Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Triggering a downward spiral

This is my column today.

If what has happened so far since the start of the year is an indication of what’s in store for us for the rest of the year, I am afraid we’re heading for serious trouble and not entirely on account of external forces such as the global recession. We’re heading for serious trouble because quite frankly it seems many among our leaders have resigned themselves to the fact that there’s not much that can be done this year but mope and sulk around and wring our hands in frustration.

In other words, we seem to be pulling ourselves into a downward spiral and there seems to be no resistance from the people who should be out there rallying people not to lose hope.

I am aghast, for example, that the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment seems bent on making his mark as this country’s foremost prophet of doom that his department might as well be renamed as the Department of No Labor and Unemployment. He has been on the front pages of most dailies in the last few days shaking his head in frustration, whining about the jobs that have been lost, and making dire predictions about the grand-scale massacre of employees that is supposed to be forthcoming. He probably has also been on television except that I haven’t been watching the newscast lately as I’ve sworn not to be party to the way media and certain enterprising people are moving heaven and earth to commercialize the celebration of Chinese New Year; but that’s another column.

It is possible of course that Secretary Marianito Roque’s statements are being taken out of context. It has been known to happen. Very often, media picks up only the sensational part of a statement and glosses over the rest— the qualifying statements, the rejoinders, and the footnotes that provide a better context to the news. However, given the resources of the department and his stature, he should know better in terms of how to deal with the media. Besides, no one from his department, certainly not the Secretary of Unemployment himself, has made an effort to correct the impression being formed in people’s minds that we’re doomed this year.

Someone told me that perhaps Roque simply does not want to raise people’s hopes; that the man is being a realist and wants to caution everyone and prepare them for tough times. Excuse me, but raising people’s hopes and continuously believing in the promise and the future of Philippine labor is exactly what the Secretary should be doing. Especially in difficult times like these. He should be the country’s and the labor sector’s main cheerleader.

But if it seems even Roque and the entire labor department has thrown the towel, what else are ordinary people supposed to do but give in to paranoia?

This is bad news, very, very bad news. This is the time when everyone should be gung-ho. This is the time when people should be creating more opportunities for employment instead of simply sitting around, moping and waiting for expected storm that may never come anyway.

Yes, the global recession is real. But it’s not a death sentence. There’s definitely so much we can do to make sure we soften the impact on our people. The pump-priming initiatives the government intends to do are steps in the right direction. Perhaps Congress can also finally put its act together and pass the necessary legislation that would make the country more competitive.

For example, one of the reasons why many global companies pack up and leave the country when tough times come is that our labor laws are antiquated; they need major revisions to keep up with the times. In case we have forgotten, wages in our country are higher than those in China or Vietnam and we are one of the few that dictate minimum wages on industry. Of course we take pride in our human capital and claim that every cent paid is worth it, but still, wages should be linked to productivity and profitability rather than arbitrarily imposed.

While I also would caution people against being unnecessarily optimistic, I wouldn’t also want to contribute to the doom-and-gloom scenario building that everyone seems bent on crafting. The truth is that there are lots of jobs out there. Most companies actually have need for workers. The problem is that they are not hiring—or if they are, only for critical positions —precisely because they are now being more cautious. They are waiting out the storm—the one that our leaders have been predicting.

While Roque is whining about how the rising unemployment in the country is not normal, the other message that needs to be put out there—in screaming headlines—is that it is still business as usual in most industries and companies.

The People Management Association of the Philippines conducted a study in the second and third week of January to get a quick pulse of the employment situation in the country. PMAP is the national association of human resource managers—the people in charge of hiring and firing. The sample of the study was limited, with only 177 companies participating, but it was statistically valid. The study pointed out that “although information from member companies in the electronic and export sectors confirm news reports of heavy layoffs, the survey showed that for the companies represented in the survey, layoffs are limited to 10 percent of respondents.” In short, the layoffs and downsizing do not comprise a general trend.

In fact, 60 percent of the respondents of the study revealed that their companies may increase headcount this year. Of this, 43 percent said the increase in manpower would be due to growth in business while 39 percent said it would be due to more aggressive business strategies. Unfortunately, the dark cloud cast by our prophets of doom seemed to have spooked most business organizations. Actual hiring is being done cautiously, with 48 percent of total respondents saying they are only doing replacement hiring for critical positions and a further 10 percent freezing hiring for regular positions.

According to the study, “the most optimistic sector seems to be [business process outsourcing], with 10 of the 13 company respondents saying they may increase headcount in 2009 due to business expansion. However, four companies out of the 13 respondents say they are also only hiring for critical positions at present. A proportionally bigger number of outsourcing companies among the respondents are also giving lower salary increases this year, compared to 2008 (6 out of the 13).

Fifty-two percent of respondents say projected salary increases for this year is 6-10 percent. This proportion of respondents is lower than the 64 percent last year who reported giving actual increases of 6-10 percent. About 30 percent say that they are currently giving lower salary rate increases to respond to more difficult times. Employees in about 25 percent of respondent companies in manufacturing, 30 percent in outsourcing and 17 percent in services are also not being asked to render overtime work. Less than 10 percent of respondent companies (8 percent in manufacturing and 6 percent in services) have resorted to shortened work hours.

To sum up, there a number of companies directly affected by the global recession but this is a minority—more of an exception at this point rather than the trend. Second, majority of business organizations in this country are on an expansion mode due to business growth and aggressive business strategies. However, and this is the sad thing, most companies are being cautious and are deliberately holding off their expansion programs and consequently, their hiring programs, thanks to the prophets of doom in this country.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Was it the partial eclipse or is it really in our genes?

There's been this slew of overreactions from a number of people lately.

There's that infamous emotional harakiri done by the irrepressible Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago the other day. She has apologized, of course, but the harm has been done. But then again, I guess that's the kind of behavior we have come to expect of her anyway.

And then there was all that speculative drivel about how Obama's warning for dictators and corrupt world leaders was directed at Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as if the Philippines is high up there in Obama's list of priorities; or worse, as if national shame and embarrassment on the global stage at one of the most widely-watched events, is preferable. I found it really amusing how we seemed to have automatically taken credit for the infamy, almost volunteered for it in fact.

Worse, we seem to have appointed Ziggy ("We're all doomed." "It's not going to work!") at the helm of the Department of Labor and Employment. Marianito Roque has been whining in the media in the last few days about the loss of jobs and predicting all kinds of worst case doomsday scenario for the labor sector. IS THIS GUY THE SECRETARY OF LABOR OR WHAT? Anyway, that's what my column tomorrow is all about.

So it seems that Prosecutor Resado may have taken a bribe after all. What galls me is the overreaction of our legislators.

