Thursday, November 29, 2007

Misguided Missile

We have another mutiny taking place, done by the same people responsible for the Oakwood mutiny. Trillanes and company were inside a Makati RTC for a hearing regarding the Oakwood episode when they suddenly took over the place, walked out of the hearing, made a big parade along Makati Avenue while calling for President Arroyo to resign and entered and camped inside Manila Peninsula Hotel.

Just who do these people think they are? Arrest them, for crying out loud.

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Last Saturday night, on her TV program Jessica Soho had an interesting feature on "sago," that pearl-size, jelly-like, chewable but starchy thing which is the better half of "gulaman." I didn't know that it was made of cassava. Thing is, growing up in Mindanao, we call the sago "landang," and landang comes from the trunk of, according to the TV report, a "sago tree" which is really just a variety of nipa, or palm tree. The sago here in Manila comes from cassava while the sago in the Southern parts comes from a palm tree. Again, just like Macopa, sago has an identity crisis, depending on which region you live.

Marc is familiar with landang, I know there's plenty of nipa in Bohol. My late grandma would always bring some to Mindanao. It's actually very good, especially for tabiraq (that's guinatan in Manila or binignit in Cebu).

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nadir's Aria

Tenor Paul Groves' stunning rendition of Nadir's aria, "Je crois entendre encore..." preceded by recitative, to Bizet's Les Pecheurs des Perles.

The tessitura is high, the notes are long, the rhythm's slow and languid, and the top notes are delivered not in forte but somewhere between piano and mezzo forte, a difficult feat to achieve especially when volume is usually needed to hit the high notes.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

It's All About the Shorts

I have been planning to blog about short shorts, but Jun already beat me to it har har har. Anyway, Jun and I participated in the 10Km Animo Run at the back of the Mall of Asia wearing some of the shortest of shorts available, the running shorts. It's so short your butt could easily be exposed when you're running. It's comfortable and ideal for running but, you feel like an exhibitionist. In contrast, Andy wore knee-length shorts.

Actually, the Tagalog slang for running shorts when translated into English, means "vagina shorts." How the running shorts came to resemble the female reproductive organ I don't know. Maybe it's so short you can almost take a peek at the... Jun's turned out to be even shorter and-- gasp! tighter-- than mine, although prudence dictated that he wear black trunks underneath. Apparently, this was the result of his "costume rehearsal" the night before the race. I couldn't keep myself from laughing, even by just thinking about it.

So for the Subic Race this January....ahahaha.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mozart: Mitridate, Re di Ponto

Natalie Dessay (soprano) and Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano) throwing coloraturas at each other like articles of weaponry in Mozart's Mitridate, Re di Ponto.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Hong Kong Pix

Met up with Johnny Bravo over dinner and coffee. Haven't seen him for quite some time. It's always like this: starting November, dinner, lunch and coffee invitations pour in, spilling over towards December.

He took the following pix when he went to Hong Kong last September. Really good, isn't it? He's a practicing nurse and an aspiring photographer.

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Song List

I think it was Marc who complained that while reviewing for the CPA exams, he had a neighbor who kept on singing April Boy Regino's latest hits in his videoke/karaoke machine (There was no Magic Sing yet). Imagine having April Boy's music playing in your mind while taking the board exams.

My landlady likes to belt out "Si Aida, Si Lorna at si Fe," and "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" at least twice a week. Even Panda and Polar stay away and hide somewhere else when she tries to impress her neighbors with her vocal exhibition.

Which brings me to my list of some of the most awful songs composed in this planet. Considering that my knowledge of pop music is relatively limited, my list is, well, not exhaustive.

We begin with,

OCEAN DEEP: I know a lot of you folks like this, but I don't. Why not sea deep?

SHAKE YOUR BON BON: I'm not sure exactly if this is the correct title. Although screaming girls and gays would ogle and drool over Ricky Martin while he is performing this number, I'm sure a lot of them would prefer to ogle and drool over him with their hands covering their ears.

UNO, DOS, TRES...etc: Again, another hideous Ricky Martin fast latin number. I'm wary of songs that start with counting numbers (like 5,6,7,8) because it's like you're being forced to do aerobics even if you don't want to.

