Friday, February 29, 2008

MAD TV Classics

MAD TV has since disappeared from Sky Cable. Anyway, here are some hilarious clips from its funniest seasons when Alex Borstein, Mo Collins, Nicole Sullivan and the fantastic Debra Wilson were still part of the show.

The Vagina Monologues

Debra Wilson's impersonations of the black "divas" (e.g., Whitney, Mariah, and Beyonce) as well as Oprah are extremely hilarious.

And this "New Gay" skit pushed me off my seat (Jack TV edited this for Philippine TV).

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Grizzly Reigns

As I made my way out of the apartment, I saw Grizzly trying to squeeze in his fat body through a small opening in the gate. His bloody nose had already healed.

"Grizzly, have you seen Panda and Polar? Or have you finally succeeded in driving them away?"

It's true. I haven't seen the two for quite some time now. In fact, a new ginger cat is trying to establish himself in the siblings' territory.

"Beats me. How the hell should I know," he retorted back.


If you think I'm making this up....

Then you're absolutely right.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff

The composer plays his own composition, the Prelude in C#Minor, recorded in 1919. I learned this piece way back in high school. Hearing his own take, however, I realize my interpretation is way more bombastic than his.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


"Are you OK? We heard the political situation in Manila has started to deteriorate," my father sent this SMS message to me.

"I'm not joining any rally and I live far away from Malacañang," was my terse reply.

"The provinces are calm," he replied, it's as if the country were in a civil war. He seems to think I live next door to the EDSA Shrine. Well, my neighborhood's a stone's throw away from Camp Aguinaldo.

Unlike my mom who reacts calmly, my father always panic-reacts.

Although he's been to Manila several times in the past, he once told me to be careful in the big city lest I encounter members of the dreaded Sputnik Gang. I didn't even know how to react. Tabloids, TV Patrol and AM radio fired up his imagination.

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The Genuine Article

Oh crap, Johnny Depp lost again. Why does the Academy routinely ignore the guy? He's a brilliant actor who specializes in off-beat, unconventional roles and he does it so well. I'm not sure if I liked Edward Scissorhands, I don't care about his stint in 21 Jumpstreet but I enjoyed the Legend of the Sleepy Hollow (adapted from the Edgar Allan Poe classic) immensely, even in the incomprehensible Pirates of the Carribean (too much details, at least for my taste) he stood out, bringing life to otherwise one-dimensional characters.

Sure, Daniel Day-Lewis is a fine actor who, by the way, speaks like an English Lit professor, peppering his statements with lots of metaphor, (although I haven't seen There Will Be Blood, the movie adaptation of Upton Sinclair's 1927 socialist novel, Oil!) but he has won the acting award before, for My Left Foot (which I saw at the UP Film Centre). His role as a paraplegic in that movie literally begged for the Best Actor trophy.

Finally, Spanish actor Javier Bardem got noticed and won the Best Supporting award. He got nominated before and lost. His countryman Antonio Banderas should get lessons from him. Banderas used to be a first-rate actor under Pedro Almodovar, when he moved to Hollywood, he seemed to have nosedived and made mostly popcorn-movies such as Zorro.

I plan to watch Atonement. Looks interesting. It is based on a best-selling book by Ian McEwan, by the way.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mocking Democracy

It's the anniversary of People Power 1 tomorrow and a huge rally will be held in reaction to the sordid ZTE NBN mess. As much as I share some of the sentiments of those who are demanding Gloria's ouster, I do not agree that forcing her to step down at this point in time is the best option for our country. If Gloria will be forced to resign, it's going to be a really sad day for all of us. It only means that after so many People Power revolts, the established democratic institutions our heroes have fought and died for are really inutile against the forces of corruption; that the only way to get rid of erring officials is not through the courts but through the streets; and that despite repeated street marches, we have never really learned our lesson.

We're making a mockery of democracy.

