Saturday, November 21, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Learning from poker

Poker is not a game of chance. Losing a hand is not a matter of not having the right cards. This is what I learned after wasting hours trying to raise hundreds of dollars of play money online.

Politicians running in the 2010 race can learn a lot from the game. Philippine politics is no numbers game. Neither is it solely a money game. Strategy is a must. Aside from having the right cards, bluffing, calling at the right time and raising the ante need mathematical precision.

Unlike chess, where nothing is hidden, poker is a game of “imperfect information.” So is politics. There’s so much information concealed from other players. Winning does not depend on luck alone.

Manny Villar may have the money, Chiz Escudero the numbers and Mar Roxas the cards, but the game will depend on how they will play.

Poker-playing strategists are now in the employ of politicians, especially those running for high office. I have seen some of them joining tables online and betting thousands of dollar of play money. Some are careless, others are trying to learn the ropes, many have flawless but predictable strategies.

It would be exciting how they would play for real in 2010 (at kung sino ang uuwing luhaan o kung kaninong bulsa - o mukha - ang kakapal).

Meanwhile, let me go back to the games.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


It's no easy task.

We must do it.

We have to learn the ways of the modern world to survive.

Stephen King's Cell, "an apocalyptic novel" about an artist who struggled to survive after a "pulse" broadcast over the cell phone network turned people crazy, is a warning about the dangers of technology.

But technology we must master, especially for those in the media industry.

I have a blog since 2003. It was just for fun then. Something to while the time.

These days, however, I have to do research on the rationale and mechanics of blogging.

I have to give a seminar on blogging.

Somebody has to do it.

And it's no easy task.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

News from Sri Lanka

A desperate appeal for prayers came from a missionary friend of mine, a roommate in the seminary.

Whatever is going on there, I hope that they will be safe. Please join me in hoping for the best for those still alive in our neighboring countries. Here's his email:

i am having a problem right now. you may be wondering why no news from me, although the situation is hopeless.

the army officers came in search of me and i was out on that day.They have found out that i am sending documents and pictures to outside and inside the country. They have opened my email id . And they have made a clear warning... not to repeat. Otherwise this will be dealt seriously.

Please pray for us. it is a very difficult situation.
Praying for God's intervention.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back from vacation

After days of wandering, trying to look for a muse in so many places, I'm back here in front of two experts discussing a controversial book project that unfortunately I cannot divulge this time.

It can now be told, however. that a new online media project is about to be launched, hopefully to contribute to the growing vibrancy of the new media community.

Unfortunately the birthing of the project encountered several snags. Despite the advancement of technology, many Filipino journalists are not yet ready to venture into the new medium.

Filipino journalists must "retool" themselves to be relevant in the "new order" of things. There is no space for complacency anymore.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Inagine a world without Filipinos

"So if Filipinos decided one day to stop working or go on strike for any reason, who would transport oil, food and heavy equipment across the world? We can only imagine the disaster that would happen."

Read on: Imagine a world without Filipinos

Thursday, April 02, 2009

35 journalists killed in 16 countries in 3 months

There were 35 journalists killed in 16 countries in the past three months. Last year 20 journalists were killed during the same period.

The deadliest country for journalists in recent months is Pakistan with five journalists killed, followed by Gaza and Iraq with four each, Mexico (3), Russia (3), Somalia (2), Sri Lanka (2), Nepal (2), Venezuela
(2), Afghanistan (2), and one in each of the following: Kenya, Philippines, Madagascar, Columbia, India and Honduras.

In the Philippines, the Unesco director general is following up the Arroyo government on its investigations of the 2006 killings of six Filipino journalists. See Vera Files story.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

War in the sports front

War seems to have intensified in the sports front as the Billiards & Snooker Congress of the Philippines issued a statement today lambasting POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr.

For a background of the controversy, see POC chief Cojuangco’s NSA faces leadership dispute.

