IMAGINE two stories using the word imagine and getting published in the same day.

It’s uncanny, as the following stories were published in my favorite newspaper:

The first, titled “How social is too social?,” was for the Perspective section of BusinessMirror. The second, titled “Separate but equal?” was published in the Sports section and written by Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Both were published March 8, 2010.

Here are the ledes:

By David Armano: “Imagine walking up to an ATM, inserting your card and checking your balance. As you do this, a small crowd of people forms around you, peering over your shoulder. Some are friends, some family, some casual acquaintances—some you don’t even know. Uncomfortable situation? Absolutely.” (

By Fernandez, with a New York dateline: “Imagine you are the owner of the Hope Diamond or some similarly large, one-of-a-kind gem. Now, imagine that circumstances dictate that you turn that stone over to a diamond-cutter who splits it into two smaller, still-glittering but undeniably less valuable pieces.” (

I don’t know if the two writers know each other and I guess it would be a stretch to say they agreed to use the word “Imagine” as their first word for their respective lede.

Closer to home, we have the following stories, also published in the same day and from one news agency ( via GoogleNews (, with the same ledes that took off from the headline:

“Aquino scores removal of parents' posters along Manila road” This was the reaction by Liberal Party standard bearer and Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to government moves to remove banners that had pictures of his parents along Roxas Boulevard in Manila because these supposedly helped his campaign.
“Peace possible via interfaith dialogue” This was the message of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to more than 120 foreign delegates from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) gathered in Manila for the Special NAM Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and ...
Either the writer or the editor in each of the story lacked the ability to “imagine” in crafting the first lines.

The importance of first lines is emphasized by Dublin, Ireland novelist Gemma O'Connor in her first book, “First Lines,” a copy of which goes for P10 at the previously-owned book section of National Bookstore Panay branch.

The opening lines, she wrote, “are often what make [the constant reader] read on or slip the volume back on the shelf.”

In my experience as a journalist, the first line, the lede or the first graf, is the kicker. It should grab the reader’s attention and lead him or her to the next paragraphs.

The first line should make a Filipino worker in Rome sit up and almost spill his cup of coffee or forget all about it, rapt at a story written by someone thousands of miles away.

But crafting the first line’s not an easy task.

I squirm on my seat, nib on a pen’s end, shuffle papers on my desk, sometimes for hours, just to get the words for the first line out.

The frightening thing for me is a blank page staring at me, hauntingly taunting, daringly daunting.

The second scariest thing is thinking I’m letting down the reader with a half-assed first line; writing just so to get it done and over with.

Writing the first line is an art that requires passion and high regard both for the written word and the reader.

Unfortunately, I may not have any of these.

What I may have is the patience to acquire even one element when tapping on the keyboard for the first line.

Imagine that.


SOME movie scenes make me cry; Carriers carried one of the saddest that did.

Released in September 2009 by Paramount Pictures, the original direct-to-video format Carriers shows the hard choices mainly by four people in an apocalyptic era of a deadly virus spread.

One of the choices made was the abandonment of a father Frank (played by Chris Meloni of Law and Order fame) and his daughter Jodie (Kiernan Shipka) in a town sucked dry of life by an airborne virus.

Mainly, this and the other choices were by Brian (Chris Pine, Star Trek), with the other three –Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci), Bobby (Piper Perabo), and Kate (Emily VanCamp)– just countervailing points of weak rationality.

Brian’s predilection was summed up by the doctor Meloni sought for a serum for his daughter: “Sometimes choosing life is just choosing a more painful death.”

But Meloni still carves up hope, goading Jodie to walk to a potty. She takes three steps but the virus has weakened her so Frank hugs and carries her.

While keeping a masked Jodie to his chest, Frank walks across a desolate street, both singing “the itsy-bitsy spider...” as the SUV sequestered by Brian and the three drove off to another direction.

There's a sense, however, that sadness will linger and the choices they made will haunt them.

It’s a same theme that runs in films penned and megged by master story-teller George Romero albeit in this case house, supermarket, and nuclear silo is the whole America.

Government abandonment, a similar theme in most apocalyptic movies, leads to chaos and the breakdown of rationality, leaving the choice of right and wrong to the individual.

The impotence of the State justifies the privatization of choice: Brian acts as judge, jury, and executioner.

However, the speed by which Brian acquired the power to decide who lives or dies –he shoots those who refused to give gasoline, not because they were infected– is as fast as having lost it as they near their goal, which is a beach frequented by him and brother Daniel. The beach clearlt symbolizes the time past, shown in a montage of sepia images of the toddler brothers.

Human comprehension, however, fails to assuage the horror of Brian’s character’s choices: their attenuating cause as well as the consequences.

This, I guess, is the point of this movie by sibling-directors Alex and David Pastor, since despite survivors having reached the edge of a salty expanse, sadness lingers.

Maybe the Pastor brothers pinned these to what their characters have become with the choices the characters made along the journey.

For all its flaws –as some critics pointed out in their reviews, Carriers is a movie that pokes the brain with questions.

It challenges the weight we give to values that help us rise above baser instincts to survive at the expense of the frail, weak and dispensable Other.

The movie also stirs the possibility of the latter scenario if the State leaves in an SUV, leaving us on a desolate street of hopelessness.

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create,
to overcome, to endure, to transform,
to love, and to be greater than our suffering.”
–Nigerian author Ben Okri


WANT to have a bicycle like the one in the photo? How about five of them?

You only need to make them work for a lllooong time.

It will start with an idea, which I think should also show a passion for cycling and the environment.

If you have one, submit a project proposal to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Manila.

