Showing posts from July, 2008

Swimming with the current

This is my column today.

I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Jefferson’s quotation came to mind for a number of reasons.

First because it seems everyone is spewing words of wisdom lately without making the right attribution. For example, some Cabinet members have been regurgitating that line about how a leader who sacrifices principles at the altar of popularity is ineffective or something sounding like that, as if the insight was something they themselves invented.

The idea was to diffuse the results of the recent Pulse Asia survey, which revealed just how unpopular the President had become, by pointing out that what was popular was not always right. Conversely, what was right was not necessarily popular. We were all conditioned to think that the President was going to stick to principle, popularity be damned. What they conveniently left out was that the two were not necessarily mutually exclus…

Beyond rhetoric

This is my column today.

If it weren’t for the recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia—which validated what we already know, that the President had become even more unpopular—I doubt whether many would give the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address today even cursory attention.

We all knew that the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address was going to happen around this time. But really - aside from those who lust for the opportunity to point out the million and one things that are wrong with this administration and this country—who, in this country, needs to be reminded of our sorry state? We’re not a country of masochists, that’s for sure; but then, neither are we big on collective responsibility.

Nah, we prefer to heap the blame somewhere else for our failures and our suffering. MalacaƱang is the logical and natural target. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is not only the most unpopular president this country has ever had, she is also the most demonized leader. Sometimes it strikes me that demo…

Piecemeal solutions

This was my column yesterday, July 23.

I actually wrote a column about what I thought the President should address in her State of the Nation Address. I noted, however, that two other columnists had beaten me to it. So I decided to kill the piece lest we be accused of speechwriting for the President.

Sometimes it does strike me that our problems as a nation are cyclical. It seems that the words “permanent solution” is something that’s totally alien to our culture. What usually happens every single time we are faced with a problem is that we go for patchwork solutions or temporary balms that do not really make a dent in terms of fixing the problems in the long term. So the problems don’t really get solved. Some of them disappear temporarily, others stop showing symptoms; but in the end, they recur and resurface in far uglier forms than their original state.

Let’s take this problem of cleaning the waterways in Metro Manila. Obviously, we need to make sure that the creeks and canals that ma…

Chronicles of E

I bloghop as often as I can, which unfortunately is not as often as I would want to (same old excuses - long hours at work, a teaching job, a column to write, kids to take care of, etc). Bloghopping is a truly unpredictable experience. There are days when the effort yields nothing particularly noteworthy other than being able to catch up on what's new in other people's lives. But every once in a rare while, one comes across blogs that simply, for want of a better description, take your breath away.

Chronicles of E is like that. I learned about the blog through Misterhubs. E is a recovering "bad person" and the blog is about his journey. He writes about his experiences - and what he has written so far make for compelling reading - and the psychologist in me hopes it is working as some kind of therapy for him. What he is doing is not easy, particularly since the ghosts that he seems determined to expunge from his system are the stuff that haunts not only one'…

Wealth is not sole indicator of worth

This is my column today.First, please bear with a little personal story telling. In the last two years I have had the great fortune of working for a company that keeps its head office outside of the Makati Commercial Center. This means being spared the thousand and one aggravations that come with being cooped up along with millions of other working drones within a few square hectares of precious prime property: traffic, congestion, pollution, and the lure of commercial considerations. So in a manner of speaking, I’ve been thankfully insulated from lifestyle and commercial trends.
Except when I have to attend meetings, I rarely find myself in Makati. So I have been blissfully oblivious to the new commercial establishments that have sprouted in the Greenbelt and Glorietta centers like, well, children of Filipinos who have been kept ignorant and without access to contraception methods. (I know I just wrote a really awful metaphor; sorry, couldn’t help it in light of the obstinacy of the C…

Threatening congress

This is my column today.

Politics, religion and sex make up a really potent, perhaps even toxic brew.

And in this country, those three are strangely closely intertwined. I know I am making it sound more twisted than it really is—which is not to say that it isn’t— but really, how else are we supposed to make sense of the current imbroglio involving Catholic bishops, Congress, and reproductive health?

I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of Catholic bishops using a sacrament of the faith as leverage against the passage of the reproductive bill quite unnerving. It reeks a little of illegitimate political behavior.

It speaks a lot about the emerging values of the Church when bishops begin using sacraments as tools of blackmail to get what they want. Those among us who were schooled in Catholic institutions were taught the values of forgiveness and humility; to turn the other cheek, so to speak. And now, we hear of bishops deliberately threatening to excommunicate those who are not on t…

Light rail troubles

This is my column today.

