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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Le chemins de l'amour

Poulenc's mesmerizing Le Chemins de l'Amour, piano version.






Les chemins qui vont à la mer
Ont gardé de notre passage
Des fleurs, des feuilles et l'écho sous leurs arbres
De nos deux rires clairs.

Hélas, des jours de bonheur,
Radieuses joies envolées,
Je vais sans retrouver traces dans mon coeur.

Chemins de mon amour,
Je vous cherche toujours.
Chemins perdus vous n'êtes plus
Et vos échos sont sourds.
Chemins du désespoir,
Chemins du souvenir,
Chemins du premier jour,
Divins chemins d'amour.

Si je dois l'oublier un jour,
La vie effaçant toute chose,
Je veux dans mon coeur qu'un souvenir
Repose plus fort que l'autre amour.

Le souvenir du chemin,
Où tremblante et toute éperdue,
Un jour j'ai senti sur moi brûler tes mains

Chemins de mon amour,
Je vous cherche toujours.
Chemins perdus,
Vous n'êtes plus
Et vos échos sont sourds.
Chemins du désespoir,
Chemins du souvenir
Chemins du premier jour,
Divins chemins d'amour.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ride of the Valkyries

The magnificent and overwhelming Act III opening, the famous Ride of the Valkyries, from Richard Wagner's "Die Walküre", the second part of his Ring des Nibelungen trilogy.

This is a 1976 Bayreuth production conducted by Pierre Boulez.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Excuse

The QC RTC judge who inhibited himself from hearing the case against Ampatuan Jr for the sake of his family's safety gets a lot of flak for not taking on what is considered to be a "risk of the trade," that is, as a judge people do expect him to eat death threats for breakfast. So when he dispenses his decision in his other cases, is it out of true and objective appreciation of the facts of the case, or out of fear, his critics ask.

Let's not go overboard. He wasn't, isn't and will not be the last judge to inhibit on a case of this magnitude. Remember, none of the Cotabato RTC judges were available to try the case when it clearly falls under their jurisdiction. To begin with, they weren't too keen on taking on the case for fear of their lives, really. After all, it is not everyday that you get to try true evil, -in its most vicious form- personified.

So it doesn't necessarily follow that this response from him is enough reason for us to cast aspersion on his integrity or doubt his capacity as a judge. This is an extraordinary case, which may soon be in the running for the Crime of the Century. Trying somebody who kills 57 people without compunction isn't exactly SOP even for experienced judges. This was supposed to be his finest case should he rise to the occassion, his moment. But he's not interested in becoming a hero of some sort. All he wants is for him and his family to sleep soundly at night.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Derivative

(I get a lot of Japanese spam comments for this 1st Nov09 entry so I'm re-posting this with a slightly different title)

While watching Project Runway Philippines Season Two (2), I noticed that the judges like to agree with and refrain from contradicting each other. Whoever gets to say first usually has the upper-hand, while the rest simply fall in line. Clearly, Rajo Laurel calls the shots, Apples Aberin and that female host never once had a different opinion with Rajo. They would not dare.

Fashion is supposed to be highly subjective, and it should be shaped by different, even opposing opinions and perspectives. To his credit, Rajo can give a credible opinion because he's the only one familiar with the craft of dress-making while the others simply rely on their supposedly heightened sense of high fashion, kasi nga models daw sila dati. Aberin and that lady host couldn't sew even if their lives depended on it, so they make gaya-gaya statements without appearing clueless --they recycle Rajo's comments and project themselves as if they know what they're talking about. Tragic, really.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Il se fait tard (Faust)

The beautiful Love Duet from Gounod's Faust: "...Il se fait tard..." This is the same scene shown in Martin Scorsese's faithful movie adaption of a favorite novel of mine, Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Performed splendidly by real-life couple Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Illegal

I do have my misgivings about the Martial Law declared over at Maguindanao. I am quite aware that the extreme lawlessness in that province can probably be best addressed by Martial Law since civilian rule has already been compromised by feudal landlords who believe the province is theirs by birthright.

Unfortunately, the Constitution clearly does not support the imposition of Martial Law in Maguindanao, even if the President's allies will stand by her side and support the declaration. Martial Law can only be imposed only on very specific grounds- when there is an existing rebellion or invasion- and it cannot be invoked as a preemptive course of action against a rebellion "in the offing." Nor does the discovery of a huge arsenal of guns and ammunition in properties owned by the Ampatuans constitute an existing uprising. The framers of the 1987 Constitution were quite particular about this, so as to avoid abuse of discretion.

We can always argue that the Maguindanao Martial Law has proven to be quite effective in crippling the Ampatuan's infrastructure of violence since this has emboldened witnesses to come forward and testify against the perpetrators, and the suspension of the habeas corpus allowed for the warrantless arrests of the Ampatuans before they could act on destroying or hiding evidence linked to the massacre of 57 civilians and journalists.

But then again, the Constitution does not allow it. Martial Law cannot be justified on the grounds of public safety. In a rebellion, the objective must be to overthrow the government. The Ampatuans were and are not rebelling. Why should they, when they were the government?

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Faust: Final Scene

One of the most beautiful operas ever composed for the lyric stage, Charles Gounod's Faust. The final scene and trio shows the decisive battle for Marguerite's soul when Mephistopheles (the Devil) is about to take her and Faust away to eternal damnation. Marguerite has one fighting chance at redemption, and she takes it. Beautiful!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Rap Meets Classical

Georges Bizet must be turning in his grave. This is exactly the type of video that incites people to hurl mud at each other, if they haven't slit each other's throats yet.

A hiphop-meets-classical rendition by two Frenchmen of the Toreador aria from Georges Bizet's Carmen. A good reason to invade France!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Appalling

The grisly election-related massacre in Maguindanao province should signal the end of Gloria and Lakas-Kampi, once and for all. By coddling warlords that gave her the critical votes during the last Presidential elections against FPJ- where FPJ got an unbelievable zero in three Maguindanao towns!- the cost of doing this has exploded right at her face: 57 bodies as of the latest count. According to Vice Mayor Mangudadatu: “My wife’s private parts were slashed four times, after which they fired a bullet into it. They speared both of her eyes, shot both her breasts, cut off her feet, fired into her mouth. I could not begin to describe the manner by which they treated her." Gloria, gumalaw ka naman. The perpetrators are savage beasts, there's just no excuse for it. Incredibly, through her spokesperson Loreli Fajardo, she said that the conflict is between the warring families and that the Palace cannot be bothered by it, and that even if the Ampatuans were proven to have committed the crime, there was no reason for Gloria to sever its friendship with them. Grabe! (And then Gloria says something totally different from her official spokesperson, grrrrrr).

Sure, the Ampatuans have lorded it over the Cotabato provinces (four provinces were carved out of Cotabato: Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and South Cotabato) since time immemorial, they probably think that the province is theirs by birthright. Ergo, anybody who stands in the way ought to be eliminated. And probably because of the impending danger, and his request for security escort turned down by both the police and military- all of whom are in cahoots with the warlord- Mangudadatu had to send a convoy consisting mostly of women led by his wife, sisters, human rights lawyers and journalists to file his candidacy for governorship, thinking that they wouldn't be harmed this way. He was bloody mistaken. Ampaturan Jr led the carnage himself, as witnesses would recount, not sparing even motorists who simply happened to be passing the area. The fact that a government-owned backhoe was used to supposedly bury everybody, including the vehicles used in the convoy is strong evidence that the powers-that-be are behind this crime.

It was really during Gloria's term when para-military groups, civilian auxiliaries, or simply militias, were activated, supposedly to aid in the fight against the MILF separatist rebels. Unfortunately, this only allowed the Ampatuans to utilize them as their own private army, equipped and fully funded by the government! This explains why the Ampatuans themselves are at war with the MILF- they stand to gain nothing from supporting the MILF and everything by standing behind Gloria: budget allocations from the national government and their own private army!

