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Friday, August 31, 2012

Yes, I'm Gloating

How can you not, with a deal this good?

Thanks to Richard (Tales From The Tummy) who alerted me to this promotion from Makati Shangri-La Hotel's Circles.

Yes, it is a Buy One-Get One promotion of their famous buffet offering at Circles. (It's called the Buffet Rush.) It took me more than two hours just to come face to face with one of the cordial officers of the hotel to book our reservation, which is why I'm sharing my experience here, if you plan to catch the last day that they will sell it, tomorrow, September 1, 2012. (Incidentally, also my mom's birthday.)

(1) The line officially opens at 10AM, and it ends 8PM. However, the lady I talked to informed me that at 945AM, there was a queue already. Ehem.

(2) It works like a book-and-buy promotion from the airline companies: You have to choose the date you intend to use the coupon, valid from September 3 until October 27, 2012.

(3) You have to personally line up, at Ballroom A of Makati Shangri-la Hotel, to purchase and reserve this deal. (Unless they change it, but I was assured that they would be at the same place tomorrow.) No buying or reserving by phone. Seats are provided while you wait.

(4) If you come here at 10AM, be prepared to go past the lunch hour. You should take a cue from one lady who brought her lunch with her from a fastfood chain. (One customer didn't even go to work for the first half of the day, we could hear her fielding calls from officemates and her boss, asking where she was.)

(5) If you have a wifi device, bring it. The hotel has free wifi so you can be distracted while you wait. Lengthily.

(6) The reason for the longish wait: Some people do multiple transactions. There was one lady who was buying for 30 people (yes, thirty), but for only one of her intended dates of use; she also wanted to have a romantic date with her husband (second transaction, for two people) and then with her immediate family on Sunday, for around 12 people. Yes, it took that long, that she regaled me, her seatmate in the waiting area, with her plans.

(7) She was number 20 something in the queue, I was 50 something. By the time I was done, it was close to 200.

(8) Choose a date before you enter, and have backup dates, as weekends are generally filled up faster. And if you have cash, you will be served faster over those using cards.

(9) There are four price ranges, depending on the day and time of use.

(10) You can gloat when you're done. It's hard not to, because this is a fantastic deal.



For more information, see:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Cab Ride With "Selda"

The prospect of taking a cab always makes me wonder if the universe has a target on my back: I always manage to get cab drivers who either play the music too loud, are enamored with what passes as voices of the AM radio commentators, do not know where Ayala Avenue is (when they picked me up in Makati) or something else. There's always something else.

A sign that I'm not too keen of, sometimes.
(Courtesy of

Today was no different.

For today's special, I was treated to a show called "Don't Change That Dial!": the cab driver was listening intently to an ongoing radio advice program, the type where people could send letters and the DJ gives out advice in between playing "related" songs, meaning related to the problem stated by the letter sender.

He was so grossly invested in it that he had to ask me where EDSA was.

As the radio was at full volume (and apparently it sucked out the car's capability to cool the interiors, rendering my taking a cab quite useless in the comfort department) I really had no choice but to tune in to the said program as well.

30 minutes I can't return.

"Selda" describes herself as a prim and proper lady with conservative values, a "dalagang Pilipina" (maiden of the Philippines) if I remember the term correctly, who was about to get hitched to a guy named "Roberto". "Roberto", it turns out, is from the greener side of the fence.

As is "tradition", "Selda's" girlfriends (and one gay guy) throw her a bridal shower, of the naughty variety. They scour a box big enough to cover an entire person, bring the actual gift with a macho dancer inside to her very doorstep and rings her doorbell. She answers and is taken with the largeness of the box, wondering "ano ba naman tong regalo nyo, pwedeng kumasya ang tao sa laki ng kahon". (what's with this gift, a person could fit into this box) Apparently, "Selda" doesn't believe in the literary technique of foreshadowing and decides to spell it out for the deaf listeners of the radio show she is writing to.

Out comes the macho dancer, and immediately he is asked to strip his underwear by everyone but "Selda". As a self described "conservative", she takes great pains to describe how she turns away from the, uhm, spectacle dangling in front of her, with the gay guy commenting "ano ka ba naman, Selda, di ka naman nya igagahasa, tignan mo lang" (what's the matter, "Selda", it's not like he will rape you, just look at it). Expectedly, "Selda" throws a fit, storms out of her own house and refuses to enter until the macho dancer has left.

In case I didn't mention it earlier, the radio program provides a "dramatization" with voice actors, and I was tempted to ask the cab driver "this is comedy, right?" but had to stop myself when I saw how lined his forehead was digesting both the reading of the letter and the acting out by radio. I thought it best not to say anything disparaging until I got out of the cab.

"Selda" then talks to the audience. "Mayroon pa ring mga konserbatibong mga Pilipina, noh. Hindi lahat ay liberated. Ni hindi ko pa nga nakikita ang hubad na katawan ng lalaki. Pero...kung ano man ang nasilip ko sa macho dancer, nagustuhan ko ang nakita ko. Matipuno sya, maganda ang katawan, machong macho. Sino ba naman ang babaeng hindi magugustuhan ang mga katangian na yun sa isang lalaki? Pero dahil konserbatibo ako, kaya ako umalis sa party." (There are still conservative Filipinas. Not all are liberated. I haven't even seen a naked man. But...from what little I did see of the macho dancer, I liked. Well built, nice body, very manly. What woman wouldn't find those qualities attractive? But because I was conservative, I left the party.)

I had to restrain myself from breaking out in laughter, lest the cab driver murder me from where I was seated.

The letter fast forwards to when "Selda" is late in meeting her still-boyfriend "Roberto".  They are talking on the phone, and she promises him that she is doing all she can to meet at the appointed place and time, while he keeps muttering sweet-nothings and asking her to take care of herself.

