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Monday, July 29, 2013

The New Fallback Career

That's what politics has become in these parts.

And no one drives this point home more decisively than Manny Pacquiao.

Punching his way to the presidency?
(Courtesy of

My Sunday night was jolted when my online news feed was bombarded with headlines and reactions reporting on the famous boxer's apparently not-yet-publicized longstanding desire to be the President of this country.

Unscientifically, I can divide the reactions into two camps: the Give Chance To Others and the Did Marquez Smack Him That Hard groups.

The first one argues that the intelligent ones - like Marcos and GMA - have been given their time in the spotlight, and they ask if intelligence demands that one surrenders our moral compass. They also say that the boxing icon has proven to be generous privately, so imagine what he can do in an official capacity. And lastly, how unfair it is to pigeonhole him as being "only" a boxer, as most people have more to them than meets the eye.

The latter group replies that he's had his chance as a legislator, to prove his mettle. The legislative record shows Pacquiao has had the most absences in Congress, and was quite vocal about opposing the RH Law, despite it being supported by a majority of citizens in this country. He's also started his own political dynasty and has no qualms admitting he consults religious leaders when deciding on secular matters. A small portion of this group opines that his decisive loss by Marquez's hand sealed his fate as far as boxing is concerned, and he now has to find a new field to be victorious in once again.

Frankly, it shouldn't be that surprising that he went the political route. It is a reflection of one of the biggest changes in our political landscape these past years, that of parlaying popularity in other fields into political currency. To be more accurate, when one's star is fading in a previous career, it's time to dive in the warm waters of politics.

Admit it: how many times have those of us in our late thirties/early forties wax nostalgic when we hear so-and-so is now the councilor or board member of a province we've never been to, and think "wasn't s/he the 'it' girl/boy of the 80's/90's or figured in some scandal?"

It certainly doesn't help that we have set questionably low standards for who we think deserves to lead us and represent us on the national stage. The entry of literal clowns into places like the Senate has the backing of our Constitution, and it infuriates me no end when people argue from the standpoint of the least common denominator and say anyone should be free to run for this country's top post.

Is it a crime to aspire for greatness? To expect a leader to be a little better than most of us? To be a role model worthy of emulation? To highlight substance over form?

It's been often said that one needs only a pure heart, willing to serve, to run for public office. My response has always been, you can do that without having any government position. Manny himself has been known to give handouts.

Is he now throwing his hat in the political ring because his boxing career is now in its twilight years? Will he be going for an occasional bout or two if he wins as President, the way he did as a legislator? Why should I vote him for President, when he thinks public service is a part time job? (To be fair, we have sitting senators who have shown Manny that he doesn't have to give up his "previous career" as they continue appearing in films and variety shows.)

In the meantime, I'll have to have a discussion with my high school counselor. She never informed me that, when all else fails, there's always politics to fallback to.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Red Carpet As One Big Faux Pas

That, in a (fashion savvy) nutshell, was pretty much my thought balloon at yesterday's SONA. (State of the Nation Address)

You'd think they were celebrities, instead of public servants.
(Courtesy of

An occasion that was supposed to give an accounting of how last year's fiscal policies helped or harmed our national economy turned into a spectacle: shallow, banal, superficial, inconsequential - except for the designers and stylists who were probably more than happy to cater to the whims of our lawmakers to make an unforgettable entrance.

Having lived a stone's throw away from where the Lower House of the Philippine Congress is for almost half my life, I have often wondered if our lawmakers have desensitized themselves to what awaits them every time they enter or leave their place of work: scores and scores of informal settlers, big-bellied children in almost near-nude states and without slippers walking aimlessly or begging, shanties that occupy the islands that separate opposite road traffic - these are the sights, smells and sounds that surround them.

Here is a sampling of the headlines following yesterday's Congressional fashion show:

Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that a report of what the government has done for the past year should be an occasion tempered with austerity and economy. Maybe I have misunderstood what it means to be a public servant: to put the needs of others before yourself. Maybe I have misread the times, one where a cast member of the reality show Jersey Shore known for her enormous breasts and number of catfights she gets into can claim that she's actually written a "book".

It doesn't matter if these clothes that lawmakers emblazoned on themselves while walking on a literal red carpet were paid for out of their own pockets, with earnings from their private endeavors. It's what it symbolizes that is difficult to swallow.

What is the red carpet associated with?

Hollywood. Excess. Glamour. Wealth. Status. Privilege. Star Power.

I see nothing about these words that should ever be connected with public servants. I think the one person who I was most disappointed with was Sen. Pia Cayetano, one of the authors of the RH Law, a measure I actively campaigned for (and have lost friends over) because I fervently believe it to be part and parcel of a whole range of measures that will fight poverty in the long run.

