Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Recession

"You should not be choosy with food," the father said to his daughter. "People are losing their jobs."

"Including you?" the daughter asked.

"Yes."

"So, what will you do?"

"I will drive a cab."

A tear rolled down her cheek.

"Why?" the father asked.

"You can do better than that," she said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Imagine the pain

Broken arm

Early the next morning.

"Hello? Why are you not answering the phone?"

"I'm here in the hospital."

"With our brother?"

"No. With the woman she crashed into."

"What?"

"She has a broken arm and a lump on her head. The doctor said she needs a CT scan too."

"Where's brother?"

"I don't know. I think he will be rushed to Cebu. There are no instruments in our hospitals here."

"How about the woman?"

"She said she drank Tanduay earlier in the day and felt lightheaded when she crossed the street to wait for a tricycle. Then she saw a motorcycle coming. That's the last thing she could remember."

"Text me when they die!"

"OK."

Broken head

It was in the middle of the night when my sister called.

"Our brother broke his head," my sister said.

"Is he still alive?" I asked.

"I think so. I talked to him just now while he was wheeled into the emergency room," sister said.

"Will he survive?"

"I don't know. I saw a crack on his head."

"Shit," I said. "Why are you calling?"

"We have no money," she said.

Shit!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The hunger we face

It was surreal.

While an aid agency representative talked about hunger and poverty, a uniformed waiter asked journalists attending a press conference what they prefer for breakfast – bangus belly or chicken-pork adobo.

The woman aid worker narrated how a poor wife somewhere in Africa had to boil water for dinner so that her children could go to sleep. As she talked, forks and spoons clashed over steaming white rice topped with soft egg and achara at the restaurant.

I understand what hunger and poverty is. I understand the dilemma aid workers and nongovernment groups face when they try to put across their message to the public via the media. I understand why only few journalists attended the press con. (It was embarrassing to touch the bangus belly breakfast laid in front of me by the uniformed waiter.)

The world marks World Food Day this week amid the hunger and food insecurity. Hunger and poverty, Lan Mercado of Oxfam, said are here to stay unless the government implements policies to address these threats to our survival.

Mercado’s organization released this week a study that calls on everyone to learn “lessons” from the food price crisis that became more apparent in the Philippines early this year after the price of rice jumped more than a hundred percent.

“Double Edged Prices,” Oxfam’s study, found out that small farmers in developing countries have not benefited from higher food prices partly because of flawed trade and agricultural policies.

Kalayaan Pulido-Constantino, also of Oxfam-Philippines, agreed that the government has indeed a responsibility to address the problem. The Arroyo administration might have exerted efforts to mitigate the situation, but these efforts are not enough.

The reality on the ground consists of structural problems, corruption and even governance, which should be more transparent. Civil society groups must continue to play an active role in monitoring, for instance, money allocated for agriculture.

‘Double Edged Prices’

Oxfam’s study noted that while the world’s attention is currently focused on the global financial crisis, “a large part of the world is also immersed in a dramatic increase in food prices and an equally sharp rise in the price of fuel.”

Prices of staple foods have increased from 30 per cent to 150 per cent in 2007 and 2008. At least 290 million people in countries most vulnerable to the crisis are at risk of falling into poverty.

But while poor farmers and communities in countries like the Philippines face the brunt of the economic crisis, many in the food business appear to be cashing in on the situation. For instance, Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Foods, a major player in Asia, is forecasting revenue growth of 237 percent this year; Nestlé's global sales grew 8.9 percent in the first half of 2008; Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, reported a 26 percent increase in revenues from March to May 2008. UK supermarket Tesco has reported a record 10 percent jump in profits from last year.

The impact of the crisis could have been prevented, Oxfam stated in its report. “If rich countries, donors, and developing country governments had invested in smallholder agriculture over the past two decades, poor countries and communities would now be far less vulnerable.”

The group observed that the global response to the food prices crisis has been inadequate, in contrast with the response to the current financial crisis, where huge financial resources have been mobilized by the international community in a matter of days.

Countries suffering from the food crisis received promises of just $12.3 billion at the Rome FAO conference in June 2008, short of UN estimates of the $25b-$40b needed (and five months on, little more than $1bn has been disbursed).

Unfortunate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Readings

I've been reading these days three books, and all of these are about conflict.

First on the list is Paul McGeough's "In Baghdad," his journal of his coverage of the invasion of Iraq.

McGeough, an Australian journalist, wrote about the death of innocent people, the spins made by the regime of Saddam Hussein and the propaganda war waged by the American government.

Part of the book's back cover reads: "His personal diaries are a unique insight into life for reporters behind enemy lines - from the stress of colleagues dying around them to daily battles with a regime that saw them virtually become human shields and always potential hostages."

Then there's Kevin Sites' "In the Hot Zone" that reads like an adventure novel on how one journalist travels from one conflict area to another.

A friend gave me Ishmael Beah's "A long way gone," a true story of a child soldier from Sierra Leone.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Must write whatever

There's a lot of catching up these days - the file of books on the table is growing like the pile of dirt on some streets of the city, the ideas for articles that must be written for some publication have already evaporated into thin air like the smoke that comes out of one's lungs, the deadlines, the plans, the dreams, the rain.

There seems to be no end to the wandering mind, no end to grappling the meaning of things around while trying to put one's feet on the ground and one's head above the crowd.

Mixing metaphors and convoluted sentences seem to be the norm. It's not supposed to happen except when one lets oneself float into the midst of experimentation, which I am good at that's why my stories never won an award at the Ustetika when it was revived in the mid-80s.

Do people these days have to write like that to express themselves, to sound stupid and be "in" in whatever "new trend?"

Whatever!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bookfair 2008

After a night of music Friday evening, I went to the MOA-SMX for the annual Philippine International Bookfair.

This year's buys include:

Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech (Craig Silverman)
Turning Back the Clock by Umberto Eco
Peeling the Onion by Gunter Grass (Biography)
Rumi's Spiritual Verses
Visnu Sarma's The Pancatantra
Don Marquis'The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel
Infotopia by Cass Sunstein
Essential Whitman
Jason and the Golden Fleece (Apollonius)
Burmese Days by George Orwell
People before Profit by Charles Derber

Friday, September 12, 2008

US elections

US Embassy officials here in Manila did a great job holding a briefing on the US elections for media practitioners. (Despite our being a former colony of the US, it's amazing to know that many of us don't even understand the politics of our colonizers!)

One reason may be why we also don't understand our own politics or how politicians play with us.

Although I was an hour late for the presentation, I enjoyed the question-and-answer portion of the briefing. I realized that indeed Filipinos still have to read a lot to understand a lot - not only US elections. (Some questions were just wacky!)

