Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Educating Bea (Part IV)

A study session between my wife and daughter is like some sort of a police interrogation. It starts with “lambing” then bribery proceeded with “coercion” and then back to “lambing” again. Observing them, I wonder tuloy who is more under pressure; my wife or Bea.

Since the time my daughter took the over-all number one spot last year, my wife’s been working hard so Bea could retain it this year. My wife considers it as a matter of “family pride”. For her, attaining less might be frowned upon by Bea’s relatives who are academic achievers themselves. For me, I think “insecurity” plays a major role.

I really don’t care what my daughter gets as long as she understand her lessons and pass each one of her subjects. As I observed, she doesn’t need extra “encouragement”. On her own, she already possesses curiosity and the drive to understand and excel. But with all these qualities, she’s still na├»ve to the real meaning of “academic excellence”.  I once asked her why she wants to be number one. Her answer was something to ponder about - “I like to get on stage and wave to people while they clap their hands”. Hindi kaya gustong pumasok sa politika ng anak ko?

In spite of the discipline my wife imposes, there are some lighter moments in their sessions. Instances that makes me laugh, resulting to my wife’s annoyance. For example in Math;

Wife: Kahapon pa natin pinag-aralan ‘tong “quantitative” at “associative” na ‘to ah. What did you drink at para kang hilong talilong dyan?
Bea: Water lang, Teacher Mommy.

In social studies, they were discussing the different regions of the Philippines when my wife suddenly asked:

Wife: What is the forest region in the Philippines?
Bea : Cordillera!
Wife: Cordillera? Bakit yan ang sagot mo?
Bea: Di ba Cordillera is mountainous, maraming trees?
Wife: Forest, Bea. Pinakamahirap!

Pasensya na po. Bisaya po kami.

As I’m writing this, my wife called to inform me that Bea got the number one slot on their Quarterly Examination. Tomorrow, she’ll again go on stage and wave at the clapping audience below.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I’m Rich and Famous… Yeah Right!

Some of you may have noticed some slight changes on my site; like my blog roll missing in the side bar or a minimized displayed post. I’m doing these to enhance my blog’s “visibility” and refresh rate.

“Out link” is the term used when you connect other sites into yours, such as cross-referencing and putting a site in your blog roll. The beauty of it is it’s much easier to annotate or to jump from one location to another. The disadvantage of this technique is search engines (Yahoo or Google) tend to by-pass sites with too much out links. On the other hand, showing a lot of posts on your home page will likely slowdown the refresh rate and will take “forever” displaying it.

Now, here’s the interesting part; while “testing” my modification, I noticed my blog was subjected to some web analysis. Here’s one:

It says my blog is worth $640,108 USD and have a daily revenue of $1,753 USD. I’m rich except I got no ads and this isn’t my blog but a copy. It’s called a “mirror site” and my “clone” is located somewhere in the Netherlands. Here’s another one:

This time it’s worth a modest £414.69 BP but it got a world wide ranking of 8,080,497. With roughly 50 million bloggers all over the world, that figure places me on the top 16%. In your face, Alexa! I’m famous even if you don’t know my blog exist!

No wonder I get emails asking how much is per share of my stocks. These infos’ leaves me with a depleted ego and in a wishful thinking mode.

Moral Lesson: Don’t believe everything you read on the web especially one that comes from so called “experts” and “authority” attached to their names.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Buhay Buhangin (Sn. 54)

This ad was paid for by disgruntled OFWs.  >: D

Saturday, June 30, 2012

PhilHealth Insurance: Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Recently there was a big discussion on Facebook about PhilHealth’s intention of increasing the amount being paid by OFWs on their insurance by a whooping 100%. To give non-OFWs a clear picture:

Filipinos who wish to or are working abroad are required to procure an Oversea Employment Certificate (OEC) prior to leaving the Philippines. This document is being checked by the Philippine Oversea Employment Agency (POEA) personnel at the airport before checking-in at the pre-departure area. In “theory”, failure to present these papers obliges OFWs to pay the necessary travel tax, plus penalties and more papers to fill up. But in “practice”, staff will tell you to go to the nearest POEA office to obtain your OEC! In other words, and I witness this first hand in NAIA, you can’t leave the country without it, period!

