Thursday, August 31, 2006

Does this work?

A friend sent me this email, swearing that this works because he tried it. I am tempted to try it, because I figured what the heck, eating apples can't be all that bad. Except of course the epsom salt thing - is that safe?

Anyone out there who has tried this regimen?

GALL BLADDER STONE REMOVAL - The Natural Way
by Dr Lai Chiu-Nan

It has worked for many. If it works for you please pass on the good news. Chiu Nan is not charging for it, so we should make it free for everyone. Your reward is when someone, through your word of mouth, benefits from the regime.

Gallstones may not be everyone's concern. But they should be because we all have them. Moreover, gallstones may lead to cancer.

"Cancer is never the first illness," Chiu Nan points out. "Usually, there are a lot of other problems leading to cancer. In my research in China, I came across some materials, which say that people with cancer usually have stones.

We all have gallstones. It's a matter of big or small, many or few. One of the symptoms of gallstones is a feeling of bloatedness after a Heavy meal. You feel like you can't digest the food. If it gets more serious, you feel pain in the liver area." So if you think you have gallstones,

Chiu Nan offers the following method to remove them naturally. The treatment is also good for those with weak liver, because the liver and gallbladder are closely linked.

Regimen:

*For the first five days, take four glasses of apple juice every day. Or eat four or five apples, whichever you prefer. Apple juice softens the gallstones. During the five days, eat normally.

*On the sixth day, take no dinner. At 6 pm, take a teaspoon of Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) with a glass of warm water.

* At 8 pm, repeat the same. Magnesium sulphate opens the gallbladder ducts.

* At 10 pm, take half-cup olive oil (or sesame oil) with half cup fresh lemon juice. Mix it well and drink it. The oil lubricates the stones to ease their passage.

The next morning, you will find green stones in your stools. "Usually they float," Chiu Nan notes. "You might want to count them. I have had people who pass 40, 50 or up to 100 stones. That s a lot..! "Even if you don't have any symptoms of gallstones, you still might have some. It's
always good to give your gall bladder a clean up now and then .

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The New Media

I have wanted to write about blogging in my column but didn't have the time until now. So the following is my column for today, August 30, 2006, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.


I have been asked many times how I got invited to write for this paper. My standard answer is that I was plucked out from the blogosphere (i.e., the world of bloggers in cyberspace). I am the second blogger to have been invited by this paper (the first is my spacemate in this section, Sassy Lawyer Connie Veneracion). As far as I know, we are the only two columnists who started out as bloggers and this paper is the only one to have recognized the talents and potentials of bloggers. The editors of this paper sure know their way around the blogosphere (some have their own blogs), which tells you about how progressive people in this paper are (ahem).

Although the two worlds—traditional media and the blogosphere (also referred to as “the new media”) complement each other, the relationship is far from being mutually deferential.

The criticism against bloggers, particularly those coming from seasoned journalists, is that bloggers have not earned their stripes to deserve the attention. Many bloggers, on the other hand, think of themselves as more real, more representative of the population, and certainly more honest because they are not beholden to anyone—not to editors, not to publishers, and definitely not to advertisers. The debate is just starting and should become more interesting as it begins to take on more substance and form.

Well, I am a blogger, which means that I keep an online journal of my rants and raves. And there are many others like me out there; people who define, nurture and push the frontiers of this new media. There are bloggers who religiously update their sites every day (I used to, but not anymore). There are even full-time bloggers; those who make a living purely out of their blogs. In theory, I know how they do it, which of course is not the same thing as understanding exactly how it is done; thus, I do not make money out of my own blog. People cluck their tongues at the utter waste of opportunity and ask why. The answer is simple; I do not want to live most of my life in cyberspace, thank you.

But there are some blogs and bloggers that truly deserve to be read by more people not only for what they say, but also for how these are said. I personally think that some priceless gems in contemporary literature can be found among blogs. There have been many occasions when I have been blown away by the sheer beauty of something someone wrote in a blog. You read someone’s writings on life and living and you just cannot help but wonder why this person is not writing for some paper instead of those pretentious fashion victims and celebrities who think the world revolves around them or that the state of their closets constitutes excitement.

I will even go as far as to say that the level of punditry in the blogosphere is sometimes, if not often, more interesting and insightful than those in certain newspapers. But because bloggers blog at their own pace and at their own convenience, there are days of course when the harvest is meager and the pickings really bad. But on days when the blogosphere is electric with energy and excitement, it is a virtual feast for the mind and the senses.

There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there. There are blogs that entertain; some intentionally, others purely by accident. There are blogs that educate; some deliberately, others through vicarious and accidental learning. There are blogs that advocate certain causes. And then there are blogs that are able to do all three and more. I have been meaning to write about some of them mainly because of the causes they spouse.

Ivan Henares’s blog (www.ivanhenares.blogspot.com) is one blog that truly deserves to get more traffic. Ivan’s blog is a travel and heritage journal (the blog’s title is “Ivan About Town”) as it documents his many sojourns across the country and other parts of the world. I do not know Ivan personally so I do not know if he is as frisky; but in a way, he is like the local Ian Wright of Lonely Planet sans the television camera. Ian has television, Ivan has the blogosphere. Ivan goes to places and shares the experiences in his blog; he even gives details such as how much a jeepney ride from this point to that point, or how much lodging or dinner costs in this or that place.

But Ivan’s main advocacy is preservation of Philippine heritage. And this is what makes his blog truly worth supporting. His current advocacy is preservation of old churches, which are systematically being demolished to give way to some local parish priests’ demented attempt to establish their “legacy” in their parishes. The extent to which such aspirations of greatness translate into destroying centuries-old churches is already alarming.

In Leyte for example, very few old churches have been spared the architectural machinations of some parish priests. The “favorite daughter of the province” actually started this madness when she renovated and “modernized” some old churches and succeeded in “uglifying” them. She also built grand structures—all of which are impossible to maintain today and are therefore decaying. But many people, particularly parish priests, seemed to have made her the role model. Today, it seems the measure of a parish priest’s effectiveness is the ability to muster resources to renovate the town’s church. Thus, in my own hometown, the church has been renovated as many times as the town changed parish priests. And our church has become, well, to put if bluntly, uglier each year.

Carlos Celdran is renowned for adding not only respectability but also creativity, showmanship, history and culture, humor and yes, even bits of gossip to “tours.” Carlos refers to himself as a “streetwalker” which means he gives walking tours of historical areas in Manila. I live in Malate and I love the old world charm of Manila. But I admit that my appreciation and affection for this City has been enhanced greatly by reading Carlos’ blog. It simply does a good job of “changing the way you look at Manila.” Thanks to Carlos’ blog, I can walk around Chinatown or Escolta and see beyond the grime and the pollution. Carlos blogs at www.celdrantours.blogspot.com.

There are blogs about all possible topics of interest; and expectedly, one topic of interest that always comes up on top of the list is food, glorious food. There are many blogs about the subject. Sassy (www.houseonahill.net), of course, leads the pack on this subject among local bloggers. I do not know exactly what the dinner protocol in her family is—if taking photos takes precedence over hunger— because she always has great pictures of whatever it is they are having. My other favorite food blog is The Girl Who Ate Everything (www.roboffy.net/food) although she has not updated her blog for a month now.