As someone posted over Facebook, there is a "serious disconnect" if one says that s/he is waging a war on poverty, then appears to have spent countless hours and pesos to ensure she would be photographed to death and be the toast of lifestyle pages in print and online media.

It is in the same ballpark on how I feel about society pages in a country such as ours. When we are surrounded by so much poverty and hardship, that most of us cannot eat three meals a day, when just a few days ago, there was much negative commentary on how "squatters have it easy" - a recognition that there are so many people in dire need around us, it boggles my sense of propriety when there are people who can casually parade a bag in the dailies that costs a million pesos and pooh-pooh it as an afterthought purchase.

I don't mind celebrities who make it a priority to appear/be glamorous and be thought of as wealthy. They are paid to make us feel inadequate, envious and to have reason to label this life as unfair.

I mind public servants who do. We all should.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Threat Of Sameness

Over the course of these past few weeks, the topic of homosexuality could hardly be avoided: from the striking down of the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) by the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States), to NBA player Jason Collins and singer Charice both "officially" coming out (and, more recently for the latter, being named as the "Hottest Lesbian" in a popular LGBT website), and to the ratings success of the GMA-7 show "My Husband's Lover", there seems to be an unofficial sentiment which was voiced by someone I hardly knew in a seminar I recently attended: "What the hell...suddenly the gays are everywhere?!"

(Courtesy of

What the hell, indeed.

Over the course of my lifetime, we have traversed from "the love that hides in the closet" to "will you please shut up already?!?"

The uncomfortable pinch I feel in my gut tells me this new, slightly varied reaction is another form of homophobia: no, not the kind that uses violence; rather, it plays up the "we're sick of it" card, turning a potential plus - that of being treated equally  - into a minus; to continue using the words of the guy in the seminar, "...I can't stand the fact that they're in our faces na (already) all the time!"

It's the underlying message that disturbs me.

What it says is, sumosobra na kayong mga bakla at tomboy. (You gays and lesbians are taking it too far.) What it also means is "we're just tolerating you, but don't force us to turn against you, and that will happen if you don't somehow censor yourselves."

It begs the question: what would homophobes and moralists consider "acceptable behavior"?

My theory is that as long as gays and lesbians - the visible ones, anyway - act according to preconceived norms, expectations, and roles, then it would be considered "fine." Take a look at the three instances I mentioned above, and why the sentiment of the conservative crowd has been palpably, hideously negative.

(1) Marriage Equality

This has been a banner year for marriage equality, with the UK being the latest country to approve of it. (For those who are quizzical about the term, marriage equality is what I and several people in the LGBT movement prefer to use, as opposed to "gay marriage" which qualifies it, separates it and makes it seem different.)

Let me state clearly that what the movement is fighting for is a legal right. There has never been a thrust for changing the policies of religions, to force faiths to bless/accept these unions. This is all in the realm of secular law, and I leave those who struggle with what their chosen faith says about same sex unions with their own thoughts and decisions.

The reason why DOMA was even introduced is to effectively - and legally - bar the LGBT community from participating in the legal right to marriage, and it's no surprise that those who pushed for it were largely conservatives who had ties to certain religions. It springs from the belief that gays aren't supposed to get married: a cursory look at any social media board for the reasons to oppose it range from "what they do (in bed) is disgusting!" to "how can they even reproduce, which is the entire point of marriage?!?" and the veiled-but-hypocritical concern for "the child who does not have a strong male/female presence in the house?"

(2) "Charice is a singer. Let's focus on that, nothing else, please."

I saw this reaction on a Facebook post, when she had just come out, and has said that she was seeing someone (in fact, there were footage/photos of the couple). Contrast this reaction to those given other stars (who are implicitly assumed to be heterosexual): a lot of the questions range from "who's your crush/manliligaw" to the more pushy "so, have you set a wedding date already?"

Somehow, it's perfectly fine to be nosy and prying about a celebrity's love life, give us all the sordid details, with pictures please, as long as your partner is of the opposite sex. But heaven forbid that a reporter should dare ask Charice who she is seeing, even though practically everyone in this country embraced her as "our own" when she "went international" and appeared on Oprah and Ellen, worked with Akon, and became a sometime member of the hit show Glee.

It lines up perfectly with the experience of several people who have come out to their parents and have been begrudgingly accepted/tolerated: OK, you're gay, we know it. But please, don't talk about your romantic life, we have no interest in it, thank you. Gays aren't supposed to be able to form healthy, loving relationships, they are all doomed to failure, especially where gay men in this country are concerned, where the guys they have a "relationship" with can be summed up by what a character in My Husband's Lover said this week: "Diba pera lang naman ang habol ng mga lalaki sa inyo?!?" (Aren't men only after your money?)

(3) "How dare you make their lives seem normal!"

