Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Streams of Thought

Much has been going on in the past weeks but I could barely juggle my time between obligations, rest, and blogging. Then there's also the Christmas rush to consider. I swear: whoever thought of commercializing Christmas should be shot.

Okayyyy....enough bah humbug-ging. Let's just go through several issues in review:

The Ranario Experience. Once again, another overseas Filipino worker in the person of Marilou Ranario almost bit the dust in Kuwait for allegedly killing her employer. Her relatives, as well as the socio-civic group for OFWs, Migrante, were hysterical over the Kuwaiti court's decision to have her executed. In comes the valiant Pres. Gloria Arroyo, fresh from her Europe junket -- er -- state visit, who went straight to Kuwait to personally make an appeal on behalf of Ranario to the Emir of Kuwait. Lo and behold, Pres. Arroyo eventually became successful in convincing the Emir not to execute Ranario and to have her sentence lessened.

All's well that ends well. However, how many other OFWs are currently facing similar fates like that of Ranario but are not being given the same presidential treatment?

Ranario and her relatives should thank their lucky stars that their situation was hyped up by media, or else, Marilou would be destined to be buried six feet underground by now.

Another thought: OFWs are called "mga bagong bayani" (new heroes) because of the risks they take upon going to other countries. Of course, one cannot expect other countries to have the same culture and laws as we do. Thus, it is important for our OFWs to "toe the line," as they say, if they want to have a fruitful and safe working experience abroad.

However, there are some OFWs who continue to bring with them their bad habits abroad and then cry a bucket of tears when the laws of that foreign land catch up on them. Yes, I get the point that they are fellow Filipinos. Boo-hoo-hoo. That doesn't excuse them from facing up to their misdemeanors. Heck, if they truly deserve to be hanged, then by all means, HANG THEM!

Return of the Comeback: the Anti-subversion Law. Once deemed as a legal loophole to justify persecution of alleged enemies of the state, the Arroyo administration is now considering the revival of the Anti-subversion Law. This, according to the presidential spin doctors, could accelerate military efforts to finally quash once and for all the numerous insurgency groups in the Philippines.

Upon deeper analysis, is it really that important to resurrect an outdated and misused law? The way I see it, this is only an effort to justify two things: first, the perpetration of more extra-judicial killings by the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines; second, the muzzling of several civil society groups and members of media.

Even people with half a mind will be thinking that Martial Law is back -- under an assumed name.

Holiday Bells Toll in UP Diliman. This time, let's look at the brighter side of life and rejoice at the return of the Carillon bells in UP Diliman.

After a long, looooong time (Sorry, I can't be as precise), people of the UP Diliman community and surrounding areas will once again hear the chiming of the bells in the Carillon Tower starting this December. Through the efforts of UP Diliman alumni, enough money was collected to buy a new set of bells to replace the old ones that have since depreciated due to neglect and exposure to the elements. This project is in line with the upcoming activities for the much-anticipated UP Centennial.

During my time in UP, I was never blessed to hear the beautiful melodies being chimed by the Carillon bells. However, that isn't to say that I haven't heard them toll before. And it was a kind of sound that you wouldn't want to hear. That was because the only time I heard the Carillon bells toll was at the height of the intensity-8 earthquake that hit Luzon in 1991. The ground movement was so violent that the Carillon Tower was already swaying left and right, sending that ominous tolling all over the entire UP campus. I was almost certain that at any time, the tower would eventually give way. Thank God, the shaking stopped before it did.

And I think the Carillon Tower and its bells will still stand sturdy and strong for another century, especially now that the entire UP Community has already seen (and heard) its true worth.

Loss and Hope. Many Pasay City residents will be spending the holidays in an evacuation center, especially after a massive fire razed their homes to the ground yesterday.

On one hand, I pity these poor souls who have just lost their homes and material property to the fire -- and with barely a few days left before Christmas. However, based on the news reports, it was said that most if not all of these fire victims were squatting on private property.

In other words, they shouldn't be there at all.

Actually, I no longer want to delve into the details of this squatting issue. I would rather focus on a scene I saw on GMA News (link showing actual video) that underscored the value of life -- human or animal alike.

The scene unfolded like this: a news team focused their camera on a young couple could only stare teary-eyed at the remains of their burned house. Apart from fleeing their burning home without being able to save much of their belongings, the woman related that they had a pet dog with them. They managed to get the frightened canine out, but probably due to its confusion and terror it ran back into the house which was already being engulfed by flames.

