Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This is my final blog for the year. My family and I are spending the New Year in Hong Kong. Away from the pollution in Metro Manila as the New Year blasts its way into town.

I have never been an avid fan of fireworks being blown up in our own home. I actually detest it considering the noise, pollution and garbage it makes after the fireworks in the village. I have never understood why the government has never ever controlled this practice of blowing up the "village" or the city. From what I understand, the Philippines is the only country left blowing up this darn third world nation.

The other day, while I was watching the news, I saw some reporters from ABS-CBN interviewing the multitude of revelers buying fireworks (and illegal ones at that) in Bocaue, Bulacan. While I also understand that Bocaue is the pyrotechnic capital of this country, I wouldn't give a sh*t if this type of business closed.

When some of the interviewees were asked why they insisted on buying pyrotechnics, they all have different and stupid answers. One said that because it is tradition (duh? whose tradition). Another said that they'll light some fireworks on behalf of the victims of Sendong (I wanted to blow up the guy's face right there). While another said that it's only once a year and that they have money to burn anyway (wrong answer - the guy must be a government official)!

There are more reasons on why individual household revelry using pyrotechnics should be banned forever in the Philippines.

For one, it causes damages insurmountable and of course, not repairable if one's health or limb is blown off. Or if a house burns down (or the whole sitio for that matter) because of some reckless idiot who decides to set off illegal fireworks.

Then there's the aftermath of pollution. We all know that climate change has contributed to the vast flooding and natural calamities and that pollution through this insane practice has been a factor. There's also so much garbage after the revelry that the dumpsites get overfilled with just the new year's trash. So much for going Green in the Philippines.

The government spends more money on having to contend with taking care of these miserable pathetic people who get injured in blasts. And when the government needs to take care of them, they're using our money from the taxes collected.

Finally, all these gunpowder can be amassed and used for terrorist activities. Talk about counter-terrorism. It begins by addressing this but the Philippine National Police and government cannot even eradicate this annual habit of individual household revelry.

And if that's not enough, it's also the season when idiots in this country fire their guns in the air to greet the new year! Year in and year out, there are casualties due to irresponsible gun owners (whether legal or illegal) firing their guns in the air?!?!!? Watdfuk are these idiots thinking?

It's about time we make the revelry a social affair. Each town or city is allocated to have ONE place (plaza or seaside or city hall) have the fireworks display for the New Year countdown. Let everyone enjoy the spectacle of greeting the new year in a more orderly, responsible and safe manner.

Happy New Year to all and have a safe one.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Gatherings

I heard several news this month on the passing on of some classmates back in high school and college. It reminded me of our mortality and how short life is and how we need to live it fully.

I rarely meet up with colleagues for reunions. It's not that I don't like reunions nor the company. It's because I don't have the time for it or that it conflicts with several of my already piled up appointments for the day.

This December, however, I did take the time to clear some of my calendars to accommodate two reunions.

The first was with some of my batch mates in my college days. We belonged to the class of 1979 for Bachelor of Science major in Mathematics at the College of Science at UST. We were a handful of mathematics majors. Truth be told, we were the best the college ever produced! Most of us are successful by industry standards and well, we've tried to make the most of our lives. While we're still all alive and well, some of us are doting grandparents already! Even if only a bunch of us were able to come to the reunion, hosted by the ever gracious Gigi Bautista-Rapadas (her dad Mr. Felix Bautista was an icon to recon with and I am truly honored to have been under his wings during our Varsitarian days) at her home. Myrna, who I missed during my trip to New York last October but flew in to Manila this month came to the reunion. Husband and wife Benjie and Beth Tan had come straight from work. Agnes took the time to be with us in spite of the distance traveled as well. I cut my clinic short that day, took the time to laugh, catch up with our life stories and uhmmmmm....make that special appearance with classmates from the past who never seemed to have aged a single day (okay so I exaggerated here a bit, but you've got to hand the fact that we all looked great). After 32 years, this was the first time I graced our reunion. And I enjoyed it!

A week ago, some of my co-residents during our residency training in Pediatrics at the UST Hospital had flown in from the US. Again, I missed the chance to be with them during my trip to Boston and New York two months because of "conflicts in schedule". I received a phone call from Gigi that Meg and Babes were going to be in town and could I join them for lunch? Because Gigi called me 2-3 days before the said event, I stared at my iPhone calendar in disbelief at the very short notice. I told her I'd get back immediately. At the mall that afternoon, I had bumped into Connie Paulino and told her of the "gathering". Connie was quick to affirm that she would attend. Period. Where, when and what time were the only questions she asked. Wow! If Connie could clear her calendar, then so could I. I told my secretaries to clear the Monday for me. Never mind if I had to reschedule some meetings but I was having lunch with my friends. At Chef Jessie at the Rockwell Towers, the five of us had huddled like we always did during our residency days. We told stories, swapped lives, looked back at how life during our training days were, talked about sex or the lack of it (LOL!!!) and yes, enjoyed the short time we could with one another.

That evening I had to cut my clinic short as well to go our Christmas Party for the Department of Pediatrics of Asian Hospital. Held at the Ayala Alabang Country Club and organized by my co-chair Bettina, the party (over pasta and pizza) turned out to be a lot of fun, with many of us letting our hair (or whatever is left of it) down and just simply having fun - like children,
once again!

In all the gatherings I attended, the thought that perhaps this would be someone's last get together dawned on me. We are, after all, not getting any younger. And somehow, the people in our past who are still with us today have taken our journey together. Our paths will cross, no matter how near or far, how long you've not seen each other, how well we've done (or not) in our careers, relationships and love life...and we need to be remembered somehow and we need to stay in touch to some degree.

It took these gatherings to remind me how good life has been and how precious friends are. Here's to all my friends out there! Cheers to life!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lessons from Sendong

It was quiet in Manila that Saturday night. The rains just poured. In the southern part of the Philippines though, Tropical Depression Sendong was making landfall in Mindanao. This region of the Philippines rarely has typhoons or storms pass through it. But Mother Nature had other plans. It wasn't even a typhoon. It was just a storm. The rains poured all night. It caught the people in the area unprepared with the flash floods.

The morning after was as gloomy as the weather. Houses were washed away. Cars were thrown on rooftops. The water from the mountains had come raging into the cities. And by the time nature stood back to watch its wrath - bodies were coming in from the river basins. Now the death toll is over 1000 and still counting.

While many of Christiandom celebrate the coming of Christmas, one cannot help but empathize with the plight of the people ravaged by Sendong. The easiest answer to this is to blame Mother Nature or Global Warming. But one can never fathom the inexplicable reason answers to the question "why us"?

The pictures posted on the internet were too gory to even look at. When I caught sight of some of them, I could not hold back my tears. It was too painful, even for those with a hardened heart. With rescuers sifting through the decomposing bodies, people holding on to lifeless loved ones, and the total death toll passing over 1000 with hundreds still missing, one cannot help but look for someone to blame.

Whether you're Muslim or Christian, there is no god to blame in this equation. Whatever we have in this world, is so to speak - God-given. And while government will be quick to claim that natural calamity is unpredictable, let's face the fact that both local and national government authorities have actually been responsible for the devastations we experience from one calamity after another. In spite of the multitude of natural calamities that come our way year in and year out, we are NEVER EVER prepared for a disaster. Local government officials make money from government projects that are allocated for the improvement of the community. They undercut the budget so that one peso in one pocket is ten pesos in theirs. National government officials are either too dumb to see that or in connivance with their counterpart thieves in the local government. They tolerate, if not encourage, the crooked political machineries that churn their way using public funds for personal gains. They build their palatial homes in areas where not even high water or strong winds will blow their houses down. At the end of the day, it is we who bury our dead and they who celebrate with our money.

With all the pompous bravado of the Bureau of Internal Revenue running after businessmen and professionals, it becomes understandable why it is difficult for people to pay correct taxes knowing that those who pay their dues correctly actually don't reap the benefits of a legitimate collection. Had the taxes been put to good use, there should be no reason why natural calamities become our nemesis. And when Mother Nature reels its ugly head, we need to dig deeper into our pockets in order to help a community devastated from natural disaster that was caused by the local and national government officials who had no sense of foresight on improving their community so that disasters like these do not ever happen again.

But the Filipinos are a forgetful race. We have short-term memory losses. We forget the evils of a dictatorial government and elect their offsprings into office. We forget the evils of a cheater and back her up because she has been good to Bishops and Generals. We forget the evils of murderers that run in family clans all for the sake of greed. We easily forget because as a people, we are sad to say, masochists. We like the pain that is inflicted on us. Sadly put, we have no pride in our country and in ourselves. The only way we can run away from all these is to migrate and become OFWs or citizens of other countries - hoping to escape from a painful past and never to ever look back again.