As soon as she finishes the conversation, the macho dancer materializes in front of her, fully clothed. I guess she also likes his face since she recognizes him right away. They get into small talk, trying to get past the inital embarrassment of how they met. She asks "ano nga ba pangalan mo?" (what's your name, again?) and he says "Alejandro", she remarks "maganda ang pangalan mo, lalaking lalaki, pag nagka-anak ako, gusto ko Alejandro din ang pangalan pag lalaki." (you have a nice name, very manly, when I have a child, I would name him Alejandro if it's a boy.)

This is something you mention on your first "meeting"? Oh, that's right. This isn't.

"Alejandro" asks why she left, and she tells him that she isn't used to "those" kinds of bridal showers. To which he replies, "buti naman, may mga natitirang mga konserbatibong babae pa pala sa mundong ito, kasi sa linya ng trabaho ko, syempre iisa lang ang gusto nilang makita." (that's good, there are still conservative women left in this world, because in my line of work, they only want one thing)

More restraint on my part.

"Alejandro" asks who was she on the phone with, and she tells him it's her boyfriend, who she is late in meeting with. She then segues into "by the way, ano nga pala ang number mo? Para pwede tayo magtext text minsan." (what's your number? So we can communicate by text messaging) He readily gives it to her and as they part ways, they shake hands and he asks, "Friends?" and she replies "oo naman, (of course) friends!"

The background music cues in, and how could anybody be surprised that the DJ decides to play an old song with the lyrics, "torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool....(something, something) breaking all the rules..." "Selda" continues her narration, expounding on how "Alejandro" now calls and text messages her, even writing to each other on Facebook, which progressed into movie watching and dates, "pero walang malisya ha!" (with no malice) which stuns the cab driver because she then poses her dilemna to the DJ and the audience:

"Bakit ganun, eh platonic lang naman kami ni Alejandro? Naguguluhan ako. Mahal ko si Roberto, pero napamahal narin sa akin si Alejandro. Siguro dahil, nung lalo ko siyang nakilala, nalaman ko na pareho kami, galing kami sa mahihirap na pamilya, kumakayod at gusto ng magandang kinabukasan. Hindi tulad ni Roberto, galing sa maykayang pamilya. By the way, may polio pala si Roberto." (Why is it like that, when I have a platonic relationship with Alejandro? I'm confused. I love Roberto, but I've also fallen for Alejandro. Maybe because, when I got to know him more, I learned we are the same, from financially disadvantaged families, working hard, wanting a better future. Unlike Roberto, from a well-off family. By the way, Roberto is polio-stricken.)

Thankfully, my stop came up, before I lost any more of my sanity from hearing "Selda" justify her longing for "Alejandro" all the while brandishing her conservative badge and waving it repeatedly for all to see. Or, in this case, hear.

Calling ABS-CBN and GMA: you may have a hit scriptwriter here for your next telenovela. And "Selda", all I'm asking for is 5% of your gross, as your "discovering" agent.

I'm conservative that way.

Finally, Boon Tong Kee. Here.

Yes, there is a back story to the title of this post.

It can be summed up as: "We went all the way to Singapore and didn't sample Boon Tong Kee's famed poached chicken (Hainanese chicken)!" And we were tired, hungry, searching for hours for BTK using their (highly efficient) public transportation system of buses and trains...and when we finally arrived, and were seated in two large tables (that's how big our party was), we were told: "Sorry, we ran out of Hainanese Chicken!"

Nooooooooo. (No one verbalized this, but you could tell it was what was on our collective minds.)

So, when we scored tickets to the excellent Cirque Du Soleil production, Saltimbanco, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, I breezily put it out there that maybe we should have dinner before the show, and when I was asked where, I said "there's a Boon Tong Kee here, so that's where we're headed."

It may be just me, but did they design Mall Of Asia to be confusing? There are no directories with clear indications of specific stores. The fact that you could ride tram cars to get to buildings within the complex indicates how big it is area wise, so it's not "fun" when you get directions like "go to the center, turn right, go out and climb the stairs, go to the edge," as they involve literal kilometers, and when you're hungry...well, you can imagine what that does to your mood.

Finding Boon Tong Kee was a challenge. (Hint, hint.) Good thing it was worth the search. And wait, keeping the back story in mind.

As soon as we were ushered in, the lady taking our order wasn't even finished with her spiel and I said, "Hainanese Chicken. Please." Everyone else was looking through the menu but I knew exactly what it is I came here for. Arthur told me "let's get something else as well" so that's how we ended up ordering a tofu dish that was actually excellent.

After our order was taken, we noticed that it was not a very large space (in fact the booth we were at seemed a little cramped). They were showing various cooking demos on the television screen. We waited around 10 minutes for our food to arrive, which was just right in my book.

One could argue that a poached chicken is a poached chicken is a poached chicken, but the delicate aroma and taste of Boon Tong Kee's version of their signature dish lends weight to the claim that they are Singapore's best representative of the dish. (I also found out that their government hands out citations or recognition on an annual basis as to what is the best Chicken Rice version.) Light but flavorful, the aroma pierces through without overwhelming you, leaving both your olfactory and gustatory senses satiated.

The ginger sauce was a bit bland for me, but the others found it good, so that could be a matter of personal taste.

The rice that accompanied the chicken got the most "oohs" because it was thoroughly infused with the broth and could seriously be eaten on its own, even without any viand. It looks a little blah from the outside, which is why it elicited the most unexpected response.

This dish was also very good, tofu mixed with seafood (I saw crabs and squid) and it was definitely a pleasant surprise since I was very single-minded about having the Hainanese Chicken and nothing else. Again, it was light but had quite a kick flavor wise, the seafood complementing the canvas of the tofu. Like everything else on the table, nasimot sya (it was practically licked clean) because even the sauce was enticingly delicious.

