Sunday, August 29, 2010

The other side of the fence...

Over dinner, my partner and I had talked about work. Something we don't talk about often. The topic centered on "office politics".

During the conversation, the discussion focused on what goes on in the corporate world. That the boss would have favorites and would put people in position in spite of the fact that their work was not up to par compared to others.

Last night, I had dropped by the house of a friend whose mom celebrated her birthday. And ironically, it was the same topic we talked about - politics in the workplace.

I lamented to my friend that I had been a victim of politics in the workplace. Toward the last two years prior to my retirement from the university, I had felt unhappy. While I struggled to survive the "political system" in the academe, I knew that only those who belonged to an inner circle would get to become department chairs. No matter how good you were, the peer pressure was incredibly stupid.

It was a difficult, and sad decision that I took my early retirement and shifted gears in my career. I ended up joining the corporate world. It was a transition that was paced. With my lesser teaching load, I had time to migrate to another job on a part time basis. And while I began to learn the ropes, I was wondering what in the world I was doing here. I love to teach and it was my passion. Am I happier in the corporate world? Not really, but the people have been supportive and there was an opportunity to spread my wings. I would not want to waste my final years in a place where I was not happy. I left the university without any fanfare. For the twenty three years of service, they gave me a plaque of appreciation and a mediocre watch. I did not even attend the testimonial.

It's the system that sucks. People get promoted not based on credible merits or objective judgment. In this dog eat dog world, the reality is that you need to suck up to those in position so that you can advance and be recognized.

I told my friend that's it's not only the corporate world. It's the same everywhere. I guess some, if not most of us are victims to politics in the workplace. The saying that "it's whom you know" and not what you know is an apt description.

Some say it's part of the work system. It's a process. And yes, the process sucks! No matter how much you deserve getting promoted, or how good you are at your job, there are times that it doesn't get the recognition that you rightfully deserve - no matter how much passion or time you put into becoming better.

And there's the rub.

One gets disappointed and hurt.

But it's not just the disappointment nor hurt that's palpable. It's the consequences that follow. For example, we promote people who are inefficient and not deserving of administrative posts or power. Like the policemen during the last Quirino Grandstage seige. We give them guns even when they do not deserve it. We provide government officials with plum posts and yet they steal from our coffers and immorally justify their take. We make deans or VP for operations or CEOs out of people whose conflicts of interests are so mired that they cannot distinguish rewarding those who are deserving compared to those whose friendships and relations are for vested interests.

I have been silent for some time on this issue, because people can always say that perhaps my sentiments are reflections of a "sour grape".

My partner is right. This perspective depends on which side of the fence you are on. And one will always reason out that he/she deserves the plum post because he/she has worked far harder than you or that he/she has the distinct advantage for knowing the "boss".

A leader cannot be based on popularity alone. But I guess that's the way the world is. Even our elections are based on popularity - either by sentiment, or by influence.

No matter how I look at either side of the coin, influence peddling is immoral and we will remain a pathetic race, unaccountable to those we serve, if we remain blind to objectivity in the workplace.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lessons from a carnage

Unlike other hostage taking scenarios in the Philippines, this one did not have a happy ending. Eight (or nine) people died in the carnage that brought the Philippines notoriety for being one of the most dangerous places to live in.

It started around 1030AM and ended 11 hours later leaving a bloodbath in one of the worst crimes ever committed by a Philippine law enforcement officer.

Whatever triggered it and how it ended is a story in itself.

But the questions asked by the public and the lessons learned should by an eye opener for our police force, who lately have been under the microscope from an appreciative public. Obviously, the torture of suspected criminals in my Facebook wall has received ambivalent responses from Filipinos and the foreign community. Some call it barbaric. Others, it was a form of justice.

The carnage was simply that - a balance of injustice in this country, where the rich don't go to jail and where the poor are miscasted as the scum of the earth. Indeed, if you've got the dough, or you're related to someone in power, then you're treated differently.

Now that the hostage drama is over, a post hoc analysis on the blame game is inevitable.

Who was responsible and could this event have been prevented?

1. Why did the driver stop to pick up the policeman who was armed with an armalite? I mean, the news reports had it that the policeman "hitched" a ride in Intramuros then announced the hostage situation when they were at the Quirino grandstand. And how did he get loose? The driver claimed he used a nailcutter. What a boyscout! Always ready - for this scenario? Duh? And the police investigators just brushed him off as a victim as well.