Below is the statement of the Billiards & Snooker Congress of the Philippines:

FOR sheer shamelessness, the order of POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr. to the Billiards & Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP) to hold elections using a 2005 voting list instead of a current one is only exceeded by his postponement of the board elections of his own Equestrian Association of the Philippines (EAP) to 2012. In the latter he saved his skin by avoiding certain defeat in the voting scheduled yesterday, March 31. In the former, he effected leadership change in an NSA that voted against him last November by manufacturing a majority out of resigned and dismissed members of the billiards association.

Cojuangco would not allow the use of the BSCP membership list for 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006 because his dark purpose of transferring control of the association to Aristeo Puyat and his cohorts would not succeed. Only the 2005 list would suffice because it alone included all the names of Puyat and his cohorts, and it excluded the names of new members of the association that have been added in the interval.

In so doing, this supposed leader of all of Philippine sports not only installed by POC edict his favored group of would-be billiard leaders, he wiped away over three years of history of the association – a time when significantly major national and international billiards events were held in the country, when the number of players rose to a record five million, and when the Philippines was labeled by no less than Billiards Digest magazine as “the new epicenter of international pool.”

As with other NSA’s that have been thrown into limbo by his arbitrary acts in office, Cojuangco – supported by the POC executive board – has carried out his scheme in billiards believing that the amendments they smuggled by subterfuge into the POC constitution and by-laws in January 2007 empower them to interfere in the internal affairs of any NSA and install at will supposed leaders who kowtow to his wishes. The lamentable saga has happened in the associations for archery, cycling, swimming, badminton, dragon boat and volleyball – accomplishing in each instance the objective Cojuangco desired. Or so he and his cohorts believe.

Do Cojuangco and the POC board really have the power to reign over Philippine sports in this way? Who conferred on them these magisterial powers that rival those of kings and despots?

Certainly not the Olympic Charter which is the reason for being of the Philippine Olympic Committee. To the contrary, Cojuangco and his amendments are a perversion of the Olympic Charter and of the collegiality that is supposed to exist between the POC and individual NSA’s. Under the Charter, “rights and obligations are reciprocal” among and between the different constituent groups comprising the Olympic Movement, including the International Olympic Committee, the national Olympic committees, the international federations and the national federations. Nobody exercises dictatorial power over any member of the movement because “the Olympic spirit requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Neither is this power to reign over sports derived from Philippine laws governing non-profit organizations and corporations. Under our laws and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which enforce them, there are clear rules for the conduct of elections, for the induction and dismissal of members, the maintenance of members or voters list, and for the conduct of the business and general work of associations. The BSCP and other affected NSA’s have followed these rules being under the SEC system. The POC has not because significantly it is not a registered organization with the SEC.

From the language of Cojuangco and his board, the powers have come to them by virtue of the fact that they have been written into the constitution and by-laws of the POC. In other words, they are self-ordained. They can dictate on the NSA’s because they wrote the provisions to read and mean as such.

What Cojuangco and the POC board do not realize is that their exercise of these magisterial powers is a travesty of the Olympic Charter. They have arrogated powers that they should not have. And they can be challenged and made to account for it before the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Fair play and reciprocity are cardinal principles of the Olympic movement. And these are the last things to describe POC’s actions toward the different NSA’s that have suffered the heel of Cojuangco’s boot. In the case of the BSCP, the POC disregarded the association’s call for its general membership meeting and board elections on December 5, 2008, and proceeded instead to bless an irregular election call by non-members for March 31. It blessed the irregular elections by blatantly lying that no elections had been called since 2005 (a BSCP election was held in 2006), and conveniently forgetting that it requested the BSCP to defer its planned elections on December 5 last year.

The avowed Olympic purpose of advancing and promoting sports has been turned over on its head in the POC’s action against BSCP. The leaders and members who have been principally responsible for the dynamic growth and expansion of billiard sports in the country have been “displaced” by former members who distinguished themselves mainly by either (1) not participating and helping in BSCP programs and absenting themselves from meetings and events, or worse, (2) by obstructing and subverting the association’s programs and events. These are the people who will be in command of Philippine billiards if Cojuangco has his way.

This pattern of disenfranchisement and displacement of true members and leaders has been replicated many times over in many of the country’s sports associations. And what has happened to them has been transmogrified in Philippine sports as a whole.

