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Friday, September 28, 2007

Flipside

Neri may have been the Man of the Hour when he testified against Abalos last Wednesday, but the whole episode only revealed that he was totally unsuitable for the NEDA post as well. Pressed by Sen. Roxas about why he approved the project despite the likelihood of high-level corruption, he was unable to defend his actions. He simply hemmed and hawed and tried to pass the buck to the DOTC, claiming that he only approved of the concept and the policy, but the implementation issue should be directed at the DOTC.

He may have shown moral courage when he confirmed Abalos' bribe, but the fact that he did not block this project when he was clearly in a position to means he should be made accountable as well.

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Incentive

Just came back from a seminar on labels and self-adhesives. The speaker, a soft-spoken Thai rightfully observed that although it was his first time in the Philippines, he felt as if he were in Thailand: apparently, Thais and Filipinos look alike.

Anyway, most of us who attended the seminar had trouble understanding his accented English, and quite a few immediately went into a coma.

At the end of session, nobody had any question.

And so I raised my hand.

The organizers gave me giveaways, sort of like a prize for paying attention to the lecture. Because of the incentive, the speaker suddenly found himself inundated with inquiries.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Political Noise

International Front: The two most important institutions in Burma, the monks and the military, have squared off and are now on a collision course. Unfortunately, the Burmese situation have started to deteriorate with what appears to be violent dispersals. There are reports of monks being beaten up and held by the military.

I think the days of the military junta are numbered. This is a golden opportunity for Aung San Suu Kyi and the opposition to step up the pressure initiated by the monks.

Domestic: Neri confirmed the bribe by Abalos but dragged the President into the picture when he said he informed her about it. I was correct: Gloria knew about this anomalous transaction early on. Neri is partly to be blamed. He approved the project without the benefit of a careful feasibility study.

Erap wants a full pardon which involves keeping his almost PhP1 billion assets and which doesn't require him to admit any wrong doing. If this will push through, what was the whole point of the plunder trial? This will only set a bad precedent.

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Chinese Connection

I really wonder how China might deal with this latest episode on the ZTE deal. If a "bribe flowchart" starting with ZTE Executives will be established, it means that corruption on the Chinese side did in fact take place as well.

Apparently, Chinese Embassy officials have worked closely with ZTE in closing the deal with Philippine officials. If bribery from ZTE Executives can be established, Chinese officials will be implicated as well.

However, I don't think this will still amount to anything, as ZTE was the hand-picked company of the Chinese government that was supposed to undertake the broad-band network.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Change in Burma

Burma's ruling military junta created a new capital (I forgot the name, it's consonant-heavy) in the middle of the country away from Rangoon, or Yangon which is in the south.

The government is under intense pressure not to crackdown on the protesting monks who have been staging public protests for the past couple of weeks.

By moving the capital to some remote location, the junta is clearly retreating to a secure fortress. To the generals, this is a tactical move: there's no way barefoot monks could storm critical government offices when the new capital where they have chosen to be is located so far away.

Unfortunately, this is also a chink in the armor, a signal that the military is not totally in control of the country. Otherwise, why make the sudden decision to move the capital to I-can't-remember-the-name?

Washington sees the opportunity for change and in fact, Bush have announced new sanctions to push the generals into a corner.

Increasingly, countries are pressing China to intervene, knowing fully well that Beijing cannot afford to waste the opportunity to stabilize the region ahead of the Olympics. In addition, China is Burma's biggest trade partner. Since the rest of the world refuses to do business with Burma, China is Burma's remaining lifeline. And Beijing and Washington are both aware of this.

Burma is a pariah state, shunned by many governments for suppressing human rights and running the country with iron fists. The generals do not really care about world opinion. They have kept opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, in house arrest for like, a decade now. Unfortunately, with China breathing heavily behind their backs, the generals can't possibly strike the helpless monks.

The situation is still unravelling, but I think the Burmese have had enough and they simply want the same rights guaranteed under any decent, democratic society.

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Man of the Hour

I think former NEDA Secretary and current CHED Commissioner Romulo Neri will put the lid on Abalos' coffin tomorrow when he testifies before the Senate. Over the past week, the Senate investigation focused largely on Joey de Venecia's word against Abalos.

