Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year...I think.

We are about to close the year and some of the more entertaining preoccupations that people engage in is the recollection of the changes that happened during the 365 days now about to elapse. It seems that in the age of the internet a lot of notable changes have been brought to our awareness.

The Facebook phenomenon has made us closer to people around us, closer in the sense of knowing more than what we would normally have gathered before social networking took hold of our daily routine. Our knowledge trove has, also, increased exponentially, too much for appreciation and more than what we can digest in ease. Making resolutions for the coming year become more involved as there are just so much experience and information, mostly cyber derived, coming into play. Conventional mindsets are shaken and new outlooks are conveniently taken on making resolutions difficult to sort out.

Moving away from changes that are personal there are a lot of changes happening in our midst which are of bigger importance because their consequences affect the world and mankind as a whole.The disconcerting thing about these changes is the fact that they seem to be moving towards dire outcomes. Modern day Cassandras are having a field day announcing the demise of current beliefs, practices, conveniences, etc because of the invasiveness of the Internet. Some of the prognostications are the death of the mailing system as we know it, the doing away of money checks, the newspapers, the demise of the music industry, books, etc. which are now being rudely nudged out by their user friendly cyber equivalents. Most of our well loved institutions are moribund and we seem helpless to reverse the course. High in the list of the things that people rue is our seeming inability to preserve the cherished privacy which we have vigilantly guarded. The internet has the ability to impinge on our private lives as technology develops new ways of stealth to get into the most personal level of our existence.

Change is inevitable, at times necessary and will always be greeted with mixed reactions. A Hutu tribesman, the man in the streets of Manila, our labandera wouldn’t even be aware should these gloomsday prognostications happen. For the more sophisticated and better educated lot they would probably do a momentary double take and ponder the situations portended but quickly dismiss them with a shrug of the shoulder.

Science and progress as villains have often been the subject of novels and essays. The scenarios depicted have always been at the extreme. Machines taking over mankind, Big Brother’s omniscience, Soylent Green, Mad Max are just some examples of creative but excessive portents that are created in a writer’s mind. These come from early development of notions that transform into wild imaginings. They make for good fiction and titillating essays but have zero probability of ever happening.

Man has proven his resiliency through history and would make the necessary counter measures to prevent things and events from evolving into sordidness. We are quick to react to things that threaten us. We come up with technological solutions, alter lifestyles, enact laws, organize protest groups, etc all of which have proven effective in halting the march towards doomsday.

Man copes and prevails with any adversity it is faced with. After 2010 we will continue to enjoy another millennium all the while lovingly nurturing a fear that we will be annihilated by the technology that we ourselves have created. This paranoid streak in us made the Millennium Bug the biggest and most expensive hoax ever to be inflicted by man on himself.

What’s in store for the coming year? With or without the help of Wikileaks and other sources of direful prognostications that we access from the internet we will continue to concoct in our minds; grand conspiracy schemes, the planet’s inundation, the bombardment of harmful rays penetrating the earth’s protective mantle, the demise of all life in the Amazon, China at war with the USA, an errant and gigantic meteor earthbound and other events of cinematic and apocalyptic proportions.

And so it goes...

Happy New Year...I think.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cyberspace, An Alternative Existence

Except for a few hurried light scribblings I have not written much close to two months now. Despite having so much time in my hands none of it was spent on anything worthwhile putting into print. I blame my having enjoyed inordinately the internet slot machine games which were available for free in several game websites. After a while the mesmerizing effect of the tumbling icons and the circus like music together with the ingenious bells and whistles begin to be a come-on that was difficult to ignore and reject. I would go on for hours just watching my money gains go up and down. As in real life gambling invariably I end with nothing but then I can draw money again and again provided by the bank cashier in the game’s system. It is so much like having a bank account of infinite resource or having rich parents that allow you to indulge in an unrestrained gambling spree. I keep telling myself to get rid of this addiction before I turn into a babbling idiot with an atrophied ball of gray matter. Add to this the compelling allure of Facebook which occupies too much of one’s time because one posting would elicit quite a number of responses that you cannot ignore lest you become a rude cyber gangstah and be a pariah to this new societal collocation composed of family and friends. Other mind retarding preoccupations such as compendia of trivia, games and invitations to interest groups exist encouraged by social networking sites which allow for interacting of all kinds, worthwhile or otherwise. It may not be a lost cause at all since it allows many minds, otherwise idle, to be engaged in lively interaction even if they never amount to anything productive or morally uplifting. There is virtue to doing something because it is there...I think.
It’s remarkable how cyber sphere imitates real life. It seems that out there is another dimension of existence that is easily accessible to most of us. It is a limitless vast land populated by millions of transients who reside in it by the hour, some as little as by the minute...a new adoptive country, as it were. The remarkable thing about it is that anyone from the millions of its citizens has the ability to interact with each other with little restrictions and rules governing the interplay. No sovereignty exists here and no racial, geographical, beliefs and social stature casting are imposed. There is open exchange of information and opinion with some seemingly ineffectual attempts at censorship. The earlier concept of it being an information highway is still very much an apt analogy with us, the in and out citizens, at liberty to pick up what suits us, what entertains us, what affirms our beliefs, what satisfies our quest for information. In the same token we also practice selectiveness and reject information that is offensive to us, inane to us, incredible to us, harmful to us and of no use to us. It no longer is a highway but a new found land where we enjoy equal rights with the rest of the non-indigenous natives.
As in any new found land, the pristine beauty and the idealism of the place start to shed its shine and innocence as time and people overrun the landscape. No sooner than exploitative new comers take advantage of the potential of the land for commerce and other productive endeavours, exploitation of the insidious kind follow closely at its heels.
It is still a wonder how existence in it could still be bearable with the seeming lack of restraints, the absence laws, the lack of personal, institutional and national accountability for postings. Is the natural goodness of man in general allowing it to run with its citizens behaving well on their own volition? There are negative elements existing in this modern day Utopia but they seemed to have been contained to the minimum. Yet we cannot ignore the scams, the pornography, the untruths, the bad taste, the bad mouthing which grow each day.
What of those who wish to use it for acts of terrorism? I guess we do not have to worry much about that. The promoters of terrorism have yet to learn doing violence of the unphysical kind. Bombs and bullets in cyberspace remain as abstractions and do not have any physical components that can inflict mayhem on people. Terrorists remain as troglodytes when it comes to the written word and graphics and may never have the capability to create postings and other ingenious manipulations of the system with the effect of incendiaries and explosives that would wreak havoc in cyber space. Not yet, anyway.  
It would be a pity if the new culture emerging from cyber space would be aborted by these fanatical hooligans. If some of us have already given up on the current state society and the larger world is, the emergence of a new culture, ersatz as it may seem, can provide comfort for now and some straw-like hopes to grasp no matter how nebulous.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Delightful Evening at Insular Life's Centennial