The organization that was singularly responsible for the Philippine debacle in the Beijing Olympics last August – the Philippine Olympic Committee – instead of atoning for our shameful performance in Beijing, is throwing its weight around, lording over everything in our sports firmament and preventing any possibility of reform and change to sporting life in the country.

The situation could not be more detrimental to the development of Philippine sports. With such roguish leadership in control, there is no way for our sports to go but down. With the Cojuangco board on such a rampage, there may be nothing to salvage within a year.

What then is to be done? How can the menace be checked?

Many in our sports community are of the common belief that certain steps can and must be taken by those who want to save Philippine sports from Cojuangco and his cohorts. Among these are:

First, the aggrieved federations should collectively bring their plight to the attention of the IOC on the grounds that their rights have been trampled on by the POC in violation of the Olympic Charter. There are avenues and precedents for this in the Olympic system.

Second, the affected federations should bring suit against Cojuangco and the POC board before Philippine courts on the grounds that POC’s actions have violated the federations’ rights under the nation’s laws. It does not matter that the POC is not a registered organization; it is still responsible for its dictatorial actions and abuses.

Third, a concerted campaign should immediately be launched to bring an end once and for all to the presidency of Jose Cojuangco Jr. of the Philippine Olympic Committee on the grounds that it is the first and necessary step for the salvation of Philippine sports.

If presidents can be taken down from their pedestals in this country, surely a president of a committee that is not even registered as an organization can be made to account for his grave abuse of office and many acts of irresponsibility at the helm of Philippine sports.

Signed by the Directors, Officers and Members
of the Billiards & Snooker Congress of the Philippines

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dahil sa Earth Hour: Trahedya sa Trinoma

By Ryan Ponce Pacpaco

DISGRASYA ang sinapit ni Charles Kevin Jimenez, 15, nang patayin ang mga ilaw sa loob ng Trinoma Mall pagsapit ng Earth Hour 8:30 p.m. noong Sabado. Dahil sa dilim ay nahulog siya sa isang fountain na walang harang.

Nasugatan ang kamay ni Jimenez, estudyante, ng Bgy. Sauyo, Novaliches, Quezon City.

Inihayag ni Moises Junio, kasama ni Jimenez sa mall, na walang harang sa paligid ng fountain na ka-level lang ng daanan nang patayin ang mga ilaw.

Maliban sa sugat, nabasa ang buong katawan ni Jimenez pati ang kanyang Nokia 5310.

Nabatid ng People’s Tonight na hindi rin siya umano kaagad inasikaso ng mga security personnel sa kabila ng pagdurugo ng kanyang kamay. Ito ay lubhang ikinagalit ng ina ni Moises na si Consuelo Junio.

Bukod dito, wala ring ibinigay na tuwalya o pamalit na damit ang mga tauhan ng Trinoma sa basang-basang si Jimenez na inabot ng 1 a.m. dahil napilitan pa siyang magpa-checkup sa ospital.

“Mall sila, ang laking establishment nila. Hindi man lang nila nabigyan ng sando o kahit basahan si Kevin para mapalitan ‘yung basang damit. Five hours na basa ang damit ng bata,” reklamo ni Shella Jimenez, ina ni Kevin.

“Dapat sibakin ang security head pati ang branch manager nila dahil wala silang concern sa mga tao,” idinagdag ni Gng. Jimenez.

Sinubukan ng People’s Tonight na kunin ang pahayag ng management ng Trinoma Mall ukol sa insidente ngunit hindi sila available for comment.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bloggers to make history at G20 Summit

A coalition of NGOs - the G20Voice – and the UK government are breaking with convention and, for the first time, allow 50 bloggers to report live and direct from the G20 summit, on April 2 in London.

This unprecedented event gives the bloggers and their audience the chance to engage with and influence world leaders on issues including development, climate change and women’s rights. The bloggers were nominated by the public, with more than 700 nominations received in 12 days.

The organisations behind G20Voice are OxfamGB, Comic Relief, Save the Children, ONE and Blue State Digital. G20Voice is a collaborative effort demonstrating the breadth of commitment to ending world poverty and inequality.