The word out there is that the Light Rail Transit and the Metro Rail Transit have become the preferred mode of transportation in Metro Manila today as it should be. They’re fast. They’re convenient. And of course, they’re a lot cheaper than taking a bus or driving a car to work.

Before the prices of oil became prohibitive, the trains were not really patronized as often by the upper and middle classes of Metro Manila society for a number of reasons. Most preferred to bring cars to work. The LRT and MRT stations require taking flights of steps that can be daunting for people in high heels and corporate attires. But the no. 1 reason was that both the LRT and the MRT were and still are classic case studies of really terrible management of customer service.

I really doubt if the people that operate the transit systems—the train operators, the ticket vendors, the clerks, and the guards—think of the people who ride the trains as customers at all. I have the feeling they…

Wasted energy

This is my column today.

I am going to make a fearless forecast.

In the next few days, we are going to see a lot more of tempers boiling over, accompanied of course with a lot of screaming as our representatives in Congress try to find someone to blame for the unfortunate sinking of m/v Princess of the Stars.

And then, when everyone has grown hoarse, has his or her fill of strutting around and posturing like some great inquisitors, or when something more earthshaking and newsworthy has come around to divert everyone’s attention, whichever comes first, the whole thing will be promptly dropped and forgotten.

The whole thing will then be turned over to the proper courts where it will fester for some time because we all know that those with the means to throw all sorts of impediments into the system do get away with that kind of tomfoolery.

In the meantime, Sulpicio Lines will be allowed to operate their floating coffins once again because let’s face it, this country needs to transport goods a…

Make new tax law retroactive to May 1

This is my column today.

The price of oil rose over the weekend again. It has become a weekly occurrence in the last two months that many people seemed to have accepted the increases as inevitable. Even the media networks have stopped giving it prominent space in the news. Whereas before most newscasts would banner the Friday night price increases, giving it a screaming headline treatment, the increase over the weekend would have gone practically unheralded if not for the protest staged by the militants.

The general reaction is one of resignation, as in “there’s nothing we can do about it.” It is classical conditioning at work—when people are exposed to something with regularity, they get used to it. The reaction to the mass action of the militants is basically the same. Because they have been at it for the longest time, protesting against anything perceived as oppressive, most people have also learned to take these mass actions in stride—as just another one of those things that a resti…

Blow to the blogosphere?

The buzz last week was the death of chikatime, a popular blog that exposed the foibles of people in high places, usually in ways that challenged the limits of ethics and the law.

I must admit that I wasn't a fan of the blog; not necessarily because I frowned on the subject matter - heck, I also love unmitigated gossip, the trashier the better - but simply because I have this thing about anonymity. I mean if people want to dish out trash, particularly on other people, they should be man enough to own up to the act. The way I see it, anyone is entitled to assert their own spaces in this world, even inflict themselves on the public should they wish to. However, I maintain that people should be able to take what they dish out. By all means, bullshit people to their faces but don't hide behind the cloak of anonymity when you do it.

I know. It's the ideas that count. People are also entitled to their own privacy. But - and this is a highly personal opinion - where's the integr…

Hillary and women of a certain age

(image taken from the candidate's official website).
This was my column yesterday, July 2.Like many others, I followed the goings-on in the bitterly contested nomination process for Presidential candidates, particularly between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton which offered valuable insights on how elections are truly won. Many among us presume that because America is supposed to be the showcase of democracy in the world, the American people are more discerning in their choices of candidates, that electoral contests in that country are won purely on the basis of merit and qualification, and that candidates are spared from prejudice and discrimination. Clinton was supposed to be invincible in the beginning. She had all the right pedigree. But in the end it all boiled down to a personality contest. Obama was just so much more charismatic, inspiring, and hopeful; his message of change overwhelmed Clinton’s message of stability. Hope is truly often more powerful than reason. I am a Bil…


I am claustrophobic.

The first thing I do when I go to bars or concert venues is to look for the exit doors and make sure I have an unimpeded access to them, just in case. I can't sleep without lights on because I dread waking up in the middle of the night and getting the feeling that I'm trapped - it's not really fear of darkness because I've slept in large open spaces that were pitch black at that time (and enjoyed it too, but that's another post).

This is why I don't like taking long elevator rides, specially when alone. There was a time I had to take an elevator all the way to the 46th floor of a 48-storey buidling and I had to get off somewhere at the 32nd floor (I think) because I was beginning to have a panic attack. I used to work at the Tektite Towers in Ortigas and my office was in the 30th floor - I always made sure I wasn't alone every time I boarded an elevator.

Fortunately for me, the building where I work at now is relatively shorter -all …