Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Proudly promdi

(I am still in Leyte and the internet connection in my hometown is so primitive - it is almost as if it runs on manual labor, like someone at the back of the cafe is furiously pedalling at some cotraption to make this thing run. That's the excuse for the late post of my column yesterday. And the failure to update this blog. Will be back soon. I promise. What follows is my column at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today yesterday, October 30, 2006).

As I write, my whole clan is savoring every bit of fun it could squeeze out of the very rare time when most of its members could be in the same place at the same time. The “official” affair was at lunchtime, but as of dinnertime, most of us were still around; some dancing, some drinking, and the rest gathered around in motley groups trying to catch up on what’s new in each other’s lives. Tomorrow we are all going to bring the left over food to the beach and continue the party there in a symbolic clean-up ritual. (I actually intended to write about what I think we should focus on in the aftermath of that Supreme Court ruling, but I guess that has to wait until Wednesday).

When I was young, I never did understand what was so big about reunions. Thus, while the older members of the clan engaged in the seemingly endless shrieking and hugging and kissing that is the standard on these occasions, we kids would just run around without any care for whatever significance and meaning the occasions promised. But I guess maturity does change one’s perspective. Now that we are older, we seemed to have become our parents, people who have become experts at grabbing every opportunity to have a reunion and in turning every family occasion into one.

This time around, it was the wedding of my youngest brother Cyril. Ever the romantic, he had decided to get married the old-fashioned way, right in our hometown in Abuyog, Leyte. As expected, the family left no stone unturned to ensure that all members of the clan knew about the occasion. For the first time in a long while, my siblings and I, all seven of us—and the whole entourage of spouses and children—made it to our baby brother’s wedding. I have no idea how all of us have managed to fit in the ancestral house in the last three nights. My parents would have a seizure if anyone among us suggested staying at this town’s lodging house so no one brought it up. But we are managing even if the whole living room of our old rickety house resembles a refugee camp at bedtime.

Having lived in Metro Manila in the last 18 years, I have somehow imbibed the conveniences of life in the big city. When I was told that the family was expecting around 500 guests for the wedding (and they said this was a conservative estimate, pant, pant!), I actually balked and wondered how our family would be able to pull it off on our own without caterers and wedding coordinators and the like. There was a moment when I wanted to make a case for simply turning over the whole preparation to a restaurant or hotel so we could all just relax. But I realized I was in the province and there wasn’t a hotel or restaurant that could take on the job— at least for that number of people. Naturally, Mr. Management—that’s me, started to get into my usual office persona —a live wire who thrives on panic and stress while my parents and aunts and older relatives were the very picture of calm and serenity.

They told me repeatedly that I was being such a worrywart, that relatives would come and lend their support. And they did. In droves. I was amazed at how people began converging at our house the day before the wedding. The truly astonishing thing was that everyone seemed to know what role to perform. It was as if the whole thing was a military operation that operated with utmost precision. By midnight, there were at least 30 people—all relatives and friends —doing every single thing that needed to be done including slaughtering the poor animals, washing utensils, and even doing last-minute cut-and-paste work on the wedding giveaways (yes, even those things were not contracted out, to my utter amazement). And today, during the affair itself, more relatives and friends showed up to do their stint at the kitchen or at the banquet.

I have seen variations of these scenes in Philippine movies. But I have always thought that these scenes were simply the director’s romantic homage to a long-lost Philippine tradition. But I am obviously wrong. Bayanihan is alive and well in rural Philippines. Here in the province, people make things work because they take it upon themselves to make them work rather than toss the responsibility and the blame on to someone. I wish that those of us who think the Philippines is Metro Manila have the opportunity to once again see for ourselves how the rest of our fellow Filipinos, the ones who live in rural Philippines, actually make things work the bayanihan way.

Because a lot of people in my hometown know that I write an opinion column, conversations found their way to politics. It is true, many among them— including public school teachers and elected officials—are contemptuous of the way imperial Manila tries to dominate the political discussion. For a change, I listened. All right, I had to, because the ones I was talking with were either former teachers, older relatives, or were invited local executives. In short, people you try not to offend. You know how it is in these situations, you put on a fixed smile and try to nod your head repeatedly in the hope that doing so would cut the lecture down. But it also dawned on me that what I was getting was the real sentiments of people outside of Metro Manila. At the very least, this was good material for a column. So I listened more.

The general opinion I kept getting was that many of the things we do in Metro Manila are senseless rabble-rousing. I kept thinking “this is too simplistic” until I realized that as far as these people were concerned, making things work need not be as complicated as we try to make it. In the words of one public school teacher, “whatever happened to people simply giving each other the benefit of the doubt, in believing that no one has a monopoly of good intentions or brilliance?” I was stumped at that one because I realized that while the idea was simplistic, it nailed the problem right on the head.

Making things work in this country is possible if only we can find it in ourselves to put country, others, service, and selflessness ahead of pride, ego, vested self interest, and this “if you are not with me, you are not my friend” mentality. In rural Philippines, these translate into the time-honored Filipino values of malasakit, pakikipag-kapwa, pakikitungo, pagdamay, and tulong.

This trip home has been truly worthwhile not only for sentimental family reasons (I wanted to be a part of my brother’s special event) but also for the realization that outside of Metro Manila, real people power and real people’s initiative still take place. It is called bayanihan. We should rekindle this spirit once again.

In closing, I would like to wish my brother Cyril and his lovely wife Lilian a wonderful marriage. I hope you guys prove that despite these uncertain times, there is only one thing with the power to make things work—it is called love. Keep it alive.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

sorry folks

am in Leyte attending the wedding of my youngest brother. also on vacation. and will be here until all saints day.

will try to blog from here. but the cafe is a good 3 kms away... but who knows.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

From milking cow to roast calf

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

There’s an interesting and potentially groundbreaking development emerging from the current imbroglio involving Mirant Corp. and its employees. On the surface, the case seems to be simply about employees demanding benefits from their employer. Actually, it is far more important than that.

And depending on whose version of the truth you happen to be partial to, either the Filipino employees are the ones who are greedy, insatiable, and selfish or the American owners and their Filipino counterparts are the ungrateful capitalists who have suddenly become blind, deaf and indifferent to the plight of the Mirant employees. You know how it is in our country, it is not enough that the other side is simply wrong, they have to be demonized, too. Otherwise, there’s no fun in the debate.