2. If you watched the LIVE events, you would have laughed at the slow pace of rescue. The policeman-hostage-taker was ready to die. And no one took him seriously. Of course, until he started counting bodies.

3. Then there was the media. Both ABS-CBN and GMA were rushing to the scene. While I admire their bravery at covering such a daring assault, there should be rules on hostage taking and MUST be more sensitive about the matter. Unfortunately, the bus had a TV set in it. And the hostage taker had a full view of what was going on outside. Including the way the police manhandled the brother of the policeman. Right after the manhandling scene, the carnage began. The number of bodies started piling up.

4. The rescue was pitiful. It was comedy cum drama. It just showed how much lack in training our police officers have. Not to mention the poor judgment of media! It turned out to be a circus and I am sure that media will always hide under the cloak of freedom of information, a clause so loosely applied to what they want to say without taking the total situation into consideration. Of course, some people attacked the slow rescue pace of the police, but you must be watching too much NCIS or CSI to get into this conclusion. In fairness, I guess the policemen who were at the scene had to contend with very little equipment including bullet proof vests and other paraphernalia for the rescue. No one wanted to be the next to die.

The government will now have to review this after all the dust has settled. At the end, it would be pathetic that the only excuse we can give is that we need to be forgiven and understood...for after all, this is the banana republic.

[As a background of the bemedaled policeman, copy this link on why he was dismissed from the police force.]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The storms in our lives

Just when you think that life is treating you well, there comes a point when all begins to just cave in.

It can be the loss of a loved one, losing a job, being betrayed by a close friend or your better half, losing your savings or home due to catastrophic events of nature, a victim of criminal offense, or even just plain injustice in the work place or school.

We all fall into circumstances when even having to wake up to a brand new day becomes laborious and painful. No one is exempted from this feeling. It is a fact of life. No one ever said that everything we have comes in a silver platter.

Some had to experience pain before becoming who they are today. Take Manny Pacquiao and Charice Pempengco as basic examples. Both uneducated, they had their own life stories and fought their battles well. Success, they say, comes to those who wait. And while patience is a virtue, it is undeniable that life, sometimes, can be a bitch.

Reality is that in this world, there will always be two players - the protagonist and the antagonist. In Filipino, we call this BIDA and CONTRABIDA. I mean, really, life would be such a bore if everyone would be winners! You'd just have neighbors with BMWs and Audis and Jaguars trying to outdo each other with who has the most money! If everyone had money, who would be our household help? It would mean that even Inday would be earning P1Million a month just to clean your home and she too would be rich!

Or if everyone was pretty and handsome. What do we do with the fat, ugly and pudgy people? Incinerate them?

There is nothing fair in this world. And if we remain cynical rather than facing reality, then we lose finding ourselves in the process. They say that "to one's life some rain must fall". The challenges life poses is not just "making it through the rain" but to the rainbow after the rain and emerge as a better, and stronger person.

I believe in karmas. And while life may not be fair to us today, some people who've remained oppressors will get their day of reckoning. After all, you can't be always on top. Sometimes, you'll need to hit rock bottom to appreciate the climb.

The storms in our lives should teach us to become better and not bitter persons. Only then can we appreciate and enjoy the calm after each storm.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Before and after

Seriously, I had a size 24 waistline when I was in college, all the way up to med school.

I remember that when I did my fellowship in Boston, I had to go to the children's clothes section to buy my clothes! My t-shirts were size 16, my underwear had to be for a 16 year old, and my pants were still size 24! I was 105 pounds when I was in college. A weight I maintained up to my fellowship days. During my fellowship years, I would often be mistaken for a teenager, having the need to show my ID when I would buy a bottle of wine. I think I could have been a great poster boy for Cambodia, where you see this scrawny little malnourished boy wearing a shirt that's a size too big for him.

A couple of decades later and I'm 40 pounds heavier. Gosh! Where did all that fat come from?

Seriously, when I hit 40, I saw the fine lines on my face. It's been less than 5 years since I started my private practice. During residency and fellowship, I didn't have these lines. I know that once I could afford those expensive anti-aging cosmetics from Clinique, I would need to get hold of the whole line. And so my first professional fees went into paying for my facials and those facial lotions, cleansers and creams that I prayed so fervently would retard aging.

Call me vain but I wanted to stay young forever.

But as luck would have it, the call of success would take a toll on my physical appearance. It was like, one day I suddenly woke up and couldn't understand what happened to me all those years. Who is this guy in the mirror? He looks so old.