They were downright BASTUS, condescending, mean and cruel. Like everyone else, I think Resado was lying through the skin of his teeth. He is guilty as hell. But what I find appalling is the way our legislators are huffing and puffing and being sanctimonious! The alleged 800k that Resaso got as a bribe is a mere pittance to what our legislators receive, for crying out loud! And most of it, as Senator Santiago revealed during the last campaign, is being passed off as legal.

Over talaga!

Permission granted

There was a group of students from UAP who left a message in this blog requesting permission to use my columns on advertising in a webpage they are developing. It would take up a lot of time for me to trace which post they left a comment on, thus this public answer.

Yes, go ahead, use my column in your webpage but please acknowledge the source. Thanks

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sweet men

This is my column today.

It was a good thing my friend was not the designated driver last week when we met up or she would have been prone to road rage, which seems to be the latest phenomenon to hit our country. My friend, who is female and who happens to work in the academe, was fuming mad— very, very mad—over what she felt were highly bigoted pronouncements made by a cardinal from the Vatican during an academic affair at the University of Santo Tomas.

She did give us a sampling of the pronouncements made by Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes. Of course I wasn’t amused with the cardinal’s macho posturing as relayed to us, but having been exposed to the narrow-mindedness that characterize many men of the cloth, I wasn’t as livid as my friend was. Besides, there was the very real possibility that my friend’s reaction was exaggerated.

But the cardinal’s pronouncements found its way to the Internet and to some newspapers over the weekend. One news report, which was written by Lito Zulueta and published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Saturday, illustrated in greater detail the extent of the cardinal’s bigotry and misogyny. I read the news stories with increasing dread and agitation. No wonder my friend was incensed. I would have been too if I was there at the event and listening to the cardinal spew reckless and sweeping generalizations about how the so-called “erosion of manhood” and “crisis in fatherhood” in the world is being caused by what he called “radical feminism” and “gender mainstreaming.” These are really gobbledygook for efforts to establish more gender equality in the world.

What is ironic is that German Cardinal is at the helm of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” which is responsible for the Vatican’s projects for charity, aid and relief. The least you would expect from a man of the church, and one vested with such a humanitarian mandate would be fairness and compassion. His address last week was anything but fair and compassionate. Actually, they weren’t humanitarian at all.

Citing biased statistics, the cardinal asserted, among other things, that the supposed crisis in fatherhood in the world, the loss of manhood, and diminished masculinity to what he referred to as efforts to “make men more like women.” He also cited statistics that purportedly showed the negative consequences that happen to boys who grow up without a strong father figure. In so many words, the cardinal expressed alarm for, vigorous objection to, and denounced what he called efforts to “make men sweeter.”

As a child who grew up with a nurturing grandmother and therefore without a central father figure, I am aghast at the cardinal’s insinuations that the absence of father figures result in boys growing up dysfunctional.

But what aghasts me even further is the fact that the cardinal was quick to blame women, gay men, and other sectors perceived as liberal for his highly politicized and biased thesis of “erosion of manhood” without taking into account the whole gamut of harm—from physical, to psychological, to social, to cultural —that many (not all, of course) men cause to their wives, children and the world in general. Nowhere in his diatribe did he bring up the possibility that men are also part of the problem, to begin with.

I can understand the rationale for the Church’s vehement objections toward the promotion of gender equality in society. The Catholic hierarchy is extremely patriarchal. An important aspect of Christianity is anchored on the concept of God The Father. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, God is masculine. Therefore, any perceived “softening” on the concept of manhood and fatherhood is a threat to the Church.

But what exactly is wrong with men who are “sweeter?”

To simplify things, let’s assume that the definition of “sweet” has not been changed and that the usual connotations remain the same. I did a quick Thesaurus check on the word using the word processing program that I am using to write this column and six general classifications of words—synonyms, really—came up.

Okay. I must admit that the first group of words that came up sounded a little funny but that’s really because I was making the assumption that “sweeter” is always an adjective used to describe people. For a moment, I forgot that the word sweet is first of all an adjective to describe taste, thus, the words sugary, syrupy, and saccharine. I understand that these words are also used to describe people and that when used in that particular context there is negative connotation.

But then again, it really depends on the kind of relationship one has with the person. I know a lot of people who equate “sweetness” with being a wimp. But I also know a lot of people who definitely will kill to be at the receiving end of that kind of attention. I know a number of people who storm the heavens regularly to make their man more expressive of their emotions and more demonstrative of their affection.

The rest of the groups of synonyms included lovable, kind, pleasant, agreeable, satisfying. Each general classification had a list of words such as attractive, delightful, engaging, thoughtful, caring, gentle, etc. What is wrong with these descriptions? Of course these conceptualizations are not absolute and there’s a whole lot of grey areas and ambiguities around these concepts.

I know that these descriptions do not conform to the typical—and many, including myself, consider outmoded— conceptualizations of what a man is supposed to be. By typical I mean being emotionally deaf, distant, and generally averse to showing any signs of being nurturing which they consider a major weakness.

I know that there are people out there who continue to insist on gender roles that were developed under a completely different social milieu. Women are the weaker sex. Men are the dominant specie—the alpha. Men do not take care of children. Women are supposed to serve their men hand and foot. Men are entitled to certain dysfunctional behaviors such as physical aggression. Women are supposed to cry and suffer in silence.

There are a lot of things that are wrong with these conceptualizations. I don’t need to cite them here because as usual I am running out of column space and more importantly because I am sure that most people are aware of just how the world has changed in the last 20 years when women have come into their own. Many countries, global organizations, business firms, communities are already being led by women who have proven that they are just as capable, in many cases, even more capable than men.

Gender equality is not necessarily the evil that the Church sees it. I know a number of men who do didn’t see gender equality as a threat to their masculinity, or an affront to their status in society.

But this I know for a fact: This world will be much better when more people, regardless of whether they are men or women, become “sweeter.”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Just got back from a weekend strategic planning session in Tagaytay. I hereby report that it was verrrrrrrry cold up there during the weekend. I have a relatively high tolerance for cold weather but at around 7pm of Saturday, I gave up and wore a thick jacket. I usually just wear a scarf or shawl when am in Tagaytay or Baguio. Okay, I will admit that I make it a point to show off my collection of scarves when given the slightest opportunity, hehehe.

(I think I made a post about it a couple of years ago when I was in Chiang Mai Thailand. Most men in other Asian countries from India and Bhutan to Laos and Cambodia use shawls and scarves all the time. It's like an all-around fabric for them. They use it to warm themselves against the cold, as makeshift bag to carry objects (even babies, actually), and for many other purposes. It comes very handy).

Anyway, just getting back into the swing of things.

