Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Fairy Tale that is the SONA

Once again, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's State of the Nation Address (SONA) has lived up to my expectation.

It has lived up to my expectation that average Filipinos like me would still be fed by bullshit and all that jazz.

Honestly, one simply has to admire the fact that she's been jamming lies and broken promises down our throats for eight consecutive years already.


Whatever happened to GMA's promises of building "super regions" and "placing food on the tables of each and every Filipino family?"

What about "more access to education for the poor but deserving?"

And what about her "ten-point agenda for/road map to progress?" now GMA should have already learned that Filipinos are not as stupid as she thinks they are. Who does she think she's fooling?


GMA's SONA last Monday was more of a 57-minute litany of her administration's "accomplishments" this past year. That, as well as a lengthy discussion on the beauty of Value-added Tax (VAT) especially in these times of a rice shortage and the increasing prices of oil.

For all of these, her speech was interrupted by 102 spurts of applause from the gallery of congressmen and visitors.

Someone later divulged that several groups of students were placed in strategic areas of the gallery to clap on cue whenever the good president said something relevant.


Oh brother, GMA's popularity must really be that bad that she's now employing a method perfected by then-president Ferdinand Marcos especially when his own popularity was already on the wane: getting hapless students to "fill in" the crowd and to applaud on cue.

I should know. During my days in Manila Science High School which was just before the first EDSA Revolution, our principal would round us up and send us off walking (Yes, you read it right; WALKING!) to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (That's all the way from the corner of Padre Faura Street and Taft Avenue where our school is located, mind you) so we could attend Pres. Marcos' and/or his First Lady's public appearances there. Technically, without us filling in as their "captive audience" or in Tagalog, hakot, their speaking engagements would only be attended by less than three hundred people. And that already included the media covering these events.

And now, I see a new generation of hakots clapping for no reason in GMA's SONA.

Wow, that's really low...


Probably the only time when people were actually clapping sincerely throughout GMA's speech was when she announced that after talking with the different local mobile service providers, she was able to convince them to reduce text prices from one peso to fifty cents. it turns out, this fifty percent reduction is actually just a promo churned by the telecommunications companies themselves which they were really intent on doing -- even without the president's prodding.

Unlike what GMA led us to believe, this text price reduction is actually going to be short-lived, more like for about three months only. Hahaha...We've been had bigtime!

Plus, those among you who tried texting after the announcement of the text price reduction came out must really be scratching your heads. This 50-cent price for text messages only applies to those who buy P20 load that lasts for only one day. Thus, if you are into buying prepaid call and text cards, or if you're a postpaid user, you still lose a peso every time you text.

I knew it was just too good to be true...


As for the much-disputed Reproductive Health Bill which I am strongly advocating, Arroyo has just served it a death sentence by stating that she sees the need to address concerns on reproductive health by supporting natural family planning methods.


Like I said in my previous blog, the Catholic Church and their scare tactics win again.

And the poor sector of Filipino society will remain ignorant with regard to other choices for planning their families.


With this kind of ignorance toward alternative family planning methods, abortion -- the one issue the Catholic Church is holding against supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill -- will just become more prevalent. Women undergoing unplanned pregnancies will be more desperate in seeking ways to get rid of their unborn children, even if it means killing themselves in the process.

If only we provided access to artificial family planning methods to complement the introduction of the natural alternative, then incidences of unplanned pregnancies and eventual trips to abortionists may be lessened.

Oh well...I guess it's too late for that now, huh?


With one more SONA for Pres. Arroyo to state before the Filipino nation next year (unless she decides to extend her term again), I wouldn't be surprised if her litany of accomplishments exceeds two hours.

I'm actually looking forward to it. It's nice to listen to fairy tales every now and then, you know.

Teaching at the "University of Spoiled Filipinos"

Boy, I'd sure love to teach in the University of San Francisco.


Just read this
article taken from You'll know why.


Activism 101 for the "University of Spoiled Filipinos"
By Christian V. Esguerra

SAN FRANCISCO—A new park was rising in the South of Market three years ago, much to the excitement of the area’s long-time Filipino dwellers.

They were expecting the new patch of green to be named after Victoria Manalo Draves, one of their own. She’s a proud daughter of the community, a Fil-American who captured two gold medals for diving in the 1948 London Olympics, a first by any woman, and the only Olympic gold medal by a Filipino to date.

But word was that someone else— not from the neighborhood but who would be giving a large monetary donation to City Hall—would receive the honor.

The news angered the Filipino community. At the forefront of the protest were students from the University of San Francisco (USF), an upscale, Jesuit-run private school. It’s the city’s more affluent version of Manila’s Ateneo.

It’s occasionally dubbed the “University of Spoiled Filipinos,” a playful jab at the students’ elitist environment and their supposed never-care attitude.

But they cared, especially during those tense months in 2005 when they felt a compatriot was being slighted.

Role model
“Victoria Manalo Draves is our role model,” was their loud message to the powers-that-be at San Francisco’s City Hall. The students, some of them barely speaking a word of Tagalog, pointed out that not a public speck in San Francisco was named after a Filipino. To think that the city has been home to them for more than half a century.

The pressure mounted and in the end, the 80-year-old former diver got the honor.

Activism paid off for this group of Filipino students enrolled at a pioneering, if not, maverick, program at USF. In the school’s Philippine Studies course, they had apparently developed a consciousness for social justice as palpable in rallies as in female students sacrificing French tip nails for placards.

Not helpless
“Their attitude is—so we’ve learned about these things in the classroom, what are we going to do now?” says Joaquin “Jay” Gonzalez III, 44, a professor at the program and himself a veteran activist during the Marcos dictatorship.

The Philippine Studies Program teaches a variety of lessons about their native country - politics, history, economy, language, and culture. Discussions even tackle controversies like “Hello Garci,” human rights abuses, and the more recent broadband scandal.

In the end, besides earning a degree and big bucks, students develop the common attitude of doing something more. That explains their presence in protest actions on matters like the Filipino World War II veterans’ issue and the “Desperate Housewives” slur on Filipino doctors.

While they can only watch the worsening condition in the Philippines from afar, they’re not exactly helpless. They turn to issues closer to their home in San Francisco and try to make a difference just the same.

Their program at USF was itself a product of student activism, according to Gonzalez.

Back in the 90s when more and more Filipinos were enrolling at USF, they began demanding a curriculum specific to their needs, a counterpart of programs like Latin American studies.

“It’s about discovering their own roots,” says Gonzalez. “Students were in search of themselves and their culture.”

It wasn’t difficult to lose one’s identity in a highly diverse culture like America’s – especially when, for one reason or another, many Filipino parents were deliberately wiping out traces of their children’s native roots in a desperate effort to integrate them into American society.

