Showing posts from July, 2006

Protecting the environment at Pangasinan

The following is my column for today July 31, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

WE HAVE been driving for what seemed an eternity (in truth it had only been 30 minutes or so) along this dark, long and twisting stretch of road deep in the heart of Pangasinan when the breathtaking view suddenly hit us from out of nowhere. Looming below us was a dramatic tableau of structures and lights set against a panorama of an endless sea. At the nucleus was this mammoth machine bathed in lights and a giant chimney spewing white smoke. From where we were, the gigantic machine looked very alive and pulsating with action. The fact that it was after midnight made the scene quite surreal and reminded me very strongly of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; I kind of half-expected Richard Dreyfuss to materialize and announce to us that the spaceship has just landed. This was my first impression of the Mirant power plant in Sual, Pangasinan.

Mirant is one of the independent power produce…

Philippine Idol

I completely forgot that Philippine Idol was debuting on ABC 5 tonight. Fortunately (in this particular instance at least) I have neighbors who must be deaf since they always watch TV with the volume turned up so I was able to tune in.

What can I say. We are truly a country with a surplus of talent and grit, although alas, it is now an established fact that the two do not always go together. I am tempted to rant at ABC 5's cheap sensationalizing of the antics of the weirdos and circus characters that paraded themselves in front of Ryan, Pilita and Francis M. but there is no denying the fact that whether we like it or not, we do have those types of people in our midst. There is only so much TV people can do to egg people to display their worst behaviors so many of those spooky and loony capers we got to witness tonight must have been the (sur)real thing.

So here's what I learned from watching the maiden episode of Philippine Idol:

1. There are people who will go to such idiotic le…

Dengue scare

Around this time every year, the Department of Health begins coming out with those "reminders" about the imminent rise of certain seasonal epidemics. I never really paid attention to these dire warnings in the past - they were things that happened to other people.

Well, what do you know, this week some varsity players of the College where I teach were struck down with dengue fever. They needed blood transfusions.

And what is more, their dorm is actually just three houses away from where I live. Which means the mosquitoes that gave them dengue is probably very close relatives of the ones that swarm our garden.

So it was panic time today in my house. Actually more of a hybrid of major theatrical production and an exorcism. The pond had to be emptied (darn, I have to buy new fishes again next week), the canal had to be - how shall i say this delicately - poked and pumped and well you get the drift, and the whole house and garden had to be smoked out. I hope they are done …

Leadership by default

The following appears as an op-ed column at the Manila Standard Today, July 26, 2006.

GREAT performance. Generally well-crafted speech. Delirious cheering and applauding from the gallery. Good cast. Impressive PowerPoint presentation. Good measure of comic relief thrown in to break the ice. It can be argued that she was preaching to the choir. She was cocky at certain points, and awkward in some (was she interrupted by applause, or did she pause for one?). But at the end of it all, I just wanted to do a Cuba Gooding impersonation in that Jerry Maguire movie; I felt like hollering, “show me the money!!!”

The President premised her talking points on the phrase “we now have the money to…” What she seemed to have meant is that with the new tax measures and the intended stringent monitoring of tax collection efforts, we will have the money to fund all those ambitious projects. There is a significant difference between actually having the money and having the means to collect or produce that …


Because the government did not declare a holiday and it turned out that I had to go see my doctor, I watched the Sona from my doctor's office while waiting for my turn to be examined. As it turned out, the Sona was shorter than the waiting time; which I think is more reflective of the state of the medical profession. Anyway.

My expectations were actually few and low. And I prepared myself for some awful metaphors and production surprises to make up for lack of content. But surprise, surprise, the Sona was actually not all that bad; perhaps because it focused on plans and promises rather than on achievements. But then again, the most major achievement (which is nothing to sneer at if we come to think about it) of this administration is the fact that she is still President despite all the threats and all the plots and all the demonizing. I don't want to preempt my column for tomorrow so I will focus today on some interesting sidelights of the Sona.

* Where were the protocol office…

Distaste of the nation

The following appears as an op-ed column at the Manila Standard Today, July 24, 2006.

IN THE last few days, media people have been tripping all over themselves in a futile effort to rouse public attention to today’s main event, the President’s State of the Nation Address to Congress. Thus, we have been treated to a continuing coverage of the transformation of the Batasan into a veritable fortress, updates on the crafting of the speech and its content, and everybody else’s opinion on it.

It is a telling commentary of the real state of the nation that for most Filipinos, the buzz last week was on a rather inconsequential issue of whether or not today was going to be a holiday. MalacaƱang even had to go out on a limb to announce that it had no plans of declaring a public holiday like it did last year. I have this nagging suspicion that a holiday declaration would have been received more favorably than whatever good news the President is set to announce this afternoon. But the nondeclaratio…

Inanities on our roads

(The following is my column today at the op-ed pages of the Manila Standard Today)

I KNOW. Those billboards that litter the skyline along Edsa, the South Luzon Expressway, North Luzon Expressway and other major thoroughfares of this country do more harm than good. Having them on our streets is like having tabloids as wallpaper in your living room. Only, the latter presents more interesting possibilities—one can actually read them at leisure, claw at them when one is bored, and draw horns and vampire teeth on the faces of those annoying people in the news. On the other hand, those billboards conceal whatever little remains of our natural landscape.

