PinoyXPat

A Pinoy Expatriate’s Insane Musings

Taxes…

Posted by Marvin on August 20, 2008

It has been ages since I last posted here…Been preoccupied with work as well as filing United States AND Philippine tax returns. For people not in the know, expatriates in the US are required to pay US federal and state income taxes (the amount depends on your expatriate arrangement with your company) as well as Philippine income taxes. The only consolation is that the taxes here in the US are given back to the taxpayers in terms of education, excellent freeways, magnificent state and national parks, utilities etc.

I can’t say the same thing for the Philippines though… I treat every peso I ever earned for the last 14 years as precious so giving up 35% of that is not an easy thing to do especially if I don’t see things coming back in the form of infrastructure improvements, health care and basic services. I am one of the millions who get taxed automatically as part of their payslips. What hath our tax pesos wrought?

Economics 101 tells us that the income tax is the primary revenue stream of the government and is a very delicate economic lever. So before we start bashing the Philippine Government for wasting taxpayer money, we have to ask first this question: Do Filipinos pay their fair share of the tax burden to the government?

“Explain before you complain…” – Joey de Leon

In order for us to start nailing people for wasting tax dollars (and I’ve got my trusty hammer ready for some serious nailing) with the appropriate moral footing, we need to check if the government has been receiving the right taxes from the populace. I guess the answer is a resounding “No” even if all that we have right now is anecdotal evidence. The government has always been short in terms of tax collections and have been looking for innovative ways to improve its revenue base.

What can be done to improve the collections? Some thoughts:

Target Professionals: Every “Nanay” or “Tatay” would like their unico hijo or hija to finish a “karrera”. That is why most parents would like their kids to pursue a lengthy (and not to mention expensive) career as a doctor or a lawyer. Nothing wrong with this as these are both noble professions. The problem starts when these professionals fail to issue receipts or declare their full income for the taxman. Their logic is crystal clear: “Ang laki ng nagastos namin sa kolehiyo kaya kailangang makabawi naman kami.”  I can understand this and most doctors and lawyers are honest enough to pay taxes for their full income. What about the rest?

Target The “Big Fish”: This has been the proverbial vision of tax collectors. But the question remains: Who are the “Big Fishes”? Here’s a simple suggestion. The BIR should publish the list of top taxpayers per city/province based on official tax payments to the government and then offer a huge reward to anyone who provides information on people who should be on the list but aren’t or whose tax payment is unusually low. I am of the opinion that for the right price, people will provide useful information. For example, Jamby Madrigal has been fighting tool and nail for her aunt’s inheritance (reminds me of a shark feeding frenzy I saw once on Animal Planet). The expectation is that she will pay a sizable inheritance tax on whatever she gets and if her name is not on the list…ALERT! ALERT! Big Fish sighted off the port bow!

Get Medieval On Non-Tax Payers: We all know who these guys are…This is the guy or girl with the loudest voice who shouts slogans and hurls charges of government neglect or government incompetence day in and day out. Hey, I’m not protecting the government. There IS government neglect and government incompetence due to the people in power with IQs lower than sea slugs…However, this sounds so hollow…So plastic since most of these loudmouths don’t pay taxes. We know who these guys are: (a) men of the cloth e.g. priests and bishops who shout to the high heavens and yet are tax exempt by virtue of their religion, (b) Communist neanderthals and their sympathizers whose life-long quest to establish a Communist state remains unfulfilled – instead they resort to giving radio interviews from their mountain hideouts while blowing up mobile phone towers on the side, (c) squatters who demand housing, food, health care and other services whilst cheating the government of taxes due to the undergound economy i.e. the classic “kabig lang ng kabig” instead of “tulungan mo ang iyong sarili” – a mentality prevalent in a culture of mendicancy, (d) entertainers who squeeze the life blood of the people who idolize them by not paying their taxes e.g. Nora Aunor, German “Master Showman” Moreno, Judy Ann Santos etc. (e) lawmakers and politicians – enough said, everyone KNOWS they cheat on their taxes. How do we marginalize these folks? Simple. Strip them of their rights until they pay up. Priest and religious groups will not be allowed to collect donations or be tax exempt on their vast land holdings until they pay up…Hell, even Queen Elizabeth II pays taxes so why should these guys be exempt. Just imagine the windfall from all of the earnings of the Iglesia ni Cristo, El Shaddai etc. Impose a news blackout on Joma, Ka Roger and their ilk since they’ve forfeited the right to communicate to the people by not recognizing the government of the Philippines. Let them talk amongst themselves…Rescind the right to vote for squatters whose political power base stems from the fact that whoever has the squatter vote wins in the elections – classic example is Binay of Makati…Ban the movies or CDs of non-paying entertainers. Impeach or evict tax evaders from the halls of Congress.