I can't compare it with the Singapore version since I haven't had the opportunity to try it there, and I can already here the purists going "it's just not the same" but sampling the Boon Tong Kee chicken here - as well as something else - makes me feel we aren't missing that much from the version of where it originated from.

And I can finally say, I've eaten at Boon Tong Kee. And I like it.


More information here:

Monday, August 27, 2012

One Evening At Corniche

When you have foodie friends, they are sure to "spread the word" whenever a too-good-to-pass-up deal is known, and that is exactly what happened when I came across the Facebook Wall of a good friend who "hung" a poster for Corniche (in Diamond Hotel Philippines) announcing a fantastic deal offered by the hotel restaurant.

(Courtesy of

It has been probably years (a decade, even) since I set foot in Diamond Hotel so I thought this was a chance for me to revisit them. The poster announced that they were offering their lunch and dinner buffet for PhP 999.00 nett (Philippine Pesos, inclusive of all charges) which also included free flowing sodas or lemonade - a practically unheard of deal in the bigger hotels, so the question that remained was "When do we go?"

Arthur told me that we did not need to worry about parking because as he recalls, they have a large parking space underground, which was the case when we got there. The stairway from the basement parking leading to the hotel will take you right to the doorstep of Corniche - a useful point since after dinner, you will probably have to gulong (roll) your way back to the parking area.

The decor was decidedly modern, very clean lines and lots of spaces. There were several "stations" set up all over the place which I thought was a better placement than having all the stations side by side and having people "bunch up" in line waiting for those undecided as to what to put on their plates.

I started off with appetizers. I was attracted by the way they presented their lumpiang ubod, and had to sample it along with other goodies.

Lumpiang ubod was almost too much of an eye candy to eat.

After that, it was a free-for-all: Arthur commented that I would never have a future as a food stylist because I would place odd things together in one plate. I replied, "Mind your own beeswax."

Here are some of the featured items in the buffet. I have to emphasize that because I think I was able to sample only a little more than half of the things that were being offered.

Lechon Macao was just OK, everything else was good.

"It's all seafood naman, eh." (To make one feel better.)

United Nations...of food. Sage flavored cheese was a surprise.

Salmon, 3 Ways: Sashimi, in Ginger Broth, and Baked.

Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern...and Lamb Kaldereta. Yum.

Do not miss out on the Green Tea Brulee - if you can catch it.

This was a better spread than we expected. Everyone in our party agreed that for the variety on display, and given the price, this was a hard act to beat. We were (luckily) seated near the roasting station, and I used that advantage to take on the baked salmon. (Not to be passed up, if you like salmon as much as I do. It's just a big plus that nutritionists are pretty unanimous in declaring it a "top food".)

For carnivores, a beautiful sight.

The wait staff was also a delight, very courteous without being cloying, although they noticeably weren't as attentive when the crowd swelled up - some of our plates piled up on the table, and I even saw one table returning their plates to the place where they stacked up the used dishes. But they were nice and apologetic about not being able to service tables faster, which pretty much smooths things always. (I guess they didn't anticipate as large a crowd as the one we were part of that night.)

Read the fine print for exclusions. Then enjoy.
(Courtesy of the Facebook page of Diamond Hotel Philippines.)

This promotion only runs until September 4, 2012.

Go. Now.


For more information, please visit:

(632) 528-3000

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Robredo Standard

I am part of the unlucky majority who has never personally met Secretary Jesse Robredo. And yet, this did not stop me from feeling the weight of losing him the way we did.

My gold standard for public service.
(Courtesy of

This country is poorer with his death.

Many of the public eulogies and adulations being showered on him are centered on him being an effective and efficient mayor of Naga City, turning it around from being poverty stricken to being a model city, for which he was given the Ramon Magsaysay award; for being a homesick father who could not wait to go home, to his family, and to his hometown; for being overly zealous in his last post, so much so that he was working on a Saturday, a practically novel phenomenon for a country that can consider itself lucky if public officials come in every weekday; for being first to arrive and last to leave in any disaster, calamity and other perilous situations, if only so that he could help any of his constituents with as much as he could.

He championed transparency and accountability, even before talk of the Freedom of Information bill made its way to the public consciousness; he didn't tell his wife to run for mayor after his successful stint for almost a decade; he refused that giant monolith, SM, from planting its feet into his hometown, and instead thought of what would happen if it did and could not fathom that future; he went up against organized gambling and entrenched politicians who did not want to change the old ways; he never understood the need for bodyguards and was uncomfortable to have them, preferring to take public transportation when possible; he believed in involving the people in doing public service, so that everyone has a personal stake in achieving mutual goals to benefit the community; and he was always seen at gatherings, events, occassions that put him in touch with "everyman", not barricaded with high ivory walls in a gated community.

I have to admit that for so many times, over and over, this country, being represented by its public officials, has broken my heart and spirit in ways too numerous to mention: the rampant and shameless corruption practiced in the broadest of daylights; the wanton disregard for the space of others, that anyone can just enroach on another's property and claim poverty as their birthright to appropriate any land for themselves illegally, which local officials look the other way from because they need these votes on election day; this privileged insularity that public officials claim for themselves that they refused to be scrutinized by people on their finances, and claim that the law protects them, when we all know they are looking for their own interests; where a politician, once barred from running, fields his wife, children, uncles, aunts, neighbor, godchildren and even their pets if it was possible, to run for the position being vacated, until he can return to that same post.

Secretary Robredo embodied so much of what I believe should be the very standard of all public officials. He was living proof that you can serve and not see yourself as a ruler, because public service means you are there for others, not for yourself. He preferred going back home to his loved ones, and not hobnobbing with the "elite" who have vested interests of their own; and he believed in the Filipino, that we should all be involved if we are to raise this country up, who never saw himself as privileged by virtue of his positions, but as a conduit to effect great change and greater things.

