filipina at home on February 28th, 2014

After the horrors we experienced in the Philippines last year, Filipinos can only look forward to a new year and its promise of a new beginning. The past year was wrought with disasters – natural ( weather phenomena) and man-made (PDAF scam) – that left us badly bruised and battered in many ways. But there too were stories of love and hope that echoed the message that all is not lost.

Amid stories of death, tragedy, hunger and desperation, there were countless stories sacrifice, selflessness and heroism; and of people extending help to or risking their lives for complete strangers.

It was a tragedy that pushed one’s limits and tested one’s principles to the extreme. One guy, having lost everything to the typhoon, found himself stealing food items from a grocery store in Tacloban. He wrote a letter afterwards to apologize for what he had done and listed down the items that he had taken with the promise of paying for these in the future. He reasoned that he was forced to commit the act as he had been suffering from extreme hunger and desperation.

Towards the end of year, the country’s bet made it to the final round of the Miss Universe pageant. However, she did not win the title. This was around the same time that typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) ravaged the Philippines. A few weeks later, the Philippines was honored with a Miss International crown. Then, just before the year closed, another beauty title, Miss Tourism International was bagged by the Philippines. Read the rest of this entry »

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filipina at home on September 7th, 2013

We decided to leave for Ortigas one rainy weekend and stay overnight at the Malayan Plaza Hotel. Why there? Well, we wanted a quick weekend getaway. A long drive was out of the question and we did not want to be away from the conveniences of Metro Manila.

Another requirement I had was a kitchenette and The Malayan Plaza’s serviced residences had these. Studying our options, what really tipped the scales in its favor were the rates. Why? Go check them out at Agoda.com.

It wasn’t just raining when we left. It was stormy. I wasn’t sure where exactly the place was and after circling the area, we were overjoyed to find out that The Malayan Plaza Hotel stood right next to Discovery Suites, very close to The Podium, El Pueblo, and is a good 5-10 minute walk to Megamall!

Located at the corner of ADB Avenue and Opal Road in the Ortigas Business District, the hotel has a decent lobby. The staff are courteous. When we were ushered into our room, husband noted that the keys are a blast from the past. They still use real keys over there. Not Vingcards and the like.  Read the rest of this entry »

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filipina at home on August 29th, 2013

Poor governance. Incompetent officials. High corruption levels. High poverty levels.

With these problems plaguing the Philippines, it is no wonder that everyday, four thousand five hundred Filipinos leave in search of a better life abroad.

Meantime, those who enjoy the stability of a job and income feel more and more disgruntled with the way the country is managed. Amid chants of matuwid na daan (straight path), patronage politics prevails. People are up in arms and are asking, “Is this government any different from its predecessors?”  The way things look, it’s likely we’re just going to get more of the same brand of rotten politics that Filipinos are sick of.

So what do we do? Here are some options that some of us might want to explore.

1. Migrate to another country. I don’t need to say this one because I know it’s in everyone’s consciousness. Whether for economic reasons or for the experience of a more just and merit-based society where one’s hard work is commensurately rewarded, the idea of moving to a better managed country is always hard to resist.

2. Go out in the streets and protest. Those of us who feel that it is our civic duty to contribute to building a better Philippines could express our grievances through the various channels available one of which is marching on the streets.

3. Write down your grievances. Whether it’s to tell your officials that they suck at what they do or to give them a pat on the back, writing is an effective way of expressing one’s feelings. You could write a letter to the editor, write a blog post (if you have a blog), or write a letter addressed directly to the official. If you are to criticize them, make it sound diplomatic in case the official you’re writing to doesn’t take criticism well. Read the rest of this entry »

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filipina at home on August 21st, 2013

As one digs deeper into the pork barrel fund scam, more and more names of

government officials and institutions emerge. This now begs the question: How

far-reaching is the pork barrel fund scam in Philippine government? Does it

involve high-ranking officials in the executive branch and inside Malacanang

Palace?

 

Malacanang does not seem to echo the indignation felt by the rest of the

population, and this rather lukewarm reaction of the President’s Office casts

doubt on its integrity and sincerity to stamp out corruption in the Philippines

for good.

 

Isn’t it strange that ever since the President took office in 2010, the pork

barrel allocation has increased by 150%? And now that the pork barrel fund

scam has been exposed, the President is not even remotely prepared to

abolish it? The public outcry for its abolition is so strong given that

government agencies and lawmakers – including those who last year staged

the patriotic act of impeaching the erring Chief Justice – are said to be

involved in the impudent and systematic looting of government funds.

But is President Noynoy heeding the call of the people who voted for

him? Wasn’t it just two or three years ago when he said that we are his boss?

Read the rest of this entry »

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filipina at home on August 17th, 2013

If you live in the Philippines, you would have heard of Janet Lim Napoles by now.

Otherwise, you must be a hermit or are living in a cave somewhere.

