra sidings for extra bottles and diapers and whatever baggages you wanted to fill in) baby carriage was choo-chooing like a train saying, "excuse me, excuse me, excuse me" to everyone who was on line. I was irked because we all had to move away just to make way for the baby carriage. WHICH WAS EMPTY EXCEPT FOR THE THINGS FOR A BABY!

Darn! Why couldn't these people fold the carriage so that it wouldn't take up space? There was no child in it anyway?

Of course I snapped at her and said - there's no baby there. Fold that carriage!

She snapped back and pointed at the baby - 100 meters away, large enough to kill a rhinoceros and being carried by the biological mother!

I snapped back and said - the baby is big enough to walk! That carriage should be folded.

The mother overheard the conversation and asked what happened. Of course, the yaya was raising at the top of her voice that I was snapping at her for pushing around that large baby carriage and that I was making comments about the baby (not being a baby anymore) could walk and blah blah blah...the mother of the child just looked away. She couldn't even look at me as I was staring at them. Only the yaya was glaringly mad.

My simple take on this is that the local yayas are overpaid and under worked. Many of them refuse to carry the child in the malls. Their backs and arms will hurt eventually and that they would have to lug around so much milk bottles and carry on packs for the child's diapers that they would become Mr. Philippines' entry to the next bodybuilding contest. Many (if not most) of them think they are experts on child care (when in reality they want to seem to be).

I see patients at my clinics with yayas whose personalities are delusional!

Each time I provide advise to mothers who ask about health issues, the haughty yaya will always butt in and say "oo nga maam - dapat yan ang ginagawa mo kasi yan din ang ginagawa ko nung huling alaga ko." - BIDA parati si yaya! Mayabang pero walang alam. Pakialamera pa! Akala niya anak niya noh! [But who can blame them? Sometimes parents forget that they have a child and that they should be hands on with their children. Unfortunately they forget this in the myriad of all the work and play of life that they relegate what they need to be doing to the yaya.]

Which leads to the second crutch. The baby carriages.

These are supposed to be for babies. They are not supposed to be used akin to grocery carts, where you store everything from the milk bottles to the shopping bags in the cart! Going to the mall or to public places cannot be all about YOU! Be considerate about your fellow human beings! Darn!

In the elevators at the hospital, I am tempted to lash out at these parents who tug along these large (I mean really large) baby carriages and the yaya(s) with them when they bring their kids for a check-up. It's like they're going to war! Gosh, they bring the whole kitchen with them! I pity the disabled who ride with us on the elevator. These yayas rush into the elevators like kamikaze pilots so that they can steer the baby carriages in. AND THE BABY CARRIAGES DO NOT HAVE A BABY. The other yaya is holding the baby (or carrying the child), and the mom is lugging her Louis Vuitton bag (that's bigger than the baby). Imagine that - talk about being considerate! Never mind the disabled as long as the baby and their peripheral belongings are on the elevator! Dang!!!! Wala naman tao yung carriage eh di ilupi naman (the baby carriage has no baby - fold it)!

There ought to be a law on these baby carriages or strollers as the oldies would call it.

You'll notice that when we go to the malls, no matter how small your bag is the guards will insist on doing a pat down or an inspection! But the baby strollers or carriages with all those bottles, bags and other paraphernalia go through the beeping doors without even being checked thoroughly! Talk about security! Talaga naman utak kulugo ang Pinoy security.

But the Pinoy will never be proactive and many of them are inconsiderate. We just need to wait for a tragedy or disaster to occur before we put things into perspective. [Read - an explosion in the mall occurs because of a baby carriage containing bomb.] In the meantime, we hire these mediocre yayas because we're too busy caring for ourselves.

For parents (or relatives) who follow my blog, the following pictures show the kind of baby strollers or carriages that are over- the-hill and in-your-face and should be avoided in public places. OA masyado ang mga yan! They are fluffed and packed with parasols and covers because they're for countries that have winter! Walang winter sa Pilipinas. Get real! Tapos mag rereklamo kayo may diaper rash ang mga anak ninyo! Aba mainit kaya yan!

The ideal baby stroller should look like this:

Sunday, December 12, 2010


It was a Sunday. One of those days where you didn't want to go to work, but had to.

I had just made rounds with four critically ill patients and had come home past lunch. A little over an hour, I received a call from a colleague of mine if I wouldn't mind seeing a referral. "No I wouldn't." After a quick lunch I broke my Sunday rest and gave in to the call of duty.

He was an 11 year old boy transferred from a provincial hospital. I will not talk about the diagnosis or how the doctors there managed him, but when I entered the critical care area, he was dyspneic and oxygen saturations were between 85-89%. He was very ill looking and probably would need intubation in awhile. The chest x-rays were not compatible with the initial diagnosis on transfer and I was worried. The parents probably did not recognize the gravity of the situation, but I stayed on for 2 hours assessing him and decided a management plan. I just didn't like the gut feeling that things weren't going to go well with him.

True enough, in about 2 hours he was eventually intubated and transferred to the ICU. [I know that most of those that read my blog were my medical students. I will leave the grand rounds to where it should be.] What transpired in the next 48 hours was heart breaking. He clinically deteriorated in 24 hours and the chest x-rays showed signs of ARDS (adult or acute respiratory distress syndrome). The ventilatory set-up was at its maximum. For those who have managed ARDS patients, you know that the outcome is grim. Compounding the fact is that the family has already maximized their insurance coverage in just 24 hours at the intensive care. Financial problems are added burden in times of confusion.

His condition from guarded to critical had turned for the worse. I told the attending that I would talk to the mother.

Believe me when I say that in my 27 years as a physician, this is the part where they don't teach us how to deal with this in medical school. How do you say to a mother who is barely making sense out of everything at the moment, with her son intubated and probably at the brink of death that their family will need to brace with reality? The outcome for patients with ARDS is 1 in every 10. With ventilatory set-up that high, chances of pulmonary complications are high as well.

When I was discussing the situation with the mother, her mind was completely in chaos. Here she was, listening to what I wanted to tell her, but at the same time not being able to comprehend why this was happening to her boy. I am sure that his 11 years rushed into her head like a movie that needed to be compressed in 1 hour. She was angry. She was in denial. She was massaging his reed thin legs and asking him why he was going to leave her already. Even when I put my arm around her shoulder, she was just pouring out her grief and I could not help but suck in some air so I could hold back my own tears.

I don't think she understood what I said. I told her that we were already giving everything we could to take care of the infection. But I did not think that this was just an infection we were battling. I did not want to discuss any mumbo jumbo jargon which she probably wouldn't understand further. I told her that I was going to try something. The drug I was going to give is controversial in the management of ARDS. But there are positive results with some patients. In my mind, I was grasping at straws. In the next 10 minutes I needed to summon all my remaining powers and decipher and balance all the evidence-based literatures I could recall on the role of steroids in ARDS, in patients that were septic. I asked permission from the attending and she consented. My parting words to the mother was that "we are doing the best we can at the moment. We are trying him on a medication and there is no guarantee that this will work. But let's pray that it does because at the moment, this is our best option. We will do everything to make him better. I need you to be strong now." [I think I was talking to myself in that last sentence].

FLASHBACK. I never wanted to be a doctor. This is why I have a mathematics degree. But because it was a compromise between my dad and I, I reluctantly went to med school. Many events have transpired since I graduated from med school. In my chosen specialty and subspecialty, I had to deal with the dramas of life and death. And the latter has never been easy. It's always the reason why I get flashbacks...

On my way home, I decided to pass by the chapel. Said a little prayer for the patient and his parents. Knelt before God and asked Him that if there are miracles that truly happen, all I ask is a small miracle in today. Beyond all the fame and fortune He has given me, I begged Him for a miracle. And I made a pact with God - that if the boy survived, I would waive my professional fee just to see him alive.

The following day I missed making rounds early. The attending had seen him and I received a text message from her. The patient was doing much better and it was like he was rapidly recovering. The ventilatory set-up was much lower now and that he was more awake. When I made rounds that afternoon, after a whole morning of meetings and conference calls, the mother's face had a different aura. She was holding on to her husband and they were grateful as I was explaining that it looked like he was going to make it. That the drugs were working. That their son's condition from seriously ill to critical had become guarded. That if he continued to improve, he probably would make it.

