Portrait of a Business Paper as Filipino

[This is a story I wrote for BusinessMirror in celebration of that newspaper's fifth year October 5. Am posting an edited version here to commemorate Nick Joaquin, who I tried to honor through this 817-word story.]

THEY don’t read newspapers like the BusinessMirror; they savor the experience.

They allow the words to drip like honey into the cerebellum, enriching a broad view of Philippine business.

That was how the paper was conceived five years ago, after several months of dry-runs and focus-group discussions.

The old hands of Filipino journalism and the youngbloods in business reporting decided to throw away the blandness in today's news gathering, reporting and writing on markets, the economy, and events important to people buying and selling everyday.

They became fiercely loyal to harnessing the elegance of the English language sans denigrating the language of business.

By avoiding a bifurcation of economics and politics, BusinessMirror broke the mold that business journalism was only for those adept at jargons.

By breaking the mold of a business paper, BusinessMirror devoted ample space to sports and lifestyle, motoring and gadgets, science and technology –news and information equally-savored by those doing business.

And by doing so, the paper reached sections of the population neglected by the lumbering giants of print media: young men and women burning with a spirit to grow in and with their country through business.

The paper helped stoke the fire of entrepreneurship and prop the flagging confidence to grow of small businesses, of scientists and technologists, and of mid-size investors.

At the same time, those seasoned in the ways of the market discovered that another credible source of information and opinion helped rather than befuddle an already-crowded media industry.

Indeed, BusinessMirror’s debut in 2005 was at a time the business of reporting business was clutched in a monopoly.

The ancients’ view held there was no more room in an inn filled with newspapers. Some said they failed to find logic behind the paper’s decision to go into print in an Internet age.

The paper’s owners, however, may have found solace in George Bernard Shaw who said that "some men see things the way they are and ask, ‘Why?’ Some dared to “dream things that never were and asked, 'Why not?'"

The market responded by returning the respect the paper bestowed on the reading public.

Months before it turned one, the paper’s story on labor-management relations in a globalized era won a top award in the 17th Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism.

Three years later, the paper was honored for having received the prestigious United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Award for excellence in reporting on humanitarian and development affairs.

A year later, in 2009, Abano would again bring honor to the paper and Philippine journalism as she received the highest recognition during the Developing Asia Journalism Awards.

Of course, the market’s sweetest gesture was when the Rotary Club of Manila named BusinessMirror Newspaper of the Year award in 2007, or barely two years since the paper began.

It was a feat since the paper’s competitor was recognized by the Rotary Club only after more than a decade of existence.

By not shortchanging the reading public, the BusinessMirror has further enhanced its reputation as a credible incisive source of news and information not only of business but of the context of the deals and relationships involved.

In the end, according to the Sunday Call newspaper, writing on the The New York Times’s 50th anniversary, such reputation is a journal’s “real capital.”

Paraphrasing Sunday Call’s piece: in these days when the rise of so-called “new” media fuels the buzz of white noise and continuous sensationalist and gotcha journalism, the demand for decent business writing is greater.

But, indeed, “one need not be dull to be respectable,” the Sunday Call penned.

BusinessMirror, in the past five years and in the next five years, would tread on that path to make business journalism and the paper “very interesting.”

Here, what comes to mind are the characters in A Portrait of the Artist As Filipino that the late Nick Joaquin assigned the role of journalists.

One notable character there is Bitoy Camacho, a reporter given the temerity of a veteran newsman and the temperament of a greenhorn.

Joaquin gave Camacho's character the intelligence reserved for the learned as the reporter opened the scene by comparing the old Manila to the Tyre and Sidon; “a Babylon in commerce and a New Jerusalem in its faith.”

Camacho is presented both a professed lover of Spanish poetry and a willing student of art awed by the portrait of an artist on his career’s twilight years.
BusinessMirror and its reporters, hopefully, would attain the luminous role that Joaquin bestowed on Camacho as the paper now has made its mark like the portrait did on the characters in the late national artist’s seminal work.