The dispute has been simmering since Mirant’s parent company, based in Atlanta, announced it was selling off Mirant Philippines. As many know, Mirant’s parent company has been in the red for quite some time now and seems to be in a desperate need for cash. This need is now prompting it to sell off its milking cow which is Mirant Philippines. The joke is that Mirant Philippines has transformed from being milking cow to roasted calf.

Why Mirant Philippines is very profitable is another story altogether. It is a long story actually, one that highlights the absence of strategic thinking among our leaders, in particular those during President Fidel Ramos’ term who entered into disadvantageous contracts with independent power producers. But more than anything else, it is a story that draws heavily on the sweat, blood, toil, and talent of Filipinos making up Mirant’s workforce. As one employee put it, “we made Mirant what it is today, the Americans simply put in their money.” This is a statement with which one cannot argue with. The Tagalog saying kami ang nagbayo at nagsaing, iba ang kumain (we did all the hard work but someone else is enjoying the fruit of our labor) nicely sums up the workers’ predicament.

Mirant Philippines is a successful enterprise. The company is a trailblazer in many efforts particularly in two areas: fulfilling its corporate social responsibility and taking care of its people. As a human resource management consultant, I am privy to the extent to which Mirant has taken care of its people. At least until the current imbroglio reared its ugly head.

The problem stems from the fact that the sale of Mirant Philippines is already due in November and employees are still groping in the dark about the kind of fate that awaits them. Mirant has not issued guarantees that it will honor practices (that unfortunately have not been translated into policy) pertaining to separation or retirement packages—before, during, or immediately after the sale. It also appears that the terms of the sale of Mirant does not include provisions compelling the new owners to assume contractual obligations to employees—either in terms of respecting tenure, or retaining compensation and benefits packages, or even sustaining the company’s hospitalization or retirement plan. In other words, Mirant employees do not know if they could hang on to their jobs after the sale!

Up until this week, Mirant Philippines president Jose Leviste Jr., who represents the American interest (and who is being paid handsomely for it, I am told) has been making promises about when the company will formalize its separation policy. In the meantime, the clock is ticking.
Mirant employees have tried to do things the more peaceful and cordial way —through appeals and representations with management. Strangely, this is when those nasty attacks against the employees started. Mirant employees were suddenly depicted as greedy spoiled brats who want to have their cake and eat it, too. Unfortunately, the criticism does not fly.

Yes, Mirant employees are among the most highly paid in the country and yes, they enjoy premium benefits compared to others. But that is not the employees’ fault. In fact, it can be said that they have earned it. Mirant employees are among the best in the country and represent genuine Filipino talent. The issue is that their security of tenure and their separation benefits must be guaranteed. If the new owners deem it fit to fire everyone, then that is their prerogative and if they decide to rehire everyone, then they start on a clean slate. Imputing motives and analyzing character is not relevant to the discussion. This is not the way to treat the people who make sure there is electricity that runs our households and offices.

Anyway, a few months have passed and nothing has happened yet. The sale is happening in a few weeks and Mirant employees are now entertaining the dreaded possibility that they will be left in the lurch, or to be more brazen about it, royally kicked in the posterior. In short, it is panic time.

So they sought government intervention. Representatives of Mirant employees from it’s Sual (Pangasinan) and Pagbilao (Quezon) plants and from the Pasay head office filed a petition for compulsory mediation with the Department of Labor and Employment citing “potential labor dispute that may lead to a possible disruption of power supply in Luzon.”

The request for intervention is one for the books. For one, this is probably one of the very, very few labor complaints signed by everyone in a company from senior executives down to the first level rank and file employee (except Leviste of course, but that is hardly surprising). But more importantly, it will set a potentially landmark jurisprudence.

Can the labor department require a US-based company to comply with its directives? Can the Philippine compel a US company to respect the rights and welfare of local employees? It remains to be seen. As a human resource management practitioner, I am keenly interested in how this soap opera will play out as it will have far-reaching implications on our labor situation. If the owners of the company were Filipinos, it would be easy to run after them and their assets in the event they are found guilty of breaking labor laws. But Mirant is US-based and their divestment in the Philippines is beyond the jurisdiction of local laws.

This is just another one of the effects of globalization that we seem to be unprepared for. Financial capital can now move around the world like baton being passed around an oval in a 4x100 meter relay. It has become that easy to bring in and pull out money from the Philippines as in anywhere in the world.

When this happens, how do we protect our human capital from the fallout? As I have always maintained in this column, human capital is our only lasting source of competitive advantage. In fact, it is our only national resource left. We have always said we take pride in Filipino talent, or that people are our most important asset.

* * *

On a more pleasant note, I am happy to report that Destiny Cable went out of its way to fix the cable connection at home. I was surprised at the level of attention—at least three separate people called to check if the connection has been fixed including representatives of the investors of the company. It took them a few hours, but we’re now back to a cabled existence. And it happened on the same day my column came out. Thanks, Destiny Cable.

Monday, October 23, 2006

just the usual corrupt scheme

The following is my column today, October 24, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

Since Milenyo struck, the house has been without cable television. I figured that Destiny was having such a difficult time sorting out all those tangled connections so I was willing to cut them some slack. Besides, to be honest about it, I kind of learned to relish the solitude that I have come to acquire in my own room. Switching on the television was a terrible habit that had become part of my routine every time I entered my room— yes, even when I had no intentions of watching it. Television was my ever-reliable company.

But since Milenyo reduced the cable connections in our neighborhood into leftover spaghetti, I have learned to live a more quiet existence. So in the last few weeks, I have been blissfully isolated from the shenanigans of politicians, investigative reporters and broadcast journalists. I do not know what has been going on in the world of Super Inggo or Atlantika, or even in the lives of Bakekang or whatever names the characters of John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo go by nowadays. I haven’t watched Philippine Idol for three weeks now and whatever I know about Ryan Cayabyab’s latest diatribe about the futility of making intelligent comments on the musical performance of that show’s contestants, I learned from reading newspapers, which is a completely different thing altogether, from say, actually watching him being livid live.

I reckoned we could live without television for a few more weeks.

But last Saturday, the bill collector from Destiny knocked. He actually expressed surprise that the cable connections were still not fixed. So we filed another report and hoped that someone would come to finally fix the connection.