This time, they grasped the situation. They began to discuss the finances they had incurred. I took the mom's hand and told her that when the patient is stable enough, we can discuss this. I told her also the pact I made with God. I was not going to collect a single centavo from them as long as their son survived.

In a few days the boy had been extubated and was transferred to the ward. When the boy was transferred to the ward, he gave me a letter he wrote thanking me for taking care of him. And of waiving the professional fee. The mom was profusely thanking me for the generosity.

I told her that it was not generosity on my part but on the part of God. You see, I was skeptical on the outcome as well. I needed divine intervention and her son is alive because God hears prayers. I was merely an instrument of the miracle that came their way. And if God is able to grant him another chance at life, who was I to collect from them at this time of need? Compassion is never taught. It is learned.

In return, I told the boy, the miracle of life provides him an opportunity to pay this forward. It's probably why he is still alive today.

I blog about this today because I know that most of my readers were my students in medical school. Many of them have provided kind comments on how well I taught and how well they learned from me. There is no formal class that teaches compassion for our fellow men. That teaches us to respect the dignity of life. That teaches us how to deal with death and the dying. But the medical profession is a noble one. That we are given the opportunity to make life or death matter with our fellow men is God's gift to us. And while my patient will remain anonymous to all my readers, he will always be a firm reminder to me of the gift from God called a miracle.

I was awed at the miracle that day. I knew that God was behind it all.

Miracles do happen, even in this day and age of Facebook and Tweeter and iPads. It is within us all. Deep within the hearts of every human being. If only we look for them...and believe...

[photo from Mike Greenberg]

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Conversation

Jesus: It's that time of year again and you know what? I envy you.

Santa Claus: My Lord, what do you mean you envy me?

Jesus: Well, you know that Christmas is approaching. I just find it strange that people anticipate more your coming than mine.

It was a short text message that went around and then during last Sunday's mass, the priest was preaching about advent and how much of Christmas was mired in commercialism.

In the Philippines, the Filipinos seem to have this yearly tradition of having to begin celebrating the onset of the Christmas Holidays as early as September - the official month when the months of the year hit the suffix "-ber".

Of course, you have to hand it to media and the moguls that run the media (who also own probably a mall or two) to rub it in. Sink in the message. Christmas is around the bend.

So all the tiangges, bazaars, bingos, and other entrepeneural skills that one is able to dish out comes to life!

But I agree. So much commercialism has gone into the Christmas holidays, most especially in the Philippines, where the frenzy goes into dizzying proportions as December approaches. Pinoys living in the Philippines look forward to the longest holiday fever, matched with the 13th month pay, and hopefully, a little Christmas Bonus or two from their workplace. Then there's the Christmas parties left and right, Christmas exchange gifts, Kris Kringle in the office, the postman who knocks on your door shoving an envelope (as if it were a necessity to have to give money for the work he gets paid to do) or the street urchin who jingles and jangles a can or two singing acapela some local Christmas song, or the godchildren who necessarily have to flock to the house of their godparents asking for a Christmas gift (take note of the work "asking" because it's a literal translation of the Filipino word "namamasko", which means "to ask for Christmas gift").

And with the malls, and streets and alleys, and trees and houses and my pooches' house all decked with lights, glitters and Christmas balls...or even the fake Santa Claus that sits in the mall wishing good will to all...I cannot help but actually agree with Fr. Gerard that so much commercialism has gone into Christmas. It is visibly palpable - newspapers advertising an iPad as the perfect gift or a trip to Disneyland or having dinner under the stars in Boracay...whatever your budget is, there will be a material gift that will be available in exchange.

I am no Scrooge. I guess we just need to reorient ourselves on what really all the preparation for Christmas is about. Is it about the birth of Jesus our savior or is it simply the materialism that surrounds us?

What is ironic is how we raise our children to so much materialism and commercialism that they forget that Christmas is not about Santa Claus. But why do we rather make them believe this, than believe in the miracles that the season brings?

[Images from and]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kuliglig at Anay - Bow!

Short of sounding discriminatory, I will never probably understand what rights these "kuliglig" drivers are screaming justice for.

"Kuligligs" are makeshift pedicabs that are the new King of the Roads in the Philippines. Some smart-ass idiot had this bright idea that putting a tiny motor into the pedicab would convert this three-wheel tricycle into a "motorized" version of the pedicab. They are found in ALL areas of Metro Manila (and in the provinces as well) and seriously, have no respect for the rule of law when it comes to traffic. They counterflow, they load and unload in areas where they are not allowed to, they ply even major thoroughfares contributing to the already massive traffic jams, they are rowdy and have no vehicular insurance whatsoever, they have no license to operate and HENCE ARE ILLEGAL - in short, except for the fact that their drivers claim to owning and driving a "kuliglig" is their source of livelihood, they have no reason for existence as a public utility vehicle.

I was silent about this topic until another idiotic senator suddenly raised his concern and cause-oriented, pathetic fried brain cells (I guess it's like father like son), politically motivated plan to LEGALIZE the "kuligligs". It's barriotic, idiotic and infuriating that people even continue to vote for feeble minded persons like him into public office, just because his roots are well entrenched in the movies and media! Sanamagan this country! His father, who once ruled this country (before being deposed because of plunder), once thought of legalizing "jueteng" (an illegal numbers game) as well. You can tell how idiotic minds think alike!

So here's my take.

1. Poverty can never be used as an excuse for doing something wrong. "Kuligligs" are like termites. Once you start giving them a franchise or legalizing them, they just spread like wildfire. And like termites, it's hard to exterminate them. Even if you burn your house to the ground, they will just proliferate when you rebuild. This is what this government is like. Our bleeding hearts go out to the poor and the needy. And the majority of them take advantage of this. And when you try to fix the problem, like termites, they fight back with a vengeance, no matter how wrong the logic is. The Akbayan, Hukbalahap, Anakbayan, Commission of Human Rights and other cause-oriented groups now band together to make it seem that the termites have the right to existence, even if they don't. We cannot keep justifying a wrong by another wrong. It is not only moronic but immoral! It is the thought process of a Marxist or Communist that thrives on the empty bellies and empty heads of the poor and uneducated to feed on the convoluted idealism of equality.

2. Majority of the poor in urbanized areas are actually immigrants from the rural area. Armed with just their underwear and deodorants, they come to the city in search for greener pastures. Unlike the OFWs who dream to dream big, the "probinsiyanos" will live with relatives from the squatters area. They inculcate and imbibe the culture there. Armed with the artillery of survival, they learn the ropes and trades to exist in the urban jungle. Name me one city in Metro Manila that has no squatters area! Come on, I dare you!!! The politicians use these poor people to propagate their existence in the political arena and to create a political dynasty. Why do you think the Binays, the Ejercitos, the Marcoses, the Arroyos and so and and so forth stay in power for so many years? They hand down their local government position from father to son to grandson and they have no plans of leaving! They owe their position in power to the poor. And come next election, they will remind the poor of this. Ironically, those of us who have a better standard of living in the urban areas seem to need to adjust to the mindset of the people from the "boondocks". Why is that?

3. It seems that the sense of logic of our politicians has deteriorated if not left in the shit-house. While we are talking about rights here, what about our rights? Tax payers like us who contribute more to the government's coffers than the ordinary politician who makes a pittance out of their position in office and hide their true assets and liabilities from the peering eye of the public need someone to espouse our rights as well. After all, it is a fact that it is our money that is keeping these dumb politicians in office and it is our money that is keeping these poor people alive. As to how our taxes are spent (and whether they are spent well or not by the corrupt public official) is not our fault.

Each day, I traverse the harried streets of Metro Manila wondering how many tunnels, how many fly-overs, how many skyways, how many more roads we need to build to ease traffic in the metropolis. I know the answer. I've blogged about it time and again. No rocket science here. Simple discipline and logic - two things even government officials cannot simply carry out - are sorely lacking.

Enough of the bleeding hearts. For too long a time, is it too much to ask these government officials to consider legislating for us tax payers who put food on their tables?

As for the partylist government officials and the pathetic youth groups who seem to not find meaning in life, here's my message - GET A LIFE!

[For more blogs on kuligligs, you can go to
where the author rights an interesting article about this as well]

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Heroes in our midst

CNN Heroes of the Year 2010 was a touching revelation of how the human heart can overcome the obstacles we face in our daily lives.