Year in and year out, a natural calamity occurs - reminding us on how vulnerable we are. But our leaders never learn. Our people never learn. When the shanties are washed away by floods and they bury their dead, the shanties are rebuilt in the same exact place where peoples lives and limbs are at risk. And the local government looks away because these people living in the "esteros" are their voting population. Government officials will never attempt to find a place to relocate them. Trees in mountains in our provinces are denuded because of illegal businesses. Even pristine beaches are bastardized in the name of big business. And when one natural calamity comes, we watch and weep. Never mind the countless lives in the name of graft and corruption.

I am disheartened and angry at the scenario year in and year out on lives and properties lost senselessly because of greedy and corrupt government officials.

What will it take to awaken our senses? How intense a calamity will it take before the Filipinos learns its lessons from nature's wrath?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How do you solve a problem like Manila?

It's the Christmas rush. What better place to be peeved than in the roads of Metro Manila. Ho ho ho!!! Even Santa Claus would have a nightmare trying to get Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph to land safely without having to smash through some squatters' shanty in Manila.

Yes my dear Virginia, there is no urban planning in the Philippines. I don't think there is a local government official that even has the brains or the balls to consider urban planning as his major platform in trying to make the city they govern liveable. As Filipinos, we reap what we sow and ho ho ho...a jolly joke to us all when we get caught in the nightmare of traffic (and this is all year round) or flooding (and this is scary because just a few raindrops and we're inundated) or fire (and this is not a laughing matter because most of the houses in the city are virtual fire traps), we point the blame at our government officials.

I decided to write this blog at the back of my car, while my driver is getting frustratingly irritated at the traffic in the Metro. In short, here are my unsolicited ideas on how to decrease the traffic in Metro Manila (or should I say, the Philippines):

1. Let's build a sky on EDSA! So the skyway has eased traffic going the south and north of the metro. Thanks to the skyway, but at whose expense? Obviously, it's the average Juan de la Cruz who forks out the costs on this short, but expensive skyway. As a matter of fact, traveling from Buendia to Alabang has been a breeze - takes less than 10 minutes if you take the skyway or 20 minutes if you take the at-grade road below. But you also spend $3.50 for the 16.5 km stretch (or about $0.21 or P9.00 per kilometer) - the most expensive toll fee in the world. But the toll ways is profitable - for both the government (because Kim Henares will not have to worry about tax collection any longer) and the private sector (because it's a one time investment for the builders and it's a one-armed slot machine money making venture all the way thereafter). Imagine - EDSA is about 24 km long. At $0.25 per kilometer they can charge $6 (P261.00) per way from the Heritage Hotel in Pasay City to Monumento in Caloocan City. My simple take is this - you can afford a car, you can afford to pay the road fees however extravagant they may be. The only thing here is where to put the skyway. Higher than the current MRT of course! This can be the next wonder of the world for the Philippines! We will look aesthetically the worst in the world but who the hell cares? It's the Philippines and we're third world anyway.

2. Paradigm shift for MMDA and traffic enforcers. It's about time these pathetic leeches who are inconsequential to the work force except for bribery techniques be vanquished from the face of EDSA or anywhere in the world. Instead of REALLY working to ease traffic congestion, these lackeys congregate with their peers (talk about the literal meaning of "highway robbers"). So here's the take - with the number coding scheme enforced in the Metro Manila area, the robbers...este just that...rob...este enforce the number coding. They run after the private cars. Even if the damn jeeps and buses and tricycles and pedicabs load and unload in prohibited zones AND IN FRONT OF THEIR VERY EYES, they turn a blind eye on this. It makes your blood boil when you see that the root cause of traffic is the fact that these supposed robbers...este enforcers are NOT doing their jobs. Like a horse with blinders on, they just look one way and steal the other way. They're practically busy chatting on the cellphone or texting to God knows who and scamper away when it rains like Gremlins afraid to multiply. What peeves me is that their bosses also turn a blind eye on this problem! NO MMDA HAS EVER ENFORCED DISCIPLINE IN ITS RANKS! For the very love of God - your president PNOY has the slogan - ANG TUWID NA DAAN! PUTANG INANG BAYAN ITO...ASAN ANG TUWID NA DAAN KUNG BALUKTOT ANG DAAN NG MGA LANGGAM? (tsk tsk tsk...lonely battle cry for PNoy). They can keep their jobs but REMOVE THE NUMBER CODING SCHEME so that they focus on what is essential.

3. Let's play KILL THE JAYWALKER. Fueled by the violence of video games, here's one in real life. Never mind the bleeding hearts of the people at the Commission on Human Rights - jaywalking is a crime! And punishable by law! I have never understood this country. We paint so many streets with pedestrian lanes, build so many elevated pedestrian walkways, seriously place barbed wires or high fences in the middle of the road so that these pesky jaywalkers use the right place to cross the streets YET they insist on crossing the road at the point of "most convenience". Never mind if they have to play tag with the oncoming ten-wheeler or if they have to jump over the wired fences (even if you place a high voltage wiring, I'm sure these idiots will find a way to get across them) - they're like the Nike advertisement - JUST DO IT! If you ran over them, it's still the drivers fault (they call it involuntary manslaughter due to reckless imprudence.) If the government came out with a law to the effect that "motorists who run over people that are caught jaywalking or who cross the streets in NON PEDESTRIAN lane zones will be rewarded accordingly: P100,000 for every senior citizen run over, P200,000 for all adults 18-59 years old, and P500,000 for everyone under 18 years old", I'm quite sure that NO ONE will jaywalk anymore. We can alway have a test case and see how that works. Let's just say "MAY PABUYA ANG NAGMAMANEHO PAG NAKASAGASA NG JAYWALKER!" Game ON!!!!

4. No additional public utility vehicles. I don't care if the jeepney is the national symbol of transportation in the Philippines. I don't even give a f*ck who Sarao is. But if there are public transportations I loathe, they are the jeepneys and tricycles. I don't also give a f*ck if the tricycle can house 30 people in one travel. I also don't give a sh*t about the jeepney being colorful and extraordinarily gay and rowdy! Finally, I don't give a damn if the jeepney drivers don't have a job because they don't have a jeep. My line of thinking is simple - jeepney, tricycle and pedicab drivers make up less than 0.5% of the workforce in this country. They don't pay taxes and they don't contribute to the growth of the Philippine economy. They violate so many traffic rules and regulations and are inconsequential in the life of the average Juan de la Cruz. The jeepneys they drive are major pollutants and they only bribe emission testing centers to make their pathetic tin can motored vehicles run on the road. There should be a project on the part of the government to decrease the life expectancy of these jeepneys. For example, in 2012 those jeepneys ending in plate numbers 1 and 2 will not be re-registered by the LTO any longer (like the K12 program by the DepEd). Then in 2013 those ending in plate numbers 3 and 4. In 2014 those ending in plate numbers 5 and 6 and so on and so forth until all the jeepneys are gone in 2016. And an accelerated program for tricycles - all ending in odd numbers will not be allowed to be re-registered in 2012 and all even numbers in 2013. And a full phase pullout of pedicabs in June 2012. Oh how wonderful and happy this country would be!!! Oh joy oh joy oh pure joy!!! There will no more chaos on the streets and road rage would be minimized. We can send the jeepney, tricycle and pedicab drivers to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazhakstan, and whatever -tan you can think of!

5. Burn all the SM malls. I have nothing against the SM malls itself. While they cater mostly to the C, D and E class, they're also situated in the worst areas of the metro. They're right in the heart of the traffic choke points. These Henry Sy malls shouldn't even be in the areas where they are. This shopping complex is the perfect example of an urban planner that probably got his degree paying his way (or giving his teachers gifts just to pass) for good grades in college and was able to put up his business using grease money. Sanamagan! And they rise up faster than ants building a molehill. Let's face it, if you pulverize these SM malls (except the Mall of Asia) to the ground, traffic will cease by 30%. All local government units must be allowed only ONE SM MALL each. Which means that there should be only ONE SM MALL in Manila, ONE SM MALL in Alabang, ONE SM MALL in Las Pinas, etc. And all the SM Malls should be located inside a village. There should be NO direct access to the main roads. Kidding aside, when I asked a 7 year old patient of mine what the national park of the Philippines is, his answer was - SM! Ewan! I almost slapped the mother (who was terribly happy with the WRONG ANSWER of her son. And we wonder why they needed to add one more year of schooling to the grade school children. Sheesh...).

Come to think about it, the problem with traffic in the Philippines is not that is has NO urban planning. It's the fact that these little towns and cities are so politicized that they local government officials feel and think they have their own kingdoms and do as they wish. I guess even PNoy with his last remaining hurrah will not be able to solve a problem like Manila.

But I challenge PNoy and his cabinet of merry men. Instead of yakking on CJ Corona, please, do something that challenges even the smallest of balls or brains.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mga echosera ng taon 2011!

The year is almost over. It's time for my annual countdown. Let's start with the people who made the news this year - yung mga Echosera ng 2011!