It showed when kids were told to speak English—and only English. The attitude created an impression of inferiority of the Filipino language, even if parents probably wanted only to spare their children of possible discrimination.

But as the children grew older and began seeing America in their own eyes, they realized that something was amiss. Why did the Chinese, for instance, remain proud of their heritage when Filipinos weren’t? Latinos loved their language, too, and America had to adjust to them.
Defining moment

Gradually, Gonzalez says these kids developed a consciousness that defined themselves in the company of other cultures: “Yes, I am an American, but I am a Filipino-American.”

Such was the attitude with which Filipino students petitioned the USF administration for a new academic program. Bolstered by an endowment from Ambassador Alfonso Yuchengco, the school acceded and initially offered a Philippine history class in the fall of 1998.

For all the noise created by the petition, the experimental course attracted only 19 students. It turned out that they were looking for something more relevant, something that would not only inform them about their past but also teach them about being Filipinos in a foreign land.

The curriculum was revised to offer subjects like Fil-Americans in US history, Filipino Politics and Justice, Filipino Culture and Society, Tagalog, Filipino-American Arts Exposition, and the pioneering “Knowledge Activism.”

It also had “Barrio Fiesta,” a performing arts course that was once assigned to movie/stage actor Bernardo Bernardo.

‘Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang?’
True enough, the “perked-up” Philippine Studies Program generated huge enrollments, so much so that it is now a “major” at USF, meaning a program with at least 40 units.

So what becomes of students majoring in Philippine Studies?

The economic side of it, Gonzalez concedes, may not produce incomes as big as those in the medical or legal profession. But in America’s continuously changing environment, Filipinos are becoming more and more relevant, if not indispensable – thus the logical importance of the course.

Companies, for example, are targeting Filipino consumers, a market now difficult to ignore because of their enormous presence in places like the Bay Area. Gonzalez says knowledge about Filipino culture would prove valuable for applicants for such companies.

Knowledge activism
The same is true in the field of health services.

Once, Gonzalez had a Chinese-American student in his first semester Tagalog class. The boy, student of Nursing Cedric Chew, made friends among his Filipino classmates and was soon falling in love with the culture.

He started to love Filipino music, too, to the point that he began singing Ogie Alcasid’s “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang?” from start to finish.

The tune and his overall exposure to Filipino culture came in handy during his internship at a hospital staffed mostly by Filipino doctors and nurses. They all loved him, especially whenever he sang the popular Filipino ballad. Filipino patients were requesting for him as well.

‘Don’t forget your rosary’
Much of the success of the Philippine Studies Program is seen in the way it has transformed students into socially commited individuals. They not only see the world outside through textbooks, they look at it in the perspective of change that is just and humane.

Consider “Knowledge Activism,” a subject practically created by students.

Gonzalez says it began as a “teach-in,” meaning with a group of students gathered for informal discussions about Filipino-related issues. Occasionally, they would invite professors for more inputs until Gonzalez decided to turn the gathering into a formal subject.

The guy who started it all, then student Glenn Andag, now manages the Filipino Education Center, an after-school program offering lessons on language and culture for newly arrived Filipino kids.

Like many other alumni of the Philippine Studies course, Andag owes much of his social awakening and transformation to mentors like Gonzalez ("Aral kay Jay,” as they put it).

In Gonzalez, students have a full-fledged “tibak” (activist) to teach them the value of social change and the nitty-gritty of achieving it. He brings to his classes a wealth of experience as a veteran of the anti-Marcos movement in the 80s.

Gonzalez’s own epiphany came in college while he was a student of biology and marketing at De La Salle University, school to many of the Philippines’ elite. His future in the corporate world was practically set until he began seeing fellow students marching on Taft Avenue on the way to Liwasang Bonifacio.

There must be more to life than the prestige and convenience of a high-paying job, he thought. He still graduated from La Salle, but as a political science major and with a better understanding of what he wanted to pursue. Gonzalez went on to hone his political action skills during his graduate studies at the University of the Philippines.

Soon he was a fixture in protest actions, naturally worrying his folks because of the violence that often came with the rallies. But they kept their faith in their son, reminding him often never to forget his rosary.

Rally 101
All the hard work paid off for Gonzalez and millions of his compatriots when Ferdinand Marcos was finally ousted in the bloodless revolution on Edsa in February 1986.

These are the stories that Gonzalez’s students—even non-Filipinos—love to hear. What a journey it’s been for America’s brown-skinned allies who now want to duplicate the struggle, even a semblance of it, in the context of their present environment.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Website Watch 8: the Little Pet Project

This website will definitely appeal to two types of species: the hound dogs and the hot dogs -- hound dogs meaning those of the waggy-tail type, and hot dogs meaning those of the virile, testosterone-laden type. But it should matter most to those who genuinely care for their loving pets, as well as those who have a heart.

The Little Pet Project was borne out of the concern of its founders -- photographers Lisa Presnail and Colleen Walsh -- for animals living in several shelters all over the US, a vast majority of which end up being euthanized because no one adopted them. They came up with the idea of putting several of these pets from the shelters, together with supportive models, in front of the camera. The result is a relatively impressive portfolio of steamy yet artistic photos featuring women and their furry friends. They have also linked with several pet advocacy/welfare groups who help in generating more popularity and support for the site and its worthwhile campaign.

In essence, The Little Pet Project gives more chances for homeless animals in shelters to have a second chance at life and find loving people to adopt them.


Another important advocacy of The Little Pet Project is for the responsible care of pets. To be a responsible pet owner is for a family/individual to have their pets spayed/neutered to lessen chances of breeding. This is the best solution to the problem of having litters of furry babies that will end up either in a shelter or in the streets. Either way, chances of their survival will be slim to none.

I hope Presnail and Walsh don't mind if I show several photos from their site:

Beautiful, aren't they?


Looking through The Little Pet Project, I learned that there are actually several clinics in the US that provide low-cost spaying and neutering services for pets. I wish there were such clinics here in the Philippines. Here in Cebu City, prices for these said services range from three to five thousand pesos. This is quite exorbitant, especially for those who may love their pets but who only have enough to feed and support their lives (like me). I don't even know if the City Vet even has these services, or if they do, facilities for these surgical operations are below par.

I remember when I was in Manila, I adopted a sickly kitten who I named Zorro from the SPCA and had him cleaned, given deworming medicine, and administered with vitamins. I think the SPCA also provides neutering and spaying services at a relatively cheap price, especially for animals adopted from their shelter. I wasn't able to have Zorro neutered though because he was still too young when I got him, and he went to Cat Heaven before he got to the best age for neutering.

I sincerely hope that the SPCA would open more offices in other provinces of this country, considering that it's not only Manila who has pet owners.