Jim Roa, Nits Lazaro, Alma Roa, Nen Roa, Yoling Malferrari, Candy Jalbuena, Larry Jalbuena
I attended the 100th anniversary celebration of Insular Life, the largest Filipino life insurance company in the Philippines. My family had the privilege of being invited to this milestone celebration by virtue of our predecessors’ important involvement in the company during its growth years. My uncle Emeterio Roa Sr. was the General manager of the company before and after World WarII and my father, Federico Sr., was the actuary of the company during its post-war years. Other Roas who worked with the company were Cocoy Roa, the eldest in our family and cousins Percy and Frank Roa. To my knowledge there is only one remaining Roa in the company and she is not even surnamed Roa as Anna, the eldest daughter of Cocoy, is married to Dindo Soriano and carries his family name. She carries on the torch for the family in the company as its senior AVP in charge of Public Relations.

My expectations for the evening were not great and my attendance was merely obligatory. It looked like an affair that only those employed in the company would have special excitement and enthusiasm for. It seemed that this was going to be another typical corporate celebration with endless special citations to deserving employees, honouring outstanding clients and bombastic speeches from the Chairman and others of high rank. It had the makings of another humdrum and boring night.

Coming in from the usual heavy traffic in Ortigas avenue at early evening, it was not an auspicious start, at least for me, for the night.

Wading through the throng of formally dressed people crowding the foyer of the Meralco building we finally made our entrance and proceeded to the registration tables where we were given seat numbers for the program inside the theatre.

We had to go through another bottleneck entry leading to the cocktail area where a mini program was in progress. Boots Anson Roa, my sister in law was the emcee and was in the middle of selecting winners for a raffle.

My wife and I queued up for the buffet cocktail table. She whispered that the food should be good because she just saw Arlene Arce milling around the buffet table and concluded that she did the catering for the affair. Arlene is known for excellent catering services. At least there was something that promised to be outstanding for the evening.

After the satisfying repast I was glad to see some of our relatives, the grandchildren of our uncle Emeterio and his daughter Yoling. Things were looking up. It is usually nice to meet with relatives whom you seldom see as it gives one a chance to catch up on news about each other.

Another happy instance was when Boots announced onstage the presence of the author of the coffee table book written for the occasion. It was Joan Orendain whom I knew from way back through my brothers Pete and Dado. After some warm hug-hug, “beso beso” and a bit of chit chat she was sucked in by the flowing crowd and was gone. After Joan’s exit I saw onstage a familiar looking face who was talking about music...kundimans I think. It was Ed Gatchalian, a batch mate from the Ateneo Grade School and someone whom I occasionally saw in advertising industry activities when I was still active in the ad industry, airports and one time in Saigon when he still had a company manufacturing scented candles. We just waved at each other since he seemed in a hurry. It was turning out to be a nicer evening than I expected.

After the cocktails we were ushered in to the theatre. Anna led us to what I thought was the best seats in the house. It was about six rows from the stage and was at the second tier of the floor giving as an eye level view of the stage. It was reserved for the Roa family and there we were seated comfortably with cousins, nephews, nieces, siblings and in laws happy and feeling priviledged.

I knew that the presentation was going to be a musicale about the hundred year history of the company. I braced myself for the worst. A musicale about a company’s history is not exactly one that would make for great entertainment. Invariably, musicales produced by employees usually end up as cute extravaganzas with bloopers in song renditions and bungling on stage as main fares. In my mind, quick getaway ideas were being formed. Sneaking out once the houselights dimmed or pulling a disappearing act at intermission were some of the things I entertained doing.

As the curtain raised a dapper looking man, who reminded me a lot of Danny de Vito, strode on stage and started his spiel. He portrayed the role Chairman, Ting Ayllon, in the musicale as well as the narrator in between scenes.

As he introduced the first scene the stage began to fill up with a typical crowd scene at the turn of the century Manila. It was a well choreographed movement depicting the hurly burly of public places of the time.

After listening to the song “Infinite Possibilities” I knew that this was not amateur hour. Well polished actors strutting confidently on stage, impeccable line delivery, good singing voices characterized the opening scenes. Equally impressive were the production values of the presentation which was minimalist, using representational props and ingenious lighting for scene transfers. There were some songs that were truly great. “Insulares”, “Moving Up, Moving On”, “It will not End This way” and Who We Are, What We Are, Why We Are...Insular” were particularly excellent. The lyrics were well written and the music wonderfully arranged. It was an outstanding musical with impressive librettos, awesome choreography and splendid acting. There are very few corporate musicals on Broadway which you could compare this one. What comes to mind is “How To Succeed In Business without Really Trying” which starred Robert Preston...I am being overly enthusiastic, I think.

