Monday, August 29, 2011

Fish tank, Twitter and Facebook

I've just learned a few widgets and gadgets and have added it to my blogspot. I don't know how long I'll keep it there, but if you've nothing to do, you can play with the fishes in the right corner aquarium. Put the mouse anywhere in the aquarium and the fish will go to it. Click on the mouse to feed my fish.

And you can follow my twitter and facebook as well. You can follow in Twitter at Perhaps this way, I can get some of my political messages across to the idiots who should be reading it. I do it as a prelude to my official letter to the President of the Philippines in my upcoming blog update in September.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The flip side in 60 seconds

During our last staff meeting for the Department of Pediatrics at Asian Hospital and Medical Center, a colleague of mine commented that I should probably blog about my being the incoming Chairman for the department. I laughed when she teased me that it would be my "hell" and that it was a most appropriate description for my blog writings. This is my final blog for the month, so let's take it from there.

I take my job or whatever I do seriously. While I may flip flop on a few decisions at the start, I also have a vision for a generation.

And so I blog about this new turn of event in my life and accept with humility the task of being the next "Captain of the Ship".

When I retired from teaching medical students three years ago and went into private practice, I felt a void in my academic career. I missed the grand rounds, the training and drilling of students with the daily cases, the teaching skills and poring over loads of information in pediatrics, pharmacology and infectious diseases. After all, I had been the residency training officer of two hospitals - one government hospital (Ospital ng Maynila) and one teaching hospital (University of Santo Tomas) - in my not too distant past. So teaching and training to me was the core of my daily habit. My decision to retire from teaching was like having to give up coffee at the break of dawn.

When I was asked if I was willing to take the post as the incoming chair, there was an initial hesitation on my part. After all, I had found a new comfort zone. I have come full circle in my career, have been part of the lives of so many successful and great doctors and at my age, life should simply be about preparing for retirement.

Yet a part of me felt that there was a need to make my colleagues realize that the art of medicine is not about myself or how much I make or how many patients I have made better or cured. Coming full circle is about paying it forward.

At that singular moment when I was asked whether I was willing to take this new post, I felt that the next 60 seconds of decision making was moving in very slow motion. It was not the impulsive me that played central role in saying yes. My flip side, the cautious me, was tugging me back.

The 60 seconds saw my previous life pass me by.

All of us at Asian Hospital have come from a great residency training program. We're all board certified and specialty and subspecialty certified. I've always believed in how great this circle of physicians are. We may come from different schools or have trained from different hospitals both here and abroad, but we've learned from the best.

Call it a legacy, but the best of leaders and healers will always pass the torch to the younger colleagues - to teach them and learn from them. It's only by paying it forward that we learn to be appreciated in life and thereafter. Even after we're gone, somewhere in other people's lives, we leave our mark in their lives. My mentors have left a bit of themselves in my life and I am eternally grateful to them for this.

And the 60 seconds ended with the flip of the coin of accepting this daunting yet humbling task.

And so as I begin the new role of leading a great bunch of pediatricians and friends starting next month, I pray that I lead well.

They say that the true mark of a great leader is succession planning. We simply cannot be invisible men living our own lives. We owe it to our great teachers and mentors to continue the task of passing the torch.

The decision at the flip of the coin was probably a challenge to see "hell" as my colleague said.

All I can say, "I've been to hell and back. But with everyone's help, this new task may just be purgatory. Who knows, if we all pitch in together, we might all get a glimpse of heaven in the end."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A matter of inconvenience

Last saturday, my driver came to work sobbing.

My maids were running around the house like chickens without a head. They announced to the household that my driver had been robbed - again!

My driver goes home to Batangas because that's where his family is. He earns more than the average family driver (yes, I pay extremely well). In spite of his better earnings, he actually spends 60% of his pay just on transportation. After explaining (I think the right word is "castigating") to him the stupid economics he practices, he decided to reside in Bicutan with his brother (which is a 15 minute jeepney ride to my residence) eventually. It's either that or I told him that he can find another job somewhere. There are days when he goes home to his mother's house in Makati. That's another story.

