Sunday, May 29, 2011

On Palawan, Chedeng, BDO, GiMaDePe, Chico & Delamar, BDO, RayBan, Magic Palayok, Manny Pacquiao, Michael McDonald, Top Gun and John Adams

Your Signature Can Make A Difference

Remember Aesop’s fable about the thirsty crow? Let’s call him Vince Perez. Stumbled upon a half-empty bottle of Chivas Regal. Can’t reach his beak inside, you see, so he got some ice cubes until he got a shot of scotch whiskey on the rocks.

           Great things start from small beginning, goes the Milo slogan. Little things accumulate. I am proud to say that I have signed the petition to stop mining in Palawan.

I did that last March and my blog 2Rivers has been carrying a self-made banner link to the sign-up website since then.

Good news: Palawan is unique for its rich but delicate biodiversity. Here’s the bad news: the ground underneath is so thin and fragile so any excavation threatens to sink the entire island.

Join us in saving Palawan. Sign up by clicking THIS.

A Stormy and Thankless Job

Weather is, by nature, unpredictable. That’s why we used to have the tradition of naming tropical depressions with girls’ names, an ode to the fairer sex’s famous fickle mind. That is, until women’s lib landed, so now we also have boy storms.

            The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), throughout the years, has been our only source of information about anything about the weather. This government agency under the Department of Science and Technology reports their forecasts based on their instrument readings, always setting the expectation that conditions can, and oftentimes will, change.

            It does them gross injustice to get blamed for something beyond their control, like what’s happening now. Some politicians, instead of being thankful that typhoon Chedeng didn’t fully land in Metro Manila and the northern part of the country as was calculated based on the available information at that time, actually slammed PAGASA.

Instead of being thankful that their constituents did not have to face the full force of nature’s fury, they even took it as an opportunity to get media mileage.

PAGASA’s warnings galvanize preparedness and have actually saved lives, but there are people who just stubbornly insist on focusing on flaws, and nothing can change their mind, not even the climate.

But if the storm did arrive, they would blame PAGASA too. “What a fool believes he sees,” sings Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers, “no wise man has the power to reason away.”

The Doobies!

BDO Means Bad Customer Service

Yesterday I had the misfortune of having to cash a manager’s cheque at Banco De Oro in SM Manila. It was a Saturday and the only ones open are those in the malls and that was the nearest. I’m having difficulty writing this because I don’t want to write bad stuff about anything or anybody but obviously they don’t care about customers either.

            My cheque had to be approved by the manager. One of their regular patrons, who came to withdraw from his passbook issued from another branch, told me he used to be able to transact anywhere, but now he had to endure the inconvenience of getting approved.

            Whoever makes those policies seems indifferent about their customers and the company’s reputation.

Another stupid policy is the guards have to check your bags even after you had gone through the mall guards. It is redundant, time-consuming and serves nothing but the guards’ egos. I understand security but I also recognize paranoia.

Then there was a power fluctuation and all their systems went down.

Obviously they don’t respect their customers so they didn’t even bother to have a back-up. We were told to come back later, as if other people's time is not important.

I strolled around the mall, where at least two escalators are not working. I thought of going back on another day but I figured I have to go through the entire process again so I had to waste almost 5 hours.

I told the manager I’ll cash my cheque in another branch, she said sure but all their branches are down too. What the F?

I told her one of the guards was rude, and she acted as if she didn’t hear me. I said it again, the teller beside her was looking at us both, but the manager ignored it, pretending to be engrossed in her paper work.


Pure Talent

Had the pleasure of meeting and watching the YouTube sensation GiMaDePe perform live earlier this week near Greenfield District in Mandaluyong. They’re a group of Filipino musicians who arrange and perform acoustic versions of movie themes and songs without the singer.

            The name GiMaDePe, is an abbreviation of the first syllables of the name of their four members who are trainers from SPI Global, the first Filipino-owned international call center under the PLDT Group. Their prime inspiration is Depapepe, the Japanese acoustic guitar duo
            It is always refreshing to witness first class talent firsthand. GiMaDePe lets the music express itself and take centerstage – timeless rhythm in its purest form.