 

The thought of Janet Napoles and her alleged activities makes me stare off into

space stupefied.

 

How could anybody steal government money on such a massive scale and not

feel a tinge of guilt? Incredible. Of course, she had help from insiders. But, ghost

deliveries? Ghost projects? How could she? Has she no conscience?

 

In social media, her daughter shamelessly flaunts her extravagant lifestyle in the

US, trusting that the newfound wealth they now enjoy could be attributed to his

parents’ astute business sense.

 

The crimes she is alleged to have committed made Manila Archbishop Tagle cry

in public because she stole funds meant for projects benefitting the poor, moving

the priest to reason that if she had spent some time with the poor, she would

not have thought of betraying them the way she did.

 

It’s sickening how, over the years, she managed to widen her network in government.

For the greedy, her business proposition is simply hard to resist: Give me the

government funds; I take care of the rest. Fake institutions. Fake projects. Fake

papers.

 

What happens to the intended beneficiaries? Who knows? Do they even care?

 

Now that Napoles has been issued a warrant of arrest, she has suddenly disappeared.

 

After they have searched for her in the 28 houses that she owns in the Philippines,

the authorities should also take a look in the houses of the lawmakers she has made

even richer.

 

It would be a big shame if Janet Lim Napoles is allowed to evade the law.

 

If she’s not caught soon, then she adds to the growing list of VIPs with arrest warrants,

affirming the collective sentiment that in this country, Lady Justice does not wear a

blindfold.

 

 

 

 

 

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filipina at home on July 30th, 2013

A US-based family friend messaged me on Facebook recently that she was getting married in Manila and asked me to be one of her ninangs (a female principal sponsor). I have to admit that it came as some kind of a shock to me when she did, as I thought that I was still somewhat young to be a ninang. I had to ask her, “Are you sure you want me to be your ninang, not your abay (secondary sponsor)?” She must have thought I was kidding as I only received a smiley for a reply.

Since that was settled, the next thing I had to deal with was what to wear. I messaged her again, “Hi. Do you have a color motif?”. She replied, “Yes, ate. It’s coral and grey.”

Being the spendthrift that I am, I knew there was only one place to go to find myself a suitable dress. This place is Divisoria, Manila’s answer to Chatuchak Market of Thailand and Hong Kong’s Mongkok District.

I heard before that after the old Tutuban Center burned down, all the wedding gown suppliers reopened in the new Tutuban Center. One may still go to Ylaya Street in Binondo to visit the old stalls. But if you decide to do this in the hopes of saving even more cash, make sure you’re armed with rainboots (if it’s the rainy season) as you could very well end up wading in mud. If it’s hot, bring an umbrella and wear light clothing lest you pass out while shopping.

Does this look like the Divisoria that we know?

I went to Divisoria on a Sunday for my shopping expedition. I took the route via Recto Avenue and from there, made a left to get to Soler Avenue. I was praying that finding a parking spot would not take too long. When I made a left at Reina Regente, I was stunned by what I saw. There was huge structure called Lucky Chinatown Mall! And it didn’t look like those other buildings in Divisoria posing as malls. It had the appearance of an honest-to-goodness mall with all the familiar restaurants on the ground level. Yes!

One side of Lucky Chinatown Mall

 

 

In no time at all, I parked the car and soon found myself at the mall’s lobby. I felt like a tourist asking the security guard for directions. I had to ask questions like, “Excuse me, which way is….?” like I hadn’t been there countless times before.

Walking out of the door, I recognized some of the old buildings that still stood. Oh, there’s Tong Se Academy. So this is where I am, I mumbled. I stopped for a while to look around me and marvel at all the changes. From 168 Mall, I walked through 999 Mall all the way to Tutuban Mall so seamlessly that it came as pleasant surprise. If I hadn’t traversed the street market in front of Tutuban Mall, I probably would have forgotten that I was, in fact, in Divisoria.

Inside Tutuban Mall, after some difficulty finding a coral dress, I settled for a grey one mimicking a terno, a traditional Filipino formal dress. The problem was, it had a hideous-looking bow on it. The price tag? 2,000 Philippines pesos. For the price, they even offered to adjust the size of the dress for a better fit. “Okay, I’ll take it,” I said. Read the rest of this entry »

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filipina at home on June 10th, 2013

The 2013 French Open ended with Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal taking home the trophies in the women’s and men’s events, respectively.

I am completely thrilled to have Rafa bag it for the eighth time in his career. Prior to the finals, the media and tennis observers noted that, should he win it, the championship would be sweeter for David Ferrer who made it to his first ever grand slam final in his tennis career.

I did not expect that Rafa would wax emotional with this win. He was in tears after the match. At the awarding ceremonies, as the Spanish national anthem played, he shed tears again.