My driver commutes by public transportation from Alabang to any other destination home - Batangas, Bicutan or Makati. Last March, on his way home from Alabang, he was robbed. Someone slashed the back pocket of his pants and took his cellphone and wallet in the train. I don't think they took much, but he lost his ID, driver's license and of course his cellphone.

He needed to borrow money to replace all these and the hapless employer (that's me) had to lend him money. Of course, since it was a debt, he needed to repay these over the next few months with minor deductions in his paycheck. Which meant that his take home pay would be a bit less and that his family would need to scrimp.

Fast forward to Saturday. So my driver came in that fateful Saturday morning after coming from Makati. His story - while waiting at the bus stop, a couple had approached him to ask for directions going to God-knows-where. He found it strange that the couple had boarded the bus with him and even sat beside him! (Mind you, my driver is not even good looking nor does he dress well at all. If there's an award for dressing down to the pauper - my driver would win hands down.) It was a longer trip from Makati to Alabang. And he fell asleep. When he woke up in the Alabang station, the couple wasn't beside him anymore and when he alighted, he noticed that his cellphone and wallet had disappeared as well.

It was take two for my poor driver. I don't think the thieves really took a lot because he had no money in the wallet except for his driver's license and the old mobile phone was one of my old recyclable unreliable phones.

I blog about this because of the inconvenience and hassle that it brings to ordinary people, living ordinary lives, trying to make a decent living through ordinary means. I am flabbergasted at the many cries of human rights activists who decry that when policemen catch criminal in the act of a crime and beat them up, it's a human right violation! These mendicants and scums of the earth have the temerity to prey not only on the rich, but most despicably on the poor. These robbers who have nothing better to do with their lives and are too lazy to even get a decent job profligate their trade by perfecting their technique at robbing people of their hard earned money. And they have the guile to cry out human rights violation? DUH?!?!!?

I have been robbed several times as well. It's not a good feeling to lose hard earned cash or kind to thieves. It's a feeling of anger, desperation and helplessness. Even if you go and report it to the police, I have serious doubts that they will even help you solve the crime. The cops in the Philippines will simply make a police report, give you a copy, shake your hand and tell you to go file an affidavit of loss. Seriously, I have never even heard of someone going to the cops, reporting a robbery, and a cop following it up or at best, even solving it. It's why these thieves just go on a robbing spree. There's no solution to the crime. It's why people think that the cops are bad. There seems to be collusion to each crime.

It's like an everyday thing in Manila! It's like a run-of-the-mill scenario where kids high on rugby roam the roads, where mendicants tap at your car window begging for scraps or scrape your car, where the traffic enforcer is busier texting in the middle of traffic and running after number coded cars rather than enforcing traffic rules and regulations on the road, where the normal Pinoy will need to piss against any wall because he needs to take a leak, where jeepneys, trikes and buses load and unload in any part of the street they want, because they want to. It's like civil disobedience is a matter of every day life. There are government agencies that are mandated to implement the rule of law. Never mind if the public know that they enrich themselves because they steal, but puhhleeze do something good in return, at the very least. It's despicable enough that they steal from the coffers of tax collection and spend like there's no tomorrow our hard-earned taxes but to turn a blind eye to their job description and even to what they should or should not be doing is a bitch!

And so, the story goes that not only was my driver inconvenienced, but I and his family too. I had to, of course, lend him money to get all these lost documents, again! The police report and the notary public had served no purpose. You needed to enrich the PNP by paying for a police report and then the inutile lawyers who do nothing but issue a notarized affidavit of loss, and so in the end it's these idiots who sit back and do nothing that actual gain from the robbery! Sanamagan this country. It's so third world, so Banana Republic, so idiotically run by amateurs, so politically corrupt.