Heard On Wednesday

Caught a portion of the Morning Rush with Chico and Delamar on Monster Radio RX 93.1 last Wednesday. I like their  freestyle chats with suave segues, anything under the sun. I don’t get to tune in that often? But I’ve been listening for quite a while, but mostly I was on the now defunct Morning Zoo Crew on Magic 89.9 with Slick Rick and King DJ Logan, who’s now with 99.5 RT.

            What everybody anticipates most about the Morning Rush is their Daily Top 10, where they’d give a talking point, listeners would join the conversation via text message and Twitter, and they’d read the ten best ideas on air.

            The topic was Commandments On Love and Friendship. I fully agree with “Don’t read your partner’s text messages and e-mails.” Trust is really important to me. What’s the point of being friends or having a relationship if you don’t trust each other, right?

            Kudos to Shong Mao, one of the listeners who consistently gave good ideas. My favorite was “Don’t yell unless there’s fire.” Love that line, so witty and true.

Why I Wear Sunglasses At Night

I go the extra mile to affirm my belief in humanity. Last April, I lost my Top Gun style sunglasses, in an original Hugo Boss frame with its indestructible case, in a PBCom pantry while waiting for some friends who work at Stream, formerly eTelecare.

            The next day I got it back because somebody turned it over to the security personnel. It perhaps helped that it was tinted prescription glasses, 600 on both eyes, so I know nobody but me can use it. Still, I’m grateful, and it strengthened my faith in the inherent goodness of my fellow men.

Top Gun!

John Adams had such faith

Fantaserye On The Go

Rode a bus going to Megamall in Mandaluyong from C-3 Road in Caloocan via Edsa last week. The bus TV was showing Magic Palayok which I saw for the first time. I heard about this afternoon serial last Feb and I’m curious to see it because my all-time crush Mikee Cojuangco has a special role there. Gosh darn it, she wasn’t in that episode.

            In the story, the lead love team Geoff Eigenmann and Carla Abellana got married to avoid a court case, something like that, and he told her he doesn’t love her. Geoff hated his mother Isay Alvarez and he threw her out of his house when she tried to visit.

            In another scene, he found his long lost brother Romnick Sarmenta, who apparently lost his memory. There’s this little girl staying in the house of Cherry Gil and Chynna Ortaleza who they tried to kill. But she was saved by two magic little beings, one of them was Janice De Belen riding on a giant spoon. Makes sense, because palayok is the local term for clay cooking pot.

            The little girl turns out to the daughter of Romnick and Mikee.

The Living Legend

Our generation has a ring side view of the phenomenal career of one of the greatest boxers of all time. That fact that he’s a Filipino brings honor to our nation.

Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is already a living legend, the tantalizing symbol of what even a poor boy from the province can accomplish, the dizzying heights to which he can soar.

Pacman’s record as the world champion in a staggering eight divisions borders on the super human. He is a real hero, the People’s Champ, as we call him, more so because he has remained humble and unassuming even with all his achievements.

 That’s a real champion!

Here’s The Manny with Sugar Shane Mosley!

Here’s The Manny with Jimmy Kimmel!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

On Harold Camping, Antonio Leviste, Frank Chavez, A Stray Cat, Loyal Friendships, Justin Bieber

Post-Doomsday Thoughts

Today’s the first day after the end of the world.

I respect other people’s beliefs, even if they contradict mine, even if they defy logic. I didn’t even entertain the possibility that the Lord Almighty has revealed to Harold Camping of Family Radio Worldwide – EXCLUSIVE! – that doomsday has been scheduled for yesterday.

It is against my nature to gloat, but it got me seriously thinking about the God-like powers of the mass media.

I understand the human need for a connection to the divine. I’m just sad that some people, like trekkers stranded on a desert, will desperately cling to a mirage to assuage their thirst, to fill that emptiness.