The 50 include a broad range of influential, knowledgeable and popular bloggers from the G20 countries and the developing world. These include:

Sokari Ekine – a pioneering Nigerian blogger

Jotman – an undercover blogger exposing injustice in Thailand and Burma

Daudi Were – a leading organiser of African bloggers

Dr Kumi Naidoo – head of GCAP and contributor to Huffington Post

Cheryl Conte from Jack and Jill Politics - representing the US “Black bourgeoisie”

Enda Surya Nasution – the father of Indonesian blogging

Rowan Davies – representing the 200,000 members of Mumsnet

Rui Chenggang – China's leading economics broadcaster and blogger with 13,000,000 viewers every evening on CCTV

Richard Murphy – the leading expert on Tax Havens.

They will be joined by thousands of bloggers online at with audio and video livestreaming, and also via skype broadcasts from inside the summit.

There is a full programme of events for the 50 invited bloggers. The event begins on April 1 with the official launch, including a series of briefings and round table discussions. On the day of the summit bloggers will have access to briefings from senior figures and world leaders. Members of the delegations have been invited to speak with the bloggers to discuss the developments in the main summit chamber.

Journalists are invited to come to the blogging tent to meet and talk with bloggers throughout the day.

Karina Brisby, G20Voice project founder and Digital Campaigns Manager, Oxfam GB said: "The G20Voice project was inspired by the articulate, engaging and often outraged posts, tweets, podcasts and videocasts from bloggers all over the world about the current economic crisis and how that affects the issues they are passionate about such as poverty and climate change.

"We are seeing a huge increase in the number of people around the world using digital tools to inform themselves and then contribute to debates about the issues that affect their lives. G20Voice recognises the importance of bloggers and gives them a unique opportunity to report back to their audiences direct from the G20 Summit itself."

Adrian Lovett, Director of Campaigns at Save the Children said: “G20Voice will tear back the curtain as leaders draw up their blueprint for global recovery. Thanks to G20Voice at this summit the world will be watching. Bloggers will witness the summit from the inside - and the world will know whether leaders are building a future fit for the world's children, or one that rewards only the rich. Gordon Brown has set the bar for the London G20 summit next month by promising that the UK will meet its aid commitments despite the economic downturn. He must ensure other G20 countries do the same. If action to prevent children dying isn't taken now we could see this financial crisis claim the lives of a generation of children.”

Oliver Buston, Europe Director of the Africa campaign group ONE said: “At ONE we’ve always been focused on empowering individuals to raise their voices against extreme poverty. This group of citizen-journalists includes some of the most articulate voices on this issue, and it’s exciting to be a part of bringing them to this international stage. The world’s poorest people are being hit hardest by a global crisis not of their making – the bloggers will have a chance to ask tough questions of world leaders, and demand solutions that will benefit everyone, not just the wealthy few."

The race to 2010: Is it Kabayan vs Villar now?

The race for the presidency seems to be narrowing down to a duel between Vice President Noli de Castro and Senator Manny Villar based on the latest opinion surveys.

De Castro and Villar are closely followed by Sen. Francis Escudero, former President Joseph Estrada and Sen. Loren Legarda.

Sen. Mar Roxas, who has been touted as a “shoo-in” for the presidency after topping the 2004 senatorial elections, appears to be losing steam, while the rating of Senator Panfilo Lacson took a nosedive after the Dacer-Corbito issue came out.

De Castro has regained the lead with 18 percent voter preference, after losing it to Villar during the fourth quarter 2008 survey.

The first quarter 2009 (March 2-6, 2009) survey of Issues and Advocacy Center gave Villar 16 percent, and Escudero with 15%, Estrada with 13% and Legarda with 12%.

Only De Castro and Villar led in terms of geographical preference. The Vice President was the choice in Mindanao, cornering 20% of the 276 respondents in the peninsula. De Castro also emerged as the preferred candidate in Luzon with 17% edging Escudero and Estrada who both posted 16% in Luzon.