I'm not saying of course, that it's Gloria's fault. After all, political dynasties and warring clans are not new to Muslim Mindanao. The Dimaporos of Lanao were the warlords du jour in the 70's and 80's and the Pendatuns decades before that. It's just that in her quest for power, she has allowed warlords like the Ampatuans to flourish and rule with impunity, as long as they deliver the votes. What's worse is that these people live like kings- this warlord reportedly has a P150million mansion in Davao City. Since Maguindanao is among the poorest provinces in the Philippines, there's virtually zero investments in the area because people are just too scared to do business, residents simply rely on small trade and subsistence farming to survive. The P569 million annual budget allocation from the National Government obviously goes straight to the Amapatuans, and perhaps for the maintenance of their 400+-strong private army. Maguindanao and other hot spots are always ground zero for dagdag-bawas activities of the administration. She just didn't expect them to be bloody murderous. It has now come back to haunt her.

Notice how quick Gibo Teodoro "expelled" the Ampatuans from Lakas Kampi. His latest survey ratings have not gone above 2%, the last thing he needs right now is being seen as an ally of the murderous warlords. And in a really revolting move, Gibo accompanied Mangudadatu in filing his certificate for candidacy. Grabeh, gusto pang magpa pogi out of this tragedy!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rub Off

Before Efren Peñaflorida's work as a street educator reached CNN, he has been featured before in local programs, notably Jessica Soho and Che Che Lazaro's programs, if I'm not mistaken.

When he made it to the final list for the CNN Hero of the Year, all of sudden, so many people wanted to be associated with him and his work. Towards the end of the voting period, Globe was urging people to vote for him online. After he received the prize, Smart put out a full-page ad praising his achievements. Malacañang announced the President is going to confer an award to Peñaflorida.

Do you think Globe, Smart and Malacañang would even heap praises on him if not for the CNN recognition?

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Last Week

Gibo may have impressive credentials, but he's still in the wrong political party. Sorry, that alone is reason enough for me not to vote for him.

As for Noynoy, I have difficulty understanding him. Not only is he fond of motherhood statements, he reminds us of his parents' legacy ALL the time. I have not made up my mind on Noynoy. When he becomes President, for sure government and business allies will be dominated by Blue Eagles! Also, why is it that his ad on TV looks like a they're hunting for witches and manananggals?

Aling Dionisia is now...Mommy D. She's so show-busy she has even learned to bluff her way through the Manny-Krista affair, "To see is to believe," she says when asked to comment about it, despite the fact that the whole country already knows about the sordid affair. The public has made up its mind and has mercilessly crucified Krista as a gold digging, home-wrecking slut and his father- a 70's matinee idol- a shameless pimp who condones the illicit liaisons of his daughter with the boxer in exchange for Manny's financial support for his political ambitions.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Expedient

Manny Villar has a new running mate, Sen. Loren Legarda. Asked to explain how these two can work as a tandem when both have been in opposing sides of the fence on thorny issues such as the double funding of the C-5 Extension project, Legarda spoke a mouthful and managed to make a comparison between them vis-a-vis Obama and Hillary- both of whom sparred bitterly for the US Democratic nomination- but I still think her statement amounts to nothing.

This is clearly an uneasy union, a marriage of convenience if you will, so it's hard to believe that they have set aside their differences. Legarda, after all, was a strident critic of Villar at the Senate and supported the latter's ouster as Senate President.

So you see Loren, why would we believe you, how can we even trust you, when you can just as easily swallow your own words and switch sides like you were changing pants when your political career is at stake? Just last year, you criticized Villar severely for engaging in money politics ('pera-pera lang yan') so how come you're now his running mate?

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Yesterday's Pacquiao Fight

Like the rest of the country (well except for Jun actually, who says he cannot understand why they had to get their faces smashed for a belt), I watched Pacquiao's bout with Miguel Cotto yesterday after the Timex half marathon on pirated, but live, internet stream. (That's the thing with so many Filipinos around the world. They share their pay-per-view broadcasts on the internet. Dunno really how they do it, but they did.)It's only twelve rounds, about an hour, because if you wait and watch it over at GMA-7, it's not only delayed by several hours, it will take you five (5) years to watch the entire fight because of all the commercials.

Anyway, quite an exciting fight, except when Chavit Singson appeared during the opening. You can almost hear the collective sigh of annoyance coming from Filipinos from all corners of the globe watching the fight. Quite annoying to see politicians hogging the limelight. Kapalmuks! di makahintay ng kanyang balato. Bak't ba kasi sya nandun? For what? moral support? Yuck. In contrast, a trio of unknown GMA 7 singers performed a splendid arrangement of the National Anthem.

About the fight, Manny took a lot of blows himself, and in fact, he was outclassed and out-punched in the first round when he was clearly trying to size up his opponent. Cotto held his own in the ealier rounds but it was in the fourth round when things began to shift in Manny's favor when he floored Cotto. After that, Cotto seemed like he was just trying to survive, especially in the 10th and 11th when you can see Manny already annoyed and egging his opponent to stop "dancing" around or back-pedaling and engage him already. Cotto's face was bleeding profusely, I think by the 9th or 10th round, his coach Santiago should have thrown in the towel already. They almost did. The fight was finally stopped in the 12th because Cotto was just bleeding badly.

The next fight fans are eagerly awaiting is not between Manny and Mayweather, but the one involving Jinkee and Krista Ranillo, and perhaps Ara Mina too.

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Showbizy

And so Gibo Teodoro (why Gibo, why not Gibbs?) found a running mate for the VP position, Edu Manzano. As far as I know, Edu was only aiming for a senatorial slot, not the VP position. Dunno, but is this the administration party's strategy of raising their profile, by fielding showbiz personalities, since clearly their chances of clinching the Presidency are rather slim. I won't be suprised at all if they're wooing Aling Dionisia to be in their Senatorial slate, although the Pacman's mom seems loyal to Erap.

The question now is, Where is Noli de Castro? He hasn't announced his plans for the Presidency. Is he stepping out of the limelight? What party will he ally himself with now that he's clearly not the standard bearer of Lakas-Kampi.

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Dizzy

While Manny Pacquiao made history as he claimed his seventh world division title yesterday, I ran the Timex Half Marathon "with Coach Rio and Piolo Pascual" without adequate and proper preparation.

I thought it was a hitch-free event, plenty of water and sports drinks, kilometer markers, marshals,disposable timing chips, in contrast to the Adidas 21k event two (2) weeks earlier where the claiming of singlets alone was a mess, I got lost during the race and found myself in the company of 10K runners, and worse, where water was served out of pails for the 10k runners, yes the "balde."

Needless to say, yesterday Jun and I were clearly very exhausted and dizzy after crossing the finish line. Need to train harder.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Artificial

I cannot understand why the government has still not lifted the EO order freezing prices of petroleum products. It is creating this whole energy crisis. As a response to facilitate recovery and help consumers from the series of typhoons, this should only be a stop-gap measure, a very short-term solution. Prolonging it any moment longer could have drastic consequences.

You cannot expect a business to operate knowingly at a loss. Why would oil companies import oil supplies when expected revenues are way below import costs.

Simple arithmetic really. The government is clearly buying pogi points for keeping prices artificially low, when in reality, as per world prices, it's clearly not. Once the EO is lifted, you can expect oil prices to jack up substantially since the oil companies would want to compensate for their loss when the EO was in place, on top of the high prices that they would be imposing. The government should have allowed the market to bear it in the first place so that the public could have adjusted to the prices gradually early on, rather than a sudden, steep adjustment that only breeds confusion and resentment.

With the campaign period kicking in, plus the onset of the holiday season, oil price increases will likely push inflation upwards, putting pressure on interest rates.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why K-Pop Rules

You ever wonder why Korean pop is popular in the country nowadays? A quick channel surf through the music channels reveals why. Korean pop is dominated by boy-and-girl bands of the N'Sync variety, churning out music that are nothing but glamorized versions of nursery tunes, usually with ungrammatical English serving as the refrain. Although K-pop all sound the same, the bouncy numbers are carefully choreographed against a backdrop of smart sets and digital what-have-yous.