In our search for the sacred, have we forgotten to discern what we believe to be true from what we want to be true?

Who Wants To Be A Prisoner?

Last Wednesday, Antonio Leviste was arrested in front of his condominium in Makati because he was supposed to be in Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa for homicide. So they put him in jail.

Leviste, a former governor of Batangas, was convicted for killing his aide Rafael De Las Alas in 2009, sentenced for 6 to 12 years, and has been in and out of his cell ever since.

I am trying to look at this issue, as with most things, as objectively as I can. Let’s start with the things everybody agrees on.

First: Jail conditions are totally inhumane.

Second: It is a common practice to bribe prison officials and wardens to get a separate cell and other stuff.

Third: long-term prisoners who become eligible for living-out status get the freedom to build their own quarters and simulate a normal life within the compound.

Fourth: a prisoner with a valid medical reason gets taken to a hospital under guard.

A lot of people are reacting as if these things don’t happen, as if it’s a sin to want to be protected from hardcore criminals and subhuman conditions.

Some people say it’s unfair that wealthy convicts get preferential treatment. That observation is justified, and it is really unjust.

Trying to change society is admirable, and it all begins with pointing out what needs to be changed.

But what would you do if you were in that situation? Wouldn’t you use whatever means at your disposal to find a reprieve from suffering?

Why We Need Frank Chavez

Filipinos who work abroad are charged a fee by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, a government agency under the Labor Department. The pooled money is supposed to be for the, well, overseas workers’ welfare.

In the 2004 elections, the then President Gloria Arroyo authorized the use of OWWA funds to distribute Philhealth cards to voters. Part of the funds went to the renovations of our embassies in Egypt and Oman. Another chunk went to the Iraq war.

Independent human rights lawyer and former Solicitor General Frank Chavez filed a case against the Arroyo administration for the diversions of the trust fund in 2004.

The then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo and the present outgoing one, Merceditas Gutierrez, both sat on the cases, and nothing has happened to this day, but Chavez is valiantly reminding the media of this irregularity that is nearly being buried from the constant avalanche of new news events.

The serious consequences became apparent, to cite the most recent incidents, with the government’s failure to expeditiously expedite the repatriation of OFWs from the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, and from the political chaos in Egypt and Libya – all because there are no funds left.

Lawyers may quibble but when lives are at stake, then it goes beyond technicalities. What the previous regime did was wrong, and Frank Chavez, God bless his suspenders, is right.

We need Frank Chavez, and I hope that we could prove we deserve an advocate like him.

His tireless and unselfish dedication to uphold the rule of law makes him worthy to be given the power to surmount bureaucracy and actually get things done.

Superstar Stray Cat

Last Monday I was sitting outside a tailor shop in Santa Ana in Manila under the shade of a tree. The summer heat was demonic though it was cooler where I was, compared to my apartment which doesn’t even have air conditioning.

A ragamuffin kitten passed, and I instinctively called out: Swswswswswswsws!

He came, climbed up to me and was soon sitting on my knapsack on my lap as comfy as you please.

Feeling close.

A Friendship To Last A Lifetime

I just attended last Wednesday my nth funeral – I mean, not mine, but I’ve been to so many I actually lost count. It pains me still that those include the wakes of my first best friend Noel De Los Angeles in 2007 and my second best friend Gilbert Bolante in 2009. I was also there for a really close friend, Jimmy Locsin, in 2003.

This time it was for the aunt of another old friend, Gary, a good friend since 1993. What makes it poignant is his mother died just last month. It was in the same room at Loyola Chapels in Guadalupe in Makati.

I value friendship more than words can say. As I posted in Facebook last week: If you earn my respect, then you deserve my loyalty. No man intimidates me so my words are true.

I may not be a party animal – I don’t drink and really feel out-of-place in boisterous crowds – but in your hour of need, I’ll be there.

If our friendship is worth keeping, then you can lean on me. Depend on it. That’s what friends are for.


