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Saturday, March 31, 2012

The New (Doughnut) Kid In Town

Hearing friends talk excitedly about J. Co Donuts, the newest doughnut franchise to sweep into Manila, I thought about how animated they were. These were mostly people who have been to Indonesia (where their first store opened) and had sampled these goodies there. (See http://www.jcodonuts.com/ for more information.)


Having lived in Makati for the last 7 years, I thought what a pain it was for me to have to travel all the way to Megamall just to sample these much talked-about desserts. (Which is where the first J. Co franchise in the Philippines opened.)

Fortunately, I had to meet my parents there and had a leisurely Sunday brunch so I thought I'd kill two birds in one go and pass by the store as well after brunch. I bought my parents and me and Art 1 set each of assorted goodies to try out.

Side note: I normally judge a doughnut store mostly on the strength of its' coffee. I'm not really a doughnut person, and once I've tried a particular flavor, I don't need to repeat it anymore.  And it seems like the doughnut stores know this - through the years, some of the best coffees I've had were from these kinds of establishments, and not necessarily from actual coffee shops.

The names of the doughnuts were what popped out for me, aside from the colors. Avocado Di Caprio really sticks to one's brain, given the actor's popularity. (And I thought what a strange flavor to have on one of these things.) After I made a selection and I brought it home for Art, we both thought they looked too pretty to eat.

I'd have to say it's a 50/50 proposition: Over the course of a week and a half, Art and I tried out all the flavors, and for every one flavor that was a thumbs up, there would be one that wouldn't be too well received. (The avocado flavored one didn't really register a wow on the tastebuds.) I liked the Tiramisu flavored one (we both did) and the Pistachio flavored treat was also one that stood out. Green Tease (green tea flavored) was my favorite, as it is a flavor I actually like (and a tea I usually have).

One big plus though was that these weren't the cloyingly sweet variety, unlike that other well known franchise. Which is always a good thing. And the variety was also another plus - I actually got a cheese flavored one, and I believe they used bleu cheese (?) as it had that distinct, sharp, pungent flavor punching through. (Last row, 2nd one from the left in the picture.)

As my Megamall jaunt was really more to see my parents, I just took the doughnuts for take out/take away and I didn't really stay, but from what I saw, the store was really spacious (it's located in Building B but in the strip that's in between both buildings). I'm assuming it has wi-fi because people had their tablets and netbooks turned on - probably blogging about their J. Co experience as it was happening.

Thankfully, as my client and I were jogging past Greenbelt, we discovered that J. Co was about to open a branch for the Makati crowd. 

I will be back for the coffee.



In Makati, of course.




J. Co Donuts (Philippines)
Building B, Megamall
Ortigas, Pasig
https://www.facebook.com/JCoDonuts.Pilipinas

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Ano Ba Talaga, CJ?"

I've been meaning to ask that aloud ever since Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona's trial began.

(Courtesy of loqal.ph)

I'm confused with everything that Corona has said/done. His impeachment trial has necessitated him to sprout off statements or do things in defense of himself, which, unwittingly leave more questions than answers in their wake.

This is a collection of the inconsistencies I have heard - so far - from his interviews, statements, news reports, following the trial, and now that the trial is on break, his reactions to journalist Raissa Robles' investigations and questions from other media outfits.

He says he has not done anything to be ashamed of, but promptly withdraws millions in the bank the day his impeachment became official.

He says the millions he withdrew were from his wife's company, but they were deposited in his personal account.

Any employee found keeping company money in a personal account would be fired, no questions asked, and a defense of "I'm just safekeeping it" would be met with contempt and disbelief on top of outright laughter. The CJ keeps the money of a company he has - supposedly - no ties with, and on record, is not a part of (BGEI), but rationalizes that it is "in trust" and "for safekeeping". (Are we saying that any ordinary company employee is expected to be held up to a higher ethical standard than the Chief Justice of an entire country?)

He says the reason he withdrew them was because he lost trust in the bank, but he promptly deposited the money he withdrew - again, at the same bank.

He says he will submit to the impeachment trial, then asks his lawyers to try their best to have the trial nullified and the proceedings thrown out.

He says he will reveal all "in due time". His lawyers proceed to throw every possible legal impediment to prevent records from being scrutinized.

He says he has honestly completed his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). If not for this trial, we would not have known that - by his own admission - he has dollar accounts he did not declare. We would also never have known how lucrative it is to work in the judiciary with multiple Christmas "bonuses", various allowances and multiple expense accounts, none of which were declared in the SALN.

When confronted about why he never included all these "earnings" and "assets" in his SALN, his lawyers reply that there is no specific rule to say what items to fill up, or that these are not taxable and there is no need to disclose them, or that the rules are shifting all the time, or that...I can't continue, I'm not that crafty in coming up with the reasons they gave, and it rails against my personal code to mouth off their brand of "lawyering".

The SALN requires a public official to declare all bank instruments and investments. One of his lawyers believes it is not a requirement to declare a bank account. (?!?)

He refuses to stand in the impeachment trial to make official statements -he will supposedly be "ridiculed" - but goes on a media blitz to air his side.

He decries Pres. Aquino for taking his fight against corruption to the bar of public opiion. He then goes to TV stations, radio programs and everywhere else to convince the public he is beyond reproach.

He says he supports the rule of law. Depending on which property of his we are discussing, the rule of law could be upon receipt of title, upon acceptance pending fixing of damages, upon being bought from various relatives but still holding on to the title, and so on.

He accuses the President of polarizing the judiciary. He responds by holding masses in the SC, having SC people wear red to "support" his "crusade". (Of course, he says people do this on their own volition. As one commenter noted, imagine if any member of the army or any executive wears a yellow ribbon of their own volition, Corona and his supporters would have a field day calling him a dictator, but when the judiciary does it, it is called "freedom of expression".)

He says he has nothing to do with BGEI. He hides, I mean "safekeeps", BGEI money in his personal account.

He says he holds BGEI money "in trust". The account he places this in is a personal account, where the law requires you to declare an account to be In Trust specifically in the account name.

The law also requires all accounts held in trust to be declared in the SALN. Since he claims that the millions in contention were held in trust, they still should have been declared. He did not.

He says "101%" his family doesn't own properties in the US. The next day, he reveals his daughter bought a property "dirt cheap". He also says the "we" in "we don't own property" is his wife and him, it excludes the children.

He says he has no interest in BGEI and its affairs as it is an internal family squabble of his wife's family. Former Manila mayor Lito Atienza revealed that CJ was with Cristina (his wife) when they were negotiating the sale of the BGEI property to the city.

Bloggers like Raissa Robles have been asking for interviews with him. He then invites "other" bloggers to the SC itself to a sit-down dinner.

He says the SC is a collegial body, each member getting one vote only. He also says all that is standing between PNoy and the Hacienda Luisita ruling is him alone.

He says the rule of law is supreme. Apparently, when his own Supreme Court ruled three times "with finality", it means "until someone changes my mind again" - see the FASAP case.

He thinks he is beyond reproach. He then proceeds to sit in his position while the Senate is investigating the charges against him, and meddles with decisions that are referred to the SC, decisions that have bearing on the case itself. (Think US$ deposits.) In effect, he has a say to parts of his investigation, where he actually interferes with the Senate's attempts to ferret out the truth.

He says he has nothing to lose. He has not revealed his dollar accounts.

Our Constitution defines what is required of someone working in the judiciary - let's not even delve into what we expect from the head of the judiciary. His lawyers, in effect, are saying that it is unfair to hold him to a higher standard and must be accorded the same expectations we would a "normal" person, and even a common criminal - astonishingly innocent until proven hideously guilty beyond every shadow of every doubt.