All in all it was a grand performance which should curb a bit my cynical view of corporate attempts at entertainment during company to dos. This was truly an exception.

It was a fine way of telling the audience, mostly employees, of the company’s beginnings and the unfolding events in their history to evolve into the prominent business leader that it is today. If one were to judge the effectiveness of the vehicle in inculcating pride and morale amongst its associates this would rate a ten. To paraphrase an ad agency slogan, “It is history well told”.

The Roas in the audience were particularly gladdened by the knowledge that a Roa played a pivotal role in the company’s history. Emeterio Roa Sr. or Tio Terio to our side of the family was the General Manager of Insular Life during its most trying years. He served as its General Manager in the immediate post war period; during the war, when they were forced to operate for show and the years after the war in bringing the company back to its feet after being ravaged by the Japanese military regime. I felt a lot of pride that among the illustrious early leaders of the company my Tio Terio was the most heroic in deed and in stature. He was the “Indio Bravo”, the corporate hero amidst a coterie of distinguished “Insulares”.

At intermission I took a quick glance at the playbill and noticed that it had an impressive dramatis personae composed of professionals from our local legitimate stage. The one big surprise was the fact that it was Ed Gatchalian who was the executive producer, the musical composer cum arranger cum director. No wonder he was in a hurry when I met him at cocktails. He had to be with his cast and crew at backstage.

At curtain call the audience recognition was ecstatic but what delighted me most was when Ed Gatchalian was called onstage the audience rose from their seats and gave him a standing ovation for a “tour de force” performance.

Earlier in the evening when I got out of the car at the entrance I was resigned to suffer a long tiresome, bore some and lacklustre evening, instead, it turned out to be one of the more enjoyable affairs I have attended. I thank my lucky stars for a serendipitous evening.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Riding Towards the Horizon - A Eulogy For Bert Timbol

During our better looking days. Mang Bert, Ed Roa, JJ Calero

When Raymond Timbol called me up the other day to tell me if I could be among those who would deliver a eulogy for his dad, Mang Bert, Isaid yes without hesitation. In fact if Raymond did not ask I would have volunteered to do so.

Bert has a special niche in my heart. We were together in Unilever, known as PRC then, for more than 15 years, he as boss and me, as a struggling young manager in the Marketing department.

Let me just limit my recollection to the early years in Mang Bert’s career in Unilever, I’m sure there would be a lot of eulogizers who can speak much more competently on the more recent years and talk about a successful Mang Bert in the media industry where he had become an iconic figure not only in the glamorous world of beauty pageants but also as the ultimate professional in the fun but raucous world of media.

I have chosen to talk about a Mang Bert whose star was on the rise suring the sixties.
I don’t know how many of you would know that he was a pioneering spirit in Marketing Research in the Philippines. Had he chosen to stay in this discipline he could have been acknowledged by industry peers as one of the founding fathers of modern Market Research in the Philippines. During his stint as the Market Research Manager of PRC he introduced a lot of innovative market research techniques which are still being used today by local research practitioners.

For media guys who are old enough to remember, Mang Bert was the first to start a monthly television ratings service which at that time was the only known tv audience measurement system done on a regular basis. In the absence of the more sophisticated and hi tech techniques now employed by Nielsen and others, this served as the buying guide for those advertisers who subscribed to it.

He did an outstanding job in PRC’s market research and was rewarded by a promotion to Marketing Services Manager. The services within his responsibility were composed of market research, promotions and advertising. It was such a comprehensive responsibility that found him involved in almost everything that concerned the brands.

What set him apart from most of the managers were his articulateness and his wide range of interests and knowledge. He was conversant about most topics dealing with humanities, politics and world history. The traditional perception of a researcher would be some sort of an egghead or a numbers whiz kid and nerd whose interests were caged in insipid narrow confines. He was completely the opposite of this. His incisive analysis of data and the sagacity of his interpretations lead to sound marketing decisions. Presentation was his forte. What made his presentations impressive was the way he embellished them with apt analogies and his flair for the dramatic that made the otherwise stark and boring data come alive with mind boggling possibilities and stimulating marketing breakthrough ideas.

You could say that he was a virtual Renaissance man and as such would be allowed some latitude for eccentricities which were not readily appreciated by some. What contributed to the perception of his being a larger than life personality was his penchant to share the highlights of his life story to anyone who was willing to listen. He gave a variety of accounts of himself being portrayed as characters of almost heroic proportions. He would be the boy courier in the resistance during the war, the working student doing cowboy chores in ranches in Denver, Colorado, a painter, art connoisseur and critic, a literary man and an orator with few equals.

Bert’s favourite character was that of a wrangler, an offshoot of his student years in Denver, Colorado as a Fulbright-Mundt scholar. He loved living the part down to the gaudy boots, blue denims, big ornate brass buckles and the cowboy hat. Even his preference for vehicles were for the rugged “off road” type long before SUVs became fashionable. This earned him the moniker “Cowboy Cabalen” in PRC. I am reminded of the time when he was accosted by the PRC chairman about his informal clothes choice to which he quipped “I believe the company took me in not for my sartorial preferences.”