Someone did come. In fact, two batches of people came. And what do you know, both offered to fix the darn connections for a fee. Nothing wrong with that, you would say. Except that they were offering an illegal lifetime connection for free in exchange for a handsome amount. And they were making the offer with a straight face. I humored them and asked what if the connection was discovered. They said there was no chance of that happening because the collectors and line men in the field on one hand, and the administration people in the office on the other hand, are different entities.

Askance, I asked what if there was trouble with the connection, say when another strong typhoon comes around and the wiring get detached or something. No problem, we could call them personally and they would come to fix it. Part of the deal. In fact, they pointed out that even the rich in posh villages are into the scheme.

Whoa. I know that illegal connections —whether electricity, water, or cable— are common in Metro Manila. But I could not believe the extent of the scam. Of course I refused. And they looked at me as if some screws on my brain needed tightening or something.

I talked about it in passing with some neighbors who must have gotten wind of the indecent proposal. The reactions were embarrassing so let us not go into those.

And just when I thought things have already reached Twilight Zone proportions, some enterprising electricians in the neighborhood came over and hinted that they could have done the reconnecting themselves. No need to call in those thieves from the cable company since the expertise was readily available in the neighborhood. From where we sat, since the cable companies where taking their own sweet time, they have taken it upon themselves to do fixing themselves. Besides, according to their own twisted reasoning, the cable companies are already making a killing anyway, so what harm could a few more illegal connections do?

This got me thinking about how terribly low we have sunk in the morals department.
I know that some people consider all these seemingly innocuous corrupt schemes as just another proof of how enterprising we could all be. The reasoning “where’s the harm, it’s not as if we are taking something away from ordinary Filipinos” seems to be so common. But we do take away something from someone else when we get into these things. Sure, the utility companies rob us wholesale with whatever creative new wrinkle they could come up with to pad our bills. But illegal connections do increase surcharges so the bill is actually spread over. In the end, we all pay.

I can already hear my critics sharpening their knives, ready to slap me with that line about the country’s no. 1 crook in that white house by the river Pasig. So lest anyone starts hyperventilating I will say it on record again: Yes, by all means, let’s go after all crooks in this country, big or small, tall or short, with or without moles in the face. But I really find it immature when certain people hold up the grievous sins of others as justification for their own corrupt actions.

Corruption is truly widespread in our country and it is not limited to those who walk the halls of power in this country. The problem is so pervasive I think it is truly time to address it strategically. Oh no, please, not another legislation and another government body created for the purpose. These things only give people a false sense of comfort that something is being done somewhere; that the problem is external and does not involve us. In reality, these things do not work because we are the problem.

What we need is for more people to come to the table not to find faults or look for scapegoats or for someone to blame. We need to begin by admitting that we are all party to the whole scheme— perhaps in varying degrees of guilt, some directly, some indirectly—but with the recognition that if we want changes in this country, we must be part of the changes.

Unfortunately, this is really easier said than done as most of us would rather get stuck in the middle of a monstrous traffic jam rather than give way. It seems things have reached the point when good guys really finish last.

But not all the time. So I sit here waiting for the legitimate people from Destiny to finally fix our cable TV at home. In the meantime, I am prepared for a few more days of existence without cable television. I think it is a small price to pay for principle.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sensory overload at Malate

I have not been in the area for quite some time. Perhaps a year or so. Oh I have been in the periphery of the area - I've had dinner at my favorite Italian Resto (Cosa Nostra) about a block south, and at the Robinsons Manila a few blocks north. But I havent set foot in the area bordered by Adriatico, Remedios, Nakpil and Orosa streets for quite some time. It was quite a shock for me to discover that the heart of Malate has undergone a major change.

Wednesday found me in the area with my bestfriend Jojo. A good friend, Andrew de Real owner of The Library and writer/director of many comedy shows was celebrating his birthday and went out of his way to make sure that all his friends were there. So we went. I reckoned it was a perfect time to revisit old haunts.

We parked along Remedios near the Circle. Or what used to be the Remedios Circle at least. It is still in the shape of a circle, but the old quaint park is gone. The place has been flattened and the old white structure that looked like a giant fountain in the middle has been demolished. I do not know what to make of the new "park." It is brightly lit - which could have been achieved with the addition of more street lamps to the old design. It is now a plaza, with what looks like red marble tiles. I don't know maybe I am just an old romantic fool, but I think that the old design was more charming. Today, the Remedios Circle is simply a giant playground where street kids run around half naked.

We walked to Adriatico and run smack into the middle of Patpong. Or what looked like Patpong in Bangkok at least - minus the night market and the sleazy show (at least on surface). Hawkers of all makes and forms shoved flyers into our hands and enticed us to hang out in the noisy new bars that have replaced the old restaurants that used to dominate the area. Adriatico is now a Tarpaulin city. Printers of those colorful banners must be making a killing as the facade of the bars and establishments in Adriatico were plastered full of these things. Yes, including some really tacky posters. We spotted one which said "'where happy hours are happy." Yeah, they thought is was clever.

At least the old Cafe Adriatico is still standing although the "extension" the one on the other side of the Street is gone. I hope they do not put up another bar that thinks putting up speakers outside is so cool. There were many establishments in the area that did not require anyone to go inside to find out what was happening anymore - standing outside was more than enough.

Oh god, the noise pollution! I think I went half deaf within the four minutes it took Jojo and I to play patintero with the cars and people and vendors and carts and clowns and peacocks that blocked our path from Remedios Circle to The Library.

Andrew's party was in his other bar next to The Library, called Fab. It's a small joint - perhaps as narrow as the original Library (which has become so huge - quadruple its original size). It made me long for the good old days when bars in Malate were so intimate, you sit or stand or hunch in a tiny space and stayed immobile but did not mind because you were in the company of kindred spirits.

And we all had a great fun. It was so great, to borrow the language of the current generation, to eyeball old friends again although we all did feel a little out of place in a sea of new faces whose concept of fun seem different somehow. The old Malate habitues were there - even the likes of Beverly Salviejo and Vangie Labalan (who came in gaudy attires and got gawked at by the younger set). This will sound like one of those showbiz gossip shows - but Ai Ai de las Alas, Arnel Ignacio, Mel Mier, Frederic Peralta, and all the old souls of Malate were all there partying like the good old days when they werent such big celebrities and we could still litter along Adriatico and no one gave a damn (there were many many more, "old" people - actually we are not that old, but we could well be ancient if we are to go by the ages of the current Malate set; gee, I think many of the people we saw in the area must be high school kids).