Successive People Power Revolts haven't made a lot of difference in improving the lives of ordinary folks. Forty percent of Filipinos still live below the poverty line. That's a lot of Filipinos, mind you. That's not an accomplishment I can truly be proud of.

It breaks my heart every time I pass by a slum area, or when I see a beggar on the street, or when I see idle job-seekers passing the time inside air-conditioned malls because they have nowhere else to go. It is a scenario I do not wish to encounter every day of my life.

I'm tired of all these rallies that produce no concrete changes, anyway. I'm very pessimistic of their chances of producing real reforms in government. What we need right now is to demonstrate that our democratic system works, that the institutions tasked with delivering basic government services can be counted on. We need to show to the rest of the world that honesty, transparency and fair play are valued here as well.

You can't really blame me if I wish no part in the oust-Gloria activities tomorrow if you find out that some just-as-evil-politicians are already jockeying for plum positions should Gloria be thrown out of office. "Hakot" crowds associated with the previous administration coming from slums and poor areas were again bribed and hired to beef up the numbers during last week's rally in Makati. I mean, you bring down a corrupt government and you replace it, quite possibly, with another corrupt government? We'll simply have more of the same. We're only going to end up screwed, this time by a different bunch of corrupt officials, anyway. So what's the difference? When will we ever learn?

We have a really bad image abroad. Have you ever wondered why, despite our stellar 7.3% GDP growth, foreign direct investments remain paltry? Just read the foreign embassies' trade advisories on doing business in the country and most of them advise their prospective investors that "grease," or facilitation money is an accepted standard operating procedure when dealing with government agencies here. It's enough for foreign investors to set their sights somewhere else.

For all her faults, I believe Gloria can turn this economy around. She has, in fact, made significant strides in that direction. A trained economist, she understands the complexities of an economy forced to compete in a more globalized setting. She needs no advisers when critical matters such as managing the budget and expanding revenues are concerned. She knows the country's economic strengths and weaknesses, and she's qualified to carry out solutions because she understands their ramifications.

When the country's run-away foreign debt almost followed Argentina towards bankruptcy, she heeded the call of her colleagues at the UP School of Economics to implement drastic financial reforms. She instituted tax reforms to raise revenues and cut the budget deficit, easing pressure on interest rates. She took advantage of the dollar's weakness by pre-paying outstanding dollar loans, consequently reducing the burden on interest payments as well as improving our credit standing abroad. Her monetary policies tamed inflation despite sky-rocketing global oil prices and cut the cost of borrowing. She actively promoted tourism and IT services, and with government's all-out support BPO and call centers provided a lot of jobs to otherwise unemployed job-seekers. Let's give credit where credit is due, Yah?

She miscalculated, however, when she replaced Dante Canlas as NEDA Chief with the over-rated AIM Professor Romulo Neri, who consequently made the NEDA a rubber-stamp agency.

Her achievements in the economic front notwithstanding, her handling of her political affairs leaves much to be desired, it makes you want to head to the nearest bathroom and throw up. The Makati Business Club has already called for her to resign, citing issues of accountability and transparency. The National Council of Churches, the umbrella organization of Protestant Churches in the country, has done the same. Catholic bishops remain divided, however. And clearly, the military is again on red alert.

She has to act now, before it's too late. Her political fortunes are threatened, but she can still salvage it.

She has to stop invoking her "executive privilege" when members of her Cabinet, the police, her husband and close business associates are summoned to the Senate to shed light on the ZTE issue. She can't keep on dismissing the allegations as mere "politicking" when she admitted that the said contract was indeed, anomalous. Let them face the music and be subjected to the glare of public scrutiny.

In addition, people are demanding concrete actions resulting from the mess as most have already made up their minds whether or not corruption in high places has, in fact, taken place. Failure to act will only make many people angrier, and those actively seeking her ouster, bolder in their actions.

If I were her, I'd take Abalos as the sacrificial lamb and not give him a graceful exit, although Abalos may have ensured her victory during the last Presidential elections. All these investigations have to result in somebody "taking a direct hit," perhaps throwing somebody behind bars.