Some provincial vets do administer neutering to male pets, but spaying for the females is out of the question. Neutering is a relatively easy operation, considering that all they have to do is to make a small incision just above the animal's scrotum, squeeze out the testicles, and slice them off. After a few stitches to cover everything up, in a few minutes the animal is as good as new. Meanwhile, spaying requires a more intensive and delicate operation, considering that the female's eggs are inside her belly. That is why among private vets, it is much more expensive to spay than to neuter.


I had my Leyte cat, Cali, neutered by the local vet a few years ago. The funny thing about this was that our local vet was more adept at castrating pigs than small animals like cats. Thus, when Cali was prepared for neutering, the operation was made in our neighborhood talipapa. He was made to lie down belly up (not without complaints) on the tiled table in the meat section, with four people holding on to each of his legs. Then, sans any anesthesia or antibiotic, the vet flashed his seven-inch long scalpel -- used for his porky clients -- before Cali. You could only imagine the horror in Cali's eyes upon seeing the massive tool that was to be used on him.

Then, with the deftness of a magician who does card tricks, the vet sliced, squeezed out, cut, and pressed the wound shut in less than two minutes. I didn't even see where he placed the now-displaced testicles of my poor hemorrhaging cat after that. After a few more minutes of pressing, the bleeding ceased and the vet said that I can bring Cali home already. He did give a warning that as soon as the cat is brought home, he shouldn't be carried or else the wound would open up again.

Thus, I brought Cali home then went to work. I was in the middle of a class when our division secretary called on me to receive a phone call in our faculty room. It was my mom. Cali was bleeding all over the place.

I rushed home immediately after my class. Cali was walking around with blood trailing behind him. My mom related to me that while I was out, Cali kept on requesting my mom for a "carry-carry." I already warned her against it but since Cali was insistent and she felt so much pity for the cat who obviously needed some cuddling after his recent trauma, she picked him up. I guess everybody knows what happened next.

My mom and I half-walked half-ran to the vet's house with a bleeding Cali thoroughly wrapped in a towel. (Thank God, the vet's a neighbor.) When we got there, the vet merely pressed on Cali's wound again to stop the bleeding, injected some antibiotic into him, and rewrapped him -- this time, more tightly -- with the towel.

Cali's wound did heal after that horrifying ordeal. But I doubt it if he'll ever trust another vet with a seven-inch scalpel again.


Going back to The Little Pet Project, I do hope that you blog readers would visit it, admire/gawk at/drool on/ the beautiful pictures there, and do a little something in support of their endeavor.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Issues of the Day

Issue: Military, police brace for protest actions vs. GMA’s SONA
Reaction: They should. People are so mad at the administration, they can now bite through the anti-riot polices’ shields.

Issue: SWS survey reveals GMA as “least popular president in recent history”
Reaction: I dunno. I think it’s a tie between her and Marcos. But in fairness to the latter, I think that it was his wife who cursed his memory – not Marcos himself. GMA did this to herself, in collaboration with her sleaze of a husband.

Issue: Endangered Philippine eagle found simmering in farmer’s stew
Reaction: I wish that he (the farmer, not the bird) choked – but he didn’t. Dang…

Issue: NAIA Terminal 3 finally opens to local airline carriers
Reaction: Finally, the white elephant was put to use. I just wonder if they are raising terminal fees because of this. (I hope not…)

Issue: Pierce Brosnan elected “governor” in ARMM mock elections; Celine Dion wins vice-governor ticket
Reaction: Even I would elect my all-time crush Pierce Brosnan as president of the Philippines anytime. But I first have to be assured that I’ll be his First Lady. BWAHAHAHA!

Issue: More Sulpicio Lines workers laid off from their jobs
Reaction: While these people may not be directly to blame for the numerous disasters involving Sulpicio Lines ships, I think this would be better for them in the long run. I personally wouldn’t want to be connected with Sulpicio in any way, and this shipping line’s officials should be shot in the head.

Issue: Seven-year old child relates beatings under abusive grandma
Reaction: Burned with an iron, hammered, whipped…What kind of animal could do such a thing? Oops that’s doing an injustice to animals: it’s only humans who could do that.

Issue: Strong earthquake rocks Japan
Reaction: The Brazilian seer who predicted a powerful earthquake to hit the Philippines last July 18 was way off course.

Issue: Will Smith is now Forbes Magazine’s best-paid actor
Reaction: Yo! The homey rules!

Issue: Dark Knight a box office hit
Reaction: To paraphrase Will Smith’s line in Hancock: “Homo in black…”

Issue: Britney Spears seen in a charity function for autistic children
Reaction: Autistic children? Finally, she’s among her peers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Church, the State, the Family, and my Faltering Faith

I am a Roman Catholic -- maybe not as devout as my mom is, but my faith in God, the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints is strong.

However, there are times when my faith in the Roman Catholic Church falters, especially when the issues of family and reproductive health come up.


Father, mother, and child make family. I come from what has been termed by society as a dysfunctional family. My mom and dad never married, and I was obviously born out of wedlock. My dad eventually went on to marrying another woman, but if there is something I will never take away from him, it's the fact that he never wavered in his support of my mom and me until the time he retired from government service. He placed us in a comfortable (well, comfortable is kinda relative) apartment in Manila, he provided us with all our basic necessities, and he saw me through school until I graduated from college. He may have been an absentee father, but he was a true provider.

My mom, meanwhile, made her own mistakes along the way. She was your typical overbearing, overprotective mom (Annabelle Rama, move aside!) who used to scare off kids who'd pick on me. She had the same strictness as a soldier from Hitler's Third Reich, especially when it came to my studies. Later on, this same Nazi-like stance would surface in her regard of any of my potential suitors. Yes, she was strict, her use of guilt trips and emotional backlashes is legendary, she didn't hesitate to use a belt or her hand for disciplining me, and she was unreasonable. However, her love for me was (and still is) unconditional.

It was primarily the desire to get out of my mom's clutches that drove me to marry a man who I thought was "the one." That, as well as the desire not to end up like my mom whose love story didn't end up with wedding bells. Eventually, I found myself ending up exactly like my mom -- a single mother with one daughter. Only that I was in a worse predicament: I have legal documents proving that I was married to this loser of a husband and father.

It's also this legal bullshit that's making my separation from this loser of a husband very difficult. You see, our Local Family Code has been fashioned by legislators who are either womanizing chauvinists or Bible freaks. Thus, divorce is something an unhappy married couple can only dream of. The only alternative we have is annulment, and there has to be unmistakable proof that a marriage can no longer be consummated. More often than not, the spouses have to discredit each other in court if only to be granted annulment. It's long, it's tedious, and there is even a great possibility that annulment may not be granted.

