Showing posts from October, 2008

Shortchanged by loose change

This is my column today.

I don’t know when the practice started; I just know that it has become the norm in most commercial establishments when one is paying for a purchase at the checkout counter.
What happens is that whenever one pays for a purchase—let’s say French fries and a burger at Jollibee or a pair of socks at Shoemart—the cashier first asks for a smaller bill. Say your total purchase is P144.75 and you hand over a five-hundred peso bill—the cashier first asks if you have bills in smaller denominations. And then she asks for loose change—“Sir, do you have 75 cents?” before she goes through the motions of scrambling around to come up with the required smaller bills and coins as change. Before one knows it, the transaction has been elevated to a complicated negotiation and settlement process involving the exchange of loose change.

It as if one is expected to carry around wads of bills in various denominations as well as the contents of one’s piggy bank in a large bayong, and pay …

Coconut trees and showbiz scandals

This was my column last Wednesday, October 22.

Finding a topic that can be expounded into a full column is not always easy. Sure, there are topics that are just so complicated and rich that they tend to unfold on their own into full-length columns. There are, however, a number of materials that offer lots of promise, but just can’t be mined into full-length columns without the author coming across as someone who is obviously just filling in space. I’ve collected a number of them in a journal that I keep with me all the time and I’d like to share some of them in this space today.

* * *

If you’ve been to the Mall of Asia, you would have noticed the failed attempts at landscaping the reclaimed area. The streets leading to the mall are planted with coconut trees. I suppose that the administrators of the mall were trying for a tropical look. It is also possible that there is scientific basis for the choice of coconut trees—they’re probably best suited for the kind of soil present in the area.

Drinking unsafe water

This is my column today.

I am glad that this paper carried on its front page last Saturday a disturbing news story that I first came across in the Net on Friday: Tests conducted on leading brands of bottled water turned up a variety of contaminants that were often found in tap water.

The Associated Press report contained the usual back and forth between environment advocacy and industry groups, the former insisting on more regulatory oversight over the production and sale of bottled water and the latter asserting that the tests were non-conclusive. But the debate only served to highlight an alarming observation, which is that bottled water may not be as safe as we wish to think it is.

The two-year study was conducted across nine states in the United States and in Washington, D.C. “In some cases, it appears bottled water is no less polluted than tap water and, at 1,900 times the cost, consumers should expect better,” said Jane Houlihan, an environmental engineer who co-authored the study.

Two Filipino Artists

That's the great Kidlat Tahimik (born Eric de Guia but he doesn't respond to his Western name anymore) in the pic. That's not me beside him. Truth to tell, I have no idea who that guy is. I just filched the pic from the multiply site of a student who was with me at Baguio City a couple of weeks back for a conference.

I did have some pictures taken with Kidlat, taken by other people using their own cameras. I have no idea how I am going to have access to those pics. I am the kind of person who never remembers to lug a camera around in my travels and even when I do, I always forget to take pictures anyway. For example, I was in Berlin in the nineties and only have a couple of pics to show as proof that I was ever there. And the pics that I do have don't even show any of the famous landmarks that firmly establish the locale. Anyway, I digress as usual.

I had the rare privilege of interacting with Kidlat Tahimik at the conference. I was chair of the Program of the conferenc…

Missing the point about emos

This is my column today.

It is natural for every generation to have its own distinguishing characteristics, its own sub-culture movement. We are all conditioned by the environment we grow up in and this includes whatever phenomenon the prevailing cultural genre is. This is indulging in stereotypes but teenagers, with their inherent need for self-identification and self-expression are most susceptible to embracing fads, trends, and lifestyles.

I will not go into the anthropological and sociological gibberish because we’ve all been there, haven’t we? It was largely about the music at first. Then as now, music has always been the social glue that helps define and bind generations and movements. Eventually, it stops just being about the music. It becomes about fashion, emotions, and lifestyles. My parents were hippies. I was into rock. My younger siblings were into new wave and grunge. My kids were into goth at one point. Many kids today are into emo.

And as always, we’re all helplessly grap…

Pinoy creativity

We are ranked among the happiest people in the world. This does not come as a surprise because we do have the gift for turning seemingly mundane things into absolute gems of humor.