GRRRRRRR!!!! It must be something about viewing my tax returns that makes me want to go nuclear on people who cheat on theirs…Maybe it’s because I don’t have a choice in the matter – my taxes are automatically deducted from my salary…Sigh!

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Posted in Introspection | 3 Comments »

Right Back At You…

Posted by Marvin on February 27, 2008

—oOo—

According to Joseph Estrada, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) stand on the National Broadband Network-ZTE controversy is “like asking a thief to catch a thief”. Based on the Inquirer report, Estrada also indicated that the resignation of the President was not the call of the bishops but of the people and said he would support people power if Arroyo would block moves to impeach her.

RIGHT BACK AT YOU: I must admit it. Estrada has some nerve to mouth off statements like these. Calling Arroyo a thief sounds soooooooo hollow coming from a CONVICTED plunderer like Erap. Ang kapal ng mukha!!!! That line on resignation not being the call of the bishops but of the people indicates a selective case of consciously omitting out historical facts. It should be noted that during EDSA II, BOTH the bishops and the people wanted HIM out. And what does he call the efforts of his minions in the Senate (like suppressing the admission of the second envelope into evidence)? Isn’t that a case of “blocking moves to impeach” him? Reminds me of that old religious song: “Bago mo linisin ang dungis ng iyong kapwa, hugasan ang iyong putik sa mukha…”

 —oOo—

Senator Maria Ana Consuelo Madrigal recently implied that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and the Chinese embassy were in cahoots on the NBN-ZTE controversy because of a purported copy of a NEDA memo with a marginal note of “FG”.

RIGHT BACK AT YOU: Trade Secretary Favila refuted this by saying that the original marginal note indicated “FGI” referring to Florante G. Igtiben with the “I” conveniently erased. Igtiben handles Chinese-funded projects at the NEDA. Senator “Half Moon” Madrigal is what I would call a “hair-trigger” show-off. Trying to impress people with the proverbial smoking gun, she doesn’t bother to check her sources (or should it be accomplices). Regardless of whether or not Malacanang’s spin on the matter holds water, can one of the retired senators tutor this halfling on proper legislative and diplomatic decorum. She basically implied that the Chinese ambassador, the Chinese Embassy and by the mathematical principle of transitivity – the Chinese Government of corruption. The Chinese do have its fair share of corrupt officials but a legislator should not issue such pronouncements lightly. Pakilagyan nga ng busal ito at baka mapasubo tayo sa giyera ng di oras… Her excuse? She was just doing her duty as Senator. Ek…Ek… Your duty Senator is to enact laws of national importance – not to play the role of a private eye…Ano na ba ang mga batas na naipasa mo aber? Refer to her senatorial record here.

 —oOo—

Who else will shoot themselves in the foot with their own gun? Abangan…

Posted in Introspection, Peeve | Leave a Comment »

And I Thought WE Were Politically Immature…

Posted by Marvin on February 25, 2008

Voting with the heart and not with the mind…Focusing on general statements as opposed to detailed plans…Attending rallies studded with celebrities in lieu of townhall sessions where people can ask questions…Using “sound bites” instead of policy statements…

NO, we are not in the Philippines… I am referring to the current Democractic presidential contest here in the U.S. between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The American voter has not been this engaged since the time of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. This only proves that Democrats (and Republicans) want to get it right this time and not elect another bumbling and incompetent President like Bush II. What a damn fiasco he turned out to be…

But what is striking about this year’s primaries/caucuses is the apparent retrograde pattern of voter behavior. Very similar indeed to the immature politics back home. Consider the following:

Vague Generalities: There has been a marked increase in the number of vague generalizations from this year’s candidates. The King of Generalities is no other than Barack Obama. He has mouthed off a lot of statements with no specific actions mentioned. Consider his “change the establishment” motto. What the hell does that mean? Change what? Where? When? And most importantly: How? He promotes himself as non-establishment relative to Clinton. That may be true but his entire campaign staff are not political neophytes either. How can he ever hope to get his legislative agenda passed with an “establishment” Congress in place? Classic propaganda…

Celebrities Galore: Eat your heart out Judy Ann Santos, Manny Pacquiao et.al. Here in the U.S., they use powerhouse celebrities and Americans are also gullible enough to be taken in by it. Consider Oprah Winfrey pushing for Obama, Barbra Streisand for Hillary etc. Even Mike Huckabee has Chuck Norris campaigning for him (Chuck Norris? What the @#$%!).

