PinoyXPat

A Pinoy Expatriate’s Insane Musings

Archive for the ‘Links’ Category

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

cimg0027.jpg

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

cimg0028.jpg

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:

cimg0033.jpg

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!

Advertisements

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 »

Philippine Propaganda 101: Masters of Distortion

Posted by Marvin on September 17, 2007

Propaganda…

Such a big, high-brow word but one to which we are exposed to everyday via the relentless, omnipresent media. Ideally, the media should be able to distinguish the various forms of propaganda and shield the gullible masses from half-truths and lies from personalities. Unfortunately, “sound bites” sell newspapers…and so things fall through the cracks so to speak…

What is propaganda anyway?

Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”– Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda And Persuasion

This definition is still too complicated for me…Let’s try some recent examples:

“…MANILA, Philippines — Freed communist leader Jose Maria Sison hurled invectives at Malacañang, calling President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a “demon infant” who “fooled” the Dutch government into believing he was a murderer.In a phone interview, the 68-year-old Sison said his release confirmed that Manila simply filed trumped-up charges against him.“My release only proves that the Dutch government was fooled by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and the demon infant Arroyo,” he said…”
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

What does this example say to the readers? Joma is innocent. However, it you dive deep enough and actually look at the actual decision (very few readers have actually seen this) by the Dutch court, it will be evident that:

  • The Court rejects the demand of the Public Prosecutor and recommends termination of the accused’s remand in custody. The Court basically set the accused free but did NOT make any binding ruling on the charges themselves. It just says that based on the preliminary evidence, Sison should not be remanded to the custody of the government. Is Joma correct in saying that the court exonerated him? Not in a long shot…but his statements extoll this perception as fact. Half-truths…Hmmm…Classic example of propaganda…
  • The Court further states that “…There are also indications that the accused is still playing a leading role in the (underground) activities of the CC, the CPP and the NPA….” Joma keeps on denying that he is the one leading the rebels – always insisting that he is just a “consultant”. Wow! He must be the most powerful consultant I’ve ever known. Imagine folks in the hills follow his pronoucements even if he is cavorting free and eating three square meals a day in the relative safety of Utrecht. The Court looked at the preliminary evidence and deemed that this is NOT the case. Hmmm…Again, classic propaganda tactic by Joma…

The bottom line is this: The case against Joma is still alive. The only difference is that he will not be in custody from now until the trial starts. Joma should give the Dutch authorities more credit. They are not that gullible enough to be “fooled” by Malacanang…

Let’s try another example:

“…Sison described his 17-day stay at a prison center in The Hague as “torturous” and reminded him of his days in jail during the martial rule of former president Ferdinand Marcos. “I remember the time I spent in solitary confinement during the time of the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos. They interrogated me every day and there was an overheated electric bulb overhead,” he said…”
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Joma is really laying it on thick on this one. He is basically comparing the Dutch government with Marcos’. The reality is that the Dutch government is one of the most progressive governments in the European Union and is averse to any maltreatment of prisoners. Pinapalabas ni Joma na sobra siyang nahirapan with flowery figures of speech like the “overheated electric bulb” comparison. Grow up! If the Dutch government is anything like the Marcos regime, you bet your Ho Chi Minh smile that you will not even notice the light bulb as you will be having an intense and “electric conversation” with Sgt. Jun “Jumper” Corriente about your bulbs. OA masyado itong si Joma! Shaping perceptions by false comparisons…Hmmm…Classic propaganda tactic…

From one fool to another fool:

“…MANILA, Philippines — Senator Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal on Friday urged Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison to file a case against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales for “malicious prosecution”…”
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Misguided…That’s one polite word to describe Madrigal. Media-hungry and “kulang sa pansin” are other apt decriptions but I won’t go into that. She is asking Joma to sue GMA and Gonzalez for “malicious prosecution”. The truth is that the Dutch case was prompted by the filing of murder charges in the Netherlands by the widows of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara. These poor widows are the plaintiffs while the prosecutors are the Public Prosecution Service of the Dutch government. The Philippine government provided information but the final decision on prosecuting Sison rests with the Dutch authorities. Talk about barking at the wrong tree.

At the end of the day, Joma’s case is about the senseless killing of two men dialectically opposite him in beliefs who have been freed from captivity and are looking at a different way of pursuing their dreams and aspirations.