Legal bullshit aside, my family's composition now consists of this: three women from different generations living under one roof. That's my mom, me, and my 12-year old daughter. My dad's no longer around, dunno where he is at present. He stayed in Manila when we left for Leyte in 1999. Tried getting in touch with him in 2005 but I only got to talk with their maid who told me that he and his wife left for the US to be with their children. I have never heard from him again and I dunno if he's still alive or...

My ex-husband, meanwhile, is living in Manila with his nth girlfriend. Enough said.

One day I heard mass with my family. Everything was just fine until we got to the gospel. The priest turned his sermon into a venomous tirade against those who desire for separation from their spouses. Being the good Catholic that I was, I tried "turning the other cheek," so to say, to this priest's misjudgments of people like me. (And I thought that it was only God who could give proper judgment...)

I could've sat through the priest's sermon, but I blew my top when he stressed that the only set of people the Catholic Church would recognize as family is a father, a mother, and a child/children. Any abberation of this setup can never be honored by the Catholic Church.


Contraception equals abortion. Hogging the headlines these days is the resurfacing of attempts by several congressmen to thoroughly discuss House Bill 812, more commonly known as the Reproductive Health Bill. This said legislation has so far already passed first reading on the House floor. Once again, the Catholic Church is up in arms and this time, several bishops from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) are threatening the said bill's supporters from Congress that they will not be granted communion in their respective parishes. They are even considering outright excommunication for proponents of the said bill.

Once again, the Catholic Church is discreetly but vigorously influencing -- no, bullying -- our local legislators into acceding to their commands with the threat of falling from grace. I have listened to their arguments behind their non-acceptance of the Reproductive Health Bill but none of them held water for me.

The Roman Catholic Church has been constantly renaming the Reproductive Health Bill as the Anti-life Bill, the Abortion Bill, the Anti-family Bill...etcetera, etcetera. It is their way of convincing the religious folk among us that solons are cooking up a law that permits abortion -- a very serious sin that goes against every moral fiber of society.

It doesn't stop at that. Apart from misleading poor parishioners who simply take everything the Church says hook, line, and sinker on grounds of faith, the Church also makes its presence felt in the halls of legislation with regard to its desire to take down any bill that touches on reproductive health or population management. How many bills or amendments have been shot down in the past due to the interference of the unseen but tangible hand of the Church and other Christian religious groups like the El Shaddai? There was the proposal to expand the reproductive rights of women through the Magna Carta for Women which was eventually archived due to pressure from the Catholic Church. Even the bill seeking for equal rights and privileges of homosexuals never even made it to second reading, but that's another story.

So far, the number of solons supporting this most recent Reproductive Health Bill has already dwindled, thanks to the ministrations of the Church. With the approach of the next elections in 2010, some of them have become intimidated by the potential loss of what is loosely termed as the "Church vote." This becomes more important to several of them than the idea of excommunication, thus, they let go of their support for the controversial bill.

I do admire the bravery of Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin -- a medical doctor who knows exactly the impact of HB 812 on the health of our fellowmen -- for standing steadfast amid the steady stream of threats by the Catholic Church. Defiant, she openly stated that she is willing to lose in the 2010 elections when she runs for a second term in her province. Her only desire is that she sees this bill through.

Congresswoman Garin and her fellow supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill may have lost some allies from their own fold, but has gained an unlikely supporter from the administration itself in the person of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Esperanza Cabral. Seeing the situation of many Filipino families at the grassroots level, she knows that that the primary factor to their poverty is the fact that they have so many mouths to feed. She also knows from her work that a vital solution to this problem is the proper information dissemination and education of different methods of family planning. This is the same concept that the Reproductive Bill emulates.

Unfortunately, even with the passing of HB 812 in Congress and the Senate, the biggest stumbling block will be with the president herself who reiterated her "pro-life" stance.

Sigh...all this hoopla for nothing. Once again, the archaic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church to "go forth and multiply" get the upper hand.


Our place in the town of Tanauan in Leyte is a big old two-storey house that we share with our landlady -- a wonderful woman in her twilight years. Directly beside our house is a lot filled with rickety shanties. About six to seven families occupy that lot. What interests me about these families is that they are virtual baby factories. From our window, one would see several grime-covered groups of kids in varying degrees of shabbiness playing in the dirt, sans slippers. While these kids turn our side of the street into their living room space-slash-playground until nighttime, their parents are either huddled together by a table armed with glasses and a jug or two of tuba, or singing their lungs out on one of the families' videoke machines.

One of these adults interests my mom and me a lot. While she does have a real name, we prefer to call her by this term, "buli." Mom says that "buli" is a Waray term for a chicken's ass that never stops moving. (Dunno if this is true, though.) It is this certain characteristic that Mom relates to this character's mouth. That's because she never stops screaming invectives to just about anyone from the time she wakes up until she goes into an alcohol-induced sleep.

A day in our neighborhood is never complete without hearing Buli and her husband shouting and clawing at each other. Despite this constant bickering, they manage to produce babies almost every year. So far, they already have seven, the youngest of which is barely two years old. And to think that Buli is just my age. That could only mean many more babies to come.

Buli only reached Grade 3 in terms of educational attainment. Because of this, job opportunities for her are very limited. Her substance abuse problem (she drinks like her liver is made of steel, and smokes like a chimney), as well as the number of children she has, further limits her chances of landing in a good job. Thus, she is relegated to doing laundry for neighbors and other odd jobs. Her husband's job as a pedicab driver could barely support their big family. It is the lack of money that becomes the major cause of this couple's squabbles.

Buli's eldest boy is older than my daughter at 14 years old, and yet he could be mistaken for a nine-year old child. He, along with his school-age brothers and sisters, languishes in the elementary years at the local public school. These kids couldn't go to school properly. Buli insists that if one of them goes to school, the others have to absent themselves just so they could help her with the laundry and with their younger siblings. Thus, all of them come to school on alternate days, never completing a school week.

Whenever Buli's husband is not around for her to vent her ire on, she vents it instead on the children. The poor kids are subjected to tongue-lashings of the most embarrassing sort, as well as lashings of the more violent kind. It's difficult not to find out about what Buli is doing to her children when you can hear the children's cries, her whipping, and her graty fishwife voice reverberating through our walls.


Buli and her family is just but one of many Filipino families today who are bogged down by many problems like poverty and the inability to attain proper education. These concerns primarily boil down to the lack of education in family planning. As they add one more mouth to feed, their chances at a better life become slimmer. And I'm sure that this cycle of pathos will go on for generations to come.

Is this the kind of family the Roman Catholic Church wants us to have more of?