It's Chinese new year in an hour and it seems everyone is in search of more luck this year and lots of enterprising people out there are cashing in on the demand. My take on it is actually simple: If it helps you think more positively, then by all means go all out with the rituals.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


This is my column today.

I’ve known for a long time now that there is a gaping mismatch between what the academe produces and what industry needs. I’ve written about it many times in the past as well.

I’ve been involved in a number of studies that empirically proved the presence of the mismatch, measured its dimensions, and even predicted its various implications. I’ve sat in far too many roundtable discussions, consultative meetings, and tripartite conferences involving government, academe and industry called to discuss the problem and find solutions to it.

I have heard countless stories— some upsetting, others amusing—from fellow practitioners about the difficulties they encountered in finding suitable candidates for their various openings. I am aware that all things considered, there is unemployment in the country today. There are many reason

s for the rising unemployment, and one of them is that many of our graduates are simply lacking in critical competencies and are not qualified for employment as white collar workers.

They simply lack the necessary foundation skills to join the corporate world.

So yes, there are hundreds of thousands of job openings in this country and many human resource management professionals are at their wits’ end trying to fill these positions for quite sometime now.

Last week, I came face-to-face with the mismatch problem in a big way.

The bank that I work for conducted a job fair to fill critical positions. Given the urgency of the needs, we decided to organize a job fair as a one-stop employment processing center. We scheduled the job fair to run for three days, hoping to get an average of 300 candidates per day.

It turned out that expectations we set for ourselves were low—very, very low. We averaged close to a thousand applicants for each day of the job fair. Of course the bank that I work for is an employer of choice and we always have a long line of candidates wanting to join us. But even then, the turnout of applicants was still unbelievable. To say that we were deluged with people seeking employment is an understatement.

Being deluged with candidates for employment is not really such a bad thing. In fact, it’s a recruiter’s dream. The problem was that most of the candidates were simply not qualified for the posts they were seeking.

I talked to hundreds of candidates last week, and believe me, the number of times my heart sank far outnumbered the times when I felt a tiny flutter of excitement over a candidate. We were lucky because the large pool of candidates enabled us to short-list a sizable number to fill our openings.

But if we are to think like responsible and concerned citizens, the dismal percentage of qualified people versus the total number of people who showed up is quite staggering.

Most of the applicants were 2008 graduates—almost a year ago—who still haven’t found jobs until this time. A number were returning overseas Filipino workers, who, unfortunately, were often over-aged for entry level positions. This is one of the major downsides of the migrant workers’ phenomenon. By the time an overseas worker comes home, he or she is often overqualified or over-aged for the usual positions available in the job market, if there are any.

And many were candidates doing contractual jobs in various companies, hopping from job to job without clear prospects of being regularized. I know that there are a lot of people who are quick to blame business organizations for not regularizing contractual employees. But there’s another dimension to this problem. When we consider that many of these graduates are not qualified to begin with, and are being hired merely as “extra hands” until someone really suitable comes along, perhaps contractualization is not necessarily such a menace. One has to realize that very often, it takes two to three people with below average competencies to do a job meant for one qualified person. It’s a stop-gap measure until we are able to fix the problem, which unfortunately, is systemic and will require a major comprehensive solution.

Having to say no to applicants—no matter how graciously it is done— because they simply are not qualified for the posts they are seeking is never a pleasant experience, particularly when the positions they are seeking is an entry level clerical position—the lowest, most basic position in the corporate jungle. It’s like meting out a death sentence because you know that the candidate will most likely not get hired anywhere else.

Based on my experience last week, the main areas where our graduates lack competencies in were communication skills, impact, critical thinking and initiative. Most of the candidates just couldn’t express themselves, even in conversational English. They also didn’t know how to package themselves and achieve interpersonal impact. Many didn’t know how to behave in a job interview and many more did not know how to surface, even market whatever strengths they possessed. Many walked into the job fair not even sure about the reasons why they were there.

The mismatch problem is really serious. It’s time to ring the alarm bells. I wonder what it will take for our leaders to sit up and do something about it.

Feeling Barack

Am writing this barely a few minutes before midnight.  The television set is open and am idly monitoring the goings on in Washington, D.C.   I've been surfing through the various channels broadcasting the inauguration, not that it really makes a lot of difference - they're all broadcasting the same footage, obviously from the same source.  

Quick observation: GMA7 has a full crew at Washington led by Jessica Soho to cover the event but strangely, the station has not interrupted their regular programming to give way to the Obama inaugural.  On the other hand, all three ABS-CBN channels - Channel 2, Studio 23, and ANC - has been broadcasting the preparations for the inaugural non-stop since 11.00 PM.

I've been flipping the remote between two channels - CNN and ABS-CBN.  My biased verdict: The annotation being done by ABS-CBN is much more insightful and dramatic than that of CNN.  That's because they have Manolo Quezon on board providing very interesting historical trivia.  Of course, kasi nga pinoy, their annotation comes across as more helpful.  For instance, they take the effort to identify distinguished personalities caught by the television cameras ("that's Martin Luther King III.") 
Ces Drilon is annoying, though - she's been rambling on and on about really nonsensical observations ("Martin Luther King III is son of Martin Luther King, a famous American civil rights activist, etc...") which the other commentators try valiantly to make sense of - they end up by finishing her sentences.

The CNN commentators have been going on and on about the size of the crowd that turned out for the inaugural- 2 million or thereabouts, by their reckoning. It's a good number, but doesn't really impress me.  The number of Filipinos that converged at Luneta for Pope John Paul II was clocked at 4 million.  But I do not dispute the historical value of the Obama inaugural.  

Although pomp and pageantry is evident throughout the inaugural, one can't help but notice that people are not dressed too formally.  

Loudest applause was given to Barack Obama of course, along with chanting O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!  Hearty applause for former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary (incoming Secretary of State) as well.

Senator Dianne Feinstein delivered the opening remarks and served as Master of Ceremonies, Rick Warren author of Purpose-Driven Life delivered a rather lonnngggng invocation that covered practically everything from politics, to family life, to human rights, etc, and which finally ended with the Lord's Prayer, Aretha Franklin wearing a hat that had a huge bow as accent sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in a way that would have been described by Simon Cowell as "pitchy."  

At 12:48 am, Philippine time, Joe Biden, squinting hard against the noonday sun, was sworn in as Vice President of the United States of America. Interesting, very interesting act: He kissed his kids on the mouth after he was sworn in - including his grownup sons. 

Yet another interesting innovation: Classical music being played in an inaugural.  Musical performance by John Williams, Itzhak Pearlman, Yo-yo Ma, Anthony McGill, et al.  

Amidst wild cheering Chief Justice John Roberts administered oath of office to Barack Obama.  The 44th President of the USA faltered twice.

Obama delivered his inaugural address: Humbled, mindful, thankful.  

