IT'S creepy sometimes how a great number of people think of the same thing.
Good friend Franciscan priest Fr. Prisco Cajes calls this cosmic unity.
That may explain a little why Picnic Grove in Tagaytay was like a mall on a fire day sale: the crowd was as thick as honey.
It was partly our fault, dumping Baguio as a holiday destination. I rejected the wife's choice since my thick skin can't bear that much coldness, especially during the month of Decembrrrr.
So we settled to go to the southernmost tip a day we thought majority of Filipinos would spend in Baguio City or at home since it was already after Christmas.
We traversed the uphill road on a two-vehicle convoy from Sta. Rosa, Laguna; the families of Aquino and Pitargue in tow.
Of course, since I'm sort of religious, I secretly stashed in the back compartment an icon to guide us in the travel back: five bottles of SanMig, of the pale kind. Warm, because it's chilly in Tagaytay, right? So who needs ice?
It was global warming up close and personal when we landed at the grove after lunch, what with too many warm bodies sharing with the horses limited square feet.
I kicked myself for bringing a thermal jacket; should've worn nothing instead and flashed the flabs nearly everyone in my family wants to pinch.
Leo's daughter Gabbs, Bhotskie's eldest Alyssa and second-born Jose, and my eldest Katha enjoyed the grass-covered and tree-laiden hills. I told them to take a hike, thanked me for it, and gladly did.
My youngest Ani and Grace's toddlers Zoei tried to follow but their near-teen sister and brother (Jose) had longer strides.
So the yaya had to bring them to the playground farther up where we adults plopped our fat asses on.
Good thing Grace brought a warmer where we had a tree-lined view of the zip-line and cable car stations.
The kids reported that despite the steep prices –a zip-line and cable car ride costs P250 per person each, the queue for each was as long as the queue of audience for a noon-time show.
I was told if you pay half, they'll throw in a rope so you can pull yourself up to where the ride began. I was told they were also offering it to cable car riders. No takers.
I was about to volunteer to pay for the kids at that price but I dropped the idea upon discovering Picnic Grove was charging a peso so I can piss in a hellhole they call a toilet.
I thought it was highway robbery so I just faced the wall along with other two-legged creatures, showered the earth and added to the yellowish pool already forming outside the WC. The scent of horse dung that wafted the air became more pleasant.
We didn't take the horse ride, which went from P350 an hour when we arrived to P200 when we decided to drive back.
It wasn't getting any cooler and the sun avoided giving us its slow dance home.
But that was what a hundred other guests were also thinking: go home.
So, as it was slow going up because of the traffic, it was also a snail pace going down.
Still, the kids seemed to have enjoyed the whole trip away from their handheld digital game stations and desktop access to the Internet.
I concur that the trip to Tagaytay, despite the absent nippy air, was a fabulous way to spend the day after Christmas and the anniversary of the party that advanced happiness and equality of the masses.
That day, cosmic unity or the absence of it, the masses were truly happy and equal.


ONE of our editors engaged me in an intellectual conversation, something Filipino reporters rarely experience and most of the time qualify as an oxymoron when it occurs among reporters.

Anyway, the talk was about paid content.

Newsmen like him, he says, are worried that paid writers, mostly bloggers, are getting not only the readers but also the moolah: two major elements that make newspapers successful.

But I dissented. True-blue journalist pounding the streets almost everyday for news should fear less the paid hack than the columnist.

As far as I know, most columnists are paid by the news agency that hosts their opinions. We reporters are paid by the news agency for submitting fact-based stories.

News remains the altar of legitimacy and opinions are still dung sprayed with perfume. As a media expert said, citing Marshall McLuhan: Talk is cheap.

Columns are regarded in the industry as weapons for AC/DC style of journalism: attack and collect, defend and collect.

So I proposed to my editor that we kill the columnist and turn over the crime scene to people paid to dish out content.

Instead of paying columnists, I added, we should get paid for “leasing” the space for these hacks. I bet people won’t notice the difference, anyway, between columnists and paid hacks.