It also meant that my driver's family will be inconvenienced as well. They will need to buy less rice for this week. The kids will need to walk going to school again. The wife will need to scrimp on a can of milk for the young one. And I will be Santa Claus even before Christmas, again!

The rage that spits from my guts cannot be measured in this blog article. There needs to be some change in the way we look at crime and punishment in the Philippines. Just slapping the culprits on the wrist for the inconvenience caused is not enough. Let the human rights bleeding hearts cry out for all I care. If I were the president, I'd make sure that once these thieves got caught, they'd get their hand amputated in public on a Sunday morning with free admission to all. Drug dealers would get shot by firing squad on a Monday morning live on Magandang Umaga with all cameras focused on their next of kin. Rapists would have their penises amputated on Pinoy Big Brothers as added bonus to the show. Murderers will get executed every Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia or the Araneta Coliseum. Government officials and personnel caught stealing will be hanged in public at the Ayala Malls on Tuesdays to Fridays.

In the Philippines, democracy has a strange way of creating inconvenience to the ordinary people whose ordinary lives are driven mad by people who deserve to just roll over and die.

Ganun na lang ba?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Post-digital age syndrome

I thought of blogging about this topic after seeing so many teenage patients the past two weeks.

To have that many teenage patients in my pediatric practice meant that I must be gazillion years old because these kids have practically grown up with me.

The experience I have gained over the years of pediatric practice has been a life changing one. Observing how many of my patients have grown to become teenagers and adults, to parents, has been one helluva roller coaster ride, so to speak.

The youth of today are very much different from our times. I'm quite sure that the more "senior" generation will agree with me that technological advancements has correlated with the current state of today's youth.

I call it the post-digital age syndrome.

Let's face it. Even the more "senior" generation (like me) benefits from the technological advancement and that the digital age has contributed immensely to providing information at our fingertips. No more trips to the library, no more having to wait for days for a response from our clients, no more going to the bank to pay the bills, no more having to make long distance calls that charge an arm and a leg in order to speak to our loved ones, no more having to go through third parties to make reservations, no need for the yellow pages - yup, with the new techie gadgets, you've even got email on the go.

The only difference between the technological advancements is the time frame.

Obviously, the pre-digital age syndrome people had the benefit of searching for information in a more medieval way such as trekking to the library or poring over the voluminous books available to read. The post-digital age people just google it and you can even do advanced or narrowed searches. The latter, however, has the drawback that by making the computer and the world wide web or Mr Google search information for you, the information provided may be one that is lacking or biased (some information may not be published and so you won't see it on the net, such as theses or dissertations of graduate school students, etc.). Many information seen on the internet may not necessarily be complete - such as summaries or abstracts being provided as sneak previews - and because getting the full original versions will require payment, a lot of us end up making conclusions based on these summaries - a case of what you see is what you get! What also is distracting is the fact that anything and everything is published on the internet. Discerning what is factual and true is difficult for those that are not experts in the field of interest. This has its major drawbacks especially in the field of medicine, where patients and parents google symptoms in search for diagnosis, without the benefit of adequate knowledge on how to discern the right information to arrive at the correct diagnosis and eventually how to manage the disease. The piecemeal or "chop-chop" knowledge has contributed to a general sense of misconception, confusion, and panic among patients in the self-search of information for disease states.

Indirectly, the post-digital age has contributed to the obesity I am seeing in the clinics. Kids are growing up with just their fingertips doing the exercise. Some can spend days and days in front of the computer or some gamely gadget (PSP, DS Lite, iPad, Celphone or what have you) or in front of the TV surfing channels. I've noticed families at dinner tables (especially in restaurants) with some of their kids having the headsets of their phones or gadgets hooked to their ears (often times to a deafening volume that I can hear it a mile away even in a mall). No conversation, no discussion, just a deafening silence of words except the chewing of food or the clanking of utensils or the sound effects of the gadgets. Ask them to move their butts and many youngsters complain about wasting time on menial exercise. It's more cool to be on Facebook or be Twitting rather than to be sweating out all that fat from those uncool junk food and supposed healthy iced teas that are nothing but a bunch of flavored teas filled with sugar to the hilt!