Perhaps some of us just don't see the misery, the poverty, the decadence or the hardship that other fellow human beings go through.

Perhaps in the very confines of beautiful homes and comfortable work places or the fact that we are not financially incapacitated, makes us miss the point of the Heroes of the Year awards.

But here are the 10 ordinary people who made it to the CNN Heroes of 2010.

1. Guadalupe Arizpe De La Vega founded a hospital in Juarez, Mexico, that cares for about 900 people daily -- regardless of their ability to pay. Despite the escalating violence in the city, the 74-year-old travels there several times a week to make sure residents get the care they need.

2. Susan Burton was once caught in a cycle of addiction and incarceration. Today, her nonprofit A New Way of Life Reentry Project provides sober housing and other support services to formerly incarcerated women in California.

3. With her weight-loss challenge, Shape Up Vicksburg, Linda Fondren is helping her Mississippi hometown battle the bulge. Through free fitness activities and nutrition classes, residents have lost nearly 15,000 pounds to date.

4. Anuradha Koirala is fighting to prevent the trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nepal's women and girls. Since 1993, she and her group, Maiti Nepal, have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 victims.

5. Narayanan Krishnan brings hot meals and dignity to India's homeless and destitute -- 365 days per year -- through his nonprofit Akshaya Trust. Since 2002, he has served more than 1.2 million meals.

6. Since 1992, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow has dedicated his life to helping people in need. Today, his program, Mary's Meals -- run from a tin shed in the Scottish highlands -- provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children around the world.

7. Harmon Parker is using his masonry skills to save lives. Since 1997 he has helped build 45 footbridges over perilous rivers in Kenya, protecting people from flash floods and predatory animals. The bridges also connect isolated villagers to valuable resources.

8. Aki Ra is helping to make his native Cambodia safer by clearing land mines -- many of which he planted years ago as a child soldier. Since 1993, he and his Cambodian Self Help Demining organization have cleared about 50,000 mines and unexploded weapons.

9. Evans Wadongo, 23, invented a way for rural families in Kenya to replace smoky kerosene and firelight with solar power. Through his Use Solar, Save Lives program, he's distributed an estimated 10,000 solar lanterns for free.

10. Since 2005, Texas home builder Dan Wallrath has given injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans homes of their own -- mortgage-free. He and his Operation Finally Home team have five new custom homes under construction.

Ordinary people with extraordinary efforts at making life better for others...

Anuradha Koirala was the CNN 2010 Hero of the year. In her very own words, "one day all this trafficking will end". In the words of Aki Ra, making Cambodia safer by clearing land mines ins "one mine, one life". Indeed, one act, one day, one at a time.

I know that there are more ordinary people like them (including our very own Efren Penaflorida, CNN Hero of 2009). If each of us contributed to society by helping others and serving as a beacon of hope and light for those who have less in life, this world would be a better place.

We do not expect to make Mother Teresa's from each one of us. It would be a tall order to ask. But become a hero in our daily encounter with everyone is something achievable.

As we all get enmeshed in the Holiday rush, we shouldn't forget the real meaning of Christmas. It's not about Santa Claus or the material gifts the season so commercially symbolizes.

It's about giving more to those who have less in life.

It's about time there are more heroes in our midst.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hitler's take on "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" (LOL)

It's the last day of November and while the undersecretary of tourism has resigned and the president PNoy has accepted his resignation (with regret daw), this should have been a closed chapter in the life and times of Noynoy.

I guess some things just don't go away at here's a final tribute (ahem, spoof) to the slogan "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" which I am posting in my blog. I had a blast laughing at this. Not all my friends are on Facebook, so to my blog fans (or stalkers or haters), enjoy this 3 minute video uploaded from YouTube. It's a fitting tribute to the brainers in Malacanan. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Finding meaning for Christmas

As I post this blog, it is Thanksgiving Day today...and exactly 30 days before Christmas 2010.

In the myriad of all the work load that I seem to be swamped with, I don't seem to feel the Christmas spirit.

Many of my friends and batchmates are busy preparing for the "Christmas" parties. Even at the office, there is the usual Kris Kringle with its weekly theme.

Outside, the malls are decked with all the glitters and lights. Some of my neighbors have actually put up their lanterns (Parols) and begun donning their gardens and trees in all gay apparel.

On my way home from the clinic last night, I watched some of the street children jingling their quarter full cans with coins. As I was looking outside the heavily tinted windows of my car, a child had stretched his face on the window hoping to get a glimpse of an occupant in the car who would probably pull out from his wallet a bill or a few coins to spare. As the rain came down hard on such a gloomy night, the young boy had scampered away in the dark. And all I could do was wonder where Dinky Soliman was in the middle of the rain....

As Christmas is around the bend, I tried desperately to search for the meaning of this yuletide season. As a matter of fact, truth be told, I always try to find some meaning for Christmas.

I asked my driver to put on the CD of Mariah Carey's new Christmas Album. In the stillness of the downpour and traffic, this song which I am posting gave me the goose bumps. I didn't know how to react or how to feel, but it felt so palpably surreal. Christmas is not about's about someone who gave meaning to Christmas - one child made the difference. It was time to make mine.

When I got home, I asked the maid to bring out the Christmas Tree.

[video from]

Monday, November 22, 2010

The story within Harry Potter 7

I am a Harry Potter fan.

My nephew and niece actually grew up on Harry Potter, but my niece is the more avid follower.

Over the weekend, I was one of those that queued for the first installment in the last book of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The 2hr 25 mins film is not being reviewed in depth here. It would spoil the fun of those that have not seen the movie. As for those who are avid followers of J.K. Rowling, they already know the whole story and this first half of the movie's last franchise. To those who have read the book, they watch the movie to critique as to how faithful the movie is to the book. And I guess that is the way this last installment is. How cinematic and aptly faithful the final saga of the Harry Potter franchise movie is to the book, is a fitting way to end the Harry Potter films.

But I will segue to what was most interesting in the HP7 story was the story within a story.

And this was the part of the movie that struck a cord in my review of the film.

The animation of the story of the three brothers who tried to escape death was not only graphically excellent but very well told. As the three brothers attempted to cross the river (which Death had claimed many lives), they built a bridge with magic. But Death showed displeasure at the cunningness of the three brothers. In the face-off, he offered the 3 brothers one magical wish each. The eldest of them asked for a wand that would make him the most powerful sorcerer. The second brother asked for a magic stone that could resurrect back the dead from the past. The last brother asked for the cloak of invisibility which would make it difficult for anyone to find him in his lifetime. Death was disappointed with the request of the last brother, but gave in to his wish.

As the story had gone, Death would take back what it gave - to the first and second brother. But Death searched and searched for the last brother in his lifetime. And only when the humble younger brother was ready to go with Death, did he pass on his cloak of invisibility to his son and peacefully left with Death.

The story touched a raw nerve with the viewers. After all, HP7 is not a child's movie any longer. Those that trekked to the movie house were practically those that grew up with Harry Potter since it's first franchise almost 10 years ago. That the movie had taken a darker turn as well was in keeping with the story of the book.

Yet the story within the story of HP7 was a respite from the morbid culmination of this final installment of Harry Potter. It foreshadowed more death in the upcoming final episodes but was also a constant reminder on the mortality of beings - wizards or muggles - in this world.

This, was an excellent centerpiece, to the story of HP7. Only a creative genius would have thought of playing with a story within a story in order to preempt the audience to the stark realities of life and Death.

This installment has outdone the other HP movies. It's a definite must see film. And even the uneasy ending which leaves you wanting for more leaves you with enough to satisfy your Harry Potter fix.

[Acknowledgements: picture from Apple site; movie trailer from YouTube]

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Slogan

Only in the Philippines. (or perhaps it should be read as Only in D' Philippines!)

Over the last week, there has been so much ballyhoo and boohoohoo over the proposed slogan to inspire the world to come to the Philippines. After all, this is not Afghanistan.