We walked around the Nakpil/Orosa area and saw how the area has truly changed. It is still bohemian - but in a different way, a little less "art" and more "sex" seemed to be the pervading scent. But at least it is a little more respectful of diversity now.

There was a time when 0ne went to Malate or Adriatico to just chill and hang out. Now it seems you go there to get bamboozled.

I am getting old. I just don't feel I belong there anymore.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Non-resident mayors

The following was my column yesterday October 18, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today. We buried my mentor and good friend Celia yesterday so I had no time to go online. My apologies.

Yes, I will update this blog. Soon.


I am a resident of the City of Manila. For almost 18 years, in fact, I lived a stone’s throw away from the official residence of mayor Lito Atienza at San Andres Bukid. Of course I know the mayor doesn’t actually live there. Okay, I know his son Kim used to live in the area because I actually saw him a number of times, but in all my 18 years in that neighborhood, I only saw the mayor setting foot in the area once—and it was during a campaign.
In fairness to the mayor, though, he seemed to have omnipresent eyes and ears in the neighborhood because most problems were easily addressed and resolved although this did not negate the fact that he did not live in the area.

We moved to Leon Guinto Street in Malate two years ago. I am still living in Manila and will probably continue to do so given a choice.

I like living in Manila. I like going to those dusty, old quaint shops in Quiapo, Echaque and Mabini. I like the hustle bustle of Divisoria, even the mysterious blend of innocence and danger of Recto. I like the bohemian character of Adriatico at night, or the grand narrative of the Fort Santiago area. There’s nothing quite like the old charm of this historic city. I am biased but I think that despite the decay, Manila is still one of the best places in the country. Obviously, my affection for this city is grounded solely on sentimental reasons. But that’s just me.

I am having a hard time trying to fathom the motivations of the people who are falling all over themselves to become mayor of this city. There must be really something in this city that is worth giving up a senatorial or congressional seat for. Who actually buys that yarn about people wanting to become mayor of Manila purely for sentimental reasons? One will spend millions of pesos on a campaign to get an emotional high or to reclaim family honor? Even this sentimental fool does not buy it. And let’s not even go into the supposed noble reasons of public service and the like.

I am aware that all it takes is to be a registered voter in a certain area to be qualified to run for public office in that area. But how can anyone actually have aspirations to become citizen number one of a city he or she does not even consider worthy enough to live in? This is a question that I have been dying to ask for sometime now because I know that a lot of local executives actually do not live in the city where they seek elective posts.

So may I ask who among Senators Panfilo Lacson and Alfredo Lim, Vice Mayor Danny Lacuna, Reps. Joey Hizon and Rodolfo Bacani, former Rep. Mark Jimenez and commercial model Borgy Manotoc actually live in Manila?

Okay, lest I be accused of being guilty of discrimination, let’s be democratic and ask: who among those running for elective posts in any city in Metro Manila actually lives in the city where they are seeking an elective post? I know it is not required under the law, but surely this is a moral issue. This is a credibility issue. Heck, this is an election issue. If we require residency status for beauty contestants, shouldn’t this be required for those seeking mayoralty posts? It would be unthinkable to have a President who lives outside the country, or a governor who lives outside the province.

So you want to become mayor of Manila? Vacate your mansion inside the posh Ayala Alabang Village at Muntinlupa, or your penthouse condominium unit at the Pacific Towers in Makati or the Serendra at Taguig and move to Manila. Be a resident and see how it is to live among those you govern.

And while we are at it, let me express my utter dismay at the blatant low regard that the Marcoses have for this city. I thought it was a joke until the honorable representative from Ilocos Norte started to enumerate Borgy Manotoc’s supposed “qualification” to become mayor of Manila, among them, genetics (I hope she was talking about the Manotoc genes).

Let me make this clear. I have nothing against commercial models. I think it would be great if more good-looking people with proven expertise and qualification run for public office. God knows we need a respite from the clowns and the bitter old fogeys who currently dominate our political scene. But Borgy for mayor of Manila? Oh please. Aside from making gazillions of money by capitalizing on good looks, the guy has not proven anything yet that makes him worthy of consideration even for the post of barangay captain.

I know that there is no chance that Borgy will win in next year’s elections and that this whole thing is probably a trial balloon designed to check public reaction to the idea. But that’s precisely what gets my ire! What do these people think of us, citizens of this city—stupid, unthinking, gullible playthings that they can manipulate? As if it is not bad enough that these people have not even apologized for the grievous sins their family inflicted on the Filipino people and that they continue to profess their innocence to high heavens, they now have the gall to toy with the electorate of Manila? The nerve of these people!

* * *

The long drawn-out real-life soap opera that is the recent nursing board examinations is one fine example of what is wrong in our system. Here we have a situation that could have been resolved immediately if only someone stepped in and took full responsibility for the investigation and subsequent decisions very early on. But because we are country that takes pride in our own twisted version of democracy, everybody had to get into the act—MalacaƱang, the Senate, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Court of Appeals, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Board of Nursing, the Professional Regulatory Commission, the deans of the different nursing schools, the various nursing associations, various student groups. And of course, media.

Everybody is insisting that his or her point of view is the only correct one. Everybody claims to be after the common good. Nobody wants to listen. Nobody wants to give in. Shall we be surprised that the issue cannot be resolved?

Monday, October 16, 2006

No pork, please

The following is my column today, October 16, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

Twelve zeroes. A trillion pesos. To be specific, P1.26 trillion. That’s the 2007 national budget approved last Friday by the House of Representatives. It is a staggering amount and one that is incomprehensible to ordinary Filipinos. I am sure our educational system does not teach mathematical problems that involve trillions. Heck, I am not sure they even teach high school kids to do sums that reach billions.

I have no doubt that we can spend that much money. The question is how much of the money will go into the private bank accounts of the people that walk the corridors of power?

Our representatives were so ecstatic that they were able to pass the General Appropriations Act. Speaker Jose de Venecia couldn’t restrain himself from dishing out motherhood statements about how our lawmakers rose to the challenge and yada yada yada. He came very, very close to declaring our representatives as heroes and saints.

The chest thumping is partly attributable to the fact that Congress had failed to pass a budget since 2004, and because the House of Representatives had difficulty mustering a quorum last week. In fact, I think it was only last Tuesday when the Speaker publicly begged representatives to prioritize the budget hearings over social functions. The bigger reason is that anytime our representatives agree on anything seems to be more than enough reason for celebration. It is pathetic, but that’s where we are now.