I dont know where this came from and who actually took the time and the trouble to do the translations. Whoever he is, I admire his creativity and his gift.

I found some of the translations below really, really funny.

English movie titles translated into Tagalog

1. black hawk down - ibong maitim sa ibaba
2. dead man's chest - dodo ng patay
3. i know what you did last summer - uyy... aminin!
4. love, actually - sa totoo lang, pag-ibig
5. million dollar baby - 50 million pisong sanggol (it depends on the exchange rate)
6. the blair witch project - ang proyekto ng bruhang si blair
7. mary poppins - si mariang may putok
8. snakes on a plane - nag-ahasan sa ere
9. the postman always rings twice - ang kartero kapag dumutdot laging dalawang beses
10. sum of all fears - takot mo, takot ko, takot nating…

Nightmare on Vito Cruz Street

This is my column today.

The vicinity around Taft Avenue and Vito Cruz Street in Manila has always been a traffic hot spot. This is because the area is host to three educational institutions that cater mainly to the country’s middle- and upper-class families. I am referring to De La Salle –Manila, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, and St. Scholastica’s College.

The area also happens to serve as some kind of public transportation gateway to some of Manila’s most populous areas including San Andres, Singalong, and Paco. The sheer volume of private cars, jeepneys, pedicabs all fighting for precious square inch is a potent brew that spells mayhem.

Having lived and worked near the area for decades, I have seen all possible types of programs implemented in the hope of solving the traffic congestion. Nothing has worked so far. City officials, the administrators of the three schools, and barangay officials have put in place various schemes, all of which have not really fully solved the probl…

Making the church more relevant

This is my column today.

There is little doubt that the Catholic Church, which is an institution that is highly steeped in centuries-old traditions and dogma, is often out of touch with reality. The Church’s staunch opposition to contraception, sex education, and empowering families, couples, and women are not the only indicators of the growing irrelevance of the Catholic Church.

There are a number of empirical studies that show just how irrelevant the Church has become today. In most countries, the number of people who attend mass has been on a steady decline, there’s a growing number of people who are Catholic only in name—they were born Catholics and
identify as such, but don't really practice the tenets of the faith.

Given our burgeoning population growth, one would imagine that our churches would be bursting to the seams. This is not the case as the numbers of church-goers has been declining. This also applies to those who receive the sacraments. Except during Holy Week, I haven’…

A pathway towards better clarity of the issues on RH Bill

I have been very, very busy lately. In addition to helping manage a merger between two financial companies on top of my other jobs (managing human capital development initiatives in a major bank, teaching, writing, social development work, etc), I also had to manage a national conference with 1,500 participants. I have not opened all my emails in my yahoo account for weeks.

I tried to weed through the tons of emails today and found this gem, forwarded to me by a colleague at the De La Salle - College of Saint Benilde. I don't know who the author is. There are still points about this analysis that I dont agree with, but I think it is a fairly comprehensive take on the issues. Thus, I am reprinting it here.

I do agree with many points of the analysis. In particular, I agree that the way to move forward is to focus on agreements and to conduct the debate in a civilized, sincere, and ethical manner.

Reproductive Health and the Catholic Faith:
The Lagman Bill and the Catholic Moral Trad…

Punitive traffic management system

This is my column today.

Imagine that you are driving at night along the North Luzon Expressway. It’s a generally cool night, traffic is not so bad, and there’s a drizzle out there—in short, it’s a comfortable drive. Suddenly, a police car, one of those pick-up patrol cars that zip in and out of the expressway, glides by next to you and then signals you to pull over. You are sure that you haven’t broken any law so you are naturally apprehensive. At the emergency lane, two patrolmen in uniform get out of their police vehicle, approaches the driver’s window and demands your driver’s license. It’s a scary situation because it’s nighttime, you’re in the middle of an expressway, and for all you know the two guys were thieves masquerading as traffic officers. It’s been known to happen.

You ask what your offense is. They tell you that the taillights of the car you are in are defective; actually, a taillight (singular) because it is only the right taillight that was not working at that particul…