He says he bows down to the Constitution. He accepted an illegal appointment to his current position, in direct opposition to the Constitution he claims to revere.

I know I missed a lot more "Huh?!?" moments, but this is a good start. (I'm not even including his supposed "jazzing up" of his resume - claiming to be an honor student all throughout when he was not - or the fact that some of his batchmates from his schools are denouncing him already.)

When I started writing this post, I initially only had 3 to 4 inconsistencies in mind. But as I wrote, my memory got refreshed with statements made that were tangent to the ones I had in mind. As I sit here reviewing this list, one thing dawned on me: Has he EVER been consistent?

Consistently inconsistent is more like it.

And we should ask ourselves: How can we trust someone to be our Chief Justice when he seems to revel and excel in not meaning what he says? Is this someone you want to pin your hopes on to attain justice, objectivity and fairness? (Again, let's leave out "expecting the highest level of ethical behavior" - anyone who thinks holding some company's money in a personal account and not declare it as "In Trust" in writing or in his SALN as perfectly acceptable doesn't even deserve to be mentioned where matters of ethics are concerned.)

Given his predilection to be inconsistent, it comes as little surprise to me why former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would champion him to be appointed as Chief Justice.

(Courtesy of judiciary.gov.ph)

Do we want someone like this to be the final arbiter of all our laws?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

More Of The "Same, Same!"

In this post, we explore some more reasons why the worlds of politics and showbiz/entertainment seem to be so intertwined.

(See http://theguywithablog.blogspot.com/2012/03/same-same.html to view the reasons I already cited.)

3. Blood Is Thickest. Period.

Our particular brand of politics gives new meaning to the term "political dynasty". To my understanding, the word dynasty connotes some kind of relationship/s that spans generations.

In our interpretation, we are impatient to wait that long.

Instead, we want an instant dynasty: And by this I mean everyone is in on the act.

Right now. Together.

You have either husband or wife being a senator, mayor or some kind of "nucleus" figure. The other spouse then runs for either governor, or congresswoman, or even similar position if the law will allow. The children also take up similar positions, some (maybe the youngest) will opt to be a councilor so they can boast that s/he is still "earning her/his stripes". The uncles and aunts and cousins will also rally for other positions all in the vicinity of the nucleus - maybe vice mayor, or vice governor, and when they campaign, they will play on the "blood is thick" angle, not as a liability, but as something that showcases their family's, uh, unity.

Currently, we have a brother and sister team in the Senate, and we know that they inherited their father's name, as well as the position - their father was a senator as well. A general who ran for senator has his son also in the senate until he was appointed to an executive position. We used to have a mother-son tandem, wife and son of former President Estrada. Even the latest addition to the Senate (by virtue of one senator resigning) is a son of a former Senator.

Similarly, in showbiz, we have the following examples: Sharon Cuneta, married to Senator Pangilinan (a literal marriage of showbiz and politics), has a daughter from an annuled marriage who is now working as an "actress", "singer" and "host". I put them in quotes because while she does what the job requires of her, I can't say she does them as someone who is "natural" to the job. But she gets a free pass because her mom is one of the "elders" of the current entertainment industry.

Sen. Ralph Recto is married to "Star For All Seasons" Vilma Santos (another literal marriage), a three term governor. Vilma's son, Luis, is also in showbiz as a host primarily, and acts in some films.

(Courtesy of pinoyexchange.com)

Eddie Guitierrez and Annabelle Rama have worked in film, and their sons and daughter work as actors, beauty queen and hosts.

Eddie Mesa and Rosemarie Gil have a clan that is firmly in the showbiz circuit, all the way to the grandchildren.

An interesting hybrid of the politics/entertainment marriage is the Revilla clan, starting with the senior Ramon Revilla (who, in television network GMA 7's tally, has more than 80 children), who started as an actor, then became a senator. His son, Bong Revilla, is also an actor who is now a senator, and has not stopped acting, and even has time for TV gigs. His wife, who is an actress, as well, was appointed to a government position in former President GMA's time, and is now a legislator in the current adminstration. Their children are in showbiz. Recently, of course, the name "Ramgen" has made headlines, one of the senior Revilla's children who was murdered and his girlfriend barely escaping with her life. (By the way, what is the status of that investigation?) The other Revilla youngsters are also either already in or wanting to start their showbiz careers.

I mentioned in number 2 that "talent" is inconsequential: if someone paves the way, as a dutiful family member, you have to keep the, er, "tradition" alive, and count your blessings because your forebears already made it easier for you to enter that particular world. So legislate, rule, act, sing, host or dance away - your family name assures you of a spot in these worlds that will forever be an exclusive clique based on affinity. (The ones who manage to break into them without a name means either their talent/qualification is without question, or they slept and bared their body on the way to the top.)


4. Let's Give Them A Show.

Whether in politics or showbiz, you need a "buzz" in order to stay relevant - it brings to mind the idea that "it doesn't matter if it's good press or bad press, as long as there's press, you'll remain talked about and relevant". Admittedly, some of these are "artificial", meaning intentionally made gossip, but in both worlds, there are circumstances that befall these players unwittingly and unintentionally - but they have the sense to seize this PR opportunity to their advantage and make themselves the banner headline for tomorrow's paper.

Whether in Senator Santiago's WHAAAA!!! in the impeachment trial, or Sharon fighting it out with negative commenters in he Twitter page, they know they have the camera on them, and must perform willingly. Again, granted, they have the personality to do these things to begin with - you don't aspire for a very public position without knowing beforehand that public scrutiny is part of the mix and accepted as a necessary evil, this intrusion. But for many players in these industries, it is a welcome intrusion, a chance to make their "Public Rank" even higher and their stock to increase.

In fact, many of them count on it, and play to the cameras whenever they get a chance.


5. Fans Are Important. And They Know It.

All that differs is the currency: In politics, they deal in votes. In showbiz, in sales and receipts.

But those who have been in the game for a long time know that public opinion is vital, whether they publicly admit it or not, and that this opinion is so strong that entire careers in their field can make or break them.

This is the reason why politicians stand in for "sponsors" in weddings where they do not know anyone remotely. Or why movie stars have a "Fans Day" or a "Meet and Greet" every so often, They have to gauge the public mood - do they still know who I am? Am I relevant? And more importantly, do they still buy into what I say and do?

This knowledge exposes the true relationship we have with these public figures: We are actually their lifeblood, and without our approval, they will fall down like a house of cards meeting a tsunami or earthquake.

And the saddest observation is, we are not aware of the power we possess.

So, do I hear anyone signing up for Kris Aquino's campaign for the Senate?

(Courtesy of gedsrl.org)

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Same, Same!"

I first heard this expression in Singapore, an offshoot of their so-called Singlish (Singaporean English), and it meant to convey that there was no difference between two or more topics or subjects under discussion.

It certainly came to mind after I heard a piece of disturbing news, courtesy of a recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia, regarding "senatoriables" - or people who were most likely to win if an election for senators were held at a given time.

(Courtesy of ph.omg.yahoo.com)

(Courtesy of sweetslyrics.com)

"Queen Of All Media" Kris Aquino as well as incorrigible TV host Willie Revillame are included in the Top 20 list of Most Likely To Win For Senator, in a survey conducted just this February 26 to March 9, 2012 by the survey firm.

(See complete list here: http://pulseasia.com.ph/pulseasia/story.asp?ID=749)

The world of politics and showbiz/entertainment: Same, Same!

I'll be honest - and I know many of my friends will hate me for verbalizing this - but when I hear news like this, it makes me doubt that we are meant to have a democratic form of government.

We keep coming up with the same scenario, over and over again.

It seems like our politicians are stuck to their positions with Super Glue. In this list, the names of Legarda, Escudero and Roxas dominated the top 3 spots, 2 of whom are current senators, one ran for Vice President, also a former senator who is currently a cabinet secretary.