KNIFE: "Knife, cuts like a knife/I'm so dee-eeeplee woun-ded, knife" I don't even know where to begin. Hand me the knife please.

McARTHUR PARK: The classic non-sense lyrics: "I left the cake out in the rain, and it took so long to bake it, and I'll never have that recipe again," let's all do this together, ready, "Oh nooooo!"

And the worst, ever:

DON'T BREAK MY HEART, MY ACHY-BREAKY HEART: Wow, really. I'm speechless. The composer should be charged with a crime against humanity.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Common Block

Ten South-East Asian nations agreed to form an economic block by 2015, European Union-style sans the common currency with the signing of the Charter earlier this week. With a population roughly the same as Europe's, it is clearly aimed at countering the growing economic might of both China and India, with more than a billion people each.

Singapore is very aggressive in pushing for the Charter, not only because it holds the rotation presidency, but as a hub of financial services and transport, it benefits tremendously from seamless trade activities in the region.

There is a wide economic disparity among member-countries, with Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei on the top end of the spectrum; Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and now, Vietnam straddling the middle-level; and Laos, Burma and Cambodia on the lower end. How to bridge this gap and allow the benefits of free trade to filter down to the less-developed economies is clearly a big challenge.

Political structures also vary: only Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines seems to fall under democratic governments, as the rest adopts (1) a one-party system such as the communist states in French Indo-China, (2) ruled by a military junta (Burma and Thailand), (3) an absolute monarchy (Brunei) or simply, (4) a democratic police-state like Singapore.

No wonder then, political considerations take a back seat. The issue of Burma's crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents has been sidestepped and the association has treated it with kid gloves. Thailand, in particular, is sensitive considering that a huge portion of its gas requirements are sourced from Burma.

Unfortunately, ASEAN's credibility has been assailed precisely because of inaction in influencing events in Burma.

But I think the more important agenda has always been the signing of the Charter, to give the proposed economic bloc a legal entity for the long-term, if the whole region were to break away from the tentacles of China and India.

What to do with Burma within the ASEAN will remain an open question, probably in the same way that Turkey's inclusion in the European Union remains a big issue among Europeans.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Golden Prospects

The mining sector's prospects really look bright. Gold prices are currently at around US$850/oz. and might be heading towards US$1,000 in the medium-term. Again, the continued weakness of the dollar, oil-induced higher inflation (US$100/barrel) and low interest rates and you have investors pouring their funds into gold.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007


I met up with Jane Austen, a former office colleague who had turned her back on Credit Investigation, shifted careers in mid-life and is now a Registered Nurse, over coffee.

And barely a month after my entry on Fat Variations, she predictably said, "Lester..." some people still call me by my first name, " look OK, but I can see your prominent belly from afar," thank you Mademoiselle, you are so nice.

"Oh, it's because I have stopped attending dragon boat training," I attempted to provide an explanation.

"...and your scalp, I can clearly see it from here..." she pointed it out, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"That's just the hair cut, and the gel I'm using," I lied, I didn't use any.

"Your skin is still fair, although a shade darker," Am I signing up for a porn movie, I wanted to ask her.

Jane Austen has this unequaled ability in saying the most unflattering comments in the most polite and serious manner. It's different if say, Che or John were saying these things, because I know it was done in the spirit of levity, and we're simply going to have a good laugh in the end. But with her, she delivers her lines with the severity of a dreaded disease. Which makes it devastating.

Anyway, she wanted to ask my advice about sterilization procedures inside an operating room- she's currently doing a research on it. Why she thinks I know anything about what goes on inside an operating room is beyond me.

Sometimes, people really overrate me, not that I mind, though. She reminded me of Chelo, another office colleague who called me up very early one morning to ask for my help about her assigned MBA case study. And then there's Shaq, who asked me if I have a study on carbon dioxide. "The whaaat?" "You know, CO2 gas." He works for a gas supplier.

Jane Austen and I ended up talking about the Nursing Industry and her prospects for working abroad.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007


For the first time ever, I completed my reports way ahead of schedule. Although I had to start working at 4 a.m. three days in a row, my efforts paid off. I do like working before sunrise. It is quiet and you can concentrate on your task without interruption.