He acknowledged the work of his predecessor.  Acknowledged crisis, inventoried social problems - from housing, to drug use.  Promised America: The challenges will be met.  Promised new politics and reaffirmed the greatness of America, appealed for hard work and unity.  

Delivered a variation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Luther King's "I Have A Dream."  Tried to be inclusive,  

Promised moral regeneration.  Repudiated war.  Delivered warning to terrorists. Said he will usher in new era of peace.  Reasserted America's role as leader of the world. 

I stopped blogging and listened to the rest of the speech.  I'm not really an Obama fan, but I have to hand it to the guy... he makes damn great speeches!  

Inaugural ended with poetry "Praise Song for the Day" written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander and with benediction by Joseph Lowry.



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Punitive teachers

This was my column yesterday. I didn't have internet connection at home yesterday, thus the late post.

The four students from the Quezon City Science High School who were meted out a 10-day suspension by their principal will be coming to school today. Hopefully, they will be allowed entry into the school since their suspension had been blocked last Friday by the regional director for the National Capital Region Department of Education, pending an official probe of the controversy.

There are many issues riding on the controversy. Some are central to the case at hand; others are simply static that gets in the way. And as usual, many among us get fixated on the static rather than on the critical issues.

The controversy has yet again sparked spirited discussion on what some people call “responsible blogging.” This particular controversy comes high on the heels of a series of controversies that trace their roots to the blogosphere, among them the politically incorrect diaries of a college senior at the Ateneo and that mauling incident at a golf course.

Thus, there’s now a whole bunch of people out there who are frothing in the mouth about the need to regulate the blogosphere. There are many things that are wrong with this advocacy but like I said, they represent static that only confuse the issues at hand.
The whole controversy started because the four students posted entries in their Multiply sites that were critical of the policies and actions of their principal, Dr. Zenaida Panti Sadsad.

But first, let me help the four students and their friends and supporters clarify something that has aggravated their case. Some newspapers (not the Manila Standard Today) and bloggers have provided links to a Multiply site that carries the banner “God Save The Queen—Oust Sadsad” and contains rather incendiary exhortations including statements that border on the violent. This particular Multiply site is not owned by any of the four students and is not the subject of the suspension. This particular site is managed by a person or persons who remain/s anonymous as of this date.

Most of the blogs in question, the ones owned by the four students and which caught the ire of Sadsad, and became the subject of the disciplinary case, have been taken down.

But some of the blogs can still be accessed in the Net. One of the four students continues to provide helpful links to the blogs he wrote that became the subject of Sadsad’s fury, including his subsequent apology. I had the privilege of reading some of the other blogs courtesy of a student at the high school.

My personal opinion is that the blogs in question are child’s play compared to the kind of skewering that many columnists and more established bloggers subject government officials to everyday. Heck, they are nothing compared to the name-calling and insult-trading that happens in the comments section in the blogs of noted pundits.

But perhaps that’s where the problem lies: Many people are uncomfortable with young people who speak their minds. I know that there are many people in this country who still cling to the notion that a young person who speaks his mind and asserts his rights is insolent or disrespectful of his seniors. Unfortunately, that’s an outmoded paradigm.

What I find even more appalling is how some people tend to criticize the behavior of kids without taking some responsibility. Who taught these kids to assert their rights? Who exposed them to a series of people power rebellions that essentially confirmed in their minds that being critical of leaders accused of incompetence and advocating their removal from office is valid?

Who taught these kids that it is okay to ridicule government officials, call them names, demonize them, and shame them everyday?

Whether the blogs in question deserve condemnation and punishment or this simply is a case of an overly sensitive education official is a matter of opinion.

But I do not agree with Sadsad’s assertion that the blogs in question put the reputation of the school to shame. I do not see how producing students who can think for themselves can be a cause of shame.

Moreover, the subsequent actions of Sadsad, including meting out the punishment of a 10-day suspension on the students as well as her pronouncements about how she is willing to have the charges against the students dropped provided they apologize publicly and promise not to write about the issue again, are indicative of something else. It seems this principal is not just overly sensitive after all. She seems like a firm believer in the wisdom of punitive discipline.

What I find even more tragic is the way Sadsad seems to exculpate herself from the problem that she is allegedly trying to address with her punitive measures. If we are to go by the tons of commentaries from other students and alumni in various blogs, a number of the issues are valid.

There are problems in the school. Sadsad is in denial and is acting like an ostrich who is burying her head in the sand instead of confronting the problems proactively.

And more importantly, if Sadsad thinks the actions of the four students are contemptible and deserves grave punishment, what does it say about herself as a teacher and as the principal of the school that is nurturing the minds of these students?

To my mind, if Sadsad is a teacher worth her name, the better course of action in this particular case is for her to teach the students through proactive ways and by creating a positive nurturing environment that precisely breeds the kind of behavior she thinks are necessary. By meting out punitive discipline, which in this case happens to be excessive, Sadsad only reveals what kind of a teacher and administrator she really is.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What time and PR can do

What can I say, it's only been a few weeks since the brutal mauling at the Valley Golf Course and already, it seems the Pangandamans are now the victims in that sordid incident.

PR spin 1:
The de la Pazes started the brawl and the older de la Paz provoked the mauling by poking an umbrella at the Pangandamans.

Being poked by an umbrella deserves a mauling by two burly men and their four bodyguards, who were also carrying long firearms at that time?

PR spin 2:
The de la Pazes are arrogant and so full of themselves, they swagger around in golf courses like they own the golf courses.

Being arrogant deserves a mauling by two burly men and their four bodyguards who were also carrying long firearms at that time?

PR spin 3:
The de la Pazes had reinforcement in the form of Mrs. de la Paz who arrived at the country club with a knife and a male relative who was lugging a baseball.

The supposed reinforcements were a match to two burly men and their four bodyguards who were also carrying long firearms at that time?

I am tempted to write more. But I will assert the same point: The Pangandamans had the upper hand in that brawl. They had bodyguards. They had firearms. There were more of them. They also are elected officials who are supposed to adhere to a higher standard of public behavior.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Three grands at the CCP

This is my column today; it's one of those pieces that I had to finish in less than an hour because the original material for my column today didn't work out. Sigh.

Can you imagine the kind of sensory and musical experience that can be produced by three grand pianos, three of the country’s noted pianists, and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra performing together in one stage? I couldn’t, so I went to watch 3 Grands: A Piano Celebration at the Main Hall of the Cultural Center of the Philippines last Friday, Jan. 9.

It was an astounding experience. To say that I was blown away is an understatement. The kind of music that can be produced by one musical virtuoso playing on a grand piano can already be marvelous beyond words. How much more three musical geniuses on three grand pianos, along with a full orchestra?