Congresswoman Garin has reiterated several times in many press interviews that she will never condone abortion unless a pregnancy becomes detrimental to the mother's survival. This statement of hers ultimately debunks the Church's main allegation that the bill she is supporting seeks to allow abortion in our country. Nonetheless, the Church continues to maintain their position, this time placing the coat of morality over their feeble arguments.

What could be so morally deviant about giving a couple the chance to plan their family well through both natural and artificial methods? What could be so wrong about maintaining a family that doesn't have a father in the picture?


Bishop Deogracias Yniguez, head of CBCP public affairs, said in a recent television interview that anyone supporting the Reproductive Health Bill is commiting a grave sin, and priests have the option not to grant communion to these people.

I strongly support HB 812 as a citizen of the Philippines and prime beneficiary of this bill. Does that make me a sinner, too?


Once again, I reiterate that my faith in God remains as strong as ever. It is only my faith in His supposed "chosen men" that has faltered greatly.

However, at the end of the day I cannot blame them for their actions. After all, they are not gods but mere bickering mortals -- much like the Pharisees of Jesus' time.

I try my best to distinguish God's divine actions with the actions of men purporting to be under God's influence. That way, I would never lose sight of my spiritual integrity.

If my Creator's minions have condemned me to eternal damnation for my critical thoughts, then let them do so. After all, it is not for them to pass judgment: that is God's role.

And I know my soul is safe with Him.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fit at 38

I should be the next image model of Have It All.

Been jogging and doing aerobics on an irregular basis at the Abellana oval with several female officemates. Two of them are about 10 years my junior, the other two are just as old as my former students.

I beat them all in terms of flexibility, stamina, and speed.

Gloat, gloat, gloat...

Not bad for someone who's recently turned 38, huh?

I even realized that my abs aren't as humongous as I thought they were. I saw people at Abellana belly dancing their flabs off, and I'm sure they have more work to do with their respective pusons than me.

Woohoo for that!

It really pays to be fit at 38.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Heaven's Daughter is Coming Home

My cousin passed away last Thursday.

The news of my cousin's death was so sudden, I wasn't able to digest the initial information. However, the relative who sent me the news was as serious as hell.

How could this happen? It wasn't like she was bedridden and all. She was quite a dynamo, shuttling between two houses caring for her own family and for her ailing father. (He went on ahead of her already.) If there was an award for self-sacrifice all in the name of family, she'd be the runaway winner.

Now she's gone.

The funny thing about my relationship to her is that it's her husband who's my actual cousin. She was the in-law who inured herself to our family because of her sweetness and kindness.


I come from the younger set of cousins on my mother's side of the family, which is why some of my nieces and nephews are just the same age as I am. During my growing-up years, I formed a bond with two of these said nieces -- Sylvia and Christine. Whenever our other cousins/nephews/nieces would bully us, we'd confront said bullies as a three-girl team. Sylvia would cry, Christine would raise her eyebrow, and I'd provide the physical retaliation -- being the biggest among us three. (Not applicable in present time. hehehe...)

The three of us were my cousin's first babies. Their couple didn't have the ability to create babies of their own so they initially relegated themselves to rounding us up from our respective parents, bringing us to their home, and spoiling us to Kingdom Come. Soon, they added a sweet child to their family, and our three-girl team became a quartet with the addition of Julieanne.

Sylvia, Christine, and I all grew up knowing this couple as our surrogate parents. I constantly remember those times when the husband would drive us around in his Volkswagen and get into an accident of sorts. (Somehow it always happens whenever us kids were onboard. Go figure.) My cousin would then bring us to Cherry Foodarama along Shaw Boulevard and let us point to anything we like (mostly candies and other small treats), and we would conclude our grocery visits with each child having her own bag of goodies.

As we grew into weight-conscious teenagers, our relationship with my cousin also transcended. While the others were chastising us for our foolhardy ways, my cousin was always the understanding one. She treated us like adults when others still treated us as children.

Christine went on to live in the United States, and I left Manila to raise my own family in the province. But whenever I was in Manila, I would often stay with my cousin who, I believe, is among the most hospitable relatives I ever had. She always made sure that I never left their home hungry. Her usual question to me was, "O, kumain ka na ba?" (Have you eaten yet?) She'd offer me advice on places to go, how to get there, and even how much the fare would be. Most of all, she never ran out of kisses and hugs to give out in generous amounts.

I was in their place exactly one year ago, and while we didn't get to talk much, I remember hugging her just before leaving to return to Cebu. It was a short but meaningful hug. Little did I know that this was going to be the last hug I'll ever share with my cousin.


I knew of my real cousin's infidelity a long long time ago. I especially found it profoundly disturbing that the other woman would even have the gall to come to their household and partake of their family's food -- as if it's a normal thing.However, my dear cousin (the departed one) never showed any anger toward that jezebel. Thus, I thought, if she has the power to dismiss her husband's infidelity and act like everything's right with the world, then why shouldn't I?


It was Sylvia who broke the news about my cousin's death last Friday. She related in detail how my cousin began having difficulty breathing, and how she tried to contact her husband through his cellular phone to no avail. By the time her husband found her, she was unconscious on their living room sofa. She was pronounced dead on arrival when they got to the hospital.

As it turned out, the main reason why my cousin's husband wasn't able to receive her texts and calls was because his cellular phone was in the pocket of his other woman! And even she failed to notice the phone's ringing/vibrating!


What if her husband did get her calls? Will my cousin still be alive right now?

It's these "what ifs" that are tormenting me right now. This, as well as the fact that I couldn't be in Manila to see my beloved cousin for the last time before she travels to the Great Beyond.

One thing's sure though: after all the emotional trauma my cousin has gone through, she has been able to exact her revenge on the people who did her wrong. As of this very moment, my real cousin and his kulasisi are being judged not only by those who loved my departed cousin but also by God.

It was through my cousin's death that her husband and his woman are now getting their just desserts.


My cousin's sudden passing from this world has taught me another valuable lesson: that life is too short for dillydallying. One should treat each day as his/her last, and thus, he/she should always make the most of what life can offer.

I am at the crossroads off my life right now. I've seen so many opportunities just slip through my hands, and now I realize that with the diminishing opportunities coming my way, I should make it a point to seize them with whatever energy and resources I have.

I owe it to myself. And I thank my cousin for making me realize that.

May the Gods rejoice at your arrival. Heaven's newest daughter is coming home.


This blog is lovingly dedicated to a wonderful cousin, aunt, friend, and mentor, Elvira P. Mana, we will all terribly miss you.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Somersaulting to Pierce Brosnan's Singing in Mamma Mia

Pierce Brosnan has been one of my all-time crushes, alongside other distinguished gentlemen like Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. (Lord knows why I have a thing for debonair older men with smoky eyes.) He has been my crush since his early days as the dashing Remington Steele. I've seen him outrunning a volcano, playing a psychopath terrorist, being a father...