1. Piolo Pascual

There's really nothing much more to say, after KC had said her piece. Aired on "The Buzz", KC Concepcion had cried her heart out to the public and to Boy Abunda on her relationship with Papa Piolo. Confirming to the world - in not so many words - the "man" that Piolo isn't. Of course, ABS-CBN has been mum about this and hopefully, as time heals all wounds, the public will keep quiet or quietly drift away from the issue of Piolo's gender. After all, girls, boys and gays shriek over Piolo with or without clothes on. Without any doubt, this hunkaloid wins hands down for the title of Queer...errr..Queen of all ka-echosan this year! Bow!

2. KC Concepcion

If there's anything that zaps a woman's ire most is not the fact that her better half has slept with another woman. It's the fact that her male lover sleeps with men! But her revelation over prime time talk show did not catch the public as a surprise. In short, many knew (or suspected) all along that her beau swung both ways. For someone who was schooled in Paris and has both beauty and brains, it was maniacal on her part to have dreamt that her prince charming would end up being a graceful princess. KC should have just done a Carmina Villaroel. In the midst of the gayness of Rustom, Carmina stood her ground, kept quiet, slowly drifted from the relationship and found eternal happiness in a real man - Zoren Legaspi. KC should provide closure to this matter. Walk away from the bad experience my dear and next time, remember to listen to your gay friends. You were warned!

3. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

In between her alleged "rare" illnesses and the alleged election sabotage during her term as president of the Republic of the Philippines, the "taray" bulilit was at it again. First, was her attempt to leave the country because of her medical illness. Then when she couldn't get a dramatic exit, it had to be another form of drama at St. Luke's Global. The controversy had created a greater rift in the already troubled relationship between the executive and judiciary. As the real-life drama of GMA's "hospital arrest" unfolded, no one was as interested in the travails of the ex-president because no one really gave a damn of what happened to her, except her few staunch supporters (mostly in the Supreme Court) and the people who need to repay back her largesse during her term in office.

4. Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona

No supreme court justice has hogged the limelight as much as the midnight appointee of Ate Glue, in SC Justice Renato Corona. Corona had served as GMAs chief of staff when she was Vice President. He was then appointed SC associate justice in GMAs term and eventually got the plum position as Chief right before the term of GMA ended. With so many decisions in FAVOR of GMA during her term and even after her term in office, it makes the judiciary look scornfully wrong when it comes to deciding on matters of law, especially expediting a request from your former boss to resolve. Even Erap had his day in court and was not treated kindly by the judiciary. And while the Supreme Court justices insist that there is autonomy between the executive and judiciary, there smacks doubt among the citizens of this country on the rationality of decisions being forked out from the magistrates of the high court at the way they're swinging their decisions in favor of the "little girl that should be put to sleep" .

5. Court Administrator Midas Marquez

He was never even famous. No one even knew who he was. But no one in the Supreme Court has been more showbiz than the youngest court administrator called Midas Marquez. The gay columnists are after the "cutie" who's been the controversial spokesperson of the supreme court justices in their riveting decisions regarding the fate of GMA. Midas has had his day (not in court) guesting in various TV shows and, of all places, in Ricky Lo's column in the Philippine Star. Now we all know that the Midas sleeps in boxers, wears large t-shirts and underwear, and size 10 shoes (no it's not the size of his dick), works 15 hours a day, spends weekend at home, doesn't have time for other women, has two children already in high school, hardly goes on vacation, brings his work home, has a satisfactory sex life with his wife...uhmmm...not really a place and an interview for someone who's supposed to be respected by the courts in the land. It's quite obvious that the public nor the press did not react kindly to the falling off of the microphone in an interview, rousing suspicions on his sexual orientation as well. (click on the video above and judge for yourself)

6. Mo Twister

No greater wrath than a man who loses his baby because his lover wanted an abortion. And blabbermouth Mo Twister had been most vocal and viral about the abortion of Rhian Ramos on their baby. With GMA 7 taking sides to this "reproductive health" saga, they're ready to throw the book on Mo Twister. And Rhian has taken the vile side of castigating Mo (even if the guy is really worthless) at the accusations of the abortion. DJ Mo has decided to pack up his bags and leave. He has announced to the world that he is going back to New York City where he has a job waiting for him and he would start life anew. But the airwaves can't seem to keep the tongues wagging and Mo, well...the guy isn't even leaving YET! He says he will still stay in the Philippines to get this controversial issue straightened out. While we are truly, deeply, and emphatically sorry for his loss, we'd like to see him keep his words - LEAVE! MOVE ON! GET A NEW LIFE! And stop stalking Rhian! She has decided to move on - I hope you get the picture Mo!

7. Rhian Ramos

There's no denial in the alleged YouTube video of ex-boyfriend Mo Twister claiming that she's had an abortion. On GMA news, it was just a sobbing Rhian claiming that she's been harassed by the video of Mo. And since there's no word about it from her end, there must be some truth to it. As to why GMA 7 isn't even investigating this allegation of Mo on what Rhian did, and the fact that GMA 7 people are even up in arms to defend Rhian on this, doesn't really speak well of the network condoning murder in the name of showbiz! It cannot be denied that GMA 7 has also produced the most number of stars from their stable that had a child out of wedlock or teen pregnancy. Jenelyn Mercado was the most recent, until of course, this Rhian Ramos scandal. There should be some boundaries defining the thin line of decency in showbiz. And abortion just cuts it right in the middle.

8. Anabelle Rama

Child labor abuse and oral defamation. That's what the big-mouth mother of Richard, Raymond and Ruffa Gutierrez is now facing. She is accused of subjecting the kids of former TV star(?) Nadia Montenegro to grueling hours on camera and time away from school. Now that the case is in court, the verbal abuse of Anabelle caught live on television shows a woman with no education at all - angry and scorned at the world that she thinks owes her big time for her contribution to entertainment. It would be thrilling to see Anabelle behind bars this time and I wonder what the Gutierrez family would say when this verbally abusive woman (?) is finally brought to justice. This woman literally takes home the message "you can take a boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy". [Ang hampas lupa, bihisan mo man ng ginto, eh hampas lupa pa din]

9. Nora Aunor

"Walang himala!!!....kundi sa Pilipinas". And what other country has an open arm policy to has-beens but the Philippines? There is a soft spot for La Aunor. Most probably half the people in the Philippines (except the aging population) have forgotten about the singing lass who rose from poverty to riches and dragged herself into exile, changed her sexual orientation and oh yes, finally decided to come back to the Philippines because there was no work available to her in America. Give it to MVPs TV5 for flying back La Aunor to make a series of TV shows for the network. But the country is a softie for Pinoys who've left and come back to rebuild their lives - Billy Joe Crawford, Gabby Concepcion, Geneva Cruz, to name a few. Last we heard was that the TV series of Ate Guy didn't click, which means that La Aunor would probably have been better off in the US, doing a real-life "Bona" (in this movie she plays an abused housemaid) there. Seriously, in this day and age of Justin Beibers and Lady Gagas, the younger generation can't fathom why La Aunor even became - Superstar!

10. Ramgen Bautista

I saved the last not as the least but as the worst. I have never even heard about this guy Ramgen until he died. When I heard about his death, my household help were abuzz. I asked who died? When they said it was Ramgen-someone, I asked again - who? I mean, I don't even know the guy, but my household help who are rabid TV addicts tell me that he's a new find of the network --- tadaahhhhh - GMA 7. No surprise there. It seems that GMA 7 knows how to pick out these lackeys and I should give them a pat in the back for being able to select these kind of entertainers. Over the next few weeks, the whole Bautista household's (including the life and times of Ramon Revilla, Sr) dirty linen are washed in public! From the schizophrenic mother, to the abusive Ramgen (who's not a good boy as GMA 7 would project after all), to the household fights, locking up the food supply of the younger siblings and financial woes because of the spending spree of Ramgen and mother...a story unfolds each day making the plot thicken the real-life telenovela with more drama and decadent violence! The real life story of this guy Ramgen is actually more interesting than the career of this wannabe-starlet. Somebody should get to the mother and buy the rights to the movie quickly while she is still lucid! This murder is a family affair.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Unbelievably bratty!

Dear Mr. President,

I campaigned for you and voted for you, believing that your principles on good governance and honesty - much like that of your parents - would finally bring the Filipinos out of the throngs of graft and corruption.

And while I stood back and watched as you honed your governing skills, I disagreed in silence with some of the decisions you had made. Of course, like all presidents, you are entitled to decide on your own with what you thought was right, or wrong.

Last night, I watched you speak before the Criminal Justice Summit and was "shocked" at the way you lambasted Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona. While I understand your misery and frustration at the way the Supreme Court had made its decisions over many of the points you mentioned, I found the speech maligning not only the very person whom you referred to but the judicial system of which the SC Justice represented. It was not very statesman-like of you and I apologize if I will have to say that I am disappointed with it. It was not the proper forum and neither was it the proper time to have castigated the decisions made by the supreme court justices. They are, after all, an independent body from the executive department. The least you could have left them was their dignity.