This woman tends to overestimate the clout of the Philippine government. Kung Singapore nga na kapitbahay natin – hindi natin nakumbinsi na palayain si Flor Contemplacion, isang bansa pa kaya sa Europa? Misdirection or redirecting blame to others to further one’s plans and ambitions…Hmmm…Ito ang classic propaganda

Here’s another sore loser example…As they say, nobody ever really loses in the Philippines. Laging dinaya‘Ika nga

“…The NBN deal has been in the news over the past two weeks because of allegations of bribery and overpricing. Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla accused Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. of brokering the deal and of receiving sexual favors from ZTE.AHI cofounder Jose “Joey” de Venecia III also said Abalos offered him $10 million in exchange for backing off from the deal…”
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

The “Liar, liar…Pants on fire!” routine is quite popular in the Philippines. One of the propaganda pitfalls is the fact that people tend to believe the whistle blower especially in cases of major scandals. In the case of the NBN deal, Joey de Venecia III has put on the mantle of Sir Galahad against the corrupt infidels. But before we extol him and his cause, let’s look at his case first. He is the son of Jose de Venecia, Speaker of the House of Representatives and is the co-founder and major stakeholder of Amsterdam Holding Inc. or AHI. AHI lost the NBN deal to a Chinese company. Questions:

  • Why did AHI submit an unsolicited bid? Why gate crash a party so to speak? Aren’t they part of the government list of qualified suppliers? If they are not in the list, why? Can they even undertake the project of this scale?
  • How did they find out about the NBN bid? If you are not invited, who do you know that will help you with inside info?
  • Section 5 of the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act indicates that “…it shall be unlawful for the spouse or for any relative by consanguinity or affinity, within the third civil degree of the President of the Philippines, Vice-President of the Philippines, Philippine Senate President, Speaker of the House, to intervene directly or indirectly, in any business, transaction, contract, or application with the government…”. Does Joey de Venecia know this? An unsolicitied bid constitutes intervention in my book. Granted that this is an honest bid, de Venecia should have inhibited himself out of delicadeza

Folks who would like to stay clean should be careful about engaigng in a mud-throwing contest while in a muddy field…There is a good chance that you’ll have mud in your face even before you even throw the first shot…Sabi nga ni Joey de Leon: “Explain before you complain!” Hmmm…Propaganda again…

Be discerning…Don’t swallow everything – hook, line and sinker…Things are not as simple as it seems…

Posted in Links, Peeve, Rave | 2 Comments »

A Quixotic Quest…

Posted by Marvin on April 5, 2007

Quixotic – [kwik-sot-ik] adj. (1) resembling or befitting Don Quixote, (2) extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable.

Miguel de Cervantes wrote his novel “The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha” in 1605 but his main protagonist has been reincarnated and embodied through the centuries by men of good will who took the high road, the road less travelled and the straight and narrow path. Their names have changed through the centuries…William Wilberforce, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Benigno Aquino, Jr.…They have been labeled as ivory tower idealists, out of touch with reality and dreamers (in the derogatory sense). All because of one particular trait: They dared to take a contrarian approach – pushing against wind mills and fighting a fight which has been lost even before they started.

In today’s world, quixotic men are met with derision and skepticism. And yet they still persist. One such man is Dr. Martin Bautista. A gastroenterologist by profession, he moved to the United States right after graduating from the University of the Philippines. He could have stayed in Guymon, Oklahoma till he retired but he chose to come back and battle giants and wind mills by running for the Senate. (Did I say Senate? In that case, he came back to battle the trolls and ogres disguised as candidates…)

Everyone says he is a good and well-meaning man. Everyone also says that he has a snowflake’s chance in hell when it comes to winning in the senatorial elections.

And yet…He persists…

There is nothing I admire more than a man who still strives knowing that he will lose. The sane thing to do is to quit and forget about the quest – but is that the noble thing to do? Wouldn’t it be more noble to continue inspite of the certainty of losing? Isn’t it the race rather than the finish line which matters? To aspire for the impossible?

This reminds me of one of the most inspirational moments in the history of the Olympic Games. The year: 1968. The place: Mexico City. It was an unusually hot day and the high elevation of Mexico City made the marathon race an exercise in self-punishment. The greatest Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia had to quit the race due to an injury. He had previously won the marathon race in the previous two Olympics and is gunning for his 3rd consecutive gold medal. Alas, fate was not on his side that day.

His fellow Ethiopian Mamo Wolde took up the slack and won the gold.