The concert was the opening salvo of the CCP for 2009. Since the CCP is also celebrating its 40th year anniversary this year, it can be said that the concert kicked off the year-long celebration of the CCP’s “new life,” 40 being the proverbial start of a new lease on life. I can only say that it was an auspicious opening salvo—if the rest of the performances scheduled this year can approximate the kind of sensory overload produced by 3 Grands, then the CCP is really off to a great new beginning.

The title of the concert, 3 Grands obviously also referred to the three grand musicians featured in the concert. They are three of the country’s distinguished pianists, namely, Abelardo Galang II, Pia Margarita Balasico, and Jose Artemio Panganiban III.

They performed two Mozart pieces—a sonata for two pianos and Concerto in F Major for Three Pianos and Orchestra, a highly dramatic piece by F. Poulenc, and presented the world premiere of Kulay-Tugtugin, a suite for three pianos comprised of local folksongs arranged by Augusto Espino.

The Mozart pieces, as expected, were immensely delightful. Mozart’s pieces offered contrasts that alternately caressed, tickled, overwhelmed, and calmed the audience. One friend described the experience as riding on a train and going through rustic villages, forests, and cityscapes.

The Poulenc sonata performed by Galang and Panganiban was riveting and highly dramatic, presenting alternating contrasts from fragile quietness, to dark gloominess, to spirited exuberance. Galang and Panganiban performed like they were master storytellers and actors fleshing out parts of an epic. The duo proved that music alone can evoke multi-sensory experiences.

But the piece that brought the concert to a rousing close and brought the audience to its feet was Kulay-Tugtugin, a suite comprised of Ang Alibangbang, Atin cu pung Singsing, Ambo Hato, Ili-ili Tulog Anay, and Sampung mga Daliri. Because these pieces are familiar to most Filipinos as they are songs we learned in childhood, it was expected that people would be able to relate with them. But Espino’s arrangement redefined the concept of elegance.

Listening to the folk songs being performed on three grand pianos reminded me of nugget of wisdom shared by a beloved college professor: The mark of a genius is not in the ability to make the simple complicated, but in the power to make the complicated simple. Making folk songs into symphonic pieces is a tall order and sometimes arrangers go overboard to make them more complicated than they really should be. But being able to transform folk songs into symphonic pieces without losing their original texture and their soul is something else; it deserves commendation. After all, Atin cu pung Singsing and Sampung mga Daliri are not just melodies they are an important part of our lives as Filipinos. I swear I have never heard Ili-ili Tulog Anay arranged and performed in such a way that brought tears to one’s eyes.

Of the three, Galang is probably the more recognizable on account of previous solo performances here and abroad. He had also done two recordings, including a 2005 CD of Schumann and Chopin works. His latest CD is of kundiman songs arranged by Ryan Cayabyab and featuring celebrated Filipino baritone Jonathan de la Paz Zaens. At the concert last Friday, the one word that came to mind to describe his performance was “poetry.”

Balasico, on the other hand, is another celebrated pianist who is known in academic circles as a mentor and professor. She is in the faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Music. This was the first time I watched her perform and her performance last Friday gave us appreciation of the nuances in tone, color, emotion that can be derived from a piano performance.

If Panganiban III has a name that sounds familiar, that’s because he is the son and namesake of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who was present in the audience last Friday and rightfully beamed like a proud father. One word that describes Panganiban’s performance last Friday was “intense.”

I know Panganiban III not as a piano prodigy but as a banker. In fact, I had no idea that he was a renowned concert pianist until last week. He is currently a Vice President in one of the global financial institutions. How he has been able to effectively balance finance and music—two seemingly irreconcilable fields of discipline—is a source of wonder and inspiration to me.

I also took up piano lessons as a child but had to give it up because I was a victim of the phenomenon called the “Tyranny of the Or” which says that people should make painful choices—they can either be left-brained or right brained, right-handed or left-handed, bankers or artists. The fact that Panganiban is highly successful in two disparate fields—finance and classical music—should serve as inspiration to many out there who have trouble striking a balance between seemingly incongruent passions.

It’s been quite sometime since I last set foot inside the cavernous Main Theatre of the CCP. I’ve watched a number of performances in the complex, but mostly in the Little Theatre or in the smaller and more functional Huseng Batute theatre, where most plays are staged. If my memory serves me right, the last time I was inside the Main Theatre prior to last week was to watch a performance of the Broadway musical Miss Saigon a number of years ago. If even regular art lovers have not been patronizing the major shows of CCP in the last couple of years, it speaks a lot about the need for CCP to put in place more aggressive marketing programs to generate an audience, or in my case, to bring back people who used to be part of its regular audience.

The CCP is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The main celebration will be held on September 8, which will be highlighted by day-long activities, culminating in a gala presentation that will feature—hold your breath—five orchestras, a number of soloists and chorales, and a host of popular and concert singers and dancers. There are a number of other programs and concerts scheduled throughout the year. Hopefully, these are enough to rekindle interest in the performing arts, and in the CCP, once again.

Holiday acrobatics

This was my c0lumn last Monday, July 12. Sorry, late post.

Malacañang released last week Proclamation 1699, which laid out the holidays for 2009. According to the bright boys from the Palace, Filipinos will be enjoying 10 long weekends in 2009.

Perhaps because most everyone in this country is still experiencing a hangover from the extended—some say that the correct term is overextended— Christmas holidays, everyone bought the press release without even giving it closer scrutiny. Everyone simply parroted the announcement made by the bright boys from the Palace: There will be 10 long weekends this year. Not really.

Actually, there won’t be 10 long weekends this year. The conclusion that there will be 10 long weekends is unfortunately based on an assumption that is inherently flawed: That everyone, or at least most of the members of the working class in this country, do not have work on Saturdays.

Here’s a quick reality check: Only those who work in government service, in certain industries that are dependent on government services such as banking which is dependent on Central Bank clearing, and in companies that practice shortened workweeks enjoy five-day workweeks. Majority of Filipino workers, particularly those who work in the manufacturing industries and those in small and medium enterprises—easily more than 90 percent of our workforce, work Mondays to Saturdays.

Proclamation 1699 did not move certain holidays that fall on a Friday, and simply assumed (wrongly, I must emphasize) that observing these holidays on their original days (i.e., Fridays) will already create long weekends. Certain holidays that fall on a weekday were also not moved to a Monday. So “10 long weekends in 2009” is a myth.

So what this means is that most Filipino workers will still need to come to work on the Saturdays that follow the holidays that fall on a Friday. Or worse, what will most likely happen, as pointed out by fellow human resource management professionals in one of my e-mail groups, is that many companies will simply declare “no work” on these Saturdays and force their employees to go on leave on these days. Those who are paid on a daily basis will not get paid.