Neri's testimony is critical because should he choose to toe the government's line and echo the claim that no irregularity took place in forging the deal with the Chinese, and should he deny de Venecia's claim that Abalos tried to bribe Neri in exchange for supporting the deal in favor of ZTE, it will shift the tide of public opinion away from de Venecia, bolstering DOTC Secretary Mendoza's accusation of calling the whistle-blower a "sore loser".

But earlier interviews with Neri indicate that he will likely spill the beans, so to speak. On TV, he appeared "disturbed" at the way things are proceeding and have lamented about the difficulty of instituting real reforms in government.

The academe has rallied support around him, I think mainly to pressure him to "do the right thing", so to speak.

I hope he will choose to do the right thing and let the ax fall where it should, on Abalos' head.

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Eyeball

I spoke with Fetus over the phone once and he told me the previous night he met up with someone from an on-line dating site.

He said he's not gonna engage in EBs or eyeball meetings anymore because he feels it's a pathetic exercise.

"You see, the pictures or profiles presented in online sites always do not resemble the person in front of you", he says.

"One time, the person I met up with weighed probably fifty pounds heavier than in the picture, which I reckon must have been taken five years earlier."

"So how do you extricate yourself from a sticky situation like that and leave without offending your date?", I asked him.

"I thought of texting you, yes you Ronald, to call me so I could pretend that an emergency situation suddenly came up and I had to leave," he explained.

"Really? So what happened?", I asked him, I didn't receive a text message from him about it.

"Unfortunately, I didn't have any pre-paid load credits left."

"You're such a cheapskate". I didn't say that to his face, of course.

"So it was basically a grin-and-bear-it scenario? So how'd it turn out? What's the ending? You're now lovers?", I had to ask him.

"Do you value your life, you freaking %$*#!+)^%". I got his point.

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Schools

Rankings. There are plenty of school ranking systems, based on various criteria. Ateneo and La Salle students and alumni have been trying to edge each other out, whether in basketball, the number of CEO's in industry, the number of chauffer-driven cars in campus or yes, even in academics.

I remember one ranking system based mainly on the tuition fee rates, and I think the Opus Dei- run University of Asia and the Pacific in Ortigas and Ateneo de Manila came out on top.

As such, a really credible ranking based not just on perception but on hard, empirical evidence from schools' success rates in professional board exams administered by the Professional Regulatory Commission, have been jointly released by the PRC and the Commission on Higher Education. This study is conducted every 10 years.

The distribution for the Top 20 spots is as follows: Luzon- 11; Visayas- 2; and Mindanao- 7.

The UP campuses in Diliman, Los Banos and Padre Faura, predictably took the top spots, ranked 1-3, in that order. In terms of other criteria (not covered under the PRC-CHED study, however) such as research output and faculty resources (Ph.D's, especially in the sciences), I believe Los Banos upstages Diliman.

Silliman University in Dumaguete City (this school was my second choice after UP Diliman in college), the highest-ranked private school in the study, beat well-known schools in Manila and ranked 4th, followed by Ateneo de Davao. In fact, the Davao campus ranked higher than its flagship campus in Loyola Heights, which came in 6th. (This should not be a surprise, the Loyola campus offers few courses that require a board exam). Ateneo's arch-rival, La Salle, is ranked even lower, at 16th. So La Salle students don't generally perform well in board exams?

Rounding out the top 20 are: UST, Mindanao State (Iligan), PLM (Manila), St. Louis (Baguio), San Carlos (Cebu), Xavier (Cagayan de Oro), Mindanao State (Marawi), Urios (Butuan), PUP (Manila), DLSU (Manila), Mapua, Adamson, Central Mindanao (Bukidnon), Univ of Southern Philippines (Davao).

Some well-known schools in Manila are noticeably out of the top 20, while schools outside Manila are prominently represented.

Again, these rankings are based on statistics from the PRC.

One might argue that this is only one measure, just one side of the coin. The most important one is how the student turns out to be after college.

Yeah, sure.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Villalobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5

The haunting Bachianas Brasilerias by Hector Villalobos. The recitativo is sandwiched between humming arioso-like passages. The swelling of the cello makes the music seem to emerge from deep underground.


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Spyware

I just spent precious hours waging a battle with a computer worm/spyware/virus/trojan horse which installed itself on my PC.

Upon opening up my PC, I found 2 new desktop icons I have never seen before. In addition, an annoying Security Alert keeps popping up for AntiVirGear which promotes itself as anti-spyware but which is actually a worm. It would only gradually destroy my PC's operating system. Clearly, this was a system security threat.