So PNoy decides to scrap the proposed new slogan "Pilipinas Kay Ganda". This was to replace the former administration's slogan of "WOW Philippines". Come to think of it, the new slogan is lame and pathetic. It doesn't have a ring to it and it doesn't have the chutzpah of other tourism slogans like "Sparkling Korea" or ""There's No Place Like HongKong" or "Amazing Thailand" or "Malaysia. Truly Asia" or "Incredible India" or "Uniquely Singapore" or "Vietnam. A New Place for the Millenium". I thought that the "WOW Philippines" original slogan had more catch to it. But give it to the current administration that tries desperately to erase the memories of a past administration and they come up with a lackadaisical hurrah much to the cheer of some MIss Philippines during her interview portion in an international beauty pageant.

And after all the castigating and bad (very bad) flak it received the last week, it's back to the drawing board for the amateur team of PNoy on a slogan that would finally put the Philippines as a tourism destination in Asia.

Let me be candid.

I have been to several Asian countries and you wonder why in spite of some turmoils and natural calamities, countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia are pulling away by a million miles from the Philippines. It's not because we do not have the wonderful smiles or the hospitality that we are so popular for or the highly literate English-speaking bravado we are proud of.

We need to look internally as to why the Philippines is not a popular destination.

Look at the initial presentation. Our NAIA I airport is dilapidated. Over the years we have fought internally the transition from the old NAIA I to the new terminal at NAIA III. Talk about favoritism, NAIA II was built only for Philippine Airlines. How greedy could you get? The government builds it only for its flag carrier (hoping that foreigners will fly PAL). This would not have been a conflict of interest if the government owned PAL. Unfortunately, a Chinese taipan owns it. So why were we building it for Lucio Tan again?

Then when terminal III was built, there was so much graft and corruption in the building then subsequent transfer to our government that by the time it was even being used by the local airlines, it was in a state of dilapidation. Pick a new administration and they will try to find fault with previous administrations. I am not saying that the anomalies should not be investigated. But whatever goes on in our country is news in others. And as long as we keep hammering at our own faults and our own sins and at our own greed and corruption, the other countries are cheering behind us. Leaving us behind in the tourism and growth and development industry.

Look at even our commercial of an energy drink. In this commercial, the baggage carousel belt suddenly comes to a halt in the middle of the uploading of the baggages. What does the Pinoy do? He takes an energy drink and then runs on the baggage carousel so that our old dilapidated beaten up baggage carousels run. Geez. Talk about third world. Our own commercials promote our being third world. We may be entertained or think it's funny, but look at the downside. We promote how pathetic a country we are.

In Thailand, for example, there are no petty crimes committed against tourists. That's because for the same crime (say robbery) committed by a Thai on a tourist, the punishment is gazillion more times more severe than when committed against their own citizen. In other countries, justice is swift. It will not take you gazillion years to try someone for substance abuse. In Singapore alone, drug trafficking is punishable by death and you get to hang in a few months! Here, even a massacre in Maguindanao will take years (with each camps lawyers dead) before the court hands in a decision. Which is even subject to several appeals and will drag on and on and on...

In the Philippines, peace and order is just as troublesome as the people that are supposed to protect its own people. Anyone from the lowly traffic enforcer to even the general is mired in so much graft and corruption that no one - NO ONE can be trusted. You need to show them the money! Then some things get done a little faster. With so much graft and corruption, where do we even begin to show the world that the Philippines is a wonderful and beautiful country?

We grab the headlines where foreigners and tourists are kidnapped and held from ransom and some die during the process. Even in the most posh of resorts (recall Dos Palmas), the insurgent Muslim rebels did not even forgive the innocent ones. We have so much problems with peace and order down south that no matter how much dressing we do to make our country look picture perfect for a tourist destination, we fall on our faces the next day with a headline of a foreigner's head on a stick.

Sure we have one of the best beaches or the most beautiful sceneries or the loveliest sunsets in the world, but we lack internal cohesion and the political will to sell our country to the world.

Sanamagan - even our logo looks plagiarized from Poland's tourism logo. The only difference is the Tarsier and the coconut tree!!! [I am not surprised at praising plagiarism in our country, since even the Supreme Court is indifferent on this. International Proprietary rights are not respected in the Philippines, hence the proliferation of millions of generic products as an excuse for poverty...sad...]

We will remain back offices for BPOs and exporters of OFWs where labor is cheaper and where lives do not need to be sacrificed. Our own citizens prefer to take an exodus from this country. That's why our airports are empty. It's very busy only in the mornings and late evenings. Otherwise, it's like the buses on EDSA - empty - during non-peak hours. We are not even a hub for many airlines. If you ask an airline company which country they would consider cutting trips to - Manila is on the top of their list. Most of those in our airports are locals who have the money to travel abroad or OFWs. We have so much OFWs that the we have several flights to and from Manila to the Middle East, the US, Canada, and other Asian countries.

Even if you make Pacquiao or even Dionisia as the poster boy (and mom) for tourism, as long as we do not address internal issues related to the tourism industry, we will never move from point A to B.

It does not take rocket science to build a tourism industry. But the Department of Tourism will need all the help it can get. And the Philippines can only be a tourist destination when chaos and anarchy and order becomes the first rule of the day. At the rate the government is moving, the indecisions and flaks that an amateurish politician is undertaking is putting us back in square one.

I have always emphasized that you cannot sell your country to foreigners if you cannot even entice your own locals to buy what you sell. If you can convince every Juan de la Cruz that the Philippines is beautiful, that there is so much to be proud of in this country, that we need to cultivate a culture of respect and dignity, then we can probably sell the Philippines as the next tourist destination.

[photo of logo from]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mislang is not the face of the Filipino people

Mai Mislang was a nobody before her infamous Tweet on the state visit of PNoy in Hanoi recently.

Her sins? Her Tweets - "the wine served during dinner sucked, there are no good looking men in Vietnam, and the motorcycle laden streets of Vietnam being hazardous to life".

Of course, they were her personal opinions. But she is the Assistant Secretary for Communications, working for erstwhile ABS-CBN anchor Ricky Carandang who now heads this new office c/o PNoy. In short, during her official travel to Vietnam, Mislang was tweeting as a government official since she was there as part of the president's entourage. After her tweets, Mislang suddenly shot up to stardom.

And the rest is history.

People from all walks of life (including journalists) began their assault on the misdeeds of Mislang. Whether Malacanan touted her being a cum laude graduate of Mass Communications from UP, nobody cared. That part of the resume should just be burned. If I were her professors in UP, I probably would just cringe and roll over and die from embarrassment. So everyone began to ask for her head on a silver platter. Her demeanor was uncalled for. It was like PNoy had an amateur tag-along in his foreign trip that they needed to spank the baby upon their return to the Philippines.

But this blog is not going to repeat what the other columnists and bloggers have commented on Mislang's tweeting behaviour in Vietnam.

Let's just put some things in perspective.

For one, Mislang is like Kris A, the sister of PNoy. They open their mouths only to recant what they say or say sorry that they were misunderstood and needed to explain what they actually meant when what they said was supposed to mean another thing from what they were going to say. (Did you follow that?) And of course, being more controversial meant being more noticed (which explains why Kris A became so popular even if she had no talent).

Then of course came the various reasons from Malacanan about the tweets of Mislang. That the latter was sorry. That the latter had been reprimanded. That PNoy had full trust and confidence in her and was not going to fire her and that she was keeping her job. I am saddened by the fact that PNoy seems to have no balls in making a simple decision like this. If I were PNoy, I would talk to Carandang and quietly tell him to ask the girl to resign or just get rid of her in the most diplomatic way. And while I campaigned for PNoy for the upcoming elections, I was skeptical because he was practically a newbie and I was afraid that he wouldn't be able to make firmer decisions even on small matter like these. Getting rid of his shooting partner Puno of course is a different story because of Puno's own claim that they are BFF. But Mislang - who in the world is she? She's just one of his many speech writers and some obscure nobody in his back office. He doesn't have to save her hide for the Twitter-ing misdeeds in Hanoi.

Which goes to the final part of this short blog. If Mislang was truly apologetic, she should just resign. An irrevocable resignation. She should not have to bear the torture of having her whole person maligned and denigrated in print media or over the internet. She is not the face of the FIlipino people and I am ashamed at her deeds and actions.

And not all government officials in this country as childish as Mislang and my president. And PNoy should not feel bad about him being criticized as well because he had set expectations at the beginning of his term as president. If he is letting the people down by his incredulous decision-making which is making eyebrows raised all the way to heaven, it is because he had set the tone for this in his inaugural speech shout-out --- KAYO ANG BOSS KO!

