Thursday, March 25, 2010

Earth Hour! Jo-join Kami!

Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works. – Carl Sagan

A couple of days ago a commenter invited me to join and spread the word regarding our inter-galactic ship named “IGS Earth”. It’s a “green” project; educating us, not only of our limited energy resources, but pushing as well the understanding of the delicate balance of nature, conservation and recycling. To “celebrate” it or mark its “awareness”, Earth Hour was conceived.

Therefore, on Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 pm (Saudi Arabian Time), let’s commemorate it by turning off unnecessary lights and appliances for one hour. That means we’ll have a candle light dinner (isn’t that romantic) and you’re going to miss an episode of your favorite pinoy soap.

But that “sacrifice” is miniscule compared to what’s in store if we all join in. Imagine what will happen if less light is reflected on the sky. We’ll see the night sky in its natural state just like this:

The universe in its entire splendor; calm, beautiful and mysterious. Miles away ahead compared to this:

Astronomers call it “light pollution”; combined luminance of an entire city covering the night sky that you can hardly see heavenly bodies except for the moon and the “evening star”(not a star at all but a planet). And like earth's satellite companion, it gets its “twinkle” from the light reflection of our sun.

So on Saturday night, let’s watch and dance with the stars as they waltzes across the sky while the crickets played in the background a Strauss concerto.

Images were taken from the net. I forgot who owned it but would like to thanks him/her anyway.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Monsod's Musings

I got this from my inbox. Although some sectors claimed Monsod did not wrote this article, I still posted it because even if our presidential preference differs, our sentiments towards Villar are alike. Please read the entirety of this post. It contains facts and personal opinions (who ever the writer may be) that, in someway, will help us in our decision in choosing our next leaders. - BlogusVox

Villar still refuses to attend the Senate to face questions, and it only reminds me of how GMA used the privilege of her office to avoid questioning. What will happen if Villar wins and more corruption scandals surface? With Villar catching up to Noynoy in the polls, I am honestly quite terrified of the prospect of him winning. There is a clear case of graft in this instance, and instead of delving into the issues, his allies in the legislative are simply brushing off the allegations as "politically motivated". As a citizen, we should not accept this. If there is smoke, we must see if there is a fire that needs to be put out. Yes, the timing of the allegations seem a bit off. ( Joker Arroyo was pushing these issues as early as 1998). A known crook and political opportunist, Juan Ponce Enrile, is the person leading the censure. However, when the facts are presented, it is clear as day that something is amiss. It just further builds on my strong suspicions that Villar is a businessman simply looking to control the political arena to make a boat load of money.

I have never trusted Villar since day one. I never trust businessmen who enter politics, because in the end, their core value is and always will be profit maximization. It is well documented that Villar's real estate empire ran into some serious financial problems when his overexposure to the real estate market and the Asian Financial Crisis made him unable to pay debts he took out to expand his real estate business in the early 1990s. After the Asian Crisis hit, Capitol Bank, owned by Villar and heavily exposed to his real estate investments was essentially ran to the ground and needed to be bailed out. In 2005, Villar tried to solve his debt problems by hiring a group of investment banks to advise him on how he can consolidate all his assets into one company ( Vista Land ). With the local and foreign investment bankers, Villar came up with a growth story for investors: "Invest in my company because we need it to fund all these wonderful project!" However, what was downplayed during the IPO roadshow was that instead of financing growth, resources from the offering would be used to finance his debt. To appease creditors, Villar even had his investment bankers pitch some form of a debt-to-equity conversion that raised skeptical eyebrows of many. In 2007, the IPO of Vista Land did not do as well as planned, in part because many investors and brokers were the same people who were burned by Villar's inability to pay back his loans.

Now, as part of a corporate growth (or should I say corporate restructuring) plan, Villar is lusting for the highest position in the land. This scares me because Villar already has a track record of using his political position to gain the upper hand for his businesses. To save his empire and increase shareholder value of his business, Villar used his influence as Senate Finance Chair to shrewdly derail a Cavite road project that was supposed to be BUILD, OPERATE, and TRANSFER. Villar built a longer and more expensive road, the C-5 extension, adjacent to it; subsequently forcing the private investor in the initial project to pull out. The fishy thing is that this new road, longer and more expensive than the previously planned project, passed through all of Villar's land in Cavite . It is a clear case of graft, pointing to Villar use of influence and government funds to substantially improve the values of his real estate properties. To add insult to injury the right of way the government would have to pay in order to complete the project was substantially higher for the land that Villar owned. These funds could have easily been used to build needed schools.