This was an online reaction I saw directed towards the people behind the hit show My Husband's Lover, which revolves around two gay men who used to be a couple, but one has opted to get married and have kids, as was expected of him by his parents, religion and society, and the show is told from the viewpoint of the wife caught up in this particular situation.

Since gay people cannot get legally married in this country, I wonder what the reaction was specifically aimed at: Was it the fact that a telenovela was being shown with two gay men as the lead roles? Or that she was unsettled because this was a rare instance when gay men are being shown on television neither as comic relief nor caricatures, and with attractive qualities for the heterosexual female? Gay men aren't supposed to be the lead characters, or given any serious lines; they're supposed to be the sidekick; wearing make up, talking really loudly and acting abrasively, and have mannerisms that "clearly" identify them as bakla.

My theory is that what some sectors find so threatening is the fact that somehow, we are the same and want the same things: someone to love, and hopefully grow old with. Someone who will be recognized as a partner legally, with all the rights given to any other spouse. To be asked about our romantic lives, the way we have asked those of our straight colleagues, for decades. To be anyone and do anything, even be an athlete in a sport that would make the most homophobic parent tear up.

And when we have all been taught the same misconceptions from birth about the gay community - that they are untrustworthy, out to steal for their papas; that they will be miserable; that they are deformities of nature; that they are only good as parloristas (for gay men) and security guards (for gay women) - it must be incredibly jarring to be faced with realities that turn those long-ingrained beliefs upside down.

What this tells me is that some sectors will work their hardest to make the gay community stay in the fringes, occasionally allowed to sit at the table, and only if we act in "proper decorum", and whose rights and privileges can be revoked without question or appeal. It has come to the point that we are now accepted because we are perceived as different, and are treated as a danger when we wish to be treated no differently.

What a strange, strange world we live in.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Endless Coffee Pork Ribs Day

And before you can say, "What? Why/How were those two conceived to be a match for each other?" let me present to you Exhibit A.

Dark, sweet, caramelized, was certainly the highlight for me and my very good friends Liza and Malyn when we decided to partake of the 1st Year Anniversary (in the country) offer of the famed Singaporean eatery, Boon Tong Kee.

I was glancing distractedly at my Facebook News Feed when a poster in red caught my eye, and it turned out to be a list of foods that were included in their eat-all-you-can anniversary promotion. I had to blink because I wasn't sure if I read it correctly, but the price for this (wow!) offer was PhP 488++. You can understand my incredulity if you knew that a regular, whole Signature Boiled Chicken from BTK costs over PhP 800 here. And before I could entertain more doubts, I picked up the phone and made a reservation.

While waiting for the rest of my party to arrive, I decided to start off with the Bacon Meatball Soup; throw in the word "bacon" and I'm there.

The bacon was much more subtle than I expected (it seemed to be grounded in) and hoped for, but it was drizzling outside, and set me up for a good experience, since I find any soup dish is best enjoyed on rainy days. (Is that just me?) I was also served their "appetizer" of pickled vegetables, so I will give fair warning: do not partake of it if you are not a fan of spicy food.

Innocuous looking, it was. You bite into it, and think, okay. But as Malyn pointed out later, it's the kind of spiciness that "blooms" and creeps up on you.

By this time, both of my friends have arrived, and we started with the Crispy Chicken Salad, which has quite a spicy kick (maybe you could ask the server to place the sauce on the side if you don't like it hot). It was crunchy and had the token, er, salad, and believe me, no one in our table was complaining that the ratio of meat to vegetables favored the former.

We then moved on to Stuffed Beancurd and Deep Fried Stuffed Fritter, both of which were quite enjoyed by everyone. The fritter was for me the best of the three "official" appetizers (on the anniversary list), which was much more filling than expected.

Pretty soon, our main dishes arrived, and while you go to Boon Tong Kee for their Signature Boiled Chicken, we were looking forward more to the Coffee Pork Ribs, which admittedly on first bite had that "let me wrap my head around this combination first" quality.

The more we dug in, the more the combination felt right. It was not too sweet but definitely was a central flavor, but the burnt coffee with the pork was quite sublime. I understand the restaurant is also having a promotion over Deal Grocer for this exact dish, and it is now teetering closer to being the reason why one travels to eat at this famed Singaporean eatery.

Of course, what most people come here for is this:

Light but flavorful, this must-have never lets you down, and paired with their own ginger sauce, must simply be eaten with their equally famous Chicken Rice.

This is a dish that can honestly be eaten on its own. It's that good.

Malyn opted to order the Birthday Noodles, while Liza went for the Sambal Fried Rice.

I was surprised to see so much sauce with the noodles, as I am used to the usual variety served in Chinese lauriats, with those matching cute little pink colored eggs. The sauce was flavorful, but Liza swears the Sambal Rice was even better than the Chicken variety, especially when paired with the Coffee Pork Ribs. What I loved about it were the dilis and peanuts that adorned it.