All this inconvenience is caused by that one wrong assumption by the bright boys in Malacañang—that everyone in this country follows the work schedule of government. In fact, they also made this stupid mistake when they declared Jan. 2, a Friday, as a holiday, but not Jan. 3, which was a Saturday. So what happened was that many workers didn’t get paid wages on Jan. 3.

This is why Republic Act 9492, the law that was passed by Congress and promulgated by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on July 25, 2007 (yes, barely a year-and-a-half ago but these officials seem to have forgotten about it already!), supposedly to “rationalize the celebration of holidays” in this country and which legitimized the concept of holiday economics, specifically declared certain non-religious holidays as “movable holidays” to be observed on the Monday nearest these holidays. I have, in the past, expressed reservations about moving holidays, but unlike other people in this country, I know when to shut up when a decision has been made. When the law was passed and certain precedents were made, I stopped whining about our penchant for moving the celebration of important national holidays.

According to RA 9492, the following are the non-religious movable holidays and the dates these holidays should be moved to: Araw ng Kagitingan—Monday nearest April 9; Labor Day— Monday nearest May 1; Independence Day—Monday nearest June 12; National Heroes Day—Last Monday of August; Bonifacio Day—Monday nearest Nov. 30; Rizal Day—Monday nearest Dec. 30.

By not moving the holidays that fall on a Friday, Proclamation 1699 effectively violated RA 9492. In addition, RA 9492 has this specific provision: “for movable holidays, the President shall issue a proclamation, at least six months prior to the holiday concerned, the specific date that shall be declared as a nonworking day.” Clearly, the six months requirement was not met in this case as April 9 is barely three months away.

It’s very easy to dismiss these points as attempts at nitpicking. After all, many business associations, such as the powerful Makati Business Club, have already showered praises on Malacañan Palace supposedly for going on a limb to announce the holidays for 2009 in advance.

I can understand why most businessmen heaved a sigh of relief over the early announcement. Business organizations take great pains coming up with their schedule for the year and they do need to stick to these schedules religiously, especially production schedules. Just one unscheduled or belatedly-declared holiday can cause hundreds of millions of pesos in losses or additional manpower costs as they would have to pay employees overtime pay. In addition, surprise holidays affect cash flows. Many companies keep a tight rein over their liquidity and an additional day where there’s work and when certain banks are open but where there’s no clearing can create mayhem, particularly for companies with payables that are dependent on checks already stuck in clearing.

The main complaint of the business sector when Jan. 2 was announced as additional holiday was that the decision seemed like a populist, spur-of-the-moment decision rather than something that was given careful thought. So yes, Malacañang did right in announcing early on the schedule of holidays for 2009.

In fact, if the bright boys in the Palace just adhere to the provisions of RA 9492, there really is no need for these announcements. Everyone can simply do their own schedules. The problem is that they keep on changing the rules of the game every year. There are no clear precedents because the practice changes every year. Araw ng Kagitingan, which falls on Maundy Thursday this year, was moved to April 6, the Monday of that same week which follows the provision of the law. But in the past, logic was used to determine when a holiday should be moved. In this particular case, it should have been moved to April 13 to allow people a five-day holiday rather than shorten the workweek of April 6 to 10 to just two days.

The end result of all these holiday acrobatics is that everybody has to wait for Malacañang to issue the proclamation every year before he can finalize his schedule.

And more often than not, these proclamations are arrived at without proper consultation with the appropriate organizations whose inputs really need to be considered. This results in absurd situations where the President and her Cabinet seem like people who don’t know what comprise long weekends.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


In its newscasts today, ABS-CBN once again indulged in sensationalist, tabloid style reportage.

They featured a news story about a student caught in possession of a sachet of marijuana at Embassy Bar. They identified the student, showed his face on television, and went to town with the fact that he is a student of De La Salle University. They even showed his student ID, student number, course, etc. As if what was written on the ID was not enough, they had to superimpose their footage with the name of the university; in huge letters, in bold.

Ano ang kinalaman ng university sa krimen? ABS-CBN is trying to make a connection and they are not even being subtle about it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Please tell your friends, relatives, neighbors, acquaintances...

QUICK PROCESSING AND IMMEDIATE HIRING of qualified applicants at the PNB JOB FAIR, January 14, 15, and 16 at PNB Financial Center, Macapagal Avenue, Pasay City.

We have openings for various officer and staff positions.

Just drop by. Bring your resume.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Drugs, bribery, and unfair reportage

There are many reasons why the ongoing congressional inquiry on the Alabang Boys/ bribery/ drug dealing is coming across as better-managed and more productive.

The congressmen - or at least those that are involved in this particular inquiry - seem less prone to grandstanding and showing off. The questions that the congressmen are asking are not exactly better examples of how to conduct a cross-examination, but at least they don't strut around like they are omniscient. There's less hysterics and less bullying. Of course, the appearance of the Justice Secretary threw a wrench into the whole inquiry, but what else can we expect from the man anyway.

As a result, I think the kind of information that is being unearthed are more substantive and insightful.

Here are two insights that struck me the most, so far:

1. Drug use is not only prevalent in the country; it's now practically out of control. Sources say we now rank first in terms of drug use in Asia. I am actually not surprised at this confirmation - I've known for quite sometime now that drug use has been on a steady rise. In fact, those among us involved in HIV/AIDS prevention believe that it is drug use that is the vector for the sudden rise of infections.

2. There are many scalawags in uniform, but there also remains quite a number of idealistic, principled, virtuous men in the military. Major Ferdinand Marcelino, PDEA Director is one of them.

In a related development, I was quite flabbergasted at ABS-CBN's reportage on the student caught selling drugs. ABS-CBN focused too much on the fact that the student was from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, even repeated that information many times and used it as the main identifying factor. There were a number of identification cards presented by the suspect - there were at least 10 laid out on the table, but it was his student ID that ABS-CBN chose to focus on. The subliminal message was quite clear. Contrast this with the way GMA did their reportage: They simply mentioned that the young man was a college student but did not mention the school.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Save Baguio City

This is my column today.

Baguio City is celebrating its centennial this year.

It should be an opportune time to focus on the attractions, potentials, and the many problems of the supposed Summer Capital of the Philippines, a city which I am sure holds a special spot in the hearts of many Filipinos.

Baguio City is one of my favorite places in the country; right up there with Sagada, Vigan, Bohol, Davao, and Camiguin. I know it is not fair to make comparisons particularly since each place offers something unique and distinct. But for those who work and reside in Metro Manila, Baguio offers something that easily puts it notches above other vacation places—it’s relatively more accessible and, consequently, cheaper. If not for the monstrous traffic jams in key cities along the way such as Tarlac and Urdaneta, Baguio City would only be about three to four hours away from Metro Manila.