And so I began the search for the fountain of youth. I tried all the different caviars and Strivectins my poor face and skin could take. Then the added pounds started to show. I was not a health buff, but I needed to find a way to get rid of this extra poundage.

Off to the gym I went. I tell you, beginning a work out regimen at the age of 40 is no joke. It's like my body was telling me - who are you kidding? And I was going to beat the odds. (Wishful thinking was driving me bananas!) I hired a personal trainer to keep me disciplined with my workout. The gym dues were not that expensive, but together with the trainer, that was a killer on the pocket! I would shell out almost P7500 every month, and I paid 6 months in advance so that I wouldn't drop out of the gym. It would pain me to get on the treadmill and lift weights. But not as painful as it would hurt my pocket for the gym and trainer dues.

Then there were the supplements. Whey protein, vitamins, arginine, creatine, fat burners, electric stimulators on the abs, by golly, you name it, I've tried it. And there went my credit card bills. I made GNC practically rich!

It wasn't only the body. The face was also taking a toll. Where did these crow feet across my eyes come from? OMG! Clinique wasn't working anymore. It was time to shift from one cosmetic brand to another. Shu Uemura, Lancome, Estee Lauder, Clarins - Where was the magic wand of science?

A friend of mine told me that today, there is nothing that science cannot do.

Sob sob sob....and the clock just ticks and ticks away...

Sob sob more six pack abs, no more 24 inches waistlines, no more teeny bopper look...

Another look in the fast time flew, now that I'm 52...and counting down to my very privileged senior citizen discount card...

Science will probably work wonders at preserving my youthful look for, hopefully another 10 years and I will look back and wonder where those abs went or those lines grew and the gray hair started to grow and hopefully laugh and look back in the mirror and say - it was the journey stupid!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Of heroes and idols

There are heroes whose lives are worth emulating because of a burning desire to fight for a principle.

And there are those whom we idolize because they are painted to be achievers - whether good or bad, for the wrong or right reasons - sometimes, to the point of being a fanatic.

I have nothing against those who have served as role models or heroes for the changing times of the world. People like Oprah, Ellen Degeneres, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Cory and Ninoy Aquino, and yes, even Manny Pacquiao and Efren Penaflorida, to name a few, have made a name for themselves in their lifetime and will probably remain a household name for a long time to come. Their journey will serve as an inspiration to many.

Then there are those whom the mob idolize.

One cannot deny the fact that there are people whom we truly envy and wouldn't it be fervent wish to be in their shoes? I mean, who wouldn't want to be the Lindsay Lohan or David Beckham or Posh Spice or Piolo Pascual? I guess the farthest many of us can get to being a Piolo-look alike is to wear Bench underwear and probably fantasize that all our flab leaking out of our skin will mold into becoming Piolo's ripped body by wearing the skimpy underwear. While we fantasize what we want to, reality is that when you look in the mirror, you see some fat boy who looked wrapped by a pair of bright colored garters really really tight that it seems he was going to die of asphyxiation from his fats. Either that or you see a really skinny malnourished guy that's already in the smallest size underwear and yet looks like some boxer shorts hanging from his body when it's actually the skimpiest bikini available. Kidding aside (or who said I was), media, advertisement and technology today have collided to provide us an image that we are NOT beautiful in our own ways and will need to live to standards of physical beauty as the billboards would have wanted us to be. Which is not all wrong, but leaves you with a feeling of being incomplete if you did not live up to the standards of your idol.

Being in sync with the trend has become the gold standard for many of us. Someone told me that a survey showed that I-Pad owners are being profiled and survey says that they are most likely to be "wealthy, arrogant and are people who feel they are better than the rest...". With the current techie boom is the fashion trend that bags are designed to fit a netbook or a MacAir or an I-Pad. It's hip and chic to have a BlackBerry. Last weekend, when we were dining at Cyma, the busboy had a BlackBerry to boot. about what the average Pinoy in a third world wants!

With so much commercialism today, it has become more difficult to make people differentiate "wants" from "needs". Believe me when I say that it is even more difficult for parents to teach this among their children simply because they themselves are in dire confusion over the "necessary" or "essential" things in life. Even my household help has a difficult time discerning this as my maids use Belo soaps because only Belo touches their skin in the hope that someday their skin will glow and transform to become as fair as Kim Chiu or that my driver has Crocs slip-ons (and owning a pair has not even crossed my mind and still swear by my Spartan Slippers from Divisoria). Or that my gardener can be reached either through his Smart mobile phone or when he is out of reach, through his Sun unlimited postpaid plan. Or that the average Juan de la Cruz dreams of buying a motorcycle, which explains why Metro Manila will be the next Saigon in, give or take, 5 years from today.