Anyway, I'm writing this using my cellphone as my laptop's modem. Not bad. So Marc, even if we happen to be somewhere in the hinterlands with no internet, as long as there is a network signal, we can still access the internet. With speeds up to 450 kbps, and at only PhP20 an hour, it's a pretty cool deal.

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Bruch: Violin Concerto

Kim Hwa Chung with the London Symphony under Andre Previn performing the 1st movement to Max Bruch's Violin Concerto.

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Heart Burn

When you feel your heart beating faster and in unison with another even for just a fleeting moment, when a single smile would be enough to get you through an entire day, when the most ungrammatical comment suddenly becomes poetry, when a childish prank becomes adorable, when images always get framed in your mind and remain in mint condition long afterwards, when you want to possess and even invade someone else's body and soul for all eternity, you know you are in love. Five years ago, probably around this time-- seriously, I fell in love.

It was a different feeling. Because when the other party starts to reciprocate and seeks not only companionship but intimacy as well, then you know what it is like to have really lived.

But it didn't last.

The break-up was painful. It took me quite some time to recover. I badgered a close friend with frantic messages in the wee hours of the morning, not so much as to seek comfort and advice, but mainly to tell me that it is not the end of the world. Unlike physical pain which goes away eventually, the pain you experience lingers, gnaws, throws imaginary punches until you tear yourself apart. I fully understand why some people take really drastic measures, maybe they simply gave in and called it quits.

But then again, this thing called love which causes so much pain and desperation, is also life-affirming and transcendental: it enabled Madeleine de Croissy to rise above her desperate situation following the murder of her mother and the burning of her house during the French Revolution; it caused Princess Turandot to overcome her hatred of men despite her life-long vow to avenge the rape of an ancestress; it allowed Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Heathcliff and Catherine, Radames and Aida-- all literary and musical figures, yes-- to remain together despite the insurmountable odds. It was their love that binded them together until the very last breath.

Florentino Ariza's unrequited love for Fermina Daza survived more than half a century. He never threw in the towel. When the opportunity presented itself, he proposed again.

And like him, I too will not stop: when an opportunity presents itself, I will do so again.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spacing Out

I have a staggered deadline starting this morning until Friday. I'm supposed to be writing about syringes and vials, but my head is totally empty right now. I woke up at 4 a.m., finished my calculations by 8 a.m., so I guess I need a break right?

Will start writing my reports later, when I feel like it. Ya know, when the "light bulb" finally pops up and I'm supposed to say "Eureka!"

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


My neighbor has a tambis tree. I will search for the scientific name later, promise. Anyway, I got into a long-standing debate with a friend who said that the tree is actually a macopa. I said that no, that is tambis. He insists it is macopa. But macopa, I told him, has a maroon color, almost like an apple's, with a white flesh when you bite into it, and is generally sweeter. Tambis, on the other hand, has a paler pink color, is watery when you bite into it, and not as sweet. But that's not macopa, that's mabolo, he said. No, it is macopa, I have never heard of mabolo before.

It seems, therefore, that this is a classic case of us, Cebuanos versus them, Tagalogs. But Jun and Jen, when we were in Iloilo took the view that what I call macopa is in fact, mabolo.

This is getting crazy. Marc, what do you think? Is macopa commonly available in Bohol?

And so, will the real macopa please stand up?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Long Runs

Without any warm-up and practice whatsoever, I joined the New Balance Power Race held in Clark Field Pampanga over the week-end. Jun, Andy and their labmates survived and came out alive from the 25 km run-- Imagine running non-stop for three hours!-- while I settled for the 10 Km run. I still can't decide whether I will participate in the 21 Km in Subic come January.

Our motivation for joining long runs isn't really the personal-triumph/bucking-all-odds variety, we just want to trim the lard off our bodies.

We all stayed in a hotel located in the red light district. We tried to smell the sheets to look for signs of... hahaha

My legs still hurt hmmmm.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Currency Woes Ad Infinitum

US dollar exchange rate now at PhP42.90. And it's only November. When December kicks in-- Dios mio!-- this is just too much.