After him, a procession of runners crossed the finish line. A total of 73 individuals. Each one on the verge of collapse due to exhaustion. As the last event of the Olympics, the marathon was meant to be the penultimate event. After the awarding of the medals, people left the Ciudad Universitania Stadium and only a handful of spectators remained (probably trying to avoid the mad rush of people going home outside). It was over.

But NOT for one man.

img212011631.jpgOne man is still running. Over an hour after Mamo Wolde crossed the line, a small, wiry man limped slowly into the stadium. He stopped every couple or so steps because of the pain in his right leg. A hastily prepared bandage covered his right knee. His name? John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania.

He fell during the race, cutting his knee and dislocating the joint. He was bleeding and every step sent a wave of pain throughout his exhausted body. He tried to run but the pain was too great. He resorted to a a slow walk interspaced with short, painful attempts at running.

The crowd was moved by the courage of the 74th competitor. Their silence was broken by heartfelt clapping, egging Akhwari on to finish the race.

With every step, the cheering grew louder…Louder and louder until the stadium is roaring with admiration for this man who wouldn’t quit.

As his tired body crossed the finish line, the multitudes erupted and cheered as if he had won the gold medal.

Reporters asked him why he opted to endure the excruciating pain and why he did not retire since there was no chance of him winning – much less finishing the race. He was surprised by the question, pondered for a moment and said: “I don’t think you understand. My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish the race.”

Bautista is this coming election’s Akhwari. He is running not because he wants to win but because he wants to help the country. He is running because in his mind it is the right thing to do.

That is why I will vote for him. I will use my sole instrument for political change in order to vote for a man who has no chance of winning – for I truly believe that a man can aspire to dream even if it will never come to fruition and be the better for it.

On with the quest…

Posted in Introspection, Links, Rave | 2 Comments »

Harvey’s Letter (With Unsolicited Annotations)…

Posted by Marvin on March 1, 2007

Sometimes, I feel like a voice crying out in the wilderness who suddenly realizes that the whole world has gone deaf. Why should we bother helping the Filipino when he doesn’t want to help himself? He often sells his future during elections so that he can put something inside his grumbling stomach. He blames the government, blames the system and blames everyone else – but doesn’t do anything to better his situation.

Instead, he spends what meager resources he has on fleeting pursuits and often comes out with a bowl in hand asking for help from the government – which is also in dire straits. Instead of aspiring and working hard, the Filipino has gravitated towards a culture of mendicancy – asking for help from everyone but himself. And to top it off, he brings forth new souls into the world to relive his life all over again. Wala na ngang ikabubuhay, anak pa ng anak…It is the height of irresponsibility to bring a child into a world devoid of a future. Create the future first, then bring forth the child.

It is heartening to know that others feel the same way – the same frustration with the Filipino’s seeming inability to think about the future by acting today. One such person is Harvey Keh.

Keh is affiliated with the Pathways to Higher Education at the Ateneo de Manila University, an organization that helps students gain access to quality higher education. He is also working to improve literacy across the country through the Ahon Foundation.

He recently wrote an e-mail about his sense of hopelessness about the state of our country. This e-mail was forwarded to me by a friend and has been going around cyberspace. It captures almost to the letter my feelings about this one sad little fact:

“We have no right to complain about the government and the politics of State since we, ourselves, elected the officials who we rail against. We are who we vote for…”

Here is his e-mail (verbatim, emphasis & comments mine): 

“Dear Fellow Filipino,

Good day to all of you!

Before I begin my letter… just a disclaimer, for people who know me they know that I love the Philippines very much and I am not really one who rants and complaints to high heavens about what is happening to our country and does nothing about it, in fact, I feel that at my relatively young age of 27, I have done much service to the Philippines by setting up Pathways to Higher Education which has sent more than 500 poor but deserving students to college and AHON Foundation which has already built two public elementary school libraries that have benefitted more than 3,500 students. Yet, after seeing how events in our nation have transpired the past few weeks and talking with some friends, I feel the urge to share with you my own thoughts and feelings.

Over the weekend, we saw the completion of two major political alliances for this coming Senate Elections that has just began here in the Philippines. Now we have two political forces with familiar faces nonetheless on opposite sides of the fences. On one end, you have Tito Sotto and Tessie Aquino-Oreta who were two major stalwarts of the Opposition and the FPJ Campaign in 2004 hobnobbing with the woman (Pres. GMA) whom they claimed to have cheated FPJ in the last presidential elections.