The only additions I have seen since my teenage years are the showbiz personalities who now see politics as a "viable alernative" to where they originally started: We have, of course, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, who reached the top post of President. His best friend, Fernando Poe, Jr. could have been another President were it not for our "Hello, Garci!" 2004 winner, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who, likewise, is now a legislator - and one who owed a substantial part of her then popularity as a budding senator to a supposed physical resemblance to local legend Nora Aunor. (Vocally, they are universes apart.)

What is it about these two worlds that keep them in direct collision - and collusion - with each other?

It would be helpful to see what traits and qualities can be observed that cause them both to have the same zip code in the same neighborhood, or, we can say it altogether now, Same! Same!

(1) Let's get the obvious out of the way: both are popularity contests.

Just take a look at the survey results in the Pulse Asia link: A former broadcaster turned senator tops the list, Sec. Roxas is married to broadcaster Korina Sanchez and also appropriated the name Mister Palengke (Mr. Public Market), Kris Aquino and Willie Revillame need no introduction whatsoever, and media-genic politicians like the mahinahon (not burly) ways of Sen. Escudero, these are the ones most likely to have name recall and recognition.

Former President Estrada trounced then Speaker de Venecia, and we all know his masa fan base. (To be fair, Estrada rose up the ranks from the local city government, until senator, then Vice President before becoming President. He at least has the right to say he underwent many years of government service beore seeking the top spot.)

Current President Noynoy Aquino has the political pedigree behind him, even though he has neither the ferocity of his father nor the easy charm of his mother. And while opponents have trotted his practically non existent legislative record, his name recall, coupled with the fact of his mother's passing, have definite contributions to his election. I certainly support the President's drive against corruption - as if that needed further announcement, haha - but I seriously don't think he would have a chance of being President without the legacy of his parents.

Revilla. Bautista. Paulate. Santos. Sotto. Just a few names from showbiz that have parlayed their fame into political gold. Whether or not they are of actual public service isn't the point I'm focusing on, but the fact that they have the advantage of popularity before entering politics makes me want to ask them: would you seriously have given thought to entering politics if you weren't popular?

Showbiz doesn't need an explanation for the popularity concept, does it? It's very life revolves around fame, the moment you're laos (old news), the studios kick you out giving way to new blood.

Let's face it: If you're a bloody fantastic manager or public servant, but no one knows your name, you don't stand a chance in Philippine politics. The same rule is true in showbiz.

(2) Actual "talent" not required. You can learn on the job. Wink, wink.

Running a government department, crafting laws, taking social science courses or more legal education...they're only good on paper. In reality, many of our elected officials have none of these "talents", seeing as some of them are actor/singers/news readers, or just children of entrenched politicians ensuring their political fame - and future - from the start of the race. And if people ask for serious qualifications? They can just reply "it's our right to run, all it says under the law is that we have to be Filipino!"

Same banana in showbiz: You can't sing? Well, you're famous, and an okay actress, so yes, let's cut you a record deal! We have to translate that fame into music gold! (And the gold here is purely monetary, and says nothing about the music quality or vocal prowess, neither of which are present.) Or a hunky young nobody who can't act to save his life, but hey, he likes taking his shirt off at every chance, so let him star in a movie with top billing! And be sure to have shots of him in a barely-there bikini for the promotional materials!

More observations on the similarities between the political and showbiz worlds in the next post.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fame Does Not Equal Love

Note to celebrities and the wannabes: Just because you are famous does not mean you are liked or loved.

Seeing last night's news brought home this message: Apparently, three celebrities have engaged with accounts that have posted negative comments in their respective social media spaces - Regine Velasquez-Alcacid, Sharon Cuneta and Lea Salonga.

(See: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/252278/showbiz/chikaminute/ilang-celebrities-pumalag-sa-cyberbullying)

Regine (and husband Ogie Alcasid) bristled at comments directed at their firstborn.

(Courtesy of pollgenius.com)

Sharon reacted to comments about daughter KC and Piolo's kaput relationship, hinting that it may have been fans of Piolo doing the "bashing".

(Courtesy of celebrityhotshotph.com)

Lea, I'm not sure what negative thing is there to say about her (I find her charming and appealing, aside from the talent, that is undoubtedly there), but she shot back by saying those who have ugly things to say should at least correct their grammar and spelling before shooting off poison.

(Courtesy of pinoyhalo.com)

But I do have to say this, ladies: When you are out there the way you three are - and I think this trio makes a case for really famous, talented and successful artists - and engaging the public a little more intimately with the help of social media, you do realize that not all your press will be good, right?

I agree that many of these "negative vibes" are senseless and useless, but the fact remains that just because everyone knows you as the girl who practiced singing in a water-filled drum, Gabby Concepcion's ka-love team forever, or Miss Saigon, does not mean people will respond positively, much less adore and love you.

It happens to be human nature, as well as individual personality traits being different.

(1) The term I learned in my first literature class in college that has stuck with me to this day - schadenfreude - has persisted in my mind precisely because it is so undeniably pervasive: Even though no human wants to admit it bald faced, we secretly laugh/ridicule/snicker in glee when someone who is deemed "successful" by whatever standards of the day there are is suddenly experiencing a misfortune/a bad run/tragic news.

It may be envy/jealousy, but I also believe that it is a way to connect with people who always seem so far off from our own life experiences, be it their billions in bank accounts, or extravagant social parties, or impeccable free passes given because of their stature/fame/power. These beings are seen as other worldly, and the vernacular captures it quite nicely, di na maabot (literally "cannot be reached"), and when they ingloriously fall off their perceived pedestals, screaming, kicking and fighting with someone or retaliating nasty comments in cyberspace, it is an assurance that somehow, we are all still equals. Tao pa rin kayo. (You are still human.)

(2) Personally, I'm not a fan of perkiness: something about it strikes me as hypocritical, as if you're trying to compensate for some sinister motive lurking in your subconscious. However, showbiz and popular media love these "engaging" characters. So I think popular people who fall in this mold are truly surprised when they have not-so-nice feedback and comments because as far as they know, they have been playing to the crowd and giving them what they want.

So it really depends on the person: some may find those overly concerned with their hair or makeup as shallow, while for others, it is something to aspire to. Whatever it is, you can be sure that not everyone will be unanimous in perceiving it as positive or likable. This is a fact of life: Live with it.

Last I heard, Sharon is quitting from Twitter. Which is probably best, if she wants to maintain some semblance of order in a probably frenzy-filled, fast paced work life. The moment you expose yourself in media like Facebook, be prepared to get both good and bad remarks.

That's just the way life is.

The important rules are the same, whoever you are, wherever you are.

Celebrity or mortal.

Manny To God: Teka Lang, Okay?*

The metaphorical ink hasn't dried up from my last entry, and already, Manny Pacquiao has given me fodder for my next post.

Reading through today's front page news, one headline caught my eye:

"Pacquiao: Retirement Only In My Dreams"

(See: http://www.philstar.com/sportsarticle.aspx?articleid=789650&publicationsubcategoryid=69 )

(Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Pacquiao 1, God 0.

I didn't think the last sentence of my last post would be practically prophetic.

(See: http://theguywithablog.blogspot.com/2012/03/when-god-coached-manny.html)

As I have intimated, despite whatever religious flailings you signal to the public to say "I'm a Christian! I obey God!", at the end of the day, it comes down to one thing.

Free Will.

You decide what action to take.

You decide what your fate will be.

Manny, let me repeat: Your will be done.