I am not surprised that the House passed the budget. I will not be surprised if the Senate approves it as well in the next few weeks. There will be more of the usual self-righteous posturing, some attempts to project the impression that there is a semblance of checks and balance in government today, even verbal skirmishes and emotional tantrums. But in the end, you and I know how all these will end—pragmatism will prevail. A sizable chunk of the budget after all is allotted as Priority Development Assistance Fund. In simple English, that’s pork barrel money for legislators. In no-nonsense plain talk, that’s political largesse. Let’s talk about why this large-scale wastage of public money should be stopped in a while, but in the meantime, let’s focus on three interesting sidelights about the national budget.

First, the highest allocation under the approved budget goes to the Department of Education (P132.9 billion). Second and third highest allocations go to the Department of Public Works and Highways (P73.6 billion) and Department of Interior and Local Government (P51.1 billion), respectively.

I have no issue with the fact that these departments are up there in terms of allocation. Education is our best shot at regaining national competitiveness. Likewise, all those roller coasters and ferris-wheels promised during the President’s State of the Nation Address have to be funded. Local governments need to be strengthened and empowered. Fine. However, I am flabbergasted that the Department of Health got so much less and was a poor eighth in the rankings. Last I looked, health was a critical issue in this country. I am aware that the management and delivery of certain basic services such as health has been devolved to the local governments. However, the total allocation for health just does not make sense.

The second interesting sidelight to the approved budget is the amendment introduced by the opposition (and by the Speaker) allocating more money—P550 million if I am not mistaken—to the Office of the Ombudsman in order to give it more resources in fighting public corruption. I think that any effort to eliminate corruption is most welcome. I do not know what to make of our representatives’ generosity though. I am trying very, very hard to see sincerity in the action. Is this a failed attempt at sarcasm given the recent monumental foul-up of the Ombudsman when she exonerated Comelec commissioners? A friend of mine propounds a juicier quid pro quo conspiracy theory involving pork barrel funds. Let’s remind ourselves again that a major source of corruption is the representatives’ very own pork barrel fund. Of course, it’s all conjecture. Or is it?

The third interesting sidelight is that the House of Representatives gave the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board a budget that deserves a space in the Guinness Book of World Records: one peso. I do not know whether we should laugh or weep over the blatant display of childishness.

I believe that censorship has no place in our society. I have no love lost for people who feel no compunction over imposing their own moral standards on others. But I also know that there are legions of people out there who support the MTRCB and what it stands for. It does not justify the existence of MTRCB, but our legislators should know that the Board exists and was created by law and that upholding the law is their responsibility. If they want to abolish the MTRCB (and I firmly believe it is time to do it), they should outlaw it through legislation and by citing better justification. Banning that Erap documentary was a stupid thing to do, but the legislators should know better—that ban was cloaked with iron-clad legal support.

But I must admit that it was strangely gratifying to see MTRCB Chairman Consoliza Laguardia being humbled. She actually took the trouble to mount a vigil at the House of Representatives during the budget hearings to no avail.

The approved budget allocates P200 million in pork barrel alone to each senator. The allocation for each of our representatives was nothing to sneeze at, too, excluding insertions. You can do the math.

Let’s cut this crap about how the pork barrel fund is meant to democratize allocation of the national budget across the country. The reality is that the pork barrel poses more problems than solutions. First, it nurtures this culture of entitlement and political benevolence. It perpetuates what is so wrong with our current political system: we make elected officials powerbrokers, influence peddlers, and sources of political largesse. Second, it takes away focus from what our representatives should be doing—to legislate, not govern. Third, it makes representatives beholden if not hostage to the executive branch. Let’s face it: the release of pork barrel allocation has been used as bargaining chip in sticky political issues many times in the recent past. And finally, pork barrel funds have been found to be a major source of corruption. It is common knowledge that a sizable percentage of the costs of public works end up as grease money.

So here’s my message to Congress. You want a budget that really works for the Filipino people? Begin where you have absolute control over. Remove the pork barrel allocations from the budget. Liberate yourselves.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Down, down, down

So sorry folks, I am in hibernation.

I tried to update this blog, but what I come up with are just so depressing. I think there is no need to drag more people down.

But to those who emailed and left comments they didnt want published...yes, I am okay, thank you for asking.

I will be back soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tenacity and courage



The following is my column at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today, October 11, 2006.

Sigaw ng Bayan is still at it and I must say I admire the tenacity of the people behind the movement. The truth is, despite their claim that they have overwhelming support and that their cause is just and correct, there is hardly a stampede today to defend them against the onslaught of vociferous criticism. Although the tough sailing at the Supreme Court is not conclusive of how the judges would vote on the issue, it does seem that many of those who used to be vocal about their support for the movement have already started to distance themselves.

Of course, this can change drastically if the Supreme Court renders the initiative as valid.

Such is the nature of politics. There are no permanent enemies or friends, only permanent interests. Thus, when you are hot, you are everyone’s best friend. But when your cause becomes unpopular, you are dropped like a hot potato. When your cause is in limbo, people stay at the sidelines and wait for more concrete indications before taking a stand.

I have refused to join the so-called and much-vaunted Great Debate precisely because I knew it was going to end up at the Supreme Court who is in a better position to decide on it. But I have always felt that Sigaw Ng Bayan fell into this trap of mistaking widespread indifference for support; that just because people were not openly attacking the initiative, people were for it.

This is the problem when people settle for hollow victories such as winning by default. Whatever victory is achieved is fleeting and fragile.

I think that the current debate on Charter Change still misses out on a number of larger issues that may seem peripheral, but are actually germane. I do not think that the whole debate should be about which system of government the country should adopt. Systems and structures do not make good government—people do. And quite frankly, both sides of the debate still have to come up with a clear solution to the problem of how we can all kick all these traditional politicians and corrupt dynasties from hogging public office elections after elections.

* * *
Someone once said that the families that we are born to are special because they are our own flesh and blood; but that the families that we elect to become part of our lives are probably more special because they are freely chosen and represent the heart’s true desires.

As I write, someone very, very dear to me—my good friend, mentor, boss and second mother—is at the intensive care unit of the Makati Medical Center. She has been in and out of hospitals for many years now. Although we continue to hope for the best, we know that it is only a matter of time now. I do not know what God’s plans are, but I fervently pray that it does not include more pain. She has suffered more than enough in the last five years and while I know that she has a steely determination and a strong heart, there is only so much that her body can take. So dear God, please spare her the pain.