Billboards distract drivers and take focus away from the more important reasons why they are on the road, among them: to practice how to switch lanes in a split second, learn how to break traffic rules without being caught, and how to overtake that darn ambulant vendor pushing a cart of peanuts. Drivers are on the road to learn more important …

Management skills not enough

(The following is my column for today, July 17, 2006, at the op-ed pages of the Manila Standard Today)

THERE is a recurring dilemma that haunts our educational system. And it is embarrassing because when we come to think about it, the people who are tasked with educating our people should ideally be held in high esteem and therefore freed from the usual bickering and tussling that is expected of politicians, but not of our educators.

The selection of the presidents of our state colleges and universities and the appointment of the secretary of the Department of Education have become perennial contentious struggles. Cases in point are the recent selection of lawyer Lutgardo Barbo as president of the Philippine Normal University and the appointment of Rep. Jesli Lapus as Education secretary. Both appointments have met stiff opposition. In the case of Barbo, key officials of the university have turned in their resignations in protest of his selection and are now demanding his recall. In the…

Save old churches

I haven't been doing my regular hops among my favorite blogs lately, so I missed an online petition initiated by Ivan Henares. But the petition is still open, so please support it. Ivan is a blogger and is a fierce advocate of heritage conservation - a monumental task considering how many of our architectural landmarks are being demolished wantonly and brazenly by uncaring local despots.

This time, Ivan is organizing a petition addressed to the powerful bishops to prevail on parish priests not to continue destroying our old churches. Please sign the petition here. We should remind our bishops that there are also other importants issues other than sex education and politics. Saving our cultural heritage is one of them.

My hometown in Abuyog Leyte is sadly a victim of this crime, and to aggravate things, the crime has become serial.

The town used to have a centuries-old church with a facade that is similar to the old churches in Ilocos. In the seventies, the then parish priest decided …

Fight all forms of discrimination

Last year, I explored a job opportunity in a call center as HR Director. It was a very tempting offer and I almost joined them, until I sat down with the CEO to discuss mutual expectations. This was when the excrement hit the fan, metaphorically speaking. I was told that one of my would-be first challenge was to craft and enforce a policy that would require certain call agents to follow a strict dress code. This struck me as somehow odd, and upon further discussion, I was informed that a number of the call center agents were gay men who cross-dressed and wore make up to work. I asked the CEO if these agents misrepresented themselves in the selection process (in other words, if they came to the selection interviews dressed as men and once hired started cross-dressing). I was told that as far as he knew, this was not the case. I asked him if the cross-dressing affected the performance of the particular agents or of the other agents. I was told that there was no perceptible effec…

Rainy days and truancy

Has anyone else noticed that whenever Education officials attempt to become proactive by cancelling classes very early on (like the night before), the expected downpour and flooding do not happen? It is as if nature wants to teach these people some lesson. So today was actually perfect for a school day - overcast but without rain - the kind of day I loved when I was still in grade school because it meant we could actually play in the school yard without getting all sweaty and sunburned. But too bad, classes were cancelled last night.

I do not blame Education officials for their continuing tendency to jump the gun. Our problem is that we do not have in place an effective early warning device - some system that works in announcing the suspension of classes early on in the day when students are not yet out in the streets or worse, when students are not yet in school. Alas, I know parents do raise a howl in this country when they have to pick up kids barely an hour since they deposited the…

In Medeas Res

In the last few weeks, most of the entries in this blog were about political stuff. A friend emailed me to chide me for having become this "wannabe pundit" (thanks, Linky for pulling me down back to earth) and told me he missed the times when this blog did not labor under the weight of other people's expectations. He also accused me of having imbibed the pomposity of the people he detests.

Perhaps he is right, so what the heck, today, I am going to blabber about anything and everything that comes to mind, and the hell with coherence. If you are expecting more of the usual political stuff, do both of us a favor, stop and read other blogs.


In medeas res (which appears in the upper right corner of this blog) is a phrase that appears in greek plays. If memory serves me right, it means "into the midst of things" which situates the action of the play right into the, well, the midst of things. This blog labored under that banner for a few days until I decided a more …

In honor of politicians...

Here's a joke shared by one of the regular readers of this blog Mommy Jo. Read, laugh, and weep.

Four surgeons are discussing who are the best patients to operate on.

The first surgeon says, "I like to see accountants on my operating table because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered."

The second responds, "Yeah, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is color coded."

The third surgeon says, "No, I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order."

But the fourth surgeon shut them all up when he observed: "You're all wrong. Politicians (especially from the Philippines?) are the easiest to operate on. There are no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains and no spine, and the head and the ass are interchangeable."