Eh ganun naman pala eh. Eh tingnan niyo nga naman, parang asal katulong ko itong si PNoy. Sabi ni boss ganito, tigas ng ulo ni katulong. Ayaw talaga gawin. Akala niya, siya ang amo! Ang kapal talaga ng apog.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Of Millionaires, Billionaires, and Tax Evaders - Part II

Philippine Star columnist Boo Chanco is one of my favorite writers. He is the son of my former Microbiology professor at the University of Santo Tomas, Dr. Pedro Chanco.

Paying taxes from your salaries/stipend/honoraria in the Philippines is based on your income bracket. In short, these gazillionaires or CEOs or whatever you want to call them to be paying P2M in taxes should be making at least P500,000/month including a 13th month pay which is also taxable. This is also presuming that that is all they are getting - nothing more and nothing less. Which of course is highly doubtful.

Based on this premise, you can understand more clearly the article of Boo.

In his article entitled Demand and Supply, Boo writes: (what I comment is in parenthesis, so some of you may get a little dizzy reading this)

"Instead of just buying their own copy of Tony Lopez's BizNews Asia with the list of the Top 500 taxpayers in 2008, I keep getting asked if this or that business leader is on the list and how much he or she paid. It is either Tony's magazine is so difficult to find in news stands or people just don't want to shell out P130. Tony told me it is his exclusive because the BIR took the list down from their website." (You can just smell the people whom the BIR do not want to displeasure.)

"...Donald Dee, Mike Varela, Sergio Luis-Ortiz who are the noisy supporters of Ate Glue and who rotate the leadership of PCCI and ECOP among themselves (were not on) the list. That probably means they paid less than P2.1M in taxes or are in another list as corporations. Because they were vocal Ate Glue supporters, it is difficult to think that they apparently weren't ready to go all the way to their wallets. Then again, talk is a lot cheaper...I did not find any of the Zobel brothers in the list. Their first cousins Inigo Zobel and his sister Mercedes are not on the list too. There is, however, a Patricia Miranda Zobel de Ayala in the list, number 11, with P20M in paid taxes. Makati Business Club chair Ramon del Rosario is number 97, with P6M in paid taxes..."

"Other personalities from the Makati crowd in the list: Joey Cuisia at 29th with P11.2M, Ricardo Romulo at 39th with P9.5M, Oscar Hilado at 41st with P9.3M, PLDT executives Ray Espinosa at 22nd with P12.2M and Napoleon Nazareno at 77th with P7M. Peter Garrucho is at 152nd with P4.4M, Joey Leviste at 197th with P3.6M, urban planner Jun Palafox is 207th with P3.5M and Raul Concepcion is 223rd with P3.3M."

"Other interesting personalities in the list: Eusebio Tanco of STI at 236 with P3.3M, Cosmetic doctor Vicky Belo is 257th with P3.1M, former Chief Justice Art Panganiban is 289th with P2.9M..."

"Curiously, Tonyboy Cojuangco, reported to have donated substantially (P100M) to the PNoy campaign,, was only at 471st and paid only P2.208M, about the cost of a couple of Gretchen's Hermes bags. Medical City big boss, Dr. Alfredo RA Bengzon is 469th at P2.209M."

"Even if it takes so little to be on the list, I didn't find the veritable Washington Sycip, despite his many directorships in blue chip companies and his biting lectures on good governance. Maybe he is also in another list, as a corporation or something."

"On the taipans, here is how Tony Lopez saw it: 'The country's richest individual Henry Sy Sr is in the Top 100, No 73 with tax payment of P7.27M...the second riches, Lucio tan, also missed the grade...' The Gokongweis, father and son are not on the list but son-in-law Perry Pe is 367th with P2.5M in taxes paid. I don't remember seeing the Yuchengcos either who are probabaly in another list too. Also missing in the list is property tycoon Manuel B. Villar, once and probably still is the richest senator. Gibo Teodoro, said to have been the richest in Ate Glue's cabinet isn't there either. Also missed on the list are the former First Gentleman and all of the past presidents..."

"How is it possible that the country's richest are not the highest taxpayers? Tony quotes Mike Varela, a lawyer and chair emeritus of PCCI. 'Maybe these people incorporated themselves...when you are a corporation you can charge everything to it, including the grocery allowance of your wife.' Tony Lopez quotes Donald Dee, the PCCI Treasurer."

"According to the BIzNews Asia article, former BIR Commissioner Joel Tan Torres initially published the list in the agency's website. The list however, disappeared. The current Commissioner Kim Henares told the magazine. "The former commissioner posted it for a time but had to remove it because of complaints."

"The main excuse is that kidnappers will use that list. But I don't think so. Kidnappers, will on the contrary, be disappointed that the folks they thought are rich don't seem to be that rich, based on their tax payments. It is just frustrating that the burden of financing this government placed on the middle class like us whose tax payments are mostly withheld at sourced or added on to the things we buy. And of course, we cannot afford to get top notch tax accountants and are at the mercy of BIR examiners. .."

"Oh well...let us just end with this quote Tony used from Oliver Wendell Holmes: TAXES ARE WHAT WE PAY FOR CIVILIZED SOCIETY. Otherwise, stop complaining about the anarchy around you."

(And I couldn't agree more.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Of Millionaires, Billionaires and Tax Evaders - Part I

The title does not mean that I lumped them all together, but if you think you're being alluded to - too bad!

My blog series is a composite of two opinion makers - Tony Lopez and Boo Chanco.

Hence, they are not my writing. I am sharing the facts they pointed out and I'll let the reader judge. I have also taken the liberty to place my own comments on these. What is written in BOLD and ITALICIZED are from the original writer.

I am dividing it into two parts so that you don't get bored with reading these back-to-back articles that I found interesting and revealing.

The Richest Filipinos and the Biggest Taxpayers Are Not the Same
by Tony Lopez

Forbes Magazine's list of richest Filipinos and their respective net worths are:

1. Henry Sy, Sr. - $5B
2. Lucio Tan - $2B
3. John Gokongwei - $1.5B
4. Jaime Zobel de Ayala - $1.2B
5. Andrew Tan - $1.2B
6. Tony Tan Caktiong - $980M
7. Enrique Razon - $975M
8. Beatrice Campos - $840M
9. George SK Ty - $805M
10. Eduardo Cojuangco - $760M

The list goes on to enumerating 40 richest Pinoys (or should I say Chinoys who make up 50% of the richest) with Philip Ang at number 40 at $50M net worth. That's more zeroes than I could ever see in my lifetime.

For the complete list of the Top 500 Taxpayers of 2008, please get your copy of the latest issue of Biz News Asia weekely news magazine at the nearest bookstore or hotel newsstand.

Compare the Top 40 Richest Filipinos based on the Forbes list with the Top 40 Taxpayers of 2008 based on the BIR list...It is a very interesting and revealing honor roll. It is veritably the roster of current heroes of the Philippines. Two conclusions:

1. People who you think are among the country's richest are not in the Top 500 Taxpayers list. So, too, are prominent and fabulously rich people who often rant about the need for good governance and have good corporate social responsibility.

2. The most rewarding jobs are not in business or top management. They are in entertainment, broadcasting and movies.

In serious business, mining is very remunerative. The highest-paid tycoons are miners - Philex CEO Walter Brown with P26.83M (#9) and Rio Tuba Nickel CEO, Atty. Manny Zamora Jr, with P19.96M (#12).

Behind them are owners and CEOs of conglomerates: SMC chair and CEO Danding Cojuangco Jr with P18.98M tax (#13), PLDT chair and Meralco CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan with P18.55M tax (#14), Unionbank chair and CEO Justo Aboitiz Ortiz with P15.2M (#19), and SMC President and Petron CEO Ramon S. Ang with P14.85M tax (#20). Trailing them are ePLDT and TV5 CEO Ray Espinosa, P12.27M tax (#22) and GMA Network and DZBB Broadcaster Mike Enriquez P11.94M tax (#23).

This makes Enriquez the country's highest paid mediaman. He finds it funny, if not ridiculous, that he paid more taxes than the owners of the two largest TV stations. "This means I pay the correct taxes," he notes. His channel 7 colleagues, Mel Tiangco is #45 with P8.9M in income taxes paid. That makes her the highest paid female broadcaster.