Villar was the runaway winner in the Visayas, posting a high 23% which is a clear 5% margin over the Vice President who registered 18% in the Visayas.

How Senator Villar will organize the Nacionalista Party to provide his presidential campaign with the political muscle remains to be seen.

Villar's camp, although lacking in manpower, compared to the political structure of the Lakas-CMD, is hopeful that the senator's business network may eventually form the backbone of his political organization.

The vice presidency will also be a close fight between Legarda and Escudero, who are both tied at 19% nationwide. Legarda leads in the National Capital Region with 23 percent against Escudero’s 21 percent. Escudero leads in Luzon with 19 percent versus Legarda’s 16 percent and in the Visayas with 17 percent versus 15 percent. In Mindanao, Legarda enjoys the lead with 21 percent against Escudero’s 19 percent.

Publlic Service: Reunion of activists


A grand reunion of all activists in the 1960s and 1970s is slated to be held on March 29, 2009, 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM, at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani along Quezon Avenue, opposite the Manila Seedling Bank, in Quezon City. Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo is guest speaker.

More than an occasion to reminisce the militant idealism of their youth, the gathering aims to solicit ideas and discuss a program to link up with the current people's movement for genuine social transformation.

The veteran activists may take along their families. They are also enjoined to bring food and drinks.

The event is being sponsored by the First Quarter Storm Movement.


MOBILE PHONE 09176291241

Thursday, March 12, 2009

F Sionil Jose on Mindanao

National artist F Sionil Jose wrote his thoughts on Mindanao in a rare occasion. Read his column here: The challenge of history: Mindanao - sana!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rice Terraces to be declared GMO-Free Zone

The Ifugao Rice Terraces will be declared a genetically-modified organism-free zone on March 17, the environment group Greepeace announced.

The rice terraces, an important center of rice biodiversity in the Philippines and one of the country's most iconic symbols, will be declared a GMO-Free zone by Greenpeace and the provincial government.

The media is invited to cover the event.

For more information:

Contact in Ifugao: Ms Beng Bimohya, +63 906 192 6414
Contact in Manila: Ms AC Dimatatac, +63 917 868 6451

Survey: Kabayan still on top

Some friends in media got hold of a copy of the latest Pulse Asia survey that revealed Vice President Noli de Castro is still leading the pack in the race for the presidency in 2010.

De Castro got a 22 percent preference rating followed by Senator Francis Escudero (19), Senator Manuel Villar (18), Former president Joseph Estrada (16), Senator Loren Legarda (10), Senator Manuel Roxas II (7) and Senator Panfilo Lacson (5).

Escudero leads in the National Capital Region with 29 percent while Villar got 15 percent. It’s a toss between Villar and Escudero in Luzon with 30 percent followed by De Castro (19).

Tinolang Bariles

Breakfast of tinolang bariles at Iligan bus terminal at seven o'clock in the morning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Provincial Media

I was in the South over the weekend to meet with about 30 journalists. As usual, when journalists meet, there were food (kinilaw, tinolang bariles, okra with ginamos, bulad nga bolinao, etc), drinks (Red Horse, San Mig Light and Pale, Generoso, Gran Matador, etc) and stories.

The stories were a mix of the funny, sad and the bizarre. A “tough-talking and hard-hitting” journalist supposedly survived an assassination attempt when the assassin thought he shot the wrong person because the journalist cried “like a woman” when a bullet went through his body. The killer did not fire the fatal shot and ran away.

The common thread of the stories is poverty. They talked about how they have to sell advertisements to politicians to get a 20 percent commission – their pay for working their asses off to cover war and conflicts.

Most journalists in the provinces are not employees. Some of them own weekly papers, which cost them about P5,000 per 500 copies to print, edit stories that they themselves write, solicit ads (a full page would cost from P5,000 to P10,000) from news sources and deliver the printed paper to subscribers and newsstands.

Broadcasters pay from P5,000 to P10,000 to radio stations to have a one-hour daily show. The prices vary depending on the station or the province.

Many provincial journalists admit that some of them are on the payroll of politicians. “We have families to feed,” they said, adding that anyway politicians own the radio stations or newspapers.