Now, prior to issuance of OEC (here’s where the “arm twisting begins”), they’ll require you to be a member (for non-members) of PAG-IBIG and you need to pay PhilHealth insurance with an elapse time of 1 or 2 years (which ever you prefer). But based on the comments I’ve read on that site, PhilHealth services is only good when they’re collecting premium charges but almost non-existing when it comes to disbursing remittances of OFW medical expenses.

Personally, I just took it in stride and pay all these “requirements”. But what I can’t swallow was this comment from a PhilHealth representative:

“Naiintindihan po namin na iba iba ang estado ng ating mga kababayang OFWs abroad, kagaya po ng naka post lumalabas po na mas malaki ang binabayad para sa benepisyo keysa sa nasisingil o nakokolekta na premium. Tulad din po ng OFW mayroon din tayong mas mahihirap pang kababayan, sila po ay sakop ng aming sponsored program, kung saan ang mga mahihirap nating kababayan na ito ay walang binabayarang contibution ngunit nakakatanggap ng benepisyo. Dahil nga po ang PhilHealth ay social health insurance na hango sa salitang social solidarity na kung saan binabayaran ng may pera ang kalusugan ng mga walang pangtustos at binabayaran ng mga malulusog ang pangkalusugan ng mga sakitin.”

(We understand the different situation of OFWs abroad, like what was posted about the charges for the benefits are bigger than the remitted premiums. Like some OFWs with financial difficulties, we also have citizens who are more impoverished and do not pay any contribution but still receives medical benefits from us. Because PhilHealth is a social health insurance where the concept was taken from “social solidarity” where those who have the means, pays for the medical expenses of those who can’t afford.)

Wait! Stop! Rewind! Will somebody please explain this to me? I have no illusion of grandeur and knew the Philippines is a welfare state. But isn’t the money apportioned for the “indigents” supposed to come from collected revenues called TAXES. Why do they single out OFWs to shoulder the “fringe benefit” of people who are not OFWs, not to mention “free-loaders”, tax evaders and those who doesn’t pay taxes at all? What we pay to PhilHealth is NOT TAX! If they’re forcing this “health insurance” down our throat, it’s just right that only OFWs and their families benefits from it. Our funds should be a separate entity or better yet, a separate health insurance for OFWs and not PhilHealth!

No wonder PhilHealth is short in funding. Previous administration were distributing PhilHealth cards right and left to boost their malodorous image. They should be ashamed for letting those politicians used our hard-earned money in their electioneering.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Things I Pondered and Did on My Vacation

Going Home
I’m a little deaf, especially inside an airplane but as I entered the aircraft, one attendant greets me “Welcome abort!”

Do you wonder why airline personnel still demonstrate the aircraft’s emergency procedure when something that’s not going to occur defeats the course of action to take... when they say - “In an UNLIKELY event of an emergency landing…”

Ano Raw?
Upon landing at NAIA, I heard this announcement - “Pleas remen seated until the ehplen comes to a full stop befo dis embahking”. A few minutes later, another message, this time in an agitated tone - “Pleas remen seated an wet fo the ehplen to come to a full stop befo you stan up to get yo luggage from the ove’head compahment”

At the tube, attendants lined up, smiling and bidding us goodbye – “Think yo fo’ flying Singgapo ehlines”. Regardless of our stop-over in Dubai and walking endlessly on that huge Changi airport to our next flight; service wise, I still think it’s one of the best airline I ever flied.

Home Sweet Home
Nothing significant happened while I was in my hometown except going to beaches, attending a wedding of my wife’s nephew, wake of a departed aunt and of course our high school reunion.