Bert excelled in handling the demands of the job and became indispensable in marketing and no sooner was again rewarded by a promotion to General Marketing Manager, a position that extended itself as head of all marketing inclusive of brand groups and marketing Services which, to my mind, deserved a better recognition than what the title suggested from a Unilever hierarchical point of view. With the purview of his responsibilities he should have been a director as opposed to being just a manager. This is a sentiment that has been shared in whispers by many in Unilever but never aired openly. I am glad to have said it now.
My career seemed to have run parallel to his since my professional path traversed brand marketing, then as company media manager in PRC, as an advertising man with Lintas, an advertising agency erstwhile owned by Unilever, that later teamed up with Hemisphere and finally settling down as head of market research in PRC and later in ACNielsen. All through these, Bert leant me a helping hand not only with his influence but, more importantly, serving as a model by which I have patterned my work style throughout my career.

If there is anything that I would value the most as a legacy from this extraordinary man it is that of doing the job, any job for that matter, with unassailable honesty and foursquare integrity. Media work or the media buying profession to be specific, is replete with all sorts of temptations which try one’s resolve. It is not uncommon for one to hear of large scale venalities and other underhanded persuasions in media which many media buyers have, in their weak moments, succumbed to.

Unilever was indeed wise to have chosen a man like Bert to entrust its huge advertising war chest which consisted of billions of advertising money. Bert had been faithful to the trust that was given to him by Unilever and not a single centavo of that vast resource has been spent without the interest of Unilever at heart.

Bert has the comfort of having to leave Masscom to men and women close to him, Ed Cruz a long time partner of 42 years, two daughters, Lorraine and Elaine and son Raymond, to all of whom he has inculcated the virtues of constant Honesty and Integrity. He will live on every time his successors put to practice these inspiring qualities in the course of their work.

And to Tita, he bequeathed memories of a soul mate who shared with her a life well lived, a consolation befitting a dutiful and devoted wife.

In the fashion of legendary men, Bert, the Unilever Cowboy rides on towards the horizon leaving his imprint on a vast marketing and media landscape for other men and women to follow.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tame the Beast (the IIRC Report) with post scripts

The IIRC has completed its review and have come up with a list of those whom they deemed acted culpably and should be given penalties either by sanction, civil accountability or charged criminally. There are sectors in media who believe that they should be excluded from all these because they were just exercising a cherished freedom, press freedom. But, why only media? Were not the others also trying to do what they thought was proper to their perceived roles and to their appreciation of the situation? How could there be a criminal accountability when there was no premeditation and no ill intent. In the heat of the moment everyone acted irresponsibly like headless chickens propelled by reflex. At the worst it was an act of stupidity but there is no law against it. Even our senate and congress have enough sense not to enact a law against it, besides if there was one our penal institutions would be filled to the rafters (we’re almost there).

LOL, what does media expect, praises? Does media expect us all to turn a blind eye on their participation? The Filipino audience is not that optically and mentally challenged. The medium is the message.

Now they talk about this as having a chilling effect on media. Likewise, an irresponsible media has a chilling and even icier effect on the nation when they aggravate political situations, puts the national government in a bad light internationally, creates unfair negative images to personalities and institutions contrary to their interests and partisan leanings, engenders divisiveness among the citizenry, bullies opinion leaders, cows government authorities and so many other freedom curtailing pressures on parties outside their estate.

Are media practitioners naive enough not to recognize the power of their trade to intimidate?

No less than the senators, during the media hearings of the hostage incident, mention their hesitancy and pussyfooting when it comes to taking to steps to enact legislation concerning media.

Enrile said, addressing Ressa, “The problem, Maria, is this: Everybody is scared of the media. Let’s face it… You publish something unfavourable then we’re finished.”

“The point is, we hesitate because you are media. If you weren’t media, we would craft the law immediately,” he said.

The president, himself, mentioned that police negotiators had to wait in line to talk to the hostage taker just because some reporters were interviewing the hostage taker. Clearly our police always gave deference to media recognizing the power of media to get back at authorities for obstructing them from exercising their freedom to do their job.

Luchi Valdes of TV 5 said “You may fear us, as you profess you do, but we fear one thing-we fear the loss of credibility,” she said further, “If you ask us what sanctions are in place, it’s the vilification of the audience we serve. When we are vilified, which we currently are, this is a sanction for us.”

Now that’s a real fine sanction which seems to work and rely only upon the perception and in the conscience of the wrong doer.

Media mentioned that it does not bode well for the future of press freedom under the Aquino administration. Another spokesperson for media said that journalist will not hesitate to go to the streets “to express our sentiments.

I think the president should stick to his guns and do what has to be done notwithstanding overt and veiled threats coming from media sectors. I hope that the senate would enact laws to curb the overzealous practice of press freedom by our local practitioners. There is an opportunity to curb the excesses of a rowdy and rambunctious media which heretofore have gotten away sensationalist treatment of news, callousness to the need of uplifting audience taste sand moral values and the bamboozling and whipping of persons and institutions contrary to their self interests and political leanings. It does not bode well for the Aquino administration to be at odds with media but he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.

It’s about time we tame the beast, not to become like meek and bleating ovine but to become eagles with courage and vigilance in their roles as purveyors of truth flying well above the pettiness of men.

Jay Lazaro’s (my nephew) comment:

As consumers of media in its many forms I think one obvious way to act against the misplaced ardor of organized news media is to stop patronizing it. Unfortunately I think it has become a vice shared by many of us (myself included) to immediately tune in to the best and most up-to-date (and even most daring) coverage of any newsworthy event. We have effectively transformed a need for information into a macabre fascination bordering on voyeurism. It is reality TV pushed to its logical, fanatical extreme. People can debate about which end is wagging which i.e. whether the networks are just giving their viewers what it is they are asking for and vice versa but the fact still remains that something has got to give.

(Ironically, the net effect is that the kind of media we "want" is the kind of media we get.) Either extreme position will have its patrons among the libertarians on the one hand and the closet fascists on the other; as is often the case, we end up with endless debates and not enough action. Rather than worry about what the government or the networks ought to do/not to do, maybe it is best to start with ourselves and the viewing habits and choices we have developed over the years.