MY COMMENT: As I mentioned in my previous posts, the terms “Administration” and “Opposition” no longer have any ideological or philosophical meaning. To put it simply, the “Administration” party is whoever is in power i.e. exercises, abuses and flaunts that power – the “Opposition” party is whoever covets power i.e. schemes to overthrow the Administration by whatever means necessary (including extra-constitutional actions).  

On the other side of the fence, you see Manny Villar, the former House Speaker who was actually responsible for impeaching Erap now part of the United Opposition who is led by no less than… Erap himself. Now if you don’t see anything wrong with this picture then you must be one of the many Filipinos who have accepted this very sad reality that there is indeed no permanent ideals that our government leaders stand up for but rather they just go where there self-interests can best be served. It is this kind of politics why I no longer wonder why good people like Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City or outstanding Bulacan Governor Josie Dela Cruz will find it hard or worse, never be elected to national positions.

MY COMMENT: Given all the cases of political turncoatism and “balimbing” activities, I just hope these candidates shower 5 times a day. Otherwise, it would be nearly impossible to appear in public without scales or slime dripping down their bodies.

It is with these in mind that I’d like to share with you what are events this coming May elections that will make me consider leaving the Philippines:

  • If former COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillanoof “Hello Garci” fame wins in his bid to become Congressman of Bukidnon…seeking to replace a good man no less in incumbent Cong. Neric Acosta… We would really be the laughing stock of the whole world if we allow a man with the reputation of Garci to be one of our so called “Honorable Gentlemen”.

MY COMMENT: It is becoming the trend nowadays for people to resort to the august halls of Congress as the last refuge for fugitives. If you are facing a criminal charge, run for office as a Congressman or Senator to avoid incarceration (under the guise of legislative immunity from prosecution). Mark Jimenez did it in the House, Honasan did it in the Senate. Garcillano and Trillanes are doing it again.

  • If Dancing Queen Tessie Aquino-Oreta reclaims her seat at the Senate… I hope that all of us would still remember that dance that she did during the 2001 impeachment hearings after they voted to overrule the decision of then Chief Justice Davide… let us make sure that people like her never make it to the Senate again.

MY COMMENT: I pity the legacy of the late Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. A true patriot, his name and legacy is being sullied on a daily basis by the actions of his kin e.g. his wife – for consorting/sleeping with the enemy, his son – for following his mother’s lead, his brother and sister – for being the enemy…and his beloved daughter – for destroying the family name by being herself basically…Oreta’s candidacy is the litmus test for the Filipino’s short term memory disorder.

  • If Richard Gomez becomes a senator… what does he know about making laws? We already have the likes of Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid in the Senate and their performance or lack of it would be reason enough not to elect another actor who has no prior experience in government to the distinguished halls of the Senate.

MY COMMENT: I am not surprised by the Filipino’s penchant for celebrities. He lives in a make-believe world led by make-believe leaders. Ramon Revilla, Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Tito Sotto, Cesar Montano, Richard Gomez…Why shouldn’t they run? Filipino’s elected Joseph Estrada for crying out loud as president…and tried to elect Fernando Poe, Jr. as the Chief Executive as well…Walang alam ang mga artista pero mas walang alam ang mga tao dahil ibinoboto sila.

  • If Gringo Honasan wins again…. have we not learned our lesson? I cannot believe that just because someone is charismatic then we will just elect him to become one of our senators despite the fact that he has time and again caused so much instability in our country… if we want a military junta similar to that of Thailand… then lets all vote for this guy….

MY COMMENT: Harvey forgot to mention Trillanes. These folks are the ultimate leeches. They are so hungry for power that they will try anything to get it. They tried violence and military takeovers – several times in fact. When all these failed, they ran for public office. In the eloquent words of Ramon Tulfo: “Eh tarantado pala kayo eh…Gago!”

  • If Manny Pacquiao becomes Congressman of General Santos City… everybody loves Manny the Boxing Champ but Manny the Lawmaker? Lets be realistic here, Manny is our Hero alright but I think it takes more than just great boxing skills and a desire to serve to be able to make appropriate laws that would help uplift the lives of the many Filipinos who live in Poverty.

MY COMMENT: Sometimes….I wonder. Maybe Pacquiao in Congress in not such a bad idea after all. During parliamentary debates, interpellations and filibusters – he can cut the crappy discussions short by a sharp left hook to the annoying congressman’s solar plexus.