I know I am dripping hurt and pain here and I apologize if there are readers out there who feel uncomfortable at my unabashed wearing of my heart on my sleeve. Writing about this was something I wished I never had to do, but I guess the fact that I am actually writing about it means I am now ready to let go.

Celia Jessica Villarosa has been a steady presence in my life in the last 18 years. She was a former boss. I met her in 1988 at a Toastmasters Club meeting barely a month since I moved to Manila from Leyte. She was then helping set up a local airline. She offered me a job on the spot, which I accepted. That partnership would last more than 10 years as we moved together from one company to another. Eight years ago, we parted ways as I chose to stay put in a group of companies while she went off to join a succession of companies—PCIBank, Lucent Technologies, ABN-Amro, Alcatel, and finally, Rizal Commercial Banking Center. However, our bond became even stronger as the superior-subordinate relationship ended and we made a transition to being friends and colleagues.

Celia was diagnosed with cancer five years ago. She valiantly fought the battle and I truly admired her courage and her tenacity. She had numerous cycles of chemotherapy, radiation, gene therapy; even tried alternative cures. All throughout, or at least until three months ago, she did all that while holding down full-time jobs as human resource director of certain companies.

I am still trying to figure out why someone like her would have cancer. This is a person who was so health conscious—she worked out every day, ran regularly, did not smoke, did not drink, practiced meditation, etc. Her only vice, as far as I know, was clothes; not jewelry, not shoes, not bags. Just clothes. And, oh, ballroom dancing, which when you come to think about it, was also a form of exercise. She ate wisely and was mostly into fruits and vegetables. She had a good temperament and rarely got angry. And yet she got cancer.

I know many people who smoke like their bodies need to be cigarette-cured, who drink like their systems are fueled by alcohol, and essentially make life difficult for everyone else in this planet and yet they live up to a century (or seem like it). It’s just so unfair.
In situations like these, I often end up making rationalizations that will not earn me points in logical deduction. Somehow, these thoughts bring comfort no matter how minimal, fleeting, and bordering on escapism: She needs to rest already (true, she has been working non-stop for 30 years), that she has done her life’s work (probably, although who am I do say that?—but her only daughter is done with school and already working), there is a reason for everything (her condition is a warning and reminder to all of us that life, even at its longest, is still truly short). Whatever.

Celia has made a major difference in my life and those of other colleagues who had this selfless woman as their mentor. She literally shaped my career, taught me the ropes, mentored me. Even at the height of the controversy over that open letter, she took time out from her hectic treatment schedule to seek me out for lunch to discuss how I was coping with the attention.

I do not know if Celia will still be able to read this while she is in this world, but this is my way of telling the world that we are all better off today because of people like her. Thank you my dear friend. I am already missing you.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Eid ul-Fitr

The following is my column at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today, October 9.

Oct. 24 this year will be a National Holiday. It will be the end of Ramadan and the Muslim world will be celebrating Eid ul-Fitr. It is actually a major holiday for our Muslim brothers, just like Christmas is to Christians. Unfortunately, the significance of the event will once again be lost on non-Muslims, who will most likely see it as just another non-working day, just another day to play hooky.

It is yet another sad commentary of our times that it seems nobody gives any meaning or importance to why certain days are celebrated as national holidays: In particular, why there is a law declaring the end of Ramadan as a national day of commemoration and celebration.

There are times when I am convinced that even Holy Week and the Christmas season, the two religious seasons in the Christian world, have simply become occasions for rest and recreation. I know many people who hie off to the beach during Holy Week and party hard even on Good Friday. And then there are those who go abroad during Christmas, preferably somewhere where Christmas is not observed, say in Vietnam or Cambodia, to get away from the crass commercialism that has become attached to the occasion.

Well at least many people still observe All Saints’ Day by visiting the graves of departed loved ones although I am aware that cemeteries transform into one giant playground around then. In fact, I remember one American friend of mine commenting once that All Saints’ Day in the Philippines seems to be another huge fiesta, the only difference being that the merrymaking and the drinking and the partying are held in cemeteries.

The problem is that no one seems to be taking the trouble to explain the significance of our national holidays. In the past, this was clearly the domain of the education department, but I guess when the word “culture” (as in Department of Education and Culture) was dropped from their official name, the mandate vanished along with it.

When I was a kid, Linggo ng Wika, United Nations Week, and even Flag Day were commemorated with pomp and pageantry. It seemed then that everyone appreciated the significance of these occasions.

Not anymore today.

And so we have a situation where the significance of such an occasion as Eid ul-Fitr is lost among ordinary Filipinos. It is enough to make one wonder why we bother commemorating the occasion if we do not observe it properly anyway.

Eid ul-Fitr is significant because it marks the end of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for our Muslim brothers. For billions of Muslims around the world, the Ramadan is a month of blessing, marked by prayer, fasting, and charity. What is noteworthy is that while other holidays such as Christmas have become widely commercialized, Ramadan has retained its religious focus.

Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid ul-Fitr, which literally means the “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” It is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations (the other occurs after the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca). During Eid ul-Fitr, Muslims dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, exchange gifts, and celebrate with friends and family. It really is like Christmas—minus the commercialism, of course.

I know these things because one of my best friends is a Muslim—was, actually, because he had passed on to the other world. One of the many great things that he taught me when he was still alive was appreciation of the culture of our Muslim brothers. It is a gift that I treasure up to this day because it cleansed me of prejudice toward Muslims, something I never knew I had and actually denied having. Thanks to him, today I can walk at night in the heart of Quiapo where our Muslim brothers do their trade, eat at the many food stalls there, and even do business with Muslims without some irrational fear gnawing at my heart.

I am sure you are thinking “what’s the big deal with that?” You probably go to Quiapo, too, perhaps to buy pirated DVDs or other goods from the Muslim Trade Center. But many if not most of us do so without thinking of them as our coequal. Many among us do business with them with some reservation, perhaps in fact with a sliver of fear; a little trepidation or some measure of distaste. There’s the fear that they are out to take advantage of us (a common stereotype is that they are terrorists). Or perhaps that they are spreading some contagious disease (there’s this really fallacious stereotype that they are dirty). Or maybe perhaps you’ve heard someone making fun of their hard Tausug accent and you also found it hilarious.