But disclosure should be non-negotiable. The writer must let the public know that the piece they dished out is paid by so and so entity.

“Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” a New York Times story cited Justice Anthony M. Kennedy as writing in a ruling on the First Amendment rights of corporations in relation to elections.

Although it is arguable that some reporters also fail to disclose that a so and so source shelled out give-aways or gifts after a presscon or worse, cash or gift certificates sans a press conference.

Still, what separates reporters from paid hacks is that we are aware our profession is strutted with ethics.

Paid hacks can easily throw away ethics along with the kitchen sink. Reporters can send ethics to whatever universe but they are very much aware they're violating a cardinal rule: not accept anything to influence the story.

Doing so would send you down from the pedestal among the bottom-feeders and the paid hacks where yellow journalism is treated more with a tinge of respect.

Abs-Cbn News is noteworthy because their stories almost always come out with a disclosure that an entity cited is also operated by their owners.

I, for one, edit for the OFW Journalism Consortium.

Before, I got paid for doing so. Now I just do it for pride for the advocacy I took up seven years ago on good journalism for and about overseas Filipino workers. Still, the weekly inebriated sessions funded by someone else’s wallet deserve a disclosure.

We in the Consortium just don't publish stories online so it gets lost amid the child pornography and digital junk on the Internet.

We also disclose that we got money from an entity cited favorably or unfavorably in a story.

We believe that once we hide that from readers, it would be the demise of values journalists fought, died, and we live still for everyday.

I personally believe I can only survive as a journalist in a capitalist society by paying a premium on the values this society is trying to commoditize.

So if an article is published and the writer gets paid, well and good. But let's tell the public.

They’ve been fooled before and, I’m sure, as The Who sang, they won’t get fooled again.


BROWSING through my files, I found this article on that great philosophical question that has mesmerized many of us and left us dumbfounded: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
KINDERGARTEN TEACHER: To get to the other side.

PLATO: For the greater good.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross roads.

KARL MARX: It was an historical inevitability.

BUDDHA: Asking this question denies your own chicken nature.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.

JACK NICHOLSON: 'cause it fucking wanted to. That's the fucking reason.


CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK: To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.

HIPPOCRATES: Because of an excess of phlegm in its pancreas.

ARTHUR ANDERSEN CONSULTANT: Deregulation of the chicken's side of the road was threatening its dominant market position. The chicken was faced with significant challenges to create and develop the competencies required for the newly competitive market. Andersen Consulting, in a partnering relationship with the client, helped the chicken by rethinking its physical distribution strategy and implementation processes. Using the Poultry Integration Model (PIM), Andersen helped the chicken use its skills, methodologies, knowledge, capital, and experiences to align the chicken's people, processes, and technology in support of its overall strategy within a Program Management framework. Andersen Consulting convened a diverse cross-spectrum of road analysts and best chickens along with Andersen consultants with deep skills in the transportation industry to engage in a two-day itinerary of meetings in order to leverage their personal knowledge capital, both tacit and explicit, and to enable them to synergize with each other in order to achieve the implicit goals of delivering and successfully architecting and implementing an enterprise-wide value framework across the continuum of poultry cross median processes. The meeting was held in a park-like setting, enabling and creating an environment which was strategically based, industry-focused, and built upon a consistent, clear, and unified market message and aligned with the chicken's mission, vision, and core values. This was conducive towards the creation of a total business integration solution. Andersen Consulting helped the chicken change to become more successful.

LOUIS FARRAKHAN: The road, you see, represents the black man. The chicken 'crossed' the black man in order to trample him and keep him down. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

MOSES: And God came down from the Heavens, and He said unto the chicken, "Thou shalt cross the road." And the chicken crossed the road, and there was much rejoicing.

FOX MULDER: You saw it cross the road with your own eyes. How many more chickens have to cross the road before you believe it?

RICHARD M. NIXON: The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did NOT cross the road.