I met most of my old classmates and thanks to Facebook, I recognized most of their faces and some of their names. We reminisced what we did during high school and one just can’t help put on a “show” of “how good life is” in her adopted city, Lohndohn. Later that day, when most had their fill of San Mig Light and brandy, old buddies clustered together and talked nothing but their health. Back pains, rheumatism, cholesterol and “daily maintenance” dominate the conversation. I’m the only guy who was silent and got nothing to share since my yearly medical data indicates all my “levels” are below “critical”. A classmate even told me I haven’t change since we graduated. He asked who my doctor is – “Si Calayan ba o si Bello?” We flew back to Manila the following day.

At National Bookstore, I asked an employee if they have books by Carl Sagan. She typed in the computer the author’s name to see their stocks and then said “What’s the title of the book?”  I gave her the title and right away she said “We don’t have any books by Carl Sagan.”

In a Filipiniana boutique, I was admiring a polo barong with an embroidered map of the Philippines. The shop attendant approached me;
Saleslady - “Espesyal po ang barong na yan. Mismong kanang-kamay ng may-ari ng shop ang nag design at gumawa.”
Me           - “Ganun ba, ang galing naman. E anong nagawa ng kanyang kaliwang kamay?”
She paused for a few seconds, trying to absorb what I just said. It took a lopped-sided smile before she got it and began giggling in a high-pitch voice. I bought the barong.

Going Back
This time I’m pretty sure I wasn’t deaf. I definitely heard the attendant said – “Welcome abort”!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On Brand Names

Naming a product is important. It’s the product’s ticket to success. Two things I observed though; a name should be “hip and catchy” and consumer should be able to relate and remember it.

Old brands are so famous that it’s automatically attached to a particular product. In the Philippines, people buy Colgate instead of toothpaste and document are Xerox(ed) instead of photocopied. Some brands comes from family names like Honda; easy to remember and identifiable with cars and motorbikes. Daewoo on the other hand confuses consumers. They can’t tell if it’s a car, a washing machine or a wall clock. But not all diversified companies did poorly. A good example is India’s Tata Motors; a subsidiary of Tata Group. It does well because Tata, like Toyota, is catchy; people retain the name easily. Try advertising cars from "Venkatraman-Kanakamedala Motors" and see if anyone catches-up outside India. It’s not only hard to remember, it’s a tongue-twister.

That’s where the Chinese have a dilemma; Chinese can’t use their surname as brands even if it’s easy to remember a one syllable name. Non-Chinese consumer tends to associate it with something else. Imagine when somebody says “I’ve got a Warhol in my den”. Right away a “colored negative” poster of celebrities comes to mind. But try “I’ve got a Po on my wall”. It’s tempting to say “So do I, but I don’t go around bragging about it or make a habit of flicking it on walls”.

Combining two or three Chinese names won’t do the trick either - it sounds like a hardware store, a restaurant or worst, something sexually "suggestive". Others tried to “anglicized” but “Soft-Touch” sports apparel are sometimes mistaken for a feminine napkin. Not only that, they're fond of words like “Golden” and “Dragon” that they might end up suing each other of copy-right infringement. A Chinese car manufacturer took the name of their famous landmark:

In fairness, the logo looks good, but the name doesn’t fit. Look, if a guy boasts, “I’ve got a Ford truck”, one imagines a gas-guzzling behemoth work-horse. But something seems missing or doesn’t sound right if you say “I’ve got a Great Wall truck”. One might ask “What’s a wall truck?” It’s more apt and make more sense when a company is named “Great Wall Construction Co. Ltd.”, don’t you think?

I’m sure this is one of the reasons why the Chinese resort to imitating famous brands; less mental stress and cheaper for them. But don’t take my word for it. A product is a product how ever odd its name or where it’s made. As long as it serves it purpose and the quality is good… go buy it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When is Art Cease to Be Called Art?