Whether it's the monstrous monetary payoff, the much salivated power of fame, the eternal glory awaiting in the annals of boxing history, the threat of costly lawsuits from not fulfilling contractual obligations, or a Mayweather matchup "down the long corridors of time" (to borrow a line from Susan Meyers of Desperate Housewives fame), only one thing became evident: Manny slammed the door on God's face.

Imagine, getting a direct order from God, and saying, "Hell, No! That Dog Won't Hunt!"

After waxing eloquent about a dream where God appeared to him, telling him to give up the life of boxing - and take note, we have been bombarded with interviews of Manny and his handy Bible in tow, sprouting off Bible verses the way Sen. Santiago likes to mouth off archaic legal terminology, and photo-ops of him with various Christian leaders who willingly say in interviews how "impressed" they are with Manny's "transformation" into a changed man, presumably to do "God's work" - he suddenly does a turnaround and announces he isn't retiring anytime soon.

"Hindi ko pa pinag-isipan yan sa ngayon. Kaya ko pa namang lumaban." (I won't think of those things first. I can still fight.)

Giving God's personal message the KO: What a headline.

I'm now curious as to what his new "religious friends" have to say now that he has given God a blatant, public slap in the face. Will they be denouncing his "transformation" as an outright deceptive act? Or will we see them act true to form - at least in my eyes - and claim that Manny's decision is God's "timing"?

In any case, aside from Manny, there is one other winner in this battle against God.

Hypocrisy. And Human Nature. Which would amount to the same thing, in this case.



(*Teka Lang - You Wait.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When God Coached Manny

This latest turn of events in Manny Pacquiao's life, considered our country's greatest boxer, hardly seems surprising: As of late, he has been seen toting the Bible instead of his boxing gloves, photographed in Bible studies instead of a boxing gym, and mouthing off Bible verses instead of his opponents.

Ladies and gentlemen, Manny Pacquiao, the preacher.

(Photo courtesy of fighttime.net)

It is the latest in his reincarnations: from a struggling hick from his hometown, his almost - dare I use the pun? - godlike ascension into our national consciousness and international prominence was paved by way of the most barbaric of sports: punching a man senseless.

While most athletic endeavors base a participant's success by how fast they have traveled, how many baskets shot, or how many goals they have kicked, boxing is the only sport I know of that scores based on the punches on another person. (I have to include mixed martial arts, often referred to as MMA, in this category. Not so much "pro-wrestling" like the WWF, which seems to be the equivalent of soap opera for men swooning over other testosterone filled men.)

While most sports accept physical injuries as "collateral damage" in the service of the sport (strained shoulders from too many overhead shots, an ankle sprain from overuse in running a large football field), boxing is the only sport I know that has for its primary goal purposely inflicting injuries on another opponent, resulting in broken noses, lost teeth, massive blood loss, head injuries, and in later stages of a boxer's life, some have contracted dementia or Alzheimer's disease as a result of the beating received.

In turn, his success at this violent endeavor so widely celebrated (I see no difference between boxing and the gladiator games of yore, frenzied crowd cheering and betting while the bloodshed spectacle happens live) has been parlayed into business and entrepreneurial success, having many business endeavors run by both him and wife Jinkee.

He is also a one man advertising cash cow: With advertisements left and right, his earnings from these appearances in videos, photos, magazine spreads for international sports brands and local motorcycles, to name a few, are enough to last anyone 10 lifetimes and have a prosperous run on each of those lives. His "Midas touch" where ads are concerned has rubbed off on wife Jinkee and mom Dionesia, that they are "celebrities" in their own right, with their own product placements and target markets. I'm waiting for Manny's kids to go mano a mano with baby James (son of "Queen of All Media" Kris Aquino) in the tweens department anytime soon.

His latest endeavor: preaching the word of God.

God, apparently, told him to desist from the world that introduced him to all of us.

God, according to Manny, appeared to him in a dream, a divine vision, supposedly telling him: "You have done enough. You have made yourself famous but this is harmful." (Hmm. Even God acknowledged that the fame you attained was your own doing. Curious.)

(See: http://sports.inquirer.net/38473/manny-pacquiao-says-god-told-him-in-a-dream-to-quit-boxing)

It's interesting to note that he declined to give an actual number, of how many fights he has left in the ring, before he "retires" on account of the divine message he received.

It reminds me of embattled Chief Justice Renato Corona's fighting words, that he will answer all charges against him "in due time". When pressed for specifics, he suddenly becomes hard to interview.

A few comments, from someone who was raised in an environment that can be described as conservative, Christian (Protestant), Baptist and generally intolerant of other people's beliefs. These are based on what my formative years in school and church have informed me.

(1) Will you wage war against people who do not follow what you will preach? That is essentially what was taught to us, it's a war for souls, "we" (whoever speaks this line, apparently) have God on our side, everyone else who doesn't see it "our way" is evil/going to hell/the devil's minions. If yes, go to question 2. If no, skip 2 and go to 3.

(2) Will you choose your denomination now, for the record? As I understand from news reports, your current "faith revival" is largely due to a pastor of Protestant origin, conducting Bible studies with you on a regular basis. But the problem is you have identified yourself for so long as a Catholic; in fact, a priest who was asked about your closeness with this pastor said that the Catholic Church considers you their child despite this new relationship.

Let me tell you, nothing sparks more incense in the childhood sermons I have attended as a child and teen in our church services. Catholicism has always been despised in our school and church, and when asked point blank if Catholicism is wrong, they would answer by verses that pertain to "not having graven images before" God.

This means, Manny, you have to be clear: Are you now a Protestant, or still a Catholic? You cannot be both, as it appears now in the press, as there are fundamental differences that make your association in both sects an impossibility.

(3) Aren't you disobeying God by not giving a definite time frame of when to stop your boxing career? My understanding is that, when God says something, an order to do or not do a certain action, that is instantly executed. There's no "uh, let me think about it" scenario, lest you wish to be smote by the one who gave you the order. As one of your largest brand endorsements says for its tagline, Just Do It.

I hear you're still preparing for your next match with Bradley. This would be in direct violation of what God told you in your dream, wouldn't it? I mean, God even explained why, that it was harmful...so why still go on?

You can't be an effective "messenger of God" if you can't follow God's command to you personally. And you even publicly announced this, making us all aware of your disobedience.

You may want to rethink the career shift, given this shaky start.

(3-a) Does this also mean that God commanded you to beat up people for money, this whole time that you were boxing? Where I come from, people who do that are called by a different name.

(4) You have been quoted as saying, "When I speak, people listen." Your level of self awareness notwithstanding, you may want to ascertain the reasons why this is so. As I mentioned earlier, people are vicariously living their gladiator dreams through you, you get to beat up a person without the threat of a lawsuit but instead you are rewarded billions in pesos. (Is it in dollars already at this point?)

You may, again, want to think this through: Your first run in politics proved that your fame in boxing does not necessarily translate into political gold, you were beaten by Rep. Darlene Custodio.

Similarly, just because you now say you are a "changed man", does not mean you will be effective as "God's spokesperson". You claim to have a direct message from God, but you disobey God at the first instance of your test - you are still pushing through with the Bradley fight.

Talk about mixed messages.

When Paris Hilton speaks, people also listen. And not for lofty reasons, or because she has something of substance to say or contribute. Other than "That's Hot".

(Photo courtesy of tarlani.com)

The problem with fame is that it deludes people into thinking that they can be more than what they really are. You see this phenomenon all the time - an actress who thinks that her fame gives her license to start a singing career, even though she has a voice that would make all species extinct. Or a career executive thinking she could be the top dog, not knowing that when people mention her name - and they mention it constantly - it is with derision and contempt for her lack of work ethic.

Manny, your current announcement reminds me of that famous Susan B. Anthony quote, as to why she distrusts those people who claim to know God so well. (Have your people look it up for you.) This seems more to me like an attempt to have the basbas ng Diyos (blessing from God), to make it seem like a divinely inspired and guided direction.