Frustrations are part of the work that you undertook. Even at our work, nothing comes on a silver platter. We end up frustrated because of disagreements even among managers and the administration. And even when we don't get what we want, there are ways of working around an impasse. This, my dear president, is the test of a true leader. He needs to go beyond the partisan feelings and his own agenda. He works around the barrier in order to achieve his goal. During your swearing into office, you had already created animosity between the judiciary and the executive branch, by NOT recognizing SC Justice Corona. Instead of offering the olive branch and making him migrate to the administration's side, you had isolated him and the other appointees of GMA. While they may have been appointed by the previous president, the initial reaction on your part was wrong altogether.

Just like a bratty child that didn't get what he wanted, you whined and whined and became obsessed with the past administration. It's like having an autistic patient go over and over and over the same game over and over again. I'm not saying that you forget the evils of GMA. While you wanted her to reckon with her wrongdoings, you should remain focused on the future of the Filipinos as a people and the Philippines as a country. Instead, I saw vindictiveness and when you were delivering your speech, you were seething with anger. It was a reflection of a child who didn't get the toy he wanted! It was like watching the male version of your sister Kris, rant and rave on primetime. You can't take the words you spat out back. Even if you have no intentions of taking it back, what has been said has been said. The hurt and damage has been done. And I have lost respect in someone who thinks that by berating the SC in public was the solution to the problem, he gets mileage or "pogi" points with the masses.

Perhaps the masses in the C, D and E crowd may have applauded your guts. But they are inconsequential. To this crowd, they only engage in telenovelas, violence, and pornography. These sum up their everyday lives. Too much drama and comedy and lacking in good manners and right conduct. And you acted just like them!

In your words, this is nothing personal as well. If you feel slighted by this letter, then you should think again how it feels to be in the other shoe.

All I can say is that you were unbelievably bratty in your speech! It was unbecoming of a president, a gentleman, a statesman, a politician and yes, even of an ordinary Filipino. As you say, we are all your boss. And my reaction is - as your boss I'd fire you for the tantrums you threw yesterday.

To those that applauded - unbelievable! So many nincompoops in the stable!

[Photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Of friends, retirement and Sweet Bella

It was a lunch out I will never forget.

I have made many friends in the pharmaceutical industry. Some are still with the companies I speak and advice for. Some...well, they've retired, moved on or sadly, passed away.

There were musings from Veron on having lunch with her. When she told me that after 19 years with Glaxo Smith Kline she finally hanged her heels of having to work them, I was initially shocked! We've been through a lot and she's practically been not only a colleague, but a wonderful friend whom I've shared many quiet moments of my life and the stories of our cats.

Over lunch, I could tell that she was really happy over the decision to retire from corporate life. This was the part I could relate well with. After 23 years of teaching at the University of Santo Tomas, my retirement from the academe was a decision that only I could appreciate. Like me, Veron had her "moments" with GSK. And retiring from what you routinely do daily does not come easy. But some things just need closure - so we let go and life goes on.

But the blog isn't just about Veron and I.

It's about this quaint restaurant on Burgos Circle at the Fort where we had lunch called Sweet Bella.

First, I'm not a food critic. I just love to eat, and I have a passion for good food. I just hate spending money on fast food chains not because they're cheap, but because they're unhealthy and believe me when I say that it's the road to obesity and heart disease.

The other thing about blogging about restaurants is that while first impressions may be good, sometimes some of the restaurants are unable to sustain their great food and service they initially have. And the review becomes moot and academic. But great raves are due to those that have made good impressions so here's my review on Sweet Bella.

The restaurant has that homey feeling when you enter it. The patisserie is located on the ground floor and what hits you right at the sugar rush level are the macarons on the display cabinets. Alright, so I have a soft spot for macarons and cakes. My experience points to the fact that restaurants that serve great pastries are just pastry restaurants. It's rare that you get to have a cafe or restaurant that serve both great food and excellent pastries.

The menu is not extensive but the choices are quite healthy. Since I was on a diet, I simply had onion soup and seafood pasta. Veron had her all time fave - beef salpicao done medium rare. Beef salpicao medium rare? Now this I gotta see!

The onion soup was just the way onion soups should be prepared. With a lot of onions underneath and not pungent to both the olfactory and gustatory senses. It wasn't salty and neither was it laden with MSG. The onions were crunchy enough without being too soggy. The seafood pasta was perfectly cooked in olive oil. Not too much seafood splashed all over the pasta, otherwise it would have tasted like stench. The pasta noodles wasn't sticking together (pasta shouldn't stick together otherwise it's overcooked) and the texture was perfect. The texture of a well cooked pasta should be slightly firm in the middle when you bite and this was the way my seafood pasta was. I was watching with curiosity how in the world could you make a tenderloin beef salpicao medium rare? I mean, I've ordered beef salpicao in various restaurants and I've never liked them because they end up hard as a rock. In short - the Filipino beef salpicao is just plain "pulutan" (appetizer). To serve it as a whole meal and medium rare - this I gotta see and see it I did! As you sliced into the tender meat, you could see the middle part cooked rare! Their beef salpicao had a warm and moistly pink center - firm on the outside, soft and juicy on the inside - so much like you were eating chunks of tenderloin steak!

The piece d'resistance was the desert. It was, after all, a patisserie!

Veron insisted and I took the challenge to gain an extra pound or so. So I picked the macarons. After all, any pastry shop that makes macarons should live up to the challenge of making the best macarons.

They laid out the 8 flavors on a long plate.

As you can see from the picture - white chocolate, chocolate, strawberry, lemon, passion fruit, rose, coffee (and not in the pic is salted caramel). I picked rose, and had it with TWG tea. To make a great macaron, you had to have the best rose macaron. And a rose macaron is not easy to make nor easy to appreciate. A perfect rose macaron needed to satisfy the olfactory and gustatory senses - you needed to taste it and smell it altogether. And even after the meal, the smell of the rose macaron lingered in my mouth and nose, two hours after the tete-a-tete we had. Seriously, I think they had the best macarons in town - freshly made! It reminded me of Laduree (in Paris) and the macarons were so divine that after a few days I asked Veron to order several boxes for me to give away to some of my friends this holiday season.

It turned out to be a great afternoon.

People come and go in our lives and many of us who go into retirement or exile miss out on the road less traveled - the great bond of friendship we establish along the way. It was a few hours of saying goodbye, telling stories, catching up with life, enjoying a great meal together, laughing our hearts out, making new friends and yes, it was a way of saying - here's to a great friendship.

See you around my friend!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wishing to be happy

It takes loneliness to discover happiness. Emptiness to discover fulfillment. Sadness to find contentment. And confusion to find peace of mind.

The road to happiness is not easy. It is full of challenges and more often than not, we end up frustrated and in pain.

Someone once said that "people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they did not slow down to enjoy it." Happiness is relative to each of us. Some may find it in material things, of love lost and then found again and then lost again and then found again, of being cured from a terrible illness, of ambitions gained and winning a jackpot, of redeeming oneself from a wrong accusation, or simply achieving peace of mind after a battle with the evils from within.

When I was young, life was not easy for me and my family. My dad and mom seemingly had to make ends meet, for tuition fees for my sister and I. Celebrating an occasion - birthdays or christmases - would be frugal. During Christmas, my dad would drive us around the metropolis so we could see the various lantern displays and to COD in Cubao to see the mechanical display (in those days, this was considered the place to be) of toys a-dancing and a-singing. There was Holiday on Ice at the Araneta Coliseum, which served as our annual New Year holiday treat.

And I believed in wishing upon a star. Life was not easy for me growing up in an all boys school. The teasing and bullying hurt like hell, and there was no soft spot for me to cry on. I rarely made friends and because we probably were not both wealthy and I had gender problems, I was not popular in school. Focusing on my academics came easy, because it served as an outlet for all my misery. There was a loneliness that only I felt. Even coming home to parents who tried to make ends meet was a dreadful one.

I was surprised that in spite of the meager income, we had food on the table and a roof over our head. My dad made sure that we went to good schools. It was his way of giving us his share of happiness. As I grew older, I never waivered on the hope that some day, my more material and tangible wishes would come true.

Not all my wishes came in a silver platter. There were challenges that came along the painful journey of reality. There was love lost and love found. There was life lost and grief followed. There were questions more than answers. Yet in between the years and tears, I remained optimistic that someday I would look up to a clear night and close my eyes and wish all my might that all the pain would just go away.

I have come full circle in life, knowing now the lessons of wishing to be happy. There will be pain in our journey, but finding happiness and its true meaning is within us. Being happy is not about me. It's about other people. It's about accepting that things that are meant to be come together at the right time and at the right place. There is an alignment of all things that become our final journey - and wishes don't come instantly. It's the same way my parents saw it as they raised us. "Some people suffer but become amazing witnesses to all the graces in this world. Others go through the very same trial and become angry for the rest of their lives."