News: Jobs growth slow amid business optimism

[Filed by Dennis D. Estopace, Reporter, for BusinessMirror October 14, 2010]


A BETTER Christmas this year; but with less number of employed.

So says economist Victor Abola who presented the Dun&Bradstreet Inc. business optimism index (BOI) showing a positive outlook for the fourth quarter (Q4) by 260 companies.

Abola's holiday cheer is shared by those in the construction and retail sectors that continue to push up volume of sales, net profits, and new profits.

Overall BOI for Q4 this year is up six points to 70 percent, according to the D&B survey done mid-September in the midst of a sharp drop in 10-year T-bond yields and strengthening peso.

"The growth is coming from volume of sales in the retail sector as Christmas nears and spending is expected to increase. Expect corporate giving to also increase," Abola said on Thursday.

The BOI in net profits is also up 13 points to 63 percent; the same with new orders at 33 percent (up four points).

Personally, Abola said, he "expects robust growth [in gross domestic product] above six percent in the third and fourth quarters."

However, the growth has remained fallow in terms of jobs, as six of eight sectors covered expect slower job creation by 9-point lower in the fourth quarter. Only the construction and retail sectors expect employment to increase.

Abola said this can be explained by the continuous activities in the construction sector as developers "continue to build subdivisions and condominiums."

Likewise, the retail sector, having posted a decline in inventory on higher Christmas sales, will need to hire and expected to hire temporary workers.

The biggest decline in jobs growth expectations level are in the transport, communications and utilities sector and the services sector, which include business process outsourcing companies.

Other sectors that expect slower job creation this quarter include: manufacturers of durables; manufacturers of consummables; wholesalers; and, finance, insurance, and real estate.

"They're not hiring people at the same pace as in Q3 but at a reasonable rate," Abola said.

He emphasized the rising optimism of the electronics sector despite the strengthening of the peso.

Abola credited this to the increased volume of sales rather than the strategy of hedging against the weakening greenback.

"PEZA firms now have brighter outlook than all firms in general."

Abola also noted that the country's exports is expected to lead growth "and continue to be robust."

"But the main explanation is not the United States," he said citing that the country's exports by destination is now the East Asia and Asean bloc, forming 51.70 percent of trade.

The US is now just a little above the EuroZone as a destination of Philippine exports, composing of 16 percent and 15.20 percent, respectively.

Japan, also a traditional importer of Philippine products, has a 12.7-percent share of the exports pie.

Combined, however, these countries form less than 45 percent as a destination, Abola noted.

Abola said he expects a strong peso to continue to negatively affect exports, remittances of overseas Filipino workers, and BPOs.

It also has a bad effect on tax collections, he added.

Abola said based on his computation, for every peso increase in the currency's value on an annual average, the government loses P15 billion on tax revenue.
[Photo caption: Grocers fill up carts in a supermarket in Quezon City. Ringing cash registers boost optimism of retail business sector but a death knell for unemployed in other industries.]

An Affair to Keep

I’VE been having an affair for seven years.

My wife of 16 years –we celebrated our anniversary October 22– has approved of it, most of the times.

I’m lucky since I married a woman who not only has an impeccable taste in cute things –none of which relates to me– but also was blessed with the patience of a monk.

A monk’s patience was also required for me to enter this affair that began in 2003 with a phone call from Arnold, who was then a reporter covering the central bank beat for the Manila Times.

The call arrived as I was waiting for a squid to turn brown on a grill under a makeshift canopy in the middle of the dessert. That’s how I describe that field between a cemented subdivision and the tree-lined hill in Zambales, the province inundated by volcanic ash from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

That call started my affair, not with Arnold, now the Times’s business editor, but with journalism, the Philippine version.

It’s been said that journalism hasn’t been kind to marriage.