This is a common trait among well-cared for pets who have come to believe that their home is their "comfort zone." The moment they encounter a threatening situation, they immediately run back into their home, thinking they will be safe there.

However, this dog's comfort zone was definitely comfortable no more. The couple was fearing the worst for their pet.

After their house was hosed down, the man decided to enter their house to look for their belongings that may have survived the fire. Suddenly, he started pulling at something from under a singed shelf. The news camera continued rolling as he managed to retrieve their pet dog who miraculously survived the fire and intense heat with a few scratches and burns here and there. Overall, the "askal" (asong kalye, or native dog) was very much alive, and its owners hugged their soggy and shaken dog -- relieved that at least one important entity in their life was not taken away from them by the fire.

Attention, PAWS: you guys should be commending this couple because of their unconditional love for their pet. May they serve as models to other Filipinos who still think that pets are only meant as props in their homes -- or worse.

Holiday Wishes and Greetings. This may be my last entry -- for this year, that is. Thus, I would like to make the following wishes for the holidays and for the new year:

* World peace. Yeah, yeah, this is such a tired old Miss Universe line...

* New inspiration -- in my career. What are you guys thinking...?

* Better financial prospects. And I think everyone else is wishing for this, too.

* PAID LOANS! And no more loans to add to my financial account.

* Love for everybody. Another Miss Universe line...

* Lesser people complaining of hunger and poverty in the Philippines.

And finally...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all!

Website Watch 2: Andrew Sovjani Photography

Nature and landscape photographers are almost a dime a dozen, but Andrew Sovjani stands out among the rest for his unique technique in doing his nature shots. He calls this technique "reAction" printing.

Allow me to quote Mr. Sovjani's description of his "reAction" printing:
"Each reAction print is one-of-a-kind. A negative is projected on silver-gelatin paper like traditional photography. Then the paper is taken to the sink and the development chemicals are rubbed, painted and splattered on the photographic paper resulting in a unique layered expressionistic feel with unusual colors emerging. Much of this work is done in the dark, so serendipity and chance play a large role. The negative is used again to make another improvisational print in the series that will look different from the last print in the series."

In other words, no two photos that underwent this process are alike because each had its own unique treatment. With due respect to Andrew Sovjani and his breathtaking photography, here are some samples of his works that went through the "reAction" printing process:

Now, these are what I call works of art.

If there are any of you who are interested in purchasing photos like these, or if you just want to see more of his wonderful photography, you can view and explore the website of Andrew Sovjani.

And no, I wasn't paid to feature his photographic works. He simply deserves the recognition.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Website Watch 1: Classic Hollywood Glamor Photography by Roger James

I couldn't say much about my work as a copywriter, but one of the few perks I get from this job is that I get to encounter sites on the Internet that are really worth visiting.

This is one example of an adorable website by a photographer named Roger James who's located in Los Angeles, California. This photographer is nothing short of a miracle worker for turning average-looking people into visions of beauty and glamor straight from a 1940s/1950s movie set. A perfect example of his magic is seen in the before-after pictures below:

Astounding, aren't they?

Websites like these inspire me to seek other sites that are worth one's while. They make the Internet a truly great virtual place to surf in.

Stay tuned for more of my Website Watch!

Lagging Behind

If we are to judge things by the numbers, ranking 15th of 23 is really bad.

This is actually the Philippines' standing among 23 developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of real per-capita income, or average earnings per person. This is according to a study made by the Asian Development Bank that underscored the disparities in the living standards among countries in the said region. For more information on this news item, you can visit this link from

In fairness, we're still ahead of Pakistan (17th), Vietnam (18th), and India (19th).

I don't even know if I can call this "consuelo de bobo." Imagine: during the Ramos administration in the mid 90s, the Philippines was already considered as the "Sleeping Tiger of Asia." Even earlier than that in the late 60s (I wasn't alive yet), countries like Thailand and Malaysia were sending their citizens to the Philippines to be schooled on the newest methods in agriculture and other developmental skills. These countries were waaaaay behind us at that time.

Now, Malaysia and Thailand are ranked sixth and eighth respectively in the said ADB report. That, despite the Thai baht's dramatic fall in recent time and Malaysia's economic and political problems that are much like ours.

What's even scarier is that Pakistan -- a land swept by the ravages of armed conflict and civil unrest -- is fast catching up on the Philippines.

Even Vietnam is also on its way to leap-frogging over the Philippines despite the fact that the red Communist flag is flying high over its capital.