Our Muslim brothers are second-class citizens in this country—and probably elsewhere too. The odds are truly stacked high against them. There are just too many horror stories of Muslims being the object of bigotry and prejudice particularly in the aftermath of the 9/11.

Which is why holidays such as Eid ul-Fitr should be a welcome opportunity for all Filipinos to appreciate our Muslim brothers as well as their traditions and beliefs. Our Muslim brothers are Filipinos too, and they make up a sizable percentage of the population. But more than anything else, our Muslim brothers are people too, no different from you and me. They may worship another representation of a Supreme Being, speak another language, or even follow a different set of customs and traditions. But they are just like us and they are entitled to the same rights and level of respect.

So on Oct. 24, when the Muslim world commemorates the end of Ramadan and celebrates Eid ul-Fitr, I hope that we can all spare a moment from our vacation to reflect on the significance of such a national holiday.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

billboards, anorexia, board exams

So it seems people are finally serious about taking down those darn billboards. The question is, for how long?

It was funny how ABS-CBN finally got the message. For quite sometime now, they have been guilty of duplicity; they have been harping about those darn billboards while conveniently forgetting that their own billboards litter EDSA as well. The station has announced that they are taking down their billboards. It must have been a major decision particularly because GMA has not said anything yet about taking down their billboards (and the GMA billboards are bigger both in terms of size and quantity).

And maybe the Catholic hierarchy can also show some moral fiber by removing their billboards along EDSA as well. It is difficult to preach from a higher moral ground when people know that you are guilty of putting lives in danger.


***

I was a little intrigued to read reports that detail Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago's bout with anorexia. Hmmm. I know that anorexia is a serious disease, but there are times when I can't help but wish I have selective anorexia. It's just that I find eating such a pleasurable activity and as result, I have ballooned to - never mind the exact number of kilograms.

What was likewise amusing was the way she was quoted in the reports. She admitted that it is a disease that is both physiological...and... attitudinal. Actually the technical term should be psychological, but well, I don't think the feisty lady wants that word attached to her for obvious reasons. What do you mean you don't know what those reasons are?

***

I don't know about you, but I find all this debate about the nursing board exams fiasco so annoying already. If someone just came up with a decision very early on and implemented it ASAP rather than allowed this whole analysis by paralysis to take over, the problem should have been over by now.

But no, we have to get everyone's opinions first and go through all these charade about investigating people and all that hoopla. For crying out loud, someone resolve this issue and get it over and done with. And throw those guilty into the prison bin.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thievery and obstinacy

The following is my column today, October 4, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

In a perfect world where balance is the norm, a storm is nature’s way of cleansing itself of whatever it is that needs to be expunged from the system. It can be a welcome thing. But since we live in an imperfect world, a storm is an inconvenience, a punishment, a nuisance, etc.

I do not want to make light of the hardships that many are experiencing in the aftermath of Milenyo. However, it is important to put the misery in context. Forces of nature cannot be controlled and our best hope lies in having the contingencies to deal with them and their consequences.

Thus, it is wrong to attribute our current difficulties to Milenyo. We are in deep trouble today because of the lack of foresight among our leaders, because of greed of some corporations and some people, general ineptitude and incompetence of certain people, apathy, etc. The storm was a force of a nature. Our problems are man-made.

I have already ranted last Monday about the impotence of Meralco and our government institutions. I think that we should also call attention to other reasons for the mess we find ourselves in.

I am told that in many areas, electricity has not been restored simply because there are no more cables and posts to begin with. It seems that in many areas, electrical cables disappeared within minutes after electrical posts toppled down as bands of thieves had a field day carting off cable and wiring at the height of the typhoon. I presume these people had the expertise to do the dastardly act since cutting off electrical cables is not among the simplest of tasks.

It is tempting to justify the crime by saying that kicking Meralco in the butt once in a while and making it cough up more money for repairs should be okay considering the profits it makes. Unfortunately, consumers are the ones who suffer since replacing power lines actually takes time. Too bad for consumers who suffer from the absence of electricity simply because their neighbors stole the electrical cables.

And even if Meralco coughs up more money for repairs and wiring, which it eventually will, we know that the bill will eventually get passed on to consumers anyway. So it really is wishful thinking to assume we are actually getting back at Meralco that way.

I know that wiring and cable are bought because of their copper content. I called up a friend to inquire where these things are sold and bought and he gave me an address of a place where he said rolls and rolls of these wires are openly and actively traded. Imagine that! I wonder what happened to the law banning the trade on items that are obviously stolen from public utilities.

There used to be a time when PLDT had those thick round brass manhole covers that looked so elegant on the streets. Ordinary and unsightly concrete blocks have replaced those and I really do not blame PLDT. Those round brass manhole covers started to disappear one by one and ended up as coffee tables in some homes (yes, I personally know two people who have coffee tables fashioned out of those stolen things and they were proud of their ingenuity). Electrical cables, manhole covers, traffic signs, road warning devices, flower pots, plants, etc. These are some of the things that disappear from the streets and end up in private homes.

I make no apologies for this people but I can understand why impoverished people would steal so that they can eat. What I cannot understand are people with enough resources who steal public property just for kicks. And the strongest condemnation should be reserved for businessmen who patronize and abet the trade by buying off those stolen things and make handsome profits in the process. These are the people who should be the object of public ridicule; but unfortunately, these are the people who are mostly likely to escape scot-free in the event of clampdown since they have the means to defend themselves. Sadly, the scavengers who got a pittance as their share of the proceeds are the ones who will pay dearly for the crime.

I was watching television the other night and saw a report on how the people living in those shanties along Manila Bay were coping. All their houses were wiped out as these were made of lightweight materials and were perched mostly on makeshift stilts. They lost everything. It was very sad and my heart sank while the television cameras recorded how they were trying to rebuild their houses and their lives with the very little they had— some were trying to put lumber together using plastic twine. However, one cannot also help but get peeved at their obstinacy. They insist on staying put in an area that is highly vulnerable to calamities rather than relocating somewhere else. Our obstinacy as a people is truly legendary.

It is time to rebuild lives. One way we can do this is to accept part of the blame, too. For instance, a number of bloggers posted entries in their blogs recording how they watched people cart off whatever usable bits were flying around during the typhoon. They took photos instead of doing something to stop the carnage. We can all do our share instead of simply cursing and getting all hyped up.