It has become more difficult to inspire people these days.

Being a model citizen, following rules and regulations, learning to queue and wait in line, being disciplined and being morally and ethically right has become the road less traveled for many. Some started a dream by wanting to make a difference in this world. Either to save it or to leave "footprints in the sand" for the path we take so that others may be inspired to follow later on. Many of us have strayed from what started as a good beginning because of the "distractions" that have come our way. Some have risked their principles simply because of "wants" rather than "needs".

Some of us have forgotten the heroes we started off our journey with. Some of us started on the journey with a friend or partner hoping that the inspirations our heroes provided would rub into us. Somewhere along the way we strayed from the dream we envisioned ourselves and lost focus on time and perspective. We lost the inspiration because we were distracted by the idols that stood on the fork in the middle of the road.

In the end, we lost ourselves...and the hero within just died.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ganid! the Filipino word for GREEDY. I like the Filipino version word as it emphatically points out a deeper meaning for the word greed. If a Pinoy calls you "ganid", it actually means that he is insulting you, cursing you for a greed beyond compare!

Yesterday, the newspapers published the data from the Commission on Audit regarding the highest paid government officials in the Philippines in 2009. I will not round up the whole list, but I will give you the top 20 alone:

1. Arreza, Armand (SBMA) - 26,865,923.20
2. Ricafort, Benigno (CDC) - 14,506,455.74
3. Garcia, Edgardo F (DBP) - 12,718,942.61
4. Tetangco, Amando Jr (BSP) - 10,772,830.14
5. Bitonio, Benedicto Ernesto Jr (DBP) - 9,309,042.75
6. Geronimo, Rolando (DBP) - 9,080,633.12
7. Abaya, Narciso L (BCDA) - 7,654,597.14
8. Templo, Horacio T (SSS) - 7,073,488.92
9. Samia, Armando O (DBP) - 6,983,533.14
10. Quirino, Ma. Therese (DBP) - 6,753,136.41
11. Puno, Isaac III S (BCDA) - 6,010,701.40
12. Guevarra, Jesus II (DBP) - 5,672.395.45
13. Suratos, Armando L (BSP) - 5,525,347.73
14. Maldia, Wilfredo C (LBP) - 5,473,755.94
15. Sarmiento, Andres C (LBP) - 5,406,907.99
16. Garcia, Oscar O (MWSS-CO) - 5,401,391.22
17. Tejada, Benilda (DBP) - 5,216,276.46
18. Allado, Diosdao Jose M (MWSS-CO) - 4,969,239.59
19. Selispara, Crescencio R (LBP) - 4,917,216.99
20. Guinigundo, Diwa C (SSS) - 4,889,136.21

SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority), CDC (Clark Development Corp), DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines), SSS (Social Security System), LBP (Land Bank of the Philippines), MWSS-CO (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System), SSP (Social Security System), BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas)

Amazingly astounding! It makes you want to puke! The total of the 41 people listed on the COA amounted to over 2 BILLION pesos!

No wonder people want to be appointed in positions in government controlled corporations. My God - their salaries are not only "competitive with the private sector", but shocking by government standards. The perks are gargantuan and what is sickening about the whole situation is that government service is PUBLIC service. You cannot go on claiming that the "best and the brightest" work for the government and need to get compensated in this manner. Gimme a break man! If you think the pay grade is too low, don't join the government. I am sure that there are those who have their hearts and mind to serve the public in a capacity where there is no vested interest at all. And the names that appeared? I don't even know them. They're nobody! Their names don't even ring a bell.

Take Arreza for example. His basic annual salary is only P1.57M. But he received P18.16M in extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses, P6.832M for "others", P145,880 in bonus and incentives and P100,800 in representation and transportation allowances.

Guess what? Under the 2009 budget, the extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses can include all the following: meetings, seminars, conferences, official entertainment, public relations, educational and cultural activities, contributions to charitable institutions, membership in government associations, subscription to professional technical journals, office equipment and supplies, and other similar expenses NOT SUPPORTED BY THE REGULAR BUDGET ALLOCATION.

But how do these people get away with it? Well, they simply sit en banc as board directors, pat themselves in the back and say "we need to approve the following perks and bonuses and extra money and give more incentives to ourselves" and then it is cascaded down to the lowly government employee. Then everybody is happy! And everybody keeps quiet. It's alright their bosses get quintiple or hextuple the pay grade as long as they get the same bonuses (according to how much their salary grade is, of course).