Television is a big moneymaker.

Four of the country's 10 biggest taxpayers work in TV entertainment. Willie Revillame leads the pack at #2 with P58.6M tax followed by Piolo Pascual at #3 with P55.8M tax, Kris Aquino at #8 with P25.44M tax, and Michael V at #10 with P22.26M tax.

Boxing's Manny Pacquiao is the Philippines' number 1 taxpayer with P125M in tax payments. In June 2009, Forbes magazine estimated the Filipino boxing great's income at $40M or P1778B.

He paid P7 of tax for every P100 of income, a tax rate of 7%. Revillame had a higher tax rate, P58.6M out of P365M estimated gross for a 16% tax rate.

To be sure, 2008 was a crisis year for Philippine business. It was the year the world went into the deepest recession in 80 years.

Undeniably, this information has struck a nerve among the average tax payers - like you and I.

The opinion here is these billionaire moguls can hide behind all that corporate blah blah blah and even wash down the dough they're making under some other charge (including their pet's haircut) only to run away from having to pay more in taxes or afford high profile accountants to hid all that moolah they've accumulated so far. So the richest are actually not the richest considering that they really don't TOTALLY own the companies they claim to own - lock, stock, and barrel! Considering individual gross and net income as well as taxes paid, I agree with Tony that the entertainment and media industry is the most enticing. It is not wonder that every Juan de la Cruz is willing to shed their clothes and their shame in order to hit stardom. I mean, let's face it, even the ugly ones or those that don't even have talent at all have gotten a break!

If PNoy actually wants to make the BIR work their butts off and is serious in his campaign on tax evaders, he does not need to go far and wide to look for them. Just pick up the Forbes List and see if there's a match in the richest Pinoys and the biggest taxpayers.

In my next blog, I will take you to a simple arithmetic look at tax evaders and tax evasion in part II of this series.

In the meantime, click on the video below and enjoy the music. I so love the music and lyrics - it's dedicated to all the billionaires and wannabe billionaires...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The journey of the scrapbook

After being single again for the longest time I could recall, loneliness crept into the night.

Somebody once said that "one does not move on from the pain...some simply gets used to the hurt". And for a very long time, I buried myself in that hurt. It seemed that multitasking was a temporary respite to numb the deceptions. But the solitude would be like a stealth, badgering my spirit, forcing me to move away from the pain.

Taking chances is not my cup of tea. No one likes to get hurt - again and again. Only sick people do. And I mean mentally sick. Staying blessedly single is a choice some people make. As my friends would say "All the single ladies..."!

And I tell my friends that being single is a healthy option. Being in a relationship is excruciatingly difficult. You give up on practically everything - from your privacy to life's little pleasures and treasures. Once upon a time, there was just you. Then suddenly one day you wake up to discover that there's now US in the equation. And for the most part, many of those who are not ready to be a couple fall into the trap of falling in love for love's sake (or for lust's sake).

As so as all stories go, it's been 7 years since I gave up on being singly blessed. And while it's been a struggle to stay together so long, it's been a good journey as well. There's still some of the insecurities and perhaps a little complacency that we need to contend with. There's probably a hundred and one reasons for a relationship to be doomed from the start, but a thousand and one reasons for it to go right as well.

I remember watching one episode of the Amazing Race Asia and the losers not minding being eliminated during this leg of the race because the wife didn't want to jump. The husband said that being in the race with her was the most wonderful thing since they got to know one another more than they had known each other during their marriage. (I guess it's in the worst situations that you realize who your partner is.) Besides, he added, that the most important race in life was not about just winning a reality show, it was making sure their marriage would work and working at being together. Amazing!

During our first year, I received a scrapbook from my partner. A simple scrapbook but the best gift. Nothing material about it. It spoke of sincerity and commitment, of thoughtfulness and of going the extra mile to remember. It wasn't a spur of the moment gift. He took the time to collect all the smallest details of our first year - from the first movie ticket, to the first ticket in Disneyland, to the boarding passes on the plane, to the pictures at the mall. It was the kind of gift that mattered when it came to what was a valuable keep.

When my house was renovated, the scrapbook was the first thing I made sure that would be packed in the right place. And true enough, many things eventually got lost during the renovation. But the scrapbook remained intact.

I keep it at my bedside desk. I open it once in awhile just to remind me that I am not alone in my journey of life and love. And I've stopped counting on the years that will be left, but on how great the years that we shared were.

This is one story I do not know how it ends.

Whatever the ending will be, the journey of the scrapbook has constantly reminded me that we all deserve a great life and happy endings.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The fury of HIV infection - is the Philippines ready?

The National Epidemiology Center released the September 2010 data for newly diagnosed HIV cases in the Philippines.

Last month alone, there were 153 new HIV Antibody seropositive individuals confirmed and reported to the HIV and AIDS registry in the Philippines. A 173% increase (53 cases in 2009) for the same period last year. Most (95%) of them were males and the median age was 28 years (range: 18-58 years). The largest age group affected was 20-29 years (54%). Half (~50%) of of the cases were from the National Capital Region (NCR).

Of the 153 new cases last month, reported mode of transmission was sexual contact in in 98% (150 cases) with only 3 cases reported from re-use of needles among injecting drug users. Males having sex with males (homosexual or bisexual) was the predominant type of sexual transmission (83%). Most (9%) were asymptomatic at the time of reporting.

Three (3) of the cases in September 2010 were documented AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The median age of the AIDS cases is 25 years. All three cases were males having sex with males.

Based on demography, 14% (N=21) of the reported cases last September were OFWs. Most (91%) were males with a median age of 32 years. All cases acquired the infection through sexual contact - 75% males having sex with males.

The total number of reported cases from January - September 2010 alone was 1,201 or an average of about 4 cases per day. In September alone, the number had the highest jump to 5 cases a day being reported positive for HIV infection.

From 1984-2010, we have reported 5625 cases of HIV infection alone, with 85% of those infected being asymptomatic. Males (77%) outnumber females (23%) in total number affected based on sex. Almost 20% of those afflicted with HIV infection belong to the age group 15-24 years old. At least 6% have reportedly died due to AIDS since 1984.

I share the update with my blog readers so that they are informed on the situation of HIV infection and AIDS in the Philippines.

What do the data show?

1. That there are more new cases reported daily. These new reported cases are voluntary. And therefore the statistics are an underestimation of the true situation of HIV infection in the country. It is surmised that it probably is only the tip of the iceberg. Which means that most probably we are looking at about 10-25% of the actual cases of HIV in the country. Extrapolating that to the real scenario would mean that there are about 5 new cases a day.

2. The practice of safe sex is mandatory in the current post-HIV scenario. Of course, I am in no position to demand monogamy, but if it cannot be avoided, I advise people to please try to contain the consequences of unsafe sex among themselves. While I see all the billboards splash the walls with the NO SMOKING ads and the NO SECOND HAND SMOKING advertisements, HIV is very much like this as well. Confine the infection to yourselves. If you cannot abstain from having sex, do not get others infected at the very least.

3. No one dies of AIDS. In a country like the Philippines where infectious diseases is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, an era where you have both HIV infection and say, tuberculosis, is devastating. You will not need contraceptive methods to decrease the total number of Filipinos multiplying in the country. HIV infection is a debilitating illness that not only drains the family emotionally but the government financially as well. If we have an outbreak of HIV infection, that will put the country three steps back in any of its program to move forward.

4. As you will notice, the bulk of the age group affected are young. Very young. I can only surmise that these are those who probably engage in unprotected sex and promiscuous behavior. As evident in the data, the bulk are males and the bulk are those that engage in male to male sex (whether homosexual or bisexual in nature). While the data for the mother to child transmission rate is very low, this is good data. If a program is in place early, it can focus on target individuals especially the teenagers who have very minimal information on sex education because the church and government officials are struggling to find a middle ground on when and whether it is time to provide sex education to our students.

5. There is a need to educate the OFWs as well on the growing problem of HIV infection. While it is true that loneliness finds its way to seep into the loins of those separated from their loved ones, it is sick to cavort elsewhere and bring the infection home to scatter the seeds of wrath with your beloved.