One thing I also learned from my religious upbringing is that, at the end of the day, it is you, and you alone, that will decide what to do next. (Free will is a major theological - and moral and ethical - discussion. Which reminds me, must get Sam Harris' book.)

In a country that prizes religiosity and piety - on the surface, where it really counts in Filipino culture - your latest public relations attempt may dazzle many.

But I have no doubt of one thing.

Your will be done.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Weakness" Is Strength

Our national focus has been on the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona these past weeks. It is historical because it is the first time a Chief Justice has been impeached in our young democracy.

I beg to disagree when I hear commentaries that this is a sideshow, when we are facing so many economic problems: rising gas prices, unemployment, underemployment, OFW (Overseas Foreign Workers) concerns, the list goes on. Yes, it is vitally important that we address all these issues and so much more (environmental degradation, peace and order, reproductive health and rights, to name a few). But the crux of what the trial is all about hits at the very core of our institutions: the Constitution, and our laws, from which all authority for our democracy emanates - ultimately, the source of which is the people. We have to give this our due attention, and I would think those who regularly cry out for the "rule of law" would be the first to magnify the trial's importance.

One particular observation that has been said not just a few times is how, in our system of government, the judiciary has been called the weakest of the three pillars of government (the other two being the executive and the legislature). The basis for this statement is an essay written by Alexander Hamilton, in what is known as Federalist No. 78.

(Photo courtesy of tvtropes.org)

In it, Hamilton was quoted as saying that the judiciary has "no influence either over the sword or the purse...it may truly be said to have neither force nor will, but merely judgement." The sword has been taken to mean the executive, while Congress controls where and how to spend our budget.

Hamilton actually described the judiciary as the "least dangerous". But as we are finding out now, in our current, empirical experience, it has enough power to make it a force to be recognized and not to be discarded in any way as "weak".

The most recent example of this would be the case of the Flight Attendants' and Stewards' Association of the Philippines (FASAP), where the Supreme Court has already ruled THREE times, with FINALITY, in favor of FASAP against PAL (Philippine Air Lines), on a case that has dragged on for 14 years, the third ruling given on Sept. 7, 2011.

But on October 2, 2011, FASAP alleges that Corona, acting on letters from lawyer Estelito Mendoza, PAL legal counsel, recalls the valid and final Sept. 7 decision of the Supreme Court - I need to stress this, three times it was decided by the SC, and three times, all in favor of FASAP - on the basis of a technicality.

(Read more here: http://www.fasap.net/)

In one move, all that these workers have rallied and fought so hard for, they thought they had the solid backing of justice - evidenced by three decisions all in their favor by a body that claims to be collegial in voting in their cases - all of these were in essence summarily thrown out by Corona. A letter from Mendoza is all it took to undo 14 years and 3 Supreme Court decisions - with finality, yet! (Do lawyers have a different meaning of finality, yet again?)

More than what this case shows us - how a Chief Justice can proclaim his words as the interpretation of the law, and everyone has no choice but to obey - I believe it showcases where the real strength of the judiciary lies.

In its character. Moral, ethical, judicious character.

The Supreme Court - and other courts under them, for that matter - decide only on cases brought to them. They cannot and do not go around town, talking to people on the street, proclaiming "I want to judge you, right now!" This limitation, more than anything, should highlight how much is expected of them: People who go to the courts do so because they need someone impartial, morally and ethically upright and fit, beyond reproach, without questions on their character, to decide on disputes that all parties claim to be theirs to win by right.

They have a limited interaction with people who go to seek their - supposed - wisdom and moral fortitutde. In this small window, this miniscule point in time, they have to exhibit all that is expected of them: fairness, objectivity, empathy to both sides, making judgements only after considering all the facts and sides of all parties.

I also understand why their job must be difficult, as they must be careful not to let personal knowledge or relations tamper their decision making. They must ensure that beyond appearing impartial to anyone perceived to be close to them, they must actually BE impartial. If that means inhibition from cases that may cast doubt if one's presence remains, then that is what a judge should do.

Your character is what comprises your name. It is what defines you and how you are regarded and seen. It is not the vast knowledge you have amassed that matters, it is the judicious and correct application of that knowledge that does. Knowledge in itself is neutral: whether you use it or not, a water molecule is composed of two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen. Deciding which part of town needs water the most in a crisis, that implies empathy, compassion and concern - all benchmarks of one's character.

Inaction, often regarded as a form of weakness, is not that cut-and-dry defined: just because a letter was sent to you does not mean you have to act on it, nor disregard 14 years of pleading and three decisions made by your own court. Sometimes, not doing anything may be the wisest course of action, especially if acting on something in any way may produce more harm than good.

The power of one's character confers on its' holder a power that is unlike one wielded by the sword (violence, in its craven form) or the purse (bribery, in its craven form). Its authority is derived from moral ascendancy: doing what is right despite the throngs of people who choose to do wrong. It strives to be ethical despite all the temptations abounding all of us.

This is where the real strength of the judiciary lies: its character, its moral uprightness, its ethical persuasions. That when a judge or a court speaks, no one can cast even a sliver of doubt, not even a smidgin, that someone, somehow, is being unfairly treated.

To not use sword and purse but to still command respect and authority.

That is not weakness at all.

That is true strength.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Intercontinental Manila Responds

Having been alerted by the Customer Service Manager of Deal Grocer that my email address was given to the F and B Director (Food and Beverage) of Intercontinental Hotel Manila, it was not a surprise that I also received an email from the director.

To the F and B Director: Thank you for your email.

Thank you for assuring consumers like me that there is definite room for improvement regarding your offering at Cafe Jeepney. The reason I hold such high regard for you is because my parents did - and I find that so many others of their generation held you to that level of esteem as well.

As is the case with any free market, many competitors can come in - in this case, newer, flashier hotels - and build on what you are known for. The "trick", I believe, is to make sure that you stay ahead of the pack.

And like any 12 step program worth their weight in recoveries, the first step is admitting that there is a problem. Analyzing it, seeing where "things went wrong" - unless you take this crucial step, you cannot move forward and keep up with others who have shown their desire to take the crown, so to speak.

As far as service goes, your waiters were very courteous and attentive. (Although one of them was not aware that you offered free wifi to your customers. Everyone else was.) They were neatly dressed and were serving willingly and pleasantly.

You did mention that it was "Filipino night" on Sundays, and had we known that, we might have chosen to eat on some other night. (It also makes the inclusion of salmon sahimi, pizza and lamb curry a little out of place.) We can get Filipino fare everyday, and we do, so when we dine out, we like trying out something else.

Thank you for your invitation to go back once you have "improved". I will definitely keep that in mind.

And so, the next gastronomic adventure awaits.

(Courtesy of pinoyito.net)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What I Learned From Cuevas And Company

(Photo courtesy of interaksyon.com)

Many people have commented about how "brilliant" Chief Justice Corona's defense team is, in particular, former Justice Serafin Cuevas with his kilometric objections. So I thought it best to compile what I've learned from the defense team so far.


1. Invoke the "rule of law" when it suits you.


When the prosecution presented their witnesses, introduced evidence, and did anything to build up their case, they were always rebuffed by the defense team - and cheered on gleefully by senators like Miriam Defensor-Santiago - with statements like "Irrelevant", "Not included in the Articles of Impeachment", and the like. One thing the defense had thrown out was 2.4 of the Articles of Impeachment, the allegation that the Chief Justice had ill-gotten wealth. And now that they've done that, we move on to number 2.