May we all be inspired to emulate his worthy example, not just in words, but by his deeds and his very life. Let us not let his life end in tragedy, but may it give birth to a renewed hope - and action plan, for he was indeed a man of action - that we have to link arms together if we want our country to stand tall among the family of nations.

I now view Secretary Robredo as the gold standard by which all other public officials must be measured against. May we all be up to the task, left by your legacy in public service.

Rest in peace, Sir.

Should Sotto Run With Corona?

Should we weep for defending plagiarism, also?
(Courtesy of

While last week was largely about Sotto and his office's plagiarism (which some have already begun to call "Bloggergate"), I was struck by a sense of familiarity that can best be described as uneasy, and then it hit me: this seems like a replay of when former Chief Justice Renato Corona was on (impeachment) trial.

Tears have been making very public rounds lately.
(Courtesy of

I can hear defenders of both of them going ballistic, so let me explain why I drew the comparison.

Both of them would never be my choice for their government positions.

In the last senatorial elections, Sotto was on the top of my "I'm never voting for you" list. I have made my feelings about entertainers running for public office known in my past blogposts, and the way he is defending himself in "Bloggergate" just confirms I made a correct assessment.

Corona was forced on someone like me, because I didn't vote for GMA in 2004. Unfortunately, that is the way our democratic system works, and the sitting president gets to appoint the next Supreme Court Chief Justice. Had the post been up for a vote, I would never have voted for Corona, either.

Both of them were caught in "ambiguous" legal scenarios.

Sotto has maintained that there is no cut-and-dried law about lifting excerpts from a blog, and to warrant calling that as illegal, and his chief of staff has basically described the internet as an open source so that there would be (from the chief of staff's perspective) no need to credit anyone for anything as long as it is sourced online. (I wonder how Sotto would feel if somebody copies Eat Bulaga - the show largely instrumental for his fame as he co-hosted it for years - from any social media site that has their episodes.)

Corona has also maintained that there is no need to declare his dollar accounts because as far as he and his lawyers know, the law only requires him to state his peso accounts. Despite the differeing interpretations of  various legal provisions, Corona chose to use the situation to claim that he is correct in his interpretation.

Both have little, if any, appreciation for ethical considerations, and consider these inferior to legal ones.

As far as Sotto and his staff were concerned, no "stealing" took place. Never mind that they already admitted to plagiarizing Sarah Pope's blog. Never mind that most social commentaries have focused on how the act of plagiarism is never an act of accident and how stealing a gold bracelet is no different from stealing a writer's words, even though the writer is "just a blogger". (The senator's wanton use of a blogger's words to advance his cause regarding the RH Bill betrays how he really views them.)

Corona also maintained that he has done everything "legally". Never mind if lawyers cannot agree on one interpretation. Never mind that his very appointment was shrouded in much controversy. Never mind that his stance on declaring dollar accounts as unnecessary would make us practically a safe haven for money laundering. Never mind that the spirit in which the law intended - to make public officials accountable - would be circumvented by a specific way of interpreting the written law.

Ethical considerations demand that they act according to the highest levels of propriety. And both of them have defenders decrying this "unfair" standard, saying that they should be measured "just like any other citizen". Last I checked, "any other citizen" cannot filibuster a bill that's been stalled for years or reverse a decision that's been ruled with finality. Three times.

And yet, "any other" public official like Delsa Flores could be sacked for not declaring her market stall. And "any other" student can be expelled for plagiarizing an academic paper.

Both of them threw their (positions') weight around.

Sotto: "Whatever it is, the buck stops with me. I'm the senator."

Corona: "And now, the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused."


Both of them are/were in positions that issue decisions I have no choice but to obey.

As Senate Majority floor leader, Sotto gets to determine to a large extent what bills to give attention to, and as is rather painfully obvious, he is doing everything in his power to prevent the RH Bill from seeing the light of day by giving speeches day in and day out. Yet again.

Even now that Corona has been booted out of office, his decisions when he was Supreme Court Chief Justice stays. How he interpreted the law when he was in power is how everyone is supposed to interpret it, until the decision is changed.

While glancing the news overseas, it struck me that both of them are actually being represented in the upcoming US elections, via the Republican Party.

Could they be the template?
(Courtesy of

Mitt Romney refuses to show his tax returns, while Paul Ryan believes women should have few, if any, choices regarding their reproductive health, among other "odd" stances.

Anyone here who wants to field the Corona-Sotto tandem for the next elections?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Not Just For Senator Sotto

Hope his staff doesn't read it first.
(Courtesy of

Dear Senator Sotto,

Many events have taken place since my last blogpost, more than 24 hours ago.

And they have to do with your public disavowal of plagiarism on a television show; the subsequent discovery of the blogger of all this brouhaha happening halfway around the world from where she is; and her reactions - first being "amused" and then later writing a rather pointed blogpost and mentioning you directly that leaves no doubt as to what she wants to say. We also have the "apology letter" written by the head of your staff now going viral, which is basically an admission that your office committed plagiarism, and the pecuiliar way the apology came off.

See the following for full details:

First, an admission.

I did not vote for you. That is because I have been consistently vocal about my extreme discomfort with entertainers subsequently running for public office. Personally, I feel the lopsidedness in your advantage as far as name recall is concerned: your position as entertainers assures that you will stand out in some way. And name recall is king in our elections. Or at least our brand of it.

I am well aware that as a citizen of a secular democracy, you are entitled to run for any elective office. The question is not can you?...but rather, should you? The recently deceased local King of Comedy said it quite well (and I will paraphrase it in English): It's easy to win an election, but what happens after?

Also, let me say this off the bat: I am not a lawyer, a legal expert, not even a paralegal. I am "just" a blogger - the way you casually mentioned bakit ko naman iquo-quote ang blogger should tell everyone how you view anyone who "just" blogs. But as I understand it, a senator is someone with a national mandate to write, amend, and if needed, change completely, our laws.