Cult Movements: Back home, we have the cults of Manalo (Iglesia Ni Cristo) and Velarde (El Shaddai) controlling voters. For this election, the Americans are being exposed to the cult of the individual. The Cult of Obama is the main one here. People are going goo-goo over gaga over him. And when you ask them why, the most common answer is “He inspires me…” Again, what the @#$%! Rationality seems to have been thrown out the window here…

Slogans: We Filipinos had the classic “Erap Para Sa Mahirap! Estrada Para Sa Masa!” slogan during the 1998 elections. Here they have the “Yes We Can!” spiel of Obama. Yes We Can…Succeed? Yes We Can…Change? Yes We Can…Be Fooled?

It nice to know that the dregs of the human gene pool is not concentrated in the Philippines. The U.S. has its fair share too…

Inspite of what people tell you…Life IS fair…

Posted in Introspection, Peeve | 2 Comments »

Dramatis Personae

Posted by Marvin on February 25, 2008

Dramatis personae def. Latin phrase (“the masks of the drama”) used to refer to the characters in a dramatic work or play.

Plays sink or swim depending on the cast of characters. The more the audience links up emotionally with the characters (loving or hating them), the better the chances of the play doing well at the box office. Given the sad Philippine Telenovela currently unfolding, it might be worthwhile to look at the list:

—oOo—

Character: The Sore Loser
Played By: Joey de Venecia

Background: Long-suffering son living under the shadow of his more illustrious father. Aspired to beat Daddy in his own game by trying to snag a giant government contract even if he is not fully equipped to do battle with the big boys. Loses. Cries “Foul!” and runs back to Daddy for help.

Motto: “There is no honor among thieves.”

—oOo—

Character: The Singer
Played By: Jun Lozada

Background: A nobody who is suddenly thrust into the spotlight by The Sore Loser’s tantrums. Admitted to having his own share of bad deeds. Caught between a rock and a hard place, he starts to sing like the proverbial stool pigeon. The audience applauded. Seeing that he is appreciated by the audience and wanting to provide some entertainment, he sings some more – adding a few choice jokes and wisecracks on the side. The people ate it up. More applause. More songs. Couldn’t turn professional though because he couldn’t produce the lyrics to his songs i.e. no physical proof that the songs are his or that the songs exist for that matter.

Motto: “If you can’t stand the heat, put someone else in the kitchen.”

—oOo—

Character: The Silent One
Played By: Romulo Neri

Background: A technocrat who made the mistake of operning his mouth and Pandora’s Box at the same time. Trapped between the Pillars of Hercules, he opted to stay silent hoping that the maelstrom will pass him by.

Motto: “Less talk, less mistake. No talk, no mistake.”

—oOo—

Character: The Broker
Played By: Benjamin Abalos

Background: Adept at bringing strange bedfellows together. Previously been involved in other compromising situations. The guy everyone loves to hate. Perennially sourrounded by lawyers so that libel/slander cases could be filed immediately.

Motto: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can’t hurt me – I’ll just sue your sorry ass.”

—oOo—

Character: The Inquisitor
Played By: Alan Cayetano

Background: The modern-day incarnation of the consumate medieval bastard Tomas de Torquemada. Extremely paranoid and sees Malacanang’s hand in everything. Exhibits a Messiah-complex which keeps him tied up in investigations and hearings. Too busy doing police work – no time for legislative work (ZERO bills/resolutions filed since being elected senator).

Motto: “Eat your heart out Chiz Escudero. I’m winning in the ratings game.”

—oOo—

Character: The Puppet Master
Played By: Jose de Venecia

Background: The traditional politician and political survivor. Recently lost his crown but currently rebuilding his empire from the ground up. Self-styled kingmaker. Performs most of his magic tricks behind closed doors.

Motto: “I, me and myself.”

—oOo—

Character: The Bogeyman
Played By: Jose Miguel Arroyo

Background: The guy everyone fears. According to The Inquisitor, the cause of every known problem that the country faces including adult-onset acne, the Regine Velasquez ABS-CBN/GMA brouhaha and obesity.