This scandal should be a red flag for all voters. However, the scary part is that Villar is spending billions to keep this out of the picture as he continues his attempt to brainwash our masses that he is their saviour. He convinces the masses that he is one of them. A poor boy from the slums of Tondo. In actuality, he is more like the 5-6 and syndicates, slum dwellers themselves who make a profit out of their poor brethren. Villar's ad agencies are doing an excellent job of maintaining this image as well as doing damage control. TV and radio continues to churn out Parokya Ni Edgaresque jingles that compete with "Nobody, Nobody." Dolphy is Villar's new spokesperson and Wowowee is one giant ad for him. In this process of brainwashing, the masses are not cognizant of how Villar conducts business as a politician. What they do not see is a man hell bent on turning our archipelago into his own personal piece of real estate.

It is sad that the efforts of Juan Ponce Enrile, who is leading the censure for Villar, is actually giving Villar more sympathy votes. People do no trust Enrile, and when Enrile pounces on someone, it is usually met with a high degree of skepticism. I do not blame people for feeling this way. I also think Enrile is a crook who should be jailed for conspiring to implement Martial Law, for coup attempts, and for the human rights abuses during the Marcos regime. If someone with a more respectable reputation were to level these charges on Villar, I am sure the surveys would tell a different story.

I also fear from some credible reports that Malacanang has actually made a deal with Villar (under the table). Essentially, GMA's goons said, "We will help you, in return, leave us alone when you win". Villar's behaviour in recent forums further adds credence to these reports as Villar has been very tame and quiet when it comes to how he will treat GMA after the elections. Appealing to common sense, it makes ALL THE SENSE for GMA to support someone who has a chance of winning, not a person rating at 4% in the surveys. GMA tried to reach out to Noynoy after Tita Cory died. All she got was rejection.

Who can stop Villar in his quest for the presidency?

I am known to be a Noynoy supporter, but to those skeptics and to those who are still undecided, I do concede that he is not perfect. His record as a politician is average and unspectacular at best. He does not have the charisma of his father. Before the death of his mother, he did not get much mileage. But I am going all out in support for Noynoy in 2010 because he stands for clean governance and appear willing to accomplish this. In addition, he has the best chance of preventing a opportunistic businessman, the assured next President of our country before Cory died, from using the Office of the President as a personal growth asset to his business empire.

Noynoy's clean record is a big plus for me. It is a trait that I think should be the most important quality that we should look for in our next president. His appeal is that his track record is not tarnished by corruption scandals and his political debts are minimal. I know that many critics are trying to make an issue over his involvement in Hacienda Luisita, but Noynoy is not even heavily involved in the company. As a shareholder, Noynoy only owns .04% of Hacienda Luisita, a drop in the ocean and hardly in any position to do something about it. The case of the Hacienda does not have the substance that the C-5 extension controversy has a lot of.

In addition, Nonoy also has an incredible legacy to live up to. All the pressure is on him to be clean and stay clean. He can't afford to tarnish the Aquino name and the immense legacy that his parents left behind. Cory and Ninoy practically sacrificed their family for their dream of a better Philippines . For Noynoy, to know that your father and mother went through so much hardship to improve our country is a heavy burden to think about if you do decide to become a crook and destroy everything that they fought for.

We all have to make a choice. In my opinion, it has to go to the presidentiable who has an independent mind, stands up for what he believes in, is clean, and has the legacy his parents to live up to and maintain. For me, Nonoy, with all his flaws, is that candidate. For what this country needs is a clean president who can set an example top-down for the entire state; it needs a president with the will to change things and stamp out corruption; it needs a President who can set an example and is willing to perfect our dysfunctional democracy.

I want someone who stands for being clean. He does not need a degree from Harvard. He does not need to have a multi-million peso business to show me he can make us all rich. He does not have to speak well. He just has to be clean. Nothing else should matter. He has to prioritize a platform of clean and effective governance and make sure that it delivers on that promise. Policies on the economy, education, energy, environment and health can all follow after the fundamentals are taken cared of. So far, the only candidate who promotes my vision with a clean record to back it up is Noynoy.

Our urban landscape is replete with political slogans that attempt to convince people of certain candidate's ability to lead our nation.

Galing at Talino? Sorry Gibo, those were the supposed qualities of GMA, rubber stamped with a Phd in Economics. And what happened? She only worsened our economy. To GMA's credit she did balance our budget at one point, but it has again ballooned to the level where the next president will have to deal with the same economic issues she faced in 2005. During GMA's watch investment in infrastructure was insufficient, poverty incidence worsened, public education deteriorated, our nautical highway is still incomplete, goons like the Ampatuan's flourished in the south, and a culture of corruption flourished in our institutions. Instead of creating jobs, GMA focused on a policy of exporting labor without measuring the social costs of such a policy- thousands of broken OFW families and children of OFW's who do not have the proper parental supervision to teach them the differences between right and wrong. In effect, our next generation is left on their own to figure out how to become empowered patriots who love their country and will fight to defend it. In effect, whatever statistics in GDP growth GMA and her allies love to advertise, non of it trickled down and benefitted the poor..and none of it accounts for the social costs to her policies.