I have always used Internet Explorer as my browser, despite a history of being the conduit of attacking my PC.

My computer kept crashing and my IE won't work anymore. It's a good thing I had Firefox which is better protected than IE, which thankfully allowed me, despite repeated system crashes--very frustrating, I spent the whole morning rebooting-- to go to www.dowload.com (I have always relied on this excellent site for software and anti-virus programs) because I felt my free AVG didn't give me enough protection.

I also consulted on-line forums and got very good suggestions about which free anti-spyware to download to address this specific pseudo-anti virus that is wreaking havoc on my PC.

I settled on Kaspersky, although you have to buy it, it has a 30-day trial period which I took advantage of. I must say I am impressed. Grisoft's AVG and Lava Soft were unable to remove and neutralize AntiVirGear, only Kapernsky.

I feel exhausted. I know next to nothing about computers. But since I am my own IT department, I really had no choice.

I'm not using Internet Explorer anymore.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rock band

As I made my way towards Virra Mall in Greenhills, a "rock" band was performing and entertaining passers-by near the mall entrance. I'm not referring to a rock band that we are all familiar with: loud synthesizers and electric guitars, ear-splitting drums and cymbals complete with screeching and screaming vocalists head-banging on the stage, ya know, the works.

The band featured an old couple wearing dark sunglasses as alternating vocalists who also double as guitarist and drummer, with a geriatric set doing the back-ups. Their uniforms reminded me of a religious cult. Anyway, I am not sure if they're really blind or it's just a part of their act but it sure was a hell of a spectacle.

But get this, for her age, people couldn't help but stop and stare at the old lady with graying hair banging away at the drums! Maaan, she was like a pro.

And when it was her turn to sing, she sang- gasp!- with all authenticity, perhaps aimed at her husband-partner, "Ang boyfriend kong baduy...baduuuuy!"

:)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Chopin: Grande Polonaise

Yundi Li during the 2000 Chopin competition which he won at age 17, performing an early but virtouso composition, the Grande Polonaise Brilliante (not sure if I got the title correctly). If I'm not mistaken, Chopin composed this while still in Poland.



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Choices

I've been freelancing for quite some time, mostly macro-industry projects that are customized for client requirements.

I don't think I want to focus on the equities market, although Gina, a colleague who went free-lance as well, wanted me to take over her "rakets" when she decided to fly off to the States and join her husband.

I find feasibility studies the most challenging, though. You have to consider EVERYTHING. You have to take care of both macro and micro details, and you have to distill all these information into a coherent whole and translate these into numbers you can work on during the implementation stage.

When I have time to spare (as it is, there's one project I haven't even touched yet, geez), I might formalize my activities, emerge from the underground-- what am I talking about? as if I were a smuggler or something--(and start paying the appropriate taxes... joke! No need to notify the BIR), register as a sole proprietorship and be more aggressive with marketing my services.

Perhaps my research work speaks for itself, as one telcoms firm, a TV network, and a credit research agency all at one time tried to hire me. Why I decided to strike it out on my own and remain poor while not accepting any of those offers is a bit difficult to explain.

It has to do something with my personality, I guess. I like to be independent, be my own boss and do the work under my own terms and at my own pace.

The lure of high pay never really attracted me. You see, what's the point of amassing a lot of wealth when you feel and look miserable because of the stress related to material quests?

I like to take it easy: play the piano, get myself lost in Quiapo, bike my way to Marikina and Antipolo, swim, watch the occassional concerts, do nothing but blog, a little travel, perhaps and not necessarily depend on my parents or beg for alms.

But then again, different strokes for different folks, yes?

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fed Moves

The Federal Reserve's 50-basis points or half-percentage cut in the key benchmark rate to 4.75% had stock markets all over the world rallying, led by Wall Street. In our case, the "differential" between Philippine vis-a-vis US assets will consequently rise, paving the way for funds to flow into the market, propping up the local currency. The peso opened firmly in the PhP45 territory yesterday.

As I see it, the Fed is clearly worried over the likelihood that the US will slide into recession. A big cut in the benchmark rate sends a strong signal to the banking system to continue supporting growth initiatives. Scaling back lending activities for fear of a similar sub-prime backlash will unecessarily hold back growth in other sectors not affected by the credit and housing crunch. And the bigger-than-expected rate cut which translates into a significant reduction in borrowing costs functions as a blanket guarantee to address bank fears of increased default risks extending to other sectors.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pandora's Box

And so the ZTE deal is turning out to be one big can of worms. Testifying before the Senate, Joe de Venecia's son claimed First Gentleman Mike Arroyo tried to dissuade him from pursuing the broadband deal to pave the way for ZTE to snatch the deal. The personalities involved are a virtual who's who in Philippine politics: Chairman Benjamin Abalos of the COMELEC, Secretary Leandro Mendoza of the DOTC and now, the President's own husband.