(Quote from

Are you aware of what an awesome responsibility that is? I am desisting from using the word power, as that is all we have been brought up in and known, all our lives - a politician is to be feared, respected, bowed down to. I want to focus on the other side of the coin, a cliche thanks to Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility.

You can effect laws that can change our very lives: Economic provisions, the taxes we pay, whether foreign bases can (again) set foot in the country, the punishment to be meted out to child molesters, what it means to uphold the separation of state and religion in a tangible, concrete way and not as a vague concept only to be discussed in political science courses...

It can also affect he state of maternal mortality and teenage pregnancies in the country, one of the many issues that can be helped, even in some measure, by the passage of the RH Bill. Actual lives - human lives - are at stake by choosing which pieces of legislation to pass. That is how encompassing your responsibility as a senator is.

Which is why I cannot hide my dejection, disappointment and most of all, my anger, with this issue of plagiarism, something your chief of staff wanted Sarah Pope to stop focusing on, something you yourself dismissed nonchalantly as an attempt to discredit your person, under the (erroneous) assumption that what you have charged about the ill effects of the RH Bill cannot be countered by those who support it (they have been answered point by point squarely, by your co-senators and by many, many groups and people, over and over again).

I expect that all senators - even the ones I did not vote for - be personally responsible for what they say and do, because whether I like it or not, your decisions will affect me in a personal way. And as a citizen of this secular, democratic country, I will be bound by the laws that you and the other senators approve.

You cannot pass off this "incident" and say "my staff did it": they won't be voting on crucial bills. YOU ARE. It is your vote, your decision and your signature that will determine what passes for law in this country. It behooves you, therefore, to have armed yourself with the latest scientific findings and factual research when it comes to issues regarding reproductive health.

You do this country a great disservice by not researching things on your own, and while you are not barred from hiring people to help you with your work, it is your responsibility to ensure that they have provided you with accurate information for the purposes of crafting legislation. You do us an even greater disservice by passing this off as the work of those under you, and doing what is colloquially called a Pontius Pilate: washing your hands off the incident.

Do you not comprehend the gravity of what you may have done had the blogger not called you out on this?

Whenever I hear of "how much work" senators have to do, of how many meetings you have to attend, of how many committee hearings are scheduled, of how your backlog is so huge, it strikes me as odd - I've edited myself here - that I now see senators posing for ad campaigns of processed meats, computer universities, and even hosting morning and primetime television shows.

Surely, in between takes, you could at least verify that the information you are using as the basis for legislative decisions are, at the very least, identified by source?

This recent debacle you are now facing has reinforced my vote in the last senatorial elections as being the correct one. I am hoping that many more of our citizens will come to the same realization, too, as well as one more thing:

Public officials answer to us.

Guy With A Blog


*As I was about to post this, a news item was alerted to my attention. I'm guessing this is how the senator plans to handle this - a friend called it Sotto Pilato.,-says-chief-of-staff

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Personally Yours, Sotto

One of the most vociferous critics of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, senator Tito Sotto, has been front page material this week. In the Senate, on papers both printed and electronic, on social media platforms, his name has become ubiquitous as of late.

The lightning rod, as he calls himself on ANC's Head Start.
(Courtesy of

How can he not be, when he has made himself a spectacle.

The opening salvo was on Monday, when he "opened up" about his personal experience - the death of his 5 month old son - and directly linked his wife's taking of contraceptive pills to the baby having a weak heart and causing his death.

It seems obligatory somehow to preface any statement with "not to disregard the senator's tragedy/we're sorry for your loss" if you were to criticize him. And since everyone else has done it, let's get right to the accusation he inserted in his first speech: a causal link between pills and a weak heart.

Senator, here is a fact sheet from the World Health Organization for family planning methods. I urge you - in the strongest possible terms - to use science, not emotions, to make pronouncements about causes and risks regarding something that should be used with a doctor's consultation. It illustrates (in summary view) the pill as well as the "minipill", citing method, description, how it works, effectiveness to prevent pregnancy and comments that are inimical to the particular method.


This is a July 2012 Fact Sheet from WHO, as current as it gets. Your experience in the 1970's, especially where scientific advances are concerned, will be markedly different from the experience of women nowadays who choose to go on the pill. Science is not static: in fact, the one hallmark it is known for is that old ideas and facts must give way to newer ones, especially in the face of objective evidence.

There is NO mention of heart disease as a side effect of taking pills. To illustrate a "caution", in the same fact sheet, "monthly injectables" has this written under the Comments column: "irregular vaginal bleeding common, but not harmful" - it indicates per method any effect you may have as well as the degree or severity. I invite you to take a look at what it says for both pill types. If they thought it prudent to warn people about vaginal bleeding, wouldn't a cardiac side effect be practically mandatory to mention? Yet WHO makes no statement to that effect regarding pills.

The next item that online commenters have noted was that your speech was, in almost perfect fashion, lifted from a blogger, who calls herself Sarah.

(See as just one of many, many items now online asking the same thing.)

I was surprised to learn that you are an English major, so the concept of plagiarism should not be at all foreign or unheard of. In fact, I would think it cardinal that this concept must have been drilled into all English majors as one of the most reprehensible things you can do. Your interview on ANC's Head Start with Karen Davila didn't really illuminate the questions raised by the plagiarism issue. You claimed that you and the blogger were quoting Dr. McBride. But in your speech, quoting your source, you said "According to Dr. McBride..."

Does that even make sense?

If you were quoting the doctor directly, wouldn't she have said "My research indicates..." and not mention herself in the third person? (I know someone who refers to himself that way, but then we've also written him off as an idiot.)

Did you plagiarize it from the blogger, senator? Yes or no?

On the second day of your speech, you adopted a more combative stance - was it to counter the crying episode of the previous day? - and in movie-like fashion, declared that you're barely getting warmed up. This is exactly why I prefer facts, not posturings. You are not on camera to entertain - not anymore, Senator. This is a piece of legislation that has an effect in the lives of mothers and children. You would be well advised to stop the emotional outbursts, as these may have worked in your previous occupations.