Unfortunately, Baguio City is no longer what it used to be. The Baguio City that I saw, smelled, and felt a couple of months back when I went up there to attend a national conference was a far cry from the Baguio City of my childhood, or even that of my college years. This I can say without hesitation: The city is fast deteriorating. It’s almost heartbreaking to see how the city has become victim to overdevelopment.

I don’t remember too many details of what Baguio City looked like when I first visited it as a child, but I distinctly remember fewer houses, lots and lots of pine trees everywhere, and the fact that people wore heavy clothing even at high noon. I have pictures of myself as a child frolicking in Baguio wrapped up like an Eskimo. I was even wearing mittens.

What make Baguio City memorable to me were the three summers spent at the Teachers Camp in Baguio City for various leadership training programs when I was in college. Back then, two annual national conferences were held back to back every year—the National Student Congress organized by the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Rizal National Youth Leadership Forum. I’m not going to embarrass myself here by revealing why those summers were special—suffice it to say that I was at that age when emotional entanglements meant much more than they ordinarily would.

But back then, Baguio smelled of pines, flowers were everywhere, and fog—not smog, enveloped the city most parts of the day. Furthermore, getting around the city was quite relaxing and invigorating. Traffic wasn’t so bad and there was less pollution. Baguio City was idyllic, soothing, enchanting.

Baguio City still has its attractions and its charms today, but one help notice the decay that’s gnawing at the core of the city. It used to be that one’s arrival in the city is heralded by the gush of nippy air, the sight of lush vegetation, and the ubiquitous pine trees and sunflowers everywhere. Today, the first thing that meets a visitor’s eyes and confirms the fact that you have indeed reached the city is the sight of unsightly squatter shanties dotting the sides of mountains where forests of pine trees used to be. There’s a lot of smog, traffic is horrible, and there are hardly any flowers around.

I’ve always wished that the city government did something to save the city from the massive destruction caused by the obvious lack of a strategic urban development plan and the political will to preserve the things that make Baguio City the erstwhile summer/vacation capital of the country. But I guess they are so busy thinking up quick-rich schemes they have no time to think about long-term consequences.

There are many more things that are contributing to the decay of Baguio City. I will not enumerate them here because most of them are contained in a petition that is going around urging the Philippine government to declare Baguio City as Special Heritage Zone in order to slow down, or at least rationalize, the overdevelopment that’s been happening there.

Below are parts of the petition that is going around the Internet now:

“We believe that the City of Baguio is culturally, environmentally and aesthetically unique and different from other cities in the Philippines. We believe that Baguio is the nerve center of our rich and diverse cultures: The Filipino culture in general, the highland Cordilleran culture, the lowland Ilocano culture, and the heritage culture brought about by the Americans during the early 20th Century.

We believe that in the past two decades, the City of Baguio has experienced a substantial degradation of its unique culture, environment and art. We believe that the approval of certain politicians with no respect for the aesthetics and the environment of Baguio to put up concrete structures such as malls, overpasses and flyovers only worsen Baguio City’s lamentable decay as a ‘City of Pines.’

We believe that this overdevelopment resulting in pollution has to stop.
We believe that due to its unique history and blend of cultures, Baguio can be to the Philippines as Barcelona is to Spain, Chiang Mai is to Thailand, and San Francisco is to the United States: A main center of arts, culture, philosophy, education, tourism, sustainable development and environmental awareness.

We believe, therefore, that the City of Baguio deserves to be declared a ‘Special Heritage Zone,’ so that the degradation brought about by overdevelopment can be minimized and gradually controlled. We believe that Baguio City’s heritage as a center of culture and environmental awareness is a valuable asset not just to the Philippines, but also to the world.

We now respectfully call on the residents of Baguio and the Filipino people to sign this humble petition, and for the local and national government concerned to implement and declare Special Heritage status on this unique mountain city as soon as possible, preferably before the Baguio Centennial in 2009, so no further destruction on its limited cultural, environmental and aesthetic resources may continue.”

In case you have not received the e-mail, an online version of the petition is available at Please support the petition and let’s all help save Baguio City.

Photo borrowed from

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

HIV/AIDS on primetime TV

I've been doing my darnest best to get home on time every night to catch "Precious Time" on ABS-CBN. It's a soap opera, yes. It's a love story, yes. And it's actually Japanese, but tagalized already which means the dialogues have been dubbed using Tagalog. It is also quite old - it was made in 1998. But what makes it interesting for me is that it's a soap opera that tackles head on a very sensitive subject: Living with HIV/AIDS.

I think ABS-CBN deserves to be commended for having the courage to feature on primetime television something that is most timely given the fact that HIV/AIDS transmission in the country is on the rise. It also happens to be a well-made soap opera. It is able to convey a lot of really valuable information about HIV/AIDS without being too preachy although, as expected, it tends to be too gloomy, brooding and depressing in some parts.

The soap opera somehow makes one forget that the network is also responsible for that really cheesy and godawful soft porn masquerading as soap opera entitled Eva Fonda. I haven't been able to sit through a whole episode of that show without retching.

(Photo taken from

Monday, January 05, 2009

Is this guy for real?

This is my column today.

I didn’t write about that infamous display of arrogance and brute power at a golf course that happened during the Christmas break because I have this thing against kicking a man when he is down. Fellow bloggers have already riled about it anyway and mainstream media have already picked it up. Jojo Robles has written about the incident in his column in this paper as well.

But a news story published in the Inquirer last Saturday raised my hackles. In that story, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman appealed to the public, specifically to bloggers, to stop vilifying his family. The news report quoted the secretary as saying “We’re being condemned left and right. It’s very painful for us. We’re very much affected by this.” He expressed hope that the criticism directed at him and his family would stop because the appropriate authorities are supposedly investigating already. “They should be sensitive to the feelings of others. The past few days have been very painful for us” he whined. And then he had the gall to actually say that he wished bloggers won’t experience what he and has family are going through.

The whole thing is painful for them? They want people to be sensitive to their feelings? He actually thinks that bloggers are being unfair to them?

Either the man is hopelessly naïve, in which case, he has no business being in politics, or he is a total dimwit, in which case he should just shut up. Is this guy for real?

His sons and their bodyguards assaulted a 56-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy, for crying out loud. Mauled them to a pulp, some quarters reported. While armed to the gills.

This cannot and has not been disputed: The Pangandamans had the upper hand in that ugly incident. Coercive power was heavily stacked in their favor and unfortunately, they succumbed to one of the most hackneyed clichés ever: Coercive power is the last dirty word. Picture this in your mind: On one side, there were the two Pangandaman brothers and at least four bodyguards; on the other side, a 56-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy. And oh, Bambee de la Paz, a woman. And if this is not enough, consider the infamous public declaration of extreme political arrogance of one of the Pangandaman sons: Hindi n’yo ba kami kilala? (Don’t you know who we are?)