On the other hand, the Pinoy music scene has long been dominated by schmaltzy, syrupy ballads a la Ogie Alcasid, culminating in diva/divo scream fests courtesy of Charice and Arnel Pineda (when they had a showdown at ASAP, people were quick to declare that the performance was "world class"-- I wanted to puke!). It is a good thing that April Boy Regino- I call his music 'barnacle-music' because it sticks to your head long after you're supposed to have forgotten them- has since rested his vocal chords, thankfully sparing us the agony of hearing them inside jeepneys and buses.

And of course, the band scene of the Parokya ni Edgar variety that dominates the Pinoy music video industry. Unfortunately, despite the popularity of Eraserheads and its multiple clones, the music and how they are presented leaves a lot to be desired. While K-pop is sleek, music videos of Pinoy bands are filmed literally in some band member's garage, in sepia-like quality, and the band members look like they just emerged from an all-night drinking party. It could be argued, however, that the lyrics have more substance, more sense than repeating Nobody Nobody but chu ad infinitum. It's true. Pinoy music videos may have less glam but lyrics-wise, they fare better than K-Pop which is all glam and full of non-sense.

Which reminds me of Lisa Simpson. When asked by Mr Burns what she thinks of the current music scene, she replied that it distracts people from more important social concerns. :)

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Like Hell

I'm currently suffering an ear infection, and I'd like to think that this is a proxy for Divine Punishment. Really. Hearing my own pulse or heartbeat thump, thump, thump 24/7 in Maximum Volume already approximates hellish proportions, driving me up the wall. I am unable to sleep properly the past two nights. Imagine a frenzy of construction activities...inside your head. That's how it feels like.

The lady doctor says there's nothing wrong with my eardrums, thank God, it's only swollen and the ear canal is just wet. So it is my colds--and colds allergy-- that is causing the unfortunate condition.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foot Dragging

Chiz Escudero should stop dragging his feet and should make known his plans if he's running for President once and for all because really, people are starting to NOT care.

He wants to run alright, that's obvious enough, except that he's not getting the party nod and he's having problems with funding his candidacy. Danding, the party founder, is hard pressed to choose who between his nephews, Teodoro and Noynoy, he should support, leaving the presumed NPC standard bearer, Escudero out cold. Obviously, blood is thicker than water.

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Get Together Tonight

For the first time ever, I'm posting a bouncy, pop song by Adam Kling. A team-mate once called me the Renaissance Man, so this is really a first. Heard this over Star World and I took to it instantly because it contains the lines,

"Give me one reason if you've got one reason,
'said there ain't no reason that
we shouldn't get together tonight."

and

"I'm sending you an invitation, respondez-vous, s'il vous plait."


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Disrupted

ULTRA and Marikina Sports Park remain closed. So my swimming and jogging routines have been disrupted. That's why my Body Mass Index recently reached the overweight territory (convenient excuse).

I might have to run tomorrow, from the CCP all the way to MOA, hopefully it won't rain early in the morning. I'm registered for the Adidas half-marathon this Sunday and I'm ill-prepared due to the lack of practice venues.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Of Disasters and Heists

Some builders are now suggesting that houses built in low-lying areas situated in the Marikina Valley should be multi-storied, obviously a provision for the possibility of flooding.

It's just that the Marikina fault line also runs along the valley, which does not really bode well for tall structures.

Or if houses are built way up, in the hills, away from the river banks, they are also in danger of landslides.

Life in these islands.

Anyway, a group of armed men dressed like special police forces (bomb squadron) attempted a violent heist through a blitzkrieg on a Rolex shop inside Glorietta 5 earlier today.

It is easy to presume that robberies and bank heists become all-too-common as the campaign season kicks in, and that so many people nowadays are becoming desperate because of the typhoons that ravaged the country. I don't know. No place seems ever safe anymore.

As for the first QC International Marathon that created a monstrous traffic jam along the QC Circle, better job next time.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reminiscences

Reminds me very much of high school and my hometown of Camp Phillips in Bukidnon. I convinced my teacher, Mrs. Barola to make Rodgers & Hammerstein's Climb Ev'ry Mountain our final graduation song. I accompanied the entire graduating class on the piano in singing this final farewell to our alma mater.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dancing Inmates

The Cebu Dancing Inmates are it again, this time they're shimmying to the beat of Nobody, Nobody but chuuu...

OK, they're a highly talented and disciplined bunch, do you even think this could ever happen in a high-security prison in the US? Hmmmm only in the Philippines.

Tourists are lapping it up, and the inmates seem to be enjoying themselves. And that's a good thing.

Except that the viewing experience is starting to feel like you're inside a torture chamber.



Since the Korean pop song is a smash hit in these islands, even KFC's Chuck and Jollibee engage each other in a dance showdown in the middle of the street. So funny!

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Calling a Spade a Spade

I stand 5 ft. 8 inches tall, and last time I weighed myself, I was 165 lbs which alarmed me, it may have gone down a bit because prior to the onslaught of Ondoy, I jogged and swam in Marikina. True enough, my calculated body mass index (BMI) is 25.1. (Check out any BMI Calculator on the web).

A normal BMI is 18.5-24.9, overweight is 25-29.9 while obese is >30.

It's official. I am overweight. Ngek! That's why I'm joining the Adidas half marathon on the last week of this month.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Visiting Marikina

I went to Marikina earlier today, just to see for myself how the shoe capital of the Philippines is coping up with the tragedy that submerged the city under water two (2) weeks ago.

The water has long receded and the sun's out, so what remains are piles of dried-up mud and garbage waiting to be collected. Dust motes are everywhere, it gets under your skin, especially in Provident Village. I dropped by the Sports Complex where I do my regular early evening jogs and weekly swim. Predictably, it's closed. There's mud in the oval and it has been made a temporary area where stalled cars are brought. The lobby is filled up with boxes and boxes of Lucky Me Noodles, mineral water and sardines.


The Thai restaurant is thankfully open, the bakeshop across the street is again doing business briskly, and so is the public market. Mercury Drug, Red Ribbon and other establishments near the City Hall remain closed- staff are still busy cleaning up and doing the necessary repairs.


I couldn't believe that the waters affected Blue Wave and Robinson's, the ground level tenants like Starbucks and KFC remain closed. The mall and the supermarket are located quite far from the river. The hospital seems operational already, which according to news reports, the water reached the second floor during the height of the typhoon.


I feel bad for Marikina. I may not be a resident, but I go there several times a week. I haven't been to other parts of the city. And I have no idea how residents of San Mateo, Montalban, Cainta and Taytay are coping. But the city is up and about. The clean up is almost done so I'm pretty sure, I'll be back soon in Marikina.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Scherzo from A Misummer Night's Dream



Yevgeny Kissin breezing through the Scherzo section of Rachmaninoff's transcription of Felix Mendelssohn's From A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Very light-footed and crystal clear, you'd think that you're hearing the rain beating against the windowpanes.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pachydermal

While Sta. Maria in Laguna, Talim island and Cardona in Rizal remained in dire need of relief goods, President Arroyo chose to distribute these in --good grief!--her hometown of Lubao in Pampanga, which when compared to the devastation suffered by these towns, is relatively unscathed by Ondoy.

She's been visiting Lubao quite frequently, which clearly means she's using this tragedy to position herself as their potential Congresswoman once she's no longer President.

To quote Miriam, she really has a "pachydermal" face.

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There's Always a First Time

Sa loob ng pampaseherong jeep kaninang hapon lamang, isang ale na siguro ay singkwenta anyos na, ang muntik ko nang itulak at ihulog sa daan habang ang jeep na aming sinasakyan ay tumatakbo at binabaybay ang daan papuntang Cubao.

"Ma-ma, pakiabot naman ng bayad," sabi niya sa akin, dahil ang puwesto ko nga naman ay nasa unahan malapit sa tsuper.

Sa pinakaunang pagkakataon sa buong buhay ko ay mayroong tumawag sa akin na Ma-ma, at lubos ko itong kinainisan at kinabahala dahil ito ay hindi katanggap-tanggap.