On another note, I was reading about Palin's candidacy in the Wall Street Journal and was impressed by how she readily answered the issues raised against her. I still have to read the latest issue of Time where she is the cover girl.

By the way, I was glad to meet old friends this week. First, my dear friend Mujiv celebrated his birthday yesterday with a lot of food. (I only ate the shrimps and crabs, with no rice!)

I had another dinner last night with Fr. Bong Dilag to discuss possible projects that could help the Claretian congregation's mission in the Philippines. Arnie, another former seminarian is also in Manila for a ten-day visit, hopefully to share his blessings with our brothers still in formation.

Well, I'm excited to visit the annual book fair this weekend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On the libel case vs staff of the defunct Chronicle

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility released the following news article that summarizes the details of a Court of Appeals decision on the libel case filed by a businessman against the staff of the defunct Manila Chronicle.

Saying it would have "a devastating and catastrophic effect on the freedom of speech and of the press," on 28 August 2008 the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed its 18 March decision which upheld a guilty verdict for libel on the staff members of a defunct newspaper.

In its 10-page decision, the CA's Special Former 15th Division granted the petition filed by the staff members of the defunct newspaper "Manila Chronicle". The newspaper staff had asked the appellate court to reconsider its 18 March decision which upheld a 2002 Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) ruling ordering them to pay businessman Alfonso Yuchengco P101 million (approx. US$1.9 million in 2002) worth of damages and legal fees.

The appellants-respondents included The Manila Chronicle Publishing Corp., owner Robert Cuyuito Jr., and editors and reporters Neal Cruz, Ernesto Tolentino, Noel Cabrera, Thelma San Juan, Gerry Zaragosa, Donna Gatdula, Raul Valino, and Rodney Diola.

The "Manila Chronicle" filed a motion for reconsideration before the Court of Appeals questioning the 8 November 2002 decision of Makati RTC Branch 136 finding them guilty of libel. The libel case stemmed from a series of articles published in November and December 1994 in the paper, calling Yuchengco a "Marcos crony" and a "'corporate raider' who engaged in dubious financial transactions," the "Philippine Journalism Review" reported in its December 2002 issue.

In its 18 March decision penned by Associate Justice Agustin Dizon, the online news site GMANews.TV reported, the appellate court denied the "Manila Chronicle"'s motion for reconsideration, saying there was a "preponderance of evidence" to prove there was actual malice in the publication of the articles. It also said the newspaper failed to get Yuchengco's side, and that Cuyuito abused his power as chair and owner of the newspaper to publish defamatory reports against Yuchengco. Cuyuito and Yuchengco are both in the insurance business and were allegedly battling over the ownership of Oriental Petroleum and Mineral Resources Corp. at that time, GMANews.TV noted.

However, on 28 August, the CA's Special Former 15th Division said it found no actual malice in the articles. "The records are bereft of proof of actual malice on the part of the defendants-appellants for the imputations made in the subject articles," said the decision penned by Associate Justice Amelita Tolentino, as quoted by the newspaper "The Manila Times".

It also recognized that the previous decision put aside the appellants' arguments that the articles fell under privileged communication as stated in the Constitution and that its subjects are of public interest, the "Manila Times" reported. The "Manila Chronicle" reports involved publicly listed companies like the Benguet Corp., the Oriental Petroleum and Mineral Resources Corp., and the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., which are of great interest to the general public especially small investors, the "Manila Times" reported.

It further noted that the 18 March ruling neglected to note that Yuchengco is a public figure who has served in various government posts, the "Malaya" newspaper said. Yuchengco has been the presidential adviser on foreign affairs since January 2004.

The CA explained that this makes "good intention and justifiable motive" and truth acceptable defense, "Malaya" reported. "The interest of society and maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public affairs. Complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the case of free speech. Men in the public eye may suffer under the hostile and unjust accusation (but) the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience," the decision pointed out. - CMFR

Election season

The election season has started in the Philippines.

In the middle of the storm right now is the most vocal presidential contender Manny Villar.

Villar has been accused of having a hand in the "road-to-nowhere" controversy that Senator Panfilo Lacson wanted to investigate.

In fairness to Lacson, also a presidential contender, he only called on Villar to look into the possible anomalous allocation of funds in the road project.

Ironically, Villar issued a statement Monday that he wanted the proposed 2009 General Appropriation Act to pass closer scrutiny in both houses of Congress.

And while all these political storm brew in Manila, people in Mindanao, especially in the autonomous region, are leaving their homes for fear that they might be caught in the middle of armed clashes between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

SpinSpotter

There’s this new computer software dubbed SpinSpotter, which I tried but failed to make it work this evening.

The idea behind the new software is to spot biased news stories on the Net.

If it will just work properly it would be a great help for journalists, editors especially, to spot errors in stories. It will also help readers “read between the lies” in media.

A story in the Wall Street Journal today said the software is supposed to flag and comment on questionable content using a guide to potential inaccuracies and biases created by a panel of journalists.

I installed the program on my desktop (Note: It only works on Firefox 3.1) and tried to flag stories on GMANews.TV. I thought that it would automatically lock into errors (for instance a sentence that is in the passive form), but it is the user who has to highlight the error and identify it.

I haven’t fully studied the program, but the idea is interesting.

Friday, August 08, 2008

On second thought

I changed my mind. I think I'm not getting that Acer Aspire One. I might go for the full notebook instead of a sub-notebook.

* * *

The Beijing Olympics opened this evening. I've waited for some time for the Philippine delegation during the parade of participating countries. Unfortunately, when the Philippines' time to show up came, it only merited about three seconds on TV.

* * *

Another journalist has been killed. I had several interviews and most of the questions asked by colleagues is: What can we do to stop the attacks?

What should we do? If only I know.

What I know is that government must do something more to look for the perpetrators of crimes - all crimes, not only those committed against media practitioners.

Second, we should always be careful.

Third. I really don't know. How can one fight evil?

* * *

888

What in the world am I doing at past two in the morning when people are asleep?

What in the world one must do when life is short and there's a lot to enjoy - books, the Internet, stories of people (the ordinary and not-so-ordinary), the silence of the night, the noise of the city, stringing up words that nobody read.

* * *

The Olympics will start later today. I will be there, albeit virtually.

* * *

Some people have been waiting for this day - 888 (August 8, 2008) - when luck is supposed to hit those who believe.

I will most likely sleep the whole morning, grant an interview for, all of publications, a real estate magazine, spend the evening monitoring the news from Beijing, and hoping to have that Acer Aspire One from Singapore by next week.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back to the city

I'm back in Manila after spending a week under the sun. I'm back in front of my computer, back driving in the city, back to meeting people and talking about theories, concepts and plots.