Remember: The sun that melts ice is the same that hardens clay.

The choice is left to us.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wrong answer!

It's the season of Bazaars (a.k.a. Tiangges) in the Philippines. It's the week before December, and well, yes, in this country these make-shift bazaars ply their trade in what I would call a large garage sale - from food to fake designer items.

And while the Bureau of Internal Revenue (a.k.a...Internal Robbers ?), go merry making by tax mapping the doctors clinics in wild abandon, these Bazaars are having a heyday!

Out of curiosity, I called the BIR last Wednesday morning and posed as a writer for a leading newspaper. I told the woman I talked to that I am making a short story for the newspaper about Bazaars and taxes and she hurriedly called the guy in charge for this.

This was how our conversation went: (the comments in italics was what my mind wanted to say to the guy from the BIR)

ME: Good morning. I am ___ and I'm working for the ____. I'm making an article regarding Bazaars and Tiangges and I hope you don't mind if you answer a few inquiries I have for a few minutes so that I can piece my article together.

BIR: Sure. What's your question?

ME: Do these concessionaires in the Bazaars have to issue receipts when customers buy from them?

BIR: Of course. Everyone that does business has to issue a receipt! (Correct answer)

ME: I noticed that whenever I go to a Bazaar, they don't issue receipts. For example, I went to Mercato night food market at the Fort the other week and went to 3 different stall and none of them issued a receipt.

BIR: Humingi po kayo pag di kayo binigyan (Ask from the if they don't give you one) (WRONG ANSWER MORON!)

ME: Why do we have to ask for a receipt? Shouldn't it be SOP?

BIR: Well, yes, but if you have a complaint, you can call us and file a complaint. Some of these Bazaars, we don't know about them. (WRONG ANSWER AGAIN MORON! WHERE ARE THE IDIOTS AT 2AM? WHOM DO I CALL AT 2AM TO ASK FOR A RECEIPT FOR 6 PIECES OF MACARONS?!?!)

ME: But these Bazaars announce way ahead that they have an activity like this. It's even featured on television and is therefore a public affair. Even the TV newscasters endorse them as a lively festivity that ushers in the holiday season. It is unlikely that the BIR does not know about these activities.

BIR: You see sir, I will give you an example. Quezon City alone is a very big city. There are not enough people in the BIR that will monitor all these events and will monitor all these activities so you have to inform us if someone is violating by not issuing receipts. (WRONG ANSWER AGAIN MORON! YOU CAN HAVE THE TAX MAPPERS IN THE HOSPITALS AND DOCTORS CLINICS GO TO THE BAZAARS AND TAX MAP THEM ALSO! SANAMAGAN!!! THEY HAVE ENOUGH PEOPLE TO TAX MAP THE HOSPITALS AND CLINICS BUT THEY DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO TAX MAP THESE BAZAARS? OMG!!! WHAT KIND OF EXCUSE IS THAT? PERHAPS THE BIR IS IN CAHOOTS WITH THESE ORGANIZERS OR SELLERS!)

ME: But these Bazaars only run for a few days. Don't you think that you should check them before they are allowed to operate? After all, they publicly announced weeks before that they have a Bazaar sale. For example, St. James the Great annual bazaar in Ayala Alabang has their signs posted all over Muntinlupa already for their upcoming 500+ or more concessionaires. Isn't it your obligation to talk to the organizers and make sure that they issue receipts when you buy in the bazaars?

BIR: Hindi na namin sakop yan po. (The city is not within our jurisdiction.) (WRONG ANSWER! YOU SHOULD SAY - ALRIGHT I WILL CONTACT THE DISTRICT HEAD FOR THE BIR IN MUNTINLUPA AND INFORM HIM.)
Kung gusto ninyo bigay ko sa inyo ang telepono nila at kayo na tumawag. (If you want, I can give you the telephone number of the Muntinlupa BIR and you can call them). (Naubusan na yata ng English ang taga-BIR.)

ME: Okay, give me the number.

BIR: It's...wait, I cannot read their number (then he calls someone and says that his eyes are failing him and dictate the number of the Muntinlupa office)...It's 5560176 or 8561223.

ME: Okay, thank you for your time.

BIR: You're welcome. (In fairness, the guy was polite, accommodating and well...had all the wrong answers.)

I tried calling the Muntinlupa office from 10AM to 5PM, to no avail. The lines were busy and my secretary gave up after calling gazillion times.

I have nothing against Bazaars. I just wanted to make a point with the taxation system in the Philippines. If you can get away with paying taxes, then so be it. And these Bazaars come and go once a year - but by law should be obligated to pay taxes. Someone told me that at least we get the goods, 12% less because they won't issue receipts. Fine! Whatever! I would give my patients 12% off my rates if they don't ask for receipts as well. Is that the answer to the problem or the question? NO. Wrong answer. Fair is fair. It's either the law applies to all, or to NONE AT ALL.

I headed off to the St. James the Great Bazaar last night. And out of curiosity, headed off to three stalls - one selling ham, one selling pili, and one selling orchids. True enough, I went home without any receipt from any of these stores. When I asked for a receipt with the one selling ham, the girl looked at me and said - wala kaming recibo (we don't issue receipts).

Tangina talaga!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The least, the lost and the last

I was putting up the Christmas tree this morning and thought about blogging the holiday season. With all the work that's been swamping me, it took me awhile to get into the mood of putting up the lights and ornaments.

I will veer away from the political and showbiz scenario that's been driving the Filipinos into a frenzy from the momentum of Christmas.

The TV stations have their jingling cheers, the Ayala triangle has all the lanterns adorning the warm humid air, the tiangges (a.k.a. bazaars) are back with the holiday sales and midnight madness, the malls are decked in garlands and sparkling glory, and Santa Claus is in warm and humid Manila! While I have nothing against all the festive preparation, I cannot help but wonder why we're all mired in this commercialism.

I guess the main reason why many of us, adults and children alike, look forward to the Christmas season is the bonus and 13th month pay, the exchange gifts and the toys to open on Christmas day, the feeding frenzy of parties and the wild abandon of using the holiday season in order in to indulge in gluttony. Some say that it's that "once a year" that good tidings and cheers are shared by all because of Christmas. And that's what saddens me - that the meaning of Christmas gets lost in the material celebration and the commercialism that has gone into creating an artificial sense of "joy to the world" among people.

I've always been a believer that everyday should be Christmas day. Every day should be a new year - turning new leaves in the chapters of our lives. Every day should be Valentine's day - celebrating the true meaning of love found. Every day should be mother's, father's or grandparent's day - giving due respect to those who matter most. Every day should be your last and that doing good should not be reserved for an occasion and that an occasion should only serve as a reminder that our doing good is worth the celebration.

To most of us who have more "blessings" in life - a roof over our heads, food on our table, people to love and care for us, a family to celebrate occasions with, a good and fulfilling job that provides us with the comfort of life and health - every occasion becomes a vibrant celebration.

But there are those who celebrate Christmas in make shift homes under a bridge or children who wander in the streets on a rainy Christmas day selling sampaguita and singing some carol of good cheer or those who are abandoned by parents or children who wake up each morning hoping that someone would make each day a Christmas day or better yet, a better day for them. Those who are terminally ill and would probably see this as their last Christmas season.

The needy, the hungry, the sick, the thirsty.

We don't really care much for them because we get mired in the thwarted true meaning of Christmas from all the commercialism that's been shoved into our throats. Somehow, somewhere, the meaning of Christmas has become tiring and routine that each year, that many of us have become callous in finding the real meaning of the holiday season. We reason out that because we work hard year in and year out we need to get "rewarded" at the end of the year for all that hard work.

Has business really slapped us in the face and made us look at Christmas in a different way?

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" sends home the true message of Christmas even in modern times - the way that we should truly celebrate. In the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, we see the lives of people who come and go our way. It's changing our lives in the spirit of doing good and sharing with those who need us most that matters. It's that life changing experience of having done something that cannot be repaid in material values but also in sharing goodness to others that makes the spirit of Christmas come alive.

Each year, instead of buying trinkets and gifts to my friends, I simply donate the money to a foundation or a charitable institution that will create an impact on the lives of others. And I sign the gift in their name. And that my "grown up Christmas wish list" would be that some day, somehow, the blessings I have received in my lifetime would have been shared well with the least, the lost and the last.

Wouldn't it be a greater joy if we all paid it forward?

Happy holidays my readers!

[My all time favorite Christmas song - My Grown Up Christmas List by Kelly Clarkson]

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I have nothing against Gloria getting medical treatment for whatever is ailing her today. Whether she gets it in the Philippines or in some other God-forsaken country is beyond me.