The BSP says it intervenes in the market only if there are drastic movements in the exchange rate.

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"Pick Up" Material

Sitting on one side of the river banks, observing the mini-carnival taking place on the other, occasionally throwing pebbles at the ugly janitor fish gnawing its sharp teeth on the flotsam and jetsam and those things floating belly up making their way downstream (think piranha but with armor scales), I stood up from my favorite spot holding a book, made my way down the bridge towards the other side of the river, climbed a flight of concrete stairs leading up to a row of coffee and thrift shops and entered a coffee shop slash beer house.

A quick side glance reveals the true state of affairs: somebody has been following me, making furtive glances, trying to catch my attention with subtle signals. I saw him taking a table not far from mine, tapping his fingers on the table, obviously trying to prod me into some sort of a reply to his gestures.

He looks fortyish, mestizo-looking, in the mold of Jaza and taller than I am, I told myself I'd smash his head on the pavement if he ever mistakes me for those guys cruising for a quick fix.

He moved closer, table by table, until sitting close next to me, he picked up a newspaper, pretended to read, and casually bumped my arm against his, making it appear that he didn't mean it. Duh. Señor, I'm not into this sort of thing, sorry. Can you please be more direct and introduce yourself properly if you really want to make my acquaintance?

I knew what he was looking for, so I simply stood up, left the place and went home.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lady of Leisure

I met up with Che earlier this evening and had dinner at...Minute Burger!

Joke...We had dinner at Italianni's.

She said she reads this blog regularly but skips my entries on classical music because, "I can't pretend to understand it, because I really don't."

"You can't expect me to be looking up the meaning of those musical terms every time," she went on.

But Che, I have added automatic snap shots for artist and composer backgrounds from Wikipedia, meaning to say you only point your mouse over the link and a short definition pops up.

In addition, I mean to keep very simple and self-explanatory terms like fortissimo, fiotura, tessitura, allegro con moto, diminuendo and other musical expressions in standard Italian because I like it that way :)

Anyway, she said she just bought a piece of real estate. In other words, she's now on her way to becoming a "lady of leisure."

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Moment de Grâce

Claudio ABBADO dirige la 5e Symphonie de MAHLER à Lucerne (2004)
4e Mouvement – Adagietto.

Trademark Mahler sound: Tender and delicate yet warm and voluptuous.

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Wish List Year 2 Part 1

Last year, I came up with my wish list for Christmas. As expected, I ended up buying some of the stuff anyway (Marc, pay attention... :)

Mes amis, in addition to that list are some book titles you may want to consider giving me:

*grabeh Ron, you're soooo....uhm kapal! But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. The fall of the dollar is pushing me down the road to poverty.*

Fiction by David Sedaris ("Barrel Fever", "Naked", "Me Talk Pretty One Day"); Flannery O'Connor and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (except "One Hundred Years..." and "Amor en el Tiempo del Colera"- I already have those);

Penguin Classic edition of the new English translation of Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere";

"History of Christianity" by Paul Johnson- explores the rise of the Christian church from a purely socio-political and historical context, rather than from a polemical and theological standpoint;

"All The Pope's Men", Paul Allen's fascinating account of the selection process of the new Pope. I just read his book about the Opus Dei;

And perhaps, a comprehensive guide to opera and symphonies.

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Sunday, November 4, 2007


Pervez Musharaf has declared a State of Emergency, or Martial Law, I guess, in Pakistan. He is holding on to dear life as it is clear his grip on power is loosening up, especially with the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from a self-imposed exile and Washington's support of the former leader.

I think Musharaf feels that's he's been made and played like a pawn in the US' so-called fight against terrorism. He is a key US ally and Pakistan has been instrumental in keeping a tight lid on militant jihadists ready to blow themselves up. In an interview with the BBC, he decried the fact that other nations, particularly the US, didn't keep their end of the bargain. He claimed he has yet to see a single cent from the development aid promised in exchange for his cooperation with the Americans.