MACHIAVELLI: The point is that the chicken crossed the road. Who cares why? The end of crossing the road justifies whatever motive there was.

JERRY SEINFELD: Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn't anyone ever think to ask, "What the heck was this chicken doing walking around all over the place, anyway?"

FREUD: The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

BILL GATES: I have just released the new Chicken Office 2000, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook.

OLIVER STONE: The question is not, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Rather, it is, "Who was crossing the road at the same time, whom we overlooked in our haste to observe the chicken crossing?"

DARWIN: Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically disposed to cross roads.

EINSTEIN: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road moved beneath the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON: The chicken did not cross the road, it transcended it.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die. In the rain.

COLONEL SANDERS: What, I missed one?

BILL CLINTON: I did not have a sexual relationship with that chicken.

See also http://philosophy.eserver.org/chicken.txt


JUST edited –words in brackets– the short messages sent to me for the new year. Some are cute, some pinch the heart. To the senders who I want to remain anonymous here, thanks.

     But here’s one that I got from an editor of the The Manila Times who ushered me into the roller-coaster ride of journalism, and to whom I’ll be forever grateful. No regrets, dear friend: “These have been trying times, friends. Here's to hoping we will have the courage to endure another year and come out ahead with our values intact. Venceremos!”

     • “The biggest blessing in our lives is simply [the] presence of people who care much, whose love is for real, [and] see us much beyond ourselves. May God continually bless you and your family with long life, good health, great provisions, peace [and] contentment! Happy New Year!”

     • “SHALOM is a Hebrew greeting which means that the one who greets you is asking God to bestow upon you All the good things He could possibly think of: good health, joy, success, abundance, safety, love ....Shalom to you. Happy New Year!”

     • “I thank God [for] all the people who are part [and] touched my life this year 2009. Friendship made my life more meaningful. Thank you so much [for] being a Friend! Happy New year [and] may 2010 [usher] more success in all [aspects] of [your] life. Ü”

     • “Time & things don't really last. What matters most are the people we care about [and] the values we dare to live [and] share. Let life be as beautiful as your heart. Merry Christmas and Happy new year”

     • “We [don’t] have everything to enjoy life, but we have life to enjoy everything. Always choose to see the nice things. Life is happier that way. Happy New Year!”

     • “Tell GOD [your] 3P's: P-roblems, P-ressures and P-lans & HE will give You HIS ABC's! A-nswers to prayers, B-est favors & C-ourage to go on! GOD BLESS! GOOD VIBES! …HAPPY 2010!

     • “In facing life [this coming] year, let's [always] cling to God [and] dwell on His promises...Let's be like [the] finest bamboo; bending but not breaking... God Bless!”

     • “May you [and] your family be blessed in 2010 [with] all that you wish for, all that you really need & all that you can share to others. Happy New Year! God bless always.”

     • “Happy new year! Enjoy [the] media noche [later] w/ [your] family [and] loved ones. [Take care and] God bless! Ü”

     • “H :-D A :-D P :-D P :-D Y :-D N :-D E :-D W :-D :-D Y :-D E :-D A :-D R :-D :-) GOD BLESS :-)”

     • “Sana ay ngumiti ang bulsa mo sa dinero, lumaki ang wallet mo gaya [nang] bank vault at ulanan ka ng tseke na di talbog. [Happy] new year!”

     • “To all friends who sent me love, luck [and] best wishes for 2008.....It didn’t help, :-( Please Send CASH for [2010]! ;-) Mwahahaha! Happy new year!”