It's becoming more explosive. With Mike Arroyo's involvement, even a half-wit can figure out that Gloria probably knows about this anomalous deal from the start as well. After all, this contract was sealed and well-timed to coincide with her visit to China early this year, right? In fact, in a speech, she remains adamant about pushing the deal claiming that Executive Agreements between governments should be honored "despite media attacks."

The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place.

The useless broadband project is valued at PhP16 billion, or US$329.4 million. The original contract price was placed in the vicinity of US$200 million plus, which means these government officials expected to divide among themselves a multi-million bonanza valued at more than US$100 million.

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Ship Adventures

On my first-ever trip to Manila, I took a ship from Cagayan de Oro, courtesy of M/V Sta. Ana of Negros Navigation. I remember getting on the ship alone proved to be a nightmare: you have to make your way through a mass of humanity; everbody seemed to be jostling, shoving and pushing, while carrying heavy luggages, roosters and that ubiquitous lamay biscuits (biscuits served during wakes and funerals along with Nescafe coffee).

Once inside, you had to compete for the available cots and mattresses as these were free-for-all and you can get it on a first-come-first-serve basis. This was the time when PAL was the only airline and you had to reserve several months ahead to book a flight. Those of us who live down South had no option but to travel by ship.

Anyway, while settled inside, we made ourselves comfortable and removed our slippers and shoes and put them in one place, sitting in front of a TV set munching chips.

Whereupon an obviously seasick guy suddenly threw up and promptly deposited the contents of his stomach onto our shoes and slippers.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Scraping the Bottom

Grabeh naman, UP ended the 69th UAAP season Men's Basketball with a 0-14 card, a cellar dweller.

Oh by the way, the UP Cheering Squad, I mean the Pep Squad, won last Saturday at the Araneta. How do I know this? Because I live near Cubao and traffic jams resulting from big events at the Araneta extend all the way towards Project 4, my neighborhood. I am not fond of these cheering blahs, but when I went back to college in 2001/2002 to complete my PE deficiencies-- you've got to hear this, and this isn't exactly something I'm too proud to share-- during the annual cheer-dance competition at the Araneta, I was there in the rafters, too, just because our teacher required us to participate (the thought that I was probably the oldest cheerer inside the entire Araneta wasn't very comforting). And no, I wasn't pumping fists in the air, shouting myself hoarse or shaking my hips to the tune of rah-rah-sees-boom-bah complete with poms poms and head bands.

I just sat there, clapping. KJ, no?

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Newly-Minted

I think it was Marc who, being a newly-minted Isko (Iskolar ng Bayan) and fresh from Bohol, who found himself in Padre Faura while looking for the UP Diliman campus. When he finally got the right directions to Diliman, he took a bus bound for the flagship campus but missed the Philcoa transit terminal and alighted at exactly the point where the signage Unibersidad ng Pilipinas is posted. (Marc that was you, right?)

Five years later, Marc aced the CPA board exams. heyheyhey

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Uniformity

One time, while Frodo and I were walking inside Megamall, he suddenly folded his arms, obviously to cover himself. I didn't know what got into him until I realized a guy wearing exactly the same shirt as Frodo's passed into our view.

Which reminds me of Marc. He said he once bumped into some guy inside Penshoppe wearing the same shirt he had on. Marc now wears genuine Lacoste.

It happened to me, you know. I wore my rose-colored shirt with "Starving Artist" in large letters emblazoned on the front when I saw some guy inside Ali Mall wearing the same shirt, thankfully in a different color.

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Rough Diamond

You've got to love this guy: a bashful, low-confidence mobile phone salesman singing Puccini. :)

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma

The Golden Voice himself, the late Luciano Pavarotti singing what is probably the most famous operatic aria ever, "Nessun Dorma" from Giacomo Puccini's final opera, "Turandot". Here, he sends the final notes to the stratosphere longer than anyone else.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rachmaninoff: Paganini Variations

La Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 de Sergei Rachmaninoff interprétée par Mikhail Pletnev au Piano accompagné par le Berliner Philharmoniker Orchestra dirigé par Claudio Abbado.