As for India, this country is learning to tap its strongest natural resources: its people and its land. India is turning into a very busy exotic tourist destination. Moreover, with its cheap labor to rival China and our country as well as its fast-growing English proficiency, foreign investors are now looking at India as the newest investment hub.

It is also disturbing to note that Sri Lanka -- once considered as among the poorest nations in the world -- has landed on the 13th spot in the ADB report. That's two places ahead of the Philippines.

If I find out that Bangladesh outruns the Philippines in the race for economic supremacy......I'm transferring to Timbuktu.

Or I'll be praying to St. Antonio Trillanes IV for redemption.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Waiting for the Phone to Ring

I remember an old "Ally McBeal" episode where Ally and another male lawyer-colleague of hers were debating. It seems that the lawyer has the hots for Ally but she still hasn't gotten over her ex-boyfriend -- and she's in denial that she's still pining for the old flame.

In one part of their debate, the lawyer made Ally promise to give an instantaneous answer to a hypothetical question. After getting a nod from Ally, he proceeded to ask his question: Whenever your phone rings, who is the first person you wish would be on the other end of the line?

Ally immediately answered the name of her ex.

What's your answer to this?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cows and Politics Explained

Got this from this site, and even if it's too American and racist in humor, I do find it hilarious. Read on: you might just learn something.

A CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT: You have two cows. You keep one and give one to your neighbor.

A SOCIALIST: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.

AN AMERICAN REPUBLICAN: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So what?

AN AMERICAN DEMOCRAT: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.

A COMMUNIST: You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk.

A FASCIST: You have two cows. The government seizes both and sells you the milk. You join the underground and start a campaign of sabotage.

DEMOCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point you have to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.

CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

BUREAUCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, then pours the milk down the drain.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION (I love this. Reminds me of my office.): You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. They are mad. They die. Pass the shepherd's pie, please.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You break for lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION: You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

A BRAZILIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You enter into a partnership with an American corporation. Soon you have 1000 cows and the American corporation declares bankruptcy.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You worship both of them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported on them.

AN ISRAELI CORPORATION: There are these two Jewish cows, right? They open a milk factory, an ice cream store, and then sell the movie rights. They send their calves to Harvard to become doctors. So, who needs people?

AN ARKANSAS CORPORATION: You have two cows. That one on the left is kinda cute.
And here are some of my personal additions to the list. Rest assured, Filipinos shall also have representation in this blog entry:

DEMOCRACY, FILIPINO STYLE: You have two carabaos. (We have more carabaos than cows here, remember?) They have milkers who hoard the milk for themselves, then divide a small portion of the milk with everybody else. Then they have massive billboards of themselves put up with accompanying text saying, "This milk is provided to you by..."

You have two carabaos given to you as a result of a pork barrel. Then you milk them to death.

They have two carabaos, you have none. Thus, you go up in arms and forcibly try to get at least one carabao.

You have two carabaos. Government milks them to death. You get angry. You then march to a hotel and cry wolf.

You have two carabaos. Both are emaciated. Thus, you seek partnerships with other foreign corporations to feed your carabaos. Instead of feeding your carabaos, they are butchered and sold as dog feed in other countries.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

So Many Events, So Little Time (to Blog)

In more or less two weeks' time, several "bloggable" events happened, I can barely keep up with them.

First, there was the spate of typhoons that decided to visit the Philippine Area of Responsibility almost simultaneously.

Lando (international code name: Hagibis) was the first to make landfall in the Philippines by entering through the backdoor in Surigao. Then it moved in a west-northwest direction, hitting almost all parts of the Visayas.

Under normal circumstances, typhoons entering the country from the East usually cut through either Eastern Visayas or the Southern Tagalog Region first before wreaking havoc on other parts of the country. However, Lando was an interesting one. It not only visited areas rarely hit by typhoons (Cebu included): it even loved the Philippines so much that it made a U-turn back into the country through what was called the "Fujiwara effect." There were even fears that Lando would be uniting forces with typhoon Mina (international code name: Mitag) which also hurtled through most of Luzon. It's a good thing Mina subsided before Lando could combine forces with her.

Lando's quickie visit through Cebu sent mixed reactions among Cebuanos. Since I come from Leyte which usually takes the full brunt of typhoons when they enter the Philippines, I found Lando to be a wimp. However, many of my Cebuano officemates who aren't used to storms lashing through their place were ooohing and aaahing at the intensity of Lando's wind and rain. ("Wala yan sa Lolo ko..." I was thinking to myself.)