It's simpler in the province. There, I wake up early in the morning, listen to the birds, look out the window into the wide expanse of fields and mountains, start the day with a breakfast of fresh fruits, vegetables and seafoods, give a talk to kids who dream of becoming nurses and caregivers abroad, take a swim in the sea, eat, drink, sleep.

Out there there's life. Here in the city, one has to find one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Going on vacation

It has been a while since I went on a real vacation. It was a pleasure to have it last week, at least for three days.

I went swimming, walking, driving to the mountains, eating and chatting with dear old friends and former classmates.

As I've written in my other blog, the sea in my hometown is still salty, the trees green and the sunshine still stings - and I love it there.

And what's more important, there was no need for me to spend that much to enjoy life. Lying down on the sand while gazing at the wide expanse of sky is free.

I'm looking forward to that next vacation!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

At the JVO Journalism Awards


Ma'am Melinda, ano po ang ulam? Gutom na 'ko e...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The ‘culture of impunity’ and press freedom

Among journalists in the field, there is no doubt about the so-called “culture of impunity.” Although many among media practitioners don’t know what this “culture” means, much more understand its nuances, they know that impunity stares at them every moment of their lives – killers drink with them Friday evenings, masterminds of heinous crimes attend Mass with them on Sundays, drug traffickers and pickpockets, kidnappers and even terrorists are sources of information.

Through the years, Filipino journalists, especially those based in the provinces, have become witnesses of how society and its actors – criminals, government officials, the police and the military – work. Journalists do their job– to witness and chronicle events around them. There was a time in the past that the media and media practitioners played active roles in resolving conflicts.

There was also a time, not so long ago, that from the eyes of criminals, the media and media practitioners were not threats to illegal activities. There were times that even some media practitioners were into illegal activities themselves or were involved in some illicit acts.

The media and most media practitioners are well aware how wide and broad the reach of criminals. Journalists know how criminals work. That is why when media practitioners became the target, they were afraid.

In the early 1990s, I went home to Mindanao to write a story about a family of politicians who lorded it over in at least three provinces since 1945. Many of their political opponents were killed, lawyers who handled the cases of the victims were either killed, threatened or "bought." So were the judges and prosecutors. I still remember how one courageous prosecutor was ambushed while he was on his way to court one early Monday morning. I wrote the family’s story. My report came out in the front pages of several national and local papers. Days later, some of the newspapers retracted the story and apologized, one continued to publish my follow-up reports and was sued. The editor of the local paper that reprinted the story was killed. I haven’t dared go back to that province. The family of warlords still reigns, although some of them met violent ends. Nobody dared to write another story about that family.

In a celebrated case of a journalist’s murder, the gunman was convicted, but was not brought to the national penitentiary until media groups discovered that the convict was operating a videoke bar beside the provincial jail and was playing tennis with the jail warden once a week. The mastermind or masterminds of the murder are still at large. A high-ranking intelligence official in the province said he has an inkling who the mastermind was, a gun for hire said he knows the mastermind. The gunman refused to talk. Those in the know said the gunman prefers to be in jail and keep his silence than end up silenced. Local journalists who knew the real story left the profession and also kept their silence. I tried to do a story about it and ended up being the subject of privilege speech in Congress and declared persona non grata in that province.

In another case of media killing where a policeman was charged, a witness was arrested by police officers inside the courtroom when he was about to testify. The arresting officers said the witness was a suspect in an estafa case. The judge did not do anything. There was no objection from anyone. The case remains in limbo.

In the case of the killing of an environmental journalist somewhere in Luzon, the gunmen confessed to the crime. He said the mastermind was the town mayor who was not charged by the prosecutors. Media groups raised hell until the Justice department transferred the case to Manila. The mayor was arrested and charged but tried to negotiate a deal with the victim’s family.

These are clear examples how impunity in the cases of the killings of journalists in the country hinders, if not threatens, press freedom. Based on the list by the National Union of Journalists, 93 journalists were killed for whatever reason since 1986. Whether their deaths were related to their work or not is supposed to be for the courts to determine. But until now, the cases are not prospering in the courts. In the few instances when cases prospered, people in power – politicians and even some police officers, were involved.

There are many reasons given why the cases are not moving. The media understand these reasons. Journalists talk to lawyers, judges, and attend court hearings. Many reporters even go to law school. The media can understand the many weaknesses in the system. What is difficult to understand, however, is the seeming apathy even among people who are supposed to be in the know – journalists and lawyers – in responding to the situation. In 2005, there were about 50 journalists killed since 1986, but nobody wrote about it, talked about it, met about it, much more file a case in court, until the international community started to look into the situation.

Who would want to write about what’s really going on in the southern Philippines? Who would want to write about drug syndicates and kidnap-for-ransom syndicates? Who would dare talk about the real story of the Abu Sayyaf, the corruption in government involving those in power? Nobody seems to dare write about the truth these days because people – witnesses, journalists, lawyers – are afraid. Because those who dare talk are silenced and those behind the attacks of journalists and lawyers remain unpunished. What press freedom? There is none until the so-called culture of impunity continues to reign in this country.

(This is an edited version of the author’s speech before prosecutors, members of the Philippine Bar and representatives of various international lawyers group and civil society groups during the “International Training Course on the Investigation and Prosecution of Extrajudicial Killings, Enforced Disappearances and Torture for Public Prosecutors and Legal Practitioners” in Subic, Zambales over the weekend.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Inquirer Editorial: Judgment call

The tragedy of the kidnapping of television journalist Ces Oreña Drilon and her intrepid crew has been compounded by the length of time it took the story to emerge. It happened on Sunday; most of the news media knew about it, at the latest, early Monday; but it didn’t reach public knowledge, at the earliest, until Monday night.

It was the government propaganda machine that made an embargo moot and academic—in direct contrast to the usual official line that the media are reckless in their quest for a scoop. When state-owned television channel NBN-4 broke the story in its Monday evening news broadcast, the authorities quite consciously got the ball rolling, which made Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye’s subsequent appeal (“Likewise, we appeal for caution and restraint in media reportage as not to unduly hamper efforts to rescue them”) the height of official hypocrisy.

Although a radio station aired a flash report on the kidnapping, it didn’t repeat the story. Many other news outfits were prepared to run it, but ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. news and current affairs head Maria Ressa appealed to rival news organizations to embargo, or withhold, the story until 6 a.m. on Tuesday. Her argument was that things on the grounds were so confused at that point, and that ABS-CBN had to be quite fearful for the lives of its people. We believe that the concern about the situation turning more volatile—possibly fatally—because of premature reporting was valid.