SOME Filipino smokers like me are as dumb as their counterparts in the United States, so says a Reader's Digest magazine survey to be published in February.
We're dumb because we took up the habit; dumber because now, like me, I can't seem to break it.
The dumbest part is that some of us who make tobacco czars wealthy think the vice can make them slim, as the survey reveals.
According to a press release about the survey, "smoking to suppress appetite is recognized as a foolish trade-off throughout the world, but the habit persists anyway, particularly in the Philippines, China, Mexico, and, strikingly, Russia."
The survey revealed that 23 percent of Russian men and 18 percent of women admit to smoking cigarettes in order to lose weight.
They may have thought: why not puff away the fat?
There's a slim chance that would happen as I haven't read any research that scientifically proves smoking leads to voluptousness.
But I may agree that fat may be the first thing we lose six feet under the ground; bones, hair, and teeth being the last, according to a friend who owns a funeral home and a certified embalmer.
While the survey isn't about smoking and is more about dieting, the results for the Philippines reveal the key factor on why I and some of us can't kick the habit despite the health warnings.
Willpower, that's the key.
Reader's Digest commends us for the honesty of Filipinos, or at least the respondents of the survey.
"A full 95 percent of Filipinos say they enjoy good food, and 82 percent admit to simply not having the willpower to resist it. Indeed, only 38 percent have even tried to lose weight."
While there's such a thing as excessive eating, or gluttony as some would call it, there's no such thing as too much smoking. Nicotine addiction is still addiction; smoking is excessive in itself.
I didn't take up smoking because I wanted to lose weight. I got hooked, nay, addicted to nicotine when I took my first puff at 16, while still at secondary school.
I admit I was afraid to stop because some literature says I will gain weight. And I don't think I'd like myself looking old and fat.
And according to the survey, the Philippines and Germany share the pervasive "notion that excess pounds can leave you wedged into a dead end in the office."
It is in India, however, were the notion of being "overweight can "seriously interfere" with career advancement."
The survey said that "41 percent of dieters there say they were motivated by a desire to be promotable."
"And this is one of the few instances where men (52 percent) feel greater pressure to trim down than women (31 percent)."
This is not a diatribe to justify what I consider a costly and deadly habit that I have long been planning to stop, especially for the sake of my daughters.
Hopefully, after this post, I can go cold turkey.
I think my daughters will like better a fat but healthy and strong-willed father than a sexy ashtray-breath and lung cancer-riddled one better.


I’M coming out of holiday lethargy but I still pinch myself to realize vacation’s over.

I think this usually happens after throwing, along with caution to the wind, all thoughts of work and plunge into a looong vacation with people enjoyable to spend time with.

My hiatus from writing began Christmas eve, and didn’t end until after last year’s alcohol vaporized from my breath.

I realized something was wrong when I sat in front of an LCD screen and froze. My brain ultimately failed to send signals to my fingers.

Writer’s block –in this case, reporter’s rustiness– has set in. Even attempting to blog failed to stir up the Anne Frank in me.

I realized it was going to be one of those days when a journalist stops from what he or she does best and gets bested in the process.

I recalled the time when I was working for the defunct Today newspaper when colleague VG and I vied for who can churn out the most stories in a day. He won with five, a record we both failed to trump up for five years.

My second biggest fear –the first is getting my hands chopped– roared its head: the inability to write.

So I dug out the reliable formula: read, walk and talk.

I returned to Michael Connelly’s Crime Beat, a collection of stories from his days as a reporter for the LA Times before penning several best-selling fiction novels.

I tried to finish Nutcracker by 40-year writer and journalist for Life magazine Shana Alexander about the murder of Mormon and multi-millionaire Franklin Bradshaw. Halfway there.

Both books, though published years ago, became the anvil where the first sparks of inspiration flew.

Connelly’s incisive crime reportage stoked the reason why I chose journalism as a career. Alexander’s narrative of spending Sundays with fellow journalists reminded me how colleagues in the industry like VG, Arnold, and Boojie has helped nurture the profession.

As I read, I jotted down sentences that jump out from the pages.

I thumbed through a pocket dictionary to find meaning of words these authors intimated to me.

By the end of the first week after the new year began every sunrise was a cause for celebration. I was alive again: ready to pound the streets, to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” as journalist Finley Peter Dunne was credited to have said.

Halfway there.

Nonetheless, reading has proven once more its redeeming role in a journalist’s life.