To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that it is very good but that most people can't eat it. – Leo Tolstoy

Art is an individual act of “self expression”. It serves no purpose in the economic growth of a society except as, in general, a form of entertainment. It is in parallel with the rationale of religion filling the psychological vacuum pertaining to the philosophical question – “Why am I here?” But unlike religion whose followers come from all walks of life, Art enthusiasts are mostly composed of people who can afford the luxury of “free time”. It is therefore safe to assume a large number of its patrons come from the “well-to-do”. Given their “purchasing power”, it is also safe to assume this clientele are cultured, intelligent and well-educated. It is because of these assumptions that I find it beyond my understanding why some can’t distinguish an exercise in aesthetic from, what I consider, plain “garbage”. Perhaps the fault lies in me. I’m not “gifted” enough to appreciate “art”, but then, hear me first:

It doesn’t take an Art Critic to recognize these painting and sculpture was done by masters. It captures life “as-it-is” where details are painstakingly reproduced.

A movement called “Impressionism”. In contrast to its early predecessor, it gives emphasis on how light plays with colors thus ignoring details.

Another art movement called “Cubism”. Perhaps this is Ka Rolly’s inspirations in creating beautiful paintings such as this:

But to fill a canvas with dots and sell it for 10,000 British Pounds is something I couldn’t swallow even if I can afford it (which I can't)…


Nor do I find any artistic endeavor on this except as a support for my butt to alleviate the stress from my weary knees.

Camping equipment and bedroom furniture are now considered Art.

This movement is called “Conceptual Art” or “Con-Art” for short (and it’s aptly named). Through their works, one may deduce "Con-Artists" does not require talent nor skill to create their art. The only thing sophisticated about it is the fancy name they gave their "creation". It has to be observe on a different perspective like “You have to look beyond the object to understand the concept and appreciate its beauty”. I might as well buy a toilet bowl, give it a thought-provoking title like “Parched Canine Oasis” and shove it down their throat - “THIS IS ART!”.

I wasn’t properly “schooled” in the Fine Arts nor do I claim any authority to backup my criticism. What I am is a nobody who appreciates beauty and admire things I can’t do. But I’m not alone. My views are shared by people like Julian Spalding, a former director of Glasgow Museum and the late Dennis Dutton, a philosopher in art.

But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. You be the judge.

Images where "borrowed" from the net. Who ever owns it, I say Thank you.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Educating Bea: Recognition Day

To those of you who received honours, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States. – George W. Bush

Last week was Bea’s Recognition Day. It was separated and held a week after her school’s Graduation Ceremony because of time constrain. But my family went home after the Grade 1 and Grade 2 class finished their acceptance, skipping the rest of the event. I felt “guilty” and it’s quite unfair to parents of older students to stay late in the afternoon, some took “under time” at work, to witness their children received their award. Even I was culpable of sneaking out for a couple of hours and returned back to work after Bea’s class concluded their rites. I have to be present since it’s kind of important for her to see her daddy clapping, waving and giving her the “thumbs up” while accepting her medals and certificate. She got two medals by the way; over-all top one and Quiz Bee champion (General Information category) of Grade 1 (sorry can’t help it, I’m one proud daddy!). Not bad for a child who sit and sulk under her desk when teachers reprimand her for being noisy and playful during class.

Nursery and Kindergarten ate up a big chunk of the program and the reason was because they gave each pupil in prep-school a medal. Unlike in Bea’s former prep-school where only the top 5 students and those who excel in Math, Spelling, Reading and Writing gets a medal, here, they also “invent” awards so every child gets a chance to go on stage. I don’t know how these are evaluated. But on the lighter side and to pass the time away (while waiting for Bea’s turn), here’s how I appraised it:

Most Active        - “Hyper” ang bata.
Most Artistic       - Knows the sky is blue, plants are green, the sun and 
                             moon are yellow and draw people that don’t look anorexic.
Most Attentive    - Doesn’t have ADS.
Most Behave      - Socially inept.
Most Courteous - Says “Good morning Miss Magtanggol” to teacher every day.
Most Friendly     - Got plenty of candy na “baon”.
Most Helpful      - Bossy and act as class monitor when teacher leave the 
Most Improve    - Late bloomer.
Most Neat         - Doesn’t sit and roll in the hallway during recess or parent is a 
Most Obedient  - Hindi pasaway.
Most Organized - Doesn’t misplace pencil, eraser, scissor, paste and 
                            especially crayons.
Most Polite        - Knows how to use “po” and “opo” in a sentence.
Most Punctual    - Dropped at school before 7 even thought class starts at 8 
                            because parents goes to work early.
Most Popular     - Palaging nag papa “blow-out” ang parents.

I hope parents don’t get upset if their child won in any of these “awards”. I’m just lightening up what some considers an exercise in mediocrity.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pinoy Tales In the Kingdom

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. – Vincent Van Gogh

I’ve seen Pinoys in almost all trades and occupation imaginable in the Kingdom. From house helps and nannies tagging their wards in malls, agricultural workers while traveling on remote assignment, building maintenance people, skilled craftsmen, medical personnel and professionals in their respective field of expertise. But I never expected I’d met some Pinoy fishermen!

I’m not talking about those “shore fishermen” we often see along the coast of Dammam and Al Khobar. They are hobbyist and recreational fishermen; willing their time away during weekends. I’m talking about “deep-sea fishing” fishermen.

Most of them came from the same town in Batangas and doing the same job as fishermen in the Philippines before they came here. They’re independent, don’t have a Saudi “boss” and takes care of each others safety. They don’t have medical insurance, cash allowances or a regular monthly salary like the rest of us. What they have is a percentage of the catch they make of which a portion is given to their Saudi “sponsor” as his “share”, rental for using his boat and other expenses necessary to make their stay in the kingdom “legal”.

But there is a downside to this kind of agreement. Fishing in the Arabian Gulf is seasonal. There is a moratorium on fishing around the territorial waters of the kingdom to preserved and sustain the resources of the gulf. They avail of this by going home to the Philippines for vacation which last from three to five months a year. Quite a long R&R, if you ask me, especially if you don’t have any other means to augment your income and depending solely on your savings for your expenses. But judging from their outlook and their material possessions, they seem to be satisfied of what they have or where they are. I even suspect they earn more than our average Pinoy workers in the medical profession.

These brave souls never question that they are thousands of miles away from home or working in one of the most perilous occupation. To them, the sea is what fields are to farmers. They go there to reap their sustenance. 

To each his own, ika nga!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Search For Outstanding Global Pinoys

A couple of weeks ago I received an email (haven't checked my inbox for sometimes) asking my help to spread the word that there is a search for “Outstanding Global Pinoys” all over the world.

I guess its one way their sponsors of saying “Thank You” for buying their chocolate bars and whiskies as “pasalubong” to your love ones (my wife bought these stuffs only because of the free umbrellas and travel bags that goes with it).

For me and to their families at least, every OFW and pinoy expatriates are “outstanding”. They are the reason “kuya”, “ate” and “nene” finished college. They may not be their to be among us in times of celebration and difficulties. But the “hamon” and “mansanas” during Christmas and paid medical bills of “tatay”, “nanay” or “lolo” and “lola” are reminders enough of their presence. They are the very reason why the Philippines is surviving while other nation suffers in these global financial crises.

So, if you think your pastor in your weekly “alive” group deserves it or the sports organizer of your “samahan” warrants recognition, you may submit their names here. Deadline of entries is until February 29.

May the “winners” worthy of the accolades.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Goyong And Lucit

In his younger days, my grandfather was popular among his peers. I didn’t know that until one of my barkada’s grandmother asked me; “Kaano-ano mo si Goyong?” When I answered I’m his “apo”, she began telling me stories about my grandfather’s “escapades” during his student days. It was “colorful” and at the same time strangely creepy. She’s almost as if talking about me. Older relatives would comment - I’m his “carbon copy”. It makes me wonder if the reason why the bond between my lolo and I was strong was because he saw himself in me, both in attitude and appearance. Perhaps it’s true, but we differ in “taste” when it comes to choosing a partner in life.