Tiningnan ko siya ng malalim, at sabay sabi, "Lola, sandali lang po ha?" bago ko inabot sa tsuper ang kanyang pamasahe.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Relief Efforts, Feline Version

In the aftermath of Ondoy and Peping ravaging the country, one morning I woke up to a scratching sound on my front door. I knew it was just my next door neighbor's cat, Kuribod, using my door as his scratching post.

But when I opened the door an hour later, there it was, on the doorstep, a plastic bag containing leftovers. He obviously dragged it from a garbage pail.

Which got me thinking: I learned from Jessica Zafra's blog that cats normally leave dead roaches, rats, or any object on your doorstep as a gift, or as a token of goodwill. Which makes a lot of sense, because I would have expected him to consume the contents of the bag, which in this case, remained full.

Usually, when I open the front door, I just leave him to step in and inspect any nook and cranny in the house. And it must have occurred to him that the mess on the floor (books, DVDs, newspapers) means that I am a typhoon victim, well, sort of. And thus, to commiserate and to add to the relief efforts, he gave me leftovers he found from the garbage.

UPDATE (10/05/09) True enough, I found a medium sized, dead rat on my doorstep this morning. I really must clean up, so that he'd stop treating me like a refugee.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Practical

The airwaves is full of suggestions and survival tips during times of "Acts of God" emergencies. Practical suggestions such as stocking up on batteries, light clothing and other essential items that can fit in a small bag, as well as home remedies to treat athlete's foot and other fungal infections due to prolonged exposure to flood waters are extremely welcome.

There are some, however, who seem to be ignorant of the word "practical." One group showed a TV reporter their items to stock up for emergencies: a block of food resembling hopia that could last five (5) years (that's right, years not months) and some aluminum sheet blanket which not only keeps the body warm, but can be used as a reflector to catch the attention of rescuers. The catch is that these items have to be imported from the US, the aluminum blanket in particular, is reportedly made of "space-age technology" material.

Unless we're actually dealing with a disaster on the scale of Nagasaki and Hiroshima or a volcanic eruption like Mt. Toba's, and since we're neither members of the French legion nor soldiers in Afghanistan, we can simply subsist on biscuits, or granola bars, or dried fruit to tide us over. We don't need any high-protein five-year hopia which nobody knows where to buy anyway.

As for the aluminum blanket, isn't that dangerous? That still conducts electricity. Any blanket will do, thank you very much. We do not need space-age mumbo jumbo for tragedies that are essentially earth-bound. The term "emergency" requires that the items be ideally inexpensive and commonly available in your local grocery store, meaning you need not order from a NASA supplier.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vomit Queen

In an unforgettable interview with Larry King on CNN, Tyra Banks taught Larry how to "smiyes," that is, to "smile with your eyes".

She's really amazing, isn't she? She has this unique talent for making people throw up in their mouth. Watching America's Next Top Model and the Tyra Banks Show on the ETC Channel is like taking a bus ride from Manila to Banawe listening to the music of ABBA for six hours- it's too much, you'd want to fling yourself outside the window and onto the ravine below.

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Bursting the Bubble

OK people, we just had a depressing experience and we need every bit of kind words to lift our spirits up.

However, there are exceptions, pompous, pretentious cliches like "tomorrow is another day" or "after the storm, the rainbow comes out (or something)" and the worst, that there is "a silver lining in the dark cloud of despair" make us want to dive right back into the murky canal water.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Aftermath

Although nobody expected typhoon Ondoy would pour out so much torrential rain and inundate the metropolis, once the waters have receded, it will be easy to take the government to task for what happened.

Last Saturday afternoon right after Ondoy blew its top, the main street near my neighborhood turned into a river and people were left to fend for themselves wading waist-deep in the water. I mean, where the hell were the barangay officials when we needed them most.

Sure, this may probably be the worst typhoon to hit Metro Manila in 40 years, but what does this say about the Flood Control program of the government? Is it really effective? Are local government units at the barangay level even prepared to respond to crisis situations like this? Why were there still people trapped in rooftops for 2 days? There weren't enough rubber boats, how come? Where were the helicopters? Rescue came for those trapped only when it was nearly over. For many, there was none at all.

As Secretary of National Defense tasked to lead disaster management efforts -and the obvious fact that he's running for President next year- this was supposed to be Gilbert Teodoro's shining moment. He disappointed big time.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Flooded!



Probably the heaviest rainfall in recent memory. I was sleeping soundly when I realized the sound of falling rain was eerily nearby, and literally I jumped when I realized my bedroom was already flooded.

Outside, my neighborhood street turned into an instant riverside.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Friends

Both Erap and Lacson are trading accusations over the murder of Bobby Dacer; they could very well be digging their own political graves. With the return of Cesar Mancao from the States, the police officer clearly implicated the Senator and former police chief as the mastermind of the murder, causing Lacson to shelve his Presidential aspirations.

And if he's going down, Lacson thinks that it's quite unfair if he goes down alone, so he might as well drag along his former boss, Erap who clearly benefited from the disappearance of Dacer.

This reminds me of an excellent Spanish idiom: "No hay peor cuña que la del mismo palo." It means "The worst enemy is he who was once a friend."

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shooting for the Moon

And so Gilbert Teodoro is the anointed candidate of Gloria's party. This, after Noli showed no interest in running under the banner of the administration.

His chances of winning are pretty slim, despite the ruling party's machinery. Remember de Venecia's bid, where he lost to Erap? His situation is a throwback to that period.

Despite his impressive credentials as a bar topnotcher and having gone to Harvard for his masters, these things tend to get lost on people's minds because Gloria's negative trust ratings means whoever she endorses will be highly mistrusted as well. Noli's smart enough to realize this.

Proof of this is the less than 1% rating for Teodoro in recent surveys. This early, it is apparent that Gloria's and her party's endorsement for Teodoro spell doom for his candidacy.

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Crossroads

When you stop going along with the crowd and start heading your own way, you realize that there are things about yourself you hardly noticed before and may not like at present.

You become insecure and often wonder where you will be in one year, two years, five years,but the mere thought scares you because you barely know where you are now.

You ponder your current status, your job for instance. It is not even close to what you’ve imagined yourself to be as a kid.

You have become more critical and judgemental than ever. You begin to draw certain boundaries in your life and come up with a set of criteria detailing what is acceptable or not.

One minute you’re insecure and paranoid and the next, you are cheerful and optimistic. You feel lonely, scared and confused.

You try to resist change and consider it the enemy, holding on stubbornly to the past for dear life, unable to let go, until you realize that it’s either you stay put and shrink like a prune or move forward and bloom like a bud in spring.

You go through the same emotions and questions over and over again, and talk to your friends about the same subjects because you’ve hit a brick wall, paralyzed by indecision.

The future is worrying you- making a life for yourself. While beating the odds and securing a better life is the reward for finishing the race, right now, all you really want is just to be a part of it, and everything will play itself out, for better or for worse.

*You may emote now.*

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Clingy

And so Juan Martin del Potro, at just 20 years old, defeated Federer for the US Open crown. Good. Never liked Federer.

Anyway, Vogue editor Anna Wintour (many thinks she's actually the Meryl Streep character in the Devil Wears Prada) was spotted sitting within the reserved box for Federer's family and friends along with other celebrities during the match.

Use "Like" in a sentence: Why do people like her like to attach themselves like leeches to personalities like Federer who have genuine talent and abilities. She was also spotted hanging out with Micheal Phelps after the latter's record-shattering performance at the Beijing Olympics. What's up with her? People like Wintour and Paris Hilton and Tyra Banks (*vomits!*) who have nothing to offer but their closet should stop flinging themselves at people who achieved success through sheer hard work. I'm sorry, but fashionistas and athletes are not on the same level.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Mooncake Season



I think this is the time of year when the Moon Festival season takes place.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Two Cents' Worth

I think the coming elections will be a Noynoy-Villar fight. Let me explain.