And because blogs do represent the new media, I am happy to note that there are blogs that really do push the limits. One such blog is www.barenakedmedia-ph.com which contains the writing of five bloggers, namely, Sassy (again), Sarah, Micketymoc, Juned and Jher.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Requiem

The following is my column for today, August 28, 2006, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.


I had the great privilege of being raised by a grandmother who should have enjoyed her twilight years in more relaxing pursuits than taking up the difficult responsibility of bringing up someone who was a total nerd until high school. I know many others who were in the same situation, although when I was growing up, I believed most of us “lola’s boys” were “adopted” by choice by what I thought were women with an abundance of maternal instincts that needed recipients.

With the growing number of overseas Filipino workers and working parents today, I suspect that there are more and more grandparents out there who are assuming parenting duties in their old age. Being reared by a grandmother can be a blessing—my own grandmother taught me the wondrous gift of reading among many other things. But my grandmother had the means to do it. I don’t think this can be said of many other grandparents in the same situation today.

I was watching television the other night and my heart bled for this old woman, who, at 70 but was still saddled with the responsibility of providing for grandchildren whose parents were in jail. She simply did not have the resources to provide for her grandchildren although she did make up for the lack of it with affection, which sadly, was just not enough.

It is a tragic commentary of the state of our society, particularly since many old people are now being abandoned as well. I am told that there are now a number of homes for the aged sprouting all over the country. I visited one of these homes last December and couldn’t help but weep at the sight of all these old people spending their last years alone and deprived of the affection they rightfully deserve. And to think we used to look down on citizens of other countries who deposited their sick and aging parents in these “homes” rather than care for them. Sad, very sad, indeed.

My grandmother passed away when I was in fourth year high school. But I have always had a soft spot for grandparents, particularly grandmothers; and have been fortunate to be at the receiving end of affection and tutelage from quite a number of them. There is just something about grandmothers and their wisdom and unconditional love, perhaps because they have been there, and therefore do their parenting without performance anxieties.

I lost three grandmothers in quick succession last week. All three were in their nineties already and have lived full lives which somehow lessened, although not totally dulled the pain of losing them.

My Lola Pingping, wife of my mom’s uncle, passed away last week after being bedridden for sometime due to a broken hip caused by a bad fall. She picked me as the beneficiary of her Cocofed membership and gave me my first college scholarship in the eighties (I was a Cocofed scholar for a year before I decided to give it up when I shifted courses and moved to another College which unfortunately was not accredited by Cocofed).

Lola Pingping was a public schoolteacher who was deeply respected in our hometown in Leyte for her religious and socio-civic work. Although she was a frail and soft-spoken woman, Lola Pingping was a pillar of strength in our clan. We will all miss her quiet wisdom and her unassuming ways.

I also lost another grandmother last week. Technically she was an aunt as she was the eldest sister of my dad. But the age gap between them set her apart and she was addressed as mama by everyone else, even by my dad. Mama Peling, as we fondly called her, had a special request for me before she died; and I thought this was her way of reminding me that even if we hardly saw each other, she cared for me deeply.

Both Lola Pingping and Mama Peling were family. But there are people who are not related to us by blood, but who become just as special, perhaps even more so, because we “elect” to have special relationships with them despite the absence of familial ties.

Dr. Minerve Laudico, more popularly known in the community of nongovernment organizations as Lola Ner, passed away last Tuesday. She was 94.

Lola Ner is known in the academic community as the grand old dame of the Centro Escolar University. She was vice president for academic affairs of the university for such a long long time. But her many passions run the whole gamut of socio-civic concerns from antitrafficking of women, to the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, to women’s concerns, to the elderly, etc. One of her daughters intimated to me at the wake that Lola Net sat in the board of close to 80 organizations all throughout her life. If I am not mistaken, she was one of the very first nonelected representatives in Congress. She sat as appointed representative of the elderly long before the party-list system was in place.

I first met Lola Ner 16 years ago when we organized the Remedios AIDS Foundation. Although she was deeply religious, she was also very liberal-minded and had no qualms about giving lectures on the use of condoms, safe sex, and the concerns of people living with HIV/AIDS. She was an imposing presence in the HIV/AIDS prevention community and no one dared argue with her (how does one argue with someone who was open-minded and not prejudiced at 80?). One of my fondest memories of Lola Ner was when we had to choose an executive director of the foundation in the nineties and our choices were whittled down to two people: a woman and a transgender. I expected her to pose an objection to the selection of the transgender, but she held her head high and cast her vote in favor of this individual. The gender was not even an issue to her.

Lola Ner always brought the house down every time she would give a speech on HIV/AIDS prevention as she would preface her talk with the state of her sex life, which she said was nonexistent and therefore, very safe. The fact that she could talk about such delicate matters with a very straight face and at her age was proof of the stuff the woman was made of.

Lola Ner started getting sickly two years ago and had to beg off from being member of the board of trustees of Remedios. But she continued to sit as member of our advisory board and would still attend meetings whenever she could. Watching Lola Ner in peaceful repose made me realize that her passing likewise signaled the end of an era.

Friday, August 25, 2006

No to boycott

Someone e-mailed me to inquire if I will support the brewing move to boycott the Philippine Daily Inquirer over Isagani Cruz' hateful remarks directed at the gay community. My quick answer was no.

First,Isagani Cruz is actually a minority in that paper as far as attitude towards gay people is concerned. There is a Manuel L. Quezon, Rina Jimenez-David and Michael Tan in the same paper who are also standing up for the gay community.

Second, although I believe that the Inquirer should come out more strongly about where it stands on Cruz' bigotry (its editorial on the subject was neither here nor there and was a lame attempt at placating the community), boycotting the paper is not a proactive solution. It shuts down communication processes and no one benefits from such a situation.

Third, I said it would be unethical for me to advocate for a boycott because I happent to write for another paper.

However, I do not think we have seen the end of it yet. Who knows what Isagani Cruz will say or do next? As they say... abangan.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The right to live

The following is my column for today, August 23, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.


WHEN I was offered to write this column, I asked for only two guarantees. First, that I can write about anything I wanted to write about provided I did not libel anyone or used my writing for personal business gain. And second, that I can disagree with anyone, including other columnists. I know that as a matter of professional courtesy, one should try not to pick fights with the people who share the same newsprint commune. I had no intentions of picking fights with fellow columnists, but I wanted to be sure that when push comes to shove, I could. Fortunately, that has not happened yet.

But over at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, two eminent columnists, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Isagani Cruz and Manuel L. Quezon III are engaged in an acrimonious exchange. The whole furor began when Cruz penned a column entitled “Don we now our gay apparel,” which was a screed against gay people. Quezon, a historian and accomplished writer, more popularly referred to (revered, too) as MLQ among members of the blogging community, responded with an impassioned protest in his own column in the same paper.

Last Sunday, Cruz responded with more of the same belligerence. In essence, he said people can disagree with him, but have no right to call him a bigot. He insisted that his personal and selective intolerance of certain gay people (“those who disgrace their sex with their tasteless appearance”) is his right and that anyone who feels slighted can disagree with him, but should not indulge in the same hateful discourse.