No wonder people in government fight tooth and nail in order to stay in position. Sanamagan this banana republic. It peeves me, because this is not their money to start off with. This is public funds! They're from our sweat, blood, and tears. We work harder than them in order for them to splurge?

Greedy is a light term for these people. Ganid! Sana gisahin kayo sa sarili ninyong mantika.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Young, Fast, Furious and Dead

Jason Ivler, Mark Dizon, Ivan Padilla - they're just a few names that have seen their claim to fame in the newspapers lately.

What do they have in common? They're all young, good-looking, come from supposedly well-to-do families, are from broken homes, are into drugs and women, live life in the fast and furious lane.

Mark Dizon is 28 years old and has been arrested as the primary suspect in a string of serial killings among foreigners who have married Filipino wives and living in the Philippines in Angeles City. So far, the death toll was 10 before he was captured. The gruesome murders alarmed the once sleepy town in Pampanga. Without remorse, this young man who claimed to be a computer technician and reflexologist in his spare time became one of the most wanted prior to his being caught for the alleged crimes.

The other day, Ivan Padilla, 23 years old was gunned down after a supposed showdown with the police when they gave chase to a car which he recently jacked from a call center agent in Alabang. Padilla, who had registered home address at the posh Forbes Park and Ayala Alabang was noted to be seen in the company of the once notorious Alabang Boys, whose infamy was riddled in robbery and drugs as well. Today, the press reports that the company of Padilla are actually a string of men and women whose ages range from 20-30 years old. The females are all sexied up and are usually seen in "gimmik" places or where the young people party most often till the wee hours of the morning. Padilla, with his matinee idol looks took a bullet in the head and died in the shoot out.

The high profile stories published in the newspapers are not limited to our country nor are they limited to the rich and famous as well. Obviously, because they are unknown, the majority of the crimes committed by the youth are not published as the media arbitrarily defends that they are inconsequential and would prefer to devote more space of the rift between Philippine Air Line and the pilots and cabin crew.

What happened to our youth? If the attitude and perception of the youth of today are towards materialistic gains by making a quick buck through a crime, then there must be something wrong with the way society has made it seem this way. Perhaps to a large degree, media has made an impression that to have money is all that there is to in life - in order to be glamorous and beautiful. Even the ugly ducklings have simply gained "pogi points" based on the kind of car they driver. Never mind that the guy is pudgy and ugly, so long as he's behind a Lexus.

But I believe that beyond all the media marketing and advertising is the role model that our families provide. Good boys and girls gone bad is NOT simply an overnight sensation. It is a reflection of the kind of family that one grows up in. Our youth get hooked on drugs not because of the company they keep but the company that does not keep them well at all. As parents, some of us are too busy making money that it has become the central theme of not coming home to be with the family even for important events during your child's growing years. And as parents (or grandparents, at that) wallow themselves in "all work and no play" in the name of money, we teach our children this kind of value - that what matters most is the cash we make, no matter how we make it.

We cannot keep blaming technology for what it has delivered to us today. Whether the world wide web has provided us with more access to either information or disinformation, is not the problem. It is, after all, whether we have fulfilled our duties and responsibilities as parents that matters. I have always said that we can go on blaming the world and the walls for all our woes but forget to look at ourselves to see if the problem has been us in the first place.

And then there are the parents who will use their children to get rich or justify the fact that their children have "talent" and need to cash in on these "talents" no matter how idiotic they are. It's alright if they skip class in favor of a slot in WOWOWEE or EAT BULAGA or SHOWTIME or PILIPINAS GOT TALENT or whatever reality show there is, as long they bring home money. It's no wonder why thousands and thousands push, pull, and shove their way into a TV show in the hope that they will become tomorrow's star!

I have nothing against wealth and the amassing of more wealth. The saying that "the end does not justify the means" is most apt in this scenario. I have nothing against stardom. There are those that have talent and rightfully deserve their place in the sun. There are those, however, that have no talent at all and are pimped into prostituting just their looks and body so that they can achieve fame and fortune.

There are many other people like them out there that idolize life in the fast lane. I will not pass judgement to their cases, but in reality, their answer to infamy is to living life while they are young. Here today, dead tomorrow.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Really TALL!

A friend had given me a signed autograph copy of the book "Tall Story" by Candy Gourlay.