The peace and order situation has been brittle in Mindanao for some time. Any initial reports on the kidnapping of Drilon and her companions would have immediately escalated the situation.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, through its president, Jose Torres of GMANews.tv, said, “If that story came out, it might have angered the abductors and the captors could have been harmed.” He knows whereof he speaks, having published a book on the Abu Sayyaf’s kidnappings. Media outfits are aware of the peculiarities of the Abu Sayyaf; and how it has a fetish for journalists and doesn’t treat them with kid gloves, as Arlyn de la Cruz recounted in Wednesday’s issue. It is this familiarity with the dynamics of a kidnapping that ultimately informed the decision of organizations to consider ABS-CBN’s appeal for a temporary embargo on the news. This was not a case of professional solidarity trumping public interest, but precisely, public interest demanding a thorough vetting of the story before its release to a society already jittery about renewed prospects for conflict in Mindanao.

Which is not to say the media haven’t been taken to task for what one respected voice in Philippine journalism bluntly called an attempt by ABS-CBN to “manage the news.” Vergel Santos said “People there [in Sulu] can be lulled into a false sense of security,” and for that reason, “the complete story had to be given to cover all possibilities and lessen speculation.” But people in the area most certainly knew what had transpired, as the fairly regular updates coming from concerned members of the Mindanao People’s Caucus will attest.

With tensions in Muslim Mindanao running high, and the military, among other institutions, primed to shoot first and ask questions later because of having been caught flatfooted by the bombings in recent weeks, reporting a suspect could have led to either a wild goose chase or a crescendo of noise from all sorts of groups claiming responsibility merely to hog the headlines.

A case in point showing how confusing things were was the spectacle of authorities publicly mulling over whether one of the kidnap victims, Professor Octavio Dinampo of the Mindanao State University might have been in cahoots with the kidnappers. And yet Dinampo is well known in NGO circles as president of the Mindanao People’s Caucus, which has been active in the promotion of the peace process. This suggests to us the mistrust with which the authorities view Muslims in general, and anyone not subscribing hook, line and sinker to the government’s “message of the day” concerning Mindanao.

We are, however, duty-bound to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves. Torres says the consideration given ABS-CBN should now be extended to the families of all kidnap victims. In this sense, the decision among rival media outfits to respect ABS-CBN’s request for an embargo means that a policy shift has taken place. An embargo should now be standard operating procedure for all the media in the initial hours of a kidnapping.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Appeal for release of journalists missing in Sulu

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is deeply concerned over the reported abduction of broadcast journalist Ces Drilon, her crew, Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, and their host, peace advocate Octavio Dimampo, in Sulu by what authorities say are members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Whatever the abductors stand for, whatever their goals are, there is absolutely no justification for seizing journalists whose sole concern is to seek out the truth and present this as accurately as possible.

To them, we say, release Ces, Jimmy, Angelo and Mr. Dinampo. Seizing them cannot in any way serve your ends and can only bring down condemnation on your heads.

We call on authorities to exert all efforts to ensure the safe return of the journalists and their host. We are also urging for sobriety among our colleagues in the media in reporting about the incident so as not to aggravate the situation and endanger Drilon and her companions.

We are only too aware of the risks journalists go through in our work. Too many journalists are sent into dangerous coverage situations without adequate preparations and safety measures. Many silently bear the scars and traumas of their coverage, with hardly any support from those who profit from their toil. It is time Philippine media owners soberly assess the situation and take steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues oftentimes caught in the line of fire just to get the news out.

To the families of Ces, Jimmy, Angelo, and Mr. Dimampo, we are one with you in praying for their safe return.

Joe Torres
Chairman - NUJP

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The team that was


Kapamilya noon, originally uploaded by Joe Torres.

We were together once...

Hanapin si Dencio!


May extra sa kanan!, originally uploaded by Joe Torres.

Ok na sana ang pose namin ni Vanessa, pero umekstra pala si Papa Dennis, hehe

Pamalo


Lakwatsa sa Mines View, originally uploaded by Joe Torres.

Joe: Matigas kaya 'to?

Van: Subukan mo sa noo mo...

Joe: Paluin kaya kita, hehehe

Karne o...


Karne o..., originally uploaded by Joe Torres.

Payat pa ko noon, hehe

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thanks to Vic; Congrats to the GMANews.TV team

Dropping the (news) ball

(From Mr Vic Agustin's Cocktales)

Both the Inquirer and the ABS-CBN Web sites devote considerable money and personnel to be THE Philippine news portal but, in yesterday’s coverage of Meralco shareholders’ meeting, the GMA site was miles ahead of the two competitors.

As early as 8:48 a.m., the GMA Web site already had a curtain-raiser on the tumultuous meeting, slugged “Boos, pro-Lopez chants greet GSIS chief at Meralco.”

Its second take came at 9:38 a.m., “SEC to take over Meralco stockholders’ meeting.”

Despite its access to its affiliated Manila Electric Co., ABS-CBN only posted its first take on the day’s unfolding battle more than half an hour late, an eternity in broadcast terms, with its first story “SEC halts Meralco board election” being uploaded only at 10:16 a.m.

The Inquirer, whose owners are related by affinity to both the Lopezes and the Romualdezes, uncharacteristically took on a glacial pace, posting its first story by lunchtime, “Meralco defies SEC order, calling it ‘null and void’.”

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sa Borobudur



Borobudur is a ninth century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome is located at the center of the top platform, and is surrounded by seventy-two Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa.

The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path circumambulating the monument while ascending to the top through the three levels of Buddhist cosmology, namely, Kamadhatu (the world of desire); Rupadhatu (the world of forms); and Arupadhatu (the world of formless). During the journey, the monument guides the pilgrims through a system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the wall and the balustrades.

Evidence suggests Borobudur was abandoned following the fourteenth century decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam. It was rediscovered in 1814 by Sir Thomas Raffles, the British ruler of Java. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage, where once a year Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction. - wikipedia

Photo courtesy of May Velous/Malaysia

How media failed in covering terrorism (Some thoughts from a conference)

Misreporting of information is one reason why the situation hasn't improved in the fight against terror. Media is partly to blame. The basics of journalism were not observed. In most reports multiple sourcing were not used, words were used without any definition, jargons were all over stories.

These were some issues raised in one of the sessions in this week's intermedia dialogue in Bali. There were more issues/concerns raised. There were long discussions, lengthy meetings, debates, like in any other meeting.

So what's the next move? Where is the media in this age of globalization going? Will we continue to be relevant to our readers? Is there really a difference now between what we call the Western press and those working in countries like the Philippines?

You can imagine how difficult it is when more than a hundred journalists from almost a hundred countries come together in one room and talk?

The atmosphere is different in the evenings when they gather in the hotel bar to share a beer and talk about their exploits. Conferences like this is a kind of soul searching for us in the media.