She's the President alright, but obviously she kowtows to her husband, the First Gentleman. Why else would she appoint Cabinet men closely associated with FG? Why would his sons orchestrate the ouster of de Venecia as House Speaker and replace him with Congressman Nograles, a "buddy" of his? And why does Enrique Razon, another "buddy" from his Ateneo days, get juicy Chinese contracts for himself?

In other words, she has to rein in her husband and their spoiled sons who act as if they own Congress. Put them on a leash, for crying out loud. "Conflict of Interest" is something that she should keep in mind. It has brought her a lot of trouble. It's making her term in office more tenuous.

To restore public trust she has to distance herself away from her husband's men, colleagues and associates. That means she stop appointing people associated with FG. As I have mentioned before, FG is the evil one, not Gloria. She should also instruct her undistinguished, spoiled sons in Congress to keep a low profile and desist from fanning the flames of anger.

Gloria, listen to my advice (kapal!) and you'll survive the current political storm.

I'll stick my neck out and predict that the rally tomorrow and subsequent ones will not likely topple her government. (You can get back at me if events hereon will not bear this out). The people are divided on the issue: the Church, business groups and the academe. This is so unlike the previous events that led to the ouster of Erap.

Divided or not, however, if the military withdraws its support for Gloria, then it will be the end of her political career.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008


You wait for the phone to ring. In the meantime, you're humming a tune to pass the time. It doesn't ring.

You sit on the couch, watch some inane TV shows, and hope for the car horn to honk outside your gate. You can only hear the dogs barking.

You check your mobile for SMS messages. Greeting-card messages. Delete.

Finally you try to sleep, you think of happy thoughts, you imagine Julie Andrews singing "The hills are alive..." while dancing in the meadows, and force yourself to dream of being up in the clouds floating and cruising towards a fading horizon. It doesn't come, you can't even remember a thing.

And then you take a shower, and you notice that there's something wrong with the knob.

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Friday, February 22, 2008


Picture this: it's dark and drizzling outside, you have no one to talk to and you're bored to death. You flick on the remote and there's nothing on but Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino. The sight makes you want to barf so you change channels instead and settle for TVE, the Spanish Channel.

You feel a mixture of irritation, boredom, torpor, listlessness. You have a dour mood. You feel like strangling somebody. You want to shout, "Cut the crap" at your next door neighbor who keeps on wailing like a police siren on her Magic Sing, but you don't because it's not worth it. You pick up a book from a pile, start reading, but you couldn't get past the first page.

You sit up, stand up, sit down, scratch your head. And then you open the fridge. There's nothing there.

And then a brilliant idea, you cut your nails.

I am not making sense, am I? But this piece of music perfectly captures that mood. Giuseppe Andaloro interprets Alban Berg's Sonata no. 1 on the piano.

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Lost Contact

In grade school, I used to hang out with Ambrose and Dwight. We were like the three stooges, except that the three of us were all skinny back then.

Dwight was a very good takyang ("sipa" in Tagalog) player. He could do the "walk the dog" on his yoyo, too. But I think Ambrose was better at marbles.

Dwight reminds me that we engaged in a fist-fight at the back of the school once. Since we hadn't punched and bloodied someone else's nose yet, kids our age thought we were both candidates for sissy-hood. (In grade school, that was a fate worse than death). And so we turned on each other and kicked, punched and wrestled on the ground.

In high school, we all went to the same school but were in different sections. In college I enrolled in Diliman while the two of them hied off to Cebu.

Ambrose is now a solar Physicist ('brose is that how people call you) in Germany while Dwight is an Engineer in Saudi Arabia.

While I'm stuck here writing this blog. hehehe

Last time I saw Dwight was in high school, ages ago. When I saw his pix I hardly recognized him.

Anyway, Ambrose found his Friendster, got his e-mail and promptly notified me.

Dwight, welcome!