People depend of these radio stations and provincial papers as sources of information. Despite the growing reach of national television and radio networks, people in the provinces prefer local broadcasts that tackle local issues. Sometimes, these journalists are even looked up to as heroes, especially when they hit local warlords and politicians.

Provincial journalists agree that “irresponsible journalism” is a problem and that they encounter ethical dilemmas every day. They said these might have caused most of the attacks and killings of media practitioners. But they pointed out that the bigger problem they face is survival.

They, however, said there is hope for the provincial media and they can do better, but something must be done about their economic condition.

Unless the owners of big broadcast networks, national papers and small-town publications improve the lot of provincial journalists, there can be no end to the killings, attacks and threats on media workers.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Waking up a monster

By proposing the revival of the controversial Bataan Nuclear Plant, lawmakers have only awakened a monster of an issue that has been sleeping for almost three decades now.

For people who were too young to remember the heat of battle against the nuke plant during the Marcos era, I suggest that they familiarize themselves with its history. The issue can hog the headlines in the coming months.

Groups like Greenpeace can start educating the public not only about the perils of the plant but also its history. The group has maintained that studies conducted on the plant revealed that it is unsafe.

Among Greenpeace's assertions are:

1) Nuclear power is the most dangerous way to generate electricity, there is also no known scientific solution to safely storing plutonium, its deadly radioactive waste-product which remains radiotoxic for 240,000 years;

2) it is the most expensive source of power: aside from pricey construction costs, nuclear power involves expenses for decommissioning, as well as storage for nuclear waste, each of which can cost considerably more than new power plants;

3) Nuclear power cannot solve climate change—the contribution it can potentially make is negligible, and studies show that the entire nuclear power plant life cycle contributes significantly to climate change, and

4) it cannot give the country energy security, and will further render the Philippines dependent on the supply of uranium which is a limited resource found only in a few countries.

No discussion in Congress can reverse any of the above arguments, Greenpeace said.

Aside from political and scientific discussions, I look forward to anecdotes and stories how the Filipino people fought the operation of the plant years ago. Maybe by doing so, we can again unite and not only put the monster back to sleep but kill it once and for all.

Friday, February 20, 2009


She said her name is Monique. She’s 18 years old and is from Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon. She went to Cagayan de Oro and lived with an aunt who funded her college education. She wanted to be a nurse and enrolled in one of the city’s colleges while selling health care products in a shopping mall during her free time.

She met the man who became her boyfriend at the mall when she was 17 and he was 43. “We went out on dates for six months before I surrendered my virginity,” she said in Cebuano. For six months they only kissed and groped each other, she said. “The first time was very painful and there was blood.”

She fell in love and forgot about her studies. Her aunt found out about the relationship and literally kicked her out of the house. She lived with a friend and continued with the liaison with the man until she got tired of it and found another lover, a lesbian classmate. “We did not do it,” she said giggling.

A friend introduced her to a gay recruiter of a “promotions” company from Quezon City. The promoter brought her and at least 30 other girls to the city. She arrived in November in Metro Manila and stayed in an air-conditioned apartment unit where her manager fed her, taught her how to dance, dress and entertain men.

Her brown complexion must also change, she was told. “We were given medicine to take to make us white,” she said. She said the cost of the medicines – tablets, injectables, whitening lotions – was listed and charged to their account. They were not allowed to go out the house or to have contact to the outside world.

“I am brown, morena, but now I am like an Amerikana,” she said. “Even my armpits are already white because of all the medicines I was taking,” she said beaming. She said her mother may not even recognize her anymore.

She said she misses her mother and her five younger sisters. “I am the eldest. I just learned that I have a two-month old sister now,” she said. Her mother, who was pregnant when Monique left for Manila, has a small store in their village while her father is a carpenter working in Saudi Arabia.

Once in December she escaped from the house after a “friend” from Cebu came to Manila and brought her to the Mall of Asia, Greenbelt and Libis. “We ended having sex in a motel,” she said, adding that it was her first time after several months.