My grandmother was the opposite of my grandfather. Goyong was the eldest, Lucit was the youngest. He was “fair”, she’s “dark”, got kinky hair and a “hauty-tauty” attitude (“trademarks” in her side of the family). I wouldn’t give a second glance if I meet a girl like her. Out of curiosity, I asked my grandfather what he sees that he chose to marry her; he’d smile and said “she’s meticulous and organized”. Maybe that’s the “quality” he was looking for. Between the two of them, their sheer hard work and determination produced two professionals without any help from anybody. My father and my aunt were the first engineer and doctor hailed from their place. An achievement that earned my grandparents the respect of their town.

Perhaps love was also a factor because in spite of Lucit’s “kasupladahan”, Goyong took it in stride. A grand aunt once told us a story about my grandparents when Lola was pregnant with my father. It's not exactly a scene from Romeo and Juliet but if things didn’t go her way, she’ll climb on the veranda and threatened my lolo; “Goyong, tatalon ako, tatalon ako!” And Lolo on the ground, arms stretched out (as if that’s enough to support the force and weight if she decided to jump) pleaded for her to come down. Later in life, when I teased him about it, he’d just smirked and said “Eh, di tumalon sya ngayon!”

When Lolo passed away at a ripe age of 90, I asked my aunt a silly question; “Aunty, what if some strangers comes to attend Lolo’s wake and tell us they are Lolo’s children?” My aunt laughed and said she’ll welcome them with open arms. It happened that Lucit overheard us and she indignantly blurted “My Goyong would never do that to me!” So I ribbed Lola; “When Lolo was still able, he goes at dawn to tend his farm and arrives home before dusk while you just stayed home. That’s almost 12 hours a day, six days a week that you don’t know what he was doing out there”. And that did it. Her blood pressure shoots up and my aunt had to inject her with something to calm her down. When my father arrived, he inquired why “Nanay” is in bed. Somebody told him. Batok at mura lang naman ang inabot ko sa tatay ko.

Now and then, I still get misty eyed every time I remember my grandparents, especially my lolo. I missed him a lot.

BTW, Happy Valentines to all of you!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What’s So Special About Seven?

Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let envy enter deep into our own natures. – Thedore Roosevelt 

I’ve never attended an 18th birthday bash, but my brother did. Even so, I saw them practice dancing the “cotillion”. I just can’t stand this kind of occasion or ceremony. It’s too “classy” for my taste.

But birthday “debut” has its purpose. In the old days, it’s a way for one “rich” family to announce to other “rich” families that they have an “available” daughter of marrying age. It also served as an excuse to flaunt the family’s wealth.

Here in the kingdom, some “nouveau rich” expats push it to the next level. They celebrate their child’s birthday like an 18 years old debutante. Complete with “rose-giving”, cotillion and the whole nine yards. It’s every mother’s dream when their daughter reaches the age of – SEVEN.

Why seven? What’s so special about the number seven? Until now, no one can explain to me of its significance except that’s the age most children are accepted in grade 1. I can only think of one reason and I already mentioned it above.

When it comes to “ostentatious display”, no one can beat a particular mother from my daughter’s school. On her child’s seventh birthday, she handed out cards similar to a wedding invitation. It got names of participants for the cotillion, “7-roses dance”, ushers and usherettes and so on. The venue was a huge “estereha” (a rented compound for picnic, parties and other occasion) and catered by a well-known restaurant. Complete with McDo and other form of entertainment. Besides the child’s classmates and parents, the entire school personnel were also invited. But what makes this occasion unique was - her child is a BOY!

You might say I’m just envious. No, I’m not. I’m telling these stories because it scares me. Next month, my daughter Bea will turn seven and already I can feel her mother “scheming”. Huwag naman po sana…