We took on the Fish Fillet with Spring Onions and Ginger as well as the Fried Beef Fillet with Black Pepper Sauce, and this was where some improvements could be made. The fish did not taste too fresh (I thought this would be a steamed, light dish) while the beef dish left me wondering if they just slathered the sauce in the last few minutes of cooking, as the taste did not seem to permeate through the bovine center.

We couldn't leave without trying the other chicken variation, Crispy Roast Chicken. It might have been a mistake to have this after the pork ribs and boiled chicken, because it's quite delicious, but somehow did not have the same luster as the other two as far as taste was concerned.

Then again, I know a few people who cannot stand any variation of Hainanese chicken, and this would be the superior version of the fowl for them. (It was crispy, indeed.)

And again, the Imperial Pork Ribs falls into the "should have served this beforehand" situation: it seemed like a slightly "lesser" version after the Coffee Pork Ribs, and I'm pretty sure I would have been quite satisfied with it had they served it first. Oh, well. There are just some things that stand out.

The award for "pleasant unexpected surprise" goes to...gasp!...the vegetable dish!

Labeled Poached Spinach with Assorted Egg, we ordered this as our FYI dish. (As in "FYI, we also eat _________, you just don't see us do it.) We were surprised to see a soup-like concoction, and we had to admit, it tasted good, which was a nice surprise. When we were ruminating over it, Malyn even exclaimed, "It's spinach, and it's poached! Why don't you just kill me now?"

The promotion works on a per-order basis (it's actually an "order all you can" scenario) and the serving sizes are for one person, two at the most. Leftovers are charged double (our server repeated this at least thrice) and our thought balloon was "tell your chefs they will be working hard today!"

Curiously, we seemed to be the only table enjoying the promotion: no one was looking at the "red" menu, and were paying full price for everything. More for us, then. And for you. But don't dawdle - this promotion only lasts until July 21, 2013. At 488++, you are definitely getting more than your money's worth.

By the way, we had at least five orders of the Coffee Pork Ribs.

That's all I'm saying.


A special shoutout to Miguel Aranaz, Marketing Manager for Boon Tong Kee Philippines, who cleared up a confusion in the schedule of their promotion. This is the way I wish companies would respond to consumers: prompt, clear and efficient. I hope BTK Philippines knows they have a valuable asset in you.


Boon Tong Kee
3/F (Near Cinemas)
Power Plant Mall, Makati

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Calamansi Cupcake Fix

Having seen so many cupcake stores springing up all over the metro, I always go back to the moment when a cupcake actually held my attention for more than five seconds: one hot summer in Boracay - my first time to the so-called 'party island' - we attempted to avoid the crowds and heat by ducking into a store that turned out to sell these wonderful, little pockets of joy.

Calamansi cupcakes.

It had that tart-sweet medley from its namesake fruit, but none of the acidity that can be a little too much at times. It was possibly the first time I looked at a cupcake in a different light - I used to dismiss them as 'filler' desserts. Fast forward to today, when entire stores are opened celebrating the little bugger. I guess my cavalier treatment of it returned to bite me in a decidedly big way, given its size.

On my recent trip to Boracay, I was greatly disappointed to find that when we got to the store, it had already sold out. Not being a beach person, that cupcake was one of the highlights of the trip - yes, I'm shallow, sue me - and given the amount of people on the island, it was no longer conducive to a "breezy" experience.

Imagine my surprise when Art called me to say that he was bringing home some calamnsi cupcakes. I thought to myself how good competition is for consumers like me, and I don't have to fly all the way out of Manila to have it.

I was wrong. This was waaaaaaay better. I kid you not. And I have to thank Sweet Mamita.

Located in Manila's south (Paranaque), Sweet Mamita is run on a per-order basis. The particular one I enjoyed from them is called Calamansi Delight, and it certainly lives up to the name it was christened with. The big wow! factor that made it superior to the one I had in Boracay was the thick frosting on top (which was absent in the island version), and each bite was quite spectacular, as I could tell that the creator did not spare any expense in order to create this sublime, sweet and sour delicacy that has to be tasted to be believed.

Art ordered a dozen of them for PhP 600, so at PhP 50 a pop, it was less pricey than the ones I see in cutesy-themed cupcake stores (almost approaching the PhP 100/cupcake variety range). Give them a call, email them or visit their page (details below) and if this was a sampling of what they offer, then I have found cupcake nirvana.

And her name is Sweet Mamita.


Sweet Mamita
Better Living Subdivision, Paranaque City, Metro Manila
(+632) 7882708/ (+632) 8526732
(+63) 917 888 5362
Email: (for inquiries)


*A couple of people I really like have asked me about the scarcity of my posts as of late. I've been going through some training for a new endeavor and have had to put my blog on pause for a short while. Here's hoping I won't be gone that long anymore.