Good speaker? Sorry Gibo, Marcos had that quality and he did nothing good for our contry. In fact, Marcos squandered the opportunity to be our Lee Kuan Yew and Dr. Mahatir. If I want a good, charismatic, and eloquent speaker, let's just run down the list of effective public speakers and vote them in.

Para sa mahirap? Sorry Erap, you had your chance and failed miserably. Your only accomplishment is in convincing our masses that movie roles do not carry over into the political area.

My only concern with Noynoy is how deep he might be in the Liberal Party and whether he has accumulate political debts to Liberal trapos. The Liberal PArty, like any party, has its own share of crooks (including those bandwagon trapos who jumped off GMA"s boat to ride on Aquino's popularity). How much will Nonoy have to give back to the Liberal trapos (and bandwagon Liberals who jumped GMA's ship) if elected? We will never know. However, I am willing to live with that unanswered question if it means preventing someone like Villar from turning the Philippines into Vista Land 's next subdivision development. I am also reassured by the fact that he has that "Aquino" name and the ghosts of his parents to answer to if does decide to go down the immoral path.

Nonoy will not solve all our problems. One person can't. But we need a start somewhere and it should be with someone who pushes honesty, reform, and good governance. It will be a tough battle, but I want to give Noynoy the chance to build on what his mother tried to accomplish. And I hope that if Noynoy wins, he will have the courage to make tough decisions and go after crooks, even if it means hurting a lot of friends and colleagues in government.

To give you a better sense on how Villar conducts business, here is also a link to Joker Arroyo's 1998 privilege speech: Read it here and here.

I guess "if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck.." Well, as the saying goes......

Vote wisely Philippines . And continue to work towards uplifting the masses and freeing them from their state of hopelessness. Defend them from opportunists. DEVELOP THEM (FIRST) SPIRITUALLY AND BEHAVIORALLY; THEN ECONOMICALLY! When we lift up the poor and ween them off the mentality of hopelessness, our country will become first world. Only then will we have the powerful middle class that our young democracy is screaming for.

(signed) Winnie Monsod (?)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday, March 06, 2010

My Big Fat Pinoy Wedding (Part II)

Church officials requires the following if you want your wedding held in a church: a civil marriage license, a couple’s seminar, marriage counseling and confession prior to receiving the holy Eucharist (communion for the religious but un-informed). Except for the marriage contract, all are managed by the church and you have to pay a fee for the seminar and counseling.

No problem in obtaining a civil license. We signed the papers a year before in a simple ceremony at Manila City Hall before I flied back to Riyadh. So my fiancée already got the leverage document, I mean, insurance paper, este, the civil license needed by the church. As for the seminar and counseling, which I thought was a waste of time, I got no choice but to attend. We were scheduled one weekend; seminar in the morning, counseling in the afternoon and confession after that.

There are three other couples in that room besides us. One couple of marrying age was sitting on the far side. Another in the middle, whom I think, just wants to formalize their union since two children are sitting beside them. And a very young couple at the back who just can’t seem to let go of one another. Frankly, I have no recollection of what was being discussed in that seminar. My mind was somewhere else, occupied with calculating my expenses and subtracting it from my rapidly depleting bank account.

On the other hand, marriage counseling was a one-on-one sit-in with a young, if I’m not mistaken, newly ordained priest. But before he could begin, I asked him a barrage of questions: How old are you? What is your experience as a marriage councilor? Do you think, when it comes to life’s experience, you're more knowledgeable, even if you’re 10 years my junior? To which I received a series of nod and shake of his head. I think that’s the shortest marriage counseling there ever was.

The parish priest is no stranger to me. Not only is their house a stone throw away from our family compound, my brother-in-law was his former classmate back in their seminary days. So we for go the formality of the confessionary and just sat on a bench outside the cathedral. When he found out my last confession was 15 years ago, he asked me if I haven’t sinned for the last decade and a half. That’s when I told him about my little theory. The psychological effect of telling one’s problem to another, which somehow free or lessen a person’s anxiety when they "opened up". And as Catholics being one of the most guilt stricken religious group, it is, but logical, to "introduce" confession. Since I equate “sin” to “guilt” and I have freed myself of that “guilt” a long time ago, I think there is no need for confession anymore. He just looked at me, took a deep breath and our confessional session ended.

