Stepping back

QUEZON CITY-I stepped back to escape the wind-shoved rain on the balcony at the third floor of Bangko Mabuhay rural bank headquarters in Tanza, Cavite.

Messages of typhoon Ondoy's devastation flooded my mobile phone inbox Saturday. It was only three o'clock in the afternoon but sun rays stayed blocked by a curtain of rain.

The skies poured water equivalent to a month's rainfall. My wife Patricia's message said Manila's main thoroughfare, 33 kilometers east, has morphed into a river.

My two friends agreed there's no way the Nissan Patrol we rode on can beat the torrent of water gushing forth to reach the lowest level it seeks.

Drowned in whiskey and worries over my family and friends, I slept in the clothes I wore.

It was only nine o'clock but the weight of the day's events pushed me over to REM and the ocean of alpha waves. The singing of guests three doors from our room was also drowned out by the rain that slashed the glass window at the second floor of a second-class motel we checked into for the night.

The trip back to Manila via Binakayan, Bacoor, coastal road, and EDSA bared Onyok's strength. Piles of trash thrown into the water were pushed ashore. Borders that separated houses and rivers and creeks were erased. People waded in ankle-deep brackish water over side streets.

The sky was blue and the sight was clear as gigantic tarpaulin ads lay crumpled like wet tissue on the base of steel structures. The air that swept inside the SUV was refreshing -crisp like newly-ironed cloth, pure like a baby's breath, and soft like freshly-washed cotton linen.

Futher east of Manila, however, the air reeked of death, despair, and devastation.

Maybe that's why we were able to tolerate the loss of power in our house for 24 hours. Each member of the family in UP Diliman were accounted for and, except for my uncle, were spared the torment that fellow Filipinos suffered.

The irritation over cut power supply was only because we failed to turn on the television and share the grief, though marginal, clutching hundreds of families -father, mother, son, daughter- since Saturday.

At least, I thought, my two daughters were spared from the disturbing images of children pinning their hopes on a clump of garbage to survive. They didn't.

At least, I thought, the black out steeled me from what those images could have done to my psyche had I've seen them upon arriving from Tanza, Cavite.

It's been three days now, but the images of fellow human beings who have lost their lives and are at a loss over their lives remained haunting.

My mother still try to spare the children those images -she watches the news only sparingly. But we asked them to help gather the clothes they can spare for their less fortunate cousins in Marikina.

We also explain that while some things like nature's power remain daunting, there are some things like political will remain wanting.

If we can calculate that stepping back can help us escape the wind-shoved rain on a balcony, we can surmise that good planning can help us avoid tragedy that a typhoon like Ondoy innocuously brought to bear on our people.

Peyups & Ondoy

QUEZON CITY-University of the Philippines Chancellor Sergio Cao has advised that classes in UP Diliman campus have been suspended.

"All Deans: In view of CHEd announcement, classes in UP Diliman suspended accordingly," a message sent by mobile read.

The message added that the registrar will issue a memorandum "re: adjustments in calendar."

Chancellor Cao's message added that classes in UP Diliman will resume Monday, October 5.

Likewise, the activities of groups like the Cherubim and Seraphim are suspended this week, according to Dr. Elena Rivera Mirano.

News reports said Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) chairman Manuel Angeles announced suspension of classes in colleges and universities in the National Capital Region, Southern Tagalog Region (Regions 4A & B) and parts of Central Luzon during Tuesday's briefing of the National Disaster Coordinating Council in Camp Aguinaldo with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.


Eleven possible reasons why passengers crowd at MRT train doors

1. They are or former security guards, fast-food crew, bell-hops, or valets assigned to guard or offer a greeting at an entrance. Maybe they are also afraid the door would get lost and they could be blamed. So they're really making sure the door won't get lost or stolen. Really.

2. They believe there's a prize for the best door guard or the first to step inside or outside the train door. The latter also belongs to the group of people who dashes toward the turnstile and be the first to slide in the magnetic card. Surprised at not getting a prize or being the first to do so, they will muster the same optimism for the next train ride.

3. They are claustrophobic and, hence, needs to be near a door opening and closing at regular intervals.

4. They either crave human touch or the press of flesh.

5. They have an urge to be first. In this case, first inside and first outside. Since there are stations where doors open on either side, this urge propels these persons to squeeze toward the left or right side of the train. They may also belong to the group in number 2.

6. They have a fascination for doors that open and shut automatically.

7. They either have an urge to be pushed or to push people, regardless of age or gender.

8. They are either pickpockets eyeing a quick exit or undercover agents wanting to nab pickpockets red-handed.

9.  They are either wary or lonely that they need to see the faces of people waiting for a ride. They either want to see a familiar face to warm their hearts or craft a good alibi. This group includes passengers wanting to make those still stuck behind the yellow platform line feel they're such losers. 