While the purchasing power of the peso has supposedly dipped because of inflation, in reality, the household expenditure has increased in the post-digital era because of the added expenses in gadgets and top-ups (loads) for their mobile phones, cable, additional gadgets and games (not including apps and other downloadable items) or even for the poorer members of society - time consumed in the internet cafes. Hard earned money that can go to buying added food (eggs, bread, rice or even chicken) is not enough because the need to apportion at least 10% (some families average 20%) of their monthly wages only to keep up withe the techies.

I am saddened by the fact that the post-digital age syndrome has created a void in many families with gadgets and electronic baby sitters substituting for parenthood. While I agree that "we owe, we owe so off to work we go" has been the prime mover of our economy, I'm sure that everyone will agree with me that the quality time we share with our kids has been relegated to having a gadget or some trek to the mall substitute a day in the park or biking with your kids on Sunday. Sitting down with them for their assignments is relegated to Kumon and sending off the 2 year old to a day care center has become a run-of-the-mill solution to introducing kids to basic education because mom needs to make a career out of her life.

I am not saying that the pre-digital age babies had better lives and are probably happier than the post-digital age ones. I'm putting into perspective the influence that the digital era has imposed on many of our lives. Even the older generation has had changing values and lifestyles because of the rapid technological advancements.

I have nothing against technological advancement. But we need to take into perspective the impact it makes on our lives.

There's a saying that "we cannot have our cake and eat it too". There must be a balancing act in our lives in this post-digital age syndrome that should make relationships, families and friends be one where we end up not being strangers at the end. There needs to be more physical and emotional involvement and investment by each one of us. We cannot make technological advancements dictate the pace and quality of living we have. Otherwise, we end up as slaves to them.

It would be sad that as each of one exits this world, even condolences are sent digitally instead of a simple show of respect with our presence during the wake or burial.

There are many people who have found less meaning to life in the post-digital age than in the pre-digital age. Perhaps the rapid pace of technology has contributed greatly to this meaningless world of existence. Perhaps the post-digital age has made many of us engage in nameless and faceless relationships even with our closest of friends and kins because we've simply not valued spending more quality time with them.

Sadly put, the post-digital age syndrome is a lonely one. It may be a great disappointment in our journey of life if we forget to stop and smell the roses along the way.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Travel+Leisure - Where in the world is Manila? (Part 2)

Before I could post this blog, the Philippines tourism secretary Roberto Lim had resigned. While some may say it's out of political pressure, I say, good riddance.

Travel+Leisure Magazine and website takes us to a closer look on the 10 World's Best Cities (current rank on the left hand side and ranking in 2010 in parenthesis):

[Photo of Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand]

1. Bangkok, Thailand (1) - score 90.49
2. Florence, Italy (3) - score 89.92
3. Rome, Italy (5) - score 88.45
4. New York City, New York, USA (10) - score 88.4
5. Istanbul, Turkey (-) - score 88.18
6. Cape Town, South Africa (-) - score 88.06
7. Siem Reap, Cambodia (-) - score 87.90
8. Sydney, Australia (6) - score 87.84
9. Barcelona, Spain (9) - score 87.83
10. Paris, France (-) - score 87.73

The (-) meant that the property was not among the top ranked in this category last year.

Ironically, Siem Reap in Cambodia did not even rank anywhere in this category and still made it to number 7 place to visit in the world!