He justified his screed by asserting that he does not interfere with romances of gay people and does not pry into their amorous affairs. He insisted that gay people have no right to demand that he agrees with their (gay people’s) pleasures, and that gay people have no right to forbid him from criticizing what offends the public interest.

Last Monday, MLQ shot back with a cleverly written piece entitled “Oblivious in Cloud Cuckoo-land.” The title of the column should give more than enough clue on what MLQ thought of Cruz’s defense of his (Cruz’s) homophobia.

In the interest of full disclosure, I declare that I have also castigated Cruz in my blog and also called him a bigot, among other things. Three readers of my blog put me to task for it, basically toeing Cruz’s defense—that he was simply exercising his freedom of speech and his condemnation of certain “types of homosexuals” was not a condemnation of all gay people.

This is exactly the kind of twisted reasoning that I find objectionable. Cruz continues to make the assertion that he is only condemning certain “types” of homosexuals, specifically, those that do not meet his personal standards of what is socially acceptable. This assertion of moral superiority, this notion that certain people cannot live honorably because they fit a certain stereotype such as being a “screaming faggot” or because they “flaunt” their homosexuality, is a throwback to the dark ages when people were burned at the stakes simply for being left-handed, or when millions of Jews were exterminated because someone thought they were inferior and therefore had no place in decent society. Because the condemnation is selective does not make it any less objectionable precisely because it is premised on a myth, a stereotype, and a fear that has no basis.

My advocacy work with nongovernment organizations working for HIV/AIDS prevention has shown that this kind of stereotyping inevitably leads to discrimination and further stigmatization (And yes, gay people are most often at the receiving end of such cruelty; for the longest time, many people associated HIV/AIDS with gay men and many still continue to do so today). Cruz is laboring under the false notion that his “criticism” is harmless because it is simply his personal opinion. And this is where he is mistaken; the so-called exercise of his freedom of speech, particularly because of his stature as a former justice of the Supreme Court, does a lot of harm because more than anything else, what is at stake here is the most basic of all human rights.

When someone says that it is not okay to express yourself because what you are is abominable, that becomes a license for other people to hate and display this hatred in far more destructive ways. And God knows what discrimination gay people already go through today. When someone says you have no place in society because of what you are, because your behavior does not fit someone’s standards of what is not disgraceful, that is tantamount to denying that person the right to live. So obviously, this is not anymore “merely” about freedom of speech.

Cruz says that gays “have no right to demand that I agree with your pleasures or to forbid me from criticizing your ‘emotional contentment’ if they offend the public interest. You cannot claim a preferred treatment because you are what you are even as you say you should be treated like the rest of the people despite what you are.”

“The public interest,” which is often used alternately with its rhetorical equivalent, “a moral society,” has been used many times to justify persecution. But how exactly is the “public interest” served when certain segments of the public are condemned to a life of ridicule, if not a death sentence, masked under “well-intended” criticisms from its supposedly more enlightened members? What kind of society can claim to be moral and healthy if it cannot and does not protect people—especially marginalized minorities—from prejudice and hatred borne out of their uniqueness?

And exactly what “preferred treatment” is Cruz talking about? As far as I know, gay people are asking for exactly the same rights that other citizens have—the same right his “macho” sons have. If it looks like gay people are asking for “preferential” treatment, it is simply because their basic rights—such as the right to be respected for what they are—are denied them to begin with.
MLQ and I do not see eye-to-eye on many issues, but on this one, I am in complete agreement with him and he has my full unequivocal support. There are those who think that his outburst is uncalled for and that his anger is misdirected. I do not agree. This is not just anger anymore. This is outrage.

This is a plaintive and primal outcry for the most basic and sacred of all rights —the right to be allowed to live.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A lesson not learned

The following is my column for today, August 21, 2006, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

BARRING super typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and similar acts of God, the second impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be dead by tomorrow. It’s an outcome that doesn’t surprise anyone because as everyone knows, this was already a foregone conclusion right from the very start. But because no one in this country likes to lose an argument, there is always something to be agitated about, and this time, it is the cause of death. The killing of the impeachment complaint is either a case of premeditated murder or a judicious death sentence, depending of course on one’s political affiliations.

The macabre metaphors being used to describe the whole political process is telling. A killing. Rigor mortis. Dead on arrival. A cadaver of a complaint. The last nail on the coffin. A funeral. A corpse that was buried by Congress. The fact that these morbid terms are being bandied about by both proadministration and opposition figures indicate just how gruesome the whole spectacle has become. And it continues to be so.

I have refused to comment on the impeachment proceedings before because of one and only one reason: I believed then and more strongly now, that given the current situation, the impeachment process offers no real solutions. While I would not go as far as to say that it was an utter waste of time because some battles do need to be fought, I still think that there are better and more strategic ways to solve our national problems.

We can all argue until we are all blue in the face about the morality and the righteousness, or conversely, of the hypocrisy and the duplicity of the impeachment complaint. We can bicker about how the impeachment rules should have been interpreted. Along the way, we can throw mud at each other, call each other all kinds of unsavory names and blame everyone else for the failure of the process. The fact will still remain— impeachment is a political exercise. It is a numbers game. And most of our representatives have already spoken. They refuse to transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate. They did not do so last year, and they refuse to do so this year.

As a logical consequence, the screaming contest will reach higher decibels this week as the so-called representatives of the people wash their hands in public or point fingers at each other. But as in the past, something more sordid, interesting or exciting will eventually crop up, another controversy will be unearthed, and the whole imbroglio will be eclipsed by yet another scandal. And that is how we do things in our country.

This is something that has happened many times in the past. And we still have to learn from the experience.

Whether we like it or not, impeaching a President cannot happen without the support of the people. And although the proponents of the impeachment complaint would like us to believe that they were pursuing the complaint for, on behalf of, and with the full blessing and support of the people, the generally lukewarm response of the general public sends a completely different message. Many, if not most Filipinos just did not, and do not care enough.

I have said this before, and I will say it again here. Many among us Filipinos may not like the President; many among us may believe that the President cheated in the last elections, we may agree that she has to go. Surveys validate these, but there is a world of difference between belief and action.

The stark, naked truth is that civil society and the opposition have once again failed to galvanize people into action. Not last year, not early this year during those fateful days in February, and not during the very recent impeachment process. And if they persist with their holier-than-thou attitude and their shortsightedness, it looks like they never will.

Civil society and the opposition have gone through loops and hoops to try the impeachment case in media. They have even tried to rekindle our collective memory with tricks that hew closely to and even exaggerate those that have worked so well in the past—all in a futile effort to provoke collective rage. They conjured the Martial Law bogey, trundled not just envelopes but boxes as supposed smoking guns, and even resurrected the protest anthems of a bygone era. All of these have been met by indifference.

Why? The answer is something that everyone else has been saying since last year and which civil society and the opposition refuse to listen to. First, people are tired of this kind of politics. And second, people are deeply cynical of everyone, including civil society and most particularly, of the opposition. I repeat, many among us are simply tired of the whole thing; been there, done that and we’re still stuck in the same rut. We don’t like the President, but we don’t like everyone else either, especially the opposition.

So what has civil society and the opposition done about this? They ridicule us for supposedly having low morals; they insist that we have no right to be tired. They call us weak and unpatriotic. They assert their moral superiority. In other words, they make us their enemies. It’s the Darth Vader principle at work: If you are not for us, you are not our friend.