...But Pierce Brosnan belting out a cheesy ABBA song?!

This is what got me doing somersaults when I watched Mamma Mia, the movie adaptation of the West End musical with the same name.

Topbilling the cast were the likes of Meryl Streep, Brosnan, Stellen Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, and Amanda Seyfried. Of course, who wouldn't be familiar with Streep and Brosnan? The name, Julie Walters, may not ring a bell to you. In fact, when you see her onscreen as the vivacious writer, Rosie, she will only remain remotely familiar. But if you're a Harry Potter fanatic, you'll know that Julie Walters actually plays the big-haired Mrs. Weasley, mother of Ron and Ginny, in the HP movies!

Considering that Mamma Mia is an adaptation of the musical which made use of tunes made popular by the 70s pop-rock group, ABBA, audiences will have to contend with cheesy ABBA videoke music. However, I find it forgivable, given the fact that it is a cast of topnotch actors and actresses who were obviously having a lot of fun doing the film.

Mamma Mia brings us to an exotic Greek island where Donna (Streep) owns a ramshackle inn named Villa Donna. All is busy with the forthcoming marriage of Donna's daughter, Sophie (Seyfried), but somehow, Sophie seems to be more consumed with something other than her marriage.

Sophie has grown up never knowing who her father was. When she stumbles upon her mom's old diary, she finds out that she has three possible dads: Harry Bright (Firth), a British banker; Bill Anderson (Skarsgard), a Swedish novelist; and Sam Carmichael (Brosnan), an American architect. She hatches a plan to find out who her real father is by inviting all three men to the island to her wedding. All this goes on without her mother's and her fiancee's knowledge.

As the story dictates, all three men do arrive at Villa Donna, and when Donna finds them in her goat house, her perfect little world turns upside down.

It seems that 20 years ago, Donna and Sam had a beautiful love affair that ended abruptly when Sam left Donna because he was already engaged to be married to someone else. This devastated Donna who eventually found solace in the arms of Harry and Bill -- at different time intervals, of course. However, even Harry and Bill left Donna. Soon enough, she found out that she's pregnant, and thus decided to raise the child (Sophie) on her own.

Now the past is haunting Donna bigtime. As the movie progresses toward the climactic wedding scene, audiences will wait with bated breath as the identity of Sophie's father will be revealed -- or will it?

Please allow me to react to Meryl Streep's character in this movie:
grabe, ang haaaaaaba ng hair niya!

Once again, Meryl Streep has proven her versatility as an actress. After her rich, proper, and bitchy role in The Devil Wears Prada, I see her again in the type of role where I like her most: laidback, rugged, wrinkled, with unkempt blond locks framing her face. She plays her age in Mamma Mia, and I'm somehow reminded of her character in Bridges of Madison County, only that this is the singing version of her character. This movie may show her wrinkles, but boy, does she still have the moves! Streep may be no Ginger Rogers, but given the fact that she can still execute a mid-air split. I'd say that she's still one helluva dancer who's far from being afflicted with osteoarthritis!

The singing in Mamma Mia doesn't provide any great shakes, but with the likes of Brosnan and Streep belting out the tunes, that really counts for something. I already heard Streep singing in another movie, the title of which eludes my mind already, so I knew that she'd handle the singing task pretty well. But Brosnan? My jaw literally dropped when he started singing "Our Last Summer" with his fellow potential dads; moreso when he belted out "SOS" with Streep. His voice isn't Pavarotti- or even David Cook-quality, but at least he wasn't out of tune. In fact, he did sound...decent. I don't foresee any future concert performances topbilling Pierce, but I gotta hand it to this guy for actually trying everything before he dies. LOL! (Give me a chance with my evaluation of Pierce's singing: I'm still reeling in shock as of the moment that I'm writing this blog.)

For those who haven't seen Mamma Mia yet, don't leave the theater as soon as the credits roll. There's still something worth watching there. And if I may say so, that last performance of the main cast truly encapsulated their sentiments toward the shooting of the film. They were all there for one heck of a good time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Social Entrepreneur for President?

I came upon an article in the blogs from a relatively young Filipina writer who likens an ideal Philippine president to a social entrepreneur. I'd rather let her article do the talking instead:


Wanted: A president who can run the Philippines like a social enterprise
By Niña Terol
Author’s note: This is an abridged version of a blog post originally written for the Young Public Servants website. To view the full article, click on

I recently posed this challenge to some like-minded colleagues: draft a want ad for this country’s next president, then let’s see how we are able to articulate the skills, qualifications, and necessary track record of the Philippines’s Chief Executive. After all, we cannot even begin to seriously assess our current crop of presidential hopefuls if we don’t know what we are looking for in the first place. I honestly thought that it would be quite easy because the exercise had to be somewhat similar to writing an ad for a CEO of a large corporation. How hard could that be, right? (The power of Google, and cut and paste…)

Well, I apparently underestimated the task. While doing some online research on the subject it occurred to me that maybe my entire premise was wrong in the first place. The Philippines is not a large corporation. It is not large geographically, politically, economically, or even diplomatically the way the First World countries, or even China or India, are. It is not even a dark horse the way Russia is often viewed. In the local setting, the Philippines is not like one of those multinationals that are housed in one of the ritzier office spaces along Ayala Avenue. It might not even be located in any of the central business districts. If the Philippines were an enterprise, it could probably be considered a startup, or a relatively young SME at the most.

Therefore, the kind of president that we need is not somebody who will saunter into the office in an extremely expensive suit — with an army of executive assistants, senior vice presidents, and consultants in tow — and be a “boardroom executive.” We need someone who has the mindset of an entrepreneur and who will be able to dig through the mud (literally, sometimes) to get things done.

But because I’m a fan of social enterprises and social enterprises, I’d take it up a notch and venture to say that the Philippines could be likened to a social enterprise, and therefore needs a president who has the mindset of a social entrepreneur.

What’s in a social entrepreneur?
According to the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurs are “unusually courageous men and women that pursue their vision of a better world by applying extraordinary creativity and resourcefulness to some of the world’s most challenging issues. They are not just dreamers… They have the rare ability to ground their dreams in reality and translate them into pragmatic, goal-oriented and measurable action. As a result, they have produced some of the most innovative approaches to social, economic and political problems that continue to defy conventional means of action [boldface mine].”

On the other hand, Stacey Childress (2006) of the Harvard Business School, talks of the need for a “Theory of Change” — a belief about how actions will contribute to the fulfillment of a larger vision. This “theory” could be focused on either local or systemic change, but it has to define how the social enterprise’s activities will contribute to the big picture.