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Friday, September 14, 2007

Views

Politics-domestic: Down the road, I'm sure Erap will be granted an Executive Clemency and he may not have to serve his full sentence. The way politics works here, an executive pardon to a beloved former president will sit extremely well with the voting masses.

Politics-foreign: There seems to be no end in sight to the troubles in Iraq. The world's only superpower is unable to control it. And despite having all satellite security cameras and radar screens scouring the hinterlands of Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden, the US has been unable to find him.

Economics-domestic: Oil prices are testing the US$80/barrel mark. Inflationary pressures are again on top of the agenda. In our case, the inevitable price rises in consumer goods can be tempered by a still-strong currency. However, the same may not be true for interest rates. Excess liquidity arising from strong remittance inflows and upward trends in global oil prices may prompt monetary authorities to use interest rates to tame inflation. If you paid any attention at all to my notes on economic indicators, I have always maintained that interest rates were likely to rise. It is now at 3%++ from about 2.75%.

Economics-foreign: Good thing the sub-prime hasn't had much impact here. Maybe because we don't have a sovereign fund to speak of, unlike say, Temasek of Singapore, and the billion-dollar investment funds of the oil-rich Gulf States, or China, which holds the world largest dollar reserves at US$1 trillion plus. The issue hasn't really fully played itself out and you can still expect downward pressures in the equities and credit markets when the quarterly results come in. Perhaps exposures to sub-prime weren't really that significant, after all, although some big firms really took a big hit. Or perhaps the provisioning levels provided adequate cover.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Guilty as Charged

Erap has been found guilty of plunder and is meted out a reclusion perpetua (40 years imprisonment) sentence.

It is time for the nation to move on. Any extra-constitutional disruption arising from this will really be counter-productive.

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Cinematic

When our first dog, Dimples died, my brother and I cried a river. She didn't actually have any dimple, what dog would, but my brother has this anti-conformity attitude wherein he doesn't want to name the dog according to its most obvious features, like Whitey or Spotty. He'd take the opposite direction perhaps, unknowkingly, to make a statement against predictability. (Yes, the anti-cute attitude runs in the family). And so we named her Dimples. We had one dog named Beauty, and she was no raving beauty. In fact, she was all ready to chase the early-morning pan de sal vendors. I'm digressing.

Anyway, when Dimples died, we were supposedly bound by tradition to bury the pet preferably under a banana tree. And so my father dug a deep hole under a banana tree while we were crying our hearts out. Hey, I was eight years old.

Weeks earlier, we watched a Tagalog movie starring Vilma Santos. One particular burial scene struck me: she picked fistfuls of dirt and threw it slowly to the lowered coffin, before the grave diggers took over and covered the entire thing with a mound of earth.

And very much like that Vilma Santos scene, my brother slowly picked up fistfuls of earth, in a very cinematic fashion, and showered and covered Dimple's body with it, while I gave him a look which says that I knew exactly from which movie he got his idea from.

I always remind him of this, which of course makes him mad. He now admits that it was corny.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Royal Meowness

I thought Panda and Polar have left for good, because I don't see them anymore lounging and luxuriating in my garage. It turned out they just moved in next door. They go in and out of Manang Mimi's house as if they owned the place. I just saw Panda walk past right me. Since she stays with my landlady, and apparently she now feels she's like the royal pet, she raises her nose, sniffs the air and probably thinks I'm her subject.

Grizzly, however, still walks the earth by being the neighborhood toughie. I saw him curled atop a concrete post near my gate, ostensibly observing humans and preparing to sexually assault Panda and Polar. He completely ignored me.

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Anomalous

As the ZTE Broadband deal with the government unravels, it is becoming clear that some officials were really out to make a fast buck out of the anomalous transaction. Joe de Venecia's son and namesake, who is a partner of Amsterdam Holdings which was among those interested in bidding for the broadband project, claims Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos, who brokered the deal with the Chinese, tried to bribe him with US$10 million in exchange for backing out from their bid. (No bidding took place as the project was handed over to ZTE apparently in a silver platter).

Also, former NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri stopped short of admitting that he was bribed to endorse and support the ZTE deal, claiming only that he was afraid of "karma".

Abalos claims he cannot be accused of wrong-doing since he doesn't even know what a broadband is. Duh.