Manila, Philippines has its own character, its own feature and its own adventure (and not for the faint hearted). As the song goes - "Manila, Manila....I keep coming back to Manila..."! Only in Manila can you experience the ultra uber mixed culture where SM (Shoemart) is found in gazillion places all over the city, where the pedestrian lanes are good for only one person to walk on, where the pedicabs and jeepneys make a mockery of the streets by loading and unloading passengers on the major thoroughfares, where you get a fantastic roller coaster ride in the dilapidated rugged streets of Metro Manila (usually after the rains, every nook and cranny has a pothole), where you get strangled in the streets because of some Maynilad Waterwork excavating the streets and God knows who decided to patch it together after the excavation that took forever to finish and decided to just throw some rocks into the diggings, where buses just fall from the sky, where you see the crotches of some hunky guy thrown in your face in the major highways of the street, where the traffic enforcers run after number coded cars rather than those not obeying traffic rules and regulations, where traffic enforcers are busy texting on the street corner even when the metropolis is clogged, where the streets of the metropolis have literally turned into an extension of Manila Bay or Laguna de Bay after a torrential rain, where pedestrians play tag with oncoming cars in areas where they shouldn't be crossing (and by golly it's the fault of the driver if you run over an idiot who attempts to cross the street that has warning that you're not allowed to cross here), where when you drive a vehicle in Manila you shouldn't only be looking at the rear view mirror or the left side or right side of your car but at the sky because some loony decides to jump from the overhead pedestrian passage and lands on your car and you're accosted by the cop who files "homicide due to reckless imprudence" charges against you, where snatching of mobile phones is an every second criminal act, where people who get caught smoking in public places have the temerity to go to the supreme court to file charges against the government because they have the right to pollute the air, where squatters have more rights than the owners of the land they squat in...and I could go on and on, but that's the adventure you can experience in Manila for the next 5 days alone! When you land in the Philippines, most of the foreign carriers will have to dock at the NAIA 1. An outdated, outmoded scrappy airport that will not even meet an international airport's standards! Where the bags that come out of the conveyer belts carry boxes and boxes of Balikbayan boxes as if the Filipino that owned it had packed his whole house and included a coffin inside those huge boxes!

Seriously, let's face it. Manila has deteriorated because of very bad urban planning. It is accentuated by the fact that local government officials keep the dumpy squatters in their places because they serve as the voting majority during the upcoming elections. No political will at all. And Sec. Roberto Lim was facing a blank wall when he assumed the post. Since he had no balls to tackle this mess and no ideas at all on how to coordinate and plan how to make the Philippines, let alone Manila become one of the best cities as tourist destination in the world, his exit will not be missed. Neither will be the guy who will need to fill in the shoes and the void in our tourism industry.

But all is not lost. The Philippines IS a beautiful country to visit. Truth be told, in the same Travel+Leisure 2011 Best Islands in the World is Boracay that ranks at number 4! Our only pride left is not to taint the ranking of this beautiful destination by not making it a gambling capital or by building more hotels than what it already carries.

So here's the official list on the Best Islands for 2011:

1. Santorini, Greece (6)
2. Bali, Indonesia (4)
3. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (-)
4. Boracay, Philippines (-)
5. Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia (-)
6. Sicily, Italy (7)
7. Big Island, Hawaii (10)
8. Kauai, Hawaii (2)
9. Maui, Hawaii (8)
10. Galapagos (1)

Boracay Island had a star beside it's name. Meaning its the World's Best Debut entry for the year. Three cheers for Boracay!!!

[Photo of Shangrila Boracay, Philippines]

As a seasoned traveler, I've been to most of the cities and islands mentioned and Boracay truly deserves to be in the list, hands down.

Without a doubt, the work of the next tourism secretary is cut out for him. And it may be a tough job, but simply focusing on how to land Manila as one of the best cities in the world will be sufficient to generate income for tourism to the Philippines.

Investing in tourism may be one of the toughest jobs but when done well, should become self-sufficient enough to generate jobs for Filipinos in the land of Juan de la Cruz.

So that next time when we're traveling abroad and people ask us, "so where are you from?", we can hold our head up high and proudly say, Manila, Philippines!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Art fart!

Imelda Marcos decades ago said that art is what is True, Good and Beautiful!