I am convinced Noynoy will likely get the middle-to-upper income vote. His family hails from this income group. He is quiet, unassuming and Jesuit-educated. His reputation remains untarnished with neither corruption allegations nor cheating scandals. The Church likes that. The moralists like that, too. Big business groups sympathetic to Cory (think the Lopezes, the Ayalas, the Cojuangcos) will likely support his candidacy. So-called cause-oriented groups sick of Gloria, her family and her minions will throw in their support, too. Thing is, as of this point, all these groups are still talking among themselves and have not really engaged the broader electorate yet into the support bandwagon.

You see, it is the C-D-E classes that dominate this country, the masses. For Noynoy to take crack at the Presidency, he has to employ massive resources to appeal directly and effectively to these income groups. And he has a good chance, if the remaining crop of Presidential hopefuls insist on running.

Consider this: Villar (the frontrunner), Erap, Noli, Loren, Teodoro, Jamby and Bayani. That's seven candidates splitting the remaining pie. We can safely remove Jamby from the list because she is really just a nuisance candidate. Teodoro and Bayani may both be courting Gloria's anointment, but they should realize that her endorsement is a Kiss of Death--they should avoid her like the plague. The public had had enough of her. These two are goners, Teodoro is still totally unknown to most, and Bayani is only popular in Metro Manila. Jamby, Teodoro and Bayani's candidacies hardly cause a ripple.

So that really leaves us with four people running against Noynoy. Noli and Loren will not likely settle for the Veep position, having crossed swords for that position last time. Noli seems hesitant to take Gloria's endorsement. He correctly assumes that any association with Gloria will only jeopardize his chances. And Loren still has lots of energy for kidnapping and NPA peace deal photo ops as well as for attending enviroment-and-climate related international conferences to raise her Presidential profile. Nah, I think she will not make it this time. Too image and "stage effect" conscious.

Which leaves us with three vying for the masa vote. Erap, Villar and Noli. The key here is Erap. I think Erap is not really serious in running, or if he is, will be persuaded later on to give way to either Villar or Noynoy. He looks too infirm to run for public office (his best friend FPJ already died, yes?) and needs to just enjoy his retirement and spend his twilight years away from prison. He may simply be trying to stir the entire field. Whomever he will throw in his support later on, will likely be the President. Yes, I'm assuming this is going to be a Noynoy-Villar fight and Noli's gonna be relegated to the sidelines.

Villar: he has built a grassroots support early on. His self-made, rags-to-riches success story resonates with the C-D-E masa (he grew up in a shanty in Tondo). He has further consolidated his support base via the OFW vote. One out of every ten Filipinos after all, has a relative working abroad. That's significant. But the fact that, assuming he got Erap's endorsement, he still has to split the masa vote with Noli, Villar does have a lot of work to do.

Noynoy: He has the support of the Church, big business, cause-oriented groups- essentially middle class. But he also has Kris Aquino for a sister (and drags along with her, Boy Abunda, Mother Lily, Korina Sanchez and the entire ABS-CBN. By the way, she convinced Pangilinan to be her brother's official spokesperson, which means Sharon Cuneta is now in their bandwagon as well).

Strategies: Noynoy has to expand his support base from the middle class to the masa. This is where his sister comes in and the logistics and financial support of his rich backers. In fact, it works to his advantage if there are many candidates because this will only dilute the chances of his opponents.

Villar on the other hand, has to prevent Noynoy from encroaching on his masa support base. At this point, you can say he's really running against Kris Aquino. He also has to work hard to convince Erap to support him instead, considering that he has to split the masa vote with several other lesser candidates.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gomez: Ave Maria

¡Feliz cumpleaños Mamá María, madre de Dios!

Una interpretación preciosa, en un español perfecto de mezzo soprano Elina Garanča.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cunning...Fox?

Everybody's talking about it, so might as well join in the fray.

Why would Mar Roxas decide to shelve his Presidential aspirations and endorse Noynoy Aquino when the latter hasn't even decided whether he will run or not for President? Methinks Mar the strategist has his thinking cap on. It could work either way:

(1) Mar is really giving way to Noynoy out of the goodness of his heart, or for the "sake of the country" because Noynoy is really a formidable candidate to reckon with and the best candidate to beat the crap out of Gloria and her minions;

What this only means is that Mar has assessed his chances and decided that he's better off as the Veep of Noynoy because he's not exactly topping the surveys for President. Running side-by-side with an Aquino can definitely boost his chances for the Veep position.

(2) Should Noynoy decide NOT to run for President, Mar would still have earned patriotic points for his actions, presumably gain a lot of respect, and as the front runner for the Liberal Party, still run for President.

In either case, whether he will run for either Veep or President, this goody-two-shoes stunt will be a public relations master stroke.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Yes, Ma'm

How would you react if you found out your English teacher in high school in the Bukidnon highlands is on Facebook?

We're not "friends" yet, I just saw her comment on a post made by a classmate. I think it's pretty cool, it means that I'm not that old after all because I still have teachers who do not seem to have an affinity with the Jurassic Period.

The drawback is that I feel I have to be extra careful with my posts, lest I embarrass her with my grammar, syntax and sentence construction :)

Why is it that our teachers still look exactly the same as we remember them?

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Liszt: Gounod's Waltz from Faust



Earl Wild's fantastic rendition of Franz Liszt's piano transcription of Charles Gounod's Faust Waltz.

Clean and crisp execution and just the right dynamics and tempo. Bravo!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Search of the Tom Yummiest


The best tom yum goong in Manila can be found in, according to preference:

(1) Krung Thai (Marikina) - serves the milder variety, very homey, located at the back of the Marikina Public Market; I was brought here by Hiep, a Vietnamese friend, and he swears by its authenticity.

2) Som's (Makati, near Rockwell) - cheapest, you dine al fresco in the neighborhood street; Tony and I just dropped by one evening and the soup exceeded our initial expectations. I wish it were a lot creamier though, the taste is almost there;

(3) Sukhothai (defunct) - have since disappeared, but the tom yum goong tasted similar to Som's but was creamier;

(4) Cafe Juanita (Pasig) - has a hint of bagoong (not the shrimp), OK but not very memorable; serves a "Filipinized" tom yum;

(5) Jajutak (Mall of Asia) - the spiciest goong, it explodes at the back of your throat; Judging from the intensity of the flavor, probably the most authentic one compared to the rest;

(6) People's Palace (Greenbelt 3) - the most expensive, and the most overrated; They serve the milder variety.

Didn't try those located inside hotels (i.e., Benjarong inside Dusit Hotel) as there is no way I can afford to eat there :(

Have yet to try Thai Pad along Pasong Tamo, they reportedly serve pretty good tom yum as well.

I wonder what happened to the Thai "carinderia" inside the UP International Center many, many years ago. My roommate Paul and I would sweat buckets with all the spicy food and the soup was all so good.

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Equatorial

Ron steps out of the shower, feeling refreshed and smelling fragrant. He lingers in front of the mirror.

Big mistake.

"Hey Ron," his Safeguard konsensya slash doppelganger slash alter-ego calls out.

"Your waist size is approaching the circumference of the Equator, large enough for ships to circumnavigate the globe."

tsk tsk tsk

*Ron shakes his head, with a matching sigh*

How's that for starting the day!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Showbiz


On the same day that Jen's mom was buried, Jun launched his showbiz career.

Last Saturday, I watched the production of Starvebucks, a variety show produced by Jun's evangelical church. (He co-wrote, co-directed, co-everything-ed the show). It was a concoction of wit and high spirits, and judging from the enthusiastic response from the audience, a huge success. Comedy skits, a diva singing showdown, dancing and more dancing (this time interpretative) complemented by a smart video set-up that combined seamlessly with what's going on on stage, made for a highly entertaining treat. Did I mention that free coffee and pasta were also served?

The show opened with a really unbelievable Battle of the Brains showdown, a scoreless draw, between Harry Potter- yes, with the magic wand and a fake British accent- and uhm, Slumdog Millionaire. It was almost like a tribute to Tropang Trumpo.