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fruit Diet

When I need to detoxify because of too much alcohol and fatty food, I usually go on a fruit diet for like, three or four days in a row. It's actually very simple. You just open a small can of fruit cocktail and throw in bits and slices of banana, apple and grapes and you're done. Down it with pineapple or mango juice and that's it. Or you could eat whole bananas, apples and oranges. The benefits are tremendous. Your pimples and blemishes disappear and your skin gets clearer. Honest.

Unfortunately, more often than not I can only go as far the 2nd Day. The problem with fruit or vegetable diets is that they digest easily, so you feel light the whole day and you're always hungry.

The first day is always manageable. You even congratulate yourself for being so health-conscious that you start pitching about the benefits of healthy lifestyles to your friends.

On the 2nd day, however, your stomach starts complaining and you keep telling yourself that you will treat yourself later to a...banana, although you find yourself unable to take another bite.

It gets awful on the third day, you start hallucinating, like seeing a giant fried chicken in the sky and you start day-dreaming about sinigang and binagoongang baboy (anchovied pork).

The last day is horrible, you know you're nearing the finish line but you just can't take another banana without throwing up. You keep thinking about Jollibee and McDo.

And then you compensate for your self-imposed deprivation the past 4 days by making a mad dash for the nearest McDo and overindulging on Day 5, which isn't a very good thing.

John has his own version, vegetable and egg whites only. I think it works for him.

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Barrio News

My father says we now have a steady supply of pure, spring water pumped directly from its source. We used to pump ground water using a generator but the untreated water remains undrinkable. Thanks to the efforts of the national government (and shame on the municipio whose "sitting" mayor remains true to the description-- she sits all day long doing nothing except to engage in political squabbles) which spearheaded the efforts to provide clean, drinking water to far-flung barrios and sitios. Amazingly, the access road leading to our barrio is also being improved, which means we won't feel as isolated as before.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Life, in all its splendor....the horizon fades...throwing pensive glances...


Are you kidding me? This isn't one of those profound blog entries.

I forgot what I was supposed to write about...

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ivory Tower No More

Amazingly, Manolo Quezon, the grandson (I believe) of our Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon, a columnist and TV host, made a short, passing mention of the Write Stuff in his blog.

I also had to take a deep breath when I found out someone from the uhm, AFP--gasp! read my Maelstrom post!!!

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I have small fingers. I have always known that, since my hands feel worn and tired after I attempt Chopin and Rachmaninoff on the piano, with the dizzying harmonics and scales of the former, and the latter, the pounding 5-note chords extending beyond an octave.

One friend remarked that my fingers resemble that of a midget's, "it's out of proportion, quite tiny relative to your arms."

They may be small, but they're quite nice, I am told. One former office colleague wondered why it's smooth and soft with no callouses at all, almost like a girl's. In the hospital one nurse kept complaining that she couldn't find the vein she was supposed to insert the dextrose needle into (Ron, ano ba yan?), she surmised that I probably live like a señorito at home.

"Oh, it's the piano, it does wonders to your fingers, makes it flexible and nimble," which more often than not, is an explanation that would simply elicit the usual, "yeah, right."

If you think there is a correlation between the size of my fingers and...and...ya know...I assure you, that's not the case at all.

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Monday, February 18, 2008


Change can be difficult to accept sometimes. You are pushed out of your comfort zone and unwillingly thrust on an unfamiliar terrain.

The uncertainty can cause you sleepless nights, after all what's the assurance that everything will turn out well?

Priorities will have to change, goals sorted out, plans laid out and executed. It's going to be a lot difficult, but this can be a perfect opportunity to set out on a different direction, a spring cleaning of sorts, an overhaul of past mistakes. Hopefully, current inertia will give way to a renaissance of forgotten but worthy tasks.

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A New Balkan State

Kosovo declared independence over the week-end, formalizing its split with Serbia and completing a turbulent break-up of the former Yugoslavia. 90% of Kosovars are ethnic Albanians who are mostly secular Moslems, a complete contrast from the majority Orthodox Serbs in the North. Seceding from Serbia is probably the best solution to the Balkan crisis which culminated in the ethnic cleansing policies of the convicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic not seen since Hitler's time.