The data is alarming and should be a wake-up call and an awareness especially among the youth and those that practice unsafe sex. There is no excuse for ignorance. Technology today has changed the pace of the world by providing access to valuable information for everyone. We can use technology to our advantage by disseminating this information.

But there will be those that will choose to ignore this. And use the internet for desires of the flesh - a source for meeting up scrupulous people for copulation and lust. A recent study showed that the youth are most vulnerable to the latter. Raging hormones in this age group is no reason for acting careless and stupid.

What goes around, comes around. The fury of HIV infection has not yet reeled its ugly head, but the 5 NEW cases a day from last month's data should serve as an early warning that this storm is not far behind.

Knowing the Pinoys, they will never be ready for this, unless we change our paradigm today.

[Data from the National Epidemiology Center, Philippine HIV and AIDS registry, Department of Health, Philippines. Click on the illustrations/graphs/tables to see a larger image of the data]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Primetime's mendicancy: The return of Willie R.

For the record, I am not a fan of Willie Revillame.

It was, however, interesting to watch his new show titled "Willing Willie" on TV5.

The show runs for 3 hours - from 6:30 - 9:30 in the evening. And Willie R is the only host (with Mo Twister on the sideline acting like an emcee for a beauty contest). What's new with the show? Nothing. It simply is a take from the defunct "Wowowee". New sets don the new home studio, but it looks like the same crowd. The sexy dancing girls are gyrating and doing splits to the various music that's bombastically barraging my eardrums. The endorsements are endless and so is the cash!

The take here is that the show runs smack against two major networks' news shows - GMA 7 "24 Oras" and ABS-CBN "TV Patrol". It trickles into the reality show of GMA after 8pm and a telenovela of ABS-CBN.

And here's the kill.

"WIlling Willie" is mass-based. I was telling my mom over dinner that this is one show that the masses will get enticed to watch. Not only because the show gives away money to studio participants, but to home viewers as well. It's like, for 3 hours, you see so much money being given away. This doesn't of course include a jackpot price of a car, a house and lot at Camella Homes (developer is Sen. Manny Villar who happens to be Willie R's business partner for his Wil Towers) and P1M in cash - all in one prize pot!

True enough, 5 minutes after I discussed my take on the show with my mom, Willie blurts out "bakit pa kayo manonood ng news, eh dito sa atin, may pera na nakakatulong pa"! (Why do you want to watch the news when in my show, we give away money and we can help you financially?)

The studio participants are mass-based. They are those who belong to lowest quintiles of society - the C, D and E. They're also his greatest and most loyal fans. They follow Willie wherever and whatever TV channel he moves to. Like the paupers on the streets of Manila, the mendicants will always be avid followers of those that give dole-outs.

But the C, D and E classes make up more than 75% of Philippine society. The segment of society that is most neglected by both the rich and the government.

It is the same class that bands together in order to preserve their existence in the urban jungle. They are rabid and will never understand why mendicancy is a crime altogether.

Never mind if they will look stupid or crazy or dance like a chicken or crow like a lunatic in front of the camera. Never mind if they will share their life story of hardship and financial disarray or broken homes and tragic lives. For the money they can bring home, even if it means licking and sucking up to Willie R, it will temporarily provide food on the table.

After all, the Filipino is used to being beggars in their own nation. During an election period, people will exchange their votes for a measly amount of money in order to provide food or medicine for their family.

While there is nothing wrong about giving money away (I like that thought), the thought that the way the show is being aired leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Today, Willie R talks about the rising ratings of his 3 days old show. Indeed, a 33.8% share of primetime is impressive. And I am sure both Channels 2 and 7 honchos are scratching their heads on this.

Why is that?

It's simple. The ratings game commands sponsorship (TV commercials). The higher the rating of the show, the more commercials it gets. Which means that the show of Willie R can demand a higher fee for a commercial slot eventually. With limited resources, why do you want to put a commercial on a show that has a dwindling follower?

Interestingly, is how the two giant networks will now have to focus on re-inventing their news program. I mean, what will make every Juan de la Cruz interested in having to hear people dying from a bus falling off a ravine or some SK official getting shot during a poll violence or some starlet having a lurid affair with a boxer? Is there money for me in all these cheezy news? Nope! Will it make me P10,000 richer overnight? Nope! Would I care less if the mayor of some pathetic town rolled over and died? Nope! Will it matter to me if somewhere in Paris, the French people went up in arms against their own government? Nope! In short, what would interest the 75% of the viewing public is now focused on what they can gain from the show of Willie R.

If the trend continues, the next 3 months will be crucial. Slowly but surely, there will be a large chunk of TV viewers that will shift gears to watching a game show than watching some dreadful tsunami pummel a country. The latter, after all, does not concern them and is a one time event. If the trend on the TV ratings continue, there will be a change in time slot for the news shows and they will need to replicate a show that will go head to head with Willie R.

At this point in time, it would be interesting to see the turn of the tide. Only two things can happen. Willing Willie will flop and lose it's following and Manny P would have gambled for naught. But Pangilinan, at this point, is willing to stake his balls for the jugular against two giants in the industry. And Willie R is his secret weapon. Why else put him right smack head to head against two institutional giants and primetime news at that?

It does not take a genius to see this interesting battle for primetime supremacy.

Will Willie R have the last laugh?

As they say in showbiz...ABANGAN ANG SUSUNOD NA KABANATA! (to be continued...)

[Photos from Pinoy Gossip Boy and]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The eulogy

It's not just because All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day is around the corner that I blog about death.

The last month alone, I had several friends and/or their parents who have gone to the other side of the world. There are no words to describe the outpouring of sympathy for them. As I have always said, it is the ones we leave behind that are left traumatized or emotionally scarred by the untimely demise...gone too soon.

The email groups were flooded with memories of classmates and schoolmates that we once shared our laughters, joys, and tears with. Flashbacks into lives of where we were and where destiny has led us.

I recently bought the new CD of Trijnte Oosterhuis (Traincha) a favorite artist of mine. Many of the songs in her new album were songs of Michael Jackson. One that struck me and left me teary eyed and staring at a blank wall for a few minutes (no I did not have a seizure episode!) was the song entitled "Gone Too Soon".

I have copied the lyrics and uploaded the YouTube version of Traincha's 3:25 minutes rendition.

Like a comet
Blazing 'cross the evening sky
Gone too soon

Like a rainbow
Fading in the twinkling of an eye
Gone too soon

Shiny and sparkly
And splendidly bright
Here one day
Gone one night

Like the loss of sunlight
On a cloudy afternoon
Gone too soon

Like a castle
Built upon a sandy beach
Gone too soon

Like a perfect flower
That is just beyond your reach
Gone too soon

Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight
Here one day

Gone one night

Like a sunset
Dying with the rising of the moon
Gone too soon
Gone too soon

I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did. It is, in so many words, the eulogy to those who have crossed this world to a more peaceful place...home.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The problem with the Philippines IS...

On my way to giving a lecture last Thursday, while traversing the traffic of Metro Manila, someone asked me what I thought of the ODD-EVEN scheme that the MMDA is proposing to implement along EDSA.

As if our troubles of having to share the road of Metro Manila with these public utility vehicles were not enough with the number coding scheme (it's the last number on the plate number of our cars that determines whether you can use your car for the day or not).

THe proposal of the MMDA is to make all cars whose numbers end in ODD not allowed entry into EDSA on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while those that end in EVEN not allowed to access EDSA on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sanamagan! What an idiotic idea!

The discussion ended with me giving a treatise of the actual scenario of the Philippines.

Is there hope for the Philippines?

NO. Even if PNoy had himself castrated live on TV, I seriously doubt that there would be hope. Not in this generation. Not in this lifetime.

I am not being anti-nationalistic here. Believe me when I say that I love this country, in spite of all the faults of the people running it. But I can only share my love so much. Seriously, I am no martyr and am not willing to take a bullet for the other idiots that seem to be pathetically embroiled in so much graft and corruption.

I am sad to say that the people running this country (or even the local government at the very least) are clueless (and that's a kind word to describe them). Whatever experience they have or whatever credentials in governance they claim to have has no bearing on their capability to run this nation.