But it was his monologue that showcased his thespic skills, giving life to three characters, about a ridiculous and twisted tale of a provinciano, Juancho, his lover Guada and a matron named Dona Purificacion, a love story taking place while collecting civet cat droppings to be made and brewed as alamid coffee. The fact that the story went off tangent most of the time, had no clear direction a la Seinfeld and delivered in get this, archaic, Balagtasan-quality Tagalog made it even more hilarious. I couldn't keep my jaw from dropping and hitting the floor upon hearing the words "irog," "karimlan," and "tarheta."

So we'll expect an even funnier production next year. Cheers!

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tiesa or Tisa

Jen's mom was finally laid to rest over the weekend. Jun and I visited the wake last week and last friday, I accompanied Señorita Valerie and bumped into La Capitana pequeña who was waiting for La Capitana nueva to take her to the wake. On the way back inside La Capitana nueva's car, we passed by the Bahay ng Tisa (or Casa de la Kastila, House of the Spaniard).

"Tisa?" exclaimed pequeña, this triggered a series of explanations regarding its origins from nueva and her dad who drove us from their house to Jen's.

Unfortunately, I opened my mouth, "You're probably thinking of "tiesa," I chided pequeña.

Yes, tiesa, the fruit, which had Eve offered it to Adam instead of apple, could have prevented the Fall of Man.

"Tiesa, the Bisaya of Tisa", contributed Señorita.

Before the conversation could descend into a complete nonsense and break into hysterical laughter, pequeña said it never occurred to her, not even once, that the house we just passed by could have been made of tiesa.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Won the Lotto!

I did it! I hit the jackpot and dug pay dirt! I won the lotto!

Now that I have your attention, Why on earth would I win the lotto, it is like shooting for the moon. Are you kidding me? Last time I won anything was a raffle in grade school...a net bag full of string beans, squash, tomatoes, laundry soap. My foot's tapping to the beat of the Korean pop Nobody Nobody but chuuuu!

Before you mentally hit me with a metal object, what I'm really saying is that after living under a rock for quite some time, I have decided to join civilization. I have a facebook account. Add me up. Search for my name in Russian. Рональд Долотина.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Afternoon at the Manila Ocean Park


First time I stepped inside the Manila Ocean Park. The place was packed on a week-end, very noisy as it was filled with screaming kids. The park is very similar to the Ocean Park in Singapore. It was OK, complete with mermaids and that shrimp-like fish that feeds on dead skin cells from your feet. I hope they bring in bigger and bigger fish, like barracudas. The sight of sting rays and what appears to be baby shark swimming overhead in the glass-encased oceanarium is dizzying.

Outside the Ocean Park, the sea water where the MOP is located is unfortunately, littered with garbage. It made for a stunning contrast. Also, the place is starting to resemble like a mall.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Can of Worms

Hatching a lie is easy. But making it sound and look credible is, as Gloria knows too well, the hard part.

When the NY Post gossip section came out with the item that Gloria and her large entourage spent US$20,000 at an expensive restaurant in New York, her Press Secretary tried to downplay the issue by claiming that the restaurant is "not really that posh," and that they only ordered a "set meal," and that it was a "working dinner." Problem is, the menu they ordered made the rounds in blogosphere, which included caviar, foie gras and US$500 wines (champagne). So you'd understand why Remonde's not very happy that he looks well, pretty damn stupid!

The Palace was quick to defend Arroyo, claiming the dinner was paid for by Imelda's nephew, Rep. Martin Romualdez, in celebration of the First Couple's wedding anniversary! Really! Was Rep. Romualdez's wife with him on the trip? If she were, what was she doing there and who paid for her trip? I shudder at the thought. There were more than sixty (60) of them in this junket. So the cost of the plane, plus hotel, allowances....God deliver us from evil!

Hard pressed to cover up his master, her lawyer Macalintal was spewing gibberish, pinning the blame on media for blowing the issue out of proportion. That's right, blame the messenger. Except that the Washington Post also came out with the story on the US$15,000 dinner Arroyo and her entourage had at a Washington D.C. steakhouse, dining on lobster, steaks and fine wines. I wonder who among the Congressmen had an anniversary this time. Macalintal, shut up lest you'd be embarassing yourself, more than your President. (UPDATE: Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez admitted that he paid for the steakhouse dinner. Except that earlier in an interview before the news broke out, he said he invited the Arroyos for a dinner but claimed they declined because they already have a previous engagement. Now he claims that dinner went through. Problem is, the same news item reports that a "lady" paid for the dinner from her bag containing wads of dollar bills.)

The saddest part is that her visit generated nary an interest in the US and the international media. Except for the dinner.

I think Gloria's lying habit is in her veins. Her Statement of Assets and Liabilities as reported by the PCIJ is littered with holes. Her lawyer tries to explain that she dabbles in stocks, which he claims, explains why her wealth suddently shot through the roof and onto the stratosphere. Through her lawyer, Arroyo did not provide the details of her stock portfolio, thinking that would be sufficient enough.

Problem is, they're again assuming that Filipinos are dumb. People like me have worked long enough in the stock market to know that she's again lying through her teeth. There's just no way she could have made all that wealth investing solely in the stock market (whether here or abroad) because, hello, the equities market has been free-falling for quite some time on account of the global economic downturn. A simple comparison with any professionally-managed money market fund will easily demonstrate this point. That's the reason why she won't disclose the details of her portfolio, because it will only open a can of worms and expose her truly for what she is, a liar.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Appeal to Judy Ann Santos


For the love of this country and its future, I call on you to please do NOT endorse Jamby Madrigal for President next year. The only reason she made it to the Senate is because you, yes you Judy Ann, the next Vilma Santos, the Star of the Galaxy, the Celestial Artista, the Darling of the Masa (I know next to nothing about glowing adjectives attached to local artistas)...you get the drift!...campaigned for her.

I'm neither a member of your fans' club nor have I ever watched any of your movies, but that ma-amo face of yours resonates a lot with the masa (your movie premieres have plenty of screaming fans saying the same things over and over again,"Nakakakilig!" "The best talaga!" "Pang best actress"). It is this face that can launch, not only a thousand products, but millions of votes as well, which might propel a totally undeserving, immature socialite to the highest office in the country.

Do you really want this tantrum-prone, Senate brat to be our head of State? Even a half-wit can easily figure out that this damn, phony Senator is again seeking your endorsement.

Do this country a favor and say NO to her. She deserves Oblivion.

During Cory's funeral, street vendors selling yellow umbrellas reportedly handed out free yellow beaded bracelets....except that it contains a tag name and picture of Jamby Madrigal. The nerve! Campaigning during a funeral is the height of insensitivity. Jamby, you've just shot yourself in the foot. The earth's axis will have to shift first before you can ever become President!

(Picture filched from some blog, the blog owner grabbed it from facebook)

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back to Regular Programming

The waterworks are over, so it's time to get back to our humdrum existence. Meanwhile, other news items that got sidetracked the past few days include:

-that Lady Gaga is a hermaphrodite. (REALLY? Oo daw, she describes herself as "multiple gendered." You do the searching on google.) Did you know that Anderson Cooper reportedly said that he likes (Lady?) Gaga;

-Willie Revillame has been hacked to pieces yet again by netizens when he expressed dismay over the simultaneous live feed of Cory's funeral while he was trying to goad scantily-clad girls to shake their booty in his noon-time show; To make amends, he asked Rachell Anne Go to sing Magkaisa in his show dressed in yellow;

-Paula Abdul won't be judging the next American Idol. (Old news, I know.) That Kara di whatever is also annoying ("That's arteeestreeeh!", yeah, and you're corneeeeh).

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Final Farewell

Since the past weekend, the country had been held in suspended animation over the death of Cory. When her remains were brought from La Salle Greenhills to Manila Cathedral, the convoy took five hours. Earlier today, it took a mind boggling eight-and-a-half (8 1/2) hours from the Manila Cathedral to her final resting place at the Manila Memorial Park beside Ninoy's. She made history once more.

Kris rose to the occasion and spoke a very touching, final farewell after the Requiem Mass.