Belgrade is not happy, along with its ally, Moscow, while Washington and major European Union nations like Britain, France and Germany will likely recognize its independence. Countries that are currently battling separatist movements in their backyard, such as Indonesia, China, Spain and Greece and most notably, Russia do not want Kosovo's secession from Serbia to set a precedent to their own rebellious provinces. In China's case, obviously, the Tibet and Taiwan issues resonate forcefully and it is unlikely that Beijing will accord state recognition.

With Russia and China exercising full veto powers in the UN Security Council, it is unlikely that Kosovo will be admitted to the United Nations anytime soon.

The nations are split over Kosovo along Cold War lines: the Americans and Western Europeans on one side and the Russians and the Chinese on the other.

Again, you ask, "What has Kosovo got to do with me?"

I don't know.

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Juan of a Kind

A good friend is celebrating his birthday today. Sometimes, I feel as if I have a façade and he sees right through it. He's a lot younger, but I sometimes find myself pondering over his thoughts and ideas. A kindred spirit and a generous soul, he is blessed in many ways, but he never thinks he's better than anyone. In fact, I think he unjustifiably underrates himself. I wish that people see him in this light and stop making his life a little difficult.

Anyway, despite my blog's strike-anywhere, write-as-you-please, almost-ivory-tower direction, he visits this site regularly, which I didn't expect would interest him to begin with.

A mi Pescador de las Perlas, Pearl Fisher, Pêcheur des Perles: John Arvy, Feliz, Feliz Cumpleàños, mi amigo.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008


While she was walking on the street leading up to her house, Estela was using her cell phone when somebody snatched it from her. Later on, the cellphone snatcher called up her house, apologizing for the incident, explaining that dire circumstances led him to do the deed. Apparently, he knew where she lived as well as her landline. He must have been watching a lot of Safeguard commercials, ya know, that "Ako ang iyong konsensya/I am your conscience" bit.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Werther's Aria

Mexican tenor Ramon Vargas interprets this French romantic classic, Pourquoi me reveiller... from Massenet's Werther.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Darkness Beckons

Just when you thought you put your best foot forward, the world came crashing down your feet. You are not what you think you are, dammit. Wake up, you are seeing a mirage in the desert.

Night has yet to fall, but you search for the fading embers of the sun anyway, especially when crimson turns to black, eagerly waiting for darkness to spread out its wings.

The corals and the fish burst with vibrant color, but it is the abyss below that catches your attention: deep, black and warm. It confounds you, inviting you to its fold and its warm embrace.

When that single, flicker of light during a stormy night fails to provide that glimmer of hope, that light at the end of the tunnel, darkness becomes your friend, your companion forever.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Malacañang's botched attempt at abducting another star witness of the ZTE scandal, Jun Lozada, so as to prevent him from testifying in the Senate only means the higher corridors of power are really guilty of high-level hanky-panky.

The police were so inept, they kept on hemming and hawing, providing incredible statements that even a half-wit won't be able to stomach. Supposedly, the family of Lozada requested the abduction for his protection. Protection from who? His family? And so by calling in the police, the people Lozada was supposed to testify against (Gloria et al) were actually the ones giving him protection?

Yah, it's logical.

Joey de Venecia opened a Pandora's box as Lozada further revealed that another Chinese-funded project, the Southrail project was also overpriced.

Why doesn't the Senate summon Chinese Embassy officials as well?

Gloria's quaking in her heels right now. The Makati Business Club is calling for her ouster.

So what else is new?

To be fair to Gloria, I think the evil one is her husband and their spoiled kids.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008


"Metathione!" bellowed the Pharmacist from behind the counter, whereupon a lady customer dutifully claimed her purchase.

The girl beside me told her companion, "Metathione, that's for skin whitening, right?"