Not here. Not now.

I will wait for the replay of your interview, because you touched on how the RH Bill "restricts" choice, on how the bill is intruding in the Church (?), and how local officials should have the right to decide on what their public health centers contain owing to "freedom of choice". I saw the live interview but my head was spinning after one statement after the other from you - I had to check and see that it really was coming from a senator of this country.

Let's tackle your statements in the Karen Davila interview in the next post.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The De Lima Perception

By now, every news outfit is reporting on the disqualification of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima for the post of Chief Justice.

Perception is reality.
(Courtesy of

I have to say that it was correct of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to have done so, both from a procedural (letter) and substantive (spirit) point of view.

There is no shortage of news reports of how her appointment was flawed to begin with, as most legal analysts have pointed out how clear the JBC rules are regarding candidates with pending cases: they are automatically disqualified, as it uses the word "are" to describe the disqualification, and not allowing any wiggle room, as compared to, say, if the language used was "may be" or "is subject to".

I know De Lima has made overtures about how no one should "count her out", and I'm not sure if she can appeal the JBC decision, but from the viewpoint of someone who values the spirit of the law above and beyond the letter, it reinforces my belief that De Lima can not take the CJ position, precisely because of how she is perceived, and that perception would affect how we all look at the judiciary.

One of the reasons why former Chief Justice Renato Corona was brought into the impeachment trial was because of his perceived "protectionist" stance as far as his benefactor, former President Arroyo, was concerned. Hiring De Lima would be merely a change in casting, but with the same problem: a judiciary perceived to be malleable to the dictates of the Chief Executive of the country.

As Justice Secretary, she has been armed with the duties and powers prescribed by law accorded to her position, as well as the blessing of the President, to do "as she must", which I have no doubt undergoes numerous consultations with her superior - in other words, whatever she does in that capacity has an underlying current of approval from the person who hired her.

The position of Chief Justice demands one to be cleared of that perceived partiality - as much as one can achieve despite the fact that it is the President who chooses who becomes CJ from a list of nominees. One way that effect is stifled, even if not in totality, is that the JBC is composed of members of different occupations and interests, who have the unenviable job of being scrutinized while doing the scrutiny of candidates. But that is precisely how it works in a democracy: there has to be transparency and accountability, where citizens are free to view the processes, and if necessary, question them, because it is OUR money that pays for their salaries.

De Lima in the position would require all of us the tremendous undertaking of suspending our disbelief that she is in no way partial to what the Chief Executive wants, not with how she has been pushed and prodded as the choice of PNoy (it's not really a secret, is it?), and a judge - and to be the country's top judge, no less - requires the highest level of impartiality. That is clearly not the hallmark of Renato Corona.

And the same can be said for Leila De Lima.

The JBC has already come up with the shortlist. What I am hoping for is that the President chooses someone who has been known to diverge from him on some issues, but with reasons that are grounded, valid and causing one to challenge one's thinking. Not because it has to be someone "opposite" you, but because no good can come from having someone continuously saying yes to you, and in particular, the head of a supposedly independent branch of government.

It just wasn't in the cards for De Lima. But I've never subscribed to any form of clairvoyance, and I certainly am not about to start now. Not when both the letter and the spirit of the law are revealing to us all we need to know.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Live Urban, Go Ashram

Having survived the treacherous effects of the monsoon rains this past week, I decided to make a great day out of a sunny weekend and attended a Vinyasa Yoga class at Urban Ashram Manila, located at Bonifacio Global City. I have been meaning to attend a class there since the yoga studio I used to go to was now a "self-practice" center - no one to instruct or guide you - and this seemed the closest as far as distance was concerned.

I read up on what the word ashram meant: a place of solitude, where one (typically) gets advice, often from a sage, on various topics. So the juxtaposition of the two words (Urban Ashram) may seem like an oxymoron - how does one "get away from it all" right smack in the middle of one of the "hip" places where restaurants and entertainment centers are sprouting up quite fast?

To begin with, the building where the studio is located is still facing empty lots, which signalled a great start for me. I know development may take over, and buildings tall - and taller - may soon surround it, but anyone who's been to the area will attest that BGC does have an "open space" feel, as opposed to, say, Makati.

Entering the center was pleasant for my olfactory nerves, as the scent of eucalyptus and one other smell gently wafted through. There was a spacious waiting area, and I was attended to and able to get more information about the class from a personable "welcoming committee".

I waited for a few more minutes and then I was told that the class would be starting. I was delighted to see that equipment was provided: mats, a block and a strap - per person. It was definitely quite a change of "face" from what I usually see in other studios, where they ask you to bring everything with you.

The class proceeded and I must say, I was glad with what I observed: the instructor practiced a multi-level format. That simply means that a person with barely any experience in yoga could do a pose, while an everyday practitioner would be challenged by another option given. As someone who has been teaching group exercise for 14 years, I can say this is a skill that is not very prevalent in this country's fitness professionals, so I really appreciated that.

We grunted, we sweat - I more profusely than everyone else, and the other teacher provided me with a towel to prevent further slippage on my part - and we finally finished the 90 minute class. Nothing can be as rewarding as feeling cleansed, refreshed and renewed after a class where you put in "the work". The combination of the instruction, the facilities, the amenities and the general feel of the place is enough to welcome you back here, over and over again.

With two branches to serve you, you can find your inner calm in the midst of the hustle and bustle.



All pictures are from here:

For more information, see:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Low Blow Amidst High Waters

We certainly don't need any of those given the terrible weather conditions.

Divine wrath?
(Courtesy of

Unfortunately, it was an opportunity too good to pass up to those who feel they have a direct line to God. (And how eagerly He supposedly agrees to anything they say.)