I Smile, I Smile, I Smile!

“’Cause my cards are on the table, and I’m willing, and I’m able…”

I love that line from U Smile by Justin Bieber, who was in Manila recently.

I’m not really a fan. I just love music, and as I wrote in another essay, music loves me too.  

I find the song really cute: it says everything yet tell you nothing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On Thor, RH Bill, Animal Torture, Bullies, Ayala Triangle, U.P. Sunken Garden, Jose Mari Chan

What It Takes To Be Worthy

Thor is the son of the king and chief deity Odin and heir to the throne of Asgard. He is the master of  Mjolnir,  the hammer of the gods forged from a star, the power of which defies imagination.

Stuff like that can get into your head. So even though his courage in battle is legendary, he grew up cocky. When he disobeyed his father and unilaterally attacked the lair of the Ice Giants with a small coalition of willing friends, like what George W. Bush did in Iraq, he was exiled.

What he did was right, but the whole thing turned into a disaster, so he was wrong – and that’s the way of the world.

On earth, he had to endure unimaginative mortals to get back Mjolnir, and he was shocked to high heavens when his hammer wouldn’t budge. Even gods gets disappointed, not the most reassuring thing to hear, but at least they know where we’re coming from when we bombard them with prayers.

I love Anthony Hopkins, truly, but Sean Connery comes to mind as Odin.

Thor is lucky, the series of fortunate events made his adventure last only 2 days. He doesn’t strike anyone as homeless, as observed by the girl whose iPod was confiscated by federal agents. I can’t imagine him lining up in feeding centers and bemoaning his fate. Then again, he’s not Pinoy.

Thor’s story mirrors the Parable of the Prodigal Son, complete with a jealous brother, Loki. There’s another Biblical tale that echoes their sibling rivalry: how Isaac was tricked into giving his blessings to Jacob instead of Esau.

Thor went to earth and was transformed into a better man – and he has proven worthy to reclaim his rightful place. It’s like being reincarnated and now he’s born-again.

Thor is now home, where he belongs, because those who cross rainbow bridges, who have been purged and purified, and who don’t get drunk, all go to heaven.

Mendicant Nation

I support the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill because intelligent family planning cannot rely on menstrual cycles alone. Sex follows its own sked and libido moves in mysterious ways.

President Aquino is ready to defy the Church to curb the galloping boom, and I admire him for that, and I’m behind him all the way in my own little way.

Here’s a solid case for population management: Just last week, the Department of Social Welfare and Development rounded up more than a dozen minors in Balintawak who were sniffing rugby and gambling on the sidewalk, asking pedestrians for money so they can gamble more.

Children like these are mostly spawned by uneducated, alcoholic and criminal fathers, the kind that begs you for coins – and curses you if you don’t give them.

Here’s a suggestion from a friend: Stop taxing families with less than 2 children as an incentive for family planning.  That makes sense. The present set-up of tax exemptions for large families actually encourages precisely what the government is trying to stop.

Here’s my own suggestion: Pay 5 thousand pesos to male teenagers in slum areas to undergo vasectomy. They will agree as long as their peers won’t know. Purely voluntary of course, and PAGCOR can easily jumpstart the pilot project.

But for juvenile delinquents and jail gang members, vasectomy should be part of the punishment – we are sick and tired of their kind.

Our cities are now infested with squatter areas and overrun with genetically conditioned mendicants who mate and multiply even before they reach adolescence. Change the tax code and pass the RH Bill before it’s too late

The Worst Animal Is Man

Torturing animals is unspeakably despicable. There’s a scene in The Brothers Karamazov where a boy stuck a sharp pin into a piece of bread and threw it to a starving, trusting dog. His conscience punished him later, and he even became swore loyalty to Alyosha, so at least he had a measure of redemption.

Real life, on the other, can sometimes be more surreal than Russian dramas, sometimes more abominable than real life. It’s bad enough that a U.P. student mauled a kitten to death out of sheer bloodlust just a couple of days ago.