  • If Lito Lapidwins for Mayor of Makati City… I don’t like Jojo Binay as well but Lito Lapid as city mayor of the country’s finance and business center?!?! And do you really think he is from Makati and has good plans for the city? The Arroyos asking someone like him to run just goes to show you how much love and concern this government has for our country.

MY COMMENT: I am divided by this. I don’t like Lapid. But I hate the imperial reign of the Binay clan even more. Dapat na silang kalusin….Decisions, decisions…

  • If Chavit Singson becomes a Senator, Illegal Gambling = Chavit… enough said.

MY COMMENT: One of my many personalities is whispering to my ear that Chavit in the Senate would be good as he would annoy and bully Jinggoy to death. Nagdadalawang-isip tuloy ako…

Now if all of these 7 things happen during this coming elections then don’t be surprised if I decide to leave this country that I love dearly. Like I said during the first part of my letter, I feel that I have done much for this country but I think its time that Filipinos become more vigilant and critical in selecting our leaders for the sake of our future and the generations that will go beyond us.

So I appeal to every Filipino who asks what can I actually do for my country… Choose and vote for the right people this coming elections, huwag na tayong magpaloko sa mga kandidatong maganda lang ang jingle o gwapo lang sa mga poster. Let us choose leaders who have a good track record for service and who are genuinely committed towards serving our country.

Manindigan naman tayong lahat para sa ating Kinabukasan at para sa Kapakanan ng ating Bayan! Thank you very much for your time in reading this letter.

Sincerely,
Harvey S. Keh”

 

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Posted in Introspection, Links, Peeve | 23 Comments »

What? Somebody Really Reads This Blog?

Posted by Marvin on February 27, 2007

I started writing this blog just for the hell of it. I’m moving here to the U.S….a foreigner in a foreign land…being stressed out by the move, the new job, new culture and suffering everytime I see the crap they broadcast on The Filipino Channel. So I said…Hell, why not write something in order to vent my anger?

And so…this blog was born.

I never thought anyone (sane that is) would read it…

Apparently, some people do read the stuff I churn out. Just got referenced in another blog: The Journal of the Jester-in-Exile. The guy writes some interesting stuff. I don’t necessarily agree with all of his statements but there are more similarities than differences….

Check it out…

Posted in Links | 2 Comments »

Coincidences…

Posted by Marvin on February 27, 2007

It’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow (actually today if we go by Philippine time). I planned something (wretched husband that I am) for tomorrow night plus I basically gave her the option on what gift she would like to get. Trust me boys…This is the best option. Rather than buy something which she wouldn’t like, it is better to give your wives the run of whatever she would like to have.

A couple of days ago, I received the obligatory annoying birthday reminder normally sent out by my high school’s Yahoo Groups mailing list. I normally just thrash all that stuff anyway. Get the feeling that I was THAT popular in high school, huh? Yeah…NOT!

For the life of me, the birthday celebrant’s name struck me as someone familiar from my past. She was part of my high school batch and we were classmates back when we were sophomores. I was the class President and she was the Vice-President or was it the other way around? And that is when this weird sense of deja vu started.

  • First, the dates. I only found out today that my classmate’s birthday is the same as my wife’s. Creepy right? It gets weirder than that.
  • Secondly, without going into too much detail; protecting the identity of the persons involved and all that crap and putting it in the words of Old Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra himself: “I had a crush on that girl.” With extreme emphasis on the word HAD and CRUSH. Sabi nga nila sa mga lintik na slambook: “Crush is paghanga…” (I pray to God my wife reads this part…) But mind you – this was when the world was young and I was still a doe-eyed ‘syano trying to live with the japorms crowd we normally call “externs”. Me and my kind are called “interns” and no…there is nothing medical about that term. “Interns” live inside the campus in a dormitory run by the school (think of them as inmates). “Externs” live outside the campus and some of them (not all) were snobbish, little rich kids who prey on the proletariat “interns”. Okay…Okay…I might be laying it on thick – but in general “interns” are less fortunate financially than the “externs” (it is expensive to live outside of the campus during those days). Now….Where was I? Oh yeah…I had an infatuation thing going with this girl – a classic “extern” lass with matching American accent. Me? I had the classic “Caviteno” accent and idiosyncracies. For example, instead of using the correct Filipion tense structure like “kumakain” – we Cavitenos tend to use the prefix “na-“ for everything. So instead of “kumakain”, I would often answer the question: “Nasaan si Allan?” with the nonchalant response of “Nakain.”  The classic restort is always: “Ha? Nakain? Ano ang kumain sa kanya? Pating?” But I digress…This basically mirrors my initial interaction with my wife…Awkward, bumbling, buffoon…
  • Thirdly, my “relationship” (maybe that is too strong a word) or shall we say – my social interactions with this young lady started off okay. But something happened which involved several other individuals – and I don’t think this is the right forum for reopening old wounds. Suffice to say that the relationship turned sour. Coincidentally, the same thing happened between me and my wife (that was before we were married). I know…I know…I’m just overflowing with charm that most women hate me so much that they would like to drop kick me on sight…
  • Another coincidence, my classmate and my wife both have lovely flowing hair. Kind of like a horse’s mane or tail…But in a very good way