Bali

7 May 2008
11 p.m.

Just got out of the hot tub. I just have to have a smoke. I deserve a hot bath and a stick of cigarette. I have been sitting the whole day in the Third Global Inter-Media Conference here at the Grand Hyatt in Bali, Indonesia. A lot of challenges facing media have been discussed, primarily the problem of corruption and unethical media practices.

It has been a long trip yesterday. I left Manila 8 in the morning, arrived in Singapore (where a Filipina saleslady convinced me to buy the latest Giorgio Armani perfume for men) at about lunch time, took another plane to Jakarta, where I transferred to a domestic airline (Garuda) for the one-hour-and-a-half bumpy plane ride to Bali.

I haven't been around yet. From the airport I went straight to the hotel. It was already evening, so there was not much to see along the way. An expensive batik polo shirt was waiting for me, courtesy of the Indonesian government, for the formal dinner in the evening with the Foreign Minister. It was a fun night of Bali culture – dance, songs, etc – that I was moved to buying two carvings – an Indonesian rice god and Rama and Sita.


I spent time attending all the sessions, taking down notes, interviewing media experts from around the world – about a hundred-and-thirty of us – and, of course, eating. I had three medium grilled lobsters during dinner the first night!

So now, to my cigarette before I indulge myself with a restful night that I haven't had for some time now.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Pinoy humor daw (forwarded)

Mrs. Tanoy is a very kuripot Ilocana. When her husband died, she inquired with the newspaper, asking the price for the obituary.
The ad taker said: "300 pesos for 6 words."
She said: "Pwede ba 2 words na lang? 'TANOY DEAD', para mura."
Ad taker: "No Mom. 6 words is the minimum."
After thinking for a while, Mrs. Tanoy said: "Ok, para sulit ang aking pera, ilagay mo, "TANOY DEAD, HIS TOYOTA FOR SALE."

------------

Boy: Nanay, anong ulam natin?
Nanay: Tignan mo na lang dyan sa ref, anak.
Boy: Eh wala naman tayong ref, di ba?
Nanay: O, e di wala tayong ulam. Konting common sense naman dyan!

------------

Caloy: Tay, di ba sabi mo bibigyan mo ko ng P100 pag pumasa ako sa Math?
Tatay: Oo. Bakit, pumasa ka ba?
Caloy: Gud news, tay! Di ka na gagastos ng P100,
bumagsak ako.

------------

Man at 33 quits smoking. That's Will Power
At 43, quits drinking. That's Will Power
At 53, quits gambling. That's Will Power
At 63, quits having sex. And that's Power Failure!

------------

Kano (trying to speak Tagalog): Meg-kanow isang kilow mang-gow?
Tindero: One way.
Kano: Meg-kanow?
Tindero: I sed ONE WAY.
Kano: Aynowng ibig sabeyhin ng one way?
Tindero: Isang daan. Understang?

------------

Erap: Kalokohan! Di ako naniniwala! Walang taong ganun kataba!
Loi: Saan nanggaling ang balitang yan?
Erap: Dito sa dyaryo. Sabi; "British tourist lost 2000 pounds."

------------

MMDA (with pen and ticket to a traffic violator): Name?
Foreigner Driver: Wilhelm Von Corgrinski Papakovitz.
MMDA: Ahhh okay...(sabay tago ticket)...Next time be careful, ok?

------------

BF: Sunduin kita mamaya ha. Bubusina nalang ako pag nasa harap nako ng bahay nyo.
GF: Sige. Anong kotse ang dala mo?
BF: Wala. Busina lang!

------------

Nag-aapply si Tomas na security guard...
INTERVIEWER: Ang kailangan namin ay taong laging may suspicious mind, highly alert, insistent personality, strong sense of hearing with a killer instinct. Sa tingin mo ba qualified ka?
TOMAS: Sa palagay ko po hindi. Pwede po bang yun misis ko nalang ang mag-apply? Very qualified siya dito.

------------

Always remember, when SHE cancels a date, she has to. But when HE
cancels a date, he has TWO.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Do delinquent bloggers go to hell?

There's always a reason.

There's no time. I'm too busy. I have a lot of things to do than blog. I don't even have time to read.

I have been a delinquent blogger, so punish me.

* * *

Ms Joan suggested the book, and I went hunting for it.

"Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?" is a fun read and brought my mind away from the troubles of May Day and the demands of work. (Aside of course from the problem of money that seems to preoccupy our every waking hour.)

Thomas Kohnstamm is a travel writer who, at one time in his life, studied Latin American Studies in Stanford. He has since wrote for various publications, including Lonely Planet.

"Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?" is not a tell-all book about how stupid people are to read travel books (especially the Lonely Planet). It's a book that tells us how some travel writers feed us bullshit and how most of us swallow everything - hook, line and sinker... and the whole shit.

By the way, got to go. I have to look for some travel guide for my trip to Bali.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Notes on proteins, the Nobel Prize, the secret of life

It was a privilege to meet and listen to the distinguished Nobel laureate Aaron Ciechanover who talked about "Life and death - Why our proteins have to die so we shall live."

Some things he said just hit me.

He observed that people these days seem to be always in a hurry - for a deadline, meeting friends, getting rich, getting famous, winning awards. Where are they hurrying to really? He said most are really rushing to nowhere.

One secret of success is just making the right choice and doing what one wants to do. When you make a mistake, you just turn around, like when making a wrong turn you just make a U-turn and start again. One can't just be wrong the second time around.

For a Nobel Prize winner, he was so candid to advise people not to be too serious about awards, prizes and recognitions. One must be serious about what one does, he said. After winning the award, he said he still has to wake up early in the morning and go to work. There's no vacation in life.

Another secret of success/life, he said, is selecting the right teacher or mentor.

Then he talked about proteins. He said 10 percent of our proteins are destroyed every day. It takes 15 to 20 days to destroy it all. If you think that when you look at yourself on the mirror it's the same face that stared back at you two weeks ago? You're wrong, he said. It's a new face because all your proteins have already been replaced.

The roles of intracellular protein:

1. Quality control
2. Control of processes
3. Differentiation and morphogenesis

Thanks to the work of Professor Ciechanover it is possible to understand at a molecular level how the cell controls a number of central processes by breaking down certain proteins and not others. It led pharmaceutical companies to initiate efforts to develop medications, and one successful drug to combat cancer is already on the market, with many more in the pipeline.

He said people are living longer these days because we have been defeating diseases through science and because we have learned hygiene. He also said that people are not getting older because age is a matter of spirit and what one can do.

Although he said a lot of alternative medicines and homeopathic practices might be effective, many still haven't passed the scrutiny of scientific investigation and proven scientific standards. People should be educated about science, he said.

He advised governments and authorities to give importance to people's access to medicine. He said drug prices are high because some people want to take advantage of others.