I’ve heard stories of couples who broke up because the journalist spouse spent more time chasing a story and out of the home than on a chaise lounge watching romantic TV shows like The Walking Dead.

I’ve also heard stories of fathers missing their children’s important activities in school.

I recall being out of the country when the school principal called my wife to an urgent meeting because a bully mistook my daughter for a wimp. My wife dutifully chided my daughter for using an expensive Parker pen in stabbing the bully‘s arm. As her punishment, my wife cut short their usual 2-hour-long dinner in our favorite pizza place.

I agreed she could’ve used a cheaper pen.

The pizza, and of course, time with my family, is one of the high costs of this affair I have with journalism.

I want to emphasize this is the Philippine version of journalism because the affair requires high costs. One of these costs is the price of beer, which increases in reverse proportion to my ability to pay during trysts with those also having their own jealously-guarded affairs with journalism.

Yes, there are also people like me who have maintained affairs with journalism but kept their marriage and the sanity of their spouses intact.

For some, doing so was as easy as PAG-ASA predicting a typhoon.

For my part, I never allowed my affair with journalism get the upper hand of my better half.

Like journalism, I learned it’s better to seek out and bare the truth –being true to my life partner, than allowing lies to cover up other lies.

Oh, there are arguments, over my inability to fend off the attraction of creditors, for one.

But being truthful has kept us together everyday for nearly a decade now.

That’s why this affair with journalism, the Philippine version, is something I intend to keep.

Fail: touch pad directory

There's a new kind of shop in this mall that caters to "Photogoraphers."

News Video: Netsuite

[Video of Netsuite Inc. chief executive Zach Nelson in a press conference Thursday on Oneworld.ph. Video taken by Dennis Estopace, reporter, using a mobile phone.]

News Video: Netsuite

[Video of Netsuite Inc. chief executive Zach Nelson in a press
conference Thursday on Oneworld.ph. Video taken by Dennis Estopace,
reporter, using a mobile phone.]

World Bank Contest

The World Bank Group kicked off on Thursday its "Apps for Development"
competition, the first global contest of its kind.
In a statement datelined Washington, the WB said it challenges
"software developers and international experts around the world to
enter the contest."
Entries must be filed by January 10, 2011.
"Help change the world by using the World Bank's data collection to
help find solutions to today's development challenges," the statement
quoted president Robert B. Zoellick as saying.
"Create applications to analyze and tackle the world's long-standing problems."
The competition challenges developers to create software applications,
tools, data visualizations or "mash-ups" –whether web-based, mobile,
through SMS, smart phone, desktop, or tablet.
There are only two requirements for entries: use the World Bank Data
Catalog and address one of the eight Millennium Development Goals
"The World Bank is seeking creative 'apps' that bring ground level
insights of the development challenges posed by the MDGs," the
statement also quoted WBG development research data group director
Shaida Badiee.
"Our collection of global data on the economy, human development and
the environment is a remarkable resource. The apps created in this
competition will allow policy makers, researchers, and civil society
to track the impact of policies, develop new solutions, and measure
improvements more accurately."
"We'd like to see examples of developers everywhere using our data and
combining it with their own data to build really useful applications
addressing local problems. That's the power of crowdsourcing
innovation and that's the essence of the challenge," the statement
also quoted World Bank Institute innovation practice manager Aleem


October 4, 2010 / Monday [682 words]