After yesterday's historic vote in Congress that ended the debates regarding the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, an unusually large amount of rainfall characterized most of today, so much so that it has already exceeded the rainfall produced during typhoon Ondoy last 2009, which is viewed as the worst storm we've had in the country in recent years.

(See for more details.)

Given the weather, most of us were "grounded" at home, giving us the time to stay online much more than normally possible (read: during work days). It also afforded us time to see posts from those against the RH Bill, claiming that "justice" is now being done from "high above".

"Heaven is letting out tears for the RH Bill."

"This is God speaking through nature for approving of immorality approved by Congress!"

"Maybe now you will understand that we will not be ignored! Down with the RH Bill! Let the rains wash it away!"

These are just a few of the online comments I have read, linking the heavy rainfall with the ending of the RH debates. Or, as these comments show, these posters believe the rains to be "God's response" for the RH Bill vote.

I don't know about you, but I would be very careful about claiming to speak for an all-powerful and all-knowing deity. If there's anything that stories about gods have shown us, it's that they don't need to justify anything they do: they do it precisely because they simply can.

You see that when Zeus had his way with any number of women. You see that in the God of the Christian Bible, who suddenly gave Abraham and his wife a son in their old age, only to tell them to kill their son as a sacrifice - all for a test. In modern day (psychology) terminology, we would call Zeus a rapist and the Christian God a sadist.

Their comments also disregard the fact that we have typhoons every year, aside from various weather disturbances not considered as a full-blown typhoon. Not to mention, when the anti-RH forces were having their "prayer rally", it was raining as well: we can quibble about the amount of rainfall, but if I followed their so-called "logic", God hates both those who are for and against the RH Bill?

But more importantly, it betrays who they are and what their priorities are: they disregard the suffering caused by the rains, and would rather gloat about their supposed moral superiority than trying to extend help to those who are directly affected by the rains.

They have painted their God as vengeful (for their cause), capable of causing loss and damage to innocent people, and quite frankly, petty, if a God so all-powerful didn't directly punish the lawmakers who supposedly "disobeyed His will."

Are they trying to drive people away from their religion? Well, they're doing a marvelous job.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Let's Get "Real" About The RH Bill

Last Saturday, the Catholic Church mounted its forces and called for a "prayer rally" in order to make a statement to the government that they are prepared to fight tooth and nail in opposing the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.

I don't even know what to say to this.
(Courtesy of

I know of many friends who are actually against the RH Bill. I cannot and will not begrudge them their opinion, based on their religious beliefs and what their (religious) leaders have told them, based on what they perceive the bill to be all about. I don't know if any of them actually managed to make it to the said show of protest at the EDSA Shrine, which was befitting as the event venue since it was clearly a religious-based opposition.

I am directing my comments and questions to the Catholic leadership in this country.

As can be gleaned by various news articles and pronouncements, there is an overwhelming support by various sectors for the passage of this bill. 

The United Nations figures in today's headline of the country's most read paper, recognizing how family planning contributes to development.

Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has come out to refute how his words have been presented to suit the needs and biases of those against the bill, with special mention of the CBCP.

Business groups have publicly declared their support for the measure.

As this is a democracy, there are other religious groups existing as well, and some of them have given their support for the RH Bill.

Survey after survey have shown that majority of Filipinos want the bill to pass.

My questions/comments, then, are:

(1) If you are truly against contraception, why do you support natural methods of family planning?

This has always been my biggest concern (if that's the word I should be using) whenever the prelates would start preaching against the condom, the pill, the IUD.

Why are you so vigorously opposed to modern methods of preventing conception, calling it "anti-life" even, when they have exactly the same end as the natural methods?

I never understood why you always seemed to be on some moral high ground. I remember how, in an online forum, one of your defenders was haughtily proclaiming that because of some Catholic doctrine and how natural methods are "open to life", it is perfectly fine to push these methods.

I countered that I am not a Catholic, so I am just going by what I see as someone "not immersed": Isn't that hypocrisy?

You are basically saying that one method is better than the other, but you do realize that both those methods have the same end? Namely, not letting the egg meet the sperm. It is spelled out clearly in the term contraception.

Contra = Against
Ception = Conception

It would be akin to someone defending his method to kill another person using his bare hands ("natural" method) to wring out the life of the intended target, but saying that he is morally superior to someone who employs a gun or a hacksaw (using weapons) to achieve the same end: murdering someone.

How can you sit on your moral high horse? I see no difference.

(2) You do know that the government and (any) church are separate in any democracy?

I need to point this out because whenever you make your pronouncements on how candidates should fear your "influence" should any of them decide to vote for the RH Bill's passage, you are clearly establishing a threat - it's not even a subtle one - that secular lawmakers in a democratic country have to bow down to one specific religion's doctrine.

Or else.

Do you understand what the terms "secular" and "democracy" even mean?

Yes, even though you are in denial of it, it means one thing: You in the Catholic leadership are in the same position as every other religion in the country. You are on equal footing, no one religion is supposed to be "better", and neither is one supposed to be favored. You only have an advantage in that Catholicism - imported via Spain - has been here since Magellan landed so you have almost 5 centuries of a headstart.

And I deliberately inserted the fact that Catholicism is a foreign concept to these islands, as many of your defenders like to say that it is "foreign influence" that is pushing for the modern methods of family planning. If these same people are so adamant about being "controlled" by concepts that are from other shores, they should be renouncing Catholicism this very instant.

The silence - and the hypocrisy - is deafening.

(3) Have you tried raising children or ever applied for a job?

I mean that question in the most non-antagonistic way possible.

Going with this post's title, it behooves me to wonder how is it that you think yourselves so well-versed in advising people on the ways of family life, or making claims like "contraception leads to corruption", as mentioned in last Saturday's rally.