And then all of us inside the drug store strained our necks to catch a glimpse of the Metathione customer, wanting to find out if she were "artistahin" or not.

Had it been "Xenical" we'd still be craning our necks to find out if the customer were overweight or not.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

The Karajan Case

Herbert von Karajan dominated the twin symphonic peaks of Berlin and Vienna, and controlled the shrine to Mozart, Salzburg from the sixties well into the late eighties. He was and, more than a decade after his death, remains a controversial and polarizing figure. His involvement as an official member of the Nazi Party is well documented, which for some people, means he was a true-blue anti-Semite. Other German cultural figures during the war like conductor Karl Bohm and soprano Elizabeth Schwarkopf were involved as well, I believe.

Richard Wagner and wife Cosima were anti-Semitic, so much that their heirs who run Bayreuth go to so much trouble in correcting the errors of the past by inviting Jewish conductors like James Levine to conduct Wagner operas at the festival. In fact, Hitler exalted Wagner's music, especially the bombastic kind like the Flight of the Valkyries, while condemning the Schoenberg school of atonality. To this day, some people still associate Wagner's music with Nazi triumphalism.

The link between the composer and the conductor is obvious: their politics were askew, but whether or not they deserve to burn in hell is not for me to judge. Wagner's music is glorious, although I'm not a big fan of Karajan (who likes to stamp his own brand of interpretation totally different from the composer's intentions), he had some scintillating performances as well.

Here's an example of that, the final Liebestod to Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, with Jessye Norman along with Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic splendidly interpreting this paean to eternal love that transcends death.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cable Rants

The fall-out between Sky Cable and Solar Entertainment over the Manny Pacquiao boxing matches broadcasting rights resulted in the non-renewal of Solar Channels like Jack TV and Solar Sports (which carries NBA games) on the cable line-up. So no more My Name is Earl,WWE or MAD TV episodes.

And in lieu of WWE, Sky gives us--get this-- Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant! The horror! Marc, we were still licking tootsie-rolls when these over-sized wrestlers strutted their stuff.

Instead of NBA, we get NCAA (the US one, not the local one). And as for boxing, forget it! Sky features old Fight Night clips from the 80's. Sky might as well feature Gillette World of Sports videos from Ronald Reagan's time.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Company of Wolves

In a dramatic turn of events, Congress voted to oust de Venecia as House Speaker and replaced him with a Gloria, or rather a Mike Arroyo, ally, Congressman Nograles from Davao. Reportedly, the two sons of Gloria, Mikey and Dato, both Congressmen from Pampanga and Bicol, respectively, initiated the move in what amounts to a naked display of Gloria's power over Congress.

Dato, in his speech said that Congress isn't de Venecia's kingdom. Duh, nor is the entire country your family's, you twit. In fact, your only credential is that you happen to be a son of a sitting President. You have never even lived in the district you supposedly represents. The nerve.

The fall-out from the ZTE scandal has cost de Venecia the Speakership, as Gloria wasn't too happy about his failure in reining in his son, the whistle-blower, from divulging too much details about the anomaly which involves her directly, as well as close Mike Arroyo pals like Enrique Razon who keeps on getting juicy Chinese deals for himself.

Clearly, majority of the Congressmen did not seem to be bothered by the President's involvement in the scam. Obviously, she's no different from them-- in the company of wolves.

As expected, de Venecia lashed at Gloria and has started revealing information about anomalies in the last Presidential elections. Problem is, everybody knows that already, and it really appears that the former Speaker is sour-graping.

Removing de Venecia from the Speakership alters the political landscape: he's now with the opposition. And given his astute political skills, Gloria better watch out, because de Venecia's not gonna sit back and take this in stride.

As sure as the day is long, de Venecia will likely forge an alliance with Erap and the rest of the opposition. This is not the end of it, that is for sure.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Raison d'etre

I've been joining 10K runs since 2005, (I think) so I guess it's really high time that I aim for the longer ones: 16K, 21K and even 25K. I'm not exactly a fast runner, but what I lack in speed I make up for in endurance (like running the whole day while everybody else is going to sleep...joke). I don't have a proper training guide to follow, (I haven't finished reading the running guide Jun sent me supposedly for the Subic marathon) but I should really start taking running seriously.