It took only a little more than an hour for Lando to unleash his fury on Cebu, then by the time we left our office at 6 pm, it was all over. However, in that short span of time, Lando managed to uproot trees and electric posts, and destroy many billboards. Even the Christmas tree on Fuente Osmeña was in ruins after Lando's visit. Many areas in Cebu were without light and water, and I had to make "igib" for water on the other side of my boarding house compound in the darkness the night Lando hit.

The crazy thing about Lando's visit to Cebu was PAGASA's late weather forecasts. Just before noontime when strong rains began to fall in Cebu, several of us visited the PAGASA online bulletin for the latest on Lando's whereabouts. It stated that Lando hasn't made landfall yet, and that it was still several kilometers off the coast of Surigao. When the ferocity of the storm was at its worst at a little past 3 pm, the PAGASA online bulletin still didn't say anything new. They said they were going to issue a new bulletin by 5 pm, but up to the time that the rain and wind ceased at just before 6 pm, PAGASA still didn't mention anything new.

It was only on the next day that I realized from the news that Lando's eye did grace Cebu at about 3 pm the day before. PAGASA's ineptitude in properly tracking the storm's whereabouts caused Cebuanos to be caught flat-footed.

So...what else is new?


Then there was the Manila Peninsula siege on the eve of Bonifacio Day.

I find it hard to get mad at Antonio Trillanes IV, despite his gung-ho attempts at changing the world through coup attempts and hotel sieges. He is the image of a soldier fed up with the corruption and excesses of a government that he is pledged to obey. And since he has the conditioning of a military man, he's fighting back in the only way he knows how: through military might.

So he loves staging his gimmicks in five-star hotels like Oakwood and Manila Pen. Then tell me: where do you expect him to implement his plans against the Arroyo administration? In Camps Aguinaldo or Crame? In Malacañang? Or in Victoria Court? He'll be committing suicide if he and his sparse loyalists storm through the first three. That's not good for a military maneuver. As for the last suggestion, what the heck are we thinking?!

Oakwood and Manila Pen are located in the heart of the Philippines' business/financial district: Makati. I'm no genius in the art of war, but if I'm to debilitate a country, I'll go for places where it will hurt the most -- like where all the country's riches are being generated. Besides, hotels are the easiest to evacuate potential crossfire victims from, and also the easiest to conquer. Okay, I admit: their food and drinks are also impeccable...

I also admit that Trillanes' foolhardy takeover of the Manila Pen was wrong, no matter how noble his intentions may have been. But the government's reaction to his siege was -- to quote Charie Villa of ABS-CBN News and Public Affairs -- an "overkill."

By golly, I could barely term Trillanes' hotel siege as a coup attempt. However, government soldiers literally crashed through the Manila Peninsula lobby, wielding any imaginable firearm one could think of. They lobbed tear gas canisters left and right, and -- horror of horrors -- handcuffed everyone in sight, even the media people covering the situation! What in the world were they thinking? It was the Manila Peninsula, for Chrissakes, not Basilan!

My suspicion is this: if only the top dogs in the AFP had their way, Trillanes, his supporters, and everybody else who was inside the Manila Pen that afternoon could have been easily killed. Then the AFP could just issue a statement saying that they were only forced to do so because Trillanes' group fought back and the rest were caught in the crossfire. They've done that many, MANY times before, and more blood on their hands can be washed off in a jiff with a few press statements and Gloria Arroyo's assurance that they will always have her support.

This scenario would've been possible if not for the recent report made by Phillip Alston, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council, stating that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is responsible for many extrajudicial killings in the recent past. Of course, AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is in denial, but who would be the more credible entity to believe? An AFP general who coddles cold-blooded henchmen like Maj. Gen Palparan -- or a UN special rapporteur?

With that UN report retracting their trigger-happy fingers, the soldiers simply had to be content with gassing Trillanes, Brig. Gen Danilo Lim, and everyone else present in the Manila Pen, then leading them out like crazed dogs -- cuffs and all.

If the AFP thinks that they have shut Trillanes up once and for all, they only managed to provide this aggressive freedom fighter with more supporters, not only among the soldiers but also among ordinary civilians. Even if Trillanes gets killed fighting against them, there will only be many more Trillaneses to come out of the AFP ranks. Soon, the AFP top brass may just find themselves overwhelmed by soldiers who are truly fighting for fellow Filipinos.

Esperon and his butchers should be shaking in their boots right now.