A Rejoinder:

Media consumption is addictive and as you said, unfortunately, it has become a vice, a fascination that mesmerizes all of us. Media men have become experts at their craft and would know every trick to entice the audience to get ratings even at the expense of propriety and good taste.

To stop patronizing media is like throwing out the baby with the bath water. The essentials of media such as an information source, as an entertainment for all (masses and elite), as a didactic help, as a vehicle for expressing opinions or as a tool to enjoin the audience towards a worthwhile cause are truly useful to society and at this time we cannot do without.

Giving in completely to what the audience wants is an abdication of their responsibility towards their audience. I shudder at the thought of media taking a cavalier attitude towards the consequences that inadvertent media exposures can inflict on their audiences. Are they being naive about the power that they have in their hands?

Isn’t it a sordid situation that we find ourselves in? The kind of audience we have evolved into, whether libertarians or closet fascists, have been moulded by the kind of media fare that assault us daily and that we willingly take in. Media, especially television, is such a potent influence on our culture, moral values, social conventions, work ethics, ideals, aspirations. It also contributes to whatever pride that make us confident and the guilt that gives rise to self deprecation...a feeling of less worth which so characterizes many of our countrymen.

Post Script:
The most recent news on the hostage crises is the action P'noy took on the IIRC recommendations. I think it was the right decision to sanctin those found culpable in the hostage fiasco. It would have been terribly unfair if P'noy heeded some of the recommendations to criminally prosecute some of the offenders as many were cheering and hoping for. The culpability of most had to do with inefficiency, grandstanding and stupidity but to categorize these as criminal offenses is going to the extreme. Even media who at first reaction was to cry curtailment of press freedom would get out of this with mere presidential scolding. Maria Ressa, who was very much in the fray and had panic reactions after recognizing the ill advised continuation of the coverage seem to have been much affected by the flak she received. I am not sure as to what prompted her to resign from ABS CBN. Was she chastised by her management after the shoddy handling of the coverage and the subsequent diatribes she hurled on the Aguinos (P'noy and Cory) as a kneejerk reaction to a the perception that media was very much at fault? There seems to be a lull. Media seemed to have gotten out of it easy at the same time they realize how vulnerable they are to strong criticisms all around and that the best stance to take is to keep a low profile and let this fiasco blow over. The beast is tamed...but for how long?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Pnoy and the Church - A Classic Stand-off

It looks like it’s going to be a classic stand-off between P’noy and the Catholic irresistible force meeting an immoveable object.

The church is resolute about their stand that the only acceptable form of contraception is Natural Family Planning. All other forms of contraception are sinful. The Magisterium, the authoritative and official voice of the church has said that it will not change its stand in the foreseeable future.

This is against Pnoy’s resolve to pursue what he refers to as providing “informed choice according to conscience” to the people.

As of now the church’s handling of the issues has been clumsy. They have been resorting to cheap shots and innuendoes.

Fr. Melvin Castro, speaking without evidence, accused the administration of selling out to the donors of the grant obtained by the President. “It’s just a small account compared to the moral values we are going to lose,” Castro said. “Apparently for that measly sum of money in the name of fighting poverty, here we are again, selling out the Filipino soul. It is sad.” Bishop Odchimar made mention of our being an agricultural society, referring to the archaic notion that hands are needed in the field. He then takes a pot shot at our inability to pursue the early gains of IRRI and that we now import rice from Vietnam. He continues by taking a dig at pharmaceutical companies speculating that they are lobbying for the passing of the bill as it serves their interests.

The church is losing poise and credibility by their tendency to grasp at straws and shooting at all moving objects, shadowy or real

Pnoy seems to be having an early lead with legislators picking up the cudgels for him in the senate and in the lower house. Although there was no poll taking as yet, it seems that a significant number of the people is giving their support as well, as shown in postings at Facebook, Twitter and responses to newspaper accounts. All these will give him a firmer resolve to stay the course.

I don’t think there are too many people practicing the Natural Planning Method. I wouldn’t even trust a research which says the contrary. The question is not only an emotional one but a threat to one’s salvation and therefore posturing by respondents is expected.

So what do all these leave us with? Pnoy will have the bill passed and the Church will continue to rail at the government and we will be threatened and humiliated by unending homilies from the pulpit.

Alas, poor Juan, he will be in an anguished state. A wretched and conscience stricken peasant practicing Catholic ways, but, always teetering at the edge of hellfire and eternal damnation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Will P'noy Play A Nicolo?

Ruben Gomez, summa cum laude of Ateneo65, asks if there is a hidden hand who is masterminding the demolition program, marshalling megamillions to orchestrate public opinion against Aquino.

Aquino has set out for himself the crusade against corruption. This is the centrepiece of his administration’s mission with the slogan “kung walang corrupt walang mahirap”. It seems that demolition teams organized by the corrupt lords have started their dastardly handiwork and are bent on undermining the trust and belief behind the Aquino leadership.

In a graft ridden government and corrupt society there are many who have been seriously threatened by the anti-corruption program of Aquino. Singly, these personalities are formidable enough. They have a lot at stake and would react with forceful vehemence, would summon all the money and influence they can muster to diminish Aquino’s resolve. I think at the moment what we are seeing are kneejerk reactions, but sufficiently virulent, from individual efforts with some premeditation. These are just for starters. It’s scary to think that in time these efforts will escalate and the rashness and impudence will go to a higher level. Also, perhaps at a later stage, this disparate band of thieves, will unite into an unholy alliance under one common cause...then we will be witness to an Armageddon of sorts, the principalities of evil against the forces of light.