Life can be really interesting. We have countless memories which have been locked away in the vaults of our brains – only to be remembered by the most innocuous of stimuli…It was only yesterday that I realized these coicidences. What does it mean? Nothing. These are just random thoughts.

I wouldn’t exchange my life from those sophomore days up to today for all the tea in China. I’m happy with my life and my wife…

…It’s just that stuff like these coincidences really make me smile…

Posted in Introspection, Links | 4 Comments »

Pres A Vi Restaurant (Presidio, San Francisco)

Posted by Marvin on February 22, 2007

A colleague came over here to California a couple of weeks ago to attend a meeting at our corporate headquarters. It’s a good opportunity for me and my wife to speak Tagalog again as well as make “lakwatsa” to San Francisco. Our friend wanted to go to Alcatraz Island (of “The Rock” fame) and this gave us a chance to eat at the Presidio – this is a national park within the city and quite near the Golden Gate Bridge. It is one of a series of historically fortified sites used by American, Spanish and Mexican forces in and around the Bay Area. The Presido-National Park Service and The Presidio Trust websites are excellent sources of information for wanna-be visitors.

presavi2.pngpresavi1.png

We chose the Pres a Vi Restaurant among the several potential dining places in the area because of two overriding reasons: (1) we haven’t been there before, and (2) my wife wanted to eat there (which in my mind is the tipping point for the decision).

  • MENU: The menu is an eclectic collection of fusion foods with Asian, American & continental influences. The menu has items which will sound familiar to Asians in general and Pinoys in particular. Examples: Grilled Prawn Satay, Duck Confit Lumpia and the quintessential Filipino dish Pork Adobo. Yes, Filipino food is alive and well in America! There is a lot of variety and an individual could have his run of the choices.
  • AMBIENCE: I must admit that the place has a simple but classy feel to it. And the views are quite good. You could look out across the Presidio and view the Exploratorium and Palace of Fine Arts (with its distinctive “Pantheonic” dome) at the distance.
  • FOOD: The food is actually quite good. We arrived after lunch so we were not able to partake of the normal lunch menu. My wife tried the Duck Confit Lumpia and she found it sumptuous (if not a bit too greasy because of the duck). I ordered the Kobe Beef Cheese Burger…to put it simply and in not-so-eloquent language: “Goodah….” As good as any burger in any formal restaurant around the city. These were all part of their “Bar Bites” Menu which are slightly smaller servings for snacks or brunch.
  • PRICE: I think I paid around $40 for the whole thing with drinks. Bearing in mind that it was basically brunch for three (3) people, the place is relatively cheap for a formal restaurant in a good part of town. Here’s some perspective for you: I normally pay $8-$9 during lunch at our company canteen and that’s for a cup of chili, a diet coke and a do-it-yourself salad. So you will have to forgive me for being thankful for the cheap but nice brunch we had. It is cheap by San Francisco standards but expensive if you compare it with the “lugawan, gotohan or fishballan” carts in and around U.P.’s Sunken Garden. God…I miss those college days…

If you have a chance to be around that part of San Francisco, you may want to try out the restaurants inside the Presidio. The fact that it is a national park makes it less crowded and less tacky than any of the other restaurants in the area. And the answer is a big fat “NO”…The owners of Pres a Vi did not pay me to write this…they don’t even know I exist…and I would like to keep it that way…

NOTE: Avoid the restaurants around Pier 39 like the plague. These are tacky, tourist traps and the only reason to eat there is if your blood sugar has reached hypoglycemic alarm levels.