Social entrepreneurs, therefore, are visionaries — wild, passionate, big-picture thinkers — first and foremost. They are unafraid of dreaming of WHAT COULD BE; to them, “impossible” means “I’ll Make it POSSIBLE.” Who in our current crop of presidentiable-wannabes thinks that way?

Moreover, social entrepreneurs are able to link current gaps with current givens and future possibilities in ways that are extremely innovative, creative, “out of the universe” and yet very, very logical. They are unafraid of asking the important question — “Why not?” — and going, “What next?” For instance, one of my favorite social enterprises, Rags 2 Riches, linked the existing realities of dismal economic conditions in Payatas and the nanays’ current means of livelihood — rag-making — to the big dream of making “designer rags.” Throw renowned fashion designer Rajo Laurel into the mix, and you’ve got a kick-ass concept (which just recently won an international business plan competition) and beautiful bags that even Angelina Jolie will buy because (1) they’re great products and (2) they support fair trade.

Imagine this: If we could reinvent the Philippines using the social enterprise model, what would it look like? More importantly, are any of our politicians willing to take the risk of painstaking — but powerful — transformation? Or are they simply promising the same old Spartan slippers and simply rebranding them as Havaianas?

Social entrepreneurs also know what their goals look like and, therefore, how to know when they’ve already achieved them. Social enterprises are not just lofty causes filled with empty promises. At the heart of it all, social enterprises are income-generating operations for which metrics, indicators, and impact are very important. At the end of the day, we will know where we stand and what else we need to do to fill in the gaps.

Think about it: if we had a president who at the very least was as entrepreneurial, as passionate, as savvy, as creative, and as progressive as some of our country’s top (social) entrepreneurs, wouldn’t you feel a tad more hopeful about our future and more willing to help make things work?

Niña Terol, 28, is a writer, editor, communications consultant, and emerging social entrepreneur. She is also the Vice Chairperson for Internal Affairs of Team RP, a youth-led movement for truth, accountability, and reform in Philippine governance.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Change of Uniforms: the Sulpicio Lines Spectre

This news came as a shock to me. All this time, we've been counting the number of ships under the Sulpicio Lines fleet that sank with a high mortality rate, and we came up with four: the M/V Doña Paz, the M/V Doña Marilyn, the M/V Princess of the Orient, and most recently, the M/V Princess of the Stars.

Little do we know that there have been other ill-fated vessels carrying the Sulpicio Lines banner. Much of these accounts have already been buried under heaps of Philippine maritime history, but probably for the sake of everyone, especially for those who were lucky to have survived those tragedies, we shall unearth them.


GMA News Research found out that Sulpicio Lines owned the M/V Princess of the World. According to the report, The ship was near the Zamboanga peninsula when it caught fire on July 7, 2005. Fortunately, all 200 passengers of the vessel were rescued.


Here's something a little more spine-tingling coming from a survivor with a tale to tell. I found this from the
Letters to the Editor section of I'd rather let her tell her story through her article:

I wonder why the vessel MV Boholana Princess, also owned by Sulpicio Lines, is never mentioned among the Sulpicio vessels that sank. I also wonder why there was no news of the sinking at that time.

I was a passenger on that ill-fated voyage and here’s my first-hand account: MV Boholana Princess left Cebu for Ormoc at 11 p.m. on Dec. 15,1990. Past midnight, the boat suddenly tilted to the left at an angle of 45 degrees. Passengers were startled out of their sleep, wondering what was happening. But there was no announcement through the public address system, or word from the ship’s captain and crew, about what was going on.

The passengers then scrambled to get life jackets. It was so dark outside the boat that jumping into the sea never crossed our minds. We were stranded for hours. Fishermen arrived to rescue us. But up to that point, there was still no announcement from the captain or from any crew member about what was happening. Finally, we started to evacuate the sinking vessel—with help from the fishermen, but none from the crew. Eventually, we all made it out of the ship.

Oh, by the way, before we left the boat, a guy asked us to surrender the vests we were wearing because they belonged to Sulpicio Lines. Yes, this happened many years ago, but everything is still so vivid in my mind because that incident made me scared of riding boats. This may be hearsay: while we were still on board, there was talk that the boat had hit a reef while the crew were in a drinking session. Still, we were all just grateful to God that nobody perished in that accident. It was all that mattered to us then—that we all came out of the accident alive.

In retrospect, we could have filed a suit against Sulpicio Lines because there was no announcement from the captain and crew about what had happened, and there was no rescue effort initiated by Sulpicio Lines.

Maybe the incident was never reported because there was no casualty. But all the passengers felt that the accident was caused by gross negligence. I hope an investigation into this incident will be conducted, because that will establish that MV Princess of the Stars was the fifth—not the fourth—Sulpicio ship to sink.


We checked this account with the Philippine Coast Guard. It is indeed on record that MV Boholana Princess, among 14 Sulpicio vessels that figured in an accident between 1986 and 1998, ran aground in 1990.—Ed


Maybe Sulpicio Lines should try batting for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the shipping company with the most passenger deaths? Oh, wait: I think they already got a slot from the Doña Paz sinking alone. I think that incident was recorded as the worst-ever peacetime sea tragedy.

I should know. the Doña Paz and the Doña Marilyn brought down with them people from my province in Leyte. These two ships were plying the Manila-Tacloban route when tragedy struck.

I will always remember that December in 1987 when Doña Paz sank. Everyone from Region 8 (Leyte, Samar, and Biliran) had a relative or two who went down with the ship. That was a very dark Christmas for all of us. Instead of celebrating the Yuletide season, days were spent attempting to identify bodies that were charred beyond recognition. For those who went to the Rizal Memorial Stadium where the bodies were brought, the stench of death and formalin was simply too overpowering.

Now, I am seeing the same situation with the M/V Princess of the Stars.

Apparently, the people of Sulpicio Lines still aren't affected by the fact that their hands are stained with the blood of all the victims of their negligence and greed. For them, paying up would somehow absolve them of their sins.

But tell me: how can you possibly equate a measly P200,000 with, let's say, a student who will never be able to complete his/her studies because he/she went down with a Sulpicio Lines boat?

These people of Sulpicio Lines may just as well be exchanging their uniforms for black cloaks while holding a scythe. For as long as their passenger vessels are still on the water, we'll never know who these Grim Reapers' next set of victims will be.

Down with Superheroes in Tights: Hancock is Here!

Take heed, all ye who have since grown out of those childish superhero-worshipping days! I implore upon you enlightened souls to watch Hancock!

Yup, fellow mortals who barf at the sight of flying men in tights, Hancock is the movie to watch, primarily because it's not your typical superhero movie. In fact, it actually scoffs at superhero stereotypes. The slogan says it all: Hancock, not your average superhero.