No one has placed the three words to describe it better than the former First Lady. And although her husband may have been a despotic leader, it is without doubt that Marcos is one who can recognize true artistic value.

So when the Cultural Center of the Philippines put up the art exhibit of Thomasian, Mideo Cruz (yes he's a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, the Royal Pontifical University in the Philippines), I wondered at what the ballyhoo was all about.

And then I saw it.

There is art and there is fart. In a country where religion plays a vital role in the beliefs and faith of its people, it was blasphemous to utilize the very core of religion to profess his supposed "artistic" interpretation of what the CCP classified as a work of "art".

When he was asked what a removable penis at the crotch of the Crucifix meant, he said that it was his interpretation of a patriarchal society. To Cruz, a patriarchal society meant moving a crucifix up and down the cross.

I agree that perhaps "art" like "speeches" are the "artists" license to express their freedom of expression. Perhaps I could take a photo of Cruz in the nude with his whole body shaved to the bone and wrap him in Glad Wrap and say that he resembled a condom with the biggest prick inside it. To me, that's the artistic side of expressing an asshole who has no respect at all for other peoples beliefs and senses.

Artists will always wage a debate on whether there is good art and bad art and how appreciative people are of either of them. Some even profess to use Leo Tolstoy's arguments on "What is Art?" to clearly delineate what is a work of art that functions as a communicative bridge between the artist and the audience. Some pornography producers say that their work of eroticism is art. And of course, justify these works so that it can entice the libido of the consuming public. The dichotomy of good and bad art is left to the audience to decide.

But there is also a thin line between being delusional and schizophrenic. To anyone who appreciated the fact that a penis protruding from the head of Jesus Christ was art is tantamount to saying that the "masterpieces" of Cruz was akin to a pedicab looking like a BMW.

Seriously, Cruz is a nut job and anyone that appreciates his work as a work of art has got to have his head checked by a shrink. Appreciating bad art is like saying that you have no sensibility to even recognize the surreal.

If Cruz is looking for publicity through his controversial work, he definitely has found it. But at what cost? My dog and cat can draw a better masterpiece than this loser.

The irony is, at least the Marcoses can distinguish what is truly art. It's sad that PNoy and his government has distanced themselves from this controversy. Oh well, birds of the same feather, flock together! Talk about autistic people! Geez!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Travel+Leisure - my tips for a vacation holiday! (Part 1)

So my European vacation is over and it's back to reality. I owe, I owe, so off to work I go. And while I'm still having a hangover on how great this vacation was - the food, the shopping, the sight seeing, and most of all the relaxation - I'm dreaming of the next. I guess, I do that to keep the impetus of having to "work hard, play hard" a challenge in my day to day routine work. Truth be told, routine is boring. I always tell my friends that we need a break from the routines of daily life to make each vacation a memorable one.

Vacations are time off from the routines of daily living. Like yeah, I've got a lot of bills to pay, so we work our asses off. And while we can be saving for a rainy day, some of that savings must go to enjoying the fruits of our labor. And that's exactly what a vacation is supposed to be. A time to relax. A time to recharge. A time to throw away the anxieties of daily life. To dream even for a while.

One needs to save enough to enjoy a good vacation.

Which means that I will take a vacation in style - I am not referring to opulence, but rather on not scrimping on necessities during the trip. I don't want to arrive at my destinations looking like part of the baggages that comes out of the conveyer belts of the airlines. (For short trips less than 4 hours, you don't need to fly in business class because it's a waste of money. The very short trip isn't worth the bucks. But for long-hauls, believe me when I say that it's really an uncomfortable ride.)