Curiously, the weather seemed to have cooperated at the Manila Memorial Park: while it was raining cats and dogs over here, out there the rains stopped for the final rites.

Rest in Peace, Tita Cory. You've done well. The entire nation is forever grateful.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Turning Point


In a stunning turn of events, Bongbong and Imee Marcos paid their respects to Cory at the wake held at the Manila Cathedral. The fact that they were received graciously by the Aquinos means a lot. I'm sure Cory appreciates the gesture.

The decades-long rift between these families have shaped Philippine politics for the longest time. The main players, Ninoy, Marcos, and Cory are no longer around, and Imelda's getting frailer. Death indeed, is the great equalizer.

It must have been very difficult for the Marcoses to even muster the courage to do what they just did. You should've seen Imee. That gesture amounts to extending an olive branch in the spirit of sympathy, if reconciliation is not possible. Despite the fact that both families were on opposite sides of the fence, they all have their share of tragedies.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Ho-Hum

The last movie I saw inside a movie theatre was Ratatouille, so that was quite a while back. Anyway, I saw The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds yesterday at Eastwood. (Btw, Eastwood isn't as crowded as the other malls yet, even on week-ends, and there's a brand-spanking new mall complex with mejo mamahaling restos).

Back to the movie. I didn't think it was that funny as the trailer wanted us to believe. It was a formulaic, cliche-laden chick flick: girl blackmails boy for visa purposes, both end up spending the weekend in frigging Alaska with boy's parents (curiously, none of the characters had an Alaskan accent like Sarah Palin's, and where's the snow, for crying out loud!), girl confesses at the altar and runs away, boy tries to stop plane so he can express his undying love.

There, I told you na the entire story. Big deal. But the audience consisting of the sosyal and fashionable crowd from around Green Meadows, Valle Verde, Blue Ridge and Corinthian Gardens were lapping it up (I'm from Proj 4, so there's the economic disparity), so what do I know anyway.

I did enjoy the high calorie festival consisting of Lamb Gyro at Cyma as well as Rum Raisin and Choco-something at Haagen Dazs na naman (just had this with Jun and Jen last week).

Btw, also yesterday, I bumped into Doc at the MRT. He said he and some teammates are definitely joining the full marathon in October ata and he is actually aiming to join Bald Runner's 100km Bataan Death March ultra marathon early next year. I told him he's aiming for Martyrdom.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Requiem to Tita Cory

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Hostias et preces tibi, Domine,
Tu suscipe pro animabus illis,
quarum hodie memoriam facimus
fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam.
Quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.
Libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum
de poenis iferni.
Fac eas, de morte transire ad vita.

Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Land of the Absurd

The King of Massacre Movies, Carlo J. Caparas, has been named National Artist by the President, before she went to the US to meet Obama.

The National Artist is conferred to a Filipino who:
- has made significant contributions to the cultural heritage of the country;
- has artistic accomplishments at the highest level;
- has dedicated his/her life in forging a new direction for future generations of "artists";

With this award, I guess you can now consider the following movies- complete with an alternate title- as integral to the country's cultural heritage:

- The Lilian Velez Story ('til Death Do Us Part)
- The Marita Gonzaga Rape-Slay (In God We Trust)
- Lipa Arandia Massacre (Lord Deliver Us From Evil)
- The Untold Vizconde Massacre (God Have Mercy On Us)

The past National Artists must be turning in their graves right now and are probably contemplating on how to return their trophies.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cuarto o Cuatro

When I met up with Jun and Jen last night (Doc couldn't make it), it was the first time they saw me wearing my eye-glasses.

They said I looked like a teacher or professor who likes to take "advantage" of his students.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Feisty

Gloria's last (hopefully) State of the Nation Address were full of jabs aimed at Mar Roxas and former President Joseph Estrada and the rest of her critics. Also, she never categorically stated that she's no longer planning on extending her term in office.

No mention at all about graft and corruption because, well, she's in the middle of it.

As for her report on the economy, she claimed direct foreign investments are on the upswing. That is not the case at all. We have the lowest FDI flows among the major economies in South East Asia.

As for the lower inflation, I should point out that this is due to external factors beyond her control, like slower consumption spending and lower oil prices due to a weak global economy.

Per capita GDP is at US$2,000, she reports. I'm not sure if that's something to cheer about.

As for GDP growth, debt reduction, employment generation in the midst of a global financial crisis, I agree and cheer her accomplishments.

She did not mention the burgeoning budget deficit, slowing exports, weak manufacturing output, falling tax collection efforts or any strategy in moving the economy forward.

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Opera FYI

From operabase.com, the most popular opera composer for the 2008-2011 period is...VERDI.

The ranking, in terms of number of performances, are as follows:
1. VERDI
2. MOZART
3. PUCCINI
4. ROSSINI
5. WAGNER
6. DONIZETTI
7. STRAUSS, R.
8. BIZET
9. TCHAIKOVSKY
10. BRITTEN

The most popular opera, despite the dominance of Italian titles, is...CARMEN

The ranking, in terms of number of performances, are as follows:

1. Carmen (Bizet)
2. The Magic Flute (Mozart)
3. La Boheme (Puccini)
4. La Traviata (Verdi)
5. Tosca (Puccini)
6. Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
7. Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
8. Barber of Seville (Rossini)
9. Rigoletto (Verdi)
10. Don Giovanni (Mozart)

Verdi remains undoubtedly the king of opera, followed by Mozart; Puccini remains the most popular in English-speaking countries, however and Wagner and Strauss are widely-performed in the German-speaking countries(Germany, Austria, Switzerland). French opera is represented by Bizet while Russia makes it to the list mostly due to Tchaikovsky's Onegin. Curiously, British opera makes it to the list this time, on the contribution of Britten's musically dull but dramatically adroit operas.

As for individual titles, the standard bearer for French opera, Carmen is the most wildly popular, probably for all time. Mozart's Magic Flute, which is in German comes in second. (Mozart is the only composer who wrote in Italian and German). The Italians lord it over from 3 to 10. It is interesting to note that despite being the 5th most popular composer in the list, none of Wagner's massive operas make it to the top 10 list.

Gounod was once the most popular opera composer, on the strength of Faust and Romeo et Juliette, but he seems to be less and less performed nowadays. I wonder if Gounod will suffer the same fate as Meyerbeer, whose operas once had the status of Verdi and Puccini today.

Clearly, the musical revolution pioneered by Wagner led to the demise of Meyerbeer in the repertory. Wagner was a strident critic of French opera epitomized by Meyerbeer. The ascendant composers now seem to be Janacek (his psychological drama Katya Kabanova is increasingly being performed, and rightly so) and Britten, both 20th century composers whose musical idiom differs so much from the standard repertory.

What is also apparent in the list is the increasing popularity of bel canto, with Rossini and Donizetti in 4th and 6th respectively. Bellini fell out of the top 10, at no. 11. From Verdi's time up until the 1950s, bel canto fell out of style with only Rossini's Barber and Donizetti's Lucia remaining in the repertory. It was Maria Callas, and later on Sutherland, Caballe, Horne and Kraus, among others who tirelessly fought for the reinstatement of bel canto.

That the bel canto recrudescence is in full swing is apparent with the recent revivals of La Fille du Regiment (infamous for the nine high C's in one aria), Don Pasquale and Donizetti's Tudor Queens, and the reexamination of Rossini's neglected works, famously by the Pesaro Festival in the composer's hometown. Next year, Renee Fleming will headline Armida while Juan Diego Florez will finally bring Le Comte Ory at the Met the following year. The rare Matilde di Shabran premiered at Covent Garden last year, also with Florez.

What is surprising is that works that defined verismo, namely Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci are not as frequently performed anymore.

Clearly, the standard repertory is firmly entrenched in mid-to-late 19th century Italian operas dominated by Verdi and Puccini. The Germans (Wagner and Strauss) and the French (Bizet) play second fiddle while the Russians (Tchaikovsky) and the Eastern Europeans (Dvorak and Janacek) seem relegated to the sidelines. The British (Britten) are playing catch up while the Americans remain non-existent.

So which are my favorites?