Called “Fiets on Earth, Bike the Planet” project, the Dutch embassy will award five Dutch Batavus bicycles to organizations that best propose how to use these bikes in “an environmentally sustainable manner and that prove capacity to maintain them for a long period of time.”

In a statement, the Dutch embassy said the project “seeks to raise awareness, capacities and knowledge-sharing (RACK) for popularizing bicycle use in Metro Manila.”

Who can apply?

* Filipino people’s organizations (POs) and non-government organizations (NGOs), including academe-based organizations and media groups.
* Juridical personality: registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or other government registration or accreditation body.
* At least three (3) members of the organization have registered with Firefly Brigade and will join the 18 April 2010 Tour of the Fireflies.
* Logistical capacity to receive and transport five (5) Dutch Batavus bicycles immediately after turnover ceremonies in the 18 April 2010 Tour of the Fireflies.
* Willingness to enter into an agreement with the Embassy ensuring the upkeep, safekeeping and non-private use of the bicycles.

General Criteria for Proposals:

The project proposed must clearly present the non-profit sustainable environmental advocacy and set of activities and strategies that utilizing the Dutch bicycles will highlight. (40%)
Broad community participation in the activities and how this could be achieved must also be integrated in the proposal. (30%)
A long-term maintenance and safekeeping plan for five (5) Dutch bicycles must form part of the proposal. (30%)

Other Requirements:

* Proposal must not be more than seven (7) pages, including cover sheet, organizational profile and attachments.
* Any font style may be used but font size must not be smaller than 12pt.
* One-page cover sheet must contain the following information: Project Title, Project Proponent/s, Contact Person/s and position/title in the organization, Mailing address, Telephone and mobile numbers/ Fax/ E-mail address, Brief project description (three to five sentences only), Project period

Organizational profile must contain the following information: Name of organization, Mailing address, Website, Registration details (SEC or other government registration or accreditation body), Related programs implemented in the past or in progress.

The Embassy says it encorages use of recycled paper.

Additional information:

The Embassy said the Dutch Bike grant will give 15 Dutch Batavus bicycles for this competition.

Dutch bike grantees will be announced in the program that immediately follows the 18 April 2010 Tour of the Fireflies at Tiendesitas in Pasig City.

Proposals may be submitted through e-mail ( or regular mail and must be received by the Netherlands Embassy by or before 12 noon of April 9, 2010 (Friday).

Proposals sent via regular mail should be addressed to:

Fiets on Earth Bike the Planet
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
26th Floor, Equitable Bank Tower
8751 Paseo de Roxas, Makati City

Contact person: Ms. Tatine G. Faylona, Senior Political and Cultural Affairs Officer (Phone +63 2 786 6666)



I DIDN'T know vampires are embedded in the Israeli culture. Until now, I guess.

However, this is just an assumption that blood-sucking creatures are rife in that country's celluloid fabric, based on the press release that a telenovela revolving on such theme has been sold to the Philippines.

According to distributor Dori Media Group, the Philippines is the first country in Asia to acquire the daily drama about a 15-year-old girl named Ella.

Ella, the statement goes, has been "drawn into the age-old conflict between vampires and humans."

"Her shocking revelation will force her to choose between her love for Omer, her human friend, and Leo the vampire."

However, Dori avoided naming the buyer of the show, except that it will be "aired on a free-to-air channel."

The statement said that since its launch nine months ago, "35 countries have acquired "Split" in its original version." since its launch 9 months ago.

"The drama will be aired dubbed or with subtitles. The second season is currently being shot in Israel and is targeted to go on air in the second quarter of this year.

The first season has 45 episodes with 30 minutes per episode. The show targets children and teenage audiences.

"Split" was originally produced exclusively for Israeli cable platform HOT's video-on-demand (VOD) service, the statement said.

Dori claims approximately a million households in Israel are subscribed to the cable service.

The group also claimed it was a "hit" in Israel, saying that "approximately 90% of viewers watched all available episodes".




Study finds new medicines policy not reaching the poor


A study conducted by the Center for Legislative Development (CLD), an independent policy research center, finds the latest government drug policy that sets price ceilings to some essential medicines ineffective in reaching the poor.


The study involved surveys in known poor barangays in Manila, Caloocan and Quezon City and found that even with the substantial reduction in prices of medicines, the poor still find it difficult to buy the number and quality of drugs they need to cure or control their illnesses.


Most respondents in the surveys, done a month after the initial implementation of the Access to Cheaper and Quality Medicines Law, reported that they only sporadically or even rarely purchased maintenance drugs prescribed by their physicians. A key finding in the study confirmed that access to medical care, i.e., the availability of a doctor, is a key factor in determining access to medicine.


Without regular consultations, respondents resorted to relying on other sources for information such as drugstore clerks, neighbors or relatives, to determine their medicine purchases. Physicians warn that consumption of prescription medicines should come under supervision by a qualified medical practitioner, else irregular consumption or consumption of the wrong medicines could put patients at greater risk.


The study concludes that the Filipino poor are so poor that price cuts would not result in their greater access to medicines and that the policy to mediate access to medicines through pricing intervention would benefit mainly the middle-class who already have access to medicines.


CLD Executive Director Emmanuel Leyco, who did prior studies on health care financing, reiterated a conclusion found in many earlier studies that "If the government wishes to reach the poorest sector, it may have to explore other means, like adopting a drug subsidy program for the poor, financed and administered by the national health insurance program. "


Leyco stated that the current price reduction policy could only result in broader access by the poor if it is combined with a drug procurement program by government that targets priority diseases and population segments in known poor geographical areas.


For copy of the study, please visit CLD website:


Center for Legislative Development

AIM Conference Center Manila

Benavidez corner Trasierra Sts. Legazpi Village Makati City 1260