What peeves me is the fact that the Arroyos (and all the entourage including that woman called Horn) has the temerity to make a scene (or as Leila de Lima puts it - EKSENA!) in order to gain ground for sympathy among the underdog-loving Pinoys. Their first attempt to leave the country for a supposed medical check-up and treatment in Singapore last Tuesday ended up in a media cavalcade which has become the talk of the town, surpassing the Ramgen murder and Pacquiao fight stories.

For whatever it is worth, let me give my personal opinion as I, an ordinary Filipino citizen, see it:

1. The Arroyo camp insists that Gloria is in pain. You could see from the pictures or the newsfeed that she's wrapped around that thingamagig around her head, neck and body, making her look like little Frankenstein. With that said, I don't think that I would want to travel to Singapore in that contraption via Hong Kong. It would mean that I would have to fly 2 hours to Hong Kong, wait an hour or two at the Chap Lep Kok airport for the next departure from Hong Kong to Singapore which would be a longer route (in terms of both miles traveled and time spent on a cramped airplane - even on Business Class).

Yes. She and husband Mike A. were on a flight to Singapore via Hong Kong that fateful Tuesday night. Watdfuk was that Horn woman talking about when they were drumming up sympathy for Ate Glue! They think that we're all idiots born yesterday! If they needed to go to Singapore, there are direct flights from Manila to the Lion City without having to go through Hong Kong.

There are 4 direct daily flights for Philippine Airlines and Singapore Airlines from Manila to Singapore:
SQ915 departs 0810 and arrives 1145, SQ 917 departs 1415 and arrives 1750, SQ 919 departs 1710 and arrives 2045, and SQ 921 departs 1900 and arrives 2235. PR 0511 departs 0600 and arrives 0930, PR 0503 departs 0720 and arrives 1055, PR 0501 departs 1510 and arrives 1855, and PR 0505 departs 1935 and arrives 2315. Both Philippine Airlines and Singapore have BUSINESS CLASS services on their aircraft.

I did not mention Cebu Pacific because it's a budget airline and has not business class cabin. I don't think the Arroyos (who've been used to flying on chartered planes or on first/business class) are willing to fly a budget airline. For every one's information though, Cebu Pacific flies directly 3 times daily from Manila to Singapore on flights: 801 leaving at 0625 arriving at 0900, 805 leaving 1325 and arriving at 1655, 803 leaving at 2030 and arriving at 1235.

2. The major concern of the senators and some congressmen is that with the defiance of the justice secretary and the President of the Philippines on the TRO (temporary restraining order) of the Supreme Court, a constitutional crisis may emanate. We all know, however, that majority of the sitting justices, including the Chief Justice were all Gloria appointees. And while Renato Corona may be parrying all accusations of bias towards him and the Supreme Court, deciding arbitrarily and quickly for and on behalf of the WLO (hold departure order) for Gloria and hubby, it cannot be denied that justice indeed is not only blind but serves only those whose interests need to get payed back. With so many cases pending in the Supreme Court, what was the rush to address this case? After all, isn't she and her husband getting the "best" of care from the highly touted JCI-accredited center for excellence in health care called St. Luke's Medical Center? And excuse me when I trample the media that Gloria has a rare condition of hypoparathyroidism. Duh?!?! If our endocrinologists in the country can't fix the problem, that's an insult to the hoards of endocrinologists in the Philippines. It is not rare, it is just not common. And there's a difference in this term in medical parlance. The Arroyos, are lucky that they are filthy rich and are already afforded the level of health care matching their life style.

3. Karma is a bitch! That's all I can conclude from this EKSENA! I've always wondered how fondly Ate Glue and company flew in and out without tiring from her trips abroad during her term as president (or did she really steal the presidency and therefore was NOT our legitimate president during her term?). Whatever it was, you could tell how well coiffured she was with matching designer outfits and flying and dining in first class restaurants. There was never a complaint from her nor her doctors about neck pain, was there? During her term as president(?), her annual physical exams were always "perfect"! The stress and pressures of running a country is not an easy one. It behooves me that one year into her more laid back life, she has "suffered" from these unexplainable aches and pains and illnesses. Is is mere drama or is it karma?

4. Joker Arroyo had said that de Lima is ignorant of the law. Talk about big time ignorance. His first name befits him. Once upon a time, his opinions were well respected. But respect is earned. And you can lose respect as easily as you've earned it. For a joker in the midst of the senate, I just lost my respect to this guy. You know that when he opens his mouth now, it's only when his former boss - Ate Glue - is in trouble or that when he has tirades against the current president, PNoy. He's now simply a noise in the gallery. And Miriam - who takes her seriously? She said on TV that she wanted to commit suicide by slashing her wrist! From a woman who has been the humor in the senate, go ahead - make my day! (Now you know why suicide runs in the family and it's no surprise her son took the path of least resistance by committing suicide.) Seriously, while Miriam has a mouthful to say and more often than not makes sense, her tirades are not taken seriously because of mental flipflop. These two make more "eksena" in the senate than anyone else I could imagine. It makes the mental ineptness of Lito Lapid look like a harmless kitty cat.

5. And as all (if not most) lawyers are - it's all about money. You could get the best lawyers if you had the cash and the Arroyos are awash in that. And so they defend their clients to death. After all, they get heftily paid, even if justice looks the other way or is beheaded. It is without doubt that some of the seats that are occupied in Congress by the Arroyo clan are vacant - with Iggy in London for medical care, Gloria on leave for health problems and Mikey - uhmmm, this guy is on tax evasion charges and is leaving for the US for some sort of seminar and talk. I mean gimme a break - Mikey is representing the marginalized sector of security guards! Watdfuk is he going to talk about in the US of A?

As I see it, the Arroyos are all out in their "eksena" to make the Aquino government look bad and gain sympathy to them. While the Aquino government has its faults, seriously, impeachment for not allowing the ex-president to go out of the country for treatment is a bit cockadoodledoodoo even for lawmakers! Come on, gimme a break - she stole the presidency not ONCE, but TWICE! What greater crook was there in history of Philippine politics! All you need is to recall the atrocities and excuses during the Arroyo regime and that in itself would have told you that it's payback time.

As they say in politics - "weather weather lang yan". But take the Pinoys for short-term memory. How easily we even forgot the Marcos atrocities that we even put their families back in the limelight by electing the children and his wife to governmental positions. Susmaryosep! Only in the Philippines!

And like all telenovelas evolving in either Philippine business, politics and showbiz - "eksena" - happens to be the trend of becoming famous after being infamous.

As long as this kind of charade goes on, don't worry about not getting out of the box - we will remain a third world nation and the exodus will continue. After all, the Arroyo drama is as downright pathetic as it gets.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Philippines Worst FSP and Credit Card Program...

And the winner is.....

Rustan's Credit Card, FSP and Discount Card

You gotta hand it to this Tantoco owned high-end store. They wouldn't have made it to the top of the riches if not for the scheming, raunchy, thieving lousy FSP, Discount Card and now - Credit Card program.

First is the FSP that expires! They don't tell you that it has expired. Sadly, I had to find out when I got to the counter that my FSP2 had expired 2 weeks ago. I asked if I could get whatever I earned in the FSP2 card. The answer was a cold NO! Well thank you for not informing me that the program was about to end. Thank you also for not being considerate, considering that after all, I am a frequent shopper! With their FSP2, you could even hardly get any rebates unless you were spending more than P1M a year to make that FSP program worth your while. When FSP started a few years back, it was more convenient and should I say, more rewarding.

The FSP2 program substituted the original one with more buying in exchange for rebates. Aside from that, the FSP2 is to put it bluntly, one helluva lousy program. You pay a fee to join and you can't even credit consignment sales or purchases from other Rustan's SSI (store specialist stores) to the FSP2! You needed to buy all that junkyard cheapy items at Rustans to get credit.

Their Discount Card is as pathetic as well. You get discounts only for regular items and 10% if paid in CASH! And some of the SSI stores (Gucci, Prada, LV, Bulgari, Hermes, etc) stores are not included. Lacoste, Marks and Spencer, Armani Exchange have their own frequent shopper program and discount card. WATDFUK were the ingenious idiots thinking?!?! Well, they were thinking that they could scam the stupid Pinoy into paying for a discount card but not being able to use it (so many X items or consignment items in the store, so it's not applicable as well).

Finally, is their credit card. When I got a Citibank Credit Card for Rustans when the program started, it looked like a good buy - concierge service, some freebie goodies and services, 3% rebate on Rustans items...and then the other perks just vanished. At P5000 annual dues, this just wasn't worth it! The rebates were also restricted to only SOME SSI affiliates of Rustan's. The concierge disappeared. I had to queue just like the rest and well, there were no more free goods. And each time I attempt to discontinue my card, Citibank offers waiver on the annual fee as long as I enroll my pathetic utility bill. As a Citibank client, I suggest that Citibank stops badgering or encouraging people to stay on the Citibank Rustan's Credit Card or risk losing another client. Even if Rustan's Corporation is far wealthier than I, karma will catch up on sleazy businesses like these eventually.