To aggravate matters, civil society and the opposition refuse to make the heroic act of breaking away from the political factions that have been the object of contempt in the past and who now bask in the reflected glow of the morality of the current protest movement. I think that many among us have simply not forgiven certain people and their minions for the grievous sins of the past, and rightfully so. The fact that they have not apologized for these sins and even remain defiant up to this day is insulting. And these people and their sins taint the purity of the current movement.

It is truly difficult to assert moral superiority while linking arms with the Marcoses and the Estradas and their minions (I am tempted to include leftists, but that is not a fair generalization). It is truly difficult to convince people to rage against current injustices while at the same time implicitly forgive previous injustices. It is simply difficult to care enough for causes, no matter how righteous, when you know these are led by the very people you feel like strangling with your bare hands.

The message is clear and unequivocal: There are no winners in this contest, only losers. There is no cause for jubilation, only temporary respite. Yes, something died and it wasn’t just the impeachment complaint.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bandits on the road

The following is my column for today, August 16, 2006, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today:

I LIKE driving. It is an activity that clears my mind and relaxes me. Unfortunately for people like me, driving around the streets of Metro Manila has ceased to offer these pleasures. This column narrates why.

Although it is wrong to embrace it as a given, I have come to accept that a little rain, some accident, and in most cases, simple carelessness and inconsiderateness on the part of one or two kababayans will create a monstrous traffic jam, which does not mean of course that I will stop ranting about it. But another day, perhaps.

Hulidap and kotong cops, I think, are a little more manageable although not necessarily any less annoying and exasperating. In my experience, the best way to deal with them is to flatly refuse to give in, get their names, and tell them that you will report them. I am told that speaking in English and being firm and assertive without directly challenging them do the trick. I have had about four encounters with scum like these, all of which ended up with me standing my ground and threatening to report them and them waving me off with a scolding. Most of my friends have learned to do the same. Truly, there are no tyrants where there are no slaves. It goes without saying of course that fighting for principle works only if one has not broken a traffic rule or committed a crime on the road (running down a corrupt cop may not qualify as a crime though, just kidding, just kidding!).

But it can be a really traumatic experience if it happens at night. Which leads me to my other aggravation: checkpoints.

I drive a car with medium tint and which, for some strange reason, seems to be a magnet for checkpoints. There are days when I do wonder if I am missing out on some research finding that says terrorists, carnappers and rapists use a particular brand of car of a particular make and color that happen to match those of my car because I always get flagged down at these checkpoints.

Ideally and elsewhere, a phalanx of policemen with enough guns and firepower to battle the Hezbollah should be a comforting sight. I mean, they are supposed to be there to provide safety and protection to ordinary citizens, right? Wrong! They sow terror and panic in the hearts of ordinary citizens. But then again, who knows, maybe that is exactly the point.

It is not just that they set up those checkpoints under the cover of darkness and at places where you least expect to find them (e.g. right at a blind curve). It is also the manner in which the policemen conduct themselves during these harrowing instances. I still have to encounter a courteous or articulate policeman; more often than not, they resemble the seven dwarves, without Happy and Bashful of course, but always with Grumpy, Sleepy, and Dopey in attendance.

Last Saturday evening, my friend Jojo and I were driving to Quezon City from Manila. We encountered a checkpoint along Quirino Avenue, right at the spot where the highway curves to the left going towards Nagtahan. I do not know what exactly they were doing and why, but they were aiming their heavy-duty flashlights directly into the faces of the drivers to either wave them on or signal them to the side.

First of all, I think it is not only rude but also stupid to aim flashlights directly on the faces of people who are driving. It is enough to cause momentary blind spots and accidents. But I guess courtesy towards citizens and concern for safety are the least of the concerns of these people.

A few hours later, I was driving back to Manila and had to drop off my friend at Zobel Roxas in Makati. Since I live in Malate, I had to pass through Vito Cruz and turned right towards Arellano leading to Estrada Street. I ran right smack into another checkpoint. As usual, I got stopped. They flashed those annoying flashlights on my face and ordered me to open my glove compartment. I sat there with a sungit expression on my face without saying anything. And then they offered a lame excuse, “kasi tinted ang sasakyan mo [Cause your car is tinted].”

I am always tempted to ask if they know what exactly they are looking for when they open glove compartments, or the trunk of the car, or when they conduct their searches. I have this nagging suspicion that, just like those guards at the malls, they do these things purely to comply with some routine procedure and not really to find contraband materials. If I were a terrorist, why would I conceal the bomb in the spots where they will most likely check?

But what do you do with bandits on the road who attack in broad daylight using all kinds of pretenses?

On a number of major roads where bottlenecks are common, you see them emerge seemingly from out of nowhere: Jack with the menacing expression on his face carrying a grimy pail swishing with murky water, a dirty rag or sponge in his hand. He attacks by scratching your windshield with his rag, or if you are luckier, simply smudging it up. This he does under the pretense of doing you the gigantic favor of having your windshield or your windows cleaned in exchange for a few bucks. You can try to wave them off, blow your horns, or simply pay off even before they go through the motions.

Someone I know made the huge mistake of opening her window to admonish the enterprising car wash guy. She ended up having to go home to take a bath and to change clothes. You can figure out what happened.

I am told that along Araneta Avenue, your car’s side view mirrors can disappear while waiting for traffic lights to turn green. At the Quirino Avenue and South Superhighway intersection, a number of people have lost cellphones and in at least one incident, someone lost his life (he was a student at the college where I teach) because he refused to surrender his phone to an evil person.

I actually intended to write about another thing aside from those darn billboards (I have already written about those in this column) that distracts attention from the roads and serves very little purpose aside from fake aesthetics. I am referring to those gaudy, synthetic-looking, often purposeless street lamps that have been sprouting all over the metropolis in the last few years. I have written about it in my blog in the past and a number of readers have offered more examples of just how ridiculous it has become.

It does seem that at a certain point in time, the mayors of Metro Manila came together to organize a contest as to who could come up with the gaudiest street lamps and who could produce the most number of these ugly things. And it seems the contest is not over yet. What is appalling is that the local governments do not even maintain these “stylish” street lamps. When they get busted, and they do so faster precisely because of the absence of maintenance efforts, another street light of yet another gaudy design is simply put up beside it.

Judging from the way these street lamps are sprouting everywhere, it looks like some people are benefiting from it. And I don’t necessarily refer to ordinary citizens who could benefit from better and more reliable services.

Monday, August 14, 2006

When Fashion Comes To Work

The following is my column for today, August 14, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today:

MY VIEW about fashion is that at the very least, it is a good reminder that nothing in this world lasts. Today’s hot pick is tomorrow’s laughing stock. I am not a fashionista and I disdain spending inordinate amounts of money just to wear some Italian or American guy’s name on my person. So I have always wondered what possesses designers to come up with those creations that fashion victims drape on their bodies supposedly to assume some semblance of respectability. There are instances, of course, when the exact opposite happens; instead of achieving respectability, someone becomes a laughingstock or at least becomes the object of unwanted and unpleasant speculation (what the heck is that thing she is wearing?).