What’s even worse are those Filipinos whose job is to systematically subject  animals to intense agony and slow death, capturing it all on video which they sell to perverts who gets aroused by it all.

What the hell kind of sub-humans are those?

Man is the only animal which inflicts pain for the pleasure of it. It makes you wonder why God thought we have evolved enough to have dominion over the earth.

You Have To Earn R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I attended a class with a trainer who’s the complete opposite of a good leader, the complete opposite of a good teacher, and the complete opposite of a professional worthy of respect.

He bullies his students, humiliates them in front of the class. It’s obvious he’s uncomfortable with me because I’m one of the handful who doesn’t kiss his ass, and I know he resents me because I’m the only one in class who’s not afraid of him.

I have nothing but contempt for power-trippers.

This is a snapshot of my life now so I’ll have lots of things to chuckle about when I grow old and look back. I left that class and good riddance. As you see, no names and no clues. I’ll tell you this though: it’s not taebo or pole-dancing.


Trees of Gold

Spent the entire day yesterday in Ayala Triangle, the park behind the Makati Stock Exchange. People, local and foreign, look at me and see a guy in a blue sports shirt, jeans and silver rubber shoes. Probably a student, writing in a notebook, with trinkets on both wrists like a hippie, a couple of books on top of his knapsack.

I was actually writing magazine articles, making my free time productive and hydrated with Gulp from 7-11 and Coke from McDonald’s.

I look up and see trees of gold like the cherry blossoms in a Shinto shrine in Japan.

In The Arms of Nature

The Sunken Garden at the sprawling Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines, like Ayala Triangle, is special to me. What plays in my mind at those places is I’ll Remember by Madonna, theme from With Honors, a touching movie set in Harvard.

I won’t tell you why, only it’s about peeks at the bright sparks on the verities of existence, sheltered by the arms of nature, under an infinite sky that will outlast our sojourn through eclectic lifetimes.

Mr. Timeless

I’m proud to be old school. With music, I gravitate towards the classics. I was really shocked when a former classmate who idolizes Adam Sandler said he doesn’t know the Beatles. But that’s another story.

I can’t find the words to express my respect and admiration for Jose Mari Chan, and I’m supposed to be a writer, and a budding songwriter to boot.

I was happily tuned in to Music and Memories last Sunday, where he was a guest co-host to Boots Anson-Roa, pinch-hitting for Willie Nepomuceno. Jomari Chan is what I want to be someday: a successful artist with a beautiful family.

He wrote A Love To Last A Lifetime to his wife, their solid marriage is now on its 41st year, and all his children have grown up to be professionals and good citizens.

It’s the first time I actually saw him in a talk show, and he’s really a beautiful soul because I know a good man when I see one. He generously gave away copies of his latest album to the listeners, and he’ll be sending them by mail out of pocket.

That’s really touching but I’m not really surprised because I know that magnanimity brings good karma, and that’s why stingy folks never advanced in their lot.

His CD, Strictly Commercial, is a groundbreaking anthology of the staggering 73 ad jingles he had composed, including the famous “Wala pa ring tatalo sa Alaska!”

That’s mind blowing. I don’t always say this, but I’m truly, madly, deeply impressed.

The music of Jose Mari Chan is the soundtrack of my life. My favorite Pinoy song in English is Constant Change, and my favorite Pinoy Christmas song is A Perfect Christmas.

What’s this, slumbook? But wait, there’s more!

My favorite Christmas song remake is his When A Child Is Born, and my favorite contemporary revival is his version of John  Denver’s Perhaps Love, a beautiful duet with his daughter Lisa.

Those songs, with all due respect, sound a lot better than the originals.

I’m happy to be Pinoy in this lifetime if only for the exposure to original Filipino music, like his Can We Start Over Again. His music is timeless and world-class: no less than the Manhattan Transfer is recording his songs for international release.

Jose Mari Chan, more than anyone else, deserves to be honored the National Artist For Music, so why not now?