And with Washington suddenly cozying up with Bhutto when his political chances seem untenable, this drastic move allows him to at least hold on to power a little bit longer and deliberately annoy the Americans.

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Best Policy

A couple of years ago, Johnny Bravo once asked me when my birthday was. I didn't take his question seriously so I gave him a different date.

I totally forgot about it until the eve of my supposed birthday, when he drove over to my house with a birthday cake he baked himself complete with candles.

I was waiting for a lightning bolt to strike me. I could have melted faster than the candles. I was supposed to coo and say something like,"Ooooh, you shouldn't haaave," but I was racked with guilt for lying.

So what's the moral of the story? Honesty, as grade school walls proudly proclaim, is the best policy.

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In college, one gayish groupmate in a management class kept referring to a generic/unbranded product item I was scheduled to do a presentation on, as "chaka." Chaka in Tagalog gay-speak, means "ugly". I honestly didn't know what it means.

And so when my turn came, I went in front of the class and discussed why our hypothetical company should change the brand name from CHAKA to something else. Uhm yah, I thought it was a brand name! It never occurred to me that it was an adjective.

I couldn't even begin to describe the look on my groupmate's face upon hearing this: it's the same look you have when you're suffering from constipation or a really bad case of dyspepsia.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

ROSSINI: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)
Opera in 3 Acts
Music by Gioacchino Antonio ROSSINI
Libretto in Italian by Cesare Sterbini
First performance, Rome 1816

Hermann Prey, Luigi Alva, Teresa Berganza
Claudio Abaddo, Teatro alla Scala di Milano
Orchestra and Chorus
Production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Along with Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Verdi's La Traviata, Rossini's Barbiere is among the most popular opera in the Italian repertoire. And like the two, it had a resounding failure on opening night on account of a competing opera of the same name by the irascible and well-established Giovanni Paisiello, whose supporters set up a din of shouting and cat-calls during the premiere.

Il Barbiere is easily Rossini's best opera: the action is fast-paced, the story charming, and it is full of big arias and ensemble numbers. In addition, as the representative opera of the bel canto tradition, it is among the most difficult. The major roles of the Barber (Figaro), Count Almamiva and Rosina are sought-after by the most accomplished opera singers.

The story is simple enough: Count Almaviva disguises himself as a commoner, with Figaro's help, to court and win over Rosina who is held under tight watch by Dr. Bartolo, her guardian who wants to marry her.


"Una voce poco fa..."

"Largo al factotum..."

"Dunque io son..."

Luigi Alva as the Count has a ringing top although he struggles with the fast coloraturas, Hermann Prey is excellent, even the character of Bartolo, essayed wonderfully by Enzo Dara, who had to sing probably the fastest bass aria ever, and of course Teresa Berganza who acquits herself very well as the charming Rosina. Rossini wrote the role for a mezzo, but is so popular even sopranos like Callas, Gruberova and Battle like to star in the role so much, although it is Berganza's which is the definitive interpretation.

In the Figaro-Rosina duet in the Second Act, Berganza once said the duet used to frighten her: the dynamics change from fortissimo to pianissimo and the phrasing from legato to staccato in seconds, while the vocal line changes from stately one moment to dancing on pointe the next. In this production, her effortless coloraturas almost steal the limelight away from Almamiva and Figaro.

The Figaro-Rosina-Almamiva trio at the close of the final act is also priceless, with a coloratura in thirds between Rosina and Almaviva!

This is a highly-entertaining reading of Rossini's masterpiece. Abbado used the original instrumentation and Rosina's role has been given over to a mezzo. The whole ensemble remained faithful to the score. Highly recommended.

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Balancing Out

Ok, with oil prices hitting US$95 per barrel, this will likely create a domino effect on the prices of other consumer goods and services.

But the peso has gained considerable strength as well which should mitigate the negative impact of the rise in global oil prices.

I once read an excellent undergraduate economics thesis which found that oil companies actually implement price rises far too quickly than roll-backs.

Is there even a sensitivity analysis available? Ya know, say for every PhP0.10 cent appreciation of the peso, local oil prices should be rolled-back by how much? or for every US$1 increase in oil prices per barrel, what is the impact on local oil prices?

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