Motto: “If you think I’m tough, wait till you face my wife.”

Posted in Introspection, Peeve | 1 Comment »

The Philippine Telenovela

Posted by Marvin on February 25, 2008

I’ve been away from it all for the past two months.

Why? Because I’m sick and tired of reading crappy news from the Philippines. Sick and tired of self-serving statements and wolves in sheep’s clothing…There are just so many sanctimonious bastards out there and I will not let them ruin the holidays.

Every day, I thank the Lord God that I am here and NOT there (a very selfish thing to say but this is exactly how I feel and most Filipinos here in the US probably feel the same way)…

On a more personal note, I’ve just been appointed to a different role in the company I work for. This means that my L-1 visa will continue to be in effect…Yipee!!! “Four more years! Four more years!”

Four more years of watching the Philippine National Telenovela from 8,000 miles away…

Posted in Introspection, Peeve | 1 Comment »

Philippine Senate: No Better Than A Boy’s Club Or Fraternity

Posted by Marvin on December 3, 2007

This early, the fallout from Trillanes’ criminal act is revealing a lot about the character and principles (or lack of it) of the Philippine Senate. Such a blatant act unbecoming of a senator of the Republic surely demands attention from the Senate? NOT!

The Senate, who often projects an aura of morality (which I do not buy), is in the limelight as one of their very own members tried to destroy the very Republic they serve. You would expect that the Senate will throw the proverbial book at Trillanes or at least issue resolutions condemning his acts to the high heavens. Consider these facts:

  • They are more than willing to issue condemnations on foreign governments for the “scandals” that they’ve investigated e.g. North Rail, the NBN issue etc.
  • They have spent millions of taxpayer money on “flavor of the month” scandal investigations (presumably in aid of legislation – but more likely IN AID OF RE-ELECTION) with perennial “imbestigadors” like Lacson and Cayetano at the helm.
  • They have even spent legislative time to provide Philippine citizenship to foreigners. (See this post.)

Surely the honorable senators will crack the whip on their neophyte colleague’s indiscretions read: crimes…Right?

DEAD WRONG!!!!

Case in point:

  • Senator Manuel Villar (the Senate President himself) said that an investigation by the Senate on Trillanes was not a priority and that the courts should be given jurisdiction over the issue. And yet, they’ve investigated other so-called “scandals” which also involved supposed criminal acts covered by the courts before. What’s so special about this one…except for the fact that they will be investigating their fellow senator?
  • Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.  and a number of opposition senators has even said that an investigation would not prosper. He wants the courts to decide on the consequences of Trillanes’ action. And yet if the issue revolves around the government or the administration, mas malakas ba sa busina ng tren ng PNR ang sigaw nitong taong ito.
  • Instead of condemning and investigating Trillanes, a cadre of senators composed of Manuel Villar, Mar Roxas, Benigno Aquino III, and Ramon Revilla Jr. filed separate resolutions calling for an investigation into the media arrests after the police assault on the Manila Peninsula. Inuna pa ang reklamo ng media! Kasalanan ng media kaya sila inaresto! Masyadong gahaman sa ratings at masyadong reklamador ang mga nasa media. They were asked to leave and yet chose to stay – so they have no right to cry foul! Aba 2008 pa lang…namumulitika na si Villar at Roxas! Masyadong ganid sa kapangyarihan at gustong maging presidente.

What the hell does this all mean?

In simple terms, the Senate doesn’t have the balls to chastise or penalize a colleague. It doesn’t have the guts to stand for what is right – instead effectively supporting their boy by doing nothing.

The only ones asking for an investigation are Senators Santiago and Pangilinan.

Talo niyo pa ang mga gang at fraternities! Instead of my brother, right or wrong….You are chanting: “My fellow senator, right or wrong…”

You disgusting maggots! I spurn you as I would spurn a rabid dog…

Posted in Airlines | 6 Comments »

If Only We Are NOT Who We Are…

Posted by Marvin on November 30, 2007

I am on business travel to Cape Town, South Africa as I started writing this post. As always, the beauty of Table Mountain and the sourrounding areas is beyond words to decribe.