But such is the way of the world. What most everyone should wear is dictated by an elite group of people whose whims and caprices many are simply more than happy to oblige despite disastrous results. Thanks to some people who think that having the chutzpa to wear outrageous costumes qualify them as role models, we now have a situation where the people tasked with imposing dress codes in workplaces or in campuses end up having monumental headaches trying to cope with a new job description: as fashion consultants, or worse, as fashion arbiters on what is appropriate or inappropriate attire for work or school.

At the college where I teach, wearing “inappropriate attire” has become a minor offense and is a constant source of irritant between students and administrators. The same phenomenon is happening in workplaces as well. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Style trends create troubles in the workplace detailed a list of fashion transgressions being committed in the United States today and their impact on the workplace. These transgressions have also become endemic here. Many human resource management practitioners have started to bewail the rising incidence of employees coming to work in getups that give the impression that they are either going to the mall, or worse, to bed or to the gym. I have personally witnessed two instances where a priest included in his homily a stern admonition for people to come to church in more appropriate getups. I looked around and noted that a number of the male worshippers were wearing shorts and many among the women were wearing blouses that were a little more provocative. So at least people are democratic, they wear the same thing everywhere, including Sunday mass.

This used to be pretty simple and straightforward. There was a time when business or corporate attire meant wearing a dress or a suit if you were a woman, and slacks and tailored shirt if you were a man.

Today, it looks like we will soon need the United Nations to mediate on what comprises business or corporate attire. Do sundresses qualify? How about those trendy pair of knee-length shorts that can pass off as a skirt? Will sports jackets do for formal occasions? Can men wear black shirts to work? How much jewelry (on men!) should there be? And we are not even talking about footwear and accessories yet!

Fashion trends have become more and more confusing and vexing. We not only have to make judgment calls about what comprise formal, corporate, or casual wear, we also need to distinguish what is masculine, feminine or unisex. And as if there is a dearth of more important things to debate about, we also have to make distinctions about what is business casual, casual chic, dressy casual, semi-corporate, formal laid-back. Arrrghhh!

My friends and I in the human resource management profession recently had an informal discussion to thresh out the differences between fashion terms such as flip flops, capris, culottes, pumps, dress shirts, slacks, and many other peculiar animals of the fashion world. When did it get this complicated?

Making the distinction about what attire is appropriate or inappropriate becomes even more difficult because some people do have this misplaced notion that price is an indicator of value and consequently, suitability. Thus, something that looks like a contraption to catch birds with is often being passed off as appropriate simply because it costs an arm and a leg and has some snottily famous guy’s name on it.

Take for example rubber slippers. Yes, we know those imported havaianas cost more than a whole school year’s worth of tuition in a public school in Northern Samar. But for crying out loud, regardless of whether Fidel Castro wears them, they are still tsinelas and cannot by any means of the imagination pass off as suitable attire for work or for school. But when everyone else is exclaiming about how much that thing costs, the whole discussion shifts to techniques in spotting the real McCoy from the fake instead of whether those should be worn to work or school to begin with.

Or take for example ratty jeans. I am aware of the kind of boost being able to fit into a pair of Levi’s that has been in your closet for 20 years does to one’s ego. I personally had that kind of experience a few years back when I almost burst into tears when I finally lost enough poundage enough to be able to slip into a pair of 501s that I’ve had since college (I have since then regained all those poundage and acquired more, but that is another story altogether). But we both know that as a rule, wearing them to a formal function is inappropriate. But what if you wear them with an Armani jacket? Or if you are, say, some cool CEO worth a billion bucks? I know, I know, it will still be ratty and worn out. But the context changes and you get the drift.

The advent of the so-called metrosexual men threw a bigger monkey wrench into the discussion. Today, we have to wrestle with various interpretations of individual style. Does that crumpled, disheveled look indicate he was in a hurry to get to work that he did not have the chance to have those ironed, or is that look intentionally hip and studied? Is that untucked half of his shirt a result of carelessness, or is it a failed attempt at being cool? Thank goodness shoulder pads have not been reincarnated because I truly dread the thought of seeing other men on those things.

But what is causing this whole wrinkle? My friends think it is strongly connected to the changing lifestyle of the current generation. A coprofessor noted that kids today no longer make distinctions about what clothes are suitable for school, parties, formal occasions, etc. The New York Times article says the phenomenon is caused by the dot-com boom, which showcases “super smart people who make a ton of money who go to work with jeans and shirts.” Another friend of mine says the reason is economics, citing his labor union’s position on the issue: “If you want us to come to work in decent attire, pay us decent wages so we can afford them.” Ouch.

It is complicated. But I think dressing appropriately does not have to cost so much money. I think the issue is first and foremost one of mismatched expectations. I guess that just like in everything else where diversity is involved, we just have to clarify our expectations of each other and start from there.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bigot

The honorable former associate justice of the Supreme Court, the great old man who personified justice, equality and liberty just wrote another scathing condemnation of gay people. Isagani Cruz of the Inquirer has once again proven that yes, in this country, bigotry and intolerance exist even among those who are supposed to be a higher intelligence.

The wise man says:

HOMOSEXUALS before were mocked and derided, but now they are regarded with new-found respect and, in many cases, even treated as celebrities. Only recently, the more impressionable among our people wildly welcomed a group of entertainers whose main proud advertisement was that they were “queer.” It seems that the present society has developed a new sense of values that have rejected our religious people’s traditional ideas of propriety and morality on the pretext of being “modern” and “broad-minded.”

Mr. Cruz begins by asserting that the mockery and derision of gay people have ended. I don't know what kind of world he lives in; it must be some imaginary parallel universe that is completely detached and isolated from reality because last I looked, gay people are still being discriminated against and reduced to caricatures. And of course, the rest of his column negates his first sentence since he ends up mocking and deriding gay people anyway.

He insults all those who flocked to the malls to watch the stars of the hit television show Queer Eye for The Straight Guy by calling them "impressionable." I know a lot of people who watch that TV show who are sensible, intelligent, mature people; I personally watch that show whenever I can (which admittedly is rare). I don't think we are dumb driven cattle who admire celebrities just because they are popular. But as far as the honorable former justice is concerned, people who are able to see beyond their own prejudices and bigotry are simply impressionable, easily led by the nose and cannot think for themselves. What a great wise man Mr. Cruz truly is.

He thinks that those guys only selling point is that they are queer. This man must have such a truly discerning eye because he can't see beyond the fact that they are "queer." Forget the fact that they are expert interior designers, or chefs, or fashion gurus, or that many gay men are famous engineers or lawyers or doctors. As far as this great man is concerned, gay men are simply queers, period.

He continues:

The observations I will here make against homosexuals in general do not include the members of their group who have conducted themselves decorously, with proper regard not only for their own persons but also for the gay population in general. A number of our local couturiers, to take but one example, are less than manly but they have behaved in a reserved and discreet manner unlike the vulgar members of the gay community who have degraded and scandalized it. I offer abject apologies to those blameless people I may unintentionally include in my not inclusive criticisms. They have my admiration and respect.

Mr. Cruz submits the very insightful definition of what "decorous" behavior means: being reserved and discreet. In other words, behaving according to some code of conduct that meets his personal standards. He offers an apology to members of the gay community that are "less than manly" but who behave according to his idea of how gay people should behave. What a very reasonable and charitable guy, so unlike Adolf Hitler who condemned all gay men as unworthy.