Which means that I won't be caught dead eating at McDonald's for breakfast or eating at a fast food joint instead of Nabucco in Milan or splurging on the best lobster caught off the coast of Santorini at Katina's just because I wanted to buy a Dolce & Gabanna bag. It also means that I will not take a vacation squeezing myself at the back of economy class for a 17 hours trip just because I have gazillion relatives, friends and co-workers to bring some gifts (read - "pasalubong") for. Immediate relatives will get some token or souvenir but the rest of the crowd do not need to because they did not pay for my vacation and I am not indebted to them in any form. As for my employees, they should just be thankful that they have a job and I am paying them well. They can go ahead and save for their own vacations. I don't need to get them a bit of Paris just to spark envy in their eyes.

I also won't get caught dead sleeping in a hostel or a sleazy bed and breakfast backpacker's place. I have nothing against these places. I know they are cheap and my sister always tells me that since it's only for a few days where we plan to bunk in and that we're usually out exploring the cities, a place to lay our tired bodies is all we need. I always believe that one of the most important things one considers in a trip is lodging. Pampering and the feeling of getting pampered has no comparable experience. Luxury, opulence and relaxation are part of the equation of a memorable vacation experience. You don't want to be writing about your trip where you woke up to bites from bedbugs or had the worst bed that was sagging to the floor that you had backaches all throughout your trip. I'd want to remember the feeling of having slept on a Heavenly Bed with 750 counts of comforter and pillows that are hypoallergenic in nature. I'd want to recall the daily fruit baskets with champagne and Valhorna chocolates on my turned down bed and fluffed pillows for the night. I don't like having to take a bath in a moldy bathroom where even the shower curtains (if there is one) are about to accumulate so much grime or that the shampoos and soaps come in sachets and there's only one towel that's been thinned out from excessive use. After the sightseeing and shopping, I'd like to come home to a hotel where I can sleep in and soak in a bathtub with Aveda or Molton Brown or L'Occitane or Hermes bath products complete with toothbrush, shaving kits, cotton tips and facial scrubs to boot. I'd want to wake up to a fresh cup of coffee made from my Nespresso rather than a three-in-one sachet with hot water which I will need to go down to a dingy makeshift kitchen of the hostel (if there even is one) to get. Getting additional perks of a butler or chamber maid or chauffer with a limo is icing on the cake, but that's only you've got extra cash to ostentatiously splurge.

There's nothing like treating yourself to a taste of heaven while you're on earth. It's what you remember and write about in your "Dear Diary".

Choosing the best flights, best places to go and stay, best spots to see need planning. You need to research thoroughly on these and with the internet at the tips of our finger, it's a great help to see the opinion of fellow travelers who are netizens as well. You need to explore what every place has to offer. Even if one keeps going back to the same vacation spot, it's a good idea to vary some of your itineraries and places of stay so you can compare while enjoying the ups and downs of travel.

Airline flights.
Expedia ( provides a comparative guide on which airline to take to your destination. Once you've picked your airline, go directly to the airline's website and see what fares are offered. It's also good to keep in mind that choosing ONE common carrier should be the standard as flying on different carriers from your origin to your point(s) of destination is far more expensive. Join a frequent flyer program. You'll be surprised that the miles you've accumulated will more than pay for your next vacation or can be redeemed as miles + cash later on or better yet, get upgrades from the crowded economy seats. Read the fine lines when you plan to book your flights. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (our local carriers) offer rock bottom prices but these are not inclusive of taxes and other charges. More often than not, you may be able to get seats at the advertised promo rate but they fly out at 1AM or so and leave you on the street in your final destination until 2PM the following day (which is the regular check-in time).

About your destination. is a great site for the general public. Others include Lonely Planet (, Frommers Guide (, and of course Travel+Leisure ( I prefer small luxury or boutique hotels because they're not too touristy and the amount you spend on touristy hotels will get you a suite at these hotels. Tablet hotels ( provides information on the latter. And while you're at it, check out the places to see where and when you go. The best time to be there and the offers on the sites. Don't forget to compare the reviews and not just look at the pictures. Many hotels put up websites whose pictures look picture perfect of heaven but when you get there, it's as crummy as hell. They won't give you your money back and neither can you get out of the deal. You'll always see a map of the location of the hotel. Check it out and see if it's the best place that has access to a bus or subway or train station. Some may be a great steal because it's a luxury suite at a low rate but it's located in some deserted God-forsaken area where you'll either need to rent a car or walk a mile before you get there. Remember, you're in unfamiliar terrain and while it's okay to act like a tourist, you don't want to waste your time in your final destination figuring out how to get from point A to point B from dawn till dusk.