2. Discard the "rule of law" when it doesn't suit you.


Their witnesses this week are concentrating on the "proper-ness" of the CJ's wealth. Disbursement officer Bayuga came in testifying about how much allowances, bonuses, expenses, etc. Corona was getting as his "earnings" for being the highest magistrate of the land. This, after anything related to his supposed irregularity of obtaining wealth was something they successfully had thrown out. The prosecution cannot present anything that will prove their allegation, but the defense is free to proclaim all evidence to prove the opposite.

Again, this specific discussion was thrown out, thanks to them.

And now that the "Acquisition Costs" have been initially hashed out today, and there is no denying the fact that Corona in some of his SALNs left the column for these particular amounts blank, Cuevas says it could be the secretary who prepared the SALN, or maybe the valuation of the property is much lower than when it was bought.

And I thought following the "rule of law" meant just that: If you do not declare something truthfully in your SALN, then you are breaking the law. And Corona has been "not declaring" for a decade? Once, we can let it slide. To do it for 10 years, no excuse. Is Cuevas now saying that even though Corona signed the SALN as correct and true under oath, he is not liable?

What happened to "rule of law"?

3. Allege that senators can be bribed. They won't bite. WAH!


When private prosecutor Aguirre covered his ears to save his eardrums from Santiago's vitriol - and only as a reaction to her and her alone, he even gave a speech of how some senators talk down to the prosecutors and not caring about human dignity, obviously referring to her - he was adjudged by the entire impeachment court as being bastos (rude or disrespectful) to the entire Court.

When Atty. Roy of the defense called a press conference to announce that they have "reliable information" that the Senators were being bribed for 100 Million pesos each, something that reads to me as an indictment of the entire Court as having their votes "for sale", what did the Senators do?

Nothing.


Openly reacting honestly to a senator's diatribe and cussing? Bastos. To the whole court.


Spreading unfounded rumors about the conduct of the Court as a whole, casting doubts on their impartiality and integrity? No comment. Approved.

Should we allow children to learn ethics from this example?

4. "Wait for our turn", they implore. Then stonewall some more when the floor is yours.


When people commented based on what the prosecution has presented thus far, and the consensus is that there is definitely something irregular in the transactions and conduct of the Chief Justice, defense cried foul saying it was unfair to be judged that way when they haven't presented their evidence.

Santiago even denounced a survey in UP (75% of the respondents believed Corona to be guilty), asking that the students be expelled. (I didn't know people could be expelled for expressing opinions. Is former president Ferdinand Marcos back from the dead? Did Santiago declare Martial Law?)

Now that the floor is theirs - and they lead us to believe that they were raring to disprove the allegations contained in the Articles of Impeachment, this is what they did.

Cuevas again - unsuccessfully - tried to declare the entire trial void/illegal and thrown out.

After being rebuffed, he presents Tiangco as his first witness, something to bolster his contention why the trial should be stopped. No comment from the Senators.

They present Bayuga, who listed the salary and allowances of the Chief Justice. She unwittingly made the prosecution's case stronger: Out of the purported 21 million he "earned" (Bayuga included 2011 earnings, when the SALNs in question were until 2010.), 5.8 million of which is his "official salary", the House Chairman of accounts has said that 7 million of those bonuses should be liquidated. (Returned if unused, and explained with receipts if used.) Given the properties he has amassed and their known acquisition costs, he cannot justify having bought them with what he has "earned".

They present Villaruz, who could only testify regarding tax declarations and assessed value. He cannot speak for the Acquisition Costs, which is what was in question (they were all blank in Corona's SALNs.) Even Presiding Officer Enrile seemed exasperated and had to spell this out to Cuevas, as to what was being asked or being determined in relevance to the Articles of Impeachment.

And I saved the best thing I learned so far for last.

5. You're a criminal? Illegal activities? Open a Dollar account here - It's more fun in the Philippines!


That's because NO ONE has the right to question anything in a dollar account, because our laws state that unless you give your consent, not even an impeachment trial, or allegations of fraud, can force any government official or body to look into those accounts.

Oh, happy day for money laundering! The AMLC (Anti Money Laundering Council) is a joke in this country! Come one! Come all! Criminals, nefarious characters, dubious dealings, the Mafia! Open Season for where to stash your loot! It's perfectly legal and safe to keep your wealth here!

Only in the Philippines.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Deal Grocer Responds. Me Happy.

Having posted about my recent experience at Hotel Intercontinental's Jeepney Cafe, courtesy of a deal I purchased at Deal Grocer, I also decided to let the Deal Grocer team know directly about it, so that they can get feedback from a customer who actually ate there using their offer.

(Courtesy of mukhangpera.com)

To my (pleasant) surprise, I got a response quickly. Which was really unexpected, since I am used to "customer service" being an oxymoron in our beloved islands.

(EDIT: I have just received an email from the Manager and they would prefer that I do not print the letter. I am editing this post to accommodate their request. But to those of you who know me personally, I do not give compliments lightly, so when I say I was satisfied, I mean it.)

How the Customer Service Manager and Deal Grocer has responded has made me appreciate your effort and they will definitely see me as a customer very soon. Nothing can be more persuasive than actual experience, and I can personally vouch for how they reacted once they received feedback. (And hopefully, other sites that offer the same service are observing what Deal Grocer has done given this scenario.)

In truth, Deal Grocer was the broker for the deal, but the merchant was the hotel. It would be interesting to see how the hotel could explain what they offered that night, since even the Deal Grocer representative was surprised at my experience, which was different when they did a "run through" prior to offering the deal on their site.

More thoughts to munch on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Trial's Most Important Question

You may think that it's all about moral fitness, rule of law, ethical considerations and technicalities. But yesterday, Rep. Tiangco, Corona's defense team's 1st witness, helped us see a matter of utmost importance.

Whose hairstyle ranks better?


Rep. Quimbo of the prosecution?


Or Rep. Tiangco's?

(Both photos from GMA News TV)

You may see various reactions from this question at Rappler, aptly titled Mane Attraction. References to anime, K-Pop (Korean Pop), and just-got-out-of-bed style figure into the mix. One thing's for sure, when things get too tense for words, we really know where to focus in order to ease any discomfort or stress.

(See: http://www.rappler.com/nation/special-coverage/corona-trial/2369-mane-attraction-tiangco-vs-quimbo)

I have to say, both their hairstyles go against my notion of what our lawmakers look like, which is unflattering at best.

An attempt to change our perception of them? Not likely to alter that soon or fast, but the mane thing is that they get the ball rolling.

Jeepney: Daring The Dessert Table (Last Of Two Parts)

No "proper" meal can end without dessert - especially if you're paying a lot.

Having had a disappointing run at the savory dishes offered by Intercontinental Hotel Manila's Jeepney Cafe - a place that was once revered in Manila's social scene but seems to have fallen out of sync with the times (a good friend calls them "napag-iwanan", or left by time's wayside), I had all but written them off and was not looking forward to a "sweet ending" that usually punctuates a buffet spread.

(See: http://theguywithablog.blogspot.com/2012/03/jeepney-hits-and-misses-first-of-two.html for the first part of the review.)


The eye-catching part of most dessert spreads would be the chocolate fountain/fondue, given its towering stature. I have to say that the presentation here in Jeepney is a little blah, seeing the metallic tray underneath just reminded me of the word generic. In my mind, this is the portion of any buffet to be fun, whimsical and not-too-serious, none of which I saw in this set-up.

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of this particular treat, as I have seen some children in other buffet spreads, dipping their already eaten marshmallow sticks back into the chocolate fountain to get another whiff of the decadent coating. It's no different from fishball eaters dunking their loot back into the sidewalk vendor's sauce choices after their first bite.


Ick.


They had dainty little "treats" in various colors and flavors.