He said: "We live in a complicated world of corruption and stealing."

Professor Ciechanover is a 2004 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry and a Distinguished Research Professor in the Faculty of Medicine of the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel.

Born in Haifa, Ciechanover received his Master of Science in 1970 and his MD in 1975 from the Hadassah Medical School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received his doctorate in medicine in 1981 from the Technion and has been a Distinguished Research Professor at the Center for Cancer and Vascular Biology and the Director of the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in Medical Sciences at the Technion. In 2004 he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Professor Avram Hershko, his teacher, and Professor Irwin Rose for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, a mechanism by which the cells of most living organisms cull unwanted proteins.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On Eco, Pacquiao and nothing at all

While thousands of Filipino Catholics wave their "palaspas" and as priests sprinkle Holy Water on the faithful, I browsed Umberto Eco's "On Literature," a collection of essays, articles and speeches.

I was waiting for Manny Pacquiao and Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez to exchange blows early on Palm Sunday when I wrote this to while my time.

Eco is supposed to be a hard read until one plunges into the text and enjoy the stories that support his insights.

Reading Eco is not unlike watching, or preparing to write about boxing, especially if one is not really a fan of the sports pages. One only appreciates the game when blood starts oozing from under the boxers' eyelids.

One has to plunge into the experience (when reading Eco or watching Pacquiao and Marquez). It's like learning how to swim in a river in one's hometown during the first few days of summer after school closes and the grading cards are distributed to excited parents.

Unlike boxing though, there are no fast and hard rules in learning, or in swimming, or politics in the Philippines, for that matter, if one's goal is only to enjoy a great book, the cold water or the wheeling and dealing of politicians.

Eco would even suggest, in his "On some Functions of Literature," to penetrate the "textual labyrinth...like a knitting needle going into a ball of wool" with the use of the electronic hypertext.

(Yup, that's computer programs available free on the Internet that allow us to write stories as a group, "joining in narratives whose denouement one can change ad infinitum.")

"Hypertextual narrative has much to teach us about freedom and creativity," Eco writes.

It's not so unlike the feeling one gets after watching a good fight when something within seems to rekindle one's interest to visit a gym or start a serious health regimen, not to be a fighter like Pacquiao, but just to look good in a summer outfit for a walk on the beach one early summer morning.

Dream on.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dangerous liaisons: Probing the forbidden

I met Mary at a convention somewhere in the Visayas last year. She works in an advertising firm in Makati.

At first glance, one would see her as a rotten spoiled kid, the type that ruins your day. She gives you the impression that you are boring – no matter who you are.

One night, she barged into my hotel room and borrowed my laptop. She didn't give any explanation. She said she needed to get online. Pronto. She needed to catch someone, she said.

How does one say no to somebody like Mary?

Well, I didn't. I reluctantly, and sort of sarcastically, handed out to her my computer commenting about the weather and the convention in between her somewhat "weird" liaison with that other person in cyberspace.

A few minutes later, she was crying. I'm not talking here about minor drops – but major sobs. I had to get her a glass of water. After a few minutes that seemed to take forever, she went out embarrassed, I think, at her little theatrics.

I've heard Mary laughing about her clumsiness, telling stories about how she forgot to pay her food in a restaurant, of how she would stumble into anything and everything, and break glasses on a dining table.

So it wasn't very surprising that she left her "precious" correspondence in all its naked glory. It was all there waiting to be read. This, I thought, was classic Mary. Apparently, she was having some sort of cyber–relationship with someone.

The last mail was titled "if only" and the guy, Mark, was enumerating things he wanted to do if only things were "different." Sort of mushy, but sounded very real.

I'm not into poking my nose into other people's lives. But the idea of writing about a cyber–affair came up, and Mary and Mark, I thought, were the perfect subjects.

In a situation where everything seems to have no tomorrow, nothing worse could probably turn up for these two. Mark is married and has a child. He finds fulfillment in a work that brings him thousands of miles away from home.

On the other hand, there's Mary. She too is married and has a child.

When this assignment came up, I asked Mary if it was OK if I wrote her story. At first she didn't want any part of it. in the end, however, she agreed and wrote it herself for me.

Here's Mary's story.

* * *


My life is too complicated for games. And I am too complex a person to be just looking for an easy lay.

He's not some movie protagonist. And neither is he a romance novel hero. But that's the point. Mark is not perfect. He's flawed and there's something very human and very endearing about that.

It was purely my being a klutz that led me to him.

An organization where he belongs had this elaborate fund–raising activity. And what do you know, I lost my cellular phone somewhere during the fund–raising lunch. It turned out Mark got it.

I knew up front his "personal circumstances." His profile, along with several other "top guys" of the organization, was in the program for the fund–raising.

My circumstances came out during coffee when I claimed my phone.

I dare not say that was the "start." There was nothing – as in nothing – to begin with. There was no prelude to greatness whatsoever, no fireworks, no bells ringing when I first saw him.

All I knew was that there was me and Mark, and coffee, and cigarettes, great conversation, greater arguments, no put–ons.

The possibility of a relationship was inconceivable. We merely exchanged cards and wished each other good luck.

Two days after, Mark came up to me in my office and asked if I had plans for the night. I nearly fainted. I didn't know if that was relief or fright. Here, finally, was that person who had been pestering me during my waking hours, sort of asking me out. Sort of because he had the perfect excuse to seek company: He had to buy something.

It was a fascinating time we had. It was like being a kid again in a huge playground where you had giant Lego blocks scattered all around you.

Then he took me out to dinner. I don't really know how he did it, but we had that whole huge place for ourselves.

The food was great but I wasn't able to enjoy it. My emotions were interfering with my digestive tract and I had to throw up. It's some sort of psychosomatic manifestation of my weirdness: OVERJOYED = THROW–UP.

I had to explain somehow and I told him that something had been keeping me awake until dawn for the past two days. I told him that somebody might be thinking of me too much that I couldn't sleep.

I downplayed my own emotions for him and said it was just this schoolgirl crush that I thought he was my intellectual hero but it was all very harmless.

Mark blushed as he struggled to explain to me that he might be guilty for my sleepless nights. He was not able to eat. He said he also had this psychosomatic reaction whenever he was overjoyed, that he couldn't eat.

So I sat there worrying about two things. First, that we were spoiling expensive food. Second, I must get Mark to assure me that I'd get a good night's sleep that evening because I terribly needed to rest.

The next time we met, Mark brought me to a place where you could just hang out and stargaze. He pointed out the stars. I came very near saying: "Mark, do you know why there are only those small stars? Because somebody came ahead of you and took the Milky Way from the sky and gave it to me."

Nothing was happening on the physical level. We barely held hands. But elsewhere, something cool and nice and chaotic was going on and both of us were just trying to conceal it, if not quash it.