Strike 3, for Rustan's and congratulations for being the worst FSP/Discount Card/Credit Card program in the Philippines. My advice to all my readers - don't renew your FSP, don't get a Rustan's Credit Card, and finally, don't even bother with the discount card. They serve no purpose in your life!

My advise to everyone who plans to get a Rustan's Credit Card, or even sign up for the FSP or discount card the fine details in print. An stay clear, very very clear from Rustan's promo programs. Believe me when I say that this is one program that has no purpose at all except to scam the Filipino buyer. Shame on the Tantocos!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's about time we fly right

All my bags are packed and ready to go...

November is here and I'm quite sure that we've all planned some vacation of sorts for the upcoming Christmas holidays. Some of us spend the holiday season in some other province or country - just to get away from it all. As my niece puts it, we all need a vacation!

I won't blog about destinations but about airlines and flying.

1. I don't really mind flying on economy class so long as the flight is less than 4 hrs. Anything above that becomes quite uncomfortable, so to speak, and I would prefer flying on business class if my budget (or airline miles) will allow it. Seriously speaking, long hauls (more than 4 hours) on economy becomes uncomfortable not only because of the time differences but also because of the level of comfort. In short, why does one want to arrive at his or her destination looking like part of the baggages when you can arrive there in comfort? After all, even the flight itself should be part of a vacation! There's really no better way to fly on long haul flights than on business or first class.

2. You'll have to contend with the seat mates on the plane. Unfortunately, you can't choose the person who sits next to you. I had the unfortunate experience of having an autistic child sit at the back of my seat in one of my flights from Bacolod on Philippine Airlines. The young boy was seated beside his nanny while his grandfather sat on business class. Aside from the fact that he was making several wailing sounds throughout the whole flight, he kept kicking my seat in the 1 hr flight. I simply put on my iPod and drifted into la-la land. When the flight stewardess approached me to ask me to remove my iPod because we were landing already, I whispered to her that I'd slap her if she forced me to remove it. After all, it was all that was keeping me sane from the 1 hr kicking from the poor kid seated behind me. If the airline was going to allow these neurodevelopmentally challenged kids on board, they should place them all the way to the back of the plane where they would have no passenger to harass!

3. Then there's a flight I took going to Cebu the other month. Because it was business, I was allowed to fly on Mabuhay Class. It was when PAL had a bad strike because of retrenching some PALEA employees. I didn't actually mind the in-flight service. I was irked about the fact that the woman behind me was playing Bejeweled Blitz at full volume. It was downright irritating! The bitch was either deaf or dumb! And the flight attendants didn't give a care in the world that her gadget was open during take off and landing!

4. Of course, you'll have to contend with the various types of passengers seated beside you. Those that have body odor...gosh...imagine having to breath the same air as these people. People who are overweight (I mean really obese) should pay for more than one seat, or should be mandated to sit in business class. You can hardly move and breath in your seat or even get up to pee, especially if you're seated in the middle or on the window area. Airlines should leave the bulkheads for the disabled and NOT for those carrying babies. When you're flying on economy, please use the bathrooms reserved for your section. Children (and at times adults) usually zip in and out of the economy area so that they can use the bathrooms reserved for those in the business class section. Don't forget to flush the toilet or lift the toilet seat (if you're a guy) so that the next passenger who uses it isn't inconvenienced or dies from seeing all that sh*t floating in the toilet bowl. A little consideration in an airplane goes a long way.

5. When checking out the flights for your destination - check on line before booking with your travel agent so that you know more or less how much it's going to cost you. Check all available airlines so that you get the best time for your planned destination as well as reliability and frequency of on time service with the particular airline. You can also check for the kind of services the airline provides as well as read reviews of the airline on various websites based on the experience of various customers. Don't forget to enroll in frequent flyer miles and start collecting them. Believe me when I say that it pays off to be enrolled in a frequent flyer because you can get your next flight either free or upgraded from all the traveling one does.

6. A budget airline IS NOT necessarily a budget airline as it claims to be. For example, I was checking for the fare for Cebu Pacific from Manila to Seoul for a certain date and I found out that while the flight going to Seoul cost me about P5780 only, the return flight was horrendous at P17000!!! Which ended up more expensive than the round trip that Korean Air or Asiana Airlines was giving for the same dates! Be warned of supposedly low cost airlines!!! Why is it that the local airlines (Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific) end up being more expensive than foreign airlines? Seriously! It's more expensive flying on our local carriers from Manila to most destinations of the world than flying the flag carrier of other airlines!

Maybe you all have a story or two about your own vacations. I have friends in the travel industry business and they can help you decide by giving you pros and cons on your next journey. Sometimes, the travel agent can even give you fares much lower than purchasing on line! With the internet at our fingertips, you can always verify their claims so that you're abreast of what you're purchasing.

Remember - that it's the journey that counts!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Of relationships and I dos

It is human nature, regardless of age, to seek for relationships.

Whether it is found in some dark alley or casual/formal introductions or from adopting parents or, in this day and age - online - the bottom line is: it is human nature to seek for love, even in the most unexpected places or circumstances.

I am sure that each of you have stories about love found and love lost. The circle of life dictates that as long as we breath, we attempt to find the Shangrila in our lives. Is there really one? Can we really find happily ever afters? Is there a relationship that has a love ever after ending?

Even married couples, in spite of vows to love and to hold, in sickness and in health till death do them part have storms that come along their way. Perhaps because of the contract they are attached to or for the sake of the children or conjugal properties and investments, they attempt to work out the differences in spite of the odds that come their way. Some manage to stay together, but there's quite a hefty number that prefer to go their separate ways - in search of new relationships.

What draws people together to form a relationship?

There are two drawing points. LOVE is one of them. This four-letter word seems to be widely used and, often time, abused. Of course, for some, the more intimate part called SEX is usually the first reason to get attached. Yet the latter usually dissipates more quickly than love. People in search for a wham-bam-thank-you-Sam will perpetually be in search of relationships that find no meaning except the exercise of their libido. Whichever it is, having the best of both worlds would probably be the perfect scenario. But the strongest bond is that of LOVE.

Unconditional love allows both parties to grow. Each may falter somewhere, but because there is real love in a relationship, it will allow each person to understand the shortcomings that come along the way. After all, no one is perfect. And with that said, it's always a good reminder that when relationships begin to falter, one should remember how a relationship started and where it is at today. Often times, we forget to assess how the relationship began. It is ironic how many of us forget this.

Every relationship is a work in progress. It's based on promises made with the one you've fallen in love with or exchanged "I do". And while promises made are meant not to be kept, there are those that are. Strangely, we often times don't know the person whom we enter a relationship with. While some people lay their cards on the table as you get to know one other, there will always be skeletons in the closet with others. Eventually, these are discovered and while we sweep them under the rug at times, more often than not, there are more dirty or dark secrets revealed WHILE you're in a relationship that lead to a state of misery.

So now you're in a Catch 22 scenario. You can't get out of it or you're in too deep or you're miserable with a BUT! It's strange that we begin to dwell on WHAT IFs and WHYs and WHY NOTs. One party wishes that the other party would just bolt the relationship to end all misery.

We forget that the reason why, as human beings, and as human nature dictates, that we continuously search for relationships because we search for happiness. I am willing to bet that once upon a time, you were both happy, without a care in the world. That many of us had sworn to even beat all odds. Oddly, when push came to shove, we shoved more than we pushed.

Relationships are built on trust, loyalty and understanding. Without the three there would not be a reason to be together. Whether the relationship is one of friendship or two people in love or even an adopted child or family, the three fundamental instruments of maintaining a sustaining and durable relationship without finding fault in every single act should be considered.

It is easy to move in and out of a relationship. After all, finding what makes you happy is the most important goal in life. But this is a selfish outlook on life. It's only fair that while we try to find our happiness, we take into consideration the happiness of others as well.

After all, even the "happily ever afters" began with "once upon a time".

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Memories of Boston

There's a Beatles song entitled "In My Life" that has the lyrics:

"There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends, I can still recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all...

My trip to Boston was in reality both business and pleasure. The American Academy of Pediatrics was holding its Annual Meeting here. This was the business part. After my training in the US, I frequently came home to Boston annually, until 10 years ago. My last trip to Boston was in 2001. I wanted to reminisce the old times and see the places that I remembered so vividly. The autumn season was the best time to be in Boston. This was the pleasure part.

I arrived on a balmy Thursday evening. Spent the night reminiscing the Copley area and Friday registering at the convention and attending the morning sessions before driving off to Maine in the afternoon. The fall foliage was not at its peak yet but you could see traces of it on the way.

Harvard Square. Beacon Hill. Fenway Park. Faneuil Hall. North End. South End. Boston College. Cambridge Circle. The Boston Public Gardens. The Charles River. Chinatown. Traveling by the T. This was how I remembered the days I would spend those lonely days and nights in Boston during my fellowship training.