And what a choice for an actor to play the lead role: Will Smith! I loved this guy from Day One when he was still in those confused-teenager-rapper-brotha-in-the-hood stages of his career. Now, the movie gods have bestowed superpowers on him and he's flying like a drunk (Wait: he really IS drunk!) gull on amphetamines, whizzing over Los Angeles and creating damage on anything he touches. No bit of sarcasm here: Will Smith's got the Up-Yours personality really down pat as Hancock!

I understand that this movie will be receiving mixed reviews, considering that there are those who still adhere to the principles propagated by the likes of Batman and Wolverine. Oh heck, let them stick to the boring run-of-the-mill superheroes -- I'll have Hancock any day!

Audiences will be seeing Hancock doing more damage than good -- but it's not really what he intends. Well...yeah, he intended for those mishaps to happen, but let it be said that the whole point underneath those careless adventures was noble in nature. There were a bunch of gun-toting kids racing along the freeway -- Hancock skewered their car to a building's spire. A guy was stuck in the middle of traffic, and his car was about to be pummeled by a train -- Hancock smashed the train to a stop and one-handedly flipped the doomed guy's car over to avoid the crash. (Well yeah, he could have flew upwards carrying the car with him, but that's not his style.) He drinks like there's no tomorrow, his mouth is in desperate need of soaping, and he has the remarkable ability to send even school kids flying to the heavens upon utterance of the word, "asshole." Yes, Hancock's an asshole, and that's why I love him! Let the angsty Bruce Wayne and the lovestruck Peter Parker beat that!

In the middle of the movie, the same guy Hancock saves from the train mishap tries to "remodel" his image from good-for-nothing drunkard with superpowers to the superhero everyone will be calling for. In one scene, Ray (the PR guy from the train mishap) brings Hancock to his house and shows him covers of superhero comic books. Here is their gem of a conversation:

Ray: (Holding a comic book with a flying superhero) What comes into your mind when you see this?
Hancock: Hmmmm...homo.
Ray: (Shows next comic book cover) What about this?
Hancock: Homo in red?
Ray: (Shows another comic book cover. Superhero in picture has wavy blond locks) How about this?
Hancock: Norwegian homo?

If you are into political correctness, Hancock is not the movie to see.

Ray's wife, Mary, has surprises of her own. She is introduced in the movie as a woman who dislikes Ray's sudden connection with Hancock. I don't want to reveal what happens next, only that Mary apparently has a stronger connection with Hancock than her husband. Oh, and I should mention that the role of Mary is played by the beautiful Charlize Theron. This gal has one weather-altering secret that only Hancock will be able to bring into light.

Unlike other superhero movies with a climactic fight-to-the-death scene toward the end, this does not happen with Hancock. Instead, one will find a mortally-wounded Hancock doing the only thing he knows to save the one woman who mattered to him in his entire life -- leave her.

Like I said, this isn't your typical superhero movie. They usually get the girl in the end. Hancock doesn't. Nonetheless, all's well that ends well. Roll out the credits.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Is a News Story Worth Dying for? (The Ces Drilon Hostage Drama)

I already mentioned before that there was a time in my distant past when I got to work with the now-famous ABS-CBN senior reporter Ces Oreña Drilon. I got to know Ces as a go-getter, a "babaeng bakla," and a woman who knows no boundaries when running after a story. These are all the ingredients that made Ces the respected broadcaster she is today.

However, this time Ces has finally recognized her own boundaries.


I think it was last June 9 when I first heard the news about the abduction of Ces and her news crew in Sulu. When ABS-CBN initially aired the news about their missing crew without giving too much detail, the first thing that came into my mind was, "Uh-oh, Ces has really done it this time."

Ces has survived so many life-threatening situations in the past but this time, I was really doubting that she was going to successfully get out of this recent scrape alive. She outran a cascading pyroclastic cloud during the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption. She escaped a fiery death after their OBB van was tipped over and set on fire by thugs. She braved tear gas during the more recent Manila Peninsula siege. All these instances paled in comparison to her brush with the terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf. Basing my idea on past reports of Abu Sayyaf hostage takings that usually ended up in one fine bloody mess, I was fearing the worst for Ces and her companions. I mean, this is a freaking terrorist group we're talking about here, not a volcano or a bunch of disgruntled military officers.

All throughout the crisis, the combined forces of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) as well as senior executives of the News and Public Affairs Division of ABS-CBN stood firm on their no-ransom policy. However, days after the release, news floated among media circles that there was actually an exchange of ransom money amounting to millions just to get the hostages out of the terrorists' lair. Whatever the truth is regarding this, we will never know.

Everyone sighed in relief after Ces et al were released about ten days after their abduction. However, another personality stepped into the limelight: Sen. Loren Legarda. While some were suspicious of Loren's presence in the resolution of the hostage crisis, I'd like to believe that Loren was there not as a politician but as Ces' long-time friend and former ABS-CBN colleague.

Ces later revealed that there was treachery involved in their abduction. Apparently, someone literally "fed them to the lions," so to say. At present, the father-and-son tandem of the Isnajis -- a political clan in Sulu -- who acted as negotiators are now being suspected as being in cahoots with the hostage-takers.


What struck me the most about this entire hostage crisis was Ces' admission that she became too bold and reckless in her desire to get a good story. She went to Sulu with plans to interview a notorious rebel, and in the process of getting a news exclusive, she eventually ended up becoming the news. "It was a humbling experience," she said as she wiped away tears during their first press con after their release.

Ces learned her lesson the hard way. But have other gung-ho journalists learned theirs?

The local media has many other journalists out there who may probably be more ambitious than Ces. They are the kind who would destroy their own friends or would even kill just to get ahead on the news. I know some of these people, but I'd rather not name them. They know who they are.


From what I remember in media ethics, a journalist should know whether or not to divulge certain information they come upon. The easiest way to determine whether to come out with potentially-dangerous news items or not is through asking oneself: how many people will benefit from this information? If a vast majority is bound to benefit from one's information, much to the detriment of a few, then this news item is worth pursuing and releasing.

However, such a rule also has its limitations. If a media person's life becomes at stake with the release of potentially-dangerous information, then this mortality factor must seriously be considered. This is something the ABS-CBN news team overlooked in their ill-fated visit to Sulu -- their safety.

I have always believed in the tenet that there is no market for dead professionals, no matter how brilliant or dedicated they are. The same tenet goes to our over-zealous media people. However, I'd rather let my school mentor and former dean of the UP College of Mass Communication, Prof. Luis Teodoro, put it more eloquently: "There is no news story that's worth giving one's life for."