He offers yet another scholarly and erudite observation:

The change in the popular attitude toward homosexuals is not particular to the Philippines. It has become an international trend even in the so-called sophisticated regions with more liberal concepts than in our comparatively conservative society. Gay marriages have been legally recognized in a number of European countries and in some parts of the United States. Queer people -- that’s the sarcastic term for them -- have come out of the closet where before they carefully concealed their condition. The permissive belief now is that homosexuals belong to a separate third sex with equal rights as male and female persons instead of just an illicit in-between gender that is neither here nor there.

To prove his advanced state of enlightenment, he says that the term "queer" is a sarcastic term. The fact that the term has actually become an empowering battlecry for gay people - as in, "yes, you call us queer - but so what? We can turn that negative identification to something we can be proud of because no matter the derogatory slogans and epithets you throw at us these will not reduce our worth in society" is puny in his more knowledgeable slight of hand. He throws in words like "permissive," "third sex," "illicit" to boost his compassionate arguments. What do you mean many gay people do not necessarily think of themselves as the third sex but merely think of themselves as men and women with just a different sexual orientation? how dare you question the wisdom of such a learned man.

Mr. Cruz fortifies his powerful arguments by citing irrefutable arguments borne out of his all-encompassing and universally applicable experience:

When I was studying in the Legarda Elementary School in Manila during the last 1930s, the big student population had only one, just one, homosexual. His name was Jose but we all called him Josefa. He was a quiet and friendly boy whom everybody liked to josh but not offensively. In the whole district of Sampaloc where I lived, there was only one homosexual who roamed the streets peddling “kalamay” and “puto” and other treats for snacks. He provided diversion to his genial customers and did not mind their familiar amiable teasing. I think he actually enjoyed being a “binabae” [effeminate].


He says calling his childhood homosexual Jose "Josefa" was not offensive. But of course. Such a learned and compassionate man does not have a cruel, mean streak in his body. His discerning eye for detecting who is homosexual and who is not is beyond reproach.

And he continues:

The change came, I think, when an association of homos dirtied the beautiful tradition of the Santa Cruz de Mayo by parading their kind as the “sagalas” instead of the comely young maidens who should have been chosen to grace the procession. Instead of being outraged by the blasphemy, the watchers were amused and, I suppose, indirectly encouraged the fairies to project themselves. It must have been then that they realized that they were what they were, whether they liked it or not, and that the time for hiding their condition was over.

What a truly admirable man! He uses words like "dirtied" (you homosexuals represent the grime, the muck, the dregs of society), "blasphemy" (see, only heterosexual men and women regardless of their character have the right to participate in religious traditions; Mr. Cruz is such an omnipresent person, he can fathom what is in every man's heart), "condition" (it's a condition! It is a sickness. It can be cleansed!)

But let us not go on to appreciate the wonderful and truly enlightening observations of this broadminded and learned man:


Now homosexuals are everywhere, coming at first in timorous and eventually alarming and audacious number. Beauty salons now are served mostly by gay attendants including effeminate bearded hairdressers to whom male barbers have lost many of their macho customers. Local shows have their share of “siyoke” [gay men], including actors like the one rejected by a beautiful wife in favor of a more masculine if less handsome partner. And, of course, there are lady-like directors who are probably the reason why every movie and TV drama must have the off-color “bading” [gay] or two to cheapen the proceedings.

And the schools are now fertile ground for the gay invasion. Walking along the University belt one day, I passed by a group of boys chattering among themselves, with one of them exclaiming seriously, “Aalis na ako. Magpapasuso pa ako!” [“I’m leaving. I still have to breastfeed!”] That pansy would have been mauled in the school where my five sons (all machos) studied during the ’70s when all the students were certifiably masculine. Now many of its pupils are gay, and I don’t mean happy. I suppose they have been influenced by such shows as “Brokeback Mountain,” our own “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” (both of which won awards), “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and that talk program of Ellen Degeneres, an admitted lesbian.

What the heck, let's stop this sarcasm and attempts at irony and just call a spade by its real name - a dirty shovel. Mr. Cruz is ignorant, stupid, bigoted, and yes, cruel. I am surprised that he has not laid the blame for the cheating in the last elections, the death of Ninoy Aquino, the mass killings of journalists, the economic crisis, and the war at Lebanon on gay people. As far as this senile old man is concerned, all gay men are weak sissies. Like the stereotypical macho father who beats gay children for being born that way, he is proud of his sons because they are all macho. Huh! I am sure a lot of gay men can beat his sons senseless anytime. If I were his son (and boy, am I glad I am not) I would take it as an affront that the only seeming measure of their worth as far as their old man is concerned is their being masculine.


Is our population getting to be predominantly pansy? Must we allow homosexuality to march unobstructed until we are converted into a nation of sexless persons without the virility of males and the grace of females but only an insipid mix of these diluted virtues? Let us be warned against the gay population, which is per se a compromise between the strong and the weak and therefore only somewhat and not the absolute of either of the two qualities. Be alert lest the Philippine flag be made of delicate lace and adorned with embroidered frills.

Let's cut through this crap and just read his statements for what they really mean: he thinks gay people are the scourge of this world, that gay people have no right to exist because they dilute the purity of the race. He thinks the Philippines is better off without gay people.

I can only say, Heil Hitler! Shame!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Jerks

What a distinction! Forget about all those attempts to land a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Hang those boxing gloves. We have just landed the title as the world's "busiest loners" according to an article published in the front pages of Inquirer today, August 9, 2006.

Just in case you haven't read the article (and on the off chance that you missed the euphemism), the article quoted a survey (another one!) that says...tadaaaaan! Filipinos do the solitary act more often than everyone else. Okay, okay... it said we jerk off more often than any other people in the world. Blush. Snicker. Guffaw.

What does this make of us?

Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn

I AM sure that someone out there may—and most likely will—offer a more politically correct and sociologically fascinating take on this phenomenon best described as our legendary stubbornness as a people. I also despise Pinoy-bashing; however, I must admit that there are days when I just feel like screaming at certain people for their obstinacy, especially during crisis or when in the face of clear and present danger.

Take the case of a number of local residents who adamantly refuse to leave the 7-km danger zone of the restive Mayon Volcano. They insist on staying put despite the fact that as of this writing, the alert level has been raised to level four, meaning an eruption is imminent; and despite the fact that the volcano is already spewing mushroom clouds and spewing lava 24/7.

I can empathize with those who say that they cannot leave their livelihood behind, although I still think they should pack up and get out of harm’s way just the same. One farmer bewailed that half of his crops have already been swallowed by lava, thus he can’t afford to leave behind the remaining half. This kind of reasoning tugs at my heart and yet at the same time I can’t help but feel this urge to knock him senseless in the head just the same. Does he intend to stop the lava flow with his bare hands?

And what do you say to people who claim to know better than the scientists? There was this guy who propounded what he said were better indicators of when the volcano would erupt. Truly, a man with an experience is never at the mercy of another man with an argument. He said it is not yet time and so he refuses to leave. I know this borders on callousness; but I am going to say it just the same. These will be the same people who will blame everyone else in the event something terrible happens (and I really hope nothing tragic will happen). Everyone else except himself or herself.