ABOVE-NORMAL pitch voices and Steppenwolf crooning about a Highway to
Hell brought me out of slumber at 7:00 a.m. It's going to be a good
I slid out of the beige cotton sheets at the same time admonishing my
youngest daughter to finish her cup of warm chocolate.
"Hurry up. We're gonna be late for school," I said gently rubbing her
hair and then telling her 17-year-old yaya to put a little bit of cold
water in the cup.
After doing so for my own cup of hot coffee, I browsed through the
files I downloaded Saturday but which I failed to do so Sunday as I
cleaned up the room and files that have been wanting my attention
since August.
The trip to my daughter's school, run by the local Protestant church,
was uneventful, thankfully. She told me we were 20 minutes early for
the 8:30 class and I asked her why so.
"There's going to be a birthday party," she beamed. I mentally kicked
myself for not bringing a gift she can share with the celebrant and
her classmate whose parents, I know from experience, are going to feed
the 18 students in my daughter's senior kindergarten class.
There and then I remembered forgetting two items even after having
packed the night before the things I planned to bring with me Monday:
my mother's senior citizen ID card and the gift for my daughter's
When I checked my To-Do list for the day, I noticed forgetting to list
these items.
It has been difficult for me to schedule in detail in advance –as in
months ahead– my activities and items to prepare for a particular day.
I can't seem to resign from the fact that as a general assignments
reporter for a newspaper precludes me from doing so.
I have used PERT-CPM and followed Peter Drucker's advice to break down
every project into activities. The latter has been working so far but
it's still not a hundred percent effective since there's nothing
constant in my job except change.
My fellow reporter VG can attest to my meticulous drawings of matrices
on pieces of paper recycled from press releases and hand-outs. I
divide the free white space into seven columns and two rows where I
place the days, dates, and the activities I plan to do so on each box.
Just one call from the desk will make me crumple the schedule rendered
useless because of a reportorial assignment.
I can imagine those in the police beat who can't predict a murder or
suicide of a member of a prominent family. The recent hostage-taking
incident would have thrown a wrench into their schedule.
"Hey, honey about that lunch, can we move it later? Oh, wait,
someone's firing a gun. Raincheck?"
Good thing there's nothing like that over the weekend. For VG,
however, he says he's cursed since many marine accidents almost always
occur either late Friday evening or early Saturday morning, after he's
scheduled a free time with his wife.
"Dear, about that road trip to the north, can we move it nearer the
sea or along the coast line? There's a good place near the Coast Guard
So I rely on lists. I list the activities to do before taking a shower
and where to go after having put on my clothes. I list these almost
two weeks before the day they're planned to be accomplished.
You can call it being anal but the system has helped contain my sanity
in the ever-changing world of hunting or writing the next story.
Listing has also given me the illusion that there is order in what I
do. And it's also fun putting a red checkmark on my accomplishments
for the day –like brewing coffee– and a circle for the things
unaccomplished –like doing research or writing the story bumped so far
ahead of its deadline.
For the more valuable things, however, like painting a smile on my
daughter's face for having me bring her to school, which is a rarity,
it's a list always written in my heart.
News agencies carried reports on President Benigno Aquino III's dance
with the Catholic church on reproductive health issues and the offer
of some fraternities of reward for the capture of the bomber who threw
a grenade in last week's bar examination at the De La Salle University
in Taft, Manila.

New website visited: www.ranker.com, which lists the top of whatever,
submitted by readers.
Quote of the Day: "Innovation is not the product of logical thought,"
Albert Einstein as quoted by Mac Taylor in CSI NY's episode on
New word of the Day: "Nexting" (v.) the process of hitting a key on
the keyboard to meet a random person in a video-chat feed.

[Photo of Makati skyline after an evening downpour. Taken via Nokie
e63 from a table of two drunks near Makati Medical Center.]

Vendors say new site for San Mateo’s public market ‘environmentally hazardous’

[Guest post: Ivy A. Garcia, University of Santo Tomas Journalism program]
SAN MATEO, RIZAL—VENDORS operating in a public market at Brgy. Gitnang Bayan II here said the relocation of this municipality’s decades-old public market to an area near the Marikina River poses many environmental hazards.

The San Mateo Public Market will be refurbished for the building of a planned Pamantasan ng Bayan ng San Mateo and the marketplace will be transferred to Kambal Road that’s not near to both the San Mateo Dumpsite (a waste transfer station) and to a slaughterhouse, but also near the San Mateo River.