Machiavelli was right to say that it is difficult to institute radical reforms because those who profit from the status quo would resist while those who might profit from the changes would not be as enthusiastic as the latter. Machiavelli, in his book The Prince, tells us of ways of handling these but as far as the Prince’s solutions go they would require some amount of cunning, ruthlessness and duplicity. Would Aquino have the inclination and gumption to take on a Machiavellian response to the problem? As Christians we are taught that in the face of ravenous wolves we must be wise as serpents but harmless as doves. His mother advocated this with her reconciliation and justice policy as opposed to indignation and retribution against those who abused. This belief seems hard put to provide solutions because it does not finish the job and does not deliver the “coup de grace” against the enemy. As recent history shows the robber barons are still very much with us because they were not eradicated when we had a chance to.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ressa – Hack and Slash Journalist

Ressa writes as if ABS CBN is lily white in the whole fiasco. Media is as guilty in what has transpired when the hostage taker was able to monitor the goings on outside the bus. In the interest of journalistic freedom ABS CBN inadvertently provided a monitor for the hostage taker to see the siege preparations, the taking into custody of his brother (which caused him to snap) in more detail and repetitiveness than a B movie, sent other media reporters into the scene trying to scoop each other in a frenzy, in some cases becoming more of an obstruction than help in the negotiations.
The manner in which she wrote went down to the level of movie hacks, perhaps a rung higher in style but having a similar paucity of substance in content and using the same cheap tricks of making plausible tales about the existence of factions in the cabinet, coining catch labels as "sablay" (referring to Samar and Balay). While "sablay" was not mentioned in her article, it does fit in as part an overall news effect. How ingenious! How masterful the use of squid tactics (an integral part of media's arsenal) to divert the attention away from media's culpability.

Ressa spares no detail and included Cory’s ineffectiveness and P’noy’s minimal output as senator for good measure; more vicious than the attack of a killer dog.

Is this a reflection of the Lopezes’ regard for the Aquinos? If not, Gabby should call off his hounds to refrain from sniffing about for more scuttlebutt and other yarns to spin.

On one hand it may be that Ressa got so excited about the scoop. It was a rare media coup in the offing and went beyond what she claims media’s role is, as observers only. As we now know they contributed to the drama that unfolded in the eyes of millions of viewers, reason enough for her to remark “fantastic!”, as if saying to herself “now we are getting somewhere”. Perhaps after a while somebody must have told her or it may have dawned on her that they were treading on dangerous grounds and as a panic reaction started her unbridled cackle against all other parties involved with the exclusion of media. On hindsight she, as senior vice president of Asia’s premier media house should have been more circumspect and so there...

As the bald poet Will said “The lady doth protests too much, methinks” or in a less refined analogy “the hen that lays an egg cackles exceedingly loud”.

Rebuilding the Filipino

“To all of you my fellow Filipinos, let’s keep on building the Filipino as great and respectable in the eyes of our world – one story, two stories, three stories at a time – by your story, by my story, by your child’s story, by your story of excellence at work, by another Filipino’s honesty in dealing with others, by another Pinoy’s example of extreme sacrifice, by the faith in God we Filipinos are known for.”
Alex Lacson

Alex Lacson, understands the Filipino problem very well. There is a need to stem the growing bad reputation of the Filipino by accentuating the positive and the noble about being Filipino starting with our young. Let us not repeat the same mistake that led to a generational moral descent of our youth during the Marcos years...Martial Law babies growing up admiring the wrong kind of heroes in their midst. The corrupt rich, the robber barons, the abusive military, the tainted best and the brightest, all thrived under the munificence of the great Maharlika leader. Most of those who benefited from this largesse are still very much with us, enjoying ill gotten wealth and power, flaunting them with relish not only in the genteel side of media but also in the more sordid affairs of business news and the mockery of our justice system. The pernicious lesson goes on for as long as these are abetted by media. Crime pays.
As Lacson suggests, the work should start from the moulding of our youth’s minds. Let us tell our children and grandchildren about the nobility of the Filipino and how they should lead noble lives. Everyone can play a role in this effort. Let us do away with the attitude of self flagellation, false sense of humility, a complex of being inferior and undeserving which the recent hostage taking further exacerbates. Let us instil pride in the Filipino among our youth by talking positive about ourselves as a nation and as a people in front of our children. It is a long drawn process but it may be the only way to erase the stain in the Filipino psyche which took generations to embed.
Media should be enjoined in this endeavour. They should help out in making this nation great again but not in the context of the ill intentioned New Society.
Paid hacks create false images, kitschy entertainment fare entertains but plants wrong values, bad news sells newspapers and sensational news in broadcast media ensures ratings. While the wheels of the media industry are turned by these it does not elevate them from the insidious commerce, unwittingly or not, they currently engage in. Perhaps the Lopezes, the Gozons, the Lims, the Pangilinans and other owners of influential media houses should take it upon themselves to cooperate and be a part of the rebuilding of this nation. They should realize that it is not all about the selling of advertisements, but that it is also about the selling of an idealized image of the Filipino and the Philippines to our youth, a tandem effort with well meaning heads of every Filipino family.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Night of the Diamond Lady

Our eldest sister, Andrea Roa Lazaro celebrated her 75th birthday four days ago. At about the same time last year her children brought up the idea of preparing for a special celebration since it was to be a milestone of a birthday, a diamond event. As she was wont to do she told her children not to make too much of a fuss about it and just celebrate it in the usual way, dinner with the family in some restaurant. And so it went, a year later the family set off to go to Tender Bob, a nice restaurant known for its steak offerings and other fine edibles. On the way somebody suggested that they stop by Teatrino, a dinner theater outlet in the Greenhills area because it was still early for dinner. It must have come as pleasant shock for her to see that the whole place has been dressed up especially for the occasion of her 75th birthday.