The basic problem of the Philippines is lack of DISCIPLINE. This is the core problem of the people of this nation. This is the problem that is impossible to tackle unless with an iron fist. At the rate we are going, all these limp wrist government officials are simply providing temporary solutions to a permanent problem. Daig pa nila ang mga bakla sa pagiging balimbing at pusong mamon!


What are rules and regulations and laws for if no one can follow them or implementing them will always have exceptions to these so-called rules?

You will have to agree with me that it takes a monumental love for country by each individual citizen to imbibe the culture of discipline.

The logic here is simple.

The MMDA claims that some school called University of the Philippines studied the traffic problem in Metro Manila and said that the sheer volume of private car owners traversing EDSA is a major reason for the congestion along this highway. Well call me silly and call these researchers stupid, but honestly, this was a myopic view of the actual problem on EDSA.

First is the fact loading and unloading in various public vehicle areas is the major problem of this country (not only Metro Manila). People think that when they stop a jeep or bus or tricycle in the middle of the road, that vehicle must come to halt and pick up their majesty. While there are loading and unloading areas for public vehicles, have you ever seen a place that loads and unloads them properly? These public vehicles will always jockey for passengers. Why? Because they are all paid based on commission or what the operators call boundary. Which means that they earn whatever excess of the minimum amount each operator allows them.

Traversing EDSA, on your right window you will see the buses. I counted the buses on the way to Novaliches from the same starting point. Bus 1 had 5 passengers, Bus 2 had 4 passengers, Bus 3 had 8 passengers, Bus 4 had 10 passengers, Bus 5 had 6 passengers, Bus 6 had 2 passengers, Bus 7 had 9 passengers and all these buses were headed for the same direction. The conductors and barkers were busily shouting their destination and of course, waiting for passengers to load the bus at the Guadalupe area. Why do we need all these buses which are practically not full? Gimme a break! One bus can put all these passengers (and still have extra space even if the passenger carried a pig as a carry on baggage) and head towards the same destination without hovering the already crowded highway. So why then blame the private cars?

The roads in the Philippines are NOT enough for ALL of the cars and public vehicles. Period.

But it does not mean that the private cars will need to make the ultimate sacrifice for these public vehicles. It is but logical that as more cars are available, there is less need for public vehicles. This is again secondary logic. Of course having more cars will mean that there more people can use their own vehicles moving from Point A to Point B without the need for public vehicle. Hence, as more cars are on the road, there should be logically less public vehicles accessing the same route. Simple logic. Something these people at MMDA lack. No brainer!

I am not saying that we remove all the public utility vehicles. The law of supply and demand is basic economics - you need to reduce them as well. Put a schedule for public transportation. Put only what is required and time the next destination. Why is it that we're willing to wait for the next train if we're taking the MRT? But if it's the bus or jeep or tricycle, it's got to be a royalty approach - they pick you up where you want to ride and if you could drop them off right at the doorstep of their house, so be it!

And media in all its claim of fair game, will always try to get the side of Claire de la Fuente who apparently heads the buses association. She should just go back to singing and not trying to defend what is only in their own vested interest. The impact to the Philippine economy of losing $2B a year on wasted time for having to traverse EDSA is not enough even if Claire sang gazillion songs a day! Or had all their buses burned!

My heart bleeds to the poorer people who need these so-called jobs to feed their family. I will be blunt. They should get a life. Is being a barker a job? Jeez! When they apply for a job in another country, they can type down in their resume - BARKER at Guadalupe EDSA. M*th*rF*ck*rs!! Legitimate jobs require that they PAY taxes. Do they even pay taxes? I seriously doubt that. They pay tithes - sin taxes to all those Kotong Officers (MMDA and policemen). And that includes these public utility drivers that earn their daily wages using the boundary method. They are legally employed! It's no wonder that when accidents occur, they scamper off and go into hiding, only to find another job in another public vehicle company another day! And private vehicles owners like you and I have to pay road taxes, incredibly high taxes on our cars, insurances at sky rocketing rates to protect our cars against public utility vehicles because when you get into an accident with them, the driver will just scratch his head and his balls and say that they have no money to pay (what ever happened to the third party liability) and the operators are simply in cahoots with the police officer who will make the police report so that they're scot free from liabilities.

Alright. So I am being mean. No, let's change that. I am degrading these nincompoops who need to get a life. Sarcasm is my middle name.

So these people are poor. But being poor is not an excuse for being stupid and not being disciplined. Discipline is the hallmark of any industrialized society. Unless we learn to cross at the pedestrian lanes, not spit on the road anytime our throat itches, pee on the walls with those tiny Pinoy penises hanging out in all the glory and splendor of yellow piss watering the steaming asphalt roads, learn to fall in line and wait for our turn, follow directions that are already splattered all over the walls and in our faces, load and unload in designated areas, have lesser graft and corruption so that proper urban planning for the metropolis is the rule of the game (and not see every SM or Ayala Mall shop rise somewhere in the middle of all the urban jungle), kids who are underaged should not be on the driver's seat raring to show off to their pathetic friends that they know how to drive, that texting while driving is dangerous not only to your life but to everyone as well, that everyone who drives a motorcycle should wear a motorcycle helmet and not some industrial hat and so on and so forth...


What do you expect to teach a young boy who rides with his father who is a tricycle driver about discipline if the father picks up passengers in the middle of the street and then pees against the wall of a house? The boy will think what the father is doing is cool. It's right. "If TATAY can do it, so can I."

There was a Nestle commercial a few years ago that ran a theme on DISCIPLINE. In the eyes of a child, what they see their parents do, they follow it blindly - thinking that its alright since the parents do it and get away with it anyway. They grow up that way and another generation bites the dust.

I remember that a few days ago when I arrived from San Francisco, the queue at the immigration area of the NAIA was long because all the other airlines had arrived. It was jampacked with OFWs. I went to the designated lane - Residents. I saw that the lanes for Visitors were also occupied by these OFWs and other Pinoys on my flight. It was after all a shorter queue, but really why is it that when these idiots see these signs in another country like Singapore or HongKong or the US, they fall in line properly? What is in the Filipino that when he is in his motherland, he does not seem to want to follow directions? It's like "Welcome Home" to the Philippines where the Filipino lives in anarchy. I was wondering how the foreigners on the same flight I took thought of the Filipinos. No read, no write! And we get angry when somebody lambasts us about being stupid! We have only ourselves to blame.

I took my queue, took out my iPhone and began playing a game while I was in line. There was this sneaky woman who saw that our line was moving faster so she sidled up to my side and started cutting the line. I think she thought that since I was busily playing "Angry Birds", I wasn't minding the line. It was not her day. I snapped at her at gave her a dagger look.

"Are you in line?"

She retorted proudly - "yes".

"Don't make me look stupid. You are not the person who's in front of me. Where is your line?"

Then she sheepishly points the other lane.

"Go back to your line. You Filipinos have no discipline at all. Go away and die."

She then sidled back to her queue.

I think she thought that I was a foreigner (of course with my looks and accent I am always mistaken for one). It's shameful to be berated over something as simple and as basic as DISCIPLINE.

But the Filipino has a thick hide. Over the years of stupidity and mediocrity and graft and corruption, we have been callused over the idea of instilling discipline among ourselves. Our reason - if the rich and powerful can do it, then so can we. A distorted reason but reality in the clearest sense of the word.

The one way conversation over the ODD-EVEN scheme ended when I got to my destination. The guy I was having a conversation was quiet and then said that he totally agreed with me and felt really sad about the situation in the country. We have a basic lack and that needs to get addressed today if we plan to change this country in the next 25 years. Enough with the temporary solutions to permanent problems. Enough with having to give in to the poorer sector of society. They will survive and they do not need dole outs in order to live. Seriously, they can just all join the various game shows and reality shows and somehow will manage to make ends meet. We need to stop making poverty an excuse for being pathetic and lazy.

I hate comparing us with other countries, but I cannot help it. Filipinos are as gentle as lambs when they are in Never Never Land but as ferocious as wolves when they are in their own country. You see them obey rules and regulations and laws in another country. They will not chew gum, they will cross pedestrian lanes, they will wait for the bus as scheduled, they will car pool when needed, they will wait in line.

The problem with the Philippines is the Philippines. We make too many exceptions to the rule. Ang problema - lahat gusto maging bida!

{Note: Photos from Panoramio by Dudz and free photo share]