My brain was rejecting the notion that this thing with Mark was one of those illicit affairs you read in crummy paperbacks.

I couldn't be having that. It was breaking the Ten Commandments and too dangerous. It would ruin us both – our families, our careers, our lives.

The worse case scenario I could think of was of him being rubbed out. Either that or we would become fugitives and get hunted down like rats. My child's future would be jeopardized. I couldn't allow that to happen.

* * *


Globalization brought about increased mobility to Filipino family members. It also brought about expanded means of choices, including choices of partners.

Humanities Prof. Felice Yeban of the Philippine Normal University said because of globalization one "millennial disease" that threatens family life is boredom.

"Unlike before when individuals are rooted in their communities, people these days are being uprooted physically as well as psychologically," Yeban said.

She said unlike before when friends and lovers promise each other to live and die together, the "value of staying in one place" is gone.

"Marriage has to strengthen itself to face the psychological impact of being mobile," Yeban said, adding that it is the tendency of people these days to have more affairs because of mobility.

Prof. Caroline De Leon of Mirriam College, however, said it is normal for married people to get attracted to others. "You can't help that," she said.

De Leon, who heads the Department of Family Psychology and Education in the Catholic school, said extramarital affairs could happen.

"But it's what you do about it that matters," she said. "You get married because you love each other and you promised to love each other for life. That's why the word commitment should have some meaning."

She added that "impulse control" is important.

"I can't imagine what would happen to society if people have just affairs right and left," she said. "What happens to the kids? It would create a deep impact on children and their concept of what love is, what fidelity is and what real love is."

* * *


Jenny is 24 years old, single and is in love with Lito, 30, a married man. I met Jenny in one coffee shop. She was crying while writing a letter to her lover.

The night before, Ana, the man's wife, had found Jenny's picture in Lito's wallet. Lito admitted that Jenny was his other woman and that he was in love with her.

Jenny told me her story as she drowned her feelings over cups of unsweetened coffee and several sticks of cigarettes one rainy evening.

After she finished her letter, she showed it to me.

* * *


"In Philippine society, it seems that extramarital affairs are quite acceptable," De Leon said. "It's quite fashionable. It's not something to hide anymore. Maybe it's because society has become quite tolerant of everything. But I don't know if it is a good sign or not. People are more open regarding that."

The psychology professor reminds couples to remember their marriage vows. "Getting married is not something that is 'chow–and-chew'," she said. It is really something that you think about and deliberate on before getting a partner for life.

"But still, it can happen and it's a question of living up to one's commitment," De Leon said, adding that social acceptability is not a license to justify the seriousness of the issue.

* * *


Here is Jenny's last letter to Lito. After more than a month, it remains unsent.

Dear Lito,

As of this writing, I still could not believe this is happening. Although I prayed for that day to arrive before (so I could recover as early), I never wished it would be this soon.

I was not prepared for this sudden parting. I still see us together or at least trying to be together for some more months and even years, just as you have told me.

I wish to stop the time while you were thanking me for everything, while you were telling me you love me and that you'll never forget me.

Those were words that are supposed to flatter me but it made me sad. Tears drowned my face as I read between the lines that you were telling me goodbye.

I am still crying. I guess I have not stopped since that early Tuesday evening. I instantly went back to sullen mornings and sleepless, weeping nights.

It's been two weeks now but I have not wholly accepted that our days are gone. My mind somehow understands it but my heart violently refuses to conceive it. I wished these were all just dreams.

Everything came so fast. Only days before that fatal Tuesday, we were happily together. We had lunch at that special place.

You must agree that the ********* is the place we could virtually call our own. We both know that nothing can ever replace it. Not even the posh and expensive fine dining restaurants anywhere in the world.

You know what? I even plan to buy it when the right time comes just to save our memories.

What makes it more special is the ********* being right within that extra special place where we always spend our time – talking, walking, laughing, and crying for the kind of fate we have.

Although we knew from the start that ours is really a sad story, we usually would laugh about it for we seldom think we are hapless.

To know how much we feel for each other is enough to forget the grim reality that we could never be what we wanted us to be – we could never be together for long. You could never be mine and I could never be yours in this lifetime.

Perhaps, I came much too late or maybe you went too ahead of me in everything. I may have been too slow in finding you or you have not waited enough to find me.

Then here we are consoling ourselves that maybe we were not really meant to be together at all, though we both know our hearts do not believe it.

The sadness that's swallowing me now is graver than when I lost a relative. I don't feel that I lost somebody but I lost an essential part of me.

We died somehow. And we could not do anything to revive or at least prolong our last breath to be able to hold each other, be with each other, and share ourselves with each other longer.

It is as if we had a cardiac arrest with half our bodies alive and dead. Well, we must really try to live half of our lives to be able to see each other again and eventually reactivate the other half. Who knows? Maybe when that time comes, we could already call it our own.

I have worn my heart out on my sleeves twice before but I am wearing it now around my finger so you could see it clearly and touch it. I think you have touched it several times and even kissed it. I would never forget that.

If you were a chapter of my book, I would not want to close it. You are the chapter where I want to be stuck a little longer, if not forever. I guess it would take so much of me to turn the pages and move on.

But then maybe, that's what I should do. So I could go fast to that time where we could finally be together. I strongly feel that it would come.

Yet I assure you I would always look back to these pages with incessant excitement, with the same vigor, and smile on my face.

Don't worry I would take good care of myself just as you want me to. Just the same, I would never ever forget you and I thank you for the love and concern.

I know you tried to make things easier for us, only that we could not always have things our own way. And if only we could, I am sure you have done whatever it takes to make me happy.

This might be the last letter. But I hope that my way of letting you know about the passion I have for you would not stop here. You must constantly feel it in your heart until we see each other again.

In between now and that moment, I guess I would just have to get my hope, strength and smile from the tapes, books and shirts you left with me.

I love you,

Jenny


* * *


The acquisition of values begins at home, in the family, said psychologist De Leon. The changing and shifting values in the new millennium could be a factor that would make people want to have affairs, she said.

"I believe children who are brought up in some solid traditional values, which are family–oriented would think twice before going into affairs," De Leon said.

* * *


I asked Mary over the Internet what happened to her and Mark. This is what she wrote:

"I struggled to say the words to Mark that I had to go. And it hit me like lightning that this has to be goodbye.

"Inside, I was wishing I could come up with something. Like, probably promise him forever. But I can't. I already did that, and with someone else, just as he probably had, and with someone else, too.

"We held hands. We were happy and he said it might be the best time to go.

"For all its glories and pains, it's enough most of the time that you know you're not suffering alone.

"I don't know about those problematic love affairs immortalized in print and in movies. But whenever I feel I'm dying to hold him or something, I know he's dying along with me.