After three months in her managers’ apartment unit she was deemed ready to be sent to one of the famous videoke bars in the city. She was lent several pairs of underwear, shoes, sexy dresses and a make-up kit. “I don’t know how to paint my face and what to wear, so I was given a yaya,” she said.

Her small bag contains a flashlight, a lighter, her make-up kit, a fold of tissue paper, a sanitary napkin, a small bottle of alcohol, a small bottle of mouthwash, a pen and a small piece of paper. “We don’t carry condoms,” she said, adding that the establishment provides it when the girls entertain clients in a VIP room.

She earns at least a thousand pesos a night on lean days and an average of P20,000 when there are more customers. “I don’t ask for tips or tell the clients how much we charge for sex. They already know,” she said. She receives a minimum of P5,000 for sex and gets at least P1,000 for just talking with clients.

“I made use of my two years of college in my work,” she said laughing. She speaks English aside from Cebuano. It’s hard to learn Filipino, she said. She wants to read newspapers and makes it a point to watch news on television. “Most of our clients talk business and politics here. We must have something to say para dili morag tanga,” Monique said.

Is she not affected by the global economic crisis? She said her friends told her business was better in the past. “They could make P50,000 a night or even for every client,” she said. In the meantime, she said, she has to make do with an average P200,000 monthly income. “I am just new here, the other girls, who have regular clients, are doing better,” she said.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Death, dying and the endless crying

(For Lola Nanay)

I've been always fascinated with death and dying and the rituals, especially the crying, that come with it.

I keep an old photograph of family members standing (and posing) around the casket of an uncle. I was not supposed to be in the photo, but the town photographer forgot to ask me to move aside. So there I was (actually only my head, from neck up), on the right side of the frame, looking sideways straight at the camera, eyes wide, stunned by the electronic flash.

I keep another photograph (in sepia) of people posing outside our old church with an open casket where a dead man (supposedly my great, great grandfather) was lying as if he was sleeping (yes, it's a cliche, but he really looked like he was just having a siesta).

Back there in our old hometown, I've always wondered what the men who take the body of those who die do with it before putting it inside the casket. Some older cousins told me then that the men remove the blood and the intestines and replace it with cotton.

I've always refused to eat dinuguan during a wake.

I was in fourth or fifth grade when two of my brothers - Rhoel and Joel - died. I was there beside them when they had their last breath. My mother told me to kiss them goodbye. I did, and held their hands until they were cold. I did not cry.

I've always believe that my brothers did not leave me. Even until now, I continue to believe that they continue to be around. When the thought comes to mind, it's really embarrassing especially when one is in the middle of something intimate.

(A visit to the old hometown is never complete until I light a candle on my brothers' tomb.)

When I was a sacristan, I saw a number of people die. The priest would always ask me to bring the holy water and the crhism (the holy oil) when he administers the last rites, be it early in the morning, late afternoon, or in the middle of the night.

I also used to pass by the old morgue behind the hospital, on the foot of a hill, in the middle of the night when everything was dark and silent. I can still smell in my mind the aroma of formalin that wafts with the cold breeze as the church bells toll 8 p.m. while rush home from visiting a girlfriend, who later turned out to be a distant cousin.

During those days, I became an expert in tolling the bells when someone dies. For kids, the tolling goes like this: Ting (smallest bell), Tang (middle size), Dong. For adult males: Dong, Tang, Ting. For women: Tang, Ting, Dong.

As a "missionary-in-training" in the countryside, I had my share of baptizing children who were about to die of diarrhea, malaria, and the many diseases we failed to understand during that time. As a reporter later in my life, I witnessed death in so many forms: accidents, killings, suicides, wars, etc.

And I've always wondered what's in the mind of people who are left behind, those who cry out loud as if it's the end of the world, those who try to hold on their tears, those who just stand there in silence.

I have my own share of friends, comrades, relatives, family members who died. I've always wanted to shed a tear or two, but almost all the time I find it hard to cry. I understand the pain of losing someone, I understand the emptiness inside, the pain that starts somewhere in the throat that slowly dries, but I find it hard to cry.