The top row was a mango based "treat, the middle one being an obviously a chocolate inspired one, and the bottom row as a blueberry cheesecake "mini". The mango concoction was actually not bad, very soft and not cloyingly sweet, a light touch on the palate and not filling, imagine the word "dainty" on your tongue.


Shades of the Kamayan theme from the savory portion, but in this instance, I think the halo-halo  (literally "mix-mix") stands as a representative of our local representative for a sweet meal-ender. There wasn't much of a selection by way of condiments to use in the dish (as can be seen from the photo) so I decided to skip it altogether.


Some of the desserts didn't have labels, so I have to improvise and call these "mousse glasses". I got one that was mango flavored, while Art got the strawberry flavored creation. Both of which were actually good, and I liked the strawberry one better.


This was the best dessert from the choices they had, called "Latour", it had a white top that was a cross up between gelatinous and frosted, a chocolate mousse consistency and flavored first layer after that, a thin layer of sponge cake at the bottom, sandwiching a gooey chocolate center. I think most of the night's patrons also had the same idea, seeing as that was the one dessert that seemed to be on the verge of running out.

They also offered a selection of fruits (Art said the pineapple was sour) as well as a healthy fruit salad, no cream, just a light syrup to accompany assorted fruits.

Having been to places like Circles (Makati Shangri-la) and Spirals (Sofitel), I think the Intercontinental Hotel's management would be well advised to take reconnaissance trips to these places, as they are seen as "excellent" buffet spreads, showcasing what people are looking for: variety, exotic choices, and better value if they're going to shell out 4 digits on one meal.

Nostalgia will not ensure your longevity, which is all about the future, the opposite direction of a stately, grandeur past, of which Jeepney rightfully claims. I hope the management takes this constructively, a chance to better what they offer to the public, and especially in Metro Manila, where people fancy themselves food critics one and all, and with so many choices available, the urge for comparison will be a foregone conclusion.



It's time to make sure that you will be competitive to take on the newer hotels and what they bring to the table - literally.

Art was asking me why I was making such a big deal out of it, because we enjoyed ourselves despite the wanting selection that night, and I said it was because it was not the way Deal Grocer advertised their deal. (I'm taking this description from their website itself.)

With an extensive culinary repertoire, Chef Alisdair Bletcher beefs up CafĂ© Jeepney’s buffet with newer international food selection like Peking Duck Rolls, Roast Duck, Lamb Kofta with Cucumber and Mint Raita, Braised Beef with Guinness, Onions and Flaky Pastry and Baked Dory with Herb Crust and Roasted Tomato Sauce, Shabu Shabu, Fajitas, Red Chili Crab, Korean Beef Bulgogi, Arroz Valenciana, Fried Pork Spare Ribs with Orange Sauce, Lechon, as well as a wide variety of new dessert buffet delicacies.

The only things I saw that night from that list were the Fajitas and the Lechon.

I don't know if this was what the hotel told Deal Grocer as their offers, or if this was miscommunication on the part of either parties, but you should not advertise this deal/offer/meal as how you did above, if you were not going to give even at least half of the dishes you used to attract buyers of this deal.

The reality rarely matches up with the fantasy.

And in this case, it was dismally disappointing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jeepney: Hits And Misses (First Of Two Parts)


Recently offered by Deal Grocer (https://dealgrocer.com/dashboard), we bought coupons for a buffet (lunch or dinner) at the Jeepney Cafe of the Intercontinental Hotel Manila. As is the case with most of their deals, they gave a considerable discount off the regular prices of items they featured: the Jeepney buffet, which usually costs PhP 1,754.00 nett, was now offered for only PhP 875.00 nett.

We decided to partake of the dinner spread: Our experience at other hotel buffets seemed to highlight the fact  there is a better/more extensive spread on the evening circuit as opposed to the lunch offerings.

I would divide this review between the savory and the sweet categories of dishes.



We started off with the salads, the selection of which included Caesar's and Nicoise. The one that caught my fancy was the Grape and Cheese Salad, although I found the thick white dressing bordering on unnecessary, seeing as how the dish was already enriched with cheese as a main ingredient. Maybe they could thin the dressing to highlight the natural taste of the "stars". (It had Bleu Cheese. Yum.)

We then went to the "Japanese" section, of which this was the only thing present.


Not the most appetizing presentation, and only mitigated by the freshness of the salmon itself. There actually was a sushi -which always ran out - a deconstructed "California" concoction, which had rice, a nice steamed shrimp, a slice of mango, and Japanese dressing. Whenever the chef would make it, it would disappear in seconds, so I don't have a picture of it.

They need to work on variety and presentation for the Japanese area.

I also found it hard to believe that the next two items were offered for a dinner lineup.




I am a potato freak so I took two wedges just to see how they were done: Not bad, but I would not classify them as good, either. Their inclusion for dinner was startling, to say the least.

Their Italian section consisted of a single pizza.


No description as to what kind of pizza it was. I'm being kind when I say that the pizza I've tasted from Bread Talk would be classified as better than this. If you can only give a half-hearted attempt to put out a pizza just so there could be an "Italian station", it's better not to do it at all.

In fact, the savory line-up was mostly Filipino, and while we love it on its own, we did not expect the rest of the food to be such a facsimile of Kamayan, considering the (real, undiscounted) price and the fact that a hotel should cater to its clientele, of which many are not from this country and may not take to local food that easily. Add to the fact that Kamayan has a better spread at even cheaper prices, and it really makes the Jeepney offering look...spurious.

This dish was the most disappointing of all:


Again, I actually LOVE Ginataang Gulay (Vegetables in Coconut Milk) but the dish was advertised as "Peeled Shrimp with Veggies" - and we couldn't find the shrimps! And Arthur then whispered: "At these prices, they came out with this as the only vegetable dish?!?"

I have nothing to add to that question.

How can you blame me for thinking that this was a Filipino spread?


Lechon.



Bihon. (Really?!?)


Pusit.



Pork Humba.



Chicken Relleno. The only time I've had it with sauce - isn't this usually a "dry" dish?



Caraga Chicken, Caraga being a region in the Philippines.

I chose to focus on the grilled items on their spread, rather than get all huffy about the selection.


Grilled Salmon and Maya-Maya.


Grilled Pork and Chicken.

All of which were actually nicely done, and the marinade was very good.

I also didn't try the mussels, but Arthur said they were alright, and not spicy as its appearance would lead you to believe.


Neither of us were on a zero carbohydrate diet, but we both didn't partake of the rice, which was spelled as "Young Chow Fried Rice".


I did not bother taking pictures of the two steamed Chinese offerings - a pork bun and pork dumplings - as they both looked dry and rather sad.

The only "exotic" offering they had was the Lamb Curry, and by that time, I was getting dejected with each dish I saw that I - mistakenly - did not even try the dish at all.



I could not believe that this was the extent of their originally 1,700 plus pesos buffet. I had consigned myself to a disappointing dinner experience.

Arthur said "buti nalang 50% discount" (it's a good thing it was at 50% discount) but I thought, Maybe it's because this is a "deal" meal, which would explain the unsatisfactory savory offerings. But I witnessed a couple entering the restaurant, and they paid full price for the same thing we were having, which was really sadder for them.

But what was most disappointing at all was that this was not how it was advertised.

(More in the next post.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Irony Of Connectivity


Taking the elevator down to our building lobby, with about 7 people crammed into a small box just a little roomier than an extra large coffin - now there's a jinx-laden image - I noticed one unmistakable fact.

Everyone was hunched and huddled over their Blackberry, iPhone and Samsung Note.

You could argue that this was an effect of violation of personal space - that having this much in-your-face contact in such a confined space readily lent into this behavior, looking elsewhere but at another stranger's face - but these people were already busy "connecting" with "other people" before they got on the elevator.

It got me to thinking about how ironic a situation we have right now.