10. They're concerned with the train capacity as well as the comfort of fellow passengers so they block entry of more passengers, especially at the Cubao station between 7:30-9:30 a.m.

11. The train’s really a sardine can being passed off as a vehicle.

Free Lunch

MANILA-To eat or not to eat; that is the question some Filipino business reporters ask at every press event.

It’s a question requiring them to decide now, not later; on their own, sans guidance from editors and at the pain of peer pressure.

The time to weigh decisions is a luxury most reporters can’t afford. They must decide fast and, a few times, on an empty stomach.

The ethical dilemma for some is whether the story got from a luncheon press briefing would appear influenced by or favoring the host. Some grapple with this dilemma as uniformed waiters walk around and offer delectable hors d'oeuvres on fine porcelain.

The pressure makes some journalists less envious of reporters at a dinner hosted for President Gloria Arroyo in New York months ago.

For reporters used to wining and dining with the haut monde to churn out pulp fiction from the MalacaƱan newsmill, the most difficult decision would be which dessert to take.

Others stuck at weighing first the ethical implications risk becoming the epitomy of a “starving journalist”: scooped-out from the hard information and the soft vanila ice cream.

It is tough covering people whose tab for a lunch in a fancy hotel is three times a business reporter’s daily wage.

It’s difficult, too, especially if the source relaxes at the dinner table, where the parting of bread becomes figurative and, sometimes, literal.

Reporters don’t want to offend those trying to feed them good food and sumptuous story angle. So they try to indulge the host with conversation, praise the chef with kudos, and please the editor with a story.

Some hosts, on the other hand, rub reporters' noses on the fact they're picking the tab.

One time at the Mandarin Hotel, a software company executive said journalists enjoy the job because they get the perks of free lunch.

To debunk this view, some reporters nibble on candy or only drink water or coffee at an event, especially if coverages are tightly scheduled in-between.

Some eat breakfast before or lunch after a mid-day press briefing. Not a few bite on sandwiches while typing the story.

Some give up on having two meals a day and cram everything at dinner.

Newspapers in the US have specific rules on hosted dinner and/or engaging a source on a meal he or she insists on paying for, according to A few media agencies listed there advises reporters to avoid or even reject outright any invitation for lunch or dinner as it can cast doubts on the objectivity of a story.

But these rules strongly hint that the reporter is back-stopped by his or her news organization.

It may take a while before business reporters in the Philippines attains such savory position.

In the meantime, journalists have to rely on their wits to ensure a grumbling stomach never force them to swallow their integrity.


MARTIAL Law sucks.

It sucked 37 years ago because it pulled the plug on television, making me miss episodes of The Electric Company and Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine. It made me miss Ernie's snicker, Spidey, and L. Dullo.

And this is why Martial Law is also something to be afraid of. Imagine Sesame Street or -horror of all horrors!- Spongebob Squarepants getting yanked out of the boob tube.

I remember feeling spiteful when I opened our RCA TV set one fine day and I got what Michael Keaton mistook for a medium to communicate with the dead.

While young that time, I recall seeing only a white blur instead of a masked Mighty Mightor brandishing his triangular club.

Missing out on those cartoon series may have sparked the rebellious spirit in me because I felt depraved.

Getting depraved is how a cigarette factory worker may feel after going cold turkey. Getting depraved is how a kid may feel if an adult stops giving him the lollipop the child didn't ask to receive everyday in the first place.

But then-President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies tried to explain why they did what they did, saying they turned the whole country into a military zone because they commies are coming.

What they didn't think of was that children of middle class families would see them as the bullies, not some Che Guevarra-looking guys hiding in the boondocks.

The Marcos government may have failed to see this because it banned the airing of Voltes V.

As Anime News Network writes: "During its initial run in the late 1970s, Voltes V -along with other Super Robot titles- was banned by then-president Ferdinand Marcos, supposedly because the station airing it was beating two government-run stations in the ratings game."

Interestingly, the website ( followed a view that Marcos banned the Voltes V cartoon TV series because its storyline "involving an aristocratic empire and its oppressed masses reflected his dictatorship in the country."

Rubbish. That time, I just wanted to know the alphabet from Ernie and the "ch" sound from the Cosby twins. I remember getting motivated to stay at home rather than being forced by a curfew not taken seriously by kids playing hide and seek when the moon was full.

Recently, a Cabinet official drummed up again the possibility of declaring Martial Law, adding it's nothing to fear.

Either the offiial thinks he's being taken seriously by fellow-military men or he's confident the fear would push people to continue wallowing in the illusion offered by television.

Would children feel depraved if military rulers yank out TV shows that may teach them how to think for themselves?

Nah, I don't think so. There's a lot of sources of information these days and there are a few good TV programs to censor anyway.

What would be interesting is when a Martial Law regime pull the plug on game shows with young girls gyrating in baby clothes.