I have already ranted about this very recently in my blog, but I couldn’t help ranting about it some more after seeing that photo at the front page of this paper last Monday. The photo was that of three foreigners (the caption said they were South Africans) posing before a mound of piping hot lava, right within the 7-km danger zone. Posing for pictures in front of boiling lava coming out of a volcano that is bound to erupt any moment! If this is not sheer madness, I do not know what else is.

I have been told that the number of tourists who flock to Mount Mayon increases algebraically during an eminent eruption. What is it about human nature that seems to deliberately invite disaster to happen to them? Friends in Legazpi City tell me that local authorities are having a difficult time reining in tourists who want to trek to areas within the danger zone to be able to see, touch and smell boiling lava. And as usual, some enterprising Filipinos are more than happy to indulge them as tourist guides.

And so we see on television people of all ages who continue to flock to the area where lava is flowing to be able to watch up close what a horrible death trap and killing catastrophe look like. I even saw one show-off lighting a cigarette using glowing volcanic rock. In the meantime, the local authorities have been shown in various states of exasperation imploring residents to leave, and begging tourists to stop entering and frolicking in the danger zone.

In another part of the world, there is the case of the many Filipinos in Lebanon who refuse to go home. I know there are those who cannot wait to get on a bus or ship to come back to good old RP, but there are also many out there who insist on staying put, completely oblivious to the strife going on around them. At least 500 of them are already stranded in Beirut taking shelter at a Catholic Church there. When interviewed on television, many sounded unconcerned, giving out a litany of reasons for their obstinacy: they do not have enough savings yet, the war will soon be over, the dollars are in Lebanon and not in the Philippines, etc.

The nonchalance was grating, particularly in light of the controversy being generated in the Philippines over their evacuation. The politicians in Manila are scrambling all over themselves in a mad effort to win the most points in the impromptu contest called “who has the biggest bleeding heart for our OFW’s?” What, all this drama for nothing?

And by the way, there, ladies and gentlemen, is yet another perfect example of legendary obstinacy. Our beloved senators just could not restrain themselves. They could not be stopped. They just had to conduct another committee hearing right in the middle of the crisis. It is absurd. I agree that they should investigate where the allegedly missing Overseas Workers Welfare Administration funds have gone. But couldn’t they wait until the evacuation of our migrant workers is completed? It is like calling an investigation on where the money to buy the fire extinguisher went while the house is burning. It is crazy because everyone’s efforts should go to putting out the fire first, unless of course you want the whole house to burn anyway.

As it turns out, all that huffing and puffing and posturing have been for naught. It turns out the money is not missing after all. This could have been discovered the usual, normal way ordinary citizens are familiar with—by writing memoranda and making inquiries, even perhaps by holding a discreet meeting or two. How difficult is it to pick up the telephone and make an inquiry? Or to set a meeting to discuss the problem? But no, these ordinary ways of fact-finding or resolving problems just won’t do. We have to convene a whole committee, disrupt work and waste effort and precious airtime just to sate some senators’ bloated sense of self-importance.
Let’s not waste column space on the legendary obstinacy of certain representatives in the House, or those of certain civil society groups, or that of the President for that matter.

It is sad, but this is exactly the kind of behavior we have come to expect from our leaders. When people get elected into a position of power in this country, it seems they equate power with the right to pry into everything, the right to stall, the right to throw his or her weight around. Being in power means having the right to be obstinate. Being in power means acquiring a bloated sense of self-importance, having the right to act like spoiled brats and throw legendary tantrums to get their way.

And if our leaders are guilty of it, how can we blame ordinary citizens from being obstinate and stubborn?

(The author blogs at www.bongaustero.blogspot.com)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Why Not?

The following is my column today, August 7, 2006, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

LET’S be honest about this. There are very few party-list representatives in the House today who are actually there to achieve the spirit and intent of the law creating party-list representation. What we have in abundance are representatives or lobby groups for certain business or political interests masquerading under various social causes. In fact, I think we can even go as far as to say that it appears that the party-list system is currently being used by certain interest groups as just another back door in getting a share of the influence and power that a seat in Congress provides.

There are party-list representatives for all kinds of communities, sectors and groups that cover a wide spectrum of geographic, political, social, and cultural classifications. So why not a party-list representative for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders? This marginalized community comprises a sizable part of national demographics. If studies are to be believed, possibly 10 percent of the population belong to this community. So why shouldn’t they be allowed to run for Congress as a party-list?

Okay, I know that there are people who, even in this day and age of supposed enlightenment, still refuse to acknowledge the existence of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in society for reasons I cannot understand, and that’s another column.

But whether the homophobes like it or not, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders do exist. They are our brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, uncles, aunts, relatives, teachers, engineers, lawyers, etc. They pay taxes. They are citizens of this country. And they are claiming what is rightfully theirs under the Constitution—equal rights, in this case, equal opportunity to seek legitimate representation in Congress.

This is the reason why Ang Ladlad, the party-list, was born. Ang Ladlad is fielding candidates for the 2007 elections. They are counting on the votes of their natural constituents, as well as those of individuals sympathetic to the cause of freedom. One does not have to share the sexual orientation or sexual identification to believe in the wisdom of a diverse society where there is real respect for the uniqueness of each person.

There are those who forward the notion that there is no need for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders to seek representation because there are already more than enough of them in Congress. This is within the realm of the possible, of course, except that no one among our senators or congressmen has come out yet and I doubt if someone ever will in very the near future.

Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is to suffer stigmatization. In fact, the fear of stigma is probably the reason why support for the antidiscrimination bill has been very disappointing. The bill has been languishing in the House of Representatives and in the Senate for so long. It is one piece of legislation that this country truly needs to enact into law simply because there is just too much discrimination directed at lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders today.
Many people like to assert that the workplace is now more accepting and tolerant of homosexuality, citing the preponderance of cross-dressing agents in the call center industry.

The call center industry, however, is a very small segment of the business landscape and can hardly be cited as representative of the real state of affairs of this country. The truth is, there is an emerging backlash directed at cross-dressing agents in the call center industry. There are call centers that have started to put in place policies that enforce “dress codes” and “rules of decorum” under the guise of promoting a twisted concept of “professionalism.”

One chief executive I talked to a few months ago cited this long litany of alleged complaints against cross-dressers in his call center company. Allegedly, many women call agents feel uncomfortable sharing lavatories with male cross-dressers. How this alleged problem can be solved by discriminating against cross-dressers and imposing a strict dress code on them is unclear, especially since other more logical solutions are available. I suspect that for many, sheer bigotry and homophobia are driving this creeping intolerance. It certainly is bad business. Cross-dressers, who just happen to be more articulate and more conversant in the English language, compose a sizable percentage of productive call center agents.

If discrimination can exist even in an industry that predominantly capitalizes on language proficiency and analytical thinking, how much more in other industries where physical appearance is given more weight?

But if anyone out there needs proof that discrimination does exist today, even in jobs and in workplaces were cross-dressing and being gay or lesbian is perfectly acceptable, let’s bring in the case of television personality Inday Garutay (real name: Christopher Borja). Inday Garutay is a cross-dressing gay man who has made a name for himself impersonating the late Inday Badiday. He is a popular sing-along host and appears on television quite often. The point is, he is not exactly a nobody in show business. In short, to quote Boy Abunda’s hackneyed attempt at modesty, “may maliit na pangalan [he’s somewhat popular].”