Speaking on behalf of the market’s vendors, Atty. Gioan Legazpi said market vendors plan to file a water pollution control and abatement case against the San Mateo local government before the Pollution Adjudication Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).

The opposition stems largely from the environmental hazards and alleged violations of some existing laws that the relocated public market’s new location will pose.

Legaspi said it is okay to relocate the public market to a place that is not a hazard-prone area like the planned one in Kambal Road.

Legaspi approximates that the new site for the public market is less than 10 meters from the river bank.

Legaspi cites Presidential Decree 1067, or the Water Code of the Philippines, where article 51 provides that “the banks of rivers and streams, and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone… of 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas… to the easement of public use (for) recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.”

“No person shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing, or salvage or to build structures of any kind,” article 51 of PD 1067 provides.

Legaspi also said local officials of San Mateo failed to secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from DENR for the new site of the public market. As well, the planned site of the public market also lacked an environmental impact statement system, this being required by Presidential Decree 1586.

Since the new site is also near the Laguna Lake, Legaspi said constructing the market in the planned site has no “discharge permit” from LLDA.

According to Republic Act 4850 that created the LLDA, a discharge permit is the authorization LLDA gives to any industry or establishment that discharges any liquid wastes or regulated effluents to the Laguna Lake.

The proposed site of the new public market is, Legaspi claims, even near the San Mateo Waste Transfer Station. Thus, Legaspi says the site violates section 15 of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, or RA 9003, which provides that no establishment shall be set up within 200 meters from open or controlled dumps, or from sanitary landfills.

School for a market

The existing site of San Mateo’s public market was once a patch of land since the early 1950s, and vendors covered their stalls with umbrellas or cloth. In 1992, during the time of former San Mateo Mayor Amo Santos, this patch of land was cemented and a two-storey building was constructed.

“Maria,” who has been a vendor at the market for 44 years, said the facility “is still a public market”.

But the construction of the second storey was left unfinished and unused until the administration of then Mayor Jose “Peping” Diaz finished construction and made the second floor a local college.

This school, called the Pamantasan ng San Mateo, is sometimes called “U.P.” for “upper palengke [market]”.

Maria said the planned location for the public market is rarely visited because the area’s foul smell comes from the San Mateo landfill, and “it floods there easily” since the San Mateo River is just a “few meters” behind.

But current San Mateo Mayor Jose Rafael “Paeng” Diaz, son of the older Diaz, said protestors are people “who hate discomfort and who don’t want to be relocated” since they have been used to being in the old place.

As for the waste transfer station in Kambal Road, Diaz said it will be moved to a sanitary landfill in Brgy. Pintong Bukauwe, which has been operating since 1990.

Diaz added the site of the new San Mateo public market will have a site development plan, a larger parking area, and a “more organized” drainage system.

As well, Diaz said the new market will also have a sewage treatment plan to cover the waste water coming from the planned market’s wet section.

This is unlike the current market, Diaz claims, where the waste water system goes straight to San Mateo’s drainage system.

“So it will be cleaner [in the wet section of new public market’s site]. Nobody will fall even when the area’s slippery; no rats and cockroaches will roam around. There will also be a more orderly electrical system compared to the existing market’s electrical system that looks like a spaghetti,” Diaz said.

The Pamantasan ng Bayan ng San Mateo has been a plan of former Mayor Jose “Peping” Diaz.

In the current Pamantasan that has 600 enrollees, tuition fees per semester cost only P4,000. Before, the tuition is only P2,000 per semester.

Mayor Diaz also said that current place of the old market is an ideal site for the Pamantasan ng Bayan ng San Mateo, because it is at the center of the town,

The relocation of the market in Gitnang Bayan II may also ease traffic on the main road, the younger Diaz said.

[Disclaimer: This article was edited by Ms. Garcia’s professor Jeremaiah M. Opiniano. To reach the author, email: vhygarcia_04@yahoo.com]