As I led meetings here, I made every effort to promote the fact that I am a Filipino and that the Philippines is as beautiful as any other country on earth – and possibly even more. I keep on mentioning that Filipinos are a noble people and that we can take our place in the sun together with any other citizen of the world…

…and then the shit hits the fan back at home…

To my horror, CNN showed Trillanes’ latest megalomaniacal caper while we were on our meeting break. Footage of him mouthing off incoherent rhetoric in halting, broken English and of an armoured personnel carrier ramming the Manila Peninsula’s main entrance almost made me cower in shame. My colleagues from Australia, the U.S., the United Kingdom and South Africa started asking questions:

  • “Why is the Philippines so unstable?”
  • “Why is the media covering the rebels? Shouldn’t the government impose a news blackout in cases like these?”
  • “Why is the government allowing the siege to continue for hours? Why not storm the hotel and arrest the rebels?”
  • “Why are people milling around watching the events as they unfolded? Shouldn’t the entire area be cordoned off completely?”
  • “Why can’t you get your act together?”
  • “Why do you have short-term memory loss? Why are you so easy to forgive and forget?”

I had to hide my face in shame…I was so mad with the events back home that I couldn’t even think of defending my people and my country. Come to think of it, what we have is  an indefensible and untenable position.

IF ONLY…

…a person guilty of a such a blatant crime as trying to overthrow the government (what other evidence is required except for the media footages of the Oakwood mutiny) was not elected into the Senate. Have we forgotten the bombs planted in and around the Oakwood building by Trillanes, Faeldon and their good-for-nothing ilk?

IF ONLY…

…individuals guilty of rebellion or sedition were thankful that they were even given the right to a trial. If these idiots tried their stunt in some other country, they would have been immediately hanged or shot to death by musketry. Ang lakas pa ng loob na sabihin na ginawa nila ang lahat sa loob ng sistema pero hindi sila pinakinggan! Eh sino ba ang nag-delay ng proceedings ng trial nila? Di ba sila? 

IF ONLY…

…Filipinos were smart and mature enough to discern the real heroes from those suffering from megalomania and severe messiah-complexes. I had to humbly admit this sad fact to my foreign colleagues: “Tanga tayong mga Pilipino!”

IF ONLY…

…Senators of the Republic do their job i.e. legislate laws for the betterment of the country – and follow the rule of law and the Constitution – the same Constitution they swore to honor and defend when they took office. Imagine this: A person elected as senator a.k.a. the despicable Trillanes – “escaping” from the court’s custody, making a mockery of the judicial process, illegally breaking and entering into a private establishment, inciting people to sedition by asking people to overthrow the government and ignoring the Constitution’s rules on succession by asking the Supreme Court Chief Justice to take over the reins – acting like the self-styled hero of the Republic.

IF ONLY…

…someone who risks everything and mouths off fighting words (and a soldier at that) against the government be man enough to face the music and the bullets and not cower behind media people and use them as an excuse for surrendering. Poporma-porma pero susuko din naman pala dahil walang ibubuga!

IF ONLY…

…all of the hotel guests whose privacy was violated and lives put in danger will come back to the Philippines again and try to forget this experience. The same goes for all investors, businessmen and employees. I pity the honest employees and workers e.g. bell hops, waiters etc. as they will be adversely affected if the customers and guests will not return or will lose confidence in the country.

IF ONLY…

…the media would not give too much air time to people whose main purpose in life is to grab power or cause trouble. This is not limited to Trillanes’ band of brigands. The same applies to the Communists (why would you capture sound bites from Ka Roger or Joma when they are out of touch with reality and whose main activity now is to burn cell phone towers in exchange for extortion money), the so-called progressives in Congress (party-list congressmen who use taxpayers money for their own goals of establishing a socialist state by destroying the government from within i.e. “ginigisa tayo sa sariling mantika”), retired bishops who had nothing better to do except help other groups in realizing their power grab strategies…

IF ONLY…

…so-called men-of-the-cloth will concentrate on spiritual matters and not join overtly political and illegal acts. Tingnan niyo ang mga lintik na obispo na ito…They should also be charged with sedition. At itong si Father Reyes, nagmimisa pa ba ito sa parokya niya? Eh lagi ko na lang nakikita sa demonstrasyon itong paring ito eh. Ano ang ginagawa ng Vatican tungkol sa mga radikal na paring ito?

IF ONLY…

…these people spent their time to help out Filipinos devastated by the recent typhoons and earthquake. Such a bunch of hypocritical vipers! 