Most of the time, running is a mental struggle. Forcing yourself to take another single stride when all your leg muscles are screaming in pain takes all of your will power. It's so easy to give up, especially when you start seeing others walking, or when a steep route seem to stretch like, forever.

Here's where your prime motivation, the raison d'etre for participating, comes in. Obviously, getting fit and slim are on top of everybody's agenda, but when you run and take with you your stresses, anxieties and worries, when you finish, you know that you can overcome these things in the same way you overcame your physical struggles for completing the race.

I know, I know. It's sooo Oprahtic, but hey, it works for me.

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Egg Surprise

In Taiwan, I bought a pack of round "chocolate" snack treats at the Duty Free. They looked so yummy I thought of melting it back home. When I got home, I opened it and --gasp!-- it turned out to be -- real eggs! I really thought they were chocolate. How was I supposed to know? I couldn't read the label.

Which reminds me of that interesting-looking Egg Surprise served at the Kalayaan Freshman Dorm. It looked so unappetizingly horrible, no wonder, you'd really be surprised!

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Opus 15

Vladimir Ashkenazy, Piano
Carlo Maria Guilini, conductor
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

This Brahms concerto showcases the composer at his absolute best: romantic lyricism brought to new heights with skillful writing for both piano and orchestra. In fact, it isn't a concerto in the conventional sense where the piano takes the leading part but more like a symphony where the piano plays a decisive part with the orchestra, not over, above or against it.

This is clear at the onset as the main theme in the Maestoso section-- powerful, gripping and hard-- is introduced by the orchestra in fortissimo. The piano delivers a contrasting mood as it introduces lyrical themes reconciling the inner tension released by the orchestra. With powerful octave passages by the soloist, as well as the return of the main theme this time played by the piano, the movement ends as it gloomily starts.

In fact, the first Maestoso is said to have been inspired by the news that Brahms' mentor and champion, Robert Schumann, had attempted suicide.

1st Movement: Maestoso. Poco più moderato.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

2nd Movement: Adagio

The middle movement is very contemplative: it's all about a serene and gentle adagio that is like a solemn prayer or hymn that rises to glorious heights and gradually fades into a dignified pianissimo.

Part 1

Part 2

3rd Movement: Rondo: Allegro non troppo

Quintessential Brahms!!! powerful, leaping octaves and robust and almost brusque themes are set against a backdrop of struggles and conflicts from the Maestoso section that are finally brought here and resolved in one, spectacular and bravura close.

Part 1

Part 2

Fantastic playing by Vladimir Ashkenazy, there's nothing more I can say except that his rendition is a sensitive reading of Brahms' powerful masterwork.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Out of the Doldrums

A combination of benign inflation, low interest rates and a strong currency provided the impetus for growth for the Philippine economy in 2007. GDP rose 7.3% from 5.4% in 2006, while GNP (which includes remittances sent by overseas Filipinos) registered 7.8% from 6.1% last year.

As expected the services sector, boosted by BPO and call centres-- along with the strong showing of financial (especially insurance)-- posted the highest growth rate among all sectors, at 8.7% compared 6.7% the previous year.

Industry rose by 6.6%, boosted by the 25% growth in mining, while Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery increased by 5.1% from 3.8% in 2006.

Remittances was more than what I expected, at US$16.5 billion, is 19.5% higher than last year's.

2008 will be a challenging year, mainly due to the ripple effect of the slowdown in the US economy. But the stellar performance of the economy in 20007 means we are in a better position to weather any downturn.

I only hope that foreign direct investments in the Philippines finally pick up. Compared to our ASEAN neighbors, we lag behind. Again, this is largely due to inadequate levels of infrastructure as well as expensive power rates. And which is aggravated mostly by perceptions of corruption and red tape.

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