"Now he's gone."

- This article first appeared in a slightly different version in the Philippine Post sometime in 2000. This edition appeared on GMANews.TV's Valentine's Special this year.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Shopping in KL

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in Kuala Lumpur when I decided to leave my hotel room and see the city. I was staying a few steps from the famous Petronas Tower, so there was no need for me to discover the place where most tourists and expat workers congregate especially on a Sunday afternoon.

I hailed a cab and asked to be brought to the nearest place where computers, ipods and other gadgets are supposed to be sold cheap. After about ten minutes and ten ringgits later, I closed the door of the cab under a light shower outside a not-so-imposing building.

From the ground floor up I saw the latest original and “hybrid” gadgets – from notebook computers, ipods, accessories, and other equipment only techie guys would enjoy.

I was surprised by the very low prices. Very low indeed that I bought two new Asus Eee PC computers and an 8G Nikon Coolpix camera for the price of a brand new Eee PC in Manila. If only I could walk my way back to the airport I would have bought the 160G external hard drive that was offered to me by a Chinese vendor for only P1,800.

A layman on economics, I wondered why computers and gadgets are priced much cheaper in neighboring countries. Why can't we have it here cheap too? There might be something wrong with how we do business.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Eee PC

I'm writing this from my new Asus Eee PC to familiarize myself with its miniature keyboard.

I bought this gadget because I found it cheap in Malaysia. I got it for only about P8,000 in an IT mall in Singapore while it's being sold here in Manila from P16,000 to P19,000.

This very basic computer is ideal for journalists, as if it's really designed for our needs. It's small that it can be inserted between the pages of a Time or Newsweek magazine. It can connect to the Internet as long as there's a Wifi signal or a LAN connection.

The downside is it's too small that one has to get the hang of it to be able to type faster. Of course it's better than using one's cell fone to file stories.

This is a test entry.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mornings

I've always loved mornings. The problem is I am just too tired to wake up early to welcome the rising sun and wave goodbye to the morning star's fading light.

These past weeks, however, I've witnessed several sunrises during my trips to some parts of the country - while driving a car, while walking in the middle of the field or while washing my face near a well.

How I wish I could share those beautiful sights with someone who wakes up early and walks with me to the middle of the field to recite a poem or just murmur a short prayer of thanks. I did it once, somewhere in Central Luzon, and regretted it years later. My friend took the magic of the morning from me.

Seeing the sun rise - when dawn breaks and darkness turns to light after passing through what seem to be millions of stages of colorful variations - I realized that the sunrise - the bukangliwayway - is still there for my taking. I only have to wake up early. No friend or fiend can steal it from me.

And yes, I was able to write again after seeing a very beautiful sunrise Monday morning. I wrote it on the spot on my new Moleskine notebook (feeling like Hemingway, ha!). I even wrote something for my friend:

Like a pool
of water
on an empty
parking lot
your stillness
makes the engine
of my old car
roar like thunder


And this one's for my friend:

will there still be
color on the horizon
when you wake up
and remember me

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pa-cute moment

Photo by Trina

A New Year's reflection

From my friend and brother, Fr. James Castro, CMF

As we begin the year 2008, we honor Mary, the Mother of God. We begin this New Year with new hopes, new life, and new dreams.

Mary carried into our world the true Hope of our life, the giver of Life, and the fulfillment of every dream - Jesus Christ our Lord. Her simple and generous Yes to God made all the difference.

The gospel today presents Mary to us as a model of that new life in Christ that all of us wish for ourselves in the New Year. There we see that Mary was prepared to do something to realize this goal.

What did she do? We read that the shepherds, when they went to adore the Child Jesus in the manger, told all that the angels had said to them. "Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

Again after the boy Jesus was found in the Temple, we are told that "His mother treasured all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51).

Mary was a woman who valued the word of God, who treasured it and made time to meditate and ponder it. It is true that the holiness of Mary is attributed to the grace of God, but this should not make us forget that she needed to make an effort in order to cooperate with the grace of God.

She pondered the word of God in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life as the handmaid of God.

We are invited today to stop and listen to God. He talks to us everyday, every moment of our life but at times we are so busy to listen to Him or even to take
time to talk with Him. The new hopes, new lives and new dreams will only come true if we learn to listen to God and ponder His Words in our life. Just like Mary let say Yes to God and make a difference in our World.

Happy New Year to all of you!

New things on the Web

I've been trying several new things on the Web these past days.

I've got already a Facebook account. (I'm still wondering what's so exciting about throwing a sheep at Raffy, hehehe.)

I've accounts in Multiply, MySpace, Classmate Finder, WAYN, etc. Unfortunately I already forgot all my account numbers and passwords.

Still there's the reliable Friendster and my several blog sites that are updated from time to time.

I just opened a twitter account and am still trying to find ways to make use of it in my work. (I've already thought of one, but am not revealing it here, hehehe.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Recommended reading

Look for a copy of Boying Pimentel's "Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street" at National Bookstore or Powerbooks.

It's a good read and a good tour of the other San Francisco, where Filipino migrants make their lives colorful.

Enter the hearts and minds of Filipino migrants in the United States and experience their joys and sorrows in Boying's first novel.

Satisfaction guaranteed.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cold mornings

The weather bureau is saying that a tail-end of a cold front is affecting the country.

I don't know if it has an influence on the cold mornings I've been experiencing.

Got to get up early today for work, but it was a struggle to get up and take a bath.

The cold morning was made worse with that early morning feeling of missing/remembering people whose images surfaced in one's dreams during the night.

Some things just refuse to leave one's life despite the many books one read through the night.

Among my "Best Reads" in 2007 (not in order of importance) are:

- Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark
- The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
- Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

What I'm reading:

- Children of Jihad by Jared Cohen
- The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
- The Elements of Journalism (Updated Edition) by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
- Journalism 2.0

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A good year to all of us! Mabuhay!

Most of Metro Manila welcomed the new year in darkness after lights went off minutes before midnight in several areas of the national capital.

There was supposed to be an emergency power interruption, a recorded message on Meralco's hotline said.

I went down the office minutes after the clock struck 12 to start my car and went around the vicinity of the office. The streets were deserted - Timog Avenue, Quezon Avenue, Scout Esguerra St., East Avenue, the Elliptical Circle.

The restaurants, beer gardens, karaoke bars, and the other establishments were closed. Smoke from firecrackers blanketed the city. I imagined people sitting around the table, sharing food and exchanging gifts and greetings.

I wish to thank all those who sent messages to greet a happy new year. Thank you. Thank you to all of you for the support, especially in our fight for press freedom in the country.

The year 2007 has been good to me. Please join me in praying for a good year this 2008. May our tribe increase! Mabuhay!