More than ever, we stay "connected" - social media, push emails, phone alerts, we've accepted "tweeting" as a verb. But I cannot escape the fact that these advances and innovations in communications have succeeded largely in making us avoid face to face, actual human contact altogether.

Prior to my elevator ride, I was heading out the door when a phone call came and I picked it up, and to my utter surprise, I was talking to no one.

Because a recorded message played as soon as I said "hello".

"Hi, this is PLDT. We want to inform you, as a loyal subscriber, of our new promotions..."

I hung up.

Will we be eliminating human relations services in the near future? I never thought that the scene from futuristic movies would be playing out before my very eyes - or ears - right now: Human "surrogates" taking the place of actual human voices and live reactions.

I can see the advantage of this phenomenon from a business cost and overhead perspective: it will obviously save up on having to undergo a hiring process, having to orient new employees, worrying about benefits of those newly hired as well as their salaries, space considerations in the workplace, zero possibility of complaints from dissatisfied "team members", and so much more.

But what is the cost in terms of what this is doing to relating to each other on a level that requires us to know each other, even if for a mere blink in time?

You see, when I talk to an operator, they get to understand why I am frustrated on a particular service that their company is not living up to despite their promise. When I tell a waiter or manager in person that their food was impeccable and I see their relief and even happiness at receiving praise, it confirms that everyone needs others to validate their work.

I dread the day when actual human conversations and relations will be altogether, summarily replaced with cost efficient methods, machines and automations.

Have we forgotten the potency of what a singular human act can do? Are we on the way there?

(Photo courtesy of flickr.com)

Now I have to find my beloved for a hug.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Are Women Now More Equal Than Men?

(Photo courtesy of dosomething.org)

That title, of course, is alluding to one of modern literature's most famous lines from George Orwell's masterpiece, Animal Farm. Unahan ko na yung mga magsasabi na (Let me get ahead of those who will say that) "more equal" is a contradiction.

It's something I've been chewing on since we celebrate Women's Month - not just a day, as everyone else does elsewhere in the world - and have not yet really gotten any satisfactory responses.

I ask this, at the risk of earning the ire of any woman, because I'm beginning to sense that women now have their cake and eat it, too - albeit in dainty ways. And this comes in the heels - pun intended - of a Newsweek report that we are one of the best (top 20) places in the world for women to live in. If last night's news report is correct, we are the only Asian country on that list.

I suppose that given the political fact that we have had two female Presidents, it was a no brainer that women's rights here are upheld, with the political checkmarks to prove it. (Although that same list gives us a 50 plus percent score only where women's health services are concerned. No surprise there, either, when celibate men dictate to the government regarding this issue.)

What first got me thinking about this question was when our MRT (Mass Rail Transit) alloted a "Women Only" car in the train.

It struck me as a blow to women in the arena of equality.

Personally, I find the allotment a nod to the claim that women are the "weaker sex". That they are "weak" and should not be subjected to the pushing, shoving, sweating that men do in every other car of the train. Any move that gives "preferential treatment" when there is no physical disability present smacks to me of inequality - are we saying that one's genitals are a license to get "special treatment"?

It also brought up the many other ways that some women use "femininity" to get their way.

When women "expect" to be treated on their meals on account of being female.

When women "expect" men to open the door for them on account of being female.

When women "expect" men not to shout at them in arguments the way they would with other men they also argue with, on account of being female.

When men feel they have to use "kid gloves" when berating an employee for their work performance, or firing them, on account of being female, lest they be found guilty of anything remotely tangent to "sexual harrassment" or being "anti- women".

It really has been ingrained culturally, to be fair. Why do you think we have expressions like "Ladies First"? This has been invoked time and again by those with a traditional point of view as "respecting" women, but I actually see the opposite: Are they saying that women cannot fend off for themselves? That they need men to hold their hand while they do tasks expected of men to be done on their own? That they are "inferior" in some way and need a free pass always, on account of having a vagina?

Nothing can be more disrespectful than implying that a woman is weaker simply because of her "lady parts".

In my mind, pare-pareho tayong tao. (We are all humans.)

And that means if you need to stand up while you are taking public transport, then that is what you should do, if we want to talk about "equality". And that goes for the women. People should not have to give their seats up because of a difference in chromosomes. That act (giving a seat to a female) says the same thing to me: women are weaker and need another free pass.

If I was a woman, I would be highly insulted anyone would think of me that way.

(Funny, true story: Back when I was based in Quezon City, I had to take the MRT daily to and from work. On a mid-morning ride back to QC, all the seats were occupied. So I resigned myself to standing up the whole trip. In the Buendia station, a woman in her 30s - definitely not more than 40 - got on the train and looks around desperately for a seat, to no avail.

She then resorts to public humiliation: she invokes her being female to get her way. Again, this is mid-morning, so while the seats were filled, the train itself had a lot of room to stand, so everyone could hear her speech: "Hay, naku...totoo nga yata ang sabi nila, patay na daw ang panahon ng mga (Gosh, I guess it's true, what they say, this is the end of the era of the) gentleman. Dati rati, di na pinag iisipan, nagmamadali ang mga lalaki magbigay ng upuan sa babae. Ngayon, pahirapan." (Before, there's no debate, men fought over who got to give up their seat to a woman. Now, you have to beg for it.) She looks around to all the men seated, and says it again for effect: "Patay na talaga ang panahong yon." (That era is long dead.)

I could see all the seated men look at each other, and no one budged.)

My mother set my template on what it means to be a woman: equal in every way. She stood in line in both the supermarket and the hardware store. She has never asked - verbally or implicitly - to be given favors because babae ako. (I'm a woman.) She doesn't bat her eyelashes to get her way. Even though some men do that (become more "courteous"), given our cultural pressure, she never took advantage of it: whenever men try to give her the space in front of them in line, she refuses, and in one instance told me why: "It's just right we stay where we are, lahat tayo nakapila, (we are all in line), it is the fair thing to do."

And I have to thank her for that, because that is what women's equality means to me: take your place in the line. Walang lamangan. (No one taking advantage.)

And why in one of my recent airport scenarios, I stood my ground when a group of women tried to barrage their way in front of me (obviously very late) for their flight.

We have been in line for almost an hour, the "leader" tried to use their numbers to force their way in, and unfortunately, I was next to be served. I told her to ask each and everyone in line if they were willing to give up their spots for them, and it wasn't my fault that they were late.

Knowing she was rebuffed and could not slink in, she - like that MRT commuter - resorted to public humiliation: "Kalalaking tao, ayaw magbigay daan...bakla yan siguro, kaya ganyan." (He's a man that refuses to give way to ladies...he must be a homosexual.)

I pity this woman's husband, if she had one. In her world view, anyone who doesn't "give way" to a woman has to have his heterosexuality questioned.

(That anyone should be made to feel ashamed of being homosexual is mentioned only in passing here, but deserves to be tackled much, much more, as it is the current battleground in the never ending struggle for civil rights. We have religions and organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church whose philosophy is built on the idea that all the evil and ills existing in this world is due to the gradual acceptance of homosexuality, so this definitely warrants further and deeper discussion.)

In both cases, the women were aware of the weight of cultural expectations, using ridicule and shame to their supposed advantage to bully their way into getting a free ride.

That doesn't sound like equality at all.

How odd, that while other women are forging ahead in fields previously closed off to them, there are still other females who believe that all they have to do is pout their lips and presto, everything is handed to them, clinging on to outdated ways of relating to the opposite sex.

It's time to get with the program. Unless you really want to go way, way back, when women were barred from voting, sold as wives and slaves and pretty much weren't considered human but possessions.

Does anyone seriously want to go back to THAT?!?

Happy Women's Month, ladies.