You would think that someone like Inday Garutay would be allowed some slack in a bar where getting drunk is the least of the activities one should be concerned about. But for the Aruba Restaurant at Metrowalk in Pasig City, cross-dressing is more offensive than serving liquor or whatever else kids do in places like these today. So Inday Garutay was unceremoniously kicked out of the place. The restaurant’s dress code specified in a poster outside the establishment that, “Management reserves the right to refuse entry to those who are inappropriately dressed, mentally depraved, and incorrigibly uncool.” No kidding.

And now, he has filed a civil suit against the restaurant asserting that, “while private establishments do have the right to impose a dress code, it may not—in the guise of implementing such a dress code— discriminate against individuals on the basis of his or her personal condition, i.e., sexual orientation.” In addition, a boycott is being initiated by the community against the restaurant. I do not know about you, but I personally refuse to step inside some restaurant that discriminates against patrons.

Add to the list of woes the many instances where you see lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders being wantonly stripped of rights as citizens for alleged molestation, immoral conduct, etc. For a while, raiding third-run seedy moviehouses frequented by gay men was a favorite activity of some television shows that took pride in calling themselves protectors of liberties (yeah right).

There are many reasons why it is time for party-list representation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in Congress. But one reason stands out clearly: It is time to take them seriously. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders have something important to say and contribute to our society.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Uzi Syndrome

Is it a false sense of audacity? Perhaps sheer inability to comprehend danger? Or perhaps just plain unadultered stupidity?

I am talking about those people who continue to tempt fate and court tragedy by refusing to get out of the way of the Mount Mayon lava flow. Elsewhere, the mention of lava flow should be enough to send people scampering away. But we are in the Philippines, so instead of seeing people scared witless, we see grinning people doing cartwheels and patintero a mere two feet away from the smoldering lava flow.

Those uzis (usisero, kibitzers) have made it a pastime to show off just how unconcerned they are of the imminent danger. Some local residents continue to marvel at the natural phenomenon up close. Others have even become instant tour guides to foreigners and non-residents who also want to see lava flow up close and personal. Someone was even shown on television lighting his cigarette with a piece of volcanic rock. I half expect to see someone broiling lunch over the lava flow one of these days.

In the meantime, the local mayor has been shown in various state of exasperation urging people to keep away from the 7 km danger zone, obviously to no avail.

This is not an isolated incident. This has been repeated many times - shootouts, lahar flow, typhoon, car accidents, etc. It could be funny, except that lives are at stake and laughing at the sheer folly and stupidity of it all borders on insensitivity, even cruelty.

But why do we do it? What is it about us as a people that makes us do these things?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cure for boredom

The following is my column for today, August 2, 2006, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

IN THE same week that the State-of-the-Nation Address was delivered, someone in my human resource management e-mail group posted an article published in Personnel Today (http://www.personneltoday.com/) that got my friends and I laughing so hard. The article, which was based on a study conducted in the United Kingdom, offered insights as to what people imagine when they are stuck in a boring meeting that is going nowhere.

The top answer?

Why, sex of course, as if you did not suspect or already knew. More than half 57 percent of the respondents admitted to thinking about sex during business meetings. These were adults, not adolescents. The next time I get stuck in a boring meeting, I am going to guess which of the attendees comprise that half.

Interestingly, the survey, which was conducted among 4,000 adults, offered yet another insight on the differences between men and women. (There has been this growing preoccupation with finding out exactly how and in what area men and women have divergence in perspectives since that Mars and Venus book came out). Although the percentages of men and women who think about sex during business meetings were almost equal, more than half of the men (58 percent) admitted that they imagined having sex with a coworker while only 21 percent of the women admitted to having sexual thoughts involving their coworkers. Since my good friend Margie Holmes is still abroad, I asked my friends what they thought of these results. Here are their biased and off-the-cuff theories: a) men do not discriminate the way women do; b) men do not come to work in attires that bring out their sexual allure; c) women have this tendency to think of themselves as mothers and sisters to their officemates and therefore will not see male coworkers in a sexual light; d) the survey was conducted by a woman (right, when all else fails, shoot the process).

And just in case your attention has not been fully distracted by the discussion about sex yet and you are still wondering if there is a connection between the study and the first nine words of this column (you know, that bit about the Sona), let me hasten to say that yes, there is.

While talking about the results of the study, my friends and I wondered what our dear senators and congressmen were thinking while sitting there listening to the President drone on for more than an hour. Oh come on, you actually do not believe all that yarn about how they listened attentively to the President talk about her roadmap. Television is a cruel medium and I have this feeling that they set up the cameras strategically inside that cavernous hall not only to capture the spellbound countenances of proadministration congressman (particularly those who were acknowledged publicly) but also for the same reason that Wow Mali or Yari Ka! exist.

So what were our senators (who were largely ignored by the President), or the opposition congressmen (who were bullied) thinking while they sat there with an utter expression of boredom pasted on their faces?

I am sure it could not have been the second top answer according to study, which was… tadaan, imagining their boss naked. Yup, you read it right. Almost half (47 percent) of the workers surveyed said they get through boring meets by imagining their bosses in their birthday suits. The article did not specify whether thinking about their bosses naked led to hysterical laughing or precipitated a different kind of excitement; just that conjuring images of the boss without clothes helped them get through boring meetings in one piece. There must be something wrong with me or with the people I have worked for because I just do not see myself belonging to that 47 percent. Honest. Really. I swear.

The other top answers: for women, it was staring at colleagues with a discerning eye for fashion (most probable thought balloons, methinks: Are those pearls genuine? Is that Prada bag the real thing or did she pick it out at Harrison Plaza? Did she have botox treatment? Does that busy tie match that equally busy shirt? Is that a wig?). Women, the study said, were mostly likely to be planning their next holiday (33 percent) or their evening meal (29 percent).

The men, on the other hand, were more likely to be planning their TV viewing (27 percent), or thinking about household bills that need to be paid (16 percent). I am not sure if Filipino women will agree with the latter. Again, I asked my friends what they thought would be the top answers for men if a local survey were to be conducted. Here were their fearless forecasts: What kind of car will I buy if I win the lotto tonight? Should I risk playing golf this weekend? When can I afford to buy that sailboat? I wonder what mom will cook this weekend?
And as if to illustrate just how scientific and comprehensive surveys are and can be nowadays, the data was likewise broken down into all kinds of demographic classifications.
One fascinating finding was when they broke down the data per profession. They found that teachers and those working in the media were the most likely to be thinking about sex, with 27 percent reliving their most recent night of passion and a further 10 percent planning a future sexual encounter. I wonder if this means that people in these professions have ah, how shall I say this, more opportunities. Perhaps this explains the perpetual glazed expression on the faces of some television broadcasters. I wonder if these include newspaper editors. And what about media people who teach. Do they have double the fun?

The article ended with an exhortation: “long, boring meetings are neither productive nor inspiring; the best way to keep all minds focused is to keep meetings short and to the point, with plenty of interaction between participants.” I say Amen.

Now if only our local surveys produce data that are just as interesting.