Posted in Cuisine, Links, Rave | Leave a Comment »

Your Taxes At Work: Jinggoy In The Senate

Posted by Marvin on January 24, 2007

For the life of me, I still don’t know why Jinggoy Estrada got elected into the Philippine Senate. His previous experience did not prepare him for the cerebral work of a legislator. What exactly was he before becoming Senator?

ACTOR: He used the surname Estrada (which is not even their real name being born as Ejercitos) to try to barge into movies. As far as I can recall, he tried and tried…And nothing ever came out of it. He even emulated Erap’s perennial smirk. I think tied he is now tied with Kris Aquino and Mickey Arroyo for being the “worst presidential-son/daughter-cum-moviestar-wanna-be”.

BASKETBALL PLAYER: He barrelled his way into games. Reminds me of the “Barrelling Big J”…He’s now trying to lead the Basketball Association of the Philippines. Remember though his performance during one of the Star Olympic basketball games? Binatukan niya at sinapok si Goma! Temper…temper…Gawain ba ng Senador yan?

MAYOR: Again, this guy needs to get out of his father’s shadow and to get a life of his own. He copied daddy when he entered the movies. He copied him again by getting himself elected as San Juan Mayor. What’s with the people of San Juan? Is there a chemical spill there which depresses the IQ of residents or something?

In short, his background makes him totally unprepared for the once-hallowed halls of the Senate. How did he perform?

Well…I will let the Senate answer that question.

SEN. JINGGOY EJERCITO-ESTRADA
Total Number of Bills/Resolutions Filed:     279
Pending In Committee:     261
Pending Second Reading:     3
Consolidated/Substituted In The Committee Report:     11
Consolidated With Adopted Resolution:     3

Wow!!! May ibubuga naman pala si Jinggoy. Or rather, may ibubuga naman pala ang legislative staff niya. They do all the hard work anyway. He was able to file 279 bills and resolutions during the 13th Congress. But the proof of the pie is in the eating…Ilan ang naipasa? Tatlo? A measly 3 out of 279? That’s 1.07%!!! Either his bills are really crappy or everyone hates him in the Senate and people kill his bills even before they get read or enter a committee. Just take a look at the numbers. A good 93.5% of his bills are stuck in committee!!!

What about the three which got consolidated with an adopted resolution? Surely we must credit Jinggoy’s acumen as a Senator for at least passing three noteworthy resolutions. Let’s see what the three resolutions are all about:

RESOLUTION: SRN-425
DATE: 1/23/2006
TITLE: RESOLUTION HONORING MANNY ‘PACMAN’ PACQUIAO FOR HIS VICTORY IN THE RECENT BOXING REMATCH IN LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HELD LAST JANUARY 22, 2006

RESOLUTION: SRN-586
DATE: 11/13/2006
TITLE: RESOLUTION COMMENDING RONATO ‘RONNIE’ ALCANO FOR HIS VICTORY IN THE 2006 WORLD POOL CHAMPIONSHIP WHICH IS CONSIDERED AS THE WORLD’S MOST PRESTIGIOUS 9-BALL TOURNAMENT, THUS BRINGING PRIDE AND HONOR TO THE FILIPINO NATION

RESOLUTION: SRN-590
DATE: 11/20/2006
TITLE: RESOLUTION CONGRATULATING AND COMMENDING MANNY ‘PACMAN’ PACQUIAO FOR HIS REMARKABLE VICTORY IN THE CONCLUSION OF A BOXING TRILOGY AGAINST ERIK ‘EL TERRIBLE’ MORALES ON NOVEMBER 19, 2006 IN LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Anak ng p…atola!!!!!! Bakit puro resolutions honoring and commending sports heroes ito? Any Tom, Dick and Harry could do this. This is NOT the work of a Senator. I am not paying my taxes so that Jinggoy could congratulate Manny Pacquiao! I have nothing against Manny – in fact he should get all the accollades and more. What I am against is that I pay taxes so that the imbeciles in the Senate (na hindi ko naman ibinoto pero nanalo) should hunker down and get to work drafting laws for the betterment of the country.

Kung gagawa lang ng congratulatory resolutions ang trabaho sa Senado, eh di sana si Cristy Fermin na lang ang dapat na ginawang Senador…

Your taxes at work…

Posted in Links, Peeve | 3 Comments »