Meantime, Serena was the toast of the press because of her exceptional tennis at 31 years old and also for the on-court interviews she conducted in French. Such was her determination to display her newly acquired language skills that she no longer bothered to speak in English for the benefit of her English-speaking fans and her own mother, no less. As Serena thanked her mother (in French), her mother had to be told that her daughter was referring to her.

It’s always impressive when someone knows a foreign language. But isn’t Rafa a Spaniard who speaks French and English, (with English being a late addition to his linguistic repertoire)? Likewise, Maria Sharapova, the other finalist in the 2013 French Open, is Russian who speaks English quite well. Funny that when English-speakers learn a foreign language, it’s NEWS. However, when Europeans can speak in English, it doesn’t make the headlines.

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Maria Ressa of Rappler.com tweeted the link to her interview with new Philippine senator Nancy Binay. It was hard to resist not clicking on the link. I mean, Nancy Binay has been tremendously criticized, maligned and harassed in social networking sites. Her qualifications were questioned, her competence derided, and her dark skin ridiculed. She is a mother of four, and a Tourism graduate of the University of the Philippines. She does not have an employment record to speak of other than being her father’s and mother’s assistant for the past 20 years that their family has been governing Makati. The fact that she stayed away from the debates did not make her popular among the netizens. However, she surprised everyone by taking the 5th spot in the senatorial race of 2013 beating other more established personalities in Philippines politics.

Photo from Wikipedia

I did not understand the rage that Nancy Binay attracted throughout Philippine media. People depict her as incompetent and unintelligent when, in fact, the likes of Freddie Webb, Robert Jaworski, or worse, Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla have been voted into the hallowed halls of the Philippine Senate. Are we saying that actors and basketball players are more qualified to become senators than, say, the eldest daughter and personal assistant of an extremely successful city mayor of the country’s premier city for 20 years? Strangely enough, Nancy expressed during the interview that none of the hatred being circulated in online sites was felt when she was campaigning on the ground. Is this an issue of class? Is there a sector of Philippine society that does not like her skin color? On the other hand, another sector, which numbers quite a lot, seems to believe otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

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filipina at home on October 19th, 2012

It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years since that summer of 1992. It was a most unforgettable year mainly because it was the year I finished my studies. After handing over my thesis, I thought I would reward myself for all the “hard work” I had done the past four years…

The only fitting reward I could think of then was to allow myself the unbridled pursuit of my passion for the outdoors.

And so that summer, my friends and I decided to join the federation climb of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, Inc. (MFPI). We were to fly to Iloilo in the Visayan Islands of the Philippines to meet up with all the mountaineers from all over the land.

This event coincided with Holy Week in the Philippines and that only meant one thing – travelling would be a challenge. Not only was school out, but it was also a time when everyone went back to their hometowns to spend the summer and to attend Holy Week activities.

There were four of us going to Iloilo – me, my good friend EB and our couple friends B and R. For some reason I can’t quite remember now, only EB and B got their air tickets to Iloilo confirmed. R and I had scheduling issues and could not depart Manila together with EB and B. Anyway, after EB and B landed in Iloilo, I recall R and I going to the PAL office in Makati and trying our best to secure our tickets. The ticket office looked more like a cockpit arena. It was chaotic. The people would not line up and there were just too many people inside. At one point, the short-haired, diminutive female ticket agent had to scream at the clients just to get them to line up. Of course, thinking back now, that problem-solving technique would be deemed inacceptable these days given the extreme competition in the local airline industry. Scream at us, you become tomorrow’s headline. But back then, hearing her scream left me petrified with fear that I nearly told my friend to abandon the fed climb. We were getting too exhausted already. And yet, we hadn’t even started climbing any mountain yet. Read the rest of this entry »

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filipina at home on July 22nd, 2012

How many times have we seen the UP Fighting Maroons start off well in a UAAP game, take the lead, lose the lead, narrow the opponent’s lead, then in the final minutes, implode?

 

Last Sunday’s match against De La Salle University was no different. With rougly 2 minutes left in the game, UP managed to bring the DLSU lead down to 1 point. Then, with UP looking to take the lead for the first time, they end up bungling the possession. We’ve seen this countless times before, haven’t we?

 

I mean, what’s unfortunate is that you know that the UP Maroons have enough talent to beat the better teams in the league and that it doesn’t have to content itself with being at the bottom of the ladder all the time.

 

What’ s most bothersome isn’t the fact that the UP men’s basketball team is a perennial loser. It’s the quality of basketball they play when it comes down to the wire. One gets the sense that the team finds it hard to persist whenever it’s ahead or when it counts the most.

 

So what does the team need? Perhaps, a course in mental toughness will help the team focus and stay the course. In any sport, mental toughness is a necessary skill that sets champions apart from those teams or athletes that stay in or fade into obscurity. This is what keeps the team focused on the goal in the face of injury, a huge deficit, or other challenging situations.

Read the rest of this entry »

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