IF ONLY…

…we have less freedoms than what we have right now. We as a people have proven that we are NOT mature enough to wield the freedoms we gained from EDSA. As such, we need to impose more discipline and to highlight the fact that the freedoms we enjoy are NOT absolute. The right to free speech is not absolute…The right to assembly is not absolute…That’s why the country is in a gridlock. Everyone has the damned right to challenge and stop anything from happening – and they have the damned right to shout it out to everyone – and the media has the damned right to print each and every word…

IF ONLY…

…I am a vulgar and crass man then I can shout to the top of my lungs these crisp and succinct words of derision:

F*&K TRILLANES!    F*&K LIM!    F*&K GUINGONA!    F*&K THE TRAITOROUS CLERGY! 

Unfortunately, I am not – and so…I won’t.

Posted in Introspection, Peeve | 3 Comments »

Jaunting Through Europe No. 2: A VERY Long Haul…

Posted by Marvin on October 19, 2007

Travelling across oceans and continents have always been easy for me…I was always on official company business ergo travelling on either First or Business Class. Being the typical Pinoy (i.e. cheap but not Genuine Ilocano cheap), I wouldn’t dare buy Business Class tickets at exorbitant prices for our vacation. Ever the cheapskate, I opted to go coach or Economy and used my Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer frequent flyer miles to ensure that it will be a minimal cash outlay situation.

I contacted the San Francisco office of Singapore Airlines in order to book the flights to and from Europe. We chose Paris, France as our entry and exit gateway. Unfortunately, Singapore Airlines doesn’t operate flights from San Francisco into Europe – so they booked me on their Star Alliance partner airlines United and Lufthansa. I’ve used both airlines and I must say that the gruff and stern Lufthansa is much, much better than United in almost every aspect of operating an airline. Take the case of flight attendants – Lufthansa has smart and average-looking flight attendants (still light-years away from the Singapore Girl of Singapore Airlines). United on the other hand is manned by rude crones – flight attendants with an attitude and for whom the term “customer service” doesn’t seem to exist. These are the type of attendants that people emigrate to avoid. Suwerte pa pala tayo sa mga tanders na flight attendants ng Philippine Airlines…

Luckily for us, we got Lufthansa bookings. It cost me 50,000 frequent flyer miles and another 50,000 frequent flyer miles for my wife. I was expecting the fiscal damage to be slight. Little did I realize that redemption bookings across partner airlines carry some huge fees. I was charged around US$ 600 for our tickets – ostensibly for fees and taxes. Oh, well…This is the price of avoiding United…

A few days before our flight, I checked the Lufthansa website for information on their Economy class. I must admit that I’ve been flying Lufthansa for years but I never bothered to take a peek at the Economy section. Being one of the largest airlines in Europe and a pillar of the Star Alliance network, I was expecting the same type of creature comforts as that of Singapore Airlines. I missed the mark by more than a mile…and this was proven by my experience during the flight. Let’s look at it with greater scrutiny:

SEATS

Lufthansa’s Economy Class seats are like your average coach seat in any other airline – with average pitch and seat width. Nothing outstanding and nothing missing either…EXCEPT for the in-seat video screen. The seats have NO video entertainment screens whatsoever…The only form of video entertainment are the overhead CRT monitors which show canned programs. Almost every other major airline in the world has already migrated to in-seat video-on-demand monitors (pioneered by the way by Singapore Airlines) except for Lufthansa…Batong-bato tuloy kami…Imagine sitting in your seats for 11 hours without anything to watch or straining your neck watching Mr. Bean on the overhead monitor! Lufthansa issued a pronouncement that they will start offering in-seat video-on-demand for their Economy Class passengers starting November 2007. Gee great…You’re only late by four (4) years or so…

TIP: Be nice to the check-in counter staff. Smile and be polite…even drop in a few words in German like “Danke!” (“Thank You”). If you’re nice, you could probably request for a nice seat like a bulkhead seat of seats near the emergency exits where the seats have more legroom.

GRADE: Poor

ENTERTAINMENT

As mentioned above, the entertainment system is basically crap. They issue out plasticky, translucent head phones. The audio selection is nothing to crow about and the overhead monitor only showed The Simpsons Movie and Mr. Bean On Holiday…Things to watch out for: The head phones are fragile…I had to ask for a replacement as one of the ear phones is not working.