In The Name of the Truth

(The following is my column for today, July 12, 2006 at the op-ed section of The Manila Standard Today).

THE “truth” is the new catchword in town, and it’s been hanging from every politician’s mouth the last few days.

“In search of the truth,” they say, and it is truly a blessing that many of our politicians and civic leaders are hams in the acting department. Otherwise, we would not only have to put up with trite dramatic dialogues but awful melodramatic renditions of the phrase as well. (Imagine the great actors in the Senate looking straight at the camera with misty eyes and quivering lips intoning, “sa ngalan ng katotohanan!” and see if you don’t want to run screaming out of the room). If alarm bells were rung every single time someone invoked “the truth” in the last two days, we would all be deaf by now.

If people truly believe that “the truth shall set us free” and want to embark on a major quest to find it, who in his right mind would think of beginning the search in the halls of …

Here We Go Again

(The following is my column for today, July 10, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today)

THE national torture of having to put up with self-proclaimed patriots who mouth all kinds of incendiary statements in the name of love of country has once again begun.

These are days when one cannot help but wish there is a way to vanish all these loudmouths from the national consciousness so that we can all focus on doing what we are supposed to be doing individually to make this country a better place. Unfortunately, these people are relentless in foisting themselves and their causes and prescriptions on us. They take out full-page ads in newspapers, call press conferences, and make themselves readily available to every available microphone and journalist of media establishments who, unfortunately, have made it their policy to stoke the fires of controversies in order to stay ahead of the ratings game.

Many among us have learned to take these in stride. We give them two minutes of o…

From Mall of Asia to Sual

I work nearby but I haven't found the time to visit Mall of Asia until lunch time today. And my reaction is the same with most everyone who has been there: it is huge, as in mammoth, humungous, gigantic (these words came naturally, wonder why). While walking through one part of the mall, I found myself wondering if they will be able to attract enough clientele to sustain the upkeep of such a huge place.

Apparently that question has been answered already. I am told that on weekends, the place is packed to the rafters that parking is very difficult to find. This information almost made me regurgitate my lunch. Parking is difficult in the middle of several hectares of reclaimed land??? I am told families come to the mall for the whole day and that jeepneys loaded with families have been spotted at the parking area (including provisions for lunch, merienda and dinner). Whew. I guess the grass at Luneta and other parks (if people still go there to begin wtih) can take a breather in the …

Timing and circumstance

The country still seems undecided on what to make of the participation of one bishop in the filing of the impeachment case against GMA. Depending on which side of the political fence one sits in, Bishop Yniquez’ participation is either an act of a) defiance, b) provocation, c) courage, d) just plain rabble rousing or e) all of the above.

I do not actually understand this whole crap about the filing of the impeachment complaint being done in his capacity as a private citizen. Bishops have such a thing as a private persona? At what point in the day do they stop being a bishop? I thought that being a man of the cloth is not just something one does but something that defines who one is.

Having said that, let me also state that I view all these hairsplitting on the roles of the church and the state as just plain rhetorical swashbuckling. It makes for good debate and hysterical headlines, but even if a delineation can actually be made, how do you make those who overstep the bounds accountable…

Saving Philippine television

The following appears at the op-ed section of Manila Standard Today. It about the suspension of television show I-Witness by the MTRCB and the maiden broadcast of Bandila.

I-WITNESS is one of the very few remaining shows on local television that does a remarkable job of striking a good balance between form and substance—it is often both intelligent and entertaining. And in an industry where the ability to look good is mistaken for talent (and where cosmetic surgeons have been elevated to the stature of God—some people have the gall to announce “body by Vicky Belo”), Howie Severino is one of the very few who chooses to let his mind and his work do the talking for him.

Unfortunately, all these are alien to people with a terminal case of “moralitis.” It is a debilitating disease with strange symptoms such as seeing malice in anything where sex and body parts are mentioned, inability to use their gray matter, and taking offense at things one does not understand.

I-Witness has just been slap…

Moving Story

We all have our own stories to tell about our dads.

My friend's friend Jerome wrote about his father in his blog. It's a four-hanky piece about a son's struggle to embrace and break the father figure within us. Read it and weep.

Thoughts on a graduation

The following is my column for today at the op-ed section of Manila Standard Today.

TWICE a week, I roll up my sleeves, put on a serious countenance, and stand in front of a sea of faces whose expressions range from the utterly clueless, to the hopelessly bored, to the genuinely curious. In short, I teach. Despite my crazy schedule, teaching is something that I have refused to give up because I truly believe that every generation has a solemn responsibility to help mold succeeding generations. As a human resource management practitioner, I also believe that people in industry have no business complaining about the output of academe if they are not part of the crafting of solutions to the problems. I continue to rant, thus, I continue to teach.

Teaching still offers many psychological rewards despite these uncertain times. Seeing faces literally light up in the classroom as validation that, son of a gun, they finally got the solution to that vexing problem is still a continuing source of…