Anyone who cannot see why public empathy is on the side of the De la Paz family needs to have his or her heart examined.

The question of who instigated the fight or who was more arrogant on the golf course or at the club house is important, but not relevant anymore. I am not saying arrogance and provocation are not germane to the whole discussion; what I’m saying is that first, these things are subjective and typically denigrate into a battle of credibility. Second, I don’t think there’s a kind of provocation that deserves that kind of brutal assault. Particularly since the Pangandamans are in politics and are supposedly public servants, people who mouth slogans about how public service is a public trust. Their father also happens to be a Cabinet secretary, which, in case they have forgotten, is required to measure up to an even more stringent standard of public behavior as an alter ego of the highest official of the land.

But rather than bow their heads in shame, keep their mouths shut, and at least go through the motions of projecting remorse in the midst of the expected public outrage, the Pangandamans were initially defiant. They first projected themselves as the victims in the whole sordid affair. And then, when it became apparent that there was no frigging way anyone in his right mind would buy that story, they turned to buttressing their defense by obfuscating facts. One such squid tactic being done is to provide a racial spin to the incident and turn it into a Muslim-versus-Christian thing. Another has been the attempt to paint the Pangandamans as the epitome of virtues.

Pangandaman was reported to have said that he had asked his family not to respond to the criticisms and the angry blogs. But in the same breath, he maintained that his family is still studying the possibility of filing countercharges against the De la Paz family. This is the kind of conflicting, even hypocritical, message that is not earning them any brownie point at all. What kind of a person issues a public apology and in the same breath washes his hands in public of any accountability and, worse, hints at getting back at the complainants?

Perhaps the honorable Cabinet secretary is not aware of what’s happening around him just as he was reported to have been oblivious to the mauling incident which happened in his presence. Contrary to what he wants us to believe, his family, or at least their supporters, is not exactly sitting out the attacks in the blogosphere like, well, sitting ducks. They, or at least their supporters, are also out there in the blogosphere deftly countering, disputing, deflecting, and obfuscating the issues. Oh please, it is quite obvious that there is orchestrated campaign in the blogosphere against the De la Paz family as well.

If Pangandaman wants absolution from the people, there is a simpler way to get it: Through sincerity and contriteness. It wouldn’t have hurt if we read about the secretary chastising his sons or their bodyguards in public as well. He should also stop whining about how the whole thing is unfair to him or his family.

Like I said, there is no chance that people will see them as the victims in this whole imbroglio. He may or may not be directly and personally guilty of it, but unfortunately for him, there’s just too much unwarranted political arrogance happening today in this country. And what his sons and their bodyguards did to the 56-year-old man and 14-year-old boy was exactly the kind of political arrogance that deserves public outrage.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Back to work

It's back to work tomorrow.

I was with some colleagues in the human resource management profession for lunch today and I couldn't relate with the general drift of the conversation, which was about how the looonnngg holidays have screwed up work habits and made things difficult for certain organizations. Huh??!

I could relate with the inconvenience encountered by companies with some cash flow difficulties. Holidays meant no clearing which translated into more days before check deposits could be drawn.

But I couldnt relate with that bit about how vacations and holidays encourage indolence and general laziness. I belong to the faction that believes rest and recreation energizes people and makes people more productive.

Okay. So Malacanan Palance went overboard with the holidays during the last holiday season. I don't think it will happen again considering that Christmas and New Year this year fall on a Friday.

Anyway, I have also been advocating that we move the official observance of certain holidays to December anyway so that people can have a longer stretch of rest and recreation. Many countries actually observe this practice such as Japan. They take the whole month of December off.

Whatever. I hope you guys had a great time recharging yourselves. Tomorrow we transform into work drones again.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Action Plan

(This was something I started to write a few minutes after the New Year rolled in. I didn't publish it because I felt it was too personal. But I changed my mind and decided to publish anyway. So here goes...)

It's 12:43 on my watch, just barely an hour into the New Year.

I've decided not to linger by the dinner table because I didn't want to be tempted to partake of the bottle of red wine that's been opened. I've decided to take a little more extra care of my liver this year, and my lungs, and my... well, my health in general. Although I didn't undergo surgery this year (Thank you, dear God) the results of my annual physical and medical examinations practically screamed " BORDERLINE!!!" in many of the tests except, and this comes as a major surprise to me, cholesterol levels. My uric acid is slightly above normal, my sugar count is borderline, etc. My sgpt and sgot levels have been within tolerable levels - just slightly above high level - but at least it's now down from what it was a couple of months ago which was four times the maximum level.

Our media noche repast was simpler this year. I thought it was a good idea to eschew the usual buffet of traditional food that ended up as leftovers for days to come for a selection of food that everybody really wanted. We had noodles for long life, spare ribs and barbecue for prosperity (pork!), and shrimps because that's what the kids wanted. We had the usual buko salad for dessert.

Anyway. As I sit here contemplating what's been and what lies ahead, I can't help but feel blessed in many ways. 2008 was a good year for me career-wise. Not only did I get promoted to Senior Vice President, I got two really lucrative offers from other banks which I had to turn down because I wanted to see through the implementation of an integration plan that I helped developed for a merger. I think that kind of experience is priceless particularly since the merger situation I'm founding myself in today is more challenging than usual. Unfortunately, I can't talk about it yet.

My lovelife was in the ICU most parts of the year. For some strange reason, I just didn't find myself up to the challenge of being responsible for someone else's happiness. I know. No one else can be responsible for another person's happiness but himself or herself. But I've always been a magnet for people whose idea of a relationship is one of co-dependency. However, I have decided to make changes this year. One of my favorite kids at school, Cheska, intends to make this her project for 2009. Good luck to her. Hahaha.

I've never been big on New Year's resolutions. But here are some action plans that I intend to pursue this 2009, mainly because it's really about time:

1. Take better care of my health. This means finally quitting smoking (I've practically cut the habit but I still take a puff every now and then), going for consultation and follow-ups, taking more supplements, etc.

2. Reduce weight. My target for the year is to go down to 160 lbs. I swear.

3. Read at least four books a month and reduce my backlog. I think this is a reasonable goal since it means an average of one book per week. I was able to finish 9 books during the Christmas break but there's still a couple of days to go before January 5 when work and school opens again.

4. Spend more time with friends and loved ones. I can't believe I didnt get to see a number of my close friends the whole year of 2008. Sigh.

5. Reduce stressors. I will try to be more accepting of things I cannot do anything about and stop wasting energy on anxiety.

6. Fall in love. Hahaha.