GRADE: Poor

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FOOD

European airlines have never been known for good food service. Lufthansa is no exception. You get either a vegetarian pasta meal or a chicken meal. Again, nothing extraordinary…

GRADE: So-so

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BAGGAGE HANDLING

This is where I would give Lufthansa an “F”, a failing mark, essentially “kalabasa”… The reason is this: We arrived in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport giddy as you can ever be. Our baggage took an extraordinarily long time to appear on the carousel. I checked in a small (carry-on size), four-wheeled hardcase trolley I bought in 2006. My luggage came out of the carousel in pieces…The hardcase shell has been ripped to shreds!! Fortunately, the hardcase has a lining which basically prevented the contents from spilling out…Otherwise, I would be picking my checkered boxer shorts all over Charles de Gaulle’s arrival area. Here is where things started to get worse and my blood pressure started rising to explosive levels:

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I am a KrisFlyer PPS Club Member which in a nutshell means that I am entitled to Gold Member status in any Star Alliance airline even if I am travelling on Economy Class. Just one of the perks of travelling on countless business class flights. Gold Member passengers’ bags are tagged with “PRIORITY” labels and are supposed to come out of the carousel first and should be treated with an extra level of care – supposedly. My bag has been tagged as “PRIORITY” and yet it came out of the carousel last – and it was mangled beyond repair – to boot.

I immediately went to the Lufthansa Luggage Service desk in the arrival area and reported the incident. They prepared an incident report and asked some details on my flight and luggage. I asked them for a temporary bag wherein I could transfer my clothes. They said they have no replacement luggage on hand.

STRIKE ONE: I asked them for any other bag which I could use. The lady manning the desk said they only have a box or a paper bag…My God, they are going to give me a box for my clothes…Humihingi ako ng bag hindi ng balikbayan box!

STRIKE TWO: I told them to just tape up the bag so that it will not burst open – just to tide me over to the hotel. I demanded a replacement for the luggage. They gave me a card with an address – their local luggage repair/supplier in Paris. I then asked them to contact their supplier for the replacement luggage and send it to my hotel. The lady told me that they don’t deliver to hotels and that I have to go there in person. What the fu…dge!!! I am the aggrived party and you are asking me to do all the work for something which you – as the carrier – is totally responsible for!

STRIKE THREE: I told them than I will not do that as it will take time away from my vacation – they have to find a way to address the issue. The lady was a bit stunned and probably was not expecting a Filipino to be so assertive. She told me that I can buy a bag myself and then submit the receipt for reimbursement. I asked them where I can submit the receipt. The answer they gave me: I have to mail all the documents to their Customer Service Office in Dublin, Ireland…What the @#%?!!!! Ipapa-mail niyo pa sa akin ang punyetang resibo?

AND YOU’RE OOOOOUTTTTA HEREEEE!!!!

I intend to lodge a formal complaint to Lufthansa on this. Their service level – for lack of a better analogy – sucks literally like an Electrolux vacuum cleaner (with apologies to Electrolux)….They don’t know who they’re messing with. I am the airline passenger from hell and I will not let this pass…

So…I encourage everyone to think twice before using Lufthansa. If you have the choice, always pick an Asian airline (like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and the like – I wouldn’t recommend Plane Always Late a.k.a. Philippine Airlines) over a U.S. or European airline. Emirates is also a very good airline.

What a flight!

Posted in Airlines, Links, Travel | 5 Comments »

Jaunting Through Europe No. 1

Posted by Marvin on October 1, 2007

After what seems to be a very, very long time, I am going on vacation or at least the closest possible definition of vacation. My wife and I picked a two-week jaunt through France, Italy and Austria for our time-off from work. We leave for Europe in two (2) days time…

People might say, that it is relatively easy to go on a trip nowadays…WRONG! If there is one advice I can give, it is this: PLANNING IS CRUCIAL. I had to do a lot of research prior to this coming trip and believe me – it will all pay out in the end.

One thing I am dreading is the long flight to Europe. We’ve booked a flight from San Francisco International Airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle via Frankfurt Main aboard Lufthansa. I’ve taken the SFO-FRA flight countless times (around 10) and I’ve been on around 30-40 cross-continental flights over the last three years. However, I’ve been extremely lucky. Each and every one of these flights are on Business or First Class (courtesy of the company I work for – which also means that all of these flights are on official company business). This upcoming flight to Paris via Frankfurt is the first time I’ll be flying coach (that’s economy class for Pinoys) on a long-haul flight.