The event was an elaborately hatched conspiracy by her children and their spouses, the planning of which really had its start a year ago, in her last birthday. Master planner was Jay, the eldest son who probably did a CPM (critical path method) to progress the grand plan. It probably would not have been pulled off successfully without the assistance of the rest of brood together with willing participation of the in-laws. Bambi, Jobert and Mimi, Jet and Shelly, Gigi and Arnel and Jay summoning all his management skills to see to it that no snags will be encountered as they worked towards the big day. With all the myriad activities in the preparations it was a wonder how they were able to keep it a secret from their Mom for such a long duration.

The celebration opened its curtains as Jobert, the second to the youngest in the family, walked the boards of the Teatrino stage to announce the event and to lead the invocation as well as the saying of grace prior to the fun and the food to be partaken by all present. Jobert was the right choice to do this since he is a stalwart of the “Lingkod Ng Panginoon” congregation.
The celebrators included close relatives and guests who were of significance to the 75 years of Nits’ existence. Her only daughter, Gigi, flew in from LA together with her husband Arnel and the two boys Toby and Mark, Me and my brothers Tito and Dado, my wife Alma, our children Eric and Lyn who with husband Andy flew in from Saigon were in attendance. Sisters Patty and Angge had expressed their regrets but were there in spirit as they have sent their well wishes earlier on. Also present were Boots, son Joey, and daughter Chiqui with husband Congressman Robbie Puno. Nephews and nieces, including TV and radio host Ariel Ureta, husband of Lydia, the daughter of Dado. Other close relations Lulu Sarabia, Alma’s sisters Cely and Lot, La Escuela staffers and teachers, Pedrita, Romy and Hilda; the family of Iking, a close family friend, Sally Maranon, Gigi’s in-laws who flew in from the States were among those who came. Of special importance to Nits was the attendance of her batch mates in Maryknoll College from the forties in Pennsylvania St. in the Ermita district in Manila and through to the late fifties in Maryknoll of Loyola Heights, Quezon City. I am sure that I am guilty of having omitted scores of other guests but I am only relying on what I can remember of that heady night.
Dinner was served immediately after Jobert announced the opening of the event.
The catering was done by the popular restaurateur, the Arce family, well known for their food preparations for special events as well as for their fame in ice cream confections and concoctions. The buffet was a carefully chosen array of sumptuous offerings which included a lengua dish, fish preparations, pasta, meat dishes, lechon de leche, and a delectable array of desserts. Truly a dinner fit for the occasion.

And then there was the after dinner entertainment!
Showtime consisted of special numbers rendered by the children, solo songs of specially written lyrics for the occasion by Jay, duets by the other children and their spouses, the violin pieces, with the encouragement of Bambi, their mom, were done by Timmy and Rain, lively hip hop dance number by Toby, Mark and a cousin, the special dance choreography presented with much enthusiasm and love by La Escuela teachers and staff. A trip down memory lane through an AV presentation showing Nit’s cute baby pictures, as a pretty young girl and as a blooming colegiala most of which were rendered in sepia (not true that these were unearthed with the Dead Sea scrolls), pictures with the then debonair Eng. Juanito Lazaro, and with the brood in their preteens. There were also two film clips with Nits and Ito dancing like the Keystone cops in a creatively done animation. Jay told me that they had prepared much more but he decided to edit out some of the more sentimental ones lest the affair turn into a sob session.

Beverly Salviejo, a popular comedienne, did a stand-up comedy act which set the guests rolling on aisles. She interspersed her gags with nicely rendered songs. Her jokes were sometimes a bit off color but, all in all, hilarious with everyone loving every minute of it. I guess the guests who brought along small children had a hard time muffing their ears to spare them from the naughty jokes. Beverly and Jay was a great team playing the role of emcees. Jay could easily have a lucrative night job doing the comedy circuit. Give up the stuffy suit and necktie and don the comic’s cap and the singer’s tees.
So after the end of the amateur hour the professionals were ushered in. The Rainmakers, a singing group “resurrected” from the early seventies sang a few Lettermen songs. Despite their slightly graying and slightly balding toppers they managed to shine and thrilled Nits senior guests no end while nephews and nieces looked on seemingly clueless as to what was being raved about. Kidding aside they have not lost the ability to blend their voices superbly and did justice to the Lettermen songs. The leader of the group is a certain Mr. Macanaya who happens to be the father-in-law of Andy Belmonte’s cousin Manuel and also Andy’s golf mate.
The last group to perform was the Replay band. The owner of the band is the husband of Arlene Arce, the one who prepared the sumptuous buffet dinner. The Arce’s are friends of Jay, Lyn and Andy.
The party evolved into a rollicking revelry from the start of the first drumbeat struck by the Replay band. Almost all the young folks gathered in front of the stage and started moving and gyrating at the rhythm of the beat. It also signaled the exodus of some of the older guests who made a beeline towards Nits to bid their goodbyes.

A few numbers later, all in good fun, Lotlot, the wife of Romy was coaxed into doing a number with the band. She did very well and received an ovation from her cousins and the other guests. Emboldened by the successful number of Lotlot Shelly Lazaro joined in and did a number herself with the band. I think that we probably have two newly born stars in the entertainment world using Nits 75th birthday party as their vehicle into glitz and glamour of showbiz. Actually, three if Jay, who also sang with the band later, decides to give up the drabness of the board room in favor of the glittering allure of the klieg lights and the sound stage.