Have you ever had a baby wake you up at night? Have you had 10 children simultaneously asking you where your next meal will be coming from? Have you had to fend off feelings of guilt, knowing in the pit of your stomach you can only send one of them to school, and just to elementary school at that? Have you tried walking around in the searing sun and horrendous rains, handing out your resumes and not hearing about a positive development in your job hunt for weeks, months, and even years? Have you even worried about where to sleep or what to wear?

The posturing, as if you had such a wealth of experience in these matters, is what is most offensive to my eyes, ears and most of all, heart.

Millions of people in this country - almost 100 million as of last count - are struggling to make it through the next day, even the next meal. Until you have come face to face with those stark realities, in an authentic way, that you have actually experienced and lived through, all your platitudes just come off as armchair pronouncements, one that is devoid of real world experience.

(4) Do you think subsidizing the distribution of modern methods of family planning is a waste of money?

Then you should be equally consistent and call for the immediate end of all subsidies provided for by government.

I highlight this because I read an online comment, saying that "condoms are legal and can be purchased anyway, don't use tax money to buy them, anyone who wishes to buy them should pay full price!"

Following that logic, we should tear down all public schools, demolish public hospitals, declare public health centers as a large deficit contributor, and so on.

These services have been provided because in a democratic government, it falls on the state to ensure that each citizen has a fighting chance of getting educated, having good health services, and everything else that make one not only have an existence, but a life. And they are given to support the most financially disadvantaged of its citizens.

Let me repeat that: it is the duty of the State to empower and equip its citizens with the right and basic tools to make it through life, whatever and however a person fashions that life to be. It is also responsible for managing the taxes it collects to fund these services - these are not "Catholic money", as some of your supporters claim they do not wish to "fund condoms" (as if that is the only thing the RH Bill provides). Public money, tax money - these are all property of the government, our "admission price" for being citizens in a democratic country. No religion can dictate a secular, democratic government what to do with it.

The RH Bill is meant to provide information and services regarding reproductive health for the country's poorest, those who don't even know where to get their next meal, much in the same way that public schools are meant for those who cannot afford it. You do not say "everyone should pay full price!" - have you seen what Catholic schools charge as tuition fees?

5. Lastly, the Philippines is not Catholic property. Deal with it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

For A Brother's Love

Dying for brotherhood.
(Courtesy of


That's how I would describe the death of Marc Andre Marcos.

Seeing his lifeless body on the television news, I tried not to wince when the camera focused on the blackish red hues on his arms and legs, indicating that these were the areas so lovingly beaten by his supposed "brothers", so that they could be given proof that he would be...I don't know, is loyal the right word?

There are no right words to justify a horrible and grievous wrong, perpetrated in the name of a mockery of sibling affection.

Having never been part of a fraternity, I am not at all misty-eyed about how "outsiders" will never understand how deep their bonds supposedly are, and how they are there for each other, through the direst of situations.

I can't think of a situation more desperately dire than the death of someone you wished to initiate into this brotherhood you so romantically sing paeans about when there are "others" around, a death caused by those within this organization professing an embracing and welcoming of new recruits. (This would be the type of welcome I would expect from an S and M Club, and I understand that even they have "rules", like control words that can be utilized when the masochist has "had enough".)

What does a fraternity offer, by way of advantages, that pushes men who are about to enter their productive years into salivating for places in these hallowed "houses"?

In my college years, there were two standout reasons that I have heard, having been surrounded by fraternities in UP, and the wannabes who so desperately wanted to be "included".

One, when you get into a brawl, your "brothers" will come to your aid.

Two, your job security is, well, secured, because the "upper classmen" (older fraternity brothers, those already entrenched in government, big business and other industries) will give you sterling recommendations, open career doors and even outright hire you and groom you for a successful financial future.

None of those reasons sound very appealing to me, and to my mind, to anyone who is not enamored with the words "heritage" or "tradition" when you can be killed as part of the initiation rites.

For the first reason:

Why get in a brawl in the first place?

The usual fights I have witnessed when I was in school were among opposing fraternities, and none of these "brothers" are pretty much willing to discuss the root of their fights, except to say that the other fraternity "started it first".

Do we even need a reason to say that this really isn't a good justification for upholding fraternities?

For the second reason:

I don't see how this differs from people that we accuse of being corrupt, or of practicing nepotism.

See, my parents brought us up in a meritocracy: that everything we would seek as a reward should have a corresponding "work" behind it. Whenever we would get perfect grades or do our chores, my mom would give us a list of "prizes" and to choose only one from it. You can call it cruel Pavlovian training, you can ask "didn't you feel like you were being strung along?"...but it definitely reinforced the fact that if you wanted the good stuff, there'd better be some sweat under your brow or some serious study time, soemtimes lasting well into the night.

And I have carried that belief into my own professional life now. I am extremely averse to people who schmooze their way into positions, who get a job because they happened to be a relative, who don't bother working their way up and instead, expect to be given privileges on the basis of some "feature" that  didn't require them to do anything other than mention, "oh, by the way, did I mention that I..."

Giving privileges to younger people who just happened to be from the same fraternity doesn't make them try harder, do better, go further. It only inculcates a smug sense of superiority for someone just joining the workforce, probably looking at his co-applicants with pity, all along mentally congratulating himself that he already has the job in the bag, owing to the bonds of brotherhood.

Is this how they infuse new blood into The Old Boys' Club?

Can anyone give me a good reason why fraternities should be patronized, defended, and possibly even celebrated?

If it's because of their charity works, you can do that without joining one.

If it's to have camaraderie and friendship, and to be accepted into a secret circle to feel validated, that may point to a flaw in self esteem.

Andre, like so many fatal hazing victims, who have given their lives so willingly, all to be part of this society, is calling out to all of us.

The question is, how do we respond to Andre's senseless death?

Do we just wink, say "that's what it means to be in a fraternity" and look away?

Or do we make sense of his death by doing what's right?