Of course, time had changed many of these places. The Prudential is now one chic shopping mall but nothing could beat the high end stores on Newbury St. housed in the cement and brick walls that highlighted the architectural beauty of Boston. The Trinity Church at the heart of Copley Square reminded me of the grand architecture that made this building a landmark of Back Bay. The reflection of the church on a cool Sunday morning against the grand John Hancock Tower was the perfection of combining the architectural design of the old against the new. It was this landmark that made me fall in love with Boston. Even the Boston Public Library had a new look with the center of the library housing a fountain and an area where tourists and students could relax in the ambience of its grandeur.

The Hynes Convention Center has been home to many conventions but the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center replaced the former, in that it's bigger and more state-of-the-art. There are several hotels that have been built but several boutique hotels now stand side by side in amenities and luxury if you plan your trip to Boston.

No other city in America has as rich a heritage in history, culture and architecture as Boston. Aside from the Ivy League schools - Boston University and College (it has recently merged with Tufts University), Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to name a few, it is home to the Berkelee School of Music as well. The city of Boston has a young and elite crowd - perhaps owing to the fact that there are many distinguished schools in the area.

On my flight out of Logan airport, I felt a twitch in my heart on how much I missed this place, which became my second home far away from Manila during my training days. With so much memories still in place, like a newfound love that I left, Boston will remain a part of me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

PAL in transition

I had to go to Cebu to give a talk last Thursday.

The week before, I was skeptical on the flight arrangements on Philippine Airlines. The strike had practically put most of the flights on PAL to a standstill. The outsourcing plan of PAL was already approved by both the Department of Labor and Employment and of course the office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. At least 2,600 employees of PAL had to go. They were spinning off most its ground staff and call center to other companies. The latter were also owned by PAL erstwhile owner - Lucio Tan.

When the employees who would be losing their jobs went of strike, both PAL and the riding public ended up losers. According to PAL, they have lost $3M - $5M a day in revenue losses. While PAL was giving chit chat excuses for their massive losses, the riding public was inconvenienced. PAL provided profuse apologies both in media and in flight. They are, according to PAL spokespersons, in a transition phase.

On Thursday, October 6, I had taken the 1245PM flight to Cebu for my talk. When I walked into the NAIA 2 terminal, it was like a ghost town. Only flights to Cebu and Davao as well as International Flights were flying out of NAIA 2. There was very little queue. On the Mabuhay Class lane, it took me about 10 minutes to get my boarding pass. I was tapping my fingers at the counter because the guy at the other end was taking forever. He kept looking at my ticket, then back to the monitor, frowned, back to my ticket, back to the monitor, frowned, then back to my ticket...I had no check in bag. Just myself. After all, I was coming home after my talk on the 1020PM flight. After 10 minutes, he gave my boarding pass but NO apologies for his taking gazillion years to process a boarding pass. I counted sheep - taking into account that PAL was in a transition phase.

At the security check in, the guard reminded me to remove my shoes. While I know that, there were no more baskets for shoes. I always remember that there's a basket for shoes. My Prada bag had to go into the dirty carousel? OMG! My bag was more expensive that the life of that pathetic guard and there were no baskets! Besides, the guy that went ahead of me DID NOT take off his shoes! I told the guard that the guy in front of me did not take off his shoes, so why is he asking me to take off mine? And my Prada bag had to go inside the dirty carousel. Where the hell were the baskets? He just shrugged. Counting sheep and taking into account that PAL was in transition...

Boarding was on time. We were only 6 on Mabuhay Class and the guy at the counter had to put someone beside me on the A330-300 plane. Watdfuk?!?!?!! We could have one seat each on business class and the section would still be spacious! Anyway, it was a good thing that the foreigner just sat somewhere else. He too, was scratching his head and wondering why the hell we were all being put seat together. And don't give me that crap that it provided balance to the airplane. The guy at the check in counter simply didn't know what he was doing. Then the automatic announcement went on - that PAL was apologetic for any inconvenience because they were in a transition phase....

In the middle of the flight, they served snacks. I was used to the original trays that PAL provided for Mabuhay Class customers. The old snack trays provided a bit of chic presentation for the crappy meal they served - some fruit salad, a cup for coffee or tea, some glasses for water or juice, a warm snack in the form of pizza or hors d'ouevre of mini sandwiches and some utensils to boot. This time, the stewardess came out with a tray for herself and started handing out beef calzone (that looked greasily deadly) and a roll of Goldilocks mamon. No tray, just put it on your tray. No white mantle gracing the tray table. She asked me if I wanted water or cola. I said a diet cola. She came out with a glass filled with cola, that looked so diluted that I said, I'd take the water instead. The guy on the other side of the plane was still yacking on his mobile phone while the plane was taxing on the runway. The flight attendants were noisily yakking away on the gallery and no one bothered to ask the guy on the mobile phone to turn it off. One of the flight attendants voice was so loud I wanted to stand up and ask him to shut the f*cK up! We were on the runway for about 20 minutes waiting for the plane to take off. And I could hear the attendants yakking yakking yakking away. There ought to be a requirement that the flight attendants do not talk to each other discussing their pathetic lives while the plane is waiting to take off. It's plain irritating.

We arrived at the Mactan International Airport, 5 minutes off schedule, which wasn't bad. Overall assessment for PAL was dismal. I had to remind myself that they were in transition.

Transition is a terrible and sordid excuse for inefficiency. PAL should have prepared for this. It is a reflection of poor management skills. While my heart bleeds out for the displaced employees, I think we need to see the outsourcing of PAL from the passenger's perspective.

First, I know that the revenues of PAL have been declining over the last year. The question is - WHY? Was it because of the large work force? Or are the top honchos getting more of the pie than what PAL was actually making? PAL management was copying the Cebu Pacific model where most of the ground staff and call center areas are outsourced. Fine. But PAL is not Cebu Pacific.

The airfare tickets of PAL, whether on economy or business class are far more expensive than the tickets on other airlines in the region OR in the world. I speak from experience. When my family and I had our annual Christmas vacation in HongKong 2 years ago, we took Cathay Pacific. The economy class ticket was cheaper by $40 per head on CX than on PAL. Last year, when we had our Christmas/New Year break in Singapore, we took Singapore Airlines. The economy class ticket was cheaper by $35 per head on SQ than on PAL. And these were all online rates and bookings! Flying to the US, the fares on PAL are also more expensive on business class than what Delta or Korean Air had to offer. And the flight carriers of other airlines are by far much better in terms of class of service, amenities, food and comfort than PAL. So why the hell would I want to fly PAL? If there's another airline that would take me from point A to point B offering a cheaper fare and YET better service, I'd just take the other airline.

Second, PAL and Cebu Pacific are not co-equal. In short, it's like comparing apples and oranges. You get what you pay for. CebuPac is a no frills airline. You know that it's an all economy budget plane. You know that meals on board should be bought and are not free. You know that extra baggages are paid for. What you see is what you get. That's why it can offer a lower airfare than PAL. But PAL has a business class that is 3x more expensive than the regular fare! And it's regular economy fare is more expensive than CebuPac. Why scrimp on the customer then? You cannot charge something more expensive for the same quality of service as a budget airline. After all, PAL has Air Philippines, it's budget airline that supposedly competes with CebuPac. In short, if I wanted to fly on a plane that would offer a no frills flight at the no frills fare, why would I want to pay more for it? Then everyone would just settle and fly CebuPac.

Finally, the possible solution to the financial woes of PAL are most probably internal. They need to hire more intelligent people to run the business. If PAL is losing out on its domestic flights to CebuPac, then PAL should shut down all its domestic flights and simply convert half the PAL carriers to AirPhil. Offer all domestic flights as a no frills flight. End of story. If PAL is losing out on its international flights, it should probably review why its airfares are far more expensive than other airlines. Of course, many of the foreign airlines are subsidized by their governments. Because PAL is privatized, there will be no government subsidy. But even on a simple frequent flyer level, PAL offers the worst kind of redemption because it has no other global alliance. So you're really stuck with a raw deal. Even HSBC has pulled out of an exclusive PAL mileage program because Lucio Tan's Allied Bank offer a better exchange for peso spend on ABs credit card. A program like this - where only Lucio Tan will profit - will eventually fail and fall flat on its face. In order to prop up the sales of PAL and lower its airfare, it should sit down with the Department of Tourism and other government agencies in helping PAL be the face of Philippine Tourism. And someone has to give in (especially Lucio Tan). Otherwise, its doom is inevitable.

Being in transition is a lame excuse for inefficiency and poor management. It doesn't placate a lousy customer service. PAL has had its financial woes for the longest period of time. It has never understood the airline industry.

It is time the government look deeper and understand further why PAL is turning out to be the Philippines Lousiest Airline. It may be sunset soon for Asia's supposedly sunniest airline.