(1) Semiramide (Rossini)
(2) Tosca (Puccini)
(3) Carmen (Bizet)
(4) I Puritani (Bellini)
(5) Aida (Verdi)
(6) Falstaff (Verdi)
(7) La Boheme (Puccini)
(8) L'Elisir d'Amore (Donizetti)
(9) Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni)
(10) Madama Butterfly (Puccini)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Contrapuntal Conversation

J.S.Bach's Toccata in C Minor BWV 911 (final part), performed splendidly by the legendary Martha Argerich.



The fugue is incredibly played and the interpretation- controlled dynamics (with Bach, you can't overdo the dynamics as he wrote for the harpsichord and early versions of the piano that do not have the sonorous quality of the modern pianoforte)- is marvelous. Here the left hand does not only support the melody on the right, it assumes an equal part. What you get is a conversation between two voices that aims for harmony at the same time.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Better Facilities

Because I couldn't jog in the afternoons or early evening with the almost daily rains, I decided to check out the swimming pool at the Marikina Sports Park. I haven't been there in like, ages. That's where my Vietnamese friend, Hiep, taught me how to swim.

What caught my attention was the brand, spanking new building- albeit it looks very skeletal, the municipio probably ran out of funds to complete it- attached to the old complex that features surprisingly spacious locker rooms, clean rest rooms equipped with sensor-sensitive latrines and private shower- thank goodness- not the open, communal type that encourages annoying guys to pretend they're showering for a very long time hoping for a hook-up. There's a sauna to boot, although predictably it isn't operational yet, maybe it is meant for display purposes.

The water is a lot cleaner and clearer, too. Also, those swimming seriously with their trainers were not yet there. I just hate it when I couldn't do my laps because these swimmers monopolize and occupy a considerable part of the pool.

We usually see sudden improvements in infrastructure and other public facilities prior to the elections. But I was still a bit surprised that a public sports complex managed by the local government could outdo ULTRA and Rizal, which are both run by the Philippine Sports Commission.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

To My Landlady's Cat Next Door


Hi Kuribs,

How are you? First of all, I know my place. I am just a tenant, and you happen to be my landlady's pet. Ergo, you own the place and can barge in anytime you want.

I don't even mind that you do your hygiene rituals in front of me, like licking your balls while I'm munching on Piattos. But can you please

(1)Announce by meowing loudly that you are about to rub your body against my leg? I was close to a heart attack when, trying to open my door, I felt something move against my leg while fumbling to locate my keys;

(2)Not treat my door as your scratching post? I know you need to sharpen those claws and arm yourself against feral cats intruding in your territory, but every time you scratch it, it sounds like someone's scrubbing the cement floor with coke bottle caps; I don't even mind that you've already ripped my rubber floor mat into an unrecognizable mess;

(3) Not force and squeeze yourself through my bedroom window so that you can simply satisfy your curiosity of what's inside. Are you not aware of the phrase, "Curiosity killed the cat"? Seriously dude, I don't keep kitty porn lying around the house;

(4) Can you tell that ginger cat friend of yours, to please NOT leave carcasses of dead birds on my front door? I admire his hunting skills, but how about cleaning up after?

(5) And finally, a small favor. Are you friends with that dog across the street? (Maybe not, but what the hell). Can you please tell him to NOT schedule his daily vocal exercises between midnight and 4 a.m., when people are fast asleep? I know his services will come in handy when there's a fire or a thief in the neighborhood, but how about doing it in the daytime, when there are people knocking on gates for surveys, bible studies, handicap donations and barangay solicitations;

I hope you will be considerate enough to grant my requests so that we may co-exist peacefully.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fishy Elections

I always thought something fishy was going on when the poll automation bidding started a few months ago. One by one, the bidders were disqualified for a variety of reasons, leaving only one bidder as the default winner.

I suspected some people would do anything, go to great lengths to jeopardize the poll automation so we can maintain the status quo and conduct the elections manually. Manual counting of votes, as has been demonstrated in the past, is great for cheating.

Well what do you know, the Pinoy partner of the winning bidder backed out of the partnership after they've been awarded the contract. Something's really not right here. I mean the parties involved in Smartmatic should've ironed out their differences long before they forged their partnership. The Pinoy partner suddenly demanded amendments to their agreement after the Comelec gave them the deal. tsk tsk tsk

Your guess is as good as mine. The deal is worth billions. For the Pinoy partner to jeopardize the whole elections after they've been awarded the contract, he must have been offered a juicier deal. Who do you think has the resources to scare the guy and pay him off? It's all speculation, I know. But who do you think is the main beneficiary of manual elections?

This is embarrassing. I still can't understand why it is so difficult to implement poll automation in the age of high-speed computers and digital technology. We still can't get our acts together.

Gloria shouldn't rejoice just yet. If her administration wins in next year elections, the results will never be credible because people will think that she and her administration rigged the elections. In fact, it's quite possible that she will do anything to stay in power, from the Con-ass and changing the Constitution, to running for Congress so she could be Prime Minister, the possibilities for the power-hungry incumbent are endless.

She has done it before, there's absolutely no reason why she wouldn't do it again. She has developed a Marcos syndrome. She obviously has this illusion that it is her and her family's duty to rule the Philippines.

The road for cheating in next year's elections has now been paved.

UPDATE: The two parties have reportedly come to an agreement and the poll automation is expected to push through, hopefully.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Strauss: ELEKTRA


Elektra
Opera in One (1) Act by Richard Strauss
Libretto in German by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
First performance: Dresden, Germany (1909)

Eva Marton, Cheryl Studer, Brigitte Fassbaender
Vienna State Opera and Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor

A real shocker when it first premiered in 1909, Strauss's Elektra continues to have the same effect on modern audiences, as this performance in eighties shows. The jeers/boos mixed with the enthusiastic applause at the close clearly divides the audience.

Strauss crafted an opera out of a difficult material and Hofmannsthal retold the story more or less in terms of modern pyschology: the bloody lust for revenge.

The classic Greek legend first outlined by Homer and raised to an unforgettable tragedy by Sophocles deals with a family that is bent on killing each other. Klytaemnestra helped by her lover Aegisth, has secured the murder of her husband, King Agamemnon, and now is afraid that her guilt will be discovered by her children, Elektra, Chrysothemis, and their banished brother Orestes.

Elektra, who is the personification of the passionate lust for vengeance, tries to persuade her timid sister to kill their mother, Klytaemnestra and stepfather, Aegisth. Before the plan is carried out, Orestes, who had been reported as dead, arrives and, upon being told the truth by Elektra, determines upon revenge for his father's death. He kills Klytaemnestra and Aegisth; Elektra, her thirst for vengeance satisfied, under the spell of a blood-madness, dances, beginning weirdly, increasing to a frenzy, and ending in her collapse in front of her horror-stricken attendants.

The gloomy perverse madness that permeates the whole story and the countless twists, crawls and spineless convolutions about the characters, lends a frightening raison d'etre to the story.

Strauss employs dissonance and chromaticism to create the desired eerie effect in this dreadful music-drama. Along with Mahler in symphonic music, he is the successor to Wagner in opera. The vocal resources are utilized only at the service of the drama: the singing voices are totally lost, there's hardly any melody you can whistle to as you make your way out of the theatre.

This outing by the Vienna State Opera is controversial- booed and jeered after the curtain closed down. Maybe because an opera about mad women won't make people feel good about themselves, it's actually the stuff nightmares are made of. The scene where a female sacrificial victim, as an offering to the deities, is being impaled and left to hang in all its gory details so that Klytaemnestra's nightmares will disappear leaves a lasting, horrifying memory to the audience.

Abbado handles the difficult score masterfully. True, the orchestration overwhelms and overpowers the singers, too loud in some sections, but I think Strauss wanted it this way- the atmospheric music reflects the inner, psychological struggle engulfing the characters. The music, drama, the text- they all serve the intent of the opera.

This is clearly a difficult opera to appreciate. But if you stick to it and allow yourself to be immersed in the story, the viewing experience is actually very rewarding.

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