Finally (and I say this from experience), it's always best to get your airline or show or park tickets or make hotel reservations online. Of course, you'll need to do this with your credit card (and it must have enough credit limit). Travel agents usually charge you PER PERSON. If you check the prices online, you'll get shocked that the amount you're paying your travel agency actually is the total price PER ROOM per night. Most of the hotels offer great deals with buffet breakfast and special packages for your vacation. Many of the airlines and hotels also have fabulous offers when you're flying during the low season rather than the general holidays.

Remember, it's hard earned money that you're spending. And it's your vacation. And no one deserves a great vacation than the weary traveler in search of an adventure or a dream or simply to relax. It's not about the bags or shoes or clothes or Spam or shampoos or candies or what-nots you buy that a vacation is about.

It's the journey.

[Travel+Leisure is the trademark of Travel and Leisure and you can log in to]

Thursday, August 4, 2011

4 L's

Love, Lust, Looks and Loot.

So which of the aforementioned words beginning with the letter "L" is the reason why you're entangled in a relationship?

Interestingly, studies show that the number one reason for attraction between two sexes (or even within the same sex) is physical in nature. Considering sex as a factor, studies show that men prefer lust, loot, looks and love in that order, while women prefer loot, love, lust and looks in that order. Considering age as a factor, the younger generation (those less than 30 years old) prefer lust over loot over looks over love in that order, while those more than 30 years prioritize love over loot over lust over looks in that order.

Women are more confident about themselves and are more practical when it comes to relationships than men. Men have the "wham bam, thank you maam" bravado. Unfortunately, as men age, their bravado yardsticks begin to tame down as well. Ho-hum, so much for the bravado. This probably accounts for the fact that men (especially gay men) engage in relationships out of LUST more than women.

The younger generation understandably have their libidos and raging hormones guzzling up their groins. It would be unmistakable that they plunge into a relationship out of LUST and are in search of LOVE in the most unexpected time and place. And while they're out carousing the various chat rooms on the internet for Mr Wonderful or Miss Fantabulous, they're checking out the vital statistics and the likes rather than the bank accounts.

Of course, these are just statistics from various polls. Polls are reflective of a cross-sectional data, which mean that they are reflective of opinions at only a single point in time. What may be the opinion or preference today may have been different 3 decades ago and may differ even a year from today.

Given the 4 Ls when deciding to initially engage oneself in a relationship, which do you consider FIRST?

Perhaps one of the greatest considerations in the current scenario is money (or loot). Being in a relationship with someone who has loot is being practical. While you may have the looks, these eventually fade with time. Some people even go to the extreme extent of rationalizing that if you've got the moolah, the "pogi" points increase and the value of the individual notches up higher than hunky good looking stud at the corner of the room who's bulging muscles and crotch-line is probably bigger than his pocket. Besides, it's easier to fall in LOVE with someone who can give you a slice of heaven and purgatory, more than someone who'll take you to hell.

And so the paradigm on establishing relationships has shifted gynormously over the last decade (in the era of technological advancements). Money, my friends, seem to be speaking louder than the "face that launched a thousand ships". Nowadays, if you've got the cash, then you're a great catch. Let's get real, I'm sure no one would give a second look at Pacman if he were his old poor self. But my gosh, now that the boxer is a billionaire a million times over, he's got his balls being rubbed even by the lustiest and bustiest girls like Paris H.

So who says money can't buy you love?

IF you're in a relationship (or plan to get hitched soon), look in the mirror and ask yourself deeply - was it out of LUST, LOOT, LOOKS, or LOVE?