The problem of course with projects that were conceived for selfish purposes rather than for public interest is that it is riddled with potholes. The UP Economics professors made excellent arguments against the deal and cast a dark cloud over why the deal had to be sealed in very suspicious circumstances.

Foreign business groups and even the US Embassy have expressed their concerns over this blatant display and attempt at large-scale corruption.

Unfortunately, this issue might end up buried in the ground soon and forgotten, as the government quietly implements it while everyone isn't looking, as another issue, the Erap verdict comes out this week and takes the spotlight once again.

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Feeling

I was expressing my annoyance over media's seeming preoccupation with Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby (you can't really blame me, the former was giving tips on TV to aspiring singers when clearly he's not even a good singer himself!) when somebody snapped and quipped, "Ron, you know what your problem is? he went on, "You're envious."

Before I could say "I don't think so" and defend myself, he said, "You see, these people are not only good-looking, they're famous too. In your case, you're just good-looking."

Wow. I didn't feel bad at all.

Ok, start throwing those tomatoes and rotten eggs. NOW! :)

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ooops!

You know those slumbook questions in grade school where you were asked to write down your most embarassing moments? I have just updated my answer to that question. I was walking idly inside Ali Mall one lazy afternoon when I noticed some girls looking down on my feet. To my horror, I realized I was wearing a mismatched pair of sandals! Since I couldn't go home yet because of the traffic snarl made worse by road improvements near my neighborhood, I had no choice but to hold my head high. That's what you get for not sleeping the night before because you had a deadline to beat.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Restoring Its Rightful Place

Good news for all Hispanistas, feeling-Castilas, genuine Castilaloys, Indios, Illusionados, Peninsulares, Mestizos, Netibos, Sosyaleras, Sosyalistas, Sosyal Klaymbers, Malu Fernandez-types-- Gloria is seeking the help of Madrid in bringing back Spanish as an official language again. This will be part of her agenda when she visits Madrid this December (see article below).

This would mean a lot of Spanish teachers will be flocking in from the Peninsula or from Latin America (my Spanish teachers were transplanted Spaniards and South Americans who, despite the aggravations associated with living in chaotic Manila, kinda like it here).

In addition, some changes in the curriculum may be in the offing. I hope Spanish will be introduced starting Grade School. I suggest our education officials take a look at Poveda which includes Spanish in its Grade School and High School curricula.

People, Instituto Cervantes has around 5,000 students now, you should see the number of students leaving the building after the early evening classes. The bulletin boards at the Instituto are filled with call-center openings for Spanish-speaking agents.

This is very critical, indeed. Because as I see it, China is devoting massive resources to learn English. Those call center jobs might as well be heading to China over the long-term. To keep our competitive advantage, we should brush up on our Spanish.

It shouldn't be very diffiuclt. I mean, for crying out loud, most Filipinos speak at least two languages anyway, English and Tagalog. In my case, I also speak Cebuano and a little Spanish, and I'm not complaining. Interestingly, ethnic Chinese Filipinos, or Chinoys, have to learn Fookien and Mandarin as well. Gloria's right in exploiting this cultural advantage of ours. For once I agree with her.

More significantly, facility in Spanish will also open up economic opportunities in Spain and Latin America for future generations of Pinoys. In fact, I'm really starting to feel the urgency of using Spanish: I've been asked several times to translate materials from Spanish to English (despite my obvious deficiencies in Spanish), and I had one project which required me to call South America! ("si, si, mas despacio por favor, lo siento...gracias). I refuse to rely on Babel Fish.

The assertion that Spanish is a symbol of subjugation and imperialism in our modern times is a lot of crap and counter-productive. Spanish is no more a symbol of exploitation than English. Whether we like it or not, we share a cultural heritage with Spain. And Spanish, despite being the language of our colonizers, was also the language of our heroes and martyrs who set this country free. Our history as a people, painful it may be, is inextricably linked with the Spanish language. It is part of our cultural identity. More than economic considerations, Spanish is rightfully ours in the same way that we have come to embrace English and claim it as our own, and we should try to promote its usage again and restore it to its rightful place, as una idioma oficial de la Republica de las Filipinas.

Here's the article (thru EFE):

miércoles 8 de agosto, 3:54 PM
Buenos Aires, 8 ago (EFE).- La presidenta de Filipinas, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, estudia devolver al español en enero la condición de idioma oficial que perdió en 1987 y para ello pedirá colaboración a España, anunció hoy el secretario de la Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española, Humberto López Morales.