Won't Martial Law suck for the military rulers if that happened.

[Photo by Ani Laya M. Estopace, 5]


IS the party starting again? Not, says the head of the United Nations’ trade and development commission.
UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said in a statement released Tuesday that rising stock prices and companies' bottomlines don't mean it's time to roll out the barrel of fun again.
Mr. Supachai called such attitude a "casino mentality" as speculation on currencies and commodities continue to grip the global financial system.
The head of the UN Commission on Trade and Development hinted that such money play shouldn't be mistaken for a recovery from the global recession.
Mr. Supachai based his views Ecuadorian Diego Borja Cornejo's take on the crisis: the play on money –spending with and for it– was the cause of the world’s current headache.
“Welfare had been confused with consumerism,” said Mr. Cornejo, Ecuador Minister for Coordination of Economic Policy.
Mr. Cornejo said in the statement that economies belatedly realized they were wrong in thinking that "constant, increasing consumption could be the engine for economic growth."
Cash became a commodity, he said, "a good to be consumed and accumulated."
"Money was no longer a means to an end."
Those who played it as such was motivated to profit effortlessly, Mr. Cornejo said.
He noted that because of such motive, businessmen and women sought to profit on the short term rather than focus energies on "the production of tangible goods."
"Money simply was used to make money."
M. Cyrille Pierre of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted as saying such unbridled gobbling of goods produced in natural resources-rich developing countries further pushed food and energy prices up.
Thus, the recession that followed became a triple whammy for developing countries.
A year after the United States suffered its third consecutive negative growth, unemployment continues to plague it and the countries relying on trade with the US.
"The countries of the South had become almost exclusively producers of raw materials for the use and exploitation of the North," Mr. Cornejo said.
The Unctad said there could neither be "green shoots" or signs of recovery if unemployment, economic damage, and four million additional people per week suffer from hunger, and "continue to plague developing nations."
Hence, Mr. Supachai said equating "signs of improved performance in the financial sector" with recovery is "certainly worrying."
"It implies that we have not learned from our recent experiences."
Mr. Cornejo advises to drop all pretense that the current financial system can still be fixed.
Nope, he said.
"It has to be transformed, based on an egalitarian approach that [is] truly dedicated to development."

Art Charity

FORMER investment banker Estella Tansengco-Schapero's exhibit "Art Without Borders" opened Saturday and will run until September 28, 2009 at the Artists Space of the Ayala Museum.

The invitation said the "proceeds will fund the pre-school adopted by the Schapero's through the Hong Kong-based International care Ministries."

The invitation added that the pre-school is located on a squatter relocation settlement three kilometers outside Bacolod City.

As Tansengco-Schapero said on her website, ICM, a registered charity in the Philippines, Hong Kong and the United States, "is a non-profit organization serving the poorest of the poor in the slums on the islands of Negros, Bohol and Mindanao in the Philippines since 1992."

The group, she said, has local Christian churches as partners.

"By addressing the real needs of those living in poverty, ICM empowers local pastors and their congregations to tangibly share the Christian message within their communities."

According to her website , she is "a Filipino of Chinese descent with a background in finance and a passion for things Asian."

Her exhibit displays ten works mostly mixed media on canvas that, based on the photos, evokes a migrant's pining to the noble ancestry of the people in her homeland.

Mabuti Pa

When I planned this space, I decided it should only contain English content. So pardon me for posting here a song I crafted in my head while walking from Edsa to Philcoa last Friday. The story behind this limerick, the tune of which I borrowed from Gary Granada's Mabuti Pa lilt, is posted at

Mabuti Pa* (Ng Isang Pasahero)

Mabuti pa ang may kotse,
mas mabilis pag uwian
Mabuti pa ang may bisikleta,
andar agad 'sang padyak lang

Mabuti pa ang may motor
mauunahan ang ulan
Di tulad kong naglalakad lang
sa daan

Mabuti pa ang Senador,
may pambili ng SUV
Mabuti pa ang Kongresista,
minsa'y tatlo pa ang CRV
Mabuti pa ang pulis
may kotse na may wang-wang
Di tulad kong naglalakad lang
sa daan

Turuan nyo ako
Mahalin ang sarili
Bakit si Willie Revillame
Kahit na jet nakakabili?

Mabuti pa ulit si Willie
may mabilis na Ferrari
Mabuti pa si Secretary
Safari, Patrol kayang bilhin
Mabuti pa ang artista
umiyak lang may kotse na
Di tulad kong
pamadyak lang dal'wang paa

Mabuti pa si Claire Fuentes
may sandosenang unit ng bus
Mabuti pa si Enriquez
taxi units di maubos
Mabuti pa si Fernando
may pangtakbong pampangulo
Di tulad kong luha na lang
ang tinutulo

*Pasintabi kay G. Gary Granada