But there are still some good things that came out of that typhoon. For one, Milenyo’s torrential rains and howling winds disturbed the breeding grounds of dengue-carrier mosquitoes and provided temporary relief from the dengue outbreak. It also pruned the trees around the Metro and in some areas, it was about time actually. Many of the trees were already growing branches that were crowding passageways and electrical connections.

The storm certainly did what local officials could not do in terms of clearing Metro Manila of those unsightly billboards (how strange it is to drive through Edsa without seeing Kris Aquino’s mug every five minutes or so).

Finally, Milenyo did test the true state of our disaster preparedness and proved once again just how ineffectual government and public utility companies are in dealing with crisis. Now we know. It’s time we do something about them.

* * *

Congratulations to the University of Santo Tomas for winning the UAAP basketball crown last Monday. It was a great performance and they deserve the title after 10 years!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Froth, inaction and callousness

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

I know you’ve had enough of people talking about where they were and what they were doing at the height of Milenyo’s fury, so I will not go there. I think that our collective resilience and fortitude as a people need no further testimony.

It is Sunday afternoon, I am sweltering and stuck inside a house that hardly has any water. I am desperately trying to hammer out a column on a laptop with the battery threatening to go kaput any moment. Thanks to Meralco’s impotence, the whole of Paco and Singalong is still without electricity as I write. Write and rant about how utterly unprepared our government institutions and utility companies are to deal with a crisis and its aftermath.

One would think that since we are on first name basis with crisis—for crying out loud, we have typhoons practically every month, landslides every now and then, flash floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other forces of nature battering us on a regular basis—we would have grown a little wiser. But no sir, we are definitely not there yet.

In a country where almost everyone has a cellphone, you would expect telecom companies to take it upon themselves to employ technology for some public service. After all, at the height of the typhoon, these telecom companies were making a killing as people forwarded text messages about this and that unofficial weather update. I personally received an SMS supposedly from “the US navy weather station” warning that the “typhoon would hit Manila at 2pm with center winds at 214 kph and gusts of 260 kph.” I received this message at least six times! It turned out that the worst of the typhoon’s beatings was over by 2 p.m.—due to this warning, however, we were still bracing for yet worse.

Globe and Smart send all kinds of unwanted messages promoting this and that on ordinary days, but could not use that technology in a crisis? The last three days could have been a perfect time to finally put that technology to a truly great use. And why am I not surprised that these telecom companies’ public relations machines churn out some perfectly-crafted yarn about how the law prohibits that kind of public service? My message to them is simple: it is easy to make excuses and wash hands.

I have ranted in this column and in my blog about the dangers billboards pose, but I guess no one was listening. Then. Now, all of a sudden, because someone got killed and properties were destroyed as close to 40 of those eyesores toppled over, we have a preponderance of bleeding hearts. Local officials are suddenly on the side of MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando who has long been trying to regulate the use of those billboards.

The debris has not yet been cleared and here we are debating about whether those billboards constitute freedom of expression and all that intellectualizing. Oh please, let’s stop frothing in the mouth and just regulate those darn monstrosities on the road. At the very least, they insult our collective sense of aesthetics.

Meralco can crow all it wants about the heroism of its people and the valiant efforts they have put into restoring electricity in record time. Yet all these do not mean anything to thousands of other consumers —myself included—who are still wringing our hands and pining for some relief from the misery of a powerless existence three days after the typhoon hit. It doesn’t help that our next-door neighbors have had their electricity restored Saturday. There is no excuse for our tragedy because the lines are perfectly okay, electricity was actually restored in our area early morning Friday for a few hours before something went wrong somewhere. I was told that the priority is fixing power lines and since the power lines in our area are okay and that the problem is something else, we’ll just have to wait. Gee, that’s truly brilliant logic.

I drove aimlessly around Metro Manila yesterday just so the kids can enjoy air-conditioning for a few hours and, all right, so we can charge cellphones in the car. Traffic lights in a number of critical intersections were still off. The perfect formula for mayhem was present: traffic lights that weren’t working, people who all needed to get ahead of others, obstructions on the road, and the absolute clincher—no traffic aide in sight. At the intersection of Aurora and Edsa at Cubao, there were traffic aides all right, but it seemed they were more interested in apprehending traffic violators (mostly drivers who insisted on turning left on a no left turn sign) than in sorting out the mess. Two days of bad weather must have made a major dent on their financial quotas.

In the meantime, garbage on secondary roads (and particularly on side streets) is piling up.
All these and more reflect just how inutile our institutions are in dealing with the aftermath of a crisis. The hours and days after a crisis are exactly the time when public institutions and their efforts must be visible and palpable. This is precisely the time when information must be easily accessible, when officials of government and public utility companies must be all over television and radio, when traffic aides must be on the road, when garbage collectors must work triple time, when public works people must be on the road with their power saws and heavy equipment.

This is the time when the people need to be assured that their taxes are working, that their leaders are there for them. This is the time when people need to be comforted, when efforts to show sincerity and some empathy would be greatly appreciated. A crisis makes people emotionally spent and vulnerable. In times like these, we look up to our leaders —whether in government or in business —to provide comfort and relief. We do not need lectures and angry denunciations and finger pointing.

The President’s reported impatience may send a chilling message to Meralco, but we would rather see some warmth, empathy—and real action. The public posturing of some mayors may get them some media time, but quite frankly, we know that the objects of their ire are also the people who will finance their campaign in the elections this May so we know that nothing will come out of it. Meralco can try empathizing and apologizing and showing some heart.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

the aftermath

And where were you when nature unleashed its fury on us, ordinary mortals?

I was cocooned inside the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza where the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines was having its annual conference. "Cocooned" however was not exactly the right description because by the time we realized just how strongly the typhoon was pummeling everything on its path outside, it was too late to get out. So we soon realized we were actually stranded. At least there was electricity where we were courtesy of the hotel's generators, although the airconditioning was not exactly working well.

Anyway, there is still no electricity in the house. It is Sunday afternoon and looks like we're the last remaining people in the Metro to have electricity. It is actually infuriating because the problem in 0ur area has nothing to do with power lines - they already were able to restore everything a day after the typhoon. In fact, we had electricity Friday morning. Unfortunately, something blew up somewhere and Meralco has not been able to resolve the problem. They say that their priority is restoring power lines, not fixing blown up power regulators or whatever it was that blew up. Great, just great.

Am writing this from a cafe. Just wanted to touch base and update my blog.

I hope you guys are safe and recovering well.