Al inaugurar un coloquio en Buenos Aires sobre la lengua española, López Morales afirmó que la gobernante filipina hará su petición de ayuda a España durante la visita que tiene prevista a ese país en diciembre.

La colaboración de España con su antigua colonia puede consistir, según el filólogo cubano nacionalizado español, en el envío de profesores y material bibliográfico para la enseñanza del idioma, entre otras medidas.

Si logra ayuda de las autoridades de España, posiblemente en enero dicte un decreto que oficialice el idioma español, apuntó López Morales.

Aunque Macapagal Arroyo ya ha expresado este deseo públicamente, es la primera vez que se concreta una fecha.

En abril pasado, el Instituto Cervantes de Manila pidió al Gobierno filipino que volviera a incluir el estudio del español como lengua oficial dentro del currículum de los alumnos de la escuela pública.

Filipinas suprimió el español de su sistema educativo en 1987, durante el Gobierno de la presidenta Corazón Aquino, bajo la nueva Constitución que se redactó tras la caída del régimen de Ferdinand Marcos.

Más de 5.000 personas estudian actualmente español en el país, según datos del Instituto Cervantes
. EFE e/cw/egn

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Madz in Italy

Our very own Philippine Madrigal Singers winning the European Grand Prix in Choral Singing in Arezzo, Italy, for the second time!

I'm not familiar with this particular piece at all (“We Beheld Once Again the Stars” by Z. Randall Stroope and sung in its Italian version) but it is easy to see why they took home the prize: tonal color and balance, and most impressive of all, the dynamics which is pretty amazing, from the whisper-like pianissimo (with a sustained bass line), to the thundering fortissimo, especially during the double fugue part. Extremely difficult.

As the turmoil subsides, the deep and sombre bass voices settle down while the sopranos quietly enter, as if your spirit has been lifted up from the pit and into the heavens. And towards the end, from a very long sustained line (how did they do that!), the voices fade slowly into the horizon, like the last rays of the setting sun. Wow! Bravi!

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What's In A Name? 2

Over the phone earlier this afternoon, I spoke with someone named Anygen. Clearly, this is a combination of the parents' names, like Anna and Generoso. She claimed she gets exasperated with it because she had to spell it everytime to everbody and gets asked about its origins all the time. They should have added an "h", like Jhun or Vhong, and make it Anyghen.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Thoughts on a Conductor

Abaddo has been programming a lot of Mahler lately. The 2nd Symphony in Lucerne in 2003 and the 3rd at the BBC Proms only recently, not to mention his numerous forays into Mahler dating back to the sixties, clearly establishes him as the foremost Mahlerian conductor.

He is feeble, sickly, having sufferred an operation in 2000 it is easy to see why Mahler, and of course, Beethoven seems to be very high on his priorities right now. The Milan-born conductor, who held sway over La Scala in the the eighties and the Berlin Philharmonic in the 1990's, is clearly, without doubt, anticipating his end.

He is a master of thematic programming, as his annual European Cultural Concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic shows, and the choice of Beethoven and Mahler, both composers who occupied themselves with the issue of death and resurrection, in his plate means he is preparing to meet his fate with the same quiet fortitude as they did. The unusual power in his Mahler is overwhelming, most especially with the Second, where the staggering violence in the opening movements gives way to a soaring, glorious flight in the unforgettable finale.

I'm not sure if I got my information correctly but I believe he is going to program Beethoven's Ninth in New York this October. By the way, I've plenty of recorded Abaddo: Rossini's Barber of Seville, Brahms' German Requiem, Debussy's La Mer, the Martyrdom of St. Sebastien and Trois Nocturnes, Strauss Elektra, Mahler Two, Verdi Manzoni Requiem, Wagner's Flying Dutchman, Verdi Four Sacred Pieces and Tchaikovsky Tempest. Cecil Licad's award winning Chopin Piano Concerto recording was conducted by Abaddo as well.

Oh My, I wonder how he's gonna interpret Beethoven's grandest composition. I have a Berlin Philharmonic recording with Herbert von Karajan and I didn't like it. Despite the lush tone generated and the fact that it was extremely well-played, I take issue with Karajan's interpretation, which reduced Beethoven's masterpiece into a robotic, mechanical and therefore soul-less performance (think of North Korean soldiers singing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus--tech nically superb but emotionally barren, I'd imagine).

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