I have a few Filipino writers whom I'd give the thumbs up status of "I LIKE". While I do get to read Filipino writings, I am not a happy reviewer as I end up criticizing more of what the books lack and rant about why it even rakes in a sale, rather than appreciating the message (if there is any) about the book.

Last Sunday, in spite of the heavy week ahead and all the "to do" things on my mind, I needed a dose of sanity from all the stress, I started with page one.

It was from Andi's perspective.

Rush hour.
So many armpits, so little deodorant. The whole world is heading to Heathrow to meet long-lost relatives. I am wedged between the tummies of the two fattest men in the world.
Mum's practically vibrating. Like she's overdosed on coffee. Which she probably has.
Dad's got his arms around her like a lock. She's fidgeting so hard and the train's so crowded. "It'll be ages yet, Mary Ann," he whispers into her ear.
"I just want to make sure we're there when he comes out."
"He's sixteen He'll be fine!"
Dad kisses her forehead. Which isn't a stretch because the crowd is pushing the so close together his face is practically pasted to her head.
"But William" - Mum glares at his chin - "he's so TALL!"
Why is Mum so psycho about Bernardo being tall? She's been going on about it since we found out he was coming to London. "Don't be surprised now, Andi, your brother is tall. Tall, you hear me?"
Does she think I needed impressing? I mean, Mum isn't exactly God's gift to the human race in the height department. I'm the smallest in Year Eight and I'm still taller than her. She's so short she needs an ID to prove she's old enough to buy wine at the supermarket. "I don't understand," she always argues at the Tesco Express. "Where I come from there's never any problem."
Well, London isn't the Philippines, Mum.
The two tummies are practically holding me up in the carriage, I could fall asleep and remain vertical. Hopefully it won't be this bad on the return trip with Bernardo and his luggage.
I can't believe I'm minutes away from becoming someone's little sister.

Those lines from the first two pages of the book had me smiling and enthralled in what was going to be a good read.

The short novel was a "feel good" book spanning two continents, two cultures, two lives intertwined and it was perfectly crafted in a way where story telling couldn't be more pleasant reading.

It tells the story of Andi and Bernardo, two half-siblings parted by 7,000 miles and their individual anticipation and life stories after 16 years of not meeting one another except for one trip to the Philippines when Andi was little and had no idea or memory of Bernardo except in the pictures on the frames in their home in London.

While Andi was growing up in England, in another part of the world was her half-brother Bernardo who was growing up (really tall) in the Philippines. The contrast in setting is timely as many of our fellow Filipinos share the same "cultural differences" with the current trend of having more Overseas Foreign Workers seeking greener pastures, being uprooted from the native country and finally finding home.

Beyond the lives of Andi and Bernardo, however, Gourlay is able to weave into the 225 pages novel the Filipino culture of superstitions and myths and intertwining it with the lives of the people in the Philippines. It touches upon the hardship of Filipino OFWs who strive continuously to make each of their own dreams come true even in a land far, far away.

I am amazed at the story-telling prowess of Gourlay as the novel evolves into more than just sharing life stories from two vast perspectives, but keeps the reader laughing, smiling, and even teary-eyed at a simple story on life and love. It was written with a lot of heart poured into the story-telling. What is most amazing about the book is how one can practically immerse himself into the story and as a Filipino reading this, I am proud at how Gourlay was able to make me feel Filipino again.

Of course, there is the fact that the ending of the novel was quite abrupt. But I guess the message of the author was well delivered already from the first 150 pages of the book. Maybe I am used to novels that are as thick as Ken Follett's that seem to have to be saga after saga after saga. And while I am no Oprah Winfrey, I am, I believe, a better judge of the kind of books that are worth buying and reading.

I went to Powerbooks at the Alabang Town Center yesterday to get a few copies for my friends as gifts as well. Unfortunately they could not find a copy as they said they have it but don't know where they put it. Such a shame for a bookstore that splatters all foreign novels and promote so much foreign literature that they forget that they are a local bookstore and must put books as good as these on the front shelves to showcase to the Pinoys that beyond the foreign novels of Shopaholics and Stephen King or Dan Brown is a simple yet wonderful novel that every Pinoy should be proud of.

My hats off to Gourlay for a great novel. I am looking forward to more good readings like these. It's a "curl up in your bed" with a hot choco and cookies on a rainy day kind of reading. One that I guarantee will leave you feeling good - for a long time.

My review: Two thumbs and two toes up!

[And two thumbs down for Powerbooks and Fully Booked for being such a bitch and snob for books written by Filipinos.]