The price of “renting” a church for your wedding varies in its looks and size. Chapels’ and churches maybe cheaper but we paid a 5 figure to use the cathedral. Before that, I suggested on having a “garden wedding”. The place where we held our reception has a beautiful garden, a gazebo where we could put the altar and menos gastos pa since it’s included in the rental. But I was cut short by the “olds”. It’s not “traditional” said one. Its sacrilegious, said another. And everyone, who still wear a veil when attending mass, agreed it should be a church wedding.

But having a church wedding has its downside. In my town, if you want it fancy, they have their own “officials” to do it. You can’t bring in your own flower arrangers because they have their own “official” flower arranger. You can’t have somebody sing in your wedding because they have their own “official” choir to do the singing. And to all of these you have to pay extra and it’s not cheap either.

Since we can’t do anything but use their “officials”, I asked, if they could sing our favorite song during the actual wedding ritual. But their conductor told me they have an “official” list of songs and if my song is not there, they can’t sing it. Can you believe that? That’s typical Catholic clergy mentality! They’ll decide what’s good for you, boss you around and then expect to be paid for dumping their crap on you.

Not only that, these “officials” where also at the reception and enjoying their heart out. When I whispered to my wife “Who invited them?” she replied “Nobody”. I continued to smile while receiving guests and some more “officials”, but a lot of expletives were running around in the back of my mind.

Forget what they say about “In the eyes of God and men blah blah blah…”. How ever they phrase it, when it comes to legality, a marriage license issued by the church does not hold water in any judicial proceedings. It’s not recognized by the court and the only legal paper admissible are the ones issued by a judge in a civil wedding ceremony, like your marriage contract. And like any other contract, be sure you read it, especially the fine prints, and understand what’s stipulated in its provisions. Some contract contains “pre-nuptial” agreement that in some cases maybe disadvantageous to some party, especially to you, ladies.

You can have your heart’s desire at your own wedding. But I suggest you put your venue somewhere else but the church. Not only do you save financially but from the hassle and aggravation as well of facing these hypocritically self-righteous church “officials”. Cheers!

Since I couldn't get them to sung our favorite song, I might as well put it here:

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

My Big Fat Pinoy Wedding

Foreword: I’m not sharing this anecdote to “show case” my wedding but to illustrate how impractical a church wedding now a days – BlogusVox

I tied the knot on the year the 20th century formally ended. But since I’m stationed abroad, my contribution with respect to its preparation wasn’t much, apart from supplying the finances needed for the occasion. My fiancée, her cousins, my sister and my Mom did all the groundwork. Her “traje de boda” and my barong were done by Leonardo’s, in which I paid a 5 figure amount at mura na daw yun. The couturier, who happens to be my cousin, told us it’s discounted, since I only paid for the material and labor. And that does not include what I paid for the “costumes” of our entourage. Other paraphernalia like flowers were airfreight from Baguio, and those tiny glass figure they gave away were bought in Manila including the printing of invitations with an RSVP embossed on it.

It may sound “classy”, but I particularly find the “RSVP” part silly. Literally, its French for “Respond if you please” or “tell-me-if-your-coming-because-the-caterer-charges-per-head” in plain English. You see, although we rented an “uppity” place for our dinner and social function, my family brought in the food and drinks. The main course was commissioned from a hotel chef while the rest was done by our local, but superb, cooks. So there’s no need on “counting heads”. We just have to make sure there’s plenty of tables and chairs. Officially, we have 300 guests, supposed to be a hundred and fifty persons from each side of the family plus a couple of dozen “extras”. Where I came from, if you invite “Mr. & Mrs. so and so”, expect the whole family (except the pets) to attend.

The photo studio who formally documented our wedding is another thing. The owner, a class-A smoocher, fawned on my fiancée like she’s royalty. Giving us a package deal worth another 5 figure that includes a wedding album and a full-length video that starts the moment she steps out of the shower and ends until I carry her to the bedroom and close the door. They even throw-in the photo album as a gift, and because of that, I’m so much “grateful”. But my fiancée was a little bit sore when she found out of my refusal to partake on their “dressing up” scene. They made do by taking pictures of my wardrobe, from my barong down to my shoes. It was well documented, except for my underwear which I’m already wearing at that time.

I’m not going into details on what happened before and, especially, what take place after the wedding. What I’m going to tell you are the events surrounding the church activities that really got my goat. But since this post is a little bit long, I’ll continue my story on my next post. Bitin ba?.