Wow what a blast! It was something that one would least expect a “Nits happening” would be. But, then again, I may be wrong, as the party drew to a close I espied a satisfied, ecstatic, happy gleam in her eyes. It may very well be her kind of night and her children were spot on in gifting her with this kind celebration.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The First Lady Derby

Who knows what goes on in the mind of a Kris Aquino. I think she is afflicted by what most people in reel life is heir to...that is not being able to distinguish reality from the celluloid world. Klieg lights can be blinding and it seems that all that matters is to bask in its brightness unmindful of it being hazardous to one's health, one's mental and emotional health.

The recent separation tsismis with James Yap smacks of a scheme aided by no less than a willing cohort, Boy Abunda, who ostensibly made mention of it in a show that Kris cohosts. Kris' has had a weird love saga which included all sorts of characters, a motley group from villains to idols that one could find in a typical Tagalog movie.

With Kris the motivations for her actuations defy logic and convention. It is not farfetched to hazard a guess that the reason why Kris' wants to separate from James is that she has illusions of becoming the First Lady in her brother's administration, much like daughters of President Quirino and President Garcia during their time at Malacanang. Perhaps she thinks that being married disqualifies her from the desired role and that she will never graduate from the being a First Sister, a somewhat dubious title and less glorious than being First Lady. Another speculation and an intriguing one is if Ballsy has got similar aspirations in which case it becomes a two horse race. Poor Shalani is caught between Scylla and Charybdis.

Will P'noy be a Lee Kuan Yew?

All we have of Noynoy now is great expectations. For so long the Philippine political horizon has had no bright light which would promise an end to scores of years of corruption in government. What started as a flicker of hope when Noynoy announced his candidacy for the presidential post has now kindled into a real flame with his successful bid for the highest post in the land. We have high hopes that he truly is the one who would lead us out of the morass that we are in. Our belief is bolstered by Noynoy’s corruption-free track record in congress and the senate, his seeming resolve to pursue to fruition the advocacies of Ninoy and Cory, and the legacy of honesty and sincere concern for the Filipino bequeathed by heroic and legendary parents.

What may be in question are his capabilities and strength of character. He will have to rely on his capabilities of judiciousness and clarity of discernment in the inclusion of trusted and well meaning advisers. Should he exclude anyone with kinship to him (Kamaganak, Inc.) or those whom he feels beholden to due to favors and friendship (BFF, Inc. using showbiz jargon – Best Friends Forever) which include Mar Roxas, showbiz friends and funders of his campaign? Is he being suckered up to the ploy of some detractors so that his selection will be hamstrung by these restrictions? Perhaps he should have faith that his sincerity will carry him through and that he should not worry too much about the criticisms that Kamaganak, Inc. and BFF, Inc. will have influence on some decisions. Perhaps his uncle Peping is right when he said that those close to him would offer the best advice because they are allied to his cause and that they are sincere in wishing him well. It will just be up to his good judgment to separate the chaff from the grain.

What is suspect is his strength of will, the weakness of which might translate into a lack of political will at the trenches. While his tenures in office have been without blemish it was also marked by non-achievement or little achievement. Though it does not signify the lack of political will it somehow signals an indifference or even the turning of one’s back on the responsibility at hand which in a way is an abdication of will. Through what we know from background info about the family he seems to be dependent on what others in the family say, notably the sisters, headed by the eldest, Ballsy. There is nothing wrong with getting the consensus of family members for things of utmost importance but it seems that he is not assertive enough to prevail on the rest of the family. It doesn’t sit well in the mind to know that we will have governance that is heavily influenced by a “sisterhood” and not from the strength of a determined president. I hope I am wrong in this.

While Ballsy seems to be the strongest of the sisters because of the primacy her position in the family the one who wields the strongest outside influence is decidedly the youngest, Kris. She probably contributed a lot to Noynoy’s success at the polls knowing that we do have a “star struck” voting population. Her loud antics and memorable though silly pronouncements have kept the Noynoy effort above the din of election noise. Now that the cause is won she should start being more circumspect. The family is quick to defend her by saying that she has had the most traumatic childhood experience being deprived of a father during the family’s turbulent times after the assassination. This does not exacerbate the inanities that she has shown thus far. While Noynoy’s tolerance of these does not constitute an impeachable offense as they seem to be innocuous enough, their harm, at worst, is that they chisel away at the dignity of the Presidency.

No, I don’t think that we could compare Noynoy’s challenges to that of Lee Kuan Yew’s. Lee Kuan Yew was the astute politician who had a lot of political savvy and the strength of will and character to navigate the small city state to where it is now. The nature of the problems that faced Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore at the onset is not similar to the Philippine one.

Nonoy’s challenges are far more complex and at a bigger magnitude than those encountered by Lee Kuan Yew. Dismantling an entrenched system of corruption in the bureaucracy, putting a stop to political dynasties, going after the robber barons and warlords who control financial institutions and landholdings, disarming their private armies and spurring a moral regeneration to erase the ill effects inculcated on “martial law babies” who grew up with the wrong heroes through education and by example from the new dispensation are just a few of the things that need to be addressed urgently.

Should Noynoy succeed in his quest, as we all are praying for, then it would be a far bigger achievement than that of Lee Kuan Yew’s. It would take more than this legendary Singaporean leader to solve the problems of the Philippines. Let us hope that Noynoy is the man equal to the challenge.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I heard the moan huffed by the sullen hills
The granite hardness of my core was untouched
Have seen too much to care, to show grief for ills.
Around me I saw a thousand clones or more
My eyes closed while others blinked for cues
Golgotha hid behind a leaden mirror
I rallied the rest to raise the gloomy panel
Just by us the screen seemed heavily set
Some unexpected force we sought to intervene