I’m already dreading the hours of “sardine-like” conditions…

Posted in Links, Travel | 1 Comment »

Smorgasboard…

Posted by Marvin on October 1, 2007

Art, a friend and colleague, sent me this supplemental info on unsolicited bids for government contracts. If you can recall, I asked a rhetorical question regarding AHI’s unsolicited bid? Take it away Art…

“…Under Sec. 5 of R.A. 7718, “Unsolicited proposals for projects may be accepted by any government agency or local government unit on a negotiated basis: Provided, That, all the following conditions are met: (1) such projects involve a new concept or technology and/or are not part of the list of priority projects, (2) no direct government guarantee, subsidy or equity is required, and (3) the government agency or local government unit has invited by publication, for three (3) consecutive weeks, in a newspaper of general circulation, comparative or competitive proposals and no other proposal is received for a period of sixty (60) working days: Provided, further, That in the event another proponent submits a lower price proposal, the original proponent shall have the right to match that price within thirty (30) working days.”...”

If you want to read Republic Act 7718 or the “Act Amending Certain Sections of Republic Act No. 6957, Entitled “An Act Authorizing The Financing, Construction, Operation and Maintenance of Infrastructure Projects By The Private Sector, And For Other Purposes” (What a mouthful! Some people call this the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law for conciseness…), go to this link.

—oo0oo—

Funny how things tend to unravel whenever the Senate holds one of their “investigations in aid of legislation” or as I see it – the Senate’s “license to kill” or “payback time” for the senators. The recent NBN scandal is a classic example.

It started off as a “I-lost-therefore-I-was-cheated” complaint initiated by De Venecia’s son but soon deteriorated into a veritable free-for-all pitting various groups of self-righteous demagogues.

“…A demagogue is one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots…” – H.L. Mencken

It is like a veritable “sinner casting the first stone” scenario. For example:

  • Jose de Venecia III: The boy who cried “Wolf!” Whilst spilling the beans on the scandal, he also exposed his culpability and utter lack of delicadeza. Iho, tatay mo ang Speaker of the House…Sana man lamang e iniwasan mong sumali sa mga government contracts lalo na kung medyo dubious ang credentials ng kumpanya mo…How can you now refute charges that you are using your father’s position to influence the outcome of the tender? You should have inhibited yourself and just let AHI’s officers file the complaint…That would have given you the moral high ground.
  • Benjamin Abalos: Tsk..Tsk..From one scandal to another…Now that you have resigned your position, maybe you should take the straight and narrow path. Your record at the COMELEC basically ruined you in the court of public opinion. Nag-init pa ang ulo mo sa sessions…You look too defensive…Kahit pa sabihin na nating wala ka talagang kasalanan (however unlikely)
  • Romulo Neri: Nobody likes a fence-sitter…It’s either you have guts or not. You admitted that Abalos tried to bribe you…Why go to the President? Para kang hindi naisali sa laro at nagsusumbong sa teacher. Why did you not report it to the Ombudsman or to some other authority? By not doing anything, you are tolerating the deed. And now you want to seek the high ground? Tsk…Tsk…You had your chance brother but you blew it…
  • Aquilino Pimentel: Matanda ka na pero tuso pa rin…You can sense it in the sessions, this guy really has an ax to grind with the COMELEC. He probably is still smarting from that “dagdag-bawas” experience when he lost to Enrile. Tsk…Tsk…Whatever brownie points you earned by explaining your vote for opening the second enveloped has since evaporated…Your moral compass is truly broken…
  • Miriam Defensor-Santiago: You are a genius…Smart and articulate in your own mangled version of Ilonggo English…However, you’ve fallen into the trap which is the curse of people with high intelligence quotients – the more intelligent you are, the more snobbish and bigoted you become…Imagine a senator saying that the Chinese invented corruption! Major diplomatic faux pas! Assuming this is true (just for the sake of argument), we are still to blame. The Chinese may have invented corruption Senator Santiago – but we Filipinos perfected it into an artform.

So what is the moral of this NBN story? Simple…There are no clean combatants in a mud wrestling contest.

—oo0oo—

In a few days, the Philippines will be one nation again…all because of a hurricane of a boxer named Pacquiao. As always, politicians will call a truce and even Rogelio Rosal of Ka Roger fame will tune in. For a couple of hours, the nation will be one.

I used to like it every time Pacquiao has a fight…The moment the bell sounds to indicate the end of the fight  – Pacquiao’s battle is over…A new battle starts though… After the brief moment of unity, the country will go back to its old ways and start bashing the head of the next guy just to be ahead of him in the game of life…

Kung puwede nga lang sanang upakan ni Pacquiao ang mga pasaway nating kababayan…

Posted in Links, Peeve, Rave | 4 Comments »