Blessed are they who died ahead of us. At least they won't be here anymore to witness the suffering of those who lost their jobs, those who will lose their brains trying to find enough cash to pay the next bill, those who will keep on guessing what will happen next.

I have been always fascinated with death and dying and the rituals that come with it. I continue to decipher the source of this fascination as I undergo more rituals as another family member leaves for the unknown.

Now I know where the dead people's blood and entrails go, but I still don't eat dinuguan during wakes. I seldom eat during wakes.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tourism in the time of kidnappings

I happened to pass by the old Intramuros in Manila late last month. There, on the walls of the old city, was a huge banner inviting people to an exhibit of culture and beauty of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Early this week, Ilocos Rep. Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos, urged the government to invest in "tourism development" as part of its “list of priorities” in line with the proposed P300 billion peso economic stimulus package.

On the same day Marcos delivered his speech, gunmen snatched two people in the province of Basilan, a place with pristine beaches and virgin forests, a place that could be ideal for tourism.

Spate of kidnappings

The kidnap victims are simple people trying to eke a living by working for a small organization that is engaged in "micro-finance" in the province.

The gunmen on a motorcycle took Leah Patris and Ahmad Ilang about 6 p.m. in the village of Upper Benengbengan in Sumisip town in Basilan this week.

Last week, gunmen also took a nine-year old boy and a midwife in Lamitan, also in Basilan. Earlier, a bakeshop owner and three teachers were taken in nearby Zamboanga City. They were also taken to Basilan.

At least more than a dozen people, including three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross, are in the hands of bandits in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan.


I agree with Marcos when he said that government's stimulus package "is welcome and sensible...but it will only work if the plan is sound and the priorities are right.”

Marcos may be right when he proposed that "aggressive promotion and the development of the country’s tourism industry" can help the country weather the global financial crisis.

Before thinking of aggressive promotion and tourism, the government must, however, first address the problem of kidnappings in the south. It is not easy to talk about the beauty of Zamboanga's sunset, the sweetness of Sulu's durian and the idyllic beaches of Basilan as people cower in fear.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The 'Diary'

Reading Hunter S. Thompson's "The Rum Diary" makes one crave for a drink in the middle of the night or even in the early hours of the morning. (I have to ransack the kitchen for a bottle of something at past 12 midnight while I was reading the last four chapters.)

For people, journalists especially, who haven't had the pleasure of losing a job, going freelance and getting drunk and scared as shit in some backward town (with a name like Josefina, Sapang Dalaga or Sumisip), the book is a must read.

The "Diary" also reminds me of those sleepless nights (and days) along Timog Avenue in the late Eighties when I drink with freelance photographers and would-be poets until seven o'clock in the morning in a hole-in-the-wall place beside an animal clinic that sells chicken innards and barbecue.

Thompson's novel, his first, is as timely as when it was first published in the middle of the last century in a country like the Philippines and at a time of this so-called economic recession, when hope is rare and bullshit is all over.

Thanks to Karl for the book, a gift during the holidays and a pleasant reminder that life can change for the better or for the worst and is as swift as a swig of cheap rum after midnight when one just wants to rush home to take advantage of the high of alcohol while dreaming.

The "Diary" is a must read for a people that needs reminding that living, through the ups and downs, the short-cuts and the long-cuts included, can be enjoyed with or without a bottle of rum, or beer for that matter in this country.

Kemp, Sala, Yeamon, Segarra, Lotterman, and the rest of the gang remind us of the good, the bad and the assholes of this world, especially in the media industry. Those in media who can still read will find themselves and their colleagues in this "crackling, twisted, searing" book.

When Karl gave me this book last December he asked me to blog about it after reading. Here it is my friend. I am taking up the challenge with all gratitude for the friendship and for your silent assurance that Chenault will be waiting for me in New York with her love and "few surprises."

Thanks for the support.

I am writing this for you Karl at two o'clock in the morning as the sounds of the city drift "through layers of humid air; sounds of life and movement, people getting ready and giving up, the sound of hope and the sound of hanging on, and behind them all, the quiet, deadly ticking of a thousand hungry clocks, the lonely sound of time passing...."